By Wendy Connors And David Michael Hall
Photos and films are another facet of the whole UFO story. The best film footage of an unidentified from these years was captured on a clear day by Nick Mariana, the general manager of the Selectrics baseball team. Filmed on a hand-held sixteen-millimeter movie camera, his picture depicts two large bright lights flying in formation above the ballpark stands in Great Falls, Montana. In the film the craft are always silhouetted against the sky except for a moment when they pass by a water tower. Known as the Montana Movie or Great Falls Case, the film showed no detail other than large circular lights. The footage was subjected to intense photo lab scrutiny by the Air Force and even received the attention of the CIA during the Robertson Panel investigation (see January 1953). Although no conclusions were reached as to what the film depicted, the Air Force always officially downplayed its significance. Then in 1968 an analysis conducted by computer scientist Robert M. L. Baker, Jr., of Douglas Aircraft Company revealed that the images could not be explained by a known natural phenomena.(100)
Others, however, have continually sought simpler explanations. There were two F-94 jets aloft at the time that have often been attributed as a cause. A well-known UFO debunker, Philip J. Kiass, documented in 1973 that the two F-94 jets were indeed in the area and that they did not land until several minutes after Mariana had shot his footage. Klass examined actual Blue Book files then in storage at the USAF Historical Research Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama. He found in those files a photo comparison with a bright aluminum airliner, showing it to have produced a similar image as in the Montana film when reflecting back the sun's rays.
However, Mariana never accepted that he could have simply seen conventional aircraft. He distinctly observed the objects as disk-like craft before using his camera. He had been in the grandstand of the ballpark and initially witnessed them in a near hovering position. This gave him enough time to then go downstairs and retrieve his camera. During this sequence of events his secretary, Miss Virginia Raunig, also observed the disks for up to seven seconds. If the UFOs were F-94s reflecting their silver surface, they would have been at a relatively high altitude heading in a southerly direction when Mariana finally started filming. This would have been only three minutes before the First F-94 (registration number 2502) was known to have landed at 11:33 A.M. (102) They in no way could have hovered, unless they were in a steep vertical climb and thus only presented the illusion of being stationary. Ruppelt, in fact, revealed in his book that the Blue Book team later reevaluated the F-94's landing approach pattern and stated that they "weren't anywhere close to where the two UFOs had been." Only one fact really remains in agreement by all researchers: the Mariana's film was not staged and was not a hoax. (103) Something very real and totally unexplained flew in the Montana skies that day.
In most UFO cases there is usually an interesting footnote, and this one is no exception. Shortly after this incident, Mariana willingly turned the film footage over to the Air Force, but they soon returned it with no more apparent interest. After this, Mariana again loaned it out for the Robertson Panel discussions in 1953, and not until that time did the Air Force make a copy for their own use. Yet after the first Air Force study in 1950, Mariana swears that not all of the footage was returned to him. He maintains that about thirty-five frames were missing, which he immediately became aware of because they were the first and best views. The missing footage allegedly captured the UFO still in a hovering or spinning-like position. While his claims have no proof, I can attest to similar correspondence in Air Force files from other cases where people make the very same complaint - that of missing film or negatives. The correspondence usually spans years and amounts to back and forth conversations within the Air Force where no one claims to know anything about the missing items. It then usually concludes with threats to involve the FBI if the matter is pursued by the witnesses. But was this really a matter of conspiracy or merely sloppy office work, which there was a great deal of?
Ruppelt handled the reopening of the case in July of 1952 at the request of Gen. John A. Samford. He sent Lt. Peter Marquez to interview Mariana at length on January 7, 1953. This eased Mariana's displeasure with the prior Air Force rebuff. It also served as an acknowledgment of his generosity to turn over the film for the second examination, although Mariana had first made the Air Force sign an agreement to return the film intact. Mariana never wavered in his claim that a vital part of the footage had been removed in 1950. This dispute was substantiated by others of very reliable reputation who had seen the original film before Mariana turned it over for that first examination. If there was truly a mishandling of the film, Ruppelt expressed no knowledge of it. He stated that under his investigation the photo labs at Wright-Patterson concluded the objects on Mariana's film could not be balloons, birds, meteors, or simple reflections. Ruppelt's own investigation then ruled out aircraft, and as far as he was concerned the case was an "unknown." (104)
Source: Captain Edward J. Ruppelt - Summer of the Saucers - 1952, Michael David Hall & Wendy Connors