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Ft. Belvoire UFO Photo Analysis

Ft.Belvoire UFO Photo #1
(c) 1998 The Regents of the University of Colorado*

By Christoher Montgomery

DATE: September 1957
LOCATION: Fort Belvoir, US Army Facility, VA
OBJECT DESCRIPTION: The object was initially ring-shaped, dark, possibly black in color, which formed a cloud around itself. The military disputes this, however, as they alledge that the object was, in fact, the product of an A-bomb simulation, a smoke ring. These A-bomb simulations were routine at Ft. Belvoir. One would expect Private X to know this, as he was stationed at Belvoire at the time these photo's were taken.
WITNESSES: A soldier who was assigned the name of “Private X” in the Condon files. Private X claims that the object was witnessed by 15 other individuals, 2 of whom also took photographs. According to Hartmann, “efforts to locate the other two witnesses were unsuccessful.
“A black ring that became obscured by an opaque white cloud, reportedly witnessed by about 15 persons and photographed by the principle witness is identified as the by-product of an ‘atom bomb simulation’ on the army base.” – HARTMANN

CASE STUDY: Hartmann says that the “mode of flight usually associated with ‘flying saucers’ is a flat disc or ring that “moves with its plane parallel to the ground.” To eliminate the possibility that these photos were “optical fabrications.” Hartman proposed tests to establish the “geometric consistency of the images.”

The analysis of the object in the photos demonstrates that the UFO is “out of level not only in vertical plane of UFO observers, but in the vertical plane perpendicular to this.” The Condon investigators concluded, however, that the “ring” image as well as the “disk-cloud” image “can be described as orientated essentially horizontally,” with some ‘wobble-like’ perturbations. Yet they turn around and seem to contradict themselves when they claim that “only in plate 33 does there appear to be a significant departure from level flight.” (OpCit page 430)

When we examine the inclination data on this object, however, we can see the change was swift and decisive, very different than one would expect from a cloud. Anyone can see from the data that they published, that a cloud does not behave in this manner, and a wind high enough to facilitate a 23-degree change in attitude should have virtually disrupted any coherency to this so called smoke ring.

“Distance versus angular size: If the linear diameter of the UFO is {D} and the angular diameter is {Q}, and if its vertical height is {Z} and its altitude {a}, then (if Q is small), if the UFO moves along a path roughly parallel to the ground. One has a subjective impression, both from the testimony and from the photos, that this was the motion in this case…It is concluded that within tolerances of 7%, the object DID move on a path roughly parallel to the ground…” –HARTMANN(IBID) {my substitute}.

“This test, like the others, leads to the conclusion that the data are consistent with a real object becoming enveloped in a tenuous, then in an opaque cloud.” The Condon team has established the fact that this was indeed a physically real object. But what they were leading was not to establish that this was a genuine UFO, but had a more insidious, sardonic purpose for this. “The psychological consistency of the spacing of exposures adds credibility.” This was a real, physical object. But the explanation that they offered for this object was even more bizarre, and totally inconsistent with what was really there. (IBID page 431).

One of the biggest of these glaring inconsistencies, was the evolution of the alleged cloud formation, which enveloped the ring. I’ll explain briefly from the case history of this event. Private X had taken the photos in 1957. Approximately9 years later, after showing them to a friend in 1966, the friend forwarded the pictures to NICAP (the National Investigation Committee on Aerial Phenomenon) with an inquiry. In mid 1966, Dr. James McDonald showed an interest in the photographs and called them to the attention of the Colorado Project. This particular case was also “described in a magazine article by Ralph Rankow (1967).” Hartmann writes that this drew the interest of Jack Strong, who was a grad student who had attended the University of Wisconsin. Having been present at simulated bomb demonstrations at Ft. Belvoir, he described clouds, which were generated from these tests. Hartman writes, “at this time the suggestion was not taken very seriously, as none of those involved imagined that such a phenomenon would be produced by an explosion.”(IBID 432)

Ft. Belvoire UFO photo #2
(c) 1998 The Regents of the University of Colorado*


Hartmann interviewed Sergeant Major A.M. Wagner regarding the photographs. He identified them as ‘atomic bomb simulation demonstrations’ before every sharing Strong’s hypothesis. I asked a good friend of mine (who is an ex-CIA operative), if he had ever seen one of these A-bomb simulations. He indicated that he had, and that the smoke-ring that sometimes developed is actually quite symmetrical. I would have to agree with him. But if one looks at the UFO in the photographs, you get an impression that this thing has sharply defined edges. That is not something that one would expect to see as a result of one of those A-bomb simulations. It works like this…The fireball sometimes (not always) sends up a black, sooty ring of smoke; and “depending upon the weather and explosion conditions, the ring sometimes never forms at all and at other times forms a perfect, persistent cloud.” This was their best shot. There are only two possible explanations for what could be generating this cloud. It has either formed chemically, or as a result of meteorological conditions present in the proximity of a solid object. The cloud produced from these simulations does present the same coloration as the cloud in the photographs. (IBID p 432).

“Strong, who believes he witnessed the same vortex that was photographed in the Private X case, makes the following remarks: ‘I recall that the ring could be seen to revolve rapidly up to the time that the developing cloud had obscured details. By revolve, I mean, of course, motion about the centerline of the vortex (not around the vertical axis). I don’t recall the direction of the revolution, whether upward or downward through the center…This rapid rotation, along with the calmness of the air, probably had a lot to do with the great stability and symmetry of the vortex.” –HARTMANN (IBID)

The reason why there was so much hoopla in support of the ranged unidentified as being a real object was because there had been an A-bomb simulation that day. The exact time of the A-bomb simulation in relation to the photographing of the unknown was not made clear. This made it easier for them to explain the photos. But there are at least a few inconsistencies in their explanation. There is one major problem with Sgt. Wagner’s theory. That is, if the movement of the gases, which produce the cloud were moving about the center of the ring’s vertical axis, then plates 34 and 35 (photos 3 and 4) would show this where the optical depth is low, in a circulatory pattern. (See diagram not included on web page). This is not the case at all, but rather the cloud is forming as if it were radiating outward from the center of the object. The photographs do not show that there is a rotation on the vertical axis.

From what my research has indicated, the smoke ring that is sometimes produce during these simulations does produce a whitish cloud from the noxious chemical employed in this demonstration, however. It is indeed of the same coloration as the cloud in the photos. But let us consider the other possibility. That this cloud in the photograph formed from water vapor…a kind of radiation fog, so to speak. It is the other possibility, and certainly one that needs to be considered.

Ft. Belvoire UFO Photo #3
(c) 1998 The Regents of the University of Colorado* >


There are three basic ingredients in clouds and/or fog. These are moisture, ambient temperature and barometric pressure. The right combination of these gives you the kind of cloud this object may be generating. I would like to do more research on the meteorological conditions at the time of the sighting, but do to the insufficient data available at this time, it may be impossible. Certain conditions such as the cloud ceiling altitude, barometric pressure and temperature would have to be taken into account. We can not forget the dew point reading either.

As we can see, there is a pretty good cloud cover above the UFO. It becomes immediately obvious that the object is well below the cloud ceiling. This would indicate that whatever this object is, it is influencing the environment around it to effect a change in the meteorological conditions surrounding it. What I found interesting, was something the Condon boy’s photographic analysis revealed. It was something very bizarre and probably not a result of a chemical reaction, as one would expect from an A-bomb simulation.

“Upon close inspection, plate 33 [photo 2 in the series] reveals a set of radial scratches or striations around the outer and inner borders of the black ring: the pattern is reminiscent of iron filings near a magnet…It is also conceivable that these are a natural step in the formation of the white cloud.” –HARTMAN (IBID page 434) [insert mine]

I will dismiss the comment that “marks” on plate 33 “represent a retouching of the original vortex ring.” Why? Because they said that it’s “conceivable” that this was due to the formation of the cloud surrounding the unknown object. Believe me, if they could dismiss the case that easily, that would be that…end of story. What the photos do show, is a uniform cloud formation into an ellipsoid shape, suggesting it was forming around an invisible field of force that must also have an ellipsoid shape, which is surrounding the halo-like ring. The scratches could be from the radiant energy emitted by the UFOs…and why not? Scientists use a cloud chamber to trace the paths of particles that are bombarding the interior of the chamber. Could this be something similar? Are the scratches actually the pathways of particles interacting with the water droplets surrounding this unknown object?

One could take it a step further and theorize that the striations are an effect on the emulsion of the film inside of the camera as well. Certain radii could conceivably travel unabated through the atmosphere until being slowed by the lense of the camera, and thus slowing again when these particles finally strike the chemical surface of the film. What I am suggesting to you is that these striations could be tracers formed by the UFO's radioactive field (gamma?) as they arrive from the distal source (the UFO), leaving a mark upon the film (proximal stimulus). One can only speculate, but it does bring up some interesting possibilities, and actually supports the UFO field effect hypothesis.

Ft. Belvoire UFO Photo #4
(C) 1998 The Regents of the University of Colorado*

Hartmann actually names the cloud formation of the “vortex ring” and writes “this cloud is quite white and opaque like a dense cumulus cloud.” I would think that it would be safe to call it a stratus-like formation. Let us examine the behavior of this so-called ring-cloud. The popular consensus was that its behavior was consistent with a smoke-ring formation. And we must keep an open mind to balance the case with some objective criticism. This begs the question: Was the Condon investigators employing a high degree of objectivity when they had evaluated this case? Hartmann shot himself in the foot when he related the sargeant's testimony. The formation of this cloud contradicted his statement.

“Finally, and most significant, the UFO was moving with a vector motion approximately equal to the background cloud vector motion, i.e.: the directions and angular velocities were about the same. This at once suggested that the whole apparition was drifting with the wind, a conclusion consistent with the appearance of the smokey cloud.”
Aside from the fact that this object generated more cloud than the substance of the ring could generate, it would make good camouflage. A UFO is a target for any military force to vanquish; the cloud would be a very stealthy maneuver, blending it into its surroundings as it drifted along like a puffy white cloud.

Ft. Belvoire UFO Photo #5
(C)1998 The Regents of the University of Colorado*


I believe the preponderance of evidence would indicate that this was not the case. I don’t believe that their argument would hold up in any court of law. If I have shown that this could not be the result of an A-bomb simulation, and I believe that I have, then there could only be one other explanation…a genuine UFO. The Condon committee was on a witch-hunt, and under no uncertain terms, their objective was to prove once and for all that UFOs just simply did not exist. They took statistics that had been accumulated for many years and whittled down the numbers of credible sightings to such a degree that the Air Force could finally close the book on UFOs…once and for all. They did in fact, officially. But certain documents have surfaced over the years that would indicate that this was not the case.

I must admit to you, that my initial reaction to these photographs was one of sheer astonishment. I have read cases where an alleged UFO object can generate its own fog-like shroud formation, and at last, I thought, I had proof. From what I had read, even Hartmann was convinced…at first. The Colorado project investigators reveal that Jack Strong recalls seeing “the same vortex that was photographed in this case,” which I take to mean that he was referring to this UFO in the photographs. Ft. Belvoire UFO Photo #6


But was it the same one? I have my doubts, but I believe that the object in the photo could very well have been the same one that he had seen that day. He probably would have then dismissed it as the simulation, as I’m sure many would have. But the crux of the matter is the symmetry and well-defined edges of the ring-shaped object. We can not ignore the way the cloud had formed. These stick to the roof of my mind.

Finally, what about Private X? After 19 years, he finally showed the photos to a friend, who thereupon showed them to someone else, who showed them to someone else …you get the idea. If he intended to perpetrate a hoax, he would not have been as sincere as Hartmann said he seemed to be. One nagging question that I keep asking myself is why wasn't Private X approached concerning the atom bomb simulations? He was stationed at Ft. Belvoir, as he was working “as a draftsman with Post Engineers.” Surely, he would’ve known about these bomb simulations? And why wasn’t he asked if these would explain the ring in the photos? He was, after all, someone who “indicated a sincere attempt to be helpful in shedding light on the affair.” No, they weren’t interested in finding this out, but rather went behind his back. Private X thought that the halo-ring object which he’d photographed “seemed solid,” as opposed to being “smoke like” and he even “stated that it was not metallic, shiny or dull, but very black with no reflection.” (IBID page 147).

Ft. Belvoire Plate #40
A-Bomb Simulation Demonstration

(C) 1998 The Regents of the University of Colorado*

Hartman indicated that Private X (not his real name) had finally recanted and caved in to their relentless badgering about the credibility of his photos. His initial objective was not to perpetrate a hoax, but to show the photos to a friend. If I were he, I would have probably done the same thing just to get them off of my back! The photographs speak for themselves. The Condon committee swept this one under the carpet, and classified it as "solved." You can't tell me that that vortex in photograph 7 (plate 40)created the mysterious object in photo's 1-6. I don't buy it. Sure, it may not be a UFO. But the vortex smoke-ring theory just doesn't wash with me.

I was just thinking…the ring UFO may be what artists have been depicting in their paintings of saints and prophets throughout history…perhaps they are incorporating the UFO into their work to forever document what may be a connection between God and His people. There isn’t one saint or angel that has been recorded throughout the Bible that hasn’t in some way been connected to this phenomenon, either directly or indirectly. When Jesus was taken up into heaven, it was in a cloud. In "The Acts of the Apostles," two men dressed in white, which the Bible identifies as "angels," said that He would return “in like manner as you have seen Him go." Their message was underscored in Revelations, chapter one. (This topic is covered in more detail in
UFOs and the Holy Bible

Search Condon Report for specific items

McMinneville UFO Photographs ! Santa Ana UFO Photograph ! Alberta UFO Photographs ! Ottowa UFO Photo Analysis ! Kenneth Mundel UFO Photo Analysis



*Public Notice: The Final Report of the Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects was originally copyrighted in 1968 by the Regents of the University of Colorado, a body corporate. It was subsequently published in reports of the United States Air Force and other governmental agencies and was published commercially by Bantam Books (currently out of print). 

Permission is granted for non-commercial use of this electronic document, to link to it, mirror it on an Internet site, or reproduce it electronically in whole or in part without modification, provided that this notice is included. 

Any other use requires advance written permission from The Regents of the University of Colorado.


***THE SCIENTIFIC STUDY OF UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS; 1968, 1998 The Regents of the University of Colorado; Dr. Edward U. Condon; Bantam Books.


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