by Robert Hastings
The officially still-classified Big Sur Incident—according to the two ex-U.S. Air Force officers who have nevertheless openly discussed it—involved the inadvertent telescopic-camera filming of a UFO that had suddenly appeared near a dummy nuclear warhead during a test flight. Both men say the unknown craft approached and circled the warhead, which was traveling at over 11,000 mph, and used dazzling beams of light to shoot it down.
Former Lieutenant (now Dr.) Robert M. Jacobs and the late Major (later Dr.) Florenze J. Mansmann, Jr. say that the nearly unbelievable incident was immediately classified Top Secret and the amazing film confiscated by the CIA.
Jacobs, who was assigned to the 1369th Photographic Squadron at Vandenberg AFB, California, and held the title Officer-in-Charge of Photo-instrumentation, states that while the UFO’s maneuvers near the warhead were readily discernible on film, other minute details—including the object’s domed-disc shape and its rapid, rotational spin just prior to each burst of light—were only discovered during an enhanced optical analysis conducted at the base.
Following the dramatic incident, says Jacobs, a 16-mm version of the film was shown to a small, select group at Vandenberg. At the conclusion of that meeting, he was told to “forget” the filmed events and to never mention them again. Years later, Jacobs learned that after he had left the room, the crucial frames were cut out and quickly confiscated by two CIA agents who were among those in attendance.
Importantly, after Jacobs’ startling account was first published in the early 1980s, the details—relating to both the UFO incident itself and the subsequent cover-up—were quickly and entirely endorsed by Major Mansmann. In 1964, Mansmann had been assigned to Vandenberg’s Office of the Chief Scientist, 1st Strategic Aerospace Division. It was he who had ordered Lt. Jacobs to attend the restricted screening of the film in his office at the division’s headquarters building.
Dr. Jacobs’ summary of the case, “Deliberate Deception: The Big Sur UFO Filming,” was published in the January 1989 issue of the MUFON UFO Journal and may now be read at http://www.nicap.org/reports/bigsur2.htm.
The Private Letters of
Jacobs and Mansmann
I first interviewed Jacobs by telephone in 1986. Afterward, I was provided with copies of personal correspondence between himself and Mansmann which referenced the Big Sur event. Additionally, researcher Lee Graham provided me with copies of letters Mansmann had written to him, as well as to another individual, Peter Bons, on the same subject.
In those letters, now accessible at http: //www.ufohastings.com/documents, Jacobs and Mansmann were obviously still stunned by and marveling over the Big Sur UFO incident, some 20 years later. It is important to note that this correspondence was never intended for publication, to support the validity of the case. Rather, the letters contain the private musings of two former USAF officers—involved and knowledgeable insiders—who had experienced what was obviously a life-changing event for each of them.
In one letter to Graham, dated January 30, 1983, Mansmann lamented the fact that Jacobs had gone public with the still-classified case. He wrote, “I do have some deep concerns about information, so vital to the future of mankind, falling into the wrong hands.” He then alluded to the Soviets’ theft of American atomic bomb secrets during World War II. Nevertheless, said Mansmann, because “the cat [was] out of the bag” he had decided to confirm Jacobs’ account of the incident to various individuals who had written to him.
In a letter to Bons, dated March 8, 1983, the retired major described the image of the UFO captured on film: “Details would be sketchy and from memory. The shape was [a] classic disc, the center seemed to be a raised bubble...the entire lower saucer shape…was glowing and seemed to be rotating slowly. At the point of beam release—if it was a beam, it, the object, turned like an object required to be in a position to fire from a platform...but again this could be my own assumption from being in aerial combat.” Mansmann’s evaluation of the UFO’s origin was explicit: “...the assumption was, at that time, extraterrestrial.”
At some point, Lee Graham forwarded copies of these two letters to Bob Jacobs. The former lieutenant subsequently wrote to Mansmann on January 14, 1985, saying “[Your comments to Graham and Bons] reveal a great deal more about that fateful piece of film than even I knew. It appears that you did a good deal of analysis on it at the time.”
Jacobs continued, “The technology to which you and I were witness, the technology recorded on that few feet of film, indicates orders of magnitude [beyond] our relatively primitive efforts in mechanics, propulsion, and possibly quantum physics as well. Such intelligence might be suspected to regard us as little more than savages.”
Jacobs then speculated that the UFO’s aggressive action was intended as a reprimand. Referring to the four flashes of light which seemingly disabled the dummy warhead, he wrote, “…those beams of light on our film [were] a WARNING. A shot fired across the bow, so to speak, of our nuclear silliness ship.”
The importance of this 1980s-era correspondence is obvious, given that it captures the candid, unguarded thoughts of the two most important sources for the Big Sur UFO story. Notably, those impressions coincided to a remarkable degree, even though Jacobs and Mansmann had no contact with one another once they left Vandenberg AFB some 20 years earlier.
Much later, Dr. Mansmann wrote to a producer with the SciFi (now Syfy) Channel series Sightings, Curt Collier, who had asked the retired major about the truthfulness of Dr. Jacobs’ statements relating to the case. Dated November 15, 1995, the letter began, “Dear Mr. Collier, Responding to your letter regarding the validity of the January 1989 MUFON [UFO] Journal story by Dr. Robert Jacobs, it is all true as presented. And yes, I have also responded to other researchers in the past, but only after Dr. Jacobs released the details of these sightings [sic] negating my secrecy bond.”
Mansmann continued, “The Image Orthicon camera system we used in capturing the Unidentified Flying Object on film had the capacity to photograph the ‘nuts and bolts’ of the missile launch and its supersonic flight. In retrospect, I now regret not being able to evaluate the film for more than 3 showings. The only people in attendance of the viewing were: The Director of the Office of the Chief Scientist and his assistant, two Government Agents, Lieutenant Jacobs and myself. The two Government Agents confiscated the film and placed it in a briefcase and departed after I had checked their authorization to leave with the film. I was instructed later by the Office of the Chief Scientist, the Judge Advocate General’s office and my Commanding Officer to consider the incident top secret.” Mansmann concluded his letter to Collier, “I am writing to confirm Dr. Jacobs’ account.”
In other words, Dr. Mansmann was once again unreservedly endorsing Bob Jacobs’ report of a UFO shooting down a dummy nuclear warhead over the Pacific Ocean, probably on September 15, 1964. (Because the official records relating to the amazing incident are currently still classified, this best-guess date was eventually selected by both officers decades later, based on their personal recollections about the case.)
The ‘Skeptics’ Counterattack
In its Winter 1993 issue, Skeptical Inquirer magazine—published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP)—featured an article titled “The Big Sur ‘UFO’: An Identified Flying Object”, written by Kingston A. George. In 1964, George had been the project engineer for the experimental telescopic-tracking and filming of missile launches at the Big Sur site. In that role he had worked directly with Lt. Jacobs.
Given CSICOP’s well-established position of debunking all UFO sightings, it is not too difficult to guess the tone of George’s article. He begins by dismissing Jacobs’ “weird claims” and then offers an alternate, prosaic explanation for the events captured on film during the launch in question, which he said actually took place on September 22, 1964.
Because space is limited here, I must ask the reader to go to http://www.ufohastings.com/articles/deep-denial-or-disinformation to review a much more detailed discussion of the ensuing debate and ongoing controversy surrounding the case. That said, I will nevertheless briefly present a few relevant facts:
● Kingston George’s article quotes extensively from Dr. Jacobs’ earlier article in the MUFON UFO Journal but, whether by intention or incompetence, badly misquotes much of what Jacobs actually said, thereby making the former lieutenant’s assertions appear uninformed and inaccurate. A side-by-side comparison of the two articles indisputably proves the point. My view is that George was deliberately attempting to make Jacobs look foolish, in an effort to discredit his dramatic revelations.
● At the time George’s debunking article was published in Skeptical Inquirer, the magazine’s editor, Kendrick Frazier—who is identified in each issue’s publisher’s statement only as a “science writer”—was also working as a Public Relations Specialist for Sandia National Laboratories, a facility long involved with the engineering of atomic and thermonuclear devices. One must look diligently to find any reference to this fact and it was only due to my own efforts that Frazier’s two-decades-long position as a spin doctor for the U.S. government’s nuclear weapons program became widely publicized.
● Another leading member of CSICOP (now called the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry or CSI), James Oberg, once did classified nuclear weapons-related work while a U.S. Air Force officer.
In an extremely revealing private letter to Dr. Jacobs, Oberg chastised him for leaking “top secret UFO data.”
This, of course, is completely inconsistent with Oberg’s public persona as a UFO skeptic who steadfastly claims that UFOs do not exist and, therefore, the U.S. government has no need to cover-up their reality.
Fortunately, rather than being intimidated, Dr. Jacobs published key portions of Oberg’s letter, thereby exposing the faux-skeptic’s duplicity.
Considering the now-declassified CIA Robertson Panel report, which recommended recruiting the media to help debunk UFOs, one must ask whether Skeptical Inquirer’s strident anti-UFO stance is due to mere bias, in the face of overwhelming evidence supporting the UFO reality, or something else altogether.
My view is that Frazier’s “skeptical” publication has knowingly engaged in government-sanctioned disinformation regarding UFOs in general, and the Big Sur case in particular.
Regardless, one might argue that key members of CSICOP/CSI have ulterior motives for their desperate attempts to discredit the Big Sur incident.
Given what Jacobs and Mansmann have revealed, it is understandable that the Air Force and the CIA, as well as those sympathetic to the UFO cover-up, would wish to explain the case away.
At a minimum, we are discussing the existence of vastly superior spacecraft, capable of pacing and disabling our nuclear warheads in space.
An official acknowledgement of the Big Sur event would effectively be a confirmation of our strategic vulnerability.
More to the point, a formal verification of the warhead shoot-down would represent an irreversible admission of extraterrestrial visitation, simply because the technology exhibited by the UFO was vastly beyond human achievement in 1964 and undoubtedly remains so at present.
Finally, if one goes to http://www.ufohastings.com/documents and scrolls down to the “Miscellaneous” section, one will find a Reuters wire service article from July 17, 1974, describing an incident very similar to the Big Sur case, as revealed by unnamed U.S. Army missile experts, involving “ghost ships” pacing a dummy warhead launched from Vandenberg AFB in August 1973. In other words, Big Sur UFO Incident was apparently not unique.