According to Ufology researcher/writer Robert Hastings, on March 16, 1967, the appearance of UFOs at Echo-Flight nuclear missile facility allegedly shut down the missile silo. Robert Hasting’s information came from a man named Robert Salas who claimed he had witnessed the event.
Background of the Malmstrom AFB Missile/UFO Case
The son of one of the officers who was involved in the Echo flight incident, named James Carlson, took Hastings and Salas to task for those claims. Carlson contends that both his father and retired Col. Walt Figel, the other officer involved in the incident, both reported that there were no UFOs.
Hastings denied that James was ever in touch with the second witness, Col. Walt Figel. James Carlson provided us with records of his correspondence with Figel, which proved that Figel actually confirmed James Carlson’s interpretation of how the event actually occurred.
In March of 2010, James Carlson wrote:
Robert Hastings has made much of the fact that I have refused to interview his witness, Col. (Ret.) Walter Figel, Jr., regarding his recollections of the Echo Flight Incident on March 16, 1967.
I have, in fact, contacted Col. Figel, but didn’t feel that it would be very ethical to discuss in detail the event he recalls without securing first his complete cooperation, authority, and permission to do so. Having secured that this very evening, I am now prepared to discuss the matter in full. I can also add, very strongly, that my father never lied to me about anything, as Hastings claims, and that his recollections match exactly those of Col. Figel’s. I’ve “slandered and libeled” nobody, and I can say with complete confidence today that both Robert Hastings and Robert Salas have knowingly mislead their entire audience into believing a lie they were well aware of in order to sell their books.
James reported that Col Figel reported:
- Col. Figel does not believe UFOs were “even remotely associated with the Echo Flight Incident, or any other equipment failures at Malmstrom.”
- Col. Figel confirmed that he has no interest in Ufology and is not a fan of the UFO crowd.
- Figel stated, “I have read both of their books. There are many inaccurate statements and events in the books. I have told them both that.”
- He also stated that Salas was “never involved in any of them (the flights) at all.
The Figel Communications
In August of 2010, James learned that there were rumors floating about that his communications with Figel had never taken place. To set the record straight, James Carlson wrote the following commentary in a post on RealityUncovered (a now defunct UFO forum):
“I’ve discovered that there a lot of people out in the world who are convinced that I have not had any discussions with COL.(Ret.) Walter Figel, Jr., […] This is patently untrue and can be easily shown as such. Robert Hastings has knowingly published versions of this event that he has been told are false by both my father and Walt Figel, and his claims to the contrary are little more than silly attacks that are intended to delay the ruination of his and Robert Salas’ Echo Flight claims until after his pathetic little dog and pony show at the National Press Club in Washington, DC next month. The fact that he would do so at the expense of another man’s reputation doesn’t surprise me.
This back and forth between Hastings and Carlson set off a firestorm of debate on UFO forums at the time. Either Figel denied claims made by Hastings about the Malmstrom AFB UFO incident, or he didn’t.
Debate and drama aside, this was the one issue that needed to be confirmed or denied — because such a source denying Hastings claims cast doubt upon all of the rest of the claims about the incident.
James Carlson was convinced Hastings knowingly lied. He wrote as much in the forums.
“I’ve got some news for you – you knowingly lied about what Figel told you regarding Echo Flight. You’ve repeatedly claimed that he confirms your UFO myth, and that my father has been lying about the event for years. You’ve claimed over and over and over again that my assertions are lies and bluff, and that you can prove this easily, and yet, in the four-and-a-half months since I spoke to him, you’ve produced NOTHING.
You and Robert Salas are frauds – you have knowingly lied to your audience about UFOs at Echo Flight. You knew long ago that Figel’s discussion of this event did not ‘prove’ UFOs were involved at Echo Flight, but you have repeatedly claimed that they do, and your primary source for this – according to your own statements – is Walt Figel. You’ve also claimed that Walt Figel’s assertions are proof that my father has lied about this event, and you knew that wasn’t true as well.“
Carlson’s investigation amounted to a fairly significant mountain of evidence showing that the major witnesses of the event never said a UFO was involved.
“I have outlined a complete record of the events in March, 1967
I have backed that up with both documented evidence and the testimony of those individuals who were actually involved in that event.
I have asserted and proven that previous versions of this very real incident are incomplete, factually incorrect at times, and improperly confirmed.”
To prove this, he provided all of his evidence, including the complete record of his communications with the two major witnesses of the Malmstrom UFO event – Walt Figel and Frederick Meiwald.
Interview With Echo Flight Witness Walter Figel
“Please find attached the complete text of my written communications with COL.(Ret.) Walter Figel, Jr., currently living in Colorado.
I have also included my communications with LTCOL.(Ret.) Frederick Meiwald, the commander of Oscar Flight who Robert Salas insists was with him the day the missiles at Oscar Flight supposedly failed as the result of extreme interference by a UFO that emptied the command post of all security personnel during an armed event, and injured one security policeman to such an extent that he required a medical evacuation via helicopter.”
The following was Walter Figel’s response to James Carlson’s questions in March of 2010:
I am not a fan of Salas, Hastings, or the whole UFO crowd
I have never seen one and flatly don’t believe they exist at all
I just want you to be clear of my position on UFOs
They make good science fiction – nothing more
I have read both of their books
There are many inaccurate statements and events in the books
I have told them both that
For instance, Oscar flight NEVER had any problems and Salas was NEVER involved in any of them at all just for starters
I think that they are just enjoying the notariety [sp] of the situation
Let me know when to call and I will do so tonight
After further prompting, Walt provided a detailed and full review of the situation and his take on it. In this author’s opinion, Walt’s statement is the final word on Malmstrom UFO matter. Walt wrote (emphasis mine):
I guess you must have posted something somewhere that got Hastings attention
He did call and we did speak for a bit, so did Salas.
You should know that both calls were very cordial as was ours
I reasserted that I personally never did see a UFO at any time.
I do not personally “believe” that UFOs had anything to do with Echo flight shutting down that year.
I repeated that I never heard about an incident at November or Oscar flight and have no knowledge that they ever happened and that I doubted they did.
That is obviously a personal opinion as I can not prove the negative.
I repeated that Colonel Dick Evans was at the alternate command post at Kilo which is in the same squadron as November and Oscar and he never mentioned anything about a shutdown at either of these two flights.
If it did happen, I personally don’t know anything about it.
One of their books said I had a personal log – I did not.
The only log I ever filled out was the official log that all flights kept and that I do not and never did have a copy of that log. Obviously I can not remember what I wrote that morning.
One of the books says that the flight shut down in “seconds” – that is not an exactly accurate statement.
It obviously took some time for your dad and I to run the appropriate checklists and make all the calls that we had to make to the command post and maintenance. We were near the end of the checklist when the second missile shut down and shortly thereafter the rest of them followed suit.
That sequence of events took several minutes not seconds, but that is all a very minor point in fact and doesn’t change the facts of the overall sequence of events that morning.
I told him that when someone mentioned UFOs, I just laughed it off as a joke and assumed someone was just kidding around. I never took it seriously.
I also told them that no one from any UFO office in the Air Force ever interviewed/deriefed your dad and/or me and that I do not remember ever signing any papers about anything.
In fact, I told them that until he mentioned it, I did not even know there was an office that monitored sightings of “UFOs” in the Air Force.
When your dad and I came topside the next day – no one ever said anything about UFOs and there was no “large gathering” of people on site that morning.
There may have been later that afternoon, but I would have no knowledge of that as we were long gone back to the base as usual.
I did not know the targeting office’s name or even know that he was there.
I did say there was a VRSA recording reporting a “Channel 9 – NO GO” reported.
They said that the maintenance crews had no such report at the LF.
I told him that I did not know how the system worked at the missile site so that I do not know if that is possible or not.
I have always maintained that I do not personally believe in UFOs.
I am not convinced that November or Oscar ever happened.
But these are obviously personal opinions and I can not state them as facts or prove them – they are my personal beliefs.
I also believe these statements are accurate.
I also believe that is what I said 2 years ago, but I don’t have recordings.
So my knowledge is very slim and I have no records about anything at all.
In addition, that was 43 years ago and memories fail – especially about things that were not especially important to me at the time.
Today, I can’t remember what time my wedding was and that I assure you is more important to me then and now. And that was in 1971.
After getting this confirmation, James Colson then turned to his own father, Eric Carlson, regarding Hastings’ and Salas’ claims about the Malmstrom alleged UFO event.
Statement From Captain Eric Carlson
Captain Eric Carlson, along with First Lieutenant Walt Figel were key witnesses in the events that took place at Echo Flight on March 16, 1967.
James Carlson’s research, interviews and analysis was centered upon proving that this particular incident occurred exactly as his father, a primary witness, described it as occurring – not as Robert Hastings described it in his book, and not as Robert Salas has detailed in his account.
Captain Eric Carlson, responded to direct queries from his son James on Aug 25, 2010, with a response that really left little doubt as to what he reports happened at Echo Flight.
As a preface to this interview, James Carlson explained:
“To enable a fuller understanding of my Dad’s communication with me, I’d like to point out a few facts first:
(1) Salas says my father confirms his story;
(2) Throughout my interest in this event, Robert Hastings has repeatedly stated that my father told him I have severe mental problems that have worried my family, implying that the arguments I’ve made, and the issues I’ve examined cannot be trusted as a result of these mental problems; I am seriously considering a lawsuit directed at Robert Hastings for slander and defamation of character;
(3) critics, particularly Robert Hastings, have suggested that my father has memory problems, and that his testimony, to a great extent, cannot be trusted for that reason. With these facts in mind, I ask that you please give his statement the attention it deserves”
The following was the full statement from the primary Malmstrom witness, Captain Eric Carlson.
“Let me start by stating that, as best as I can recall, my only contact with Salas and Hastings has been on the phone. I did tell Salas that he could release my name to whomever he wished, don’t know why he needed my permission. I have talked to a newspaper writer in Great Falls, several years ago, and a TV producer from one of those UFO shows. With both these individuals I denied any knowledge of any UFO’s at Malmstrom. In addition, I stated that there was no, repeat no, incident at Oscar flight as Salas maintains. The man is either lying or delusional.
My only contact with Hastings was a call I received from him regarding his book. I stated that his book sounded interesting and he later sent me a copy which I read and gave away to Gabriel or Kier. At no time did I mention anyone’s mental status; yours, mine, his, or Salas’, although in retrospect I could comment on Salas’.
My memory is quite good regarding the events at Malmstrom and there is no doubt in my mind that there were no reports of UFO’s and no incident at Oscar flight. I will be willing to discuss this with anyone who is truly interested in the facts.”
Following up this statement – I decided to interview Mr. Carlson myself.
This interview took place around the same time Hastings and Salas were planning a National Press Conference on September 27th, 2010. It seemed surreal to watch such a press conference moving forward when all of the key witnesses of the event were clearly denying the claims made in Hasting’s book.
Interview with Captain Eric Carlson
It has been a longstanding legend within Ufology that a UFO was sighted over the Silos at Echo Flight and Oscar flight at Malmstrom, and that those UFOs were related to the electronic malfunction and shutdown of the nuclear missiles protecting the United States of America from the Communist threat.
The major source of these stories has been a man who alleges that he was a witness to at least Oscar flight, and that he has insight about events at Echo flight.
You can read many of his claims at the CUFON website, or you can check out the book published by Robert Salas called Faded Giant, with James Klotz listed as contributor.
One thing that is clear is that there were two primary witnesses to the Echo Flight event – Walt Figel and Eric Carlson. These two men were in E-Flight LCC, watched the systems fail, and responded in the manner they were trained to respond. No one out there – no one- would know better than these two men what really happened in the control room on that day.
Walt Figel provided his feedback to James about this event, as printed above.
To get Eric Carlson’s full story, I contacted the retired Captain and he agreed to the interview. It is provided below. I have only edited grammatical or spelling errors, but left his responses exactly how he provided them to me.
Ryan: According to the stories, on Thursday Morning, March 16, 1967, you (Captain Eric Carlson) and First Lieutenant Walt Figel were serving as the Echo-Flight Missile Crew in the E-Flight LCC. According to Salas, “more than one report came in from the security patrols and maintenance crews that they had seen UFOs.”
According to Salas, a UFO was even sighted directly above one of the E-Flight silos. At an estimated 08:30, Salas claims that an alarm sounded reporting to you and Figel that one of the Minuteman missiles you were responsible for had become inoperable.
First – lets touch on this claim. Could you describe what you remember about this specific part of the story? Was there such an alarm at all and was it unusual?
Eric: There were no reports called in to either me or Lt Figel on the morning of March 16, 1967. The report that we had lost ten missiles is accurate. It was not uncommon to lose one missile or even two to no-go status, it was unheard of to lose all ten.
I recall that both Lt Figel and I were Kept rather busy completing our checklists, which included calls to the wing command post and maintenance control. Shortly after completing the check lists we received a call from the senior controller at SAC headquarters, a general. He wanted to know my status and I informed him that E-2 thru E-11 were in no-go status. He asked me if I was sure and how did I know they would not launch.
I advised him that my tech order indicated they would not launch. I am sure he was concerned because our targets would have to be covered by someone else. He then asked it E-1 would launch and I advised him that that was the launch control center where we were. I recall wanting to tell him that I sure as hell hoped it wouldn’t.
The Alleged UFO Sighting and System Failure
Ryan: The stories claim that when Figel called the security guard on the surface, the guard reported that no maintenance had taken place and that a UFO had been hovering over the silo. Do you recall Figel making this phone call, and did he tell you that anyone on the other end of the line mentioned anything about a UFO?
Eric: There was no call, at any time, telling us about any UFOs.
Ryan: Reportedly, the entire flight of ICBMs went into “no-go” status – and once you and Figel completed the checklist procedure you learned that all systems were offline due to a guidance and control systems malfunction. Could you elaborate on the accuracy of that claim?
Eric: The voice reporting system did report a guidance and control system malfunction.
Ryan: Did either you or Figel (or anyone else) eventually determine what caused the system malfunction? Or was there any speculation? In other words, did you eventually receive any follow-up information about what the engineers learned about the malfunction?
Eric: I don’t know if anyone eventually determined the cause. I have not read the report of investigation. There was no way for either Figel or myself to make that determination and there was no follow-up from engineers. Any report they made would have been classified and I had no need to know.
The After-Effects of the Experience
Ryan: According to the story, when Captain Don Crawford’s crew relieved you and Walt, you were “still visibly shaken by what had occurred.” Do you recall having such an emotional reaction to the event, and if so, why?
Eric: I do not recall being “shaken” by what had occurred. I do not believe Lt Figel nor I had any emotional reaction other than perhaps surprise.
Ryan: Do you have an insight or experiences to report related to the reported Oscar Flight incident where allegedly another UFO was sighted which reportedly sent the missiles into “no-go” status?
Eric: The event at Echo became what could be referred to as the talk of the town. Everyone knew about it and many crew members kidded me about it. There was never any talk, at any time, about a similar event at Oscar. I can only conclude from that that it never happened.
Ryan: Why would crew members kid you about a malfunction – was it because it was rare for all of the silos to go down at once? During the jokes and discussions with other crew members, did anyone mention anything about a UFO being sighted above the silo when the malfunction occurred?
Eric: The crew members of the 10th SMS were a tight group. We were the first minuteman squadron activated and did a lot together. When someone in the squadron had difficulties, that were not related to their skills or qualifications, kidding took place. At no time were UFOs mentioned to me.
The Follow-Up Air Force Investigation
Ryan: CUFOS reports that subsequent investigations by Boeing engineers turned up no explanation for what could have caused the shutdown, and some speculated that only a high energy electromagnetic pulse (EMP) could have entered the shielded system to cause the failure. Were you aware of any of the subsequent investigations after the shutdown of Echo and/or Oscar, and are able to shed more light on what was actually determined?
Eric: I have no information that sheds light on the incident other than the official investigation or the Echo incident. To the best of my knowledge there was no report or investigation of any Oscar incident.
Ryan: Had you ever had any conversations with the security guards or staff who allegedly saw the UFO hovering over the silo? What, if anything, did you learn from those conversations about the alleged sighting(s)?
Eric: I have never had any discussion with security personnel regarding UFOs.
Ryan: Do you know if Walter did? According to the stories, he was the one that answered the phone. Of course, you were right there, so I’m sure you would have known if someone told him a UFO had been sighted?
Eric: I am sure that if Figel had any discussions with security personnel about UFOs that he would have mentioned it to me.
Ryan: According to many former USAF personnel, the USAF allegedly frowned upon the reporting or even internal acknowledgement of such UFO events and/or sightings. Is this how you felt while you were serving in the USAF?
Eric: I never felt constrained in any way regarding reporting any unusual activities around missile sites. In fact, I believe we were encouraged to report unusual incidents or events.
Ryan: Finally – I would like to give you an opportunity to share whether you were ever contacted or interviewed by Hastings, Salas or any other Ufologists before, and your perspective on the stories that they’ve put out there about the events that occurred at Echo Flight and Oscar Flight.
Eric: I was contacted by both Salas and Hastings and would neither confirm or deny anything they told me. I really didn’t want to get involved in a pissing contest with either. Hastings told me he had written a book and I told him that sounded interesting. He sent me a copy and while I cannot attest or comment on anything other than the Malmstrom incident I found that particular incident full of errors. A producer for some UFO TV series contacted me one time and a reporter from the Great Fall newspaper also contacted me one time. There were no follow-ups from either.
Ryan: This is interesting! Hastings only called to talk to you after he’d written the book? Or was he calling you while he was writing his book in order to confirm information he’d learned from Salas?
Eric: Hastings called after he had written the book. I don’t know what his motive was.
Final Words on the Malmstrom UFO Case
Subsequent to this interview, Robert Salas was interviewed by George Knapp on Coast to Coast, and repeated many of the claims that these two witnesses report are not true.
I would also recommend to our readers, that if you do decide to purchase and read Faded Giant, that you take what Salas has reported with a grain of salt, because unfortunately the real witnesses at Echo Flight do not support his dubious claims.Originally published on TopSecretWriters.com