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DreamScape

UFOs - Past, Present, & Future

 

Chapter 4

The Mantell Case-1947

 

by Robert Emenegger

 

    Kenneth Arnold, a pilot, sighted an unidentified object in the sky on June 24, 1947, and it was to be the first of a flood of reports around the United States. The wave of sightings had actually started in January of that year, but Arnold's sighting report was the first to capture the attention of the news media, and it made headlines across the country. This sensational publicity occurred just when the 1947 wave was peaking that summer, and it created favorable conditions for others to report their sightings to the newspapers. Many of these published reports came from people who had witnessed UFOs before the Arnold sightings.

    At the time there was no agency to catalog the reports, so it was years before the true dimensions of the 1947 sighting wave became known. Later researchers found that over 850 sightings were reported during that critical year, making it one of the biggest waves of UFO sightings in American history.

    Most of the reports were being made to the news media, so the Air Corps received only a small portion of them. The Air Corps, however, took the reports that it did receive seriously, especially since many came from military personnel and other people with high credibility and reliability.

    By the end of 1947, memoranda on "flying discs" began to circulate through the upper echelon at the Pentagon. These memos were to give birth to an official investigation of UFOs. Here is an excerpt from a then-secret memo from the office of Major General Craigie, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Commanding General, Air Materiel Command, at Wright-Patterson, Ohio, dated 30 December 1947:

 

        It is Air Force policy not to ignore reports of sightings or phenomena
        in the atmosphere but to recognize that part of it's mission is to collect,
        collate, evaluate, and act on information of this nature.

        ...it is desired that the Air Force Air Materiel Command set up a
        project whose purpose is to collect, collate, evaluate, and distribute
        to interested government agencies and contractors all information
        concerning sightings and phenomena in the atmosphere which
        can be construed to be of concern to the national security...

        This project is assigned priority 2A, with a security classification of
        "restricted" and a code name "Sign." Where data of a classification
        higher than restricted is handled by the project, such data should be
        classified accordingly.

        Signed by Command of the Chief of Staff

 

    Approximately eight days after this memorandum, a "report of unusual incident" classified as "restricted" was entered into the Air Force records. It began:

 

        At approximately 1400E, 7 January 1947, Kentucky State Police
        reported to Fort Knox Military Police they had sighted an unusual
        craft or object flying through the air, circular in appearance,
        approximately 250-300 feet in diameter, moving westward at
        "a pretty good clip." This in turn was reported to the Commanding
        Officer, Godman Field, Ft. Knox, Kentucky, who called Godman
        Tower and asked them to have Flight Service check with Flight Test

        at Wright Field to see if they had any experimental aircraft in that area.

 

    Forty minutes before the state police reported the unusual aircraft," the tower crew at Godman Field had sighted a bright, disc-shaped object which they were unable to identify. The assistant tower operator watched the object for several minutes before making a report to his chief. Key personnel were alerted and began arriving at the tower, where they viewed the object through eight-power binoculars. The Base Commanding Officer, Colonel Hix, arrived. Looking through the binoculars, he described it: "It's very white, and looks like an umbrella. I just don't know what it is. Through the binocs it appears to have a red border at the bottom at times...and a red border at the top at times."

    About this time four P-51s happened to be in the area, en route from Marietta, Georgia, to Standiford Field in Louisville, Kentucky. The CO at Godman Field decided to contact the lead pilot and request that he investigate the object seen overhead. The lead pilot was Captain Thomas Mantell. The events of the next few minutes were to lead him, a veteran pilot, to his death.

*    *    *

    Mantell was like a lot of men who had joined the service in World War II. He trained as a pilot in the States, went overseas to North Africa and England, and survived several missions including the D-Day invasion of Normandy. Later he flew missions over Holland and participated in Rhine Crossing. He was now out of active service and, with a partner, had started a little business, the Elkins-Mantell Flying School, in Louisville. His wife was expecting a call from him later that day. His two boys, a six-year-old and one seventeen months old, were also at home. Friends said Mantell was "easy-going," above average in intelligence, could take care of himself, and never seems to have any personal problems. "Mantell loved flying" - especially the P-51 which he flew "not carelessly, but like an aggressive fighter pilot," according to his closest friend.

    But as fate would have it, this veteran pilot, who had flown and survived under trying war conditions, would meet his death that day. Mantell's name would be associated with one of the first and more controversial UFO cases recorded by the Air Force - and only Mantell ever knew what actually happened.

*    *    *

    As the flight of P-51s appears in the sky over Godman, the Commanding Officer presses the intercom key and contacts the Flight Leader. Mantell answers: "Roger, Godman Tower. This is NG3869 Flight Leader of formation . Over." the Base Commander, Colonel Hix, responds: "NG 3869 from Godman. 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 you could take a look for us, if you will." Mantell replies: "Roger, I have the gas and will take a look for you, if you give me the correct reading."

    One fighter plane requests to drop out. The three remaining P-51s take a reading from Godman Tower and turn south. In a few moments Mantell has moved ahead of his wing men. The tower contacts the Flight Leader again, this time to correct his course 5 degrees to the left, to 210 degrees from Godman Tower.

    Mantell's voice breaks in over the intercom: "Godman Tower. this is Flight Leader NG 3869, Captain Mantell." He has sighted it. "Object traveling at half my speed and directly ahead of me and above." The tower personnel listen as Mantell continues: "I'm closing in to take a good look."

    Another pilot's voice breaks in: "What the hell are we looking for?" The tower doesn't respond but pushes Mantell for an identification of the object: "Can you give us a description?"

    A few moments pass. Mantell informs the tower: "It's above me...it appears metallic and to be tremendous in size." Another moment passes and Mantell, knowing he is not equipped with oxygen, nevertheless informs the tower: "I'm going to twenty thousand feet."

    The other pilots, lacking oxygen equipment also, level off under 15,000 and start down. The commander and the tower operator watch and wait. Within a few minutes, at approximately 3:15 P.M., Godman tower loses sight of the UFO and Mantell's plane. Over the intercom you no longer hear the transmission from his P-51, only the sound of the engine as it strains in the distance on it's way to 30,000 feet. The tower again tries to contact Mantell.

    Five minutes later, there is a telephone call. Captain Mantell's plane has been located - it has crashed; his decapitated body lies near the wreckage. It is noted that Mantell's watch stopped at 3:10.

*    *    *

    The Air Force was in a dilemma about releasing the unpleasant photos of the crash and Mantell's body beside it. The press sensed that the Air Force was holding back the photos for ulterior reasons. Stories and speculations sprang up and found their way into the media - that his body was covered with strange, unearthly radiation burns, that he had been struck down from the sky by an alien spacecraft.

    The public clamored for more information and explanations. The Air Force, pressed for an official explanation, made a complete investigation and then, taking their best shot, announced that Mantell had simply been pursuing the planet Venus, which was located in that area of the sky. This explanation, coupled with the holding back of the photos, did not satisfy those who believed it was an Air Force cover-up.

    A look at the investigator's report gives you some insight into what actually happened - but as you read into it, you'll notice that "Venus" was following a highly erratic orbit that day.

 

        Officer Walker stated that when he arrived, the pilot's body had been
        removed from the aircraft. Upon questioning eyewitnesses, Officer Walker
        learned that the aircraft had exploded in the air before it hit the ground.

        The wreckage was scattered over an area of about one mile, and at that
        time the tail section, one wing, and the propeller had not been located.

        Lt. Tyler, Operations Officer at Standiford Field, departed Standiford
        Field for Bowling Green, Kentucky, in NG 8101 to investigate the
        accident. Also at our suggestion an investigation party and Military
        Police were dispatched from Godman Field to the scene.

 

    The reporting officer goes on to say:

 

        Godman Tower again contacted us to report that there was a large
        light in the sky in the approximate position object seen earlier. Then
        Lockbourne Tower and Clinton County Tower advised a great ball
        of light was traveling southwest across the sky.

        We then contacted Olmstead Flight Service Center and gave them
        all the information available to deliver to the Air Defense Command
        at Mitchell Field, Hempstead, New York.

        Later we received a call from St. Louis Tower advising that a great ball
        of light was passing directly over the field - Scott Tower also verified this.

        We then received a call from Air Defense Command through Olmstead
        Flight Service Center advising us to alert Coffeyville, Kansas, Ft. Smith,
        Arkansas, and Kansas City, Missouri, and that they had plotted the object
        as moving WSW at 250 miles per hour.

 

    The report continues on for several pages and concludes:

 

        It is the ATIC opinion that Captain Mantell lost consciousness due
        to oxygen starvation, the aircraft being trimmed continued to climb
        until increasing altitude caused a sufficient loss of power for it to
        level out. The aircraft then began a turn to the left due to torque and
        as the wing dropped so did the nose until the aircraft was in a tight
        diving spiral. The uncontrolled descent resulted in excessive speed
        causing the aircraft to disintegrate. it is believed that Captain Mantell
        never regained consciousness. this is borne out by the fact that the
        canopy lock was still in place after the crash, discounting any attempt
        to abandon the aircraft.

        The UFO was in no way directly responsible for this accident.

 

    The Air Force concluded that Mantell had been pursuing the planet Venus; but there was one observation made of the unidentified object in a signed affidavit that the Air Force must have overlooked it. In it, we get a different description of what Mantell may have been chasing that day. The military man involved describes a cone-shaped object that appeared to be surrounded with burning gas.

 

                                                                                State of Ohio
                                                                                County of Clinton

Before me, the undersigned authority for administering
oaths of this kind, personally appeared one
James H. Hudson, Cpl, ASN 13220873, who, being
first duly sworn by me, deposes and says:

The following information came over Plan 62:
This observation was made in Kentucky at the
scene of the P-51 crash with an 8" telescope:

1. Height: 4 miles.
2. Width: 43 feet.
3. Height of Object: 100 feet.
4. Speed at time, 10 mph.
5. Shape, cone.
6. Color, red with green tail.

This observation was taken at Godman Field,
Kentucky, with a theodolite:

1854 CST. Elevation 2.4, Azimuth 254.6
1856 CST. Elevation 2.0, Azimuth 253.9
1902 CST. Elevation 1.2, Azimuth 253.0
1906 CST. Disappeared.

The following is my opinion: The object is not a
comet or star, but was man-made. It was not a
balloon, comet, star, or aircraft of known type. The
light did not come from an aircraft's running lights.
The whole object appeared to be surrounded with
burning gas or something that gave light...

 

    Although at first the Air Force investigator's report stayed with the conclusion that Mantell had been pursuing the planet Venus, later information led them to believe it was a Navy Sky Hook Balloon thought to be in the area at the time. That was the most probable cause. And that revised conclusion closed the Mantell case.

    The explanation still didn't account for the many other descriptions given by other military ground observers. This was only the beginning of an unresolvable dilemma for the Pentagon.

*     *     *

Click on 'Next' for Chapter 5

 

 

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