A group of retired Air Force officers say they've encountered UFOs, and surmise that the space creatures are trying to tell an obstinate human race to abandon its nuclear weapons. That's right: Earth is being monitored by intergalactic hippies.
Seven elderly retired Air Force officers called a news conference at the National Press Club in Washington on Monday afternoon-covered, improbably, by CNN-to disclose that they witnessed the UFOs rendering U.S. nuclear missiles temporarily inoperable during the Cold War.
"Whoever are aboard these craft are sending a signal to both Washington and Moscow, among others, that we are playing with fire," announced longtime UFO researcher Robert Hastings, who convened the gathering. "The possession and threatened use of nuclear weapons potentially threatens the human race and the integrity of the planetary bargain."
President Obama, however unpopular you've grown at home, there are beings off-world who approve of your no-nuke agenda. And they provide the perfect opportunity to introduce our new weekly feature, Tinfoil Tuesdays, a tour through the more, um, unusual corners of Danger Room's already-freaky world.
Hastings didn't serve in the military himself, but he worked with Robert Salas, a retired Air Force missile launch officer, to assemble a crew of former airmen whose stories shared a remarkable similarity. From 1963 to 1980, all were present at U.S. nuclear missile sites when the flashing lights of alien spacecraft - some disc-shaped, some conical, some spherical - appeared before them or their colleagues. (Hastings said he couldn't rule out that alien contacts we haven't heard about are ongoing to this day.) Some confessed that they didn't see the ships themselves, but heard reliable accounts from trustworthy comrades. In most cases, though, when the aliens approached, the missiles stopped being responsive to technicians' controls.
But the aliens didn't actually zap the missiles. They just flew over the bases, worked their advanced-technological magic and disappeared into the night. "They could have done a lot more damage," Salas told Danger Room when asked how he knew the alien counter-missile efforts didn't portend a more hostile purpose, like a forthcoming attack.
Like most of the veterans recounting their close-encounter experiences, Bruce Fenstermacher, a ruddy, 68-year-old retired Air Force captain, didn't actually want to be quite as definitive as Hastings and Salas were about the aliens' policy preferences. "I think they're monitoring us so that we don't mess things up," he said, expressing faith in the aliens as enlightened interplanetary guardians.
Hastings allowed that his theory was "speculative," but "given the available facts, it is a viable scenario."
Charles Halt, a retired colonel, didn't know if he was going to be probed or abducted when he saw something that "looked like a large eye, red in color, moving through the trees" in an English forest near a Suffolk base called Bentwaters. But suddenly it "exploded" into "five white objects" that sped away into the night sky without harming him. (Halt has told his story many times before, and a transcript of what purports to be his contemporaneous audio recording of the incident is Googleable.)
Robert Jamison was a young lieutenant working as a Minuteman targeting officer on Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana in 1967. "My main job was to point the missiles in right direction," he joked. But one night in March, all ten of his missiles, known as a flight, suddenly went off alert status - right as rumors of a UFO visit circulated through Malmstrom. While he never himself saw any aliens, he heard about a UFO landing in a "deep ravine" nearby and interviewed a security guard who described "two small red lights off at a distance" that began to close in; the guard broke down and cried at the recollection. Jamison believes the encounter was an incident that's come to be known as the Belt, Montana UFO sighting.
If an entire flight of nuclear missiles really did go offline, it certainly "would be panic-inducing," says a former Air Force missile officer who works as a foreign-policy wonk in Washington (and who asked for anonymity in order to keep his organization out of a story about UFOs). In his experience of working through over 300 nuclear alerts, "at most" three or four missiles went into "no-go" status.
He adds, "If these guys are telling the truth, an entire flight of ten sorties dropping into no-go status is a pretty significant event from a deterrence perspective." It might also explain how little green men might look like a compelling theory of what went wrong.
But the officers didn't face a particularly skeptical crowd. There were as many well-wishers at the Press Club as there were journalists in a conference attended by about 30 people, congratulating them on their bravery. One gentleman took the mic to confess that he had been "a contactee" in Santa Monica in 1986 and 1997. "I can affirm this phenomenon is real," he said. Another journalist asked the panel whether it was "time to admit that there are other spiritual beings in the universe."
Along the same lines, Hastings suggested that the major threat that the aliens pose is to the close-minded. "I don't think humankind is in jeopardy from whoever they are or whatever they are, except that we will have our minds expanded," he said. "There will be a paradigm shift. Traditional institutions such as religions, governments, other social institutions may be threatened by what is coming. That is just the logical consequence of what is about to occur."
If people will allow themselves to listen, that is. Dwynne Arneson, a Vietnam veteran who served at Malmstrom alongside Jamison during the the 1967 incident, lamented that the anxieties of the age are proving dangerously distracting. "People are so wrapped up nowadays in their own world," he observed. "They're worried about jobs. They're worried about mortgages. They could care less about UFOs and ETs and paranormal events."
Story photo: A shot of the Apollo 16 module, commonly mistaken for a UFO, courtesy of NASA