Patrick erects monument to 13 heroes missing since 1945


A monument with a plaque bearing the names of 13 crew members of a Mariner seaplane that vanished in 1945 during the search for the legendary Flight 19 has been erected at Patrick Air Force Base.

photo by Jon Myhre

A monument to the crew of a seaplane that vanished in 1945 while searching for the legendary Flight 19 has been erected at Patrick Air Force Base, where the plane took off on its fateful flight.

The completed granite monument to the Martin PBM-5 Mariner was placed on its concrete base about 50 feet from the base’s old seaplane ramps, said Sebastian resident Jon Myhre, a researcher of the famed “Lost Patrol” and a former Palm Beach International Airport controller.

The memorial features a plaque with the names of 13 crew members aboard PBM-5 BuNo 59225, which took off from Naval Air Station Banana River — the former name of Patrick Air Force Base — and disappeared about a half-hour later. No trace of the plane was ever found.

The monument is "dedicated to all U.S. Naval Personnel who served at Naval Air Station Banana River (Patrick Air Force Base) October 1940-August 1947 in particular to the Officers and crew of 'Training 49' ", which was the seaplane's name.

The seaplane was one of two Mariners dispatched Dec. 5, 1945 from NAS Banana River to assist in the search for five Navy torpedo bombers carrying 14 crewmen that took off from Fort Lauderdale on a training flight and also vanished without a trace.

The disappearances of the five TBM Avengers and the seaplane triggered one of the largest peacetime air, sea and land searches in U.S. history. The incident led to the myth of the “Bermuda Triangle” or “Devil’s Triangle,” a 500,000-square-mile region of the Atlantic Ocean bounded by Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico where dozens of ships and airplanes are said to have disappeared under unusual circumstances.

A 500-page report by a Navy board of investigation, published a few months after the planes were lost, concluded the Flight 19 airmen apparently became disoriented and ditched in rough seas after running out of fuel. The report also attributed the loss of the PBM to a midair explosion. 

The memorial plaque is inscribed with the names of PBM crewmen:

  • Walter G. Jeffery, Lt. JG, USN, Commander
  • Harry G. Cone, Lt. JG, USN
  • Roger M. Allen, Ensign, USN
  • Lloyd A. Eliason, Ensign, USN
  • Charles D. Arceneaux, Ensign, USN
  • Robert C. Cameron, RM3, USN
  • Wiley D. Cargill, Sr., Seaman 1st, USN
  • James F. Jordon, ARM3, USN
  • John T. Menendez, AOM3, USN
  • Philip B. Neeman, Seaman 1st, USN
  • James F. Osterheld, AOM3, USN
  • Donald E. Peterson, AMM1, USN
  • Alfred J. Zywicki, Seaman 1st, USN

A Patrick spokesman confirmed the monument had been set up but was unsure whether a dedication ceremony is planned.

The memorial is presented by the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Historical Association and Naval Air Museum Fort Lauderdale members. The museum's main focus is on the Navy and specifically Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale, a torpedo bomber training base during World War II and the home of Flight 19. The museum also has a Flight 19 display.

The push for the monument came after Viera Voice ran an article in November 2015, noting that Patrick had no memorial or historical marker dedicated to the lost PBM crew. U.S. Congressman Bill Posey then contacted the Air Force about the possibility of erecting a memorial, Posey spokesman Rob Medina said.