A Mysterious Case of a Cold War UFO Invasion at a Nuclear Weapons Facility

There have long been very unsettling reports of unidentified aerial phenomena going on around nuclear facilities including nuclear power plants and those harboring ballistic missiles, and some of these are more disturbing than others. From 1947 to 1994, Loring Air Force Base was a United States Air Force installation located in northeastern Maine, near Limestone and Caribou in Aroostook County. During its decades of service, it was one of the largest bases of the U.S. Air Force’s Strategic Air Command, and during the Cold War, which lasted from 1947 to 1991, its location was extremely important because it was the closest point in the continental U.S. to Europe. For this reason, at the time it became an essential component of the country’s nuclear alert system, able to respond quickly to an incoming threat from the Soviet Union and respond with its two KC-135 tanker squadrons and B-52 bomber squadron, as well as the nuclear weapons it housed. At the time of the Cold War, which spanned most of its lifetime, it was an extremely important and sensitive installation with extremely high strategic value. It is for this reason that a strange series of events and unidentified objects in the skies around the base in the very darkest days of the Cold War were of immediate and critical concern.

Loring Air Force Base

The evening of October 27, 1975, began as usual for security personnel at the base, and things were uneventful until approximately 8 p.m., when things got rather weird very quickly. At the northern perimeter of the base, an airman patrolling the Loring weapons dump area spotted in the sky an unidentified aircraft of some sort with a red navigational light and a white strobe light slowly approaching the base perimeter at an altitude of between 150 and 300 feet. The strange object itself was not clearly seen, but hovered around the perimeter in a very helicopter-like way, bobbing and weaving and seeming to show particular intense interest in the nuclear weapons storage area, a highly secure and sensitive area that absolutely did not welcome unidentified aircraft of any kind. In response to the sudden intrusion, military helicopters were sent in to investigate and try to make contact with the trespasser, but all attempts to make radio contact were met with silence, and the exact nature of the mystery aircraft could not be identified, merely that it had a very bright strobe and could hover.

The base was put on high alert, and the already spooked personnel then picked up on a radar signature of another similar unidentified object around 10 to 13 miles east-northeast of their position. Contact was attempted with this aircraft too, on both civilian and military channels, but it too did not respond. The strange visitors apparently eerily circled about on their inscrutable errands for a full 40 minutes before the one near the base flew off towards Canada, and the other abruptly vanished from radar, leaving the base in a state of high alert and chaos. Considering that Loring was housing nuclear weapons and the aircraft to deliver those weapons, as well as its strategic importance, it was seen as a shocking and bold intrusion, a slap to the face, the base now buzzing with activity like a provoked hive of bees, and the higher ups were wondering what to do next. Even as they scrambled for answers and did their best to secure the base and keep the story from hitting the news, this would prove to not be the end of it.

Image by Steve Baxter

The following evening, on October 28, another strange object appeared at the base. It was first observed at 7:45 P.M. and would also hover about the premises, moving over the runway and near the nuclear weapons storage area, upon which it turned off its lights. Once again, helicopters were sent out to engage, but they were unable to make contact or identify what type of craft it was. Making it even stranger, witnesses on the ground who saw the mystery craft described it as an orange-and-red object shaped like an elongated football, with no windows or discernible doors, as well as no obvious propellers or other propulsion system and completely silent. Interestingly, helicopters that were sent out could not spot the strange intruder, and it often disappeared from radar. At the time the object seemed to appear and disappear from view, usually at a distance and described as behaving very much like a helicopter, but one of the more spectacular accounts of the object was made by two witnesses on the ground who saw it up close and gave an account that doesn’t sound much like a helicopter at all. The account is told in a book by UFO researchers Barry Greenwood and Lawrence Fawcett, called Clear Intent: The Government Coverup of the UFO Experience, in which the account is given:

Sgt. Steven Eichner, a crew chief on a B-52 bomber, was working out of a launch truck along with Sgt. R. Jones and other members of the crew. Jones spotted a red and orange object over the flight line. It seemed to be on the other side of the flight line from where the weapons storage area was located. To Eichner and Jones, the object looked like a stretched-out football. It hovered in midair as everyone in the crew stared in awe. As they watched, the object put out its lights and disappeared, but it soon reappeared again over the north end of the runway, moving in jerky motions. It stopped and hovered. Eichner and the rest of the crew jumped into the truck and started to drive toward the object. Proceeding down Oklahoma Avenue (which borders the runway), they turned left onto the road that led to the weapons storage area. As they made the turn, they spotted the object about 300 feet in front of them. It seemed to be about five feet in the air and hovered without movement or noise. Exhibiting a reddish-orange color, the object was about four car lengths long. Eichner described what he saw next:

 

“The object looked like all the colors were blending together, as if you were looking at a desert scene. You see waves of heat rising off the desert floor. This is what I saw. There were these waves in front of the object and all the colors were blending together. The object was solid and we could not hear any noise coming from it.”

 

They could not see any doors or windows on the object nor any propellers or engines which would keep the object in the air. Suddenly, the base came alive. Sirens began screaming. Eichner could see numerous blue lights on police vehicles coming down the flight line and runway toward the weapons storage area at high speed. Jones turned and said to the crew, “We better get out of here!” They immediately did. The Security Police did not try to stop them. Their interest was in the object over the storage dump, not in the truck which was in a restricted area. The crew drove the truck back to its original location and watched from there. The scene at the weapons storage area was chaotic, with blue lights rotating around, and the vehicles’ searchlight beams shining in all directions. The object shut off its lights and disappeared, not to be seen again that night.”

The object appeared only intermittently on radar as it circled the nuclear area for nearly an hour before flying off into the night. An alert was sent out that an unknown aircraft had penetrated the base’s air space and the nuclear storage area, but a full sweep of the area turned up no evidence of what it was or where it had gone. For the next few nights these incidents would continue, and although the Air Force was insisting on officially calling them “unidentified helicopters,” some witnesses were not so sure. Although some witnesses did give the impression that they believed they had seen a helicopter, other descriptions seemed to defy this explanation. Some witnesses described a luminous, cigar shaped object capable of sharp turns, sudden vertical drops and rises, sudden rapid acceleration, and aerial acrobatics beyond the capabilities of a helicopter, and the fact that it was very often described as being completely silent did not seem to match with the helicopter theory either. It was also increasingly obvious that there was likely more than one of these things, and that the differences in appearance reported showed they could have been different types of craft.

Image by Steve Baxter

Despite the government’s insistence that these were probable helicopters, they were widely called UFOs by base personnel, many of who insisted that these objects were doing impossible feats up in the sky. Throughout these spooky incursions, radar operators would pick the objects up only to lose them again, and on several occasions fighter jets were scrambled, only to arrive on the scene to see nothing, even when ground personnel said they were right on top of them. Most of the time it seemed as if the objects were not able to be painted for radar to home in on, leaving pilots to hunt for the things based on verbal directions to the locations and never seeing anything. This seeming inability for pilots to get visual confirmation of them is truly bizarre, with all of these missions turning out to be wild goose chases, and one Chief Warrant Officer Bernard Poulin of the Maine Army National Guard’s 112th Medical Company would say of it:

Well, anyway, we hunted around, and we didn’t see anything. Again they would call and say they could hear it at a location, and we would go there, but could not see it. We would then shut down and wait for the next call. And that went on for a couple of nights. This, again, was early evening or early in the morning. I can recall on the second night of the mission radar picked up a return, but it turned out to be a KC-135 tanker returning from overseas. We could go real low to where they said it was and would turn on our search light and sweep the area with the light, but we never saw the craft. After it was over, we discussed our mission. The powers to be were quite concerned about what was going on and if we were able to see anything. They maintained all along up there, you know, those are pretty sensitive places and they have to know what the hell was going on. When they arrived at the base, the security lid was on so tightly that both pilots were permitted to call their wives only once to say that they were on a mission. In a meeting with Chapman, Poulin recalled the Commander saying, “We’ve got to keep the lid on the fact that someone has been able to penetrate in and around the bomb dump, and we don’t know what’s going on. We’ve got to find out what is going on and prevent it from happening again.”

Image by Steve Baxter

There would be other reports of this sense of secrecy, and of the government wanting to keep a lid on things. Personnel would report being debriefed after sightings and being told in no uncertain terms to talk to no one of what they had seen, or to spread the story that these were helicopters from over the Canadian border terrorizing them. Great efforts were made to keep all of this out of the press, but it started to hit the news in a big way. Throughout it all, the Air Force was adamant that it was all the doing of helicopters, even though they grudgingly admitted that they did not know for sure and it was officially classed as “unknown.” A complete investigation by the Air Force into it could not find a concrete cause for the sightings, and when the phenomena abruptly stopped on October 31, they were more than happy to try to brush it all under the carpet and divert attention away from the incident. Interestingly, during the same general timeframe, several other nuclear military installations around the United States experienced similar bizarre incidents involving unidentified flying objects invading their airspace, and it shows that this phenomenon expanded beyond just Loring.

Although the Air Force has tried to distance itself from the incident at Loring and other similar incidents at other bases, it has not been forgotten by the hundreds of witnesses who saw the phenomena for themselves and the numerous UFO researchers who have pursued it. What was going on here? It seems obvious that something unauthorized was making forays into the facility and showing an interest in the nuclear weapons storage site, in the process rattling the Air Force all the way up to the highest levels of the U.S. military’s command structure, but what was it? Were these helicopters, as the military seems to want us to believe? Was it perhaps some sort of experimental aircraft, either from the U.S. government testing our response to these intrusions, or from some foreign power, possibly even the Soviets? Or was this something else, possibly otherworldly visitors? In all cases, we are left to wonder what they wanted, why they menaced this facility, and where they went. It has gone on to become a very well-documented and intense case, yet despite thorough research into it all, there is very little known for sure other than that something very strange went on at Loring AFB during that week in 1975.

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