Missile (ICBM) sites during the Cold War era. Typically, a two-man team of missile launch officers at an underground Launch Control Center (LCC) would receive an alarm on their missile-status console, indicating a possible security breach at one of the ten, widely-scattered Launch Facilities (LFs) they controlled. A two-man Security Alert Team (SAT) would then be dispatched to that location to investigate.
Usually, upon arriving at the LF—commonly known as a “silo”—the SAT team would observe a UFO silently hovering directly over the site at low altitude. Depending on the case, the aerial object was described as a disc-shaped, or spherical, or triangular, or cylindrical-shaped craft. After a few seconds, the craft would leave the vicinity, typically at high speed. On occasion, as revealed by former missile maintenance personnel, the functionality of the ICBM would be disrupted during the incident, whether deliberately or inadvertently, requiring lengthy repairs.
In every case reported to me over the years, the SAT team members were debriefed upon returning to base and sternly warned never to discuss the incident. Sometimes they were required to sign national security non-disclosure forms which stipulated severe legal penalties for violating secrecy. Often, each team member was quickly transferred to another base, without his partner, probably to prevent them from discussing their experience between themselves and spreading stories about it within their squadron.
Recently, one such case was brought to my attention which appears to be far more dramatic in nature, in terms of its immediate and long-term impact on the security personnel involved. Indeed, based on the available information, it seems probable that the SAT team members were actually abducted by those aboard the UFO and transported—along with their vehicle—to a location some five miles away, where they were eventually discovered by other Air Force security teams.
What follows here is the written summary of that incident provided to me by USAF veteran Mario A. Woods Jr. who was stationed at Ellsworth AFB, South Dakota, from 1975 to 1979, as a member of the 44th Security Police Squadron. The narrative has been edited for the purpose of brevity and clarity:
In November 1977, while assigned to the November Flight Launch Control Facility (LCF), I was a Security Alert Team member on the night shift—6:00 p.m. to 6:00 a.m.—paired with Sgt. Michael ——-, who outranked me thus making him the team leader. I’m not certain of the exact date but Thanksgiving was approximately two weeks later and, as a newlywed, I was looking forward to being home with my wife. On that particular night it was clear and very cold and the ground was spotted in snow.
While at the LCF, I walked outside several times to stretch my legs, have a cigarette, and look at the stars. The clarity of the sky in South Dakota is like you’ve never seen. We were positioned just a few miles north of the small town of Newell.
On one occasion—I really didn’t look at the time but I’m guessing it was around midnight—I noticed a very bright star that I had not seen before. I first thought it was a large helicopter or a B-52 bomber flying one of the low-altitude sorties they sometimes did out on the prairies, but it was not. It was hovering at about a 30-degrees above the horizon. The way it shimmered and pulsated led me to continue to watch it for some time, say 20 minutes.
I eventually walked back inside the LCF and made a comment about it to Sgt. ——-. He laughed and said, ‘Sure’, whatever that meant. Then I told the Flight Security Controller (FSC), who acts as a go-between the response team and the Missile Capsule Crew Officers below ground. The FSC also keeps Wing Security Control (WSC) back at Ellsworth apprised of all activities on-site.
After perhaps 30 minutes, I walked back outside and saw no star so I thought, ‘Okay, it was a plane or helicopter.’ But as soon as I said that to myself, it lit up again, not quite in the same place but at the same elevation and more north. So, instead of being due east of my location, it was more northeast.
I thought for a minute and, all of a sudden, got the idea to flash the facility lights off and on as a signal. Why? I don’t know. I guess because that’s what is done at sea, from ship-to-ship. My father was a merchant seaman and I had sailed with him in my youth.
So, anyway, the LCF had approximately 15 sets of super bright spotlights, located on all four corners of the security perimeter fence and along the roofline of the main building—all controlled by one switch in the FSC’s office. I walked inside and told the FSC what I was doing and he laughed at me. I think it was SSgt. —- ——— from North Carolina. He said go ahead so I proceeded to flash the facility lights at this object, not knowing if it was anything unusual or just a plane or chopper doing night flying.
I was not following any particular sequence, like an SOS or anything like that. My SAT team partner, Sgt. ——-, got curious and after I had flashed the lights six to eight times we walked outside together to look at the object. There it was, no change in its appearance or position but, a moment or two after ——- made some comment about the light, it went out! The night sky was clear as a bell, so I know it hadn’t gone behind a cloud. But ——- went inside, laughing at me. I somehow knew I needed to keep watching the sky and, just like that, it re-appeared to the north and seemed closer, as it was brighter.
I turned and walked in and flashed the facility lights six to eight times again and told them both about the object’s new position. Neither took me seriously. I then went outside one last time but the object was gone. So I went back inside, thinking how strange all that had been and feeling stupid about flashing the facility lights at it. I went into the day room and sat down to read or watch some TV.
At approximately 0130hrs we received a [Situation]-4 alert from LF November-5, which was the closest to our LCF and also closest to the town of Newell. Sgt. ——- and I donned our heavy winter parkas and cold weather gear and I placed my ditty bag in the F-150 pick-up police vehicle. I then went back inside to receive our USKAPP 55 code tables, weapons and ammo from the FSC and our safety briefing from the LCC crew underground. WSC back at Ellsworth was also contacted and our estimated travel time to and from the site was discussed.
A Sit-4 meant that the outer zone antenna on the missile site and the underground soft support building had been penetrated or had alarmed for some unknown reason. That was no problem as I had done this type of clearing and reset procedure many times at other locations.
We left the LCF and headed toward Highway 79. I was in the passenger seat and, as we were nearing the highway, I looked off in the distance and could see that the bright object was apparently near the missile site, which was seven or eight miles away. I immediately turned to Sgt. ——- and said, ‘Look man, that light is over November-5!’ He replied, ‘No way!’ but I could see his face and he was hoping not!
We didn’t inform anyone about that on the radio, to the best of my knowledge, but I continued to view the object. As we approached Newell we made a right turn onto the road that led to November-5. As we did, we immediately saw the object hovering directly over the site. It made no noise and was a huge glowing, reddish-orange sphere. It was only 15-20 feet above the ground and it was roughly the width of a Wal-Mart building! I’ve thought a lot about its size and I think that estimate is fairly accurate. It was enormous!
Its surface was shimmering with the red and orange colors constantly swirling and churning. When I recently watched your documentary film [UFOs and Nukes: The Secret Link Revealed] there’s one scene where a [computer-generated image of a] UFO is hovering over the front gate of an LCF at Malmstrom AFB and its colors are swirling around. What we saw looked just like that.
We stopped the vehicle and sat some distance from the security gate. There was no radio communication as neither of us really knew what to do. As we stared at this thing—it seemed like forever—all of a sudden I could not breathe, I mean I really could not breathe! It was like pressure on my chest. I could not figure out what was happening and turned to look at ——- and saw that both his hands were on the steering wheel and he was looking straight ahead with a blank stare on his face. Some kind of glow was all around him and I noticed that suddenly he too was gasping for air.
I carried a three D-cell Mag Light, a huge flashlight by today’s standards but the best back then. All I wanted was relief for me and him so, for some reason, I rolled the window down and pulled myself out and sat on the window frame and flashed the light at this object until the suffocating pressure seemed to go away. Then, after 15 to 30 seconds, I slid back into the seat. I remember my M-16 weapon was positioned between my legs so I guess I grabbed it as I sat back down.
At that point I didn’t look at Sgt. ——- as I was in some kind of daze. But I saw something like shadows on the right side of the vehicle and I have a memory of voices in my head, more than one, saying , ‘Do not fear’, over and over. I think I remember small figures, maybe five or six, walking toward the vehicle. Standing behind them was a taller figure who I think was in charge. Then I believe I passed out.
The next thing I remember—and it seemed as if only a minute had passed—was the crackle of our radio and someone saying, ‘November-1, what’s your status?’ I turned to Sgt. ——- and said, ‘You get that and I’ll strike the site,’ but he said nothing. He simply stared off into the distance so I picked up the mike and informed our FSC that we would begin the strike and were positioning the vehicle. There was a long pause and then he came back and said, ‘Where are you located?’
This response seemed very odd and I said something to Sgt. ——- but again he said nothing. I asked the FSC to hold on as I didn’t see the facility lights that were normally on at night. I put the mike down and stepped out of the vehicle only to find that we were somewhere other than at November-5. My first step was into wet mud; even though it had been really cold that night and the ground should have been frozen solid, the entire area was soft mud and our vehicle was almost in the middle of it.
But to my right, just feet away, was a tall concrete wall of some kind. The sun was just coming up and I could see that it was a dam that held water in a reservoir. It turned out to be located north of Newell, and is called Newell Lake, quite a few miles from the LF. We were parked next to a road that went past it. That made no sense to me!
The radio came back on and we were told to stay where we were. Our radio signal had been triangulated—something I knew very little about—and then the WSC came on and told me that our sister flights’ SAT teams had been dispatched to find us. A back-up sister team reached us first and I was told to follow them to the edge of their patrol boundary where we would be met by our November-1 back-up team.
When their vehicle arrived, I started asking them questions about what was going on but they told me that they had been ordered not to discuss the situation with us. I again tried speaking to Sgt. ——-. I kept asking him if he was okay but he still would not respond.
Then it hit me like a chunk of lead: We or I never went onto the November-5 site! I didn’t understand why at that moment but I was certain that we never got past the LF’s security gate.
Because he was still just staring into space, I moved ——- over to the passenger seat; he was not a large man and I was in good shape. We maintained [radio] security checks for the entire ride back, met up with the sister team and proceeded to November Control.
The Flight Chief, MSgt —– ——, and Assistant Flight Chief, TSgt. —- ——, met us at the facility for a debrief. Sgt. ——- was in a pitiful condition and I later heard that he couldn’t tell them anything; that he made no sense at all. He was removed from November Control and assigned to base duty for some time. Me, however, I remembered everything up to hearing voices and blacking out and everything after coming to and standing in the mud. Everything: the craft, the suffocating atmosphere, flashing lights at the object, not going onto the site and, yes, thinking only minutes had passed from first seeing this thing to being somewhere else.
During debriefing, I was told that nearly four hours had passed and that six security police back-up Alert teams had been searching for us. I did fill out an AF Form 1000 UFO sighting report and wrote all I knew about that night and early morning, before I was allowed to sleep.
The next day, I returned to Ellsworth and was interviewed by the 44th Missile Wing commander. There was a guy in civilian clothing with him who I think was from the [Office of Special Investigations]. Then I was also ordered to take a urinalysis at the base hospital, and two skin samples were taken—one from the back of my right hand and another above my right eyebrow—as I was sunburned for some strange reason.
Back home, as I slowly came to grips with all of this, I began to have strange dreams of that night. Every time, as something was about to happen or show itself, a great dread came over me. I would awake in a pool of sweat and afraid.
Two weeks went by and Sgt. ——- came by my apartment, out of the blue, and we sat down and talked about the incident in front of my wife. She just laughed at us. But he said one thing I’ll never forget: He had been terrified during the incident but didn’t know why, as he had heard voices, many voices, saying not to be afraid. But he wasn’t in the vehicle when he heard them, he was lying down somewhere.
Then he said something that shocked me: He said he saw my mittens on the floor, next to where he was lying down, as he was hearing the voices. I reeled when I heard this! It meant that I was probably there with him and that we were no longer in the vehicle. I had not even thought about the mittens after that night—those heavy Air Force-issue gloves with open fingers, so you could fire a weapon—but, when he said that, I ran to my ditty bag to check and they were not there. I got shivers when I saw that. I can’t explain why I didn’t miss them.
One more thing: I have two small puncture marks on my skin that I can’t explain. They’re identical; a perfectly round depression with a raised dimple in the center. One is under my left armpit and the other is on my left foot, above the ankle. I don’t remember any time or situation when I could have gotten them. (Woods subsequently sent me photos of these marks.)
After a few weeks, I was removed from November Control and reassigned to Kilo Control near Sturgis, South Dakota. I had the sense that I could pick that object out of the sky, find it among the stars, even at Kilo—it made no difference where I was—but I never saw it close up again. But it was out there visiting all of our bases. We heard stories about other flights seeing things near the LFs on many occasions. Also, National Enquirer had heard rumors about UFO activity in our region and was patrolling our areas looking for stories. We were told never to speak with anyone about any of this so I never did, as ordered.
Sgt. ——- was transferred somewhere else a month or so after the incident. I found out somehow. I remained at Kilo Command, working with a different guy, Sgt. — ——-, as a SAT team member, then leader, and then FSC. Stories about sightings were all over the missile complexes, even reports of cattle mutilations; I once saw two of the dead cows myself while traveling to Kilo-1.
Later in the year, when Close Encounters [of the Third Kind] came out, the mailbox scene freaked me out so badly that I had to get up and walk out of the theatre. (In the movie, Richard Dreyfuss’ character, Roy Neary, looks out his parked truck’s window and sees a rack of mailboxes violently shaking. A moment later, a UFO that had been hovering over him directs a beam of light onto his vehicle.)
Having spoken with Woods a number of times, I consider his recollections of his experience to be credible if incomplete. I of course have his DD-214 service record, which confirms his presence at Ellsworth AFB in 1977 and his service as a missile security policeman. I am attempting to locate others who were present that night, to see whether any of them remember the events he describes and, if so, are willing to talk about them.
Also, although the technique remains controversial, I have arranged for hypnotic regression sessions for Woods, to attempt to draw out still-suppressed or long forgotten memories about the incident. For example, I am curious to know whether he can remember his SAT team partner driving them to the reservoir, in a dazed state following their sighting at November-5, or whether the UFO had actually lifted and transported the security vehicle to that location. And, of course, it would be interesting to learn whether Mario Woods’ memories of voices and small figures approaching his security vehicle might be augmented via the regression technique.
A follow-up article is planned, to update interested readers on this matter.