Sunday, December 9, 2012

Did Lt Cody Survive?

Ernest Dewitt Cody and Charles Adams vanished without a trace on August 16, 1942.
It's a fundamental "fact" of the mystery surrounding the L8.Two men enter and viola, they disappear without a trace.
That is unless you read their DOD files and then you will have to reconsider whether that really was the case.
Ernest Dewitt Cody's wife, Helen, wrote the Bureau of Naval Personnel on August 22, 1947 to report that her mother had seen Lt. Cody, alive, but dazed and confused.
I am the widow ( now remarried ) of the above Naval Officer who was reported missing by your department on 17 August 1942, and officially reported deceased on 17 August 1943.
Lt. Cody was on a routine patrol flight in a lighter-than-air craft off the coast of San Francisco at the time he disappeared. The ship was based at Moffett Field, California, and crashed in Daly City, California, on 16 August 1942 with everything in flying order and intact, but no one aboard. As your department knows, no trace was found of Lt. Cody nor his co-pilot.
I wish to report that my mother says she saw Lt. Cody in Phoenix, Arizona, this past Spring, and that his eyes looked peculiar, as though he were suffering from shock, or a mental illness. To me it is possible that he might be alive, and be suffering from amnesia, or that a head injury may have caused loss of memory.
My mother did nothing to stop him due to the fact that I am remarried and have a child by this marriage, and she didn't want to "stir up" old memories. At the time I was living in New York City, but have since moved to Phoenix. That is her reason for telling me at this time and not at an earlier date. She was afraid I might see him and that it would be too great a shock. (She, herself, suffered a bad case of shock and was ill for a week afterward).
Merely to emphasize my belief in my mother -- she knew Lt. Cody well, loved him, and would not make a mistake any more than I, should I see him. Also, I have never hoped for his return because the Captain of the station told me not to -- that it would be better for me to face facts and start a new life. For that reason, I am asking your help in checking this clue, not for any whim of mine, but because I would like to see Lt. Cody reunited with his family if he is living.
Will you please check this matter?
Thank you very much.
              Very truly yours,
                 Helen H. C. Delamater
If you have read or seen accounts of the L8 mystery, by now you might have a favorite theory about what went on surrounding the disappearance of the men aboard the gondola that morning, and theory in hand, might wonder if this fits the mold.
Did one fall out into the water, the other exiting safely at some other time?
Did both fall and was it possible that a person could survive a fall from the height of between 600 and 900 feet?
Does this mean that the men made land and this was why no bodies were found?

I had considered the idea that either one caused the other to fall to his death, intentionally or accidentally, and then walked off the L-8 when it first rolled into the beach near the Grand Highway, it's first contact with solid earth.

There were multiple witnesses that make this impossible. In fact, two witnesses were seen by another passerby who reported that the L-8 pilots were safe but had fallen into the water. It turns out that a passing librarian saw two men struggling with the deflating L-8 in the ocean surf. She assumed that the two men were the Navy officers trying to wrangle the L-8. She was the mysterious caller who said that the L-8 had crashed but the pilots were safe. A short time later a second call reported that the pilots were not present at the crash scene.

Had one or more people been aboard the L-8 at landfall these two men would have seen them.
So we can only conclude that the two men "left" before rolling over the beach and into the golf course where it would temporally sit.

So we come to the next question to consider. Can someone falling from a height of 600 to 900 feet survive the fall?

One established fact is that both parachutes were still aboard the L-8.

I found documents from that period that were used for training soldiers to jump. The minimum height to land was determined by the amount of time it took to open the parachute fully and decelerate to a rate where the person would survive. The minimum was roughly 575 feet. German soldiers were told that the minimum was about 100 feet lower.

My first thought was about human psychology. People will grasp at straws in the odd hope they'll survive even if the numbers don't add up. People will jump from a high building to get away from a fire. So I can't imagine if the blimp were going down or in distress that these two men -if they had time to think - would decide to jump without parachutes even if they were obviously too low. They were most likely high enough. So why not use the parachutes.

The obvious solution is that they didn't have time or they didn't chose to leave of their own accord.
They left too quickly or were unconscious to step into a parachute no matter how futile if they were that low.

That made me start wondering what height a person could fall from and survive. I found a fantastic paper on just that subject that described real instances of people who fell from planes, had parachutes that didn't open and other falls from heights that I would have assumed meant an automatic death sentence.

To my surprise people have fallen from planes flying at tens of thousands of feet and lived!

I'm not being flip when I say it's not the fall but the sudden stop that kills you!
It's the rate of deceleration that determines whether a person lives or dies.

It all comes down to physics and fate but it is possible that someone could fall from a blimp into the water and live. You'll recall that the two parachutes were still on board the L-8 when it was recovered. So if they fell it was sans parachute they could have survived.

I found a paper on incidents involving survivors of falls from great heights and one thing that they had in common was brain damage similar to what Cody's mother-in-law reported as his state of mind. Survivors suffered from similar symptoms.

This new piece of evidence gives us new avenues of speculation on what happened and the fate of the pilots.

This started out as such a simple mystery but I keep finding the trail leads in the most interesting directions.


1 comment:

Comments should be topical and civil. Questions are welcome but I may not be able to always supply answers. - Otto