The Montana Movie, article in MUJ

By James R. Leming

Since moving to Great Falls, Montana in 1982, this author and staff artist for the MUFON UFO Journal has had the opportunity to conduct further investigations into the famous / infamous Nick Mariana/Great Falls, Montana motion picture film depicting two round objects flying near a local baseball park. (There is debate between the Condon Committee and the Air Force Project Blue Book as to whether the date in question was the fifth or the fifteenth of August 1950. However, there is concurrence on the location and presence of the objects since they were filmed passing behind an existing water tower.)

The Great Falls, Montana and Tremonton, Utah motion picture films were analyzed by specialists assigned to the Air Force Project Blue Book, then submitted to the Robertson Panel (1953) as the two best pieces of photographic evidence available to date. The Panel consisted of the late H.P. Robertson, Chairman; Samuel A. Goudsmit, Luis W. Alvarez, Thornton Page, and Lloyd V.Berkner, founding father of the IGY - International Geophysical Year.

It was this panel’s task to study and evaluate the sighting reports on their own merit. Considering that at the formation of the panel, the study of UFOs had only, a four and a half year history, it was quite conceivable that a gathering of such minds would only need a week or so to complete the study. These photo images were studied by Dr. R.M.L. Baker, Jr., at that time of Computer Sciences, Inc., for the “Condon Committee” at the University of Colorado.

A post-filming investigation into the personal and social life of Nicholas Mariana, Sr., recently disclosed some rather startling facts after 36 years of silence. (Editor’s Note: The author is hereby sharing previously unknown information with the Mutual UFO Network so that future research might continue elsewhere -- possibly Portland, Oregon. MUFON cannot vouch for the veracity of the facts disclosed, however we (MUFON) do rely upon the author as persistent, dedicated and ethical investigator.)

It appears that the Mariana film gained considerable weight as evidence after the reopening of the Blue Book investigations in 1952. (Quotations from The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects by the late Captain Edward J. Ruppelt will be included later in this article.) The Mariana film created enough interest to prompt the visit of two Air Force officers from near by, Malstrom AFB, a Strategic Air Command (SAC) installation in Great Falls, to Mr. Mariana’s home in November of 1952. These officers came to see Mariana with some very pointed requests. These “responses” would not be known today were it not for the testimony of a "friend of-a-friend" and a babysitter whose father worked closely with Mariana.


It was a week-night in November, 1952, when Mr. LM. (name on file with MUFON) was visiting with his long-time close friend, Nick Mariana, at the latter’s home. They were enjoying something to drink and discussing the day’s events when a knock was heard at the front door. When Mariana opened the front door, LM. could plainly see an Air Force colonel and a major illuminated by the porch light. They introduced themselves and asked permission to enter, stating that they had “matters to discuss” with Mariana and promised to be brief. LM. excused himself and went to the kitchen to refresh their drinks. While in the kitchen (only eight feet away from those in the living room) LM. overheard the following conversation:
..."In exchange for a loss of interest in your film, we (the Air Force) are willing to assist you in accomplishing the following:

1.)  All expenses paid re-location to a city of your choice for you and surviving members of your family.
2.)  A job within the government structure on full payroll with benefits.
3.)  $10,OO0 in cash…"


As a result of this nocturnal visit, Nick seemed to indeed lose interest in his film, and very rarely even acknowledged its existence. Within two months he had re-located to Portland, Oregon, accepted a job with the Forest Service (Dept. of the Interior), and deposited a very large sum of money into a bank account. All of the above- mentioned points can be verified with the exception of the exact dollar amount mentioned. If Mariana shook his head in either the affirmative or negative, LM. could not determine from his vantage point in the kitchen.

This is the first case of government/military coercion and bribery that has been substantiated by independent witnesses that this author is aware of. (It is regrettable that this conversation was not tape recorded. An unfortunate oversight but as the interview was almost accidental in nature, better preparation was not available. Steps to correct this problem are being pursued through additional testimony.)

The Project Blue Book staff considered the Great Falls, Montana and Tremonton, Utah films to be the highest quality photographic evidence available to date. The best military photo 1abs in the country were used to examine the footage: the Air Force Photographic laboratory at Wright Field in Ohio (Wright-Patterson AFB), and the Naval Photographic Laboratory at Anacostia, Maryland.

(Editor’s Note: The nocturnal visit to the home of Nick Mariana by the two Air Force officers in November 1952, may be partially supported by information gleaned from The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects by Edward J. Ruppelt, former head of Air Force Project Blue Book, 1956, Doubleday, Garden City, N.Y.)

Quoting from the hardback edition, starting on page 219, Captain Ruppelt offers the following:
“The Montana Movie had been taken on August 15, 1950, by Nick Mariana, the manager of the Great Falls baseball team. It showed two large bright lights flying across the sky in echelon formation. There were no clouds in the movie to give an indication of the UFOs’ speed, but at one time they passed behind a water tower. The lights didn’t show any detail; they appeared to be large circular objects.

“Mariana had sent his movies to the Air Force back in 1950, but in 1950 there was no interest in the UFO so, after a quick viewing, Project Grudge had written them off as ‘the reflections from two F-94 jet fighters that were in the area.’ (Editor’s Note: Philip KIass accepts the 1950 decision, not the 1952 analysis, since it meets with his prosaic explanations.)

“In 1952, at the request of the Pentagon, I reopened the investigation of the Montana Movie. Working  through an intelligence officer at the Great Falls AFB, I had Mariana reinterrogated and obtained a copy of his movie, which I sent to the photo lab.

“When the photo lab got the movie, they had a little something to work with because the two UFOs had passed behind a reference point, the water tower. Their calculations quickly confirmed that the objects were not birds, balloons or meteors. Balloons drift with the wind and the wind was not blowing in the direction that the two UFOs were traveling. No exact speeds could be measured, but the lab could determine that the lights were traveling too fast to be birds and too slow to be meteors.

“This left airplanes as the only answer. The intelligence officer at Great Falls had dug through huge stacks of files and found that only two airplanes, two F-94’s, were near the city during the sighting and that they had landed about two minutes afterwards.

Both Mariana and his secretary, who had also seen the UFOs, had said that the two jets had appeared in another part of the sky only a minute or two after the two UFOs had disappeared in the southeast. This in itself would eliminate the jets as candidates for the UFOs, but we wanted to double-check. The two circular lights didn’t look like two F-94’s, but anyone who has done any flying can tell you that an airplane can suddenly catch the sun’s rays and make a brilliant flash.

“First we studied the flight paths and the two F-94’s. We knew the landing pattern that was being used on the day of the sighting, and we knew when the two F-94’s landed. The two jets just weren’t anywhere close to where the two UFOs had been. Next we studied each individual light and both appeared to be too steady to be reflections.

“We drew a blank on the Montana Movie - it was an unknown.”

There is a message in this investigation: New facts cannot be obtained regarding old cases if new questions are not asked. Go over your material carefully; somewhere there exists a point that was overlooked, disregarded or simply ignored because it may have seemed to obvious. If we ever expect to expose a government cover-up, we will have to ask the same questions over and over again, but by carefully changing the wording, new answers might start showing up. There is a hole in the armor; we will find it...

If the Pentagon had not asked Captain Ruppelt to reopen the Nick Mariana “Montana Movie” case, it would have continued to be listed as “explained.” Ruppelt asked more questions and as a result the Mariana film is now classified as “unknown.” This says to me, that as far as the “so­called experts” are concerned, if there is a shadow of a doubt, as good UFO researchers and investigators, we must continue our systematic examination of the facts.

Mr. Nicholas Mariana, Sr., is living in Portland, Oregon - and in good health. If we continue to stop just short of asking that one necessary question, will we ever be able to say as much for the health of our investigations and research?

Source: MUJ-223,10