Friday, March 31, 2023

Coast to Coast AM - The Labrador Sighting from 1954

The Project Card from the Air Force Files.


There are some cases in the Blue Book files that create problems for UFO researchers. That is, a solution has been offered, but it is a solution that doesn’t seem to fit all the facts. Such is the report made by an airline pilot and members of his flight crew on June 30, 1954.

Captain James R. Howard, a pilot for British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC), and who had crossed the Atlantic 250 times, spotted something that he could not identify. According to his statement as published:

I was in command of a BOAC Boeing Strato cruiser en route from New York to London via Goose Bay Labrador (refueling stop). Soon after crossing overhead Seven Islands at 19,000 feet, True Airspeed 230 kts, both my co-pilot and I became aware of something moving along off our port beam at a lower altitude at a distance of maybe five miles, in and out of a broken layer of Strato Cumulus cloud. As we watched, these objects climbed above the cloud and we could now clearly see one large and six small. As we flew on towards Goose Bay the large object began to change shape and the smaller to move relative to the larger…

We informed Goose Bay that we had something odd in sight and they made arrangements to vector a fighter (F94?) on to us. Later I changed radio frequency to contact this fighter; the pilot told me he had me in sight on radar closing me head-on at 20 miles. At that the small objects seemed to enter the larger, and then the big one shrank. I gave descriptions of this to the fighter and a bearing of the objects from me. I then had to change back to Goose frequency for descent clearance. I don’t know if the fighter saw anything as he hadn’t landed when I left Goose for London (Gillmor, 1969, p. 139).

Jenny Randles (1987), writing in The UFO Conspiracy, expanding on this, mentioned that Lee Boyd, the first officer, alerted Goose Bay that there was an unidentified object escorting them. Goose Bay told them that an interceptor would be launched with the call sign of Pinto One.

Although the BOAC crew never saw the interceptor, and the radar on the fighter never painted the object, the BOAC crew were told that the radar at Goose Bay did see it. That would, of course, eliminate some sort of natural phenomenon given the observations of the flight crew. It also provided a bit of instrumentality for the sighting, something that was outside the problems of human perception.

According to Randles, when the aircraft landed at Goose Bay at 1:51 a.m., the crew was met by both US Air Force and Canadian officials that included intelligence officers. Both pilots, Howard and Boyd, were taken away to be debriefed. The navigator H. McDonnell, said that the flight logs were taken by the Air Force and that he was questioned about their airspeed and direction. His interrogation didn’t last very long. He said the pilots were gone much longer.

That wasn’t the end of it. Once they reached London, the pilots were ordered to the Air Ministry. The explanation offered then for the sighting was that the crew and some of the passengers had seen a solar eclipse. The trouble was that the eclipse had not begun when the sighting was made.

Howard, in a report in the New York Times (1954) said that the objects resembled “a large burst of flak and six smaller blobs.” He had refined the description in other reports, saying that the UFO was opaque, dark and jelly-fish-like. He also said that all but one of the crew and many of the passengers had seen the object. In one newspaper article, Howard said, “sometimes it was wedge shape, sometimes like a dumbbell, sometimes like a sphere with tail-like projections. The six smaller objects dodged about, either in front or behind (Project Blue Book; Associated Press, 1954).”

McDonnell met up with Howard some months later. He asked Howard what had happened at the Air Ministry. Howard responded, “Sorry. I can’t say. You know the score.”

Howard, his crew and passengers, however, were not alone spotting the strange object. According to the Blue Book file, more information came from a ship, USS Edisto, in the area. They described the same thing. The ship’s crew identified the object as Mars and suggested that there were “mirage conditions” on that date which could have influenced the sighting from the air.

The file confirmed the attempted intercept. The fighter pilot, who wasn’t identified by name, said that no intercept was made. He also said that he did not make radar contract with the unidentified object.

The file also contained a message that had been sent to various commands. It said, “NEAC evaluates sighting as unknown natural phenomena cma (comma) possibly a mirage as a temperature inversion in referenced area made this condition possible pd (period).”

The Blue Book file also provided some additional information. Howard estimated that they watched the objects for about eighteen minutes. Eleven other crew members verified the information. One of the messages ended with “No further information available. Duty officer regards as improbable threat to US.”

Part of the Joint Message Form about the sighting.

Given this lack of information, this certainly not one of Blue Book’s best cases. The explanation seems to be clear, and while some might reject that explanation because it came from the Air Force, it is based on observations made at the time by another set of witnesses. There seems to be no reason to reject their solution.

Newspaper article covering part of the sighting.

The Condon Committee, however, thought the case deserved more attention. That might be explained by their interest in weather related phenomena that could cause UFO sightings. In a chapter called, “Optical and Radar Analysis of Field Case,” it was noted, “Very little meteorological data are available for this part of the world on the date in question, so that the presence of significant optical propagation mechanisms can be neither confirmed nor ruled out. This sighting was examined because of the ‘Mirage’ explanation. In fact, the author noted, “Nevertheless, certain facts in the case are strongly suggestive of an optical mirage phenomenon (Gillmor, 1969).”

The Condon scientists went on to explain that the mirage might have been caused by a reflection from over the horizon. This is called superior mirage and has been reported often over the ocean. They then qualified that by writing:

The principal difficultly with this explanation, besides having to hypothesize the existence of the mirage-producing layer, is how to account for the anisotrophy [being directionally dependent] of the mirage. Anisotrophy of this sort, i.e. a mirage limited to certain viewing azimuths, is common in earthbound mirages when viewed from a single location. But a mirage layer through which a reflected image could be seen only in one, constant principal direction (plus a view smaller “satellite” images over a distance of 85 n. mil [nautical miles] is quite unusual (Gillmor, 1969).

What this says is that the Air Force was happy with the mirage answer, and with the suggestion that Mars was the culprit. And it says that the Condon Committee, looking at cases in which some sort of weather phenomenon is suspected, ended up not agreeing with the Air Force.

They added that there was a “slim possibility” that the aircraft itself was responsible for the “image layer through intensification (by compression induced by the shock wave of the aircraft’s passage through the air) of a barely subcritical layer, i.e. one in which the temperature gradient is just a little bit less than the value required to produce a mirage.”

But none of this is really all that important. It is the final conclusion, published in the Condon Committee’s report which says, “This unusual sighting should therefore be assigned to the category of some almost certainly natural phenomenon, which is so rare that it apparently has never been reported before or since.”

Or, in other words, they had no real explanation for it but believed it to be natural, but they didn’t know what that would be. They just refused to say that they had failed to identify the source of the sighting which would have been the honest thing to do.

And that last paragraph from the Condon Committee report on the sighting is what demanded its inclusion here. It gives an insight into the mission of the Condon Committee, and it provides a look at the Air Force investigation. True, the Air Force relied on the observations of the crew of a ship in the region, but that doesn’t seem to be unreasonable. Had the “mirage, Mars” answer been left intact, that would be a reasonable conclusion. Since it was taken a step further, there is no reasonable conclusion. It is “Unidentified.”

Sunday, March 26, 2023

Should We Investigate Decades Old Cases?


Several years ago, I learned about Rich Reynolds when he suggested it was time for we geezers to get out of the way and allow the youngsters to solve the mystery of the UFO. I believe he thought we had failed, though I thought that we had supplied quite a few explanations including those answered as “unidentified.” Didn’t mean alien spacecraft, only that we didn’t know what it was and alien spacecraft was one possible answer.

Anyway, that started a communication between us which, I believe, we found more common ground than disagreement. We had good conversations during the run of Game of Thrones until the show runners wrecked the whole thing with an incredibly stupid final season, but I digress.

Lately, if I have read some of his comments correctly (and allow for the possibility that I missed a point or two), he thought that we geezers were wasting too much time going over the older cases. We needed to move into the modern era where answers other than alien lived. I think he was saying that there might be paranormal explanations, not to mention misidentified natural phenomena and certainly items of national security that needed to be protected because they were, well, items of national security.

The notion isn’t completely wrong, but then it is only recently that we have had access to files that were buried under various classifications and protected by the umbrella of national security. But I also noticed that as we found our way into some of those hidden files, we found things that were once accepted as truth that were, to be kind, mistakes.

Take the landing in Socorro, New Mexico, in April, 1964. Police officer Lonnie Zamora saw something that didn’t look like a conventional aircraft and that seemed to operate outside the norms for any sort of aircraft. I had said, for years, as had others, that this was an interesting case, but suffered from one flaw. It was single witness. It would be strengthened by additional witnesses.

While talking with Ben Moss and Tony Angiola, they mentioned that three people had called the police station in Socorro with sightings in the minutes before Zamora made his sighting and his report. I asked if that had been written down in the police log, three times, and didn’t get a satisfactory answer. I don’t know if we were just miscommunicating or if they thought the answer was simple and I should have known it.

Zamora provided his eyewitness account for this illustration.

I pulled up the Project Blue Book file on Socorro and in there I found a short report written by Captain Richard Holder on the night of the sighting. In that report, submitted to the Pentagon that night, just hours after he, along with an FBI agent, had interrogate Zamora, Holder mentioned those three telephone calls into the police station. In 1964, apparently no one thought it important to find those witnesses, which, in 1964, wouldn’t have been impossible. The flight path of the UFO was known and Socorro wasn’t all that large. Investigators would have had to knock on a lot of doors, but it could have been done. Think of the important data that could have been learned from those witnesses and think what it would have meant to the case.

Similarly, in 1973, Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker claimed they had been abducted outside Pascagoula, Mississippi. For years, I, along with many others, suggested the case might be a hoax because there were no independent witnesses for that abduction. In fact, when I interviewed Calvin Parker several months ago, I made that case. He said that there were other witnesses and he, along with Philip Mantle and Dr. Irene Scott had found and interviewed several of them.

Charles Hickson and Calvin Parker.

Well, I wasn’t overly impressed because witnesses coming forward decades after the event aren’t all that impressive. The argument can be made that they just wanted to climb on the band wagon and see their names in the papers or be interviewed for the various documentaries. We had witnesses who saw the abduction, but they hadn’t talked in 1973.

That turned out to be wrong. I have seen a document, written the day after the abduction, by Air Force personnel at Keesler Air Force Base, in which two other men were interviewed about the sighting and said they had seen it. Two witnesses, independent of one another, reporting the next day, they had seen something very strange as Hickson and Parker were abducted. And, one of the men was with two other people who also saw the same thing running the total to four.

Think about that. We have two men saying they were abducted by alien creatures, and part of that event was witnessed by outside sources. There was a record of what they had seen, the very next day, but in all the controversy, some of it introduced by the skeptical community, caused that information to be overlooked by so many.

And finally, as I was working on the book about the Levelland sightings in November, 1957, I found some interesting documentation that I don’t believe had been reported. According to the Air Force, the Hockley County Sheriff, Weir Clem, said he had seen a streak of red in the distance. However, in news reports published before the Air Force investigator arrived, Clem said that he had seen a brightly glowing red, “football-shaped” or an oval-shaped object rather than just a streak of red.

Don Burleson, about twenty years ago, interviewed the man who maintained the sheriff’s car. Burleson was told that the sheriff had brought his car in, the next day, and asked that it be checked out. The only reason that the sheriff would have done that was if his car had been stalled by the close approach of the UFO. The sheriff wanted to be sure there was no mechanical reason for the engine to stall.

That is an interesting bit of information, suggesting that the Air Force had suggested that Clem be less than candid when talking to the press about the sighting. Don Berliner, in 1975, interviewed Clem, who again said that he had seen the brightly glowing red, football-shaped UFO.

Sheriff Weir Clem and two of his deputies.

That, by itself, is an interesting revelation but there is one other fact. As I was researching the case, I learned that Clem, with a deputy, had gone out to look for the UFO. Following them was a car from the Texas Department of Public Safety, that is, the state police. And following those two cars was a third occupied by Air Force officers from Reese Air Force Base located about twenty minutes from Levelland.

In other words, there is documentation suggesting that Air Force officers were close enough to see the object rather than a streak of light, and if Clem’ car was stalled by the close approach of the UFO, then the Air Force car was stalled by the close approach of the UFO as well.

Think about the importance of that revelation and what it would mean to the Air Force investigation if that information had been available to us at the time of the sighting. It would be impossible for the Air Force to claim that ball lightning was the culprit.

Here’s the other side of that coin. Why is there no reference in the Air Force file to Air Force officers making a sighting on the night of the event? Clearly, the Air Force would have known about them, but, according to the Air Force, there were only three witnesses to an actual craft. Norman Barth, the Air Force investigator only interviewed six witnesses during his short, seven-hour investigation and, three of those witnesses said they had only saw something in the distance. There is no mention of the Air Force officers being involved because if the Air Force admitted that, then the entire tone of the investigation would have changed.

The point here is that while I understand what Rich is suggesting, I believe that these older cases deserve another look based on what we have found in the Project Blue Book files and other records that have made their way into the public arena. Although I have been unable to identify those Air Force officers, think what their comments and descriptions would have meant to understanding what UFOs were and are, especially in a robust case like that from Levelland.

So, while I understand what Rich is saying, I also believe that we need to study the older cases because there are some extraordinary testimonies hidden in them. Properly documented, properly investigated and properly understood, we just might advance UFO research to a point where we are talking about the home worlds of the aliens rather than denying that they exist.

Thursday, March 16, 2023

New AARO Information and UFO Sightings


Back in 1947, as General Nathan Twining was ordering the creation of an office to investigate flying saucers, the theory of interplanetary travel was not high on the list of explanations. They were thinking in terms of a terrestrial vehicle. In today’s world, that isn’t necessarily the thinking.

Sean Kirkpatrick, who is the director of the All-domain Anomaly Resolution Office and Dr. Avi Loeb, who exploded onto the UFO scene a couple of years ago, co-authored a research paper suggesting, “An artificial interstellar object could potentially be a parent craft that released many small probes during its close passage to Earth, an operational construct not too dissimilar from NASA missions.”

The research paper, entitled “Physical Constraints on Unidentified Aerial Phenomena,” comes after a month of intense scrutiny of unidentified flying objects inspired by the Chinese balloon invasion.

They wrote, “With proper design, these tiny probes would reach the Earth or other solar system planets for exploration, as the parent craft passes by within a fraction of the Earth-Sun separation — just like ‘Oumuamua’ (o mooa Mooa) did. Astronomers would not be able to notice the spray of mini-probes because they do not reflect enough sunlight for existing survey telescopes to notice them.”

There were calls for more funding but, according to various sources, “The Biden administration’s previous funding request for fiscal year 2023 failed to fund anything beyond the office’s basic operating expenses.” This one fact doesn’t bode well for AARO.

I will point out here that I wrote a science fiction novel, The Rat Trap, published in 1993, in which an alien space probe was discovered. Its mission was to determine the level of technology of a sentient species. If that species could detect it, it was one level. If they could hit it with a probe, that was another. If they could reach it and get inside, that suggested a higher level of sophistication. The point was a such a probe could travel through space at sub-light speeds for centuries. If it encountered another intelligent lifeform, it could test them and send the data back to the home world at the speed of light. There is an ironic twist at the end.

There are still many sightings of UFOs inside our atmosphere such as the one from Myrtle Beach, SC, from March 6 of this year. The witness said that he was on top of a parking garage and looking for Venus and Jupiter. The witness saw two bright slanted disks in the south, and not the west where the planets were and he took a picture. He took a second picture only seconds later but the UFOs were gone.

Two glowing disks above the bend in the road.

Same view with the objects now gone. Jupiter and Venus were in a different
part of the sky.

Close up of the disks.

On February 25 of this year, near Thornton, Colorado, a married couple were stargazing in their hot tub when the man saw a black, triangular object moving at what he described as three times the speed of an airliner. He said it was around 20,000 feet up, and made no sound. He pointed it out to his wife and she said saw it too. He said that the only military aircraft that resembled the UFO was the controversial TR-3b Black Manta, an Air Force black project.

I say controversial because there are those who don’t believe the project or aircraft exists. In the past, the Air Force has leaked information about a next generation of military aircraft to divert attention from the real thing. The Aurora aircraft that was all the rage a decade or so ago was one of those leaked but nonexistent projects.

According to the conspiracy theories, the TR-3 is a spy plane created to make contact with alien creatures and cement relations with them. It supposedly has an anti-gravity system for propulsion, but there is no evidence that the system has been invented.

Stylized illustration of the TR-3b, which looks like one of the mock-ups
of the UFO that crashed in Roswell.

I could go on, but the Pentagon denies the existence of the aircraft. This highly classified project, which is so secret, knowledge of it is kept from our closest allies, seems to be well known outside the Pentagon and Air Force which contradicts the claims of highly classified. The Colorado man, for example, knew enough about it to use the design of the TR-3 for the UFO he had seen. And, of course, there is the illustration of what it is supposed to look like.

I’m going to mention this again. I was reviewing the National UFO Reporting Center database and noticed many of the sightings were of two, glowing lights near one another. The solution, according to the Reporting Center, is Jupiter and Venus. More than half of the 80 sightings reported so far in March, were of Jupiter and Venus. It just proves that we have an educational problem with UFO sightings. Too many people are unaware of what is in the night sky and that does confuse the issue.

Thursday, March 09, 2023

Analysis of 1990 UFO Sighting and Other Reports


Just yesterday, Fran Ridge alerted us to a story about a UFO that had emerged from the ocean near a ship, causing damage to that ship. There was a discussion of electromagnetic effects, and while the witnesses seemed to be unavailable to us, the source, newspapers from Sri Lanca, were alleged to have reported it. The date was late March and the story appeared in 1990. As Brad Sparks pointed out, late March is not a date.

It was a spectacular story and following is additional information for those who wish to read it. However, a note at the beginning of the story showed the original source as the Weekly World News and was used in a 1992 book about UFOs. One of red flags here is the source. I have a friend who worked at the Weekly World News for something like a month, doing a story about them. They made up much of the content, and since no one has been able to find the original information in any Sri Lankan newspapers, or find the witnesses, it doesn’t seem that the story is credible. That should be the end of the story, which now can be removed from any archive, database or research material that has used it.

When chasing footnotes, one of the things that I watch for, is the credibility of the original source. When we reach a place where the source is less than credible and there are no other first-hand accounts, then the story should be rejected.

For those interested in the whole, untrue tale, and I stress that this story is not true, here it is:


A saucer-shaped UFO stunned the crew of a tanker when it blasted out of the ocean and circled their ship for fifteen terrifying minutes before vanishing without a trace back into the sea!

According to Sri Lankan newspaper reports, the incident took place in broad daylight in late March, 210 miles south of Matara, Sri Lanka, in the Indian Ocean.

No one was injured, but the 175-ft tanker Kim Seng suffered severe structural damage from the towering waves that were kicked up when the UFO rose out of and later returned to the water, the press said.

"It was enormous - at least five times the size of our ship," Rasika Mawatha, the 47-year-old captain of the Kim Seng, told reporters.

"I'd just come up on deck when the huge silver orb flew out of the sea and hovered just off the starboard bow of the ship. We almost sank from the waves it made as it left the water.

"At first, I was so shocked I nearly fainted from fright. My crew was terrified, too. They fell to the deck - covering their eyes and cowering like small children.

"All the ship's instruments went haywire and the needle on the compass kept spinning around and around. I couldn't even use the radio to call for help," he said.

"The spacecraft glowed and pulsated with a silvery light and another eerie beam of light shone from the bottom of the ship. It seemed as if whoever was in the craft was scanning our ship, but for what purpose, I don't know."

After about fifteen minutes, the UFO disappeared as suddenly as it had appeared.

"One minute it was there and the next it had vanished back into the sea in a blinding flash of light," said Mawatha. "It kicked up such huge waves it almost capsized the ship again."

Immediately after the UFO disappeared, the ship's instruments began working again as if nothing had happened.

"I radioed authorities about what had happened and they sent planes and ships to scan the area but they came up with nothing," said Capt. Mawatha.

Officials searched for days but not a trace of the UFO could be found.

"We spent days searching for signs of the alleged spaceship but couldn't find anything," said Adi Chandrakar, a spokesman for the coastal authority.

"Even though we couldn't find any concrete evidence of the UFO, we know that something highly unusual did happen out there because of the damage to the ship.

"Only extremely rough water like you'd experience in a severe storm could cause that kind of damage and there wasn't a cloud in the sky.

"We're calling this incident an official UFO sighting because there's no other explanation for what happened."

But, even with that, there are good sources of data. On March 5 of this year, the witness in Mooresville, North Carolina, said that he was in the neighbor’s backyard watching the commercial aircraft fly over. He mentioned that one was lower than normal. At that point he noticed a glowing ball of turquoise light traveling at a high rate of speed, moving from south to north.

The witness said that he was pointing out the Venus and Jupiter conjunction when he spotted the light. He thought that it was at the same altitude as the commercial planes but was traveling much faster than them. The witness said that it made a few sudden, directional changes that he described as impossible for any aircraft, and he was sure that it wasn’t a drone. He said it was silent and they lost sight of it in the distance as it flew behind a neighbor’s house.

The object wasn’t in sight long enough for him to get a picture, but did take one of the Venus/Jupiter conjunction. You can see the picture here:

Make no mistake. The objects in the picture are Venus and Jupiter.

And that leads to something that I normally wouldn’t bother with, but there have been many reports of two UFOs in the night sky recently. I’ll post one of the better pictures, which is to say, one of the more interesting pictures, but it is clear to me that these pictures are of Jupiter and Venus. In fact, I took similar pictures of those two planets a number of years ago, which I’ll also post. This is the picture I took of the Venus/Jupiter conjunction.

Yes, this is a picture I took of Venus and Jupiter.

Just one final observation about this. The smaller of the objects is Jupiter and the larger if Venus. It has nothing to do with the size of the planet, but their distances from Earth. Venus is much closer though Jupiter is much bigger.

Friday, March 03, 2023

The Belt, Montana UFO Sighting and the "Attack" on Echo Flight


The Project Blue Book files reveal that on March 24, 1967, near the small town of Belt, Montana, a truck driver, Ken Williams, saw a domed object land in a canyon near the road. He was curious enough that he stopped, got out of his truck and began to walk toward the object. The UFO then lifted off, flew further up the canyon and touched down again, now hidden from the highway by a ridge.

Williams, in a handwritten document filed with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomenon, told the whole story of what he had seen that night. In response to their request, on April 7, 1967, Williams wrote:


Object was first observed approximately 5 miles southeast of Belt, Montana. I was traveling North on Highway 87 enroute to Great Falls, Montana. Object was approximately 1 mile to my left and appeared to be about 5 or 6 hundred yards [1500 – 1800 feet] altitude. I would estimate its speed to vary from 40 to 50 miles per hour. I am judging this speed by the speed I was traveling as object seemed to be running evenly with me. Its appearance was that of a large doomed [sic] shaped light or that of a giant headlight. Upon climbing up the Belt Hill in my truck, I looked to my left and about ½ mile up a gully. I witnessed the object at about 200 yards [600 feet] in the air in a still position. I stopped my truck and the object dropped slowly to what appeared to me to be within a very few feet from the ground. [Underlining in original]. It was at this time that I felt something or someone was watching me. As a very bright effecting light emerged from the object it momentarily blinded me. This extremely bright light seemed to flare three times. Each time holding its brightness. By the third time the light was so bright [underlining in original] that it was nearly impossible to look directly at it. It was at this time that I drove my truck onto the top of the hill which was about another ½ mile. I stopped a car and asked the people [Don Knotts of Great Falls] if they would stop at a station at the foot of the hill and call the Highway Patrol. I went back down the hill and viewed the object for several more minutes. It was while watching it the second time that it rose and disappeared like a bolt of lightning. I went back to the top of the hill where my truck was parked and just as the Highway Patrolmen [sic] Bud Nader, arrived the object appeared once again. About 2 miles away and traveling in a Northeast direction, whereas it stopped once again and appeared to drop to the ground [Underlining in the original.]. There are several deep gullys [sic] in the area where it appeared to drop out of sight. This was my last sighting of the object.

While the case is labeled as “unidentified,” it also noted that there was “(1 witness),” which they believed to be so important that it was underlined. But that isn’t true and other documents in the Blue Book files prove it.

According to a letter written by Lieutenant Colonel Lewis D. Chase, and addressed to Edward Condon at the University of Colorado, there was, at least, one other witness. According to Chase, “Mr. Nader [sent by the Highway Patrol] reported that upon reaching the scene he observed an unusual light emanating from the area that the truck driver, Mr. Williams, claimed the object had landed a second time.”

The Newspaper Accounts

The Great Falls Leader carried a series of articles about the UFO sightings in the area at the time. Interestingly, some of what was printed in the newspaper was not found in the government files. Those who conducted the military investigation should have been aware of the other sightings, but there is no mention of them. It seems that, to the Air Force anyway, those sightings never happened.

There were visual sightings as well. Airman Second Class (A2C) Richard Moore, a communicator-plotter said that he had seen something about five or ten miles from the base at 3:30 a.m. Airman Third Class (A3C) said that he had seen an object that he said was a bright light with orange lights on the bottom. This, according to Moore, was close to the ground and it was what the FAA radar had detected.

Moore also said that a sabotage alert team had located another object about 4:40 a.m. directly over Malmstrom. Moore said that he saw it as well, but it was more a point of light moving across the sky than anything else. He said it wasn’t a satellite because it was zigzagging.

Another airman, Warren Mahoney, said that Moore had told him about the UFO at 3:10 a.m. and that at 3:42 he had received a call from the FAA that there was an object on their radar northwest of the base. Three minutes later it had turned, flying toward the southeast. At 4:26 a.m. it disappeared from the FAA radar.

There had been a search of the canyon where Williams and Nager saw the UFO and they found some evidence, though it isn’t clear exactly what they had found. Sheriff’s deputies Keith Wolverton, Jim Cinker and Harold Martin, searched the ground for about two and a half hours and discovered some freshly broken twigs on bushes and branches of the trees. They thought it might have been cattle, but there were no cattle in the area. Martin was reported as saying, “Some of the trees are 25 feet high, and had limbs broken from them, and some bushes below them were broken. All were fresh breaks.”

According to the Great Falls Tribune, Trudy Fender provided a rough drawing of an object she had seen with a steady white light on one end, a blinking white light on the other and a red light in the center. She had been waiting for her ride on March 26. The sighting isn’t important because of the object, but the fact that she saw something. That refuted a theory that there had been no UFO sightings in Montana other than Williams sighting two days earlier.

The Government File

With all that was going on that night, with the news media alerted and with local law enforcement involved, there wasn’t much that the Air Force could do other than respond. The government files, in a teletype message that was unclassified revealed, “Between hours of 2100 and 0400 MST numerous reports were received by Malmstrom AFB agencies of UFO sightings in the Great Falls, Montana area.”

The message noted that “Reports of a UFO landing near Belt, Montana were received from several sources including deputies of Cascade County Sheriff’s Office. Investigation is being conducted by Lt. Col. Lewis Chase… The alleged landing site is under surveillance. However daylight is required for further search.”

The investigation was apparently completed several days later and on April 8, 1967, Chase wrote a report that he sent on to Edward Condon at the University of Colorado who was leading the Air Force sponsored investigation into UFOs. After setting the scene, Lewis wrote:

Numerous reports were being received by the dispatcher at Base Operations, plus questions from the public. At 2205 [10:05 p.m.], Lt. Col. Lewis D. Chase, Base UFO Investigating Officer, was notified by the Command Post of a reported landing. Sequence of events following notification were as follows:

2230 – Discussion with the Sheriff of Cascade County revealed that he had dispatched additional deputies to the area. Requested that he notify me of any significant findings. While talking to the sheriff, he contacted one of his mobile units. The man reporting said that they were at the scene and that there was no activity at the time. Requested the sheriff to forward any subsequent developments.

2345 – Discussion with Colonel Klibbe. He suggested that I go out and evaluate the situation and make my recommendations from there…

0030 – Departed the base in radio equipped station wagon accompanied by Major John Grasser of the Helicopter Section, for an evaluation of the terrain for any possible helicopter survey at daylight, a driver, and the alert photographer.

0100 – Arrived at the scene. Was met by Sheriff Martin, who repeated the previous reports. He had been on the scene continuously. A study of the terrain revealed the hopelessness of any ground survey at night. A tentative plan was agreed upon – the sheriff’s office to conduct a ground search of the reported landing area on the morning of 25 March 1967, while concurrently a helicopter survey of the area would be performed by Malmstrom. (It had been reported by Major Grasser that a helicopter training flight was scheduled for 0730 Saturday morning. This procedure was later approved by 15th AF, provided no landing was made). Sightseers were in the area due to radio publicity and Martin reported some had gone on the ridges before he could stop them.

0230 to 0340 – Numerous sightings reported.

0350 – Discussed the make-up of a message with Captain Bradshaw, Wing Command Post, IAW [In Accordance With] AFR [Air Force Regulation] 80-17, to notify concerned agencies, including CSAF, of numerous sightings, plus the reported landing under investigation. Was concerned with resulting publicity and the need to notify other agencies prior to press releases. Message will merely state reported landing, that it is under investigation, that daylight hours are required to complete investigation, and that a subsequent report will be submitted. Preliminary message dispatched.

0800 – Sheriff’s ground search and Malmstrom aerial survey completed with negative results. Follow-up messages dispatched to interested agencies (AFR 80-17) stating negative results of the investigation.

The last part of the report confirmed that Chase had conducted it and provided contact information for him. He later, in a teletype message reported, again, that there had been negative results.

All mention of the radar reports are missing from the Blue Book files, as are the reports from Air Force personnel. Even if Chase was uninterested in most of the civilian sightings, he would want to talk to the airman who saw something, if for no other reason than to explain them. This is a hole in the investigation.

There might have been something else operating here, and that was the mission of Malmstrom AFB. It was a minuteman missile base, and just days before, an entire flight of missiles had suddenly fallen into a “No-Go” situation which meant that they had been deactivated. This was an issue that was a matter of national security and that might explain the reason the Belt, Montana sighting was so poorly investigated.

Echo Flight

Robert Salas and Jim Klotz were the first to tell the story of Echo Flight, first in an online article at and later in their book, Faded Giant. Robert Hastings, in his UFOs and Nukes, provided additional information. The story they told started early on the morning of March 16, 1967, when two missile maintenance teams who had been working on two of the flight’s widely scattered launch facilities had said they had seen strange lights in the sky near where they were located. A mobile security team confirmed this, saying they had seen the lights as well. All of this was told to Colonel Don Crawford by Captain Eric Carlson and 1st Lieutenant Walt Figel as Crawford came on duty, at least and according to what Salas had been told during his 1996 taped interview with Figel. Hastings had been told virtually the same things during his interviews with Figel.

About 8:30 a.m., that same morning, as both Carlson and Figel were performing routine checks, the flight’s missiles began to drop off line. Within seconds, though Figel would later suggest it was minutes, all ten missiles were inoperable. In the event of war, they could not have launched. This was a major national security issue and a point that would become important later as the government files are searched.

Hastings wrote, “Immediately after the malfunctions at Echo, the launch officers ordered two separate Security Alert Teams to drive to each of the launch facilities where the UFOs had been sighted. Nevertheless, the maintenance and security personnel at each site reported seeing UFOs hovering near the missile silos.”

He added, “…some months after my book came out, in July 2008, I interviewed Figel on tape. He said one of the two SAT teams reported seeing the UFO over one of the silos. In 1996, he told Salas that both teams had seen it. A faded memory, it seems…”

But the story wasn’t quite so mundane, as Hastings learned during his interviews with Figel. When Hastings talked to Figel, a retired Air Force Colonel on October 20, 2008, he was told that one of the guards had suggested the UFO had shut down the missiles. Figel thought the guard was joking. He told Hastings, “I was thinking he was yanking my chain more than anything else.”

Hastings asked, “He seemed to be serious to you?”

And Figel responded, “He seemed to be serious but I wasn’t taking him seriously.”

Hastings wanted to know what the man had seen and Figel said that it was just a large, round object that was directly over the launch facility.”

To clarify the situation Hastings and Figel discussed the security procedures. Figel said, “[When] the missiles dropped off alert, I started calling the maintenance people out there on the radio… [I asked] ‘What’s going on?’ … And the guy says, ‘We got a Channel 9 No-Go. It must be a UFO hovering over the site.”

Figel, of course, didn’t believe him. He said that one of the Strike Teams, they had dispatched two, but one of them thought they had seen something over the site. They told Figel that a large object was hovering there.

All of this, of course, suggests that UFOs were somehow involved with the sudden shut down of the missile systems. Although the government files reject the idea, there is a great deal of eyewitness testimony for this.

The maintenance teams were dispatched and once they had located the problem, they were able to bring the missiles back on line, but the process was not simple and required hours for each missile. There was an extensive investigation that involved not only the Air Force but also the contractors who had designed and built the missiles.

According to the 341st Strategic Missile Wing Unit History, recovered through Freedom of Information:

On 16 March 1967 at 0845, all sites in Echo (E) Flight, Malmstrom AFB, shutdown with No-Go indication of Channels 9 and 12 on Voice Reporting Signal Assemble (VRSA). All LF’s in E Flight lost strategic alert nearly simultaneously. No other Wing I configuration lost strategic alert at that time.

Guidance & Control channel 50 dump data was collected from E-7 facility and E-3 Facility and all 10 sites were then returned to strategic alert without any LF equipment replacement. All 10 sites were reported to have been subject to a normal controlled shutdown…

The only possible means that could be identified by the team involved a situation in which a couple self test command occurred along with a partial reset within the coupler. This could feasible cause a VRSA 9 and 12 indication. This was also quite remote for all 10 couplers would have to have been partially reset in the same manner…

In the researching of other possibilities, weather was ruled out as a contributing factor in the incident.

A check with Communications maintenance verified that there was no unusual activity with EWO-1 or EWO-2 at the time of the incident.

All of which, in the short term, did not explain why the missiles all went off line at virtually the same time. In other words, at that point they didn’t know why the missiles went off line. In a very technical aspect of the Unit History, it explains that a “30 micro sec Pulse… was placed on the Self-Test Command (STC) line… Seven out of 10 separate applications of a single pulse would cause the system to shut down with a Channel 9 & 12 No-Go.”

Or according to the files, a randomly introduced electronic pulse which might be considered an EMP, which shouldn’t have affected the missile systems, had shut them down. The point of insertion was apparently the Launch Control Facility, but all those areas should have been shielded from just such an occurrence.

The information about the Echo Flight was, quite naturally, communicated to the Condon Committee, and Dr. Roy Craig responded. Although not exactly government files, Craig was working on a government contract for the Air Force when he made his notes on his meeting with Lieutenant Colonel Chase at Malmstrom. Craig’s notes on the meeting said:

After Colonel Chase and I exchanged pleasantries in his office, I asked him about the Echo incident. The Colonel caught his breath, and expressed surprise that I knew of it. ‘I can’t talk about that’… If I needed to know the cause of this incident, I could arrange through official channels, to see their report after the completion of the investigation… Although local newspapers carried stories of UFO sightings which would coincide in time with Echo, Colonel Chase had assured me that the incident had not involved a UFO… I accepted the information as factual and turned review of Major Schraff’s report (on the Echo incident) over to Bob Low [Dr. Robert Low, also a member of the Condon Committee], who had received security clearance to read secret information related to the UFO study… Low, in turn, had to interface with his Air Force Liaison in Washington, Col. Hippler [Lieutenant Colonel Robert Hippler]…. [Low wrote to Craig] ‘Roy, I called Hippler and he said he would try to get this, but he suspects it’s going to be classified too high for us to look at. Says he thinks interference by pulses from nuclear explosions is probably involved.

So, it seems that a cause had been found, or rather it seemed to have been found, but the ultimate source of the pulse was not identified. Hippler, speculating about the source of the pulse came up with an electromagnetic pulse (EMP) from a nonexistent atomic blast. That the pulse shut down all the missiles made it a national security issue, which changed the level of the classification.

Oddly, in the 341st SMW Unit History, it noted, “Rumors of Unidentified Objects (UFO) around the area of Echo Flight during the time of the fault were disproven. A Mobile Strike Team, which had checked all November Flight’s LFs [Launch Facilities] on the morning of 16 March 67, were questioned and stated that no unusual activity or sightings were observed.”

But that doesn’t seem to be quite accurate. Hastings interviewed James Ortyl who had been assigned as an Air Policeman at Malmstrom. Ortyl said:

I was an Airman 2nd Class [A2C] at the time. We were working the day-shift at Kilo Flight in March of 1967… It was mid-morning and three or four Air Policemen were gathered in the launch control facility dispatch office. Airman Robert Pounders and I were facing the windows looking out to the yard and parking lot. The others were facing us. As we were conversing, I witnessed a shimmering, reddish-orange object clear the main gate and in a sweeping motion pass quickly and silently pass by the windows. It seemed to be within 30 years of the building. Stunned, I looked at Pounders and asked, “Did you see that?!” He acknowledged that he had.


To be fair, Ortyl didn’t know the exact date, but said that in was near his birthday of March 17th. But then there is Craig’s interview with Chase which also moves in the direction of UFO sightings on the proper date. Craig’s notes indicate that he had the names of some of those involved with the UFO sightings at the time of Echo’s shut down, but he never contacted any of them.

Craig also had the name of Dan Renualdi who, in March 1967, was a member of the Site Activation Task Force (SATAF). He said that he had been within a few feet of an object. There was also a sergeant with the Air Force Technical Evaluation Team who said he had seen a flying saucer. There is no record of Craig talking to either of these men, nor are there any reports in the Project Blue Book files to suggest that the sightings had been reported there. That was a violation of the regulations in force at the time, although it could be argued there were contradictory regulations.

All this demonstrates is that there was another reported UFO around the time that Echo Flight had gone down, contrary to what the Unit History said. It does not prove that the UFOs had anything to do with the anomalous pulse.

There is another aspect to this. Quite naturally, the Air Force wanted to know what had happened. The man who conducted the investigation for Boeing, the Defense Contractor for the missile systems was Robert Kaminski. In a letter dated February 1, 1997 to Jim Klotz, he wrote:

At the time of the incident, I was an engineer in the MIP/CNP (Material Improvement Project/Controlled Numbered Problem) group…. The group was contacted by the Air Force so that Boeing could respond to specific Air Force Minuteman Missiles problems that occurred in the field…

I was handed the E-Flight CNP assignment when it arrived by the group supervisor. As the internal Boeing project engineer I arranged meetings necessary with management and technical personnel required to determine a course of action to be taken, in exploring why 10 missiles had suddenly fallen from alert status – green – to red, with no explanation for it. This was an unusual request and we had no prior similar incident or experience to this kind of anomaly….

Since this was a field site peculiar incident, a determination was made to send out an investigative team to survey the LCF and the LFs to determine what failures or related incidents could be found to explain the cause…. After a week in the field the team returned and pooled their data. At the outset the team quickly noticed a lack of anything that would come close to explain why the event occurred. There were no significant failures, engineering data or findings that would come close to explain how ten missiles were knocked off alert. This indeed turned out to be a rare event and not encountered before. The use of backup power systems and other technical system circuit operational redundancy strongly suggests that this kind of event is virtually impossible once the system was up and running and on line with other LCF’s and LF’s interconnectivity….

The team met with me to report their findings and it was decided that the final report would have nothing significant in it to explain what happened at E-Flight. In other words there was no technical explanation that could explain the event… Meanwhile I was contacted by our representative… (Don Peterson) and told by him that the incident was reported as being a UFO event – That a UFO was seen by some Airmen over the LCF at the time E-Flight when down.

Subsequently, we were notified a few days later, that a stop work order was on the way from OOAMA to stop any further effort on this project. We stopped. We were also told that we were not to submit the final engineering report. This was most unusual since all of our work required review by the customer and the submittal of a final Engineering report to OOAMA…

However, as I recall nothing explained this anomaly at E-Flight.

Hastings, in a review of the material in 2013, wrote, “Actually, the large round object sighted by the missile guard, and reported to launch officer Lt. Walter Figel, had been hovering over one of the Echo missile silos, not the launch control facility itself. Nevertheless, Boeing engineer Kaminski’s revealing testimony essentially confirms Figel’s account of a UFO presence during the incident.”

The Counterclaims

As found in many other UFO incidents, there are a small number of people who seem to be outraged by the thought that a UFO had been seen and interacted with the environment. In this case, that is James Carlson, son of the Echo Flight MCCC on March 16, 1967, Captain Eric Carlson. He has carved out quite a presence on the Internet suggesting that Hastings and Salas, to be generous, were somewhat less than accurate.

But given all the information available, given the number of men who had been identified as being members of either Echo or Oscar Flight, and given the documentation that is available in the government files, some conclusions can be drawn. The situation, as it stands today, and looked at through neutral eyes, can be understood.

James Carlson is of the opinion that nothing UFO-related happened that day. He said that his father had told him about the events, and there was no need to speak to others. In fact, Carlson apparently wrote to Billy Cox, blogging as Devoid at the Herald Tribune (article at 10647/nukes-debate-gets-personal/), “I didn’t question Walt Figel because his response is already part of the record. It wasn’t necessary. My father was the commander at Echo Flight, and I questioned him… my father would never lie to me about something like that.”

Yet, according to Hastings, he interviewed Eric Carlson on October 6, 2008, and was told that the elder Carlson “he himself had previously received reports from missile security guards of UFOs during other missile alerts… but that he didn’t take them seriously.”

While not a ringing refutation of what he son was saying, it does speak to the idea that UFOs had been reported and that Eric Carlson didn’t believe them. In fact, he added, “You take an 18-year-old kid and stick him out there for days, with nothing but TV dinners, and they have a tendency to see things.”

Carlson noted that the 341st SMW Unit History didn’t mention any UFO sightings. It did say only that “Rumors of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFOs) around the area of Echo Flight during the time of the default were disproven.”

But there is nothing in the Unit History to explain how they had been disproven, nor why, if the UFOs hadn’t been around, and there were no stories around, they would even bother to mention this. It seems to be one of those things that Sherlock Holmes would say. “It was strange that the dog didn’t bark.”

In reality, however, Figel mentioned the maintenance crew talking about UFOs. There are suggestions that the security teams saw lights and UFOs. In other words, the rumors weren’t disproven, merely ignored, which isn’t quite the same thing.

More importantly, any UFO sightings at the time, especially if linked to the failure of the missiles, would be a matter of national security. They would not have been reported through the same channels as other UFO reports. That none of these reports were filed with Project Blue Book, which regulations required, unless it was a matter of national security, is interesting.

In a similar vein, Carlson said that Figel had not believed the UFO story and thought it was a joke. He quotes Figel as saying, “I thought it was a joke.” But the line is taken out of context. True, Figel did think that the maintenance crew was joking, but it is also true that Figel said they sounded sincere. In other words, he thought of it as a joke, but they did not and were attempting to tell him what they were seeing above ground.

So, Carlson didn’t see any UFOs, but he talks of others, above ground, seeing these things and reporting them. He seems to reject the idea that any UFO was seen on March 16, and that UFOs had nothing to do with the shut down, contrary to what his deputy, sitting in the capsule next to him had to say about this.

Carlson makes a big deal that Figel didn’t attend the press conference held at the National Press Club by Hastings and Salas, wondering why he was excluded. But the reason for not wishing to participate, rather than being excluded, was that Figel didn’t want to get in the middle of an argument between Hastings and Eric Carlson. Figel severed his communications with all, once the acrimony among all parties became known. Figel had been invited, he just never responded to the invitation.

These sorts of arguments can become quite tedious, especially when one side takes statements out of context, doesn’t provide full disclosure on all that witnesses said, and is driven by an agenda that leads to a very narrow and extremely hostile point of view. It is clear, based on the government files that all ten Minuteman missiles of Echo flight failed in a matter of minutes, possibly seconds. There were reports of UFOs in the area, and both Captain Eric Carlson and 1st Lt. Figel knew of it. That Figel thought of it as a joke does not mean that it didn’t happen.

It is strange that there is no documentation for a similar failure at Oscar Flight just days later, but there are UFO sightings in the government files. There are witnesses to this other than Robert Salas, and while their stories don’t completely agree, the differences are minor. They are the sort of thing to be expected after decades when the men are relying on their memories.