Part 3- 2: An Analysis by Brad Sparks



The Official Account of the Crash is Overturned

This year is the 60th anniversary of the tragic death of the young fighter pilot, Capt. Thomas Mantell.  Mantell crashed in his F-51D Mustang prop fighter plane while pursuing an unidentified object almost a hundred miles across the state of Kentucky, on the afternoon of January 7, 1948.  He became known as the first fatality in a UFO encounter.  He reported over the radio that he saw an object "metallic and tremendous in size," a famous phrase that has become legendary in UFO history.  He was just 25 and left behind a wife and two little children.  The case has spawned 60 years of confusion, mystery, sensation, speculation, controversy and finally disdain.

At the time, the US Air Force and Mantell's Kentucky Air National Guard (ANG) unit put the "blame" (actual word used) on Mantell for his crash because he pursued the UFO at too high an altitude without oxygen supply.  They explained the sighting as merely the planet Venus then later changed the official explanation to a large Skyhook balloon, once it was admitted that Venus was difficult to see in daytime and very unlikely to trigger spontaneous sightings by large numbers of people in widely separated areas.

All this has turned out to be false, the no-oxygen claim as well as the official IFO explanations, as we will see below and in Part 2.  The Mantell quote, "metallic and tremendous in size," though sometimes doubted is in fact essentially correct, but his report was a bit more detailed than this.  And, for whatever it is worth, the chief investigator of the Mantell accident speculated in the classified Accident Report on the possibility of an "outside force" causing Mantell's crash.

Capt. Richard L. Tyler, operations officer at Mantell's home base at Standiford Field, Louisville, Kentucky, privately told the accident board in his report in a rather equivocal statement that "If some outside force did not cause his death, I think he passed out too quickly" (Accid. Rpt., p. 10).  Thus the mystery endures.  But the coverup is coming to an end.

Contrary to the AF's public position, the official accident report states that:

          Mantell's  "Oxygen system ... was in working order."

(Kentucky ANG-USAF Mantell Accident Report, AAF Form 14 "Report of Major Accident," Jan. 22, 1948, p. 2, section "I"; see full quote below).

As noted in the full quote of the accident report, Mantell's oxygen was not serviced pre-flight for his original low-altitude mission (flying at 5,000 feet) according to the post-accident maintenance report - which, by the way, did *not* say Mantell was *missing* or lacking any oxygen gear (Major Bernard M. Durey statement, Accid. Rpt., p. 41).  Hence this information about the good "working" condition of Mantell's oxygen system must have come from an accident investigator's personal on-site inspection of the oxygen equipment in Mantell's wrecked plane soon after the crash.

Also unknown or concealed from the public for decades, the AF had internally declared the case "unidentified" in Secret classified documents after considerable investigation (Albert Deyarmond, Nov. 10, 1948, AMC Tech. Intell. Div., Asst. Deputy for Tech. Analysis;  C. A. Griffith, Chief of Ops Section, memo to Deyarmond, Nov. 8, 1948).  This conclusion leaked out only twice and was essentially forgotten each time, evidently because the AF refused to make "unidentified" its *consistent* official position in the Mantell UFO case.

And despite that frank admission among themselves about the UFO, in still other classified internal reports on the accident, which were not so candid or forthright, the AF and Mantell's ANG unit privately tried to pin *all* the "blame" for the crash on Capt. Mantell rather than on his crew and rather than on fair distribution of the responsibility.  They accused a dead Mantell who could not answer back and who could not be court-martialed like his wingmen could have been.  They painted the picture of Mantell, a decorated pilot and war hero, as recklessly endangering his crew with an obsessed pursuit of the UFO.

An official AF statement in 1952 said "it is probable that the excitement caused by the object [UFO] was responsible for this experienced pilot [Mantell] conducting a high altitude flight without the necessary oxygen equipment."

One section of the Accident Report, "Statement of Rebuttal," poignantly states "Inasmuch as the pilot was killed in the accident, it was impossible to obtain a statement of rebuttal regarding pilot error." (Accid. Rpt., p. 38.)  Mantell was charged with violating AAF Regulation 60-16, paragraph 43 (Accid. Rpt., p. 3, sect. L4), for flying higher than 14,000 ft without oxygen, a falsehood contradicted by the accident report's own statement, previously quoted, that Mantell's "Oxygen system ... was in working order."  None of Mantell's crew were charged with anything, even though Lt. Hammond admittedly flew above 14,000 ft without supplemental oxygen.

But it was Mantell's subordinates, the men in his flight, who disobeyed his orders and went AWOL by abandoning Mantell.  If as his wingman Lt. Clements claimed, it was "known" by all that Mantell did not have oxygen then they endangered Mantell's life by not calling his attention to that fact (if it was a fact, but it evidently was not).  If Mantell was suffering from hypoxia (low oxygen) and its resulting mental confusion, then his wingmen needed to step in and intervene to save his life, as Mantell was unable to do so (if this story was true).

The wingmen also should have reported Mantell's alleged hypoxia danger to Godman Tower control, not only for flight safety reasons but also because Mantell's (alleged) disability directly affected the authorized intercept mission Godman had requested.  Godman's request was tantamount to direct military orders of superior ranking officers, relayed from Godman's commanding officer, Col. Hix, even though couched as a "request" as is customary.  If the mission needed to be redirected, or called off and a new set of interceptors dispatched, then Godman obviously needed to know that.  Mantell's wingmen thus violated the military orders of Col. Hix and the other Godman Field officers, as well as disobeyed Mantell's command decisions.

But instead the wingmen told Godman tower that they were abandoning the chase because they were low on fuel and oxygen, with one lacking oxygen gear and the other having it but needing to get "more oxygen" (Major Matthews Wright Field Flight Service report, Accid. Rpt., p. 31;  Major Matthews, Capt. Carter, Lt. Orner statements to Project Sign).  The wingmen made *no mention* to Godman controllers that it was "known" that Mantell (supposedly) also had no oxygen - a crucially important omission that indicates that in fact they knew Mantell *did* have oxygen.  They did bring up their oxygen situation, so the subject was not taboo or of no importance, yet no mention was made of Mantell purportedly lacking supplemental oxygen and nothing about him flying too high without oxygen.

And the wingmen should have led an immediate search and rescue mission when they admittedly lost contact with Mantell, instead of delaying for over an hour by flying all the way back to home base first (only Lt. Clements returned to the air).  They could have landed immediately at the local airport at Bowling Green they had just flown by and had just discussed on the radio right before abandoning Mantell (in fact the Bowling Green Airport was used just three hours later by the accident investigation team which landed there then drove to the Mantell crash site;  see Accid. Rpt., p. 7).

Mantell's crewmen could have been charged with these derelictions of duty and their future careers wrecked.  Lt. (later Major) Albert W. Clements, Jr., quickly advanced to the position of commanding the KANG's 165th Fighter Squadron from 1949 to 1950.  Lt. (later Lt. Col.) Robert K. Hendricks commanded the redesignated 165th Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron from 1958 to 1963.

Hendricks was Mantell's designated wingman who left even before the UFO pursuit began and continued on to home base, on the flimsy excuse that it was simply "time for him to land," as Godman controllers heard over the radio (Capt. Duesler statement to Project Sign).  Since Hendricks was flying an identical airplane with an identical fuel load along an identical route at the exact same time as Mantell and the others he could not have been low on fuel.

But they dodged the instant end to their careers by making Mantell the scapegoat.  Mantell's men insinuated that they were without fault, that they tried to warn Mantell he was flying too high, "into the sun," like the ancient Icarus myth, but that he ignored them.  However, Godman's controllers and the base's top officers present in the control tower *heard no such radio warnings* to Mantell.

Years later, Lt. Col. Hendricks wrote an especially self-serving account of what he called this "interesting" story, "unique as it was odd," comments that seem to be rather callous and to belittle the tragedy.  He even pinned the blame on Mantell for the whole UFO sighting, as well as the deadly chase.  Not even the most extreme debunker has ever suggested anything as absurd as Mantell inventing the UFO and initiating the UFO chase.  In Hendricks' account there is no mention that Mantell had been directed to investigate the UFO by Godman Field whose commanding officer and top officers were all watching the UFO, after numerous people had reported seeing the UFO in western Kentucky.

Though acknowledging it was "probably" a Skyhook balloon and thus a real object, Hendricks planted doubt in the reader's mind suggesting that the UFO may have been all in Mantell's head, because he chased "whatever he *thought* he saw" to his death.  Interestingly, Hendricks coyly avoids saying that Mantell had no oxygen equipment, only that he "lost consciousness for lack of oxygen," which of course would occur if Mantell did have oxygen but it ran out or the mask failed:

HENDRICKS:  "Mantell ... had been on a routine training mission when he reported seeing an unidentified flying object (UFO).  Despite efforts by his wingman to call him back, he chased whatever he *thought* he saw farther and farther up.  It is assumed that he lost consciousness for lack of oxygen, because he did not attempt to use his parachute prior to impact."

(Kinnaird, Hendricks, Cooper, "The Mustang Years 1947-56," pp. 46b-47a, in KyANG 1947-77 history, "Mustangs to Phantoms.")

There are many unexpected surprises and unprecedented bombshells in this case (see list below).  Among other things, they puncture the image of the Mantell case as that of bumbling hillbillies isolated from the rest of the world and limited by primitive, seat-of-the-pants techniques and resources.

After all, the military units at Godman Field, which was located at Fort Knox, were responsible for protecting the famous U.S. gold treasury, and with the units at Standiford Field, Louisville, they were also indirectly guarding the vital high-tech Oak Ridge nuclear labs one hundred miles away, both very important defense assignments.  Mantell's Kentucky ANG unit at Standiford had quickly established a national reputation for achievement and soon won the prestigious annual Spaatz Trophy, on Aug. 14, 1950, for outstanding air guard readiness and flight safety (!), the first of three Spaatz awards in its long history.

Many people helped in various ways in this research project over the last two years, my apologies if I missed anyone (listed here alphabetically):  Ole Jonny Braenne, Joel Carpenter, Mary Castner, Rod Dyke, Barry Greenwood, Jim Klotz, Don Ledger, Kevin Randle, Francis Ridge, Barry Spink, Jean Waskiewicz, Dan Wilson.

(A)  Mantell Case Surprises

(1)  Mantell had oxygen, but it may have run out or the mask failed, a common occurrence even today in aviation (a survey of 1990-2001 hypoxia incidents in Australian military aircraft found 63% due to oxygen mask failures).  Accident investigators may have missed a slow leak in Mantell's oxygen mask, in saying the equipment was in "working order," or it may have been working fine but the oxygen simply ran out and Mantell had miscalculated how much he had left.

(2)  Contrary to the accident report, Mantell must have regained consciousness and tried to regain control by throttling back from maximum power settings after his plane dived back to lower altitudes where there was more oxygen for him to breathe.  The wrecked plane was found with throttle set at only 1/ 4 power, mixture control in "Idle-Cut-Off" (Accid. Rpt., p. 4, section M) not at maximum power.  Mantell had gone to maximum power only at the very end of the UFO pursuit, and not during the whole pursuit, which would have been impossible (see discussion below).

(3)  The location of the 70-foot Skyhook balloon, Flight B launched by General Mills in Minnesota at 8 a.m. on Jan. 6, 1948, is rather precisely known.  The Skyhook was not even within the State of Kentucky but was in Tennessee near Nashville at the time of the UFO sightings the next day (Jan. 7), and it was physically impossible to see it with the unaided eye from Godman Field in Kentucky, or by Mantell and crew, from about 140 miles away.

(4)  Godman Tower tracked a second UFO by theodolite (a precision angle measurement telescope) *during* Mantell's pursuit, as well as after his crash, and then theodolite-tracked the same or another UFO three hours after the crash.  The second UFO was apparently 30 or more degrees away in compass direction from the UFO that Godman Tower sent Mantell to investigate, thus not the same object.

(5)  Air Defense Command "plotted," possibly by radar, one of these UFO's (or another UFO) after Mantell's crash, heading west-southwest from Ohio over several states traveling about 250 mph, and was observed by Scott AFB Tower and St. Louis Tower passing directly overhead.

(6)  Many other AF bases listened in on the Godman Tower radio conversations with Mantell and afterward, through a special AF interphone system between military airfields called "Plan 62," thus multiplying the number of witnesses to the dramatic events.

(7)  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.).

(8)  Godman Tower controllers (as well as personnel at other bases connected by intercom) overheard air-to-air radio conversations among Mantell and his men which Mantell's wingmen at least did not think could be overheard, and which proved them to be false in their later statements about Mantell's crash.

(B)  UFO's Location During Mantell's Pursuit

Although it would be premature to delve into the UFO sighting details which will be covered thoroughly in Part 2 of this report, a very simple model of UFO behavior and location can be presented which will show that a sensible sequence of events emerges, unlike with the IFO explanations which cannot fit the facts and the laws of physics.  This will forestall needless argument over balloon vs. UFO scenarios.

The basic timeline is:  Mantell radioed his position report at 2:50 PM, was then asked by Godman Tower to intercept the UFO, but first flew directly over Godman Tower at 2:52 (so that controllers could see and double-check exactly what heading Mantell took flying away from the tower towards the UFO).  Mantell then spiral climbed to 14,000 ft directly over Godman until 2:55 when Mantell took off southward on the heading given by Godman (initially 210 degrees true then adjusted to 205).  Mantell crashed at 3:18 some 92 miles south of Godman Tower (more precisely, at 202 degrees true azimuth from the Tower), near the Tennessee state line.

Godman Field commanding officer Col. Guy Hix stressed repeatedly in his statements to investigators and the press that the UFO never seemed to move in position during the hour and a half he saw it, and his officers said the same, no apparent movement in position.  He is shown in one press photo explaining how he sighted along a bracket in the control tower in order to be sure of the object's position and lack of movement, and this angular reference method is mentioned in Project Sign's interview reports of Col. Hix.*  To Hix "movement" meant up or down, left or right, which sighting along a bracket would show, but not motion farther or closer.

(*Technically, Project Sign did not become activated until Jan. 26, 1948, but the directive establishing it was dated Dec. 30, 1947, so the various interviews and files collected on the Mantell case by AF Air Materiel Command personnel in early January 1948 who became part of Sign will be designated "Project Sign"  for simplicity of reference.)

Col. Hix expected that if it was a celestial body as he first thought, it would move, but it did not.  A celestial body should have moved about 20 degrees in an hour and a half; also the Skyhook balloon would have moved about 15 degrees in that same time but in the opposite direction.  The flight path of Mantell's F-51 fighters** provides an independent check confirming the directional position of the UFO they pursued in the south-southwest, but this detailed discussion will have to be left for Part 2.

(**The AF changed all of its P- for "pursuit" fighter designations to F- for "fighter" on June 11, 1948, so the P-51 became the F-51, but for simplicity we will backreference "F-51" here in the events and reports of Jan. 1948, in the data on the P-51/F-51, etc.)

Hix and his deputy, the base's air inspector, Lt. Col. E. Garrison Wood, estimated the UFO's angular size at 1 / 2, 1 / 4 and 1/10 of Full Moon, apparently reflecting a gradual increase in distance, receding away from observers without noticeably moving up or down or right or left.  (Hix, Wood statements to Project Sign; Hix interview in Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 8, 1948).

If the UFO was about 300 feet in size, as the initial witnesses reported to state police, and was initially about 1 / 2 Full Moon in angular size as seen from Godman Tower, then it would have been about 12 miles away.  If it receded to the point where it was about 1/10 Full Moon, or five times smaller in apparent size, then its distance would have increased by that same factor of five, to about 60 miles from Godman (to the south-southwest), or very near Bowling Green, Kentucky, near where Mantell and his wingmen would soon part company.  That represents a modest speed of only about 240 mph when fitted with the incident timeline, less than Mantell's 300 mph, yet the UFO would stay ahead because it began with an initial 12-mile head start.  This fits Mantell's report that the object at first was traveling slower than he was, yet he could not catch up with it.

If the UFO was very roughly 10 degrees above the horizon (as data indicate***) and if it maintained that elevation throughout the Mantell chase so that it did not appear to have moved to Col. Hix, then when it was 12 miles away it would have been at an altitude of roughly 10,000 feet, when it might well have seemed to Mantell that it was reachable.  When the UFO was at 60 miles distance, it would have been at about 50,000 feet altitude (the altitude increasing by a factor of five just like the distance, proportionately).  This is simple geometry to maintain the appearance of no movement of position as seen from Godman.  Do the math.

(***Mantell's wingman saw the object "slightly lower" than the sun which was at about 14 degrees elevation.  See Accid. Rpt., pp. 14, 44.)

This would also represent a UFO climb rate of about 3,300 feet per minute if the receding motion occurred during the first twelve minutes of Mantell's chase until they reached the vicinity of Bowling Green.  This was beyond Mantell's F-51D maximum climb rate at the higher altitudes (about 3,000 ft/min dropping to 2,000 ft/min and less as he went higher).  Mantell would find himself unable to reach the UFO even as his *horizontal* distance closed, because he would soon see it was climbing faster *vertically* than he was climbing or was capable of climbing.  This matches what Mantell reported, as we will see next.

By time Mantell got to Bowling Green, the UFO would have been almost directly overhead above Mantell, at 50,000 ft and still climbing, far above the F-51D's ceiling of about 42,000 ft, and thus unreachable (Mantell was still at only about 20,000 ft).  This fits Mantell's radio report that the UFO was far above him and also had increased speed, so that he could not catch up to it.  At this point, as Mantell closed in, the UFO must have increased speed to about 300 mph to match Mantell's 300 mph velocity, and only at this point Mantell went to maximum climb because of the UFO's great height (and the max climb would have then dropped Mantell's speed to about 200 mph).  No extraordinary speeds or maneuvers are required, though they were still beyond the capabilities of the F-51D interceptors and of an unpowered Skyhook balloon.


(C)  Mantell's Reckless "Maximum  Climb" - A Physical Impossibility

Mantell's wingmen, the ANG accident investigating board and the AF's special two-man investigation team, all put forward the claim that Mantell flew at "maximum power" at "maximum climb" rate, "climbing at full force" or "climbing at full power," during the entire UFO chase, thus making it difficult for his wingmen even to keep up with him (yet they did, which belies the claim).  (See Accid. Rpt., pp. 4, 14, 33, 35, 44;  Capt. Tyler in Louisville Courier Journal, Jan. 9, 1948.)

This claim was central to the accident board's depiction of Mantell as an obsessed madman recklessly pursuing his goal regardless of the consequences.  The principal accident investigator, Capt. Richard Tyler, who was the operations officer at Mantell's squadron, stated:  "I firmy [firmly] believe that if he thought he had any chance of catching this object he would have pursued it knowingly to his death" (Accid. Rpt., p. 10).  This makes Mantell out to be a fanatic with a death wish.

But the max climb allegation is also factually false and a physical impossibility, a violation of the laws of physics.  The board and the wingmen evidently did not work out their scenario very carefully and probably assumed that no one would ever see a problem since the report would be locked away in classified archives.  The secret was successfully buried for 60 years.

It is a simple fact that rising at the F-51D's maximum climb rate Mantell's plane would have reached the blackout altitude of 25,000 feet in *4 minutes* after starting on the intercept vector at 14,000 ft, not the 20+ minutes required by the impossible official scenario.  He would not even have gotten out of the vicinity of Godman Field before blacking out and crashing, but would have barely gotten 12 miles away at the maximum speed possible in a maximum climb.  The maximum speed at max climb is necessarily reduced to about 200 mph from the approximate 440 mph maximum speed in level flight, at that altitude range.*  Do the math.

(*See North American Aviation P-51D [F-51D] Performance Charts and Tables, 1944, 1946, for approx. 9,000 lb gross weight corresponding to Mantell's 1/3 depletion of 209-gallon aircraft fuel load after the 1hr13min flight from Marietta, Georgia.  Even the Accident Report, pp. 13, 43, mentions this approximate max climb speed of about 180 mph, in passing remarks by wingman Clements.)

If Mantell and his men had started blacking out within several minutes, they would still have been within plain view of Godman Tower controllers and ranking officers who would have seen the planes obviously in trouble or flying out of control.  But Godman saw nothing wrong with Mantell's flight.  The F-51's could be seen up to about 24 miles with the naked eye (see below) and much farther with binoculars.

In fact, at full power climb, called "war emergency power" (or "combat power"), the F-51 engine would have burned out soon after 5 minutes (see NAA F-51D Performance Charts and Tables, 1944, 1946).  It is likely that this is what happened at the very end of Mantell's chase and resulted in the plane seeming to explode in mid-air, after about 7 minutes of dangerous "war emergency power" settings.  The plane would not have survived the 20-25 minutes of "war emergency power" demanded by the official scenario.

If Mantell blacked out near Godman Field, as he would have had to under the official story, then how did Mantell manage to crash 92 miles away, clear across the State of Kentucky near the Tennessee border at 3:18 p.m.?  The 3:18 time of impact was officially determined by the coroner from the time on Mantell's watch that stopped on impact, and from eyewitnesses to the crash who reported the time as 3:15-3:20, which precisely brackets the 3:18 time.  (Accid. Rpt., pp. 1, 5, 7, 15, 17, 46, 48, 49.)  Efforts to force the crash time later, merely make the timeline discrepancies worse, as we will see below, as it buys too much time.

An accurate timeline can be constructed from this 3:18 crash impact time and from Mantell's radio position report at 2:50 p.m. (Accid. Rpt., pp. 27, 30), plus the additional position data from flying over Godman Tower and passing by Bowling Green airport (Accid. Rpt., pp. 13, 43, etc.), all of which serve to correct the various errors and imprecisions in other reporting in the Mantell case.  Indeed, the correct Mantell pursuit climb rate, a gradual 600 ft/min (not the war emergency maximum of up to 3,000 ft/min), allows us to assign accurate times to the timeline using just the reported altitudes since Mantell started the 600 ft/min climb at 14,000 ft at 2:55 p.m. directly over Godman Tower (see summary Table, below, and minute-by-minute reconstruction in Part 2).

The math is easy.  Resolving a few understandable confusions in reported altitudes coming from three different aircraft in Mantell's pursuit mission is a bit more involved (and will be explained in Part 2, with some hints below) but they do not affect the main conclusions arrived at here in Part 1.

But if Mantell had really pushed a continuous maximum climb to chase the UFO, without oxygen, until blacking out and crashing near the Tennessee state line, then he would have had to cover that 92 miles in the 4 minutes it would take to reach blackout height, or at about 1,500 mph (well over Mach 2).  Do the math.  If one tries to argue that Mantell could have remained conscious for up to about 2-1/2 minutes at 25,000 ft (ignoring the fact he would already have been oxygen-deprived for minutes before even reaching 25,000 ft if he truly carried no oxygen) it would extend the time for covering 92 miles of distance before blacking out.  But it still requires impossible supersonic speed (850 mph) for his subsonic fighter.  Do the math.

Mantell's subsonic WWII fighter would have had to break the sound barrier for 4 to 7 minutes non-stop, which was an absolute physical impossibility.  No F-51 ever flew at Mach 2.  Period.  We know it was a physical impossibility as proven by the fact that when Mantell actually did approach the sound barrier in the fatal crash dive for just seconds at the tragic end the aircraft broke up in midair from the Mach compression forces (Accid. Rpt., pp. 4, 9, 38).

And if the F-51 maintained a "full power" climb for the entire UFO chase as the accident board claimed, it would have been limited to the actual max climb speed of about 200 mph for the F-51D.  Mantell's plane could not possibly have covered the 92 miles to the crash site in only the 23 minutes of the chase (broadly including the crash dive too in the 23 minutes), as determined by the corrected timeline.  Mantell would only have covered 77 miles in 23 minutes at 200 mph, some 15 miles short of the exactly known crash site coordinates (at 36-40-16 N, 86-35-12 W), some 92 miles from the start of the pursuit at Godman Tower.  Do the math.

Mantell's plane would have needed approximately 28 minutes to travel that 92-mile distance at its 200 mph max climb speed, but the timeline allows no more than 23 minutes (from 2:55 to 3:18 p.m.) and certainly much less, only about 19 minutes, if we discount the fatal dive as not advancing the horizontal distance much if at all.  Do the math.

Possibly the accident board was dimly aware of a serious "getting there from here" problem and tried to "fuzz up" the timeline and stretch it out to 25-35 minutes by using the most carelessly reported or inaccurate times instead of the most accurate data (and ignoring Mantell's 2:50 p.m. radio position report among other crucial data points).  And again, as mentioned above, the engine would have burned out after about 5 minutes, so it was physically impossible to have sustained a max power climb for 28 or 35 minutes.  Moreover, to take so long as 35 minutes to cover 92 miles would require the F-51 to fly at the very slow sub-cruising speed of only 158 mph, which no one reported and which makes no sense for a fighter interceptor chase, plus it flatly contradicts Mantell's radio reporting of his speed as 300+ mph during the pursuit.

There is still another reason why it was physically impossible for Mantell to have max climbed for 25 to 35 minutes:  He would have reached the F-51D's maximum altitude of about 42,000 ft in about 18 minutes (NAA F-51D Performance Chart, 1944, time to climb data).  He could not possibly have climbed higher than his fighter's highest possible altitude and climbed higher still for another 7 to 17 minutes!  The official scenario is nonsense.

All of these dogmatic assertions of the official Accident Report require violations of the laws of physics.  An accurate flight scenario must incorporate all factors of speed, altitude, climb rate, distance covered, landmarks, time marks, headings, etc., and cannot pick and choose some of them in order to force-fit it to a preconceived theory.  A valid flight scenario cannot just pick speed and altitude (as the accident board seems to have done) but ignore distance, time, etc., and the requirements of basic physics and math.  It does not work.  An accurate timeline also requires use of the most accurate data for each factor (most accurate times, locations, headings, altitudes, etc.), not the least accurate, and not the inconsistent or contradictory data.  A first-order reconstruction that incorporates all factors and the best data is presented in summary form in the summary Table at the end of Part 1 and is documented in detail, minute by minute, in Part 2.

In actuality, Mantell covered the 92 miles in about 19 minutes, or at about the same 300 mph cruising speed stated in his official flight plan (Accid. Rpt., pp. 20, 27-28, 40).  It is virtually the same speed as actually flown on the first leg of his ferrying mission from Georgia (ground speed about 280 mph, possibly reduced from a 300 mph airspeed by a small headwind).  This is the maximum cruise speed, not maximum full power speed of about 440 mph, nor is it the ordinary cruise speed of about 250 mph (please note exact figures vary slightly depending on altitude and fuel load).

Hence there was no reckless "head long dash" pursuit - as accident investigator Capt. Richard Tyler spun it to the press - that made it difficult for Mantell's wingmen even to keep up with him.  An F-51 cannot climb at maximum rate at the same time it is traveling at maximum horizontal speed - it simply cannot do both at the same time.  The F-51 cannot max climb even at its top cruising speed, as that is still too fast to be physically possible.  At max climb rate the max speed is only about 200 mph, depending on the altitude.  In fact, simple math shows that Mantell's plane was in a gradual climb of about 600 feet per minute during the entire straight-line pursuit of the UFO, not in a maximum climb of up to about 3,000 feet per minute.  (NAA F-51D Performance Charts and Tables, 1944, 1946.)  But this will be covered in detail in Part 2, in a minute-by-minute reconstruction of events and flight path (see summary Table below).

If Mantell never forced his flight into a reckless "maximum climb" at "full power" in a 20-35-minute long UFO pursuit, and could not possibly have done so without violating the laws of physics, then the entire official scenario collapses.  The bold statements of his main wingman, Lt. Clements, accusing Mantell of forcing him to keep up with him at full-power maximum climb for 20+ minutes are conclusively proven to be willful falsehoods, not mistakes of minor details - a pilot would know whether he was straining the engine at full power for 20 minutes or not.  The AF-ANG accident board's confident embrace of this false scenario in order to condemn Mantell implicates the board in an official whitewash and coverup to rescue the careers of Mantell's men whose actions were arguably criminal.  The facts are as inescapable as the law of gravity.

(D)  The Official Story and Its Many Contradictions

The official story was put forward publicly by the principal accident investigator, Capt. Richard Tyler, Operations Officer at the Kentucky ANG unit, the 165th Fighter Squadron of the 133rd Fighter Group, within two days of the accident and well before the classified accident report two weeks later:

"Capt. R. L. Tyler, Louisville operations officer for the Air Guard at Standiford Field, said investigation convinced him Mantell had 'blacked out' from lack of oxygen at 30,000 feet....

"Tyler *blamed* Mantell's *head-long dash* after the 'saucer' on the fact that Mantell's World War II experience largely was limited to low-altitude flying.  From the stories of Hammond and Clements, Tyler surmised Mantell was '*climbing at full force* at 23,000 feet.'  Mantell probably lost consciousness seconds later, Tyler said."
(Louisville Courier Journal, Jan. 9, 1948, asterisk emphasis * * is added here and in other quotes below.)

The following is quoted from one of several incident narratives in the formal Accident Report, not all of which are completely consistent with each other, but are quoted here in pertinent parts to lay out the basic official case against Mantell (Accid. Rpt., p. 33, emphasis added):

"A flight of four P-51's departed a southern base on a ferry mission to their home base.  The four planes were flying in formation and the flight was proceeding normally.  As the flight neared a field [Godman], the leader [Mantell] called in a position report [to home base, Standiford].  The [Godman] tower operator [overheard Mantell's radio report and] asked the nature of the flight and asked if they had the time and fuel to chase an object he had been observing in the sky.  The leader acknowledged and was given a heading to fly.  He immediately went into a steep climb with two of the other pilots in the flight following.  The fourth pilot broke formation and proceeded to the destination.

"The leader *continued* to climb at *high power settings* and when 22,500 ft. was reached, the other two pilots broke off and went to the destination.  When the leader was last seen, it appeared that he had the plane under control and was *still climbing*.  A short time later the plane was observed in a spiraling dive to the ground.  Between 10,000 and 20,000 ft., the left wing came off.  The plane crashed to the ground.  *Only one pilot* in the flight (the element leader [Clements]) *had an oxygen mask* and was using oxygen when higher altitudes were reached.  The flight leader had stated that they would climb to 25,000 ft. and stay there for ten minutes in an attempt to overtake the object.  The element leader broke off when his wingman indicated that he was having trouble due to lack of oxygen.

"The board was of the opinion that the leader was overcome by anoxia at about 25,000 ft.  As his plane was trimmed for maximum climb, it was believed that it continued to 30,000 before leveling off and starting its descent.  Since the plane went so high, apparently the pilot was dead when it started down.  The canopy lock was still in place in the wreckage indicating that he made no attempt to abandon the plane."

The investigating board's Accident Report (pp. 35-36), in incorporating the AF special report, further asserts that its "investigation disclosed" that:

"e. Captain Mantell *did not advise* the other aircraft in his flight of his intention [to investigate the object as requested].  (Exhibits 4 and 5)

"h. At 14,000 feet, Captain Mantell broke off the spiral and started a straight climb on a heading of approximately 220° [sic; actually 210°] at the *maximum rate of climb*.  (Exhibits 4 and 5)"

"Captain Mantell led the flight in that direction [given for the intercept] and started *climbing at full power*.  At this time the one wingman, Lt. Hammond [sic;  actually Hendricks], broke formation and proceeded to Standiford and landed."

"t. From 18,000 feet on, the point at which the high blower engaged, Lt. Clements *had to use full power to maintain his position* in the formation.  (Exhibit 4)"

"At approximately 22,500 feet, the other aircraft turned back due to lack of oxygen.  A short while later an observer on the ground noticed an aircraft circling at a high altitude then come diving down, slowly spiraling and evidently under full power.  At approximately half way from the originally observed altitude and the ground, the plane was seen to disintegrate and subsequently crash on a farm near Franklin, Kentucky.  This aircraft was identified as the one piloted by Captain Mantell who was found in the wreckage."

As we have already seen, the accident report's assertion that Mantell pursued the UFO all the while "climbing at full power" and that his wingman "had to use full power" just to keep up with Mantell, is completely false, a physical impossibility.

The accident report findings refer to Exhibits 4 and 5 for key points, and these are affidavits of two of Mantell's three wingmen, Lt. Albert W. Clements and Lt. Robert K. Hendricks, respectively.  Hendricks declined the UFO pursuit mission and broke off from the flight to continue on to home base without participating in the UFO pursuit.  But Exhibit 5 by Hendricks does not even support the findings it was cited for by the accident board, as we will see below.

The prime example of the accident board citing these two exhibits, when those exhibits actually contradict the board's assertion, is when the accident report quoted above claims that "Captain Mantell did not advise the other aircraft in his flight of his intention" to investigate the UFO.  The report alleges that this supposed fact is reported in Exhibits 4 and 5, the affidavits of wingmen Clements and Hendricks.  A narrative elsewhere in the report also claims "No conversation between Captain Mantell and any member of his flight revealed a clue as to his intentions."  (Accid. Rpt., p. 4)

But this is false.  Clements admitted in his affidavit that he *did* have considerable radio conversations with Mantell about what they were chasing and Clements said he saw the bright object himself.  Clements swore under oath that when he asked Mantell "what we were looking for" that Mantell replied over the radio, "Look, there it is out there at 1200 o'clock," and Clements said "I was able to discern a bright appearing object."  Clements then recounts his discussion with Mantell of tactics to try to reach the UFO.  According to Clements, Mantell stated his "intentions" of pursuing the UFO for 10 minutes at a certain altitude (more on this later).

Even though he did not participate in the UFO chase but went straight home, wingman Hendricks also heard enough to know from Mantell what was going on.  Hendricks swore in his affidavit, accident report Exhibit 5, that he too heard Mantell discuss with Godman Tower the UFO intercept mission.  Hendricks stated that he heard Godman Tower say, "we would like for you to take a look at it, come over the field on a heading of 330° and we will try to guide you."  Then he heard Mantell answer, "Roger, I'll give you a call when I identify it."  Hendricks states that "Upon hearing this I requested permission to leave the flight to return to Standiford Field, the request was granted by Captain Mantell."  So, therefore, Mantell and Hendricks did have a conversation about mission intentions.

Thus, accident report's Exhibits 4 and 5 refute the report's claim that Mantell had "no conversation" with "any member of his flight" about what they were doing, that they were intercepting a UFO at the request of Godman Field.

Furthermore, if there were any alleged difficulties with Mantell communicating over the radio it may well have been due to problems with his SCR-522 radio.  That WWII model radio was troublesome and difficult to maintain.  Even though Mantell's F-51 was a virtually brand new fighter, the maintenance record prior to his fatal flight shows the radio suffered several problems requiring a day of repair work from Dec. 18 to 19, 1947.  Channel B did not work at all until it was repaired and this was the main channel designated on the flight plan, the one used for all of the UFO-chase communications.

From the post-accident flight maintenance report on Mantell's plane:

"12-18-47  'A' channel very weak.  No 'B' channel.  Radio VHF retuned, checked OK. [signed] Marks.  12-19-47"  (Accid. Rpt., p. 19.)

Some of the main conclusions of the Accident Report (pp. 37-38) are as follows, and note that the no-oxygen-equipment claim directly contradicts the statement at the beginning of the same report (p. 2), quoted above, which said Mantell's "oxygen system ... was in working order":


"a. The *poor judgment* displayed by Captain Mantell in that he elected to climb to altitude *without oxygen equipment*.

"b. ... It is believed that Captain Mantell was rendered unconscious from anoxia [sic] and the uncontrolled aircraft started a slow spiral culminating into a dive which was precipitated by the high power settings and torque.  Consequently, the aircraft with its *engine producing full power* rapidly *exceeded its design limitation* as was evidenced from the photos, disposition of the wreckage, and later supplemented by civilians statements to the effect that the aircraft disintegrated approximately half way from its initial point of dive to the ground."  (Accid. Rpt., pp. 37-38)

Strangely, there was never any affidavit presented from the fourth wingman, who *did stay* with Mantell and Clements, namely Lt. Buford A. Hammond.  One would think with all the public controversy and pressure to find an answer to the mystery of the incident, that every scrap of first-hand witness testimony would be secured.  But all we have from key witness Hammond is a few brief remarks to the press, no statement to the accident board, no affidavit, and no interview by Project Sign investigators.


(E)  Dissecting Wingman Clements' Version of the Official Story

Mantell wingman Lt. Albert Clements' affidavit (Accid. Rpt., pp. 13-14, 43-44, emphasis added) will be quoted below in sections and rebutted factually in "FACTS" sections after each quote:

CLEMENTS:  "At this point 1455 Lt. Hendricks, #2 man, broke away from the formation and headed towards Standiford Field.  Capt. Mantell immediately after this began a rather sharp spiraling climb to the right at rather *high power settings*, necessitating a power setting of 47" MP [inches manifold pressure] and 2700 RPM to *maintain position in the formation* with him.  He continued spiraling at about 14000' where he broke off the spiral and headed on a south-westerly heading of approximately 220° [sic; actually 210°], still *climbing at the maximum rate* of 180 IAS [Indicated Air Speed mph].

"At about 16000' I put on my oxygen mask and began taking oxygen because it became apparent that Capt. Mantell was heading for much higher altitudes even though it was *known* before hand that he did *not have oxygen equipment* and neither did the element wingman Lt. Hammond.  The flight continued on this south-westerly course and at about 18000' I attempted to pull up fairly close to the flight leader and try to signal him with hand motions and try to contact him on B Baker channel asking where the flight was headed.  Capt. Mantell had at no time signaled for a change over to B Baker channel which is always customary from the flight leader, either [by] visual signal or on the radio."

FACTS:  Here Clements insinuates that Mantell never communicated with his wingmen on Channel B during the entire UFO chase and that he had to "try" to hand signal and radio Mantell over Channel B after they reached 18,000 feet, but failed (part of the effort to depict Mantell as obsessed and unresponsive to reason).  But in the very next sentences (below), Clements states that he *did* in fact converse with Mantell over the radio.  Even before the UFO chase began, when everyone was still at 5,000 feet, wingman Hendricks figured out Mantell was using Channel B and switched to it and listened in on Mantell's communications with Godman Tower and then asked Mantell's permission over Channel B to continue to home base rather than join the pursuit mission (Hendricks affidavit, Accid. Rpt., p. 42).

Hendricks heard Mantell on Channel B giving the 2:50 p.m. radio position report when Godman broke in to request diversion to track the UFO.  They were on a course of about 345 degrees to Standiford and were directed to turn to heading 330 degs to come over Godman Tower (Hendricks affidavit, Accid. Rpt., p. 42; note that the "45" degree heading must be a typo for "345" which was their course to home base).  This involved a 15-degree left turn.  Why didn't Clements immediately ask Mantell what they were doing turning away from home base?

Why did Clements wait about 12 minutes, until after they had completely reversed course and were heading south and had climbed to 18,000 ft before trying to "signal" Mantell as to what they were doing??  In fact, Godman Tower heard a wingman, evidently Clements, at the very start of the UFO chase, radio "What the hell are we after?" (or "Where in the hell are we going?").  This was when they were between 14,000 and 15,000 ft at the start of the chase, at least 5 minutes before reaching 18,000 ft in the reconstructed timeline.  According to Godman controllers, Mantell answered right away and said he did not see the object yet, but he soon spotted the UFO directly ahead of him at "12 o'clock high" position, as he reported over the radio.  (Duesler, Orner, Oliver, Blackwell statements to Project Sign.)  In fact, this was Clements' original story to the press within two days of the crash, contradicting his later testimony by sworn affidavit to the accident board.

Clements told the Louisville Courier-Journal that his and Mantell's observation of the bright object at "12 o'clock" radio report was "soon" after the very beginning of the chase and that that was when they "started after" the UFO:

"Clements said Mantell informed him they were to look for something 'but didn't seem to know exactly what it was.'  *Soon*, Clements related, Mantell shouted through the loud speaker, "Look, there it is at 12 o'clock." Clements said this meant it was "right over our nose."
Clements gazed straight ahead and saw a "bright shining object that looked like a star." He and Mantell *started* after it.  (Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 9, 1948, p. 1.)

Clements changed his original story to shift this "12 o'clock high" radio report by Mantell to near the *end* of the chase, at 20,000 ft, or about 8 minutes later than Godman actually heard it, when they were still at 15,000 ft, shortly after starting the UFO intercept at 14,000 ft.  Clements clearly wanted to cover up the fact that *he* had seen the UFO himself almost from the beginning, along with Mantell.  This was another effort to suggest that no one could figure out what madman Mantell was taking them towards all throughout the pursuit.

Notice that before Clements changed this portion of his story, he seemed to admit that Mantell was himself initially unsure of what it was they were being sent to identify, which would in effect give Mantell some allowance for not being able to explain it to his wingmen, an allowance that Clements later made sure to withdraw:  "Clements said Mantell informed him they were to look for something 'but didn't seem to know exactly what it was.' "

Since Channel B was listed on their flight plan, but not Channel C, Clements should have known instantly that Mantell was using Channel B and should not have had to have Mantell hand "signal" him.  Godman Tower had radioed Mantell over Channel B after hearing him give his radio position report using that channel and then got the idea to request Mantell's assistance in identifying the UFO.  How hard was it to switch from Channel C to B to check?

CLEMENTS:  "In one of my transmissions I notified Capt. Mantell that we were considerably over our ETA for Standiford Field and suggested that he notify Godman Field to relay our position to Flight Service to which he replied 'Roger'. However, I failed to hear Capt. Mantell contact Godman Field on this."

FACTS:  Again, Clements tries to portray Mantell as the reckless fanatic who would not listen and would not respond to reason.  Problem is that Godman Tower *did* hear Mantell radio his changed ETA (Estimated Time of Arrival) for Standiford Field, changed to accommodate Godman's request to divert course to intercept the UFO (Lt. Col. Wood statement to Project Sign, Jan. 9, 1948).  Thus Godman Tower, in effect, makes Clements out to be a liar.

CLEMENTS:  "In the next few minutes I heard Capt. Mantell say "Look", there's a town down there with an airport beside it", and from previous flying in this area I recognize it to be the town of Bowling Green with it's [its] airport to the south east, and at this point I noted that we were at 20000' and still climbing. I called Capt. Mantell and notified that this was Bowling Green and again asked him what we were looking for. He then replied "Look, there it is out there at 1200 o'clock," and I was able to discern a bright appearing object, very small, and so far away as to be unable to identify it as to size, shape, color, but it was definitely something which could be seen.  It's [sic] position was slightly lower and to the left of the sun.  This was at approximately 1515 [sic].  I called Capt. Mantell and told him I could see the object but suggested that since we did not seem to be making a gain on the object, that it would be better if we leveled off and tried to pick up some speed and possibly get under the object.  His transmissions were garbled but he mentioned something about going to 25000' for about 10 minutes and then if we were unable to make any further progress towards the object, we could drop down."

FACTS:  Here Clements insinuates that Mantell's radio transmission was "garbled" due to effects of hypoxia, yet Clements heard every single (alleged) detail of what Mantell said:  (a) Going to 25,000 ft (b) for about 10 minutes (c) if unable by then to make progress (d) then they could drop back down to lower altitude.  More importantly, Godman Tower personnel also heard this transmission, but no one heard any "garbling" in Mantell's voice or had any trouble understanding Mantell's transmissions.  Furthermore, Godman heard Mantell say they would go to 20,000 ft (a much safer altitude for oxygen problems), *not* to 25,000 ft.  Godman heard this over the radio near the *beginning* of the UFO chase (at 15,000 ft) not near the end at 20,000 to 22,000 ft, thus once again in effect making Clements out to be a liar.  (Capt. Carter statement to Project Sign.)

CLEMENTS:  "From the time that the high blower kicked in at about 18000' Capt. Mantell did not seem to decrease the throttle heading to correspond with this and began pulling away from us at 18000' on up even though I was using these *maximum power settings*.  At about 22500', realizing that it was too high to maintain without oxygen, I broke off the flight out of formation and Capt. Mantell disappeared, still climbing almost directly *into the sun*.  I called him and informed him that we were breaking off the flight and returning to Standiford Field, but he did not acknowledge."

FACTS:  Clements insinuates that Mantell had been "climbing almost directly into the sun" for quite some time before finally disappearing, and then Clements reversed course to head to home base.  But their adjusted course was towards 205 degrees, not towards the sun at 227 degrees.  Mantell could not possibly have headed towards the sun at 227 degs for very long since he ended up crashing several minutes later at an impact site 202 degs from Godman, very close to their 205 degs intercept heading.

If Mantell had briefly turned right and into the sun by about 20 degrees, to avoid our crash-site location problem, then we run into the problem that Clements immediately made a 180-degree turn.  How could Mantell still be "into the sun" when Clements looped away by miles on the 180-turn?  In a standard fast 1-minute turn at 300 mph, within 15 seconds or less Clements would have put Mantell towards the west (about 70 degrees from the sun) or towards the east (about 110 degs from the sun), depending on whether Clements turned left or right, respectively.  Thus it is preposterous that Mantell could have remained in the sun so long that he "disappeared."  There is more to the unraveling of this false and ridiculous story.

Even if hypothetically Mantell had somehow managed to "pull away" by say 10 miles by the time of disappearance, Clements' 180-turn would have shifted Mantell's position in the sky by about 10 degrees away from the sun within 30 seconds, and about 15 degrees from the sun by the end of the turn.  And that assumes a 10-mile separation which we will see below was factually false and a physical and logical impossibility.

Clements alleges that Mantell pulled away from him from 18,000 ft "on up," because of his extreme power settings, the actions of a maniac he implies.  But earlier in his affidavit (see above) Clements was easily able to keep up with Mantell and actually pulled up "fairly close" to him at this *same 18,000 ft altitude*, in order to hand-signal him.  And Clements was still with Mantell at 20,000 ft by his own statement here above (at the Bowling Green airport vicinity) and to 22,500 ft when he says he broke away from Mantell.  Clements cannot have it both ways.

There are so many reasons to question this part of Clements' affidavit, as with so much of the rest of what he said, that it is left in a shambles, a pastiche of some well-thought-out and some poorly-thought-out falsehoods.  The mythic image of Mantell disappearing "into the sun" is not presented here by Clements for its poetic value.  It's an effort to solve the problem of how Mantell could possibly have "disappeared" so quickly, an effort apparently based on the poor logic that two inconsistent explanations can be just as good as one good explanation, if they are both superficially plausible-sounding.

If the sun explanation did not ultimately work, then apparently Clements thought the "pulling away" scenario would take its place, regardless of the mutual contradiction.  In the "pulling away" scenario, Mantell's flight at full power generated such a high relative speed to Clements that Mantell's plane could disappear from Clements' sight in just a few seconds.  But the 37-foot wide wingspan of the F-51 would have made it visible to the human eye up to about 24 miles (for 20/20 vision 1 arcminute Minimum Angle of Resolution).

If both Mantell and Clements were in a maximum climb how could there be much of a difference in speed?  Both were in identical F-51D's with identical engines and identical fuel load and weight, and should have had identical speeds.  Suppose we assume that somehow a very generous 60 mph (1 mile per minute) relative velocity developed between Mantell and his wingman Clements at this point at about 3:09 p.m. in the reconstructed timeline (this assumes Mantell at 360 mph and Clements at 300 mph, instead of both at 300 mph).  It would have taken about 24 minutes for Mantell's plane to disappear (which would be at 3:33)!  Mantell already crashed long before that time (at 3:18)!  So the "pulling away" cannot explain how Mantell's fighter supposedly disappeared so fast.

Imagine another possibility, that Clements' turn in the opposite direction put his flight speed opposite to that of Mantell's speed, resulting in possibly up to 600-700 mph in relative velocity between the two fighters.  The accident report claims that Mantell's plane disappeared from sight to Clements at about 23,000 ft (Accid. Rpt., p. 8).  Based on the reconstructed correct climb rate of only 600 ft/min, this would be just under 1 minute after Clements began to turn around and head for home base at 22,500 ft.  This assumes that both Mantell and Clements were flying together at about the same altitude and that the 500 ft increase represents about 1 minute of climbing at the 600 ft/min rate.

(But if, as some reports suggest, there was a minor 500-foot height difference with Clements' plane at 22,500 ft [Accid. Rpt., pp. 14, 44] when Mantell's plane was at 23,000 ft, then this does not represent a 1 minute time interval at all, which would have allowed some separation distance to develop between them.  However we will consider the 1-minute possibility for illustration of the insuperable difficulties with Clements' nonsense story about Mantell's disappearance.)

How far could Mantell possibly have gotten from Clements in 1 minute when Mantell was climbing at the maximum possible climb rate and Clements had turned around to reverse course?  In max climb, speed in the F-51D is limited to only about 200 mph (NAA F-51D Performance Tables and Charts, 1944, 1946).  But Clements was no longer climbing, so he could fly faster, let's say it was the F-51D's max speed of about 440 mph in level flight.  If the 1 minute estimate is assumed, then Clements would have put only about 6 miles between himself and Mantell on their now opposite headings.  But this is not enough to make Mantell disappear.  It is not even close to the 24-mile maximum visual range for seeing an F-51.  But it *might* be understandable if one could only look *backwards* briefly to try to spot Mantell's now rapidly receding F-51.

The truth is evidently that Mantell's plane disappeared not because of fading in the distance, not because of the sun's glare, but because Clements had turned his plane around in the opposite direction and left Mantell all alone, making it difficult to crane his head backwards to look for Mantell.  Clements could not easily look back to watch Mantell while flying his own fighter.  That is the true cause of Mantell's "disappearance" from sight.

Rather than admit that his abandonment of Mantell is what caused Mantell's disappearance from view, Clements apparently just made up the mythical story of Mantell disappearing "into the sun."

CLEMENTS:  "Through the later stages of this climb Lt. Hammond was signaling that he was having trouble because of his lack of oxygen and wished to go down to a lower altitude."

HAMMOND:  In the only known statement of wingman Lt. Buford A. Hammond, made to the press, he describes this purported hand signaling that Clements cites:

"Mantell and Clements were linked by radio, but Hammond's communications set was tuned to a different frequency....
" 'I felt a little shaky at 15,000 feet,' he [Hammond] declared, 'because I realized we were supposed to take oxygen at 12,000 [sic; actually 14,000 ft].
" 'By the time I hit 22,000 I was seeing double.  I pulled alongside Clements and indicated with [hand] 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.' "  (Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 9, 1948.)

FACTS:  This dramatic story of Hammond and Clements having to communicate by hand signals instead of by radio (because their radios were "tuned to a different frequency") is very colorful.  It is also very false.

Hammond radioed and did not hand signal his oxygen problems.  Godman controllers *heard* Hammond reporting his oxygen problems to Clements over the *radio*.  In a report by Major DeArmand Matthews, deputy commander of the Wright Field Flight Service Center, which overheard the Mantell mission over the Plan 62 intercom network between the AF bases in the region, we learn that the Service Center shift supervisor Capt. Arthur Jehli heard the following radio communications between Mantell's men.  Major Matthews quotes from Capt. Jehli's report:

"At 22,000 feet pilot Hammond, NG 737, advised Clements, NG 800, that he had no oxygen equipment.  Both pilots then returned to Standiford Field; pilot Mantell, NG 3869, continued climbing."

Hammond "advised" Clements by radio of his oxygen problems, and it was heard over the intercom network from the air-to-ground radio feed.  The whole story by Hammond and Clements about "hand signaling" was completely made up.  It never happened.

It should have been obviously suspect just with the bizarre notion that Hammond could not communicate by radio, as if their F-51 aircraft were equipped with incompatible radios.  Or as if we are supposed to believe Hammond could not make a simple switch from Channel C to B on his radio when he heard nothing over Channel C, and when their flight plan called for using Channel B anyway.  It should have raised questions about how Hammond could possibly have reached the dangerous altitude of 22,500 ft without himself crashing, especially when Hammond and Clements both admitted that Hammond had been having trouble with oxygen for a long time before the supposed hand-signaling incident (about 12 minutes from 15,000 ft when he "felt a little shaky" to 22,000 or 22,500 ft).

Godman controller PFC Stanley Oliver heard *both* wingmen, Clements and Hammond, trying to contact Mantell by *radio* at the very end:  "Other pilots in the formation tried to contact him but to no avail," Oliver reported (Oliver statement to Project Sign).  This further refutes the claim that Hammond had the wrong channel and had to communicate with Clements by "hand signals."

Someone should have questioned how a pilot experiencing severe hypoxia effects - who was feeling so "woozy" he circled his fingers to indicate dizziness - could carry out such an insanely dangerous alleged maneuver of pulling up close to another aircraft, so close that his hand gestures could be seen.  If that had actually happened, Hammond could very easily have collided with Clements, endangering or forfeiting both their lives when all they had to do was just talk by radio from a safe distance.

But as we have just seen, this hand gesture story is bogus, there was no such life-threatening maneuver forced by Mantell's supposedly reckless actions.  It was clearly all fabricated to make Mantell look bad, in the nature of a complaint by innuendo of the type "See what he made us do??"

Godman controllers also heard Mantell's wingmen say over their radios that one of them had leveled off at 15,000 ft while Mantell and the other wingman climbed to 20,000 ft or more.  The wingman who stayed at 15,000 ft must have been Hammond who lacked oxygen gear, and the one who stayed close to Mantell was evidently Clements who had oxygen.

Godman's weather detachment commander, Lt. Paul Orner, listened in on the air-ground conversations with Mantell and his crew.  Orner reported:

"From pilots reports in the formation NG869 [Mantell] was high and ahead of *the* wing man [Hammond] ... when he disappeared....  From messages transmitted by the formation it is estimated the flight leader [Mantell] was at 18 to 20 thousand feet and the wing man [Hammond] at approximately 15 thousand feet wide formation when the flight leader NG869 [Mantell] disappeared."  (Orner statement to Project Sign.)

Notice once again that Hammond was in radio contact with Godman Tower, as only he could have described how Mantell appeared "high and ahead" of him, Hammond at 15,000 ft and Mantell at a visually estimated 18,000 to 20,000 ft.

Because Godman did not yet have ground control approach (GCA) radar (it was a few months away), their tower controllers had to depend on pilots to report their altitudes over the radio.  Some controllers could recognize voices of the different pilots but others could easily mistake one for the other.  As Capt. Cary (not "Gary") Carter stated, for him it was "impossible to identify which plane was doing the talking" (Carter statement to Project Sign).  Others such as Lt. Orner were able to distinguish the radio reports of Mantell, Clements, and Hammond.

So when a flight supervisor at another base listened in on these conversations he might be still more likely to mistake one pilot for the other, since he was not their ground controller and not responsible for them.  Thus when Capt. Jehli in Ohio heard that, when *someone* reported being at 22,000 ft, and Hammond advised Clements of not having oxygen, this did not necessarily mean *both* pilots were at 22,000 ft.  Apparently, Hammond at 15,000 ft, was continuing to have hypoxia difficulties and it was Clements who was at 22,000 ft with oxygen, not Hammond who had no oxygen.

Jehli may not have heard or realized that twelve minutes earlier Hammond had said he had leveled off at 15,000 ft so Jehli assumed mistakenly that both Clements and Hammond were at 22,000 ft along with Mantell.  Hammond by any account started suffering from hypoxia at 15,000 ft so it makes sense that he leveled off at that altitude, stopped climbing any higher, and followed Mantell and Clements from below them, Mantell and Clements being the only members of the flight with oxygen.  AF regulations in 1948 required that all pilots flying at 14,000 ft or higher must use oxygen (AAF Reg. 60-16 para. 43).

By continuing to fly at 15,000 ft for 12 more minutes when he was already feeling "shaky," Hammond was still taking a risk but not as severe as if he had tried to climb to 22,500 ft where he could lose consciousness at any moment or within seconds after 17 minutes of flying with ever decreasing oxygen levels (counting from when they started at 5,000 ft).  Hammond may never have made it to 22,500 ft had he tried, and might well have blacked out long before and crashed.

CLEMENTS:  "From the time we broke off from the formation, we began a rather sharp discent [sic] back on course to Standiford Field, about 40°, and finally established contact with Godman tower giving them a position report and our destination and asking them if they would try to contact Capt. Mantell and inform him that we were returning, in as much as he failed to acknowledge our previous message.

"The last contact by radio which we had with Capt. Mantell was when he said he could see the object at 1200 o'clock which was from 20000' and when last seen he seemed to have the airplane under perfect control and still climbing towards the object."

FACTS:  Clements is at pains (he will repeat himself below) to insist that Mantell was not in any trouble from hypoxia or anything else when he abandoned Mantell.  If he had admitted that Mantell's plane was wobbling or erratic then he would make his dereliction of duty to come to Mantell's assistance all the more egregious, and invited a court-martial all the more.

CLEMENTS:  "I relayed my thoughts to Godman tower as to what we had seen and proceeded with Lt. Hammond on my wing to Standiford Field, landing without further incident at approximately 1540.  As near as I can recall, the last time we saw Capt. Mantell was approximately 1520 [sic].  At no time did I observe Capt. Mantell to be in trouble and not until the later stages of the flight, prior to our breaking off of formation, did I realize what the object of this *high rate of climb* and unusual heading away from our ultimate destination was.  By the time that I switched to B Baker channel, after we started climbing, we were apparently out of range of the Godman tower.  In conjunction with the last time when we left Capt. Mantell I would judge our position to be about 40 [sic] miles northwest of Bowling Green.
"/s/ Albert W. Clements"

FACTS:  Again, Clements wants to mitigate his dereliction of duty and violation of orders by insisting that Mantell was okay when he left him.  And again he falsely asserts that he did not know what the purpose of their "unusual heading" and purported "high rate of climb" was until the "later stages," and drags in the phony excuse of Mantell somehow misleading them to stay on the wrong radio channel.  As we showed earlier, Clements knew all along they were chasing an unidentified object and had spotted it himself almost from the start of the UFO pursuit.  They knew that Channel B was their official radio channel as it was logged in their flight plan.

Clements' belief that they "were apparently out of range of the Godman tower" at these "final stages" of the UFO chase was dead wrong.  But it was fortunate for us because Godman Tower controllers listened in on Clements' radio chatter when Clements did not think anyone could hear him.  And Godman's controllers' eavesdropping makes Clements out to be a liar, as we have seen, on such matters as claiming Mantell never updated their ETA to reflect the delay for the UFO pursuit, that Mantell's radio transmissions were garbled as if due to hypoxia, that Hammond had to "hand signal" him, and most significantly on who had oxygen supply problems - only Hammond was reported, not Mantell.

(F)  AF Was Suspicious of Accident Investigators from Mantell's Home Base

Within a day of the crash, the AF was already a bit suspicious of having Mantell's fellow Kentucky Air National Guard officers or even AF officers at Standiford Field conducting the accident investigation or of them being the only ones involved.  Unusual orders were issued stating that while "Standiford Field National Guard Unit is handling investigation" the AF's Wright Field Flight Service "suggested that an Air Force Officer aid in the investigation and requested Godman Field to do so" rather than Standiford's AF officers (Accid. Rpt., p. 30).

A special investigation team of two AF officers, Major Robert J. D. Johnson and Capt. Robert R. Rankin, did prepare a special report (see Accid. Rpt., pp. 34-50; not known if they were in fact from Godman) but it was not an independent investigation, since they simply rubber-stamped the ANG board's findings and conclusions, despite the apparent unease of AF Wright Field Flight Service.

Mantell's crew and the Standiford accident board implied that Mantell acted like some crazed madman who endangered his entire flight team with life-threatening orders to fly too high too fast without oxygen (no such orders were ever given) to try to reach a dubious target, an object in the sky that his crew could not even see (also not true).  They painted the picture of Mantell as obsessed with reaching the UFO, forcing them into following him on a dangerous maximum climb at full power, and turning a callous and indifferent ear to his fellow officers' legitimate complaints about what was happening and the increasing lack of oxygen to breathe.

Mantell's flight said that one wingman was flying too high with no oxygen and was feeling dizzy (Lt. Hammond), but that they could not contact Mantell visually or by radio through the fault of Mantell himself.  All of these charges and innuendoes also turn out to be falsehoods.

They claimed Mantell did not follow procedures in switching radio channels so they could listen in, that he was using the wrong channel instead of the correct VHF Channel B radio frequency (126.18 MHz), thus leaving them uninformed and in the dark on what was going on.  The Mantell crew complained that he did not explain what they were doing, that they were pursuing a UFO, and that he did not explain why they were so greatly departing from their flight plan.

In actual fact, Channel B was the official frequency listed on their Flight Plan (Accid. Rpt., pp. 20, 40), so Mantell's wingmen surely knew that and Mantell should not have had to inform his crew of that fact.  The one wingman, Lt. Hendricks, who decided to head back to base early on, stated in his affidavit that he visually noticed Mantell talking on his radio and simply switched his own radio to Channel B and listened in on Godman Tower requesting Mantell to check out the UFO.

Thus, the other wingmen, Lts. Clements and Hammond, would have known to do the same thing, change to Channel B.  And when they saw Lt. Hendricks head off to home base they had to know something was up and to change channels to find out.  Their aircraft radios, SCR-522, had only three channels (or at most four if specially modified), Channels A, B, and C, anyway, so how difficult was it to check all three in case of questions?  The claims that Clements and Hammond were kept in the dark by a reckless flight leader Mantell just do not ring true.


(G)  Mantell Had Oxygen

Thorough reinvestigation of the Mantell case has revealed that in actual fact Mantell *did* have oxygen equipment, contrary to 60 years of official assertions to the contrary.

The official accident report relates the classified findings of the five-man Accident Investigating Board of Kentucky ANG officers, and an attached classified Special Investigation of two AF officers, in a formal Army Air Forces Form 14 called the "Report of Major Accident," of January 22, 1948 (note that the AAF had become the AF by this date but they still used up the old AAF forms).

The Accident Report states on page 2 that Mantell's "oxygen system" was "in working order," and simply had not been serviced with oxygen pre-flight.  This implies that the amount of oxygen still in Mantell's tank must have been unknown to the ground crew, and thus raises the possibility it was misestimated by Mantell.  This finding was indirectly supported by ground-air communications with Godman Tower controllers directing Mantell's UFO intercept, who were told that wingman Lt. Hammond was having trouble with a lack of oxygen supplies but no mention was made of a "known" lack of oxygen supply by Mantell.

Section "I" of the AAF Form 14, the Mantell Accident Report, asks if there was any special equipment such as "oxygen equipment" which "was a contributing cause factor in the accident for any reason including failure, misuse, or by reason of *not being in the plane*" and then the accident board filled in the following information:

"Oxygen system was not serviced.  System was in working order"

The official story of the Mantell tragedy comes unhinged with this crushing disclosure.  The Accident Report, with the above statement about Mantell having an unserviced "oxygen system" aboard his plane, has been openly available in the Project Blue Book files since their public release in 1976.  This early part of the accident report Form 14 must have been filled out before the board settled on the story that Mantell did not carry oxygen, which appears later on the form, at page 4.

(The "Oxygen system ... in working order" page is available on National Archives Blue Book microfilm released in 1976, on 16 mm Roll 2, page 767, and on the unredacted Maxwell AFB AF record microfilm released in 1998, Roll 3, page 748.  For both see on the Web, along with still another copy in the special Project Sign microfilm given to Herbert Strentz in 1968, Roll 1, page 310.)

The accident report form specifically asked what was a "contributing cause factor" in the *crash*, the crash of Mantell's plane, serial no. 44-63869, so it was not asking about the other planes in Mantell's flight, which of course did not crash.

And the report form asked specifically if "oxygen equipment" was a "contributing cause factor" by "reason of *not being in the plane*."  So if the crash had been caused by Mantell not having oxygen equipment in his plane then this was the officially *required* place in the formal accident report for documenting that alleged fact.  The fact that the accident report two pages later implies that Mantell had no oxygen equipment and crashed because of that, suggests that those preparing the report forgot about what was stated in the early part of the report when they developed the official storyline later on, during the two weeks they worked on the report.  The truth survived by escaping through cracks in the coverup.

The issue of oxygen equipment and supplies has been the primary focus of the attack by the AF in this case, but there are some very troubling and obvious questions raised in reinvestigating the case today.  The accident board criticized "The poor judgment displayed by Captain Mantell" who they claimed "Violated AAF Reg. 60-16 Par. 43" by going above the 14,000-foot altitude limit without the oxygen required in those regulations (Accid. Rpt., pp. 3, 37).  But the only evidence the board cited was the single anecdotal statement of wingman Lt. Albert Clements, who as it turns out had the most to lose if he had been court-martialed.

Why rely on someone's word, someone who has a direct stake in the answer, when you have objective, indisputable, physical evidence that can be consulted??  Why was not the obvious step taken of examining the wreckage of Mantell's aircraft to see if he had oxygen equipment or not?  Would that not have been the most definitive and conclusive evidence?  In law, when less satisfactory evidence is presented instead of more satisfactory evidence the less satisfactory evidence is viewed with suspicion.

But, apparently the wreckage *was* examined, as argued earlier, and it resulted in what is now the bombshell revelation that Mantell *did* have oxygen equipment and it was reportedly in "working order" (Accid. Rpt., p. 2).

Godman Tower controllers learned from the radio reporting and the interphone system between bases that Mantell's main wingman, Lt. Clements, had returned to home base at Standiford Field to refuel and to replenish his *oxygen* so he could go up to 33,000 feet to search for the UFO again (Carter, Orner statements to Project Sign).  (Clements did not say he was searching for Mantell because that would imply he knew Mantell was in trouble.  Even though Mantell had "disappeared," had been out of contact for over an hour, and never showed up at any base, Clements was evidently determined to mislead, to not to reveal any serious concern to ground controllers.)

Yet, Standiford Field claimed it had no oxygen supplies, but had it on order (Accid. Rpt., p. 37, para. 13"ff").  How did Clements replenish his oxygen supply at Standiford in order to go back up to look for the UFO at higher altitudes, if Standiford did not have any oxygen?  Someone must have been lying.  Since Godman Tower heard the radio reports of Standiford having oxygen for resupply at the time it happened, it must have been Standiford Field that was lying in its later official reporting about not having had oxygen on hand.

Imagine the enormity of such a fraudulent claim.  A military base falsified its records or reporting on its oxygen supplies in connection with a fatal accident attributed to an oxygen supply problem, to phrase it broadly.  Evidently Standiford base officials wanted to distance themselves as much as possible from any responsibility for Mantell's accident, no matter how remote, by simply lying and claiming it had no oxygen whatsoever, and this falsehood was knowingly incorporated into the Accident Report (p. 37).  Perhaps the reasoning was a not too well thought out effort to reinforce the Mantell-had-no-oxygen story.  If Standiford had no oxygen supplies available, the accident investigators may have reasoned, then it could not have given any to Mantell, and so that would further bolster the story that Mantell had no oxygen on board his aircraft at the time of his crash.

The issue of oxygen supplies and equipment was one that motivated outright false statements by AF and ANG officials, not just on Mantell's oxygen, but also on Clements' oxygen and Standiford Field's oxygen.  Again this calls into question the entire official case against Mantell.  Clearly a very considerable "oxygen coverup" was perpetrated by the ANG and the AF at Standiford base in Louisville in January 1948 and, of course, forever after.  Almost every alleged fact about oxygen in relation to the Mantell crash has been contradicted or falsified.

It was often and falsely claimed that, as the accident board put it, "Mantell was not aware of the symptoms of anoxia in that his high altitude flying experience was very limited" (Accid. Rpt., p. 38).  The principal accident investigator, Capt. Richard Tyler, was quoted in the media:  "Tyler blamed Mantell's head-long dash after the 'saucer' on the fact that Mantell's World War II experience largely was limited to low-altitude flying."  (Louisville Courier-Journal, Jan. 9, 1948.)

But Capt. Tyler seemed to contradict himself in private, as he admitted in his statement to the accident board that Mantell "did respect the airplane and the dangers of anoxia" (Accid. Rpt., p. 10).  How would Mantell know and "respect" the dangers of anoxia (hypoxia) if he didn't have some kind of high flying experience that was sufficient to make him knowledgeable?  All this talk about Mantell's high-altitude experience or lack of it is just double-talk anyway, since Mantell did have oxygen.

Mantell's pilot experience is also sometimes disparaged, with suggestions that he was not experienced as a "fighter pilot" specifically or that he was unfamiliar with the F-51.  Such discussions usually omit mentioning that Mantell had been flying the F-51D for over seven months, since the arrival of 25 F-51D's at Standiford in late May 1947 (Accid. Rpt., p. 9;  Kentucky ANG histories).  Mantell had about 3,000 flying hours total, of which 1,608 hours were pilot-flight time, and he had 67 hours in the F-51D.  Although the length of each flight in the F-51D is not stated, Mantell's total hours in the F-51D at thirty and ninety days and all total before the accident are given (Accid. Rpt., pp. 1, 34).

Based on those figures, it appears that as a rough estimate from May to September 1947, Mantell flew the F-51D a couple hours about *once a week*, then from October to December about *twice a week*.  Since the F-51 was capable of reaching a ceiling of about 42,000 feet which absolutely requires oxygen, on many if not most of the F-51D flights Mantell surely must have tested out the F-51 Mustang's high-altitude capabilities and thus used oxygen, and thus become familiar with oxygen, as the lead accident investigator implies (Accid. Rpt., pp. 9-10).

(H)  The Mantell Case Over the Years

The Mantell case has been the staple of UFO books and articles for over half a century.  Wild rumors have swirled around the incident almost from the start, usually in a lurid attempt to attribute the crash to hostile attack by the UFO or alien beings.

From the beginning, on the day after Mantell's crash, the press relayed various suggested explanations that the mysterious object might have been a special balloon or the planet Venus or even a comet.  There was considerable discussion of these possibilities in the press with a number of officials and experts interviewed.  There were many observers of the Skyhook balloon though no one specifically linked it to the then publicly known (not secret) Skyhook project until later.

Over the years the AF's explanation has changed, and is now blamed on a large Skyhook balloon, supposedly a 'secret" Navy project (in fact it was not secret at all and not exclusive to the Navy).  The presence of Venus in the same area of the sky is thought to be a coincidence since it was not bright enough to be visible or prominent in the daytime sky.  Occasionally it has slipped out that the sighting was actually considered "unidentified" by the AF.

The Mantell incident appears in the TOP SECRET Air Intelligence Study on Flying Discs, dated Dec. 10, 1948, and issued April 28, 1949, which was discovered and released only in 1985 thanks to the untiring efforts of the late Robert G. Todd.  In the highly classified study, the AF Directorate of Intelligence at the Pentagon under Major General Charles Cabell treated the Mantell case as unexplained:

"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.' "  (AID Study 203, p. 12, para. k, ellipses in the original)

In early 1952, as a result of press inquiries by LIFE magazine, the head of the AF's Project Grudge (later renamed Blue Book), then Lt. (later Capt.) Edward J. Ruppelt, was asked to look into the Mantell case for the Pentagon.  LIFE found out and soon published the AF's surprising "unsolved" conclusion on the Mantell incident (one of only two times this fact ever leaked out).

But Ruppelt the skeptic instead latched onto the idea the UFO was a Skyhook balloon launched by the Navy from Clinton County Air Field, Wilmington, Ohio, and claimed the winds were right to bring it within view of military air traffic controllers at Godman Field, who were at the center of the UFO incident.  In an official AF statement (see below) Ruppelt misleadingly implied there were records of this purported Skyhook launch from the Clinton County base, but in fact there were no records as he later admitted in his book and none were found in his Blue Book files.

In the AF statement Ruppelt alleged that it was "*determined* that on the date of the Godman sighting a balloon *was* released by the Navy from Clinton County airport in Ohio" and that "The *release time* of the balloon was related to the wind plot for 7 January 1948, and it revealed that the balloon would have been in the area of Godman at the time of the sighting."  No such "wind plots" were found in Ruppelt's Blue Book files, let alone records of the date and "release time" of any purported Skyhook launch from Clinton County, this is apparently just sheer fabrication.

Meanwhile, evidently to be ready for the expected heavy impact of the LIFE article, Ruppelt wrote an official summary (just mentioned) of the Mantell case in early 1952 for internal AF inquiries and for the press.  The document reports the "ATIC opinion" as "the Air Force conclusion" (Air Technical Intelligence Center was the parent organization of Project Blue Book; ATIC has now evolved into NASIC, National Air and Space Intelligence Center, still at Wright-Patterson AFB, Dayton, Ohio).

This official AF conclusion in 1952 was that Mantell's "excitement" over the UFO overrode his better judgment about his oxygen, as we quoted earlier.  This statement tries to have it both ways on the IFO explanations, adopting both Venus *and* the Skyhook, suggesting that the planet Venus "probably" caused the initial UFO sightings, but the purportedly "classified ... 'need-to-know'" Skyhook balloon "probably" caused the later Mantell sighting.

Skyhooks were not classified and were widely reported in the New York Times in 1946 and 1947 and a detailed front-page story in Popular Science magazine in May 1948.  Even the classified uses of the unclassified "Project Skyhook" balloons were referred to in the Popular Science article (pp. 101b-102a) for carrying "devices about which the government maintains secrecy."  The magazine actually printed photos of the launch of the Jan. 6, 1948, Skyhook balloon which later drifted near Nashville around the time of Mantell's chase, though this connection was not realized at the time.  But the magazine did suggest that Skyhook balloons were causing some of the UFO sightings of the day.

Interestingly, Ruppelt/ATIC adopted the event scenario in which Mantell's two wingmen in the UFO chase stayed at 15,000 ft and did not remain with Mantell as he climbed to 22,000+ ft (in fact Hammond stayed at 15,000 ft and Clements went up with Mantell further on the gradual climb;  more on this in Part 2).  Ruppelt maintained this flight scenario in his classic 1956 book, The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects.

Later in 1952, while working with the former astronomical consultant Dr. J. Allen Hynek, Ruppelt and Hynek rejected Hynek's own original findings in 1949 supporting the Venus theory.  The two now decided that Venus was not bright enough in the daytime.  Thus, the Skyhook balloon was left by default as the official AF explanation for the Mantell case.

Decades later, balloon engineer Prof. Charles B. Moore claimed that his records showed that no Skyhooks were ever launched from Clinton County airfield until July 9, 1951 (Greenwood, Just Cause, June [July] 1994, p. 9).  Skyhooks were manufactured by General Mills in Minnesota, and Moore worked on the Skyhooks for General Mills at that time.  It also stands to reason that since Clinton County airfield was heavily involved in the evening UFO sightings right after Mantell's crash, which were actually publicized by an official CAA (Civil Aeronautics Administration now the FAA) press release, one would think that the unusual aerial activity would have prompted the uncovering of an unusual launch of a Skyhook that same day from the same base if such a thing had occurred (as Barry Greenwood has pointed out).

In 2002, veteran UFO investigator, author and former military intelligence officer, Capt. (now Major) Kevin Randle, posted a lengthy analysis of the Mantell case on UFO UpDates for comment.  Though still adhering to the traditional explanation of the case as a combination of oxygen supply and Skyhook balloon, Randle seems to be the first to suggest (p. 6) that Mantell's wingmen falsified information about their flight altitudes to protect themselves, the "survivors," from military discipline for violating regulations on oxygen.

But Randle's study elicited little response.  In part this was due to the difficulties in obtaining legible copies of the Mantell accident report and BB files on Mantell and disentangling them into a sensible order.  The AF files as released to the public are a disorganized mess.  Multiple copies, including typewritten copies and poor photostats, of the same document or parts of a document are repeated in many different places in the BB files in little or no coherent fashion.

In March 2006, a local Evansville, Indiana, television station WFIE interviewed NICAP website coordinator and long-time UFO researcher Francis Ridge for an upcoming program on the Mantell case.  When the TV show was broadcast on May 23, 2006, it stirred up renewed interest and debate among UFO researchers on several email discussion lists, which led to the present reinvestigation.  Ridge's dedicated volunteers helped dig out the confusing AF and other documents and even retype some so they are legible (special thanks to Jean Waskiewicz).

CUFOS webmaster Mary Castner then researched the old NICAP files at CUFOS headquarters and succeeded in getting Barry Greenwood's news clipping and newsletter files on the Mantell case posted on the Web.  Castner uncovered some files of renowned UFO investigator and atmospheric physicist, Dr. James McDonald, that included some useful Minnesota-Iowa tracking data on the Skyhook balloon, reported by Otto Winzen head of Winzen Research, in 1968.

Thanks to this tremendous effort of these persistent researchers the case has been stunningly blown wide open after 60 years.

Reconstruction of Mantell Flight Profile - Summary Table



























First two F-51's

take off from Marietta AAF,  Ga.






Last two F-51's

take off from Marietta AAF,  Ga.







Position report, ~30 mi SW (~SSW) of  Standiford AAF, Louisville, Ky. (~10 mi S of  Godman)














Mantell and men enter max climb spiral directly over Godman Tower







Still in climb over Godman














Leveled out from spiral climb vectored straight SSW to 210



































Max range F-51 visible from Godman w/unaided eye
























































Near Bowling Green airport







Clements abandons Mantell, who now climbs at combat max rate/speed














Mantell passes out (?), loses control of plane which begins descending in a spiral







Picks up speed







1st spiral complete














2nd spiral complete












500 to 200


Mantell regains consciousness (?) tries to throttle back (?). Plane breaks up at Mach limit, engine  overheats, vertical dive then flat spin (?)







Impact 4 miles S of Franklin, Ky, plane hard lands on belly.