Avengers Commentary

The Sun and the Moon tricked Flight 19

Regarding the disappearance of the five Navy Avenger planes on December 5, 1945 I hold the leading theory. It states the sun and later the moon disoriented the pilots, thereby causing all their deaths. First the low to the horizon late afternoon sun sold the illusion it was setting South, which is impossible because the sun always sets West. Then around 6pm a 29-hour old moon made its first appearance just prior to setting West. They thought it was rising East and according to the JAG transcript they turned around 180 degrees beyond the point of no return and flew out to sea to their graves.  From 3:15pm to 6:15pm was the worst three hour period for navigation in three years... 1 - 25,000 rare anomally of the sun and moon!

The pilots first got disorientated around 3:40PM when they began heading West back to Ft. Lauderdale after a practice bombing mission over the Bahamas. It was a triangular mission East to the Chicken and Hen Shoals and North to the Great Sale Cay and then back to Ft. Lauderdale. On the final leg back to Ft. Lauderdale the sun had a S/SW compass heading, as it is furthest South for the year in December.

Then at around 6PM the moon gave the illusion it was rising. On 1 day after the new moon when it happened the moon was 29 hours old and it gave off a rising East illusion. It is an especially effective illusion over water where they are no landmarks. The moon is so frail now that it looks like a few scattered lights around its lower border. It is only visible for the first time around the horizon, about twenty minutes before it sets West. People can easily think the moon was rising instead of setting because it first appears around the horizon setting. The moon like the sun always rises East and sets West. You could now think that East is West and West is East. This is a very nasty illusion

I am sure this is what happened to the five missing Avenger planes and the Official JAG transcript bears it out. After flying in circles for an hour and a-half on their final leg back to Ft. Lauderdale and at 5:10 the lead pilot stated they were heading West which they did for 56 minutes. And when they were beyond the point of no return they turned around 180 degrees at 6:06PM and flew East out to sea to their deaths.

The lead pilot Captain Charles Taylor likely thought the moon was rising (East) and they distrusted their compasses and knew they had to go West. This is from the official Navy Jag transcript…
5:10PM Captain Taylor… We are now heading West.
6:04PM Captain Taylor... Holding West course. Should be able to see a light. (the moon).
6:06PM This is Taylor... Turn around and fly East until we run out of gas.

At 6PM the moon was 29 hours old and it would set West at 6:29PM.

To test my theory go to Ft. Lauderdale, Florida in December and check the position of the sun at 3:30PM. It will appear low to the horizon S/SW. The tower kept telling them to follow the setting sun and head West. The tower was wrong.

At 6:04 PM three remote occurrences took place simultaneously:

1. Captain Charles Taylor spoke of a strange light or lights (29 hour old moon).
2. The moon gave a very rare 180 degree illusion.
3. An experienced combat pilot beyond the point of no return turns completely around (180 degrees) and flies out to sea knowing they would have to ditch.

How I got involved

I first heard about the five missing Avenger planes in 1991 when I read article by Warren Richie in the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel. It told how similar planes were found off the coast of Florida and that the Navy was trying to determine if this was the infamous Lost Patrol.

The article was intriguing and quite detailed and stated that there was no moon the night the Lost Patrol disappeared. I routinely looked up the moon phase for the evening of December 5, 1945, which I learned was 1 day after the new moon. I immediately realized there likely was a visible moon that night. I know that the moon can be seen with the naked eye after it is just 20 hours old. Since this took place on 1 day after the new moon in the evening, I felt the moon was more than 24 hours old. I also knew that this moon phase zeniths around 1PM and the moon had to set after 6PM.

I decided to investigate further. I wrote to NOAA (The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration) and they sent me information from their East Coast Tide Tables for 1945, which is based upon data from the American Ephermeris and Nautical Almanac. I learned that on the evening of December 5, 1945 at 6PM the moon was exactly 29 hours old. I then looked up the times for sunset, moon set and the weather for that day, using microfilm of the Miami Herald. Sunset was at 5:29PM, moon set was at 6:29PM and the weather was mostly clear.

The official report which said there was no moon was incorrect. There was no moon to speak of, but a visible moon none the less. I wrote to the Department of the Navy and they sent me the microfilm of the official JAG report. I learned that at 3:30PM when the first distress call was made that the tower kept telling them to follow the sun and head West. Well the sun had a S/SW heading and was around 60 degrees South of due West.

Flight leader Charles Taylor likely thought how can the low to the horizon late afternoon sun appear to be in the South? That could disorient anyone. This is why he got instantly disorientated and thought his compasses were out when they made the left turn from the Bahamas towards Ft. Lauderdale.

After reading the Jag report I figured out that at 6:06PM which was the moment when the planes turned around and flew East out to sea beyond the point of no return, that the moon was visible as a row of lights. It would give off a 180 degree illusion (rising East illusion) then. It was setting West, not rising East and they had to go West. But they distrusted their compasses and thought the moon was rising East. This lunar illusion put the nail in their coffins. I then realized I solved this mystery and with a smoking gun. Of course I felt obligated to pursue it.

I contacted the most knowledgeable astronomer I knew of Dr. David Menke. He was the Director of Buehler Planetarium in Davie, Florida. Dr. Menke studied my data and concurred with my astronomical calculations and hypothesis relating to the disappearance of the five Avenger planes. He graciously held a press conference in the planetarium on December 15, 1993. Using the overhead projector he detailed the positions and images of the sun and moon that day and told the media ...

“Jeffrey Warren Hyman’s theory goes a long way in explaining a mystery that has been blamed on the legend of the Bermuda Triangle. We as astronomers don’t try to explain supernatural things. This isn’t magic. This isn’t make-believe. This is a reasonable explanation of what happened”.

The press conference was covered by News Radio WINZ, The Miami Herald, The Tropical Tribune, The Palm Beach Post, The Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel and WSVN TV Channel 7 (Mark Ludner and Rick Sanchez). I also spoke at a symposium on the Bermuda Triangle by the Ft Lauderdale Historical Society and was a member of the Ft Lauderdale Naval Air Station Historical Association.


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