The Imaginary Realms of
Gilbert M. Stack



Today in History: The Mantell UFO Incident

Posted by Gilbert Stack on January 7, 2018 at 7:50 AM

On this day (January 7) in 1948 Kentucky Air National Guard Pilot, Captain Thomas F. Mantell, died in what had become known as the Mantell UFO Incident. At 1:45 p.m. the control tower at Fort Knox reported an unidentified flying object that was about one quarter the size of the full moon, white with a red bottom. The object was also seen from two airfields in Ohio, one of which reported that the object had the “appearance of a flaming red cone trailing a gaseous green mist.” Four P-51 Mustangs (already in the air) were directed to approach the object. Observers in the control tower disagree over whether or not Mantell reported that the object “looks metallic and of tremendous size”. (You can easily see why accusations of government cover ups get made. Did he make the statement or not? Why can’t the witnesses agree on this simple point?)

One of the pilots ended pursuit because he was low on fuel. Two others ended their pursuit at 22,500 feet due to low oxygen. Mantell continued pursuing the object until he (according to the Air Force) passed out at 25,000 feet and his P-51 spiraled downward, crashing south of Franklin Kentucky near the Tennessee border at 3:18 p.m. By 3:50 p.m. the UFO was no longer visible.

The incident got a lot of attention in the press—a P-51 Mustang had been destroyed and many rumors were published: the Soviets were responsible; aliens shot Mantell down; his body was riddled with bullet holes; his body was not found with the crashed plane; the wreckage was radioactive. The Air Force refuted these rumors in its report, but they persisted.

The Air Force attempted to convince the public that Mantell had seen the planet Venus and died trying to reach it. Four years later, they retracted this explanation as Venus was neither large enough nor would have been visible at the time of the incident. There also have been efforts to explain the sighting by way of the (then secret) U.S. Navy Skyhook Weather Balloon project but no balloon can be demonstrated to have been in the vicinity at the time of the sighting.

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