Miami, Fla., Dec. 7 (AP)—A sea and air armada was ordered out today to search 100,000 square miles of the Atlantic in a “last chance” effort to rescue 27 men who disappeared with five torpedo bombers and a missing rescue plane.
Aboard one of the missing bombers was Capt. George W. Stivers of Piedmont, Mo.
The Navy alone ordered 248 planes into the air, while 18 surface craft—including the escort carrier Solomons—numerous merchant ships and other searchers made it probably the biggest rescue effort of peacetime.
Two clues seemed sufficiently definite to remove some of the mystery concerning the disappearance of the entire formation of bombers, carrying 14 men, and the big Martin rescue craft with 13 on board.
One was word from a passing ship, the Gaines Mills, that it saw an explosion at sea off New Smyrna Beach at 7:50 p.m. Wednesday [December 5, 1945], and what appeared to be an airplane falling. That may have been the search craft.
The other clue was a report by the airport weather station at Miami that a large area of turbulent air rolled out of a storm centered over Georgia, swept over Jacksonville about noon and reached Miami by nightfall.
A meteorological freak—squalls on the surface, 40-mile winds at 1,000 feet, and full hurricane of 75 miles an hour at 8,000 feet—was recorded at 4 p.m. Such a development easily could have carried the torpedo planes miles out of their practice area.
The missing formation was last heard from at 5:25 p.m. and its location was given as 75 miles northeast of Cocoa, Fla. At that time the planes had slightly more than one hour’s fuel supply. They may have been as much as 200 miles at sea.
“Can’t tell whether over Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico,” the final message was reported to have said.
Capt. Stivers, a Marine Corps officer, is the son of Mrs. Nettie B. Stivers of Piedmont, Mo. He attended Western Military Academy, Alton, Ill., and was graduated from the United States Naval Academy in June 1942, choosing the Marines as his branch of service. He was cited for gallantry at Guadalcanal.
His father, G. W. Stivers Sr., a former representative in the Missouri legislature, died in 1939. The elder Stivers had been part owner of the Piedmont Journal-Banner and was an associate for several years of Sam Breadon of the St. Louis Cardinals in a Piedmont automobile agency.