In March of 2006 I had several messages on my
Maybe it's my age, or maybe it's all the years I've been chasing UFOs,
I don't know. I'm more reluctant about doing over-the-phone interviews
or spending a lot of time with reporters these days. I get much more
accomplished with research and archival work and don't need
distractions. The man calling left his number and I finally got around
to returning his call. His name was Drew Speier, and he was a reporter
from Evansville, Indiana's TV Channel 14, WFIE. He never mentioned it,
but I soon found out that it was ratings time and they were planning on
doing a story on a somewhat local UFO event. The Mantell incident was
more regional than local, of course, but it had a
sensational twist to it, something the media loves, and
apparently the viewers too. I told him that I was familiar with the
case for two reasons: First, every serious UFO enthusiast knew about
the case. It's a dramatic and well-known part of UFO history. Secondly,
it was a case that was part of my database because it WAS
regional. The Mantell case directory, which was on the NICAP web
site, didn't have much listed other than the fact that Ed Ruppelt had
written about it in his book in 1956, and Kevin Randle had written a
massive 5-part, forty-page report. For over 58 years the case had been
written about in about every book and mentioned on numerous TV shows,
and had finally been written off as a mistaken balloon, with the pilot
killed in either a freak accident or misgauging his ability to fly at
certain altitudes without oxygen. In effect, everybody had written it
off. I had serious reservations about that, however, some of those
personal, but I had to assume I was not always right and my peers are
the ones I answer to with the NICAP archiving.
Form 1, General Cases, should include witness notes or brief chronological composite or consolidation of the UFO sighting account. In the Mantell case we had the stories from various writers and researchers, but primarily the recollections of the man who was Project Blue Book's director a few years later, Captain Edward J. Ruppelt. His part of this report is from his book, "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects" and can be skipped over if the reader desires, but I strongly recommend reading it. Briefly let me say that Ruppelt got a call in early 1952 on ATIC's (Air Technical Intelligence Center) direct line to the Pentagon. It was a colonel in the Director of Intelligence's office. The Office of Public Information had been getting a number of queries about all of the confusion over the Mantell Incident. So, he dug into the file. The case file documents had all been microfilmed but Ruppelt claimed that something had been spilled on the film and they were faded and were illegible. To get the story he said he had to talk to the people at ATIC who had been there during the early UFO era. (34) On the previous page Ruppelt made a comment about how the Air Force reacted to the incident right after it happened. But this comment is different than the one he made in the original unedited manuscript.:
"The people on Project Sign worked fast on the Mantell Incident, [in fact they heard about it through Flight Service while it was all in progress.] 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...."
The comment in brackets is Ruppelt's, not mine. And our investigation was able to confirm this!
Activity Log. Simple chronological log by date, time and place denoting the tasks the FI carried out during the investigation. The first part of this book is the Sighting Investigation Activity log and fully explains and documents what was found and when and by whom.
INTERVIEW AND INTERROGATION
FI Notes. A description of the interview and interrogation. This should include where and how the interview took place (mail, telephone, or onsite). In the Mantell case the only people who could be interviewed were relatives of Captain Mantell and their recollections were tainted by years.
ADDITIONAL WITNESS CHECK
FI Notes. The circumstances surrounding how, when, and where additional witnesses were located and any subsequent interviews and interrogations including the FI's personal impressions of these witnesses and their home environment, interests, etc. In this case we had the witness reports from the original Air Force investigation.
The Project Blue Book Archive is a website which provides free online access to the National Archives Blue Book microfilm collection, and has so far posted documents of, to about mid-1954, which is still a fraction of the Blue Book microfilm. The site and work is conducted by Rebecca Wise, a very dedicated researcher and also a member of the NICAP A-Team. The Blue Book Archive provides a fully searchable interface to high-resolution document scans relating to the US government's investigation of the UFO phenomena. Also available are high-quality CD-ROMs of the microfilms, which can be purchased directly from the website.
Documents mentioned in this report are listed by number, and selected ones actually presented at the end of each chapter are marked with an asterisk (*). The less pertinent documents that CAN be examined are listed but not provided here due to lack of room in this already hefty report. These ARE provided on the NICAP website. In most cases the transcript (or part) is provided.
So here, for the record, is the official
SIGHTING INVESTIGATION ACTIVITY LOG:
March 8, 2006
Using the search engine for the Project Blue Book Archive, as we have for other cases the last few years, the keyword "Mantell" brought up four printed pages, 37 references, to BB documents, a good place to start. Immediately I found an interesting nine pages of documents on the Mantell Incident Report. Minus doc. 671, these documents describe the incident and the possible cause of a series of reports. The Air Force claimed Venus was the main culprit for the other reports that day, while the secret Skyhook balloon was what Mantell was supposed to have been chasing. My report and the documents cited are at:
March 10, 2006
On March 10th I sent an email to researcher Brad Sparks and advised that WFIE TV at Evansville, Indiana, wanted me to do an interview about Mantell for May release. I told him that I wanted to divert Drew Speier to a better case, but couldn't change his mind. But the Mantell incident had always bothered me. I didn't buy the explanation. Mantell should have been able to run into the damned thing at the speeds the P-51 can muster. The state police reported an object 250 feet wide, hardly the description of a distant skyhook. Buried in those many reports are some anomalous objects. Just a coincidence? And if the skyhook answer was so obvious, why did it take so long to come up with that conclusion? People in the AF were scratching their heads years later. Plus , there were some newly found documents we had on file.
Brad Sparks stated:
It would require intensive analysis of the confusing mass of sighting data to disentangle it all, much like the huge mess of the Washington National case, and I'm not sure it's really worth it." (Kevin Randle has had his challenge to debate Sparks on the Mantell case in writing up on UFO UpDates for maybe 2 + years by now and I don't think anyone has taken him up on it). Sparks: "I couldn't even have tried until BB Archive first made the Mantell file available this year or late last year". He added: "Mantell's last transmission about a tremendous metallic object doesn't have enough detail to screen it from an IFO, no angular size, no attempt to estimate size or distance or altitude, no detail of shape or structure if any. I find the F-51 plane crash very strange. It didn't crash nose down but pancaked flat on the ground, in fact that's a major reason there was enough remains intact even to recover the body (had it hit nose forward at high speed it would have shattered into many pieces). But that doesn't give us a description of a UFO. What are these "newly found documents, which appear to have been conveniently left out of the official Blue Book" ??
I advised Brad that the "newly found documents" were obtained by Wendy Connors and Mike Hall, and the web page showing these was at http://www.nicap.org/docs/mantell/mantell4.htm
Wendy Ann Connors originally hails from Iowa. Following High School she joined the United States Air Force. Completing her basic training at Lackland AFB her first duty assignment was at Stewart AFB in New York. In 1968 she was transferred to Mactan Island AFB, Philippines and worked as a Communications Supervisor and NCOIC of Administration. Honorably discharged an E-5 in the summer of 1969, Wendy returned to Iowa and completed her degrees at the University of Iowa and in 1980, moved to Albuquerque, New Mexico. Her accomplishments are many. She brought the history of Project SIGN and its members to the field, as well as the involvement and genius of Alfred C. Loedding. She has also brought many unknown documents to the field as well. She is a founding member of the SIGN Historical Group and holds one of the largest audio and photographic archives in the world dealing with crypto-aeronautics. Today, her health deteriorating, she continues to research the modern history of the unidentified flying object phenomenon. She also operates and maintains the Faded Discs Archive.
Her colleague in the Project Blue Book Research (including Project Sign) was Michael David Hall. Mike researched all aspects of the Project Blue Book days and published a book primarily dealing with the very early years of Air Force investigations into UFOs. That book, Origin of the UFO Phenomenon, documents many fascinating events long forgotten by today's sound bite generation. It is one of very few books that approaches the subject from a historical perspective. Hall holds a B.A. from Illinois College and an M.A. from Western Illinois University in American History.
The "mystery" photo
When Wendy found out I was doing research on the Mantell incident, we were discussing other things, but using her great sense of humor often, she sent me a "mystery photo". I didn't have a clue, but it turns out to be a photo of (L-R) Captain Thomas F. Mantell & Lt. A. W. Clements. This was a cropped version of a larger photo of the full crew that day (See Part 1-2).
The following are the transcripts, produced by Jean Waskiewicz, with the actual documents not found in the Blue Book files located at the end of this chapter.
Connors Doc #1 (*)
PUBLIC INFORMATION OFFICE
ALL WEATHER Flying Center
Clinton County Army Air Field
WILMINGTON, OHIO 8 January 1948
WILMINGTON, Ohio, Jan. 8-- A sky phenomena, described by observers at the Clinton County air Base 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.
S/Sgt. Gale F. Walter and Cpl. James Hudson, control tower operators at the air field, first saw the phenomena at 7:20 P.M. and observed its maneuvers in the sky until 7:55 P.M. when it reported disappeared over the horizon. The sky phenomena hung suspended in the air at intervals and then gained and lost altitude at what appeared to be terrific bursts of speed. The intense brightness of the sky phenomena pierced through a heavy layer of clouds passing intermittently over the area and obscuring other celestial phenomena.
MSgt. Irvin H. Lewis, S/Sgt John P. Haag, Sgt. Harold E. Olvis and T/Sgt. Leroy Ziegler, four members of the alert crew, joined the control tower operators in observing the sky phenomena for approximately 35 minutes.
Conners Doc #2 (*)
DET 103rd AACS
13 JANUARY 1947
SUBJECT: Report on Unusual Circumstance
TO: CO 332nd FIGHTER WING LOCKBOURNE A B
At approximately 1940 hrs Jan. 7th the Control Tower operator advised he observed an extremely strange bright light in the south west. However by the time I reached the operation steps at the entrance the light faded out. About two minutes later the Tower advised that the phenomenon was visible again. This time I saw the object at about 15 degrees above the horizon to the west south west of Lockbourne. The object was extremely bright, more so than any star. I would say about as large as and as bright as one of the runway lights at full intensity as viewed from the Control Tower. It appeared to have a tapering tail about 6 diameters long and predominantly was of a ruddy red color changing to a amber-yellow at different intervals.
The position of the object in the sky and the fact that we were reporting. A high overcast at the time added to the mystery.
Up until approximately 1950 hrs the object appeared to be motionless, at this time, however, it descended to the horizon in an interval of about 3 or 4 seconds, hovering there for 3 or 4 seconds and the ascended to its original position in an interval of about 3 seconds. It then rapidly began to fade and lower in the sky and disappeared at 1955 hrs.
AF9944 xmtd a position report to me at 1953 hrs over Columbus at 5,000 ft on round robin flight out of Wright Field to Washington and return , and reported a mysterious bright light to the west south west of his position, appearing like an oversized beacon.
Further information on reports from other stations observing the phenomenon can be obtained from flight services at Patterson.
Frank M. Eisle
DETACHMENT 733RD AF BASE UNIT
103rd AACS SQUADRON
14 JANUARY 1947
SUBJECT: Report of Unusual
Commanding Officer, 332nd Fighter Wing, Lockbourne Army Air Base, Columbus 17, Ohio.
On Wednesday January 7th between the hours of 1915 and 1939, there appeared in the sky a bright glowing object which I could not identify. At first I assumed it to be a star but the sky being overcast, I knew definitely that it was not a star nor an aircraft because the only aircraft flying in the local area was landing at the time. It was not an aircraft flare nor a balloon because it appeared to be enormous in size. I then observed it through the binoculars. It appeared to be cone-shaped, blunt on top and tapering off toward the bottom. I could not distinguish the attitude in which the object appeared to be. It was glowed from a bright white to an amber color with a small streak trailing. It was at a distance between 5 and 7 miles from the control tower at an altitude of approximately 2000 to 3000 feet bobbing up and down and moving in a south-southwesterly direction at a speed exceeding 500 miles per hour. Also the wind at the time was blowing from east to west and if it had been a balloon or lighter-than-aircraft it would have drifted in the direction the wind was blowing. There was no sound or unusual noise. Its performance was very unusual and the light emitting from it seemed to fade out at times. Just before it disappeared beyond the horizon the light changed to a sort of red color. The same object was later sighted in the vicinity of Clinton County Air Field by operators on duty in the control tower.
I have been actually engaged in aviation as an Air Traffic Control Tower Operator and a Private Pilot for a period of 5 years and thus far in all my experience, I have never encountered an optical illusion or any physical defect that would disqualify my possessions of such ratings.
ALEX A. BOUDREAUX
Air Traffic Controller
Conners Doc #4a (*)
DETACHMENT 733RD AF BASE UNIT
14 JANUARY 1948
SUBJECT: Report of Unusual Circumstance
332nd Fighter Wing
Lockbourne Army Air Base
Columbus 17, Ohio
On Wednesday January 7, 1948 at about 1925 Eastern time I observed in the sky an object which I could not identify. It appeared to hover in one position for quite some time, moving very little. It disappeared once for about one minute and I assumed it entered the overcast, which was at about 10,000 feet. After descending again below the overcast it circled one place for the duration of three 360 degree turns, then moved to another position to circle some more. Turns required approximately 30 to 40 seconds each, diameter estimated about two miles.
In moving from one place to another a tail was visible of approximately five times the length of the object. Not knowing how close or how far the object was from me at the time, I could not estimate the size very accurately, but it appeared as large or larger than one of our C 47 planes, and of a different shape. Either round or oval shaped. Just before leaving it came to very near the ground, staying down for about ten seconds, then climbed at a very fast rate back to its original altitude, 10,000 feet, leveling off and disappearing into the overcast heading 120 degrees. Its speed was greater than 500 mph in level flight. It was visible to me for a period of twenty minutes. No noise or sound could be detected. The color was amber light but not sufficiently bright to cover or obscure the outline of the configuration was was approximately round. During up and down movement no maneuvering took place. Motions was same as an elevator, climbing and descending vertically. Exhaust trail was noticeable only during forward speed. It appeared as a thin mist approximately same color (amber) as the object. Length about 5 times length of object.
During descent it appeared to touch the ground or was very close to touching it. It was approximately 3 to 5 miles away from Lockbourne Air Base in immediate vicinity of COMMERCIAL POINT. It positively was not a star, comet or any astronomical body to the best of my knowledge of such thing. I also rule out the possibility of it being a balloon, flare, dirigible, military or private aircraft.
Conners Doc #4b Page 2 (*)
Ltr, Subj: Report of Unusual Circumstance, 14 Jan 48 (Cont'd) I am 26 years old and in good health and have excellent vision. I have been actively engaged in aviation 6 years. I have a private pilot license and spent 3 years 10 months in the U. S. Army Air Corps as a Sergeant link trainer instructor, instrument flight observer.
The statements made herin are true and accurate to the best of my knowledge and may be used for any official purpose as deemed necessary.
ALBERT R. PICKERING
Conners Doc #5 (*)
JAN 14, 1947
Request for Report on Crashed P-51 National Guard Aircraft
315th AAFBU (Reserve Training)
Godman Field, Kentucky
1. It has been brought to the attention of this office that an official report has been made regarding the National Guard P-51 aircraft that crashed as a result of chasing an unidentified object on 7 January 1948. Information contained in this report may contribute greatly in the accomplishment of intelligence investigations of unidentified flying objects, or so-called "flying discs".
2. It is requested, therefore, that a copy of this report be made available to this Command as soon as possible.
FOR THE COMMANDING GENERAL:
H. M. McCOY
Chief of Intelligence
Conners Doc #6 (*)
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, disposes 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:
Elevation, 2.4 Azimuth 254.6
Elevation, 2.0 Azimuth 253.9
Elevation, 1.2 Azimuth 253.0
The following is my opinion: The object is not a comet or star, but was man made. It was not a balloon, comet, star, aircraft of known type. The light did not come from an aircraft's running lights. The whole object appeared to be surrounded with a burning gas or something that gave a light.
-- sketches --
Further the deponent sayeth not,
JAMES H. HUDSON, Cpl
Sworn to and subscribed before me this 20th day of January, 1948
GEORGE W. HOHANNESS
COUNTY OF CLINTON)
Before me, the undersigned authority for administering oaths of this kind, personally appeared one John P. Haag, S/Sgt, AF 17003481 who, being first duly sworn by me, disposes and says: The unidentified flying object was sighted in a South-West position at Clinton County Army Air Base at a heading of approximately 210 degrees on 7 January 1948, first being visible to this person at 19:35 o'clock when it was pointed out to me. The weather at the time was clear over the base, with a South-West wind which was moderate. There seemed to be an overcast in the South-West which was a layer approximately 1000 feet thick. The height of this overcast was approximately 5000 feet. The one and only object which was seen with the naked eye seemed to be about five miles from the field at an estimated altitude of 15,000 to 20,000 feet. The object seemed to remain stationary as first seen, with a light which resembled a complete wing of an airplane on fire. There was no beam of light projected. Then, for a period of five minutes I just took occasional glances at it as I went up the the Control Tower and observed the object through field glasses, which I then decided was not a comet or falling star, to my knowledge of astronomy. With the aid of field glasses, the object appeared to go from an altitude of 15,000 feet to 10,000 feet without any noticed forward or backward motion and then back up to its original altitude very rapidly, about three or four times. It seemed that when the object moved, a red light would dominate and change to a green light and then back to it's original color. It then began moving at a heading of 210 degrees and went behind the overcast and the light was seen through the overcast. The object moved very fast away; it stopped momentarily for three or four minutes and disappeared over the horizon at 15:55. No sound was heard from this object or no photographs taken.
Further the deponent sayeth not,
JOHN P. HAAG
S/Sgt, AF 17003481
Sworn to and subscribed before me this 21 day of January, 1948
ROBERT O. PETRANEKS
Caots in, USAFR
Note: Wendy Conners document # 6 mentions a "Plan 62". This was an important early discovery. Ruppelt's slip-up in his manuscript had mentioned that "The people on Project Sign worked fast on the Mantell Incident, [in fact they heard about it through Flight Service while it was all in progress.]..." The cat was out of the bag. A few months after our re-investigation had begun I asked Brad Sparks, who was by then heavy into the re-investigation with us, what Plan 62 was. June 7th: Brad Sparks: "I think it is the intercom system between Godman, Standiford, Lockbourne, Clinton County, etc., which was patched together the afternoon of Jan 7, 1948, to keep everyone up to the minute on events. People mention hearing about sightings at the other bases as it happened." Later, after further research, he was able to report, "The Air Defense Command (ADC) used the Plan 62 intercom system, through the Air Transport Command's Flight Service Centers, and the air traffic controllers of the Airways and Air Communications Service (AACS) in those centers and outlying bases, to coordinate the use of air traffic control towers and radars to track the UFO. This was because at that time the ADC had only two operating radars in the nation, both too far away, across the continent on the West Coast (at Half Moon Bay, Calif., and Arlington, Wash.)." But more on that later.
A member of my Nuclear Connection Project, Loren Gross, became interested in UFOs as a teenager when he was a member of the civilian Ground Observer Corps in the 1950's. After graduation from high school, he served four years in the U.S. Air Force as a radar operator with the Air Defense Command. In 1966 he received his B.A. degree in social science from the University of California at Chico and has since completed postgraduate work in physical science, history, and art. Mr. Gross is the author of many booklets on the early history of the UFO problem: The UFO Wave of 1896 (1974), The Mystery of the Ghost Rockets (1974), and Charles Fort, The Fortean Society, and Unidentified Flying Objects (1976). His most well-known works are the UFOs: A History series of booklets.
March 29, 2006
On March 29, I emailed Loren to see if we could post information about Mantell from his UFOs: a History, 1948. I had Jean scan the section for limited in-house use until we got the OK. Later, on June 4th, Loren would approve this in order to update the case file we were putting together.
May 12, 2006
Over a month had passed since I had been in contact with WFIE and I sent a DVD copy of the Greene-Rouse production, "U.F.O." to Drew Speier to be used for b&w era footage. Four days later I got an email from Drew:
"I have read accounts that had Mantell flying a P-51 and an F-51. Are they the same? I have been going with F-51 but now I'm not so sure. Can you clear this up or do I need to contact one of the Generals I spoke with who were former commanders of the KyANG. The documentary and the newspaper articles say F-51...that must be correct."
I had told him 1946, which was an error, but it was in 1948, that the designation P-51 (P for pursuit) had been changed to F-51 (F for fighter) and the existing F designator for photographic reconnaissance aircraft was dropped because of a new designation scheme throughout the USAF. Later in the month we filmed my portion of the show.
May 23, 2006
The show aired on WFIE-TV, Channel 14. It was only the beginning. The evidence would continue to mount and the need for a second interview and another show explaining our new findings was a certainty.