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The Mantell UFO incident was among the most publicized early UFO reports. The incident resulted in the crash and death of 25-year-old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot, Captain Thomas F. Mantell, on 7 January 1948, while in pursuit of a supposed UFO.
Historian David Michael Jacobs argues the Mantell case marked a sharp shift in both public and governmental perceptions of UFOs. Previously, mass media often treated UFO reports with a whimsical or glib attitude reserved for silly season news. Following Mantell’s death, however, Jacobs notes "the fact that a person had dramatically died in an encounter with an alleged flying saucer dramatically increased public concern about the phenomenon. Now a dramatic new prospect entered thought about UFOs: they might be not only extraterrestrial but potentially hostile as well."
The actual transcripts read;
"Godman Tower Calling the flight of 4 ships northbound over Godman Field. Do you read? Over.
[Pause] Godman Tower Calling the flight of 4 ships northbound over Godman Field. Do you read? Over."
"Roger, Godman Tower. This is National Guard 869, Flight Leader of the formation. Over."
"National Guard 869 from Godman Tower. We have an object out south of Godman here that we are unable to identify, and we would like to know if you have gas enough; and if so could you take a look for us if you will."
"Roger, I have the gas and I will take a look for you if you give me the correct heading.
One of his three companions in flight received permission to continue his pre-assigned flight plan, while Mantell and the remaining two planes headed to the coordinates of the visual sightings.
Mantell led the way in the climb to 15,000 feet, and upon reaching the position, he radioed the following statement back to the control tower.
"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."
18,000, 20,000, 22,000 feet! too high for the WWII fighters without oxygen! The other two planes turned back, leaving Mantell alone to pursue the giant object. By all accounts, Mantell must have passed out from lack of oxygen at about 30,000 feet, at least his plane leveled off at that height.
His plane now began to plunge back toward earth. He crashed a few harrowing moments later on the farm of William J. Phillips near Franklin, Kentucky. Mantell's watch stopped at 3:16 PM, and his body was still strapped in his plane, which become his coffin.
He had spent 45 minutes in a frantic flight into the realm of the unknown. By 3:50 PM, the giant craft was not visible from Godman, but reports continued as the UFO continued southward into Tennessee.
The reports of the incident spread like wildfire. Theory and speculation reached radio shows, television, and newspapers. The New York Times' story began with this headline, "Flier Dies Chasing A Flying Saucer," and another story was headlined with, "Plane Exploded Over Kentucky as That and Near States Report Strange Object."
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!"
The Belgian UFO wave peaked with the events of the night of 30/31 March 1990. On that night unknown objects were tracked on radar, photographed, and were sighted by an estimated 13,500 people on the ground - 2,600 of whom filed written statements describing in detail what they had seen. Following the incident the Belgian air force released a report detailing the events of that night.