Friday, February 14, 2014

The Bermuda Triangle and the C-119 Disappearance

As most of you know, I spent some time as an Air Force intelligence officer. I was assigned to the 928th Tactical Airlift Group which was part of the 440th Tactical Airlift Group which was headquartered at General Billy Mitchell Field in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During that time, there was an intelligence conference held in Milwaukee (and of no importance at all, it was here, late at night I first saw ZULU). The relevance of all this somewhat personal information will become obvious in a moment.

Now, according to Bermuda Triangle lore (and to Gian Quasar) on June 5, 1965, “a C-119 vanished somewhere over the Bahamas bound for Grand Turk Island while flying the busy skyway…” He suggests that the entire radio log between the aircraft and ground stations is available but that “it does not explain the disappearance.” It does “admit peculiarities in radio reception that are remarkably identical with other planes lost in the Triangle…” He notes that the last radio message was not heard in Miami as expected but in “New York, a distance of 1,300 miles away (!).”

An officer interviewed about this said, “We know that everything was fine about thirty minutes before landing. The pilot, Major Louis Giuntoli had made a position report about eleven p.m.”

Others, such as the International UFO Bureau suggested that a UFO reported by James McDivitt was somehow tied to the disappearance of the aircraft. At the time McDivitt and Ed White were on a Gemini mission in orbit and those at the International UFO Bureau thought that the astronauts might have seen the UFO that captured the aircraft. McDivit would later point out that UFO meant unidentified flying object and nothing more, at least to him at the time.

A search was launched when the aircraft failed to arrive at its destination and radio contact could not be established. According to Triangle lore, the search was called off on June 10 when no clues were found.

But that changed on June 12, 1965 when debris, stenciled with serial numbers and the tail number of the aircraft was recovered. Although this debris was not from the outside structure of the aircraft, it was equipment that was carried in it. About a month later a wheel chock, stenciled with the tail number was found near Acklins Island, in the general area where the first wreckage was located.

So, wreckage was found, though the aircraft itself was not. Now, as a member of the 928th TAG, I was able to talk with those at the 440th (see how all this comes together eventually?). They gave me some additional information and then asked if I wanted to see some of the debris, which they still had there. Naturally, I said that I did and was shown a few scraps that had been recovered.

These officers suggested that the C-119 lost an engine just after that final position report had been made. There was a corresponding electrical failure at the time, which was not all that unusual, according to what they told me. The pilots would have had no lights and no radio. And this particular aircraft had a history of electrical system problems. Given all that and that it was night and that it is often difficult to distinguish the horizon at night over water especially if there was a light haze (which is to say that the weather was clear but that a light haze tended to blend the sea with the sky so that there is not a definitive line, the deck was stacked against them.

In other words, this was an aircraft accident that wouldn’t have been noticed by anyone but the friends and family had it not happened in the geographic confines of the Bermuda Triangle. But the plane didn’t disappear without a trace as has been suggested. Wreckage was found, and found along the airways where it would be expected.

For me, this is always a test case. If those writing Triangle lore were not aware of these facts, and remember, I actually talked to people who were assigned to the unit when the accident occurred and I saw some of the wreckage recovered, it suggests that those others’ research is lacking. There is an explanation here and we don’t need to venture into the paranormal to find it. Tragic though it was it really has nothing to do with the Bermuda Triangle other than as a geographic location.

Oh, and that radio message picked up in New York. Radio skip is a well-known phenomenon. Back in the olden days of analog TV, I once watched thirty or forty minutes broadcast from Miami before the atmospherics changed and I lost the signal. I was more than 1300 miles from Miami at the time. This is an irrelevant fact that proves nothing other than radio waves sometimes bounce far and wide.


Lance said...

Thanks for relating this, Kevin.


Douglas Westfall said...

Dear Kevin: The terms lore, or myth come from a story that dates from antiquity. When something is more recent, they call it a hoax.

Of course the Bermuda Triangle reaches from Bermuda (a tiny island) to Puerto Rico (a tiny island) to the city of Miami (not so tiny.)

The concept of the Bermuda triangle was created in 1950 with an article by Associated Press reporter Edward Van Winkle Jones. He had a map showing an airplane flying from Bermuda toward Puerto Rico, another plane flying from Puerto Rico to Miami, and finally, Flight 19 flying from Fort Lauderdale out in the direction of Bermuda. In 1952, George X Sand wrote in Fate Magazine defining the borders, shown in the map from Jones' article, In 1964 Vincent Gaddis in Argosy magazine finally named the infamous Bermuda Triangle.

It looks a triangle drawn over the Atlantic Ocean. Each year, ships and planes go missing off the eastern coastline of the United States, as planes have for a century, and ships literally for hundreds of years. Yet both the US Coast Guard and Lloyds of London state that no more ships or planes go missing here than off the Pacific coastline.

Much of the story however, begins with Flight 19, aka the Lost Patrol when supposedly they disappeared suddenly into the infamous Bermuda Triangle. Flight 19 disappeared in December of 1945 but it wasn’t into the Bermuda triangle and it wasn't sudden — it took five hours for each of the TBM Avengers to drop out of the sky. The irony of Flight 19 is that none of the men died within the infamous Bermuda triangle.

Three crash sites have been located and one aircraft has been raised from the sea. I published Jon Myhre's book in 2012 : Discovery of Flight 19.

I am interested in your story. Please contact me.

Douglas Westfall, historic publisher.

cda said...


You removed this guy's comment in the previous blog. Now he presents it again, unchanged as far as I recall it.

So presumably he knows something the rest of us do not. There is no need for you to contact him, as he suggests.

It is for him to contact you (and the rest of us).

Please, Mr Westfall, tell us more. For example, where did Donald Keyhoe get his information from, as presented in the final chapter of "The Flying Saucer Conspiracy" published in 1955, and the quotes he gives. allegedly taken from the US Navy Official Report, but which are not in this report at all?

Did Keyhoe invent them, or did his informant?

And which aircraft was raised from the sea? Was it genuinely from Flight 19 or was it from another, earlier, flight? Or is this too a piece of fiction?

I shall not be buying Douglas Westfall's book.

Lance said...

I suspect that he gets a google alert every time the Bermuda Triangle is mentioned and then goes to make a plug for the book at those sites.


scorpion 23 said...

Atlantis. Laser beam attack ,, yeah right !

Unknown said...

Lt Gares was my uncle, my mom's brother. He was the co-pilot on this flight. She still misses him regardless of how he disappeared.