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The 1954 French flap:

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October 14, 1954, Gap, Hautes-Alpes:

Reference for this case: 14-Oct-54-Gap.
Please cite this reference in any correspondence with me regarding this case.


The ufology bulletin Vaucluse Ufologie #18-19 of September 1980 reproduced an article from the regional newspaper Le Midi Libre published on October 16, 1954, which reported the passage of an Italian high-altitude balloon, often mistaken for a "flying saucer", in the sky of the Aveyron and Vaucluse departments on October 14 and 15, 1954.

After reporting that on October 14, 1954, around 5 p.m., workers of a construction site about 15 kilometers from Briançon had recovered the scientific devices from this balloon and had handed them over to the Gendarmerie, the balloon continued its journey towards Gap, in the evening.

In the 2010s, a German database of UFO sightings on the Web indicated that there was a "Nocturnal Light(s)" sighting on October 14, 1954, in Gap in France.

In 2019, an article on the website of the regional newspaper Le Dauphiné Libéré said little more about it, except that it was not a "saucer" as some people in the South-East of France believed, but a high-altitude Italian balloon, seen on October 14, 1954, in Gap, among other places.





Paris October 15 — The Saucer psychosis continues to develop, bringing more negative elements than positive details. And there is soon not a corner of France that cannot claim to have been flown over by some unknown machine, coming from who knows where.

Aveyron and Lozère have also known the "Saucers" since this morning.

In Rodez, it was at dawn that a mysterious craft which changed shapes and colors several times, could be spotted. It moved in this manner until the stroke of eleven o'clock, to disappear in the direction of the South.


We learned in the evening that it was a sounding balloon from the Italian Meteorological Services, from the MILAN Institute. This balloon with a diameter of 28 meters, would be likely to reach an altitude of 50,000 meters. It would include, in its nacelle, devices intended for the study of cosmic rays.


Thursday afternoon, a craft resembling a large star was seen successively in the Briançonnais sky, the Hte-Tarentaise, the valley of Albertville and the region of Chambery.

It was actually a sounding balloon from the Milan region.

Around 5 p.m., workers working on a construction site, about fifteen kilometers from Briançon, recovered the scientific devices from this balloon and handed them over to the Gendarmerie. As for the craft, it continued its route in the direction of Gap, in the evening.

In Avignon, the alert must have been hotter. Around 11 a.m., the secretary of the town hall of Fontaine—de-Vaucluse telephoned the Orange air base to report, among other things, a "Saucer", at the vertical of his town hall. The details were such that the leader of one of the squadrons telephoned the mayor of Fontaine.

The latter, not only confirmed the indications of his secretary, but specified that the Saucer remained motionless 400 meters vertically from the locality.

2 pilots who were taking off for a training flight flew over Fontaine de Vaucluse a few moments later without spotting the slightest Saucer.

In the evening, the Secretary of State for Air indicated that the two airmen from the Orange base, "experienced officers", had not observed any unknown craft during their research and that their report was formal.

It was, again, a sounding balloon, used by the Meteorological Services.

MIDI LIBRE for Saturday OCTOBER 16, 1954 — #3412 —


The Midi Libre articles reproduced here were sent to us by our friend Daniel Vidal. They illustrate in a precise manner the enormous work of archive research carried out by Daniel. An example to follow that should be taken up systematically in each region.



Sunday story: Flying saucer alert!

Every Sunday, the Dauphiné delves into its archives and makes you relive an event from the past. This weekend, back in 1954, when the South East saw aliens everywhere...

By Sylvaine ROMANAZ - August 11, 2019 at 06:05 - updated on Apr 18, 2020 at 11:07 - Reading time: 4 min

In public gardens, on café terraces, on sidewalks, thousands of motionless people staring up at the sky. On this October 14, 1954, alert in Grenoble: a flying saucer crosses the sky. No doubt for the most informed, the Martians are coming!

In the afternoon, the switchboard of the Dauphiné Libéré is overwhelmed by calls. And at 6 p.m., at the exit of the factories and offices, the crowd increases again in the streets. "But I'm telling you it's a weather balloon!" a passerby shouts. Wasted effort. Not one convinced witness.

Better still, the collective hallucination of the Grenoblois spreads. From Chambéry to Gap, from Fontaine-de-Vaucluse to Faucigny, same stories. "A large vertical cigar" for some, flaming red or green and gray, orange or shiny, an unidentified object travels the South-East.

In Fontaine de Vaucluse, the case is growing. This white disc which hovers above the city, here is something strange nevertheless... The witnesses who observe it with binoculars go there for their details: the disc is surmounted by a spherical cap, and looks like a silver bowler hat. And to describe in the Dauphiné Libéré, a "lower circular border which intermittently carries powerful lights, varying from white to purplish through red". The object begins to intrigue so much that around 2 p.m., two jet planes take off from Caritat air base. But the "saucer" goes too fast, and disappears in the sky ..

So, Martians or not Martians? The answer comes very down to earth... from the prefecture of the Isère. They receive a message from a Mr. Polvani, director of the Institute of Physics in Milan: "We are asking for assistance in identifying and recovering a stratospheric balloon loaded with scientific material, passed in France." The device is intended for studying cosmic rays. End of the craze? Not at all.

Because the scientists are offering a bonus of 20,000 francs to anyone who will help recover the balloon by calling "Odéon 99-17". What push everyone to scan the sky again and again. Moreover in Grenoble, on the airfield, specialists try to locate it and estimate its height when the object passes over their heads.

It is hard to miss, the ball is 28 meters in diameter and weighs 110 kilos. Being able to climb up to 33,000 m, it is however very difficult to chase...

The Grenoblois hardly look up that it is at Bourg-Saint-Maurice or Modane, then further in the Ubaye, that the gendarmes are alerted by citizens more or less frightened, more or less curious. And when everyone begins to agree with to the scientific explanation, blam, a second craft is seen simultaneously. This time the witnesses rather report a "ball of fire". But still no Martians. The Saint-Michel observatory near Digne is formal, that's a meteor. And for the first one, same certainty, it is a balloon.

Yet two appearances at the same time is too suspicious for many minds. So the tongues are loosened. And one cross-checks all the testimonies from the four corners of the country.

In the Dombes it is an insurance salesman who remembers having seen "a very short machine which descended slowly." In Moulins, it is a teacher and his class who saw in a field "a metallic-looking craft" with around it "three shapes which seemed to be the passengers of this apparatus." What do aliens look like? "An almost normal human trunk with two arms ending in a hook. A single leg ending in a spherical base". And the head? "Conical with three eyes in a triangle". As for the clothes, one of the children was very precise: they wore the same leather jacket as Louison Bobet! No need to ask us for the photo, this invasion has never been immortalized. Martians are not photogenic enough or too shy...

More timid in any case than the witnesses who throughout the 50's and 60's seem happy to be filmed or to be questioned by journalists to describe what they saw...

So many stories that snowballed to the point that the debate eventually reached the Assembly. Ignoring the scientific balloon (which continued its route in the Rhone valley, in particular above Crest then the Ardèche), the deputy of Ariège Mr. Dejean addressed a question to the President of the Council to know whether "a service was created in charge of gathering the existing documentation and studying the nature and origin of the said devices." Service that exists today.

The Geipan is very officially responsible for looking into unidentified aerospace phenomena. If during your Sunday walk the aliens say hi to you, you can contact them. Be careful though. In October 1954, workers at a construction site near Naples said loud and clear: seeing a saucer could be dangerous. The Pekingese dog who was with them at the time of the apparition looked at the saucer, barked... and fell dead.

[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
19541014 14.10.1954 Gap France NL



Most likely the high altitude balloon of the University of Padua. See also Raymond Veillith's note in 1968 on this matter.

The picture of this balloon by the observatory of Haute-Provence:


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

Gap, Hautes-Alpes, night, luminous


[----] indicates sources that are not yet available to me.

Document history:

Version: Created/Changed by: Date: Change Description:
1.0 Patrick Gross February 8, 2021 First published.
1.1 Patrick Gross March 17, 2021 Addition [lde2]. In the Summary, addition of the paragraph "In 2019..." Explanations changed, were "Totally insufficient information."
1.2 Patrick Gross May 14, 2022 Addition [vue1].

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This page was last updated on May 14, 2022.