Friday, December 31, 2010

Off Alert, Echo Flight: The "UFO" Encounter...Part 2

In "Off Alert, Echo Flight:  Part I", I attempted to recreate the alert based upon the statements of Eric Carlson, Walter Figel and documentation from the 341st SMW's Unit History.  Eric Carlson would have been in the command position allowing him to witness and direct the actions of the crew and security forces for Echo Flight.  What then of the statements that would come from Figel some thirty and forty years later?  Did UFO activity cause the entire flight to drop off alert forcing SAC, the Air Force, and the DOD to cover up the event?  Let us see if the statements of the principle witnesses actually support such a conclusion.

The passage of time has a way of diluting one's memories, yet it seems right to ask the pertinent and hard questions concerning that  particular day some 43 years ago.  Did Figel recall, with absolute certainty, the contents of a phone call from a missile maintenance team?  Probably not with total accuracy.  Figel's own words in two different interviews underlies his difficulties with total recall:

Figel to Robert Hastings 10/20/08

RH: Do you know how many maintenance teams were out overnight?

WF: You know, I think it was four. It was the two sites that had diesels running and two others. And when maintenance stays overnight they...stay in a camper...When you have maintenance on the site and they’re going to stay overnight, you have a security team on the site.

Figel to Robert Salas 08/11/1996

WF: [On the date of the Echo shutdowns we already had teams out in the field] because they were doing maintenance on, I don’t know, the guidance cans or something, and the maintenance crews were staying [overnight] and there was security and maintenance on-site on both, uh, on two of the ten sites.

RS: Uh-huh
In my previous Part I post, I postulated that only two Launch Facilities had maintenance crews on site, E-2 and E-8.  Figel tells Salas that he had maintenance teams on only two LFs, yet some twelve years later, Figel tells Hastings that he had maintenance teams on four of Echo's LFs, thus demonstrating that Figel's statements to Hastings probably were clouded and somewhat suspect based on the passage of time.  If Hastings had access to Figels statements as given to Salas, then he should have recognized this discrepancy and thus treated the contents of his own interview with caution. 

The key to understanding the "UFO" component is to understand what LFs were occupied by maintenance teams and what type of maintenance was being performed on 16 March.  So it is with the the possibility of faded memory that one has to look, as closely as possible, at the most important statements that Figel makes to Hastings:
WF: Uh, we did that with the sites that were there, that [had maintenance teams and their guards on site] and I sent Strike Teams to two other sites. There’s no sense sending them where I [already] have a guard and a gun and an authenticate.

WF: [Laughs] That’s correct. Um, somewhere along the way, um, one of the maintenance people—cause he didn’t know what was going on any place else either, they have no capability of talking to each other [at different launch sites], in other words, they can talk to the [launch] capsule but they can’t talk to each other—

RH: Right

WF: —unless they were on the radio and no one was using the radio except the security police. And the guy says, “We got a Channel 9 No-Go. It must be a UFO hovering over the site. I think I see one here.” [I said,] “Yeah, right, whatever. What were you drinking?” And he tried to convince me of something and I said, well, I basically, you know, didn’t believe him. [Laughs] I said, you know, we have to get somebody to look at this [No-Go]. [A short time later] one of the Strike Teams that went out, one of the two, claimed that they saw something over the site.
          RH: How did they describe that?

The above is an interesting exchange between Figel and Hastings, because the portion of the statement in bold is taken as gospel by Hastings demonstrating that the maintenance team "saw" a UFO.  If Hastings had known the actual physical layout of a typical Minuteman launch facility, he would have realized the fallacy of his interpretation of Figel's statements.  The maintenance team was deep inside of the LF/missile silo with no way to physically see anything in the sky above the site, especially with the launcher closure door securely in place over the top of the silo.  It can be concluded that the maintenance team was in the missile silo due to their use of the SIN line for communication to/from the the missile crew back in the Launch Control Center.  Figel is clear that this is how he had contacted the team.  Plus, the maintenance team was able to physically verify that the missile had shut down with a VRSA channel 9 No-Go...this can only be done while inside of the LF/silo itself.  Both maintenance team members would have had to be in close proximity to one another due to the LF being a No Lone Zone and the implementation of the SAC Two Man Policy rule.  The two security guards located topside on the LF never report seeing any object directly over the site.  They were the only individuals that were in position and could have visually verified such a sighting, yet there is no record stating that they saw anything, nor does Figel state to Hastings that he had received a radio report of such a sighting from any of the security guards on the two LFs.

Cut away view of Minuteman ICBM Launch Facility (LF).  Note:  Maintenance team in Figel's narrative would have been on the support equipment level.  Silo cover/door would have been in the closed position.  This shows that there is no physical possibilities that anyone inside of the LF could have seen an object above the topside of the LF.

WF:  ...[A short time later] one of the Strike Teams that went out, one of the two, claimed that they saw something over the site.

What site was Figel referring to?  He gives the impression that the Strike Team was at one of the two manned LFs with security already in place..."...the site.." rather than "...a site..."  But Figel tells Hastings that the Strike Teams were not dispatched to the LFs that already had security details on site and who had properly authenticated with either himself or Echo's Flight Security Controller (FSC) via VHF radio.  As of now, the Echo Flight Security Controller, who remains unknown, did not provide any information confirming what site or what Strike Team (primary or secondary) made the report to Figel.  The FSC would have been monitoring all VHF radio traffic in the flight area.

WF: Uh, we did that with the sites that were there, that [had maintenance teams and their guards on site] and I sent Strike Teams to two other sites. There’s no sense sending them where I [already] have a guard and a gun and an authenticate.

This begs the question, what two sites did the two Strike Teams investigate?  What of the six remaining sites in the flight?  As stated in the "Part I" post, it would not have been unreasonable for Delta or Oscar's Strike Teams to have assisted Echo.  If this did occur, what of any reports of any strange sightings at the remaining of Echo's LFs.  After all these years, nothing has surfaced that even remotely hints of any unusual sightings above or near those remaining LFs.  A Mobile Fire Team was dispactched from the November Flight area to investigate and found nothing unusual.
WF: Oh, on radio, [they said,] “There’s this large object hovering over the site!” I’ve always been a non-believer [in UFOs] so I said, “Right, sure you do.” [They responded,] “Yeah! Yeah, we do!” So, [I said,] “There’s two of you there, saying so, so write it down in your report.” [The Strike Team leader] said, “What do you want us to do?” [I said,] “Follow your checklist. Go to the site, open it up, and call me.”

RH: What was the demeanor of the guard you were talking to?

WF: Um, you know, I wouldn’t say panicked, or anything [like that]. I was thinking he was yanking my chain more than anything else.

RH: But he seemed to be serious to you?

WF: He seemed to be serious and I wasn’t taking him seriously.

RH: Alright. If it was a large object, did he describe the shape of the object?

WF: He just said a large round object.

RH: Directly over the LF?

WF: Directly over the site

Figel tells Hastings that he believed that the Strike Team was joking and again no specific site or location is given. 

(BREAK. Figel describes hearing from the maintenance man about his opening up the silo, going down into it, and reporting that even though the missile was offline, nothing was visually damaged or otherwise amiss at the site.)

RH: Did he describe the object leaving the scene?

WF: No. He never said anything about it again.

Was Figel referring to the maintenance team or the Strike Team, and what site is specified?  The only site that was not penetrated was E-08 (maintenance team still asleep in the on-site camper) so this would mean that E-08 was eventually penetrated and inspected by the on site maintenance team.  But keep in mind, the maintenance team that reported the UFO was at E-02 which was already penetrated prior to the sortie dropping off alert and they were in no physical position to visually verify any objects over the LF.  This leads to the conclusion that no one was in a position to "describe the object leaving the scene" and why "nothing was said about it again."

So far, all that Hastings provides is Figel's accounting of the incident.  What about Figel's crew commander, Eric Carlson?  According to Hastings, he had interviewed Eric Carlson two weeks prior to the interview with Figel.

WF: What did Eric [Carlson] have to say [about the shutdown incident]? (RH had interviewed Carlson two weeks earlier, on 10/6/08)

RH: Uh, he said that he couldn’t recall any UFO-involvement in the incident. He couldn’t remember if you had mentioned UFOs, one way or another. His son [James] has now [posted] on a blog, a web log, a couple of lengthy statements in which he defamed Salas, said Salas was a liar, [and said] there was nothing involving UFOs at Echo...

WF: Did Eric say anything else that was a discontinuity [relative to what I’ve said]?

RH: ...Well, I [told Eric] that you had [heard from] a guard or a maintenance person that there was an object above the site, which you’ve confirmed today—

WF: Yes.

RH: —And I asked Eric if he remembered any of that, and he said that he did not. And, um, I asked him why his son would have written this scathing, very negative summary, which I will send [to] you, about the event—

WF: That will be interesting.

As can be seen above, Eric Carlson told Hastings that no UFOs were mentioned or alluded to.  Figel may have been "uncomfortable" as evident by his asking Hastings, "Did Eric say anything else that was a discontinuity...?"  Does this mean that Figel was not told of the UFO story by the maintenance team?  Since Figel was talking directly to the team via SIN line (telephone hand set in the LCC), Carlson may not have heard the conversation that was taken place, since he would have been busy assessing the situation from the commander's console and relying solely on Figel to gain what ever information that could be had from the maintenance team.  In short, both may be right in their own individual assertions.

Though I am not aware if Robert Hastings has ever provided the complete contents of his telephone interview with Eric Carlson,  Carlson does provide a detailed accounting here.  Walter Figel's current views of the incident here

In conclusion, it has been shown that though UFOs were reported to Figel on at least two occasions, he never took these reports seriously.  To this very day, Figel believes that the maintenance and Strike teams were joking with him.  Eric Carlson has consistently maintained for the past 43 years that no UFOs were involved in the Echo Flight shutdowns.  Most importantly it has been shown that no individual mentioned in Figel's statements to Hastings could have been in the position to physically see a UFO.  Based upon Figel's statements to Robert Hastings, UFO activity could not have played a role in the shutdown of ten ICBMs in Echo Flight.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Off Alert, Echo Flight, 0845: A Reconstruction...Part 1

During the morning of 16 March 1967, an unprecedented event occurred at the 341st SMW's Echo Flight, all ten of the flight's Launch Facilities (LFs) abruptly dropped off alert.  This incident would set in motion a large scale effort by SAC, the 341st SMW, and various support agencies to bring the sorties back up to alert status.   An investigation into the cause of the incident, lasting almost a year, would yield no definitive conclusion other than a "noise" pulse causation with characteristics similar to that of an EMP.  Much has been written and discussed about the Echo Flight shutdowns with speculations swirling around the statements made by Col Walter Figel, the Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander on duty at Echo-01, and the possibility of UFO involvement.  With that said, the story of Echo Flight remains cloudy and lacking of clarity.  Figel and other often mentioned maintenance and security guards consistently frame the storyline, yet what of the others?  These individuals are referenced to, yet always remain in the shadows.  Some are known, but the majority remain unknown to this day.  Based upon numerous articles, the reader gets the sense that only Figel was on alert that morning and the crew commander, Eric Carlson, is mysteriously absent, soundly sleeping while the drama unfolds.  And what of the actual events, can the morning of 16 March 1967 be recreated on paper?  I believe that by combining relevant portions of Figel's statements and correlating the 341st SMW's Unit History narrative then some degree of clarity can be achieved.  By reviewing and analyzing Figel's and Eric Carlson's recollections and comparing the unit history reports, one sees both supporting and contradicting evidence of what actually happened on that morning, yet some form of clarity unfolds as the alert itself is recreated and we find that Eric Carlson plays a major part, as he should have, because after all he was the crew commander in charge of Echo Flight.

The Road to Echo

A short background and the setting of the table is needed to mentally place the day of the incident.  Echo-01, the Launch Control Facility was, and still is, located roughly between the small farming communities of Winifred and Hilger.  The time of travel, from base to the site, would have been approximately two hours, barring weather and road conditions.  Back at Malmstrom, all of the squadron crews would have met for their pre-depature briefing starting at 0700 with actual departure to their respective sites between 0800 and 0830. The road to Echo would have taken the missile crews south easterly passing through Belt, Stanford and eventually to Lewistown, transversing the 10 SMS and a portion of the 490 SMS's Mike Flight.  From Lewistown, the crew would turn and head due north passing through Hilger and eventually taking a county road heading due west and finally arriving at Echo-01.

The 341st SMW had three operational squadrons in 1967, the 10th, 12th, and 490th Strategic Missile Squadrons.  The 564th was soon to be operational with its new Minuteman II LGM-30F) missile and Sylvania designed Launch Control Center, but as of March 1967 its sorties were yet to be placed on active alert status.  Numerous civilian contractors were spread throughout the wing's Launch Facilities installing and integrating new hardened HF antennas.  There is no documentation that shows such contractors on any of Echo's ten LFs on 16 March.  With the exception of the 564th SMS, the three active squadrons employed the Minuteman IA (LGM-30A) missile which would remain in service until the three squadron's upgraded to the Minuteman II in 1972.

Echo Launch Control Center:  15-16 March 1967

Carlson and Figel started their alert duty on the late morning of 15 March.  It's not readily known which crew that they changed over with and taking over the alert.  Leading up to 0845 on 16 March, the alert appears to have been uneventful with all 10 of Echo's LFs showing strategic alert.  On the commander's console the Launcher Status Missile Indicator Panel (LSMIP) would have displayed ten green lighted indicators annotating "Strategic Alert.'' Two of Echo's LFs had maintenance teams on site with the following status annotated on the LSMIP:

E-02: Strat Alert, OZ/IZ illuminated, Mnx on site due to failure of secondary door actuating motor.  Site penetrated by team, two security guards topside.

E-08:  Strat Alert, Fault indicator illuminated, active VRSA 26 (site on diesel generator), OZ illuminated hard or cycling, Mnx on site, two security guards topside with Mnx team in rest status in on-site camper.

Launcher Status Missile Indicator Panel at Commander's console

Note to readers: 

OZ, Outer zone security motion detection system covering the topside of the Launch Facility, particularly covering the launcher closure door, personnel access hatch, and the below ground Soft Support Equipment Building which housed the diesel generator, equipment cooling air system and other support equipment.

IZ, Inner zone security system that covered the inside of the Launch Facility/missile silo.

Eric Carlson was in bed asleep in the early morning hours.  Figel was awake monitoring the alert since he had taken the first sleep shift.  Figel had the LCC lighting set for "dark running" with only the emergency lights illuminated. No message traffic was being transmitted on the Primary Alerting System (PAS) nor was there active traffic on the 487L communication equipment.  All command and control components and equipment were operating without incident.

There is a question as to when Figel woke Carlson.  There are two possibilities, either Figel woke Carlson as was previously requested prior to Carlson starting his sleep shift, or Figel awoke Carlson after the first fault indication and alarm had sounded from the commander's console.  Based upon an interview with Carlson, an assumption could be made that Figel probably woke Carlson at a requested time and was briefing him on the current status of the flight which coincided with the initial sortie dropping off alert.

0845 16 March 1967

The first alarm sounded approximately at 0845 with E-08 dropping off alert.  On the LSMIP, on the commander's console, E-08 would have shown no "alert" indicator illuminated and only the previous fault indicator illuminated for the active VRSA 26.  Figel, per T.O. (Technical Order) checklist procedure was at the deputy commander's console interrogating VRSA for any new active reporting channels for E-08 and would have received the following voice report, "VRSA channel 9...VRSA channel 26...all channels monitored."  The T.O. would have listed the channel 9 report as an LF No-Go situation affecting the missiles guidance and control.  While Figel was busy with VRSA, Carlson was facing the commander's console and saw the rest of Echo's LFs drop from "strategic alert" to "fault" with audible alarms sounding for each consecutive sortie dropping off of alert status.  The crew would then have checked on the VRSA reporting for the rest of the nine LFs receiving active VRSA channel 9s.  The role of the deputy commander was to handle any VRSA requirements.  Eric Carlson, as crew commander, delegated which crew member was to be responsible for contacting the maintenance teams, the Flight Security Controller (FSC), Wing Job Control, and other command elements.  All of the crew actions were dictated by various checklists outlined in the weapon system Technical Manual/Technical Order (T.O.).  Both crew members each had a personal copy of the T.O.

Minuteman I Enable and VRSA Panel at Deputy Commander's console

It is estimated that all ten sorties dropped off alert within a 10 to 40 second time interval.  Carlson noticed that for each LF, none of them dropped into "standby" mode due to the lack of any white light "standby" indicators illuminating.  This would have indicated that the missiles would have started an internal calibration sequence.  Under some circumstances, a missile might drop automatically into "standby" and stay for an extended time in calibration mode and then eventually drop into an LF No-Go condition.  With specific fault and VRSA indications, the crew would command the sortie to drop into calibration mode possibly averting a No-Go situation, but in the case of Echo, there would have been no time to initiate such a command.  There were no flickering of any other indicator lights on the panel, nor did any of the LCC lighting dim.
From statements made later by Figel, he contacted the maintenance team on E-08 via VHF radio.  One of the security guards reported to Figel that the maintenance team was still asleep in the camper which was situated on the LF.  Figel stated that he had the guard authenticate though the authentication process with security personnel would normally have been accomplished by the on duty Flight Security Controller (FSC) top side in the LCF.  Once the maintenance team chief had awoken, Figel would have had him authenticate.  It can be assumed that both members on the LF authenticated properly since no security situation was declared for E-08 itself.  Since E-08 was not penetrated (B-plug was not lowered down and no hard IZ alarm illuminated on the LSMIP), there was no way that the maintenance team could have verified the E-08 was indeed off alert with a channel 9 No-Go.  It would have taken approximately 20 to 30 minutes to lower the B-plug and gain access internally to the LF.

Topside view of Minuteman Launch Facility.  Note the Launcher Closure Door and at the bottom of the photo the Soft Support Building housing diesel generator and equipment cooling air system

After dealing with E-08, Figel turned his attention to E-02.  Figel contacted the maintenance team chief via the Secure Intersite Network (SIN) line.  Both maintenance members were inside the LF proper, possibly repairing/replacing the secondary door actuating motor.  It can be assumed that Figel had the team chief authenticate and then explained the indications that he had received back from the LF.  The maintenance team was in position to verify that E-02 had an active VRSA channel 9 No-Go.  It is at this point where controversy begins as one of the maintenance team members verifies the active channel 9 and then, per Figel's statements, makes the following reply on the SIN line:

“We got a Channel 9 No-Go. It must be a UFO hovering over the site. I think I see one here.”

Figel took this as a joke and continued with his checklist procedures.  Why did Figel believe this to be a joke?  The maintenance team was calling from inside the LF/silo.  Figel makes it clear that the communication was conducted via SIN line, which is only located inside of the LF and the Soft Support Equipment Building (also located underground).  Due to SAC Two-Man Policy and the internal portion of the LF being a No Lone Zone, both team members would have been in eye contact of each other.  Since the team was able to physically confirm the VRSA channel 9 condition, this means that they were definitely inside the LF and not in the Soft Support Building.

Ariel view of a Launch Facility

With both crew members following their respective T.O. (Tech Order) checklist, it appears that Carlson would have been the one making the required notifications.  Carlson's first call would have been to Wing Job Control (WJC) reporting the indications and active VRSA channel 9s.   The WJC  controller would have declared that all sorties were "officially" listed as off of Strategic Alert.  The controller would have provided Carlson with his initials which Carlson would have written down on his crew log.  The controller, enlisted rank, would have immediately notified the OIC of Wing Job Control who in turn would have placed an urgent call to the Deputy Commander for Maintenance (DCM.)

Carlson's next call would have been to the Wing Command Post (WCP) relaying that all of Echo's sorties were off of Strategic Alert.  The command post controller would have annotated his status board with the fault indications and provided his initials for Carlson's crew log.  The WCP would have then notified the wing's Deputy Commander for Operations (DO) and then reported the situation to the Wing Commander.  The information would have immediately been channeled up to 15th Air Force's and SAC's command post listing Echo's sorties as off of alert.  Due to the unusual number of LFs involved, the information would have immediately been sent to CINCSAC.  All of this would have occurred within a matter of minutes.  Carlson would later recall that he received a call from a SAC general verifying that Echoes sorties were not launch capable.

Carson and/or Figel would have notified Alph-01, the 10th SMS's squadron command post' notifying the crew of Echo's situation.  The missile crew at Alpha would have then called the 490th SMS's Kilo-01, the Alternate Wing Command Post.  The Kilo crew would have annotated in their logs that all ten of Echo's sorties were off alert.  By then the 10th's squadron commander and operations officer would have been aware of the situation, as well as, the Echo Flight Commander.

If not done so earlier, the Echo crew would have declared a flight-wide security situation.  Echo's FSC would have dispatched both the primary and secondary SATs to investigate the 8 LFs that were not manned.  Though its unclear, a Mobile Fire Team (MFT) located in the November Flight area was requested to check for unusual activity.  The MFT may have been asked to leave their location and render assistance to Echo's two SATs.  It would not have been unreasonable for Delta or Oscar to send one of their SAT teams to provide further assistance.   Though there is no supporting documentation, it is reasonable to assume that one or two Flight Security Officers may have been nearby to render assistance.

By 12 noon, Carlson and Figel would have relinquished the alert to the new on-coming crew.  Once the change over briefing was accomplished and the classified documents were inventoried, the on-coming crew would  handled and monitored the rest of the flight activities.  Carlson and Figel would then have driven back to Malmstrom arriving approximately two hours later.  While they were en route back to base, plans would have been in the process of being devised to bring the sorties back up to operational alert status. SAC would started the planning stage to investigate the shutdowns.  Even though the Echo incident was classified, per Eric Carlson, by the following day, most people in the field, on the base and in the city of Great Falls knew what had happened at Echo.

I can't affirm that this is how the morning went exactly for Eric Carlson and Walter Figel, but based upon the available documentation and statements, I believe that it comes close.  Figel would later tell Robert Hastings that there were maintenance teams on three or four of his LFs, yet based upon current documentation, there were only two LFs with maintenance teams on site.  Where others concentrate strictly on Figel's actions and statements, I've been able to bring Eric Carlson appropriately into the picture...taking command of his flight...Echo Flight.

Note:  I briefly introduced the UFO controversy.  As most know, Figel made statements about his SAT strike teams making claims of UFO sightings.  Those claims will be analyzed, in detail, in a follow on Part II posting.


Robert Hastings, "Did UFOs Cause the Shutdown of ICBMs at Malmstrom AFB, in March 1967?" 12/22/2008

Ryan Dube, Reality Uncovered, "An Interview with Malmstrom AFB Witness Eric Carlson", 09/12/2010

Friday, December 3, 2010

Did a UFO Attempt to Launch Minot AFB ICBMs?

Minuteman Launch Control Facility (location and date unknown)

This is another interesting story involving a UFO that apparently was moving over an entire squadron of Minuteman I missiles.  Overall, I like this story, it has certain fascinating elements to it.  The witness appears to be sincere and makes a good attempt to recall events from 40 years ago.  There are elements of command and control issues that would have any old SAC Warrior's heart racing.  The story line has an Orson Wells touch to it that is reminiscent of "War of the Worlds"   In the flavor of the Malmstrom incident,  Robert Hastings tells the story that is based upon his interview with David Schuur.  Lets see if some sense can be made of the event and find an answer to the question, "Did it really happen?'

Robert Hastings posted an article on on July 15, 2008, "Launch in Progress!" Hastings interviewed David Schuur who as a Lt. was on alert at Echo Flight in the mid to late 1960s at Minot AFB, ND. Schuur tells of a UFO encounter in his flight area on one particular alert.  Per Hastings, this interview was one of the "most disturbing interviews" that he had yet conducted for his research.  A UFO had apparently activated the launch sequence for most of David Schuur's Minuteman missiles.

Article posted at

Brief Synopsis of the Event

Lt David Schuur, was a missile launch officer assigned to the 455th Strategic Missile Squadron and the 91st Strategic Missile Wing located at Minot AFB, ND.  Schuur was at Minot for 4 years, December 1963 to November 1967.   Schuur admitted that his memory was "foggy" due to the lapse in years since the time of the incident.  He estimated the event to have occurred between July 1965 and July 1967 (Based upon the commander that he was crewed with)  When pressed by Hastings to try and narrow the time frame, Schuur thought that the incident may have occurred towards the end of his missile tour on station, approximately 1966 or 1967.

On the night in question, Schuur was out at Echo Launch Control Center.  He had the watch while his commander was asleep.  Sometime during the alert, Schuur hears, over PAS (Primary Alerting System) that Alpha Flight security personnel were observing a large bright object over some of their missile sites.  The object appeared to be moving from one missile site to another.  Schuur was not totally sure, but Alpha's missile crew may have been receiving spurious indications on their launch control console.  A few minutes later, Echo started to experience spurious indications on its launch control console.  Echo's security personnel notified Schuur that a bright light or bright object could be seen 3 to 4 miles east of the Launch Control Facility.  The object, though close, never did approach the Launch Control Facility. Schuur thought that the object was scanning his missiles based upon the indications that he was receiving back at his LCC.

Schuur noticed that the spurious indications consisted of the activation of the outer zone and inner zone security alarms at some of his missile sites.  All of a sudden "Launch in Process" lights started showing on the launch control console indicating that Echo's missiles may have process a launch command.  Schuur activates the launch inhibit switch attempting to cancel the possible launch of the affected missiles.  As the object left Echo's flight area, all of Schuur's missiles return to normal operation.

What Happened at Minot's Echo Flight?

Did a true Launch in Progress occur? That would depend on a number of factors and subsequent indications. Schuur told Hastings that he believed that the ICBMs where in a launch sequence, that is, in the process of launching.  So the question has to be asked, did the sorties in question show that the Enable Command had been processed? In order to process a valid launch command the missile must be enabled by activating enable code from the LCC to the LF.  The enable unlock code was only given to the missile crews by SAC HQ via an encrypted message which was sent to the alert crews via PAS, UHF/HF radios, and SACCS. Did the sorties show that the Launch Command had been initiated and processed? (It takes two LCC crews to initiated a valid launch vote...Positive Control ...and this was done via key turn, no push buttons as portrayed in most movies.  The two launch keys were locked  (two separate locks, one belonging to the commander and the other belonging to the deputy commander) in the LCCs red safe which was located above the deputy commander's console.  And finally, did the inhibit launch command, which Schuur states that he initiated, clear the indications or did, as told by Schuur, the "launch in progress" indication cleared up on its own?

Partial view of Launcher Status Missile Indicator Panel (shows 4 out of  ten LFs

A few of months ago, I was corresponding with a former Minot Minuteman I crew commander concerning the then command and control nature of the weapon system. Minot's configuration was almost identical to Malmstrom but with some variation in LCF/LCC panels and equipment configurations.  It was standard procedure to drop the missiles in calibration mode in the event of serious indications affecting the missile itself. Once the missile was in calibration mode, it was not capable of processing any commands issued from the Launch Control Center until after the calibration sequence was completed.  I personally experience this in Minuteman II. 

Schuur states that after the alert he and his commander were told to turn in their tapes and log. Not unusual since this was the requirement for all crews returning from an alert regardless of any unusual alert events. The tapes? Minuteman I did not have the capability of generating printouts, that would come later with Minuteman II & III upgrades.  Recall my Malmstrom post, Minuteman I crews could only monitor their LFs by fault light indicators and VRSA panel interrogations. (This information had from the correspondence with a retired Minuteman I crew commander.)  Minot would keep its Minuteman I missiles until the mid 1970s when it finally upgraded to the MM IIIs.  Could Schuur have, due to the passage of time, confused sorties dropping into "Standby", due to calibration sequencing and mistaken it for Launch in Progress? Both indications are colored white lights on the commanders launch console indicator panel. An inhibit commanded sortie would be indicated by a red colored "inhibit" light on the panel. Unfortunately, Robert Hastings failed to ask these questions, as Schuur's answers could have been more enlightening and revealing.

Hastings, through the words of Schuur, concludes that a UFO may have attempted to gain access to and launch the flights Minuteman ICBMs. If you look at the technique of interviewing, Hastings provides Schuur leading questions. This ultimately leads to his conclusions that Schuur's recalling of the past event are accurate and therefore credible. Hastings now is able through another series of leading questions conclude that UFOs may have been attempting to launch an ICBM.  Whether this is true or not does not matter. The thought has been planted in mind of his readers.  Based upon Hastings' interview, is this a credible story?
Plausible Causation and Time Frame

What makes this story difficult is the lack of verifiable documentation.  The best time-frame of the incident that can be established is what Schuur tells Hastings, which unfortunately is extremely vague. Schuur states that the incident probably happened "in the early morning hours." Further more he is assuming that he was at Echo, but that may not be 100 percent certain. He tells Hastings that the incident may have happened between 1965-1967, then when pressed by Hastings, Schuur gives the 1966-1967 time-frame.  So now there is a wide gap to cover...2 years.

Since Schuur states that the sighting and strange indications happened in the early hours of the morning and depending on the weather conditions its reasonable to ask if an astronomical event such as an early morning star or planet could have played a role in the security personnel sighting the object.  CUFON listed two Minot events, March 5, 1967 and June 1968. Rule out 1968, since Schuur left Minot in November 1967 and now your only left with the March 5,1967 event. Below is from

Richard Hall:On March 5, 1967, Air Defense Command radar tracked an unidentified target descending over the Minuteman missile silos of the 91st Strategic Missile Wing at Minot AFB, ND. Base security teams quickly converged on the area and saw a metallic, disc-shaped craft ringed with bright, flashing lights moving slowly.  The disc stopped and hovered about 500 feet (150 meters) off the ground, as security police held their fire and watched in awe. Suddenly the object began moving again and circled directly over the launch control facility 

Project Blue Book does appear to list an investigation corresponding to a March 5, 1967 incident in and around Minot AFB, but received reports of a UFO sighting near Mohall, ND and Velva, ND from local policemen on March 2, 1967.  The obect in question appeared to be moving east to west.  Mohall is north of Minot, Velva is south east of Minot and Echo-01 is south west of Minot.  Was Schuur on alert during the night of 2 March 1967?  This would probably be difficult to establish.  The 5 March description would come close to Schuur's narrative, but again there appears to be no formal documentation that verifies any event happening on that date.  The LCF in question is not named and Schuur states that his security team saw the object 3-4 miles away and it never approached the LCF.

In Hastings' article, Schuur goes into a brief detail about turning in logs and tapes. The crew log was simply a 24 hour record of events that occurred during the alert period. You would list preambles of Emergency Action Messages, maintenance activity on a particular LF, malfunctions of equipment, security situations at LFs, etc.  Schuur states that he had to turn in tapes from the PAS (Primary Alert System).  PAS was a direct unsecured dedicated phone line between SAC HQ, numbered Air Force command posts, wing command post and each of SAC's ICBM launch control centers. There was no recording device that was recording message traffic via PAS. Upon receipt of an encoded emergency action message and after the crew had decoded the message only the encoded preamble (the first 5 alphanumeric characters) would have been entered on the 24 hour log with a date/time entered also.

The only hard copy of message traffic that Schuur may have received was from the SACCS communications rack. The SACCS generated a hard copy encoded message that was identical to the voice message passed via PAS. I believe that this may be the "tapes" that Schuur is referencing, though it was not a tape but a telex type of print out that the crew would compare the encrypted contents versus that which was received over PAS. PAS and/or SACCS did not contain any contents relating to the ongoing day-to-day status of the flight's 10 missiles.  Procedures have changed throughout the decades, so missile crews may have been required to turn in their SACCS copies of message traffic during the 1960s. There were no such requirements in place during my time in the early 1980s. The relevance of this "tape" is hard to ascertain as this system would not annotate via printouts any sorties receiving commands from the crew.

Another communications system was Survivable Low Frequency Communications System (SLFCS) which received message traffic via ground waves and provided a printed out (extremely slow!!). The contents of a SLFCS message receipt was identical to the message received via PAS/SACCS.  With two communication systems providing printouts, we may well be dealing with nuances which are unfortunately clouding the picture.

Some of the comments posted in response to Hastings' article raised the issue of a possible SAC HQ exercise to gauge wing and crew response. I tend to heavily doubt that scenario. Evaluating security responses to a "situation" on an LF for a security exercise was common, but tampering with a nuclear assets...unthinkable.

Below are email correspondence between David Schuur and myself:

To: xxxxxx 
Sent: Thursday, July 16, 2009 6:36 PM
Subject: Ref. Hastings

Mr.  Shuur,

I had sent you an email last night.  Perhaps I can make this easier and not waste your time.

Robert Hastings wrote an online article in the UFO Chronicles web site, "Launch in Process", and attributed numerous quotes from you regarding the incident in 1964.  Actually, the article has the appearance of an interview.  Again, you are quoted, numerous times.  If your quotes are correct then I will accept that and use Hastings' article as his/your frame of reference.  Hastings has provided me your phone number.  Currently I see no reason to bother you with a phone call.

However, if you feel that Hastings has misquoted you or taken your quotes out of context, then that is a totally different matter and would like to hear from you.  Again as stated in my last email, I am a former MM II Launch Officer that was stationed at Malmstrom AFB, Mt from 1981 to 1985.


Tim Hebert

Mr. Herbert,
I have not read the UFO Chronicles web site.  However, if the web site is similar to his book, then Mr. Hastings has accurately quoted me.  Mr. Hastings gave me an opportunity to review the details about our interview several times and received my concurrence prior to publication.  The facts published are exactly as I recall the incident, all but 40 years after the fact.
I hope this resolves your questions.
David Schuur

In my email to Schuur I had erroneously listed the event as happening in 1964 which underscores the time-frame issues.


1.  Schuur more than likely experienced an anomaly while on alert.  There is high probability that the ICBMs were not put into a launch sequence due to there being no concrete evidence that those sorties had processed a valid enable and launch command.  Finally, Schuur's sorties reverted back to normal modes of operation.  Whether or not this occurred as a result of the inhibit command is still a question.

2.  The questions concerning tapes and logs are not relevant in itself.  What is relevant is Hastings placing the importance of turning in the tapes and crew logs.  All crews returning from alert would have been required to turn in their logs. 

3.  There are two "incidents" involving UFO activity, 2 March 1967 and 5 March 1967.  Though the 5 March date comes close to Schuur's accounting, but the incident somewhat falters due to the alleged UFO circling over the launch control facility itself and there is no documentation that I have yet to come across that verifies anything happening on 5 May 1967.  The 2 March date is documented and is confirmed flying east to west near Velva.  That would put the object on track to fly near Echo 01 which is located near Blue Hill.  But this same object is seen near Mohall which is North of Minot.  So could two objects been reported but listed as one sighting from two sources?  Unfortunately it's difficult to tell for certainty.

4.  Whether Schuur is a credible witness, I can't form that opinion.  I do believe that he is sincere...gut feeling.  Supposedly Schuur may appear for an interview with Frank Warren of The UFO Chronicles.  Warren doesn't state Schuur's name but every indication leads to Schuur.  If this is correct maybe Frank will ask him some of the above questions.  This should or would be an interesting interview to listen to.

5.  Did it really happen?  Based upon the above, you tell me!

Tim Hebert

Note to readers:  There was comment made on another blog site that I may have been divulging classified information.  Nothing in the Malmstrom article nor this one has any classified information.  The issue of the enable command, launch command, and inhibit launch command is NOT classified.  Most, if not all of my information comes from the public domain, FOIA documents, and my experience when I was on alert so many years ago.

Update: 5/23/2013

David Schuur's interview to Robert Hastings brought up the idea that he had tapes to turn into his squadron and/or other base personnel.

I had downplayed this as confusion centering around printed tapes that would have recorded commands issued and received by the crew and that this capability was non-existent for the Minuteman I system.

Frankly, the confusion is mine.  David Schuur in all probability turned in recorded tapes after his alert cycle.  I came across a web page that detailed Minuteman alert crews back in 1967-68.  This apparently was an Air Force promotional spot that may have either aired on TV back in the 67-68 time frame or was a promotional film that was shown to civic gatherings.

In the film, it details a 12 SMS crew at Malmstrom AFB.  The film and it's narrator makes a point to show the voice tape recording system that was installed in the LCC.  Per the narrator, this was supposed to be activated during a higher state of readiness and in preparation to launching the flight's ICBMs.  Basically, it would have been a voice record of the event since there were no other capability to have a written trail to show the actions of the crew.

Obviously, by the time Minuteman II had been fielded, upgrades resulted in a printer system that recorded day to day actions of the crew.  These tapes had to be turned into the squadron hq when the crew returned to base.

Tim Hebert