The Thomas Mantell UFO incident was among the most publicized early UFO reports and tell us how a pilot died while chasing an Unidentified Flying Craft.
January 7, 1948: Early in the afternoon, dozens of residents of the Madisonville, KY area telephoned police to report that they had seen what a news account later described as “a circular object hovering overhead and giving off a brilliant glow.” State police then alerted Air Force officials at Goodman Field, an air base at Fort Knox.
15 minutes later, the airfield’s tower crew spotted the UFO as well and used the radio to ask a squadron of P-51 fighters already aloft to investigate.
Squadron leader Capt. Thomas Mantell, Jr. an expert pilot who had won the Distinguished Flying Cross for bravery during World War II, responded that he had spotted the UFO and was in pursuit. He was an experienced pilot; his flight history consisted of 2,167 hours in the air.
“I’m closing in now to take a good look,” Mantell reported in his last radio transmission at 3:15 p.m. “The thing looks metallic, and is tremendous in size.” Three minutes later, Mantell crashed and was killed. The official conclusion was that he had run out of oxygen, but UFOlogists have long doubted that explanation.
Common speculation that Mantell was chasing a UFO was countered by the Air Force, which initially concluded that Mantell and his cohorts were chasing the planet Venus.
This almost comical conclusion was hastily put to rest by an eyewitness, Glen Mays, who lived near Franklin. Mays stated categorically that Mantell’s plane exploded in midair.”
Also, there is the testimony of Godman Base Commander Guy F. Hix, who stated to reporters that he observed the craft for almost an hour through binoculars. He would not have confused what he saw with the planet Venus.
Richard T. Miller, who was in the Operations Room of Scott Air Force Base in Belleville, Illinois also made several profound statements regarding the crash. He was monitoring the radio talk between Mantell and Godman tower, and heard this statement very clearly.
“My God, I see people in this thing!”
Miller added that on the morning after the crash, at a briefing, investigators had stated that Mantell died “pursuing an intelligently controlled unidentified flying object.”