This is what I hope is the last posting on this aspect of the loss of Flight 19. To recap briefly, John Steiger sent a link to a headstone for George Paonessa, a Marine sergeant who was lost with the flight. In wondered why there was a grave for him at Arlington National Cemetery and if that meant a body had been recovered. Information sent by Arlington said that those lost at sea, lost in combat or who were buried at sea were sometimes honored by a headstone in a special section of Arlington. The request, according to the information had to come from a family member, and I learned that such was the case of Paonessa.
However, there was other information presented that suggested that he had survived the disaster. This included a telegram, allegedly sent by Paonessa to his brother several weeks after he had been declared lost. Douglas Westfall thought that this was good evidence that Flight 19 hadn’t disappeared completely, and on the radio show/podcast A Different Perspective made a case for this. You can listen to it here:
A week later, I spoke with Andy Marocco who believed he knew where Flight 19 had disappeared, some thirty or forty miles outside the Bermuda Triangle. I asked, specifically, about the telegram, but he said that it was a hoax. His reasoning was that it hadn’t entered the public arena until twenty or thirty years after the loss. You can listen to that interview here:
Doug Westfall believed that George Paonessa had made his way to California and became a contractor. It was his theory that Paonessa could operate out in the open
because President Truman had pardoned those who had deserted after the
conclusion of World War II. The theory behind the pardon was that they had
served honorably, but with the war over, there was no need for them to remain
on active duty. President Carter pardoned those who had fled to Canada to avoid
the Vietnam War, so the idea wasn’t unprecedented.
This George Paonessa, that Doug mentioned, had died in either the 1960s or the 1970s. I was unable to find either a headstone or an obituary for him, which might have mentioned family and allowing us to verify the connection to Flight 19.
Andy Marocco said that he had actually visited the cemetery where that George Paonessa was buried. There was nothing there to connect him to the lost flight or to the family living in New York, home of the original George Paonessa.
I did contact one of the family members, which was how I learned about the request for the headstone at Arlington. In that same email, he mentioned the
telegram, so I asked about this. My thinking was that if George had contacted
the family in the weeks following the loss, then he certainly would have been
in touch with them in the years that followed. There would be no reason for him
to avoid the family if he was operating a business under his own name in
California and no one was looking for him for desertion.
The answer was that the telegram was the last that anyone heard from him… if it had been him. In the world today, with everyone who had violated a law, if anyone had actually violated a law, beyond prosecution, there is no reason to maintain the fiction that George Paonessa had perished in 1945, if he had, in fact survived. In other words, they would be able to confirm that he had survived if he had. There is no family history to suggest he did. The telegram, even though it mentioned his family nickname, is a cruel hoax.
Here’s where we are, according to what I have learned. All members of Flight 19 were lost on December 5, 1945. The best evidence is that the flight stuck together, just as the Flight Leader said for them to do, and all ditched together. Although neither Doug Westfall nor Andy Marocco have hard evidence for their respective theories, given that Andy’s is based on the official Navy documents relating to the case, and with other evidence, it seems that his theory is the most accurate.
This then, is the end of this part of the discussion. At this moment, none of the aircraft have been found and it seems that the idea that they all ditched at once is the most logical explanation. When there is new information on this particular aspect of the Bermuda Triangle, well, you’ll read it here.