The Origins of a UFO Sighting
During the early morning hours on 24 October 1968, a missile maintenance team was traveling south of November-01 (launch control facility) heading to the launch facility N-07, near Grano, ND, to perform work on the site when both individuals had initially sighted a bright object in the sky east of their location. The team consisted of A1C Robert O'Connor, team chief, and A1C Lloyd Isley. Based on both member's AF-117s, the initial observation occurred approximately half-way between N-01 (LCF) and N-07 some 5 miles in distance.
There is a bit of confusion and disagreement, based on later interviews, as to whether O'Connor/Isley were the first individuals to see and report the observed object. Years later, Oscar Flight's FSC, William Smith would tell UFO researchers Tom Tulien and Jim Klotz that a Camper Alert Team located on O-06 reported lights in the sky south of their location approximately at 0230. Despite Smith's claim, there is no documentation that LtCol Werlich had interviewed the CAT members and/or had them complete an AF-117. [Smith's claim appears to have some credibility due to the Wing Security Control summary of events list O-06 as having a CAT on site of 24 Oct...Tim Hebert]
With the above being said, most documents show O'Connor and Isley as being the first ground observers and it seems logical to review their completed AF-117s first. Below is a segment from an apparent summary from Wing Security Control log, undated, which sets the time for the first reported observation:
At 0308 hours the initial report was received from a maintenance team enroute from Nov-8 to Nov-7. An A1C O'Connor was the maintenance Team Chief and he stated that all members of the team observed the lighted object. They further stated that it was reddish orange in color, a very large object, with flashing green and white lights. After they entered N-7 LF the object came directly over head with the sound of jet engines...
And from the Base Operation's log [undated]:
0800. [0300 local time] Object 8/E of N-7 moving toward site with brillant light like the sun...
Taking the WSC and Base Operations information together, the time period that O'Connor/Isley radioed their initial report would have been between 0300 an 0308. There appears to be some degree of confusion as to whether the team had stopped first at the LCF for gas and provisions and/or had stopped and performed work on N-08 prior to their arrival at N-07. Though this may not seem relevant to the actual observations, it may help to explain some of the various discrepancies associated with the time of first observations listed on the AF-117s.
|N-07 near Grano, ND in a North-South orientation|
Robert O'Connor's AF-117 completed 28 October 1968
O'Connor AF-117 writes that his first observation of the object in question was at 0230 and lasted until 0345. The date of the actual observation is entered as 23 October vs. that of 24 October and further the time is "check" as pm vs that of am.
The object was first sited at 0230 when O'Connor was approximately 5 miles north of N-07. He had stopped his vehicle to observe the phenomena, but it's not certain how long that he and Isley had stayed at a standstill while initially making their observation. Per O'Connor's AF-117, he had contacted the N-01 FSC [SSgt James Bond] and according to other documentation this would have been around 0308. The question remains if the initial call made to the FSC occurred when enroute to N-07, or when O'Connor was at the launch facility's gate. [per protocol/procedures any team arriving at a launch facility was required to contact the FSC to announce their arrival and provide a valid call sign and trip-number. The FSC would contact the launch crew with this information and the team would be processed onto the site culminating with the team properly authenticating their identification with the launch crew.]
Sect. 6 shows only "B" plotted [last observed] showing the object to have been last observed approximately 15 degrees above the horizon. O'Connor provided no "A" plot [first observed]. The same is noticed for Sect. 6a where only "B" is plotted at ESE with no corresponding "A" plotted, and Sect 7 plotting "B" only location of the object setting at O'Connor's 11 o'clock position in the sky relative to his facing a southerly direction. Again, no "A" is plotted for a beginning observation. Based on the above, it would appear that O'Connor was observing a stationary object, yet the rest of his AF-117 content shows that the object(s) in question was not stationary at all based on his perception.
Sect. 8 shows that O'Connor was moving south in his vehicle at 35 mph and had stopped to observe the object, "The object seemed to be observing us. When we stopped the object seemed to hover or stop..." The object made numerous movements, but it's not clear that this was being observed at the initial observation point or from the vantage point while on N-07.
Sect 10 details that more than one object was observed while O'Connor was on N-07. One object was SE of N-07 and the other was SW. O'Connor is aware that a B-52 was in the area and was generally west of the object in question. He listed the observation conditions as partly cloudy, nimbus clouds, a few stars visible and no moon.
Sect 12 describes the appearance of the object, "The object appeared self-luminous like a big ball of white light that seemed to change to a dim green light then later to a dim amber color. The object seemed to take on the appearance of a sting ray fish." Yet further on in Sect 15, O'Connor could not make out the shape of the object, "I was unable to make out any definite shape because the object put out such a bright light." O'Connor described the object as making the noise of that like a jet engine, but lower in pitch.
Sect 14, O'Connor writes that what drew his attention to it, "The fact that it was bigger than the two farm yard light which appeared at a distance. Further in sect 20, he writes, "When the object was first sighted it appeared to be in between two farmers yard lights which were a little smaller than the object..."
Tom Tulien's interview with Robert O'Connor, 23 Feb 2005, here
O'Connor provides reflections and perceptions to Tom Tulien. O'Connor states that he and Isley did not stop at N-01 to see the FSC, but went straight to the missile site [N-07]. he saw a light rise up and it started paralleling his truck as they were traveling down the road [heading in a southerly direction]. He had assumed it was a yard light. (pg 6)
When asked if the light was down near, right at the horizon, O'Connor gives the impression that it was almost on the ground, 30 to 40 feet, a normal height that illinunated the ground. The light picked up and started following them down the road. The light was seen off to their left and it appears to be following them. Either O'Connor or Isley calls the LCF on their radio. (pg 7)
O'Connor thought the sighting duration lasted over an hour. He watched the light/object move around and change colors. The light/object did not come up close to them...it appeared to just hover. He could not see a shape other than the light that appeared to be glowing. The light appeared white, like an yard light, then changed to green. to amber, and then to red. (pg 7,8)
Again, the light appeared to just hover above the ground and made no noise. O'Connor estimated that the object was 300 to 400 yards away. It's size appeared as big as that of a B-52, yet he could not make out the whole object. There were no marker lights [as that of an aircraft] and he could make out the lights, strobes and noise of the B-52 when it had flew over the area. (pg 8)
O'Connor and Isley were out at the site [N-07] for about 30 minutes before the security team had arrived from N-01. While waiting for the security team, O'Connor had observed that the object was not really in the sky, but in the tree line. It appeared low, 50-60 feet in the air, about eye level, making circular movements, hovering, changing colors and brightness. The light never completely went out. The object disappeared when the B-52 over flew the area. Once the security team had arrived all of them stayed outside the perimeter of the launch facility watching the object. Both teams left their vehicles outside of the launch facility. (pg 9,11)
Concerning the arrival of the B-52, O'Connor states that he was not notified that the B-52 would be overflying the area; he just happen to see it coming into the area. He was able to identify the aircraft by maker lights, engine noise and body of the aircraft. (pg 12)
O'Connor had the opportunity to talk with the B-52's pilot the next day. During this meeting at the Base Commander's office, he learned that the aircraft's crew had lost radio contact and that their engines had shut down for a few seconds. He further learned that the UFO had paced the aircraft. (pg 12)
The next morning back at the base, O'Connor states that he received a call to meet at the Base Commander's office. There, he was asked to write down the events of the night. He recalls that there were 5 to 7 other people believing that LtCol Werlich, the B-52 pilot, and possibly another crew member. He was put in a room and told to "read form, fill it out." (pg 15,16)
O'Connor appears to dispute the date of his AF-117. He believes that he had actually filled it out on the 24th of October, not the 28 October as written on his AF-117. Further, he does not recognize the writing on the the AF-117 as his. (pg 16)
Towards the end of the interview, Tom Tulien brings up the fact that O'Connor's recall of the event, is different from that of his actual AF-117. O'Connor believes that the listed time of his contact with the N-01 FSC [SSgt Bond] is correct as to that would have been the time that he and Isley would have arrived at N-07. He does not recall that he had described the object as the shape of a "stingray." He claims that he never did stop the truck to observe the object/light on his way to N-07. O'Connor is certain that two F-106 interceptors were scrambled prior to the arrival of the B-52. (pg 19-21)
Lloyd Isley's AF-117 completed 28 Oct 1968
Based on his AF-117, Isley wrote that the duration of the sighting lasted from 0030 to 0430, approximately 4 hours. He was traveling south from N-01 to N-07 on a gravel road about 5 miles north of N-07 when he first observed the light/object.
Sect 6 shows that "A" was plotted approximately 47 degrees above the horizon due east for the initial observation. "B" was plotted slightly below 15 degrees above the horizon southeast for the last observation.
Sect 8 describes that he and O'Connor were in vehicle traveling south at 30 mph. They stopped the vehicle. Both individuals also observed the object from the missile site [N-07].
"We also observed the object from out side of the vehicle...drove pickup on gravel road, flat terrain...no traffic on road...a B-52 was in the same area as the object, just before the object left our view."
Sect 9 describes the duration of the sighting as lasting 3 and half to 4 hours. Isley was fairly certain of the time which he had determined based on the amount of time his team spent on N-07. Isley wrote that the object was not seen continuously but went out of sight a few times and then would reappear.
Sect 10, Isley writes that at one time there were two objects in the area (see diagram on AF-117).
Sect 11, the night was clear with few stars.
Sect 12, 13-20, The object had lights on the front like head lights or landing lights. It had green flashing light toward middle or rear. Isley could not ascertain any shape or size. The light did not change colors. He estimated the angular size as that of a KC-135, but could only tell by the lights on the object. He estimated the speed of the object as "slow" and at a distance of 2 miles. Isley provided no description as to any noise coming from the object.
Sect 25, Isley writes that he and/or O'Connor reported to the N-01 FSC and Base Operations.
Sect 27, Isley writes the following:
"We first saw the object to the east of us while we were traveling toward the site. It started moving south. We arrived at the site and then started observing the object from the outside of the truck. It was moving in a large circular area to the south. It came within hearing distance twice. The sound was that of jet engines. It was in this same area for two or three hours. When we last saw it, the object was in the SE and wen low and out of sight. [Isley drew a diagram that shows the object moving in a counter clockwise oval shaped orbit south of N-07.]
Jim Klotz and Tom Tulien interview with Lloyd Isley, 23 Aug 2001, here.
Per Lloyd Isley, "It was a unique event, but I've probably had a different impression of it at the time and now as to what it was. It probably differs from what O'Connor thinks happened, for sure...He saw it different than I did at the time. (pg 5)
Isley could not recall what launch facility they were heading to [Tulien showed him documents listing N-07] and did not recall if they had stopped at N-01. Both men were driving south, the light seen to their left, to the east, about a height of a farm house light. They had called the Transportation Control Center (TCC) and/or Job Control to ask if a helicopter was in the area. (pg 7)
The light was pacing the vehicle, observed to be a little above the horizon. It was hard to determine how far away, though it seemed to be staying with them. Isley did not recall stopping the vehicle, but admits that it was possible. TCC patched the team into Base Operations. Both men stayed outside the launch facility for awhile watching the light. Isley was asked if the size of the object/light was big, "No, it wasn't any bigger...made noise as if moving through the air. The light didn't seem as bright when they were on the site. The launch facility site lights were on. (pg 8)
Isley saw the light for a couple of hours. He disagreed with O'Connor's time of first observation at 0230, yet cannot say for sure that his listed time of 0030 was correct as he agrees that his stated timeline in his AF-117 does not make sense. He was aware of the B-52 in the area and that the light disappeared about the time that the B-52 had arrived in the area. Unlike O'Connor, Isley did not recall that interceptors were flying over the area. (pg 10-14)
Isley recalls filling out an AF-117, possibly the next day but could remember the actual date. He stated that he was not coached when filling out his form, but was only helped with ascertaining angles and distance. He did not recall being with O'Connor when filling out the AF-117, yet this may have occurred. He did not recall meeting the B-52 pilot, but he states that he was told that the B-52 had picked up a radar return. Unlike O'Connor who believed that he saw an object that had changed colors, Isley only saw a white light that did not change colors. (pg 15-17)
Personal notes and observations
Project Blue Book's final analysis and conclusion stated that the ground observations appeared to be influenced by both the star Sirius and the presence of the B-52. Is this a plausible conclusion based on the written observations of O'Connor and Isley? I'll ask the same question regarding the other observers in later posts, but will focus for now on O'Connor/Isley.
There are obvious discrepancies concerning the initial time of sightings. O'Connor's wrote 0230 versus that of Isley's 0030. I'm more apt at agreeing that O'Connor may be more accurate. The 0230 initial sighting would take into account that the maintenance team would have stopped their vehicle mid-way to N-07 to observe the light/object and still account for any contact with Transportation Control Center and/or Job Control to query if any helicopters were flying that night.
The Wing Security Control log/summary may be correct as far as the N-01 FSC (SSgt Bond) noted time of observation occurring at 0308. This could be explained based on procedural methodology for any team attempting to gain access to any launch facility. O'Connor/Isley would have arrived at N-07 and contacted the FSC via VHF radio providing the team's trip number, call sign (if any), and the names of the individuals on the team. The FSC would verify this information via his dispatch records and then notified the launch crew. The launch crew would have verified the dispatch with their records. In other words, O'Connor/Isley scheduled arrival was already anticipated well in advanced...prior to them leaving the base.
Once the dispatch information was verified by the launch crew, the maintenance team would have been allowed to enter the site and break the Outer Zone perimeter security system. The team would then enter the Soft Support Building and contact the crew via SIN line and go through the authentication process via encrypted coding. It would have been the first radio contact with the FSC, approximately 0300, that the team would have reported their observation to the N-01 FSC, thus securing some degree of credibility to the "official" reporting time of 0308 for both the maintenance team and the N-01 on-duty security team. [SSgt Bond and the N-01 security response teams AF-117s will be looked at in a separate blog post.]
When comparing both O'Connor's and Isley's AF-117 I'm left with the following impressions:
1. Isley appears to be more attentive to details concerning the observation. Both he and O'Connor are together either in the vehicle or on N-07, yet both describe a somewhat different observational point of view. One swears that F-106 interceptors over flew the area prior to the arrival of the b-52, the other denies this.
2. The light/object was initially sighted due East and last seen roughly in the SE. So basically, the phenomena would have moved East to SE over a 3 to 4 hour period of time. I compared this information with a star chart and found that at 0030 for 24 October, Sirius would have been exactly due East of the maintenance teams location at 28 degrees above the horizon, as well as, Rigel being approximately ESE of their location 35 degrees above the horizon. By 0430, Sirius would be located SE of the maintenance teams observational vantage point 24 degrees above the horizon and Rigel still 35 degrees above the horizon. Per both men's AF-117s, the night was either clear or partly cloudy with a few stars in view. What may be of some interest is that Procyon was located in the SE 30 degrees above the horizon, but would have appeared noticeably above Sirius. Rigel would have been SSW. Based on this data it would appear that from a stellar standpoint, Project Blue Book's conclusion may be plausible.
3. Isley believed that there were two objects in the area while on N-07. The first object appeared to be SE of the site and the second appeared SW of the site. O'Connor never clearly stated the above for his own observation. Again, from a stellar possibility, Sirius and Rigel would seem to conform to Isley's observation.
4. Both individuals were aware that a B-52 was sent to their area. Both described the light/object in similar terms and traits to that of the B-52 flying near or over head of their location. They describe the object as having landing lights, strobe-like lights and making the noise like that of a jet engine. Curiously, O'Connor describes the appearance of a "stingray" form, but then wrote that he could not make out a definite shape. Isley has contended that he could not see a structured object, but only a light. Both men cannot provide a definitive shape, but agree that it's size is that of a KC-135. This gives me the impression that both men may well be confusing the B-52 with the initial object first observed.
5. Going back to the interviews conducted by Tom Tulien and Jim Klotz, both O'Connor and Isley leaves me with the impression that the initial observation was not as dramatic in the size of the object/light as listed on the AF-117s. Both men describe a light similar to that of one seen around the various farm yards in the area. O'Connor initially assumed it to be a yard light, almost on the ground at normal height. Isley told Tulien and Klotz that the light seen was the height of a farm house light.
6. Isley describes a race track-like movement pattern south of N-07. What is interesting to note is that the B-52 flew a similar route south of N-07 with one of it's passes. Isley and O'Connor's impressions have marked difference from an observational point of view. Both were together for 2-4 hours yet saw things very differently.
When taking the above 6 points into account, it leads me to believe that the initial observation may well have been a stellar component (Sirius, Rigel, and maybe Procyon). With the arrival of the B-52, O'Connor/Isley could have been visually distracted away from the first object, thus cognitively the B-52 replaces the first observed object accounting for some of the noted movements as observed from the N-07. Remember, according to both men, once the B-52 arrived, the other object disappeared.
Further, the B-52 was reportedly flying west from Grand Forks AFB back to Minot AFB. Assuming that the aircraft was making a low approach to Minot AFB, the maintenance team may well have seen the aircraft's landing lights either due east or somewhat in the ESE direction.
Questions concerning the dates of completion for the AF-117s
The issue of the date of both men completing their respective AF-117 has been in question for some, as O'Connor believes that he completed his form on the 24th of October and Isley believes that he may also have completed his on the 24th as well, but could not clearly recall. Based on the initial notification and information that was sent to PBB on the afternoon of the 24th, it is reasonable to assume that most of the observers were interviewed by LtCol Werlich on the 24th and asked to write down their respective observations. This would account for the initial information sent to Lt Marano at Wright-Patterson AFB.
Having the witnesses providing written details of their observations does not specifically equate to completing an AF-117. It is plausible that LtCol Werlich had requested the observers to return a few days later to complete the form. All of the AF-117s associated with this case show a wide range of completion dates, so Isley's and O'Connor's completion date is not out of the ordinary when compared to others. As of 30 October, PBB had yet to receive any information from Minot AFB concerning the case, including all of the completed AF-117s.
O'Connor and Isley were not the only individuals to observe the phenomena. Later on, both men would be joined at N-07 by the November flight security response team. Next blog post will look at the AF-117s from the November flight security team.