At 2.15pm on 7 January 1948 a Virginia State Police patrol on the highway near Madisonville radioed an urgent alarm to their base. A large, disc-shaped object gleaming silver and red had flashed overhead at low level. And it was heading for the main US gold reserve store at Fort Knox. According to the police report, dozens of people in Madisonville had seen the object pass by.
The police immediately alerted the guards at Fort Knox. At this date nobody knew what to make of the flying saucers, some thinking that they might be top secret Soviet attack aircraft. That one was heading for the most vital part of the US government financial system was deeply alarming. Fort Knox alerted the USAF base at Godman Air Field, which provided air cover to the gold storehouse.
At Godman three P51 fighters were already in the air on a routine flight to Standiford Air Field. They were contacted and sent roaring off toward Fort Knox. But the flying saucer had changed direction and appeared over Godman at 2.40pm while the fighters were over Fort Knox.
Colonel Guy Hix, the Commanding Officer of Godman, was in the control tower when the object arrived. There was broken cloud, but the large, round object had been unmistakable as it flew south of the base. The chief executive officer, Woods, managed to get a brief fix on it and estimated it to be about 140 feet long. A radio message was instantly sent to the fighters ordering them to come to Godman and give chase.
The flight commander was Captain Thomas Mantell, an experienced pilot of the propeller-driven P51 fighter. As he and his comrades approached Godman he radioed “I’ve sighted the thing. It looks metallic and it’s tremendous in size.” A few seconds later he added “It’s starting to climb. It’s at 12 o’clock [meaning it was dead ahead of him] and making half my speed. I’ll try to close in.”
A few minutes later Mantell reported that the mystery intruder had accelerated to 360mph. Then his wingman reported that he and his comrade were abandoning the chase, while Mantell raced on ahead. At 3.15pm Mantell’s voice came on to the radio again. “It is still above me, making my speed or better. I’m going up to 20,000 feet. If I’m no closer, I’ll abandon the chase.”
Mantell’s aircraft was not fitted with oxygen for high altitude flying, so the decision to abandon the chase at 20,000 feet was wise, even though the P51 was able to reach 41,000 feet.
Back in Godman control tower, Hix, Woods and others waited anxiously. When no further message came from Mantell, they tried calling him. There was no answer. The two wingmen turned their aircraft back toward the last reported position of the UFO, but could see nothing. Search aircraft were sent out and the wreckage of Mantell’s aircraft was spotted. Mantell was dead, his aircraft had broken up in mid-air and been shattered to a thousand pieces that fell over a wide area, indicating that the break up had occurred at high altitude.
Two hours later a UFO that looked very much like the one that Mantell had been chasing was spotted flying fast and low over Columbus, Ohio.