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MishapsMISHAPs: 22 AUG 41 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: Hilo Harbor, Hawaii Area Strike: Yes BUNO: 0488 Cause: Extended flight - After landing the airplane was thrown off the water with very little speed, which resulted in a uncontrolable drop of the right wing. The right wing tip pontoon hit with such force as to bury it in the water, resulting in the aircraft making an abrut turn to the right. This turned the plane toward a can bouy which it hit, before the pilot could bring it under control. Damage: Compartment #1 Keel broken and hole in hull, Compartment #3 scratched hull, Compartment #5 hole in hull forward of step, and Compartment #6 hole in hull. Crew Ok. Pilot Ens J. P. Hart, AV-N USNR, LCDR F. M. Hughes, NAP Puckley, NAP Fisher, Road, Meadeas, Cary, Parker, and Guther. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [18NOV2002]

UPDATE "...Here's the end of her life story: "On September 25, 1942, 0488 water-looped and sank into Pensacola Bay. It was damaged beyond repair." Joe Baugher probably has some additional info on it..." Contributed by LCDR Douglas E. Campbell dcamp@aol.com [12JUN2017]

Just a correction and an update to PBY-2 BuNo 0488 Mishap. You have it listed as a -5 but it was a -2. So after the mishap in Hawaii it went to NAS Pensacola, Florida. Here's the end of her life story: "On September 25, 1942, 0488 water-looped and sank into Pensacola Bay. It was damaged beyond repair." Joe Baugher probably has some additional info on it.

Douglas E. Campbell, Ph.D. (and LCDR, USNR-R, retired)
President & CEO
Syneca Research Group, Inc.
P.O. Box 1301
Southern Pines, NC 28387

MishapsMISHAPs: 11 JAN 42 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: NAS Pearl Harbor, Hawaii Strike: Yes BUNO: 2452 Cause: Extended flight. Normal landing was made on glass surface with a nose down attitude, hooked a wing tip float, flipped over and later sank. Pilot ENS Glen S. Stewart/Killed, ENS C. V. Lindsey/Killed, AMM1 .E. E. Ruark(NAP)/Killed, RM2 B. W. Gross/No inj, and AMM3 R. J. Redhage/Minor inj. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [16MAR98]

UPDATE "...On a previous flight, plane struck a coral reef resulting in extensive damage to underside of hull & keel. Temporary repairs were effected which in the opinion of the Trouble Board in no way adversely affected performance or strength of the plane. However the fact might have had some psychological effect on the pilot in determining his desired procedure in landing. Landing was made in complete darkness in restricted channel. From reports of observers and results of the crash, it appears the plane struck the water in a nose low attitude, probably hooked a wingtip float, and was thrown violently on it back, in which position it was found by the crash-boat standby. Damage:Plane was completely demolished and engines salt water immersed..." Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [18JAN2002]

MishapsMISHAPs: 12 NOV 42 A/C: PBY-5A pby Location: Routine patrol. Approx.50 miles north of Oahu Isl, Hawaii Indies Strike: Yes BUNO: 02951 Cause: Believe plane either flown into water or destroyed in attempted night landing. Plane took off for routine patrol at 1619. During the day communications were satisfactory between plane and base. A message was received at 1902 to effect plane was lost and lost plane procedure was immediately commenced. At 1919 a course was radioed to pilot there was no acknowledgement. At 1920 plane disappeared from radar screen and abruptly ceased making MOs. The following day several pieces of wreckage, including a fuel cell and seat cushion marked with the last two digits of plane's serial number were found near the plane's last known position. It is assumed the plane crashed into sea with great force. Plane missing. Crew missing: Pilot Lt(jg). William L. Johnson, AP1c. Michael Robards, AP2c. Russsell B. Riggs, Aom2c. Harry V. Knight, Amm3c. Ellis P. Bruce, Amm3c. Marion L. Hofheins, Amm3c. Wilbur Eugene Soltau, Rm3c. Samuel E. Ottenbacher, and Rm3c.George Tepus. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [08JUL2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 29 MAR 43 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: 1800yds. outside reef, 301deg True from Johnston Island Tower Strike: Yes BUNO: 2354 Cause: Probable unintentional premature landing in returning after dark from covering wreckage of Army B-24 located 74 miles northwest. Plane burst into flames upon crashing. From Administrative Report:This PBY-5 based on Johnston Island, was on a search for survivors, of a crashed Army B-24 enroute from Oahu to Johnston Island. Upon returning to base at 2027, it was seem to commence a normal approach at an altitude of approximately one-thousand feet, at which time it suddenly nosed over, lost altitude very rapidly and crashed into water, bursting into flames upon impact. The night was very dark with no moon. This cause is undetermined but the following possibilities are mentions: (1) pilot did not get corrected altitude settings before attempting his landing and flew into the water without realizing he was so near the surface. (another pilot stated that his altimeter read 200-ft plus when he landed just an hour or so before crash), (2) collision with large birds which are numerous in the area and are known to fly at night, (3)engine failure, (4)fire in air just prior to crash. Pilot was considered competent with out restrictions for any assignment in the PBY-5 type aircraft. Damage:"Total loss" Crew killed: Pilot:Lt(jg).Robert A. O'Donnell, Ens.Harold J. Klopp, Ens.Daniel L. O'Sullivan, Amm2c.E. A. Isaia, Amm2c.E. D. French, Amm3c.George Eluedge, Rm2c.A. G. Ostergard, Rm3c.D. L. Thomas, Aom3c.J. H. Ross, and Lt.J. S. Lockey (USMC). Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [12JUL2001]

UPDATE "...Here are the complete names of the VP-13 crew lost with VP-23’s PBY-5, #2354 on the night of 29-March-1943 just off Johnston Island..." Contributed by BASS, AD1 (NAC/AW) fortnut@gmail.com [03APR2024]

The reason a VP-13 crew was flying a VP-23 plane was due to all of VP-13’s PB2Y-3’s had been grounded since February because of bad engine-driven generators that were causing engine fires & to keep the crews flying they barrowed other squadrons planes to fly their assigned patrol missions.
O'Donnell, Robert Thomas, LTJG, NR, AVN, Kansas City, KS (PPC)
Klopp, Harold James, ENS, NR, AVN, Reading, PA
O'Sullivan, Daniel Leo, Jr., ENS, NR, St. Louis, MO
Elvidge, George (n), Jr., AMM3c, USN, Santa Maria, CA
French, Eugene Degs, AMM2c, USN, Teague, TX
Isaia, Ernest Alameda, AMM2c, USN, Bakersfield, CA
Ostergard, Harold Ernest, ARM2c, NR, Hoquiam, WA
Ross, Jack Hailey, AOM2c, NR, Philadelphia, MS
Thomas Douglas Levi, ARM3c, USN, Throckmorton, TX

Lockey, Joseph Stephen, 2ndLt, MR, Bethlehem, PA, he was assigned to the 5thArtyGrp, 16thDefBn, FMF.

MishapsMISHAPs: 25 OCT 44 A/C: PBY-5A pby Location: AK, NAGATIK LAGOON Strike: Yes BUNO: 46471 Cause: SUNK BY GUNFIRE, SANK 60' Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [16MAR98]

UPDATE "...Force landed in lagoon as a result of starboard engine throwing a piston. Personnel rescued uninjured by search plane. Confidential equipment thrown overboard. Plane sunk by gunfire in 10-fathoms..." Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [13AUG2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 30 OCT 44 A/C: PBY-5A pby Location: 250miles west of Eniwetok Strike: Yes BUNO: 46473 Cause: Plane took off from base at Eniwetok, to remove a wounded man from the USS KENMORE if possible, The pilot requested the KENMORE to create a slick if possible by steaming downwind for two minutes and then turning ninety degrees. This was done and pilot landed safely at 1400. Patient was transferred to this plane. At 1444 there was a period of relatively calm and pilot commenced the take-off run into the wind. The swells were approximately twelve-feet high, with approximately forty feet between crests and were running forty-five degrees out of the wind. Upon decent from the third bounce of forty-five knots, a swell caught the port wing tip float, tearing it off, which threw the plane into a violent skid to the right from which the pilot was unable to recover. The switches were cut and the gas turned off and the plane hit the water in a nose low attitude and tearing off the starboard float and part of the starboard wing. All personnel, including the patient, were removed from the plane and into life rafts before the plane sank. Plane sank in about four minutes. A LCPV from the KENMORE too all survivors from the life rafts and transferred them to the ship. Crew & pass no inj. Pilot Lt. Robin E. Larson A-V(N) USNR, Ens George A. Hecker USN, Ens Leslie H.Crook USN, Acrm Julius G. White USN, Amm1c D. Dicken USNR, Rm2c H. Chenoweth USNR, Phm1c B. Coe,Jr. USNR, and Pfc E. Eoff USArmy. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [13AUG2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 01 FEB 45 A/C: PBY-5A pby Location: Peleliu Strike: Yes BUNO: 46464 Cause: Dumbo landed to pickup downed F4U pilot. Take-off was into the wind and plane rode over second swell without difficulty. Just before reaching the third swell at thirty-five knots, pilot felt a strong pull on the yoke and a sensation of deceleration which caused the bow to dig into the swell. Plane had hit an unknown underwater obstruction. A large portion of the swell went over the bow and into the propellers. Both propellers came off upon impact with water. The port propeller came through the pilots compartment cutting off the visor of his baseball cap and severely injuring his left hand and cutting the frontal region of his scalp. The port propeller sheared off the port window, port escape hatch, port one-half of the windshield and damaged the bow compartment and demolished the bow turret. Later that night while being salvaged, navigators compartment filled with water, plane sank at 0840 2 Feb 1945, three miles from Peleliu. Crew & pass: Pilot Lt Oscar T. Owre A-1 USNR/Seriously inj, Lt(jg) Lawrence D. Barton USNR/Ok, Ens Raborn L. Davis USNR/Ok, Amm2c Talmadge C. Moore USNR/Ok, Amm3c Curtis C. gamblin USNR/Ok, Rm2c Stuart E. Miller USNR/Ok, Rm3c Jack D. O'Donnell USNR/Ok, Aom2c Wallace G. Neuman USNR/Ok, Aom3c J. G. Stanbery USNR/Ok, and 2nd Lt John R. Anderson USMCR/Ok. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [17AUG2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 02 JUN 45 A/C: PBY-5A pby Location: NW of Iwo Jima Strike: Yes BUNO: 46468 Cause: On 2 Jun 1945, MANN took-off from South Field, Iwo Jima, Volcano Islands, on a authorized Dumbo search mission. The wind was from 110degTrue, velocity 6kts, the weather was contact, 800-ft ceiling, 5/10 low stratus clouds, visibility eight miles. MANN was briefed prior to the take-off, to proceed to an area bounded by parallels 28 & 29 North and meridians 137 & 138 East, of eleven similar area's assigned to the aircraft of the Iwo Jima Air Sea Rescue Task Unit that day to cover a possible ditching of 28 P-51s missing from the OSAKA strike on 1 Jun 45. At approximately 1730K, 2 Jun 45 all other search aircraft had returned to base, reporting adverse weather conditions in the search area. At this time Join Communications Center was asked to contact MANN by radio requesting his estimated time of arrival back to base. All attempts by Joint Communication Center to establish radio contact were unsuccessful. Last and only contact with MANN was made by MYKLAND in PBY-5A Bu#46631, at about 1120K north-north-west of SOFUGN, Nape Shote. MANN told MYKLAND that he had been vectored by a Air Sea Rescue Destroyer to a position 15miles bearing 262deg from SOFUGAN, to investigate possible survivors. A check then revealed that a Destroyer in the vicinity of 29-30N 138-30E exchanged calls with MANN at 1036 and voice radio and had vectored him to SOFOGUN area to investigate survivors. Plane and crew missing: Pilot Lt Milford H. Mann USNR, Ens John D. Rockert USNR, Ens Robert J. Meyers USNR, ARM2c John M. Briggs USNR, AMF2c Patrick J. Deloughary, AMF3c Mihael G. Kubovchik, ARM3c Archie L. Stowe USNR, AMM2c Duane H. Williams USNR, and AOM3c LaVerne H. Woodard USNR. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [21FEB2002]

MishapsMISHAPs: 27 MAR 49 A/C: PBY-6A pby Location: NAS Kwajalein, Marshall Islands Strike: Yes BUNO: 64028 Cause: Ferry;13-24N 17-22W. Pilot departed Kwajalein for Johnston Island. For the first eight hours and fifty-minutes, the flight was uneventful. At approximately 2300, pilot added power to climb from 2000-ft to 8000-ft. As they reached 4000-ft at approximately 2310, port engine began fluctuating about 300-rpm. At same time pilot noticed clouds of black smoke pouring from both top and bottom of port engine. An attempt was made to feather afflicted engine, but was unsuccessful. With bad engine wind-milling, aircraft could not maintain altitude on one good engine. Pilot decided to ditch plane while he still had power on good engine. Aux wing tanks were jettisoned, all loose gear was thrown overboard, and all hands were given order to prepare for ditching. Sometime between 0045 and 0107, a full stall landing was affected with no injuries to personnel and only slightly damage to hull. Aircraft was on water for 11hrs before last man was rescued by LSM-488. Upon orders from Com Hawaiian Sea Frontier, the aircraft was sunk by gunfire. "Strike" Crew and pass OK: Pilot Lt Cmdr William C. Hartman USNR FAW-2, Ens Robert D. Osborn USNR, ADC Robert D. Brooks USN, AD1 Wendell G. Baumann USN, AN Leroy Way USN, AL1 R. S. Haas USN, AL1 Thomas Conley USN, AO3 W. V. Webb USN, AL1/AP H. D. Williams USN, SA Henry O. Davis USN, and BU3 Frank F. Dioguard USN. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [28FEB2002]

UPDATE "...1949 Press Photo Hickam Field, CA US Navy PBY, H Williams, W Webb and P Conley,L Way..." WebSite: EBay http://www.ebay.com/ [24NOV2014]

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MishapsMISHAPs: 21 JUL 57 A/C: P2V P Neptune Location: Alps Northwest Strike: YES BUNO: 140156 Cause: Unknown

UPDATE "...I am the surviving daughter, born December 1957 of LT(jg) Allan K. Norberg who died in the VP-23 July 21, 1957 search operations crash in Bobbio Pellice, Italy. Ellen J. Norberg ej.norberg@gmail.com..." [07SEP2009]

UPDATE "...The Navy's Double Tragedy, July 1957, Italy...(VP-23 and VP-934)..." WebSite: VPI International http://www.vpinternational.ca/MPA_Magazine_Fall07.pdf

On July 21, 1957, a United States Navy patrol plane from Patrol Squadron Twenty. Three (VP-23), Bureau No. 140156, a Lockheed P2V-7 Neptune, crashed in the Alps in northwestern Italy, in the vicinity of the village of Bobbio Pellice. Nine of the ten crewmembers died in this accident. The surviving crewmember, Gene Forsyth, Aviation Machinist's Mate, Second Class, was seriously injured.

This tragic accident involved one of twelve aircraft that comprised VP-23. The squadron was deployed to the Royal Naval Air Station (RNAS), Halfar, Malta from May to October 1957. VP-23's home base was the NAS Brunswick, Maine.

The airplanes in service for VP-23 at the time of this accident were P2V-7 Neptunes manufactured by the Lockheed Aircraft Corporation. The piston engines on the aircraft could develop, under certain conditions, 3,700 horsepower each. The aircraft were also equipped with two turbojets with a static thrust of 3,250 pounds each. These aircraft could attain altitudes of 22,400 feet (6,828 meters). The Neptune's ability to reach high altitudes made flying in the vicinity of the Alps a relatively safe operation. (The photo, at left, was taken by Bill Pauly, AE2, VP-23, of the replacement LJ-11, Bureau Number 141232.) The P2V-7 Neptunes carried a crew of ten; three flight officers and seven enlisted aircrewmen. The flight officers, all Navy pilots, are designated as the patrol plane commander, the co-pilot, and the navigator. The enlisted crew is made up of three Aviation Electronics Technicians, two Aviation Machinist's Mates, one Aviation Electrician, and one Aviation Ordnanceman. Occasionally, additional squadron personnel were carried in order to familiarize them with flight operations. Only the assigned crew was onboard the aircraft at the time of the accident. However, the crew had only two Aviation Electronics Technicians, therefore two Aviation Electricians were assigned to the flight. Still, the crew was comprised of the normal ten crewmembers.

In order to understand the accident that took place near Bobbio Pellice, it is necessary to describe another accident that took place in north-eastern Italy, which involved a U.S. Navy Reserve aircraft. A Lockheed Neptune, a P2V-6, assigned to Navy Reserve Patrol Squadron, VP-934, was reported missing on July 19, 1957. This squadron's home base was NAS Willow Grove, Pennsylvania, but it was deployed to the NAF Port Lyautey, Morocco during the summer of 1957. The P2V-6 (Bureau No. 126535) departed NAF Port Lyautey, Morocco early on the morning of July 19 for a flight to Treviso (Istrana), Italy. Weather conditions for the destination airport were forecasted to deteriorate by the estimated arrival time. Radio communications with air traffic facilities during the flight over Italy were difficult. One reason may have been the weather conditions, which took the form of thunderstorms. Also, it was later determined by the Accident Review Board that the aircraft slowly drifted west and northwest from its intended course. For example, at 1325 hours, Universal Time, the crew reported the aircraft's position as being over Ferrara when it was actually 20 nautical miles (32 kilometres) west of the station. As the aircraft neared its destination, it was flying either above or in clouds. At 1331 Universal Time, Navy 126535 was instructed to report over the Veneto VHF Omnidirectional Range (VOR) at 11,000 feet (3,353 meters), the pilot acknowledged his instructions. Eleven minutes later, at 1342 Universal Time the pilot was able to contact Istrana Approach Control. He estimated Venice at 1345 Universal Time. The pilot then requested letdown instructions. He was cleared to descend to 5,000 feet by Istrana Approach Control and to report reaching 5,000 feet (1,524 meters). Permission to descend was based on the pilot's position reports relative to certain navigational aids. Navy 126535 was actually positioned slightly more than 40 miles (64.4 kilometres) northwest of Istrana Airport, and in the mountainous terrain of the Trento Dolomites. It struck a mountain at 8,500 feet (2,591 meters) at a high rate of speed during its descent. There is no record that the pilot reported over the Veneto VOR at 11,000 feet. There were eleven fatalities. On July 23 the wreckage of Navy 126535, was discovered by Italian "Alpini" troops.

Prior to the discovery of the wreckage of Navy 126535 from VP-934, aircraft from VP-23 departed Halfar, Malta for the Aviano Air Base, Italy, to assist in the search and rescue efforts for the missing aircraft. The Aviano Air Base is located in the north-eastern part of Italy, at the base of the Italian Alps. It became a base for some of the aircraft participating in the search operations. On July 21, at 0923 hours, LJ-11 and two other aircraft from VP-23 departed Aviano to commence a search in the Po Valley area and the mountainous terrain west of Torino in northwestern Italy. At about 1150 hours, LJ-11 was directed to leave the three plane group and search an area from seven miles west of Torino, south to Cuneo, then eastward along the foothills to Voghera, and to search the Po Valley between those points.

The final leg of the search pattern would place LJ-11 on an easterly heading to return to Aviano. However, early in the search, the aircraft commander turned west into the Pellice Valley, a valley that narrowed as he flew west, and which ended in the mountains near Bobbio Pellice.

Witnesses in the area of the accident described LJ-11's path from over Pinerolo, to Bricherasio, Torrre Pellice, Villanova, and up the Pellice Valley at extremely low altitude estimated to be about 150 meters above the ground (about 500 feet), then the pilot proceeded over the Willy Jervis Refuge, a small hotel for hikers, not far from Bobbio Pellice, to a point where it struck three trees and crashed at 1306 hours at an altitude of 7,000 feet (2,134 meters) on Monte Grane. Upon impact the aircraft overturned, exploded and burned.

Witnesses stated that it appeared that the pilot attempted to climb out of the valley prior to the crash. Eight crewmembers died upon impact. One crewmember, Lincoln Tripp, Aviation Electrician First Class, died on the way to the Jervis Refuge. Gene Forsyth, Aviation Machinist's Mate Second Class, survived but received extensive burns to his body and was seriously injured. Tragically, Gene Forsyth was blinded later in life as a result of a civilian airplane crash. Some of the bodies were recovered by Italian Carabinieri. The American accident investigation team recovered the remaining bodies.

The weather in the area at the time of the crash was clear with all mountain peaks visible. There were heavy winds coming off the mountains which could have contributed to severe downdrafts in the vicinity.

If, in fact, severe downdrafts were present, they would have made it difficult to climb rapidly enough to avoid the rising terrain. Despite warnings in a preflight briefing, the pilot of LJ-11 continued flight into a valley, which was dangerous under normal circumstances.

The Accident Review Board could not determine why LTJG Kloepping, the patrol plane commander, flew into the mountain valley. They concluded that there was not enough room in the valley to turn around, and there was not enough distance remaining to climb over the mountains, some of which attain an altitude of about 9,000 feet (2,743 meters.

The Accident Review Board interviewed Gene Forsyth but he was unable to provide any detail regarding the accident. Forsyth was not able to provide any information as to why the aircraft was flying in the valley, nor were there any radio reports to explain the track of the aircraft. He did indicate, however, that there was an increase in engine power immediately preceding the crash.

Notes from Ron Christensen, VP-23 Ronald Christensen, Aviation Electronics Technician, Second Class, VP-23, was part of the American team that hiked the mountains near Bobbio Pellice to recover bodies and sensitive electronic equipment.

His diary, as written, is partially reproduced below with his permission.

The LJ-11 crash happened on July 21, 1957 [1] at 1305 hours while searching for another downed Navy airplane. The crash happened in the Alps on the Italian side of the French-Italian border near the town of Bobbio Pellice, Italia.

The pilot flew the plane into a box canyon from the open end. The upper end of the canyon makes a dog leg (a turn) to the left. The mountains rise so steeply after the dog leg that there was no room to turn around and not enough power to climb out.

Gene Forsyth was the only survivor. He was in the tail of the plane and was thrown out while strapped in the aft station chair and landed in a tree. He was badly burned while trying to help someone in the crash. Matczak, Igoe, Fearing (Crewmembers from Ron Christensen's crew.) and I visited Forsyth in a Turin hospital. He is still alive living in Michigan. He was blinded in a crash of a private plane.

The crash (of LJ-11) happened …in sight of a Carabinieri outpost. At the time it was stated that Kloepping's crew reported something shiny (later identified as a creek) while searching for another downed Navy Reserve plane. Mr. Kloepping flew into the canyon to get a better look. The accident was chalked up (attributed) to pilot error. Sederquist (The pilot of Ron Christensen's crew.) stated that Kloepping was given explicit instructions to stay away from the mountains [3]. Wreckage was strewn everywhere.

There were 3 photographs in STAMPA SERA [4]; One on the front page showing Carabinieri at the site removing one of the dead; second, on the second page showing Gene in the hospital; third, on the last page showing what's left of the wreckage including a smashed engine, a main mount with wheel and tire (still inflated), a portion of the radar; and part of the tail standing upright. There were 2 rows of stone dust where the propellers had bit into the rock. The propellers were bent, detached from the engines, but were in one piece.

This was the first time I had seen anything like this and I was having trouble controlling my stomach. Sederquist told me to go off to the side where I couldn't see what was going on. The Squadron (VP-23) was short a nose wheel and since Lockheed built one per plane (no spares were built at that time) we needed to recover the nose wheel. A muleskinner and mule were brought along to carry the nose gear out. We tried to get the skinner to balance the mule's load with the full body, but he wouldn't as he said the mule would object. We started down the mountainside with 2 stretchers. We took a different route than what we took going up.

The area was very beautiful - too bad this was to view a crash, gather data, and recover the dead and plane parts. We passed through a small village consisting of less than a half-dozen summer houses. Some of the women came out and put flowers on the body bags. It was a very nice thing for them to do. The Carabinieri marched up to us [6] and relieved us of the stretchers. They marched down to their outpost where helicopters would pick up the bodies. On our way up we were fed a lunch of spaghetti at this same outpost [7]. (See note 7, below, for an odd happening years later.)

Don Wernimont (a pilot on Ron Christensen's flight crew) did not go to the crash as he was a good friend to Windorf (One of the pilots killed in the crash of LJ-11.) and Sederquist thought it would be better if he didn't go.[8] I went even though (Richard) Betzler (One of the enlisted crewmembers killed on LJ-11.) was a very good friend of mine as Sederquist didn't know that we were good friends.


    [1.] My personal log and the newspaper STAMPA SERA, dated Lunedi, Martedi, 22-23 Luglio 1957 (Monday Tuesday 22-23 July, 1957) Turino, Italia (Turin, Italy).

    [3.] Private communication from Sederquist to Christensen.

    [4.] Op Cit

    [6.] We were not used to such altitudes and were breathing heavily and struggling with the stretchers.

    [7.] In 1976 I was at a professional conference in Philadelphia where I met an Italian man who was saying the same things about the professional organization that I was. In order to encourage him to continue toward his goal, I arranged to have breakfast with him. I asked him what part of Italy he was from. He said that he was from a very small town on the western border. I continued to ask him until he told me he was from Bobbio Pellice. I said: "I have been to Bobbio Pellice." He said: "No one goes there. It is literally at the end of the road. Why were you there?" I told him about the crash. He stated: "We have met before; I was one of the Carabinieri that helped you."

    [8.] Private communication from Wernimont to Christensen.
Much of the information included in this narrative was taken from two accident reports obtained from the Department of the Navy; Naval Historical Center, Washington D.C. Ron Christensen's diary is much more extensive. Some items in his notes and in the accident reports are omitted because they would be disturbing to members of our deceased brothers' families who might view them. -Ron Wheeler

[Ron Wheeler is a former Aircrewman who served with VP-23 from late 1955 to September 1958. He was an Aviation Electronics Technician, Third Class, on Crew 2 and the new Crew 11. Crew 2 was assigned to the replacement P2V-7, Bureau No. 141232, LJ-11, when it arrived in Malta. Dick Betzler, AT2, invited Ron to join LTJG Kloepping's crew a few days prior to their departure from NAS Brunswick for Malta. Obviously he declined, but ironically, became part of Crew 11 anyway. He holds an Air Transport Pilot Certificate, Flight Instructor Certificate (Instrument and Multiengine), Advanced Ground Instructor and Instrument Ground Instructor Certificates. Email: rwheeler002@nycap.rr.com]

I would like to thank all of our Maritime airmen who have contacted me and helped me in my task of ensuring that we do not forget anyone. They all deserve to be remembered.

Norm Donovan
Compiler VPI Book of Remembrance

The crewmembers of P2V-7, LJ-11, who died as the result of the accident, were:
    Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Herbert E. Kloepping
    Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Allan K. Norberg
    Ensign Alexander B. Windorf
    Richard R. Betzler, Aviation Electronics Technician, Second Class
    Robert E. Bourget, Aviation Electrician's Mate, Third Class
    Edward L. Hoey, Aviation Machinist's Mate, First Class
    Robert G. Mason, Aviation Ordnanceman, First Class
    Franklin B. Watkins, Aviation Electronics Technician, Second Class
    Lincoln H. Tripp, Aviation Electrician's Mate, First Class

The crewmembers and Navy personnel who died in the accident of the P2V-6, Bureau No. 126535, VP-934, were:
    Lieutenant Nicholas A. Vassalotti, USNR-R
    Commander Robert M. Shermet, USNR-R
    Harry E. Duffield, Aviation Machinist's Mate, first Class, USNR-R
    LT. Morton C. Lyle, USNR-R
    Richard C. Gramm, Aviation Electronics Technician, Third Class, USNR-R
    Charles W. Habbersett, Aviation Electronics Technician, First Class, USNR-R
    Leo R. Killen, Airman, USNR-R
    Bennie W. Maycheck, PHAC, USNR-R
    LT. John A. Rolle, USNR-R
    George Y. Taylor, Jr., ADR2, USNR-R
    William J. Vogel, Jr. Aviation Electrician's Mate, First Class

UPDATE "...Today, also honor noncombat deaths - By RON WHEELER - First published: Monday, May 28, 2007..." WebSite: TimesUnion.com http://www.timesunion.com/AspStories/story.asp?storyID=592743&category=OPINION&newsdate=5/28/2007 [29MAY2007]

My thoughts on this Memorial Day go back 50 years, to when I was a young crewman on a Navy P2V-7, a Lockheed Neptune patrol plane, deployed for five months to the Royal Naval Air Station in Halfar, Malta, in the Mediterranean. Our squadron designation was Patrol Squadron Twenty-Three (VP-23) and our home base was the naval air station in Brunswick, Maine.

On July 21, 1957, our squadron lost an aircraft that was on a search mission in northwestern Italy. It was looking for a Lockheed Neptune, P2V-6, assigned to Navy Reserve Patrol Squadron, VP-934, that had been reported missing. That plane was en route from the naval air station in Port Lyautey, French Morocco, to Treviso, Italy. In clouds, and flying on instruments, the pilot, Lt. Nicholas A. Vassalotti, commenced a descent to 5,000 feet. Unfortunately, the position of the aircraft was slightly off course and in the mountainous terrain of the Trento Dolomites. The aircraft struck a mountain at 8,500 feet at a high rate of speed, instantly killing all 11 crew members. The wreckage was found on July 23 by Italian "Alpini" troops.

Before the wreckage was discovered, aircraft from VP-23 departed from Halfar for the Aviano Air Base in Italy to assist in the search and rescue efforts. On July 21, one of our search aircraft, designated MA-11 and under the command of Lt. jg Herbert Kloepping, commenced a search in the Po Valley in the mountainous terrain of northwestern Italy. At about 1150 hours, Kloepping turned into the Pellice Valley, a valley that narrowed as he flew west, and which ended in rapidly rising terrain near an obscure Italian town named Bobbio Pellice.

Witnesses described MA-11's path as flying up the Pellice Valley at an estimated altitude of about 500 feet above the ground. The plane proceeded into the valley and rising terrain not far from Bobbio Pellice. It struck three trees and crashed at 1306 hours at an altitude of 7,000 feet above sea level on Monte Granero. Upon impact, the aircraft overturned, exploded and burned. Eight crew members died upon impact. Two crew members who were positioned in the after station of the aircraft survived the impact.

One of them, Lincoln Tripp, aviation electrician mate first class, died on the way to a hiker's hostel. Gene Forsyth, aviation machinist's mate second class, survived but received extensive burns to his body.

I knew the MA-11 crew and had flown with Kloepping. I had flown with Gene Forsythe and still recall how he would get airsick early in a flight, but continued to fly because he wanted the hazardous duty pay or "flight skins" that we received each month for being in flying status. At our age, we didn't see anything hazardous about flying.

I often went on liberty with Dick Betzler, an aviation electronic technician. We had dinner in Brunswick a few nights before we left for Malta. He invited me to join the crew of MA-11 because they were short one aviation technician. I declined because my own pilot was more experienced. I admired Dick's large aviator-type wristwatch that evening as we continued to down a pitcher of beer after the meal.

A day or so after the recovery of some of the bodies from Monte Granero, I saw a picture in the local Italian newspaper of the accident scene. An arm was protruding from a stretcher, from under a sheet. I recognized Dick's wristwatch and quickly moved down the street because I didn't want to see the paper anymore. I didn't want to think of the crew's last minutes.

Ron Christensen, another squadron buddy, went to the crash site to help recover the remaining bodies and to destroy sensitive electronic equipment. He found a scene of carnage and had recurring nightmares for sometime thereafter.

About a year after the crash, the Italian Alpine Club built a stone monument at the site of the crash, with a brass plaque listing the names of the dead crew members. The club did the same at the crash site of the Navy Reserve plane.

In the past five years, I've received e-mail from some people in Italy who were interested in the events surrounding those crashes. They also have sent pictures of the two small monuments. The VP-23 monument is in a state of disrepair as result of harsh winters in the mountains.

Arturo Rigotti of Bobbio Pellice, who at age 19 witnessed the crash of my squadron's aircraft, is attempting to refurbish the monument for VP-23's crew. Arturo does not speak English, but through another acquaintance in Italy, Daniele Matiuzzo, some former squadron mates and I have been able to ship a brass memorial plaque that lists the names of the dead and the one surviving crew member, Gene Forsyth, to Arturo for placement along with the original plaque. We hope this can be done on July 21, the 50th anniversary of that fatal crash.

On July 23, 1957, within days after these two crashes, a Navy P2V-5F crashed 300 yards off Barbers Point, Hawaii, killing all 10 crew members. Fifty years ago, within a span of a less than one week, 30 Navy air crewmen died in horrific crashes not related to combat. These young men, in the service of their country were as dead as if they had been cut down by a Japanese machine gun, a German artillery round, or an IED in Iraq. Their families' grief was, and may still be, as strong as if the loss of these men was in combat. There were no counselors for us in those days, no large turnouts, no stone walls listing names to be touched, no long lines of uniformed personnel participating in annual remembrances, no speeches; just a simple memorial service carried out in within a few weeks after the accident. We climbed into our aircraft and continued our patrols recording Russian naval activity, gathering electronic intelligence, and performing search and rescue missions.

Although I'm considered a Korean War veteran, I never call myself that out of respect for those who slogged through combat in Korea. We were the Cold War veterans, the Cold War casualties, and although we may be lost in the mix of all of the other conflicts and wars, we continued on with what our country expected from us, dedication to duty.

These losses are but a few that took place during the Cold War. I didn't record the number of Navy aircraft and crewmen who were shot down by Russian and Chinese aircraft and Chinese shore artillery. Nor did I cite the loss of members of a Coast Guard air crew during an attempt to rescue some of these naval aviators -- all during the Cold War.

So, my mind drifts back 50 years to remember those who died in carrying out their duty. Perhaps this Memorial Day, their families can obtain some satisfaction -- not closure, because I don't believe there is any such thing -- knowing that their sons, husbands and fathers died honorably serving their country in a forgotten period of world tension.

I also hope that our VP-23 plaque finds its way to a windswept mountainside at the end of the Pellice Valley, not far outside of Bobbio Pellice, a name I'll always remember.

Ron Wheeler lives in Albany.

UPDATE "...On July 19, 1957 a VP-934 Reserve Squadron P2V-6 crashed into a mountain side in the Alps Northwest and some 35 miles away from its destination airport of Treviso-Istrana, Italy. All crewmembers died in this accident. It took five days to locate the wreckage of this aircraft which was at an altitude of 8,500 feet in the mountains. On 21 July, 1957, a P2V-7 from VP-23 was conducting a search for the P2V-6 from VP-934 when it entered a valley in the Alps. The valley, North of a small town named Bobbio Pellice, had no escape route and terminated in rapidly rising terrain. LJ-11 crashed with the loss of nine of the ten crewmembers. Any VP-934 former members who want to know more about the accident involving their aircraft can contact me. I have the accident reports. Remember, they are concise and to the point..." Contributed by Ron Wheeler rwheeler002@nycap.rr.com [29MAY2005]

MishapsMISHAPs: 07 MAY 54 A/C: P2V-2 P Neptune "...MA-5 crashed just after takeoff at Nassau in the Bahama Islands on May 7, 1954, with the loss of the entire crew. With donations from the squadron a monument was erected 300 yards from the crash site, with a Bronze plaque which reads: In memory of these officers and men of patrol Squadron Twenty-three, United States Navy. Who gave their lives on May 7, 1954, in the service of their country and the free world LT(jg) William Martin, ENS Leland Orsburn, ENS John Tinney, ADC John Holle, AN Joseph Kiiliszewski Jr, AL1 Sparks, AO3 Franz Nelson, AD3 Gerald Lepard, ATAN Thomas Caylor, and AT3 Albert Olson. Three hundred yards from this point ten valiant airmen died in the crash of a P2V aircraft while performing a mission to make the United States and the free World more capable of protecting themselves in the event of another war. During dedication ceremonies 2 P2V's flew over and dropped flowers on the crash site..." Contributed by Elmer Wilcox Herkyjeanlbstr@aol.com [15MAR2000]

UPDATE History ThumbnailCameraMishap History "...Crashed United States Navy Plane I'd Plate PV2-5 May 7 1954 USN Special Training Mission , 10 people died in this crash just off the Bahamas in 1954, see more info below... I got this at local auction, it was part of a Pilots Estate Items, it has a note on the back that the id plate was removed from a piece of wreckage that washed ashore near Clifton Pier following a big storm approx 12 years (1966) after the incident and close to the crash site. The id tag has numerous numbers including aircraft type PV2-5 , the plate is attached to a board with original finders note as I got it..." WebSite: EBay http://www.ebay.com/ [18OCT2015]

UPDATE "...September 2003 VP-23 Reunion..." Contributed by Jack Malone (VP-23 1953-1955) irish.jpm@verizon.net [03OCT2004]

NOTE: The last stop on our tour of the base being the memorial garden at the base chapel. It was there that we discovered that there were two plaques missing for crews that VP-23 lost in 1954 and 1957. When I returned home, with the help of my VP-23 Shipmates, we raised funds for the plaques, and went back to the base on 16 May 2004 and conducted a memorial service and dedication..

Sunday afternoon, at precisely 1400 hours, two buses pulled into the Parkwood parking lot. The pre-arranged security procedure for boarding the buses was efficiently handled by our own former Police Chief Otto Geiger. Ron Beaudet, Jim Boyle and Elmer Wilcox assisted him. The only access to the base was by private bus. Everyone had to present his or her Dedication Invitation and photo ID in order to board the bus.

We arrived on schedule at the NAS Brunswick, Maine Chapel at 1430 hours. The Senior Chaplain, Captain John Wohlrabe, greeted us at the door. A sailor in his/her crisp white uniform escorted each lady down the aisle. The Service of Remembrance began with the Presentation of Colors by a Navy Honor Guard, followed by the National Anthem. After retiring the Colors, the Invocation was given by Captain Wahlrabe, followed by a welcome given by Mrs. Marcy McGuire, President of the Harpswell Garden Club. Chamber Ringers performed a rendition of "Farewell My Friend Until We Meet Again". Commander Robert Dishmann, Commanding Officer, VP-8, Command Master Chief Charles Blackston, VP-8 and Chaplain, LCDR Robert Purser did Scripture Readings. The congregation then sang the Hymn, Praise To The Lord, The Almighty. Captain Robert Winneg, Commanding Officer, NAS Brunswick, Maine gave Command Welcome & Commemorative Address. The congregation followed with the Navy Hymn, Eternal Father, Strong To Save.

Everyone proceeded to the garden for the Friendship Plaque Rededication Ceremony conducted by Mrs. Gerry Orem. Everyone then assembled in the Memorial Garden for the VP-23 Dedication. Rear Admiral Harry Rich, a PPC in VP-23 at the time of the LJ-ll accident, introduced the VP-23 Group and Chief Dave Brillhart. Chief Brillhart thanked all present for permitting us the opportunity to honor our crews by placing plaques in these hallowed grounds. He explained our honoring the sole survivor of the LJ-ll Crew, Gene Forsyth, by placing his name on the plaque with his crew and that the unveiling would be done by his daughters. He also spoke of Hope Lamb and how she would unveil her Father's plaque.

Don Penzine' gave a short remembrance for the Crew of MA-5, followed by Jack Malone who read the contents of the plaque. Ron Christensen did a similar remembrance for the LJ-ll Crew, followed by Arthur Badstuebner's reading of the plaque. Chaplain, LT. Bernard Welch conducted a Benediction, there was a moment of silent prayer and Chief John Baker concluded the program with Taps.

Following the dedication, the ladies of the Harpswell Garden Club provided a beautiful assortment of refreshments in the Chapel Meeting Hall. After socializing for about an hour, and after many tears and thanks, we boarded the coaches and returned to the Parkwood. I can honestly say, without reservation, everyone was completely in awe of the entire ceremony. It was truly a beautiful and memorable experience. On a personal note, I could not have been more pleased to witness the reaction and outpouring of love and appreciation from the families of our deceased Shipmates. What you have given those people will remain with them for the rest of their lives. On behalf of all of you I graciously accepted the kind words of Rear Admiral Rich when he said, "for fifty years the former Officers of VP-23 have met and discussed the need for plaques for these two crews. We talked and talked about it, but you guys did it and I'm really proud of you". To quote the families," thank you for remembering and honoring our loved ones. May God bless you all." That, my Shipmates, says it all.

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UPDATE "...The following are excerpts from the Nassau Guardian May 10, l954 - The U.S. Navy salvage crews expect completely to recover the wreck of the P2V Neptune patrol bomber that crashed off the south coast of New Providence early last Friday morning, killing its crew of 10 men. The submarine salvage ship U.S.S.Penguin ASR 12 arrived in Nassau yesterday morning with 15 divers aboard. Working throughout the day from barges and small boats the divers managed to raise most of the wreckage. The recovered pieces will be sent to Key West where it will be inspected and analyzed by experts of the Bureau of Aeronautics. Heading the investigation panel is LCDR Burton Hickman, of VP-23, the squadron to which the wrecked plane belonged. A special transport plane arrived at Windsor Field with the bodies of the airman to be flown back to Boston where they will awaint completion of burial details by the next of kin. A special memorial service is planned at the home base of NAS Brunswick, Maine. I would appreciate a respponse with any info you might have..." Contributed by Bob Muldoon rjmuldoon1@aol.com[10NOV2003]


MishapsMISHAPs: 03 DEC 67 A/C: P2V P Neptune Location: Otis AFB, Falmouth, Mass Strike: Yes DEATHS: 00 BUNO: Unknown Cause: LG-4 - Crew-11 crashed in adverse weather off the end of the Otis AFB, Falmouth, Mass., runway. The crew egressed safely, but the aircraft was totally consumed by fire. SOURCE: 142 DICTIONARY OF AMERICAN NAVAL AVIATION SQUADRONS–Volume 2 (Third VP-23) [17AUG22016]

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MishapsMISHAPs: 26 APR 78 A/C: P3P3 Orion LOCATION: NAF Lajes Field, Azores, Portugal TYPE: Collision Water SRIKE: Yes DEATHS: 07 BUNO: 152724 CAUSE: Pilot/Poss VMC Air

UPDATE "...My roomate was AO3 Joe Elmore, who died in 1978, in crash of LJ-4. I don't know if anyone remembers but Joe had been in the Army before and fought front line combat in Nam. He was also wounded numerous times. He told me he loved the military but wanted a "safer" job so he hooked up with the Navy and came to VP-23. Only to been involved in that fatal crash where we all lost some of our brothers....CHARTIER, AZ2 James J. ffpd501@yahoo.com [07NOV2004]

UPDATE "...I would love to hear from crew/friends of my husband, Lt. David Gerald Schwerstein, PPC of LJ6, VP-23, NAS Brunswick, Maine. His plane went down at sea on April 28, 1978. This April will be 25 years since the accident. If you knew my husband, please contact me. Thank you...Mrs. David Gerald (Charla Jean) Schwerstein charlajean@centurytel.net..." [09OCT2002]

UPDATE "...My father LTjg Micheal Dziubak also died in the April 26, 1978 plane crash near NAF Lajes, Azores, Portugal (BUNO:152724 I think) with six other members of his VP-23 flight AP6Q in a P3 plane. I'm 22 now (as of Sept 00) and I wanted to see if there was still anyone around that remembered anything about him since I never got to meet him. Please e-mail me if you have any info on him or the crash. Thanks!...LTjg Micheal Dziubak c/o His Son S. Michele Dziubak MicheleDziubak@hotmail.com..." [14SEP2000]

UPDATE "...I'm looking for friends of my father (Robert Hasselbacher - P3B #152724 (LJ-4) 26APR78) killed in the mishap...Denna Farling denna@clinic.net..." [28NOV99]

UPDATE "...My daddy was stationed in Brunswick, Maine with VP-23. His P-3 crashed in the ocean near the Azores on April 26, 1978. His squadron friends called him "The Hulk", and he was a wonderful and talented man. He would have went far with his Naval career, but he was only 32 years old at the time of his death. I am now 32 myself, and I miss him every day of my life. I would love to hear from anyone who served with my father. I also understand that there is to be a 20 year memorial service in Brunswick next April to commemorate my father an his crew. If anyone has any further information, please get in touch with me. My deepest gratitude to all of the men who have served our country in the armed forces!!" Cindy Schwerstein-Tysenn jtysenn@aol.com

UPDATE "...Cindy has received several messages from men who were with her father in the Azores, and it has been great comfort to her. "Reading all of the nice e-mail from dad's crew members has made a big difference..." [07AUG97]

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