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Tremonton, Utah, UFO Color Film of July 2, 1952:

When a Warrant Officer and Navy photographer named Delbert C. Newhouse and his wife were driving along a road seven miles from Tremonton and spotted a formation of brilliant metallic looking disc shaped objects, clear against a bright blue sky, you have an interesting sighting report by a qualified, reliable and educated observer.

When this Officer has the chance to use a 16mm camera and telephoto lens to shoot forty feet of film of the objects maneuvering, and submits it to Project Bluebook for evaluation, and when it is studied for three months at the Photo Reconnaissance Laboratory of the Air Force Intelligence, and when the conclusion convince the head of project Bluebook that it does show unearthly flying machines, you have more than a good sighting report.

When the Bluebook team feels it is evidence of the reality of UFOs as extraterrestrial craft, and feels a scientific team should be gathered to look at the evidence, you may hope that this evidence will be made public. But if this scientific panel is set up by the CIA, then the film becomes merely evidence of... birds.

Here is the fully documented story.

Table of Contents:

Click! The events: the sighting, the filming, the witness, the analysis, a discussion (This page)
Click! The transcript of 1956 filmed interview of the witness.
Click! The original account by Captain Edward J. Ruppelt of USAF's Project Blue Book.
Click! The Kevin Randle comments.
Click! The case as summarized by the French government GEPAN official UFO project in Note N.2.
Click! Analysis by the Air Force published by Greene-Rouse.
Click! Presentation by analyst Robert L. Baker at the hearings of the Committee on Science & Astronautics, 1968.
Click! The Robertson Panel conclusion.
Click! Thornton Page, Robertson Panel, additional comments.
Click! The Condon Report, case 49.
Click! November 27, 1957 letter to Keyhoe from AF Press Desk.
Click! A letter by Pr. James McDonald, May 4, 1970, to Arthur C. Lundahl.
Click! Extract of "Unconventional Flying Objects: A Scientific Analysis," by Paul R. Hill.
Click! Article: "Tremonton's bright, silvery saucers stand up as one of top-rated UFO sightings."
Click! Deseret News, 1996 press article.
Click! Frames from the film.
Click! MPEG movie of the film.
Click! References.

Frame from a compressed video version of the film.

The sighting:

On July 2, 1952, at 11:00 am, on a bright, clear morning, Warrant Officer Delbert C. Newhouse, accompanied by his wife and two children aged 12 and 14, was driving along the open highway a half dozen miles from Tremonton, in Northern Utah. Shortly thereafter he testified to his Navy superiors:

" wife noticed a group of objects in the sky that she could not identify. She asked me to stop the car and look. There was a group of about ten or twelve objects - that bore no relation to anything I had seen before - milling about in a rough formation and proceeding in a westerly direction. I opened the luggage compartment of the car and got my camera out of the suitcase. Loading it hurriedly, I exposed approximately thirty feet of film. There was no reference point in the sky and it was impossible for me to make any estimate of speed, size, altitude or distance. Toward the end one of the objects reversed course and proceeded away from the main group. I held the camera still and allowed the single one to cross the field of view, picking it up again and repeating for three or four passes. By this time all of the objects had disappeared."

He also wrote to Project Blue Book, an Air Intelligence Officer then interviewed Newhouse and learned that at relatively close range, before Newhouse could start filming, the UFOs appeared flat and circular:

"shaped like two saucers, one inverted on top of the other."

The witness explained to the Intelligence Officer that he had heard no sounds, seen no exhaust or wake effects emanating from the objects. Before, during, nor after did planes, birds, balloons, or other recognizable phenomena appear in the unidentified aerial objects viewing area. He restated that the one unknown which took off on its own pursued a course opposite to its original one and to the flight path maintained by the remainder of the group. Newhouse was convinced the light from the objects resulted from reflection and that they were as long as they were wide and thin (i.e disk shaped.)

The witness:

Delbert C. Newhouse, at the time of his sighting, had been graduated from the naval photographic school, and was a veteran with nineteen years' service as a warrant officer, logging more than a thousand hours on aerial photography missions, and twenty two hundred [2200] as chief photographer.

He was considered particularly reliable and a qualified observer. He had no implication in UFO research before his experience, and made a sensible report, noting for example that evaluation of distances was impossible from the film because no reference point could be filmed together with the objects.

The film:

The equipment Newhouse employed in the motion picture of the flight of the UFOs against the deep blue morning sky was a professional Bell and Howell 16 mm. Filmo Auto Loadmaster camera with a three-lens turret on which he fortunately had time to pivot the turret mount to the three-inch f.1 telephoto lens. He used two Kodachrome Daylight and the camera was hand-held during the f/8 and f/16 exposure times. It was set at 16 images per second.

At relatively close range, UFOs appeared flat and circular "shaped like two saucers, one inverted on top of the other." Mr. Newhouse had to unpack his Bell and Howell Automaster camera from a case in the trunk of his car, then unpack a film cartridge from another case in the trunk of his car, and then only he could start to film as the objects were already far away. He stated in 1956: "When I first saw them they were nearly overhead, but by the time I got the camera ready they had moved to a considerably greater distance." During the filming, he had to change the film, as he ran out of film, he then changed the iris stop of the camera from f/8 to f/16 because he was afraid that the whole film may be overexposed.

He stated in a 1956 interview by the Air Force: "Toward the end, one of the objects reversed its course and proceeded away from the rest of the group. I held the camera still and allowed this single object to pass through the field of view, picking it up again later in its course." He explained that the isolated object did not join the group again and that "I turned, swinging the camera just in time to see the rest of the group disappear over the western horizon."

He added: "I've studied the film and I'm very disappointed. The film falls far short of what I saw with the naked eye - due to the delay in getting the camera going and to my error in exposure. - If I had had that camera on the seat beside me, loaded and ready to go, there wouldn't be any need for questions. The Air Force would have the answer." And: "They were a bright silvery color" and finally: They had a metallic appearance. They seemed to be made of some kind of polished metal."

According to Newhouse, the 10 to 20 first feet of the movie showing the UFOs at closer range were missing when a low quality copy of the films was returned to him. He never received his original films back. The two films had originally about 1600 frames, the remaining version only has 1200 frames, totaling 90 seconds. Newhouse did not make a big fuss about this, but explained later with bitterness that it never occurred to him that he would not receive his films back, and that if he had suspected that he would only have sent a copy. (Of course, if the Condon commission had analyzed the complete film instead of a shortened copy, they would have reached the same conclusion than the previous Navy and Air Force analysis: the objects are not seagulls.)

The claim that the film was returned incomplete are exactly reminding of the same claim by Nick Mariana, witness of a very similar visual and filmed observation in Montana in 1950, and the accounts by witnesses claiming the Air Force does not return photographs and films are numerous.

In April 1954, the Cleveland Press, a Scripps-Howard paper, was asking authorities at ATIC for permission to see the Tremonton, Utah film, because there were other numerous consecutive sightings by US Marines that created UFO interest in the press again at this time. The Pentagon dragged its feet, but finally agreed to let a journalist see it at Dayton. By the time the reporter was ready to make the trip, ATIC told him that their only copy had just burned up. No worry, said ATIC, as there was a master copy at the Pentagon. When the reporter spoke with an Air Force spokesman at the Pentagon, he was told, "we have no copy here, but we believe there is one at Dayton." The reporter gave up. The Press ran a January 6 headline, "Brass Curtain Hides Flying Saucers."

The analysis:

The film was taken seriously by both the U.S. Air Force and the Navy. The Air Force and the Navy were convinced enough about Newhouse's credibility to spend considerable time and money on the analyses and to classify this film as "Top Secret".

The Air Force conducted a first analysis at the Wright Field (home of ATIC, the Air Intelligence, and home of project Blue Book.) The analysis concluded that the objects were not balloons or aircraft, and most unlikely to be birds. Captain Ed Ruppelt, head of Blue Book, and Major Dewey Fournet, liaison officer between Blue Book and the Pentagon, were convinced enough by the analysis to decide that the film, together with the Nick Mariana filming and other evidence, should be presented before a panel of scientists so that they examine their collection of best evidence that there are real UFOs that are not trivial phenomenon.

The USN Photo Interpretation Laboratory at the Navy's Anacostia facilities performed a second analysis, as the Air Force asked them for a second opinion, This team had expended approximately 1000 man hours of professional and sub-professional time in the preparation of graph plots of individual frames of the film, showing apparent and relative motion of objects and variation in their light intensity.

Because the analysts noted the complete absence of any evidence to indicate birds, such as fluttering, birds were the first and easiest discarded explanation. There was almost a complete consensus that birds could not be the explanation; it was so untenable that the analysis concentrated on reasonable other possible causes such as balloon or aircraft.

It was the opinion of the P.I.L. representatives that the objects sighted were not birds, balloons or aircraft, were "not reflections because there was no blinking while passing through 60 degrees of arc" and were, therefore, "self-luminous." Plots of motion and variation in light intensity of the objects were displayed.

It should be emphasized that neither of the two analysis remotely suggested that the objects photographed were birds of any type. Contrary, there was almost a complete consensus that such a deduction was untenable.

The Robertson Panel:

Blue Book asked that a first evaluation panel composed of qualified scientists looked at their best evidence, before they would have a larger and official public panel look at it. The CIA took charge of the organization of this Panel, lead by scientist H.P. Robertson, chosen by the CIA. The panel studied the film, ATIC's interpretation, and received a briefing by representatives of the USN Photo Interpretation Laboratory on their analysis of the film.

While the Panel Members were impressed by the evident enthusiasm, industry and extent of effort of the P.I.L. team, they started to look for flaws and loophole in the unspoken conclusion that the film was evidence of extra-terrestrial aircraft.

The astronomer of the panel found that an incorrect procedure was used by the Navy in their densitometer use. It was decided that the Navy will rerun the tests, but this has never been done and it is still impossible to know if this erroneous procedure would have affected the results, and if it would have affected them in reinforcing or weakening the extraterrestrial explanation.

Dr. Thornton Page, another member of this panel, said the objects looked like seagulls. Ignoring the two analysis and the witness description of flying saucers when the were closer and before he could start filming. His argument was simply that he saw seagulls were he lives, and that it was a similar sight than the images on the film. It became the conclusion of the Panel.

Finally the panel explained to Ruppelt that Blue Book should receive more support and increase its activities, and that all reports, analysis, films, photograph should be accessible to the public. However, in the written document of the proceedings of the panel, it was recommended that the public should be "educated" so that it looses any interest in the UFOs, and when Ruppelt wanted to give a copy of the film to the Press, it was absolutely vetoed by the Pentagon. Soon afterwards, Ruppelt left Project Blue Book.

The analysis by Robert L. Baker, Jr:

The report of Photogrammetric analysis by Dr. Robert M.L. Baker, Jr., Douglas Aircraft Corporation (which included a study of the 1950 Montana film) examined the possibility of seagulls. He states: "The motion of the objects is not exactly what one would expect from a flock of soaring birds (not the slightest indication of a decrease in brightness due to periodic turning with the wind or flapping)." Dr. Baker reports that no definite conclusion could be reached, but "the evidence remains rather contradictory and no single hypothesis of a natural phenomenon yet suggested seems to completely account for the UFO involved."

The Condon Report:

The Condon Report devotes nine pages to the case. It points out that Menzel's opinion that the film show birds because of its poor quality is erroneous. But the comments by Hartmann are also at odds with the facts, ignoring the witness visual report of flying saucer, ignoring several important points such as the presence of a telephoto lens on the camera, and trying to extend all numbers so that they become compatible with the seagulls hypothesis.

Interestingly, I have the proof that at the time of the Condon studies, the image analysis were secretly conducted at the NPIC service of the CIA. Whereas Condon claimed that "all guarantees" exist that the Condon studies will be independant from any military influence, NPIC was secretly contributing to the Condon studies.

The Condon report does not conduct any new analysis, the investigator did not care to interview the witness, or to show the film to an ornithologist. It ignored what the U.S. Naval Photographic Interpretation Center found, in brief, that the unknowns are "a light source rather than reflected light," (Condon, p.423) and that no species of bird could be responsible for the glow inherent in the objects. Added to these determinations they estimated the speed of the objects to be within a range depending of the possible distances, indicating that any possible speed is above the possible speed of birds. The Condon Report investigator estimated that if the object were at 2000 feet, they would fly between 20 and 95 miles an hour, and thus be birds. The telepho lens is forgotten, the witness account is discarded, the fact that the manoeuvers of the objects would require resolvable wing flapping was ignored, and again, the investigator concluded that the objects are birds because he drove to Tremonton and watched birds and found that they look similar to the UFOs on the film.

In short, the conclusion of the Condon Report should have been:

Possible supersonic luminous seagulls ... Birds highly improbable and at odds with the witness reports.

Additions and discussion:

What the skeptics say:

In his book "The UFO Mystery Solved," 1994 Explicit Books, at the chapter "Mirages: Can Mirages Explain UFO Reports?", Steuart Campbell wrote:

"Aircraft headlights are a typical source of mirages. In May 1996, BBC Scotland showed me a video of mysterious lights seen over Inverness a few months earlier. It turned out that they were multiple mirages of the lights of a Nimrod aircraft which regularly trains from RAF Kinloss [Kinross, of course] on the Moray Firth. (...) It (mirages) also explains the many lights filmed over Tremonton (Utah) in 1952. In that case, there is evidence of several inversions, one on top of the other."

"In Conclusion: Not only are mirages an 'alternative to the ETH', they explain reports which are otherwise inexplicable, especially the core reports which remain when all other reports have found an explanation. The result is that no UFO report remains unexplained and there is no mysterious phenomenon behind the reports. Furthermore UFO reports have nothing to do with extraterrestrial intelligence."

This is a typical example of debunking gibberish. (For example, aircraft lights are not and do not cause mirages, they cause illusions.) There is no mention of the previous analysis, no interrogation of the witness, no respect to the weather data, no quantitative assessments. There is an invention of "evidence of several inversions" that never existed. There is a complete ignorance that other skeptics explained the film with the seagull hypothesis and that no analyst at any time considered mirages as a believable explanation for the Tremonton objects. Not even Menzel has opted for temperature inversions or sundogs in this case.

A short word about the Robertson Panel consequences:

After the Panel, ignoring these concurring summations, a decade later the Air Force thought public amnesia sufficiently advanced and issued an uncirculated press release, caustically titled: "Ode to Classic-Seagulls." It attempted to persuade the tiny handful of people who would ever see the material that Warrant Officer Newhouse - with more than a thousand hours in military aerial photography - had filmed a flight of birds, and not known it.

The question of the Newhouse, as well as the Mariana, photography has been evaluated by numerous groups, the majority of which have eliminated all probability of misidentification of balloons, aircraft, birds, clouds, radar foil, ice particles, and just about anything else tangible found in the air. There are advantages to having captured your sighting on "celluloid." Nonetheless, most official groups continued to have demanded of them some sort of conclusion. The pressure resulted in various of them persisting in the suggestion that Newhouse, a professional observer if ever one could be found, didn't know what he was seeing. This he concedes, but, additionally, they strain the impression of disbelief to the extreme when they assert that he and his family didn't know what they were NOT seeing.

My opinion statement - for what it is worth:

The film itself is not a "proof" of anything else than this:

The witness and his wife said they saw disk shaped object that are not birds or anything trivial.

The witness tried to film it. The film did not turn up good enough to absolutely prove or disprove his visual observation, but adds considerable weight to his visual observation report.

My opinion is: 90% convinced that Newhouse saw flying machines of extra-terrestrial origin, 2% convinced that they can be seagulls as he may have lied about the visual observation, 2% convinced that he knowingly filmed seagulls with the intention to claim that they are UFOs, 6% unsure about the nature of the case.

To understand how I formed my opinion, you need to read not only the above paragraphs, but all the set of documents in the table of content at the top of this page.


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This page was last updated on November 30, 2003.