Bermuda Triangle, Flight-19, Missing Navy Aircraft, Missing Navy AirCrews

FLIGHT-19 PICS – A Tale of 2 Planes & 2 Numbers!

AVENGER PHOTOGRAPHS FOUND MISLEADING !!

Dateline – 30 January 2020

It’s a little noticed Flight-19 detail, but according to the U.S. Navy, (Image #1), there were two different models of TBM Avengers flying Navigational Hop-1 that day in 1945.  Four of the planes were shown to be TBM-1C’s , and the fifth, FT-28, was a TBM-3.  As an amateur Flight-19 historian, I had overlooked and made little note of this information until just recently when I noted what appeared to be a discrepancy in the book Discovery of Flight-19 by Jon Myhre.  Myhre a much respected Flight-19 researcher and author claimed that FT-28 was a TBM-3D not a TBM-3.

I was comforted knowing that I was not alone in my ignorance to the plane differences. For years this obtuse distinction between Flight-19 aircraft has understandably by and large gone unacknowledged by the general public. To the untrained eye, the aircraft look the same. If you weren’t aware that there were different TBM variants, you wouldn’t be looking for them.

This confusion regarding characteristic variations in aircraft over time has been further compounded by the erroneous photographs found in, books, newspapers, magazines, TV shows and movies. These images have been  unintentionally misleading the general public into believing that not only were all the aircraft the same but that there are existing photographs of the planes and crews together. 

To investigate and prove or disprove these assertions, my wife and I went to the NAS Ft. Lauderdale museum, Ft. Lauderdale, Florida on a research vacation. What we didn’t expect to find in our inquiry was the lack of attributed photographic evidence and documentation found in the museums collection. Still despite the seemingly lacking material provenance we remained undaunted in our search.

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(Image#1)Accident-report-Flight-19-pilot-Taylor-1. Bureau Number (BuNu) #23037 Official Navy Document provided by the NAS Ft. Lauderdale Museum

Not long after starting our investigation however perhaps the most familiar photograph of the plane famously known as FT-28 and most commonly associated with Flight-19 (Photo# 1) was made known to us by the director of the museum John Bloom. Before we could get our hopes up, we were informed that it was not the plane leading the “Lost Patrol”.

According to Bloom the credit for this discovery should be attributed to the founder of the NAS Fort Lauderdale Historical Association – Allan F. McElhiney (now deceased). I asked John how McElhiney, (a driving force behind the museums creation), knew it wasn’t the same plane? He was unsure how to respond and unable to go into detail ‘ he was just told that (he) McElhiney knew ‘. 

So how did McElhiney figure it out? Let’s start with circumstantial evidence.

According to Bloom, ‘At the time of the Flight-19 disappearance there were approximately 180 Avengers, a few SNJ’s and other training planes assigned to NAS Fort Lauderdale ‘  From a practical perspective, because the Navy was re-consolidating and closing other naval aviation training facilities like NAS Miami in the months immediately following the war, it stands to reason that Ft. Lauderdale was a recipient of TBM, perhaps even TBF Avengers to use for training and parts. But this information doesn’t allow us to unequivocally claim that the plane is not FT-28.

Previous Model of Ft-28 NAS Ft. Lauderdale

(Photo #1) FT-28 (Circa 1943/44) Mistakenly identified as a TBM-3 this is not the plane that led Flight-19! Photo courtesy of the NAS Ft. Lauderdale Museum.

Let’s look further into the photo itself. To reach the same findings as McElhiney, one has to ignore all references to the number 28 in the photograph. After all you will see, it is the center of the mis-perception. We also need to examine a couple of generations of the TBF/TBM Avenger line to make the comparison distinguishing plane variants. 

Using TBF/TBM aircraft identification reference materials (1*,2*) (See last page.) and by closely comparing the images, we can see details important in distinguishing the models.  

1.) Though it is not visible from the front (Photo #1) the TBM-1 Avenger had a single .50 caliber machine gun built into the nose of the plane mounted up close to the cockpit. It was powered by the 1700 HP Wright R-2600-8 engine which had a single engine scoop air intake built into the upper portion of the engine cowling . 

2.) The TBM-1C Avenger kept the engine with the single scoop but added a second machine gun, moving one to each wing root and eliminating the nose mount altogether.

3.) The TBM-3 Avenger kept the machine guns in the wing root but replaced the engine with the 1900 HP Wright R-2600-20, 14 cylinder, air cooled radial engine. Designers evidently felt the added heat required an additional air intake to be added in the lower cowling.

As can be clearly seen in the photo above the second air intake is not present and the two machine gun mounts, one each, are just visible on each wing. We have therefore visually proven the theory put forth by McElhiney that the plane shown is actually a TBM-1C, assigned the tail registration number 28. 

So, what difference does that make you may ask?  First and most importantly, it proves that the Avenger aircraft numbered 28 pictured is not the plane famously associated with Flight-19 and piloted by Navy Lt. Charles C. Taylor!

In the larger scope of all things Flight-19, it also means that we cannot rely solely on the painted on plane tail registration numbers to identify plane photographs and for that matter wrecks. Though the plane number may be the most focal point in finding and identifying wreckage, an in depth analysis using official documentation, the Bureau Number in conjunction with the examination of the plane structure is the most accurate means of verification.  The second set of numbers makes the difference in proving identification.

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Flight-19

NAS Ft. Lauderdale: Where it all began.

All of my research thus far has led me to the conclusion that to get a true understanding of the events occurring, December 5th 1945 in Fort Lauderdale Florida, it is imperative for anyone researching Flight-19, that they visit the Naval Air Station Museum. I for one have been wanting to go for ages now, and I am finally getting my chance. Continue reading

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Beware! Flight-19 Depth Perception will blow your mind! Alright, let me qualify that statement. If you are savvy and already familiar with the disappearance of the 1945 flight of missing Navy torpedo bombers than this book will make you re-evaluate and challenge all that you perceive as fact.

Though the author relies mainly on secondary sources in her prose, she deftly, but problematically measures there conclusions against the core piece of evidence available. Using the naval review board report from 1945 she both expounds on and contradicts conventional thought, simultaneously. This juxtaposing of timelines and witness accounts really challenges the reader to keep up.

However: the lack of professional editing and additional use of tertiary online sources like Wikipedia and Google is somewhat worrisome. The online articles often referred to by embedded hyperlinks are not properly cited. And though valid points, the reader is left to wander the article with only a hint of the connection to be made. Furthermore: the author’s style of writing the narrative in conjunction with the bibliography or source page does not fit any standard research model found in a traditionally published book..ie..AP, Chicago…etc.

In summation, as a piece of non-fiction, Flight-19 Depth Perception falls short of being a scholarly piece of writing. But the contents alone make it a book for any seasoned Flight-19 investigator. Certainly, as a refreshing take on an old subject, Michelle Lemburg and her OCD writing- her words not mine; in my opinion is undervalued at double the price and well worth the trouble to read.

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Review of “Flight-19 Depth Perception” by Michelle Lemburg.

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The real story of Flight 19 by Steve MacGregor

The author Steve MacGregor sets out to outline his research into the mystery of the Flight-19 disappearance in a logical manner. He is quite successful at explaining the rudimentary timeline and his theory on the happenstance of both the TBM Avenger aircraft and one of the PBM rescue planes sent to find them.

However, in my humble opinion, the book falls short of being a true work of research for a few different reasons. Among other things, it does not contain an index of referenced materials & terms and therefore the reader cannot reference an alleged fact easily. And though there is a short bibliography it is not written in any set standard writing format such as AP or MLA…etc.

Furthermore; though it is a very succinct and simply detailed account of the event, including the subsequent paradoxes after the search and rescue there are a few elements missing from the timeline that the researcher should be aware of and a couple that I believe were overemphasized.

The reader should know that the author’s work is a short piece of approximately 110 pages and is meant as one volume in a series of writings about true-life mysteries.

To be fair, I skimmed the book in two hours looking for key elements to a well-authored piece and though I highly recommend this book to anyone interested in the story, I sincerely suggest using it as a supplementary reading or as an introduction to a more in-depth analysis by most of the authors listed in the bibliography.

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Review of “The Real Story of Flight-19”

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Image result for hitchhikersTo all my followers! Yes, all 8 of you. Here’s my conundrum. I will shortly be becoming a Grand father not once but twice in the next several months. Thank you, thank you!! I am as you can imagine very excited. But that’s not the problem. I need to get to Ft. Lauderdale to research aspects of topics for my book. I need to interview, one or two people, research files in at least one if not more museums and archives, and yet, like many people I cannot afford to do so, especially with the grand children on the way.  But I need to get to Ft. Lauderdale sooner rather than later.  I have been trying to get part-time work, with no luck and I can’t legitimize applying to ‘Go fund me’. In my mind there are so many more worth while charities I can’t imagine my need to get to Florida would top many people’s lists. I need your help to figure out how I get there.  Please help! Thank you.

Flight-19

Ft. Lauderdale or Bust!

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Alongside December 7th, 1942, December 5th, 1945 is also a day that will forever be remembered infamously. Why is that you ask?  Because it too was a day of great loss; another senseless tragedy for the country.

We remember on that day 72 years ago when 14; World War II veterans; naval aviators and crew, many of them combat survivors, went missing off the coast of Florida.  They weren’t lost during a daring raid on some enemy shipping or in defense of some island. No, the war had ended.  Instead they were lost during a simple and routine training exercise in a time of peace, in preparation for the next time.

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Photos Graciously provided by Minerva Bloom and the Naval Air Museum Fort Lauderdale Florida.

” THE 19th FLIGHT “
FT – 28 Flight Leader: NASFL Instructor, Lt. Charles Carroll Taylor, USNR. Aircraft: TBM-3D – BuNo 23307.
Crew: Gunner George Francis Devlin, AOM3c, USNR. Radioman: Walter Reed Parpart, Jr. ARM3c, USNR.

FT – 36 Pilot: Capt. Edward Joseph Powers, USMC. Aircraft: TBM-1C – BuNo 46094.
Crew: Gunner Sgt. Howell Orrin Thompson, USMCR. Radioman: Sgt. George Richard Paonessa, USMCR.

FT – 81 Pilot: 2nd Lt. Forrest James Gerber, USMCR. Aircraft: TBM-1C – BuNo 46325.
Crew: (Only one) Pfc. William Lightfoot, USMCR. That day, Corporal Allan Kosnar had asked to be excused from this exercise.

FT- 3 Pilot: Ensign Joseph Tipton Bossi, USNR. Aircraft: TBM-1C –  BuNo 45714.
Crew: Gunner Herman Arthur Thelander, S1c, USNR. Radioman: Burt E. Baluk, S1c, USNR.

FT- 117 Pilot: Captain George William Stivers Jr., USMC. Aircraft: TBM-1C –  BuNo 73209.
Crew: Gunner Sgt. Robert Francis Gallivan, USMCR. Radioman: Pvt. Robert Peter Gruebel, USMCR.”

Additionally we remember the 13 crew members of Training-49; a PBM-5 Mariner sea plane that was lost with all hands during the search and rescue operations that day.  In the end, though the Navy put a tremendous effort into finding the crews, the worsening weather and darkness of the great ocean proved too much that December.

In conclusion, I’d ask that you read the words written below out of respect and tradition for those who made the ultimate sacrifice both in war & continue to do so in time of peace.

* Eternal Father (The Navy Hymn) found on the U.S. Navy Home Page

Verse 1: Eternal Father, strong to save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep
Its own appointed limits keep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Verse 2: O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard
And hushed their raging at Thy word,
Who walked’st on the foaming deep,
And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Verse 3: Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood
Upon the chaos dark and rude,
And bid its angry tumult cease,
And give, for wild confusion, peace;
Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,
For those in peril on the sea!

Verse 4: O Trinity of love and power!
Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;
From rock and tempest, fire and foe,
Protect them wheresoe’er they go;
Thus evermore shall rise to Thee
Glad hymns of praise from land and sea.

1860 by William Whiting of Winchester, England, 

Eternal Father, grant, we pray,
To all Marines, both night and day,
The courage, honor, strength, and skill
Their land to serve, thy law fulfill;
Be thou the shield forevermore
From every peril to the Corps.
J. E. Seim (1966)

 

(*http://www.navy.mil/navydata/nav_legacy.asp?id=172)

Flight-19

DECEMBER 5TH, 1945 MEMORIAL | A day that lives in Infamy!

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November 26, 2017 – In his book “The Discovery of Flight-19”, Jon Myhre details the wreckage of a naval aircraft from the 1940’s or 50’s found in the woods near the everglades in Felsmere Florida sometime in the 1960’s or 70’s.

The only evidence of this wreck which I know to still exist are items removed from the scene by one of the persons who found the plane, Judge Graham Stikelether of Indian River County, FL.  A .50 Caliber Machine Gun with a bent barrel, a .50 caliber machine gun mount of some kind, and one or two other various un-identified parts, are all that is left.

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Destroyed .50- Caliber machine gun found at the Felsmers Florida wreck in the 1960/70’s.

Now, despite there being dozens if not hundreds of missing Navy and Army aircraft from the mid -twentieth century in the waters in and around parts of Florida, this particular wreck is of great interest for a few different reasons.  We’ll focus on just one here.

This specific plane crash site stands out, first and foremost because it was  found inland, and not on the ocean floor!!

Of course, the idea of some of the missing Flight-19 planes crashing over land is a relatively new one, but it holds more merit, than saying they all were sucked up into some kind of vortex over the Bermuda Triangle, and it is much easier to investigate than scanning the sea bottom for metal wrecks. Still it has its challenges.

After 72 years, records have been lost, destroyed, or worse yet redacted, metal rusts, and memories fade away.  But as Jon explains in his 2012 book by the Paragon Agency (ISBN13: 978-1-891030-58-1) if it turns out the wreckage found in Felsmere was that of a TBM-1C Avenger after all, it could very well be that of FT-36 Bul No. 73209.  The plane was piloted by Captain Edward Joseph, Powers Jr. USMC, 09789, and crewed by Staff Sergeant, Howell Orrin,Thompson,  USMCR, 499181 &  Staff Sergeant,George Richard, Paonessa , USMC, 805639.

Can you identify this machine gun mount?

So how can we determine the aircraft identity? Well, one way is through part identification via serial no. plates and records if possible.

Jon had figured out long before I had, that we might be able to pin point the type of aircraft this machine gun came from if we could track  the serial no. from production to delivery.

Unfortunately, there are thousands if not hundreds of thousands of Browning .30 & .50 caliber machine guns out there.  Furthermore; over time the patent to produce them has been sold to dozens of manufacturers around the world. The best I have done so far has been to pretty much duplicate Jon’s research.  The gun as indicated on the plate shown, was made in New Haven Connecticut by the High Standard Company under the Browning moniker.

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ID Serial No. Plate for .50 caliber machine gun. (All Photos courtesy of Jon Myhre.)

I’ve contacted Browning but as they don’t own the military portion of the company anymore the best they could do was forward my request to a history docent at the Browning Museum.  So far that lead hasn’t panned out either and though I haven’t given up and am working on the High Standard connections again as Jon had I don’t expect to make much headway.

However: I believe the key to the identification of the type of aircraft  could be narrowed down by identifying the machine gun mount itself.  First of all, the question is whether it’s a turret mount or a wing mount.?  If it is an AN-M2 aerial machine gun, which I can’t tell from the plate, is it likely a wing mount gun?

The Avenger had a specially mounted gun in a purposely built turret placed to the rear of the pilot. The TBM-1 like other planes of the period had two .50 calibers in the wing root for strafing. If the gun mount photo could be matched to that of an Avenger turret part we would have our answer.  If it turns out to be a wing based gun we’ve gotten no where. It wouldn’t even help determining if it was an Army or Navy plane.  So far photos I have seen of the turret have not shed any light.

My next stop in this part of the investigation is to visit the the Springfield Armory Museum right here in Springfield. Perhaps, I may be able to learn more about the gun there. If you have any information that may be helpful please feel free to contact me at fivesides2@yahoo.com.

 

 

 

 

 

Flight-19

PIN THE TAIL ON THE .50 CAL |Tracking a machine gun.

Can you identify this mount?

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After reading the 1945 Flight-19 inquiry results and comparing the referencess made against Lt. Charles C. Taylor, with the 1945 court-martial charges made against Captain Charles B. McVay the III, of the Heavy Cruiser USS Indianapolis, I question why neither the Navy Inspector General  (I.G.) , nor the Judge Advocate General (J.A.G); weren’t involved in the Flight-19 investigation?

One can conclude from examining other previous military mishaps and controversial incidents of the period i.e….Pearl Harbor, the Sinking of the USS Indianapolis…etc., that standing operating procedures seemingly did not call for there utilization at the board of inquiry level.

Could it be so easy to say then that, the lack of involvement of the I.G. & JAG in the Flight-19 controversy, was due to the difference in protocol between the scale & scope of a board of inquiry and that of a court-martial?

The first case, (Taylor’s) never got beyond that precursory board of inquiry stage. The scenario involved a junior level flight training officer in charge of a flight of five planes  and crew, who all went missing at sea off the coast of Florida, during a peace time training exercise and was adjudicated by a board made up of officers below the rank of Navy Captain. Compare those facts versus; a criminal court-martial against a willing and dutiful line officer (McVay), who was held responsible for hundreds of combat related deaths aboard the one ship that delivered the materials for the first atomic bomb, and was presided over by Navy Admirals.

At first glance protocol seems to be the prevailing factor in determining assignments. But even if that were the case, a reasonable person might still conclude then that the Navy; especially while under national scrutiny would want to be seen as thorough in their research of both cases, using all of the resources at hand, to come to a fair and just conclusion. After all, just because the manual may not have dictated I.G. or JAG involvement in the Taylor case, it doesn’t mean they couldn’t have been assigned by the Chief of Naval Operations if not by the Secretary of the Navy.

As was previously described in DOWN WITH THE SHIP, both cases grabbed headlines. Both cases had negative impacts on the reputation of the Navy, in the eyes of the public, and in the halls of Congress at about the same time-frame in 1945. Yet the I.G. and Jag were only assigned to the USS Indianapolis sinking.

If we want to talk scale; at it’s height there were over 200 ships and aircraft both naval and civilian involved in the search for Flight-19. Over a ten day period they searched millions of square miles on both land and sea for the TBM Avengers. The money and time spent alone, seemingly should have been enough to warrant involvement or oversight by at least the Inspector General, especially since there were inconsistencies and inaccuracies throughout the Flight-19 board report leaving more questions than answers in the end.

But having two disturbing events concurrently under examination for possible negligence must have been frustrating for the SECNAV to say the least. So again, in light of the political ramifications, it stands to reason for the sake of self preservation alone, that he would want  to  move as quickly as possible forward with the more visible case against McVay while simultaneously, compartmentalizing the Flight-19 inquiry.

In additions there is every indication that both the I.G. and JAG efforts were marginalized and likely biased in the McVay case.  It would likely have been a waste of time if they had gone to Ft. Lauderdale.

We can suggest this to be the case simply from the actions of key Navy figures and the speed in which events progressed in both cases. This imperative to move ahead with the McVay case by the new Secretary of the Navy, Fleet Admiral James Forrestal and the Chief of Naval Operations CNO Fleet Admiral Ernest King on December 3rd, 1945, explains why  a letter from Admiral Chester Nimitz’s (Formerly McVays Superior) written to the JAG on September 6th, 1945 in objection of the findings of the board ‘for lack of evidence’ against McVay was ignored and why court-martial proceedings began before the I.G.s investigation was even completed .

Furthermore, the Flight-19 board of inquiry began just two days after the planes disappeared and was wrapped up with ten days.

Speculation of the fecklessness of the I.G.s office  and quite possibly the JAG in 1945 can be addressed by researching their history’s . The Navy I.G. in essence was just a figure head of a branch of the Navy with little standing reputation and weight. Established, just three years earlier in February 1942: (when the USS Lafayette exploded, capsized and sunk while in New York harbor), the first Navy Inspector General Rear Admiral, Charles P. Snyder had been brought out of retirement to run the office. Under staffed, and listed at that time as a department under the Chief of Naval Operationsthe I.G ‘s office was one of 23 investigative divisions. It was established to, inspect, investigate and report procurement and misconduct investigations to the CNO, not the Secretary of the Navy,  today the SECNAV post is held by a civilian.

As far as the JAG was concerned it too was in its infancy in 1945. For the most part the Navy legal system was still in the midst of the transition from operations using the 1930 Articles for the Government of the Navy, otherwise known as “Rocks & Shoals”, up until and through the creation of the JAG Corps in 1946 and the adoption of  the Uniform Code of Military Justice (U.C.M.J) in 1951.(**)

In essence the R&S rules dictated that each command was responsible for policing itself; holding each sailor accountable ultimately to the command leadership. The Officer in charge, usually the Captain of the ship, decided how to interpret naval tradition, law, and how to dictate punishment. It was a practical decision since many commands were ship born and often out of range of higher headquarters.  “Its difficult to centralize command and control of organizations when a large percentage are floating around in the far flung oceans.” ( Dr Richard Hulver PHD Naval History and Heritage Command.)”

In the end both defendants*, despite supporting evidence and proof of Navy duplicity were solely found culpable for their mishandling of events.

Although in the beginning of 1946 the JAG (Admiral Jennings) did finally recieve a copy of the up to that time classified Flight-19  board findings, the public was still in the dark. The report may have not made it that far as quickly, if it had not been for the pressure applied mainly by Taylor’s mother on the Navy. Her refusal to accept the accusations against her son finally made the difference in exonerating him at the Naval Board of Corrections proceedings later in 1946.

(*Taylor would have likely been a court-martial defendant if he had been present at the board.)

Kurzman, Dan (1990), Fatal Voyage: The Sinking of the USS Indianapolis, New York: Athenaeum, pp. 246–247

Quasar, Gian They Flew into Oblivion

http://www.ussindianapolis.org/mcvay.htm

http://www.jag.navy.mil/history.htm

http://www.secnav.navy.mil/ig/Pages/About%20Us/History.aspx

**https://www.history.navy.mil/research/library/online-reading-room/title-list-alphabetically/r/rocks-and-shoals-articles-for-the-government-of-the-us-navy.html

http://www.military.com/history/rear-admiral-charles-mcvay-iii.html

 

 

 

 

Flight-19

THE NAVY I.G. & JAG 1945: Protocol & Politics!

“Prior to 1946 there was no Navy JAG and in 1945 the Navy I.G was in its infancy.”

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Flight-19

DOWN WITH THE SHIP: Questioning the political back drop of the Flight-19 Board of Inquiry Investigation.

Co-incidences in the timing and location of the Flight-19 board of inquiry have always made me suspect the legitimacy of its results. As other authors have stated previously, the erroneous conclusion against Lt. Charles C. Taylor reached by the board and defended by the Navy Department, resulted from at best, an inadequate investigation.

Not all of the 56 facts and 56 conclusions were attributed to Taylor’s inadequacies and the expediency of the results was not likely arbitrary either.  The Navy itself had a role to play in the debacle. From inadequate equipment operation, and maintenance to poor search and rescue co-ordination, the Navy would also be found culpable two years later.

In the end, the possibility of collusion between the board members and the witnesses deflecting blame away from the personnel at Ft. Lauderdale, and in turn away from the Navy training command, might seem like a case of plausible deniability with suspiciously political machinations.

But to see the complexity and possible subterfuge involved in the decision to admonish Taylor, one needs to look at the larger scope of the political landscape during the proceedings late in 1945?

History has shown that at the end of every major conflict, the U.S.military complex and the  U.S.Congress especially, examines the defensive strategies for the nation in the end matching needs to the budget. The result would often lead to the massive reorganizing or near elimination of the Marine Corps, and reduction of the Navy, usually in favor of the Army. This almost; tradition, helped create the basis for the Army & Navy rivalry that exists today.

World War II was no exception to this scrutiny. In fact with the advent of the atomic age there was an even greater examination of the services, again in favor of the Army, the soon to be Air Force and curiously the naval air arm.

With the need to scale back recruitment, and production, expedite discharges, and in general reduce force levels back to prewar status, Admiral James V. Forrestal then Secretary of the Navy, had his hands full.  Public perception was a large factor to contend with in his proposed defense of the nation: a naval future, centered around the aircraft carrier.

So how would it look in the eyes of the nation to loose six Navy planes (including the Navy PBM rescue plane)  due to pilot negligence, off the coast of Florida no less? Now imagine how much worse it would have been if the Navy itself was found at fault? Timing was crucial.

Lets answer the question with a question.  Is it a co-incidence that the Court-Martial of Navy Captain Charles Butler McVay the III formally of the cruiser USS Indianapolis; demanded by Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Ernest J. King, and overseen by Secretary of the Navy Forrestal, ran simultaneously with the Flight-19 board of inquiry?

Both incidents attracted copious amounts of press coverage, but the Court Martial of McVay much more than the Flight-19 board of inquiry.

Could this also explain why the Navy stayed tight lipped regarding the Flight-19 board results until well into 1946? Or it could clarify why the naval air training command proceeded with the investigative board just 2 days into the search for the missing planes? And why it only took a mere 10 days based on only transcripts of radio transmissions, ground staff observations,  and maintenance paperwork, to find in favor of Taylor’s incompetence that day.

Did it matter anyways? Though the decision to fault Taylor was later – (after a tenacious fight by his mother to clear his name ), formally reversed by the Navy in a separate review board determination in 1947; in effect he like McVay is still judged historically at fault today, simply because he was in charge.

From a military leadership perspective both were reasonable conclusion, even if unfair. An unfortunate circumstance and consequence of the a fore mentioned Court-Martial of McVay. “The lesson here is that a decision can be legally correct and still be unjust.” ( Stanton pg 279 ) In other words: The Captain should always goes down with the ship.

 

In Harm’s Way by Doug Stanton, ISBN 0805066322 Henry Holt and Company NY 2001 Copywright Reed City Productions LLC

 

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Bermuda Triangle, Flight-19, Missing Navy Aircraft, Missing Navy Aircraft, Missing Navy AirCrews

C.C. Taylor and Possible PTSD?

Is it possible that Lt. Charles C.Taylor could have been suffering some kind of medical malady while leading the Flight-19 training mission on December 5th, 1945? It is a plausible theory. One that needs to be considered. Weather or not he was suffering from the after effects of a late night on the town, or experiencing a legitimate emergency, all factors of his physical health and history should be examined in our investigation of the Flight-19 mystery.

In most of the descriptions of the ill fated story, including the official 1946 Navy report, Taylor; a seasoned combat veteran and experienced pilot, was the cause of, or at least responsible for the loss of the five aircraft and crews.  From a leadership stand point the conclusion made by the naval accident review board, is easy to understand. From the little evidence available all we know is that Taylor was in charge. Therefore: he was responsible for his men no matter what happened. Simple.

But ironically the Navy in the 56 facts and 56 opinions of the report while blaming him for the accident also left room for speculation about his health during the flight. Not making any attempt to interpret his medical or psychological mindset other than to make a blanket statement about his “Temporary Mental Confusion resulting in faulty judgement.” (Pg. 144 #44 &#45) the review board does its best to be impartial, but ends up sounding obtuse in it’s determination.

The report is worded in such a way to suggest all the pilots in the flight were , “physically qualified and temperamentally adapted for flight before take off (Pg.141 #11) and groups Taylor in with the rest of the pilots .  So on one hand they say he was perfectly fine to fly and the next they infer there was some kind of aberration in his psychological or physiological ability to function while in flight.  Sounds fair right? But they don’t mention the evidence leading up to that conclusion.

Either way, there is no doubt that there was something unusual in his demeanor that day seventy one years ago.  The book Discovery of Flight-19 by Jon Myhre; one reflecting many first hand personal interviews of those involved in the event: goes into detail regarding Taylor’s back ground, and his actions previous to, and on that day.  Charles was a natural pilot with a generally uncanny way of determining the correct direction to return to base, without instrumentation. Ultimately his goal was  to transition to a fighter squadron at some point after his current assignment.

Myhre also details how, according to another pilot close to Taylor; Howard Williams, C.C. had a bad feeling about the flight that day.  So much so that he made a call to his mother the day before to discuss it.  We will probably never learn the details of the conversation, but it seems clear above all; he was not being himself.

During Navigational Problem One;  just after the first leg and bombing run had been completed, something happened to Charles C. Taylor making him unable to focus completely on the routine directional tasks at hand. It is easy to speculate about his condition from just the record of radio transmissions between the planes and ground stations. But the Navy stopped short. So if we want answers we must take a stab at the his ‘mental confusion’.

Medically speaking, confusion can come about from any number of reasons ranging from, altitude sickness, to a heart attack, head injuries to de-hydration and to post-traumatic stress disorder. Formerly known as battle fatigue or shell-shock, PTSD injuries may stay dormant for months to years after an event, and outwardly visible signs can be hard to detect.

So can we build a case for PTSD?  Initially we might think he would be a prime candidate categorically; having been in combat and secondly ditching his aircraft at sea and surviving, not once but twice! Avengers were known to sink quite rapidly even in the calmest seas with all hands on board. The stress associated with the need to get out, must have been intense.

According to the Mayo Clinic “PTSD symptoms are generally grouped into four types: intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in emotional reactions. ” From what we know of Taylor’s actions and the symptoms of the disorder it seems like he may have had at least two symptoms in the last two categories. Hyper vigilance or(being overly aware of possible danger) and  Hypersensitivity, having difficulty concentrating, startling easily, having a physical reaction (rapid heart rate or breathing, increase in blood pressure)

Lets examine facts from the case;

  • He had unofficially and officially asked to be excused from the training flight that morning, but gave no reason for the request. He had called his mom as well.             (Hyper-vigilance)
  • He gave the wrong radio call sign when responding initially by radio as MT-28 not FT-28 and had to be asked to correct it. (Hypersensitivity) Confusion
  • At one point he believes they are over the Florida Keys when in fact they were hundreds of miles away. He continues to return to this belief even after persuaded otherwise. (Hypersensitivity) Confusion
  • He could not determine which direction the Sun had set. In other words he couldn’t find the coast line and the general westerly direction. (Hypersensitivity) Confusion Furthermore; it seemed like his students knew which way was West.
  • Late in the mission, he gives or has control of the flight taken away from him seemingly by the next senior pilot. Later on he regains control of the flight still disoriented.

So why focus on PTSD above all else?  If there was some kind of medical emergency in Ft-28 (Taylors plane) could it have been a heart attack or embolism?   Can we rule out everything else?

In this process of elimination, its fair to say, it is not very likely to have been the case for some other trauma because from what we know of both heart attacks, strokes, and embolisms, Taylor would not have been able to communicate over the radio let alone perform the necessary functions to operate a plane. And in the end the planes stayed in the air close to 4 more hours beyond their projected return time. Even a panic attack would have likely caused an inability to coordinate his faculties.

No. Whatever ailment he was experiencing, it left his faculties intact enough to fly the plane. From what we are told by Myhre, Taylor was not a partier, so a hangover is unlikely, and it was December in Florida which makes dehydration from the heat possible but also unlikely. He may have suffered a head injury during one of his flights or ditches but symptoms of this should have been visible during his briefings or at least his last medical exam in Miami, earlier that year. Since, C.C. lived off post in a house shared with a couple of other pilots his behavior was not easily noted. Even if there was something unusual in his routine it seems no one was willing to discuss it.

But why would he want to cover up any problems anyway? Again we can only speculate, but while there were many veterans trying to get out of the service, there was also a small percentage of those wanting to make a career out of the military. Taylor was in this later group. And it only seems to reason that he wouldn’t want anything to prevent his desire to fly, especially in fighter planes.

In the end we cannot prove any medical condition simply as there are not enough facts. In addition Taylor was known as a cool customer under pressure, so in that light its hard not to give the man the benefit of the doubt.  Still it does make one wonder?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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