Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Chasing Notes... Sort Of...

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
Thomas 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 this.

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.


Bob Koford said...


Everything I say here is based on the evidence gathered, and published in the Blue Book files, available to everyone.

Although it is possible he succumbed to Hypoxia, I am not thoroughly convinced, but that isn't the problem. The problem is in the details regarding the balloon.

In the UFO files retained by the Air Force, it is mentioned that Vanderbilt University was tracking the balloon at the time. This would seem to confirm that there was indeed a balloon aloft at the time of the incident. But there is a problem. They claimed that they had the balloon under surveillance. Not only did they never see Mantell any where near it, but it was noted to have been at 20,000 ft., and drifting slowly at a steady 10 mph.

If Mantell was at 20,000 ft. when he began his final ascent, then that just doesn't add up at all. If he did not display any of the symptoms of hypoxia up to this time, then he probably wasn't at 20,000 ft.

The different Aeromedical papers I had read when I was reading about the case, many years ago, stated that, generally, 15,000 ft. was when most pilots showed the beginning signs of Hypoxia. This wasn't true in all cases, and some pilots weren't affected until at a higher altitude, compared to others. Also, different pilots are affected at different rates, in differing amounts of impairment. Not everyone is affected in a universal way, but generally speaking, it is 15,000 ft. or so when the beginning stages of impairment occur.

So lets say Captain Mantell was at 17,000 Ft., instead of 20,000 ft., when he yanked the stick back and trimmed for rapid ascent to 20,000 (it should be noted here that the P-51 was designed to not lose any power when ascending in a steep climb at full speed). He was flying at, at least, 390 mph, as per his transmission.

This would mean that, if it truly was the balloon, he would only have had to ascend 3,000 ft. before he would over take the balloon. Even if he began at 15,000 ft., at 390 mph -or better, since the P-51 could go faster than that -he would have over taken it in less than a minute. Remember, he had it in sight. This seems to reinforce his transmission that the object he was pursuing was doing his speed, or greater (390 mph or better).

I don't agree that he was already impaired when he made his fateful decision. I say this because he knew that it was important to get a good look at the object, as the "saucers" were raising general alarms and he was the only one, at that particular moment in time, who could actually do it. So it was more of an heroic decision, rather than an impaired one that caused him to close in on it.

His last transmission was the one where he said he was going up to get a better look.

Surely he would have sent some type of transmission in that next minute that would have demonstrated the on-set of Hypoxia. He said absolutely nothing. You just can't say that his decision was the evidence. He seemed to know he was limited without oxygen, as per the testimony from at least one witness that he said he would break it off at 20,000 ft. if no closer. That statement is in the official files.

And again, the scientists tracking the balloon did not see Mantell around it. So where was he?

There still seems to be something missing in this story.


Anthony Mugan said...

I very much agree with what you say.

The peer review function is one I've also wondered about, as we all end up having to reinvent the wheel and go over masses of details to fact check claims.
In practice it would end up with different people shouting at each other much as in these discussions unless
a) submissions were by invitation only, including all perspectives but only from people who could work at the required standard or
b) the editors were recruited to apply neutral academic rigour and were equally respected by most points of view ( the lunatic fringes of all persuasions would just have to be shut out). Not sure if that is achievable.

Both scenarios run the risk of group think, so would have to try to be as inclusive as possible as long as contributions were rigorous and professional.

Bob Koford said...

I forgot to add this to my comment, sorry



KRandle said...

Bob -

I have reviewed the Blue Book file and find statements from Mantell's wingman that he broke off the intercept at 22,000, leaving Mantell alone. Mantell said he was going to 25,000 feet. The higher the altitude, the quicker the onset of hypoxia...

The only evidence I found was that an astronomer at Vanderbilt, near Nashville, reported a balloon with a basket... is this what you mean? And if it was at 20,000 feet, Mantell and his wingmen were at 22,000, then the balloon would have been below them. But if the astronomer was near Nashville, he couldn't have seen Mantell or the Skyhook balloon because he was too far away.

It is quite clear from the Blue Book files that Mantell was above 20,000 feet, that he and his wingmen were at 22,000 feet, and that if Mantell had, in fact, climbed to 25,000 feet, his useful consciousness, according to many documents and charts would have been under five minutes... and he had already been flying around at 20,000 feet. One of his wingmen became dizzy at that lower altitude and broke off the pursuit.

Don said...

I recommend reading Brad Sparks comments on this case on ufoupdateslist.com, years ago. I'm travelling now through the weekend, but if this discussion is still active next week, I'll post to Sparks' interesting articles. I'd guess Kevin or David know the articles.

Best Regards,


Bob Koford said...

You wrote: "He (Mr. Dolan) 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."

What "other documents" are you referring to here? According to the tower operators (those who heard the transmissions)they leveled off at 15,000 ft.

Example: T/Sgt Quinton A. Blackwell said, of Mantell "...At 15,000 ft..." and "...Object ahead and above me now and moving at about half my speed...".

Also from files:"...another plane relayed, "this ks 15,000 ft., let's level out"

The next notable transmission, attributed to Mantell is: (Capt. Cary W. Carter):
"...Object going up and forward as fast as he was, approximately 360 mph...then quoting Captain Mantell, "going to 20,000 ft. and if no closer will abandon chase".

So they are clear that the group leveled off at 15,000 ft. That is where Mantell is said to have been when he began his ascent to 20,000 ft. So where did the other information come from? I am simply curious, as I am unaware of its origin?

These have been direct quotes from the investigation.

KRandle said...

Bob -

In the same place that you found your information, that is the Blue Book files.

"At 22,500 feet, Lt. Clements advised flight leader [Mantell] that he was breaking off to lead the other wing man to Staniford Field."

"At the time Lt. Clements and Lt. Hammond broke off from the flight (22,500). Captain Mantell was observed climbing directly into the sun."

This from a document that was part of the investigation and under the sub heading of "Investigation Disclosed." It was dated January 21, 1948, and signed by Captain Lee J. Merkel.

In "Description of the Accident", also part of the Blue Book file, it was reported, "One pilot left the flight as the climb began, the remaining two discontinued the climb at approximately 22000 feet. When last observed by the wing man Lt. Clements, Captain Mantell was in a maximum climb at 22500 feet."

Please note, I quote from the pilots who were with Mantell and you quote from the guys on the ground. Whose statements do you think more accurately reflect the situation and the altitude? Also note that Mantell was in violation of the regulations climbing above 14,000 feet without proper oxygen equipment.

Now, who was the astronomer who was watching a balloon at 20,000 feet as you mentioned? Was it the guy near Nashville? I have found no other information about a Vanderbilt scientist in the record and if this is the guy, he was in no position to see either Mantell or the balloon he was chasing.

cda said...

The astronomer at Vanderbilt Univ was Carl K.Seyfert, after whom 'Seyfert Galaxies' are named. The one near Nashville was, I think, an amateur astronomer, who is mentioned, but not named, in Ruppelt's book.

Bob Koford said...

Thank you both, yes, that must explain the Vanderbilt sighting. My notes are quoted from someone who described it with slightly different wording, but it must be the same event.

I stated at the beginning that my problem isn't with the oxygen starvation issue, it resides with the balloon information, and I am still puzzled by the fact that the winds aloft data, gathered for both Tennessee and Kentucky match, and are confirmed for altitudes between 20,000 ft. and 25,000 ft., as the scientists tracking the other balloon attest to it.

It shows wind speeds between 4mph and 14mph, depending on the exact location. The balloon the scientists watched was drifting at 10mph.

Why would the balloon Captain Mantell was trying to close in on be pulling away from him at approximately 180 mph (about half his speed)? It bothers me because of the "other" unidentified object(s) seen traveling at approximately that same speed (roughly 200mph). Since that unidentified object was clearly not a balloon, isn't it possible that it was this object that was being chased, whatever it was?

Wouldn't a "skyhook", or any other balloon, be exhibiting a similar drift pattern as the "other" balloon being tracked, since we know that the winds aloft data from the two states matched, at 20,000 - 25,000 ft.? Where geographically was the "skyhook" balloon, at that moment?

Note: If this information is in your published report on this case, could you direct me to where I could access it, so I don't just seem to press you for already covered information?

Thanks again. I will update my blog regarding the Mantell case accordingly.