Off the RADAR

It’s actually an acronym.






RADAR systems use radio waves to determine the presence and location of certain objects. They are used today mostly to track aircraft, ships, and even weather. However, RADAR doesn’t have a long history. The technology was just coming into practical use by the military late into World War II.

Air Force Pilot 2nd Lieutenant Hugh Johnson, Jr. grew up around my hometown and was semi-related to me by marriage (my stepfather’s cousin).

On a foggy morning October 9, 1944 Hugh and eight more crew members left on a training mission from an American base near the island of New Guinea. The base lost radio communication with the B-24 Liberator not long after take off. The crew and the plane seemed to have simply vanished. RADAR was not being used routinely at that time, so the military could only speculate that the plane had been shot down or just crashed somewhere in the South Pacific. The nine crewmen were listed as Missing In Action – their families not knowing what happened to them.

Until 58 years later.

In 2002, villagers on New Guinea found some dog tags in the thick jungle foliage and contacted the U.S. military that then launched an intense search. Excavation uncovered more dog tags, crew related artifacts, and human remains. DNA tests identified all nine crewmen. Their remains were brought back to the U.S. for burial. Hugh was laid to rest near his family in my hometown.

I’ve thought since I heard this story that maybe RADAR would have made the difference. Maybe the men would have been found alive and rescued. With better communication it would have been possible, right?

Sometimes I feel like I’m off the RADAR myself – like there’s no one out there who is listening or who will communicate with me. Either no one’s monitoring the screen or I’m not showing up as a significant object. I even feel sometimes my prayers are met with silence. It’s a lonely place – to feel like you’re off the RADAR. 

Okay, don’t send a forensics specialist to my house to collect DNA. I’m still breathing…and still waiting.

1 thought on “Off the RADAR

  1. bonnie king

    Another terrific, insightful post from you — a most deep well my friend.
    Nan, you nailed it for me right now. Such a feeling of being off the radar in various ways.
    Thank you for this honest piece.
    It resonates deeply.
    Most grateful for your vulnerability and beautiful writing and heart.


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