Part 2 -2:  WFIE Show Aires


May 23, 2006

The show aired on WFIE-TV, Channel 14. It did so well it required another installment to be filmed in July. We had uncovered reams of documents, telling a story much different than most UFOlogists had thought. A week later I posted the transcript.


Form: Media Transcript

Date: Thu, 01 Jun 2006 19:51:24 -0500
From: Francis Ridge <>
Subject: Mystery: Pilot Crashes While Pursuing UFO
Part 1, May 23, 2006, WFIE Interview

May 23, 2006 04:15 PM
Reporter: Drew Speier
New Media Producer: Rachel Chambliss

It's a mystery dating back to 1947. A UFO allegedly crashed in Roswell, New Mexico. That story is well documented, but equally puzzling was this mystery regarding a UFO in the skies above Kentucky just a few months after the Roswell incident.

In 1956, a government film addressed this case, a case that'll never be solved because Captain Thomas Mantell from Simpson County, Kentucky, an experienced pilot and World War II Ace, took the answer to his grave.

It made headlines across the country.  January 7th, 1948, 1:30 pm, Kentucky State Police receive reports of a UFO near Godman Air Force Base. The unidentified object is described as a big, bright, shiny star. (Ridge: The second line is a soundbyte WFIE used that came from the Edwards Encounter tape, and does not describe the Godman sighting).

Four F-51 Mustangs, on their way to Standiford Air Force Base in Kentucky, are contacted by the tower. They're ordered to investigate a white object, some 300 feet in diameter. One plane returns for fuel and oxygen, the other three approached the object.

Pilot Thomas Mantell says he sees it ahead of him. The planes climbed to 22,000 feet, too high for WWII fighters without oxygen. Two returned to the base, leaving Captain Mantell in sole pursuit of the unknown.

Minutes later, Mantell with another transmission states, "Mantell to tower: it appears to be a metallic object, and it's of tremendous size."

Captain Mantell kept climbing, most likely past 30,000 feet. Radio contact was lost.

Minutes later, less than two hours from the initial sightings, Mantell's F-51 crashed on a farm in Franklin, Kentucky. His watch stopped at 3:16 p.m. His body, still strapped in his plane. By all accounts, he passed out from a lack of oxygen, forcing his plane to plunge to the ground.

Today, a historical marker sits near the site where Mantell's plane went down in Franklin, Kentucky. In fact, it went down on a farm nearby Joe Phillips farm. His son, a school child then, was one of the first on the scene.

William Phillips Jr. recalls, "We heard this real loud boom, you know. It actually shook the house. In fact, the best I remember it was two of them, like an explosion."

Phillips Jr. was six years old and home sick with his younger sister when the crash occurred.

He says, "We ran to the window, and just happened to pick the right window, and see it hit the ground, as it hit the ground."

The news of the incident immediately made headlines. Newspapers reported Mantell had been shot down by a magnetic ray from a flying saucer. The story took on a life of its own.

Mantell was the first person ever to die while pursuing an unidentified flying object.

The military's response - it was most likely a weather balloon.

Phillips Jr. argues, "I can't see that a balloon could move and out run a P-51. The P-51 was the fastest thing the military virtually had in '47."

It's a story that, almost 60 years later, is still talked about in Franklin, Kentucky where Mantell was born and, oddly enough, died, just a few miles from the Simpson County tourism building where he's honored.

Dan Ware, Simpson County Tourism, says, "There are many UFO buffs who stop by to ask and see what we've got, and want to know as much as they can about the story. It continues to fascinate people, even after 50 years."

To this day, people still wonder what Captain Mantell was chasing.

Second segment:

Just over 58 years ago, a Kentucky National Guard pilot crashed his plane and died while pursuing a UFO. It was a story that made headlines and one that's still talked about today. But the question remains, what was Captain Thomas Mantell chasing that day?

A 1956 documentary on UFO's detailed the Mantell case, which occurred in January of 1948. It happened just months after another celebrated incident in Roswell, New Mexico, where a UFO had reportedly crashed in the summer of 1947.

Newswatch spoke with the man who was the commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard when the Mantell case occurred and a former Chief of Staff with the Guard to get their takes on what happened. Newswatch also talked with a UFO researcher. And as you might guess, we got two different opinions.

Francis Ridge, UFO researcher, says, "It is a classic to this day."

Francis Ridge, who is with the National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomenon, is talking about the case of Kentucky Air National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas Mantell.

He explains, "He decided to go after this object which was, according to his description, large and metallic, tremendous in size."

Mantell, a World War II Ace, was chasing a UFO on the afternoon of January 7th, 1948, when he crashed his plane and died. The mystery died with him on a farm in Franklin, Kentucky.

Ridge and others remain convinced Mantell was chasing an object not of this world. (Ridge: Although a mystery in many ways, we do not consider the Mantell case an "unknown". There are over 1500 incidents we DO consider as "unknowns".)

Ridge says, "Several years later, when they restructured the project because Project Sign was the first one, and they were serious, and they came to the conclusion that they were dealing with something from somewhere else."

Project Sign later became Project Blue Book. Because Mantell was a well respected pilot, it gave the UFO story credibility. And the military was concerned.

Ridge defends, "If you look in the Blue Book records, which is the Air Force records, it shook a lot of military people up."
The man, who was the Commander of the Kentucky Air National Guard at the time of the incident, is retired Major General Phillip Ardery. He's now 93 and lives in Louisville. He remembers the Mantell case.

General Ardery recalls, "I'm fascinated with it, that's all I can say about it. I find it a very, very interesting part of my experience."
Ardery believes Mantell was confused and didn't realize he had reached an altitude with no oxygen. He also believes Mantell wasn't chasing a UFO at all.

General Ardery argues, "There are times, we can imagine things that really are not there."

Retired Brigadier General Edward Tonini, joined the Kentucky Air National Guard in 1969. He eventually became Chief of Staff and finished his career at the Pentagon.

General Tonini says, "It was universally accepted that this was not a UFO but a balloon."

He says officers, like Mantell, did not know of a highly classified secret program involving balloons, which is why Mantell thought he was chasing a UFO and why it was difficult for the military to explain the Skyhook Balloon Theory away. (Skyhook was not a highly classified project but a highly publicized one. What they were USED for might have been at times, but with over a hundred launches a year, they apparently didn't attract much attention.)

General Tonini says, "As a result, even it if were a balloon, that was part of a Navy secret project. Nobody was going to come out and say that's what it was because it was classified." (Ridge: Records show, actually FAIL to show, any launch responsible for this incident, which was preceded by and followed by UFO sightings.)

The military's position remains firm. So does the position of those who investigate UFO sightings, like Mantell's, for a living.

Ridge says, "It always impressed me that he was chasing something other than a balloon, even though to this day, it would be very difficult to prove it. One thing about it though, after searching all the records and after the Air Force claimed that it was a Skyhook Balloon, they have pretty good records on all the launches, but they never could establish a launch date for that day."

One footnote, there were several reported sightings of UFO's on the day of Mantell's death, including in Madisonville and Owensboro.

Newly found documents, left off of the official Blue Book records, show that some of these objects were maneuvering and could not be attributed to balloons of any kind.

For now, it all remains a mystery.



May 25, 2006
Two days after the show aired, Dan Wilson found some maps of the area located in Blue Book files. These are presented, for the record, and may be accessed by using the URL provided.

He then found a 19-page checklist found in BB files.

In his 1956 book, Capt. Edward Ruppelt had claimed that nobody agreed on what Mantell had said during his radio transmissions. Ruppelt had suggested more than once that only UFO buffs have ever reported Mantell saying anything specific about the UFO. Two years prior to the book release, in the 1954 True article, Ruppelt had stated:

"There was almost no agreement among the seven men listening on the tower squawk box as to what Mantell actually said.  Only one said he heard Mantell call the UFO "metallic and of tremendous size."

Notice the use of the term "squawk box", which is a reference to the Plan 62 mentioned earlier. In the very same article, just prior to the remark above, Ruppelt commented on the phrase:

"Later in the project, we had many instances of pilots mistaking Venus (and other planets) for something flying through the sky.  None of them ever described it as "tremendous."

This alone strongly suggests Mantell was NOT chasing the planet Venus, and a Top Secret report in our possession also minces no words about what Mantell had said. Later, you'll see further evidence that Air Force personnel listening in on Plan 62 speakerphones, heard and reported specific comments by Mantell AND his wingmen and those on the ground.

I emailed a pdf file to Drew Speier, which was the April 28, 1949 Top Secret report, citing page 12, par. 2k at

Paragraph  k.  " On 7 January 1948, a National Guard pilot was killed while attempting to chase an unidentified object up to 30,000 feet. While it is presumed that this pilot suffered anoxia, resulting in his crash, his last message to the tower was, 'It appears to be metallic object....of tremendous size...directly ahead and slightly above....I am trying to close for a better look.' "

May 26, 2006
Dan Wilson found 8x10 glossy photos of remains of Mantell's F-51 located in BB files.
I already had copies of better versions of crash photos previously supplied by Wendy Connors. I decided to post those too. A montage of those photos is supplied with this report at the end of this chapter (Part 2-2) AND from the URL provide below.

Jerome Clark is an American researcher and writer, specializing in UFOs and other anomalous phenomena. Clark is one of the most prominent UFO historians and researchers active today. Although Clark's works have sometimes generated spirited debate, he is widely regarded as one of the most reputable writers in the field, and he has earned the praise of many skeptics. Clark is also a prominently featured talking head on made-for-television UFO documentaries, most notably the 2005 prime-time U.S. television special Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs ­ Seeing Is Believing, discussing the early history of the U.S. Military's UFO investigations.

Jerome Clark, wrote:

"An investigation conducted in the early 1990s by ufologists Barry Greenwood and Robert G. Todd identified the balloon as one set off from Camp Ripley, Minnesota, at 8 A.M. on January 6, 1948" ["The Mantell UFO," 1994] ). Most UFOlogists had written the case off for a number of reasons, but this was one aspect that could be verified."

I reminded Brad Sparks that Captain Edward J. Ruppelt (former Project Blue Book Director) had stated that no skyhook balloon launch record could be found to account for the Mantell object. This was a a few years after the incident and with the Air Force ready and willing to put an identified label on the Mantell incident. Question: How did Barry Greenwood & Robert Todd accomplish in 1990 what Blue Book would have given its eyeteeth for 40 years earlier?

Sparks responded:

"Get RECORDS of the alleged balloon launch.  It is frustratingly difficult dealing with nebulous claims.  Which agency allegedly launched the Skyhook?  If Ruppelt and ATIC didn't check with all the agencies or the particular one launching from Camp Ripley (ONR possibly??) then they would completely miss it. Another point is that I am almost 100% certain that Ruppelt/ATIC only checked THE DAY of the Mantell crash Jan 7, 1948, and DID NOT CHECK THE DAY BEFORE.  No one ever thought of records for the DAY BEFORE until Greenwood & Todd came along. Which brings up another issue:  Do the WEATHER RECORDS show that a Skyhook launched at 6 AM on Jan 6 would travel 700-800 miles away to the SE in 33+ hours, at about 20-25 mph average speed, to Ft Knox and Franklin, Kentucky?  It seems to me the prevailing winds would be E not SE and even if on some stretches you could get a wind to the SE it seems unlikely to be maintained consistently on average to the SE over 1-1/2 days effectively vectored SE."

May 27, 2006
Dan Wilson found duplicates of USAF-SIGN8-240-241, the same interesting documents, but with different numbers that we mentioned in Part 1-4. They again refer to the State Police report of a huge, relatively low altitude object moving at high speed.

"At approximately 1400E, 7 January 1948, Kentucky State Police reported to Ft. Knox Military Police they had sighted an unusual aircraft or object flying through the air, circular in appearance approximately 250-300 feet in diameter, moving westward at a 'a pretty good clip'."

Ruppelt had detailed all of this in his book in 1956. We have illustrated them previously under different BB numbers, USAF-SIGN1-371-373 at the end of Part 2-1. Dan's paper lists them again at: .
Frame 853 is also at

NARA-PBB2-854 was a potential bombshell that was right in front of us for days before it hit home:

"We then received information from Maxwell Flight Service Center that a Dr. Seyfert, an astronomer at Vanderbilt University, had spotted an object SSE of Nashville, Tennessee that he identified as a pear shaped balloon with cables and a basket attached, moving first SSE, then W, at a speed of 10 miles per hour at 25,000 feet. This was observed between 1630C and 1645C."

This was a verified sighting of the famous Skyhook balloon, a secret project that was supposed to be the real answer to the Mantell incident and not the planet Venus.

Then another document, one much more recent than any from the BB files, dated July 20, 1964, was discovered. From the Civil Aeromedical Research Institute, Federal Aviation Agency to T/Sgt Moody, Foreign Technology Division, WPAFB. It described a similar crash in 1964 of an F-51, the same plane flown by Mantell.

"I would like to thank you for forwarding us a copy of the Mantell case so promptly.

"As I explained in our earlier telephone conversation, we're interested in obtaining data on this case to compare it with a recent P-51 crash occurring in Oregon in which the pilot also apparently became hypoxic at an altitude of over 20, 000 feet and dove into the ground. Since in this case the aircraft also disintegrated prior to impact the copies of wreckage photos were particularly helpful.

"We are assisting the Civil Aeronautics Board with this investigation due to the similarity of certain points would like to obtain a second duplicate copy of this case for the record. I forwarded your earlier copy to the CAB. Secondly, we especially needed any medical information available concerning trauma to the pilot due to impact. This report was not complete since autopsy report, medical findings, and photos of the body of the pilot were not included.
"We should particularly like to obtain these medical data. Please air mail if possible."

Richard G. Snyder, Ph. D., AM-119
Acting Chief, Protection and Survival Branch

May 28, 2006
The Current Encounters mailing  list received an email from Mary Castner of the J. Allen Hynek Center for UFO Studies. She had seen the TV interview on the internet and was wondering what I meant when I said, "It always impressed me that he (Mantell) was chasing something other than a balloon, even though to this day, it would be very difficult to prove it. One thing about it though, after searching all the records and after the Air Force claimed that it was a Skyhook balloon, they have pretty good records on all the launches, but they never could establish a launch date for that day." Castner, and about everyone else in the "UFO business", had accepted the Skyhook balloon theory based on Todd & Greenwoods research. It would soon be another in a series of mistakes anyone could have made. History was about to be re-written and a cover-up exposed.

Dan Wilson:

The cover-up begins. Page 2 Part 2: Mr. Loedding, a civilian investigator from Wright Field, arrived at Godman Field on January 9, 1948 and made a thorough investigation. Part 3. After obtaining statements and full information on the matter, he (Loedding) issued instructions that no report on the subject would be made until further instructions were given.
MAXW-PBB3 713-722

USAF-SIGN1-377 (*)
is a clearer version of MAXW-PBB3-714, found three weeks later, on June 21, by Tom DeMary. 

MAXW-PBB3-713 states that, besides Mantell and his wingmen, the ones noted to be in attempted pursuit of the unknown object, two other aircraft taking off from Standiford Field might have been directed to go after it.

In Part 2 - 3 we explore some Blue Book documents in detailed transcripts.

To Part 2_3

Back to Table of Contents