By Billy Booth
There are three exceptional UFO cases in 1948 which involved pilot-UFO encounters. One of these is the Chiles-Whitted Sighting The second one is the well-documented Gorman Dogfight with a UFO and the third is the case of Captain Thomas Mantell. The Mantell case occurred on January 7, 1948. He was a member of the Kentucky Air National Guard, and while on a routine flight, would become the first pilot to lose his life while persuing a UFO, at least that we know about.
Just out of His Reach:
After Kenneth Arnold’s sighting of 1947, and the subsequent crash at Roswell, many open-minded individuals were frightened by what might be flying in our skies. Airplane pilots were the guardians of our skies, and although the military would never admit it, our pilots were seeing UFOs-and on a regular basis. Mantell and his crew would be called upon to perform this important duty, and the fulfillment of that duty was just out of his reach, as he lost his life in the pursuit of a UFO.
Reports of Large, Circular Craft:
Mantell, in his F-51, was joined by three other Guard fliers, on their way to Standiford Air Force Base, Kentucky. About 1:30 PM, the Kentucky State Police began getting phone calls from anxious citizens reporting the sighting of a large, circular object. These sightings began over the city of Mansville, but soon spread to Irvington and Owensboro.
Crew Investigates Object:
Operators in the control tower of Godman Air Force Base were alerted to the sighting reports, and they were able to clearly observe the unknown object. They described it as being extremely large, white in color, and round with a red light on its belly. The object appeared to be moving systematically, yet slowly to the south. About an hour after the first sighting reports were made, Mantell and his squadron were radioed to check out the mysterious unknown object.
Climb to 15,000 Feet:
One of Mantell’s three accompanying planes requested, and was granted permission to continue his original flight plan. Mantell and two fliers would now pursue the giant UFO. Godman Tower radioed the coordinates of the last known location of the UFO as Mantell and the two other planes began their climb to 15,000 feet. When he reached the known position of the UFO, he relayed the following statement to the tower.
Closes in on Object:
“The object is directly ahead of and above me now, moving at about half my speed… It appears to be a metallic object or possibly reflection of Sun from a metallic object, and it is of tremendous size… I’m still climbing… I’m trying to close in for a better look.”
Mantell Pursues UFO Alone:
Climbing into thin air, and low on oxygen, two of the fliers turned back from the higher altitude. Now only Mantell was left to find out just what this enormous, unknown object might be. Finally, his plane leveled off at 30,000 feet. Investigators surmised that he was out of oxygen, and passed out in the thin atmosphere. His plane was on a direct descent to the ground, over 5 miles below. In a few moments, his plane smashed to the earth near Franklin, Kentucky.
Plane Becomes Coffin:
The crash site was a horrible scene to behold. Mantell’s body was still strapped in his pilot’s seat. Later there would be rumors that his body was missing from the plane, but these rumors were unfounded. His watch had stopped at exactly 3:16 PM, obviously the moment that his plane hit the ground. In the span of 1/2 hour, the sighting reports stopped over Kentucky, but they did begin in Tennessee. The crash made major news sources.
The United States Air Force was soon on the scene, and they immediately knew what had happened, or so they said. Their first lame assumption was that the crew was chasing the planet Venus. That theory was quickly dismissed after it was overtly criticized. So the Air Force soon had a second theory: The crew must have been chasing a “Skyhook” balloon. This theory was also dismissed when it was learned that no “Skyhook” was launched that day. What Mantell was chasing that fateful day has never been adequately explained by anything of this Earth.