Decorated military pilot DIED pursuing UFO
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Decorated military pilot died pursuing UFO in 1948
Nobody knows what Capt. Thomas F. Mantell Jr. was chasing through the winter sky on Jan. 7, 1948. His pursuit of the "flying saucer" cost him his life. The 25-year-old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot from Louisville died in the crash of his P-51 "Mustang" fighter plane near Franklin, the Simpson County seat.A county historical marker just off Interstate 65 in Franklin commemorates the aviator's death. "Because he was killed trying to catch an unidentified flying object, the story made headlines around the world," said John Trowbridge, manager of the Kentucky Military History Museum in Frankfort. "There is a real X-Files twist to this, too. Mantell lived almost his entire life in Louisville. But he was born in a hospital in Franklin, only a few miles from where he was killed."A World War II hero, Mantell is buried in Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville. The Louisville Male High School graduate is probably all but forgotten except to family members
and friends, Trowbridge said."But the investigation of Mantell's crash became part of Project Sign," Trowbridge added.
"Project Sign later became Project Blue Book, the Air Force's official investigation into UFOs."Mantell and three other pilots, also in single-seat P-51s, were flying near Fort Knox when their radios crackled with a strange request from the control tower at nearby Godman Field. "They were asked to investigate an unidentified flying object which had been seen in the area," Trowbridge said. Col. Guy F. Hicks, Godman Field commander, "said he observed the flying saucer for some time," according to an Associated Press story at the time.One of the warplanes, evidently low on fuel, flew on to Louisville. Hicks said in the news account that the air base lost contact with the other three fighters "in about 20 minutes. Two of the planes later called back and reported no success."
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