It’s a sad truth that people go missing all the time. And despite the desperate wishes of loved ones, the reasons for those disappearances are sometimes hard to find. But when large numbers of people go missing, you’d think the reasons should be quite obvious, and you’d be right…except when you aren’t. Sometimes even entire civilizations can go missing without leaving behind a good explanation. Here are a few mass disappearances that are still mysteries.
ROMAN 9TH LEGION
The Ninth Legion was a Roman military formation of around 5,000 soldiers stationed in York in Northern England during Rome’s occupation of Britain. This unit maintained control of the wild inhabitants of what would later become northern England and Scotland. In 108 AD, an inscription in the City of York places the legion in the city. However, 50 years later, when a new record of the legions was completed, no mention of the ninth appeared.
Legion of romans
What could’ve happened to erase the existence of 5,000 soldiers? No one really knows.
According to a Roman writer, many Roman soldiers were killed in Britain at the beginning of the second century, necessitating several reinforcements. This included the arrival of a new Legion, the Sixth, in 122 AD, which took up residence in the now presumably empty York.
No records describe the Ninth Legion’s fate. Some theories suggest the Legion was simply sent elsewhere, though there’s little evidence to support this. Meanwhile, Emperor Hadrian visited the British Isles at the beginning of the second century. To take control of the Briton-on-Roman violence, he ordered the construction of a 73 mile long, 15 foot high, fortified wall across the island to keep the invaders out of Roman territory. And you don’t go doing that unless you’ve got a good reason — like say losing an entire legion.
Hadrian’s wall still stands today. However, there’s still no sign of the ultimate fate of the Ninth legion — and there probably never will be.
FLYING TIGER LINE FLIGHT 739
On March 16 1962, Flying Tiger Line Flight 739, a Lockheed Super Constellation airliner, was scheduled to transport 96 military personnel from the US to Vietnam. The aircraft was scheduled to make several stops for fuel on its way from California’s Travis Air Force Base to Saigon, and everything was going by the book. But when it took off from Guam on its way to the last fuel stop in the Philippines, things went off script in a big way.
After the flight left Guam, it made its scheduled position reports on time, as well as an unexplained request to change altitude from 10,000 to 18,000 feet. However, when the plane was around two hours into the flight, the position reports ceased. Nothing was ever heard from flight 739 and its cargo of valuable military personnel again.
The only clue to its fate was the sighting of a midair explosion that appeared on the aircraft’s approximate flight path. However, with no distress signals received, no mechanical issues reported, and no wreckage recovered from one of the largest search and rescue operations of the time, there’s little evidence left to fill in the gaps.
The aircraft type was generally considered to be reliable, so mechanical explanations for the loss were quickly dismissed. The airline had little to offer in explanation beyond theories of hypothetical hijacking or sabotage. The only things we can really be sure of is that whatever happened was dramatic, and happened quick enough to prevent a mayday call. The truth seems as lost to us as the aircraft itself.
5TH BATTALION NORFOLK REGIMENT
During World War I, the 5th Battalion of the Norfolk Regiment was formed at the King of England’s Sandringham estate and recruited men from the King’s staff. After training, the Norfolks joined the fighting in the Gallipoli campaign, which was intended to push Turkey out of the war. The Norfolks arrived in the theatre on August 10, 1915. Two days later, while still suffering from the long sea journey and before they could acclimatize to the conditions, they were sent into battle — their first, and last.
The attack was a mess. With inaccurate maps, poor information, and a seasoned and well-prepared enemy, there was really only one likely outcome, and the Norfolks marched stoically into it. During the assault, the Norfolks were separated from the main force. After pressing home their attack in the wrong place, pursued the enemy into a burning forest, and were never seen again.
When not a single soldier from the 5th Norfolks returned from the battle, it was assumed the whole unit had been captured. But the Turkish government had no record of the soldiers ever having been held. After the war, bodies were found that were identified as belonging to the missing unit, but later eyewitnesses came forward with bizarre reports of clouds enveloping the soldiers, which then flew away and left no trace that they had ever existed. You might think these stories would be quickly dismissed, but instead they just inspired a host of conspiracy theories and speculation that only served to confuse and undermine official efforts to discover the truth. And the true fate of the 5th Norfolks remains unresolved to this day.