Tag Archives: North American Aviation F-51D Mustang

7 January 1948

Flight of three North American Aviation F-51D Mustangs, 165th Fighter Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)
Flight of North American Aviation F-51D Mustangs, 165th Fighter Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)
Captain Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., U.S. Air Force. (Kentucky National Guard)

7 January 1948: Captain Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., 165th Fighter Squadron, Kentucky Air National Guard, received a request from the control tower at Godman Army Air Field, Fort Knox, Kentucky, to investigate an Unidentified Object visible to the southwest.

The object was observed by four members of the control tower staff for approximately 35 minutes, from 2:20–2:55 p.m., Central Standard Time.¹

Prior to the sighting by Godman Tower personnel, there had been several telephone calls to the tower from the Kentucky Highway Patrol, reporting numerous sightings by people in two towns which were 147 miles (237 kilometers) apart. The reported sightings were of a large, circular craft, moving at high speed.

Captain Mantell led C Flight, four North American Aviation F-51D ² Mustang fighters, in pursuit. Two pilots broke off because of low fuel, and Mantell became separated from his wingman. He reported that he was climbing through 15,000 feet (4,572 meters) with a large metallic object in sight. He then disappeared. . . .

A flight of North American Aviation F-51D Mustangs assigned to the Kentucky Air National Guard, circa 1947. (Kentucky Air National Guard)

It is probable that Captain Mantell lost consciousness due to lack of oxygen. The wreckage of his fighter, F-51D-25-NA serial number 44-63869, was found 5 miles (8 kilometers) southwest of Franklin, Kentucky (Mantell’s birthplace), which is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) south southwest of Godman Field. Captain Mantell was dead. His wrist watch was stopped at 3:18.

Occurring exactly 6 months after “The Roswell Incident” in New Mexico, “The Mantell Incident” was one of the most publicized “UFO” reports of the 1950s.

The Air Force determined that Mantell was either chasing Venus or a top secret Project Skyhook balloon, and that he had lost consciousness due to hypoxia. The fighter broke up in flight. Looking back with the advantage of 70 years hindsight, the most likely explanation for the Mantell UFO is the balloon.

The wreck of Captain Mantell’s North American Aviation F-51D Mustang, 44-63869.

Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., was born at Franklin, Kentucky, 30 June 1922. He was the first of three children of Thomas Francis Mantell, a traveling salesman, and Claire Morrison Mantell.³ He graduated from Louisville Male High School in 1942.

Mantell married Miss Margarete (“Peggy”) Moseley. They would have two children, Thomas F. Mantell III, and Terry Lee Mantell.

Avn. Cad. Thomas F. Mantell

Mantell enlisted in the Air Corps, United States Army, as an aviation cadet, 16 June 1942. He graduated from flight school and was commissioned a second lieutenant, Army of the United States, 30 June 1943.

Lieutenant Mantell was assigned as a Douglas C-47 Skytrain pilot with the 96th Troop Carrier Squadron, 440th Troop Carrier Group, Ninth Air Force, at RAF Bottesford. He flew in combat operations during the Normandy Campaign, and is credited with 107:00 flight hours of actual combat time.

On D-Day, Mantell’s Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Vulture’s Delight, was assigned to tow a  Waco CG-4A glider into the invasion zone. The Skytrain was heavily damaged by anti-aircraft fire. He successfully completed his mission and flew the incredibly damaged airplane back to England. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission, and the Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters (four awards) by the end of the war.

Thomas Mantell’s Douglas C-47 Skytrain, Vulture’s Delight, with damage from D-Day. The “6Z” painted on the forward fuselage identifies this airplane as from the 96th Troop Carrier Squadron. (Saturday Night Uforia)

Following World War II, Captain Mantell joined the new 165th Fighter Squadron, 123 Fighter Group, Kentucky Air National Guard, which had been established 16 February 1947. The group was based at Standiford Field, Louisville (now, Louisville International Airport, SDF). Mantell transitioned from transport pilot to fighter pilot. In his civilian life, Mantell owned and operated a flight school in Louisville.

165th Fighter Squadron pilots. Mantell is in the front row, second from right. (Find A Grave)

Captain Mantell had flown a total of 2,167:00 hours, with 1,608:00 as first pilot. The majority of his flight experience was in the twin-engine Douglas C-47 Skytrain transport. He had only 67:00 hours in the F-51 Mustang. Studies have shown that pilots—regardless of their total flight experience—who have less than 100 hours in type have the same accident rate as a student pilot.

There were unsubstantiated rumors that Mantell’s body had been burned or had been riddled with bullets. The actual cause of his death was described by the medical examiner as “dislocation of the brain.”

Captain Thomas Francis Mantell, Jr., was the first flight casualty of the Kentucky Air National Guard. He was buried at the Zachary Taylor National Cemetery in Louisville.

Captain Mantell’s fighter had served with the 358th Fighter Squadron, 355th Fighter Group, the “Steeple Morden Strafers,” during World War II. It was assigned to Lieutenant Halbert G. Marsh, who is credited with destroying 5 enemy aircraft on the ground, 16 April 1945. This photograph was taken at RAF Speke, Liverpool, following the War. (U.S. Air Force)

Captain Mantell’s fighter, North American Aviation F-51D-25-NA Mustang 44-63869, was a very low-time airplane, having flown just 174 hours, 25 minutes, since it came off the assembly line at Inglewood, California, 15 December 1944. Its Packard V-1650-7 Merlin engine, serial number V-328830, had the same 174:25 TTSN.

¹ Sources vary as to the time of the incident, with some citing Central Standard Time, others Eastern Standard Time. The EST and CST boundary divides the state of Kentucky, which probably explains the discrepancies.

² The North American Aviation P-51 Mustang was redesignated F-51 by the U.S. Air Force in 1948.

³ Some sources identify Mantell’s mother as Elsie Mary Morrison Mantell.

© 2019, Bryan R. Swopes

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5 August 1950: Medal of Honor, Major Joseph Louis Sebille, United States Air Force

Major Louis Joseph Sebille, United States Air Force.

Medal of Honor

Major Louis J. Sebille

Rank and Organization: Major, U.S. Air Force, 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, 5th Air Force.
Place and Date: Near Hanchang, Korea, August 5, 1950.
Entered Service At: Chicago, Ill.
Born: November 21, 1915, Harbor Beach. Mich.

Citation:

The President of the United States of America, in the name of Congress, takes pride in presenting the Medal of Honor (Posthumously) to Major Louis Joseph Sebille, United States Air Force, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter-Bomber Wing, Fifth Air Force in action against enemy forces near Hanchang, Korea.

During an attack on a camouflaged area containing a concentration of enemy troops, artillery, and armored vehicles, Major Sebille’s F-51 aircraft was severely damaged by anti-aircraft fire. Although fully cognizant of the short period he could remain airborne, he deliberately ignored the possibility of survival by abandoning the aircraft or by crash landing, and continued his attack against the enemy forces threatening the security of friendly ground troops. In his determination to inflict maximum damage upon the enemy, Major Sebille again exposed himself to the intense fire of enemy gun batteries and dived on the target to his death.

The superior leadership, daring, and selfless devotion to duty which he displayed in the execution of an extremely dangerous mission were an inspiration to both his subordinates and superiors and reflect the highest credit upon himself, the U.S. Air Force, and the armed forces of the United Nations.

Major Louis J. Sebille, U.S. Air Force, with a Lockheed F-80C-10-LO Shooting Star, 49-590. (U.S. Air Force)

Louis Joseph Sebille was born at Harbor Beach, Michigan, 21 November 1915. He was the son of Louis Joseph August Sebille, M.D., a physician, and Edna I. DeLish Sebille. In 1934, Sebille attended Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan, where he was a member of the Gamma Phi Delta (ΓΦΔ) fraternity. He was also a member of the drama club.

Sebille enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as an aviation cadet, 19 December 1941. Cadet Sebille underwent flight training at at Tulsa, Oklahoma, Perrin Field, Texas, and Lake Charles, Louisiana. He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, Air Corps Reserve, 10 July 1942. He then was assigned to MacDill Field, Florida, for advanced training as a Martin B-26 Marauder medium bomber pilot.

Lieutenant Sebille married Miss Elizabeth Jane Young of Chicago, Illinois, at Barton, Florida, 26 September 1942. W.F. Hutchinson, a notary public, officiated at the civil ceremony. They would have a son, Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Seville III, born in 1950.

“Lou” Sebille deployed to Europe with the 450th Bombardment Squadron (Medium), 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium), based at RAF Bury St. Edmunds. He was appointed a First Lieutenant, Army of the United States, 13 January 1943. The group flew the first B-26 mission from England, 14 May 1943, making a low-level attack against a power station at Ilmuiden, Holland, in enemy-occupied Europe. Lieutenant Sebille flew that first mission. The 322nd’s commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Robert M. Stillam, was killed when his B-26 was shot down. On 17 May, eleven B-26 bombers from the 322nd flew another low-level mission over Holland. Ten airplanes were shot down by antiaircraft artillery, and 60 airmen were lost. After that, the group concentrated on medium altitude attacks.

Martin B-26 Marauder medium bombers of the 322nd Bombardment Group (Medium) at Andrews Field (RAF Great Saling), circa 1944.

Sebille was promoted to Captain, A.U.S., 17 August 17 August 1943, and to Major, A.U.S., 7 September 1944. After 68 combat missions, Major Sebille returned to the United States.

In April 1945, Major Sebille attended the Airborne Radar Familiarization Course at Orlando, Florida. He was released from active duty 5 August 1945. His permanent rank was First Lieutenant, Air Corps, with date of rank retroactive to 21 November 1943. In September 1945, Major Sebille went to the Command and General Staff School, Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.

Major Sebille was recalled to active duty in July 1946. He held several staff assignments, before being assigned to the Air Tactical School at Tyndall Field, Florida.

In September 1948, Major Seville took command of the 67th Squadron, Jet, 18th Fighter-Bomber Group, stationed Clark Air Base in the Philippines. At the outbreak of the Korean War, the 67th was transferred to Ashiya, Japan.

(Mrs. Sebille and Flip were returned from the Philippines to the United States aboard the troop ship USNS General Simon B. Buckner. They arrived at San Francisco, California, on 4 August 1950—5 August in Korea.)

Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Sebille III, with Mrs. Elizabeth J. Sebille and General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, at March AFB, California, 24 August 1951. (University of Southern California Libraries, Los Angeles Examiner Negatives Collection)

The aircraft flown by Major Sebille on 5 August 1950 was a North American F-51D-25-NA Mustang, serial number 44-74394.

In a ceremony at March Air Force Base, Riverside, California, 24 August 1951, General Hoyt S. Vandenburg, Chief of Staff, United States Air Force, presented the Medal of Honor to Mrs. Elizabeth J. Sebille, Major Sebille’s widow, and their 17-month-old son, Louis Joseph (“Flip”) Sebille III.

Major Sebille was the first member of the United States Air Force to be awarded the Medal of Honor since its establishment as a separate military service, 18 September 1947. In addition to the Medal of Honor, during his military career Major Sebille had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one oak leaf cluster (two awards), the Air Medal with two silver and one bronze oak leaf cluster (twelve awards), and the Purple Heart.

Major Sebille’s remains are buried at Forest Home Cemetery, Forest Park, Illinois.

North American Aviation F-51D-25-NA Mustang of the 67th Fighter Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Bomber Group, Republic of South Korea, 1950. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

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27 January 1957

The last North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs in squadron service with the United States Air Force were retired from the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard, 27 January 1957. This airplane, F-51D-25-NA 44-72948, is on display at the WV ANG headquarters, Yeager Regional Airport, Charleston, WV. (U.S. Air Force)
The last North American Aviation P-51 Mustangs in squadron service with the United States Air Force were retired from the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard, 27 January 1957. This airplane, F-51D-25-NA 44-72948, is on display at the WV ANG headquarters, Yeager Regional Airport, Charleston, WV. (U.S. Air Force)

27 January 1957: The last North American Aviation F-51D Mustang fighters in operational service with the United States Air Force were retired from the 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard, Martinsburg, West Virginia.

North American Aviation F-51D-25-NA 44-73574, 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation F-51D-25-NA 44-73574, 167th Fighter Squadron, West Virginia Air National Guard. (U.S. Air Force)

The airplane in the photographs below, North American Aviation F-51D-30-NA 44-74936, was was transferred to the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, where it is on display. It is painted with the markings of another Mustang, P-51D-15-NA, 44-15174, Shimmy IV, of the 361st Fighter Squadron, 325th Fighter Group, which served in Italy during World War II. The actual Shimmy IV was lost over Austria, 9 December 1944. (The U.S. Air Force redesignated the P-51 to F-51 in 1948.)

The P-51D was the predominant version of the North American Aviation single-place, single-engine, fighter, The P-51D was 32 feet, 3.5 inches (9.843 meters) long, with a wingspan of 37 feet (11.278 meters). It was 13 feet, 4.5 inches (4.077 meters) high. The fighter had an empty weight of 7,635 pounds (3,463.2 kilograms) and a maximum takeoff weight of 12,100 pounds (5,488.5 kilograms).

Like the P-51B and C variants, the P-51D was powered by a right-hand tractor, liquid-cooled, supercharged, 1,649-cubic-inch-displacement (27.04-liter) Packard V-1650-3 or -7 Merlin single overhead cam (SOHC) 60° V-12 engine which produced 1,380 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m at 60 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-3) or 1,490 horsepower at Sea Level, turning 3,000 r.p.m. at 61 inches of manifold pressure (V-1650-7). (Military Power rating, 15 minute limit.) These were license-built versions of the Rolls-Royce Merlin 63 and 66. The engine drove a four-bladed Hamilton Standard Hydromatic constant-speed propeller with a diameter of 11 feet, 2 inches (3.404 meters) through a 0.479:1 gear reduction.

A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin liquid-cooled, supercharged SOHC 60° V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 905 pounds (411 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. (NASM)
A Packard Motor Car Company V-1650-7 Merlin V-12 aircraft engine at the Smithsonian Institution National Air and Space Museum. This engine weighs 1,715 pounds (778 kilograms) and produces 1,490 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. Packard built 55,873 of the V-1650 series engines. Continental built another 897. The cost per engine ranged from $12,548 to $17,185. (NASM)

The P-51D Mustang had a maximum speed of 437 miles per hour (703.3 kilometers per hour) at 25,000 feet (7,620 meters). The service ceiling was 41,900 feet (12,771 meters). With internal fuel the maximum range was 1,650 miles (2,655 kilometers).

Armorers carry six Browning AN/M2 .50-caliber machine guns and belts of linked ammunition to a parked P-51 Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)
Armorers carry six Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns and belts of linked ammunition to a parked P-51 Mustang. (U.S. Air Force)

The P-51D was armed with six Browning AN-M2 .50-caliber machine guns, with three mounted in each wing. 400 rounds of ammunition were provided for the inner pair of guns, and 270 rounds for each of the outer two pairs of guns, for a total of 1,880 rounds. This was armor piercing, incendiary and tracer ammunition. The fighter could also carry a 1,000 pound (453.6 kilogram) bomb under each wing, in place of drop tanks, or up to ten rockets.

North American Aviation, Inc., produced a total of total of 8,156 P-51D Mustangs at Inglewood, California and Dallas, Texas. Another 200 were built by the Commonwealth Aircraft Corporation in Australia.

North American Aviation P-51D-30-NA Mustang, 44-74936, marked as P-51D-15-NA 44-15174, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
North American Aviation P-51D-30-NA Mustang, 44-74936, marked as P-51D-15-NA 44-15174, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Left profile, North American Aviation P-51D-30-NA 44-74936, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)
Left profile, North American Aviation P-51D-30-NA 44-74936, at the National Museum of the United States Air Force. (U.S. Air Force)

© 2017 Bryan R. Swopes

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