UFOs - Past, Present, & Future
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
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
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
The reporting officer goes on to say:
Godman Tower again contacted us to report that there was a large
The report continues on for several pages and concludes:
It is the ATIC opinion that Captain Mantell lost consciousness due
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.
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.
* * *
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