Joe Toppe Staff Writer
August 23, 2013
As I steered my plane away from the blue Atlantic and headed for the coastline of Florida, my spirit rejoiced at the thought of seeing my wife again.
But as our flight group pierced the beaches from overhead and I looked down to scan the landscape, I knew that we had missed our mark in time once again and my heart sank as a wilderness not yet touched by European hands spread out before us.
Getting home now, from what looked like hundreds of years in the past, would be impossible and I knew that I would never see my loved ones again and I would remain forever a displaced character upon the framework of time.
Just then, my eyes opened to the darkness of my bedroom, and as I struggled to readapt to what was once so familiar, I sat straight up in bed covered in perspiration and by the heavy shroud of dream.
It had only been a dream, a terrible nightmare made real by the cinema of the sleeping brain.
I immediately leaned over and placed my hand on my wife’s back and purposely startled her awake.
She could tell that I was rattled and mumbled, “what’s wrong, have a bad dream?”
“Yes,” I said. “But it was more than a dream and it seemed so real,” so real in fact that I could scarcely believe that I was sitting there in my own bed next to her.
Not able to go back to sleep, I made my way over the obstacle course of my son’s scattered toys to the kitchen for a drink of water and returned to the room to find my wife sitting cross legged on the bed.
“Tell me about your dream,” she urged. And so, I sat down and with a crooked smile and a sense of my own curiosity, collected my thoughts and said, “Sure, but you’re not going to believe this.”
It was December 1945 and my name was Lieutenant Charles Carroll Taylor.
I was a flight instructor stationed in Florida, and I was about to lead a navigation and combat training exercise called “Navigation problem No. 1”.
There would be five TBM Avenger torpedo bombers and 14 airmen under my command and although each of the plane’s clocks was missing before takeoff, I was confident that each airman had a watch and keeping time would not be an issue.
At the time of takeoff, the weather was favorable and there were no rough seas.
Our flight was to incorporate four legs, but we would complete only three. As we made our long turn into the fourth leg our compasses went out and we were lost.
I immediately contacted another flight and informed them of our situation. I told them we had become disoriented and did not know how to get back to Ft. Lauderdale.
As time went by, we tried a multitude of adjustments to determine our location but could not find the coastline.
I soon requested that all five of the planes bunch together in case we had to ditch.
Just then, the weather deteriorated and our flight was enveloped by clouds. A heavy rain began to fall and lightning twice struck my wing. I urged the crew to remain together as we were all running low on fuel and if we had to ditch in the ocean, I knew we would have a better chance of doing it together.
I was just about to issue the order to ditch when the weather suddenly cleared. The sun was setting in front of us now and a ribbon of lights from the coastline glowed on the horizon.
We had made it and a collective sigh of relief reverberated through the entire flight as our engines roared towards land.
But what awaited us below was something that only the cruel deity of nature and time could conjure as we were still lost, we just didn’t know it yet.