The Echo/Oscar Witch Hunt
September 22, 2010
James T. Carlson is on a mission to educate and enlighten "credulous" Americans who accept the reality of UFOs. (No matter how many lies it takes to get the job done.)
Hundreds of declassified U.S. government documents, routinely released or accessed via the Freedom of Information Act, reveal ongoing UFO incursions at nuclear weapons sites, as early as 1948. Over the past 37 years, I have interviewed over 120 former or retired U.S. military personnel regarding their involvement in such incidents.
Some of them involved apparent tampering with nuclear missiles on the part of whomever was piloting these mysterious craft. Several of these witness accounts are summarized in my article UFO Sightings at ICBM Sites and Nuclear Weapons Storage Areas which may be found at my website.
On September 27, 2010, six former U.S. Air Force officers and one former enlisted man will participate in a press conference I am co-hosting at the National Press Club in Washington D.C. , at which time they will present their dramatic accounts. It is hoped that their testimony will draw worldwide media attention to the crucial topic of UFO activity at nuclear weapons sites. If ever there was a front page story, this is it.
Unfortunately, there is a parallel story unfolding at the moment. In recent months, a pitched online debate has taken place between James T. Carlson and myself regarding allegations of UFO activity at Malmstrom Air Force Base's Echo Flight on March 16, 1967. Credible testimony relating to the incident indicates that all of the flight's Minuteman missiles malfunctioned just as security guards were reporting a UFO hovering above one of the ICBMs.
(A Minuteman missile "flight" consists of 10 nuclear missiles in their underground Launch Facilities—LFs or silos—which are controlled by two launch officers in an underground Launch Control Capsule, or LCC).
One of the missile launch officers on duty at Echo that day, now-retired USAF Col. Walter Figel, has explicitly stated—during three separate audiotaped interviews conducted by another former missile launch officer, Robert Salas, and myself—that moments after the first missile malfunctioned, he had made a telephone call to an Air Force security guard posted at the stricken silo, to attempt to learn what had happened. Figel says that the guard reported seeing a "large round object" hovering directly over the site.
According to Figel, within "a couple of minutes" the other nine ICBMs controlled by the Echo LCC all mysteriously malfunctioned—an astounding and unprecedented occurrence. Links to Figel's comments—his actual, audiotaped words—appear later in this article, contradicting virtually every claim made by James Carlson who, in his own grossly distorted summary of the Echo Flight case, has consistently lied about the colonel's various comments to researchers. This article will set the record straight.
The other launch officer at Echo that day, Captain Eric Carlson, is James' father. The elder Carlson—whom I interviewed on audiotape as well—says he doesn't recall any reports of UFOs at the time of the missile malfunctions, or recall having been debriefed about the incident back at Malmstrom, or recall being told by his squadron commander not to talk about the incident.
Nevertheless, as we will learn, Colonel Figel disputes all of Eric Carlson's claims. In spite of this, James Carlson continues to publicly defend his father's version of events and has vehemently hurled charges at me and other persons who've investigated the Echo Flight UFO incident, calling us "frauds" and "liars" because we dare to dispute Eric Carlson's questionable claims. Well, so be it. I will leave it to others to read, to listen to, the information I present here—and to then draw their own conclusions.
The Audio-Taped Evidence
James Carlson's claim: No one reported UFOs near any of the missiles at Echo Flight on March 16, 1967.
The facts: On August 11, 1996, retired U.S. Air Force Colonel Walter Figel participated in a recorded telephonic interview with former USAF Captain Robert "Bob" Salas, discussing the Echo Flight missile shutdown incident in great detail. (Salas was involved in a second large-scale missile shutdown incident at Malmstrom AFB's Oscar Flight, on March 24, 1967. I will discuss that event in detail later in this article and provide a link to a taped telephone conversation between Salas and the other individual who was present at the time, now-retired Col. Fredrick Meiwald, who confirms Salas' account.)
However, for the moment, let's discuss the earlier incident at Echo. Fortunately, one may listen to Colonel Walter Figel's taped statements about it, or just read the transcript of the pertinent portions of his 1996 conversation with Salas, which follows here:
Robert Salas/Walt Figel Audio Interview Clip (1996)
WF: [On the date of the Echo shutdowns we already had teams out in the field] because they were doing maintenance on, I don't know, the guidance cans or something, and the maintenance crews were staying [overnight] and there was security and maintenance on-site on both, uh, on two of the ten sites.
WF: Then when the first [missile] went down, and I talked to the security [team] out there, they reported this UFO hovering over the site. I said, "Yeah, right. What have you guys been drinking out there?" And we [sent] Strike teams to both of the sites that had been occupied.
WF: These Strike Teams—I didn't tell them what we had heard [about the UFO]—you know, via the LF radio, and I told them to go get within a mile of the site there and call back in on the VHF (Very High Frequency telephone). And they both reported that we had two maintenance crews, two security troops on-site, and two Strike Teams all reporting it.
RS: Is that right?
RS: Do you remember the names of any of those guys?
WF: Nope …
RS: You don't? [Laughs]
WF: [Chuckling] Too long ago.
(BREAK: Figel and Salas briefly discuss Salas' experience at Oscar Flight. More on this later.)
WF: I remember I got a trip to Omaha to discuss [the Echo Flight shutdown] with CINCSAC (the office of the Commander-in-Chief, Strategic Air Command, Offutt AFB, Omaha , Nebraska ).
RS: Oh, you did?!
WF: Oh yeah. Someplace, if I look deep enough, I could probably find the TDY (Temporary Duty) orders to do that.
RS: Did you ever receive a report of any kind on the [reason for the shutdowns]?
WF: Nope. The only thing I ever heard back, and there was never anything in writing, was that Boeing, or whoever it [was], determined that it was some kind of—it could only [be] duplicated with some kind of intense square wave generator, and that there was nothing that the launch crews could have done to even approximate that.
RS: Yeah, I know.
WF: [When I heard that] I said, "Bye, bye, let me outta here!"
WF: I wasn't interested in it anymore. Everybody hushed it up. Somebody had said they classified it, and whatever it is …
(BREAK. Salas and Figel discuss the Air Force's official "history" of the incident, which discounts a UFO presence at Echo Flight.)
WF: … having a dozen [sic] missiles go down in one flight is significant. [Laughs] Let's face it, the [average] failure rate was nowheres near—was miniscule compared to that.
RS: That's right, and then UFO sightings at the same time.
WF: Well, I [reportedly] had them hovering over the sites, you know, and I said, "Right, I'm not a believer in that crap!" And that was reported over the secure line, and I told those guys to make no transmissions and, when the Strike Team got out there—they were on VHF back to me—and they had no idea in the world what I even told them to look for, and they reported them [too].
WF: So that I know. I can remember very clearly that happening.
So, despite what James and Eric Carlson may claim to the contrary, retired Col. Walter Figel has confirmed that a UFO was indeed reported hovering over one of Echo Flight's missiles, moments after it malfunctioned, and that other security personnel sent to site by him had confirmed it presence—even though Figel had not told them what to look for when he sent them out.
Hastings' First Call to Figel
On October 20, 2008, I called Col. Figel and asked him to elaborate on his earlier statements to Bob Salas. The key audio portions of the recorded interview are below, as well as the transcription:
Robert Hastings/Walt Figel Audio Interview Clip (2008)
WF: [At the time of the Echo Flight shutdown] what was unusual was that several of the missiles were open … for some routine maintenance. I don't remember why. But, uh, at least two of them were running on diesel power so they were not connected to the power grid. I don't remember if it was three open or four open [but] it was just routine maintenance. Nothing had happened [to the missiles]. It was just the time of the year for routine maintenance. Um, and the day before, there were maintenance teams out there. They had stayed overnight—
RH: Do you know how many maintenance teams were out overnight?
WF: You know, I think it was four. It was the two sites that had diesels running and two others. And when maintenance stays overnight they … stay in a camper …
(BREAK. Figel goes into detail about security procedures.)
WF: [When] the missiles dropped off alert, I started calling the maintenance people out there on the radio to talk to them. I had the security guard authenticate so I know I'm talking to a security guard and, you know, [I asked] "What's going on? Is maintenance trying to get into the silo?" [The guard said,] "No, they're still in the camper." [So, I said,] "Get ‘em up, I want to talk to them." Then I tried to tell them what I had was a Channel 9 No-Go.
RH: Uh huh.
WF: Uh, we did that with the sites that were there, that [had maintenance teams and their guards on site] and I sent Strike Teams to two other sites. There's no sense sending them where I [already] have a guard and a gun and an authenticate.
RH: So far in this narrative, you haven't mentioned UFOs.
WF: [Laughs] That's correct. Um, somewhere along the way, um, one of the maintenance people—cause he didn't know what was going on any place else either, they have no capability of talking to each other [at different launch sites], in other words, they can talk to the [launch] capsule but they can't talk to each other—
WF: —unless they were on the radio and no one was using the radio except the security police. And the guy says, "We got a Channel 9 No-Go. It must be a UFO hovering over the site. I think I see one here." [I said,] "Yeah, right, whatever. What were you drinking?" And he tried to convince me of something and I said, well, I basically, you know, didn't believe him. [Laughs] I said, you know, we have to get somebody to look at this [No-Go]. [A short time later] one of the Strike Teams that went out, one of the two, claimed that they saw something over the site.
RH: How did they describe that?
WF: Oh, on radio, [they said,] "There's this large object hovering over the site!" I've always been a non-believer [in UFOs] so I said, "Right, sure you do." [They responded,] "Yeah! Yeah, we do!" So, [I said,] "There's two of you there, saying so, so write it down in your report." [The Strike Team leader] said, "What do you want us to do?" [I said,] "Follow your checklist. Go to the site, open it up, and call me."
RH: What was the demeanor of the guard you were talking to?
WF: Um, you know, I wouldn't say panicked, or anything [like that]. I was thinking he was yanking my chain more than anything else.
RH: But he seemed to be serious to you?
WF: He seemed to be serious and I wasn't taking him seriously.
RH: Alright. If it was a large object, did he describe the shape of the object?
WF: He just said a large round object.
RH: Directly over the LF?
WF: Directly over the site.
(BREAK. Figel describes hearing from the maintenance man about his opening up the silo, going down into it, and reporting that even though the missile was offline, nothing was visually damaged or otherwise amiss at the site.)
RH: Did he describe the object leaving the scene?
WF: No. He never said anything about it again.
(BREAK. Figel describes telling all the maintenance teams to stay at their sites until relieved, and not to attempt repairs until told to do so, since the missile silos were in effect "crime scenes".)
RH: When you got the first call, well, when the missiles went down, you didn't have [confirmation] of an alleged UFO-involvement until you got the report back from the first Strike Team member?
WF: That's correct.
RH: Okay, uh, and only one of the two teams reported seeing an object?
RH: Uh, did you discuss the report with Mr. Carlson—that you were being told that there was a UFO at one of the sites?
WF: Um, he could hear it, uh, I mean he was sitting right there, two feet away from me—
WF: Anything I would have said, he would have heard.
(BREAK. Figel describes going back to Malmstrom with Carlson and being debriefed by "everybody and his brother.")
RH: Did any of the conversations back at squadron headquarters, uh, was there any mention of UFO involvement?
WF: I told them everything everyone told me. No one made any comments or inquiries—
RH: So you did mention the report that you got from the Strike Team?
RH: And no one asked any questions about UFOs per se then?
RH: Did they react skeptically or negatively when you mentioned [the Strike Team's UFO report]?
WF: They just wrote things down.
RH: [Laughs] That sounds right. Poker-faced and—
WF: [Laughs] Poker-faced and wrote things down.
(BREAK. Hastings describes similar testimony from other former missileers who were debriefed at Malmstrom and other Strategic Air Command bases, following UFO-related incidents in the missile fields.)
WF: What did Eric [Carlson] have to say [about the shutdown incident]? (I had interviewed Carlson two weeks earlier, on October 6, 2008.)
RH: Uh, he said that he couldn't recall any UFO-involvement in the incident. He couldn't remember if you had mentioned UFOs, one way or another. His son [James] has now [posted] on a blog, a web log, a couple of lengthy statements in which he defamed Salas, said Salas was a liar, [and said] there was nothing involving UFOs at Echo …
WF: Did Eric say anything else that was a discontinuity [relative to what I've said]?
RH: … Well, I [told Eric] that you had [heard from] a guard or a maintenance person that there was an object above the site, which you've confirmed today—
RH: —And I asked Eric if he remembered any of that, and he said that he did not. And, um, I asked him why his son would have written this very negative, scathing summary which I will send [to] you, about the event—
WF: That will be interesting.
RH: —calling Salas a liar, and so on and so forth.
WF: Well, I didn't do that.
RH: Well, I know, but his son, you know, for whatever reason, his son, James Carlson, has got a bug up his nose and said that nothing happened, there were no reports of UFOs, which you told me is incorrect because you got one.
WF: I did!
RH: Well, according to James, it was all bull and Salas was basically pulling it out of the air. [Eric] Carlson just, he didn't really want to talk about it, frankly, but he did answer my questions. He just was kind of circumspect. I can't say that he's not being truthful when he says he doesn't remember talking to you about UFOs, but that's what he told me.
WF: I'm sure we had a long conversation [right after it happened]. I mean, I reported everything to him that I heard or was told. I mean, we were together, you know? [Laughs]
So, James Carlson has it all wrong, according to his father's deputy missile commander that day at Echo Flight, now-retired Col. Walter Figel. Actually, the presence of a UFO at one of Echo's missiles was indeed reported to Figel, by personnel on-site as well as a Security Alert Team (Strike Team) member. It was described as a "large, round object", hovering directly over the launch facility. Moreover, Figel insists that Eric Carlson was fully aware of the situation, given that he was sitting "two feet away" from Figel during his phone calls with the on-site maintenance man and the missile security policeman. As to why the elder Carlson can not, or will not, confirm Figel's story, I won't speculate.
Now, there exists independent and authoritative confirmation of airmen at Echo Flight reporting UFOs at the time of the shutdowns. Boeing Corporation is the prime contractor for the Minuteman ICBM system. Robert Kaminski, the Boeing engineer responsible for investigating the missile malfunctions at Echo Flight, wrote to researcher James Klotz on February 1, 1997, and told Klotz what actually happened after his team began their inquiry. The full letter may be read here but the key portions appear below. Kaminski wrote:
Since this was a field site peculiar incident, a determination was made to send out an investigation team to survey the LCF and the LFs to determine what failures or related incidents could be found to explain the cause. The team was made up of qualified engineers and technicians headed by scientific person who was a glaciologist. There were about 5 persons in all that were sent out. After a week in the field the team returned and pooled their data. At the outset the team quickly noticed a lack of anything that would come close to explain why the event occurred. There were no significant failures, engineering data or findings that would explain how ten missiles were knocked off alert. This indeed turned out to be a rare event and not encountered before. The use of backup power systems and other technical system circuit operational redundancy strongly suggests that this kind of event is virtually impossible once the system was up and running and on line with other LCF's and LF's interconnectivity.
The only thing that even came close to a failure was that a transformer on a commercial power pole down the road from one of the sites was in the process of failing. It exhibited a intermittent transient type of failure that could have generated noise spikes on the power line. This in itself could not have caused the problem at E-Flight. The problem was reported to the local power company who took action to replace the transformer.
The team met with me to report their findings and it was decided that the final report would have nothing significant in it to explain what happened at E-Flight. In other words there was no technical explanation that could explain the event. The team went off to do the report. Meanwhile I was contacted by our representative at OOAMA (Don Peterson) and told by him that the incident was reported as being a UFO event—That a UFO was seen by some Airmen over the LCF at the time E-Flight went down.
Subsequently, we were notified a few days later, that a stop work order was on the way from OOAMA to stop any further effort on this project. We stopped. We were also told that we were not to submit the final engineering report. This was most unusual since all of our work required review by the customer and the submittal of a final Engineering report to OOAMA.
Days later, I asked our Boeing OOAMA rep what was going on. His reply to me—off the record—was that the LCF capsule jockeys were suspected of causing the problem somehow by something they did to one of the digital racks in the LCF. The Air Force capsule officers apparently were quietly removed from their job as LCF officers. This part of the story can not be verified by me, as it was hearsay.
In summary, the Air Force eventually lied about the reasons for the Echo Flight shutdown by telling Boeing rep Don Peterson that the launch officers (Eric Carlson and Walt Figel) had screwed up and had been relieved of their positions. We now know that was a cover story. Kaminski had earlier learned the truth—about airmen reporting UFOs at E Flight—from Peterson.
Also important is the fact that Kaminski said his team found no prosaic reason for the full-flight missile shutdown. James Carlson—who is not an engineer and who did not inspect the missiles at Echo Flight—has repeatedly claimed that a mundane reason for the failure was indeed found, supposedly relating to a faulty computer. But Kaminski clearly rules out any such "explanation" for the missile failures. I sent Kaminski's letter to Carlson over a year ago. Like almost every other piece of information about this case that threatens his misguided mission to eliminate a UFO presence at Echo Flight on March 16, 1967, Carlson ignores or twists Kaminski's comments to suit his purposes.
One of the participants in the upcoming press conference at the National Press Club, retired USAF Lt. Col. Dwynne Arneson, was the Officer-in-Charge at the Malmstrom AFB Communications Center in 1967, when he read a classified message concerning the sighting of a UFO hovering over one of the base's Minuteman missile sites just as several missiles mysteriously malfunctioned. Although Arneson can not recall the designation of the missile flight mentioned, it was almost certainly Echo—or the other flight that went down eight days later, Oscar.
The Incident at Oscar Flight
James Carlson's claim: Bob Salas was never involved in a missile flight shutdown incident at all. He just made up the whole story so that he could sell books about supposed UFO sightings at missile sites. At first, Salas claimed that he had been one of the officers at Echo Flight when the missiles went down there. Once he found out, via James Klotz' research, that Eric Carlson and Walt Figel were the launch officers on alert duty when the shutdown occurred, Salas quickly changed his story and claimed that he had been at another flight, which is a lie.
The facts: Actually, Salas did indeed initially think that he had been on alert at Echo Flight, along with his missile commander, then-Lt. Fredrick Meiwald. He had read about the shutdown incident, and the rumors of a UFO involvement in it, in Timothy Good's book, Above Top Secret, and just assumed that the incident described was the one he personally witnessed. However, in the summer of 1996, Salas finally located his former commander, then retired-Col. Meiwald, who told him that the pair had actually been at Oscar Flight when their missiles went down too. During a taped telephone conversation, Meiwald related his memories of the event.
Salas's First Call to Meiwald
Salas began by asking Meiwald if he recalled the earlier missile shutdown at Echo Flight—given that Jim Klotz had recently accessed documents relating to it and knew the flight designation—as well as the one that he and Salas had been involved in. Meiwald said that he didn't recall the Echo incident. The taped conversation is transcribed below and may be listened to here:
Robert Salas/Fred Meiwald Audio Interview Clip (1996)
FM: I just remember [laughs] our side of it. (Meaning the shutdown at Oscar Flight.)
RS: Yeah, alright, here's the sequence I remember: I remember receiving a call first and the security guard said, "I've seen some UFOs up here flying around," and I said, "Ah, forget it." I, uh, didn't believe him. I kinda hung up on him. And then, a little while later—I don't know how long it was, maybe five, ten minutes, maybe longer—they called back and the guy sounded real scared and said there was one just outside the front gate. And, uh, he also said, I recall, that one of the other guards had gotten injured in some way. I don't think it was from the UFO; I think it was from, uh, trying to climb the fence or something like that. Uh, and then I hung up, or he hung up because he had to go—his guard got injured—and then I, I believe you were either getting up or I woke you up—and then some of our missiles started shutting down. Is that right?
FM: Uh huh.
RS: Is that about how you remember it?
FM: Right. We had security alarms and, uh—
FM: —and problems at a couple of the, uh, sites.
RS: Yeah, okay, okay. Well, I'm sure glad I found you. [Both laugh]
RS: [Were there] any reports from the field about UFOs?
FM: I remember that two guards that we had had gone out to one of the sites and finally got back scared to death and we had to relieve them of duty.
RS: Yeah. Oh, you mean our guards?!
RS: Oh, I didn't know that.
FM: Yeah, a roving patrol type—
RS: Oh I see—
FM: —and had gone out to one of the sites, uh, the LFs, and on the way back they lost radio contact and we ended up having to send them back to the base early—I'm not sure what happened but I don't think they ever returned to, uh, guard duty.
RS: What were they scared about?
FM: Oh, they had seen these, some crazy things and—
RS: Oh they did?!
FM: Yeah, and—
RS: And they reported that to you?
FM: They reported it to the topside guy (the Flight Security Controller or head guard)—
RS: Oh, the topside guy. That's right. Okay, okay. Okay, well, interesting, don't you think?
FM: Yeah! [Both laugh]
So, despite James Carlson's claim that Bob Salas made up the story of his being involved in a full-flight missile shutdown at Malmstrom AFB in March 1967, Salas' former missile commander, now-retired Col Fredrick Meiwald, has confirmed that it did indeed happen and that the missile security guards who had been sent out to investigate tripped alarms at two of the missile sites just after the incident saw something that scared them to death. Meiwald elaborated on all of this in a October 1, 1996 letter to Salas which may be read below:
According to Meiwald, the "crazy thing" that had frightened the guards so badly was a UFO.
Moreover, another participant in the upcoming press conference at the National Press Club, former missile targeting team officer, then-Lt. Robert Jamison, has also confirmed a UFO-involvement in the Oscar Flight missile shutdowns. Jamison says that his, and other targeting teams, were explicitly briefed about a UFO-connection with the incident before going into the field, thereby corroborating the essence of Salas' report.
Jamison has also inadvertently provided the date of the incident by reporting that a UFO had landed in a canyon near Belt, Montana the same night. It is known that the landing took place on the evening of March 24, 1967, because it was reported in the Great Falls Tribune the following day. Bob Salas initially believed that the Echo Flight incident and his own event had occurred on the same day because, after the Oscar missiles went down, his commander Fred Meiwald had called the base command post and was told that "the same thing happened at another flight." Salas long believed that the other incident had occurred only hours earlier; now we know that it had actually been eight days earlier. So, slowly but surely, the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place.
Of course, nothing in this article will change James Carlson's mind and he will undoubtedly continue to spread his lies, make his accusations, and claim to have the truth on his side. But you be the judge.
A second article on all of this, with links to other tapes, will follow in a few weeks and will also be posted at The UFO Chronicles website. Persons who've read this one, who think it has merit, should post a link to it on as many website blogs as possible—repeatedly—so people everywhere will see that James Carlson's many claims and accusations are groundless.