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What Was the Lost Patrol?

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  • Written By: M. Dee Dubroff
  • Edited By: O. Wallace
  • Last Modified Date: 15 November 2016
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One of the most bizarre disappearances in the history of aviation concerns the Lost Patrol, five US Navy torpedo bombers that disappeared without a trace. On Wednesday, 5 December 1945 at 2 pm, Flight 19 left the Naval Air Station at Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The bombers were last seen rising in formation smoothly into the clear sky as they swung out eastward over the Atlantic Ocean. Flight 19 was a training flight, and the aircraft were the most powerful and efficient ever built until that time.

Each plane held three men — a pilot, a radio operator, and a gunner — making a grand total of 15 men. The patrol flight leader, Lieutenant Charles Taylor, was an experienced war veteran. The mission was a routine navigational exercise involving two hours of flight time on a journey that traversed a course within the area known as the Bermuda Triangle.

At around 3:45 pm, the control tower lost contact with Taylor and the other planes. Despite clear weather, Taylor claimed he was lost in his last transmission. Shortly after 4 pm, a large Martin Mariner flying boat, equipped with a specially reinforced hull for dangerous sea landings, a crew of 13, and full rescue equipment took off in the search of the bombers. Within ten minutes, the Mariner disappeared as well. Despite a massive search and several false alarms over the years, no wreckage has ever been retrieved.

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Despite continuous contact with the control tower until the very last minute, these vessels disappeared into the area known as the Bermuda Triangle, a location where many ships and planes have vanished over the years. It is also true that many ships have passed through the area unscathed, only deepening the mystery of the fate of the Lost Patrol. The story remains one of the strangest on record in the history of modern aviation.

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