1. Ground-visual UFO Observations (2:15-3:44)

2. B-52 Air-radar UFO Observation (3:44-4:02/4:06:51)

3. B-52 and the Ground Observers at N-7

4. B-52 Air-visual UFO Observations (4:24-4:28)

5. Oscar-7 Launch Facility Break-in (4:49)

6. Final Ground-visual UFO Observations (4:26-5:34)


Narrative of UFO Events at Minot AFB
on 24 October 1968

Thomas Tulien

1. Ground-visual UFO Observations (2:15-3:44)[2]

The initial observation of an unidentified flying object was reported by a Camper Team, comprising Airman First Class (A1C) R. McDowell, and A1C W. Johnson. A camper team is a two-man security detachment in a camper truck, that can be posted on the remote missile Launch Facilities (LF) for extended periods to provide security during equipment failure, often, when alarm systems fail to reset, and whenever a nuclear warhead is exposed during maintenance and targeting procedures. In this instance, it appears McDowell and Johnson were stationed at the missile Launch Facility designated Oscar-6, providing aboveground security for a Target Alignment Team working on the Minuteman ICBM in the underground silo.[3]

At 2:15 a.m., the camper team radioed Oscar-Flight Security Controller (FSC), Staff Sergeant (SSgt.) William Smith Jr., at the O-1 Launch Control Facility (LCF), to report the presence of a strange light near their post. In an August 2001 interview, Smith recalled the Camper Team observed “a large glowing object go down by some trees not far away,” and that members of the Target Alignment Team also observed the strange light.[4] Shortly afterwards, at 2:30, Smith observed the glowing object himself in the vicinity of O-6. In his Air Force Form 117 (AF-117), Sighting of Unidentified Phenomena Questionnaire, he reported:

I was notified it had been seen in an adjacent area. I alerted my [sentries]. The object was first seen in the southern part of my area by a posted sentry. I directed my gaze south of my position and saw the object about fifteen minutes after my sentry sighted it.[5]

Oscar-1 Launch Control Facility

Oscar-1 Launch Control Facility (LCF) located 28 miles north of Minot AFB, looking north; and (inset) the underground Launch Control Center. (Click to enlarge). Two Missile Combat Crew Commanders (capsule crew) are stationed in the LCC, and constantly monitor missile launch status and security for 10 missiles encircling the LCF. Aboveground, the LCF is manned by a minimum of six security personnel responsible for the security requirements of the capsule crew, who remain locked in the underground capsule for 24-hour tours of duty. The security personnel are divided into two teams of three people each, consisting of a Flight Security Controller (FSC) and two Security Alert Team (SAT) members. Each team operated in 12-hour shifts over a three-day period. Bruce Ecker’s spherical panoramic photographs of a decommissioned Minuteman LCF, LCC, and LF at Ellsworth, AFB, SD, are available from:

Minot Ground Observation Map

(Click map to enlarge). Locations of the initial observations of “a large glowing object” by the camper team at O-6, and security team at the Oscar-1 Launch Control Facility, 9 miles to the north. Project Blue Book investigators did not interview the camper and targeting team personnel during the subsequent investigation. A satellite view of Oscar-Flight (zoom-in to view Oscar-1) is available from: Wikimapia.

Smith reported his observation to TSgt Bowles at the 91st Strategic Missile Wing, Security Control, at Minot AFB.[6] Apprehensive about the unknown object so close to the exposed nuclear warhead, Smith recalls the Captain in charge of the targeting team informed the Missile Combat Crew Commander in the underground Oscar-Launch Control Center, to the effect, “we can do this another time, its just not worth us being out here,” and they closed the missile silo, secured the site, and returned to base.[7]

Oscar-6 Launch Facility

Oscar-6 Launch Facility looking south-southwest. O-6 is located 19 miles north of Minot AFB, just west of Highway 83. According to Smith, the camper team was providing aboveground security for the targeting team working in the missile silo, when they observed a large glowing object go down behind some trees not far away. Concerned about an unidentified glowing object near the exposed nuclear weapon they secured the site and returned to base. (Click for additional images).

For weeks prior to these events, SSgt. Smith had been observing inexplicable lights traveling across the sky that would reverse direction.

SMITH: Most of what we saw were just back and forth patterns. They weren't going very high. . . . We were looking south so they were moving east-west, west-east. They would stop, and they might go up a little bit and go slower, and we're saying “a helicopter might do that, but…” We did call and make the reports as we were supposed to of anything that you cannot explain, but nothing was done. So I talked to the capsule crew again, and said “sir, we're just not happy with what we're seeing.” We had reported this before and they said, “Well, just keep them under observation.”

Smith recalls that a few days before the events of 24 October there was a noticable increase in the activity. Asked to explain what he was observing, he recalled:

Staff Sergeant (SSgt.) William Smith Jr. SMITH: Seeing a white light, and on clear nights you could see it almost change colors. When I say colors we’re talking a reddish-dark light, almost like a light bulb in the distance that would have a somewhat reddish hue to it. You could even see it change a little bit, almost like an aircraft a long distance away that would have red and green lights, and would revolve—not bright white, dull reddish white. But the lights themselves were doing different things, I mean, we talk about one light but we saw several on occasion, and they were just not doing things we thought aircraft should be doing this time of the morning.[8]

During the same time as the observations near O-6 , A1C Robert O’Connor, and A1C Lloyd Isley of the 91st Minuteman Maintenance Squadron were driving to the November-7 Launch Facility (located 15 miles W-SW of Oscar-6), to perform routine missile maintenance. Five miles north of N-7, their attention was drawn to a luminous object hovering near the horizon in the east. When first observed at 2:30 a.m., O’Connor reported “It appeared to be between two farmer yard lights, which were a little smaller, then the object grew brighter moving S.E.” [9] In a February 2005 interview, he explained that as they continued down the gravel road the object rose up and began to pace their movements:

Airman First Class Robert O'Connor O’CONNOR: We were going down the dirt road and then I glanced out [turns to his left] the truck window and noticed that some farmer had left his yard light on.

INTERVIEWER: There were farms along there?

O’CONNOR: I don’t know because at nighttime it’s so hard to see. You can’t tell if there is a building. It was dark—it gets dark out there when it is cloudy. We started down that road and I noticed that farmer’s yard light, and then—I don’t know what made me glance over at it again—then I saw it raise up and start paralleling our truck going down the road. . . . It was almost on the ground, probably at normal height, which would have been 30-40 feet something like that. It was illuminating the ground. After it picked up and started following us down the road I noticed that the farmer’s light wasn’t there [any] more. [10]

A1C Lloyd Isley also recalled that the unidentified object appeared to follow them down the road to N-7:

Airman First Class Lloyd Isley ISLEY: It would’ve been up above the horizon line, now whether we could see—it was hard at all times to determine how far away, for whatever reasons, there wasn’t ever a good fix in my mind as to how far this thing was from us. It just seemed to stay with us, and at times, at that time seemed pretty close to us, close enough that it would have been following us and nothing else, you know.

INTERVIEWER: What gave you the impression it was following you?

ISLEY: Well, it wasn’t really behind, it was off to the side of us and it just seemed to be staying at the same speed we were.[11]

5 Miles North of N-7 looking East

Looking East from the location of O’Connor and Isley’s initial UFO observation at 2:30 a.m. The O-6 Launch Facility is due East about 13 miles distant, and November-7 is 5 miles to the right. (Click image for more views).

Minot Ground Observation Map No. 1

At 2:30 a.m., SSgt. Smith observed the object at the same time as the maintenance team’s observation on the road 5 miles north of N-7. It appears they were observing the same object: Isley and O’Connor’s observation was near the horizon to the east, in a direct line with O-6 about 13 miles distant; at which time Smith reported the UFO south of O-1, about 10 miles at 15 degrees elevation, also in the direction of O-6. A simple triangulation illustrates the UFO in the immediate vicinity of O-6, as reported to Smith by the Camper Team.[12]

O’Connor also noted in his AF-117 that the “object seemed to be observing us. When we stopped the object seemed [to] hover or stop when we turned out our headlights.”[13] Growing uneasy with a strange light following them, they radioed the base Transportation Control Center to inquire whether there were any aircraft operating in the area, but were informed there were no helicopters or other aircraft out at this hour of the morning.[14] Since the object did not appear like aircraft routinely observed around the base, they were uneasy regarding it’s intentions, particularly because they were unarmed. “I remember Isley getting in the back of the truck and grabbing an axe, just in case there were some little green men or something,” O’Connor recalled. “I didn’t know what was going on but I was totally concerned.”[15]

Isley's drawing from his AF-117

Isley's drawing from his Air Force Form 117 (AF-117), page 9.

When Isley and O’Connor arrived at N-7 they parked outside the front gate and continued observing the object from outside the truck. In his AF-117, Isley noted it remained circling about 2 miles south of the Launch Facility, and “came within hearing distance twice.”

We first saw the object to the east of us while we were traveling toward the site. It started moving south. We arrived at the site then started observing the object from outside the truck. It was moving in a large circular area to the south of us. [16]

Isley initially reported the object high above the horizon at 50 degrees: “The object had lights on the front like headlights or landing lights. It had a green flashing light toward the middle or rear.” Unable to determine the precise size or shape, he nevertheless compared its size to a KC-135 Stratotanker “by the lights on the object.” [17]

Likewise, O’Connor reported that:

The object appeared self-luminous like a big ball of white-light that seemed to change to a dim green light then later to a dim amber color. The object seemed to take on the appearance of a stingray fish. . . . I was unable to make out a definite shape because the object put out such a bright light. [18]

Asked to describe the object he recalled:

O’CONNOR: I couldn’t really see a shape other than the light and that it was glowing… You would almost think it was an aircraft but it wasn’t [laughs]. It was hovering above the ground and you could not hear [anything] so I knew it wasn’t a helicopter.

INTERVIEWER: How far away was it?

O’CONNOR: I would say 300-400 yards—it was quite close. I could not compare it to anything other than I knew it was probably as big as a B-52—in that size range.[19]

N-7 Launch Facility looking southeast

November-7 Launch Facility looking southeast from the front gate, and (left) illustration of the Minuteman missile in the underground silo. O’Connor and Isley parked outside the gate and continued to observe the bright UFO circling to the south. Shortly after 3:00, O’Connor entered the facility and went down into the Launch Support Building to report to Flight Security Controller, SSgt. James Bond, at the November Launch Control Facility, 10 miles to the north. A satellite view of November Flight (zoom-in to view N-7) is available from Wikimapia.

In response, Transportation Control routed the maintenance teams call to the Base Operations Dispatcher, who further verified there were no aircraft in the area. The dispatcher then notified the Minot AFB, Control Tower operator, and controllers at Radar Approach Control (RAPCON) establishing a phone patch, and open-line of communications with the remote observers at N-7. He instructed O’Connor to continue describing what he was observing, and over the next two hours kept a written log noting the time and circumstances.[20] His first entry, at 0800Z (3:00 a.m. CDT), describes the

Object S/E of N-7 moving toward site with brilliant light like the sun. Lights flashing on and off. It’s too brilliant and big for an aircraft now moving south and hovered over N-7, turned green, amber off than on. [21]

Minot Ground Observation Map

At 2:15, the Camper Team reported a glowing object near O-6 to SSgt. Smith at O-1. At 2:30, Smith observed the UFO in the south, at the same time the maintenance team of O‘Connor and Isley reported a UFO in the east. While driving south to N-7, the UFO appeared to pace them while growing brighter. By the time they arrived at N-7, the “big ball of white light” was “moving in a large circular area to the south.” They reported the observation to SSgt. Bond at November-1. It appears the UFO traversed roughly 15 miles from O-6 to a position a few miles southeast of N-7 where it remained for the next hour.

After observing the object for a while, O’Connor unlocked the gate and hurried down into the Launch Support Building adjacent to the silo, to phone in their arrival. According to procedure, he authenticated identification and assigned entry codes with Flight Security Controller, SSgt. James Bond, at the November-Launch Control Facility. Bond, along with his Security Alert Team of A1C Joseph Jablonski, and A1C Gregory Adams, received O’Connor’s report shortly after 3:00 a.m.[22]

In a February 2005 interview, Jablonski recalls O’Connor’s hysteric-sounding voice over the radio and imagined O’Connor was describing the object hovering directly over them at N-7. Going outside for a better view, he and Adams could see the security lights of N-7 to the south, and a bright light above it, about 35 degrees above the horizon “alternating all kinds of pretty colors.”[23]

At 3:08, Bond reported the maintenance team’s observation to SSgts. Underhill and Neal at missile Wing Security Control.[24] The Wing Security controller then alerted adjacent Flight Security Controllers, and the 91st Strategic Missile Wing, Command Post.[25] The controller also summarized events in a document later provided to Blue Book investigators. According to his first entry:

At 3:08 hours the initial report was received from a maintenance team enroute from N-8 to N-7. An A1C O’Connor was the maintenance Team Chief and he stated that all members of the team observed the lighted object. They further stated that it was reddish orange in color, a very large object, with flashing green and white lights. After they entered N-7 the object came directly overhead with the sound of jet engines.[26]

The idea that the object “came directly overhead ” seems to result from O’Connor’s initial excitement, and the original report by Bond that the object appeared to be hovering above N-7. Neither Isley nor O’Connor reported the object overhead, though O’Connor reported, “at one time the object came within about ½ mile of site,” and “the noise I heard was similar to that of a jet engine only more steady and at a lower pitch.”[27] Isley noted that when first seen it appeared about 50 degrees above the horizon, and “came within hearing distance twice. The sound was that of jet engines.”[28] In an August 2001 inteview he recalled,

ISLEY: At least once it seemed like it was passing pretty close overhead, and it was at one of these times that I heard some air noise or something that an aircraft might make. I don’t remember hearing any jet engines… maybe what a plane would make going through the air without its engines on—just the air movement across the wings, or whatever.[29]

After receiving O’Connor’s report, SSgt. Bond dispatched Jablonski and Adams to assist the maintenance team at N-7. Jablonski recalls that after observing the object, he and Adams returned to the LCF to get their weapons, and on their way to the pickup passed by all of the N-1 personnel outside observing the bright light in the distance.

Once on the road, the team observed a second, similar object appear out of the east traveling to the south. Jablonski reported:

When first dispatched to N-7 another object exactly the same appeared out of the East and had picked up speed in a path moving towards the other. Never did see the two join or meet as the second one disappeared and no longer could be seen.[30]

Adams concurred: “When enroute to N-7 another object appeared (same as first one). They seemed to get pretty close at one time and all of a sudden one disappeared.”[31]

In February 2005, Jablonski further elaborated that after leaving N-1 he and Adams observed numerous points of light streaking across the sky, originating from the bright object in the south:

Airman First Class Joseph Jablonski JABLONSKI: I don’t even know if I put this in my report, but I saw lights coming off that, like smaller craft, going like (gestures back and forth path)…. Now these lights that I saw coming off of it while we were going down there were like what you were saying—small, almost like shooting stars but they weren’t because they were actually maneuvering (gestures curving paths), and they were going towards (pointing) that direction of Oscar Flight.

INTERVIEWER: So those objects would have been to the east of you, going up north?

JABLONSKI: Yeah. And he [Adams] saw them too, but he didn’t want to see them (laughs). I said, “Look at what’s going on!”

INTERVIEWER: Did they just disappear?

JABLONSKI: They faded out. But there were so many of them.

INTERVIEWER: How many—more than 10?

JABLONSKI: Oh yeah. This is when we first started out you know, then we focused mainly on that site because we were getting more in a straight line [heading south], and then we weren’t seeing any more of them. [32]

In fact, between 3:20 and 3:25 a.m., at least nine other ground observers at three LCFs observed two objects in strikingly similar terms. During the same time that Jablonski and Adams were driving to N-7, the Wing Security controller noted:

[03:20] SSgt Smith at Oscar-1 saw the object separate in two parts and go in opposite directions and return and pass under each other. At this time [03:24] Juliet Flt and [03:25] Mike Flt Team observed the same things and described it in the same way. [33]

In their AF-117’s, Isley and O’Connor included drawings of a second object southwest of N-7, while the first object remained in the southeast.[34] The time of this observation is not given, although the dispatcher’s log notes at 3:28: “Two are seen now.”[35] In addition, Bond included a drawing of two objects on a course towards each other, in which the second object “was in view for only about three minutes.”[36]

SSgt. Bond’s AF-117

SSgt. Bond’s drawing in his AF-117 (4). If this is his view from N-1 looking south, then the second object was in the southwest traveling to the east before disappearing at the point of contact (Click image for full scan).

A1C O’Connor’s AF-117

A1C O’Connor’s drawing in his AF-117 (4) (Click image for full scan).

Minot Ground Observation Map No. 3

Locations of the ground observations at 3:20-3:25 of two objects separating in opposite directions and returning to pass under each other. Additionally, Jablonski and Adams on the road to N-7 observed a second identical object in the east on a path to the first, which got close and disappeared. O’Connor and Isley at N-7 noted, “at one time there were two in the area,” indicating a second object in the southwest. Bond at N-1 noted two objects moving toward each other, and the second object disappearing at the point of contact, which “was in view for only about three minutes” (AF-117s, 4). The possibility of two UFOs was not an issue during the subsequent Blue Book investigation, and the sighting data is meager. In any case, complete data from the three LCFs would have certainly resolved the probability that observers were reporting a celestial object.

Over a distinct period of time, two similar objects were reported moving in relation to each other by 14 ground observers in diverse locations. Unfortunately, no specific observational data was obtained during the subsequent investigation, nor from the security personnel at the Juliet-1 and Mike-1 Launch Control Facilities, which would allow for correlations. Later, Minot AFB investigating officer, Lt. Colonel Arthur Werlich, simply notes in the Basic Reporting Data, “AT ONE POINT DURING THE GROUND SIGHTINGS, THE FIRST OBJECT WAS OBSERVED JOINED FOR A SHORT TIME BY A SECOND LIKE OBJECT.”[37] Other instances in the documentation point to the presence of two UFOs. For example, at 3:30 [3:40], when the Transcription of Recorded Conversation commences between RAPCON and the crew of a returning B-52, the first entry notes, “Controllers received information on UFO 24 miles NW.”[38] This location is in Mike-Flight about 7 miles west-northwest of the observers at N-7, who were reporting a UFO in the southeast.

Jablonski and Adams arrived at the N-7 missile silo around 3:30.[39] Jablonski recalls that when they pulled up the gates were standing wide open, and O’Connor and Isley were in a frantic state:

JABLONSKI: I was too excited to be scared. When we got there, to see a man with that rank running, I mean they were all telling us ‘Shoot it!’ when we pulled up.

INTERVIEWER: It’s that close?

JABLONSKI: Evidently, it was close in the beginning and then it moved off, but it stayed in the vicinity, you know, it gained altitude or whatever, and you could not hear any engines. [40]

In his AF-117, he noted that the phenomenon was not in sight continuously, indicating that this was

Not due to our movement, but the behavior pattern of the phenomenon. Object appeared as orangish-red lighted, seemed to switch to almost completely white and there was some green. This pattern was not always the same, and at certain times a combination of all could be seen at once. Object first appeared to hover, then move slowly, speed up, always alternating in color. Then lights would vanish, but return some 5 minutes later. [41]

He also recalled:

JABLONSKI: Whatever it was, you could not make out the shape. It was long and slender with lots of lights on it. In the debriefing [they said] that it was the size of a B-52 with a tanker—it had come up on base radar as that big. But the thing of it was the lights, which were alternating—they were bright white to like an amber-red and to a green, back—

INTERVIEWER: What would you compare it to—a nut or a basketball?

JABLONSKI: Oh, it was bigger than that, I mean, it was like the size of the B-52. You could not make—as far as shape you know, ‘saucer-like,’ whatever; it was oblong, slender with lots of lights on it.[42]

Jablonski took over responsibility for radio communications, reported back to Bond and the capsule crew at N-1, and continued relaying movements and descriptions of the object to the dispatcher and the RAPCON controller, who, by this time, was in contact with a returning B-52.[43] He explained the difficulty of providing RAPCON with the precise coordinates of the UFO because:

Airman First Class Joseph Jablonski JABLONSKI: The lights were not always on. When it made a move it was without the lights. That’s what was so tough with the B-52, because they wanted coordinates and everything. But when the lights were off you could not see it, as dark as it was.

INTERVIEWER: Then the light would appear in another spot?

JABLONSKI: Right. It was when it was hovering that you could actually see all these pretty lights and everything. That’s when it was staying in one place. But when it actually went to move you might see a little white, and then nothing—blank, you know, and then here it is over here (gestures right), then here it is over here (gestures left). [44]

Minot Ground Observation Map 1, 2 & 3 Overlay

After Jablonski and Adams arrived at N-7 around 3:30, the personnel continued observing the UFO in the southeast for approximately 30 minutes. During this time, Smith was also observing the UFO from O-1, 19 miles to the northeast of N-7. Based on data in the AF-117s, Smith observed the UFO “off and on” south southwest of his position for a length of time of one hour and fifteen minutes [2:30-3:45]; and also reported the time of his last sighting as 4:15, for a period of one hour and forty-five minutes (1, 3). O’Connor continued to observe the UFO that went “out of sight” a few times southeast of N-7 for one and a half hours [2:30-4:00]; and also reported the time of his last sighting as 3:45, for a period of one hour and fifteen minutes (1, 3). He estimated the distance of the UFO as 1/2-6 miles (7). Jablonski notes they observed the UFO for 35 minutes after 3:08 [until 3:43], estimating the distance of the UFO as 3-5 miles (AF-177, 3, 7). Adams notes they observed the UFO for 45 minutes after 3:08 [until 3:53], estimating the distance of the UFO as 2-5 miles (AF-117, 3, 7). All of the observers at N-7 note the UFO disappeared at the same time the B-52 appeared in the west. Based on information in the Transcription, and our reconstruction of the B-52 flight track, this was until 4:02.[45]

As the observers at N-7 continued reporting the UFO, the base communications networks were buzzing with activity. O’Connor recalls: “We conversed back and forth and then everybody, we started hearing all the chatter on the radio from everybody else that was seeing this thing.”[46] Jablonski recalls that after they arrived at N-7:

JABLONSKI: We took over because we were talking to my boss [Bond] and the capsule crew. I mean, there were so many people on that radio that…


JABLONSKI: People from the Squadron, people at the base, then when they diverted the B-52, I was talking to the ‘52 people.[47]

The missile Wing Security Control communication network was also patched in to RAPCON, and the capsule crews were listening in the hope that an incoming B-52 would provide their eyes in the sky. Smith insisted:

Staff Sergeant (SSgt.) William Smith Jr. SMITH: I’m the Staff Sergeant and I don’t usually call out of my chain of command unless I’m really frightened. So, I used my chain of command, I called back the people that I deal with, so I’ve done what I’m supposed to do and I just keep it under advisement. I talked to my capsule crew. Depending upon the crew they were interested or not interested. But it got frustrating; we got really angry that nobody was listening to us. So, I remember after I got my crew more interested then they [finally] called. Now the plot thickens because they started calling people and said, “My people upstairs are saying here’s what’s happening and we want some more information.” So they did call the Tower, and matter of fact, I remember listening on the phone—they let me stay on and listen. They called their Operations [Wing Security Control], who said, “OK, let’s get somebody else to think about this.” Then the B-52 crew was called in. They said, “we have a B-52 that’s out and we’ll see what they can see.” That is how we got the [B-52] crew involved. [48]

2. B-52 Air-radar UFO Observation ››