On this day in 1945, a group of five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers disappears over the Bermuda Triangle after losing contact during a US Navy over-water training flight from Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, Florida. All 14 airmen on the flight were lost, as were all 13 crew members of a Martin PBM Mariner flying boat that subsequently launched from Naval Air Station Banana River to search for Flight 19.
The aircraft itself, also known as the “Pearl Harbor Avenger,” was a stout and sturdy three-man beast powered by a an R2600,1900 hp engine. Well known for remarkable durability, she first saw action at the Battle of Midway in 1942, did extreme damage to the Empire of Japan through to the surrender, and went on to a lengthy cold war career finally ending in 1960.
Returning us to 1945, under the command of Navy Lt. Charles Carroll Taylor, Flight 19 was scheduled to take them due east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles, and then back over a final 120-mile leg that would return them to the naval base; they never returned. Two hours after the flight began, Taylor reported his compass and back-up compass had failed and that his position was unknown.
The other planes experienced similar instrument malfunctions as well, and when radio operations on land were contacted to find the location of the lost squadron, none were successful; all five aircraft had vanished.
Mounting a massive search, hundreds of ships and aircraft combed thousands of square miles of the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and remote locations within the interior of Florida; no trace of the bodies or aircraft were ever found. The story of the “Lost Squadron” helped cement the legend of the Bermuda Triangle, an area of the Atlantic Ocean where ships and aircraft are said to disappear without a trace.
The area is said to stretch from the southern US coast across to Bermuda and down to the Atlantic coast of Cuba and Santo Domingo, and not less than 30 ships and planes have vanished there, most without a trace. Strangely, the USN aircraft in question were the identical model flown by recently departed, 41st President George H.W. Bush. Coincidence? Methinks not . . . .