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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.
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 Condon report and the Remonton film:

Here is the full text of the Condon report section dealing with the Tremonton film, "Case 49: Tremonton, Utah - Movie Film". I have interrupted the text to include my comments.

Case 49
Tremonton, Utah
2 July 1952 (Wednesday)

Investigator: Hartmann


Witness I accompanied by his wife (Witness II) and their two children saw and made motion pictures of a "rough formation" of apparent point sources "milling around the sky." The visual observations and film are not satisfactorily explained in terms of aircraft, radar chaff, or insects, or balloons though the films alone are consistent with birds. Observations of birds near Tremonton indicate that the objects are birds, and the case cannot be said to establish the existence of extraordinary aircraft.

The abstract totally ignores the essential point: Newhouse started to film when the objects were already distant. At the beginning of the sighting, he saw the object at a much closer range and described them as disc shaped, insisting that if he could have filmed them at this time, there would be no doubt left that they were flying saucers and not birds. Unfortunately Hartmann did not care to speak to the witness.


Time: About 11:10 MST ("MST" appears in early AF documents, ref 4).

Location: Seven miles north of Tremonton, northern Utah (41░50'N; 112░10'W)

Camera Data: 16mm Bell and Howell Automaster; magazine load; 3 in. f.l. telephoto lens on turret mount; f/8 and f/16; Kodachrome Daylight film; hand held; 16 f.p.s.

Direction of sighting: First seen in east, moved out of sight to west.

Weather conditions: Cloudless deep blue sky. Sun at altitude 64.5░, azimuth 131░ (Naval Observatory - ref 4).

Weather data from Corinne, Utah, about 18 miles south of the site, were obtained by Baker (1): Max. temp: 84░. Min. temp. 47░. No precipitation. A high pressure cell from the Pacific Northwest was spreading over northern Utah during the day. "The pressure at Tremonton would have a rising trend, the visibility good, and the winds relatively light."

Witness I, with his wife and two children (ages 12, 14) were en route from Washington D.C. to Portland, Ore., driving north on State Highway 30 seven miles north of Tremonton (l,4a; refs. 2 and 3 incorrectly state the witness was in transit to Oakland, Calif.) The witness's wife called his attention to a group of "bright shining objects in the air off towards the eastward horizon" (1).


Approximately five weeks after the events, Witness I sent the following account to Project Blue Book (11 August; NT4-28/8310/177283; ref. 4a):

Driving from Washington, D.C. to Portland, Ore., on the morning of 2 July my 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 a 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 this single one to cross the field of view, picking it up again and repeating for three or four such passes. By this time all of the objects had disappeared. I expended the balance of the film late that afternoon on a mountain somewhere in Idaho (See Plate 31).

This letter serves as the principal descriptive document in the Air Force file (4). According to a chronology by Col. W.A. Adams, Chief, Topical Division, Deputy Director for Estimates, Directorate of Intelligence, in a letter dated 8 Sept., 1952 (4), the next contact with Witness I was an intelligence officer's interview on 10 Sept., 1952.

In this second deposition, as recorded by the Air Force Intelligence officer, the witness establishes the following facts: "No sound heard during observation. No exhaust trails or contrails observed. No aircraft, birds, balloons, or other identifiable objects seen in air immediately before, during, or immediately after observation. Single object which detached itself from group did head in direction opposite original course and disappeared from view while still travelling in this direction.

We have here a remain of the witness indications: "No aircraft, birds, balloons,..." means that for the witness, the objects were of course not possibly be birds.

The witness used a "camera [without tripod] pointed at estimated 70░ elevation and [panned] arc from approximately due east to due west, then from due west to approximately 60░ from north in photographing detached object...

"Sun was approximately overhead. Objects were at approximately 70░ above terrain on a course several miles from the observer... Bright sunlight, clear, approximately 80░, slight breeze from east northeast approximately 3 to 5 m.p.h.

[In the witness's] opinion: ...Light from objects caused by reflection. Objects appeared approximately as long as they were wide and thin [sic]. [All of them] appeared to have same type of motion except for one object which reversed its course. Disappeared from view by moving out of range of eyesight... Observer facing north [during bulk of observation]."

"as long as they were wide and thin [sic]" is a description of a disk shaped object. There is no reason fot the addition of "[sic]" here.

The key witness had been in the Navy 19 years with service as a warrant officer and had over 1,000 hours on aerial photography missions (4b) . Baker states the witness had 2,200 hours logged as chief photographer. The witness graduated from naval photographic school in 1935 (4b). He "does considerable ground photography" and "it is believed [he] could be classified as an expert photographer" (4b). Intrigued by his experience, the witness later accepted an "appointment as special Adviser to NICAP," acting in a private capacity (4, quoted from NICAP's "The UFO Investigator").

We do have an irreproachable witness, and a suggestion that he would be a "UFO fanatic" which may please the skeptics. Actually, it is indeed well after the case that Newhouse had contacts with NICAP, for two very simple reasons: first, his own experience convinced him of the reality of the UFOS, and secondly, his name became well known after his filming amon his US Navy colleagues, so some of them privately told him about their own UFO experiences, knowing that he would certainly not ridicule them. This was of course of high interest for NICAP, which is why NICAP approached him - and not the other way round.


In 1955 R.M.L. Baker's analysis of the case, (1) gives substantially the same account, with the additional information: "When he got out, he observed the objects (twelve to fourteen of them) to be directly overhead and milling about. He described them as 'gun metal colored objects shaped like two saucers, one inverted on top of the other.' He estimated that they subtended 'about the same angle as B29's at 10,000 ft.' (about half a degree i.e. about the angular diameter of the moon)."

The saucer shape and closeness was part of the witness account in second deposition, as recorded by the Air Force Intelligence officer already in 1952 and not a new fact of 1955 as the above paragraph may indirectly suggest.

This data is a substantial addition to that recorded above. I have been unable to find any record of these statements in the Blue Book file supplied to the Colorado project (an inch-thick stack of nearly unsorted documents). The essence of Witness B's early depostions describes entities or "objects," apparently reflecting, bright, circular or spherical, at considerable distance. The indication of both his testimony and the film that he photographed captured (unresolved) objects nearly overhead, including one that retraced its motion above him, giving no suggestion that the objects could ever have been as large as half a degree even at close approach, or that Witness I ever clearly saw metallic construction saucer-shaped profiles. The witness's original letter of 11 August offers the film "for whatever value it may have in connection with your investigation of the so-called 'Flying Saucers' ", a phrasing which does not suggest he was convinced of the existence of extraordinary metallic craft at that time. Baker (private communication, 31 May 1968) indicates that the description in question was given in interviews about 1955. His memory may have become "set" by this time, or affected by events such as the witness's service as a NICAP advisor in the interim.

The direct suggestion of an addition, intended to be understood as an invention by the reader of the Condon report, is erroneous. The reader may refer to the book by Captain Ed Ruppelt, head of project Blue book for reference. Newhouse did describe the saucer shaped object and did explain that they were closer, and could only be filmed once they were already farther.

The sentence "for whatever value it may have in your investigation of the so-called flying saucer" is interpreted as "I know it has no value and saucers are a myth" when actually the constant notion of such statments in many witnesses reports rather means "I know you are not really interested in an objective evaluation but only pretending to study the flying saucers."

The whole paragraph is intended to suggest that the witness did not believe that he filmed flying saucers. First, it is a silly idea because it implies that the witness had filmed birds and sent the film to the Air Force knowing they were birds and trying to make the Air Force believe they are flying saucers, including having the four members of his family backing up the story. Second, it is very clear from sources such as Ed Ruppelt, head of Project Blue Book, that he had on the contrary no doubt that he filmed flying saucers and not birds.

The number one problem here is that neither Robert L. Baker not Hartmann even considered to contact the witness or Ed Ruppelt themselves.

The film contains about 1200 frames (1), i.e. about 75 sec. After roughly 20 or 25 sec., the Witness decided he was somewhat overexposing the film, and changed the stop from f/8 to f/16, trying to increase contrast (4a). The objects were milling around, often in groups of two or three travelling together among the others. The films indicate that the objects fluctuated markedly in brightness.

The witness had the film processed and submitted it to his Navy superiors (1). The letter from the witness to Hill Air Force Base, Ogden, Utah, 11 Aug. 1952, transmits the film to the Air Force (4c). The Air Force ATIC Blue Book team was advised, and the variability of the objects suggested airplanes, but this idea was ruled out because the witnesses heard no engine noise, and a large distance would have indicated impossible speed (10 mi. indicated 1300 mph - ref 1). Balloons were rejected due to the large number of objects, the random milling, and the departure of one object in opposite direction from the others.

"Impossible speed" is only an acceptable expression if one considers that UFOs do not exist and all other UFO reports and evidence are erroneous. Otherwise, the speed becomes "Impossible speed for terrestrial aircrafts and natural phenomenon."

A favorite hypothesis was birds, but there was no strong evidence in its favor, and it was believed the objects were too far away (hence too fast).

Birds were not the "favorite" hypothesis, they were the hypothesis that was the easiest to dismiss, and the first to be dismissed.

Ruppelt (2) reports that after several weeks, "the Air Force photo lab at Wright Field gave up. All they had to say was, 'We don't know what they are but they aren't airplanes or balloons, and we don't think they are birds.'" Baker (1) quotes Mr. Al Chop (who was with ATIC) confirming Ruppelt's account: the ATIC group was convinced they were not airplanes, but could not rule out that the camera might have been slightly out of focus and that the objects were soaring birds.

When Ruppelt wrote "gave up," he means that the Air Force lab did not find any reason to evaluate the objects as something known.

As for Al Chop's opinion,

The films were then forwarded at the request of the Navy to a group of Navy photo analysts at Anacostia, who had some ideas about how to study the films. The Navy group concluded that the UFOs were intelligently controlled vehicles and that they weren't airplanes or birds. They arrived at this conclusion by making a frame-by-frame study of the motion of the lights and the changes in the lights' intensity. The analysts stopped short of identifying the objects as interplanetary space craft (2) although this implication was evidently present.

They were not forwarded to the Navy by Navy request but by Air Force request. The Air Force wanted a second, independant opinion, with different investigation methods.

Indeed the implication that the objects were extra-terrestrial was present; evidently, no one among the Navy analysts was ready to confront the ridiculisation of the subject by uttering it. But for Fournet and Ruppelt of Bluebook, they were, and they were considered as evidence of extraterrestrial flying devices when they asked that a panel of scientists - the Robertson Panel set up by the CIA - should be gathered to look at the evidence.

These conclusions were presented to the Robertson panel, which was meeting at this time (early 1953). Ruppelt reports (2) that there was some criticism of the Navy analysts' use of the densitometer, and that one of the panel members raised the possibility that while the key witness "thought he had held the camera steady... he could have 'panned with the action' unconsciously, which would throw all of the computations way off. I agreed with this, but I couldn't agree that they were sea gulls." The panel members' favored explanation of what was seen was white gulls which are known to inhabit the Great Salt Lake area. Ruppelt (2) concludes that he personally watched sea gulls later in San Francisco, circling in a clear sky. "There was a strong resemblance to the UFO's in the Tremonton movie. But I'm not sure that this is the answer."

We are lead to believe that the Robertson Panel met coincidentally at this time, when in fact it was organized by the CIA because Blue Book wanted scientists to look at their best evidence of the presence of extraterrestrial flying machines in our planet's atmosphere.

The Condon report fails to quote the rest of Ed Ruppelt's book. Here it is:

(The full text is here.)

The Tremonton Movie had been rejected as proof but the panel did leave the door open a crack when they suggested that the Navy photo lab redo their study. But the Navy lab never rechecked their report, and it was over a year later before new data came to light.

"After I got out of the Air Force I met Newhouse and talked to him for two hours. I've talked to many people who have reported UFO's, but few impressed me as much as Newhouse. I learned that when he and his family first saw the UFO's they were close to the car, much closer than when he took the movie. To use Newhouse's own words, "If they had been the size of a B-29 they would have been at 10,000 feet altitude." And the Navy man and his family had taken a good look at the objects - they looked like "two pie pans, one inverted on the top of the other!" He didn't just think the UFO's were disk shaped; he knew that they were; he had plainly seen them. I asked him why he hadn't told this to the intelligence officer who interrogated him. He said that he had. Then I remembered that I'd sent the intelligence officer a list of questions I wanted Newhouse to answer. The question "What did the UFO's look like?" wasn't one of them because when you have a picture of something you don't normally ask what it looks like. Why the intelligence officer didn't pass this information on to us I'll never know."

"About this time in the history of the UFO the first of a series of snags came up. The scientists had strongly recommended that we hold nothing back - give the public everything. Accordingly, when the press got wind of the Tremonton Movie, which up until this time had been a closely guarded secret, I agreed to release it for the newsmen to see. I wrote a press release which was O.K.'d by General Garland, then the chief of ATIC, and sent it to the Pentagon. It told what the panel had said about the movies, "until proved otherwise there is no reason why the UFO's couldn't have been sea gulls." Then the release went on to say that we weren't sure exactly what the UFO's were, the sea gull theory was only an opinion. When the Pentagon got the draft of the release they screamed, "No!" No movie for the press and no press release. The sea gull theory was too weak, and we had a new publicity policy as of now - don't say anything."

"This policy, incidentally, is still in effect. The January 7, 1955, issue of the Air Force Information Services Letter said, in essence, people in the Air Force are talking too much about UFO's - shut up. The old theory that if you ignore them they'll go away is again being followed."

R.M.L. Baker, Jr. made an independent analysis in 1955 under the auspices of Douglas Aircraft Co. He ruled out airplanes and balloons for reasons similar to those of the Air Force. In addition he argues against anti-radar chaff (bits of aluminum foil) or bits of airborne debris because of the persistence of non-twinkling "constellations," the small number of objects, and the differential motions. Soaring insects, such as "ballooning spiders" are unsatisfying as an explanation, as the objects were observed a short time from a moving car, indicating a considerable distance, and there were no observed web streamers.

Strangely Hartmann does not seem to be worried that Douglas Aircraft Co has one of its top researcher devote time to study a film that was supposed to show seagulls, as the Robertson Panel concluded.

Baker points out that since the tendency of the observer would be to pan with the object, not against its motion, the derived velocities are lower limits (unless the key witness panned with the group, not the single object). Thus the suggestion of panning could compound the difficulty with the bird hypothesis. Baker concluded that "no definite conclusion could be obtained" as the evidence remains rather contradictory and no single hypothesis of a natural phenomenon yet suggested seems to completely account for the UFO involved.

After he Air Force analysis, after the Navy analysis, we have a third in-depth study that the film is not explainable in terms of trivial cause.

Menzel and Boyd (3) dismiss the objects as birds. Their conclusion, however, is phrased in a way inconsistent with the facts: "The pictures are of such poor quality and show so little that even the most enthusiastic home-movie fan today would hesitate to show them to his friends. Only a stimulated imagination could suggest that the moving objects are anything but very badly photographed birds." This gives the totally wrong impression that the objects are difficult to identify merely because of poor photography. The objects may be birds though unresolved because of distances, but the images are small and relatively sharp, and lack of a clear identification cannot be ascribed to poor photography. (The films we have analyzed are those shown to the Robertson panel, which evidently did not consider the solution as being so obvious as is implied by Menzel and Boyd.)

Hartman must be credited that he correctly perceived that Menzel's explanations are plain sillyness.

The Tremonton case came at a time when members of several official groups were privately concerned with the serious possibility that "flying saucers" might exist in fact (cf.2). The Navy report (4), released by the U.S. Naval Photographic Interpretation Center (the earliest known copy is stamped "Dec. 5, 1952"), was prepared by a group inclined to accept unknown aircraft. For example, the report contains under "Discussion" the following statements:

A very telling paragraph indeed. The offical that are actually not only concerned but convinced of the reality of UFOs as extra-terrestrial craft are accused of being biaised. An easy way to hide the fact that these officials have investigated first, and concluded after their investigations. With this reasonning, there will of course never be any possible conclusion of the UFO debate whatsoever: if conclusion is presented, it will be enough to claim that the conclusion originates from "biaised people."

In the analysis conducted, no attempt is made to explain the phenomena nor are the comments tempered by knowledge of present day science... Comments are as seen, as analyzed, and as computed; and as such, are partly at variance with the natural phenomena theories.

I do not understand the above comment at all. Does that mean that as UFOs were not part of the "knowledge of the present day science," therefore they should be dismissed as non-existent? What would be the scitific achievements, should such a notion be called science?

It is inferred in the Navy report that the objects are intrinsic light sources, not reflected light sources. This "opinion... is based on the time they can be viewed continuously on the film, approximately 90 sec., and on the angle through which they can be photographed, approximately 60░. It is felt that if these images were reflected light, blinking would occur.." This inference ignores the fact that the objects were "blinking," i.e. erratically changing brightness, a fact pointed out in a list of questions which the report was designed to answer.

There is blinking and blinking. If the objects were birds, the blinking would be a fast flickerin, as the so called birds are "milling around" and moving westernly.

The objects are not changing brightness erratically, but according to their manoeuvers.

The velocity was treated in the Navy report by analyzing the final part of the film, assuming the camera was stationary and the objects moving perpendicular to the optical axis. "...the only unknown in the determination of the velocity is the distance from the observer to the object. This was arbitrarily set at five miles." Though it is clearly stated that this is an assumption, this treatment apparently led to misunderstandings, as we will show.

Hartmann forgets what he just read from Robert L. Baker: it the camera was not steady, it was likely to follow the path of the object, not to go opposite this path, so the velocity should be even higher than estimated with the assumption that the camera was steady.

The findings of the Navy report were summarized in a list of comments including the following statements.

1. It appears to be a light source rather than reflected light.

2. No bird known to be sufficiently actinic...

9. Velocity was computed to be 3780 mph for a shift of 1mm per frame if the object is five miles from the observer.

The sentences immediately following the last quote show that the actual measurements show an average displacement not of 1mm per frame, but of "0.1729mm" per frame. It is then stated that "on this basis the mean velocity is 653.5 mph." Again, it is still assumed that the distance is 5 miles.

This result, properly interpreted, is quite compatible with that of Baker (1), who gives 670 mph for 5 miles distance. At ten miles, the speed would be some 1,310 mph; however, Ruppelt (2) in 1956 states) "Had the lone UFO been 10 miles away it would have been traveling several thousand miles an hour." This incorrect iudgment is attributed by Ruppelt to the Air Force analysts, but may represent an incorrect reading of the Navy report.

Are there any birds traveling ar 653 miles per hours? or even at 200 miles per hour?

I would have loved to see the evaluation of the distance to the object when assuming a speed of, for example 200 miles per hours. Would the object then still be too far away to be recognized as birds on the film?

In February 1953, the month after the Robertson panel meetings, there was correspondence within Project Blue Book on the wording of a press release on Tremonton. Ruppelt (4) suggested that it be stated that "the images were caused by surfaces having good light reflective qualities, such as sea gulls..." He noted that though many experts "firmly believed the objects to be sea gulls or balloons," the Air Force could not prove that they were. Apparently, no complete release of its Tremonton analysis was made.

As much as the intrinsic ambiguity of the images, it was apparently (1) the existence of a report intimating intelligent control (however inappropriately), (2) ill-advised statements that very high speeds might be involved (3). The allegation that it could be and had been proved that spacecraft were involved, and (4) lack of serious response to his challenge made the Tremonton film a "classic" among flying saucer devotees.

An example of the distortion of the case in the popular press is an account in comic-book form, a copy of which is included in the Blue Book file that (while accurate in most other respects) shows the key witness photographing a series of large, disk-shaped objects of, one would judge, several degrees apparent size. Such subtle distortion makes the gull explanation seem absurd, and abets popular misconceptions.


Angular size, distance, and velocity. The angular size of the objects has been determined by Baker's microscopic measurements: (1) The angular diameters of images range from 0.0016 to 0.0004 radians (5.5 to 1.5 min. of arc). Assuming a "bird-size" reflecting circle of 8 in. diameter, these results would give distances of 415 - 1,670 ft., respectively. Their larger sizes are undoubtedly due to "flaring" and consequent overexposure of the images, substantiated by Chop's report (1) that they were very dense, "burned right down the celluloid backing," and the Air Force analysts' report (4) that when the objects dimmed sufficiently, they faded out entirely with no dark dot or silhouette being visible.

The larger size is doubtfully due to "flaring," because the part of the film where their image is "burned right down the celluloid backing" is actually only the second film and not the first film which was not overexposed. In the first film, the size is even larger as the objects were closer. Taking the second, overexposed film, shot when the objects are fading in the distance is biaising all the estimates of size so that it becomes compatible with seagulls. The first film is not compatible with this interpretations, which is why the more thorough analysis of the Air Force and Navy discarded the seagull hypothesis.

When the Air Force said that when the object dimmed, they faded out entirely with no dark dor or silhouette visible, we have a clue that the objects were self luminous and not luminous by reflection. If you look at a flock of seagull fading in the distance, when the sun is behind the observer, a flock that would first have reflected the sun would gradually stop reflecting it and the birds would indeed progressively appear as dark dots.

Therefore, the minimum distance compatible with the bird hypothesis is estimated to be about 2,000 ft. At this distance, the hypothetical bright reflecting 8 in. breast would subtend about 1.2 min. of arc, and a 2 ft. wingspan, 3.6 min., or about 0.1 the angular diameter of the moon. The human eye's resolving power is 1 to 3 min. of arc (1). As the camera was pointed about 70░ elevation during the filming, it is doubtful that the objects ever exceeded these apparent sizes or that a better visual observation was obtained. The dimensions given are compatible with several gulls known in the region, such as the California and Herring gulls (1, 5). Many of these gulls have breasts much more highly reflecting than their wings. Consequently the fact that the wings were not resolved either visually or photographically is not surprising, since they were at the margin of resolvability. This problem would be all the more likely if the "gulls" were smaller or further away.

It is not doubtful that a better visual observation was obtained. It can only be claimed doubtful by consciously ignoring what Newhous stated: that the objects were much closer in the beginning of the visual sighting, and that by the time he started to film, they were already fading in the distance, to the observer's eye.

Because the film is in two dimension, it is not really legitimate to put forth any conclusion based on an alleged "distance" of "dimension" of the objects. Newhouse himself explained that he had no way to estimate the distance. The Air Force and the Navy analysis does not pretend to measure the distances and the dimensions. It only gives the range of speed in relation to a range of possible hypothetical distances and sizes, caluclating that if they were birds, then their size is the size of birds, and then, estimating the distance of the alleged birds, one can deduce their speed, and this speed is too fast for birds. In the above paragraph, Hartmann fails to address the speed issue, which the more in-depth Air Force and Navy analysis did address, concluding that the objects could not have been birds also for the reason that they would be flying too fast.

As noted above, the Navy's and Baker's angular velocity measurements give similar values. Baker's measurements of the single object, where it is reported and assumed that the camera was stationary, gave values of 0.01 to 0.07 radians per sec. Variations were attributed to camera jiggling. Values averaged over two sequences were 0.031 and 0.039 radians/sec. These correspond to linear transverse velocities (at 2,000 ft. distance) of 14-95 mph, with the averaged values being 42 and 53 mph. Since the objects were at a high elevation angle, the transverse velocity probably approximates the total velocity. Taking into account an additional positive or negative uncertainty due to possible residual panning motion, the indicated range of velocities is compatible with the bird hypothesis.

The problem here is that Hartmann has based his idea that the speed is compatible with birds by assuming that the object was 2000 feet away from the camera. Again it is just one of the possibility within a range that is only limited in its smaller value by the fact that if the object was very close, Newhouse would have seen it as a bird, not a flying sauver. The witness wrote that he "allowed this single one to cross the field of view, picking it up again and repeating for three or four such passes. By this time all of the objects had disappeared." This would probably suggest that while the isolated allegged "bird" was filmed in three panoramic sequences, the other "birds" would have become possibly supersonic and buzzed away out of sight.

Baker also measured relative angular velocities of the objects in the cluster with respect to each other, finding values ranging from zero to 0.0065 radians per second. At 2,000 ft. distance, this corresponds to 0 to 13 fps or about 0 to 9 mph. "Flaring" and light variations. As indicated by the Robertson panel (2), the Navy conclusion that no bird could reflect enough light to cause such images was unsubstantiated. While there was no periodic variation reminiscent of wing flapping, the "flaring" of the objects and their intermingling and erratic motions suggest soaring birds. One gains the impression that sometimes the two to four objects in one of the sub-constellations flare almost simultaneously, suggestive of grouped birds wheeling in flight. (This is difficult to establish visually, as the film was scratched and the image jerky. In this regard I performed no quantitative test.)

The Robertson Panel did not state that the Navy conclusion that no bird could reflect enough light to cause such images was unsubstantiated. The astronomer within the panel has rather indicated that the densitometer operating procedure used by the Navy was not correct. In scientific terms, it means that the Navy specialists should have start again the densitometer measurements and then we would have known if their error would have reinforced or eliminated the seagull suggestion made later that day by Dr. Page. They did not run the measurement again and we will never know unless a scientist does it, rather than just admit that a rerun of the analysis would have been more supporting to the birds hypothesis.

The fact that sub-groups of object have flaring changes simultaneously does not necessarily imply that they were bird because bird groups would wheel together in flight. After all, in a formation of jets, you would also very often see the jets manoeuvering as a formation rather than performing erratic independant manoeuvers. Discarding the "flying saucers" interpretation because the "saucers" would not behave as expected is rather dubious.

No quantitative tests have been performed by Hartmann in this regard. This is clearly a mistake, because this is what a scientific study was supposed to perform, as the Navy analyst did. This indicates the bias of the Colorado Project for the Condon Report: the goal was not to redo previous analysis and do more analysis in order to determine the nature of the phenomenon, it was more a hunt for flaws to demonstrate that the phenomenon has no scientific reality (and it failed in the sense that there are proportionnaly much more "unexplained" in the Condon Report casebook than there were in the Bluebook casebook.)


In favor of the hypothesis that the Tremonton objects were birds, probably gulls, we have the following arguments: (1) White gulls are known to be present in the area. (2) Bird-sized objects at a distance of 2,000 ft. would be on the limits of visual resolution, moving at about 45 to 55 mph east to west, with relative motions up to 9 mph; (3) Such motions are independently supported by the testimony that the objects overtook and were first sighted from a moving car traveling toward the NW. The objects were kept in sight until the car was stopped, and nearly a minute and a half of film exposed. (4) Baker points out that the departure of a single object from the group is typical of a bird seeking a new thermal updraft. (5) Variations in motion and brightness suggest wheeling birds. (6) The bulk of informed opinion among those who studied the film, both in and out of the Air Force, is that birds were the most probable explanation.

(1) is of course a valid point when taken as an isolated point. Even if there were usually no birds in that area, it would have been legitimate to imagine that there were birds there, exceptionally.

(2) is nothing of an evidence but only a working hypothesis, assuming a distance when the distance was not measurable. But it requires that the report of the visual observation of disk shaped objects by Newhouse when they were much closer is ignored, and it requires that photographic expert Delbert Newhouse has been so silly that he started to film seagulls with the project to convince ATIC that they are flying saucers.

(3) Same as above. The important point is not mentionned: at the beginning of the observation, Mrs Newhouse's attention was drawn by the unusual aspect of the flying objects, and Mr. Newhouse saw them as distinctively disk shaped.

(4) The isolated object did not join the rest of the group after its departure from the group. The rest of the group had disapeared from sight in the meantime, while the isolated object flew in opposite direction than the group.

(5) None of the object has a variation of brightness consistent with wingflapping in the entire film, not even the isolated object that would have necessarily flapped its wings to qui the rest of the group, if they were birds.

(6) Simply a wrong statement. Those who thoroughly studied the film in both the Air Force and the Navy have discarded the birds hypothesis, and their opinion was such that Ed Ruppelt and Dewey Fourney of Blue Book thought that with the Tremonton and Montana film in addition to the other evidence they gathered, the time had come to present their best evidence of UFOs as extra-terrestrial flying machines to a scientific panel.And, again, let us not forget that the Newhouses did absolutely not think that they saw birds.

Arguments against gulls include the following: (1) The distances and velocities cited are on the margin of acceptability. If the gulls were slightly closer, they should have been clearly identified since their angular size would exceed 3 min. of arc; if they were slightly further away, their velocity would become unacceptably high. This argument is considerably weakened by noting that somewhat smaller birds could be unresolvable but slow. (2) Arguments have been raised that the weather conditions would not be conducive to thermal updrafts that would allow long, soaring flights of birds. This is not a strong argument, however, since there is insuffient data concerning weather conditions. (3) No clear, periodic flapping is observed on the film. This is not critical, since there are erratic brightness fluctuations, and since the objects were evidently below the limits of resolution. (4) The strongest negative argument was stated later by the witness that the objects were seen to subtend an angle of about 0.5░ and were then seen as gun-metal colored and shaped like two saucers held together rim to rim, but the photographs and circumstances indicate that this observation could not have been meaningful.

(1) Indeed the cited distances and velocities had to be streched a lot so that the birds hypothesis may appear to make sense. And again, the objects were closer, not just slightly, when Newhouse observed them visually. Hartmann failed to realize that if the birds would have been smaller, then they would also have been closer to the oberver's eye and camera, and then the limit of the resolution argument would fail, they would be close enough to be recongized as birds.

(2) On the contrary the weather conditions have been investigated thoroughly by the Air Force. The argument is possibly not very strong for the group, it may be imagined that there was some sort of localized updraft dusring the sighting; but when one considers the isolated bird reversing direction, one must take into account that if it was a bird, he simply had to flap its wings to escape the updraft and fly against it.

(3) The absence of flapping is indeed very critical. I have studied a large number of filimgs and videos of alleged UFOs (see Chris Miller's collection for examples) where the alleged UFO are birds or insects, and its wing flapping is very discernable even when the shape of the object is absolutely nothing else but a blur or a small dot. In such cases, the fluctuations are not erratic but regular.

(4) The statement that "the photographs and circumstances indicate that this observation could not have been meaningful" when Newhouse clearly saw the objects as "gun-metal colored and shaped like two saucers held together rim to rim" is totally beyond my comprehension. Where is the reasoning behind this statement? On the contrary, the visual observation at closer sight is indeed the strongest negative argument to oppose to the bird theory. And, again, it was not "made later," it was merely "ignored before," interestingly.

There are other arguments to oppose to the bird theory, they have their place in the main page I devoted to this case.

Although I cannot offer an expert ornithological opinion, it appears to me that the Tremonton objects constitute a flock of white birds. The data are not conclusive, but I have found nothing in the detailed Blue Book file incompatible with this opinion. The objects are thus provisionally identified as birds, pending any demonstration by other investigators that they could not be birds. There is no conclusive or probative evidence that the case involves extraordinary aircraft. On 23 August 1968 after completion of the above report, I had occasion to drive through Utah and made a point of watching for birds. The countryside near Tremonton is grassy farmland with trees, streams, and meadows. It was within 30 mi. of Tremonton that I noticed the greatest concentration of bird activity. A number of large gulls were seen, some with white bodies and duskytipped wings (rendering the wings indistinct in flight) and some pure white. About 10 mi. south of Tremonton and again about 20 mi. north of Panguitch (in southern Utah) I saw flocks of white or light birds at once distinctly reminiscent of the key witness's films. The birds milled about, the whole group drifting at about 20 or 30 mph.

(I noticed no surface wind) and subtending 10░ to 20░. The individual birds (in the second case) were not quite resolvable, yet appeared to have some structure. Sometimes pairs would move together and sometimes individuals or pairs would turn and fade out as others became prominent. As suggested by the key witness they appeared to require a telephoto lens for photography. They were not prominent, but distinctly curious once noted - a group of white objects milling about in the sky. (The only proof that my second group of objects, which I observed from a considerable distance, were indeed birds, was that I saw them take off.) These observations give strong evidence that the Tremonton films do show birds, as hypothesized above, and I now regard the objects as so identified.

Hartmann tells us that he has drawn his conclusion first, and watched birds afterwards.

It may seem good common sense to go on location and watch birds. But it is not rational to conclude that the Tremonton movie show birds on this basis.

If Hartmann had thought that he was watching flying saucers, and had reported them, and if an investigation had been able to show that they were really birds, a point would have been made.

With Hartmann's on site experience, it is easy to forget most of the reason that Newhouse did not film birds. He reported flying saucers, not birds, and noted at the time of the sighting that there were no bird around (in addition to the flying saucers.) He saw the object from a close enough distance to see their disc shape, which Hartmann did not see because he was watching birds and not flying saucers.

Also Hartmann did see the disc shaped object long before he started filming, and Hartmann did not: the experiences do not compare.

Hartmann says that a telephoto lens would have come up handy and would have allowed him to better see the structures of the birds, which was "not quite resolvable, yet appeared to have some structure." This is what Newhouse had, and when he used it the objects did not resolve as birds.

Hartmann and Newhouse are not ornitologists. But Hartmann is a scientist, and should have projected the film to a few ornitologists to take their adice. He did not. Nobody did.

Hartmann aknowledges that he has not proven that the objects are birds. If the witness testimony is included in the evaluation, as it should have been the case, then they are not birds.

Sources of Information

Baker, Robert M.L., Jr. Analysis of Photographic Material, Douglas Aircraft Co., 1955.

Menzel, D.H. and Boyd, L.G. The World of Flying Saucers, Garden City, N.Y.: Doubleday, 1963.

Peterson, R.T. A Field Guide to Western Birds, Boston: Houghton-Mifflin.

Project Blue Book files

Correspondence: Key witness to U.S.A.F., 11 August 1952.

Interview between A.F. Intelligence Officer and key witness, 10 September 1952.

Ruppelt, E.J. The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, Garden City, New York: Doubleday; Ace Books.

One part of my disagreement with Hartmann's analysis is due to the fact that I do have much more sources of documentation, which is listed at the end of my main page devoted to the Tremonton films.

Hartmann cannot be entirely blamed for the lack of documentation. Dr. Page statements in private letters as well as Professor James E. McDonalds's private correspondence were of course not available to him at the time of the Condon report.

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