The date was January 7, 1948. Witnesses from Godman Airforce Base control tower, including the commanding officer saw a bright light in the sky descend over the State of Kentucky travelling at a speed of approximately 500 mph.
Following the object and to get a better look at it, Mantell climbed to an altitude of 22,000 feet.
The UFO was a quarter the size of the moon with a red border around the rim and a smoky green mist trailing it. Captain Thomas Mantell, a 25 year old Kentucky Air National Guard pilot was scrambled to intercept the object along with two other planes. Following the object and to get a better look at it, Mantell climbed to an altitude of 22,000 feet. The round circular object he described was travelling west, about 76 - 91metres (250 - 300 ft) in diameter.
People sat up and noticed.
Things went wrong for Mantell after that, he apparently climbed too high and too fast making him pass out behind the cockpit. His plane crashed to the ground. He was the first to die while engaged in intercepting a UFO.
This marked the dawn of change with the publics and the governments view of UFOs. People started to take UFO's a little more seriously.
The official explanation, he had inadvertently chased down the planet Venus, even though the planet was clearly visible in the sky, it wasn't dark yet, late afternoon, the sun had not set. Was this planet that bright to confuse the pilots? Highly unlikely. Even, Project Blue Book consultant J. Allen Hynek admitted lying and stretching the truth about the object being Venus.
Then three years later, the Navy came out with this official and final explanation. It was a high altitude weather balloon (Skyhook a top-secret project) doing photographic reconnaissance. Sound familiar?
A transcript surfaced in 1985 of Mantell's last transmission to Godman AFB. His last words, "It appears to be a metallic object... gigantic... directly ahead and slightly above me... I am trying to close in for a better look."
Moments later, Captain Thomas Mantell and his plane disappeared from radar as it smashed into the ground. When discovered they found Mantell's seat belt shredded, and his wristwatch had stopped at exactly 3:18 pm, his body was riddled with bullets and the wreckage radioactive. Later the airforce denied any of these claims.
It is believed he had risen too far, the air too thin, and he passed out, or the object was a Russian missile and shot him down, either way, he was the first to die while trying to intercept a UFO which begs the question; Is extraterrestrial life friendly or hostile?