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The Great Falls, Montana UFO Color Film August 15, 1950:

Table of Contents:

Click! The film, introduction.
Click! The original account by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt of USAF's Project Blue Book.
Click! The Kevin Randle comments.
Click! Michael David Hall & Wendy Connors comments.
Click! Analysis by Greene-Rouse.
Click! Analysis by Robert L. Baker.
Click! The Condon Report, case 47.
Click! Montana Film - James R Leming (MUJ 223,10).
Click! November 27, 1957 letter to Keyhoe from AF Press Desk.
Click! On the question of tampering with the 1950 Great Falls UFO film - Barry Greenwood.
Click! Articles from the press.
Click! MPEG movie of the film.
Click! Frames from the film.
Click! References.

The film, introduction:

Francis Ridge:

(The content of this web page was essentially created by Francis Ridge for the NICAP Web Site. The French version of these pages in the French version of this site is an unauthorized translation by myself).

The film was taken on August 15, 1950, by Nicolas Mariana, general manager of the Great Falls "Selectrics" baseball team. This film was listed as Top Secret and, although now declassified, is still considered an "unknown". Note that in government "releases" (National Archives, etc.) the distant objects in the frames almost don't show up. However, even the TNT versions (as you will see later) show that the objects were clearly visible and oval-shaped, especially in the early footage. And the evidence strongly suggests that what Mariana has told us for a long time is true, much of the early footage was apparently removed by the Air Force.

NICAP Synopsis:

UFO EVIDENCE, NICAP, 1964, Page 88:

Nick Mariana, Great Falls, Montana, obtained 16 mm color movies of two UFOs which appear as bright circular points of light. Footage of UFOs at closer range, confirming visual observation of discs with rotating rims, was reported missing from film when returned by Air Force. Remaining footage was contained in United Artists documentary movie "UFO" and compared to July 2, 1952, Tremonton, Utah film showing similar images. Mr. Mariana used Daylight Kodachrome film in a Revere turret type camera and obtained 315 frames showing the UFOs. The film was examined by the Air Force and Navy, but no formal reports released. Report on Photogrammetric analysis by Dr. Robert M.L. Baker, Jr., Douglas Aircraft Corporation, on file at NICAP. Air Force explanation that UFOs were reflections off jet aircraft said to be "quite strained," and the analyst states no definite conclusion. However, UFOs could not be explained as any conventional objects.

Those desiring excellent footage of this film should order the 1956 documentary, "U.F.O." Send $23 (which includes shipping) to:

UFO Documentary
618 Davis Drive, Mt.
Vernon, IN 47620.

The witness:

Nicholas "Nick" Mariana studied journalism at the Montana State University from 1935 to 1938. He gets married in 1940 and settles in Great Falls in 1941. From June 1943 to October 1945 he joins the Air Force and leaves it with the rank of Corporal. He was the reporter of the newspaper of the military air base of Great Falls. In 1950, he is the manager of the minor league base ball team the "Selectrics" in Great Falls and a sports commentator on the local radio, considered as an honest and reliable person by the community.

His secretary, present at the moment of the facts, names Virginia Raunig and was then 19 years old.

The events:

August 5 or 15, Mariana is in the base ball park of Great Falls to prepare a game in the afternoon in company of his secretary, Virginia Raunig, 19 years.

At 11:25am he looked towards the North-North-West at the chimney of the Copper Anaconda Company to observe the direction of the winds, an important factor for the base ball game. He then saw two stationary brilliant lights in the sky in this direction and realized after a few seconds that they could not be planes. He drew the attention of his secretary towards the objects, she also saw them. He run to his car at 20 to 50 meters from there to take his movie camera. He took 5 to 8 seconds to charge its camera with Kodak color daylight film. The camera was of the Revere turret type, 16mm, with charger loading and lenses of F.1.9, and a focal distance length of 3 inches. He set up the diaphragm at F.22 and the focus at infinitum. The speed of film was of 16 images per second. 30 seconds approximately went by between the moment of the first sighting of the objects and the moment he begun to film. Close to its car, he started by filming a slow panoramic from the left to the right while the brilliant objects left their stationary position and started to fly towards South-west where they vanished in the distance.

Mariana described 2 lights in the shape of discs looking as if they were covered of polished aluminium, shining and bright. He estimated their size to be 50 feet in diameter, 3 feet in thickness and he estimated that they were approximately 50 yards distant from each other. It thought that they made a whistling or whooshing noise. He said that the objects seemed to vibrate from time to time and that they occosionally lost their equilibrium when they were stationary and that then they carried out a correction of their stability. He was also certain that the discs were rotating.

In the Project Blue Book 1950 report, it is mentioned that he estimated their speed to be about 200 mph when the objects left, while in the Project Blue Book report of 1952 this estimated speed is given as being higher than 400 mph. According to Mariana the objects were between 5.000 and 10.000 feet high and at an angle of elevation of 30 or 35░ above the horizon and at a distance from 0,75 miles or 2 to 5 miles from him. The analyses of the footage by Robert L. Baker indicates that in the first images of the film, the lights were at an elevation of approximately 15░ and went slowly down.

The footage:

The observation is estimated to have lasted minutes and a half between the moment when he first saw the objects and the moment when he lost sight of them.

Mariana shot 16 to 20 seconds of film, but the first most interesting part showing the objects still close and stationary, according to him, was confiscated by the Air Force.

Among the several indications that this is probably true is that the report by Douglas Aircraft of April 1956 indicates that the objects stationed in a point above a water tower during a brief moment then flew away from sight with a whooshing sound. However the publicly available film today shows only the objects in motion. The first 10 or 20 frames of the movie show the objects at the time when they were the closest thus the largest. According to Mariana approximately 30 images before that showed these lights as discus whose rotation movement was visible. During this sequence, the two objects are very visible on sky background because of their intensity, detail, and constant relative orientation, one preceding the other in a fluid progression through sky and behind the water tower. There is a progressive diminution of intensity and size when the fly away. In the footage, the lights are not stationary and do not slow down close to the tower. According to the photogrametric analysis of the film by Rober L. Baker, the lights disappear completely from view at about the end of the 16th second of the footage. A later analysis by Baker indicates that in spite of their disappearance in the last images (completed at frame 225), they disappear suddenly enough at the end so that they cannot be isotropic reflectors of constant luminosity (i.e. balloons for example).

During the whole footage the 2 objects have an elliptical shape who has been analyzed by Robert L. Baker; he concludes that it is exclusively due to the movement of the camera (a panoramic from right to left), but of other measurements (by the Condon Report, certainly not a "saucer-friendly" study) suggest that, except for some images, the elliptic aspect is present only because the source of luminosity is not circular. The elliptic aspect is better visible in the first images, where the objects appear larger.

Mariana had his footage developed and showed it to several interested friends and even at a meeting of the base ball club. No mention of the observation was announced in any of the Great Falls newspapers before September 12, 1950, whereas Mariana was frequently mentioned in these newspapers because he was the foreman of the base ball team. A journalist of the Great Falls Leader was responsible that the sighting and the footage was heard of by the authorities. Mariana subjected the footage to the ATIC when they asked him to. It was analyzed by USAF within Project Grudge, then also by the U. S. Navy. The initial report by the USAF is dated from October 5. Edward Ruppelt, head of Project Blue Book, reports that:

"Mariana sent its films to the Air Force in 1950, but in 1950 there was no interest in UFOs and thus, after a rapid visualization, Project Grudge catalogued it as "reflexions of two F-94 jet fighters that which were in the area. In 1952, at the request of the Pentagon, I reopened the investigation (...) After the original study, clearly superficial, of the footage in 1950, the HQ of the AMC concludes in a written way to Mariana, an example of military dissimulation, that "our photograph analysts could not identify anything of unusual nature. Our analyze report must therefore be negative."

According to Ruppelt the ATIC's investigation of 1952 quickly confirmed that the objects were not birds, balloons, or meteors. The conclusions were, that considering that the objects were at a too large distance to be clarified, they moved too quickly and in a too stable manner to be birds, but too slowly to be meteors. Aircraft were the only possible alternative (see below). The objects were described by Ruppelt as of unknown origin. Albert Chop, at the time an ATIC employee, contacted in 1955 by Baker, remembered that the analysis could not reach a conclusion, which confirms the report by Ruppelt.

When the film was finally returned to Mariana by the US Air Force, after a newspaper reported that Mariana complained about this confiscation, more than 30 images out of the 290 had been removed. According to Mariana, the first 30 images showed the objects more closely at the time when they were stationary, and a rotary ring around them could be distinguished. It is obvious, according to Mariana, that these first frames show neither birds nor jet fighters.

The film was later bought by Green-Rouse Productions, of the Sam Goldwyn Studios in Hollywood, and was integrated into a documentary film about UFOs produced by United Artists in 1956.

Dr Robert L. Baker of Douglas Aircraft Corporation borrowed a 35 mm copy of the footage from the Sam Goldwyn Studios in 1955 and made a new analysis of it, confirming the unknown nature of the two objects.

The skeptics opinion:

When he investigated again this "classic" case, Dr Roy Craig of Project Colorado (which lead to the Condon Report) questioned several protagonists of the case in 1967. He stated:

An answer to these points is:

In almost all the early publications, those of Baker, the report by Ruppelt in 1956, the date of the event is given as being on August 15, 1950. However, Doctor Roy Craig says he found a first correspondence between Mariana and the project Blue Book which poses an uncertainty on the date. A letter dated January 9, 1953, from the Air Force base of Great Falls (later to become the famous Malmstrom AFB, a base which is mentioned regularly in this ufology site) to Project Blue Book, communicating the results of a new interrogation ordered by Ruppelt of the Project Blue Book, indicates:

The version of the incident by Mariana is the following: "August 5, or 15, 1950, as manager of the Selectrics, a local baseball team, I went in the stands of the local base ball park here in Great Falls, Montana. It was approximately 11:30am and my intent was to examine the direction of the wind in preparation for the game in the afternoon."

The later examination of the case by Blue Book, dated end 1956, gives the date as being the "on August 5 or 15, 1950." Doctor Craig determined by checking the files of the newspapers of Great Falls that there was no home game scheduled for August 15 and, that in fact, Mariana's team played that evening against the Twin Falls team (Idaho). Mrs. LaVern Kohl, of the Public Library of Great Falls, determined, at Doctor Craig's request, that the baseball team did not play home match between the 9 and the 18th of August 1950. The dating "August 15" is therefore certainly questionable.

However, Roy Craig did not care to ask any explanation about this from Nick Mariana.

Philip Klass attacked the case like this: he found a still photograph of a plane reflecting the sun and said that the aspect of this plane is similar to what is seen in the film and according to him this is enough to prove that the film shows planes. Should I really explain that comparing a still image and a movie does not make any sense here? The interesting characteristic of film is that the brightness of the objects flying has a constant appearance, which precisely would not be so if this brightness was caused by a reflection of the sun. In his discussion of the case, Philip Klass reveals himself incredibly unthoughtful and uninteresting. Compared to the analyses carried out by the true experts, his proposal is, to say the least, complete rubbish. The person in charge of the case investigation for the Condon report studied the reflectivity of planes moving and concluded exactly the contrary. Should It be concluded that Klass did not read the Condon Report?


The US Air Force lied at the start when they declared to the press that the film is too dark and that therefore nothing is visible. It is simply not too dark and something is visible, period. It is the reopening of the file by Ed Ruppelt within Project Blue Book's re-examination of old cases that revealed this shameless lie. It is essential to read the account by Ed Ruppelt presented in these pages to understand that this footage, like others, is on the contrary extremely interesting. In the same way, the history of the footage reveals the bad appreciation of the UFO phenomena by the scientific community in general - the attitude of those not studying UFOs, versus the conclusions of the very few scientists who actually do study the phenomenon.

The uncertainty of the date seems to rise in only 5 minutes of documentary research: all you need is to read the newspapers of that time, the first article is published on August 6 and mentions that the observation took place the day before. Two later articles of September 12 date the observation from the 15. Quite possibly, Mariana at the time of the reopening of the file by Project Blue Book did also not know any more if the date is the 5 or the 15 as printed in the later newspaper articles. This is not sufficient evidence that this uncertainty would indicate that the footage does not have the meaning that it has. The only consequence of this uncertainty is that it becomes somehow incomplete to discuss the presence or the absence of planes only on the 15, and that the assessment of what the objects were should be based only on footage analysis and the witness's report.

If Raunig told Roy Craig that she saw only one object, it does not imply that there was only one object, but that she saw only one of them. In any event, whatever the film shows, even if it is birds or planes, it is absolutely clear that there were two of them. It seems obvious that she arrived "running behind Mariana who was filming" towards the end of the observation. It is quite possible that she focused only on one of the two objects when they were already far away.

Mariana said that frames were cut off the footage by the US Air Force. The skeptics of course do not acknowledge a witness who complains that information was lost, they see a reason to consider that the witness is an inveterate liar. I have rather tried to find the missing frames, and you might be surprized at what you can discover in the video page. Maybe I have found evidence that the missing part does exist. The fragment I have there, if it is authentic, could be of very great importance. First, the objects seen in it are clearly not aircraft, and even more puzzling, there are four objects.

What is the meaning of this footage? For Captain Edward Ruppelt, head of USAF's Project Blue Book, the film shows two unidentified flying objects. They are not birds, they are not meteors, they are not aircraft, they are not clouds, they are not balloons. They are Unidentified Flying Objects. They qualify as "unknowns", which means in the Blue Book classification, that they are "true" UFOs. All experts that analyzed the video agree, except that they are not 100% sure that they were not aircraft. The Condon Report agrees. Moreover, the Condon Report's analysis adds that the discs are true elliptical shaped objects, disk shaped objects. More than 50 years later, the footage has kept its credibility, and that could not have been possible if it was faked or showing airplanes. It could be detected with today's technologies. Is it necessary here to recall that the Condon Report barely qualifies has a UFO promotion effort?

One needs to understand the line of reasoning of die hard skeptics:

Because there is no sound reason to personally attack the witness, skeptics need to attack the report.

If Mariana had just made an account of a visual observation, the skeptics would have stated that "there is no film or photo to support the witness's claims."

Because this film exists, the skeptics try to figure out a way to present it as "merely doubtful footage."

If we had at our disposal radar recordings radar confirming the unconventional nature of what flew there, the skeptics would say these radar echoes were "caused by temperature inversion."

Actually the only reason to remain careful is that the analyses do not completely exclude that the objects could have been aircraft. The analyses give many reason to think that they were not, but cannot establish it in an absolutely undeniable way.

Because a majority of scientists are unwilling to risk their reputation to attempt to state that there is something really non-conventional in UFO phenomenon and do not take an active part in real research projects, every opportunity to get a die-hard proof ends up into a mere uncertain circumstancial evidence. This leaves us with little choice. All we have is interesting information and clues out of which an intimate conviction can be established in one direction or the other.

The Mariana footage is useful because one can build up his opinion, because the four successive and independent true analyses leave almost no space for the only possible alternative explanation that the objects were two aircraft. But it does not qualify as proof in absolute rigor, because of the poor context of UFO research. While it is not an absolute proof that two non-terrestrial flying machines flew over Montana, it is allowed to say that the chances that it shows something else than that are extremely reduced and arguments to support such a negative conclusion are pathetically missing.


In addition to the references available from the table of content of this page, there are:

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This page was last updated on December 21, 2001.