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Captain Thomas Francis Mantell Jr.

Captain Thomas Francis Mantell Jr.
Captain Thomas Francis Mantell Jr.

Captain Thomas Francis Mantell Jr.was born in Franklin, Kentucky, 30 June 1922. He was a graduate of Male High School, in Louisville. On 16 June 1942, he joined the Army Air Corps, graduating Flight School on 30 June 1943.

During World War II, Mantell was assigned to the 440th Troop Carrier Group, 96th Troop Carrier Squadron, 9th Air Force. He was awarded Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal w/3OLCs for heroism. Following the war he returned to Louisville, joining the newly organized Kentucky Air National Guard, as Flight Leader, "C" Flight, 165th Fighter Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard on 16 February 1947.

Tradgedy on a Training Flight
Mantell crash site
Mantell crash site

On 7 January 1948, while on a training flight with three other P-51Ds (Mustang) Mantell was directed by the flight tower at Godman Field to pursue an unidentified flying object. While in pursuit of the object, he died in plane crash near Franklin, Simpson County, Kentucky.

The story of Mantell's death while chasing a Unidentified Flying Object made headlines across the country and world. An intense military investigation of the incident became part of Project SIGN, which later became Project BLUEBOOK, the military's investigations into UFOs. Much speculation and conjecture has been written about this incident, it is still uncertain what Mantell was pursuing at the time of the crash. Mantell is the first flight casualty of the Kentucky Air National Guard. His remains were brought back to Louisville and buried at Zachary Taylor National Cemetery.

Mantell headstone and historical marker
Photo of historical highway marker and headstone for Thomas F. Mantell. Courtesy CMS Coogle KyANG

On Saturday, 29 September 2001, the Simpson County Historical Society unveiled a historical marker in honor of Thomas F. Mantell, Jr. The marker is located at the Franklin, Kentucky exit off Interstate 65, next to the office building of Simpson County Tourism.



Last Updated 5/29/2008
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