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WASHINGTON - Armed with declassified documents and vivid details, a group of former Air Force officers gathered Monday to go public with an assertion they have kept mostly under wraps for decades: that UFOs visited the bases they were stationed at and caused nuclear weapon system to temporarily malfunction.
The group, convened by UFO researcher Robert Hastings, came to the National Press Club in Washington to discuss their individual experiences and to urge a government that tried to ignore and silence them when they came forward years ago to finally come clean.
Hastings said he believes that visitors from outer space are fixating on nuclear weapons because they want to send a message: Disarm before the world destroys itself.
Robert Salas, a former missile launch officer at Malmstrom Air Force Base, said that 10 nuclear missiles were suddenly and inexplicably disabled in March 1967 at the Montana installation after members of his flight security team saw a "large glowing, pulsating red oval-shaped object" about 30-40 feet in diameter hovering over the front gate. When he reported the incident to his superiors the next day, he was told to keep quiet.
"What you have heard today is evidence of a phenomenon. It sounds fantastic, and it is fantastic," said Salas, after he and his fellow officers from other bases in the Western U.S. shared similar accounts. The government, Salas said, is "deliberately withholding the facts, continuously since 1969 and, by doing so, do not allow the people of this country to engage in the decision regarding events that are clearly a national security issue for concern all of us. We're simply asking for the truth."
From 1947 to 1969, the Air Force investigated unidentified flying objects under what was called Project Blue Book. Of a total of 12,618 sightings under the program, 701 remained "unidentified." The military discontinued the program after consulting with scientists and concluding that none of the objects posed a threat to national security or could be identified as "extraterrestrial."
When asked to comment on the new assertions, an Air Force spokeswoman cited a 2005 fact sheet that said: "Since the termination of Project Blue Book, nothing has occurred that would support a resumption of UFO investigations."
Hastings said he has heard of a UFO incident occurring at Malmstrom as recently as 2007.
The declassified documents Hastings presented at Monday's news conference include decades-old government memos detailing reports of sightings of objects in the skies above Alabama, Montana, New Mexico and North Dakota.
"The American people have a right to know the facts," Hastings told reporters. "This is a national security issues but it is (also) a need-to-know issue, a right-to-know issue. Citizens in every country on Earth should be let in on this secret."
Hastings said he has talked to 120 former or retired U.S. military about the presence of UFOs at nuclear weapons sites across the United States and around the globe as early as 1945, when the world entered the nuclear age with the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. For some of the officers who came forward Monday, going public wasn't easy.
Bruce Fenstermacher, a missile combat crew commander at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne, Wyo., was "laughed at" by superiors when he reported a UFO sighting at a launch site that one of his sergeants had passed on to him, he said. He decided to keep his head low after that.
"I was very careful about who I told what," he said. "I was concerned. I don't want to be considered a kook. But I think it's more important to come out and tell our story."