Tuesday, January 28, 2014

The Tale of SSgt Louis D. Kenneweg

I've been meaning to get to this side story of the 1967 Malmstrom Echo Flight UFO encounter. Louis Kenneweg's discriptions of unusual maintenance activity at Malmstrom was first reported by Robert Hastings in NICAP back in 2006 and subsequently published on his web site, "UFOs and Nukes", June 2006, "UFO sightings at ICBM sites and Nuclear Weapons Storage Areas"

I'm not certain as to when Kenneweg had interviewed with Hastings, nor how Hastings had came into contact with him.  I first read of the story back in 2009, when Hastings had posted the story on a missile forum site which I was a member.

Basically, Kenneweg's story appears to be an attempt to correlate to that of Robert Jamison's telling of his Combat Targeting Team being dispatched to the field for the purpose of performing targeting and re-alignment tasks for multiple missile sites. (see blog article for Jamison)

Below, I've posted the Kenneweg segment as written by Robert Hastings, "UFO Sightings at ICBM Sites and Nuclear Weapons Storage Areas."

Staff Sgt. Louis D. Kenneweg
Former Minuteman ICBM maintenance clerk, 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron, Malmstrom AFB, Montana
At the time of the 1967 missile shutdown incidents, Staff Sgt. Louis D. Kenneweg was assigned to the 341st Missile Maintenance Squadron (MIMS) at Malmstrom AFB. His duties at the MIMS hangar included issuing Technical Order kits (T.O.s) to other members of his squadron. As Kenneweg explained, "Each of the repair teams would be required to take T.O.'s in the truck with them. The kit included books or manuals that would contain technical information that the technicians could look up rather than rely on memory. There was also a check list in plastic sleeves, kind of like a pre-flight checklist for a pilot, that they would use before removing the warhead from the missile. Of course there was an awful lot of supervision when that occurred."
Although the date is uncertain, one night, around 11:45 P.M. Kenneweg was driving to work when he noticed something unusual in the sky. "As I traveled down one of the roads parallel to the flightline," he said, "I saw something that I first thought was a private plane's lights, blinking. As I watched it get closer, I realized that it wasn't blinking at all, but zig-zagging. First here, then there, traveling too fast for a plane. Then looming over the flightline. I got up late, and I knew that I had little time, but I stopped anyway. I opened the car door, got out, and focused on the lights. I watched it as long as I could, without being late to work. I remember saying to myself that this pilot was going to be in a lot of trouble, coming across the runway, or at least across the Air Force Base property. I don't remember it traveling that close to me, but I do remember the image of it disappearing in a low southerly trajectory over the [MIMS] hangar. Of course, it was much farther away than it appeared. At that point, it wasn't 'blinking' anymore but had more of a glow. It appeared as a bright light the size of the moon, on a cloudy night, although I don't remember it being cloudy."
Upon arriving at the MIMS hangar, Kenneweg was confronted by a scene of high activity. "As I entered the hangar I noticed that there were numerous trucks being loaded," he said, "many more than I had ever seen all at the same time."
Still puzzled about the strange, zig-zagging light, Kenneweg walked toward the Air Police office, where APs were routinely assigned to accompany the maintenance teams into the missile fields, guarding their trucks and the silos once they opened the gates. When he arrived, he noticed an unusual level of activity there as well. Kenneweg asked the Air Police sergeant on duty whether the base had any helicopters up. The sergeant replied that the helicopters didn't have radar and didn't fly at night.
Kenneweg continued, "Back at the office, I issued almost all of the [T.O.] kits on the shelf. I remember saying to myself, 'I'm running out of kits, this is a busy night.' Now, I didn't check the sign-out sheet to see how many kits had been checked out before my shift, but while I was on duty, I did recall that they were almost all checked out. As I count them off in my head today, and try to see them on the shelf, we had a wall with 3 shelves that would hold 25 or so."
Clearly, a lot of missiles were either undergoing routine maintenance, and/or had gone off Strategic Alert for another reason, all at the same time.
When the maintenance teams returned to the MIMS hangar—Kenneweg first thought that it had been some three hours later, but upon reflection, now believes that it was more than 24 hours later, during his next shift—one of the technicians hinted that something out of the ordinary had taken place in the missile field. "One of the guys mentioned to me that some very weird things were going on that night," said Kenneweg, "It takes two guys to carry the T.O. kit, and there were other guys behind him, waiting in line to get checked in, and they were all nodding their heads in agreement. But this guy said that he couldn't talk about it right then. He said he would tell me all about it back at the barracks. Well, like I have said before, I was busy working [a second job] at the Red Lion Supper Club and didn't really have that serious sit-down conversation with that particular airman. But the barracks was buzzing. Stories about how when they got to the [missile silos] and found no damage, and how all the batteries were dead. I also heard a story that [UFOs] were seen on radar, then they were gone."
He continued, "Our missile sites each had a tertiary power system. The main power source was delivered by Montana Power. Telephone poles, transformers and wire. The second system was the diesel generators, and the third was the battery back-up within the silo itself. Numerous reports came back saying that they had found no damage to the fences, wires, transformers, microwave intrusion system, locks on the three-foot-thick concrete blast doors, or to the batteries. So, no evidence of damage from intruders or animals, lightning or fire. Just three sources of power vanished and the batteries were dead."
Kenneweg believes that the incident was not isolated. "As I recall," he said, "there were other nights where the guys would come back and look a little shaken, all within that same time-period."
What is to be made of Kenneweg's story?  It can be viewed in different ways thus drawing different conclusions.  The story has the structure of truth to it, but there are little things that are somewhat suspect as to it's presentation.  Assumptions can be readily made that Kenneweg more than likely was at Malmstrom and did perform the duties as stated based on the details provided by him, yet despite that, there are important items missing from the story.
What is the main focus of the Hastings' article?  He has Kenneweg observing a blinking/glowing light near the base's flight line.  He also has Kenneweg issuing T.O. kits for maintenance teams due to either major routine maintenance or numerous missile sites off alert.

There are no definitive dates and times listed other than Kenneweg observing lights at or about 1145 pm.  We are given the possibility that its 1967, yet that is not fully established.  We might be able to draw a loose conclusion that based on the description of heavy maintenance activity that it could be 16/17 March 1967 and the response is to Echo Flight.

Kenneweg provides no details that he had reported his observations to a supervisor.  He did ask a few questions to a security police NCO, but he does not give the impression that he told the NCO what he had seen.  In short, Kenneweg goes about his business.

Let's look at the following statement, "...But the barracks was buzzing. Stories about how when they got to the [missile silos] and found no damage, and how all the batteries were dead. I also heard a story that [UFOs] were seen on radar, then they were gone."  This appears to be similar to the Echo Flight story, but obvious told either second or third hand to Kenneweg as the details are over inflated. There were no issues with the power being supplied to Echo's missiles.  The UFO component to story is simply "I heard..."  Again, consistent with the rumors that were circulating back in 1967.

Finally, we have Robert Hastings' conclusion:

Based on Kenneweg's description of his own UFO sighting, during which the object appeared to be near or over Malmstrom's flightline at one point, I have speculated that the UFO may have briefly maneuvered near the base's nuclear Weapons Storage Area (WSA), which is located just east of the main runway. The WSA contains Minuteman missile nuclear warheads, known as Re-entry Vehicles (RVs). A review of aerial photographs of Malmstrom, which show the WSA, coupled with an analysis of Kenneweg's probable position near the MIMS hangar, lead to this conjecture. Regardless, another UFO sighting at the WSA, some years later, has been confirmed by two other sources. See Malmstrom AFB, Montana (1975).

We have speculations, yet there are the absence of facts.  Kenneweg even states of his initial observation, "Of course, it was much farther away than it appeared."  Which could be interpreted that maybe the object(s) were not actually hovering over the weapon storage area or the flight line.  The weapons storage area is generally kept locked and secured and security checks done on a routine basis.  One would think that such an incident would have drawn attention to the numerous base security forces, yet according to Kenneweg's story this does not appear to be the case.  The activity is centered around the maintenance hangar...not the weapon storage area.

Interesting UFO story, but as usual the story itself begins to fall apart under closer scrutiny.

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