F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming (1973-74)

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1st Lt. Walter F. Billings—Former Minuteman ICBM launch officer (Deputy Missile Combat Crew Commander), 90th Strategic Missile Wing, F.E. Warren AFB, Wyoming:

I have inserted below excerpts from Billings’ first letter to me, with a few clarifications (in parentheses) and minor modifications relating to grammar and punctuation:

Dear Mr. Hastings,

...I arrived at F.E. Warren AFB in Cheyenne, Wyoming, in late January of 1972 from Vandenburg AFB [where I] had been trained in Minuteman I. After further training at F.E. Warren [I] was sent with the operations crews as a Deputy Missile Commander and assigned to a Squadron for the typical duty as a 2nd lieutenant. I was later trained as a training officer for the [missile] wing in Minuteman I, which encompassed assisting new arrivals in training and running simulators, and other duties. [These were] the standard duties until the Spring of 1973.

As a first lieutenant, along with so many others, [I] went back to school at F.E. Warren to learn the new Minuteman III system that was to be installed during the year of 1973. After training and evaluations, alert duties were assigned for the new system to those that had completed their training. We were to go on alerts as the new missile system was installed. In those days, F.E. Warren had 200 missiles on alert and was very active.

I am afraid that the dates that I will provide are somewhat vague. I wrote my experiences for a publication in this arena back in September 1993, and even then the dates were not exact. Also, some of the missile terminology may not be exact. I have forgotten some of the terms. I am sorry that I did not keep a private log of these events, back when they occurred.

The first event took place in the Fall of 1973. Over half of the LCCs (Launch Control Centers) had been converted to Minuteman III by this time, and I was on alert at Golf LCC. It was late at night. The UHF radio linking all twenty LCCs opened up with urgent talk from India LCC. In those days, the UHF radio was turned on, at all times, and if one LCC spoke to their SAT (Security Alert Team) or other LCCs, all twenty LCCs heard the conversation. After the India crew received a Outer Security Zone [alarm] on one of their missiles, and sent their SAT crew out for the standard investigation trip, we began to hear over the radio the events that developed.

From the UHF radio communication between the SAT and the India LCC crew, as we listened, we heard that as the truck was heading to the missile silo, the Inner Security Zone [alarm] had been tripped at the silo. Upon arriving near the subject silo, the SAT team observed a bright UFO hovering above the silo. The LCC crew advised the SAT team to proceed no further and to observe only. Approximately a minute later, the UFO moved off slowly for several thousand feet and then sped off at a high rate of speed. The conversation between the India LCC crew and the SAT team was heard by 19 other LCC crews on duty that night.

Upon relief by the next crew and upon return to F.E. Warren AFB, all crews on duty that night were informed that they would not speak to civilians or the news media about what they had heard on the UHF radio. Severe penalties were mentioned for those that did not heed this warning.

We, the LCC crews in general, began to hear rumors and stories, from other officers in operations and maintenance, that SAC headquarters at Offut AFB had sent the OSI (USAF Office of Special Investigations) to investigate this incident by helicopter. The India crew of that night would not speak of the incident at all. There were stories from missile maintenance that the missile in question had been carefully examined and that they found the target tapes (which guide the H-bomb warheads to their targets) on the three warheads had supposedly been erased that night by the UFO. Needless to say, I only heard that these things had occurred. These stories were told between missile guys over the following week, but they were reliable people, who did not speak to civilians or the press about this subject. However, the squadron commanders warned us, again, not to speak of the incident.

The second incident involved an entire missile maintenance crew, I believe six enlisted men and one officer. This also occurred in late 1973. A Minuteman III missile was being worked on for some routine problem during one of those late fall nights. A UFO was observed by the entire maintenance crew. The UFO appeared to be watching the work and was seen for a full five minutes as it maneuvered close to the missile silo. This was told to me by a missile maintenance 1st lieutenant, approximately three days after the incident occurred.

The third incident took place in early Spring of 1974. As I was arriving at Charlie LCC in the morning with my captain, to begin an alert duty, we were told by the staff sergeant and two security police who had been on duty that night, of the strange thing that had happened. They told us that a UFO had actually landed near the LCC and had been observed by the three, and that a minute-by-minute report had been given to the operations crew downstairs. When we asked about this, as we were relieving the LCC crew for our duty to begin, they would not talk about it with us. I heard a few days later that the staff sergeant was in some sort of trouble for speaking to us about what he saw, and that the OSI was again involved.

While I was in SAC, I personally was not directly involved with a UFO incident while on duty. However, during June of 1974, while on a camping trip in Dubois, Wyoming, with three other lieutenants, we observed a UFO flying relatively low. It was similar to the ones that were described to us, in the above three incidents. Since all four of us were Air Force lieutenants, we knew that this low-flying object was not an aircraft. From that time forward, I have had an interest in this subject and have read some on the subject as well.

I can tell you that these three incidents at F.E. Warren AFB did occur. It was a long time ago and I am sure many other things have happened since. I have not been able to find any written statements of these three incidents since. This could be because there was a very good cover-up of the situation at that time, or they were not deemed important enough to bother with. Though, I doubt that the latter is true.

I have always wondered as to what really happened to the missile that had the UFO hovering above it, and if the warhead target tapes had really been erased.

I wish you good luck on any research that you may do on this subject. I doubt that you will receive any help from those that might know the truth. I am sure that the cover-up that I observed many years ago is still in effect.

Thank you for your interest.

Sincerely, Walter F. Billings


Comment: In an effort to obtain an informed perspective on Billings’ statements, I forwarded his letter to retired USAF Lt. Col. Philip Moore who, in 1978-79, had been the Commander of the 321st Strategic Missile Squadron at F.E. Warren AFB. Moore found the letter to be entirely credible. In an e-mail to me, dated 6/12/05, he wrote, "Billings' statement is totally believable, and his supporting facts are correct in spite of his dates and terminology caveats."

However, I also sent the letter to another former Minuteman missile launch officer who skeptically questioned Billings’ use of the term "target tapes", when describing the Minuteman III’s guidance system. (While the Minuteman I missile utilized such tapes, the Minuteman III did not.)

When I asked Moore to comment on this particular discrepancy, he replied, "[Regarding] Billings use of ‘tapes’ to refer to the maintenance part of the [guidance] system, the old tape system was replaced by a plug-in unit system. I think I remember that Billings was at F.E. Warren at the time MMI was deactivated and MMIII replaced it, having served in MMI and retrained in MMIII. Old terminology dies a slow death and the new system was often referred to as ‘the tapes’ for awhile after MMIII was in-place, until the old-timers got used to the new terminology."

Lt. Col. Moore’s own ICBM-related UFO experience is discussed in the Walker AFB section of this article.

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