S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

Archive for the tag “China”

Book Review: Traveling the Silk Road

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Rating – 3 Stars

 

This is a heavy and beautiful book. Its design, execution, printing, and binding is extraordinary and professional. It is a “coffee table” travel book of startling heft in weight and content. Starting in Xi’an, China, the narrator leads us by the hand and we vicariously travel the Silk Road. We stop at Turfan, Samarkand, Bagdad, and Constantinople (Istanbul). At each stop we learn of the history of the place and its importance in sustaining the flourishing trade on the Silk Road. Though goods and all manner of merchandise (including slaves) traveled both ways, perhaps the most important commodity was the exchange of ideas, language, and learning.

The photographs are outstanding as are the reproductions of ancient artwork, scrolls, and porcelains. This is a book of learning for the ordinary folks.

Unfortunately, this tome has several major negatives:

  1. The failure to publish topographic maps in appropriate scale is unforgivable. Not once do we see the various tails of the Silk Road from Xi’an to Istanbul on one panoramic map. Throughout, the narrator describes a geological or man-made feature, and without a relevant map, we’ve no idea where it is or how it relates to the area. The maps included are art rather than functional information.
  1. All too often, the writing is pedestrian and at time is patronizing. For example, on page 141, “…whom we’ve already learned about.” On page 124, while telling about the Turfan area, the narrator discusses the clever method the folks captured water from the mountains’ snow and use it for irrigation: “…the water carried from the mountains is guaranteed to remain plentiful.” No water supply is “guaranteed” to remain plentiful indefinitely.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton!

Book Review: Air War Over Khalkhin Gol: The Nomonhan Incident

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Rating – Three Stars

From May to September, 1939, the Union of Socialists Soviet Republics and the Empire of Japan waged an undeclared war near the Khalkhin Gol (River) over the border between Soviet controlled Mongolia and the Japanese puppet state Manchukuo (formerly the Chinese Province Manchuria). In this little remembered war, casualties in men and equipment were exceedingly high in this vicarious conflict in the remotest and worthless real estate on the planet.

Kotelnikov presents a detailed account of the air war from the Soviet Union’s perspective.  In many ways, his account reminds one of the aerial “dog fights” over the Western Front in the Great War of 1914 to 1918. Unfortunately, his narrative fails to engender empathy in the audience. It’s a dry, statistical account, strung together in a continuous flow of text. The presentation would have been more comprehensible if he would have bulleted the data of the day-by-day air significant battles. His narrative has almost no personal details. We get some of the names of the Soviet and Japanese aviators but we do not get to know them—who they are, what they think, what they do in their off duty hours. The narrative is a dry telling of “just the facts.”

He fails to develop a broad perspective of this conflict. We do not understand very much about the war itself. He does not tell us what the war was really about (a continuation for control of the Pacific provinces—as in the Russo-Japanese war of 1904-1905?). We need some details about the ground war to understand the implications of the air war.  We need information about the belligerent’s political thoughts and implications. At the time, the Second Sino-Japanese war was in full force, and war clouds were building aplenty over Europe.

I fault Kotelnikov severely for not providing comprehensive maps of the conflict. The few maps he offers are miniscule and unreadable. On the positive side, he presents an array of black and white photographs of Soviet aircraft and airmen, beautiful color drawings of the aircraft involved, and a supplement that details the background of the aircraft, their specifications, and performance.

Read more by S. Martin Shelton

BOOK REVIEW: The Armies of Warlord China 1911-1928 by Philip Jowett

Armies of Warlord ChinaRating-Four Stars

This is a large (11” x 9”), heavy book–in weight and content. Jowett tells us just about everything we’d want to know about the history of the warlords of China that ruled the Northern provinces (and a few in the south). He laces his narrative with relevant photographs.

Unfortunately, the organization of this book is askew, and the narrative may need more copy editing. In the Introduction he relates a short history of China from the early 20th century to the early 1930s. Following is an extensive chronology of this history outlined in a bullet-type format where he introduces the warlords. Some of these entries are lengthy and introduce significant duplication of the information contained in the Introduction. There is also massive duplication of information in the subsequent pictorial biography of the major warlords and the captioned photographs of military activities.

I did enjoy the illustrated section of the aviation activities in the relevant time frame. The color drawings of the airplanes are well done and add credence to the narrative. There is also a section detailing the uniforms and equipment in the Imperial and Warlord Armies. The photographs of the warlords festooned in all their habiliments and the detailed drawings of the soldiers of the various armies in their uniforms are particularly informative.

The color pictorial of the badges and medals relevant to the National and Warlord Armies was excellent, but the captions are far too meager for the reader to understand their significance and order of importance.

This book is heady reading and designed for the cognoscenti of China’s milieu in that time period. It could be used as an important reference book for those seeking details of this not-well-known history of the Celestial Kingdom and the warlord wars (1929 to 1930).

BOOK REVIEW: 20th Century China, 3rd Edition

20th century chinaClubb weaves a heavy book loaded with the incredible history of the Chinese government from the Boxer Rebellion to the Death of Mao Tse-tung and a little beyond. I read this tome from cover to cover, including the notes. Conclusion: This is not a reading book. Rather it is a superb reference book that details the inner workings, intrigues and polemics of the players in the Nationalist and Communist governments. The meticulous index engenders a ready find.

Clubb’s writing is a tad academic and is loaded with an advanced vocabulary that sent me to the dictionary many times.

My biggest complaint is the lack of photographs of the myriad personalities, bureaucrats, military officers he discusses. Compounding the problem is that I, an English speaker, had a difficult time remembering and categorizing the wholesale number of foreign names with their function, relationships, and importance. After a hundred pages, the names become a Chinese blur.

Another negative is the appalling lack of maps. The narrative is especially difficult to comprehend when set in perspective without such important graphics.

Nonetheless, 20th Century China is keeper and I’ll place it into my China bookshelf as soon as I finish this review.

BOOK REVIEW: The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China by David J. Silbey

box rebellionThis treatise on the Boxer Rebellion of 1900 in Shantung Province in northern China and in Peking is exceptionally well researched and told. Silbey has written this book with keen understanding and the perceptive knack to engulf the audience deeply into his chronicle. Of what I know of the Boxer Rebellion, I would suggest that this book is the most comprehensive and accurate of all other popular histories. Of note, he engages us in the big pictures and leads us skillfully into minute details of individual exploits and heroism.

I fault Silbey for not providing custom-designed, detailed maps of the various campaigns and a large-scale map of northern China with key geographic features and city names. This is a serious failure and negates a five-star rating. He does suffer us with six maps from that period that are minuscule and worthless—including one of the innards of Peking. The overall map of northern China that he does provide is small and inefficacious. Accordingly, it is extremely difficult to follow the coalition’s campaign up the Dagu River to relieve the besieged legations in Peking. Included in the coalition army were elements of the armed forces from America, Great Britain, Imperial Germany, France, Austria-Hungry Empire, Imperial Russia, and Japanese Empire.

He opens his book with an overview of western imperialism in China over the past fifty years. He details the negative effects this imperialism engendered on and the general populace’s emotions and on the Imperial government; led by the Dowager Empress Tzu-his (“Cixi” in the current Pinyin spelling) and Prince Duan of the fading Qing Dynasty. Compounding the contempts was the Chinese adversarial perception of the special privileges endowed on Chinese Christians by missionaries and the western powers.

The drought in the spring of 1900 in Shantung Province crippled the breadbasket of northern China. The idle and starving farmers and peasants convinced themselves that the imperial westerners caused the drought to further humiliate and dominate them. Without leadership, the Boxer movement evolved and morphed quickly into a ragtag fighting force throughout the province. Some few of the Boxers were students of the ancient Chinese martial arts collectively dubbed “ch’uan fa.” They slaughtered Christian converts, missionaries and their families, and even important westerners; for example, the Baron August F. von Ketteler, the German minister to the Imperial Throne.

The Boxers moved into Peking and laid siege to the foreign legations—ensconced behind the Tartar wall. The Empress Dowager Cixi made the fateful decision to declare war on “the invaders,” and ordered the imperial army to repel the aggressors. The collation forces fought spirited campaigns at the Chinese’s key forts and strong points along the Dagu River in their difficult campaign to relieve the besieged legations in Peking.

The Chinese, army supported by the irregular Boxers, mounted a spirited defense causing serious causalities among the collation forces. Unfortunately, they could not fight as a unified command because of international rivalries (Japan and Russia, for example), petty jalousies, and failure to develop of a comprehensive operations plan. Of note, credit goes to the Japanese whose bravery and innovative tactics forced the fall of the key city of Tientsin (Tianjin) and they led the way to the capitol.

Nonetheless, after fifty-five days collation forces reached Peking and relieved the legation. The peace treaty, the Boxer Protocol, was harsh and unforgiving to the Chinese—imposing a ₤67 million-indemnity and territorial concessions.

Buy the The Boxer Rebellion and the Great Game in China on Amazon.

Works by S. Martin Shelton

S. Martin Shelton’s Upcoming Novel

Ming Yellow CoverDuring the chaos that was China in 1935, Randall Kendrick, a wealthy American collector of fine oriental art, and his savvy daughter, Ingrid, embark on an adventurous quest to purchase a cache of extremely rare Ming yellow porcelains.  General Wu Pei-fu, the vicious warlord of Kansu Province, offers the porcelains for sale to the highest bidder. Traveling with Kendrick is the expatriate Australian photojournalist, Matt Drummond who focuses his eyes through his camera’s viewfinder and on Ingrid. Leading the Kendrick party is Wallace Chung, a suave young hustler who claims to have some connection with the warlord and first-hand knowledge about the porcelains.  The Kendrick party travels in a private railroad coach bound for Kansu Province in western China. Soon they are caught in the maw of China’s interior strife: dueling warlords, bandit gangs, marauding militias, Communist cadres, and elements of Japan’s Kwangtung Army.

Ming Yellow is scheduled to release Summer 2015. In the meantime, read a few of my other works on Amazon.

Book Review: Forgotten Ally by Rana Mitter

Rana_Mitter-Forgotten_Ally_ChinaRana Mitter has his premise exactly correct.  The 1937-1945 war in China is largely unknown and not long remembered.  In 1943, Allied leaders decided that the campaign in China was second tier in their long-term plan to defeat the Axis Powers—Germany, Italy, Japan, and other minor players.  Yet the Sino-Japanese war was critical to our final victory over Japan.  In all, approximately four-million Japanese troops were tied-down in the Kwangtung Army’s China campaign.  In the last chapter of this detailed tome, Mitter avers that if China had capitulated in 1938, as was a serious possibility, Japan’s imperial ambitions would have been significantly enhanced.  A pacified China would have encouraged Japan to invade British India and made their victory much easier.

Actually, the war in China began in 1931 when Japan’s Kwangtung Army seized China’s northeaster province Manchuria and set up a puppet government under the last Qing Emperor, Aisin-Gioro Puyi.

This book gives short shrift to the details of the war in China.  The war is but the stage for Mitter to detail the political machinations between the various players: personalities and governments. In all, it was the iron determination of Chiang Kai-shek, President of the Republic of China that kept China in the war—twenty million casualties and 500 million displaced persons.

President Roosevelt appointed General Joseph (“Vinegar Joe”) Stillwell as Chiang’s Chief of Staff.  In effect, Stillwell was the commander in chief of the Chinese army.  Unfortunately, the misunderstanding between Chiang and Stillwell morphed into vitriolic hatred that seriously hampered China’s war effort.   Chiang had to acquiesce to Stillwell’s authority because he desperately needed what help the USA was sending—initially over the Burma Road.  After Burma fell to the Japanese, Army Air Corps transport aircraft, based in India, flew over the Himalayas (“The Hump”) into Chunking.

Except for a few offensive strikes, China’s –man army fought a defensive war.  The notable was Stilwell’s disastrous 1943 campaign to recapture Burma with Allied troops—the vast majority was Chinese (“Chindits).

Of significance, Mitter almost ignores the American Volunteer Group (The Flying Tigers)—three squadrons of Curtiss P-40 aircraft operating in Burma and southern China and their outstanding victories over the Japanese’s Army aircraft.

This book is not an easy read.  It is more of a reference book for those deeply interested in the politics of China during the war years.

Malaysia Missing Flight

It’s now thirteen weeks since Malaysia Flight 370—a Boeing model 777 aircraft disappeared.  It’s not where the searchers heard the pings in the Indian Ocean: about one-thousand miles off the coast of western Australia.  Searchers are at a loss.  Flight 370 seems to have vanished into the ether, or elsewhere.

Today, I received an email written by Colonel Bryant Beebe, USAF (ret.).  Now, he flies a Boeing 777 for American Airlines. I’ve added a few explanations of his abbreviations in red parentheses.  After reading Colonel’s Beebe’s email, what are to conclude?

Here’s the Colonel’s email.

“Just a quick update with what I know about the Malaysia 777 disappearance.  The Boeing 777 is the airplane that I fly.  It is a great, safe airplane to fly.  It has, for the most part, triple redundancy in most of its systems, so if one complete system breaks (not just parts of a system), there are usually 2 more to carry the load.  It’s also designed to be easy to employ so 3rd world pilots can successfully fly it.  Sometimes, even that doesn’t work…as the Asiana guys in San Fran showed us.  A perfectly good airplane on a beautiful, sunny day…and they were able to crash it.  It took some doing, but they were able to defeat a bunch of safety systems and get it to where the airplane would not help them and the pilots were too stupid/scared/unskilled/tired to save themselves

There’s many ways to fly the Boeing 777 aircraft and there are safety layers and redundancies built into the airplane.  It is tough to screw up and the airplane will alert you in many ways (noises, alarms, bells and whistles, plus feed back thru the control yoke and rudder pedals and throttles.  In some cases the airplane’s throttles ‘come alive’ if you are going to slow for a sustained period of time)  All designed to help.  But, it’s also non-intrusive.  If you fly the airplane in the parameters it was designed for, you will never know these other things exist.  The computers actually ‘help’ you and the designers made it for the way pilots think and react.  Very Nice.

Now to Malaysia.  There are so many communication systems on the airplane.  3 VHF (Very High Frequency) radios. 2 SatCom (Satellite Communication) systems.  2 HF (High Frequency) radio systems.  Plus Transpoders and active, ‘real time’ monitoring through CPDLC (Controller to Pilot Data Link Clearance) and ADS B (Air Data Service) through the SatCom systems and ACARS (Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System) thru the VHF, HF and SatCom systems.  The air traffic controllers can tell where we are, speed, altitude, etc as well as what our computers and flight guidance system has set into our control panels.  Big Brother for sure!  However, most of these things can be turned off.

But, there are a few systems that can’t be turned off and one, as reported by the WSJ, is the engine monitoring systems (not sure what the acronym for that is, but I’m sure there is one….it’s aviation…there has to be an acronym!).  The Malaysia airplane, like our 777-200’s, use Rolls Royce Trent Engines (as a piece of trivia….Rolls Royce names their motors after rivers….because they always keep on running!)  Rolls Royce leases these motors to us and they monitor them all the time they are running. In fact, a few years back, one of our 777’s developed a slow oil leak due and partial equipment failure.  It wasn’t bad enough to set off the airplane’s alerting system, but RR (Rolls Royce) was looking at it on their computers.  They are in England, they contact our dispatch in Texas, Dispatch sends a message to the crew via SatCom (Satellite Communication in the North Pacific, telling them that RR wants them to closely monitor oil pressure and temp on the left engine.  Also, during the descent, don’t retard the throttle to idle…keep it at or above a certain rpm.  Additionally, they wanted the crew to turn on the engine ‘anti ice’ system as the heats some of the engine components.

The crew did all of that and landed uneventfully, but after landing and during the taxi in, the left engine shut itself down using it’s redundant, computerized operating system that has a logic tree that will not allow it to be shut down if the airplane is in the air…only on the ground.  Pretty good tech.   Anyway, the point was, that RR monitors those engines 100% of the time they are operating.  The WSJ reported that RR indicated the engines on the Malaysia 777 were running normally for 4 to 5 hours after the reported disappearance.  Malaysia denies this.  We shall see.”

Here are my thoughts.

  • It’s extremely difficult for an aviator to make a serious error in piloting the Boeing model 777.
  • To shut down all the communications system requires an aviator to have in-depth knowledge of the basic design of this aircraft.
  • One or both of the aviators of this aircraft colluded to divert this aircraft away from it’s intended course—to Beijing.
  • One or both of the aviators pirated Malaysia Flight 370.
  • This aircraft is elsewhere.  (I have an educated guess, but will refrain from disclosing it for now.)

Famous Missing Flights

Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared over six weeks ago. The primary search instrument is damaged, and for now, the hunt for this airplane is on hold.  Some of the searchers wonder if this airplane is in the wide area in which they are looking.   Meantime, let’s review some of the more famous aircraft disappearances.

 

8 May 1927.    Charles Nungesser and Francois Coli

Charles Nungesser, French flying ace with 43 aerial victories, and Francois Coli, his expert navigator, departed Le Borget airport, Paris, bound for New York City in their biplane dubbed L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird).  Their goal was to be the first persons to complete a successful transatlantic flight.  Sometime after they cleared the Irish coast, they disappeared somewhere in the North Atlantic.  Researchers did not fine the bodies or wreckage of the aircraft.  The fate of Nungesser and Coli has spawned a raft of conspiracy theories and is called the “Everest of aviation mysteries.”

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Charles Nunesser

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L’Oiseau Blanc (The White Bird)

 

8 November 1935.  Sir Charles Kingsford Smith and his co-pilot John Thompson “Tommy” Pethybridge.

 

Sir Charles Kingsford Smith, the famous Australian aviator and his co-pilot John Thompson “Tommy” Pethybridge were attempting to break the England to Australia speed record in their Lockheed Altar dubbed the Lady Southern Cross.  Currently that record was held by C. W. A. Scott and Tom Campbell Black.  The pair disappeared on their leg from Allahabad, India, to Singapore, somewhere over the Andaman Sea.  Searchers did not find wreckage or were bodies were recovered.

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Sir Charles Kingsford Smith

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Sir Charles Kingsford Smih and the Lockheed Altair, Lady Southern Cross

 

 

2 July 1937.  Amelia Earhart and Fred Noonan.

 

 Image: Amelia Earhart

During the summer of 1937, Amelia Earhart (famous aviatrix) and Fred Noonan (expert navigator) attempted to fly around the world in her Lockheed Electra model 10E.  Her planned course was to track as close to the equator as possible.  On 1st of June 1937 she departed the Oakland Airport.  After numerous stops en route. she landed at Lae, New Guinea, on  29 June.  Completing minor repairs, she departed Lae on 2 July, at 1000 hours, local time.  Her goal was Howland Island, a spec in the Pacific, about 2,200 nautical miles east.  She made several en route position reports.  But on her approach to Howland, some 300 miles out, and for reasons we do not know, she became disoriented.  She tried to communicate with the Coast Guard cutter Itasca, her guide ship stationed at Howland, but failed to get a bearing on this ship.  No trace of the Electra or her or Noonan have been found.  [For a more detailed story regarding Amelia Earhart please see my anthology titled (Aviators, Assassins, and Adventurers).]

 

18th March 1937, American aviator Miss Amelia Earhart is pictured with her ,Flying Laboratory in which she is attempting to fly around the world from her oakland, California, USA base

Amelia Earhart and the Lockheed model 10E

 

 

29 July 1938 Pan American World Airways, Martin M-130 Flying Boat

Early in the morning of 29 July 1938, Pan American World Airways Martin M-140 flying Boat Hawaii Clipper lifted off from Apra Harbor, Guam, bound for Manila—about 1,400 nautical miles west and about a twelve-hour flight.  Hawaii Clipper’s registration number was NC14714 and its call sign was KHAZB.   On board were nine crew members and six passengers

 

 

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Pan American World Airways, Martin M-130 Flying Boat

 

 

 

Every half-hour, William McCarty, the Flight Radio Operator and Navigator, transmitted to Manila and Guam a position report and weather conditions. His last report, at noon, was routine: altitude is 9,100 feet, ground speed is 112 knots, scattered rain, and cumulus clouds with tops at 9,200 feet. At the time, the Hawaii Clipper was about 680 nautical miles out from Manila. During the next several minutes, Eduardo Fernandez, radio operator at Radio Panay (Manila), tried to raise the Hawaii Clipper—to no avail. His numerous radio requests for information during the next ninety minutes to the aircraft went unanswered. At 13:30, Pan American officials in Manila declared the Hawaii Clipper missing and broadcasted the distress call on 121.5 mega-cycles to all stations. This distress call was repeated every five minutes for twenty-four hours.  No trace of this flying boat has been found.

 (To read more about this story please see my anthology titled Aviators, Adventurers, and Assassins.)

14 December 1944.  Glenn Miller (famous big-band leader of the 1930s and 1940s)

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Major Glenn Miller, USAAF

 

Major Glenn Miller boarded the Noorduyn UC-64 “Norseman” shortly before it departed from the Royal Air Force Base at Clapham, Bedforshire in the United Kingdom bound for Paris.  Glenn Miller was to lead his Army Air Force band in concerts for soldiers.

 

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Noorduyn UD-64

 

 

The Norseman disappeared over the English Channel.  No trance of Miller, the pilot, or the aircraft have been found. There are no tangible clues to this tragedy.  The Glenn Miller Orchestra was one of the most famous of the big-bands.  His signature tunes were: Moonlight Serenade, Chattanooga Choo Choo, String of Pearls, Pennsylvania 6-5000, Tuxedo Junction, In the Mood, and Elmer’s Tune

 

5 December 1945.  Navy Flight 19

 

It was a bright, sunny day.  At 1410 on 5 December 1945, five Grumman TBM Avengers, comprising Flight 19, departed Naval Air Station Fort Lauderdale.   Turning east, the formation headed out over the Atlantic on the first leg of a routine training exercise. The flight leader was a flight instructor and the other well-qualified pilots had between 350 to 400 hours flight time.

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Grumman TBM Avengers

 

At 1545 hours the flight leader transmited, “Cannot see land,” he blurts. “We seem to be off course.”   A few minutes later he said, “We cannot be sure where we are,” the flight leader announced. “Repeat: Cannot see land.”  Shortly another aviator said, “We can’t find west. Everything is wrong. We can’t be sure of any direction. Everything looks strange, even the ocean.”  Later the tower operators heard, “It looks like we are entering white water.  We’re completely lost.”  For a few moments, the pilot rambles incoherently before uttering the last words ever heard from Flight 19.

Radio contact was lost before the exact problem was determined, and no traces of the planes were ever found in the Bermuda Triangle. Nothing from Flight 19 has been found.

Adding to the mystery of Flight 19, a Martin PBM seaplane with a 13-man crew was launched to search for the missing TBM aircraft.  For reasons we do not know, it also disappeared and has no trace has been found.

 

23 November 1953.  Northrop F-89C.

On the evening of November 23, 1953, operators at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan Air Defense Command Ground Intercept radar identified an unusual target near the Soo Locks. The Duty Officer ordered an F-89C Scorpion jet from Kinross Air Force Base scrambled to investigate this radar return.  First Lieutenant Flex Eugene Moncla was the Scorpion pilot; Second Lieutenant Robert L. Wilson was the Scorpion’s radar operator.

Wilson had problems tracking the object on the Scorpion’s radar, so ground radar operators gave Moncla directions towards the object. Flying at 500 miles per hour, Moncla eventually closed on the object at an altitude about 8000 feet.

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Northrop F-89C Scorpion

                                                      

Ground Control tracked the Scorpion and the unidentified object as two “blips” on the radar screen. The two blips on the radar screen grew closer and closer, until they merge into one radar return.  Assuming that Moncla had flown either under or over the target, Ground Control thought that the Scorpion and the object would again appear as two separate blips Rather, the single blip disappeared from the radar screen, then there was no return at all.  Attempts were made to contact Moncla via radio, but this was unsuccessful. A search and rescue operation was quickly mounted, but failed to find a trace of the plane or the pilots.

Some wags claim that the Scorpion was captured by a Unknown Flying Object (UFO).

 

16 March 1962.  Lockheed L-1049. Super Constellation.  Flying Tiger Line, Charter Flight 739:

Lockheed Super Constellation

Lockheed L-1049. Super Constellation

This U.S. military flight departed Anderson Air Force Base, Guam, bound for Air Force Base, Clark Field in the Republic of the Philippines.  On board were approximately 96 passengers and eleven crew members.  Flight 739 disappeared over the Western Pacific without a trace.  The pilots did not broadcast a distress radio call. If they used visual identification methods, such as flares or markers they were not seen.   The U.S. Civil Aeronautics board ruled that it was “unable to determine the probable cause of the incident.”  All 107 souls were declared missing and presumed dead.

FIN

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Malaysian Flight #370…What Next?

This is the 38th day of the search Malaysia Flight 370.  Yesterday, eleven aircraft and “about” as many ships were searching in an area about 24,000 square-miles: In an area located about 1,400 miles northwest of Perth.  (The search area seems to change almost daily.)  Here’s the update: the searchers have not heard any pings from the Flight 370’s black box for six days.  They’ve concluded that the black box’s battery is dead.  Air Chief Marshall Angus Houston, head of the search effort, noted that acoustic searching is terminated, and that because they have no visual clues he’ll terminate visual search efforts in the next few days.

Yesterday, sailors on the Australian ship Ocean Shield launched the US Navy’s Bluefin-21, an underwater towed autonomous vehicle that maps the ocean floor.   It takes twenty-four hours to complete a Bluefin-21 mission: two hours to descend to the Ocean’s floor, sixteen hours to map, and two hours to ascend; then it takes four hours to download the information, and I cannot estimate how long it takes to interpret and plot the data.

About six hours into its first mission, controllers maneuvered the Bluefin-21 to exceed its maximum safe depth, about 14.800-feet deep (2.8 miles), and they terminated the mission.  (How about telling us why.)   The Bluefin-21 was returned to the surface.  As of this afternoon, there is no information regarding the next Bluefin-21 operation—if any.   What’s next?

I did find an article in which Houston noted that HMS Echo has equipment that can help map the seafloor and is in route to the search area,   He did not give an estimated time of arrival or what is the operations plan.

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