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Stormchaser's Plane Was Lost 50 Years Ago Next Week

Little do the men and women aboard those planes know there is a great grandmother in tiny Coolidge, Georgia who prays for each and every one of them.

Her husband was a hurricane hunter too until his plane vanished.

Betty Stocker says, "With deep regret I officially notify you that your husband, George Herlong, was aboard a Navy reconnaissance aircraft that was reported overdue at the Naval Air Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba."

Betty Stocker got that telegram in September of 1955. Her husband, LT George Herlong, and 10 others aboard a Navy hurricane hunter disappeared while probing powerful Hurricane Janet.

Betty says, "That morning about 9:00, two Navy men come to my house and told me that this plane was missing in action. They weren't sure they were dead. They were hunting him and they would keep hunting him."

Janet, a category five hurricane, would slam Belize and Mexico and kill more than 500 people, and it would floor Betty, a widow at 24, and five months pregnant with the couple's first child. Daughter Wynndy would never know her father.

"For years I dreamed of him coming home. That he would call me 'cause they never found the body. I would dream that they would call me and I would go to meet him and just before I got to him he would disappear. That's the way the dreams always ended."

The Navy searched for the ill fated hurricane hunter for 11 days, but the P2V Neptune, its crew and co-pilot George Herlong were never found. It would be seven years before the Navy declared him dead.

Stocker says, "He loved flying into the hurricanes and being able to maybe help somebody get out of the way."

Betty says George was never afraid to fly the missionsm so she stopped worrying too, but Septembers are still hard.

Stocker says, "Time heals all wounds, except when September rolls around, then the first hurricane I hear brings it back to me.”

Monday is the 50th anniversary of George's disappearance, and as she watches Rita spinning in the Gulf she worries again for the men and women in those planes now.

George Herlong wasn't even supposed to be on that flight. He volunteered to fill in for another man whose wife was having a baby. Little did he know crew number five would never make it home and he would never get to see his own baby.


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