Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Discovery Channel's "Close Encounters" Salas/Oscar Flight Part 2

In my previous post regarding Discovery Channel's "Close Encounters," my main critique was that of the production of the episode's segment covering Robert Salas' experience at Oscar Flight on 24 March 1967.  I had briefly mentioned the difficulties with Salas' story, but chose not to go into depth and detail as to why his tale was incredulous on the face of it.  

Below is a reprint of a blog post of mine [2 years ago] that highlights my thoughts on the case.  If you've read it before, then forgive my repetitiveness, but I believe it important for new readers to understand my thoughts on the matter and the below article captures it in totality.  At the end of the article, I provide 7 points that cast total doubt on Salas' claims.

The Oscar Flight Mystery:  A Tree falling in the Forest

If a tree falls in a forest, does it make a sound?  Let's apply a variation to this old adage, if ten ICBMs fall off alert, does anyone take notice?  If we use Echo Flight's incident occurring on 16 March 1967, the answer is a resounding yes.  What of Robert Salas' claim concerning Oscar Flight back on 24 March 1967?

Let's separate Salas' claim of UFO involvement for the moment and concentrate on the claims that all ten of his ICBMs inexplicably dropped off alert (similar to Echo).   Where is the official (or, if you prefer, the unofficial) paper trail?  Echo Flight generated message traffic that was up-channeled to SAC Headquarters at Offutt AFB as well as producing an extensive engineering analysis and investigation that lasted well over a year.  Where is Oscars' analysis and message traffic?  Odd that during the initial stages of Echo's investigation, there was no mentioning of a possible event at Oscar occurring one week later.  Surely such an incident coinciding with Echo would have been mentioned in the classified unit history and the engineering report due to the enormity of the situation.  Not only would SAC and the Air Force had been dealing with a full flight shut down at Echo, but a subsequent full flight shut down involving Oscar would have been mentioned in the on-going investigation being conducted by Boeing and others.

Official National Security Agency (NSA) Archive...Minuteman ICBM History

When writing the history of the U.S.'s ICBM program, Bernard Nalty made mention of the ten ICBMs dropping off alert in Echo Flight, but made no reference to anything happening at Oscar. An oversight by Nalty?  Remember, Nalty's work was initially classified "SECRET" and according to Salas, Oscar's alleged incident was classified as well.  There seems to be some sort of disconnect here as Nalty goes into classified details surrounding the issues affecting all of SAC's Minuteman wings back in the 1967 time frame.  Why would an equally important situation affecting Oscar flight not be mentioned?

When reading Nalty's works, it became apparent to me that Malmstrom was different from an operational standpoint when compared to the other five Minuteman wings.  Malmstrom's wing was the first fielded Minuteman system.  It became the prototype for the new system, as any operational or design flaws that were readily discovered and improvements/enhancements were made at the other five missile wings.  Malmstrom's "prototype" oddity was the main reason that Echo's incident was investigated both in the field and at Boeing's facilities rather than exclusively at OOMA, Hill AFB.  Hill AFB had no Wing I (Malmstrom) test bed facility to conduct the investigation.  That's not to mean that the other Minuteman wing's didn't have their own issues, but those issues tended to be centered around the then Minuteman II missile versus that of structural and avionic support system issues.  This is an often overlooked part of the Echo and Oscar stories. 

The above touches on the official documented issues, or as in Oscar Flight's case, the lack of official documentation.  Per authors such as Robert Hastings and Robert Salas, the lack of official documentation and follow-up investigations for Oscar Flight could only mean that SAC, the Air Force, and DoD perpetrated a cover-up.  This alleged cover-up resulted in AFOSI agents debriefing Salas and Fred Meiwald and forcing both to sign a non-disclosure letter, thus securing their silence.   Yet I have to ask, securing their silence for what?  Both launch officers saw nothing other than "indications" on the launch control console ranging from a simple security zone violation at one launch facility to 2,3, or all 10 of Oscar Flight's ICBMs dropping off alert. (I've touched on this discrepancy in both Salas' and Meiwald's version of events in a previous blog post).

Some would argue that perhaps Salas and Meiwald were initially silenced for what they had heard via telephone reports from the top side flight security controller.   What did they actually hear?  As mentioned in my previous blog postings, up until 1996,  Salas was totally unaware of a UFO sighting over one of Oscar's launch facilities and Meiwald was totally unaware of Salas' received report that a UFO was observed hovering over Oscar's front gate.  Ironically, both were only separated by a mere 8 to 10 feet while all of this was occurring.

What of Oscar's flight security controller and the numerous security guards?  There is no evidence that they had signed any non-disclosure document.  The same could be said of the facility manager and cook.  The fact is that up until now, these individuals remain unnamed merely shadow figures in the story.  Surely if there was any credence to the story they would have come forward by now supporting Salas.

Eric Carlson's and Walter Figel's Opinion

Some two years ago, Eric Carlson gave an interview to Realityuncovered's Ryan Dube.  Per Eric Carlson there was no hiding the fact that an entire missile squadron had dropped off alert.

"The event at Echo became what could be referred to as the talk of the town.  Everyone knew about it and many crew members kidded me about it..."

Simply, even if SAC had wanted to hide the shutdown event, it would have been impossible to do so.  Too many people were already in the know. The old adage holds true:  "If one person knows something then it's a secret, once two people know then its no longer a secret."

Could the same be held as being true for Salas' claims for Oscar Flight?  Again, we need to go no further than the words of Eric Carlson.

"...There was never any talk, at any time, about a similar event at Oscar.  I can only conclude from that that it never happened."

...and the statements from Walter Figel to James Carlson.

"Bob Salas was never associated with any shutdown of any missiles at any time in any flight and you can take that to the bank. Just think about this for a split second. He is a person wrapped up in UFOs to the Nth degree. Yet he could not remember he was not at Echo. Then he thought he was at November – wrong again. Then he thought he was at Oscar – wrong again."

"There is no record about anything happening at November or Oscar except in people’s minds that are flawed beyond imagination. Salas has created events out of the thin air and can’t get the facts straight even then. My best friend to this day was the flight commander of the 10th SMS at the time. He and I have discussed this silly assertion in the past couple of years – he thinks it is all madeup nonsense for sure. I put both Salas and Hastings in touch with him and he has told them both that an incident at November or Oscar never happened. In addition he was subsequently stationed at Norton AFB where the engineers tested the possible problems. No little green men were responsible."

"There is no Air Force “cover-up” it just did not happen the way Salas and has portrayed the course of events..."

The statements from both Eric Carlson and Walter Figel are both telling and damaging to Robert Salas' claims.  Both men were in a position to know what would have transpired in the field.  And I suspect that there are others who were assigned to Malmstrom back in 1967 that would equally attest the same.  Robert Hastings has touted that he has interviewed over 130 former Air Force members supporting his UFO/Nukes connection, but if you take into consideration the total population of Air Force members (present/past) that supported nuclear missions then Hastings' 130-plus is reduced to an extreme fraction of a percent.  What does this say about the remaining 99.9 percent?  Are they lying or further propagating a cover-up due to their silence?

Let me provide a personal example while pulling missile alert duty back in the early 1980s.  If I were the crew commander out at Kilo Flight (squadron command post and alternate wing command post) and if November had four ICBMs drop off alert, I would have, by protocol, been notified by November's crew that they had four sorties off alert.  I would have to annotate this on a squadron status board and logged an entry into my crew log even though November's status did not directly affect Kilo.  BTW, the same holds true if an ICBM(s) had dropped off alert in the 12th SMS (clearly in the southwest region of the 341st SMW), the same holds true because I was obligated to keep track of all of the wing's missile status and concurrent launch status/capability.  Then we have personnel who were manning the wing command post and job control back at the base.  These base agencies would have been contacted and various reports up-channeled to 15th Air Force's and SACs' command posts.  Within a span of approximately 15 minuets, quite a few people were already in the know.  

Now supplement this with Salas' claim that an entire flight had dropped off alert.  Hopefully the reader sees my point.  The vast number of people involved in the up-channeling of reports makes a cover-up extremely unlikely.  That would have resulted in alot of people signing non-disclosure letters.  In Salas' case, where are these people to support an Oscar shutdown?

Possibility of a Prank? 

A while back on various on-line forums, the possibility of missile crews playing a prank on each other was discussed at length.  Most thought that the idea that serious minded missile launch crews would never stoop to this level, yet on occasion we did.  Most of the pranks were low grade intended to break up the monotony of being out on alert.  Ninety nine percent of my alert duties were sheer boredom with nothing exciting occurring other than routine missile maintenance on my sites or the occasional outer zone security violations set off by thunder storms or animals wandering onto a launch site.  The average crew demographics was that of the crew commander being 25-27 years of age and the deputy commander being 23-24 years of age.  If you combine the age group and boredom, its only natural that pranks will occur.  Go on-line to missileforums.com and type in "crew pranks" in the site's search window.  You'll find numerous examples of crew pranks.  Pranks were not limited to the launch crews as flight security controllers and top side security teams exhibited their own brand humor.

Could Salas' have been the victim of a "UFO" prank?  It's possible and below is an example of such a prank that was perpetrated back in the 1960s...at Malmstrom, of all places.

 It was likely late 1970 at a 490th SMS Dinning Out that I heard the story, A specific crew commander believed in UFOs. And when he went on alert, other crew members in the same squadron on alert at the same time called the the Flight Security Controller at the LCF and pretending to be a local farmer saying there was a glowing object of some significant size hovering over a specific Launch Facility. the FSC notifiers the LCC crew where the UFO believer is and he relates the phone call or patches him in to the caller, not sure of the details. as it is a multi-handed story embellished to make it sound better and the people telling it have had a few drinks any way. The information is relayed to wing command post and eventually SAC CP. I don't know if the flight security was dispatched our not to check the site out, they likely would have been and would have found nothing. So the story was likely spun the the object had left before the call was made to the FSC by the other crew member. Any way it was enough after the fact that the story was written up in one of the UFO magazines and the perpetrators had a big laugh over it.

A little Background about the the prior 490th Squadron Commander. He was a Full Col. who had been offered the Wing Commander Position and turned it down and he had date of rank on all wing staff. So he could get away with a lot and one one on base could touch him. Hi crews knew it and he did not let any one else mess with his crew member either. So the 490th SMS had a reputation as being a very undisciplined squadron where a lot of pranks were pulled. After the 490th Commander retired all of the operations branch officers were replaced and the new squadron commander was supposed to rain in the missile crews which happened to some extent after Gerald G. Falls became Wing Commander if the 341st Strategic Missile Wing.

So this is about as much as I can relay to you, the story was told by by inebriated personal at a squadron dining out and embellished to make it a better story so you can't put a great deal of credence in any of it. but knowing the reputation of the 490th under the form squadron commander it sounds highly likely that such a stunt would have been pulled as there were a number of tricks pulled on crew members even after that in the 490th while I was on crew between June 1970 and April 1974.

490 SMS June 1970 - June 1974
HQ SAC Command Control War Plans Computer Division - System Supervisors [We were the analyst of the SACCS]
DOD Contractor DRC Database Designer F-15 & F-16 Consolidated Data System and designed the F-117 initial database.  

The above story was provided by a former missile crew commander that goes by the moniker "Notlaw99".  If you look at the details of the prank, there are similarities to Salas' story.  So in Salas' case, the possibility of a prank cannot be totally ruled out.  Notlaw99 does provide a valid point when looking at any story told years after the fact in that the reader has to take into account that the story may have been embellished to make it sound better.


 I wanted the reader to have the opportunity to see the opinions of others as far as Robert Salas' claim of UFOs and missile dropping off alert at Oscar Flight back on 24 March 1967.   Robert Salas has viewed his position as being easily defended in a "court of law" based on the evidence at hand.  Do these claims constitute a good "case"?

1.  No mentioning of an incident at Oscar Flight in the 341st Unit History.
2.  No mentioning of an incident at Oscar Flight in the engineering and analysis report investigating Echo Flight.
3.  Bernard Nalty makes no reference to an incident at Oscar Flight.
4.  No statements supporting an incident at Oscar Flight from those individuals that were either topside at Oscar or in the field responding to a security violation.
5.  Eric Carlson and Walter Figel discount an incident at Oscar Flight.
6.  No one in the chain of command up-channeling reports to 15th AF and SAC HQ has come forward supporting an incident at Oscar Flight.
7.  Remote, but possible practical joke played on Meiwald and Salas can not be totally ruled out.

The above 7 points may be enough to rule out even a circumstantial case and cast reasonable doubt on any incident occurring at Oscar.  But in the end its up to the reader to decide one way or another and ask the all important question..."Did it really happen?"


  1. Haven't seen it and ain't interested either. Same old, same old.

  2. Tim: Why did the supposed aliens not mess with the Titan Missiles? Were they immune for some reason?? All this revolves around one guy in the Minuteman Program....If what this is usually hyped as it true, then apparently the Aliens did not like Boeing very much :-)

  3. Anonymous,

    Former employee of Martin Marietta? :)

    Thanks for the comment. I did write a post some while back that covered that very subject which you raise.

    There were no UFO components to any stories surrounding the Titan system...go figure:)