The disappearance of Flight 19 happened in 1945. Five different military jets – carrying 14 troops – were on a training mission when they vanished over the area which has become known as the Bermuda Triangle.
The Bermuda Triangle is an iconic area that is renowned for being at the forefront of several mysterious happenings. The disappearance of Flight 19 led to this nickname being coined.
This article reviews this disappearance. There is a reader’s poll at the end of the article, which we invite you to vote on. We will all be able to see what the overall belief is among our readers as to what happened.
Flight 19 was the name given to a group of five torpedo bomber jets that were taking part in a routine training mission for the United States Navy. The mission took place in 1945, during the Second World War, when tensions were high.
14 troops, led by the experienced Lieutenant Charles C. Taylor, were on board the torpedo bomber jets. The other 13 were rather inexperienced, but each had around 300 hours in flying training.
Each jet had been checked for safety issues prior to the start of the flight. Other than minor issues with clocks, they were deemed acceptable to fly. The jets took off from a US Navy base in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, at 14:10 local time. The group’s progress was tracked from air traffic controllers on the ground.
At first, everything was going according to plan, with various turns, a bombing exercise and navigations all being conducted successfully. However, trouble would soon arise.
A few hours into the exercise, with the group attempting to return to Fort Lauderdale, the crew seemingly became disoriented.
Communications with the jets suggested that their compasses had become faulty. Flight controllers attempted to locate them, but were unable to do so.
They did manage to communicate with those on board, although there were some struggles with being on a consistent frequency. The main communications between the ground and the jets was through the leader Lt. Taylor.
Taylor believed that based off of the land below them, that the group were near the Florida Keys. Based on this, the flight controllers gave the jets directions back to Fort Lauderdale. But sadly, it seemed that the group weren’t near the Florida Keys after all.
As the minutes passed by, weather worsened, and communication from the flight became intermittent. Darkness was also falling, with the jets still unlocated.
The final radio message came just over four hours after take-off. It came from Taylor, who stated that the group had decided that they would all go down together if one plane dropped below 10 gallons of fuel.
This was the final communication, and none of the group were ever heard from again. At this point, it is believed that they were almost 250 miles away from Fort Lauderdale. Something inevitably happened in the minutes following this final communication.
At first, the US Navy launched a rescue mission by sending flying boats towards the area that they were believed to be in.
Tragically, one of these boats – which was carrying 13 people – exploded mid-flight, causing further fatalities. The boat lost contact with air traffic control, and was observed as being on fire by a US Navy carrier on the same evening.
This whole turn of events was a terrible event for the US Navy, with 27 people presumed dead. Searches took place around the location where Flight 19 was believed to have been. These searches took place for many weeks, but there was no sign of the 14-strong group.
The official investigation concluded that the flight leader Lt. Taylor had made the error of believing his group were passing over the Florida Keys. Instead, they were not. It is believed they were flying over the Bahamas at this point.
But the investigation did not place any blame on Taylor – instead blaming the compasses. It was reasoned that the 5 jets must have ran out of fuel, and sadly crashed into the sea.
Strangely, there was no sign of any of the aircrafts – no broken parts, rogue pieces of metal or debris visible in the sea. Considering there were five aircrafts, this seemed rather improbable.
The 14 crew members of Flight 19 and the 13 crew members of the search party were all declared dead. Their bravery and commitment did not go amiss, with the United States being on the winning side in World War 2.
As the years went past, there was no shortage of attempts to find any trace of Flight 19. But sadly, they were all unsuccessful. To this date, no sign of Flight 19 has ever arisen.
The 14 members of Flight 19 were Charles C. Taylor, George Devlin, Walter Parpart, E. J. Powers, Howell O. Thompson, George Paonessa, Joseph Bossi, Herman Thelander, Burt E. Baluk, George Stivers, Robert Gruebel, Robert Gallivan, Forest J. Gerber and William E. Lightfoot.
The 13 members of the search party were Walter G. Jeffery, Harrie Cone, Roger Allen, Lloyd A. Eliason, Charles Arceneaux, Robert C. Cameron, Wiley Cargill, James F. Jordan, John Menendez, Philip B. Neeman, James F. Osterheld, Donald Peterson and Alfred Zywicki.
In 1986, it was initially believed that one aircraft had been found. However, this was proven as false. Other claims have been made, albeit again with no proof. Efforts to find the jets in the modern day continue, though this has proven fruitless so far.
Flight 19 and its mysterious nature has been attributed as one of the key causes of the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon – also known as the Devil’s triangle. This area – roughly in the shape of a triangle – has been renowned for causing aircrafts and ships to disappear under mysterious and unexplained circumstances.
There have been suggestions of paranormal activity, poor weather and air issues among many potential explanations for the range of unexplained events that have taken place in this area.
For most, this will be a rather clear-cut disappearance with an obvious explanation for what happened. In any case, a few different theories are outlined below.
We take a look at the evidence for each:
Theory One: Loss of fuel and eventual crash
Most of the evidence points towards Flight 19’s pilots ditching their aircrafts in the ocean after running out of fuel. All five had a full tank of fuel before setting off, so they all would’ve ran out at around the same time.
The group’s leader Lt. Taylor said too that his group had planned on ditching their jets if any member of the group went below 10 gallons of fuel. As they were clearly disoriented and seemingly unsure of how to get to land, sadly they probably would’ve ended up in the ocean.
Surviving in the middle of the ocean in the freezing cold and poor conditions would have been near-impossible. If this theory is true, we can only hope that it was a very quick death, potentially on impact.
The only thing that makes this theory not entirely add up is the absence of any physical evidence. Flight 19’s five jets all seemingly crashed, it seems very unlikely that no pieces of debris would ever be found.
While the search area is renowned for being difficult to search in, several decades have passed, with no sign. For some, this suggests something else may have happened.
Theory Two: Enemy shoot down
1945 was a time when relations between the United States and its enemies were very poor. It is possible that the jets were shot down by a rival nation, leading to their deaths.
It is possible that whoever shot them down may then have disposed of the evidence. However, they would be in American national waters, making this unlikely. Also, air traffic radars did not pick up any sign of another aircraft or method of transport in American air.
The only thing that supports this theory is the fact that no trace of Flight 19 was ever found. Other than that, there is no true evidence.
Theory Three: Internal meddling
The only other possible suggestion is that there was some internal meddling with the planes. All of the planes had been checked, it seems strange that compasses would fail, leading to the group’s disappearance,
Could there have been a rogue member of staff in the US Navy who meddled with the jets? This may explain how there was an issue. However, there is no discernible reason for this happening.
Also, as the US Navy were helping in the war effort, every man was a help. It therefore makes no sense why anyone would deliberately try to kill this group.
Now that you’ve read the above theories, feel free to vote below for the theory that you believe is most likely.
Flight 19 and its associated events claimed the lives of 27 people. This was a tragedy, and the lack of physical evidence means that many questions will never be answered.
The US Navy concluded that Flight 19’s disappearance couldn’t be explained – instead declaring it as “cause unknown”. Flight 19 helped to pave the way for the rise of the Bermuda Triangle phenomenon, albeit at a cost of several lives.