They were a flying rocket. There was something far more “space age” about classic jets. There was something so “Jetson” about the era. But the modern era was at a loss to explain the mysterious disappearance of an F-104 Starfighter north of Bermuda on March 18, 1960. (This is often written up at a super sabre jet, but that is incorrect.)
I have long had the accident report, but it was something I never listed in detail on my last site. Now that I prepare a much more up-to-date and revitalized Triangle edition on the Quester Files, let’s take a look at this old and often glossed over mystery.
The date is March 18, 1960. Six F-104 Starfighters are on the tarmac at Kindley Field, Bermuda. They comprise Polly Alpha– the first section of 18 jets preparing to set off to Spain. The lead 4 were waiting in echelon. Polly Alpha 5 and 6 were further back as the element. The first 4 took off seconds apart. Polly Alpha 4 delayed slightly. Then after he was aloft, pilot Morris Larson reported his landing gear did not retract fully. No trouble, though. He said he would recycle the gear. His Starfighter was last seen darting up at a steep incline and then he entered the overcast.
The weather at Bermuda was cloudy, with a ragged top and a low haze layer. Low fog and rain storms were north off the coast, out several miles. The wind was a mild 10 knots.
Polly Alpha 4’s pilot Lt. Morris Larson signaled Kindley Field tower that the landing gear fully retracted and all was well. Radar confirmed he was 10 miles north of Kindley Field already.
Polly Alpha 5 and 6 had joined the leading three as element. Together they waited for Larson to join up. Yet Polly Alpha 4 was nowhere to be seen. Nor did Lt. Larson send any signal. The squadron tried to reach him. No answer. Kindley Field now tried, but there was no answer. Any worry that he might have crashed was forestalled by the fact Kindley Field tower reported no radar target had indicated he had fallen to the ocean. His last position was 10 miles north of Kindley. Then there was nothing. One sweep of the scope and he was gone.
Randy 12, one of the rescue choppers, was on the way. The fog was dense over the area, with 500 feet visibility. Occasional rain showers brought the visibility down to 300 feet visibility. Randy 12 reported sighting nothing. This wasn’t too worrisome. Since radar had not detected the Starfighter crashing, it was thought that Larson had broken out above the clouds and was at high altitude.
The scramble alarm was hit at Kindley Field. More F-104s and a T-33 were launched. They angled up sharply and pierced through the overcast and clouds. They had one object– search for contrails. Yet none were seen. Several choppers scanned the sea for days. No trace was ever found.
Radar reported Larson right about where the clear area of the satellite photo blurs with the un-photographed area of the Bermuda Rise (10 miles north of Kindley field on St. David’s Island.) The Bermuda seamount is chalked with wrecks. It is a diver’s mecca. The carnage of the rough seas are everywhere. Somewhere this space age edition of wreckage should be found, but there was no hard evidence the Starfighter ever crashed.
The legend of the missing Starfighter says that it entered a cloud and did not come out. To some extent this is true. It entered the haze layer, the pilot reported all was well and then he and his shiny silver jet vanished. The utter lack of evidence inspired a high altitude search, but there was no trace anywhere of what happened to Morris Larson.
Somewhere below the shallow water of the Bermuda Rise his shiny silver flying rocket is supposed to be. But no one has yet reported it. Like so many others in the Triangle, the records say the wreckage should be here, but in fact it is not. . . .or to date has never been found.
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Since 1990 Gian J. Quasar has investigated a broad range of mysterious subjects, from strange disappearances to serial murders, earning in that time the unique distinction of being likened to “the real life Kolchak.” However, he is much more at home with being called The Quester. “He’s bloody eccentric, an historian with no qualifications who sticks his nose into affairs and gets results.” He is the author of several books, one of which inspired a Resolution in Congress.