In 1948 A Fighter Pilot Was Sent To Intercept A UFO – And His Pursuit Had Deadly Consequences

It’s January 7, 1948, and four pilots from the Kentucky National Air Guard are on a routine mission, flying Mustang P-51 fighter planes. Then a message comes in from the control tower at Godman Army Airfield at Fort Knox. It seems that a mysterious object has been spotted in the sky. Subsequently, three of the pilots go into a steep ascent to investigate.

Only three of the pilots chased after the unidentified object as the fourth, Lieutenant Robert Hendricks, had run low on fuel and headed back to base. Pulling their joysticks back to climb into the sky, Lieutenant A. W. Clements, Lieutenant B. A. Hammond and the flight leader, Captain Thomas Mantell, soared heavenwards.

Naturally enough, it was Mantell that led the rapid ascent. In fact, a Mustang P-51 can climb to an altitude of 42,500 feet. A pilot called Doug Matthews proved that in 1956 when he set the altitude record for this particular aircraft, flying in a plane called The Rebel. But that was hardly an everyday feat – Matthews had made elaborate preparations for his successful record attempt.

One of the things that Matthews made sure of was to carry a supply of oxygen. Yet of the three men who headed for the heavens in their P-51s that day, only one, Clements, had oxygen on board. That was perfectly normal, however. Since the planes had been on a routine flight with no need to go to excessive altitudes, there was no requirement for them to have oxygen supplies.

But now the three were rapidly gaining altitude, and they had spotted the object that had attracted the attention of the people on the ground. Pursuing it, whatever “it” was, they went through 15,000 feet and then 20,000 feet. But when they got to 22,500 feet, both Clements and Hammond began to feel the debilitating effects of the lack of oxygen at that altitude.