Lost Squadron

An old Bermuda Triangle mystery may be solved

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It is the stuff of legends, pulp novels and late-night reruns of the Twilight Zone: a 140,000-sq.-mi. stretch of the Atlantic Ocean that seems to swallow unfortunate voyagers like a space-time warp. During the past 45 years, more than 100 ships and planes have disappeared in the triangular region -- roughly bounded by Bermuda, Southern Florida and the Greater Antilles -- often in circumstances as murky and mysterious as the storm-tossed sea itself.

Last week the Bermuda Triangle lost an important bit of its mystery. A New York City-based salvage company searching for Spanish galleons off the Florida coast discovered the remains of five Navy torpedo bombers that took off from a base in Fort Lauderdale on Dec. 5, 1945, and were never seen again. The planes, looking not much worse for wear, turned up in 750 ft. of water about 10 miles off Fort Lauderdale.

The story of Flight 19, the so-called Lost Squadron, was one of the cornerstones of the Bermuda Triangle myth, which was born on a slow news day in 1950. That's when an Associated Press reporter named E.V.W. Jones collated a report of various planes and ships lost off the Florida coast and put it on the wire. The story was picked up and enlarged by other news services, tabloids and magazines until the Bermuda Triangle, as it became known in the 1960s, was a cultural fixation.

The serial numbers of the recovered aircraft have not yet been verified, but one of them carries the number 28 on its side, which was the number of the flight leader's plane. The Navy may yet stake a claim, but the salvage company, Scientific Search Project, has already received a $150,000 offer for the find's location. If it proves to be the final resting place of the Lost Squadron, it should also put to rest part of the mystique of the Bermuda Triangle.