On the 23rd of May 1969, Paul Meyer stole a Hercules C-130 from a US Air Force base in the UK. Not long after taking off, Meyer and the plane disappeared from the radar. The mystery remains unsolved.
What happened during and after this event has been subject to speculation for nearly half a century. Meyer's family have no answers as to what really happened on that fateful day, and we intend to shed light on the mystery.
Sgt. Paul Meyer was a Chief Mechanic with the USAF, based out of Mildenhall, UK. He was due to return home to Virginia in a month, where he would be reunited with his wife, Jane.
Paul was home-sick and desperate to return home. He had asked superior officers for an early leave, but was turned down.
But one month was too long to wait. After a night of heavy drinking, escaping police custody and being returned to his barracks, Meyer took matters into his own hands.He impersonated a Captain, ordered a Hercules C-130 to be re-fuelled, and took to the skies.
The fall of the Hercules...
Meyer had a private pilots licence - nothing that qualified him to fly a four-engine military cargo plane.
But by some miracle he managed not only to take off, evading several attempts to stop his flight moments before take-off. In the air, Meyer plotted a course for Langley Air Base and made it as far as the English Channel, where he made radio contact with his wife.
The official report stated that radar contact was lost at 0655 CET, after which Meyer went quiet. The last recorded words of Paul Meyer were to his wife:
"Leave me alone for five minutes. I've got trouble."
Nobody knows, or will admit, what happened to Meyer and the Hercules: whether he crashed through pilot error, or was shot down. Eye-witnesses report seeing the aircraft fall out of the sky before exploding on impact with the water.
The official report concluded that Meyer's survival was unlikely, if not impossible.
Fifty years later...
Deeper Dorset believe that we can pinpoint the location of the Hercules using our existing research, and then use sidescan sonar and sophisticated non-invasive photographic techniques, to investigate and map the crash site. These remains may well hold the key to what really happened to Paul Meyer.
We believe that locating the wreckage, and investigating the crash site will help us find the truth, both for Paul's family and for world history.
We have been in contact with Paul Meyer's step-son Henry, for nearly 10 years, and they have given us their blessing to fully investigate the disappearance of Paul. Below is a video message from Henry Ayer, Paul's step-son.
Why we need your help...
Deeper Dorset have the technology and man-power available to investigate the Hercules, however, doing so is very costly. Our £6000 goal only covers our bare minimum running costs. It does not include the cost of the equipment or man hours this search will consume. We are looking for support from interested parties so we can fully devote ourselves to the project.
Our target of £6000 will help us achieve 25 days at sea, which is approximately 1 year of searching when taking the weather, tides and other factors in to consideration. We believe that this time will be sufficient to fully investigate areas of extreme interest within a specific region of the English Channel.
If we exceed the target of £6000, funds will be used to either continue investigating the Hercules, or to pursue future targets such as a missing Royal Navy Sea Vixen or the mystery of an American aircraft carrying an extremely valuable cargo.
A summary of our rewards is below, and you can select your reward level on the right of this page. If you have any questions, just drop us a message or comment!
From the very beginning, we will release written accounts, photographs and videos of the P47-D (Thunderbolt) that Deeper Dorset have uncovered in the channel.
We will update backers at all stages in our investigation: whether we are out on the Channel completing sonar scans, sharing updates from our artist, or simply sharing the information we have already collected while piecing together this story.
Journey - The Dolmen
Grahame originally approached The Dolmen after hearing them play live in venues around Dorset. Grahame asked the band if they would write a song for use with his videos based on wreck projects around the UK. Taloch Jameson, the band leader, agreed, and soon he and Josh Elliot (lead guitarist) became involved with, and inspired by Grahame’s work.
The single soon became an album, and then the album ‘Journey’ accompanied by a video produced by the team. Ever since then, Taloch, Josh and Grahame have been inspiring each other and working together to produce amazing music. The Dolmen and Grahame are currently working on a new song, based on the story of Meyer’s fateful flight. You can find out more about The Dolmen here.
Art Prints (Open & Ltd Edition)
Simon Cattlin is currently working on the oil painting for us, and we will be keeping backers updated on his progress throughout the campaign. The painting should be complete in four to five weeks (the end of March/beginning of April)
A signed hardback photobook of the year's journey, full of photographs, notes, accounts and drawings of all our findings. Grahame and Simon, and other's who are instrumental in the discovery, will sign the books. We will also include the names of every single backer of the photobook in the final pages of the publication.
During the year following our funding we will put together this book, and it will be produced and released to backers to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Meyer's Hercules crash on May 23rd, 1969.
Deeper Dorset are lucky to have access to amazing technology, right at the forefront of diving and wreck investigation.
RWTwo - our vessel is fully equipped for diving and surveying, complete with sidescan sonar, underwater drop camera system and an ROV (Remotely Operated Vehicle) The addition of her sub-sea mapping system makes her the ideal platform for wreck location and exploration.
Sonar - using the RWTwo, Deeper Dorset are capable of carrying out sonar scans of the seabed, searching for wreckage to investigate.
Photogrammetry - Deeper Dorset use this technique to build incredible 3D models of wreckage. Each model is built from hundreds, sometimes thousands, of individual images which are stitched together using Agisoft software. To read more on this process, take a look here.
Deeper Dorset are a small team of divers, boasting 50+ years of experience between them. They are based in the South of England.
Grahame Knott is the founder of Deeper Dorset, an experienced scuba diver, dive support vessel and survey vessel operator. Grahame specialises in side scan sonar operations and sonar interpretation and deep English Channel wreck exploration and identification. You can see a fantastic example of Grahame's experience in cutting-edge diving exploration here. Grahame's boat, RWTwo, will be key in our access to the Channel and wreck site.
Simon Brown is an experienced scuba diver, photographer and pioneer of underwater 3D photogrammetry in the UK. Simon is responsible for photographing, scanning and 3D mapping Deeper Dorset's discoveries. You can see examples of Simon's work here: deep3D
Emily Brown is working with Grahame & Simon, providing support for the campaign, research log and fulfilment. Emily has run several successful KS campaigns previously.
Previous Deeper Dorset projects include:
- La Mahenge, 8000 tonne cargo ship found 120m deep in the English Channel.
- Supergun Submarine, British M1 found 81m deep waters off of Plymouth.
- Our work with Wessex Archaeology finding a mysterious cannon site near Chesil Beach.
In the news...
So far we have been featured by the BBC, The Times, and more! See below for links:
- Fox News - Drunk sergeant stole a cargo plane in 1969. So where is it? - 04/04/18
Stars & Stripes - In 1969, an airman crashed a stolen C-130 into the English Channel. Now divers want to find the plane - 03/04/18
- Thetford and Brandon Times - Are we set to learn truth of Suffolk plane drama 49 years later? - 01/04/18
- Newser - Drunk Sergeant Stole a Cargo Plane. So Where Is It? - 31/03/18
- The Vintage News - The mystery of what happened when a drunken mechanic stole a military plane 50 years ago may soon be solved - 29/03/18
- The Air Force Times - What happened to the Air Force mechanic who stole a C-130 in a drunken, desperate bid to return home? - 29/03/2018
Live Science - Divers Search for Wreckage of Mystery US Hercules Crash - 27/03/2018
- The Daily Mail - Mystery of the lost love plane: How could a drunken, homesick serviceman steal the giant Hercules... and did he really crash into the Channel? - 24/03/2018
- Dorset Echo - Mystery of the lost US aircraft: Dorset maritime historians to plumb depths of decades-old riddle - 14/03/2018
- BBC News - English Channel hunt due for wreck of stolen Hercules - 13/03/2018
- BBC Radio Solent - "You couldn't make it up" - the story of the plane crash 50 years ago off the Dorset coast. Interview with Simon & Henry - 13/03/2018
- The Times - Divers aim to reveal fate of homesick US airman who stole Hercules from Suffolk base. Page 20, 13/03/2018
- Wessex FM - Weymouth divers in bid to find missing plane - 13/03/2016
- Scuba Diver - Bid to find stolen Hercules and solve a 50-year-old mystery - 13/03/2016
Risks and challenges
We have several risks and challenges that we will need to deal with throughout this project.
The English Channel is a tough environment to operate in. Bad weather could see us confined to port for several weeks and the tides will severely restrict how much time we can spend with the sonar deployed.
The sea does not give up its secrets without a struggle. We are expecting this project to take up to a year to complete, and with Grahame's extensive experience of operating in the Channel we are confident of success.
Once we find the crash site we will need to ensure that we document the Hercules without disturbing, touching or removing any artefacts. To do so will break the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. Recent advances in techniques to remotely document underwater sites, such as the 3D photogrammetry pioneered by Simon, means we can record to an extreme level of detail and disturb nothing.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (30 days)