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    Re: Flight 19 lost, 75 years ago today
    From: John Matter
    Date: 2020 Dec 24, 10:01 -0800

    Interesting post, Frank. I hadn't thought of this since Close Encounters came out. Recently my wife wanted to watch the movie again and I relayed some info to her that she found interesting, perhaps you will too. 

    Back in the mid '60s a good pal of mine and I got into reading about aliens and the Bermuda Triangle - whoa! Scary stuff. I remembered my father was in TBF flight training at that time and I asked if he'd ever head of this flight of Avengers disappeared. He told me that not only was he stationed there when that happened, he said he was supposed to be on the flight as number 6 in the formation.

    He said his roommate was on the flight. He dug through some of his old pictures and pulled out a rolled-up very wide-angle picture of his class of pilots in front of a TBF and he pointed out his roommate, Joe Bossi. I noticed his picture was circled. He and Joe hung out quite a bit and his loss affected him quite a bit. He knew the others as well, but didn't really remember them as well as Joe. I believe some others on the flight were in the picture as well, but I can't remember for sure.

    He told me the word flashed around the base that the flight was in trouble and he went to the control tower with some others and listened to the radio and the attempts to communicate with the flight. Since he was supposed to be on the flight, he knew the flight plan and said it didn't take him long to figure out they somehow ended up way north of where they were supposed to be and way too far to the east. He mentioned that the weather was getting bad with thunderstorms forming all over the area. He then mentioned the launch of the PBM-5 rescue aircraft and that it went missing too. That was the first time I had heard of another missing aircraft associated with this accident I thought for sure it must be aliens at this point, but my father just laughed at me. He told me it was really pretty simple. The flight lead got lost. Yes, he had compass problems, not unheard of in those days. They got disorientated. The reason his roommate didn't break formation is because they were trained to stay with the formation. He thought that he heard Joe Bossi on the radio wanting to head back to west, but due to the distance they were from Ft Lauderdale, the radio was very weak and hard to hear, but he said he was pretty sure it was him. He said quite a bit later he learned the PBY had probably exploded, and mentioned with a fuel tank leak, it was very possible. 

    When I asked, he said he had to admit it was really strange that nobody survived the ditching. But, if the wind kicked up in thunderstorms, then the waves could have been really bad making it nearly impossible to get the aircraft down on the water safely. He said, "It wasn't like we were highly skilled pilots at the time; we were all 22, 23 years old. That's why so many of us got killed in training."  

    I asked him why he didn't make the flight. He said he'd had a head cold for a couple of days and it just got too be too much, so he took himself off flight status that morning. Asked many years later (when the movie came out) if it made him want to quit flying or "freaked" him out. He just laughed and said, no. Sometimes things happen and sometimes they don't. You don't dwell on things like that. It serves no purpose and is a distraction. I remembered that always when I had "close ones" in my flying career.

    About a year later dad was flying number 2 in a flight of SB2Cs on the wing of the Squadron CO on a dive-bombing exercise at a bombing range. He rolled in behind the CO in a near vertical dive. He said he became very alarmed when the CO started "corkscrewing" trying to get proper lineup. He said you NEVER corkscrew for lineup in the middle of the dive... EVER. You drop, or pull off. He said he was stunned when the CO dove right into the target still corkscrewing. He said that HE almost dove in too because he couldn't believe what he just saw! He said he pulled so hard to avoid hitting the ground that he blacked out completely - something he had never done before! He said he came around with the aircraft in a near vertical climb with his gunner yelling at him on the interphone. Sometimes things happen...


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