The Harlowton X-Files—UFOs Frequent Nuclear Missile Sites, Eyewitnesses Say

An Ongoing  Big Sky Mystery


Accounts that resemble real life X-Files began surfacing in Montana back in 1967 and continue to this day. First, in advance of bizarre and relatively recent accounts, some background and documentation. Reported by Malmstrom Air Force Base personnel and local law enforcement in the 1960s and 70s, the record of these accounts have more recently become public information through the Freedom of Informa-tion Act and Cable TV shows such as Larry King Live and a History Channel documentary. In interviews as recently as 2009, former Air Force personnel have reported that nuclear missile sites and nuclear weapons storage facilities in central Montana, near Lewistown—and as far south as Harlowton—were repeatedly the scenes of aerial phenomena that defy conventional explanation. Other accounts filed by civilians with the National UFO Reporting Center record unexplained incidents near Great Falls, Hardin, Harlowton, and numerous other locations in Montana, including Bozeman and Livingston (see 

In the 1970s, the Cascade County Sheriff’s Department conducted an extensive investigation of the recurring phenomena, and more recently retired Air Force personnel went on the record describing UFOs at nuclear missile sites, one of which involved a glowing, hovering object in 1967 at the gate to a launch facility and the simultaneous and still unexplained shutdown of ten missle launch silos.
“I was the top-secret control officer at Malmstrom AFB for the 20th Air Division,”  Lt. Colonel Dwynne Arneson (US Air Force, retired) told The Disclosure Project, a nonprofit research group that has identified over 400 military, intelligence, government and corporate witnesses to UFO related events. “I happened to see a message that came through my communications center. It said...that ‘A UFO was seen near missile silos'...and it was hovering. It said that the crew going on duty and the crew coming off duty all saw the UFO just hovering in mid-air. It was a metallic circular object and from what I understand, the missiles were all shut down. What I mean by ‘missiles going down’ is that they went dead. And something turned those missiles off, so they couldn’t be put back in a mode for launching.”

Captain Robert Salas, a Malmstrom AFB Missile Launch Officer from 1964 to 1971, also came forward to report what happened that day. “The UFO incident happened on the morning of March 16, 1967,” he said “[I was] on duty at Oscar Flight as part of the 490th strategic missile squad and there are five launch control facilities assigned to that particular squadron….I received a call from my topside security guard…and he said that he and some of the guards had been observing some strange lights flying around the site around the launch control facility. I said, you mean UFOs? He said, well, he didn’t know what they were but they were lights and were flying around. They were not airplanes; they were not helicopters. They weren’t making any noise…[A little later] our missiles started shutting down one by one. By shutting down, I mean they went into a "no-go" condition, meaning they could not be launched. These weapons were Minuteman One missiles and were of course nuclear-tipped warhead missiles...this incident was of extreme concern to Strategic Air Command headquarters because they couldn’t explain it.”

During the 1970s, the strange occurrences continued.

On February 20, 1975, The Harlowton Times reported: “The Wheatland County Sheriff’s office was contacted by radio about 9:00 p.m. Sunday, February 17th by a Highway Patrol radio station who reported that three deputies in Roundup had spotted three UFOs on the horizon heading towards Harlowton...At 2:00 a.m. [on the 18th] several Air Policemen from the K-1 [Launch Control Facility] north of Harlowton reported they had spotted an object hovering over K-10 which is located 7 miles north of the Harlowton airport...”

Files released by the United States Air Force under the Freedom of Information Act indicate that the phenomenon was ongoing in the mid 1970s. The Cascade County Sheriff’s Department also recorded the strange events and conducted an investigation as local residents reported strange lights in the sky and other bizarre activities. 

On November 7, 1975, the 24th NORAD Region Senior Director’s Log (Malmstrom AFB) recorded the following entry, one of 15 reports of similar events at the time that turned up under a FOIA request:

...Received a call from the 341st Strategic Air Command Post (SAC CP), saying that the following missile locations reported seeing a large red to orange to yellow object: M-1, L-3, LIMA, and L-6...Commander and Deputy for Operations informed.
Another NORAD log entry from that day read:
...SAC advised that the LCF [Launch Control Facility] at Harlowton, Montana, observed an object which emitted a light which illuminated the site driveway.

And another log entry posted on November 9 reads as follows:
SAC CP called and advised SAC crews at Sites L-1, L-6 and M-1 observing UFO. Object yellowish bright round light 20 miles north of Harlowton, 2 to 4,000 feet.

According to Robert Hastings, author of UFOs and Nukes, Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites, these events “heralded the start of the most intensive period of UFO activity at Malmstrom AFB’s ICBM sites since the March 1967 missile shutdown events. In November 1975, UFOs would hover over several Launch Facilities, be tracked on radar on numerous occasions, and consistently elude jet interceptors launched to chase them.”

“On December 12, 2006,” Hastings wrote (see Montana Pioneer March 2009) “an individual—not identified—posted an intriguing sighting report on the National UFO Reporting Center website. It seems that the previous night, while driving home, the anonymous source had sighted a UFO just east of Conrad, Montana. The source, who turned out to be a local named Ryan Riewer, had another sighting, four days earlier at almost the same location.
“Although there was no mention of nuclear missiles in this report,” Hastings wrote, “I knew that the town of Conrad is literally surrounded by Minuteman missile sites.”
Hastings contacted NUFORC's director, Peter Davenport, and requested the source's name and contact information. Davenport then contacted Riewer. In a telephone interview, Riewer told Hastings, “I live on a farm nearly three miles east of Conrad. On December 7, 2006, I was driving home from work at around 10:30 at night…when I saw this light out of the corner of my eye, coming from the southwest. It was the fastest thing I've ever seen. It came racing up almost to the road. It stopped dead for a moment, then took off at a 90-degree angle to where it came from. It went southeast, over a hill on the horizon. A couple of seconds later, it came racing back toward me. Then it began to slow down and descended toward the ground at an angle. When it was about fifty feet up, the light shut off. It looked like it landed about a half-mile, or maybe a mile, from our house. That was really, really weird.”

Hastings asked Riewer if there was a missile site in the area where the UFO apparently landed. “Yes, there is a missile silo out in that direction.” Riewer replied. “I saw it one time,” he said, “when I was hunting with my dad.”
Four days later, on December 11, while driving home after work Riewer again saw an extremely bright light in the sky—dead east, he said, “directly in front of me.”

As he returned home, Riewer and his mother looked at the light with binoculars. “By then, it was southeast of us,” he told Hastings. “I saw blue lights on top, a red light on the bottom, and a white light in the middle that kept moving around. I couldn't make out the shape of the object, just the lights on it.

Riewer and his mother watched the object for about 30 minutes until he could no longer see the lights. Five minutes later, though, he saw another bright light to the south that looked exactly like the one that had disappeared.

Riewer then called the sheriff’s office. The person he spoke to hardly seemed surprised about the strange report. “He acted like it was no big deal,” Riewer said. “There have been lots of reports of weird stuff going on around Conrad. He had probably heard other reports like mine, so he wasn't too excited about it.”

After Riewer got off the phone, he looked at the object again. By then, it appeared as three red lights in a triangular pattern. After a few minutes, the bottom right light shut off, he said. Then the bottom left light moved up to join the top light. All of this took place over a half an hour or so. Then these lights disappeared too. After a few moments, he noticed another object farther off in the distance, northeast of his house. Half an hour later it was gone.

After speaking with Riewer, Hastings consulted an Air Force map of Malmstrom's Minuteman missile sites and discovered a Launch Control Facility approx-imately 2 miles north by northwest of Riewer’s house. He also found that the boundaries of three 564th Strategic Missile Squadron flights converge nearby.

On December 26 of the same year, near Hardin, Montana, a truck driver recorded the following account on the NUFORC site, one of many listed. “It was silent, and not really explainable. [I’m] not crazy,” the man reported. “I'm a truck driver and had an experience I can't explain—I just read a report of another truck driver passing though Hardin. I’m driving on my way to Butte…and I’m getting tired so I pull off on an exit ramp and take a break, and look up at the ocean of stars. Then I see this light, at first a plane I thought—[but] no, because I never seen a craft descend so quickly (grew up next to a naval master jet base). I’m the only one in the area off I-90 in an Indian reservation. The light headed in my direction (no marker lights), so I get in the driver seat and take off…but I get tired and pull over in a more lighted area. I lock my doors and go in the sleeper berth. It’s minus 25 degrees outside and my truck heat works very good. I try to rest a bit, …having a delivery at 08:00 in the morning. Anyway I go to sleep and my hole body goes numb and I feel like I’m getting lifted out of my bed in mid-air. I try to wake up fighting to do so, really, from there I don’t know what happened, I had a four hour time lapse and woke up freezing—I mean ice cold and there’s no other explanation because my heat was on and my jacket, hands, etc... was like ice. That about covers the unusual phenomenon.”
The NUFORC reports record unusual events and sightings in Montana dating back to the 1950s, several of which have occurred recently near Livingston and Bozeman. A report of some strange appearance in the sky though, does not mean necessarily that anything unusual took place. Along with the accounts submitted, NUFORC director Peter Davenport occasionally makes notations about possible conventional explanations for what a particular witness may have observed, or that an account shows indications of having been invented. Considering the reports of UFOs over Montana documented over the decades by former military personnel, though, and by Cascade County law enforcement in response to civilian sightings, accounts submitted by private individuals can be seen as possibly corroborating the official reports. Some of the reports stand out as especially note worthy, if not fantastic.

On November 24, 1993, for example, again near Harlowton (a nuclear missile sight), what was described as a formation, “a triangle, discs and an immense cylindrical object,” was observed clearly at close range and through optics over a time frame of 6 or 7 hours. When asked, Davenport said that he has on file the name of the man who filed the report, although his contact informa-tion was no longer current. The incredible account, posted in March of 2003, reads as follows.

“A family friend is a landowner in central Montana near the town of Harlowton. As such, he invited my family up to his place (great fishing and hunting) any time our hearts desired. Over the years my brothers and I became intimately familiar with every canyon and creek on the ranch. We also began to realize that a lot more seemed to be going on there than at first met the eye and everything culminated in the events I will describe. On this particular evening, my brother and I had just exited a thick patch of trees after a long day of deer hunting. It was nearly dark, the first stars were out and we had about a mile walk back to our truck. Being aware of anomalies in the area, we were always on the lookout for anything out of the ‘ordinary.’ Well, upon looking to the eastern sky, we both saw three ‘stars’ that seemed to be brighter than the rest. These lights were stationary at this point and seemed to be regular stars out in space. I remember saying to my brother that maybe they were planets and we would check it out at home. We then continued on our hike to the truck and went home—nothing unusual. This is where it starts getting strange. One week later, almost to the minute, my brother and I emerged from the same patch of trees after hunting all day. As we again surveyed our surroundings, we again noticed the three stars from the week previous in the exact same place they had been then. Only this time they were a different color (orange) and seemed to be moving slightly in conjunction with each other. Really interested now, we watched as the formation of lights gradually picked up speed coming in roughly our direction (west). We then realized that we were in a bad situation and started for the truck at a fast walk. Keeping an eye on the object, we observed it change direction to a more northerly heading and fly toward a low cloud formation, into which it flew. By this point we could tell that this was no ordinary aircraft (as a student pilot with 10 years in aviation, I'm familiar with nearly all known aircraft). The object was close enough for us to see a structured triangular fuselage dark in color. It made absolutely no sound. Upon the object entering the cloud, there was a flash of light similar to lightning but florescent green in color. This was immediately followed by the object emerging from the cloud in roughly a 10 degree bank. As the object made it's way clear of the cloud, we observed the ‘cloud’ literally change shape until it appeared like a tornado but horizontal to the earth, not vertical, with the ‘foot’ of the funnel pointing toward the object. At this point we broke into a sprint for the truck. As we ran, the object literally dragged this ‘tornado’ to the west. We could see that the whole eastern horizon was black now. Just as we reached the truck we were hit by huge gusts of wind and debris from the east and visibility was around 2 feet. Concerned now, we piled into the truck to find that this reliable vehicle was completely dead (it was just like in the movies). With the nearest help miles away, we readied our rifles (made us feel better) and waited. Total elapsed time so far approximately 6 minutes. The dust storm and confusion lasted for about 10 minutes, then the wind stopped and the dust settled. As visibility improved and things became quiet again, we could see—we could see objects, lots of them. Besides the original triangle aircraft which was now making a 40-50nm circular flight pattern, we could see discs trailing the triangle, all moving independently. (We were by now using our 10x50 Zeiss binocs) and could see that the discs were definitely metallic in nature. The most impressive object however was a gigantic cylinder that descended from nowhere then hovered [at an altitude of] approximately  500 ft…around a 1000 yards distant, over a field. Peter, I swear to you on my father's grave that along each side of this thing were ‘windows’ in which it seemed like there was movement! It was around 2 football fields in length, approximately 700 to 1,000 ft in diameter, and bright silver in color. The ‘front end’ glowed blue, intensifying the farther one got from the center and the ‘rear end’ glowed red in the same manner. What drew your eye though was the yellow and orange strobe exactly centered on the bottom. We watched this object in pure horror for about an hour until it ascended straight up and out of sight. It did not disappear in a split second but rose rapidly taking less than a minute to completely vanish.

Well, back to the other objects, which were by now in the company of several F-15s. It was very easy to differentiate between the jets and the other objects. The F-15s flew around for about a half hour then headed northwest in a tight formation and the triangle followed close behind, all disappearing over some hills…we never saw them again. The discs continued to maneuver throughout the area. We had pretty much resigned ourselves to our fate by this point and now felt the worst was over. It all became rather entertaining by midnight. We spent a cold night in the truck, falling asleep eventually watching these discs and their erratic flight. In the morning, our parents showed up to look for us and we gave them the whole story. They believed us but advised us to say nothing. I just can’t live with this secret any longer and felt it may be important as I believe I was a witness to some kind of WX manip-ulation technology. I moved away soon after and haven’t been back. I understand from friends that things are still happening there.”

Note that the witness, who claims aviation experience, uses an aviator’s shorthand for the word weather (WX), and, absent an explanation, offers a specific theory for what must have taken place in the vicinity of a nuclear weapons launch site near Harlowton, Montana.

Peter Davenport, in granting permission to reprint this account from, invited the public to submit eyewitness reports of related incidents at








Montana Pioneer, P.O. Box 441, Livingston, MT 59047

© 2007-2008 Montana Pioneer Publishing
No part of this publication may be reproduced without written permission from the publisher.

Site created by Living Arts Media.