Captain Thomas Francis Mantell Jr. was a United States Air Force serviceman and a World War II veteran. Mantell was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for courageous action during the Normandy landings,[1] and an Air Medal with three Oak leaf clusters for heroism.[2][3]

In 1948 Mantell became involved in a presumed UFO incident and died on the same day, when his aircraft ultimately crashed near Franklin, Kentucky. The incident was the subject of headlines across the country[2][3] and has been named for Mantell.

Mantell was the first member of the Kentucky Air National Guard to die in flight.[2] According to John Trowbridge, historian of the Kentucky National Guard, "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."[3]


Mantell graduated from the Male High School in Louisville. On 16 June 1942, Mantell joined the U.S. Army Air Corps, finishing Flight School on 30 June 1943.[2] During World War II, he was assigned to the 440th Troop Carrier Group.[2] After the war, Mantell returned to Louisville, joining the newly formed Kentucky Air National Guard on 16 February 1947.

Mantell's remains were returned to Louisville for burial in the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.[4]

On 29 September 2001, the Simpson County Historical Society unveiled a historical marker in honor of Thomas Mantell in his hometown of Franklin. The marker is located at the exit off Interstate 65.[2]

UFO incident

On 7 January 1948 the tower man at Godman Army Air Field received a telephone call from the military police saying they had received a call from the Kentucky State Highway Patrol who in turn reported that they were taking calls about something flying over Maysville, Kentucky. The information was brought to the attention of the base operations officer, the intelligence officer, and the base commander Guy F. Hix.[1]

Captain Mantell was passing nearby on a training flight from Georgia to Louisville. With the unidentified object still visible, Captain Mantell was asked if he would investigate. Mantell replied he would attempt to intercept and began a spiral climb to 14000 and then a continuing climb on a heading of 220 degrees.[1] He next reported that the object was "metallic and it is tremendous in size".[1] With the object still above him, he reported he would continue to climb.[1] Observers on the ground attracted by the sound of the aircraft engines saw the plane plummet to the ground. A subsequent search revealed the remains of Mantell's aircraft scattered over about a half a mile near a farm close to his birthplace of Franklin, Kentucky. Investigators believe that the death was caused by a lack of oxygen above 22,500 feet.[1]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 Kevin Randle. An Analysis of the Thomas Mantell UFO Case. National Investigations Committee on Aerial Phenomena. Retrieved on 2011-01-08.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Kentucky: National Guard History eMuseum. Captain Thomas Francis Mantell Jr.. Commonwealth of Kentucky. Retrieved on 2011-06-03. “On Saturday, 29 September 2001, the Simpson County Historical Society unveiled a historical marker in honor of Thomas F. Mantell, Jr.”
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 Berry Craig (9 November 2011). Hidden History of Western Kentucky. The History Press. pp. 40–43. ISBN 978-1-60949-397-4. Retrieved 2012-06-03. "The blue and gold plaque stands outside the Simpson County tourist office." 
  4. Image of the historical marker, Franklin, KY
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