By Robert L. HastingsPersons familiar with my three decades of research on the UFO-Nukes Connection know that declassified U.S. Air Force, FBI and CIA documents, as well as eyewitness testimony from ex-Air Force personnel, confirm an intermittent but ongoing UFO presence at America’s nuclear weapons sites. Indeed, some of the former/retired Minuteman missile launch and targeting officers I have interviewed unequivocally state that, on a few occasions, those piloting the unidentified craft actually knocked our ICBMs off-line,
at least temporarily.
Furthermore, as I and other researchers have noted, there also appears to be a link between nuclear weapons and the world-famous Roswell Incident.
At the time of the alleged UFO crash, in July 1947, nearby Roswell Army Airfield was home to the world’s only atomic bomber squadron, the 509th Bombardment Group. Only two years earlier, in August 1945, the elite unit had destroyed the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, effectively ending World War II. In July 1946, the squadron participated in Operation Crossroads, involving two atomic bombing exercises conducted in the Marshall Islands in the Pacific. By the summer of 1947, the 509th was routinely engaged in training designed to prepare it for future atomic conflict with America’s new postwar enemy, the Soviets.
Considering the great many nuclear weapons-related UFO sightings which have come to light—as described in various declassified documents and the military eyewitness testimony found in my book UFOs and Nukes—the atomic bombardment squadron aspect of the Roswell Incident is perhaps not that surprising.
Fortunately, a former, high-level nuclear weapons specialist has now provided dramatic, hitherto unknown information about the controversial case. In 1998, I conducted a taped interview with former Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) supervisor Chester “Chet” W. Lytle Sr., whose work in the early 1950s put him in the right place, at the right time, to hear a very interesting story about Roswell. Lytle told me that he was “absolutely” certain that the mysterious object secretly recovered in the New Mexico desert was an alien spacecraft. According to Lytle, the unimpeachable source of this information was none other than William H. Blanchard, the commander of Roswell Army Airfield at the time of the incident.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. During World War II, Chet Lytle had provided engineering support for the seminal Manhattan Project, which produced the first atomic bomb. His company, Lytle Engineering, was secretly contracted by the U.S. Army to design and manufacture the explosive “lenses” used on the tower-mounted device detonated near Alamogordo, New Mexico, on July 16, 1945. The disc-shaped lenses uniformly focused a conventional high explosive blast inward, thereby crushing the two halves of the bomb’s plutonium core into a single “critical mass” and triggering a nuclear chain-reaction.
After the war, Lytle’s company continued to manufacture various components for nuclear weapons and was also involved with a number of other highly-classified military R&D projects, ranging from radar development to aircraft autopilot design. His own supervisory position with the AEC involved weapons-stockpiling activities related to the U.S. military’s burgeoning atomic and thermonuclear arsenal.
Because of these diverse, highly-sensitive activities over the years, Lytle held, at one time or another, Top Secret clearances with several government departments and agencies, including the Atomic Energy Commission, the Department of Defense, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
In January 1990, I was introduced to Lytle by UFO researcher Kevin Randle and his associate at the time, Donald Schmitt, during one of their many visits to New Mexico to investigate the Roswell Incident. Over dinner, Lytle unexpectedly and cryptically remarked to me that he had both direct and indirect knowledge of certain nuclear weapons-related UFO sightings. However, when I asked if he would consent to be interviewed about those incidents, he quickly declined, saying that he was reluctant to jeopardize ongoing relationships his company, now called Communications Diversified Incorporated, had with various departments of the U.S. government.
There the matter rested for several years. Between 1990 and 1996, I had dinner with Lytle three or four times, always in the company of Randle and, sometimes, Schmitt. On each occasion, I politely asked Chet if he would be willing to speak with me at length about his UFO-related experiences. Each time, he politely but firmly declined to be interviewed.
In September 1998—realizing that I would not have forever to pursue the matter, given Lytle’s advanced age—I doggedly called him at his office. Much to my surprise, he actually answered a few of my questions over the phone, so I quickly pressed him to grant me a full-length interview. After a few seconds of silence, he hesitantly agreed.
As I was ushered into Lytle’s spacious office, I noted several plaques on the walls. Each had been presented to his company by one U.S. government group or another, commemorating some aspect of its distinguished, decades-long service to the nation’s defense establishment.
After a few pleasantries, I clipped a small microphone onto Lytle’s tie and began to ask him questions about the nuclear weapons-related UFO incidents to which he had alluded in 1990. As soon as he began speaking, I knew that my frustrating, drawn-out efforts to persuade him to go on-the-record had been worth the wait. Over the next two hours, he divulged some of the most intriguing information I had ever heard.
At my prompting, Lytle began by discussing his personal UFO sighting at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico. He candidly admitted that he was unable to remember the exact year the incident had taken place, saying only that it had been “sometime in the 1950s.” In any case, Lytle and another individual had been observing the loading of an atomic bomb onto an Air Force bomber, either a B-36 or a B-47—Lytle couldn’t remember which—when the UFO sighting occurred.
Lytle’s companion that night was a career U.S. Army officer, Kenner F. Hertford. Between 1948 and 1952, Hertford had served as the Deputy Commander of the Armed Forces Special Weapons Project at Sandia Base, located just east of Kirtland.
As the two men watched the atomic weapon being slowly jacked-up into the aircraft’s bomb-bay, they gradually became aware of three lights hovering in the southeastern sky, some distance away, in the direction of the Manzano Mountains. Lytle described the lights as “star-like but much brighter.” After a few moments, Lytle began commenting on the lights, specifically noting their unusual appearance. Hereford then walked into a nearby building and, unable to find a pair of binoculars, returned with a small technical telescope called a theodolite. After peering at one of the lights for a few seconds, Hertford abruptly handed the theodolite to Lytle and hurried back into the building, saying that he had to make a phone call. Now very curious, Chet squinted into the scope and, to his astonishment, saw a “silver, disc-shaped object with a central dome structure.” He quickly trained the theodolite on a second object but, at that moment, all three raced away at high speed in a southerly direction.
A short time later, Hertford returned and told Lytle that the incident should be considered Top Secret and ordered him not to mention it to anyone. Chet never learned whom Hereford had called, or whether an investigation of the incident ever took place. The two men did not discuss it again. While Lytle was never debriefed about the sighting, nor given any details about it, his distinct impression was that whomever had been aboard the UFOs had probably been observing the atomic bomb-loading operation.
But this sighting was not the only incident mentioned by Lytle. Later in the interview, he told me he had been informed that similar sightings were reported by employees of EG&G Corporation, the company contracted by the U.S. government to shoot motion picture films of its atomic and thermonuclear weapons tests in Nevada and the Pacific.
“Some of our [photographic aircraft] pilots saw UFOs while we were firing [off atomic weapons] in the desert of Nevada, but they couldn’t talk about it,” Lytle said. I attempted to coax a few specifics about the airborne sightings from him, without success. He told me that because so many years had passed, and because he had only heard the stories second-hand, he couldn’t remember any details.
Nevertheless, Lytle’s experience at Kirtland AFB was not his only direct encounter with the UFO phenomenon. He told me that he had also been present, on more than one occasion in the early 1950s, when unknown objects were tracked by the experimental, high-power radar systems then being tested at the White Sands Proving Ground, in southern New Mexico.
“They were obviously curious about our activities,” he said. “Some of them were tracked at Mach 3, 4, 5. Then they would just suddenly stop and hang there.” (Mach 1—the speed of sound—varies with altitude but is approximately 700 miles per hour. Therefore, a UFO tracked at Mach 5 may have been traveling well over 3,500 mph.)
According to Lytle, those incidents were “very hush-hush” and created quite a stir among the technical personnel at White Sands. It is not difficult to understand why. The fastest operational military jet fighters at that time flew at approximately 600 miles per hour—and none of those aircraft could instantly stop and hover in mid-air. Clearly, the technology utilized by the unknown aerial craft being tracked at White Sands was vastly superior to that possessed by the U.S. or any other country during that era.
Then, as the interview was winding down, without any prompting from me, Lytle unexpectedly mentioned the Roswell Incident. He said the former base commander of Roswell Army Airfield, then-Colonel William Blanchard, had once confessed to him that the object recovered in the desert in July 1947 was in fact a crashed extraterrestrial spacecraft.
According to Lytle, this revelation occurred in mid-February 1953, when both he and Blanchard were visiting Eielson AFB, Alaska. By that time, Blanchard had been promoted to Brigadier General, and was assigned to the Strategic Air Command’s Eighth Air Force Headquarters, as Deputy Director of Operations. In that position, he helped direct the atomic weapons training of the aircrews flying the new B-36s—the first American intercontinental bombers—some of which were based at Eielson. Lytle’s own work with the Atomic Energy Commission required his supervision of the transfer of atomic and thermonuclear weapons from various storage sites to “forward” bomber bases, including Eielson. Although Lytle and Blanchard had worked together in the past, in Alaska their paths crossed once again.
Meanwhile, Lytle’s wife was in Chicago, about to give birth to a son, and Lytle was desperate to get home. Blanchard, who was “a very close friend” according to Lytle, offered to personally fly him in a bomber to an Air Force base in Illinois, possibly Chanute AFB, but Lytle couldn’t recall its name. From there, Lytle could take a short commercial flight to Chicago. He accepted Blanchard’s offer without hesitation.
During the long flight from Alaska to Illinois, the subject of UFOs came up. There had recently been sightings by Air Force personnel at Elmendorf AFB, near Anchorage, and the two men were discussing them. Suddenly, Blanchard mentioned Roswell. Lytle, who held Top Secret clearances relating to his work with the AEC, was informed that an extraterrestrial spaceship had been recovered. The general said that four dead humanoid beings had been aboard.
Startled by Lytle’s unexpected admission, I asked, “Blanchard actually told you that the Roswell object was an alien spacecraft?” Lytle emphatically replied, “Oh, absolutely!”
If Lytle is to be believed, his old friend had let him in on what was arguably the greatest secret in history—even though he had no need-to-know about it. I will simply say that if the conversation occurred as portrayed, it certainly would not have been the first time that an important military secret was informally discussed between friends, in violation of the security measures surrounding it.
But Blanchard was not Lytle’s only source for the crashed-spaceship story. Lytle added that he had later heard from another high-level Air Force source that some of the alien bodies were initially sent to Muroc Army Airfield (now Edwards AFB) in California, however, eventually “they all wound up at Wright Field.” Then, alluding to still other sources, Lytle said that he had been privy to “leaks about autopsies on the bodies from people who had been in and seen them.”
Those who have followed the Roswell saga know that Wright Field—later renamed Wright-Patterson AFB—figures prominently in the narrative. According to Lytle’s sources, the recovered alien craft was also stored there, but in Hanger 5—not Hanger 18—as Roswell lore has it. “I had the highest clearances involving atomic weapons stockpiling,” said Lytle, “I was very heavily cleared to do what I did, but I was never allowed into that area.”
Lytle also told me that he personally knew the general at the base who was responsible for protecting the big secret, but refused to identify him. He further said that the general’s secretary was the wife of his own Air Force security aide, during the time Lytle held a position with the AEC at Wright-Patterson, in the early 1950s. But when I asked him to identify the married couple and to elaborate on these tantalizing disclosures, Lytle deflected my questions.
In the summer of 2001, I contacted Lytle again to ask whether he would consent to answering some follow-up questions relating to our 1998 interview. Chet hesitantly agreed, but sternly said that he first required a clarification about “the purpose of the interview.” I reiterated that I was writing a book on UFOs and reminded him that three years earlier he had allowed me to tape-record his comments for nearly two hours. Somewhat uneasily, Chet agreed to meet with me on July 13th.
Upon arriving at his office, I placed my tape recorder on his desk and asked him to clip the microphone to his lapel. At this, Lytle abruptly said that he did not wish the conversation to be recorded. Surprised, I asked the reason for his reluctance, and once again reminded him that he had had no qualms about my recording our first interview about his UFO-related experiences.
In response, Lytle took a deep breath, looked me in the eye, and said somberly, “After you and I met, I was paid a visit by someone who wanted to know why I was talking to you and [Roswell researcher] Don Schmitt.”
Intrigued by this admission of apparent government intimidation, I asked Lytle to repeat his statement. He complied, but would not elaborate. I twice asked him the identity of the visitor, but he brushed the questions aside. I then asked if he would at least reveal the person’s official affiliation. Once again, Lytle declined to answer my question. An awkward silence filled the room until he finally said, “I’ve spent a great many years developing my business here and I don’t want to take any chances.”
I responded by saying that while I understood his position, I nevertheless found it unfortunate that he had been coerced into silence. After a few strained pleasantries, I ended the meeting and left his office.
Lytle, who died in 2004, was obviously someone who could keep a secret, or he wouldn’t have been entrusted with the sensitive, government-related jobs that he had held over the decades. As noted earlier, it took more than eight years of asking, cajoling, and occasionally pleading, to get him to talk to me about things that had happened some 50 years earlier!
To date, Lytle’s assertions about the recovery of an extraterrestrial spacecraft are unsupported by declassified documents or, in the case of his conversation with General Blanchard, the testimony of other witnesses. As such, they must remain, for the moment at least, in the realm of highly-credible but still-unconfirmed anecdotal evidence.