Case File: Bermuda Triangle
Location: Fort Lauderdale, Florida
Date: December 5, 1945
Description: The Bermuda Triangle is a area of the Mid-Atlantic incorporating the islands of Bermuda, Puerto Rico and the tip of Florida in a triangle which is believed to be where ships and planes vanish.
History: The Bermuda Triangle has a long and interesting history of disappearances ranging from the Mary Celeste, USS Cyclops and the Marine Sulphur Queen, but its legend did not become popular until December 5, 1945 when five Avenger torpedo bombers known as Flight 19 disappeared during a training run out of Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Over more than a thousand ships and planes are believed to have disappeared in the Bermuda Triangle.
Background: Lt. Charles Taylor, the flight leader, had logged over twenty-five-hundred hours as a naval aviator. He asked to be relieved on the day of training run but his request was denied. The planes left at 2:10 pm, heading east. Their scheduled route had them go 120 miles southeast where they would complete a practice bomb drop. After that, they were supposed to head 73 miles northwest, and then 120 miles southwest, which would take them back to Ft. Lauderdale.
Radio transmissions confirmed that they successfully completed their practice bomb drop. However, at 3:10 pm, during the second leg of the mission, Taylor's compass began to malfunction. He believed that they were off course, flying over the Florida Keys. However, it is believed that the planes were actually over the Abaco Islands in the Bahamas; from the air, the two island chains are very similar in appearance. Taylor ordered that the planes fly northeasterly, which would have taken them home if they were over the Florida Keys. However, since they were probably over the Abaco Islands, the northeasterly direction took them farther out into the Atlantic Ocean.
By 5 pm, it was dark and the weather had worsened. In one of the last communications heard, one of the pilots mentioned that they had to turn west or else they would run out of fuel and crash. It is believed that Taylor finally listened to the other pilots and had them go west towards the Florida coast. However, all of the planes apparently ran out of fuel before they made it to land.
It appears that Lt. Taylor's miscalculation of location is at least partly to blame for the disappearance of the five planes and crew. No trace of the planes or the 14 missing crew members were ever found. During the search, 13 men were lost when a PBM Mariner flying boat exploded midair while searching for Flight 19.
Investigations: Over the years, several Avenger bombers have been located sunk in deep water off the Florida coast, but none of them have matched the five planes from Flight 19. After the Challenger space shuttle exploded in 1986, NASA crew searching for Challenger wreckage found another Avenger plane sunk near Florida but they ignored it.
Aviation archaeologist Jon Myhre raised this Avenger wreck in 1990, certain that it was one of the lost five, but he and his associates were never able to positively identify the plane. Some of the serial numbers on various parts of the aircraft did match those of the one of the lost five but there has been no update and no definite resolution to the case.
Extra Notes: The case was featured as a part of the September 26, 1990 episode. A significant update to this story aired on September 11, 1991.
Results: Unsolved. In the last decade, searchers have been expanding their search area to include farther east into the Atlantic Ocean, but the remains of Flight 19 have still never been confirmed found. Jon Myhre no longer believes that the avenger found in 1990 was from Flight 19.
An alternate theory that he has investigated involves at least one of the planes going down within the Everglades. In the mid-1960s, an Avenger was found in a swamp near Sebastian, Florida, with two dead crewmen inside. Although the military initially claimed that the plane was one of the Avengers from Flight 19, it later stated that the plane and bodies could not be identified. Myhre is still trying to get more information about this plane to determine if it actually was from Flight 19.
- The Bermuda Triangle on Unsolved.com
- Nas Fl Museum Page on Flight 19
- Fresh search for Lost Patrol
- Were two dead crewmen part of Lost Patrol?
- Bermuda Triangle at Wikipedia