The Disappearance Of Flight 19 In The Bermuda Triangle

One of the most frequently talked about episodes in the legend of the Bermuda Triangle is the disappearance of Navy Flight 19. Consisting of fourteen men and five Grumman TBF Avenger aircraft, Flight 19 was scheduled to make a low-level bombing practice run on the Hens and Chickens Shoal somewhat south of the Grand Bahamas. The date was December 5, 1945.

The Avenger was the heaviest single-engine plane used during World War II. These aircraft were often referred to as "Iron Birds" as they massed over five tons empty. Twelve of the crewmen on the flight were trainees who were learning the craft. Only one other crewman and their Patrol Leader, Lt. Charles Taylor, who had only recently been transferred to the Naval Air Station in Fort Lauderdale, were experienced flyers.

The subsequent investigation found that Lt. Taylor had been to a party the night before and had tried unsuccessfully to get another of the base's pilots to take over the mission for him as he felt ill and "slightly hung-over". Once in the air, misfortune began almost immediately when the compass in his aircraft malfunctioned. This was a critical error as the navigational process during the time was to calculate speed, direction and flight time to determine approximate location over the featureless sea. Lt. Taylor did not have his watch with him as transcripts of the conversations between the aircraft shows him frequently asking another pilot for the time.

The second nail of doom was that Lt. Taylor seems to have mistaken his chosen landmark before heading his flight out over the ocean. Being new to the area, he thought he was taking his mark from the island he lived on in the Florida Keys. It is believed he took his initial direction from a different island in the Bahamas. Therefore, his order for the flight to head due north into the Gulf of Mexico in order to reorient on the Florida coast, instead had the crew headed out into the Atlantic Ocean.

As the flight progressed and the target site refused to appear, the planes made several course changes to find it. This further complicated their navigational accuracy. As fuel grew shorter it was suggested they merely turn due West to find the coast of Florida. By now this was impossible as a storm had blown up in the area and the direction of the setting sun could not be seen. The TBF Avenger was a low-level craft and could not achieve an altitude that could have taken them above the clouds of an ocean storm.

A third nail in the coffin for Flight 19 was that Lt. Taylor refused to switch his radio to one of the available emergency frequencies that might have offered some hope of having their position triangulated. This was not a callous refusal. The radio in one of the trainee planes was malfunctioning and he feared that if he were to switch frequencies, he would lose all contact with these men under his command and that they might come adrift from the rest of the flight and perish.

The last firm fix made on the flight put them about three hundred miles east of Jacksonville. Had they turned due west at that point they would have found land and been saved. However, Lt. Taylor thought that his position was far to the south and that a western course would take them into the Gulf of Mexico. The weather conditions caused such static and distortion of the radio that he never managed to receive the location fix that was sent to him.

Intermittent messages between the craft were picked up by shore based listening stations and it seems that the order was given for each plane to independently ditch in the ocean when they were down to their last ten gallons of fuel. By now the planes were out past the Continental Shelf and over water that was thousands of feet deep rather than a hundred or so. In a calm sea with an experienced pilot, the Grumman TBF Avenger might stay afloat a maximum of two minutes to allow the crew to escape. With the storm, rain, high seas and inexperienced crews, they most likely sank immediately, carrying their doomed crews with them to the bottom.

The initial Naval Investigation concluded that the disaster was caused by "Pilot Error". Subsequently that conclusion was changed in order to preserve not only the reputation of Lt. Taylor but to avoid the disavowing of his widow's pension. The official report was changed to read, "causes or reasons unknown." It was this final verdict that was jumped on by the sensationalist press and blamed on the "Mysterious Bermuda Triangle".

While the loss of these men was a great tragedy, it was not a great mystery.

Written by Wm. Douglas Mefford, Copyright 2008 TrueGhostTales.com all rights reserved.

Read more about the Bermuda Triangle:

The Bermuda Triangle

Facts & Myths About the Bermuda Triangle

The Bermuda Triangle Truths & Misconceptions

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