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The 1954 French flap:

The index page for the 1954 French flap section of this website is here.

November 4, 1954, Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône:

Reference number for this case: 4-Nov-54-Marseille. Thank you for including this reference number in any correspondence with me regarding this case.

Summary:

From July 3, 1955, and for the next days, numerous newspapers in the United states mainly, published a photograph showing lenticular clouds, titled "unusual cloud formation."

The captions explained that the picture was just released by the U.S. Navy via the Associated Press, and that the Navy said it was taken over the city of Marseilles in France, on November 4, 1954:

The Navy said it shows an "unusual cloud formation"- which it obviously shows - and gave no indication as to why they released the photo nor any information as in why they considered its release pertinent. "Perhaps the Navy has been reading about flying saucers", the Press commented.

(This version of the image is from the photo archive of the Texas University, Rec. Nr. JA000689).

There were apparently publications of the picture in a few UFO sensationalist works such M. K. Jessup's "The UFO Annual", and in the 2010's, it appeared in a "UFO sightings database" with just the location Marseille and the date.

Reports:

[Ref. tsn1:] "THE SUNDAY NEWS" NEWSPAPER:

"CLOUD FORMATION OVER MARSEILLES"... The United States Navy today released this photograph which they say shows an "unusual cloud formation over the city of Marseilles, France." The photograph was made on November 4, 1954. The Navy gave no indication as to why they released the photo today nor any information as in why they considered its release pertinent. Perhaps the Navy has been reading about flying saucers. (U.S. Navy Photo via AP Wirephoto)

[Ref. tps1:] "THE POST-STANDARD" NEWSPAPER:

"CLOUD FORMATION OVER MARSEILLES" -- The United States Navy yesterday released this photograph which they say shows an "unusual cloud formation over the city of Marseilles, France." The photograph was made on Nov. 4, 1954. The Navy gave no indication as to why they released the photo. Perhaps the Navy has been reading about flying saucers. (U.S. Navy Photo via AP Wirephoto)

[Ref. osl1:] "THE ORLANDO SENTINEL" NEWSPAPER:

FLYING SAUCERS?

The U.S. Navy, perhaps after reading of flying saucers, released this photo described as an "unusual cloud formation over the city of Marseilles, France." The Navy gave no reason for release of the picture, taken Nov. 4, 1954, nor did they say why the picture was considered pertinent. (AP Wirephoto)

[Ref. jen1:] JAMES EASTON:

Ufologist James Easton wrote in 2000 that the US Navy published a photograph showing "a strange cloudy formation" above "the town of Marseille", a photograph which had been taken on November 4, 1954. The US Navy does not give any additional information on this photograph and does not say either if they disregard it or if they have any interest in it.

The photograph is poor bad quality because it is a scanned Xerox but one can indeed see a circular shape.

James Easton adds that many observations were reported in October and November 1954 as well as the previous and following years in France and that he plans to publish on Internet all these many observations "one more incredible than the other."

The post was accompanied with an Internet link to the scanned picture mentioned in the post but as of June 2004 the picture is not available at this address.

[Ref. jbs1:] VICENTE-JUAN BALLESTER-OLMOS, "FOTOCAT 1954":

(80)

DATE: 4 November 1954
LOCATION: Marseille (France)
FORMAT: Picture
PHOTOGRAPHER: An unnamed US Navy marine

EXPLANATION: Lenticular clouds

REFERENCES: The New York Times, July 3, 1955. M. K. Jessup, The UFO Annual (The Citadel Press, 1956), plate. Look (special issue on Flying Saucers), 1967, pages 28-29.

REMARKS: There are sources placing the case as 3 July 1950 or 7 June 1954.

[Ref. uda1:] "UFODNA" WEBSITE:

The website indicates there was a sighting in Marseille, France, on 4 November 1954.

The source is indicated as Keyhoe, Donald E., Flying Saucer Conspiracy, Holt, New York, 1955.

[Ref. jbs2:] JUAN-VICENTE BALLESTER-OLMOS:

This Spanish ufologist launched a project of a catalogue of French UFO photographic cases. This cases appears in his table as:

Date 11.04.1954
Approx
Evening
Clouds,lenticular
OK
Marseille, Bouches-du-Rhône (France)
Nation FRA
13
Film PHOTO
US Navy
Media
Media
Duration
Book
The New York Times, July 3, 1955. Donald Keyhoe, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, Henry Holt, 1955, pp 275-276. M.K. Jessup, The UFO Annual, The Citadel Press, 1956, plate. Look (special FS issue), 1967, pp 28-29.
November 4, 1954

[Ref. ubk1:] "UFO-DATENBANK":

Case Nr. New case Nr. Investigator Date of observation Zip Place of observation Country of observation Hour of observation Classification Comments Identification
19541104 04.11.1954 Marseille France
19541104 04.11.1954 Marseille France

Explanations:

Non-event.

I want to note that the July 3, 1955 Press articles I provide here are only a tiny fraction of the publication of the image and the story in the Press. The item was also published, for example, in:

I should be quite obvious, given the content of this publication, that this was never a flying saucer sighting or photograph. It was just the usual piece of "entertainment" about lenticular clouds that look like "flying saucers". In the next decades, more and more often, pictures of lenticular clouds would be used in the media as if people mistakenly mistook those for flying saucers or UFO...

Keywords:

(These keywords are only to help queries and are not implying anything.)

Marseille, Bouches du Rhône, US Navy, photograph, clouds, cloud, disc, disk

Sources:

[----] indicates sources which I have not yet checked.

Document history:

Version: Created/Changed by: Date: Change Description:
0.1 Patrick Gross August 10, 2004 First published.
1.0 Patrick Gross January 18, 2009 Conversion from HTML to XHTML Strict. First formal version. Addition [uda1].
1.1 Patrick Gross July 8, 2013 Addition [jbs2].
1.2 Patrick Gross February 2, 2017 Addition [ubk1].
1.3 Patrick Gross November 14, 2019 Additions [tsn1], [tps1], [osl1], Summary. Explanations changed, were "Nor looked for yet. Insufficient data."

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This page was last updated on November 14, 2019.