As the world focuses on the mysteries surrounding Malaysia Flight 370, I’m reminded of another mysterious instance concerning a flight squadron that went missing at sea. The disappearance of Flight 19 in 1945 would help launch the lore of the Bermuda Triangle located off the south eastern tip of the United States.
On December 5, 1945, Flight 19 departed from the U.S. Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. Five bomber planes carrying a total of 14 men left around 2pm in the afternoon on what was to be a routine training mission. The flight leader, Navy Lieutenant Charles Taylor had over 2500 flying hours while his trainees had over 300 hours flying experience. All the planes were fully fueled but were missing clocks to also train the pilots about calculating elapsed time.
During the flight (approximately after 3pm) it was discovered that the compasses were not functioning properly on the planes. During communications with the ground, Lt. Taylor advises that they are lost and not able to gain their bearings concerning what direction they’re flying. As communication with the ground continues, time passes and the weather deteriorates. Around 5pm it was determined the Flight 19 was north of the Bahamas and well off the coast of central Florida. By 6pm the weather had gotten worse and now the sun had set. Throughout the time when the squadron was attempting to orient themselves and identify the location, they were in steady contact with serviceman on the ground who was attempting to provide assistance and determine their location.
Around 6:20pm a British tanker, northeast of the Bahamas, radioed it was in heavy seas and high winds. This was not too far from the current area it was believed Flight 19 was located. Around 6:20pm, Lt. Taylor is heard via radio, “All planes close up tight, we’ll have to ditch unless landfall. When the first plane drops below 10 gallons, we all go down together.” This was the last time anyone heard from Flight 19.
Around 6pm when it was clear the squadron was lost, several bases were put on alert. Two PBM Mariner seaplanes were to go out and search for the planes and once located, guide them back to base. Seaplane PBM-5 with its 13 man crew took off at 7:27pm from Banana River Naval Air Station (now Patrick Air Force Base), to aid in search and location. They called in a routine radio message at 7:30pm and like Flight 19, were never heard from again.
At 9:15pm, a tanker (SS Gaines Mills) reported it had observed flames from an apparent explosion burning for 10 minutes. Once near the location, the tanker was not able to locate any survivors but did note there was a large oil slick on the surface supporting the theory, that PBM-5 most likely exploded, hit the surface and sank below the waves.
In 1952, Fate magazine published “Sea Mystery at Our Back Door” a short article by George Sand. Sand was the first to point out the triangular pattern between the coast of Florida, Bermuda and Puerto Rico as an area where mysterious or abnormally high disappearances of ships and planes occur. In 1962, author Allan W. Eckert wrote an article for American Legion magazine that Lt. Taylor had been heard saying, “We are entering white water, nothing seems right. We don’t know where we are, the water is green, no white.” These and other authors begin to hypothesize could there be supernatural forces at play that not only contributed to the disappearance of Flight 19 but also other missing planes and ships in the area.
Many investigative experts and skeptics have stated there are a host of reasons why ships and planes disappear within the area known as the Bermuda Triangle. These include human error, violent weather, and underwater eruptions of methane gas which can interfere with the buoyancy of ships. Looking deeper at some of the more publicized cases it’s very possible that non-supernatural forces could be the cause. Not saying the Lt. Taylor was the reason for the disappearance, although he had a good record as a pilot and officer, it is reported he had a tendency to “fly by the seat of his pants”. This resulted in him getting lost several times in the process and twice ditching his plane in the Pacific and having to be rescued.
For the Bermuda Triangle believers, some insist that there are magnetic and possible cosmic forces at play. The feel these unseen anomalies affect the compasses and other on board instruments of planes and ships causing them to malfunction. This in turn can cause pilots and ship captains to become disoriented. Another theory is that there are vortexes that impacts the atmosphere and possibly time itself; planes and ships enter and never return. Whatever the truth is the results are the same. Just as with Malaysia Flight 370, the crew members of the missing vessels leave behind family and friends who are grief stricken from the loss of their loved ones.