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Flight 19

Who: 

Navy Flight 19 consisting of five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers.

Total Persons on Board: 

14 pilots and crewmen.

FT 36   (Bureau No. 46094)

  Capt. Edward James Powers, USMC
  Herman Q. Thompson, Sgt,
USMCR
  George R. Paonessa, Sgt,
USMC

FT 28   (Bureau No. 23307)

  Lt. Charles Carroll Taylor, USNR
  George F. Devlin, AOM3c,
USNR
  Walter R. Parpart, ARM3c,
USNR

 

FT 117   (Bureau No. 73209)

  Capt. George William Stivers, USMC
  Robert P. Gruebel, Pvt,
USMCR
  Robert F. Gullivan, Sgt,
USMC

FT 81   (Bureau No. 46325)

  2nd Lt. Forrest James Gerber, USMCR
  William E. Lightfoot, Pfc,
USMCR

FT 3   (Bureau No. 45714)
 
Ens. Joseph Tipton Bossi,
USNR
  Herman A. Thelander, S1c,
USNR
  Burt E. Baluk, Jr., S1c,
USNR

FT. 81 was one man short because Marine Corporal Allen Kosner had asked to be excused from the exercise. All of the pilots were qualified navy pilots, with an average of 300 hours flight time. This was a VTB Type Advanced Training exercise. They were not beginners, but advanced students.

The instructor for the flight was Lt. Charles Carroll Taylor, who had recently transferred to Ft. Lauderdale from Miami. This was his first flight on this training course, but he was a seasoned pilot with over 2,000 hours flight time. He had spent 10 months flying combat missions in the South Pacific.

When:

December 15, 1945

Weather:

Scattered rain showers with a ceiling of 2500 feet within the showers and unlimited outside the showers, visibility of 6-8 miles in the showers, 10-12 otherwise. Surface winds were 20 knots with gusts to 31 knots. The sea was moderate to rough. The general weather conditions were considered average for training flights of this nature except within showers.

Flight Route:

TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers departed from the U. S. Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida, on an authorized advanced over water navigational training flight. They were to execute navigation problem No. 1, which is as follows: (1) depart 26 degrees 03 minutes north and 80 degrees 07 minutes west and fly 091 degrees (T) distance 56 miles to Hen and Chickens Shoals to conduct low level bombing, after bombing continue on course 091 degrees (T) for 67 miles, (2) fly course 346 degrees (T) distance 73 miles and (3) fly course 241 degrees (T) distance 120 miles, then returning to U. S. Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Area Believed Crashed:

Off Florida Coast. Some believe that they may have overshot Florida and ditched in the Gulf of Mexico.

Reason for flight:

Military Training Flight

Type of Planes:

5 TBM Avengers in Flight 19

Search efforts: 

All available facilities in the immediate area were used in an effort to locate the missing aircraft and help them return to base. These efforts were not successful. No trace of the aircraft was ever found even though an extensive search operation was conducted until the evening of December 10, 1945, when weather conditions deteriorated to the point where further efforts became unduly hazardous.


Controversy: 

At 1410 hours, the afternoon of 5 December, 1945, U.S. Naval Flight 19, consisting of five TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers with a total of 14 men aboard, left the Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale, Florida on an authorized advanced over water navigational training flight and disappeared without a trace.

The first hint of trouble came at 1600 hours. An intercepted radio message, believed to be between the leader of Flight 19 and another pilot, indicated that the instructor was uncertain of his position and the direction of the Florida coast. Further, the aircraft seemed to be experiencing compass malfunctions.

The few additional transmissions were inadequate to establish the exact nature of the trouble or the location of the group. Then all radio contact was lost.

One search aircraft, a PBM Mariner flying boat (Bureau No. 59225) carrying 13 crewmen and rescue equipment, was lost during the operation. A PBM patrol plane which was launched at approximately 7:30 p.m., December 5, 1945, to search for the missing TBM's. This aircraft was never seen nor heard from after take-off. Based upon a report from a merchant ship off Fort Lauderdale which sighted a "burst of flame, apparently an explosion, and passed through on oil slick at a time and place which matched the presumed location of the PBM, it is believed this aircraft exploded at sea and sank at approximately 28.59 N; 80.25 W. No trace of the plane or its crew was ever found.

Until the late 1960's , this was just another unfortunate case of some missing planes. Since the late 60's, this case has become one of the key incidents that people point to as a proof that something strange is going on in an area dubbed as "The Bermuda Triangle." 

The Final Crew of PBM-8 59255

Pilot - Walter G. Jeffery, Ltjg, USN

Harrie G. Cone, Ltjg, USN
Roger M. Allen, Ensign, USN
Lloyd A. Eliason, Ensign, USN
Charles D. Arceneaux, Ensign, USN
Robert C. Cameron, RM3, USN
Wiley D. Cargill, Sr., Seaman 1st, USN
James F. Jordan, ARM3, USN
John T. Menendez, AOM3, USN
Philip B. Neeman, Seaman 1st, USN
James F. Osterheld, AOM3, USN
Donald E. Peterson, AMM1, USN
Alfred J. Zywicki, Seaman 1st, USN

 

Flight 19 even figured in "Close Encounters of the Third Kind," in which first the planes and then the men were returned by aliens.

A search team a few years ago found what they believe to be one of the missing Avengers, however, they were unable to prove it.

For more information, use the following links

USN History - Flight 19
Bermuda Triangle & TBMs
Naval Aviation News - Flight 19
Department of the Navy - The Lost Patrol

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This page last updated Saturday, November 22, 2014

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