3 min read

We have been inundated by speculation on the missing Malaysian 777 but nowhere have I seen the event connected to another eerily similar event from over 50 years ago, on March 14, 1962 to be precise.


Flying Tiger 749, a Lockheed Constellation like this one, disappeared between Guam and the Philippines.

On that day a Flying Tiger Line Lockheed L-1049 Super Constellation left Guam en route to Clark Field in the Philippines. It was on a multi-stop (for fuel) trip from Travis Air Force Base in California to Saigon. There were 107 people on board; 93 were jungle-trained Army Rangers en route to South Vietnam.

Eighty minutes after leaving Guam, the pilot radioed a routine position report. Another position report was due just over an hour later but it never came. Guam attempted to contact the flight but was not successful and the aircraft was not seen or heard from after that.

The search that commenced was the largest sea and air search in the Pacific to that date and the record probably stood until the search for the Malaysian 777. Ships and airplanes from four branches of the service searched more than 200,000 square miles over the course of eight days.

The only clue was a report of what appeared to be an in-flight explosion from the crew of a tanker along the route. No trace of wreckage or debris was ever recovered.

Newspaper front page

Despite worldwide news coverage and a massive search, the Connie was never seen.

Just as now, there was speculation and examination of conspiracy theories. One related to the fact that another Flying Tigers Connie headed for Vietnam crashed on the same day. It encountered difficulties and crashed and burned in the Aleutian Islands. Flying Tiger Lines said either or both could have been sabotage but added that this was a “wild guess.”

The tanker crew that observed what could have been an in-flight explosion went to the area where objects were thought to have fallen into the sea but after a six hour search they had found nothing.

The accident report said only that Flying Tiger Line 739 had been destroyed in flight.

Of course there is little similarity between the Super Connie and the 777. The Connie had temperamental piston engines that were pushed to the max where the 777 had those reliable turbines.

The communications and navigation gear was a world apart, too, and today satellites keep a constant watch on just about everything. The similarity is there, though, and I offer this just to show that this had happened before, and not just to Amelia.

How it finally works out for Malaysia 370 wasn’t known at the time this was written but for the sake of all concerned I hope more is learned than in the cases of Flying Tiger 739 and Amelia.

My thanks to Wikipedia for refreshing my memory of something that happened over 50 years ago. I remember thinking at that time that if something like that had to happen, best it happened on the way to Vietnam instead of after the soldiers had done their business there and were on the way home. But I guess I was thinking at least a little bit like a soldier because my Honorable Discharge was less than a year old at the time.

Richard Collins
20 replies
  1. Louis Sell
    Louis Sell says:

    Thank you Richard, good article.
    I was stationed at Guam in 1962 as a member of SAC. We had B-47s and a few C-54s for R&R. I was assigned to KC-97s which were TDY. Later in 1962/1963 we received converted KC-97s to C-97s for the R&R duty. The C-54s were shipped out and I was assigned to the C-97s. We also had the 54th weather Recon. Squadron with WB-50 assigned to Anderson, but they were not part of SAC.

  2. Andy Kopetzky
    Andy Kopetzky says:

    No one on TV has mentioned the similarities between this (MH-370)occurrence and Egypt Air 990 of 1999. As in the Egypt Air investigation there may be disputes of the cause between the various international agencies under the guise of political correctness and assessment of blame. The Egypt Air pilot was off to see Allah or so he said on TV.
    The 777 has an enviable safety record and the Malaysian authorities are finally admitting the fact that the left turn diversion and subsequent loss are the result of deliberate action, perhaps on the part of the crew. The dead giveaway was the disabling of the transponder.
    Have any passengers been investigated as having taken flying lessons such as the 911 terrorists?
    Thanks for the Connie article-way before 911 but still very relevant.

    • Gus valgdor
      Gus valgdor says:

      Do you still believe in terrorist attack in 911 ?
      Then you believe in Santa Claus !! Please there was an AUTOATTACK !

  3. Bob Brewer
    Bob Brewer says:

    I was stationed on Guam at the time in a Navy photo squadron that was involved with the search effort. I personally flew several of the flights including one when we were called out to photograph “debris” spotted from the air. Our photos, later confirmed by a ship, showed a huge tree bleached by sun and salt water floating with the roots near the surface.

    My most vivid memory is that it’s a big ocean out there and extremely difficult to spot anything even in calm seas.

  4. bobm
    bobm says:

    Tiger 739 was not the first. Don’t forget the Pan Am Hawaii Clipper which also vanished without trace between Guam & Manila on July 28 1938.

  5. Robert M Yocum Sr.
    Robert M Yocum Sr. says:

    Thanks Dick,great article thats the first time I heard about Flying Tiger Flight 739 story

  6. b fearn
    b fearn says:

    There was also a Trans Canada Airlines, now Air Canada, Lancasterian lost without a trace during WW2.

  7. Jerry Smith
    Jerry Smith says:

    I wonder. In the past when air planes have disappeared without a trace where there as many conspiracy theories born. Seems like there’s several countries connected to trying to find Malaysia Airlines Flight 370.

    Article from Fox News

    Australia authorities say signals reportedly detected by Chinese ship searching for Malaysia jet consistent with aircraft black box

    Seems an Australian may have heard a ping from the black box.


  8. Jerry Smith
    Jerry Smith says:


    Here is a list of missing air planes on Wikipedia, I have no idea if its compete & or correct.

    I will add this to my past post, here in modern times it would seem an air plane that went down in the ocean would be easier to be found, & found a bit faster than in yesterday years. But I still see that it can be difficult.

    And I do not see any brain dead comments, just opinions, & I understand how we can have different opinions. I have respect for the opinions of those who have flow a lot & it seems there’s several around here who have. And that’s why I made my previous post & this one too.


  9. Tom Reinke
    Tom Reinke says:

    On January 2nd, 1964 a Hill AFB C-124 inbound to Hickam from Wake Is went missing. Its aircraft commander Tom Cunningham had transferred to Hill after completing a tour at Hickam. He was one of my first aircraft commanders upon my arrival at Hickam in 1961. I was on Hot Alert when the news broke. My crew and I, along with a fleet of others, were the first to respond by the creation of a formation flight that flew at 1500′ to Wake and back without sighting anything. During our absence a massive search effort was organized which we became part of upon our return. The extent of the search was unbelievable with some flights conducted east of the big island! Nothing was ever found. Something like 10 days to 2 weeks later a Charleston C-124 crew enroute to Wake from Hickam reported seeing what appeared to be a life raft with persons on it in the prime suspect area. A resumed search revealed nothing. On one of these later missions I was the navigator in a grid southwest of Honolulu (about 250 nm) when one of our spotters reported seeing something. I immediately fixed our position and we began an intensive search of the area. Additional objects were spotted including what was reported to be a life jacket. A coast guard aircraft arrived on scene and dropped flares on the suspect objects and confirmed the jacket sightings. Later, just about sunset, a helicopter arrived on scene and pulled the jacket from the water. It turned out to be non-inflatable and it was presumed the flotsam was just discarded trash from a passing ship. That flight was the longest I ever had, over 19 hours. Sorry, Tom, I wish we had found you. RIP

  10. Mike greenleaf
    Mike greenleaf says:

    I would like to thank you all for the information and your post but I do not understand why the names of these soldier have not been added to the memorial wall can somebody answer this question for me my uncle was on the flight Roy Edward Greenleaf thank you

  11. Emory Wayman
    Emory Wayman says:

    I have been absent for some time, but now I remember why I used to love this website. Thanks, I’ll try and check back more frequently. How frequently you update your web site?

  12. GARY
    GARY says:

    My father was on this flight. I was three and a half, my brother was five and I still remember mom getting the telegram. There’s just too much to say here. I’ve missed him for almost 60 years. Some wounds just can’t heal…

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

  1. […] March 1962, during the Vietnam War, the U.S. Army Flying Tiger Flight 739 was carrying 96 soldiers and 11 crewmen from Guam to the Philippines when it vanished over the […]

  2. […] Malaysia 370 is not the first: Flying Tigers 739 was […]

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