Continuing from the previous posting, the other UFO case examined in the first episode of Discovery Canada's miserable new series Close Encounters was the Oscar Flight incident at Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, March 24, 1967. (The name "Oscar Flight" refers to a particular group of ten missiles.) The claims of UFOs supposedly interfering with missiles are complicated and confusing, and I will do my best to un-confuse them. However, the incident as depicted in Close Encounters is a relatively simple one. A bright, glowing orange UFO is allegedly seen over the base by security men, and then the Oscar Flight missiles were said to start going off-line, one by one. So let's examine that specific claim.
|Cartes du Ciel shows Mars as seen from Malmstrom AFB around 12AM March 24, 1967, magnitude -1.0|
Guards reported seeing a bright glowing orange object in the sky (depicted in Close Encounters as a huge, angry, pulsating object hurling down beams). What might it have been? Surprisingly, nobody seems to have asked that question. Whenever witnesses report a bright object in the sky that is red or orange, the first thing to check is whether Mars might have been the culprit. Mars only appears conspicuously bright from earth for a period of a few months every two years. Sure enough, this was one of those times. Mars was only about 3 weeks away from its opposition of April 15, 1967, when it would be directly opposite the sun, and at its maximum brightness until the next opposition 26 months later. It would rise a few hours after sunset, and remain in the sky the rest of the night. The guards were very likely looking at Mars. (Mars will be reaching a similarly-placed opposition on April 8, 2014. Observe it in March, and you'll get a very good idea of how it appeared in March of 1967.)
|Mars as depicted on Close Encounters|
They reported the UFO sighting on their radio. What happened next? According to former Air Force Lieutenant Robert Salas, the main proponent of this case, the missiles started going off-line one by one, a very troubling development to be sure - if it really happened. (In the U.S., UFOs appear to be peaceful, attempting to interfere with nuclear missiles. But according to the Russian-born UFOlogist Paul Stonehill, UFOs in Russia and the former Soviet Union are warmongering, and attempted to launch nuclear missiles.).
|Security man writhes on the ground, menaced by the planet Mars.|
The talking heads in this segment were Leslie Kean, and Kevin Randle. Kean wrote about the supposed Oscar Flight incident in chapter 15 of her book UFOs - Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go On the Record (see my review of it, ‘Unexplained’ Cases—Only If You Ignore All Explanations). Since Salas isn't a pilot, and certainly isn't a General, I suppose that makes him a "government official."
What proof do we have, other than the claims of Salas, that the Oscar Flight missiles actually went off-line? Frederick Meiwald, mentioned in the Close Encounters segment, was Salas' crew commander at that time. In a 1996 letter to Salas about the incident, Meiwald discusses the guards' sighting of a "UFO" (which apparently upset them greatly), but said nothing about any missile failures, the most significant aspect of the alleged incident. So how do we know that the missiles went off-line? Because Salas claims that they did. And that is all. There is no documentary evidence, no paper trail of any kind, concerning the supposed Oscar Flight incident. And there is plenty of reason to expect that this incident would have left a long paper trail, if it were real. Former SAC missile crew commander and skeptic Tim Hebert summarizes where the matter stands:
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 [incident one week earlier].
3. Bernard Nalty [historian of USAF ICBM program] makes no reference to an incident at Oscar Flight [but discusses Echo flight incident]. ("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?")
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. [Capt.] Eric Carlson [crew commander] and [First Lieut.] Walter Figel [deputy crew commander] 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.
As for the Close Encounter narrator's claim that FAA radar detected a UFO over the base on that day, according to skeptic James Carlson (son of Capt. Eric Carlson), while it's true that 'something' was detected on radar, it was more than 120 miles from Oscar Flight (and radars pick up all kinds of things!).
Hebert summarizes where we stand with Oscar flight,
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?"
So that sums up where things stand concerning the alleged "Oscar Flight incident." However, there was a genuine incident at Malmstrom just one week earlier, on March 16, 1967, where the missiles of the Echo Flight did indeed go off-line. But despite the claims made by Robert Salas, Robert Hastings, and others, it had nothing to do with UFOs! (Hastings is the guy who insisted that CSI(COP), and myself in particular, are disinformation agents funded by the CIA or somebody.)
James Carlson has written a long report on this incident, Echo Flights of Fantasy - Anatomy of a UFO Hoax. Among the discrepancies he notes,
The original documents Salas received state only that "Rumors of Unidentified Flying Objects(UFO) around the area of Echo Flight during the time of fault were disproven.” The loss of the ten missiles that went off of strategic alert was very well documented, as was the investigation that followed, but there has been no mention anywhere that a UFO was reported until Salas’ own claims were made public. There is also no mention of any similar loss of missiles at any other flight on March 16, 1967, or, for that matter, at any other time discussed in any other document published since.
... There were no reports by anybody about anything preceding the Echo Flight shutdown incident, which both Carlson and Figel reaffirmed in September 2010 as well. In 2006, Robert Salas and Robert Hastings adjusted their claims somewhat, asserting that the first report of a UFO came in after the missiles had already started to go off strategic alert, not before, basing this change on an interview conducted with Colonel (Retired) Walter Figel, Jr. Both Carlson and Figel, however, have very clearly insisted that this version of the story is also wrong; both officers insist that UFOs were never reported. This confusion is a result entirely of Robert Hastings’ insistence that the mere mention of the word “UFO”, in the context of a weak joke told by a maintenance technician who was asleep when the missiles startedgoing offline, qualifies as an official UFO report. This theory has no merit whatsoever, primarily becausean actual UFO report would have been forwarded as the signed testimony of the witness for further investigation by the Malmstrom AFB UFO officer, Colonel Lewis D. Chase, as regulations demanded. This did not occur, so very obviously, no report was made. In 1999, Robert Salas readjusted his version of these events once more, insisting that he was not at November Flight when the missiles were taken off of strategic alert, presumably as Meiwald had confirmed three years earlier, but at Oscar Flight. He still asserted, however, that UFOs were reported at both missile sites -- E-Flight and O-Flight – on March 16, 1967, although no UFO sightings were recorded in the region by anybody on that date. There is also no mention anywhere of numerous missiles failing at any time at November Flight or Oscar Flight, whether the result of UFOs or anything else. It’s apparent that Salas was now making claims that had never been convincingly confirmed by anybody.
Tim Printy gives us a further examination of claims about Echo Flight in his excellent E-zine SUNlite2_2 and SUNlite 2_3. He, too, shows that UFOs had nothing to do with the missiles at Echo Flight going off-line.
So, in the case of Oscar Flight, a UFO was sighted [very likely Mars], but no missiles went offline. In the case of Echo Flight, missiles did go offline due to an electronic glitch, but UFOs had nothing to do with it. I can't un-complicate it any more than that.