Photo of TBF/M Avengers kindly provided by the Naval Air Station Museum Fort Lauderdale Florida.
( Part 1.)”IN CONTEXT” CAUSALITY IN 1945
Perhaps the hardest question to answer in trying to make any case for a Flight-19 conspiracy theory is why?
What could possibly cause the United States Government, or in this case the United States Navy to feel the need to cover up or suppress the details surrounding not only the disappearance but perhaps the discovery and recovery of the five TBM Avenger aircraft?
At first glance, it seems like a pretty farfetched idea: trying to associate the deaths of 14 sailors and marines in a training accident with any part of a conspiracy theory, especially with little evidence in a period just after the victorious end of World War II, right?
Of course, it’s not as incredible as saying that the planes were snatched up by aliens. Still, questions exist and will probably continue too as long as there’s still a Bermuda Triangle or at least until the wrecks and remains are definitively identified and possibly recovered.
Just to be clear, as of this moment and as far as this author is aware, there has yet to be any direct or empirically documented evidence of a cover-up of any kind surrounding Flight-19.
For argument’s sake, however, given what we know today regarding government and military ethics and corruption it’s not out of the realm of possibility.
So if we take the idea of duplicity seriously we need to ask in what context would we need to examine the backdrop of the event to make a case for conspiracy? What was going on at the time that may have affected the training flight in such a way that it would need to be hidden?
One thing we can be sure of is the fact that change and adjustment were a constant factor in the US military-industrial complex in the period between the end of World War II and the beginning of the cold war in 1947.
With the invention of the atomic bomb and the US becoming the first superpower many of the larger-scale transitions substantially impacted the Navy.
Furthermore: there is enough circumstantial evidence around some of the most prominent changes to conclude the Navy was overburdened and its resources taxed to the point that there can be no denying it was complicit in the Flight-19 tragedy. A detailed look at the following contributing factors will appear in future posts.
- Major Changes in the Navy’s leadership caused upheaval and chaos as the wishes and directions of the CNO (Chief of Naval Operations) and Secretary of the Navy changed in a relatively short period of time impacting both short and long-term service needs.
- Demobilization – the general recall of the majority of US Forces back to civilian life initially found the Navy lacking a stable platform from which to base fair decisions for an equitable form of service-related discharge program for its own personnel.
- Operation Magic Carpet put additional strain on the Navy requiring it to transport large volumes of service personnel back to the CONUS quickly, so quickly that combat vessels quite often filled in as transports.
- Navy Manning tables especially those related to occupation duties were uncharacteristically altered consistently adjusting to personell losses while prioritizing service mission.
- Though conclusive evidence is yet to be found, and Navy dissertation rates had averaged around 5.5 per 1,000 throughout the war, odds are as demobilization faltered those numbers spiked as 1945 came to a close, further causing shortages of staff and crews.
- Naval doctrine was at a critical junction at the end of the war as Battleship domination in sea warfare was over, replaced by the still-forming future concept of naval air forces centered around aircraft carrier battle groups.
- The Army Air Corps was pushing for strategic dominance over the Navy in ownership and use of the new ‘Atomic Bomb’, while in the process creating a separate branch of service from the Army purposefully designed for the new mission: The soon-to-be US Air Force.
- The War Department, aka the US Army, using the bomb as a stepping-off point was inwardly working to disband and absorb the US Marine Corps, and in passing marginalize the US Navy and its role in national defense through the planned military unification began under FDR.
- Concurrent with the loss of Flight-19 the results of the USS Indianapolis sinking and the court-martial of Captain Charles B. McVay III brought about a closer examination of Navy procedures and questioned its ability to command, communicate and control effectively before and during the drawdown.
In conclusion: to say the least these pre-cold war events and mindsets created a chaotic period of adjustment for the military, potentially impacting national security.
Influenced by political gamesmanship, public perceptions, and the resulting pressure on, and by Congress, this confusion and disorganization would carry over to all facets of the Navy.
Furthermore, the perception of fallibility would influence navy operational and training and maintenance procedures, and outcomes, including those of the Advanced Naval Air Training Command to the point, that it impacted installations on the South East Coast specifically in this case NAS Fort Lauderdale.
This hit to naval prestige would aid the Navy’s detractors and help to weaken its public standing and threaten its very existence. The need for containment and fidelity of the exposure of the Flight-19 incident therefore would seem great if not imperative. But is it reason enough to explain a potential cover-up?