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HistoryVP-23 HistoryHistory

Circa 1958

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VP-23 History ThumbnailCameraVP-23 News Article "...Maine Snowman To Head For Puerto Rico Via Navy..." Contriuted by WILSON, AT2 Robert T. Jr. vp10_archives@juno.com [13DEC2004]

UPDATE "...The newspaper article posted with VP-23 Circa Unknown on the snowman being flown to PR, lacks a date. However it gives the name of the CO, CDR Reck. Well, the pdf document with the history of VP-23 indicates that CDR Reck was the CO from Nov 1957 until Nov 1958. The newspaper article shows that it happen on a Feb. Then the only Feb during which CDR Reck was CO was Feb 1958, therefore that's the date of the paper. We can't get the day, but we have the month and the year. Thanks. Orlando logallar@aol.com..." [21DEC2004]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News September 1958 "...VP-23 Sets 90-Day Mark - Page 39 - Naval Aviation News - September 1958..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1958/sep58.pdf [13AUG2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News April 1958 "...'Springboard' 1958 Opens - Page 30 - Naval Aviation News - April 1958..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1958/apr58.pdf [12AUG2004]

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Circa 1957

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "00JUL57--We deployed to RNAS Halfar, Malta. LJ-8, Buno 135602 took off and experienced a severe prop over speed at about 600 feet on climb out. The prop refused to feather, but did manage to go into reverse pitch in mid-air. Wow, what a wild ride!!! We were on a liaison run from Malta to Wheelus AFB in Libya so an irregular crew was on board. CDR John Fifield was sitting in the radar operators seat that I normally occupied. I was sitting in a floor emergency seat. After all I was only an AT1 and he was a CDR! On the take-off roll, CDR Fifield reached across in front of me and pulled out the jet engine throttle circuit breakers to check the pilots response. This may well have been what saved our butts since both of the J-34's were hung at 100%. Nevertheless, my PPC LTJG Paul Sorenson who was in the pilots seat and LCDR Carl Sederquist in the co-pilots seat did one helluva job flying the plane and getting us safely back on the runway..." Contributed by Glenn Tweedy wgt-srt@worldnet.att.net [E-Mail Updated 26SEP98]

Circa 1956

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News October 1956 "...Ice Floes Ahead! - Page 1 to 5 - Naval Aviation News - October 1956..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1956/oct56.pdf [09AUG2004]

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Circa 1955

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...01 FEB 55 - VP-23 left Tarragona, Spain, for NAS Port Lyautey, Morocco, after six days of intensive training at the Spanish Military Air Base at Reus. This was the first operation of U.S. forces from bases in Spain..." http://www.history.navy.mil/avh-1910/PART08.PDF [28MAY2003]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "01FEB55--Patrol Squadron 23 left Tarragona, Spain, for NAS Port Lyautey, French Morocco, after 6 days of intensive training at the Spanish Military Air Base at Reus. This was the first operation of U.S. forces from bases in Spain..." http://history.navy.mil/branches/avchr8.htm [11DEC98]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: vp23 CrewCameraVP-23 Crew "...The picture was taken, I believe, in 1955 and doesn't include the entire crew (it's missing the ordinanceman and the second mechanic). Anyhow, those who are on the picture are: Back row (l to r) : LTJG Grace, LTJG Smith, Lt. Fryer and LtJG Makowitz. Front row (l to r) : Bill Unbehaun AD1, Bill Stephenson AT2, Jim Soderberg AE3 (then) and P.G. Morris AT1..." Contributed by SODERBERG, AE2 James (Jim) JSoderberg@cybrzn.com [10JUN2001]


Circa 1954

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: History ThumbnailCameraVP-23 History "...VP-23 Arrives From Brunswick For "Asdevex" - JAX AIR NEWS - VOL 12 - NO 6 - NAS Jacksonville, FL - 06 MAY 1954..." WebSite: University of Florida George A. Smathers Libraries http://ufdc.ufl.edu/ [27JAN2011]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News October 1954 "...VP-23 Training Pays Off - Page 20 - Naval Aviation News - October 1954..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1954/oct54.pdf [02AUG2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News August 1954 "...Overseas Deployment Boost Flight Hours - Page 33 to 35 - Naval Aviation News - August 1954..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1954/aug54.pdf [02AUG2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VP History ThumbnailCamera "...FASRON-104 VP-23 P2V approaches NAF Port Lyautey, Morocco in 1954...Photo by Al Livingston..." Contributed by LIVINGSTON, Al LITNSNEWS@AOL.COM [22NOV2002]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VP History ThumbnailCamera "...FASRON-104 VP-23 P2V approaches NAF Port Lyautey, Morocco in 1954...Photo by Al Livingston..." Contributed by LIVINGSTON, Al LITNSNEWS@AOL.COM [22NOV2002]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VP History ThumbnailCamera "...FASRON-104 VP-23 P2V approaches NAF Port Lyautey, Morocco in 1954...Photo by Al Livingston..." Contributed by LIVINGSTON, Al LITNSNEWS@AOL.COM [22NOV2002]


Circa 1952

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: History ThumbnailCameraVP-23 "...VP-23 “Hurricane Hunters” on April 12, 1952..." WebSite: EBay http://www.ebay.com/usr/flyingtigerantiques [24FEB2016]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: History ThumbnailCameraVP-23 "...VP-23 - August 29, 1952 - Cosmic Ballon Tracking Flight...Publication Number: T1206 - Publication Title: Project Blue Book, 1947-1969 - Publisher: NARA - Year: 1952 - Month: August - Month Season Number: 08 - Location: Coast of Greenland 77 N, 75 degrees 15, W - Incident Number: [BLANK] - Page: 6 - WebSite: http://www.footnote.com/..." Forwarded by Stephen Miller f134kilmil@comcast.net [14AUG2008]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: History ThumbnailCameraVP-23 "...VP-23 - October 31, 1952 - FLYOBRPT...Publication Number: T1206 - Publication Title: Project Blue Book, 1947-1969 - Publisher: NARA - Year: 1952 - Month: August - Month Season Number: 08 - Location: Coast of Greenland 77 N, 75 degrees 15, W - Incident Number: [BLANK] - Page: 4 - WebSite: http://www.footnote.com/..." Forwarded by Stephen Miller f134kilmil@comcast.net [14AUG2008]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...FAETULAN, FAW-3, FAW-5, FAW-11, VP-3, VP-5, VP-7, VP-8, VP-10, VP-11, VP-21, VP-23, VP-24, VP-26, VP-34, VP-44, VP-45, VP-49, VP-661, VP-741 and VP-861) - Naval Aeronautical Organization OPNAV NOTICE 05400 for Fiscal Year 1953 dated 1 October 1952 is: DECLASSIFIED per Office of Chief of Naval Operations on 1 February 1965 by Op-501..." WebSite: Naval Historical Center http://www.history.navy.mil/a-record/nao53-68/fy1953-oct52.pdf [14MAR2007]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News May 1952 "...3 Squadrons Safety Leaders - Page 35 - Naval Aviation News - May 1952..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1952/may52.pdf [26JUL2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...We had a good year in 1952 after moving from Miami to NAS Brunswick, Maine. Many of the guys had to leave their families in motels because we were sent on to NAS Argentia, Newfoundland, Canada shortly after we checked in at NAS Brunswick, Maine. I know that I sent my wife back to her home in Arkansas, stored part of my furniture in Auburn, Maine, stored my car in Brunswick and went to Argentia. I was there just a few days and was sent on to Thule Greenland. I returned to NAS Brunswick, Maine in late September 1952..." Contributed by WYNN, Les leswynn@juno.com [14DEC2002]


Circa 1951

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...The BuNo of the VP-23 MA7 is 59815. The attached (dated) newspaper clipping shows this in writing on the left side. Also, the PPC was LCDR Baker, pictured in the main picture, in the center, standing, and on the left in the lower, small picture. The Plane Captain was ADC Kimbrough, pictured third from left, squatting. Your's truly is second from left, standing. I was radio/radar operator. The same basic crew pictured here is the same crew flying the subject aircraft in the Med. earlier in 1951 while on deployment to NAS Port Lyautey, French Morocco..." Contributed by Al Morgan almorgan@hal-pc.org [17DEC99]
VP-23 PB4Y ThumbnailCameraVP-23 PB4Y-2 BUNO: 59815
VP-23 PB4Y ThumbnailCameraNewsletter Articel Relating To BUNO: 59815
VP-23 PB4Y Thumbnail Contributed by Al Morgan almorgan@hal-pc.org [17DEC99]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News February 1951 "...Hurricane Hunters Active - Page 31 - Naval Aviation News - February 1951..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1951/feb51.pdf [22JUL2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: VP History ThumbnailCameraVP-23 History "...Bizerte, Tunisia in 1951. I am sorry but I cannot at this time remember the names of the other guys, however, I am the one with my hat on the back of my head..." Contributed by WYNN, Les leswynn@juno.com [14DEC2002]

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: "...In 1951, the Privateer aircraft still in service were redesignated P4Y-2, P4Y-2B, and P4Y-2S. During the early 1950s, Privateers from VP-23 flew hurricane-hunting missions out of Miami, Florida." http://www.csd.uwo.ca:80/~pettypi/elevon/baugher_us/b024-37.html


Circa 1950

HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News December 1950 "...Hurricane Warning! - Page 1 to 6 - Naval Aviation News - December 1950..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1950/dec50.pdf [22JUL2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News August 1950 "...War-Tired Privateer May Be Old - Naval Aviation News - August 1950..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1950/aug50.pdf [21JUL2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News June 1950 "...VP-23 Does Quick Change - Page 23 - Naval Aviation News - June 1950..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1950/jun50.pdf [20JUL2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News May 1950 "...Miamians Fly Arctic Routes - Page 33 - Naval Aviation News - May 1950..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1950/may50.pdf [20JUL2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Naval Aviation News May 1950 "...Soon After Arriving At Argentia - Page 21 - Naval Aviation News - May 1950..." WebSite: http://www.history.navy.mil/nan/backissues/1950s/1950/may50.pdf [20JUL2004]

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HistoryA BIT OF HISTORY: Air Classics "...'Hunter Hurricane - The night the hurricane defeated the Navy's best' by Edward P. Stafford...Air Classics Magazine, VOL. 18, NO. 4 APRIL 1982 Page 22 through 29..." [12OCT2001]

Air ClassicsYou are driving north on Twenty-Seventh Avenue in Miami. It is mid-October of 1950. The Florida sun is cooled by the light northeast trades of hurricane season, when, except for the hurricanes, the weather is the best of all the year.

At 117th Street the row of bars, car lots, used furniture stores and auto parts companies on your left suddenly ends. There are tall weeds and a chainlink fence. In the near distance a scattering of low wooden buildings is clustered around a massive rectangular concrete structure with tall metal sliding doors open at one end. But what draws your eyes most compellingly is the row of airplanes just beyond the fence. They remind you vaguely of beached whales, with low bulbous noses and high upthrust tails. Yet something in the precise way they are lined up in a long echelon along the concrete ramp, each with its four, threebladed propellers aligned with one blade down and two up, Y -shaped, gives a feeling of latent power: not really menacing, but you are glad they are on our side.

What you are seeing is the United States Naval Air Station, Miami, Florida, and seven of the nine Consolidated Privateers of Patrol Squadron 23, the "hurricane hunters." One Privateer is in the hangar having an engine changed. The other is at Ramey Air Force Base on the west end of Puerto Rico, ready to recon the next hurricane approaching from their usual breeding grounds in the south central Atlantic.

We have not yet started to name hurricanes but there have already been two this season, both located, measured and tracked by the pilots and aircrews of Patron 23 flying from their advance base in Puerto Rico and then from their home station at Miami. As a result, communities ashore and ships at sea in the paths of the storms have been warned, lives saved and damage minimized. Which is precisely why those nine four-engine aircraft and their professional, regular Navy crews are pulled out of their normal anti-submarine and patrol duties in May of each year and assigned through November to weather reconnaissance and hurricane tracking as their primary mission. It is a change of job which is not made lightly nor easily. To lighten the Privateers and give them longer legs for the extended over-water hurricane searches, their six power-operated twin .50 caliber machine guns and all protective armor are removed. The forward dorsal gun turret becomes an observation post for an extra crew member, an aerologist. A set of extra meteorological instruments is installed. Finally, operational control of the "weather squadron" shifts from its parent Fleet Air Wing at Jacksonville to the Joint Hurricane Warning Center in Miami. From May through November one or two planes maintain the vigil in Puerto Rico, and in Miami one plane and crew are maintained on alert, ready to be off the ground in thirty minutes.

When the meteolologists at the Hurricane Warning Center detect a suspicious area on their weather maps, a Patron 23 plane flies out to investigate. Those are frustrating flights for the aircrews-eight to ten hours of droning around in squalls, low clouds and gusty, variable winds until the aerologist determines from his instruments and observations whether that particular several hundred square miles of miserable weather contains the makings of a hurricane.

An actual hurricane reconnaissance ("hurrecco" in Navy/weather/ communications jargon) is considered far more satisfactory .The big, dark blue bomber takes off and flies the first few hours in clear weather. When the dark cloud mass of the storm is in sight it drops down close to the surface and begins a low-level penetration of the eye. Low-Ievel means 300 to 700 feet, whatever it takes to stay under the lowest cloud deck. At that altitude there is less turbulence because the updrafts have not acquired momentum and the downdrafts have mushroomed out. Also the visibility is good enough to enable the pilot and his aerologist to judge the direction and velocity of the wind within very narrow limits by the appearance of the ocean surface.

But that does not mean that at 300 feet the Privateer gets a free ride to the eye. There is rain down there. Rain so dense that its sustained drumming on the aluminum skin of the airplane makes communication impossible inside except on intercom; rain so solid it pushes in around windows, turrets and rivets and drips warmly into the laps of the pilots, wetting controls, charts and instruments; rain, in fact, so heavy that cylinder head temperatures approach their minimum danger points, threatening engine failure.

There is also wind down there, better than 100 knots of it. The "cruising" speed of the Privateer is less than 150. To find the eye the pilot must keep the wind just forward of his port (left) wing, thus spiralling into the center of the counter-clockwise circular storm. That means a lot of downwind, sideways motion. And the hurricane keeps trying to pick up that upwind wing, forcing the other down. With a wingspan of 110 feet, and fifty- foot seas reaching up from below, there is not much margin for error on a low level penetration.

Air ClassicsBut Patron 23 is an elite squadron, proud of its versatility and its ability to chase submarines and hurricanes with equal competence. Its crews bore into their assigned storms with the aggressive spirit of the warriors they are. Hurricanes to the aircrews of the hurricane hunters are as fires to veteran firemen, threats to be attacked and conquered. Often in low-level penetration it is necessary for both pilots to be on the controls together backed up by the autopilot turned to low sensitivity. They bring up the RPM of the props and enrich the fuel mixture to keep the engine temperatures up. They wipe their wet hands on their flight suits, tighten down their harnesses and muscle the big plane through the storm until suddenly they break out into the moving barrel of the eye.

In the eye the winds are calm, or I light and variable, and often blue sky is visible. The surface of the sea is roiled and confused, with heavy seas running in conflicting directions but no spindrift nor white, caps nor the long wind-whipped streamers of froth that guided thej pilots to the eye.

The Privateer circles, climbing, inside the walls of clouds. The navigator determines and checks his position. The radioman reports that position and the radius and velocity of the hurricane force winds back to base. Seat belts and harnesses are slacked. Men stretch and move around. Rainwater is mopped up. Gas gauges are checked. Coffee is I poured. Smokers light up. For about twenty minutes. Then the word is passed, "Pilot to crew, standby for the run out."

Back down to the deck. Back into the dark wall of clouds, the hammering rain, the narrow, wind-torn world between cloud bottoms and wave tops. This time the wind is kept just aft of the starboard (right) wing and its hundred mile-an-hour force blows the Privateer out of the storm in a section of an expanding spiral. The run out is faster and easier than the run in.

But the hurrecco is not over. If there is enough gas left. the Privateer is ordered to circumnavigate the storm, flying completely around it, always counter-clockwise to keep the winds on the tail, at a radius where the winds are at a constant speed, say forty knots.

Back at the base, pilot, aerologist and navigator in sweat-and-rain-wet flight suits, with charts and notes, report to the weather forecaster on duty with full details of the flight.

Whenever a hurricane is in range and the Privateer can recon a storm a thousand miles from base Patron 23 crews fly such missions twice a day. At night Air Force planes take over and track the storm with radar. With three positions a day on their charts, and a knowledge of the storm's dimensions and wind velocities, the meteorologists at the Warning Center can derive a course and speed of the hurricane, predict with reasonable accuracy if and when it will come ashore, and warn the populations concerned. The system works so well that the 400 human 23 lives that were lost for every ten million dollars of property damage er before aerial reconnaissance have mi been reduced to three in 1950.

Air ClassicsOn the fifteenth of October Patron five was tracking a hurricane which had suddenly developed in the western Caribbean, southwest of Jamaca and about 500 miles south Miami. The very first flight had under seventy mile-an-hour winds.

The storm was moving northeast at eight miles an hour and the winds were rapidly increasing. Storm and small craft warnings were issued from Georgia to the Florida Keys.

That night the storm grazed the west end of Jamaica, flattening crops and homes and drowning several people. On the night of the sixteenth it smashed across central Cuba, cutting power lines and flooding roads. The city of Camaguey was isolated for about three hours. Winds in the streets of Camaguey, on the fringe of the storm were now clocked at seventy miles an hour. When a Patron 23 Privateer bored through it the next day, winds near the eye were over 100 and the hurricane had turned mre north. It was now moving at eleve to thirteen miles an hour. Precautions were ordered for the Bahamas.

On the basis of the first flight on the seventeenth, the Warning Service predicted the storm would pass well to the east of Florida. But the afternoon hurrecco took off in gusty thirty-knot winds under a low overcast of fast moving scud. It measured maximum winds of l15 and placed the eye 135 miles southeast of Miami at 3 p.m.

At this point the Cpmmanding Officer of Patron 23, a big decisive man with a degree in aerology from the Navy Post-Graduate School, had a decision to make-fly his aircraft out to a distant, safer field or keep them at Miami close to the hurricane where they could track it more efficiently. On a large wall chart in his office he plotted all available data on the hurricane. He kept in almost continuous contact with the forecasters at the Warning Center a few miles away. He carefully analyzed all available information. And he decided to keep his planes where they were, the better to accomplish the mission he had been assigned. The storm, he told his pilots, would graze but not hit Miami; planes and crews were designated to fly it the next day.

Not all the hurricane hunting pilots agreed with their skipper's decision. They were respectful but outspoken. His Operations Officer, a tall prematurely balding officer with thousands of hours in the Privateer, suggested a move to the NAS Jacksonville, Florida just 300 miles or two hours to the north. From there the storm could be tracked almost as easily as from Miami, especially as it was moving in that direction. The Flight Officer, a stocky, candid, aggressive pilot, pointed out that standing orders called for an evacuation to Pensacola but permitted leaving a plane or two in Miami, safely in the big hangar, to fly the storm until the danger was over and the others could return.

Air ClassicsThe Captain did not budge. The storm would not hit Miami. The planes would stay and do their job.

During the afternoon and evening of the 17th the winds steadily increased at the Naval Air Station, Miami, and the clouds lowered and thickened. The palms around the field rattled and bowed their heads. The air became wet and thick and noticeably cooler. Loose objects around the Station rolled or tumbled downwind. Tie-downs on the planes were doubled. The hangar doors rolled closed.

By 8 p.m. it was dark. The wind was up to sixty knots. It had begun to rain.

A delegation of officers appealed to their skipper. "Captain, we can still takeoff with sixty knots of wind. The crews are ready. Let's get these aircraft out of here. We can fly the storm tomorrow out of Jax."

"Gentlemen, I understand and appreciate your concern. I have made the decision. It is my responsibility. We stay."

When the wind velocity reached seventy knots, takeoff was no longer safe the Captain ordered each Privateer manned by one pilot and a mechanic. Tie downs were removed, engines started and the planes kept headed into the backing, building wind. In the dark and the roaring gale it was tricky keeping the planes' noses into the wind without brushing wingtips with a neighbor. But the grounded pilots rolled in full-down elevator trim and rode the brakes and throttles, comforted by the knowledge that if the Privateer could safely fly at 250 knots, it could certainly survive winds of much less than that on the ground. As long as the wind was on the nose.

For three hours after the planes were manned the wind continued to increase. At first they blew out of the northeast but slowly they backed around toward north. The tower reported velocities of ninety then 100, then 105, and then the tower went off the air and the entire station went black as the power failed. The line of Privateers jolted and shook under the force of the wind and rang under the pounding of horizontal blasts of rain. Despite the down elevator, the long wings flapped and tried to lift. Wooden wheel chocks and metal trash cans flew past along the concrete ramps. The crews were due to be relieved at midnight, but by midnight no man could walk or even crawl in the vicinity of the beleagured aircraft of the hurricane hunter. Although the pilots and mechanics in the planes did not then know it, the wind velocity at midnight had reached 125 miles an hour.

Then shortly after midnight the wind suddenly went dead. After the long howling of the hurricane it was quiet at NAS Miami. Crewmen who had driven to the Station through debris-filled streets and over sparking fallen wires ran out to relieve the watch, circling the idling props and ducking up through the bombays to the flight decks. The tired, wet airmen of the first watch dropped down and out and ran for shelter.

All hands at Patron 23 that night knew what was coming. The storm was not over. They were in the eye. And when the terrible winds come back they would be from the opposite direction, from the south, from behind the yet undamaged Privateers.

Unless the planes could be turned full around, through 180 degrees, they would be torn apart by the returning gale. Desperately the relief pilots revved up their engines and plied brakes and throttles to get around. But there was not time. They could not turn in place for they were parked too close. They had to spread out to make the turn. Only the end planes had time to move away and swing south before the hurricane struck again.

For the men in the other Privateers the next hours were truly tragic. In the first few minutes wind velocity rose to a screaming 120 plus, now from dead astern, the most vulnerable direction for a grounded plane. They locked the controls but the locks quickly snapped. The huge rudders slammed hard over to one side, banging horribly before they came off, ripped from their hinges, careening into wings and flaps before disappearing into the darkness. It was the same with elevators, with flaps, with ailerons. The pilots were forced to abandon their positions to avoid the flailing rudder pedals and control columns. The engines were shut down to save the spinning props from damage by flying control surfaces. The brakes were set and held. The planes did not move. But piece by piece they came apart under the pounding of the storm.

At about 2 a.m. when the wind had begun to drop, Patron 23's maintenance officer, driven to incaution by the knowledge of what was happening to his beloved planes, ventured out on to the ramp to check the damage. He had taken about six steps, leaning backward against the gale, when a gust lifted him bodily, hurled him spread-eagled a few yards and then rolled him ignominiously along the concrete under the now motionless props of a plane and deposited him with a thud against a tire. He struggled up into that plane and there waited out the storm.

By 4 a.m. it was over. But not until daylight did Patron 23 discover the depth of the damage. Officers and sailors and a few wives straggled out onto the field and looked around in disbelief: Except that there were no casualties nor craters, it was as though an enemy air strike had hit the home base of the hurricane hunters. The proud line of Privateers stood in awful disarray, all but the two on either end stripped of every moveable surface, jagged metal and torn hinges dangling from open wounds on wings and tails. All around them lay their amputated parts, flaps, ailerons, rudders, elevators. Even the two end aircraft had minor damage from hurtling debris. Of Patron 23's nine planes, two only were flyable that day-the one in the hangar and the one at Ramey Air Force Base in Puerto Rico.

Effectively this rogue hurricane had counter-attacked and destroyed the force of its enemy, the hurricane hunters.

One of the somber figures on the field that morning was the Commanding Officer of Patron 23. He stood solemnly with feet apart and arms crossed, surveying the devastation and the end of his professional career. One of the wives, sensing his situation, put her hand on his arm and said simply, "Captain, I'm so sorry ."

The chief of the hurricane hunters looked down at her. He was not totally defeated. He managed a rueful grin and spread his huge arms wide to take in the whole disastrous scene. "Who else," he asked rhetorically, "could have done it like this?"

POSTSCRIPT Patron 23's wounds, although grievous, were not mortal. Within hours the Privateer with the engine-change was wheeled out of the hangar and stood ready to fly the storm which had assaulted its sisters. It was not needed because the hurricane turned northward over land and its location was all too continuously evident. By the following day the two end-of-row aircraft were repaired and available. One of them reconnoitered the weakened storm as it reentered the Atlantic off Georgia on the 19th. Not a flight was missed nor an operational commitment left unmet. New control surfaces were duly ordered, received and installed in a roundthe-clock, seven-days-a-week effort. By mid-November the long line of Privateers inside the fence off Twenty-Seventh Avenue loomed as proud and potent as before.


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