The 24 October 1968 Minot case has a dearth of information that one can sift through. If we access the Blue Book case files on Fold 3.com, we have 90-plus pages of documentation. This documentation gives us quite a bit of information that attempts to describe what occurred on the night/morning in question. It's as close to real time that we can get, or that we may ever get. Of course this could change should new revelations appear in the form of new documentation that were not part of the original release.
Yet despite the above hope for future document releases, we are faced with the fact that at this late point in time, 45 years, such discoveries will probably not be forth coming. So the extant copies of the BB investigation documents are all that is provided for the researcher's attempt to separate the wheat from the chaff.
Some months ago, I had tossed some ideas around with two friends concerning an approach to the Minot case. It was the consensus from the two that I should only focus on the BB documents alone, that is, let the AF-117s speak for themselves, but there are usually other bits of information, separate from the official line, that tend to tell a story within a story.
The Pros and Cons of Witness Interviews
To the main point of this post concerning interviews conducted 30 to 40 years after the fact. Are they relevant? Not surprisingly, the answer is yes and no, but for various reasons. The Fold 3 site only provides the official investigation documentation, but Tom Tulien's site, minotb52ufo.com, has quite a few interviews that he and Jim Klotz had conducted over the past years with the principle players involved back in October 1968. These have proven to be of interest in one fashion or another.
A sampling of the case interviews show predictable memory patterns. Specific details of thecase tend to be cloudy and vague with the conversations centering on generalities. This is not to be construed as a negative take on my part, for it merely demonstrates the issues with long term memory recall. Long term memory recall is often spotty for specific or precise details which the investigator anxiously seeks, yet the sought after detailed information remains allusive.
Despite the predictability of long term memory recall, there are some gems that I found interesting and germane to the case. Lloyd Isley provides information about why he and Robert O'Connor where enroute to N-07...to work on the site's cooling system. This information was not mentioned in any of the BB documentation. What is also learned is that O'Connor was the team chief. This may have some bearing on the AF-117s that both produced back on 28 October 1968.
James Bond's interview (he being the November Flight FSC) makes it clear that the November Flight launch crew notified him of Isley and O'Connor's sightings, which means that the maintenance team initially by-passed contacting Bond via VHF radio...I found this odd from a protocol standpoint, but it does put the reporting timelines into prospective and provides some credence that O'Connor's listing of his seeing the object at 0230 (per his AF-117) may be somewhat accurate.
Bond further states that the object did not fly around or near the Launch Control Center's hardened HF antenna as was reported in the Wing Security Controller log (he never stated this in his AF-117). This confirmed my suspicions that portions of WSC log are suspect in it's narrative accuracy and has to be taken with a grain of salt.
Bond gives the impression that the SAT was already dispatched to the flight area to investigate the sighted object at his direction, but the AF-117s for the security team does not support this. I suspect that the reason for the SAT being sent to N-07 was at the direction of the launch crew. The crew had the ultimate authority to dispatch the SAT by declaring a security situation. It is possible that the crew called a low grade security situation thinking that the team may have been under duress.
Bond's interview, in total, shows normal recall issues that we would expect over the passage of time. Despite some short comings, Bond does provide information that clarifies some of my questions. Overall, this was a credible interview with decent information.
This brings up William Smith, the Oscar Flight FSC, who provided information that was both good and suspect. Smith's recall, from a long term memory construct, was appropriate as he detailed his career in the Air Force. He provided excellent rote recall regarding the procedures for entering the LCF and a LF as far as the authentication process and the access to the A-circuit. As to be expected, details were sometimes spotty concerning 24 Oct 1968. Again, I view this as a normal consequence based on the passages of time.
Smith brings up that the FSC's office had a flight security status panel that monitored each LF's security. I immediately took notice as I know from personal experience that such a system was never in place topside, but was monitored solely in the launch control center. Yet, despite my belief that no such monitoring system existed, I had contacted an acquaintance of mine who was a Minuteman I crew member assigned to Minot from 1969 to 1973 and queried about Smith's claim. My contact had happened to still have his Minuteman I dash-1 Technical Order (TO-1). The TO-1 confirmed my suspicion, the FSC's office only had a circuit panel box, fire alarm panel, telephone/VHF radio...no flight security monitoring panel.
Does this mean that Smith made things up? Not necessarily, for it's possible that Smith may have mistaken a "panel" for a map of the flight area which the FSC would have marked, with grease pencil, showing who was on a given LF(s) at a given time ie, maintenance/security teams allowing the FSC to keep track on what was occurring in his flight area. This map usually was hanging on the wall adjacent to the FSC's desk.
Smith further demonstrated recall issues concerning the status of O-6 and O-7. Per the WSC log, O-6 had a Camper Alert Team on site. O-7 had the issue of the site intrusion. Smith appears to say that a Combat Targeting Team may have been on O-6 who may have also observed an object in the nights's sky. None of the documents that I've read confirms, or even hints, that a Combat Targeting Team was on site. I can't help but to believe that this would have been highlighted in the investigation documents and message traffic up channeled to SAC and 15th Air Force. The same can be said of his claim that low level radiation readings were measured by an officer investigating O-7's break in.
These are but a few of the examples I use to show that witness accounts some decades after the fact provide both credible and equally questionable information. Yet despite the passage of time, they all consistently hold to the fact that they saw something in the night's sky 45 years ago. There are other interviews that I've not commented on, but will do so with a future post.
Addendum: Tom Tulien, in the comment section, corrected me concerning Smith's statement that an officer went out to O-7 with a geiger counter. It is indeed mentioned in one of the BBs Memo for Record that LtCol Werlich had planned to go out to the site with a geiger counter to take readings.