During the early 1970s, U.S. Army units based in Germany had hundreds of nuclear missiles at their disposal. Unlike the U.S. Air Force’s high-yield strategic weapons, including the Minuteman ICBMs, most of the army’s missiles were tactical nukes—intended for use against infantry and tanks on the battlefield—in the event the Soviet Union launched an invasion of Western Europe. However, one surface-to-surface missile, the Pershing Ia, carried a 400-kiloton warhead, making it as powerful as some strategic weapons deployed during that era. One location where these potent missiles were stored and maintained was the U.S. Army Ordnance Depot at Fischbach, Germany. The facility was maintained by the 197th Ordnance Battalion.
In 1974, Private 1st Class R. Jack Phillips was assigned to the 193rd Military Police (MP) Battalion, stationed at Dahn, Germany. The unit’s mission was to guard the nearby Fischbach Army Depot against unauthorized intruders and saboteurs. One night, possibly in May, Phillips was on guard when he observed a totally unexpected intruder—a domed-disc UFO—whose momentary but spectacular appearance made a lasting impression on him, even decades later.
In March 2007, Phillips posted a message on Frank Warren’s “The UFO Chronicles” website, briefly summarizing that memorable experience. Hoping to learn more, I subsequently interviewed him by telephone. Phillips told me, “My unit was stationed roughly 14-16 kilometers from Fischbach Depot at Dahn. Fischbach was a ‘special weapons’ depot. We were support for the MP company actually stationed at the depot. We were never officially briefed about what missiles were assembled and stored there. All we saw were large green canisters. But the word was that Pershings were there.
“The depot was divided into three areas: Area 1 was where the weapons were assembled—payload to carriage. When I say ‘carriage’ I’m referring to the fuselage—the delivery system for each type of missile. Area 2 was where the delivery carriages were stored. Area 3 was where the payloads were stored and was highly-secured. There was a perimeter fence that encircled the whole depot complex, with the three secured areas placed within a double fence line.
“I was guarding Area 3 when [the UFO sighting occurred]. Area 3 had several bunkers with squared-off corners and flat roofs covered by sod. The steel doors were embedded in exposed concrete and alarmed. The whole area surrounded by the double fence line and had seven watch towers."
“The night of the incident I was in Tower 4. Believe it or not, most of the guards slept on duty from time to time. When you pulled the [midnight to noon] shift, and you were all by yourself in the tower, it was almost impossible to stay awake all night. Anyway, the night of the incident, I had just awoken from ‘deep observation’. It was about 3 or 3:30. I looked north and saw a really bright star. I’m from northwestern Michigan, where there is no light pollution, so the stars are really bright. But this was brighter than that. If it had been in the eastern sky, instead of the northern sky, I might have thought it was Venus.
“I watched the ‘star’ for maybe fifteen seconds. It seemed to be stationary. Suddenly, it came toward me at unbelievable speed! You could see it coming, getting larger, but it was so fast! A moment or so later, it instantly stopped and hovered just beyond the fence line, over the clear area. In my posting [on Warren’s website], I wrote that it was inside the Area 3 fence line when it hovered but, after thinking about it some more, it was probably just beyond the fence, over the clear area, about a hundred yards from my tower.
“The craft was your classic UFO. It looked like two teacup saucers, one inverted on the other. From the side it looked like a cigar. It was maybe sixty feet in diameter but it had a dome, oh, maybe a third as wide as the entire length. Underneath, it was indented, like someone had pushed his finger up into it. It was a circular depression. You couldn’t see anything that appeared metallic because the whole craft was covered by a greenish glow, like [phosphorescence]. There was no noise.
“After maybe five seconds or so, the craft got much brighter, just for a second, then returned to its original intensity. As it brightened, the security lights in the complex went out. All power went out. I had just picked up the field phone—each tower has one connecting it to the guard shack—to report what I saw, but it was out. I was waiting for the two 12-cylinder generators that we had to kick-in, which should have happened 10 seconds after power was lost, but nothing happened.
“Then, about 30-seconds later, the craft took off, so fast I couldn’t tell which direction. I think it went west but I’m not really sure. As soon as it left, the lights came back on. Then all the bunker alarms started going off. All of them, the bells, the ‘clackers’—that’s what I called them because they made a clack-clack-clack sound—and the klaxons, which were mounted on poles, I think.
“Each guard shack had a master board where you could reset the alarms’ electromagnetic switches. Every now and then, an electrical storm would set off a single alarm so it would have to be reset. After the craft left, the guards were frantically trying to reset all the alarms but nothing happened. The ‘roving unit’ had to go out and reset them by physically opening and closing each bunker’s door. One NCO told me he had been there seven years and had never seen anything like it.
“Before the incident, we would turn the power off and the generators would be tested from time to time, randomly. The alarms never went off during these tests. So I don’t believe the power outage [that night] was the cause of the alarms. Maybe [triggering them] was just an added bonus for effect.”
I asked Phillips whether he had observed any unusual activity in Area 3 after the incident, such as Army personnel entering the bunkers to inspect the warheads, or the removal of warheads. He said he had not noticed anything out of the ordinary. I then asked Phillips if he had been debriefed about the UFO sighting. He responded, “Nope. No one even mentioned it. I didn’t talk to anyone and no one said anything to me. I was never asked to make a report. It was as if it never happened.”
When I asked Phillips why he hadn’t reported his sighting, he said, “Well, there was the ’50-5 Program’ that I mentioned in my [online] posting. Every three months we were supposed to be given psychological evaluations. As I mentioned, it was a joke. There was a shortage of replacement personnel so the tests were usually skipped. If you were tested, you were always rated ‘Fit for Duty’. Even so, after the incident, I thought twice about reporting it. One of the main reasons I kept it to myself was there was nothing I knew of that could substantiate what I knew I saw. If anyone else saw it, they kept it from me. No one else said anything about it so I kept quiet. Later on, I did share it with one of the ‘old-timers’ there. For the life of me I can’t remember his name except for ‘Cleaver’ and that was a nickname. Anyway, he claimed to have seen something but wasn’t willing to share.”
I then asked Phillips why he had decided to post his account online. He replied, “Well, it was a long time ago. I’m 51 now so I figure there’s not much [the Army] can do to me. Besides, the incident never happened. As far as I know, officially, it never happened...The power outage at Fischbach—I think someone was showing us what they can do if they want to.”
Robert Hastings is the author of UFOs and Nukes: Extraordinary Encounters at Nuclear Weapons Sites, which can be purchased at his web site, ufohastings.com.
This article originally appeared in the November 2012 edition of the MUFON Journal.