On an overcast afternoon Jan. 7, 1948, 25-year-old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot Capt. Thomas F. Mantell Jr. became the first publicly documented causality of a hostile act of aggression by an extraterrestrial vehicle flying over Fort Knox, Ky.
In his pursuit of what he described as a “metallic object, and it is of tremendous size,” the World-War II decorated pilot’s F-51 Mustang was flung to the ground from 30,000 feet in such an unnatural way that at least one baffled crash investigator decades later made the following statement on record to UFO investigators Jerry Washington and Annie MacFie: “The damage pattern was not consistent with an aircraft of this type crashing into the ground,” said James F. Duesler, a former Captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps
Adding to the mystery and weirdness of the event was the fact that Mantell’s body had been whisked away before investigators reached the crash scene. Nonetheless, Duesler and the other investigators were informed by a few equally puzzled officials at the site that “nowhere on [Mantell’s] the body had the skin been punctured or penetrated, yet all the bones had been crushed and pulverized.” Also, there was no trace of blood in the cockpit.
Despite all of these anomalies, eyewitness accounts and evidence that something incredible had occurred – no less than an act of war against the United States by an alien civilization – the initial statement from the Army about this tragedy was that combat- hardened pilot Mantell had lost control of his fighter as a result of climbing too high without an oxygen mask. Furthermore, the Army asserted that Mantell had been mistaken in his visual descriptions of a large metallic object and in fact had been chasing the planet Venus, which it asserted had been visible on this hazy January day. After this obvious cover story was quickly debunked by astronomers, the Air Force, which had just been created days after the Mantell incident, stepped in with a second as unlikely explanation claiming that Mantell had perished chasing a weather balloon, which no one could document had been launched that day. When this explanation was also summarily disproven, the Air Force’s final gambit was to claim that Mantell had in fact been chasing a top secret “Sky Hook” balloon, but because it was top secret he and other eyewitnesses mistook it for a UFO — case closed.
While it is true that skyhook balloons, which were first launched in 1948, were cone shaped and rose to altitudes of 100,000 feet, Mantell’s description and one of the official accounts of the UFO or UFOs observed by tower operators at Clinton County Air Base on Jan. 8 1948 told a different story.
“A sky phenomena, described by observers at the Clinton County Air based as having the appearance of a flaming red cone trailing a gaseous green mist, appeared in the southwest skies of Wilmington last night between 7:20 and 7:55 p.m. “
Plus, we are asked to believe that Mantell, an experienced and decorated World War II glider and transportation pilot, was careless and green enough to risk his life pursing an unusually bright planet or some new type of weather balloon. In addition, my research has turned up some evidence that Mantell may have actually had an oxygen mask that day, and as the only pilot in his formation that did, was chosen to pursue the UFO.
One of America’s foremost UFO investigators Leonard H. Stringfield, who died in 1994, thoroughly investigated the Mantell case. He came up with the following tidbit that supports this theory.
“My informant, preferring anonymity, related that he had talked with Mantell’s wing man, who witnessed the incident. The pilot stated that Mantell pursued the UFO because he was the only pilot with an adequate oxygen mask. The pilot also related that he saw a burst of ‘what appeared to be tracer’ fired from the UFO, which hit the P-51 and caused it to disintegrate in the air!…”
Research done in 1966 by Ufologist Coral Lorenzen added even more mystery and possible evidence of a government cover-up surrounding the Mantell case.
“The latest to reach me was from a captain in the USAF Reserve who claims he took part in the investigation of that incident, including the location and inspection of the crashed F-51. He supports the old theory that the ‘spaceship’ removed Mantell from his ship and then allowed it to crash. The captain says Mantell’s body was never found.”
While this is not definitive evidence that Mantell’s body was indeed not recovered, it would explain why crash investigators never saw his body, or it being removed from the scene. But since it is not corroborated and because no one in the Mantell family every publicly said their loved one’s body was not returned. The chances of this theory ever being proven are remote.
But before we go any further into this mystery, I think we should go through the exact timeline of the UFO sighting and Mantell’s untimely demise.
One of the best sources for the timeline of the Mantell incident is the investigative work of the late Edward J. Ruppelt, the first head of the Air Force’s “Project Blue Book,” which was charged with quelling the mass hysteria sparked by a wave of UFO sightings in the 1950s by objectively investigating such events. As such, Ruppelt had access to a great deal of the information available – some of which was being withheld from the public. Here are some of the facts Ruppelt gathered”
“At 1:15 p.m. on that afternoon the control tower operators at Godman AFB, outside Louisville, Kentucky, received a telephone call from the Kentucky State Highway Patrol. The patrol wanted to know if Godman Tower knew anything about any unusual aircraft in the vicinity. Several people from Maysville, Kentucky, a small town 80 miles east of Louisville, had reported seeing a strange aircraft. Godman knew that they had nothing in the vicinity so they called Flight Service at Wright-Patterson AFB. In a few minutes Flight Service called back.
Their air Traffic control board showed no flights in the area. About twenty minutes later the state police called again. This time people from the towns of Owensboro and Irvington, Kentucky, west of Louisville, were reporting a strange craft. The report from these two towns was a little more complete. The town’s people had described the object to the state police as being “circular, about 250 to 300 feet in diameter,” and moving westward at a “pretty good clip.” Godman Tower checked Flight Service again. Still nothing. All this time the tower operators had been looking for the reported object. They theorized that since the UFO had had to pass north of Godman to get from Maysville to Owensboro it might come back.
At 1:45 p.m. they saw it, or something like it. Later, in his official report, the assistant tower operator said that he had seen the object for several minutes before he called his chief’s attention to it. He said that he had been reluctant to ‘make a flying saucer report.’ As soon as the two men in the tower had assured themselves that the UFO they saw was not an airplane or a weather balloon, they called Flight Operations.
They wanted the operations officer to see the UFO. Before long word of the sighting had gotten around to key personnel on the base, and several officers, besides the base operations officer and the base intelligence officer, were in the tower. All of them looked at the UFO through the tower’s 6 x 50 binoculars and decided they couldn’t identify it. About this time Colonel Hix, the base commander, arrived. He looked and he was baffled. At 2:30 p.m., they reported, they were discussing what should be done when four F-51’s came into view, approaching the base from the south.
The tower called the flight leader, Capt. Mantell, and asked him to take a look at the object and try to identify it. One F-51 in the flight was running low on fuel, so he asked permission to go on to his base. Mantell took his two remaining wing men, made a turn, and started after the UFO. The people in Godman Tower were directing him as none of the pilots could see the object at this time. They gave Mantell an initial heading toward the south and the flight was last seen heading in the general direction of the UFO.
By the time the F-51’s had climbed to 10,000 feet, the two wing men later reported, Mantell had pulled out ahead of them and they could just barely see him. At 2:45 p.m. Mantell called the tower and said, “I see something above and ahead of me and I’m still climbing.” All the people in the tower heard Mantell say this and they heard one of the wing men call back and ask, “What the hell are we looking for?” The tower immediately called Mantell and asked him for a description of what he saw. Odd as it may seem, no one can remember exactly what he answered. Saucer historians have credited him with saying, “I’ve sighted the thing. It looks metallic and it’s tremendous in size…. Now it’s starting to climb.” Then in a few seconds he is supposed to have called and said, “It’s above me and I’m gaining on it. I’m going to 20,000 feet.” Everyone in the tower agreed on this one last bit of the transmission, “I’m going to 20,000 feet,” but didn’t agree on the first part, about the UFO’s being metallic and tremendous.
The two wing men were now at 15,000 feet and trying frantically to call Mantell. He had climbed far above them by this time and was out of sight. Since none of them had any oxygen they were worried about Mantell. Their calls were not answered. Mantell never talked to anyone again. The two wing men leveled off at 15,000 feet, made another fruitless effort to call Mantell, and started to come back down. As they passed Godman Tower on their way to their base, one of them said something to the effect that all he had seen was a reflection on his canopy.
When they landed at their base, Standiford Field, just north of Godman, one pilot had his F-51 refueled and serviced with oxygen, and took off to search the area again. He didn’t see anything.
At 3:50 p.m. the tower lost sight of the UFO. A few minutes later they got word that Mantell had crashed and was dead.
Several hours later, at 7:20 P.M., airfield towers all over the Midwest sent in frantic reports of another UFO. In all about a dozen airfield towers reported the UFO as being low on the southwestern horizon and disappearing after about twenty minutes. The writers of saucer lore say this UFO was what Mantell was chasing when he died; the Air Force says this UFO was Venus.
The people on Project Sign, a government program charged with investigating UFOs at the time, worked fast on the Mantell Incident. Contemplating a flood of queries from the press as soon as they heard about the crash, they realized that they had to get a quick answer. Venus had been the target of a chase by an Air Force F-51 several weeks before and there were similarities between this sighting and the Mantell Incident. So almost before the rescue crews had reached the crash, the word “Venus” went out. This satisfied the editors, and so it stood for about a year; Mantell had unfortunately been killed trying to reach the planet Venus.
To the press, the nonchalant, offhand manner with which the sighting was written off by the Air Force public relations officer showed great confidence in the conclusion blaming Venus. But behind the barbed-wire fence that encircled Air Technical Intelligence Center (ATIC) the nonchalant attitude didn’t exist among the intelligence analysts.
Actual Transcripts from Godman Tower
While Ruppelt’s account downplays Mantell’s description of the UFO, the actual transcript of the conversations between Godman tower and the pilots confirm previous reports.
Here it is:
“Godman Tower Calling the flight of 4 ships northbound over Godman Field. Do you read? Over.
[Pause] Godman Tower Calling the flight of 4 ships northbound over Godman Field. Do you read? Over.”
“Roger, Godman Tower. This is National Guard 869, Flight Leader of the formation. Over.”
“National Guard 869 from Godman Tower. We have an object out south of Godman here that we are unable to identify, and we would like to know if you have gas enough; and if so could you take a look for us if you will.”
“Roger, I have the gas and I will take a look for you if you give me the correct heading.
One of his three companions in flight received permission to continue his pre-assigned flight plan, while Mantell and the remaining two planes headed to the coordinates of the visual sightings.
Mantell led the way in the climb to 15,000 feet, and upon reaching the position, he radioed the following statement back to the control tower.
“The object is directly ahead of and above me now, moving at about half my speed… It appears to be a metallic object or possibly reflection of Sun from a metallic object, and it is of tremendous size… I’m still climbing… I’m trying to close in for a better look.”
Why Did Mantell Risk His Life?
As I mentioned earlier, there was at least one witness to the event that said Mantell was the only pilot that had oxygen and that is why he was chosen to pursue the UFO. However, the consensus is that Mantell in fact did not have oxygen, therefore, this begs the question: why would any combat-hardened pilot take such a foolish chance pursing an object in such thin air?
One possible answer appears in Ruppelt’s report:
“In high altitude indoctrination during World War II, I made several trips up to 30,000 feet in a pressure chamber. To demonstrate anoxia we would leave our oxygen masks off until we became dizzy. A few of the more hardy souls could get to 15,000 feet, but nobody ever got over 17,000.
Possibly Mantell thought he could climb up to 20,000 in a hurry and get back down before he got anoxia and blacked out, but this would be a foolish chance. This point was covered in the sighting report. A long-time friend of Mantell’s went on record as saying that he’d flown with him several years and knew him personally. He couldn’t conceive of Mantell’s even thinking about disregarding his lack of oxygen. Mantell was one of the most cautious pilots he knew. ‘The only thing I can think,’ he commented, ‘was that he was after something that he believed to be more important than his life or his family.’”
Mantell’s UFO Makes a Second Appearance
In the beginning of this account, we mentioned the initial testimony of James F. Duesler, a former Captain in the U.S. Army Air Corps, who was one of the crash site investigators of the Mantell event.
The elderly man recently shed more light on the UFO, the Air Force’s first claimed to be the planet Venus and later transformed into a top secret balloon. In an interview with UFO investigator Tony Dodd, about the second appearance of the UFO early the next morning just before he was called by the Army to join a team of crash investigators at Mantell’s crash site.
Here’s his account, according to Dodd:
“Duesler was unaware of any further developments until 1:00 AM when he was awakened to return to the tower. A glowing, orange, cigar-shaped UFO was being observed as it circled in the distance. Reports of a similarly described object were coming in from St. Louis and Wright-Patterson Air Base in Ohio.
Duesler eventually went back to bed, but he would not rest for long. At 3:00 AM he was summoned to investigate a plane crash. When he and two other accident investigators arrived on the scene, 130 miles away, near Franklin, they were puzzled by what they found.
Because of the weight of the engine, he maintained, the Mustang should have nose-dived straight into the ground; however, it appeared to have ‘belly-flopped’ into a small clearing, doing no damage to the surrounding woods.
Although the wings and tail had broken off, the fuselage sustained little damage, and no blood was evident in the cockpit. The pilot’s body had already been taken away, but Duesler was informed by others at the scene that ‘nowhere on the body had the skin been punctured or penetrated, yet all the bones had been crushed and pulverized.’
Duesler admitted he found the circumstances of the accident strange. ‘The damage pattern was not consistent with an aircraft of this type crashing into the ground,’ he was quoted as saying. ‘The official report said that Mantell had blacked out due to lack of oxygen. This may well have been the case, but the aircraft came down in a strange way.’
There is no doubt in my mind that the Air Force’s version of what happened to Mantell was a cover story created to hide the nefarious truth that creatures from the unknown are invading our air space and there is little or nothing we can do about it. The fact that Mantell was summarily rebuffed by the visitors, who swatted his plane as though it were a fly, leaves no other conclusion to me than they are indeed hostile and not the benevolent creatures that only have our best interest at heart.
Mantell’s Chilling Last Words
The most eerie and convincing fact that that what Mantell saw that afternoon in January of 1948 was something extraordinary were his last words.
They come from Richard T. Miller, who claims he was in the Operations Room of Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Illinois. He came forward and testified before state and federal authorities that on the date of the crash he had been monitoring the radio talk between Mantell and Godman tower, and heard Mantell’s last statement very clearly.
“My God, I see people in this thing!”
Miller also said that on the morning after the crash, investigators had stated in a briefing that Mantell had died “pursuing an intelligently controlled unidentified flying object.”
But within hours Air Force intelligence clamped down tight on the Mantell incident.
“That evening, Air Technical Intelligence Center officers from Wright-Patterson AFB arrived and ordered all personnel to turn over any materials relating to the crash. Then, after we had turned it over to them, they said they had already completed the investigation,” Miller testified.
“I was no longer a skeptic. I had been up to that time. Now I wondered why the Government had gone to all of the trouble of covering it up, to keep it away from the press and the public.”
© 2018 Chet Dembeck
Categories: UFO Encounters