Wading through claim after claim is enough to make a clergyman curse. Being a classical student, I have reverted to Latin to attempt to avoid offending the ears of the virtuous around me. Suffice it to say that Shoemaker’s claims are pure scattaurus.
There is a virtual paper trail on these aircraft. Facts are easily accessible to contradict everything Shoemaker claims. The most damning are the “Yellow Sheets,” the Daily Inspection Sheet for each aircraft. They were saved and are a part of all the paperwork amassed by the Board of Inquiry. The pilot had to fill out these plane chits before checking out the plane. The chit was marked with the number of the plane in the upper right corner and lower left by the plane captain. The pilot had to sign for the plane, date it, write the flight number down, the type of flight and then his crewmen’s names.
Bossi’s plane, T-3, the plane that he flew and vanished in, was checked out by him, signed in his own hand, timed at 1:45 p.m., the same time as all the other yellow sheets were filled out by the other pilots of Flight 19. T-3 had been checked out earlier by a pilot with the initials MJK but then the flight was canceled and a line was drawn through the flight details and his name erased. “No Flight” was scrawled on the bottom of the page (not in scan). The same thing happened to Gerber’s plane. This was not uncommon.
The Board of Inquiry concluded: “Findings of Facts No. 7 That. Joseph Tipton Bossi, Ensign (A1)L, U.S. Naval Reserve, File No. ----- was the authorized pilot who signed for and accepted for flight TBM-1C, BuNo. 45714, for Flight 19 on the afternoon of December 5, 1945.” BuNo. 45714 is FT-3.
Shoemaker must be unaware of the official documents extant regarding Flight 19. His claim is tantamount to saying that he checked out T-3, that Bossi checked out some other plane but that it would not start so they switched on the field, Bossi climbing into T-3, Shoemaker gratuitously letting him take his place. The “Yellow Sheet” for Torpedo 3 makes it clear no such switch happened.
The Testimony of Lt. Stephen B. Smith, Naval officer in charge of Air-Plot.
Question 2 of the Board: “What are your particular duties?”
A. “As officer in charge of Air Plot, I supervise all the flying operations, including assignment of planes for flights and personnel involved. All plane captains and line personnel are directly under me.”
Question 5 of the Board: “How are Daily Inspection Sheets (Yellow Sheets) handled at Naval Air Station, Fort Lauderdale?
A. “. . .Before the warmup in the morning, the plane captain inspects his plane, supervised by the crew leader and as soon as the plane has been inspected and turned up, the crew leader gives us thumbs up and then goes and signs all yellow sheets for his crew. That has been the set up for a year and a half.”
All planes were checked out in working order each morning. Those planes that did not pass inspection were not used for the day until repaired. Warm up for an Avenger is 20 minutes (usually). Big monster machines like Avengers simply didn’t start and taxi away. If Bossi’s plane didn’t start, he had more than enough time to get another. He would not need to run down the field and ask another pilot to get out spur of the moment!
As to that, one could not even do that. Once you were assigned to a plane, that was your plane. You simply can’t play “musical planes.” Also, Avengers had no brakes. There was a holding brake. The pilot had to keep this depressed if he needed to switch crew, but if he let his foot off . . .obviously you could not switch pilots. The engine would have to be shut off to allow pilots to switch.
Many officers testified before the Board of Inquiry. Anybody remotely associated with the planes had to give account and explain the slightest variation in performance that day. The tower operator, Rolland Koch, had to testify about which pilot called him for taxi instructions. Arthur Curtis, the aviation duty officer, was asked if anything unusual happened. And one of the 5 surviving members of Squadron 79M, the 9-man training squadron to which Stivers, Bossi, Powers, and Gerber belonged, was asked about what their instruction had been like in Miami. In 500 pages of testimony and ancillary documents, there is no Calvin Shoemaker. Anybody who was near those planes had to testify. How much more someone who claimed he was scheduled to take that flight, and even claims a discrepancy in starting a plane and a mad dash across the field saved his life?
Shoemaker’s claims go on and become even more bold. He usurps Robert F. Cox’s very documented position in the ground drama of Flight 19 by claiming it was he who approached the “Operations Officer” at sunset and requested to man the Ready Plane and search for the flight.
Shoemaker also creates a maverick Ensign Bossi: