Today In History: Flight 19 Disappears Over Bermuda Triangle

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Today in 1945, a fleet of five U.S. Navy Avenger torpedo-bombers, named Flight 19, took off from the St. Lauderdale Naval Air Station in Florida for a three-hour-long training exercise from which the planes and their crew would never return. Flight 19 vanished somewhere in the Bermuda Triangle.

Flight 19 departed at 2:10 p.m. and was meant to fly east for 120 miles, north for 73 miles and then another 120 miles back to the air station. Two hours into the exercise, the squadron’s leader reported that his compass and back-up compass had both failed. He didn’t know his position, despite being very familiar with the area. The other planes all observed instrument malfunctions as well.

Radio facilities attempted to determine the planes’ position but failed. Two hours and much alarmed chatter later, a radio transmission was received from the squadron leader at 6:20 p.m. The transmission, with distorted audio, sounded like the squadron leader instructing the crews to abandon their aircraft due to fuel shortage.

Sun Sentinel

Land radar stations finally placed Flight 19 north of the Bahamas and east of Florida. A rescue aircraft took off to retrieve them at 7:27 p.m. The rescue plane disappeared as well, never to be seen again. A tanker later reported that they had witnessed an explosion in the area at around 7:50.

An expansive rescue campaign was launched to find the fourteen men lost in Flight 19 and the thirteen men who went to rescue them. Hundreds of airplanes and ships searched the ocean but no wreckage or missing persons were ever found.

By the Navy’s accounting, the craft were never recovered because of stormy seas. People made other speculations, though. The event was a foundational one for the Bermuda Triangle myth.

One popular narrative attributes the Flight 19 incident and other similar Bermuda Triangle disappearances to extraterrestrial and/or paranormal activity. The evidence is scant, riddled with inaccurate or embellished reporting of the facts.

A number of more plausible explanations have been proposed, chalking the disappearances up to human error or various climatic anomalies.

The most recent Bermuda Triangle incident occurred on May 15, 2017. An MU-2B aircraft vanished from radar 24,000 feet in the air. Radio contact with Miami was also lost. The plane’s wreckage was later found.

Flight 19 was a tragedy, though it is unlikely that it was a tragedy with extraterrestrial or supernatural origins. Nevertheless, the mystique of the Bermuda Triangle as a hotspot of strange occurrences will probably never lose its appeal. We will surely be hearing more about it in years to come.

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