"I think it was simply a show. They wanted to shine a light on our nuclear weapons and just send us a message," he said. "My interpretation is the message is get rid of them because it's going to mean our destruction."
Other former officers recounted similar stories of unexplained moving lights and odd-shaped flying objects during their time in the service, media reports said. Some said it was difficult to talk about their experiences with friends and family.
Leslie Kean, an investigative journalist and author of the new book "UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record," said thousands of pages of documentation support the officers' accounts. She spent the last 10 years researching UFOs and combing through thousands of pages of declassified government material.
Some documents even show that Air Force officials themselves believed the UFO reports were concerning, she said.
Kean said that one declassified document that she researched for her book, relating to the Salas incident, said, "the fact that no apparent reason for the loss of the 10 missiles can easily be identified is a cause for grave concern to this headquarters."
Since the 1970s, the Air Force has said investigations and evaluations of UFO reports have never given any indication that UFOs are a threat to national security, she said.
"These cases show that that just isn't true," she said. "The men involved with these cases have made statements that they don't believe this to be true."
Popular culture may equate UFOs with sci-fi movies and fantastical extraterrestrial beings, but she said most people misunderstand what UFOs actually are.
"What we actually know about UFOs is there is clearly a physical phenomenon that is well documented by officials, by government agencies, around the world," she said, adding that it shows up on radar and film, leaves marks on the ground and can affect aircraft instruments.
She said that given what eyewitness accounts and documentation indicate, it's time for the government to give it the attention it deserves.
"Since there is this physical phenomenon that's there, the question is, what do we do about it?" she asked.