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The Strange Death Of Pilot Thomas Mantell

Author: Tony Dodd.


Many stories have been written about the untimely death of Captain Thomas Mantell whose USAF P-51 Mustang aircraft crashed on the 7th. January 1948, shortly after having observed an Unidentified Flying Object seen hovering in the air close to the United States Army Air Force Base at Godman Field, Kentucky. Like so many incidents at the time, the official Mantell files remain classified, and the truth within them gathers dust in some vault, probably housed at Wright Patterson AFB Dayton, Ohio.
Captain Thomas Mantell

Over the years such UFO related stories have been debated by researchers throughout the World, but the final proof about such incidents has never been forthcoming. The self-destruct mechanism, which seems to be an inherent part of UFO investigation emerges with uncanny regularity and this coupled with a clever disinformation programme, has stifled the startling truth to the present day.

The Thomas Mantell case is no exception to this rule. The tragic death of this brave pilot has officially been put down to pilot error, but who could say otherwise. Mantell could not defend his actions or tell the true story of what confronted him that fatal day. The official Army Air Force verdict, and that shared by many UFO investigators, is that Mantell’s aircraft crashed after he blacked out owing to lack of oxygen while attempting to fly too high an altitude in what was later described as a high altitude weather balloon. ( It seems that I have heard this weather balloon story before at Rosswell)

The case was officially closed and the true circumstances of what had occurred entered the files of Project Saucer, The secret investigation group operating out of Wright Patterson Army Air Field in 1948.

The Official Version Of Events

The Thomas Mantell incident began at 1.20pm. On the 7th. January, 1948. when the control tower operators at Godman Field Army Air Force Base, Kentucky sighted a strange unidentified airborne object hovering in the sky close to the base. Several senior officers were summoned, and the base Operations and Intelligence Officer were soon joined by the Commanding Officer, but none were able to identify the slowly rotating object.

P-51 fighter

At the time a flight of four P-51 fighters were on a routine training flight under the supervision of Flight Commander Captain Thomas Mantell. They were flying towards Godman Field when at approximately 2.45pm, the control tower officer in charge ordered them to investigate the strange object. Captain Mantell acknowledged, but a short time later one of the pilots requested permission to brake away as he was running low on fuel, leaving the three remaining aircraft to head in the direction of the strange object.

The next message came from one of the three remaining pilots, who said he was losing his bearings and was becoming fearful of becoming lost. He too was granted permission to break away and return, but he would be accompanied by one of the two remaining pilots, who was instructed to accompany his colleague to guide him safely back to base. The only aircraft now in pursuit of the object was that piloted by Captain Thomas Mantell.

At 15,000 feet Mantell contacted the control tower and stated that he had the object in sight and was climbing to investigate. A short time later Mantell reported that he was closing on the object but that was the last message broadcast. Mantell’s aircraft crashed approximately 130 miles down range from Godman Field.

The official Air Technical Information Command report on the crash stated that they were of the opinion that Captain Mantell lost consciousness due to oxygen starvation. The trimmed aircraft had continued to climb until increasing altitude caused a sufficient loss of power for it to level out. The aircraft then began to turn left due to torque and as the wing drooped, so did the nose, until it was in a tight turning spiral. The uncontrolled descent resulted in excessive speed causing the aircraft to disintegrate. It is believed that Captain Mantell never regained consciousness. This was born out by the fact that the canopy lock was still in place after the crash, discounting any attempt to abandon the aircraft. They also stated that the UFO was in no way responsible for the crash.


Captain James F Duesler was the deputy commander at Godman Field on the date of the incident. He was also a pilot and crash investigator. Some years later he married an English girl and emigrated to England where he lived in retirement with his wife until she died. He then lived alone until his death.

I was contacted by Jim Duesler after he heard me giving an interview on the radio about the UFO subject and we became good friends and were in constant contact for about three years prior to his untimely death from natural causes. I found Jim to be a very warm and likable man who was easy to befriend- an elderly gentleman of high integrity. He had nothing to gain by recounting his version of the Thomas Mantell incident, which highlights numerous flaws in the official report which contained an official statement issued by the Department Of Defence which they claimed was made by Captain Duesler at the time.

Captain Duesler personally told me that he never made a statement to any authority relating to the incident, and that the DoD statement issued was a fake. He also told me that the fake statement included the words: Certified A True Copy-James F Duesler, Jr, Captain. USAF. He said that this was obviously a fake because he did not serve in the United States Air Force- he served in the US Army Air Corps before the inception of the USAF.

From this point I will only refer to Captain Duesler as Jim as he was obviously a civilian by this time and I will relate his story with the help of a recorded interview.

“On the afternoon of 7th. January, 1948, I was standing on the parking apron of Godman Field talking to Captain Warren Carter, who was the base operations officer, when one of the clerks from the operations centre came up to us and told Captain Carter that he was required in the control tower. He duly went to the tower and a short time later contacted me and requested that I join him as there was something important happening. I went to the control tower and told to look in certain direction into the sky. A small piece of paper had been put on the control room window to give an indication of direction. I looked out and saw a strange grey looking object which was hovering some distance away.

Because of its shape we described it as an inverted ice cream cone. The widest part pointed towards the ground and the narrow part pointing towards the sky. We also noted that the object appeared to be rotating because it had a black line running from top to bottom which moved around, giving the appearance of rotation. The wide bottom of the object was a red colour.

At this time a flight of four Air National Guard P-51 Mustangs were approaching our position at Godman. The flight was under the command of Captain Thomas Mantell.

Mantell was told of the object and requested to investigate. He responded to the request and told us he would investigate. One of the aircraft reported that the running low on fuel and requested that he break off and return to base. Permission was given leaving three aircraft to continue the investigation. A second aircraft then came over the intercom saying that he was unsure of his location and was afraid of getting lost and requested to break away and return to base. He was given permission and one of the two remaining aircraft was instructed to join him and guide him back to base.

This left Captain Mantell’s aircraft alone moving towards the distant object. The last transmission received from Mantell was when he was at 15000 feet, at which time he said that he had the object in sight and was closing for a better look. Nothing more was heard from him. The object then became obscured by cloud and was lost from view. At this our interest in the object was lost and I returned to my quarters.

At about 1am. In the morning, I was awoken from my bed by control room staff who informed me that they were watching strange in the sky. I got up and went to the control tower where they pointed out an object which was circling in a wide arc in the distance. It was agreed by all present that it resembled a cigar shape and was glowing a dull orange colour. During this time control tower operators at St.Louis and Wright Patterson had received reports of the same cigar shaped object. The object had also been reported by a flight of B-25 Mitchell Bombers to the St. Louis tower. I eventually went back to bed only to be awoken again at 3.30a. and informed that Thomas Mantell’s aircraft had crashed approximately 130 miles away. As I was a member of the accident investigation board I was required to attend the scene.

In company with two other men I attended the scene and on arrival found that the aircraft had crashed not far from the road and had strangely come down in the centre of a small clearing surrounded by tall trees. At this time I was told that the body of the pilot had been removed from the aircraft and taken away. Military personnel at the scene also told me that nowhere on the body had the skin been punctured or penetrated; yet all the bones in the body had been crushed and pulverised.

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