February 26, 1996
Editor: Joseph Trainor
Last week's "Sightings" had an interview with former Army sergeant Quinton A. Blackwell, who was in the tower at Godman Field, Fort Knox, Kentucky the afternoon of January 7, 1948, when Captain Thomas F. Mantell had his fatal encounter with a UFO.
During his meeting with Capt. Mantell's two sons and sister, Blackwell made a startling statement. He said that once Capt. Mantell had the large metallic saucer in sight, the pilot remarked, "We're going to need hot guns."
"Hot guns" is Air Force slang for aircraft weaponry loaded with live ammunition. The five F-51 Mustang fighter planes were on a routine ferry flight from Georgia to Godman Field that day and were not armed with .50 caliber machine guns.
Right after Capt. Mantell said it, Lt. Clements flew his Mustang, NG800, back to the field. Here it was loaded with machine guns, hardball and tracer ammo and took off again at 3:30 p.m., hoping to rendezvous with Capt. Mantell and the UFO. However, by the time Lt. Clements reached the town of Franklin, Capt. Mantell's Mustang, NG869, had crashed.
There is no mention of "hot guns" in Sgt. Blackwell's original January 7, 1948 report, which was included in Project Blue Book and declassified in 1975.
Also Blackwell told Mantell's relatives that an unnamed brigadier general was present in the tower during the pursuit of the UFO. Possibly this was the commanding general (CG) at Fort Knox.
For readers unfamiliar with the case, here is a chronology of the events that day.
1:45 p.m. - The Kentucky State Police barracks at Elizabethtown phones the M.P.s at Fort Knox, reporting the presence of the UFO.
1:50 p.m. - Sgt. Blackwell and PFC Stanley Oliver spot the UFO on the tower's radar set. Taking a pair of binoculars, Sgt. Blackwell looks out the tower's south window. He sees a silvery saucer with a small dome on top flying slowly past the airfield.
2:00 p.m. - Lt. Orner arrives at the tower, looks through the binoculars, confirms the visual sightings of Blackwell and Oliver, and gets on the hot phone.
2:20 p.m. - Capt. Gary W. Carter, operations officer, and Colonel Guy F. Hix, commanding officer at Godman Field, arrive at the tower and confirm the sighting.
2:30 p.m. - Unaware of what's going on at the field, Tommy Mantell and his flight arrive over Fort Knox. Mantell asks for permission to land. Col. Hix tells Sgt. Blackwell to send the five-man flight after the UFO.
2:35 p.m. - Mantell begins his powered climb, heading southwest. One man in the squadron complains, "Where are we off to now?" Mantell replies, "New mission, gentlemen. Observation and report. This won't take too long."
2:40 p.m. - Mantell reports visual sighting of the UFO. He engages in a running dialogue with Blackwell back at the tower.
2:45 p.m. - Mantell reports, "It's ahead and above me...still climbing." (About this time "hot guns" were mentioned, and Lt. Clements turned back to Godman Field.)
3:00 p.m. - The flight reaches 15,000 feet. Lacking oxygen equipment, Lt. Hendricks in NG336 and Lt. Hammond in NG737 break off pursuit. Describing the UFO, Mantell says, "It appears metallic and of tremendous size."
3:15 p.m. - Mantell says, "It's still climbing...object is above and ahead about my speed (345 mph) or faster...I'm trying to close in for a better look."
3:20 p.m. - The two planes reach 20,000 feet. Mantell's wingman breaks off the pursuit. The UFO is heading for the Tennessee state line. Still in hot pursuit, Mantell radios the tower..."it appears like the reflection of sunlight on a canopy."
3:30 p.m. - Godman Field tower loses radio contact with NG869.
3:35 p.m. - While waiting for her school bus, Barbara Mayes, age 9, a student at Franklin Grade School, sees a "bright explosion" in the sky.
3:45 p.m. - Mrs. Philips hears the crash at her home on the farm of Joseph Philips in Franklin. Mantell's plane crashed in a field 200 yards from the house.
3:50 p.m. - Eyewitness Addie Wilson saw the UFO leaving the area. "It seemed to be at a high altitude and having an aluminum-like surface. It didn't look like any balloon I've ever seen."
Now that Sgt. Blackwell has come forward, let's use the Freedom of Information Act to declassify Colonel Guy F. Hix's report to the commanding general at Fort Knox and the general's report to the Air Defense Command at Mitchell Field, Hempstead, Long Island, N.Y. We want full disclosure in the Mantell case.
The December 1995 issue of "UFO Newsclipping Service" contained an interesting story by Ms. Esther Fay Hungate of McLeansboro, Illinois. Ms. Hungate saw her first--and only--UFO as a nine-year-old girl...way back in 1923!
Here's Mrs. Hungate's story in her own words:
"We moved to Benton (Illinois) in 1923...Everett (her twin brother) and I went to the Webster School in the fourth grade. (Older brother) Logan was a freshman at BTHS."
"One evening after supper (May 1923) we went out in front of our house to play, when we noticed something like a small cloud in the cloudless sky, looking away and then back again. The cloud was getting closer, and I said, 'There's something in the sky.'"
"My twin ran around the house to hide from it--but me, I wanted to see what the flying object would do. I was curious. It was coming from the north, not very high in the sky. It slowed down like a top and flew low around the old fairground, then came back by the Grant School west to the electrical poles, stopping before crossing the railroad tracks. It came to a stop about the height of the treetops, when the lights came on around the bottom edge--red, blue, green and ecru."
"The ecru light or spotlight was very bright. I put my hands over my closed eyes. It seemed like a few minutes before the spotlight was turned off. When I looked, it had moved nearer the electric poles. Then it rose up high in the sky, then began to descend slowly until it landed across the railroad tracks."
"It was about as high as a Phone pole when the bottom moved, and four lights came on, then a pillar of light came out of it. I looked away a minute and, when I looked back to it, it was gone. No one believed me, and it was years before I saw in the Sunday paper (June 1947) a picture of a UFO, and then I knew the mystery object I had seen was a UFO."
"I have not seen another one since."
All in all, this sounds like a typical close encounter of the first kind. However, please note that Ms. Hungate was one of a pair of twins. Perhaps the UFO crew was intrigued by the sight of identical human children, one male, one female.
Uh-oh! I'm running over this week. Here are some UFO Web sites for you to check out. Happy cybersurfing!