The Mystery of Flying Tiger Line flight 739

30 Sep 16 63 Comments

On the 16th of March, 1962, a Lockheed Super Constellation airliner disappeared over the Pacific.

The Flying Tiger Line was the first scheduled cargo airline in the US. It was named after the Flying Tigers fighter unit, a World War II group of pilots from the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps whose shark-faced fighter jets became an iconic symbol of World War II combat aircraft.

The Flying Tiger Line started after the war, with ten former Flying Tiger pilots, flying freighters they purchased as war surplus from the US Navy. The pilots and two ground crew provided half of the initial investment; oil tycoon Samuel B. Mosher funded the rest. They offered cargo services throughout the US and carried supplies across the Pacific to US Troops during the occupation of Japan.

Two decades later, Flying Tiger Line flight 739 was a charter flight operated by Flying Tiger Line on behalf of the Military Air Transport Service. The aircraft was Lockheed model 1049H registered as 6921C. The Lockheed Super Constellation transport airliner required four crew and could carry 47-106 passengers.

Flight 739 was scheduled with two flight crews (Captain, First Officer, Second Officer, two Flight Engineers and two Navigators), four cabin crew and 96 passengers for a flight from Travis Air Force Base in California to Saigon in South Vietnam, with refuelling stops in Honolulu, Wake Island, Guam, and the Philippines.

Ninety-three of the passengers were jungle-trained Army Rangers, primarily highly trained electronics and communications specialists. The other three were members of the armed forces of Vietnam. The flight crew, five men and four women, were all civilians.

The cargo consisted only of passenger baggage: personal articles and clothing.

The flight departed Travis Air Force Base at 05:45 GMT on the 14th of March 1962 and proceeded normally for the next twelve hours, arriving in Honolulu at 17:44 GMT. All times are given in GMT except where otherwise noted.

The aircraft went through minor maintenance. No issues of concern were found. The departure flight was delayed by half an hour after the cabin crew raised concerns about the crew rest facilities on the aircraft. The issues were resolved and the flight departed Honolulu at 20:40.

The next leg proceeded normally and flight 739 arrived at Wake Island at 03:54 on the 15th of March. Again, minor maintenance was required. The aircraft was serviced, the four cabin crew were replaced, and the flight departed for Guam at 05:15. This leg was six hours and the flight arrived in Guam at 11:14.

At Guam, the aircraft was serviced and refuelled. No maintenance was required. The next leg, to Clark Air Force Base in the Philippines, was estimated at six hours and nineteen minutes. The aircraft held enough fuel for nine hours and thirty minutes of flight.

The aircraft departed Guam at 12:57. Guam Air Route Traffic Control Centre established radar contact soon after take-off. The flight crew then contacted Guam International Flight Service Station to request that their departure message was relayed to the Flying Tiger Line offices.

At 13:25, the flight crew contacted Guam International Flight Service Station again to request a change in cruising altitude from 10,000 feet to 18,000 feet. No reason was given for the request and the flight crew were advised to contact Guam Centre. Guam Centre approved the request.

At 13:28 the flight crew reported climbing through 11,000 feet. Guam Centre advised the flight that it was 100 miles west of Guam and that radar services were being terminated.

At 13:33 the flight crew reported to Guam International Flight Service Station that they were 100 miles out and cruising at 18,000 feet.

The last transmission from the aircraft took place at 14:22. The flight crew contacted Guam International Flight Service Station and reported cruising over the clouds (“on top”) at 18,000 feet, along with their position from 14:16 and their current estimated position. They expected to arrive at Clark Air Force Base at 19:16 and said that they had 8 hours and 12 minutes of fuel remaining. All of the radio calls were completely routine: there was no indication of any problem or difficulties.

A little over an hour later, Guam International Flight Service Station suffered heavy radio static while speaking to another flight en route to Okinawa. At 15:39, the operator attempted to contact flight 739 in order to receive the now-overdue 15:30 position report. He was unable to establish radio contact.

At 16:00, Guam Centre declared the flight to be in an uncertainty phase (INCERFA) in line with Oceanic Emergency Procedures. This means that there is concern about the safety of an aircraft or its occupants.

At 16:33, after attempts to contact the aircraft had failed for over an hour, the status was upgraded to alert phase (ALERFA). This means that there is apprehension about the safety of an aircraft and its occupants.

The distress phase (DETRESFA) was initiated at 19:33 after continuous attempts to contact the aircraft by all stations and aircraft in the area had failed.

The distress phase means that there is reasonable certainty that the aircraft and its occupants are threatened by grave and imminent danger, including lack of contact and the risk of fuel exhaustion. Search and Rescue operations were initiated from Guam and the Philippines.

At 22:27, by which the time the aircraft would have exhausted all of its fuel, Tiger Flying Lines flight 739 and all of its occupants were declared lost.

The fate of the aircraft was unknown but then a call came in from a super tanker at 21:05, while the search and rescue operations were in progress. The shipboard lookouts had seen a mid-air explosion at 15:30 (1:30am local time).

M.S. T.L. LENZEN  in 1973. Photograph by Walter E. Frost.  Courtesy of the City of Vancouver Archives

The crew said that the night was moonlit and clear, with a quarter of the sky covered by small cumulus clouds, evenly distributed.

They first noticed a vapour trail or something similar overhead and slightly to the north of the tanker, moving in an east-to-west direction. At the time, the tanker was cruising on a heading of 077 degrees. The vapour trail passed behind a cloud and then there was an “intensely luminous” explosion consisting of a white nucleus surrounded by a reddish-orange periphery with radial lines of reddish-orange light. The explosion consisted of two pulses, lasting two to three seconds. The crew believed they saw two flaming objects of unequal brightness and size fall, at disparate speeds, into the sea. As they fell, a crew member noticed a small bright target on the ship’s radar, bearing 270 degrees at a range of 17 miles.

The captain arrived on deck to see the fall of the slower object before it disappeared into the sea. He estimated its position in reference to a star and ordered the ship’s course reversed. They aligned the heading of the vessel with the star and the captain found that the tanker’s heading was now 270 degrees, the same as the bearing of the target seen on radar.

The tanker continued to the position of the radar target but found nothing there. They searched the area for 5½ hours but found no trace of wreckage or debris. The crew were unable to establish contact with the US Navy radio stations at Manila and Guam and eventually decided that the explosion must have been some kind of military or naval exercise. The tanker broke off the search and resumed her course.

The approximate location of the mid-air explosion was confirmed to coincide with the estimated position of the aircraft at that time.

The subsequent search was cited at the time as one of the most extensive ever conducted.

No trace of the aircraft or the occupants was ever found.

No explanation was ever found either. Investigators found that although the aircraft was properly certificated and was in airworthy condition, a few weeks earlier, it had exhibited significant power loss to one of its engines after 3½ hours of flight which had not been explained but after minor maintenance, it appeared to be in good repair. There was no sign that day that there were any mechanical issues with the flight.

As a result, many believed that the aircraft may have been sabotaged.

The investigation found that the flight line and ramp areas at Honolulu, Wake Island and Guam were not secure and anyone could enter and access non-military aircraft parked at the airfields. Specifically at Guam, the last stop, the aircraft was left unattended in a dimly lit area for some time.

The explosion, as witnessed by the tanker, happened at the point when flight 739 should have been radioing in for the next position report. This seems extremely coincidental and is one of the reasons why many believe that the aircraft may have been sabotaged.

In addition, a second Flying Tiger Line flight was destroyed. An identical Lockheed Super Constellation, said to have been carrying secret military cargo, also departed Travis Air Force Base on the same day and encountered difficulties several hours later. The pilot appeared to encounter issues on the instrument approach and crashed short of the runway. The main landing gear was torn off and then the aircraft caught fire; six crew members received minor injuries and one was trapped in the cockpit and died in the fire.

Similar aircraft to the two lost. Photograph taken by Bill Larkins.

Flying Tiger Line stated at the time that sabotage of one or both planes or a kidnapping of flight 739 were possibilities but they had no evidence to back up these theories. The executive vice president told the media that is was impossible for an explosion to occur on the Super Constellation in the course of normal operation: something violent must have happened.

The Civil Aeronautics Board believes that the crew members of the tanker most likely witnessed the explosion of the aircraft. However, they concluded, as no portion of the aircraft was ever recovered, it was impossible to determine whether mechanical/structural failure or sabotage caused the loss of the aircraft.

The original accident report has been scanned and put online as a PDF.

Whatever happened must have happened quickly, as the crew never had a chance to alert anyone that there was an emergency. As no one has ever taken responsibility for sabotaging the aircraft and the wreckage is unlikely to be recovered, this is a mystery that may remain forever unsolved.

63 Comments

  • Sadly, mysteries of this nature, after so many years, are indeed not likely to ever be solved.
    Guesses at the time included cargo, not or improperly manifested dangerous goods, perhaps of a military nature.
    The Flying Tiger Line, in the mid 1980’s, ceased to exist and was absorbed into FedEx.
    A humourous story about ordnance sent by air: During the civil war in Nigeria in 1967 I was a young flight operations dispatcher working for a company called Pan African Airlines of Nigeria. They operated a fleet of cargo aircraft, including a DC6A and a few DC4. The DC4 were brought in to fly humanitarian missions, bringing Red Cross relief goods to the front zone. But the army requisitioned them for the transport of war material.
    This was of course totally unacceptable: to have aircraft with the Red Cross on the tail flying arms and ammunition so the aircraft were grounded.
    The solution was soon found: During the day the DC4 would fly for the Red Cross, after the last flight a man with a bucket of quick drying white paint and a broom would erase the red crosses whilst mechanics would prepare the aircraft for the night shift with military cargo.
    In the morning, the same man, now with a bucket of red paint, would put the red cross back on the tailfin.
    This went on for a while until I had to come to the chief pilot’s office. There had been complaints about my loading schedule and I was given an official reprimand for failing to properly oversee the loading. Perhaps it would not be all that surprising, given that I was on duty early in the morning, did a half day shift, took a few hours rest, came back for the evening shift, took rest again and did the early morning. Six days per week, so it was suspected that I had perhaps been too tired.
    But the real reason was not any wrongdoing from my side: The paint that accumulated on the fin started to have a negative effect on the weight-and-balance, and perhaps the aerodynamics as well.
    So the procedure had to be modified. There were no flights on Sundays, so the fin was stripped of all excess paint on regular intervals.
    After that, there were no more complaints about the aircraft being wrongly loaded and being tail-heavy.
    Sometimes the cargo consisted of bombs or grenades. The fuses were removed for safety reasons and packed separately.
    One day there was a bit of a panic: The fuse of one bomb had not arrived. It was found and shipped on the next flight.
    This caused an even greater panic: the captain was nearly arrested. Reason: On the previous flight a fuse was missing, on the next he was short a bomb.
    The sergeant who had been in charge when they offloaded the first batch had to be recalled, numbers checked and with a few red faces (although, I am not sure if Africans do get red in the face) and an apology the captain was sent on his way.
    Of course, these stories do not shed any light on what happened to the Flying Tiger Super Connie.

    • Rudy, have you ever considered writing your memoirs? I think you could get a pretty good book out of all the interesting experiences you’ve had in aviation.

      • Laura, I am sorry to nit pick, but the flight engineer on this plane was a civilian employee of Flying Tiger Line. So your father, who was a military passenger could not have been a working flight engineer on this flight. Of course he may have had a military career as a flight engineer, but was not working on this flight, he would have been simply a passenger.

        • Mr. Townes, If you back up and re-read my previous posts you would find that the Flight Engineer on Flight 739 was my father George Michael Nau. I do not know if he went as a Civilian or Special Forces since before he went on this flight he was in special training. In World 11 he was a Marksmen and Radio Communications in the Navy. Because the Government wants us to think this classified mission didn’t happen and these brave men and women did not exist does not make it so. Everyone knows the airplane was Chartered by the Department of Defense, how do you cover that up? The Aeronautics Board deemed there was no proof Flight 739 exploded or was shot down and no debris was ever found. If you check CIA records you will find cover-ups such as this one were made to look like the plane blow up but it lands (as it does to this day) under cover. If my father was either a Civilian or Special Forces on this “Special Mission” does that make him less or more of a human being? He laid his life down for our country as did every human being on that flight, are not they all equally worthy of American Honor Mr. Townes? Why did they believe they weren’t coming back?

          A few questions of you though Mr. Townes, if you were on duty in the Tachikawa AFB Flying Tiger Line dispatch office that night why did N 6921c contact Guam International Flight Service Station (IFSS) and request a departure message be relayed to the Flying Tiger Line (FTL) offices in Burbank, CA, Pan American Airways (PAA) Manila, and PAA Hong Kong? And, what was in that message? Why did the flight request an altitude change from 10,000 feet to 18,000 feet without giving a reason? Changed radio frequency and radar services terminated? The plane could have gone anywhere Sir.

          As to your statement that if the plane had landed the crew would still be alive, no they would have been fighting for their lives. They would have been shot or worse taken off to concentration camps, tortured, beheaded or burned to death in “Tiger Cages”.

          To address your statement that this plane was unlikely carrying anything but passengers baggage, my Uncle (my fathers brother) was the last person to see my father, his brother, alive. He told me he saw the airplane and the tires were squatted down withan over load of heavy weight. And you are right, it is sad that there is still so much secrecy but you are wrong that holding out hope is futile. The truth will hurt but the truth needs to be told. These men and women did not die in vain and their loved ones deserve this secrecy to be declassified and Flight 739 and EVERYONE on that flight given HONOR FOR THEIR SERVICE TO THIS COUNTRY

          • Back in those days our aircraft was always maxed out at TO. We often said the only reason we left the ground was because the earth was round. After burning off fuel we would request a higher altitude which required shifting to high blower to get better fuel consumption. winds and clear air. The 3350’s liked the lower altitudes though. We heard it was a missile which I believe is true

    • 10-20-2019 My father, George Michael Nau ,was one of the two Flight Engineers on M.A.T.S. Flight 739/14 which disappeared on March 15,1962 on it’s way to Saigon, Vietnam. He was in special training for a year prior to leaving on this Special Mission. He left behind his Identification, wedding ring, his wife of 15 years and four children, ages 8,10,12, and 14 knowing he may not be coming back. He went willingly as did the other 106 others on that airplane, giving their lives for the freedom of the United States and for all the people who live here.
      I am his daughter, Laura, who use to sit and listen to him explain how airplanes fly and saw how happy he was doing what he loved. I miss him.
      I was living in Hood River in 1978 when I received a telephone call out of the blue from my cousin (I do not know how she got my number). She told me she joined the Army to try to find her husband over there because the government sent her a letter that her husband was dead when she was getting letters from him and he was alive, She said she came across my fathers file and that the airplane had landed. She then disappeared, I am still trying to find her.
      Now that remains are coming back from Vietnam, North Korea and China I wanted to submit my DNA to help identify any remains that could be my fathers. Because the records of Flight 739 and it’s Mission have been sealed for 57 years he is not on any “military list” and I am being denied the human right to identify any remains that could be his. Does anyone know away thru this bureaucracy to submit DNA?
      .

    • As I said before, I was on duty in the Tachikawa AFB Flying Tiger Line dispatch office in Tokyo that night. I hate to cause more anguish for the relatives of these military personnel who were lost. There is no doubt that these troops were on a top secret mission and the Military is therefore withholding information. However, the crew, both cockpit and cabin, were civilian. I feel that if the aircraft had landed secretly somewhere, then the crew members would still be alive. So I know it is hard for the relatives to accept this, but in my mind that plane blew up for some reason, most likely sabotage, and everybody perished at that time. In addition it is very unlikely that this plane was carrying anything else but the passengers baggage and it is unlikely that any other freight was loaded. The aircraft would almost certainly be grossed out with all that military personal equipment. It is indeed sad that there is still so much secrecy about this incident, but I feel that holding out hope, is futile. I do hope my remarks are not too offensive for those relatives.

      • John Townes My Daughter just stopped by and I told her about the Flying Tigers FE. She says she knows the Tiger FE , the second one very well and her gym buddy is the husband of the FE’s daughter. I was wondering if you were our rep when I flew for ONA. I know he was with Tigers and we stayed at their home on our layovers. This Rep was married to an Asian Girl with a Daughter who I not only loved but made our own box lunches. I always swore after that if I ever became single I’d be back real fast. The PFE’s name was Clayton Mc Clellan

  • I don’t think that the timing of the explosion in relation to the next scheduled radio call is relevant, as there wouldn’t be any advantage to a saboteur in preparing a bomb to go off at precisely that moment. As long as it detonated at high altitude when the aircraft was far away from any help that would be enough. There might possibly be a connection if there was an electrical problem that was related to the use of the radio.

    The fact that Guam IFSS reported heavy static on the radio and that the explosion happened while the aircraft was hidden by cloud, as seen from the ground, does raise the possibility of a lightning strike.

    But as you say we’ll probably never know. Even if the wreckage is ever found it probably wouldn’t be possible to tell exactly what happened from whatever scattered and corroded pieces still remain. It’s also possible that the military or intelligence agencies did have evidence of sabotage but chose not to reveal it. They would not gain anything from publicly admitting to a major lapse in security and if the crash was arranged by a foreign intelligence agency they would also keep silent about their activities.

    It’s also possible that the executives of Flying Tiger Line emphasised the possibility of sabotage to deflect attention away from the company. When an operator has two fatal accidents with the same type of aircraft in a short period of time the normal suspicion is that there is something wrong with their crew training, maintenance or operational procedures.

  • I can’t comment with any technical knowledge of FTL flight 739, but I just had to say the Super Connies have to be one of the most beautiful flying machines of all time.
    I don’t know how they handled, but if it’s true that if it looks right, it will fly right, they must of been dreams to fly.
    Not sure if the on board engineers would of agreed with four of those engines powering her.
    Thanks for a great site Silvia.

  • Andrew,
    Lightning strike very rarely causes an aircraft to explode in midair. My own, most dramatic experience was when the Cessna 310 I was flying was hit by lightning. I could see the impact on the left propeller, my passengers saw it exit at the right wingtip. Which also happened to be a main fuel tank. We could see scorch marks in the exterior paint. On landing the aircraft was inspected and a small, neat round hole, approx. 3 mm wide, was discovered in the side of the tank. Yet, there was no fire, no explosion.
    The aircraft at the time was registered PH-STR, later it was sold to the USA as N444ST. I don’t know if it still is around, but if so may well still be flying with a rivet in that tank.
    Lightning strike? Not impossible but also not very probable.
    Your second theory is interesting, still the possibility of not declared military cargo cannot be discounted either.
    The dangerous goods procedures have been much refined since I worked in Africa, everything was covered by a “general declaration” and there were no NOTOCs to tell the captain what he was carrying.

  • ” the Flying Tigers fighter unit, a World War II group of pilots from the US Army, Navy and Marine Corps whose shark-faced fighter jets became an iconic symbol of World War II combat aircraft.”

    My understanding of the sharks mouth motif is that it was actually first used by the British in North Africa and the Flying Tigers emulated them.

    • Hullo – I believe the shark’s mouth marking may have originated with Fokker D7 fighters during the Great War – I vaguely recall seeing photos of planes marked in that way in books of early war aviation.

  • My uncle was a member of the Army personnel on this flight. My family is trying to find out any information and are in contact with a US Senator from our state.

    Forever Loved and Missed Sp4 Donald Albert Sargent.

    • 10-20-2019 Hello, My father was George Michael Nau, he was one or the two Flight Engineers on Flight 739 that disappeared March 15th, 1962 on it’s way to Saigon, Vietnam. Since the records of this Flight and it’s Mission have been sealed for the last 57 years, could the US Senator help the families in submitting their DNA to help identify any remains coming back from Vietnam, North Korea and China since we are being blocked because the people on this Flight are not on any military “List” ?
      Laura Nau

      • I am a retired Flight Engineer who was hired by Flying Tigers but instead went to Eastern Airlines and who also knew Clayton the other FE on that particular trip. As we both flew the same kind of aircraft and at that time lived in Stow MA.within six miles from each other both our wives were the best of friends, I lost my job with EAL in the 62 strike and my next job as FE was with a company called Saturn who flew those same military trips out in the Pacific. Only now instead of Connies we flew Douglas DC7’s. Later for the military I flew for Overseas National and upgraded to the DC8 jets

  • After just reading this again, February 2017, I realize that i never noticed an error: Sylvia talks about “Shark-faced fighter JETS. They did not fly jets then, their aircraft were Curtiss P40 and they had PROPELLERS.

  • I was suppose to be on that plane but I was home on leave i received a telegram when I arrived home on the 14 my mother gave me a telegram to report back to my unit at Fort Ord California when I got back to my base the CO told me my deployment was canceled 2 weeks later i was called in again an told to get my communications equiptment ready and I arrived in Saigon on tne 16 of April 1962 i’m friends of another soldier that missed that plane in March 1962 his name is Dan Ansensio e lives in Ohio he was a communication specialist as I he left the next day

    • Were you both Ranger qualified? I understand the 93 were hand selected and the entire misdion was classified, all relevant information relating to those lost was redacted, and as a result, none of their names were added to the Vietnam Memorial Wall because the Government will not admit they were on “a mission.”

  • My father, Melvin L. Hatt, from Lansing, Michigan was on that flight. U.S. Army Ranger Special Forces. He left behind a wife, my younger sister, and I. Our mother suffered an emotional collapse, never to recover. We were adopted by family and raised in Michigan.

    • Sorry to hear about your dad. I flew Navy aircrew on C-118 B transports in this area. I was kind of curious about the 12 hour flight time from Travis to Honolulu. VR21 NAS Barber’s Point Hawaii was my squadron base. We flew from Alameda NAS to NAS BP 8.5 to 9.5 hours. Alamed NAS was just south of Travis. I cannot see 12 hours unless there was a DEVIATION in flight plan. An unrecorded DEVIATION.Those other flight times from Honolulu to Wake, to Guam, to Clarke seem okay,depending on head, or tail winds. I have flown this exact flight path. A Super Connie exploding in mid-air as reported is something odd, too. They were not known to have fuel cell problems, or electrical problems near fuel cells.A single engine EVENT of this magnitude would not cause this in 99.8% of engine failures. I know of one C-118 engine incident and it was contained in flight. I smell AN INTEL OPERATION. Flying Tigers was rumored to be a COMPANY operation for US Military.

      • 10-20-2019 I am wondering now if you are right, that there was an unrecorded DEVIATION. The smell of AN INTEL OPERATION is right on. Flying Tigers WAS a COMPANY operation for the US Military, the Civil Aeronautics Board, Aircraft Accident Report, File No. 1-0002 April 8th 1963 says so. The Flight 739/14 was contracted by the Military.under an exemption by the Civil Aeronautics Board

    • 10-21-2019 Hello Donna, I want to let you know that our mother also had a mental and emotional collapse but our story didn’t have the happy ending. She went into shock and deep depression. My mother was not given help or support from anyone. No help from family or neighbors. She was committed to a mental hospital and given shock treatments, she was never the same after that. From the age of 14 to 16 I tried to care for my two youngest sisters, the house, the bills, etc., but because I was under age the state took them and put them into foster homes. I married prematurely. My brother was lucky, he was taken in by his friends parents. To make a very long painful story short, our family disintegrated. I do not believe for a second that the government takes into account how the missing Flight 739 has effected the surviving families. Their keeping this secret just intensifies the pain. It was a secret Mission in 1962, it is 2019, it is not a secret any more. The families need closure now, that is what we are asking for. Open the files and let them go . . . . Give them the Honors they deserve, put their names on the Vietnam Wall, let them rest in PEACE

  • My father, Sgt John A Karibo, from Bellefontaine, Ohio was also on this flight. He was a US Army Special Forces Ranger trained in biological, chemical and radiological warfare and going to Saigon, Vietnam to train (?) The government has refused to acknowledge the existence of this flight and the military servicemen onboard. These U.S Service men deserve to be honored for their Service and Ultimate Sacrifice for Our Country. We are trying to get their names on the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. but have been denied because the flight did not fit the criteria for inclusion. They Paid the Ultimate Price for Their Country – We will Never Forget These Heroes! Hopefully one day we will have answers to their disappearance.

    • 10-20-2019 Hello Kimberly, my name is Laura Nau, George Michael Nau’s daughter. My father was one of the two Flight Engineer’s on Flight 739. We as the surviving families of Flight 739 can all stand together and sign a letter of demand to President Donald J. Trump to DeClassify their records and their Mission. 57 years is long enough to hold these innocent men and women hostage, They Existed and were sent on a Special Mission to Saigon, all documented by the Civil Aeronautics Board, Aircraft Accident Report, File No. 1-0002. IT IS TIME TO LET THEM GO . . . Also, for the families to submit DNA for the remains coming back from Vietnam, North Korea and China to identify any of their remains. This is cruel and unusual punishment for the grieving families to endure any longer. It’s Time.. . . . . .

  • My brother SFC Nick C. Nichols Jr was on this flight.
    I would be interested in connecting with anyone who had a relative on this flight. My email is Raven51’@aol.com

  • My grandfather, Harold Lamonde Curry, was one of the army personnel on this flight. I wasnt born yet but I honor him and wish something will eventually be recovered!

  • My uncle, Elmer Lesley Smith was also on this plane. He left behind a wife, mother, a twin sister, 4 other sisters & 2 borthers

  • I sat with the 93 rangers in the terminal of Travis AFB on the 14 departure date. At the last few minutes before we were to board,
    an Air Force female airman, who I had worked with in PAX services
    earlier in the year, had been trying to get me on a Pan Am jet, to
    get to Honolulu. There was an open seat, so I accepted it, being my
    very first jet trip. I had to wait an extra 40 minutes to depart, but would arrive an hour or 2+ hrs. sooner. I was proud of the guys, who were going over to “nam to train & fight with the ARVN military against the V.Cong! I was really saddened to hear that they, and another connie
    from Tigers disappeaerd up in the Aluetian Islands THE SAME DAY!
    Life detail can be strange, later in life I personally owned a super G 1049, called 23 Charlie. It had been called the “Southern Zephyr” when it was operating for Qantas. It was put on a Australian postage
    stamp, when a picture was taken landing in Sydney after being the very first airline to circle the globe will passenger, south of the Equator! I hope these troops will get included as casualties of the war,
    & be included in a new part of the memorial wall. Later, on my TDY at
    Hickham AFB, I was the ranking airman on a small AF crew that loaded
    30 million pounds of material to support the last atmospheric H Bomb
    tests at Christmas & Johnston islands. (project Blue Straw). Because
    of our above top secret clearance we personally transferred scores of
    caskets without flags or honors from rickety commercial DC-4s coming
    to the Hickam side of the big airport, returning remains, 5 to 10 weekly
    of rangers & CIA personnel who had been killed in- theater in Vietnan.
    This remained a state secret for years.
    I swear on my mother’s memory that this is a factual account.

    • 10-20-2019 I believe you Allan, I believe you. Is there any way to find out where they were going with those caskets without flags or honors, those returning remains of Rangers and CIA personnel, killed in Vietnam? Where do they bury the unmarked caskets?

  • As a ‘Monday Morning Quarterback’ it seems the tanker which saw the airborne explosion at 1:30 AM local, and investigated for 5 1/2 hours, may have left area too soon. Seems like any debris would have been easier to spot in daylight hours. Tanker appears to have departed shortly after sun rise.

  • I was supposed to go to Lackland AFB for training as a dog handler. a number of other men from my MP training class at Ft. Gordon did go but I was recruited into the Army Security Agency and my orders for Lackland were changed. Upon arriving at Ft. Dix a week late because of an accident I was in while home on leave I saw another member of my training company who was going to the same place I was overseas. He asked if I had heard about the guys who went to dog school and told me they had been on flight 739 headed to Nam and that our field first sergeant was on the plane too. He also mentioned that the other Flying Tigers flight had been carrying the dogs and had crashed in the Aleutians.. Never heard anymore but found other cargo manifests that list more than just Special Forces men, including other GIs and some Veit Nam soldiers as well. Had I not been recruited into the ASA I guess I would have been on Flight 739 too?

  • I am haunted every day over the event of the loss of two fellow soldiers
    that were on flight 739. I was stationed at the Army Pictorial Center at
    3511 35th street in Long Island City, New York along with Sgt James Twitty and Sgt Lucius Croft. I was in line in the mess hall that was directly across the street from the studio when Sgt Croft asked me “why aren’t you in the dispensary getting your shots?” I said “shots for what.” He said “you are going with us to Vietnam as assistant cameraman.” Sgt Twitty was going as Director, Sgt Croft as cameraman and I supposedly as assistant cameraman. My MOS was 841.20 Combat Motion Picture Cameraman recently. graduated from motion picture school at Ft. Monmouth, NJ. I was working in the instrumentation division assigned to a special project providing photographic support for the development and testing of the Nike Hercules Missile system running missions on the east coast and White Sands range near Ft Bliss in El Paso, Texas. Apparently I was put on orders to replace one of our soldiers that disgraced our unit at Ft Bliss and before orders to go to Vietnam were cut so I went to El Paso instead of Vietnam. I am trying to do what I can to have all of the names of the soldiers on flight 739 added to the Memorial Wall for soldiers lost to the Vietnam war. Sgt Croft had a daughter that was 6 years old when he was lost and my heart goes out to her and all of the families that lost loved ones. Neil Mengel M.S,T, Jacksonville Florida. still working in the Duval County Public Schools as a technician working on instructional equipment. May God Bless all of the families. [email protected].

  • I was notified of this posting today: Nov 11, 2018 by another surviving loved-one, Mark Johnston. It’s how we communicated that keeps us together in our plight to find the truth. Most of us have fought the same battles in Wash DC through the years getting to know brick WALLs instead of a black granite one. We have an honest plight, a truthful mission and the love we still have for our “disappearing loved-ones,” will NEVER fade. It is a grave injustice to throw this story under a granite rug, while in the meantime our loved-ones are DENIED HONOR, PEACE & LIBERTY on the WALL!
    Think about that Senators, Congressmen and President’s whom we’ve contacted over the years. They we’re all building that brick WALL that kept us out & in limbo – on purpose.
    There’s one story that I’ve heard only once, & I can’t believe that no one has taken it as seriously as I have. Right before our plane N6921C/Flight 739 left on it’s Air Force Contracted Mission, Kruschiev launched Sputnik; and to prove that it “could hit a target anywhere in the world,” he also launched one of the first ICBM’s. Yes folks a real possibility! It would explain the nuclear bright light! To tell the world this would devaste the political realm, including JFK. Think about it… My father, GEORGE MICHAEL NAU, USN Honorably Discharged in 1947, Naval Reserve & Civilian Flight Engineer will someday have his day in the sun, above the WALL, above the clouds!

  • Reading this brought back many memories… I was in the Air Force, and stationed at Anderson AFB Guam, and as a Radio operator I volunteered to fly on one of the Base C-54 Search missions for the Flying tiger Connie… Alternated operating one of the HF Radios and manning a Surface Scan station during the flight.. Failure to find anything was very frustrating.

    • 10-20-2019 Thank you Rod for your heart felt search. Thank you. What, if in fact the plane landed, and that it was all a cover and that was the reason it wasn’t found? If not, then they all died suddenly but without a trace?. If they landed, they did not come home so that means they were killed in action, captured or worse. The Government owes these brave souls the acknowledgement that #1: They existed, they had names and they had families. #2: They honored their calling without question and went willingly, #3: They served their Country to their very deaths. #4 The 107 deserve their names upon the Vietnam Wall. They and their families deserve the Purple Hearts, the Honors of the 21 gun salutes, the folding of the flags and presentations. They and their families are deserving of so much more

  • My Uncle Ernest Dixon ( my dads brother) was on this flight. It devastated my family, and we wish they could have found survivors or at least received information on what actually happened. My grandmother went to her grave thinking the plane had been hijacked and that he was still alive.

  • Edward Mycue, my uncle Bob Gazzaway was another pilot on this flight. My grandfather went to his grave in the late ’80s, still waiting for his son to show up after a mission he’d described as “secret, and probably long…”.

    • 10-20-2019 Hello David, I read about your Uncle, Second Officer Robbie J. Gazzaway, on the” Flying Tiger Line Archives – This Day in Aviation” (https://www.thisdayinaviation.com/tag/flying-tiger-line/). My father, George Michael Nau, was one of the two Flight Engineer’s on that plane. My mother also went to her grave waiting for her husband to return. I remember our family driving across the United States to the East Coast to visit relatives in Maryland and Wisconsin. Then we went to Washington DC, New York, Long Island and New Jersey so my father could attend training for this Mission a year prior when I was 13 years old. My mother begged him not to go. He left his wedding ring and ID, and she wrote his name all over his luggage. She went into shock after the knock at the door when she was told he wasn’t coming home and was never the same after that..

      • Laura, to correct the This Day in Aviation article, Uncle Bob’s name – actual given name, was Bobby Jean Gazzaway (my mother’s step-brother).

        Being a native of Texas, and extremely slight of build, he tended to be a little sensitive about his name; hence, the confusion in all the various reports.

        Bob served throughout WW2 as a Naval Aviator, flying carrier-borne fighters and torpedo bombers. Both of my father’s brothers served in the Navy as well, one serving as an enlisted gunner/bombardier/navigator in carrier-based torpedo bombers. In a strange coincidence, at one point, both Uncle Sid flew as Bob’s gunner, 20-some years before they were related by their parent’s second marriages (although they knew each other from high school, in Fillmore, CA). Both returned home from their war service with some humorous stories about their flying together.

        • Thank you David for your reply. My question is Robbie J Gazzaway and Bobby Jean Gazzaway one of the same? If so, was Robbie/Bobby on Flight 739? The reason I ask is I am alittle confused that you mentioned they both came home. Are you talking about from WW2?

          • Yes, Laura: the man listed (incorrectly) in the manifest as “Robbie J…” (birth certificate) “Bobbie Jean Gazzaway”; family and hometown friends referred to him as “Bob”.

            Apparently, one of the other FTL officers filled out the flight manifest, and listed Uncle Bob by a nickname, etc: I’ve personally never ever heard anyone from home refer to him as “Robbie”… and you durn-sure didn’t want to call a 5′ 4”, 130# country boy, “Jean” (Bob was VERY well known for being sensitive about both his size, and his “girlish” name, and brother, he could box a little!).

            And, by “returned home”, I was referring to their WW2 service. Post-war, Bob continued with his flying career, with Tigers, and other airlines, until his death with FTL 739.

            Sorry about my confusing anecdotes.

  • Sounds more like a missile hit them…..Quote “They first noticed a vapour trail or something similar overhead and slightly to the north of the tanker, moving in an east-to-west direction. At the time, the tanker was cruising on a heading of 077 degrees. The vapour trail passed behind a cloud and then there was an “intensely luminous” explosion consisting of a white nucleus surrounded by a reddish-orange periphery with radial lines of reddish-orange light. The explosion consisted of two pulses, lasting two to three seconds. ” Unquote.

    Some cold war exercise gone awry?

    • I would chalk it up to some kind of major fuel lead–or even a contrail. But then I know the aircraft being powered by four gasoline-high octane aviation fuel, any kind of lead, would/could lead to the type of explosion such as the ship’s crew spotted. And they might not have sailed to the spot on the ocean were debris would have fallen. Back then, it was a matter of estimation, rather than like using GPS. The error of a degree of angle, would have placed them miles away from where they needed to be. Now, if the aircraft exploded at 18,000 feet, and fell, the debris field could cover miles of ocean, depending upon how each piece fell, its weight, and the winds at the time. So even though the ship spent some time searching–they might have been searching in the wrong spots.

      • Thank you LJ Cook for your response. I guess we can speculate what might have happened but it sure would be a blessing if the Dept of Defense would set the record straight and release the records so the families could have closure and give these people on Flight 739 the Honors they deserve. Let us all pray together as one family and ask the Heavenly Creator, the Sovereign of the the Universe, for HIS intervention for the truth so we Will have closure and the 107 can finally Rest In Peace, I noticed on the News that one of the families went before Congress and presented the story of Flight 739 and Congress promised to work on a bill to address this. What ever happened to the FOIA located in Archives? I apologize, after 57 years of being told these people don’t have names (they don”t exists), the Flight was not a mission, it went down (which counter dicks the Aviation Accident Report) and that their names are not on any “LIST” and being stopped from presenting DNA to identify any remains (my legal right to do so) I’m alittle upset (Am I the only one?).Laura Nau, father George Michael Nau, Flight Engineer on Flight 739. I would like to know the truth.

  • Back in those days I was suppose to fly for the Tigers. I had at that time been working for UAL as a mechanic. Just before signing on as a Flight Engineer with the Tigers I was accepted with Pan American, Eastern Air lines and TWA.I chose EAL. I knew the F.E.on flight 739 as we both lived in the same town in MA. During the EAL strike in 1962 some 500 flight Engineers were fired from EAL, I now flew those same Tiger trips for companies called Saturn and Overseas National airways.I was now flying Douglas DC7’s and 6’s. With EAL we flew all series of the Connie’s and later on with ONA all series of the DC8 jets

  • With the new scientific, private submarines that exist today, I can’t believe that one of those companies hasn’t embarked on this mission, to locate any wreckage from this doomed flight. Unless it’s been prevented by the government. Has anyone tried to contact them to see if any of those companies would have interest in doing it as a documentary, if nothing else. Anything to get a real undersea search done.

    • If the plane exploded at the given altitude–the debris field could cover many square miles. Or, it might have been that the ship saw something like a meteor breaking up during its entry into our sky. Now, too, the floor of the ocean hides many things. There are large ships, that their location has yet to been found, and they settled to the floor of the ocean, mostly in one piece.
      The forces of something falling 18,000 feet, then hitting the ocean’s surface, would have caused all sorts of other damages to happen. So the idea of finding it via a search, like they found the Titanic, on other famous ships, would have very little to target onto.
      Read of the search for a crashed B-36 bomber off of San Diego, and then take a look at the final images of what they were able to locate. The bomber was a huge plane, six propeller engines and two jet engines. One caught fire, and the crew was able to bail out–except for the pilot, who stayed and steered the plane away from populated areas. And waited too long, or could not leave his controls alone long enough to bail out. But the present day remains–identified only because of certain items that survived the crash, resemble not the large aircraft. And finding it, took lots of effort.
      Just as a search for a German sub from WWI, up in the Los Angeles ocean area–failed to find it, but located an aircraft. But not one that they were also seeking. An older type jet aircraft, and it took lots of legwork to figure out what it was, and who flew it to its final resting place.
      Just because there are submarines that can get into the depths, does not mean they do not need to have some kind of idea of where to look.

  • Recently discovered that the subject of the Pulitzer award book “A Bright Shining Lie” by Neil Patrick Sheehan, the subject John Paul Vann, was supposed to be on Flight 739, pulled for lack of passport. Left days later, with passport. He was ASA. Finding more information proving the soldiers were ASA. Cover ups, secrets causing roadblocks in our efforts to get their names on the Wall. My father, Staff Sgt Melvin Lewis Hatt, Michigan

  • I have read with great interest most of the above. Can only try to imagine the loss and unfulfilled mystery on the loss felt by loved ones.

    Now, I am old enough to remember flying on piston engined airliners. Think DC6B’s operated by Ansett Airlines and TAA (Trans Australian Airlines) and living in Darwin (Northern Territory) and watching them at the airport as each engine was cranked over. Gouts of smoke on start up from oil that that leaked down the walls of the lower cylinders while at rest. There was always ground staff standing by with an enormous fire extinguisher. Why? Unburnt avgas would squirt out the exhausts as the engines were cranked. Yep. All of that.
    Enormous reciprocating engines of great complexity. Lots of vibration. Always vibration. That’s why the aircraft lavatories were usually located opposite the propellor arc.
    Maybe, maybe, while flt 739 was cruising at 18,000 ft a propellor blade separated, and it struck the fuselage in the forward cabin area. An explosive decompression would have resulted, leading to progressive but immediate structural failure of the fuselage and inflight break up of the entire aircraft.
    Propellor blade failure (due to metal fatigue etc) was not unknown in those times. It happened to an Ansett DC6 shortly after takeoff from Melbourne in April 1964. A blade let go, and, while it did not strike the fuselage, the resulting massive imbalance of the remaining two blades caused the affected (inboard) engine to partially tear loose. It was a near thing. The flight crew managed to land the plane. Their were about fifty pax on board.

  • My Father, SFC Edmond Saenz was on this fateful flight. He sent a post card to Mom from Hawaii and Guam. He mentioned me because I was suffering from sort of digestion problem Dr’s thought was celiac. Our Family was never the same after our Father died. He ledt behind a distraught Wife, 2 sons and myself, 1 daughter. I was never able to fill the void in my life, of the warm, kind and loving Man he was as a Husband and Father. After 58 years, I still feel so lost without him in my life. My brothers and I and Mom have all suffered from some sort of mental illness and we are all so estranged. My oldest brother walked away from the family and my middle brother committed a horrific crime. I have never been able to find a man in my life I could compare to from the wonderful stories ive been told of how my Father was like in life. So devoted to his Family. So loving. Great senae of humor. And he adored Mom. They grew up in San Fernando Valley as neighborhood kids. He was just a few years older than her. When he came into town during Liberty moments between the Korea War and the European War, he used to let Mom borrow his car to go drive around with her girlfriends. He took her to a dance one night and on the way home he pulled over. He asked her to come see the World, get away from her mean Filipino Father and to have a family with him. She wasnt in love with him. He was more like a brother to her. But he insisted and said he would not take her home until she said “Yes”. When she finally got tired of saying “No” she finally said yes just so he would take her home. He came back the next day with an engagement ring. He aaked my Grandfather for her hand in marriage. He was an old fashioned Filipino Man and wouldn’t give his consent. It didnt matter, fhey married 2 weeks later. She learned to love him and eventually fell in love with him. He treated her like a Goddess. To this day, I’m still depreased I never found a Love in my Life like him. He is THE LOVE AND LIGHT of my LIFE. I miss him and I still cry all the time from depression. I really wish President Trump would open the case and consider their names on the Vietnam Wall. Maybe we should ask Kim Kardashian to help. She might have some pull.

    • You are so brave in telling me and those on this site your story for they grieve along with you. I understand how very much you hurt and my heart cry’s out with yours. I believe as you, that all the families who lost their loved ones on this mission, have been wronged. The Dept of Defense is denying us the right to truth and transparency ,the right to submit DNA, and denying all those aboard Flight 739 the Honor the United States of America, for which they gave their all to defend and protect, the right to receive. It is unconscionable. I believe Kim Kardashian would help if we could tell her our story. Our family resided in the San Fernando Valley too and are also estranged.

  • I was on duty in the dispatch office of Flying Tiger Line at Tachikawa AFB Tokyo that night. It was unbelievable that we should loose 2 L-1049H Constellations in one night. I had flown on that aircraft several times while working for FTL in Europe. I didn’t personally know any of the crew but I did know the Captain of the L-1049H that crashed in the Illusion Island that night. That accident was put down to Pilot Error. For several days after the disappearance of 23C, C-124 Globemasters where flying from Tachikawa to Guam to help search for wreckage and many airmen from the base volunteered to ride along as observers. A sad piece of our airline’s history.

  • I remember in 1967, Okinawa, we had a C-133 (“banana boat”) go down in the ocean. This one was unusual in that it was the first one that had actually been found. One of the guys from our avionics shop (forget the name, sorry) volunteered to be helicoptered out to the still-floating tail to recover the fight recorder. Up to this time, we had C-133’s vanish without a trace over the Pacific, utterly baffling us. I never found out what happened (there was a war going on) but it does show how these things can occur without any closure. Witness the Amelia Earhart mystery. The Pacific Ocean is a vast place and holds many maritime and aeronautical secrets

  • I have been trying to have DNA submitted to help identify any remains of my father, George Michael Nau, Fight Engineer, coming back from the Vietnam war and repeatedly I have been denied. The last response i received said “Due to legal issues we are unable to pursue this case.” What legal issues? And isn’t it my Civil Right to submit DNA? 1962 to 2020 is 58 years since the Department of Defense classified the file, shouldn’t be declassified by now? Also, the Bill S. 1891 – Flying Tiger Flight 739 Act Introduced to 116th Congress to provide for the inclusion on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall of ONLY the names of the soldiers and NOT the 11 crew members (men AND WOMEN) who were also on that flight has gone NO WHERE! ALL of America should be wondering WHY

  • My Uncle, Ernest T Dixon, was on the Flying Tiger 739 on that fateful night in 1962. He was my father’s brother and he was an amazing man that the entire family adored. He was from a large tight-knit family (he had 9 brothers and 2 sisters). Several of his brothers were career military. My grandparents were devastated not knowing what actually happened and it hit them hard, but they were strong and moved forward with life. I was only 12 years old and I remember where I was when I heard the news about Uncle Ernest. I remember how the entire family gathered to mourn and pray for them to be found. That day never came! We do not want them to be forgotten for their sacrifice and are so grateful that someone is fighting to get all of their names on the Vietnam Memorial and hopefully one day they will be successful. I did see on Facebook that there has been a groundbreaking for a memorial in South Portland, Maine that has been spear-headed by a family member. My family would love to know more about it and would like to be at the grand opening ceremony. Many thanks to all that have worked so hard to get this accomplished. Love to all who serve this country and to those who give their all, as these beautiful souls did.

  • my name is Jen and looking for family members who may not have reached out to me yet in regards to the Monument that is being erected in honor of All who were on the plane including my uncle SP4 Donald A Sargent. Please send me your email and your family members name at [email protected]. I want everyone to get an invitation to attend the unveiling so I look forward to hearing from you.

    • To (Mr, Mrs. or Ms) T.S. Musser, I assume you do not know what DNA is or how it is compared to establish a match in identifying remains. His brother or his son’s DNA are the closest matches to my fathers DNA. I would be the next closest match. You talk as though it is an possibility, please do your research. It is my civil right to have DNA submitted. Wouldn’t you agree this is similar to a Criminal Cold Case? My father was sent (along with 106 other human beings) on a “Special Mission” by the United States Government on a Government Chartered airplane that mysteriously disappeared. There is NO evidence the airplane exploded or was shot down and every chance it continued on it’s mission and landed, Therefore, with remains coming back from that area what is missing is OUR DNA and submission of it is being DENIED and NOT on file for comparison. By the way, who are you?

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