Sunday, February 23, 2014

The Minot AFB October 1968 UFO Incident: Case Introduction Part I

Case Introduction

During the early morning hours of 24 October 1968, a fascinating series of visual observations by numerous Air Force missile security and maintenance personnel occurred in the vicinity of the Minot AFB's 742nd Strategic Missile Squadron mostly in the November Flight area.  These visual observations would result in an overflight of a B-52H in the area which it's aircrew would have both a visual observation and a recorded series of radar returns.  This incident would eventually lead to an investigation by SAC headquarters and Project Blue Book.

What makes this UFO(s) case fascinating is the extensive documentation in the form of written observations, memo for records between SAC HQ, Minot AFB and Project Blue Book, and analysis conducted by segments of Wright-Patterson AFB's Foreign Technology Division. Further, unlike other "high" profile UFO cases, the Minot incident has numerous documented eye witness and technological data in the form of radar returns.  This diverts remarkably from other UFO ICBM cases where most, if not all, of the data was purely anecdotal due to second and third hand sources which tends to be all but impossible to verify. 

There are other oddities of the case that emerged from the investigation, such as the B-52H's brief UHF radio transmission outage and the intrusion onto the topside of a Minuteman ICBM launch facility.  Based on extensive interviews conducted by UFO researchers Jim Klotz and Tom Tulien, other stories surrounding the incident come to light..."the stories within the story"...which demonstrates the bizarre nature of most UFO observations and it's psychological impact on those individuals who hear of it by unofficial means.

The Beginnings of the Investigation

Where to begin?  Perhaps one approach is to start with the initial report/phone call from Minot AFB to Project Blue Book via a Memo for Record, 1730 hrs, 24 October 1968.  This would be the notification of the UFO observation that started the investigation for Project Blue Book. 

The memo for record is titled "UFO observation, Minot AFB, ND 24 Oct 1968 and is written by PBB's Lt. Marano based on a telephone call from Minot's UFO investigation officer, LtCol Werlich.  Bellow is a narrative of it's contents courtesy from Tom Tulien's

- Crew of B-52 sighted and photographed UFO.- Base Commander and Maj. Nichols, 15 AF, interested. 
- Col Quintanilla notified. (actual rank is LtCol)- Called LtCol Werlich, UFO investigator.
-  Werlich requested no immediate help - no urgency. 
- Lt Marano asked LtCol werlich for details of the sighting:
- About 0300 hours local, B-52, 39 miles NW of MAFB sighted an unidentified plip on their radar. 
- Target traveled 2 1/2 miles in 3 seconds or 3000 mph. 
- Passed from right to left of plane- assumed position off of left wing. 
- Radar blip stayed off left wing for approximately 20 miles then broke off. 
- [Radar] scope photographs taken. 
- When target close to aircraft, both transmitters [UFH] did not work, but operated normally after/when the radar blip broke off. 
- About the same time, missile maintenance reported sighting a bright orange-red object.- Object hovered about 1000 ft - similar sounds of a jet engine. 
- observer had stopped his car, then started moving his car.  As he moved, the object followed him.  The object accelerated and stopped 6-8 miles away.  Observer shortly afterward lost sight of the object. 
- Response to maintenance man call, B-52 was vectored towards the visual, about 10 miles NW of the base. 
- The B-52 confirmed sighting a bright light of some type hovering just over or on the ground.- 14 people in separate locations reported similar object. 
-  At this time OZ/IZ alarm activated at one of the sites [launch facility].  Guards found outer door open and combo lock on inner door had been moved. 
- Weather misty, temp 28-29 F, winds 5-10 knots. 
- No info yet about if object painted by radar in control tower, control tower saw anything, azimuth and elevation from the 14 observers, physical object vs. light. 
- LtCol Werlich did not have exact sequence of events. 
- LtCol Werlich agreed to gather the above information.

During the span of 5 days, LtCol Werlich would have most of the principle observers complete AF-117, Sighting of Unidentified Phenomena Questionnaire.  Oddly, it would appear that other known observers did not complete the AF-117, but no known reason is given, nor does PBB appear to query about these other observers, ie, the B-52 co-pilot, the Camper Alert Team (CAT) positioned on the launch facility, O-06, and the security personnel on duty at Mike and Juliette Flights.  Despite the drama that was played out in the early hours of 24 October, there appears to be no known civilian reports of the observed object(s) by Air Force personnel.

Project Blue Book's Conclusion

On 13 November 1968, PBB's LtCol Hector Quintanilla issued a final conclusion to their investigation concerning the Minot incident.  Below is a summary of the key points of PBB's conclusions:

1.  Ground visual appears to be the star Sirius and the B-52.

2.  B-52 radar contact and temporary loss of UHF transmission could be attributed to plasma/ball lightning.

3.  B-52 visual observation could be the star Vega, light on the ground, plasma.

4.  O-7 break in was not related to the event.

Focus of My Analysis

Based on the above conclusions by PBB,  the subsequent series of blog post will look at each of the conclusion sets and attempt to determine if these conclusions were plausible based on the available data that was supplied by Minot AFB's LtCol Werlich.  PBB's staff analyzed the data that was given to them, as they did not do the actual investigation work themselves, thus the quality of the analysis and conclusions were dependent on the quality of the on-site investigation that was conducted by Minot AFB.

This was LtCol Werlich's first UFO investigation.  It is reasonable and prudent to ask if his investigation was adequate or did he miss important data.  PBB's numerous memo for records tend to support the probability that Werlich was doing the best that he could under the circumstances, but he had two components to investigate...the ICBM component and that of the B-52, one in his element of understanding and another that was not.

The coming series of blog articles will look at the accumulated AF-117s and attempt to determine if these visual observations support PBB's conclusions.  Further, though conducted some 30 to 40 years later,  the interviews conducted by Tom Tulien and Jim Klotz will be looked at and compared to the original AF-117s.

Part 2 of this case will look at the observations of the missile maintenance personnel and the November Flight security personnel.  

Tim Hebert



  1. Hello Tim,
    I'm very "happy" you have started your look on its case and to share your thoughts.
    Gilles Fernandez

  2. Hi Gilles,

    Thanks for the comment my friend. I've spent on and off about a year looking at the case. Its a great UFO case that has interesting elements. I hope to have Part 2 up in about a week.

  3. Tim:

    Your comment regarding Werlich is a bit confusing. Not sure you are aware that he was a B-52 pilot. You may want to review his bio.


  4. Tom,

    Not sure what your talking about or your sense of confusion...

    I assumed he either was a B-52 pilot or KC-135 pilot, I further assumed that he was flying secondary to keeping his flight rating even though he was primarily Base Ops commander. The same would have been true for the squadron commanders and the bomb wing commander, vice commander, deputy commander for operations...they all flew from time to time to keep their pilot or navigator ratings...

    As always, thanks for the comment.