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.

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