‘We are all witnesses’: Retired Air Force officers call for congressional hearings on UFOs

A steady stream of high-profile UFO sightings by U.S. military personnel over the past 75 years warrants more scrutiny and should immediately spur serious congressional hearings, a group of retired Air Force officers said Tuesday as they recounted their personal experiences with unidentified craft.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Washington, the four officers said the sheer number of military encounters with UFOs, or unidentified aerial phenomena (UAPs), should make the issue a top priority for the Pentagon, other federal agencies and scientific researchers around the world.

“In the coming days and months, I think we’ll have to deal with this reality because there is abundant and sober evidence, past and present, for the reality of UAP,” said retired Air Force Capt. Robert Salas, who helped organize the event and has become a leading figure in the push to make public more information about UFOs.

Mr. Salas has gained notoriety for his 1967 account of strange lights over Malmstrom Air Force Base in Montana, which he says temporarily disabled nuclear missiles at the site.

Other speakers at the press conference also detailed incidents in which they said UFOs made nuclear missiles inoperable, proving that the craft have the capability to affect American defenses and have technology that cannot be explained.

Mr. Salas and his colleagues went public years ago with their accounts, but they have received renewed attention after the June release of a landmark study by the Defense Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

The report determined that most UFO sightings by U.S. service members remain unexplained but could involve “breakthrough technologies” that represent serious threats to national security.

The study sparked unprecedented hope among UFO enthusiasts and researchers that a decades-old veil of secrecy was being lifted. The issue has largely faded, though, and lawmakers have taken little concrete action and given few signs that high-level hearings are on the horizon.

Advocates for more transparency about UAPs say there is no reason to wait any longer.

“The Air Force has not been honest with Congress or the American public,” said retired Air Force Capt. David Schindele, who served as a nuclear missile crew commander during his time in the military. “Congress and the intelligence community have a responsibility here, and others must be released from the burden of holding back the truth.”

Mr. Schindele said he saw UFOs take 10 nuclear-tipped missiles offline at North Dakota’s Minot Air Force Base in 1966, but Pentagon leaders largely covered up the incident.

His story and most similar accounts have been dismissed for decades. More recently, a string of videos showing close encounters between Navy personnel and UAP led to a more serious Pentagon investigation and ultimately produced the historic report.

The study did not offer a firm conclusion on whether the unidentified craft could be of extraterrestrial origin. It grouped some of the UFO sightings into a category dubbed “other.”

The government said it might require “additional scientific knowledge” to explain some of the objects in that category.

The study’s major takeaway, however, is that there are many more questions than answers.

“The limited amount of high-quality reporting on unidentified aerial phenomena hampers our ability to draw firm conclusions about the nature or intent of UAP,” the study says.

“UAP clearly pose a safety of flight issue and may pose a challenge to U.S. national security,” it added.

On the heels of the study, the Pentagon announced plans to streamline the collection and organization of data related to UFOs in the hopes of offering a clearer picture. Defense officials have revealed little about how the data collection and tracking systems work.

Some retired officers say reports of incidents involving UAP decades ago were kept far from public view.

“I was part of a U.S. Air Force cover-up for 17 years,” said retired Lt. Robert Jacobs, speaking remotely Tuesday. “When it happened to me, my world changed. … But I was under orders to shut up, so I shut up.”

Mr. Jacobs said he was monitoring missile tests at California’s Vandenberg Air Force Base when he saw footage of an object flying up to the missile and beaming down strange lights. The missile then “tumbled out of space,” he said.

“For 17 years, I shut up,” Mr. Jacobs said. “What we’re here today to tell you is that this is real. … This is a real event. It is the most important event in the history of mankind. We are not alone.”

None of the speakers Tuesday claimed to have detailed answers about UFOs, their intentions or their origins. Instead, they said their accounts and the more recent encounters should lead to further research.

“We are all witnesses,” Mr. Salas said. “We’re not trying to prove anything. … It’s simply relaying the information that we have, the truth as we know it and those facts as we know them.”

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