Wednesday, February 22, 2012
The Oscar Flight Mystery: UFO Narratives
The rationale for breaking down each variation of Salas' story into a narrative summary is that there are no eye witnesses who have ever come forward to validate Salas' claim, so we have to look at the different variations of the story. Meiwald and Salas were 60 feet underground in the LCC and therefore were in no position to verify the incident from a visual aspect. The only ones who supposedly saw the "UFO" were Oscar's top side personnel. By my estimate, there would have been a minimum of eight people: (2) FSCs, (4) security response team members, (1) facility manager, (1) cook. If we add the possibility of a Mobile Fire Team or maintenance teams in RON status (Rest Over Night) then the possible number of topside personnel increases dramatically.
Who were these individuals that saw the UFO hovering over the LCF's main gate? After 40 years none have been identified by name, nor have they came forward to tell their versions of the incident. Yet, I know that there were people manning Oscar's topside LCF on the night in question. Again, what we see is somewhat similar to Echo Flight's alleged UFO involvement...no eye witnesses and another UFO report being received by a simple phone call.
When looking at different variations of a story what's important is consistency of the key areas that a claimant makes. Due to the passage of time, it is expected that there will be minor inconsistencies due to poor memory recall, the use of paraphrasing and so on. It is the key elements of a story that gives it a sense of plausibility that must remain consistent over a given time period.
The July 2010 Narrative of Robert Salas' Affidavit
1. On alert at Oscar LCC on or about 24 March 1967.
2. Crew commander was Frederick Meiwald.
3. Meiwald was asleep.
4. FSC calls Salas and reports he and others observing "lights" in the sky making unusual maneuvers.
5. Salas did not think the FSCs' report as significant at that time.
6. Within minutes the FSC calls Salas again, "highly agitated" and "screaming."
7. Large glowing pulsating red oval shaped object, 30 to 40 feet in diameter hovering over the LCF's front gate.
8. FSC abruptly cuts off conversation, one of the FSC's men was injured.
9. Salas woke Meiwald, alarms sound, all or nearly all missiles show "fault" light.
10. Some LFs show security violation lights.
11. Meiwald queried VRSA, most, if not all had "missile guidance and control system failure."
12. Meiwald phones Wing Command Post and Squadron Command Post. Meiwald tells Salas that the same thing happened at another flight.
13. Salas phones FSC reports security violations at one or more LFs and directs security team to respond.
14. FSC reports object had flown off.
15. Security team reports seeing a similar object as they approached one of the LFs.
16. Missiles remained disabled for the rest of Meiwald and Salas' alert tour.
17. Before leaving Oscar, Salas talks to the FSC who adds nothing new to the event. Tells Salas that the injured man had minor hand injury that was not related to the sighted object.
18. On arrival back to base, Meiwald and Salas debriefed by squadron commander and AFOSI officer.
19. No explanation given for what had happened. AFOSI officer tells Meiwald and Salas that the incident was classified SECRET and they were not to speak of it to any other officer.
Salas' Narrative from "Faded Giant", pages 13-17, 2005
1. Early morning hours of 16 March 1967, on alert at Oscar Flight.
2. Clear, cold night.
3. Airman and FSC watched "lights" zig-zag across the sky.
4. FSC calls Salas about lights flying and making strange maneuvers.
5. Salas asks the FSC if he is describing UFOs.
6. Salas had previous read newspaper reports about local UFO sightings.
7. FSC calls second time, "frightened and shouting".
8. UFO seen outside front gate, glowing red. One of the airmen injured.
9. Salas wakes Meiwald and briefs him of FSC's phone calls.
10. Alarm sounds, one missile shows No-Go with two red security lights lit on commander's console.
11. Subsequent alarms go off, eight to ten missiles in No-Go condition.
12. Meiwald calls command post, Salas calls FSC.
13. FSC tells Salas that UFO is gone, injured airman's injury is minor. Salas states, "We decided to get him back to base..."
14. Salas ordered FSC to send security team to one or more LFs with security violations.
15. From Meiwald: security team reports the UFO at an outlying LF, east of Hwy 19.
16. From Meiwald: security team directed by wing command post and/or alternate wing command post (Kilo) to return back to LCF security system reset.
17. From Meiwald: Security team loses radio communication capability until they return to the LCF.
18. Meiwald and Salas complete their checklists, each missile off alert due to "missile guidance and control system" fault.
19. After reporting to the command post, Meiwald tells Salas that the same kind of shutdown had occurred at Echo Flight.
20. After change over, Salas talks to the FSC who describes the object as a big red-orange ball, too bright to get a good look at. Repeats that the airman not injured too bad.
21. Meiwald and Salas transported back to base via helicopter.
22. Meiwald and Salas debriefed by the squadron commander and an AFOSI representative. Brief discussion.
23. No know reason given for shutdowns, no exercises occurred. Squadron commander perplexed.
24. Meiwald and Salas told the incident was to be considered highly classified and were told not to discuss it with anyone.
Salas Narrative on CUFON.org, 1999, updated 2000.
1. On alert at Oscar Flight 16 March 1967, clear and cold night, snow on the ground. (1999 version had Salas at November)
2. Topside personnel see lights zig-zag in the sky.
3. FSC calls Salas to report that lights were making strange maneuvers over the facility. Salas thought the FSC was joking.
4. FSC calls a second time, "frightened and shouting", object hovering outside front gate, glowing red, one individual injured.
5. Salas wakes Meiwald, alarms sound, No-Go light and two security lights showed on one LF.
8. More alarms sound, 6 to 8 missiles go No-Go.
9. Salas phones command post, then calls FSC, man who approached UFO not seriously injured but was being evacuated by helicopter back to base, UFO gone, had red glow, saucer shape.
10. Security team sent to investigate security violations see another UFO during their patrol. The security team loses radio contact.
11. By crew change over, missiles had not been brought on-line by on-site maintenance teams.
Salas' Narrative from the MUFON Journal, January 1997
1. On alert during the morning hours at a Minuteman Launch Control Facility.
2. Received a call from the NCO in charge of site security.
3. Observed some unidentified flying objects that had overflown the LCF. Objects described as "lights."
4. Salas did not take the report seriously, believing the report to be a joke.
5. Five to ten minutes later, NCO called a second time, "agitated and distraught."
6. UFO hovering over the front gate, one of the guards injured.
7. Salas wakes his commander and gives report.
8. Within seconds, missiles begin to shut down, alert to No-Go.
9. Most, if not all, missiles shutdown in rapid succession.
10. Called command post, then Salas calls NCO, guard who was injured approaching UFO to be sent back to base by helicopter, UFO had red glow and was saucer shaped, it hovered silently at front gate.
11. Talked to squadron commander and AFOSI investigator, no explanation given for the incident.
12. Based on FOIA documents, Salas believed that he was at Echo, then changed his possible alert location to November.
13. Salas recalls that his commander, after reporting to the command post and receiving a call from another LCC, saying "The same thing happened at another flight."
The Evolution of the Oscar Flight Story
One area that stands out is the lack of Meiwald's name in the 1997 narrative. Salas refers to him as "my commander." The other three narratives mentions Meiwald by name. There could be a number of reasons for this oddity.
1. Salas could not recall who he was crewed with on the day in question.
2. Meiwald was not Salas' regular assigned crew commander, but happened to be scheduled with Meiwald for that given alert.
3. Salas had yet been given permission by Meiwald to mention his name in print concerning the details of the story.
Salas initially believed that he was at Echo on 16 March 1967. The documents secured under a FOIA request showed that he could not have been at Echo. Due to the Unit History stating that a Mobile Fire Team had inspected the November flight area on 16 March, Salas thought he may had been at November. After Robert Hastings had interviewed Robert Jaimison, Hastings would eventually contact Salas which would establish the incident to have occurred on 24 March vs. 16 March. It would be some time later that Fred Meiwald would set the location of their alert at Oscar Flight.
The Description of the UFO
The FSC's description of the UFO is interesting as all of the narratives describe it initially as "lights" making strange or unusual maneuvers in the sky over the LCF. The object is further described as glowing red, orange-red, and too bright to make out a definitive form. Some versions describe it as "saucer shaped" or "oval shaped" or a "big red ball". Mind you, this is supposedly from the same individual (FSC) who makes the call to Salas. In the 1997 story version the FSC's description of the UFO is only given after crew change over and when Salas is top side awaiting to leave for the base.
In the "Faded Giant" version, as the FSC is describing the "lights" in the sky making the maneuvers, Salas interjects and asks the FSC, "You mean they're UFOs?" So here, Salas is the first one to mention the term UFO, not the FSC. In the CUFON version, the FSC tells Salas specifically that there are UFOs.
The 2010 affidavit narrative had evolved to be more definitive in the UFO's description. Here, the FSC describes the object near the front gate as "a red oval shaped object hovering over the LCF front gate being 30 to 40 feet in diameter." This estimated measurement of the UFO is not mentioned in any of the earlier versions of the story. Where did this information come from and why was it omitted from the other narratives?
In all of the narrative versions, Salas maintains that he initially thought the first call to be a joke. This is similar to what launched the Echo UFO myth.
How Many Missiles Drop Off Alert and How Many Security Violations?
The 2010 affidavit states that Salas wakes Meiwald to brief him on the FSC phone calls and alarms sound and fault lights are lit on the commander's console, "All, or nearly all ten missiles" disabled with some LFs having security violation indications. The three earlier versions of the narrative initially have only one LF with a fault and two security lights lit (Outer and Inner Zone Security lights), then the other LFs show fault indications but no OZ/IZ indications.
With the earlier versions of the story,the number of missile sorties that supposedly dropped off alert ranges from all 10, to 6 or 8. Salas states that is was rare for more than one missile to drop off alert. Is this true?Back in 1988 while assigned to Grand Forks AFB's Codes Division as OIC of the Division's Operations Branch, I was privy to alert status documents that showed that the historical Minuteman alert rate was approximately 94 percent vs. 40 percent for the bomber force. If we take this percentage and apply it to Malmstrom's three Minuteman I squadrons (564th SMS not yet fully operational) in 1967, and based on 149 LFs (assuming I-10 was still the wings training LF), then this would have meant that 10 missile through out the wing were off alert for any given day. It is reasonable to assume that Oscar could have had more than one sortie drop off alert for a multitude of rational reasons that exclude the UFO hypothesis.
The Injured Airman
When looking at the "injured airman/guard" portion of the story, I see slight variations. All versions state that the injured airman sustained only minor injuries. The affidavit provides a more descriptive "...one of the men had received a minor injury on his hand..." The earlier dated narratives makes no mention of the airman injuring his hand, only that he had sustained a minor injury.
Was the injured airman helicoptered back to base? The 2010 affidavit makes no mentioning of this happening. In "Faded Giant", Salas implies that "...we decided to get him back to base..." Did this mean that Meiwald and Salas made this decision? It was in their scope of authority to do so, yet other narrative versions has the FSC telling Salas that the injured man was to be helicoptered back to base. The original story in the 1997 MUFON Journal article gave the impression that by the time Salas had changed over and went topside, the airman had already been helicoptered out.
If the airman had only sustained minor injuries would the wing commander have authorized a helicopter flight in the dead of night to bring the individual back to base? I doubt that higher authorities would have allowed a flight at night for the same reason as no helicopter flight was authorized to survey the Belt UFO sighting later that evening purely due to safety concerns.
In "Faded Giant," Salas states that he and Meiwald were transported back to base via helicopter transport. Did the injured airman "hitch" a ride with them? This would have made more sense, but Salas never states this. But one fact does stand out...to this very day, this airman remains unknown and has never come forward to corroborate this portion of the story.
Contact with the Wing and Squadron Command Posts
Who contacted the wing command post? In the 1999 CUFON narrative, Salas gives the impression that he did, though its possible that its an aberration of the sentence structure in the article, but all other versions have Meiwald making the call. Salas would have had every right to make any applicable phone calls, if Meiwald was busy with other checklist tasks. The question of the other call received from (not made to) another LCC is only of interest if this was not from the squadron command post, Kilo. Some versions have calls made to both the wing and squadron command posts, others have only calls made to the wing command post. Why is this important? It's from one of these sources that supposedly Meiwald receives information and tells Salas, "The same thing happened at another flight."
Security Team Investigates Oscar Flight
In the 2010 affidavit, Salas has the FSC dispatch one of the security teams to the flight area. At one of Oscar's LFs (site unknown) the security team sees a similar object (UFO) near the LF. In "Faded Giant", Salas orders the FSC to send the security team to "one or more LFs with security violations." Salas writes that "Meiwald's recollection" is that the security team reports the (same as that at LCF) UFO at an LF east of Hwy 19 and that the team was directed by either the wing and/or squadron command post to return back to the LCF after security system reset. Further, the team had lost radio contact until they had returned back to the LCF. The 1999 CUFON version only has the security team seeing another UFO during their patrol and then losing radio contact with the LCF.
Debriefing Back at Malmstrom
The MUFON Journal article states that Salas/his crew commander talked to their squadron commander and an AFOSI investigator and that no explanation was given for the incident. There is no mentioning of the incident being classified nor restrictions on talking about the incident.
The CUFON article ends with the crew changing over and Oscar's missiles still off alert...that's it, no debriefing by anyone, no classification of the incident.
It's not until "Faded Giant" that the crew is described as being debriefed by the squadron commander and an AFOSI "representative". The debrief is characterized as being brief, with no known explanation given for the incident. Meiwald and Salas are told that the incident was to be considered "highly classified" and not to discuss it with anyone. The 2010 affidavit version has the incident classified "SECRET" and both crew members were not to talk about it to anyone.
The Oscar story has evolved from 1997 to the present. In some cases, its merely minor details, but there are major differences dealing with the UFO descriptions, the number of LFs that dropped off alert, the number of LFs with security violations. Where and how did the security team make visual contact with the UFO out in the flight area? Was it the same UFO that was seen at the LCF? Different versions of the story leads one to think that it was a different UFO.
Was the injured airman a pivotal issue? Only when taking into account that a night time helicopter evacuation for a minor injury would have not occurred back in 1967, especially since there would have been medical care available in nearby Lewistown. Salas never states that he saw the injured man and his injuries. Salas and Meiwald took a helicopter back to base and it would have made more sense to have the airman taken back to base with them...did this injured airman even exist?
Overall, we see a story that has been embellished through different versions. Salas has given the illusion that certain statements were made by either the FSC or Meiwald by use of direct quotes, or paraphrasing at best. Leading up to the 2010 press conference, the story becomes more detailed and vivid even though such details were lacking some fourteen years ago. So we're left with more questions than answers. Next posts will deal with Fred Meiwalds actual statements about the event and we'll see if he corroborates Salas's versions of the story. BTW, now you can see why Salas and Hastings used the affidavits as a means to "solidify" the story.
Note to the reader, 15 Oct 20012: I was informed by Robert Hastings that this blog post erroneously gave the impression that Robert Salas had changed his location to Oscar after Hastings had contacted him after the Robert Jamison interview. After reading the text, I have to agree that the original text appeared to imply that as fact. I have changed the text to correctly state that Jamison's interview provided information that Salas was on alert on 24 March 1967. It was only after Salas had contacted Fred Meiwald that the actual alert location was established at Oscar.