Moose Lake Star Gazette - Serving Carlton and Pine Counties Since 1895

By Wick Fisher
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Mystery tales from World War II trivia

Wick's World

 


“I was just thinking about you. I’m glad you’re back. I just shelved a new load of books that came in yesterday,” said the clerk.

I routinely stop by her shop searching for new and used books for my Amazon business, "WICK FISHER BOOKS." I normally limit my routine at each store to once a week, but today was different. As is often the case, the book I bought on Wednesday had sold by Friday. As is almost never the case, I accidently left the book at the store. Sure enough, after arriving at the store I immediately went to the shelf and found my missing sale. I also found a mother lode of new and used books about World War II.

This was a huge score for me in two ways. First, I found 20-some books I knew would sell quickly. Second, I purchased another dozen books of little value, but high interest for my friend. His tail gunner father was shot down behind enemy lines and spent a year at a POW camp in Germany. When the camp was liberated at the end of the war, his father was among the few survivors. My friend already owns a treasure trove of World War II books and Vietnam War books where his brother received the Medal of Honor by jumping on a live grenade to save his squad members. I always gladly add to his collection.

I often give a onceover look to the books I sell and I found some real interesting material in this war collection. One story my uncle told about during my childhood took place at the Florida airbase where he was stationed. This well documented incident occurred three months after the end of World War II. The story was about the legendary squadron that departed from his airbase and flew out over the area known as the Bermuda Triangle, only to never return. In the last century over 50 ships and airplanes disappeared from what is also referred to as The Devil’s Triangle — mostly under mysterious circumstances. The crewmen’s transmissions from this ill-fated flight only added intrigue to the mystery surrounding the routine training exercise of Flight 19.

These actual quotes speak volumes about this mystery:

“I don’t know where we are. We must have got lost after that last turn.”

“Both of my compasses are out!”

Then there came this difference of opinion from a fellow pilot admonishing the captain, “Damn it, if we could just fly west we would get home; head west, damn it!”

A chilling message came from the captain at 19:04, “All planes close up tight ... we’ll have to ditch unless landfall ... when the first plane goes below ten gallons, we all go down together.”

The last words appear to say, “Entering white water.”

A little known sideline to this story is that a PBM Mariner flying boat was sent to search for Flight 19. It exploded over water, killing all 13 airmen on board.

The Flight 19 Memorial at the Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale Museum reads, “A sad but equally historic note is the fact that 95 young Americans lost their lives at the NAS Fort Lauderdale base during 1942-1945; the three most intensive training years of the war.”

I remember my uncle telling me the Flight 19 incident was played down at the time — partly because many similar incidents preceded it and also because the war was officially over and there was a general censorship about disparaging news emanating from the military. He remembered the tale about the Cuban cargo ship Rubicon that sailed from Havana, Cuba, on October 20, 1944. A day later the ship was spotted floating off the coast of Florida. The ship was bound for New York City, loaded with raw materials for the war effort. When the U.S. Coast Guard boarded the listless ship, what they discovered was an intact ship still fully loaded with cargo. Food had just been prepared and it appeared the meal had just begun. The only living thing on board was a lone dog; no sign of human life at all. There were no entries in the ship’s log to give any indication as to the fate of the crew. The cause of the incident was marked as “unknown” and the story quietly disappeared into oblivion.

 

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