Readers of Major Donald Keyhoe’s book, The Flying Saucer Conspiracy, will recall his description of the amazing case of the disappearance of five Navy planes off the coast of Florida on December 5th, 1945. This disappearance has been called one of the greatest and most incredible mysteries in the history of manned flight.
Recently, the story has been told in more detail in a fascinating article appearing in the April 1962 issue of The American Legion Magazine. It is from the latter source that the following article has been condensed.
On December 5th, 1945, a flight of five TBM Avenger bombers took off on a routine patrol flight from the U.S. Naval Air Station at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The weather was clear, and flying conditions were almost ideal. The flight leader’s plane carried a crew of two, while the remaining four carried three men each.
All of these 14 men had flight and navigation experience ranging from as little as thirteen months to as much as six years. The planes were expected to make a triangular patrol, flying east for about 160 miles, north for 40 miles, and then back to Fort Lauderdale.
The flights took off at 2 p.m., and at 3:45 p.m., they were expected to call the tower for landing instructions, but the message received at that time was anything but a routine one. “This is an emergency,” it said in part; and even with radio distortion, there was an unnerving fear noticeable in the flight leader’s voice.
When asked for his position, he radioed: “We are not sure of our position. We can’t be sure where we are. We don’t know.” Told to assume a bearing of due west, the flight leader replied, “We cannot be sure which way is west. We cannot be sure of any direction. Everything is wrong – strange. The ocean doesn’t look as it should.”
By that time, the sun was nearing the western horizon, and it was incredible that these five planes could not find west, even if they had been depending only on visual observation. For the next 40 minutes, the tower heard the planes talking to each other. Apparently none of the five had any idea of their position.
The conversations showed fear and hysteria growing among the five pilots. Then, with no prior warning, the flight leader abruptly turned over the flight command to another plane. This in itself was a most unusual act, and showed a desperately grave emergency of some sort.
At about 4:15, the control tower received its last message from the flight. It said, “We are not certain where we are. Must be about 225 miles northeast of base. Looks like we are…” The message broke off at that point.
Immediately thereafter, a Martin flying boat with full rescue equipment and a crew of 13 men was dispatched to search for the missing flight. It gave several routine radio reports, and then lapsed into silence. Neither this plane nor the original five Avenger bombers were ever heard from again, nor was any sign of them ever found, in spite of one of the largest air and sea rescue searches in American history!
The aircraft carrier Solomons was sent to the area, and by mid-afternoon of the next day, many ships and over 300 planes had joined the operation. Not a single item of wreckage or debris from any of the six lost planes was seen!
The Navy, after an exhaustive investigation of the incident, in which a total of 27 lives had been lost, was unable to come up with any solution. Their report stated: “We are not even able to make a good guess as to what happened.”
A little over two years later, on January 29th, 1948, a similar incident occurred in the same area, involving a four-engine commercial airliner belonging to the British South American Airways Company. Thirty-four passengers and six crewmembers were aboard this flight, en route to Kingston, Jamaica. The weather was clear and mild.
At 10:30 p.m., a routine report was made to the control tower at Bermuda. This was the last message ever received from the huge airliner. No trace was ever found indicating a crash into the sea or elsewhere, and no wreckage, oil slick, or debris of any kind was ever located. The big plane with its 40 occupants had simply vanished!
About a year later, on January 17th, 1949, an eighth plane, also belonging to the British South American Airways Company, was added to the mystery list. This, too, was a four-engine airliner, en route to Jamaica, carrying seven crewmembers and 13 passengers. The plane took off at 7:30 a.m. from Bermuda, in excellent weather. At 8:15, there was a routine radio report, and then silence. As in the other cases, the aircraft disappeared completely from the face of the earth.
The British Ministry of Aviation made a thorough investigation of these two incidents, similar to the investigation that the U.S. Navy had made regarding our six military aircraft. The conclusion drawn by the board of inquiry was that the planes were presumed lost at sea, although no actual substantiation of this could be found.
Many people have speculated as to the nature of the strange phenomenon that occasionally envelopes aircraft flying in the semitropical area off the Florida coast. Commercial pilots are reluctant to discuss the matter with outsiders, and even more unwilling to have their names used in regard to whatever opinions they might express. To admit that something may be going on, beyond the range of present human knowledge, is to be branded a crackpot and perhaps lose one’s license.
But many pilots agree, in private, that there may be an unstable aberration in the atmosphere – some sort of hole in the sky that planes fly into and can’t get out of. Perhaps the missing aircraft are somehow shoved into the past, or into the future, or into another dimension, through some means as yet totally unknown to science.
The most chilling story of all, in support of the above theory, concerns a private pilot in Ohio who recently had an almost incredible experience. According to The American Legion Magazine, this pilot was flying through clouds one day, when he suddenly came upon another aircraft and almost collided with it.
He banked hard to avoid the collision, but his wingtip nevertheless scraped the other plane, which was a strange-looking canvas-and-wood job obviously of pre-World War I vintage. The pilot of the ancient airplane was wearing a leather flying hat and goggles, as was the custom in those early days. His aircraft flew on, not seriously damaged, and disappeared again into the clouds.
The Ohio pilot flew home and made a report of the incident. But there was no record that any such aircraft was in the vicinity at the time, or even that such a plane was licensed. In other words, the near-disaster occurred with a plane that apparently didn’t exist!
Then, according to the story, an old plane just like the one described by the modern pilot, was found a month or so later under a stack of hay in a barn where it had apparently been sitting abandoned for many years. Inside the pilot’s pouch was a logbook, and one of the last entries in the log was a description of a near-disaster with a weird silver airplane!
The logbook was turned over to a government agency, which found it to be authentic and over 40 years old. The old airplane was also checked, and sure enough, there was a long scrape along one side of it, just where the log’s narrative said the plane had been hit. There were traces of paint and aluminum in the scrape, and when these were analyzed, they matched perfectly with the modern plane!
The whole incident has been investigated by the Civil Aeronautics Board. The CAB thinks it’s a hoax, but they can’t find any way to explain it or negate the evidence. The pilot in question is known to be of good character, and thus far the investigation has upheld his version of the story.
Here, then, is a possible clue to the disappearance of the six American and two British airplanes. Many people have long believed that time is not the simple, constant-flowing quantity we assume it to be. If the past and present somehow met in this strange collision in Ohio, perhaps similar events happen occasionally for reasons as yet unknown to us.
Perhaps too, the flying saucers so often seen during the past several years are our own descendants coming back to take a look at their ancestors. Fantastic? Of course; but fantastic events need bold theories to explain them. Presumably, we will know all the answers some day. Until then, we can only sit back and speculate, and wonder at the frightening gaps that still exist in human knowledge.
Published with the permission of New Saucerian Publishing via Andrew Colvin