Thomas Mantell, Felix Moncla Jr. and Roger Wilson. What sets these three military pilots apart from all others is not that they were killed in the line of duty, but the fact that they died chasing U̳F̳O̳s.
January 7, 1948, WWII Ace, Captain Thomas Mantell was leading a group of four F-51 Mustang fighters on a routine mission over Kentucky. Unknown to Mantell at the time, Kentucky State Police were receiving reports of a large circular U̳F̳O̳, first over Mansville then Irvington and Owensburg.
The police soon relayed the information to Godman Army Airfield at Fort Knox, by the time the call was made, the U̳F̳O̳ could clearly be seen on radar by military personnel in the Godman control tower. It was described by witnesses as being very large, round, white in color and having a red light on its underside.
With Mantell’s group already in the air, the decision was made to send them to identify the U̳F̳O̳ and if necessary intercept it. One of the Mustangs continued on the planned flight path leaving 3 planes to pursue the U̳F̳O̳. The group reached an altitude of 15,000 ft when two of the planes had to descend because their pilots were quickly running out of oxygen.
Mantell however continued his pursuit of the U̳F̳O̳ and reached nearly 25,000 ft. Mantell radioed the Godman tower, “The object is directly ahead of and above me now, moving at about half my speed… It appears to be a metallic object or possibly reflection of Sun from a metallic object, and it is of tremendous size… I’m still climbing… I’m trying to close in for a better look.”
The words were the last ever heard from Thomas Mantell, his plane went into a dive and crashed at 3:16 pm near Franklin, Kentucky. The U̳F̳O̳ soon cleared Kentucky airspace and was reported over Tennessee before disappearing.
The most likely cause of the deadly crash is that Mantell simply went to high, ran out of oxygen and passed out. The real mystery of this story is what it was that Mantell and the others were chasing and the answer to that remains unknown.
The next and as far as we know only other deadly encounter between U.S. military pilots and a U̳F̳O̳, occurred on November 23, 1953, when radar operators at Truax AFB in Madison, Wisconsin, saw an unidentified blip on their screens.
The U̳F̳O̳ was located near the U.S./Canadian border and an F-89 Scorpion jet fighter was sent up to investigate. The plane was piloted by 1st Lt. Felix Moncla Jr. with 2nd Lt. Roger Wilson serving as the on board radar officer.
With the speed capabilities of the Scorpion, Moncla should have quickly reached the U̳F̳O̳, but the unknown craft appeared to take evasive maneuvers which made it impossible for Lt. Wilson to track the craft with the on board radar.
The U̳F̳O̳ did however remain on the ground radar at Truax and the information was relayed from the ground to Lt. Moncla. The ground radar clearly showed two blips approaching each other, then merging.
The hope was that Moncla’s fighter and the U̳F̳O̳ had simply passed above or below one another but a second blip never reappeared. There was no further contact with Lt. Moncla’s Scorpion and the U̳F̳O̳ soon vanished from the screen.
The Air Force explanation came quick. They claimed that Moncla had a history of suffering from vertigo, this seems unlikely as Moncla would not have been allowed to fly if vertigo posed a safety concern.
They went on to say that what Moncla and Wilson were pursuing was a Canadian aircraft, that claim was refuted by the RCAF. There was also a theory that the plane exploded, it is possible but no debris of the Scorpion was discovered in the massive search for the downed aircraft.
In 2006 a company called the Michigan Diving Company claimed to have discovered the remains of Moncla’s plane at the bottom of Lake Superior. Those claims and the MDC however turned out to be a hoax. To this day no trace of the plane or its crew has been found.