Launch in Progress!
July 15, 2008
Excerpted from UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites
Of all the interviews I've conducted with former or retired ICBM launch officers over the past three decades, this was perhaps the most disturbing. According to the source, David H. Schuur, a UFO had apparently activated the launch sequence in most of his Minuteman missiles.
In August 2007, Schuur told me, "I saw your request for information in the [June 2007] Association of Air Force Missileers Newsletter. I was involved in a UFO incident at Minot AFB in the mid-1960s. I had read your earlier article [in the September 2002 AAFM Newsletter] but was hesitant to respond." I asked Schuur why he had been hesitant. He replied, "Well, we were basically told, way back when, that it was classified information and, you know, it didn't happen and don't discuss it. I guess I was still operating on that idea when I saw your first article."
Schuur had obviously had a change of heart. He continued, "Anyway, I was a Minuteman missile crewmember in the 455th/91st Strategic Missile Wing at Minot from December 1963 through November 1967. I was a 1st Lieutenant during that period and the deputy commander that night. Since the incident occurred some 40 years ago, my memories are a bit foggy but, based on who my commander was at the time, I would say it occurred between July 1965 and July 1967."
I asked Schuur if he could narrow the time-frame during which the incident occurred, by associating it with another event. He replied, "Not really, but my sense is that the incident occurred toward the end of my duty in the [missile] field, so it was probably during 1966, or '67. I was pulling alert in the Echo [Launch Control] Capsule and was at the console at the time, probably early in the morning when the commander was sleeping. I know I was at Echo because that's where I pulled almost all of my alert duty. My crew commander at the time has died. He was a Lieutenant Colonel at Minot, in his 50s—he was in the reserves, an old Korea veteran, who was recalled to duty in the early 1960s."
"As far as the incident, here's my best recollection of it: Alpha capsule, which was east of us, reported on PAS—the Primary Alerting System—that their security personnel were observing a large, bright object hovering over some of their missile sites. It was moving from missile to missile. I think the Alpha missile crew also reported that they were receiving 'spurious indicators' on their missile control console, but I'm not certain about that. I know that a few minutes later our capsule had spurious indicators—anomalous readings—from some of our missiles."
I asked Schuur to explain PAS. He said, "It was an open line between SAC headquarters and the wing command posts. There was a speaker in each launch capsule and when the command posts issued a directive, or whatever, we were able to hear it. When Alpha had their UFO sightings, they alerted the command post, at which time the command post called SAC headquarters. So, when the report of the sightings went out, we all heard it on PAS."
Schuur continued, "But it wasn't just Alpha and Echo. Over the next hour or so—I don't recall exactly how long it was—all of the flights reported that their [Security Alert Teams] were observing a UFO near their facilities. The path of the object could be followed as it passed over each flight area by the reports on the PAS. The object moved over the entire wing from the southeast to the northwest, following the layout of the wing."
Schuur elaborated, "All of them—Bravo Flight, Charlie, Delta, right on down the line to Oscar—were reporting sightings of this object. Minot's missile field is laid out like the letter 'C'. Alpha is located southeast of the base, and the other flights—Bravo, Charlie and so forth—were south, southwest, west, northwest, then north of Minot. Oscar, the last flight, is at the top of the 'C', north of the base. The object—as far as I know, it was only one object—came across Alpha Flight, then moved all the way around the flights and ended up at Oscar. We could hear that on PAS. At Echo, it didn't come close to the Launch Control Facility, it just visited the LFs (silos), then passed onto the next flight."
"As far as our flight, Echo, a few minutes after hearing the report from Alpha, I received a call from topside security that a large bright light—actually, a large, bright object would be more accurate—was in the sky, to the east of the launch control facility. When the guard called down, he may have used the term 'UFO' but I don't recall. He didn't describe its shape or altitude because it was too far away. It never got close enough to the LCF to see any detail. At its closest, it was two, three, maybe four miles away from us, near one of the missile sites."
Schuur continued, "However, when the object passed over our flight, we started receiving many spurious indications on our console. The object was apparently sending some kind of signals into each missile. Not every missile got checked [out] by the object, but there were several that did. Maybe six, seven, or eight. Maybe all ten got checked, but I don't think so. As this thing was passing over each missile site, we would start getting erratic indications on that particular missile. After a few seconds, everything reset back to normal. But then the next missile showed spurious indicators, so the object had apparently moved on to that one, and did the same thing to it. Then on to the next one, and so on. It was as if the object was scanning each missile, one by one. The Inner Security and Outer Security [alarms were triggered] but we got those all the time, for one reason or another. However, on this particular night, we had to activate the 'Inhibit' switch because we got 'Launch in Progress' indicators! After a few minutes, the UFO passed to the northwest of us and all indicators reset to normal."
I wanted to be certain about what I had just been told. I asked Schuur, "So, if you get a Launch in Progress indicator, does that mean the launch sequence has been triggered—that the missile is preparing to launch?" Schuur replied, "That means the missile has received a launch signal. When that happens, we get an indication in the capsule that a launch command has been received by that missile. If that happens, without proper authority, you flip what's called an "Inhibit" switch, to delay the launch for a given period of time. If an Inhibit command comes in from another launch capsule, that shuts down the launch totally. But if that second command doesn't come in, the missile will wait for a specified period of time and then launch automatically at the end of that expired period—theoretically. Of course, that night, we had all kinds of other indicators coming on from each missile so, in that situation, the launch probably would have aborted itself. I honestly don't know."
I asked Schuur if the Launch in Progress indicator had ever been triggered on any other occasion, either before or after the UFO incident, while he was on alert duty. He replied, "No, never."
I asked Schuur if he had heard about missile maintenance teams having to replace components or whole systems in the affected missiles—the ones that generated the spurious readings. He replied, "No, if that happened, I never heard about it."
Schuur said, "Upon returning to the base the next day, my commander and I were met by the operations officer. He just said, 'Nothing happened, nothing to discuss, goodbye.' Our logs and tapes were turned in. Every capsule had a 24-hour tape that, as I recall, recorded the communications that went over the PAS system, so all the reports would have been on that tape. But we were essentially told that nothing had happened that night and to discuss it no further. It was a non-event. We were never debriefed, by OSI or anyone else. We just went home. Most of the returning missile crews drove back to the base from their facilities, so they all arrived at different times. There was no group debriefing that I know of. I never heard another thing about the incident."
I asked Schuur, "I know that you were given no feedback from your superiors, but what is your personal assessment of the event?" He replied, "Oh, I think something was up there, uh, scanning the missiles, seeing what was going on. Some kind of a scanning process." I asked Schuur whether he thought the launch activation had been incidental or deliberate. He seemed surprised by my question and said, "I think that the scanning just set it off. It set all kinds of things off, we were getting all sorts of indicators. There were some kind of signals being sent [from the UFO] to the missile that inadvertently triggered the launch activation, but I don't think it was deliberate. I hope not! That would have been—." Schuur didn't finish this sentence. His voice broke and he heaved a deep sigh. Apparently, the thought that those aboard the UFO might have deliberately attempted to launch his nuclear missiles that night had caused him to pause—and probably shudder—over 40 years later.
I obviously accept Schuur's report as credible, but am of course attempting to locate other former members of his squadron who are willing to corroborate it. As Schuur candidly admitted, after reading my first article in the September 2002 AAFM newsletter, he waited some five years before approaching me. It was only after my second published request for information from former/retired USAF missileers, that he decided to unburden himself. This hesitant response is not atypical. Many of my former missile launch officer sources have not readily or easily divulged their UFO experiences to me, for one reason or another.
Importantly, to my knowledge, Schuur's testimony represents the only credible report on record of a UFO temporarily activating a U.S. nuclear missile. However, there is one other reliable report of such an activation—in the Soviet Union. That incident will be discussed at length in a later chapter.