The mystery is just one of many to occur in a stretch of Atlantic Ocean reaching from the Florida Coast southeast to Puerto Rico and north to Bermuda, known colloquially as the Bermuda Triangle.
Here's what we do know about the Lost Patrol:
'I Don't Know Where We Are'
However, things didn't go as planned after that. The flight leader, Lt. Charles C. Taylor, reported that his compass wasn't working, and he erroneously believed he was over the Florida Keys, a group of islands over 150 miles to the southwest of where the rock targets were located.
"I don't know where we are. We must have got lost after that last turn," Taylor told air traffic control at Fort Lauderdale."
Both of my compasses are out", he said, "and I am trying to find Fort Lauderdale, Florida. I am over land but it's broken. I am sure I'm in the Keys but I don't know how far down and I don't know how to get to Fort Lauderdale."
"We are heading 030 degrees for 45 minutes, then we will fly north to make sure we are not over the Gulf of Mexico," Taylor said. He later ordered his fellow pilots to assume a course heading 090 degrees, or due east.
Over the next two hours, the aircraft went back and forth, east, then west, then east again. Taylor's last message, transmitted five hours after takeoff, was this: "All planes close up tight ... we'll have to ditch unless landfall ... when the first plane drops below 10 gallons [of fuel in the tank], we all go down together."
As it became apparent the planes were lost, the Navy organized search patrols from nearby bases, and called in merchant marine ships to help.
However, during the search, a second tragedy struck: one of the PBM Mariner flying boats mysteriously exploded in mid-air just three minutes after takeoff from what was at the time called NAS Banana River, now known as Patrick Space Force Base, due north of Fort Lauderdale.
Unlike the Avengers of Flight 19, the wreckage of the Mariner flying boat was found, in the form of an oil slick. However, like the lost patrol, the crew were all lost, meaning a total of 27 men died in the incident: 14 on board the five Avengers, and 13 on the Mariner flying boat.
US Navy investigations failed to find the cause of the crashes or their wreckage, but concluded that faulty equipment was to blame and not mistakes by Lt. Taylor. Its official reason for being lost is "cause unknown."
However, to add to the mystery, the wreckage of several other Avenger bombers have been found off the Florida coast since that time, but none of them bore the tail numbers of the five Flight 19 aircraft.
developing a reputation as a site of paranormal activity.
However, there are a couple of explanations suggested for the disappearances, stemming from perfectly normal causes here on Planet Earth, including that it is common for hurricanes and other storms to traverse the Bermuda Triangle; the Gulf Stream passes through the area; and the western part of the Sargasso Sea, a gyre choked with sargassum seaweed, extends across part of the Triangle, which may have whisked away any wreckage from crashes.
Critics have also pointed out that the number of mysterious losses in the Bermuda Triangle is no higher than any other comparably-sized stretch of sea, and have accused some writers of sensationalizing or even making up stories about disappearances there in an effort to cultivate an unjustified aura of mystery.