Aug 25, 2021 I Brent Swancer

A Conspiracy, Cover-up, and the Amazing Lost Big Sur UFO Footage

To anyone with even the slightest interest in the field of UFOs, one specter that has long hung over the whole thing is that of the government's alleged efforts to keep it hidden from the public and to hide, obfuscate, dismiss, or even destroy any evidence or reports they deem not ready for the public to see. Even in the modern age of them admitting some videos are real, they do it grudgingly and in a very evasive manner after they are already leaked by another party. This brings up a good question, and that is how many other videos are there out there that we don't even know about? There seem to be quite a few that have been alleged, and one of these is a supposedly extremely incredible video of a UFO shooting a rocket out of the sky at an Air Force base. Here we get into the tail of a whistleblower, mysterious men in grey, dark government conspiracies, and a supposedly irrefutable piece of clear UFO footage that we will never get to see because it has been buried.

The story comes from a very reliable source in a man named Bob Jacobs, a Ph.D. and a university professor in a department of Journalism and Broadcasting at an unnamed university. In the year 1964, he was apparently an officer in the United States Air Force, working in the photography career field and at the time serving as the Officer-in-Charge of Photo-optical Instrumentation in the 1369th Photographic Squadron at Vandenherg Air Force Base, in California. He was one day in 1964 given a mission to obtain photographs of a missile launch of an Atlas rocket from the Western Test Range at the base, only this time they wanted a shot from the side angle at all stages of the flight, something which was impossible from the base and made it necessary for him to travel to a vantage point at Big Sur, along the rugged coast of California about 124 miles away. It was an assignment that, in his words, “ended up changing my mind about a number of things, including the nature of our government, the nature of my personal belief systems and the nature of the universe.”

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Dr. Bob Jacobs

Jacobs made his way out to Big Sur and was given access to the Boston University telescope, owned by the Air Force Eastern Test Range, a large device “just a little smaller than a conventional moving van,” in order to take such distant photos of the rocket. He and his team at first had trouble finding a suitable site to haul the telescope to, but on June 10, 1964 they were able to discover a spot near Anderson Peak, at an elevation of 3,400 feet on a Forest Service fire trail. The spot was perfect because it could look out over the frequent fog of the area and also had a clear line of site to the missile launch. On August 31 they brought in the telescope and set up shop, after which they put the device through a 3-day test period in anticipation of the launches to make sure everything was calibrated and functioning perfectly. When the launch came in early September, it would mark the beginning of what Jacobs claims would “inspire an official government cover-up and provoke an investigation and search for the filmed record which goes on to this day,” and he says of the fateful launch itself:

"There it is!", I shouted out as the Atlas leaped through the snow-white coastal fog blanket and both tracking mounts homed-in on the majestic "bird" in flight. The big Atlas could not have been more clean, clear and majestic We were "Go" for the operation. The magnification of the B.U. was truly impressive. The exhaust nozzles and lower third of the Atlas missile literally filled the frame at this distance of over 100 nautical miles. With one tracking mount operator on azimuth and one on elevation working completely manually, it was not easy to keep the image centered in the early stages of flight.  As the nosecone package approached T + 400 seconds, sufficient angle of view had been established that we were literally locked down with the whole inflight package centered in the frame. No one on the site was watching the screen by this point. Our mission to provide the engineers with a side look at three stages of powered flight had been accomplished and we were a very happy bunch, congratulating each other and letting the film run out in the 35mm motion picture camera focused on the Kinescope.

In other words, they had managed to capture very clear, unambiguous footage of the event, something that would become important in the sequence of events that would follow. After the launch, Jacobs packed up his film and brought it back to the base, where it was planned to be ready for viewing the next day. The next morning, he was called into the viewing room, where a projector was set up and a group of people were gathered, among them “two men in plain grey suits who spoke little” and watched him constantly. This was a bit unsettling and he had no idea who these mysterious men were, but he sat down and prepared to watch the film, still feeling their eyes on the back of his head. Then the film started, and Jacobs would say of what unfolded on screen:

It was a surprise and a delight for me to be seeing the kinescope recording from Big Sur after all the months of planning and weeks of work. I was quite amazed and very pleased with the quality, especially at the distance involved as we could make out quite plainly the separated nosecone, the radar experiment and the dummy warhead all sailing along beautifully about 60 miles straight up from planet Earth and some 300 to 500 nautical miles down range. As we neared the end of the camera run, Mansmann said, "Watch carefully now, Lieutenant Jacobs." At that point the most remarkable vision of my life came on the screen. Another object flew into the frame from left to right. It approached the warhead package and maneuvered around it. That is, this ... "thing"...flew a relative polar orbit around our warhead package which was itself heading toward the South Pacific at some 18 thousand miles an hour! As the new object circumnavigated our hardware, it emitted four distinct bright flashes of light at approximately the 4 cardinal compass points of its orbit. These flashes were so intense that each "strike" caused the I.O. tube to "boom" or form a halo around the spot.


Following this remarkable aerial display the object departed the frame in the same direction from which it had come. The shape of the object was that of a classic "flying saucer." In the middle of the top half of the object was a dome. From that dome, or just beneath it, seemed to issue a beam of light or which caused the flashes described. Subsequently the warhead malfunctioned and tumbled out of suborbit hundreds of miles short of its target. This unidentified flying "thing" had apparently "shot down" an American dummy atomic warhead! The lights came on and Major Mansmann said, "Lieutenant Jacobs, were you or any of your people fooling around up there at Big Sur?” "No sir," I answered honestly. I was shaking with excitement. "Then tell me ... what the Hell was that?" I looked Major Mansmann straight in the eye. "It looks to me like we got a UFO," I said. There was a stifling silence among the men in grey, civilian suits who continued to stare at me. Major Mansmann gave them what I can only describe as a "let me handle this" look.

After this, the Major made it clear to him in no uncertain terms that he was to never speak of what he had seen in that room nor ever talk about the footage again, all as the men in grey sat and stared at him with inscrutable expressions on their faces. As he got up to leave, Jacobs was told that to say anything would be considered a security breach, but the Major also oddly added, “If at some time in the future, you are pressed by someone about this and you can't get out of answering, just tell them ... tell them it was flashes from laser tracking, O.K.?” And that was that. He was sent on his way and would spend the next decade remaining silent on the matter, and in the meantime he did intensive research into the UFO phenomenon. It would not be until 1973 that he would finally break his silence on the incident, mentioning it on a small late night talk show that he was hosting at the time in Eureka, California, and he was immediately inundated with calls from people telling him their own experiences. Luckily at the time it was such a small program that it didn’t generate any further buzz beyond listeners calling in, and there were no ominous repercussions, no shady grey suited figures showing up at his door. In 1982, Jacobs decided to write up a full article on what had happened in order to publish it more widely. He was at first hesitant to put it out there, but then he had an epiphany, and he says of what happened next:

I realized there was no "security breach" in this story. The damn thing had never been "Classified SECRET' or anything else. I had been told simply that it "NEVER HAPPENED"! Therefore, I was free to tell the story to whomever I pleased since it was about a non event officially. I wrote my article. I shopped it around. In the end The National Enquirer published it. And as now retired Major Florenz J. Mansmann put it, "Jacobs opened Pandora's Box." I was contacted by a variety of investigators, buffs, cranks, proponents and detractors alike. James Oberg, a frequent "mouthpiece" for certain NASA projects and self-styled UFO Debunker wrote to disparage my story and to ask provocatively, "Since you obviously feel free to discuss top secret UFO data, what would you be willing to say about other top secret aspects of the Atlas warhead which you alluded to briefly?" I told Mr. Oberg where to put his misplaced cynicism. Mansmann, now a Ph.D. research consultant at Stanford and a farmer near Fresno, California was besieged with requests for information, and for his version of what happened. My respect and admiration for him was vindicated as he categorically verified my account.

Despite of this, the military completely denied that any such footage had ever existed, and none of it has ever been released. Indeed, according to Jacobs, the Air Force did everything in their power to discredit him and distance themselves from him. Jacobs also doubts that the Air Force will ever release the footage, and insists that Freedom of Information Act requests will prove fruitless because the footage was likely destroyed shortly after that day in the viewing room or at least utterly swept away to who knows where. He has lamented:

It is this defense-oriented aspect of the case which has caused investigators to run into stone walls in trying to track down my story. The Air Force has alternately denied that I was ever an officer, that I was ever stationed at Vandenberg, that I was OIC of Photo-optical Instrumentation in the 1369th Photographic Squadron, that there was a tracking site at or near Big Sur, California, that an Atlas-F, or for that matter, any other missile was launched on or about the date or dates I reported. I do not believe that anyone is going to succeed in getting the film on an F.O.I.A. request. I have been asked to make such a request myself and refuse to do so. Eric Mishara, Lee Graham, T. Scott Crain, Jr. and others have done so and have run into the wall of futility. I don't believe that anyone can succeed in getting the film because the fact of its existence will have been completely expunged from the records by now. Investigators who encounter negative replies from the Air Force, from representatives who are at Vandenberg now are not necessarily being deceived deliberately. Nearly 25 years have passed and no one presently at the base has any personal recollection of the event, much less any official record of it. Consider the very limited number of people who saw the film in the first place and you will comprehend how simple it was to make it disappear.

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Not from the actual footage

The case and the veracity of Jacobs’ story have been picked apart and debated ever since, made all the more difficult in that there is absolutely no concrete evidence to prove anything he says. Although he has a high academic pedigree, and he certainly seems like a reliable witness, it has been hard to even verify his involvement in anything to do with Vandenherg Air Force Base, as they deny he ever worked for them. Skeptics have also pointed out that the story was first published in The National Enquirer, a well-known trashy tabloid, but Jacobs has defended himself on this point by saying:

I've been ridiculed by some of my colleagues in academia because in 1982 I wrote an article about this cover-up and it appeared in The National Enquirer. It was not my intention to become a tabloid writer then or now. The Enquirer turned out to be the only publication I could find which was interested in printing the article at all. Both academic and mainstream journals and periodicals turned it down cold over the period of nearly a year during which I submitted and resubmitted it. I was told by editor after editor that UFO stories weren't "publishable." I thought the story was important then. That's why I let a tabloid publish it. I still think it's important.

Indeed, he has always fiercely defended the veracity of his story, and it has since been printed in the MUFON UFO Journal, Issue No. 249. In this report he reiterates what happened, and even suggests that the military perhaps knew about the UFO all along, even assigning him there with the ulterior motive of him filming it. In his conclusion for MUFON, he would say:

Academicians first gather data, then postulate conclusions based on what they find. From what I have gathered first hand, primary evidence, pieced together from Mansmann, from a fine researcher named Lee M. Graham, from contemplation, discussion and debate of the material, as well as from the Air Force position on this and other related matters, I have come to the following conclusions:


(1) What we photographed that September day in 1964 was a solid, three-dimensional, intelligently controlled flying device.


(2) It emitted a beam of energy, possibly a plasma beam, at our dummy warhead and caused a malfunction.


(3) This "craft" was not anything of which our science and technology in 1964 was capable. The most probable explanation of the device, therefore, is that it was of extraterrestrial origin.


(4) The flashing strikes of light we recorded on film were not from laser tracking devices. Such devices did not exist then aside from small scale, laboratory models.


(5) Most probably the B.U. Tele scope was brought out to California specifically to photograph this event which had been prearranged. That is, we had been setup to record an event which someone in our Government knew was going to happen in advance.


(6) What we photographed that day was the first terrestrial demonstration of what has come to be called S.D.I. or "Star Wars." The demonstration was put on for our benefit for some reason by extraterrestrials.

It is unknown whether we can believe him or not, and it is impossible to look at the footage for ourselves because it has been either destroyed or so buried it will never see the light of day, dooming it to a limbo of speculation and debate. We are left with many questions and few answers. What did Jacobs film out there? Did he ever even film anything at all? If so, then who were those grey-suited men and just why did the military deem the footage to be covered-up? Just what does this footage show? We will probably never know, and if his story is true, then it is just one more example of the government doing its best to suppress evidence they don't want people to see. The only one who seems to really know for sure is Jacobs himself, and that's the way it looks set to stay for quite some time.


Brent Swancer

Brent Swancer is an author and crypto expert living in Japan. Biology, nature, and cryptozoology still remain Brent Swancer’s first intellectual loves. He's written articles for MU and Daily Grail and has been a guest on Coast to Coast AM and Binnal of America.

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