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  Columnist: James Carlson

Image credit: Ctd 2005

Echo flights of fantasy - part one


Posted on Thursday, 25 November, 2010 | 11 comments
Columnist: James Carlson


The author of this article, James Carlson, is the son of Captain (Retired) Eric D. Carlson, the commander of Echo Flight on March 16, 1967. All of the details and descriptions of events and reports that his father would have been witness to have been confirmed by him as accurate.

On September 27, 2010, in an attempt to build support for the disclosure of UFO-related documents by the U.S. Department of Defense, authors Robert Hastings and Robert Salas hosted a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. Only confirmed members of the press and Congressional staff were invited to attend. With them were seven veterans of the U.S. military who have publically affirmed the interference by UFOs with nuclear facilities in the United States and Europe. According to Hastings and Salas, this proves that the claim of the United States Air Force since 1969 that UFO activity has never had an effect on the national security of the U.S. is a lie. Out of all of the witnesses present, three had come forward to discuss their involvement with a well-known case that allegedly occurred at Malmstrom AFB, Montana in the spring of 1967: the Echo Flight incident of March 16, and an associated event at Oscar Flight on March 24-25. Since first being exposed to public scrutiny by Robert Salas in 1995, this alleged confrontation between UFO and nuclear missile silos has come to be considered one of ten UFO incidents around the world that is best supported by the most reliable evidence. Questions raised regarding the credibility of the witnesses insist, however, that this notoriety is hardly deserved.

According to Robert Salas, co-author with James Klotz of Faded Giant, which purports to discuss the Echo Flight event, UFOs reported over two flights – each equipped with ten nuclear missiles – interfered with the normal operation of the flights by taking all of the missiles off of strategic alert, thereby rendering them temporarily unavailable to U.S. forces. When Robert Salas, the primary witness to this event, first made public this case in 1995, he asserted that he was present at Echo Flight as the deputy commander on duty, who, with the commander, was required to monitor the missiles and fire them, if necessary, at pre-selected targets in the Soviet Union and China. This small, two-man capsule crew was embedded in a chamber 60-100 feet beneath the surface of the Montana plains. It was very well protected, because the crew needed to survive a first-strike scenario in order to retaliate should a nuclear exchange occur. It was in this environment that Robert Salas posited UFO interference with America’s primary nuclear deterrent of the 1960s, and he did so by redefining an actual event that the U.S. Department of Defense was, in the 1960s and 1970s, extremely concerned about keeping secret, not because of UFOs, but due to the inherent nature of deterrent forces. In the original USAF records discussing this event, it is characterized as the Echo Flight Incident.

USAF records indicate that the Echo Flight Incident occurred at 0845 on the morning of March 16, 1967, about two hours after sunrise. The events that occurred were summarized in September 1969 in Bernard C. Nalty’s USAF Ballistic Missile Programs 1967-1968, a TOP SECRET NOFORN document discussing problems encountered by U.S. missile forces: “Another problem … appeared in March 1967 when an entire flight of Minuteman I missiles at Malmstrom went abruptly off alert. Extensive tests at Malmstrom, Ogden Air Materiel Area, and at the Boeing plant in Seattle revealed that an electronic noise pulse had shut down the flight. In effect, this surge of noise was similar to the electromagnetic pulse generated by nuclear explosions. The component of Minuteman I that was most vulnerable to noise pulse was the logic coupler of the guidance and control system. Subsequent tests showed that the same part in Minuteman II was equally sensitive to this same phenomenon.”

The incident is discussed in some detail in other documents as well, notably the 341st Strategic Missile Wing and Combat Support Group Command History: "On 16 March 1967 at 0845, all sites in Echo (E) Flight, Malmstrom AFB, shutdown with No-Go indications of Channel 9 and 12 on Voice Reporting Signal Assemble (VRSA). All LF's in E Flight lost strategic alert nearly simultaneously."

These statements are clear, straightforward, and very specific, as almost all of the official documents discussing the incident are, so why, exactly, are UFOs thought to have been involved? The documents certainly don’t attribute the cause to UFOs – they are all very clear, as such records generally are. If this event is one of the ten UFO incidents around the world that is best supported by the most reliable evidence, where is the evidence? And where did Salas’ version of this incident originate, if not with the incident itself?

According to Robert Salas, in the early 1990s, he read Timothy Good’s book Above Top Secret, which contains a reference to research conducted by NICAP investigator Raymond Fowler regarding a UFO that was reported by above ground personnel and confirmed by radar at Malmstrom AFB sometime “during the week of 20 March 1967.” Fowler insists that these UFO reports were made coincident to the missiles failures at Echo Flight, and mentions as well a “nearly identical” event that occurred at Malmstrom AFB the previous year. Good concludes that while neither of these incidents were actually confirmed as UFO reports, he sees “no reason to doubt” them.

It was after reading Good’s book that Salas allegedly remembered his own involvement with a UFO that took out the entire flight of missiles that were, at the time, under his care as the deputy commander of the flight. With the assistance of the Computer UFO Network (CUFON) founded by Dale Goudie and James Klotz, he drafted a series of Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests to the U.S. Air Force addressing the need for a declassification review of any documents detailing missile failures at Malmstrom AFB “on or about 25 March 1967.” The date suggests that Salas searched area newspapers for UFO incidents reported sometime around “the week of 20 March 1967”, as noted in Good’s book, discovering thereby the well-known Belt, Montana UFO event and associated UFO sightings at Malmstrom AFB on March 24-25, 1967. Since this represents the only UFO sightings during the month of March 1967 in the entire state of Montana, it’s reasonable to assume that this was the rationale behind the date used on Salas’ FOIA requests. In any case, as a result of his letters, the USAF sent Salas information pertaining to the Echo Flight Incident of March 16, 1967, specifically, portions of the 341st Strategic Missile Wing and Combat Support Group Command History for that quarter.

According to an article entitled “Minuteman Missiles Shutdown” that Salas published in the MUFON UFO Journal in 1997, “When we received this information, I assumed that I was in the Echo capsule during this incident because the events of the incident were very similar to my recollection.” This recollection, summarized in the same article, establishes that “while on duty as a Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander (DMCCC) at a Minuteman Launch Control Facility (LCF) during the morning hours, I received a call from my NCO in charge of site security topside. He said that he and other guards had observed some unidentified flying objects in the vicinity.” These UFOs could only be distinguished as “lights” at the time, but they had flown over the LCF (also called the LCC, or launch control center) a few times and had caught the attention of the NCO on duty. In later versions of the story, Salas insisted that the UFOs were making maneuvers that normal aircraft could not make. He also insists that he did not take the report very seriously, and told the NCO to call back if something more significant occurred.

“Five or ten minutes later, I received a second call … he was much more agitated and distraught. He stated that there was a UFO hovering just outside the front gate! … As we were talking, he said he had to go because one of the guards had been injured.” Salas hung up and immediately awakened his commander, who was, at the time, on his rest period.

“Within seconds, our missiles began shutting down from ‘Alert’ status to ‘No-Go’ status. I recalled that most, if not all, of our missiles had shut down in rapid succession. Normally, if a missile went off alert status, it was due to a power outage at a particular site and the site power generator would come on line and pick up the power load and the LF would come back on line. It was extremely rare for more than one missile to go off line for any length of time. In this case, none of our missiles came back on line. The problem was not lack of power; some signal had been sent to the missiles which caused them to go off alert.” According to Salas, the guard who had been injured had to be evacuated by helicopter. The UFO itself was described as having “a red glow and appeared to be saucer-shaped.”

None of these claims, like those made by Raymond Fowler as delineated in Timothy Good’s book, have ever been confirmed. Salas agrees that neither he nor the commander of the flight saw anything, because they were underground in the capsule, and none of the enlisted security personnel have ever come forward to confirm this dramatic event. As for supporting documentation, there is none, not even a record of the one guard having been injured and subsequently evacuated by helicopter.

Robert Salas’ original claims regarding Echo Flight soon proved to have been made in error as a result of the fact that he had never actually served at Echo Flight. He soon altered his claims sufficiently, however, by stating that he had simply made a mistake. In the 341st Strategic Missile Wing and Combat Support Group Command History sent to Salas as a result of his FOIA request, it states that, "Rumors of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO) around the area of Echo Flight during the time of fault were disproven. A Mobile Strike Team, which had checked all November Flight's LFs (launch facilities) on the morning of 16 March 67, were questioned and stated that no unusual activity or sightings were observed." According to Salas, upon reading this excerpt, he recalled something his commander had said during the incident. “After we reported the incident to the command post, he had received a call from another LCC. After that call he turned to me and said, 'The same thing happened at another flight.' With this 'new' recollection, I began to question if I was at Echo during the time of our incident since I knew I was assigned to the 490th Squadron, which did not have responsibility for Echo Flight.” It was actually the 10th SMS that had manning responsibility for Echo Flight.

In an August 12, 1996 email correspondence with Raymond Fowler, the same NICAP investigator referred to by Timothy Good in Above Top Secret, Salas’ version of this recollection is slightly different: "I did and do have a vivid recollection of my commander speaking to another flight that day and then saying to me that ‘the same thing had happened at their flight.’ However, I had been under the impression up until now that what he had meant was that it happened to them at some other time period. I now believe it was the same day because of the rapid response of the maintenance crews to our site. I believe they had already been dispatched to Echo before our shutdown." This commentary is significant, because it establishes as “a vivid recollection” that the flight that called was the same flight that had been subjected to the UFO interference under discussion: Echo Flight. It also establishes that the incident at Echo Flight occurred before the event described by Salas at the flight under his care. In this same message, he also states that “I still do not recall, for certain the name of my Commander during this incident.” In other words, he is confident regarding the incident and the time frame, but he has nonetheless presented no confirmation.

In an August 2 communication, however, Salas states "In addition, I had not told you this before, I recall hearing thru the rumor mill, soon after my incident, that ours had not been the first full shutdown." This is an interesting comment from someone who claimed only ten days later that he had “a vivid recollection” of being told that “the same thing had happened at their flight" during his watch, not “after my incident,” and that his source for this information was not “thru the rumor mill,” but from his own commander. It’s possible, of course, that Salas’ “vivid recollection” didn’t come about immediately upon reading the excerpt regarding “Rumors of Unidentified Flying Objects (UFO)”, but gelled for a week or so while he considered the possibilities presented by the “rumor mill”. If that’s the case, it’s not unreasonable to wonder how vivid his recollection could have been.

Salas claims in his 1997 article that an unnamed friend told him in 1996 that he was definitely not the deputy commander at Echo Flight on March 16, 1967, confirming thereby his suspicions that he had not served at Echo Flight, and leading to his eventual revelation that he had been at November Flight, the only other flight of missiles mentioned in the command history documents. This friend also told Salas the names of the commander and deputy commander who actually were on duty at Echo Flight, and told him as well the name of his own commander: Colonel (Retired) Frederick Meiwald. With this information, Salas tracked down his one-time commander, and apparently received from him the confirmation he was looking for regarding the alleged UFO’s interference with the flight’s missiles. Well, maybe …

As previously mentioned, the August 12, 1996 correspondence between Salas and Raymond Fowler indicates that Salas had already decided that he had been at November Flight when the incident he remembers occurred, and that he had not yet determined the identity of his commander at that time. In a later communication with Fowler, one written after he contacted Meiwald, he states that he had neglected to ask Meiwald what flight they were in at that time, adding, however, that it was probably November Flight. So if Salas had already decided that they were at November Flight, and therefore did not ask Meiwald about the flight they were attached to, as the correspondence indicates, what else did he simply not bother to confirm when he finally contacted him? Questions like this make it somewhat difficult to ascertain what specific details of his story had actually been confirmed by Meiwald once Salas contacted him again after so many years. The recollection that Meiwald had told him "the same thing had happened at their flight" was also Salas’ alone, as his article for the MUFON UFO Journal clearly states, so it is not inappropriate to wonder whether or not Meiwald actually confirmed that memory, or did Salas simply not bother to mention it? Salas fails to go into any details at all regarding Meiwald’s confirmation of this incident, asserting only that Meiwald has confirmed his account of the UFO interference with the missiles under their care. One cannot help but wonder why Meiwald has not appeared at any UFO conventions or even the recent press conference organized by Salas and Robert Hastings if he has indeed confirmed all of the events detailed by Salas since 1995. Did he, for instance, confirm any of the numerous errors of fact that Salas has been forced to correct over the years? Was he the author of any of them? How much, exactly, is his confirmation of this event really worth?

According to Robert Hastings, “Salas’ former missile commander, now-retired Col Fredrick Meiwald, has confirmed that it [the missile failures incident at Oscar Flight] 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 an October 1, 1996 letter to Salas”. But is this actually true? Examination of this letter, as well as with the transcripts of a conversation Meiwald had with Salas during the same period suggests otherwise. The first statement to take note of is Meiwald’s qualifier: “The info you provided is very interesting but I have slightly different memories – which could easily be incorrect as they say, ‘The memory is the second thing to go.’” This is extremely important, primarily because Salas himself apparently paid little heed to the information and events that Meiwald actually discusses. For instance, Meiwald insists that “Our home site was Oscar.” He also insists that the UFO event he discusses occurred when they were at Oscar Flight. It would, however, be another three years after receiving this letter before Salas would agree, asserting until 1999 that he and Meiwald were at November Flight when the UFO incident he recalls occurred. This is not an insignificant oversight. Meiwald very clearly remembers an incident involving the possible report of a UFO, but he comes nowhere near to actually confirming that this incident is the same one that Salas has reported. The fact that Salas refused to acknowledge Meiwald’s memories of their location during the incident, also speaks volumes in relation to this issue. It’s questionable whether Meiwald is describing anything at all in relation to the missile failures event, a conclusion supported by Salas’ insistence for three years that the missile failures occurred at November Flight.

In Meiwald’s 1996 letter, the incident he describes seems pretty definitive: “Related to the incident itself, I recall us being at the Oscar LCF. Topside security notified us the mobile team had reported observing the ‘UFO’ while responding (obviously at your direction) to a situation at an outlying LF – this particular one being located just east of Highway 19, the state highway which runs north from Grass Range to the Missouri River. With little or no direction from higher authority (Command Post or Alternate Command Post), the Security team was directed to return to the LCF, maintaining radio contact at all times, as the security system reset. While enroute [sic] back to the LCF, radio contact was lost and remained out until the security vehicle approached the LCF. Two very upset young men wasted no time getting back inside.” Meiwald adds that “I do not recall personnel injury of any type but the two individuals were sent back to the support base early. I heard second-hand that one was released from security team duties. I do not recall any follow-up activities by any Wing personnel.”

Both Robert Hastings and Robert Salas expect the world to believe that this is Meiwald’s confirmation of the missile failures event at Oscar Flight (or November Flight, depending on how far back in the evolution of Salas’ current assertions the reader wishes to go), that allegedly occurred on March 24-25, 1967 coincident to the UFO sighting. Examination of the testimony presented, however, shows that these claims are nonsense.

Nowhere does Meiwald insist that the event he describes occurred in conjunction with any missile failures at all, although his memory of the event is remarkably detailed, particularly in relation to the environment and the location of the launch facility under investigation. This holds true as well for the transcripts Hastings has published of the telephone conversation that Salas conducted with Meiwald in 1996. His statement could very easily stand on its own without any of the missile failures that only Salas correlates with this incident. In the fifteen years since these communications took place, Salas has been completely unable to produce a definitive confirmation from anybody, and one can’t help but wonder why. After all, Meiwald is certainly still alive, so why is his confirmation so ambiguous? It makes much more sense to assume that Meiwald is referring to an incident that has nothing whatsoever to do with the event Salas in turn has described. What Meiwald does discuss, however, are a series of events that make it impossible to correlate his description with anything other than a general, and relatively minor, security alert of the same type that occurs often at such facilities.

In addition, Meiwald describes nothing that substantiates a UFO presence. In fact, if there actually had been such an extensive number of missile failures during the event described, Meiwald would most assuredly have been able to produce more details in relation to it. After all, had missile failures actually occurred coincident to this event, the capsule crew, Meiwald and Salas presumably, would have been giving the orders, not hearing about them second-hand. They would have been in constant communication with the teams sent out to determine missile status – exactly as occurred at Echo Flight a week earlier. Such an event would have required the deployment of maintenance personnel in addition to their security escorts, because it’s necessary to gain access to the lower equipment room at each LF to determine missile status – an operation that takes a minimum of 30-40 minutes to complete. The incident that Meiwald describes, however, is very clearly being run from the Command Post, which is the direct chain of command for security personnel. This is why there was no direct communication going on between the capsule crew and security team, which is exactly the procedure that took place at Echo Flight. Everything that Meiwald discusses was the result of updates originating with the Command Post. Nothing at all about the alleged UFO was communicated directly, and none of it came from the actual security team that was given the assignment. It should be noted as well that the two-man security teams Meiwald describes were used to check on minor physical security alerts; without maintenance technicians, however, they could not be expected to carry out the duties required in the course of a missile failure.

The security personnel simply went out to check on a physical security alert, a response confirmed by Meiwald’s insistence that the security system had to be reset. This type of alert happened all of the time; bears rubbing up against the fence would cause the same alert, and even birds were known to set off the alarms. It was a common part of the security routine, which is why nobody thought it necessary to have the capsule crew put in charge of it. This interpretation is also supported by Meiwald’s allusion to the Command Post checklist. The example of Echo Flight proves that missile failures require the capsule crew to follow procedures dictated on a checklist, not the Command Post. Missile failures would have also required a great deal of “direction from higher authority”, contrary to what Meiwald affirms, since the extent of such authority increases with the importance of the incident. A physical security response, being so common and somewhat expected by those manning the Command Post, is far less important than multiple losses of nuclear missiles to strategic forces. Nowhere does Meiwald discuss the realization of any duties required by the capsule crew upon the acknowledgement of missile failures.

While there may well have been a UFO involved with the incident Meiwald describes in his letter, no certainty can be attached to this supposition, because nobody has interviewed the actual witnesses, no reports were ever filed in recognition of the event, and no investigation was ever conducted as required by regulations effective since September 1966. Even the story Salas and Hastings insist upon regarding the one security member who was permanently retired from the job is “second hand,” as Meiwald readily admits in his letter, investing it with qualities more suggestive of an archetypal allusion than a tangible, historical event. In the end, we can say with some confidence that while a UFO may or may not have been an influential factor, the failure of numerous missiles coincidental to this event unquestionably did not occur. Had it done so, Meiwald and Salas would have been a lot busier, as their colleagues were at Echo Flight a week earlier. It’s difficult to believe that someone with the experience Robert Salas claims to have would ever use this as a confirmation for anything, let alone a missile failure event at Oscar Flight.

Taking into consideration Meiwald’s assertion that “This probably does not assist your efforts in any way”, it’s far more likely that he’s describing the only UFO encounter that he has any memory of at all, and Robert Salas has simply adopted it as a confirmation for the Oscar Flight event, an easy task as a result of Meiwald’s inability to date the event he describes. There’s nothing in either Meiwald’s letter or in the transcripts Robert Hastings has published of Meiwald’s conversation with Salas that can actually be called a confirmation of the event Salas describes. Meiwald insists that he does not remember anyone being injured in any confrontation with a UFO, and he only mentions two security team members who may have had some sort of confrontation. It certainly doesn’t match the event Salas describes in which the Command Post was emptied of all personnel, armed and ready for any ensuing battle that might take place. In fact, Meiwald fails to mention this event at all, making it questionable at best. Why would he remember a couple of security updates from the Command Post in such detail, yet not the far more dramatic episode Salas describes? None of this can be called a believable confirmation. The fact that Salas would even introduce this corruption of a man’s memories as some kind of a confirmation for the ridiculous incident he describes says more about his inability to substantiate the event he continues to discuss than it does the event itself. The one thing that’s most apparent in all of this is that Meiwald has not confirmed the missile shutdown scenario described by Hastings and Salas. He only barely confirms a second-hand report of a possible UFO sighting on an unknown date.

If Meiwald does not confirm the incident of missile failures, we once again find ourselves in the position of one forced to believe incredible claims on the basis of absolutely nothing, aside from Salas’ own resolve. In addition, it’s decidedly odd that the details characteristic of Meiwald’s confirmation as reported by Salas tend to change in close correlation to those adopted and subsequently incorporated into the ever-evolving version of the event Salas describes – a characteristic that also fails to include any direct quotes whatsoever originating with Colonel (Retired) Frederick Meiwald correlating the missile failures with the UFO allegedly sighted by the two security personnel. The only useful assertion that can be truthfully made is that Robert Salas insists that Meiwald has confirmed the incident at hand; Meiwald has certainly not done so for himself.

There are other suggestions as well that Salas may not be reporting Meiwald’s actual recollections with adequate precision. In a 1996 email to Raymond Fowler, Salas reveals that Meiwald thought only four missiles were actually taken off strategic alert, not all ten as his own “memories” insisted. In the article he published a year later, Salas states that Meiwald “confirmed my recollection of events with the exception that he recalled that about five of our ten missiles shut down in rapid succession.” By December 2000, however, when Salas was interviewed in conjunction with the Disclosure Project, he claimed that upon “recalling this incident with my commander Mywald [sic], he said he felt we only lost maybe seven or eight of these weapons.” If Meiwald was the source of these estimations, it would seem that he has been as inconsistent regarding his claims as Salas has.

In order to clarify this and other questions, the author of this article sought out, eventually found, and contacted Colonel (Retired) Frederick Meiwald for himself. Unfortunately, Colonel Meiwald insists that he does not remember the incident very well, although he does agree that there seem to be a lot of discrepancies in Salas’ discussion of the events he allegedly witnessed. As for what he has or has not confirmed, he is somewhat less confident. “Did this situation involve ‘UFOs’? I don't know. I personally have never seen one and really have doubts about their existence, but who am I to question others' ‘observations’?” This, unfortunately, is not the satisfactory conclusion many investigators into matters like this generally insist upon. In answer to a later request for more information, Meiwald was again very congenial, but insisted that “Trying to remember events of over 40 years ago is not my forté.” As a result, no questions were answered, and no explanations were offered. This last communication was in September 2009. Clarity, it seems, is still a need that has yet to be fulfilled by the only witness to these events that has even come close to confirming the story Salas tells.

According to Salas, Meiwald also verified that it was the crew of Echo Flight who had called him on March 16, 1967, after which the commander told Salas, "the same thing had happened at their flight." Everything seems to have fallen neatly into place for Salas very nicely, a result he happily documented: “I was able to locate and speak with both crew members of Echo, the commander of the Echo relief crew, and my own commander.

“As a result of these conversations, more information was revealed. The Echo MCCC related to me that prior to the shutdown of all his missiles he had received more than one report from security patrols and maintenance crews that they had seen UFOs. One was directly above one of the LFs in Echo Flight. The Echo crew confirmed that they had spoken to my commander that day and told him of their incident. They also told me that they were flown to SAC headquarters, Omaha, Nebraska the next day and had to brief CINCSAC (Commander in Chief, Strategic Air Command) about their incident. The Echo DMCCC also informed me that he had written an extensive log of the Incident and turned that over to staff officers at SAC headquarters. They certainly did report the UFO sightings and their guards and maintenance personnel were interviewed about their sightings by Air Force investigators. The MCCC of the crew that relieved the Echo crew also confirmed that the Echo crew had spoken to him about the UFO sightings during the time immediately preceding their shutdown incident.”

In other words, a UFO was responsible for the both the Echo Flight Incident referred to in Nalty’s USAF Ballistic Missile Programs 1967-1968 and for the incident at November Flight that Salas and Meiwald supposedly remember – an incident that also occurred on March 16, 1967, but had never been mentioned by anybody, either officially or unofficially, prior to Salas’ claims made to Raymond Fowler nearly 30 years later in 1996.

There are, however, some very significant problems with the story that Robert Salas has told that are unrelated to the alleged confirmation he received from Colonel (Retired) Frederick Meiwald: (1) 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.

(2) The Echo Flight MCCC, Captain (Retired) Eric D. Carlson, insists that he received no reports of UFOs from anybody, before or after the missiles were taken off of strategic alert. In a September 2010 statement issued well before the press conference of September 27 organized by Hastings and Salas, Carlson strongly reaffirmed this, adding that he said the same thing to a news reporter in Great Falls, Montana who questioned him about Salas’ claims in 1996, and to the producer of “Sightings”, a cable television series about the UFO phenomenon that featured a discussion of Salas’ claims that was originally aired in March 1997. Carlson has, in fact, been extraordinarily consistent in his claims regarding the Echo Flight Incident, having insisted for years that no UFOs were involved, reported, or investigated in relation to Echo Flight. In a series of email messages that Salas sent to Raymond Fowler in 1996, he mentions both interviews with Carlson, but tells Fowler that Carlson confirmed his UFO claims. In this same correspondence, Salas is very insistent that a member of the Echo Flight crew was required to give the episode of “Sightings” the necessary veneer of credibility.

Unfortunately, while he admits to Fowler that Carlson both confirmed the UFO aspect of the story and was willing to be interviewed for that particular episode, he insists as well that the producer of the show did not, for some reason, feel that Carlson would be a very good witness. As a result, the March 1997 episode was forced to air interviews with only Salas, James Klotz, and Don Crawford, the DMCCC of the crew that relieved Carlson and Figel a few hours after the incident. Carlson believes that the producer refused to interview him because he insisted that UFOs were not involved. His claims, in fact, are completely contrary to Salas’ own, so the fact that Salas has publically insisted otherwise, as recently as the press conference of September 27, 2010, is not exactly reassuring for anybody desiring to know exactly what happened in March 1967. It is, in fact, extremely difficult to get past this incessant suggestion that Salas lied to Raymond Fowler on more than one occasion in 1996, at the very beginning of his UFO-oriented vocation. It should be mentioned that Raymond Fowler’s support at this very early stage of Salas’ mission to establish his claims as factual would have been considered quite an accomplishment by anybody. Fowler is considered to be something of a legend in the UFO-proponent communities, having worked closely with such well-known and respected individuals as Captain E.J. Ruppelt of NICAP and Dr. J. Allen Hynek, who lauded Fowler’s dedication and attention to detail in his 1972 book The UFO Experience: A Scientific Enquiry.

(3) Both Captain (Retired) Eric D. Carlson and the DMCCC of Echo Flight, Colonel (Retired) Walter Figel, Jr., insist that they did not communicate with any of the LCC crews, let alone November Flight’s commander, because they were far too busy to do so once the Echo Flight missiles started going off of strategic alert. Carlson and Figel reiterated their claims both verbally and in writing in September 2010. In addition, November Flight was manned by another missile squadron, the 490th SMS, making it SAC’s responsibility to inform them about anything, not Echo Flight’s. There would have been no reason for anyone at Echo Flight to call anyone at November Flight, and this very routine communications protocol has been a consistent aspect of U.S. military structure and authority since before World War Two. This, of course, calls into question Salas’ insistence in 1996-97 that Meiwald spoke to the MCCC of Echo Flight, and then told Salas that "the same thing had happened at their flight." In subsequent versions of this story, Salas has stated that the phone call came from another LCC, but not Echo Flight, the phone call came from SAC, the information was passed after Meiwald called SAC to report the missile failures, the information was passed to Salas by an unnamed individual after his watch ended and therefore had nothing at all to do with Meiwald, and, most recently, that he didn’t find out about the events at Echo Flight until a week later, and then it was passed to him by an unnamed individual after his watch ended and he had slept until the following day. Inconsistency is, in fact, an integral part of Robert Salas’ claims, and one cannot help but wonder once again: what exactly does Meiwald confirm?

(4) Neither Carlson nor Figel were flown to SAC headquarters the next day to brief anybody; their actions before and during the incident were a matter for the investigation team, and all such interviews remained on that level. Both men reaffirmed this as well in September 2010, with Carlson insisting that, “The only conversation I ever had was with the senior controller and that was by phone.”

(5) Both Carlson and Figel insist that their watch turnover to the relieving crew did not include any mention whatsoever of UFOs, because UFOs were not involved in the incident, nor were any reported. Both officers also reaffirmed this in September 2010, with Figel adding that his turnover included everything that was written in the logbook: there was “a hand written log from me that was turned in just like all the other logs that I wrote over several years”, and, according to Figel, that handwritten log contained no mention of UFOs at all.

(6) 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 started going offline, qualifies as an official UFO report. This theory has no merit whatsoever, primarily because an 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. It should be noted as well that the 341st Strategic Missile Wing and Combat Support Group History that the USAF sent to Salas as a result of his original FOIA request states that “All LFs in E-Flight lost strategic alert nearly simultaneously. No other Wing I configuration lost strategic alert at that time.” Since both November Flight and Oscar Flight were Wing I stations, this is a decidedly peculiar declaration to include in the official history of a USAF command if it was, in fact, untrue, as Salas insisted for the next five years.

By December 2000, when Salas was interviewed in conjunction with the Disclosure Project, a number of further discrepancies in his various claims had already been noted by critics. In 1997, for example, he states that the event he remembers took place sometime in the morning, and that the MCCC of Echo called Meiwald and told him about the missiles and the UFO that was noted at Echo Flight. This plainly indicates that the Echo incident occurred before the November-Oscar incident. Salas even wrote Fowler in 1996 in reference to the “rapid response of the maintenance crews to our site” that “I believe they had already been dispatched to Echo before our shutdown.” And yet, the Disclosure Project interview states that it “was still dark out” when the Oscar Flight incident took place. The Echo Flight Incident, however, started at 0845, about two hours after sunrise. In other interviews, both before and after December 2000, Salas made the same claim, repeatedly insisting that it was dark outside, or that it was very early in the morning, a condition that would enable the security guards in his story to observe the “lights” making odd maneuvers that an aircraft was not capable of making. These are descriptions that go back to his original claims, even while he was still declaring that he had been on duty at Echo Flight. Details of this sort make it difficult to believe that he even bothered to read the documents he received from the USAF.

In February 2006, Robert Hastings, author of UFOs and Nukes, wrote an article for NICAP that included a discussion of Oscar Flight: “When Salas and Klotz published their article … some years ago, they believed that the two shutdown incidents had occurred within the same 24-period, on March 16, 1967. As my article points out, Klotz still believes that. However, Salas now agrees with me that they probably occurred on two separate days. This alternate time-line is based on the testimony of my source, Bob Jamison. In light of that, I propose that the Oscar Flight shutdown probably took place on the night of March 24/25, 1967 – the same night as the Belt, MT incident.” And suddenly, witness testimony turns into a group effort. In the American justice system, evidence of this sort is routinely dismissed as unduly prejudicial. When such evidence is used by civil authority, it’s considered prosecutorial misconduct and can be used to dismiss all related charges. In American UFOlogy, it’s considered by some to be a clearly stellar bit of investigative analysis.

In any case, after ten years of asserting the primary facts of an incident that were clearly impossible, Salas had finally accepted a solution that could explain discrepancies in the time frame, as well as the command history’s insistence that “No other Wing I configuration lost strategic alert at that time.” He still insisted, however, that UFOs were sighted over both flights, contradicting the claims of the entire Echo Flight crew that no UFOs were sighted, reported, or investigated in connection with that event. And if a UFO had been reported, USAF regulations would have required Colonel Chase, the base UFO officer, to investigate. The fact that there was no such investigation indicates that there was no UFO reported. When asked about it later, Chase was adamant that UFOs were not reported or investigated at Echo Flight. The combined efforts of Salas and now Hastings had made any discussion of actual history unnecessary, almost as if “history” was no longer important; the only thing that mattered was trying to keep the participation of UFOs involved in the Echo Flight Incident, because it was the only incident these UFO “investigators” could even hope to verify. After all, if common wisdom could place UFOs at Echo Flight on March 16, 1967, the creation from absolutely nothing of a new event at Oscar Flight on March 24-25, 1967 would at least seem possible, if extremely unlikely.

Salas’ insistence that both Carlson and Figel “certainly did report the UFO sightings and their guards and maintenance personnel were interviewed about their sightings by Air Force investigators” has not been confirmed by anyone, while Carlson and Figel have both denied that UFOs were involved, making Salas’ claims somewhat problematic. There is also no evidence to suggest that “guards and maintenance personnel were interviewed about their sightings by Air Force investigators.” There are no records of such interviews, and nobody has ever come forward in the intervening 43 years to confirm them. It appears that Salas’ claims regarding Echo Flight cannot be supported in any way. Even with Meiwald’s confirmation, enough doubts have been raised to show that this entire UFO incident was very carefully constructed from little more than Robert Salas’ imagination and Robert Hastings’ inability to differentiate between said imagination and reality. After all, the only witness is Salas, and contrary to his claims in 1996, he had never even served at Echo Flight.

In 2008, as a result of the author’s insistence that Figel’s previous testimony could not be used to verify the existence of a UFO at Echo Flight, Robert Hastings re-interviewed Colonel (Retired) Walter Figel, Jr. In the course of this interview, Figel described an incident involving a maintenance team that had been encamped at one of the LFs associated with Echo Flight. There were actually three maintenance teams with security escorts encamped overnight at three of the LFs, a condition confirmed by the command history documents. Figel told Hastings that he believed these teams were encamped in order to complete normal pre-scheduled maintenance. Numerous records and FOIA documents establish, however, that the Minuteman force had many problems related to the guidance and control modules and to the diesel generators that were used for emergency power in the event the civil power grid went down. It was estimated, however, that the repairs necessary could not be completed by late 1968, so they were rescheduled in conjunction with normal maintenance procedures. It seems likely that this was indeed the case, as Figel reported that at least one of the three LFs undergoing maintenance was on diesel power at the time. In his 2008 interview with Hastings, Figel also discusses how one member of the maintenance team, upon being awakened at Figel’s command by the security escort after the missiles started going off strategic alert (not before as originally claimed by Salas), was ordered to confirm the status of the missile. Figel reports that the maintenance team member checking the status called him on the SIN telephone at the LF to inform him that the missile was indeed off alert with a VRSA channel 9 No-Go indication. At the same time, the maintenance tech stated “It must be a UFO hovering over the site. I think I see one here.”

Hastings does not mention that this maintenance technician could not have seen anything from where he was, because the SIN telephone that he was using was 6-10 feet underground in the lower equipment room adjacent to the LF silo. Nor does he mention that it takes a minimum of 30-45 minutes to open the blast doors and get down to the equipment room in order to check the missile status, as Figel had ordered. During this entire procedure, the security escort who had awakened the technician was required to monitor a 2-way radio on which he had already established an open communications link with Figel and Carlson; he reported nothing unusual either to Figel and Carlson inside the capsule or to his direct superiors in the command post. Hastings neglects to take any of this into consideration, and as a result insists that this mention of a UFO was an actual report, when it was very clearly nothing more than an offhand comment made in a joking manner. In March 2010, Figel confirmed this scenario, insisting that it was stated as a joke and interpreted as a joke, exactly as he told Robert Hastings during the original interview. Hastings still insists, however, that it qualifies as an actual UFO report, although the known facts suggest otherwise. Both Figel and Carlson disagree strongly with Hastings’ analysis; neither the maintenance technician nor his security escort has ever come forward to offer statements of their own.

In addition to their reports regarding Echo Flight, both Carlson and Figel are equally confident that there were no incidents of missile failures at November Flight or Oscar Flight in March 1967, and that Robert Salas was never involved in any incidents involving numerous missile failures – a decidedly difficult impression for Salas to convincingly deny. Figel and Carlson are certain that had such an incident occurred, they would have heard about it, just as the missileers in every other squadron attached to Malmstrom AFB heard about the ten missile failures at Echo Flight.

A significant portion of Salas’ argument relies on the command history he originally acquired in response to his FOIA requests. He has claimed that no cause for the failures could be found by the field investigation team assigned to the case, and page 38 of the FOIA documents published by Salas and James Klotz of CUFON appears to support this conclusion: “The only possible means that could be identified by the team involved a situation in which a coupler self test command occurred along with a partial reset within the coupler. This could feasible [sic] cause a VRSA 9 and 12 indication. This was also quite remote for all 10 couplers would have to have been partially reset in the same manner.” On the basis of a personal letter from Bob Kaminsky, a member of the field test investigation team that first responded to the missile failures, Salas and Klotz have also insisted that the investigation was unable to reach any significant conclusions whatsoever in regard to a possible cause.

Neither of these suppositions, however, is technically accurate, as a simple examination of the pages Salas and Klotz neglected to publish makes clear. On page 42 of the same command history used by Salas and Klotz to support their UFO claims, it clearly states that "the only common item determined in this investigation was the LCC. The LCC power fault transmitted to the LFs on the hardened cable was considered the only power fault capable of causing the Echo Flight incident." This is a pretty significant conclusion to reach, especially in light of Kaminsky’s insistence 30-years later that no useful conclusions were reached by his team. The command history is very clear that the field team was tasked to examine only the LFs, so their conclusion that the power fault must have originated in the LCC is indeed very significant. It also explains why the only cause Kaminsky’s team could identify was one considered to be “quite remote”. This is because their conclusion applies only to the LFs. They were never tasked to examine the LCC. That responsibility went to another team entirely, a condition that both Salas and Klotz must have been well-aware of, because it is mentioned on those pages of the command history they had copies of, but neglected to publish. Once again on page 42, it states, "The investigation teams at Malmstrom were unable to determine a logical cause for the incident. Further investigation in the area of shutdown results will be conducted in an effort to determine a possible cause of this incident. These studies will be conducted at the contractors [sic] facility and will be included in the next history." Even if Salas and Klotz never received any excerpts from the following quarterly history, there's no excuse for their claims of the past fifteen years that no cause for the shutdown could be determined, when they were perfectly aware that the overall investigation of the incident was still in progress. Additionally, the fact that they neglected to publish any pages of the document suggesting the true scope of the investigation is not one that instills confidence in their research methods, nor in the conclusions they arrived at.

Also contrary to Kaminsky’s claims, the commentary on pages 36-37 asserts a couple of tremendously important conclusions as to the ultimate cause: "Channel 50 data was extracted from sites E-7 and E-8 immediately after the shutdown of the entire flight. Analysis of this data determined that both sites were shutdown as a result of external influence to the G&C, no No-Go's were detected by the G&C." This is followed up by "As stated earlier, all 10 launch facilities shutdown with a VRSA channel 9 and 12 (G&C No-Go and Logic Coupler No-Go) recordings. Because of this consistency considerable investigation was expended in the Logic Coupler area. In the channel 50 analysis it was shown that the guidance section [also called G&C - guidance and control] did not experience a No-Go and therefore, it was felt that the VRSA channel 9 report was not valid. It is possible, however, for the Logic Coupler to generate both of these No-Go indications." This means that all ten LFs shutdown with VRSA channel 9 and 12 indications reported at the LCC. However, only VRSA channel 9 was reported at the 10 launch facilities, an indication verified by the channel 50 analysis. Only the Logic Coupler error being reported in the LCC could possibly account for both the VRSA channel 9 and 12 indications at the LCC, and the channel 9 No-Go indications noted at the LFs; it’s plain that the original fault must have occurred there as well. These conclusions have been omitted entirely from Salas’ discussion of the Echo Flight Incident, even after Hastings’ interview with Colonel (Retired) Figel in 2008 confirmed that only VRSA channel 9 indications were reported at the LFs.

Part two will be coming up soon, you can also read the rest of the article - here.

Article Copyright© James Carlson - reproduced with permission.



 
  Other articles by James Carlson

Echo flights of fantasy - part two
Columnist: James Carlson | Posted on 12-2-2010 | 0 comments
The discussion regarding the cause of the Echo Flight Incident continues in the 341st Strategic Missile Wing and Combat Support Group Command History covering A...


Echo Flight UFO incident, March 1967
Columnist: James Carlson | Posted on 2-23-2010 | 21 comments
In this manuscript I debunk completely the Echo Flight UFO Incident of March 16, 1967, and prove that the myth of UFO interference with the nuclear weapons syst...

 
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