In 1942 the Blue Goose
, a B-24 bomber, disappeared during a routine test flight from an airbase in Florida. After an
intensive search, no trace of the plane or crew was ever found. Thirty years later, the remains of the copilot were discovered
on a remote beach in northern Brazil—a bizarre Nazi plot is uncovered and the mystery surrounding the disappearance
of the Blue Goose
is finally solved.
Fort Myers Army Air Base, Florida, January 1942
First Lieutenant Carlson's khaki shirt stuck to his skin like glue. The
noonday Florida sun beat down on the control tower's corrugated metal
roof. Fortunately, all sides of the platform atop the twenty foot high
wooden tower were open. Occasionally, a light breeze filtered through.
Carlson leaned over the platform guard rail and watched McCormick, his
radio operator, fill their canteens from a Lister bag located in the
middle of a line of tents behind the control tower.
A dozen B-24s were parked in a line alongside the single runway in
front of the tower. In a wooded maintenance area, at the end of the
flight line, stood a lone B-24. Carlson watched Army Air Corps mechanics
install the cowling on the B-24's number three engine then push their
spindly, rectangular, work stands aside. A mechanic removed the rear
chocks then kicked the front chocks firmly against the tires. Another
mechanic pushed a two-wheeled fire extinguisher into position beside the
number three engine. Two other mechanics entered the aircraft through
the open bomb bay doors. In a few minutes, the auxiliary power unit then
the number three engine roared to life. Painted on the side of the dune
colored aircraft was the name 'Blue Goose
Private First Class McCormick climbed the control tower steps. He
handed the lieutenant a canteen. After a long drink, Carlson said,
"Tastes like ten-year-old, chlorinated, horse piss."
"Lieutenant, you won't be able to get it up for a month. The mess
sergeant has orders to load the coffee with saltpeter. Since nobody will
drink it, he's putting saltpeter in the water."
The ring of the field phone was barely heard above the sound of the
B-24's engine. McCormick took the handset from the canvas carrying case,
gave his rank and last name, then listened attentively. He replied, "Yes,
sir," then stowed the handset. "Lieutenant, Operations says they want to
test fly 009 at 1400 hours."
"Great! That should end our week in the tower. Tomorrow, some other
flight crew gets stuck with this shit detail."
For the next few hours, Carlson and McCormick were occupied with three
B-25s from Eglin Field that shot take-offs and landings. "I wonder why
they're practicing short field take-offs here?" McCormick asked.
"Maybe there's too much traffic at Eglin."
After the B-25s departed, Operations notified Carlson that 009 filed
a local clearance for a one hour test flight. Carlson responded
affirmatively to the Blue Goose's
request for taxi clearance. A few
minutes later, a request for take-off clearance came over the loud
speaker. Carlson checked the area, picked up the microphone, pressed
the transmit button then replied, "009, you're cleared for take-off."
"Roger, 009's rolling," was the reply.
Carlson removed his clipboard from a nail. He penciled in the entries,
marked the time as 1406 hours, then initialed the activity log. At 1500
hours, Carlson scanned the sky for the Blue Goose
. He spotted a few
birds—there were no aircraft in sight. He ordered McCormick to contact
the Blue Goose
. At least two dozen times McCormick transmitted, "009,
this is Fort Myers tower. Over." There was no response. At 1510 hours,
Carlson turned the crank of the field telephone and notified the
Inside the Operations tent, Captain Murray used the field telephone to
notify Lieutenant Colonel McCann, Commanding Officer of the 343rd
Bombardment Squadron and acting CO of the newly formed 98th Bombardment
Group. McCann jumped into a Jeep parked outside the headquarters tent
then drove along a dirt road to Operations.
Murray handed the colonel 009's clearance. McCann looked over the
flight clearance, noted the names of the crew, estimated time of arrival
and fuel load. "They couldn't have strayed far from the field. All they
had to do was checkout one engine, parallel the generators and swing the
"They had a full fuel load. Maybe they headed back to Shreveport for
a night on the town," suggested Murray.
McCann winced, "I know those guys, they're not screw-ups. Get two
planes in the air and have them set up a search pattern for a 200 mile
radius. Have one check south, toward the Everglades, and the other to
the north. When it gets too dark to search, they can return. Notify
the crew in the tower the field will stay open until the last ship lands
and they're not to leave their post until I give the word."
Carlson cleared both B-24s for take-off then watched the Liberators
climb to cruise altitude. In a clearing in front of the headquarters tent,
a bugler blew mess call. The bugler repeated the call on each cardinal
Carlson watched as soldiers carrying mess kits ambled toward and
formed a single line alongside the field kitchen. After the troops were
served, they either sat on the ground or ate standing up with their mess
kits resting on a forty foot flatbed trailer parked nearby. Their supper
table was attached to a C-2 wrecker; a crash truck equipped with a large
crane. Two large galvanized garbage cans filled with boiling water were
placed over a carefully laid fire pit. An empty garbage can was placed
ahead of the fire pit. After eating, each soldier dumped any remaining
scraps into the garbage can then scrubbed his mess kit, utensils and
canteen cup in the first can over the fire pit. In the last GI can on the
fire pit, the soldiers dipped their mess gear into the boiling water.
McCann listened intently as the search crews were debriefed. Both
crews reported negative results. The crews were ordered to get off the
ground at first light and try again. McCann told Murray to notify Air
Corps Headquarters, at Wright Field, that an aircraft was missing.
For the next two weeks, aircraft from Fort Myers, Eglin and MacDill
searched for the Blue Goose
. No debris or clues regarding the
disappearance of the Liberator ever surfaced.
Captain Murray completed the accident report. He attached true copies
of the clearance and tower log plus statements from Carlson, McCormick,
the 38th Material Squadron's engine change crew and the inspector who
released the aircraft for flight.
Instead of an expected promotion, McCann was relieved and reassigned
to England. He wrote personal letters to the next of kin, turned over
command to his replacement, a full colonel, then cleared the base.
In April 1942, the B-25s that practiced landings at Fort Myers were
part of Jimmy Doolittle's group that bombed Tokyo. Three months later,
the newly formed 98th Bombardment Group went on to Palestine then Egypt,
Libya, Tunisia and Italy. In time, the flight of the Blue Goose
Kennedy Space Center, December 1972
Traffic was at a standstill, roads were crammed with parked cars, boats
lined the river and jockeyed for a better viewing position. At Kennedy
Space Center, the viewing stand was packed with VIPs and anyone else lucky
enough to get a pass. As Apollo 17 rose from the launch pad, the roar of
the first stage was heard across the state of Florida and on television
sets around the world. Millions of eyes followed the exhaust plume as it