Although this isn’t actually about chasing footnotes, it sort of began that way. I was trying to follow up on a comment about the Mantell crash and why it had happened. Nearly twenty years ago or so, I had a thought of creating a sort of peer review of UFO information using the Internet as the publishing vehicle as well as a way of getting that peer review. To that end, I selected the Mantell case because there was so much bad information about it out there, from the idea that he was an experienced fighter pilot and ace to the claim that he had seen some creatures inside the craft or that they had shot him down because he approached too close.
The idea failed because no one wanted to invest the time and effort in creating documents of length about a case, some of the needed information was still classified at various levels, or maybe they all just thought it was not worth the effort. Why work so hard on a sighting because no matter the conclusion and how honest you believed the results might be there would be others who would reject the word because it didn’t fit their personal belief structure? I suppose I should have known that it was doomed to failure, but sometimes we all get overly optimistic.
Anyway, I was pulling up information from a variety of sources just to see how it was treated in them. Skeptic Curtis Peeples in Watch the Skies didn’t actually explain the sighting but noted the Air Force had claimed Venus and others thought it might have been a weather balloon but investigation apparently couldn’t prove that. The one real contribution to the discussion was Peeples’ report that Mantell
had a mere 67 hours of flight time
in the F-51D type aircraft he was flying and 2867 hours in transports. Peeples
doesn’t mention it, but Mantell had been awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross
for his actions during the Normandy invasion (D-Day for those of you who aren’t
history buffs) in 1944. The point is that he was an experienced pilot but that
his flight time in fighters was relatively low which might explain part of
I checked Richard Dolan’s UFO’s and the National Security State. Dolan suggested that Mantell was flying a P-51, which is the same aircraft as the F-51. The designation had been changed from “P” for pursuit to “F” for fighter, but many people make the mistake and it isn’t of much importance. He said that two of the other aircraft accompanied Mantell to 15,000 (while regulations required oxygen above 14,000) feet, but other documents suggested they climbed to 22,000 feet with Mantell.
Dolan quotes from Mantell’s last transmissions suggesting the object is above him and that is metallic and of tremendous size. He finally reports that the object is moving about his speed of maybe a little faster. According to Dolan, Mantell said that he was going to climb 20,000 feet and if he was no closer he would abandon the chase. The records seem to suggest that Mantell was already at 20,000 feet, and he was going to climb to 25,000 and circle for ten minutes before giving up. It is now clear to all of us, that if Mantell climbed to 25,000 feet he wouldn’t have had ten minutes of useful consciousness. He would have passed out in three to four minutes because of hypoxia.
The Air Force first claimed that Mantell had chased Venus, then a weather balloon and finally two weather balloons and Venus. Ed Ruppelt, when he took over as the chief of Project Blue Book concluded that Mantell might have been chasing a Skyhook balloon which could reach altitudes of nearly 100,000 feet, and given they were made of polyethylene, would have a metallic sheen in the bright sunlight. Ruppelt was unable to find a launch of one of those balloons on the proper date but there did seem to be one or two that might have been launched in the days preceding Mantell’s doomed flight.
Where Dolan goes astray, in the footnote sort of way is when he wrote, “Clifford Stone, a twenty-year U.S. Army veteran, has informed me that a navy colleague of his checked with the Office of Naval Research for Skyhook balloon plots. The man said that ONR records indicated there was definitely no launch of a Skyhook balloon from at least January 6 to January 8, 1948, but also that probably none had been launched since late December 1947.”
Here’s the problem, he mentions Cliff Stone, who is unreliable as a source on this, given the many unconfirmed tales he has told over the years. More importantly, Stone does not supply the name of his source, so not only is the information provided by Stone unverified, we aren’t provided with the name of this man with ONR. There is no way to check this out if Stone won’t supply the name.
Or, in other words, we can trace it from Dolan to Stone to a “navy colleague. That tells us nothing about where the information originated, about the accuracy of the information or what documentation exists to confirm it. The trail ends at that point. We need to ask Stone about it.
But here’s the point and it is one that we all too often ignore. We need to be able to trace the evidence to the original source so that we might be able to assess the credibility of that source. When I say, for example, that Edwin Easley suggested to me the path to the extraterrestrial was not the wrong path to follow in my investigation, we all could look at who he was. Easley, according to the documentation, was the provost marshal at Roswell in 1947 and was in a position to know. We can’t get beyond him, but we don’t need to. He was an eyewitness source who was clearly there in 1947. Unfortunately, in today’s world that information can’t be corroborated because he said it to me in an unrecorded conversation. He fell ill shortly after that and the opportunity was lost. You can accept it or reject based on your personal bias, but the point is, Easley was a named source who was in the right place at the right time. With Stone’s source we cannot verify his credentials, we don’t know if he was in the right place to gather the data claimed and that is the difference.
Those of us engaged in UFO research, regardless of the side of the fence we inhabit, must be willing to provide proper sourcing for what we say. We must name the names and the documents. Once that is done, we can all argue about the interpretation, but we must be willing to share all relevant data so that everyone can see where it originated. Otherwise we are just spinning our wheels.