Five years ago our team got involved, almost by accident, in a major event that has been written off for decades. We had all written this case off. Then, in 2006 some discoveries were made. It's a long story, part of the report, but we took another look. What we found was surprising and many of our readers watched as it unfolded. Months later our work continued among ourselves and we planned a formal report. We even considered a formal report by the Fund and asked several investigators to do their independent analyses on the case. Too many things got in the way and preliminary work was done and then it got lost in the shuffle. Last fall I decided to release the report in December and did the final draft.
But before any of this took place I had serious reservations about the case as explained but decided that too many of my peers also had their ideas and I respected that. And in Dec. of 2005 the report lay in the files as "explained". But this much I had considered, having my own opinion formed through the years:
1) In I960, I was a NICAP Subcommittee Chairman in SW Indiana. A scientific consultant to our team at Vincennes, Indiana, who had worked for Project SIGN, told me that the Mantell case was NOT explained and that the incident had shaken a lot of people up.
2) The Air Force-inspired, 1952 LIFE Magazine article by Robert Ginna, five years after the incident took place, stated that the case was unsolved.
3) In 1956 a former head of Project Blue Book (Capt. Ed Ruppelt) stated in his book, "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects" (page 41): "According to the old timers at ATIC, this report (Chiles-Whitted case) shook them worse than the Mantell Incident. This (C-W) was the first time two reliable sources had been really close enough to anything resembling a UFO to get a good look and live to tell about it."
4) I had known about this but Dan Wilson, our NICAP team's archive researcher found documents confirming that in the 1948 Mantell case the State Police had gotten reports of an object described as "circular, about 250' to 300' in diameter," and moving westward at a "pretty good clip." In my opinion no one would describe a balloon of any kind in this way. In another document we found the object was described as "1/10th the size of the full moon". Yet another, "Tremendous" size was used to describe the object at Godman Field at 1:45 PM.
5) Besides the State Police reports there had been evidence of at least two other UFO sightings, one at Lockbourne AFB, another at Clinton County AFB, both in Ohio. UFO sightings in the region! We found those documents, too.
6) Maj. Donald E. Keyhoe: "Many ranking officers who had laughed at the saucer scare stopped scoffing. One of these was General Sory Smith, now Deputy Director of Air Force Public Relations. Later in my investigation, General Smith told me: 'It was the Mantell case that got me. I knew Tommy Mantell very well - also Colonel Hix, the C.O. at Godman. I knew they were both intelligent men -not the kind to be imagining things."
7) The planes flown by Mantell and his wing men were F-51 Mustangs. In 1948, the designation P-51 (P for pursuit) was changed to F-51 (F for fighter) and the existing F designator for photographic reconnaissance aircraft was dropped because of a new designation scheme throughout the USAF. This 400-mph fighter could overtake a non-powered balloon...... in no time.
In March of 2006 even I was surprised by new findings.
This summation and preliminary analysis deals with what our team found during the re-investigation of the Mantell Incident that I began on March 8th of 2006 as a result of Channel 14 (Evansville, Indiana) Drew Speier's request to do a story I originally objected to, which aired on May 23rd, 2006. Up until this time I was willing to accept the conclusion of my colleagues, that Mantell had died in an accident chasing a balloon of some type.
When the re-investigation began on March 8th, the first thing we did was to re-examine the old Mantell case file. There were three documents in that file that we had not paid too much attention to. One that mentioned a "Plan 62" which had no real significance to us at that time. Another, a hard-to-read inverted image in black with white letters at the bottom that read, "Oxygen system was not serviced. System was in working order." Yet another document that said Mantell's body was removed before the Air Force accident team got there.
Somewhere in an old email from Dan Wilson is a report he filed on Plan 62. The report was not tied to any particular sighting, so the file got sidestepped and was lost. But Wendy Connors document # 6 had mentioned "Plan 62". Three months into our re-investigation Plan 62 became the topic of discussion in the Mantell case. Brad Sparks had a pretty good idea of what he thought it was, and later found more details. In the fall of 2008 Dan Wilson was able to get an official document from the Air Force Historical Studies Office.
My research into Mantell led me to examine Captain Ed Ruppelt's unedited manuscript for his book, "The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects". It mentioned the Plan, but not by number. This then, was an important early discovery. Ruppelt's slip-up in his manuscript had mentioned that "The people on Project SIGN worked fast on the Mantell Incident, [in fact they heard about it through Flight Service while it was all in progress.]..." Our investigation was to show that Air Force personnel mentioned hearing about sightings that infamous day at the other bases as the event was actually unfolding.
Here is what Brad Sparks added in June: "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.)."
Ruppelt had said in his published book (page 33) that "rumor had it that the tower had carried on a running conversation with the pilots and that there was more information than was so far known." Ruppelt stated the rumors were not true. The evidence proves him wrong or a liar. We now know that a lot of people heard Mantell and his men. Project SIGN was even in on it, live!!!!
Our report on file on the Mantell Incident file by the end of 2005 had documents that strongly suggested that something strange had been going on in the region, and one of those documents was USAF-SIGN1-310. A better version of this document was uncovered by Dan Wilson on June 1, 2006 but we actually had it in December of 2005. The bottom of document USAF-SIGN1-310 clearly reads, "Oxygen system was not serviced. System was in working order." Regarding Mantell having oxygen, my take was that the system, like an automobile with a gas tank, carburetor and fuel pump, was in working condition, except it had not been fueled or topped off with oxygen. Brad believes Mantell not only had to have had oxygen, but has found supporting evidence in the Accident Report that we obtained and transcribed for our use and supplied to him.
USAF-SIGN1-372 documents that State Police officer Joe Walker arrived at the crash scene and stated that the pilot's body had already been removed. We later learned that the ambulance crew had done this and it was reported in a newspaper. The source was the Franklin (Kentucky) Newspaper of January 8, 1948. "Mrs. Joe Phillips said she called the telephone operator and asked for an ambulance and for help to be sent to the crash site." And the very next line read: "The body of the deceased pilot has been removed from the scene by ambulance men and were transported to the Booker Funeral Home, waiting for the family's instructions, which was to be informed of the tragedy by the authorities at Fort Knox."
NOT A BALLOON
Later on in the same document mentioned above, it states that a Dr. Seyfert from Vanderbuilt University had spotted an object SSE of Nashville, Tennessee. This turned out to be the infamous Skyhook that the Air Force tried to blame for the object that fooled everybody and subsequently lured Mantell to his death.
So, on March 8, 2006, the re-investigation began. My first interview was on May 23rd, with Drew Speier on Channel 14 on the Mantell Incident.
On May 27, 2006 we found another version of USAF-SIGN1-372. It was NARA-PBB2-854 and it mentioned again the famous Skyhook SSE of Nashville.
Who in the Air Force investigated the Mantell incident? Early on in our re-investigation it was clear that the Air Force took the case seriously. And by 1952 it had still shaken the Air Force up. Michael D. Swords wrote: "The core personnel for the project were probably the most talented group to work on UFOs until the Air Force ended its investigation in 1969. Aiding chief officer, Capt. Robert R Sneider, were two outstanding aeronautical engineers, Alfred Loedding and Alfred B. Deyarmond. Completing the group was nuclear and missile expert Lawrence Truettner. The quality of these people indicates the seriousness (and the comparative difference in later years) with which the Air Force considered the flying disk problem."
On May 28, 2006, Dan Wilson found document MAXW-PBB3-714, that mentions Alfred Loedding from Project SIGN. Wilson: "The cover-up of the Mantell case begins with the timely discovery of a document (MAXW-PBB3-714) signed by base commanding officer, Colonel Guy F. Hix. In the document below it clearly states that the civilian investigator (Alfred Loedding) from Wright Field, arrived at Godman Field on January 9, 1948 and made a thorough investigation. After obtaining statements and full information on the matter, he (Loedding) issued instructions that no report on the subject would be made until further instructions were given."
We also discovered on MAXWELL-PBB3-713 that two other aircraft had taken off from Standiford Field and might have been directed to go after the object. But nothing else was found to verify this.
By May 29 Brad Sparks was checking on balloon launches and found impossibilities and extreme coincidences all over the place. The big skyhook balloon could not have been launched from Camp Ripley. More lies and evidence of a cover-up.
By May 31, Rod Dyke advised that the Archives for UFO Research (AUFOR) had a copy of the Official Accident Report (Inquiry # 10-480107-1) It was essential that we order the FULL official accident report, and this was done immediately. Up until then we had pages from it, but not the entire document. It was supposed to be 450 pages; then was supposed to be 250 pages, and when we finally got it, it was 127 pages. What happened to the other pages, and what's on those missing documents? We don't know.
By June 3 we had the great maps from Mary Castner & Joel Carpenter.
On June 3, Dan Wilson found docs that showed that even nine months AFTER the Mantell incident, it was listed as unexplained. Pages from a restricted Routing and Record Sheet document, signed by A. B. Deyarmond, Asst. Deputy for Technical Analysis, AMC, part of which is presented here from frame 28:
"1. Re Sighting of 7 Jan 1948 : Reference is made to your conversation with Capt. Sneider on 19 October 1948 concerning your desire for a check on the position and visibility of Venus on 7 Jan 1948 between the hours 1330 and 1350 as compared to the position of an unidentified aerial object. "4. The evidence obtained from MCREXE44 conclusively proves that this object was not the planet Venus."
On June 5. Dan found the interview of Pickering by Bill Jones. One report of a UFO that "dipped down touching a grass strip that was a cleared extension of the runway."
Brad checked Pickering's 1948 account that we posted which specifically places the object maneuvering over Commercial Point 3-5 miles to the WSW of Lockbourne and disappearing into the high overcast at 120 degrees (ESE) at the end of 20 minutes of maneuvers which had included a landing or near-landing. "This makes a circling of the base consistent with appearing on both sides of Lockbourne, east and west. Can't make it out to be in one direction only so as to make it Venus -- which was not in the ESE at 120 degs azimuth. Thanks for locating the BB Archive doc refs as it led me to the unsanitized name of the Lockbourne amateur astronomer Control Tower operator I previously discussed who turns out to be Frank M. Eisele. This is now bringing to memory that maybe McDonald investigated this case and maybe interviewed Eisele and others (it's a vague memory, not sure)." Albert Pickering's testimony nailed down the object's position relative to Mantell. It was no longer guesswork.
Kevin Randle stated that Mantell's death was a tragic accident complicated by his violations of AF regulations. But Mantell was asked to investigate this object and in the military if you are asked, that's the same as an order. This strongly implies he had oxygen because he knew the limitations of flying above 14,000'.
By June 9, Brad made it clear, Mantell could not have seen any kind of balloon 160 miles away. On the tenth he mentioned that he didn't know if the sighting was of an IFO or a UFO, but if it was a Skyhook or a UFO, it wasn't very well documented either way. By now even Tom DeMary is convinced, by new calculations, that Godman Tower couldn't have seen a balloon at 160 miles. Nor could the object, described by state police as 250-300 feet wide moving a pretty good clip.
On June 13 Jean received the Accident Report. Jean was able to reproduce the entire report in four pdf files so that Brad and others could do their own analyses. On the same day Brad pointed out that USAF-SIGN7-26 clearly states that Deyarmond was convinced the UFO was not Venus. This was the first time such an anti-IFO statement had ever been made by the Air Force, and at a time when they were scrambling to explain a case that had badly shaken them.
On July 26 (Airedale) my second interview with Drew Speier on Channel 14 took place. Our findings to-date were discussed.
The picture presented of Mantell chasing a Skyhook balloon to his death with the region filled with IFO reports is false. There were UFO reports in the region. The story of how Mantell said some things but nobody was sure exactly what, is a lie. Everybody heard what went on through Plan 62, even Project SIGN people heard it. Mantell didn't just go above 14,000' and violate regulations. He was under orders and he knew what he was doing. If he had oxygen problems that resulted in anoxia and passing out, it was due to a problem, not him going hell-bent-for-leather after a pinpoint of light in the afternoon sky. And he reported more than that. The biggest balloon available that day was too far away to be a factor. The case was covered up and declared as unsolved, and was still unsolved and shook up the Air Force five years later.
During the next few months we went over the data we had compiled, including the accident report records. Although our team had made many important new discoveries, the importance of the Mantell case came into sharp focus with Brad Sparks analytical skills on the Accident Report. After several delays due to other pressing matters Sparks wrote the first draft of his analysis. Our report presented here includes our preliminary analyses and Brad's findings. Others wanting to provide their own separate analyses are welcome to do so and their reports will be made part of the case record as provided.
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