This is such an interesting story.  I was motivated to look more into it when I saw an article come across my screen…

By Kevin Randle
: On January 7, 1948, Kentucky
Captain-Mantell’s-fatal-UFO-pursuit-01Air National Guard fighter
pilot, Captain Thomas F.Mantell, crashed his F-51 fighter near Franklin, Kentucky. He had been chasing a large object
claimed by some to be a flying saucer or UF
O. There were multiple witnesses to the object
including the commanding officer at Godman Army Air Field, Colonel Guy F. Hix. He, along with
witnesses in the air and on the ground, prov
ided descriptions of the UFO for Air Force
investigators. The official conclusion was that Mantell had died
in a tragic aircraft accident
caused by his attempt to intercept the object later said to be Venus, a weather balloon, and
then Venus and two weather balloons. The final,
official conclusion
was that Mantell had
violated regulations by climbing above 14,000 f
eet without oxygen equipment and died in the
resulting crash, and that the ob
ject he chased was a cosmic ray research balloon known as a
: As it is frequently reported in the UF
O literature, the incident began at 1320
hours (1:20 p.m.). Technical Sergeant (T/SGT
) Quinton Blackwell, working the tower at
Godman Army Air Field at Fort Knox, Kentucky,
received a telephone call from the military
police saying that they had received a call from
the Kentucky State Highway Patrol who said
they were taking calls about something flying over Maysville, Kentucky. That information was
brought to the attention of the ba
se operations officer, the intelligence officer and finally, the
base commander, Colonel Guy F. Hix. None was able to identify it.
For about an hour and twenty-five minutes, dozens
of people including Colonel Hix, watched as
the UFO seemed to hang motionless in the so
uthwestern sky. In the towns of southern
Kentucky, people watched the UFO, some claiming it drifted silently and slowly to the south.
Others thought that it hovered for a few minutes and then resumed its slow flight. The
witnesses were clea
rly describing something that
was moving very slow.
At 2:45 p.m., the situation suddenly changed. A
flight of F-51 Mustang fighters (it should be
noted here that the designation of the Mustan
g had recently been changed from a “P” for
pursuit, to an “F” for fighter) flew over Godman
Army Air Field. With th
e UFO still visible, the
flight leader, Captain Thomas Mantell, was asked if he would investigate. Mantell replied that he
was merely ferrying the aircraft but that he woul
d attempt an intercept. He began a spiraling,
climbing turn to 220 degrees and 15,000 feet.
As he reached 15,000 feet, Mantel
l radioed the tower. Records of
that transmission are in
dispute. Mantell did say that th
e object was “above me and appe
ars to be moving about half
my speed.” Later he would report that it was “metallic and it is tremendous in size.” With the
UFO still above him, he reported he would continue to climb.
The records are also confusing about the altitude
s that various pilots reached. Clearly Mantell
and two of his wingman reached 15,000 feet. Some of the documentation suggests that all
three aircraft reached 22,000 feet, where th
e two wingmen who had stayed with him,
Lieutenant A.W. Clements and
Lieutenant B.A. Hammond turned
back. The oxygen equipment
of one of the fighters had faile
d and military regulations requir
ed that oxygen be used above
14,000 feet. Hammond radioed that they were aban
doning the intercept, but Mantell, who had
no oxygen equipment on his aircraft, continued
to climb. He did not acknowledge the message
from Hammond.
For thirty minutes, as the flight chased the hu
ge object, each of the wingmen broke off the
intercept. Now, at 3:10 p.m., Mantell was the only pilot left chasing the object and he was

alone at 23,000 feet. According to
the documentation, he either told his wingmen that he was
going to climb to 20,000 feet and if he could ge
t no closer or observe anything else, he would
break off the intercept. Others suggested that
he said he was going to 25,000 feet for ten
The last that anyone saw of him, he was still climbing toward the UFO but made no more radio
calls to either his wingmen or the control towe
r at Godman. By 3:15 ev
eryone had lost both
radio and visual
contact with him.
Fearing the worst, a search was launched and ju
st after 5:00 p.m., on a farm near Franklin,
Kentucky, the remains of Mantell’s F-51 were found scattered over about a half a mile. Mantell’s
body was inside the broken cock
pit. His watch had stopped at 3:
18 p.m. From the evidence it
seems that Mantell was killed in the crash of his aircraft.
These are the facts as they have
been established to this point. This is, of course, a bare bones
examination of the incident. There is additional information and analysis of what happened,
some of it based solely on speculation.
An accident investigation began
immediately, as was required
by regulations. It was a two
pronged attack. One was to determine what happe
ned to Mantell and why he had crashed. In
other words, it was a standard aircraft accident. The second was to identify the object, or
objects, that he had chased. This was a UFO investigation.
: Accident investigators, uncon
cerned with the reports of
the disk-shaped object, attempted to learn why Ma
ntell had crashed. They looked at everything
relating to the flight, Mantell’s experience as a
pilot, and even the manufacture of the aircraft.
According to the Army Air Forces Report of
Major Accident, aircraft number 44-65869, which
was built on December 15, 1944, crashed 3.5 mi
les from Franklin, Kentucky. The narrative
section contains a description
of the accident. It stated:
On 7 January 1948 at approximately 1450-1455, Captain Mantell was leading a
flight of four (4) P-51 aircraft on a flig
ht from Marietta Air
Base, Marietta, Georgia
to Standiford Field at Louisville, Kentucky. Nearing Godman Field, Kentucky, the
flight was contacted by Godm
an Field Control Tower and
requested to identify an
object in the sky if the mission would permit. Captain Mantell replied that his
mission was ferrying aircraft and that he would attempt to identify the object in
the sky. Captain Mantell be
gan a maximum climb in left spirals until about 14000
feet and from there a straight climb
at maximum, on a compass heading of
approximately 220 degrees. No conversati
on between Captain Mantell and any
member of his flight revealed a clue as to his intentions. One pilot left the flight
as the climb began, the remaining two
discontinued the clim
b at approximately
22000 feet. When last observed by the wi
ng man Lt. Clements, Captain Mantell
was in a maximum climb at 22500 feet, the aircraft in perfect control. Captain
Mantell was heard to say in ship to ship
conversation that he would go to 25000
feet for about ten minutes and then co
me down. Transmission was garbled and
attempts to contact Captain Mantell by hi
s flight were unansw
ered. Lt. Clements
was the only pilot equipped with an oxyg
en mask. This flight had been planned
and scheduled as a ferry and na
vigational trip at low level.
Consensus is that Captain Mantell lo
st consciousness at approximately 25000
feet, the P-51 being trimmed for a maximu
m climb continued to climb gradually
levelling out as increasing altitude caused
decrease in power. The aircraft began
to fly in reasonably level attitude at
about 30000 feet. It then began a gradual
turn to the left because of torque, slowly
increasing degree of bank as the nose
depressed, finally began a spiraling di
ve which resulted in excessive speeds

causing gradual disintegration of airc
raft which probably began between 10000
and 20000 feet.
Since canopy lock was in place after the cr
ash, it is assumed
that Captain Mantell
made no attempt to abandon the aircra
ft, and was unconscious at moment of
crash or had died from lack of oxygen be
fore aircraft began spiraling dive from
about 30000 feet.
Parts of the aircraft were found as far as six-tenths (estimated) of a mile from
central wreckage. The parts were scattere
d north to south. The aircraft came
straight down in a horizontal position and landed on the left side. The left wing
came off while in the air and landed
100 feet from the central wreckage. The
aircraft did not slide forward
after contact with the ground.
[Mantell had] Violated AAF [Army Air Forc
es] Reg. 60-16 Par. 43. However Capt.
Mantell was requested by Godman Field Control Tower to investigate objects in
the sky, causing this Officer to
go above limits of AAF Reg. 60-16.
They recommended, quite naturally, that all pi
lots again be briefed on the use of oxygen
equipment and the effects of the lack of oxygen on the human body and mind.
Destruction of Mantell’s Aircraft
There were a number of affidavits offered as
supporting documentation of the accident. A
witness on the ground, William C.
Mayes, saw the aircraft as it
circled at altitude and then
watched as it fell from the sky, breaking apart.
He signed an affidavit within hours of the
accident. It said:
I, William C. Mayes of Route #3, Lake Springs Road, Franklin, Kentucky, Simpson
County do state that on 7 January 1948
at approximately three-fifteen P.M. I
heard an airplane overhead making a funn
y noise as if he were diving down, and
pulling up, but it was just circling. After about three circles, the airplane started
into a power dive slowly rotating. This pl
ace was so high I could hardly see it
when it started down. IT started to make a terrific noise, ever increasing, as it
descended. It exploded half way between
where it started the dive and the
ground. No fire was seen. It hit or crashed
at three-twenty P.M.,
Central. It didn’t
explode when it hit the ground and did not burn.
In witness whereof, I have hereunto set
my hand and seal at my home on Route
#3, Lake Spring Road, Franklin, Kentucky this 7th day of January 1948.
William C. Mayes
Sworn and subscribed before me
7th day of January 1948
Richard L. Tyler
Captain, KY ANG
Summary Court Officer
It should be noted that Glenn Mayes signed a si
milar statement on the same day. There is little
difference between what th
e two eye witnesses said they saw
as Mantell’s plane began to break
up high overheard.
Time of Impact