The Mantell Case
|Lee R. Trail, Kentucky MUFON:
Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., was born in Simpson County, Kentucky, June 30, 1922. His death occurred in Simpson County, January 7, 1948, while pursuing an unidentified, flying object. His birth and death are the only times that "Tommy" was ever known to be in Simpson County.
Captain Mantell's case became "Volume One of The Classics." The Classics were three UFO incidents in 1948 that (among other requirements) convinced Air Technical Intelligence Command's highest ranking officers and intelligence specialists that UFOs were real.
"Lieutenant" Mantell was awarded the Distinguished flying Cross for his actions over Holland on September 18, 1944. The Distinguished Flying Cross is awarded for "heroism or extraordinary achievement in aerial flight." His cargo plane, with a glider in tow, came under heavy ground fire. All but one of the rudder and elevator controls were shot out, and the tail section was set on fire. "Vulture's Delight" had a courageous crew. The crew chief fought the fire with live ammunition going off. Rather than release the glider, Lt. Mantell continued towing. The glider was released at its intended location, and, judging from a picture of the cargo plane, Lt. Mantell returned to base and landed an airplane that could not fly. He was known as "Shiny" by his comrades. The moniker was bestowed because of his "constant well -scrubbed look." "He was able to think fast and act quickly."
The Medal of Honor is given to anyone in the armed services who "in action involving actual conflict with an enemy, distinguishes himself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity, at the risk of his life above, and beyond the call of duty." That last phrase disqualifies all acts of courage performed in the course of carrying out orders or as a part of a man's service duties. Though the Medal of Honor will never be considered --and some so-called investigators want to remove Captain Mantell 's duty bound sacrifice from the annals of ufology --the events associated with his crash and death deserve close scrutiny. He gave his life in an effort to intercept and identify an unknown object that was in the air space over the state and nation he had swore to defend.
Captain Mantell was on a "ferry mission." Four P-51Ds were being flown from Georgia to their station with the Air National Guard in Louisville, Kentucky. Capt. Mantell was the Flight Leader. One Mustang, piloted by Lt. Robert Hendricks, continued to Louisville. Two wingmen, Lt. A. W. Clements and Lt. B. A. Hammond, followed their flight leader.
According to a Louisville newspaper, January 8, 1948:
Only Lt. Clements had oxygen. [He had a bail-out bottle.] Oxygen had not been issued because they were training at comparatively low levels. Clements said Mantell apparently picked up the Godman Field (Fort Knox, KY) radio signal to "look for" an object, resembling a "flying saucer," that was reported southwest of Godman Field.
Clements and Hammond followed. Mantell and Clements were linked by radio, but Hammond's communications set was tuned to a different frequency.
Clements said Mantell informed him they were looking for something "but didn't seem to know exactly what it was." Soon Mantell related, "look, there it is at 12 o'clock" (right over their nose). Clements saw a bright, shining object that looked like a star. Mantell and Clements started for it.
Hammond, who had received no word of the flying saucer, was bewildered. "At first, I thought we were lost. Then we started climbing, and I assumed we were looking for Louisville." Hammond was depending on Mantell and Clements for navigation and went up with them to avoid loosing his bearings. "I felt a little shaky at 15,000 feet because I realized we were supposed to take oxygen at 12,000. By the time I hit 22,000, 1 was seeing double. I pulled alongside Clements and indicated with gestures that I didn't have an oxygen mask. In fact, I circled my finger around my head to show him I was getting woozy. He understood the situation, and we turned back."
Neither Clements (25) nor Hammond (23) saw Mantell crash. Clements and Hammond were both World War II veterans. Clements, who won the Distinguished flying Cross in North Africa and Italy, refueled [charged the aircraft oxygen] and took off in search of the "disk" but failed to spot it. [It was gone. Synchronicity?]
Recalling the appearance of the object, Clements remarked, "The more I think about it, the more I'm convinced it was a star or some other type of celestial body."
Some reports indicate the object may have been a weather balloon. Two pilots at Hopkinsville, KY, said they followed a flying object and believed it was a balloon. [NOTE: These pilots probably followed Skyhook and identified the object as a balloon. Are we expected to believe that Captain Mantell, with 20/20 vision, could not make the same distinction?]
There is no record of "hot guns" having been requested. There were none to be had, and only Clements returned to look for the boggy.
Mr. William Hamilton was six and one-half years of age and living near Lucas, KY, when he witnessed a Mustang closing in on a bright object that was just east of due south and at 45 degrees. Lucas is just east of due south from Godman Field. The object was "as bright as an arc welder seen in the distance." The plane went into a power ascent that seemed to take it all the way to the object. The plane leveled-off and headed in a westerly direction, the direction of Franklin. His mother, who was with him at the time, heard a noise that she assumed was the airplane crashing. The plane probably broke the sound barrier. Lucas is about 35 miles from Franklin. A loud sound was heard over a large area.
School's out on a clear, crisp, January afternoon in Franklin, Kentucky. In the center of town with a kind and trusted, mature relative is a secure place for a ten year old. A glimpse! One's perspective changes forever. The relative pointed to an orange object, about the size of the full moon, traveling in the direction of the crash site. The object had the appearance of sunlight reflected from polished metal. It was viewed for only a few seconds. A Skyhook balloon, if it could have been seen, would not have appeared to be the size of the "full moon." The siren sounded announcing the fire department was being dispatched (because of the crash) within minutes of the sighting. The witness did not see nor hear the airplane and does not recall hearing a loud, explosive sound.
Mrs. Anna Margaret Mayes saw the airplane in its dive. She was at Cool Springs School. She knows the time based on her location: It was no earlier than 3:30 P.M.
Mr. Glenn Mayes heard the plane before seeing it. He first saw the plane in a tight spiraling dive. It was at about 6,000 feet. Mr. Mayes was approximately 400 yards from the crash site, and, because of associated events, he knows the time was no earlier than 3:30 P.M.
The plane came apart fairly close to the ground (about 2,000 feet). There was the sound of metal being ripped apart and the roar of the engine. Though a loud explosion was reportedly heard in Franklin (about four miles) and elsewhere, neither Mrs. Mayes nor Mr. Mayes remember an especially loud sound.
Mr. Mayes discovered the fuselage fuel tank while hunting. It was about one-half mile from the crash, near Cool Springs Church. The tank was destroyed years ago by the property owner.
[NOTE: I chose not to address the tale, attributed to Glenn and/or his cousin William, that the plane was seen circling (three times) before starting its spiral. Both men were together.]
A six year old witness, hearing the noise, rushed to the window and saw the impact. Captain Mantell crashed about 150 yards from his home. His mother, Mrs. Joe Phillips, reported the crash at 3:30 P.M., the time given for the crash in the FRANKLIN FAVORITE, January 8, 1948. This witness remembers the separated tail section being found, about one-quarter mile away, after the military departed. Sudan's from a local university removed it years later. Though extensive efforts were made by historians to locate the tail section, its current location and condition are unknown.
Local gentry in the Volunteer Fire Department removed Captain Mantell's pulverized-body from the smoking wreck. Oil was spilling onto a hot engine. The plane never burned.
The condition of the Mustang, and of Captain Mantell 's body, seems to have posed a quandary for crash investigators.
The P-51D was not designed for speeds exceeding the speed of sound. Upon approaching the "barrier," the tail would thrash wildly, and the plane would become totally uncontrollable.
It was standard procedure to use all but 25 gallons of fuel from the fuselage tank first because it made landing easier due to helping establish center of balance.
Though not a crash investigator, the following hypothesis is (in my opinion) the most likely scenario.
The airplane was in a tight spiral dive with fuel thrashing within the partially full tank. When the tail section broke away, the P-51D became an aerodynamic-wreck with one of the most powerful engines of its day running wide-open (while the fuel lasted). The tail section ripped off and wound up a quarter-mile away. The fuselage fuel-tank was twice that distance. Fuel tank and tail section were never found by the military. One wing broke loose upon (or close to) impact and landed a few feet away. Just prior to impact, with no fuel being supplied, the engine stalled, and the Mustang pancaked into the soft earth during a January thaw. One prop pierced the ground, two lay flat upon the surface, and one stood attention at the scene.
Captain Mantell 's skull was decapitated when the canopy went, and his uniform was all that kept his body intact when it was removed from the plane. He was pulverized from the thrashing descent and impact.
Captain Thomas F. Mantell, Jr., a dedicated soldier, forfeited his life attempting to intercept and identify an object that he (and apparently Godman Field's tower personnel) believed to be a potential threat to the security of the United States. An unidentified object in the sky "was not a good thing" where the Air Force "was" concerned.
The Twining letter exemplifies the military attitude towards UFOs at the time Captain Mantell pursued an unidentified object to his death: "flying Disks" were "real (Note: 2/a)." The Twining letter was extracted from the SCIENTIFIC STUDY of UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS.".
The big-guns of science had never been brought to bear on the problem. Rumblings of discontent (both on Capitol Hill and among the public at large) led the Air Force to seek an independent assessment of the UFO situation. The study, at the cost of about half a million dollars, was carried out by the University of Colorado under the direction of Dr. Edward U. Condon because of his scientific eminence and independence. This study is chronicled in the "SCIENTIFIC STUDY of UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS," copyright 1968 by the Board of Regents of the University of Colorado.
Condon validates Captain Edward J. Ruppelt by using his material.
Captain Ruppelt, the first head of Project Blue Book, used the pseudonym "Project Bear" (project name for an Air Force contract) for Battelle Memorial Institute in his book, THE REPORT ON UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS. Battelle was just down the road from Dayton, Ohio, where Project Blue Book, being part of Air Technical Intelligence Command was located. Battelle Memorial Institute is in Columbus, 505 King Avenue.
In early 1952, shortly after his first visit to Battelle, Captain Ruppelt was called upon by the office of the Air Force's Director of Intelligence to investigate the events associated with the crash and death of Captain Thomas Mantell. Records had been transferred to microfilm, and something had been spilled on the microfilm. Very little could be read. Captain Ruppelt practically reconstructed the case. After completing the investigation, Ruppelt phoned back his answer: "It could have been a balloon." Could" is italicized, indicating (to me) "something is amiss."
If that was an entrance examination, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt passed with flying colors. He retained his position to glean information so that he could pass UFO intelligence to those interested. His is, by far, the best UFO expose ever written.
One must read between the lines to grasp the implications and probabilities of Captain Ruppelt 's book, THE REPORT ON UNIDENTIFIED FLYING OBJECTS. For example, when summarizing the Florida scoutmaster's hoax, Captain Ruppelt didn't say he suspected the ground was heated, and the burns were implemented, by an arc welder -- but he let us know there was one in the neighborhood.
When Dr. J. Allen Hynek (Blue Book's astronomy adviser) told Ruppelt Venus was an unlikely candidate for the object Captain Mantell pursued, Ruppelt chose a phantom Skyhook.
A balloon being the object Captain Mantell was chasing is out of the question though there was a balloon in the general area. A balloon was reported having been viewed through a telescope by a man from Madisonville, Kentucky, after Captain Mantell crashed. Madisonville is northwest of Franklin, Kentucky. The object was traveling southeast. An astronomer living north of Nashville, Tennessee, reported seeing a balloon through a telescope at 4:45. Nashville is south of Franklin. These are the balloon reports that some researchers espouse being the object Captain Mantell pursued.
A "Skyhook" has recently been reported by retired balloon scientist Charles Moore as having been launched from Camp Ripley, Minnesota, the day before. Skyhook looked like a balloon: The former engineer in charge of the Navy's Project Skyhook said the fully inflated balloon was "105 feet tall and 73 feet in diameter." The balloon lifted to 90,000 feet. If over Franklin at 90,000 feet (If Skyhook could have been seen 85-miles away on a clear, hazy day) it SHOULD have been seen at nine degrees above the horizon from Ft. Knox, KY. At nine degrees above the horizon (if over Franklin at 90,000 feet) as viewed from Godman Field, the reported 45 degrees makes no sense. Also, reports of movement of the object seen at Godman were toward the west. The 85 miles high balloon [at 45 degrees from Ft. Knox] should have been perceived as moving from right to left, getting lower and smaller as it moved away. These glaring inconsistencies are not reconciled by balloon-proponents who are willing to dismiss everything except that a balloon was somewhere in the general area, sometime during the day.
Captain Ruppelt know better, and so did the intelligence analysts at Air Technical Intelligence Command who were convinced that Captain Mantell was pursuing an object that was not from this world.
The "new'' Skyhook, allegedly launched from Camp Ripley, on January 6, 1948, notwithstanding! According to wind records supplied by the group that supervised the contracts for all Skyhook research flights for the Air Force, a Skyhook launched from Clinton County Air Force Base in Ohio could have been seen in Maysville, Kentucky, and then from Irvington and Owensboro twenty minutes later.
Ruppelt states, "It is not unusual to be able to see a large balloon for 50 to 60 miles. The balloon could have traveled west for a while, climbing as it moved with strong east winds that were blowing that day and picking up speed as the winds got stronger at altitude. Still climbing, the balloon would have reached a level where a strong wind was blowing in a southerly direction," etc.
Several people from Maysville, Kentucky, reported seeing a "strange craft." Twenty minutes later, people from Irvington and Owensboro reported a "circular craft about 250 to 300 feet in diameter" and "moving westward at a pretty good clip." It's about 190 miles from Maysville to Owensboro: 190 miles in twenty minutes is 570 miles per hour. The first report was probably delayed which would reduce the indicated speed accordingly.
A balloon "moving westward at a pretty good clip" on a clear, hazy day in January with cirrus clouds and winds gently from the south seems a very unlikely scenario.
* * *
The information, in the next five paragraphs, is supplied by Captain Arthur T. Jehli, Supervisor of the 1600E-2400E shift on January 7, 1948, at Flight Test Operations at Wright Field. (Source: PROJECT BLUE BOOK, edited by Brad Steiger)
An object was seen south-southwest of Godman Field by tower personnel, and Captain Mantell was vectored in that direction. Captain Gary W. Carter, Godman Field, Fort Knox, Kentucky, stated the object could be seen with the naked eye; it was round and white and could be seen through cirrus clouds.
After Captain Mantell crashed, a large light was seen by Godman personnel in the same approximate position of the object seen earlier.
Later, a "great hall of light" was spotted at Lockbourne Tower (central Ohio) and Clinton County, Ohio (kinda southwest Ohio), traveling southwest across the sky.
Later that same day, St. Louis Tower called Flight Test Operations at Wright Field advising a "great ball of light was passing directly over the field." Scott Tower also verified this.
Air Defense Command plotted the object as moving west-southwest at 250 miles per hour.
* * *
The time of the crash was officially established to be 3:18 because that was when Captain Mantell's watch stopped. He crashed about 3:30. It's not unthinkable that Captain Mantell stopped his watch. It was approximately 3:18 when Mr. Hamilton witnessed the rapid ascent of the Mustang toward the object. The watch may also have stopped due to close proximity to the object. The Hill's watches stopped when they had their encounter, and Betty recalls a whirling, fiery mass with the craft visible inside as it departed.
A whirling, fiery mass could appear as "sun reflected from polished metal" if it was 85-miles up in a clear, January Kentucky-sky.
Captain Mantell crashed six months, to
after 'Major" (later lieutenant colonel)
The synchronistic birth and death of Captain Mantell seems preordained - akin to the boy of "John 9" who was born blind "that the works of God should be made manifest in him."
"Synchronicity," a term that seems to have been coined by Dr. Carl C. Jung, implies "worlds beyond cause." Synchronicity manifest in Godman Field's control tower. Captain Ruppelt writes, without comment, "They [tower personnel] theorized that since the UK) had had to pass north of Godman to get from Maysville to Owensboro it might come back." At one forty-five 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.
Synchronicity appears in a great many of the sighting reports associated with the object, or objects(?), that Captain Mantell "could" have been pursuing that tragic day. Virtually every sighting of a bright object was viewed at 45 degrees, regardless of the person's geographic location.
Colonel Guy Hix was Base Commander of
at the time Captain Mantell crashed.
A historical marker, to be located at his place of birth, is being requested to establish historical recognition for "a fine young man whose life abruptly ended one afternoon in Kentucky." Those wishing to contribute toward this memorial, please make the check payable to "Simpson County Historical Society," and enter "Mantell Marker" in the "for" portion of the check. Mail to Simpson County Historical Society, 206 N. College St., Franklin, Ky 42134.
Compiled by: Lee R. Trail, 7901 Sherry Lynn Court, Louisville, Ky 40228.