December 5, 1945: Lt. Charles Taylor of the US Air Force leads five Avenger torpedo bomber planes to their doom in the Bermuda Triangle. The five planes left from Fort Lauderdale, Florida at 2:10 PM and were to fly east for 123 miles and then practice bombing runs at the Hens and Chicken Shoals. They were to then turn north/northwest for another 73 miles and then turn southwest and fly 120 miles back to the base.
The Bermuda Triangle was so named in 1964 by Vincent H Gaddis. It is a rough triangle with one point the eastern coast of Florida, the other two points as the Bermuda Islands and Puerto Rico. In 1952 George X. Sands proposed that more than the usual number of ships and planes disappear from this area. This group of WWII pilots helped make the area notorious.
Lt. Taylor radioed the ground control about 1 ½ hours after takeoff that compasses were non-functional and that he and his 13 men were not on target. He believed that they were by the Florida Keys, a band of islands off the southern tip of Florida. In 1945 there was no GPS to assist pilots. Without landmarks at sea, pilots relied on dead reckoning, with departure site, time elapsed, and speed of flight all factored in to help them navigate. If any factors were in error, then the pilots were truly lost. Taylor felt that he and his men had flown south after takeoff rather than east, but he was in error. He was told to fly north/northeast to return to land. This flight path, however, took the planes farther out to sea.
By 4:45 PM, the ground crew knew the men were hopelessly lost. Other pilots in the group wanted to fly west and gain sight of land, but Taylor refused. The junior pilots were correct. The planes kept up radio contact, but the signal was not strong and communications became garbled. By 5:50 PM the ground crew got a fix on the planes. Three planes were sent up to try to locate the Avengers, but without luck. All five planes were lost at sea, along with one of the rescue planes. They have never been found.
* further explanation of map: 100 miles/160 km 0. The Bermuda Triangle 1. Take off from NAS Fort Lauderdale 14:10. 2.Practice bombing at Hens and chickens shoals until around 15:00. 3. First turn, new heading 346° for 73 miles (117 km). 4. Second turn, new heading 241° for 120 miles (193 km). 5. Expected arrival at NAS Fort Lauderdale 6. 15:00–17:50 exact position unknown. 7. 1750 radio triangulation narrows flight’s position to within 100 miles (161 km) of 29°N79°W and their last reported course, 270°. 8. PBM-5 (BuNo 59225) takes off from NAS Banana River 19:27. 9. 19:50 PBM-5 (BuNo 59225) explodes near 28°N 80°W. 10.The Florida Keys, where Taylor thought he was.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in awhile, you could miss it.” – unknown
“We’re not lost. We’re locationally challenged.” – John M. Ford
“Inanimate objects are classified scientifically into three major categories – those that don’t work, those that break down and those that get lost.” – Russell Baker
“All that is gold does not glitter; not all those that wander are lost.” – J. R. R. Tolkien
Also on this day, in 1933 Prohibition ends.