WASHINGTON — The disappearance of Flight 19, a Navy mission that began the myth of the Bermuda Triangle, is still unexplained but not forgotten 60 years later.
The 27 Navy airmen who disappeared somewhere off Florida's coast on Dec. 5, 1945, were honored in a House resolution Thursday. Rep. E. Clay Shaw Jr. (R-Fla.) said he hoped the gesture would help bring closure for surviving families.
What happened is the question that has befuddled, entertained and tormented skeptics and believers in the Bermuda Triangle, a stretch of ocean between Puerto Rico, Bermuda and Miami that some believe is an area of supernatural phenomena.
"There's just so many weird things here that experienced pilots would have not acted this way," Shaw said. "Something happened out there."
Five U.S. Navy Avenger airplanes left the Fort Lauderdale Naval Air Station on a routine training mission over the Bahamas. The five pilots and nine crewmen, led by instructor Lt. Charles Taylor, were to practice bombing and low-level strafing on small coral shoals 60 miles east of the naval station. They were then to turn north to practice mapping and then southwest, back home. The flight, which Navy pilots took three or four times a day, should have lasted three hours.
According to radio reports overheard by ground control and other airplanes, the compasses on Taylor's plane malfunctioned 90 minutes into the mission.
With no instruments to guide him over the open ocean, Taylor thought the flight had drifted off-course and was south over the Florida Keys. As a result, he directed the planes to fly due north to hit land.
"He was not in the Keys, he was out in the end of the Bahama chain," said David White, who at the time was a flight instructor stationed at Fort Lauderdale. "When he went north, he was going out to the wide ocean."
The mystery deepened when, a few hours later, a Navy rescue airplane, a Martin Mariner with 13 crewmen, also vanished. Though a passing ship reported seeing bright lights in the sky indicating what could be an explosion, no evidence of the Mariner was ever found.
Several ocean expeditions, documentaries and books offer varying theories, ranging from paranormal activities to sightings of alien activity.
The SCI-FI cable channel will broadcast a new documentary Nov. 27.