Flight-19

Ship Deck Logs & Radar

0306706 CVE-67 Escort Carrier 1941-1946

3 November 2016

As leader of the research group my plan was to search specifically for the deck logs of the USS Solomons CVE-67 from the December 1945 time frame.(Pic 1) We were successful in finding it and those of the ships in formation with it during the search for the missing Flight-19 TBM’s (Pic 2, Model from the National Air & Space Museum) Excluding the Solomons, the USS Borum (DE-790), USS Durik (DE-666) and the USS Jenks (DE-665) all destroyer escorts  were in the same area of operations for the search.  The DE’s performed various functions during the cruise to include actions as plane guards and radar picketing.

At a couple of points they each broke off to either refuel or drop off injured personnel in there home port of Mayport Florida or were tasked to search other areas of ocean in reponse to orders from the Solomons in response to possible sightings of rafts or debris.

Having never seen a Deck Log before I was surprised to find how clean and legible they are. I had pictured an actual hard covered log with hand written notes, similar to those of a diary or a radio logbook or like an old fashioned Captains Log.

They are laid out very systematically. The first page for every day contains columnar numerical figures in regards to meteorological and oceananic information as well as ship and engine performance.

Every notation on the other ‘remarks’ page is usually no longer than a paragraph and mentions every course change, speed change, and time periods.Everything is annotated for a 24 hour period in blocks of 4 hours so the information doesn’t fill more than a 9″ by 14 inch page. It’s very systematic almost robotic in nature.

Having said that. Is it any surprise that the there are very few mentions of the search for Flight-19 in the log?  In fact, there is no mention in any of the pages from December 4th through the 11th December of the weather conditions on the remarks page. That is to say there are no anecdotal entries. Nothing with any personalized commentary or observations. Something I found very strange as it is alleged that she was encountering bad weather in the days immediately following the disappearance to include 30 foot waves at times. Waves tall enough to crash over the bow of the ship.

The Destroyer Escorts would have had a very difficult time plodding through these waters and though many course and speed changes were plotted, again, there was no mention of weather.

Use of SL radar (Ship and close in aircraft with a range at best 20 miles)  by the USS Durik and the USS Borum is mentioned several times during the period between the 5th and 11th of December but at no other time does any other ship indicated the use of any type of radar in any kind of situation. I suppose we can assume, if from nothing else then from the Navy report of the Flight-19 investigation that the Solomons had some type -likely SC – radar in use at some point on December 5th. The SC radar has a maximum range of approx 100 miles. But again it is not indicated at all in the deck logs.

If there is any documentation from the ship regarding the radar track it picked up late on the 5th indicating a non-identified formation of between 5 and 6 planes, it is either in some other form of log, or unfortunately lost to history. We may have to return to the archives at some point.

 

 

 

 

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Flight-19

Special List #44, World War II Vessels

In brief this list (special list #44) is essential to finding any deck logs from naval vessels during the World War II time frame. The book itself is over 100 pages long which explains why only a small portion is visible online. It would take a heck of a large PDF file to provide the information.

As it was explained to me, the book only lists the first accession of records sent from the Navy Historical and Heritage Center to the archives. I’m not sure the NHHC sees it like that but NARA II does.

So even if the dates listed don’t reflect the time frame you are looking for -usually post June 1945- it is likely they have the documentation you are looking for.  It’s probably safe to say that they have deck logs at least to 1946.

If you are researching for deck logs from a particular vessel it is best to visit or call the NARA Archives in College Park Maryland and ask for their assistance.  Though they may be busy, they are more than willing to assist serious researchers. Be patient, as the place is usually packed with people needing help.

If you should ever visit be prepared with the bare minimum of  information needed for them to work with. Start with the (RG) Record Group number that you wish to investigate. If you can provide the Stack Area, Row, Compartment and Shelf No. with the box no you’re golden. Of course you won’t be able to find out this information until you look through the finding aids which are only located in College Park.

So in the end you will need to make a road trip as I did. Good Luck.

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Flight-19

NARA II Investigation Brief

6 November 2016

My research assistant Alice and I visited the National Archives in College Park Maryland this past week.  For three days-it was a working vacation- we scoured three different record groups located in the naval historical section of the archives.

First off, I’ve got to say the staff at the archives is most helpful and friendly.  They and the security force may come off harsh at times, but its all done respectfully and for a good reason.  Without the somewhat draconian policies and procedures documents could disappear inexplicably. Furthermore, and perhaps worse for future researchers items could be placed out of order. If you’ve done any raw document investigating the order of things can make a big difference between finding the smoking gun, and missing it.

As for our specific research goals, lets just say we learned more from what we didn’t find than from what we did find. Though it is interesting some of the information we did find is circumstantial to building any case, it still was very limited.

Overall it was a very nice trip and we were somewhat successful in my research.

More detail and specifics to follow in the next blog.

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Flight-19

On the Trail of the Deck Logs: Correspondence with NHHC(*)

Approximately  a month and a half ago I made a Freedom of Information Inquiry to the Department of the Navy, specifically the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington D.C. trying to find the lost Deck Logs from the USS Solomons, (CVE-67).

I surprisingly received my reply yesterday 4 May 2016.  I say surprised because I had directed my request specifically to the Director S.J. Cox.  Though I aimed high; I always try to, I expected any kind of response would come from someone lower down the chain of command.

Director Cox was gracious enough to write me personally and I am very thankful for it. So what does his response boil down to? Well, it was disappointing and encouraging all at the same time. It seems that in the 4 years  or so that the ship had been in existence ( 1942- 1946) the log books and documentation from the last 10 months prior to its decommissioning had not been kept, were lost or disappeared.

Furthermore it turns out that the deck log, possibly  hundreds of pages thick was also not likely kept by the last Captain and that any other personal logs were likely destroyed. Unlike the deck log a diary or personal log has no Naval requirement or regulation enforcing its archiving. If it exists it most likely traveled with the Captain to his next assignment or discharge.

He’s also suggested that no records would be found from the Boston Navy yard as decommissioning ceremonies are  a naval tradition and also not a requirement. And as i mentioned in another blog, my research there was uneventful. That’s the sad part.

On the other hand he gave me some advice suggesting that any records from after Sept 2, 1945, during the period when Flight-19 was lost may have been transferred to NAS Ft.Lauderdale  for use by the Board of Investigation. If that is the case there doesn’t seem to be much mention of it in the resulting board report.

In the end the deck logs may have been sent to the National Archives in College Park Maryland with the rest of the report.

So it looks like I’m definitely going to have to visit Maryland and for that matter Ft. Lauderdale.

Stay tuned.

* Addendum 9/2/2016:So what happened to the last Deck Log? See the previous post dated from June 2016.  The last Ten Months of the Solomons can be located at the National Archives in Maryland.

 

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

The Role of Glynco, NAS Brunswick Georgia

Glynco_GA_WW2

Those of you who are familiar with the Flight-19 saga know of the reported radar contact made by the USS Solomons CVE-67 December 5th 1945, and of the direction finding plots made by the use of high frequency radio waves.  But what you may not be aware of is that there was also allegedly some kind of contact made by Glynco Naval Air Station in Brunswick Georgia as well.  The base itself which is located equidistant between Savannah, GA, and Jacksonville, FL. was a base for Navy Blimps in 1945.  Specifically the home for Patrol Squadron 15 (ZP-15), a subordinate unit of Fleet Airship Wing One at Lake Hurst, New Jersey .

Now I say alleged contact, because no researcher that I am aware of has really focused on the role the station played in the events that day.  It’s no wonder since that contact has been overlooked by the authorities assigned the case back in 1945. The communications record of that day is like swiss cheese and easy to gloss over.  Any indications of what transpired at Glynco NAS are easily lost in the quagmire of  terminology and naval jargon of the official navy report.

However: in “They Flew into Oblivion by Gian J. Quasar”, the author attempts to tackle the issue and relies on a a few key sentences  to reflect the chaos in the ASR office that day and furthermore as indicated below, to make what I believe a rational  suggestion that  Flight-19 flew farther North and was still up in the air later than generally accepted.

“ATC HAS JUST INFORMED BANANA RIVER THAT 5 UNIDENTIFIED AIRCRAFT WERE SEEN AT 8:50 PM AT 245 DEGREES 32 MILES FROM BRUNSWICK, GEORGIA, HEADING 150 DEGREES. ATC IS ALERTING ALL STATIONS. WE HAVE BEEN GETTING THESE REPORTS FROM BRUNSWICK AND JACKSONVILLE……….” (* ) See below

Of course these few transmissions pose more questions than they answer. In this excerpt we need to ask who, (ATC?) is?  Is it Air Transport Command, Air Traffic Control, or someone or something else? Does ‘ seen’ mean they actually physically saw these planes, or were they on the radar or High Frequency Direction Finding? How long had ATC been ‘seeing’ them?  Was there also a military base in Jacksonville FL or was it a civilian station?  At what time did the first message mentioned come in?  How did it come in, via phone or teletype?

If you recall, the teletype was having difficulty operating in the tower that night and  it’s hard to imagine that at 8:50 (20:50 hrs)PM in the middle of Winter, even in Florida that there was that much more light to see by than the rest of the East Coast.

Again,its just one more thing to look into but I think perhaps a key piece to finding the location of the lost planes.

(*)located on pg 205 of the paperback

 

 

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USS Solomons Found!!

As of last Friday June 10th 2016, I had finally verified the location of the ‘missing’ CVE-67 USS Solomons decklog. A minor success for me, but potentially a huge one for anyone following in my steps and  researching the flight-19 mystery.

The written record covering the official ship activities from May 1945 to June 1946; come to find out is at the National Archives at College Park Maryland.  The chain of custody is relatively short but confusing. The US Navy has what I will call ‘a modern day policy’ that all deck logs from ships that are decommissioned are turned over to the navy and stay with the Navy’s History and Heritage Command (NHHC) for thirty years, after which time they are transferred unceremoniously to the National Archives.

Now you have to imagine what things were like seventy one years ago, at the end of the greatest war ever known.  A time when many soldiers, sailors and airmen had been drafted and wanted to get the heck out of the service of Uncle SAM.  An entire nation was dismantling a war machine never seen in its history.  Many ships were being decommissioned and sold for scrap or mothballed at a furious pace.

It had to be organized chaos, but chaos non the less. Things could get lost or destroyed. According to the Navy, at that time a deck log was basically a bound diary the size of legal paper and could contain up to thousands of pages of paper, and possibly that many entries for that matter.  Not an easy item to loose or over look, but it was a possibility during the frantic deconstruction of the naval service.

It was also a possibility; albeit a slim one, that the ships final commander may have packed it up for a souvenir. Hence one reason for my search for Captain Smith.  It could have been saved by the scrap yard too. These were all avenues I had to look into when I first started my research.

After making inquiries with both NHHC and NARA in Waltham MA- both dead ends- I was starting to realize that finding it was not going to be an easy task. I was beginning to think that I would have to put more time into finding it than the missing flight-19 itself.

Clue: Thirty three years after the war.   Something called Special List #44 was created by the Navy Historical Service the fore runner of the NHHC.  This list indicated what ship deck logs the agency had in storage at that time.  However when I read it, I was disappointed to learn that it only listed the Solomons logbook in inventory annotated everything up to May 1945.

When I inquired with the Navy they indicated that as far as they were aware the list was correct. The end of my search right? Not really. I kept digging.

I got lucky. I was clued into the second logbooks existence by a fellow researcher Jon Myhre who in an email mentioned he had received a copy of the Dec 5th deck log entries from the navy back in the early 1980’s for his book. Someone had had the logbook at one point!

So I had to re-inquire with my contacts at NHHC in Washington D.C. who passed me onto a specialist at NARA and voila!  E-mail confirmation of the logbook.

Now it’s 2016 and many deck log histories have been added to the collection since the 70’s. But Special list #44, really hasn’t changed. Why?  Well in my mind remember in 1978 it was a time before personal computers. Spreadsheets came off of big printers. It wasn’t an easy thing to make changes.  Excel hadn’t even been created yet. Typewriters were still the technology of the day and word processors were just starting to make it into the market.  It’s also a huge list and a lot of man hours would have to go into updating it.

So after all that, is it any wonder that I had such a hard time finding it?  I plan to eventually, hopefully sooner rather than later, visit college park and see it for myself.  Jon did warn me though that there really isn’t much to it. We’ll see.

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Flight-19

Book(s) Research Status Update

If you are following this blog, you may or may not be aware, but I am currently researching for two books on the subject of Flight-19.  Both ideas are proving to be very difficult to move forward with for one reason or another.

The First – is a work of Non-Fiction. As much of my blog indicates lately I’ve been trying to track down the second cruise/logbook of the USS Solomons, (CVE-67) circa 1945 – 46 , a point just before the ship was decommissioned and sold for scrap.  One aspect of the search for the log  revolves around the search for Captain Allen Smith Jr. the third and final commander of the ship.  I have a few different options for carrying this part of the plan out.

Starting at my local library and my place of work if possible, I’m going to locate him through the genealogy databases offered to library patrons.  My next step to reach my goal is to approach the Navy for help in finding both.

The Second book; is a matter of Fiction.  I have been scouring different Non-fiction books about the Manhattan project as well as the loss of Flight-19.  Not to give too much away, but I think a good piece of fiction starts with some facts, and a good imagination. From what I have gathered so far, I think a good story can be woven using the two.

I hope in the end you agree.

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Flight-19

The Search for Captain Smith (CVE-67)

The USS Solomons CVE-67 had three commanding officers during its short existence. The last Captain seemingly, was Allen Smith Jr.(pictured below?) Former skipper of the CVE-90 Thetis Bay. Captain Smith relieved Captain R. S Moss in February of 1946 and at some point before late 1946 signed the ship over for decommissioning at the Boston Navy Yard.

If anyone reading this has any information regarding the location of either Captains or of the second cruise tour/log book, of the USS Solomons (CVE-67) I would very much appreciate your assistance with my research.  Please contact me via email at themacster@comcast.net. – Thank you for your co-operation.

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Flight-19

Solomons Search Results 11 December 2015

Waltham, Massachusetts –

After spending about 15 minutes filling out the application for a NARA research card and viewing a PowerPoint introduction to the procedures and policies of the archives, I was allowed access to the secured research room.    The staff were very polite and customer oriented. Because I had requested in advance the materials I wanted to search through there was a 4 shelf cart with the collections ready for me when I arrived.

They staff were very observant of my handling of the materials and my research was conducted in view of a proctor. I did not have to wear gloves; though the possibility to need them was present.

I was fore warned that I would not find what I had indicated I was looking for in my search and for the most part they were correct; ships logs are located in Washington D.C.  But I knew this going in. My goals were to discover if the USS Solomons CVE-67 had been at the Boston Naval Shipyard in 1946, determine if possible where the second ships cruise logbook or any other log book covering the December 5th time frame might be. As a side note, if I could learn anything about the ships layout regarding the radar systems or find anything in the historical, public information or even the port directors logs about the Flight-19 search; it would be a plus.

The Navy’s loss of the planes and crews were big news, and yet there was no indication of any of it that I could find in the 5 hours I spent going through files.

It was not a waste of time though. Fortunately for me I was able to find one item right off the bat.  The USS Solomons, CVE-67 was reported as present in the docks as of July 22nd 1946 as listed in the Boston Naval Shipyard Station Log HC1-95196087. But this log book is a simple verification by the Commanding Officer and Administrative officer, there was no history of the ships condition or release by the Captain.  Of curiosity another ship listed as arriving 11 May 1946 was the USS Barnes CVE-20; another jeep carrier in the area of the Flight-19 search.

Many documents had been declassified and I did learn other items of interest.  On 10/17/1945 just after the war, the Chief of Naval Operations E.J. King forwarded a new chain of command for Fleet Post War Operations.  Of note is the Eastern Sea Frontier,down to Argentia and out to Bermuda, and the Gulf Sea Frontier. Both are indicated to be part of the US Army’s Eastern Defense Command.  All bases within this command are listed as Support Elements bases no. 60-64. primary operational and administrative control to fall to  Admiral King or the CNO. Of the other 6 commands (5 fleets) only the 12th Fleet (Europe) falls under the same control structure.

Other news of note: The Navy was heavily recruiting for pilot recruits around 20 September 1945 and it seems the Army and Navy were both competing to see who would come up with a better plan for National Security. The Navy plan being put forth by Admiral Forrestal himself to Senator Elb Thomas Chair of the Senate Military Affairs Committee.

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Flight-19

Waltham NARA Research

My intentions for research in December will be to visit the National Archives in Waltham Massachusetts to look into the following:

Boston Naval Yard

Yard Activity Docking Record (vessel repair / repair in drydock), 1945-46 Shipyard (Station) Logs of the South Boston Naval Annex,
Correspondence Concerning Ships (Ships Files) 1945-46
Public Relations Office Ships’ Historical Files, 1945-1946

Records of the 1st Naval District

Port Director – Vessel Acquisition, Inspection & Disposition Files, (includes photographs), 1945-1947
1945-1946 Convoy Sailing Orders & Related Records, 1944-1945 Pier Office Station Logs, 1943-1945 Correspondence, 1945-1946
General Correspondence (central administrative files known as the “District Files”), 1945-1946\
General Correspondence [Formerly Security-Classified], 1945-1947
1946 Administrative Correspondence, 1945-1946 Historical Data, 1945-1946.

Operations Officer – Logs: Ship Controller Logs (Rough),1944-1945 Ship Controller Logs (Smooth), 1942-1946

Commandant

General Correspondence [Formerly Security-Classified], 1945-1946
General Correspondence (central administrative files known as the “District Files”), 1945-1946

Historical Officer Daily Historical Log (“Significant Headlines”), 1945-1946
Public Information Officer – Publicity & Press Files, 1944-1946

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