Patrick Air Force Base dedicates monument to seaplane crew lost during search for Flight 19


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Debbie Wilson, daughter of Jon Myhre; U.S. Rep. Bill Posey; Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, 45th Space Wing commander; retired Navy Rear Admiral Samuel Cox, Naval history and heritage command director and curator; retired Army Capt. Jon Myhre, Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale historical association and museum member; and Capt. John Sager, Naval Ordnance Test Unit commander, unveil the Naval Air Station Banana River Monument during a ceremony April 11 at Patrick Air Force Base. The 45th Space Wing hosted a dedication ceremony for a Martin PBM-5 Mariner seaplane lost during the search for Flight 19 in 1945.

photo courtesy of Phil Sunkel, U.S. Air Force

Near an old seaplane ramp at Patrick Air Force Base where a Martin PBM-5 Mariner took off in 1945 to search for five missing torpedo bombers and instead became part of one of aviation’s most enduring mysteries, U.S. Rep. Bill Posey spoke of their dedication and sacrifice. 

“They took off inspired and intended to return with their lost comrades,” Posey (R-Rockledge) told military officials and civilians April 11 during the unveiling of a bronze plaque and granite monument in memory of the 13 crewmen who disappeared on Dec. 5, 1945. “But as we know, unfortunately, they never made it. Today, we honor their lives.”

“Training 49” was one of two twin-engine seaplanes dispatched from Naval Air Station Banana River, the previous name of Patrick from 1940 to 1947, to look for 14 crewmen in five Grumman TBM Avenger torpedo bombers that had left Fort Lauderdale on a training run over the Bahamas. The seaplane few for about a half-hour above the Atlantic, then was never heard from again. 

The loss of the six military planes and their 27 crewmen led to one of the biggest peacetime air, sea and searches in U.S. history. But no trace of the men or planes was ever found.

Their disappearance spawned the legend of the “Bermuda Triangle,” a region of the Atlantic between Miami, Bermuda and Puerto Rico where many ships and planes reportedly have vanished under strange circumstances.

A Navy investigation and report later determined the Flight 19 airmen apparently became disoriented and ditched in rough seas after running out of fuel. The report also concluded that the Mariner exploded in midair. 

The plaque is inscribed with the names of the 13 crewmen, but also honors all personnel who served at the naval air station, which was renamed Patrick Air Force Base in 1950.

The memorial was presented by the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Historical Association and Naval Air Museum Fort Lauderdale members. The museum has a Flight 19 display.

Sebastian resident Jon Myhre, a researcher of the “Lost Patrol” and a lifetime member of the historical association, helped lead the effort to build the monument. He paid for its granite base and split the cost of the plaque with the association.

“I’ll treasure this day always,” Myhre said after the ceremony.

Brig. Gen. Wayne Monteith, commander of the 45th Space Wing at Patrick, said Training 49’s mission mirrored that of the 920th Rescue Wing, which is stationed at the base.

“And much like the crew of Training 49, when the call comes in, they don’t ask why,” Monteith said. “They only ask where.”