VPNAVY VP-9 Mishap - Soviet Shot Down 22JUN55 - No Loss Of Life
VPNAVY Address

MishapVP-34 MishapMishap


Mishaps --- 08 AUG 42 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: San Blas Bay, Panama Strike: No BUNO: 04447 Cause: Aircraft landed with 14 men, four depth bombs and 1000gals of gasoline, made a series of practice landings. The damage was not attributed to any one specific landing, but rather to the entire series. Approx 50 landings were attempted of which 35 bounces occurred. Load for practice landings have been reduced and limited to 7 men, two depth bombs and 600 gals of gasoline. Damage: Rivets in bottom loosened. Skin on port side wrinkled. Longeron port side out of alignment. Keel web buckled. No damage to engines. Crew & pass Ok: Pilot CAP. T. F. Shields, USN, McAllister, Ens Connelly, Ens Hale, Ens Froehlich, Ens O'Brien, Ens Geluick, Ens McPartland, Ens Stanbery, Mace, Voltz, Delesky, Burkowske, and Jennings. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [01DEC2002]

Mishaps --- 20 AUG 42 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: Manzanillo Bay, Canal Zone Strike: Yes BUNO: 04468 Cause: Plane was to high on its approach for a good power landing. Pilot increased glide angle to make a lower approach. When aircraft was near edge of bay, landing lights were turned on and with engines half throttle, come in for landing in a almost normal attitude, on making contact with water a large quantity of spray completely enveloped aircraft. The most prominent contributing factor to accident was the fact that the landing lights were used on clear glassy water. The light apparently penetrated surface of water without giving any indication of position of water and mislead to false conception of altitude. Damage:Total loss Crew & pass: Pilot. Lt.Cmdr. Rennick S. Calperhead/Killed, Ens. C. J. Frolick/Killed, Ens. A. P. Keleher/Killed, Ens. R. B. Mauro/Killed, Amm2c. J. C. Morgan/Seriously inj, Aom2c. C. H. Burkowske/Killed, Amm3c. A. J. Sweeney/Killed, Amm3c. J. G. Hollywood/Seriously inj, Amm3c. Michael Sypko,Jr/Minor inj, Amm3c. R. B. Hutchinson/Minor inj, Amm3c. C. A. Jenkins/Seriously inj, and Sea2c. G. W. Barlow/Killed. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [29JUN2001]

Mishaps --- 13 MAY 43 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: 19-08N 75-10W Strike: No BUNO: 08350 Cause: Plane was flying at an altitude of 1500-ft about 40mi. south-east of Guantanamo Bay, Cuba when the self sealing fuel line from the fuel cut-off valve to selector valve carried away. Gasoline started leaking into the radio compartment and at the same time the starboard engine cut out. Pilot feathered the starboard propeller, jettisoned the depth bombs, and attempted to return to base on one engine, but strong gasoline fumes in the plane and the inability to maintain altitude on one engine resulted in pilot making a forced-landing. Plane was towed back to base without further damage. Damage: No damage to propellers or engines. Belt frames 1, 2, 3, 4 between stations 4 and 5 buckled. Bulkhead between mechanic and radioman's compartment buckled. All stringers between stations 4 and 5, buckled. About 200 rivets loosened and knocked out. Crew Ok. Pilot: Lt Norman L. Paxton, AV-N USNR, Lt(jg) W. O. Pierce, USNR, Lt(jg) A. W. Wright, Jr. USNR (minor cuts on right hand), Ens J. P. Moore, AMM1c H. S. Neuendorf, AMM3c R. H. Fambrough, AMM3c S. E. Nelson, ARM2c H. A. Talhs, AMM3c H. D. Stanely, ARM3c V. F. Wolf (sprained left ankle), AMM3c G. L. Cherrix, and ARM1c R. W. White. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [06DEC2002]

Mishaps --- 04 NOV 43 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: Unknown Strike: Yes BUNO: 08130 Cause: Plane was moored to a bouy located about 150yds from USS Childs and 100yds. from shore. Ens.Singleton, Neuendorf and Johnson were on board as taxi crew. No watch was kept. At about 0700 Johnson awakened and called Singleton informing hi, that the plane was dragging its mooring. At the same time a boat from the tender arrived and brought orders to Singleton to break his moorings and secure to another buoy as the plane was dragging its mooring. The boat did not remain at the plane but returned to the tender. Singleton and Johnson signaled up and Singleton returned to cockpit to start up. At this time and before auxiliary power unit was started, the preventer line carried away and the plane started to drift onto shore. The port engine was started and the plane hit a submerged rock just as the starboard engine was started. Singleton ascertained the hull was punctured and filling fast and proceeded to beach the plane. Damage:Hole torn in hull at station 4-5, which necessitated beaching the plane. Entire plane was submerged on high water. Crew OK: Pilot Ens. Robert henry Singleton A-V(N) Usnr, Amm1c. William A. Neuendorf Usnr, and Rm1c. Edward H. Johnson Usn. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [30JUL2001]

Mishaps --- 09 JAN 44 A/C: PBY pby Location: North of New Ireland Strike: Yes BUNO: 8436 Cause: Captured by the Japanese

UPDATE "...Photographs relating to LT(jg) Aljah W. Wright, Jr. I think the handwritten note on the first document was interesting about them finding plane wreckage. The second document lists Major Gregory Boyington as well as 8 other names. Hope these are helpful in helping others find answers...." Contributed by LM lnmeins@gmail.com [28NOV2020]

History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

UPDATE "...Photographs relating to LT(jg) Aljah W. Wright, Jr...." Contributed by LM lnmeins@gmail.com [27NOV2020]
History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail History - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail

UPDATE VP-34 Squadron ThumbnailCameraVP-34 Crew "...In 1998 and 1999, I posted information on this web site about a VP-34 PBY crew which was captured by the Japanese after a patrol mission north of New Ireland on the evening of January 9, 1944. These men were imprisoned at Rabaul, on the island of New Britain.

This has been part of a larger project I've undertaken, which involves an effort to identify all the Allied aviators who were POWs of the Japanese at this major base. Though I've come very far in my research since my previous postings, I'm still eager to find photographs of these POWs. Recently, I obtained just such a picture. It was kindly given to me by Mr. Jules M. Busker, a resident of Iowa who was a VP-34 "Cat" pilot during WW II.

The crew image above is quite haunting, for of the four officers within it, only two would survive the war. Viewed from left to right, they are (Ensign James D.?) Moore, Hetherwick (first name unknown), Lt. JG Roger Means, and Lieutenant Aljah W. Wright. Moore survived the war, but Means and Wright did not, and I have no information about Hetherwick.

As readers of this page may know from my earlier postings, Aljah Wright and his crewmen were almost certainly "executed" by members of the Japanese Navy's "81st Naval Guard Unit" while they were POWs, probably some time in the spring of 1944.

Means lost his life in the early morning of January 3, 1944, during a patrol mission to the Central Bismarck Sea. According to Richard C. Knott's "Black Cat Raiders of WW II", he was conducting a raid on Garove Island, when his PBY was badly shot up by ground fire. As related by the War Diary of VP-34, Means was killed instantly when he was struck in the head by a single fifty-caliber round. His co-pilot, Lt. JG Bill Lavis, brought PBY (Bureau Number 8497; Squadron Number 72) back to Samarai, New Guinea.

If I learn more information about Aljah Wright's crew or VP-34, I'll be sure to post it here...Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net..." [12DEC2000]

UPDATE "...VP-34 PBY-5 BUNO: 8436 lost January 9, 1944 - anyone have informtion about the loss or crew? The aircraft's last known location was approximately 100-200 miles due north of New Ireland. The Catalina's crew consisted of: Lieutenant Aljah W. Wright, Jr., Ensign Paul J. Malatesta, Ensign Isaac J. Osborn, ARM 3/c Robert W. Henderson, AOM 2/c James Knight, Jr., AMM 2/c Jack B. Posey, AMM 2/c Lowell I. Snow, ACMMA Alfred W. Sommerfeldt, Jr., and ACRMA George L. Spear. Unfortunately, I have no information as to the actual circumstances behind this crew's loss. Of these nine men, at least five were captured by the Japanese, and imprisoned at Rabaul, New Britain. The identities of three of these five POWs are known…they were Aljah Wright, Paul Malatesta, and Isaac Osborn. In any event, none survived their imprisonment. The five were last seen by John M. Arbuckle of VP-52 (himself also a Cat pilot), who after being captured on Nov. 23, 1943, was eventually transported to mainland Japan, where he survived the war. Osborn was from New Jersey, but I don't know the home states of the other men. I'm especially curious if anyone has any photographs of this crew and their "Cat". Or - is there any information about this plane and crew in Robert W. Hayes' book, "Bless 'Em All: The Adventures of a Navy "Black Cat" Squadron in World War II"? (The crew roster listed above, the PBY's bureau number, and the date of this crew's loss were provided by Ted Darcy, of the WFI Research Group, Inc. at P.O. Box 231, Fall River, Mass. 92724-0231).) Thanks!...Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net..." [E-Mail Updated 13DEC2000 | 05SEP98]

UPDATE "...I learned on the internet that VP-34 PBY-5 BUNO 8436 was lost January 9,1944. One of the men in that plane was ACMMA Alfred W. Sommerfelt Jr., who I flew with while in VP-34. The last person to see these men while prisoners of the Japs., was PBY.pilot Commander John Arbuckle, which is mentioned in Major Boyington`s book BAA BAA Black Sheep page 235. There are other members of the squadron that I would like to have information, if you have any available..." Contributed by Charles Johnson skeeter@mfi.net [16OCT98]

UPDATE "...Back on Sep. 5, '98, I posted a message about PBY # 8436 of VP-34, which was lost to unknown causes on Jan. 9, 1944. I'd learned that six (not five, as in that posting) members of this Cat's crew were POWs of the Japanese Navy (the "81st Naval Guard Unit") at Rabaul, New Britain. Three of the six were Aljah Wright (the Cat's pilot?), Paul Malatesta, and Isaac Osborn. At the time, I did not know the identities of the other three POWs. Since that posting, I've learned who two of those three "unknowns" were. They were ACMMA Alfred W. Sommerfeldt, Jr. and ACRMA George L. Spear. Unfortunately, the identity of the "last" of these six POWs is unknown. I was able to determine the status of Sommerfeldt and Spear as POWs by consulting the Publication "Combat Connected Naval Casualties, World War II". Curiously, "CCNC - WW II" lists only Osborne, Sommerfeldt, and Spear specifically as POWs. Malatesta is not listed as a POW, being designated as "Killed in Action", while Wright's name is under the heading "Missing in Action During Operational Missions". Henderson, Knight, Posey and Snow are also listed as Killed in Action. Again, though, John Arbuckle definitely confirmed the status of Malatesta, Wright, and Osborne as POWs in a postwar report, in which he also mentioned that three other members of this Cat's crew…whose names he presumably forgot, but who certainly were Sommerfeldt and Spear…were POWs. Based on a thorough check of "CCNC - WW II" I was able to determine that the Cat's crewmen came were from the following towns: Wright, Jr. - Dewitt, Arkansas; Malatesta - Medford, Massachusetts; Osborn - Lavalette, New Jersey (on Atlantic Coast of New Jersey); Henderson - Los Angeles, California; Knight, Jr. - Cookeville, Tennessee; Posey - Richfield, Kansas; Snow - Kokomo, Indiana; Sommerfeldt, Jr. - Milwaukee, Wisconsin; and Spear - Norfolk, Virginia. I have no information why this PBY and crew were lost. Unfortunately, that question may forever remain unanswered...Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net..." [31OCT98]

UPDATE "...In the Fall of 1998, I posted two messages to this Web-Site pertaining to the disappearance of a PBY commanded by Lt. Aljah W. Wright, Jr., and his eight crewmen. Their PBY, Bu. No. 8436, vanished during a patrol mission near New Britain on January 9, 1944. Wright and four of his crewmen (A. Sommerfeldt, G. Spear, P. Malatesta, and I. Osborn) are known to have been captured, and were imprisoned at a POW camp run by the Japanese Navy at Rabaul, New Britain. Sommerfeldt and Spear were last seen alive by John M. Arbuckle of VP-52 on Jan. 13, 1944. Wright, Malatesta, and Osborn were last seen by Arbuckle on the day of his "departure" from Rabaul for Truk and eventually Japan, on Feb. 17, 1944. None of these five VP-34 POWs returned. Since my last posting, I've discovered more information about the circumstances under which Wright and his crew were lost. The War Diary of VP-34 contains the following entry for January 9, 1944..."1-9-44 Lt. Merritt (#08354) on patrol of the north coast of New Guinea strafed a 2000 ton AO and a 1000 ton AO with 1200 rounds of .50 and 300 rounds of .30 caliber ammunition after missing the smaller ship with 4 x 650 lb. depth bombs. The smaller ship was set afire. LT(jg) Michel (#08495) on patrol of the southwest coast of New Ireland attacked a 10-ship convoy 30 miles southeast of Dyaul Island, scoring one hit with a 500 lb. bomb on a destroyer. LT(jg) Wright (#08436) on patrol of same area failed to return and was presumed shot down over the same convoy as that attacked by LT(jg) Michel. Plane and crew are missing." Additionally, VP-34's War Diary for January of 1944 contains a roster of PBYs assigned to the squadron during that time period. The Bureau Numbers and corresponding squadron numbers of the squadron's PBYs are: 8137 - No. 70; 8139 - No. 75; 8283 - No. 66; 8352 - No. 65; 8354 - No. unknown; 8363 - No. 69; 8434 - No. 71; 8436 - No. unknown…lost 1/9/44; 8491 - No. 73; 8492 - No. 61; 8493 - No. 67; 8494 - No. 62; 8495 - No. 68; 8496 - No. 74; 8497 - No. 72; 8498 - No. 64; and 8505 - No. 63 (((The above information was found in the National Archives, at College Park, Maryland, in Box 119 of Records Group 38; shelf location 370/45/22/2.)))...Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net..." [20FEB99]

UPDATE Shipmate Pix "... Aljah Wright 1939 College Graduation Picture...Found a little more information about Lt. Aljah W. Wright, Jr., the VP-34 PBY pilot whose Cat was shot down on the evening of Jan. 9, 1944, and whose crew were captured and imprisoned at Rabaul, New Britain. Lt. Wright's nickname was "Buck", and he attended ASTC (Arkansas State Technical College, now known as the University of Central Arkansas), graduating from there in 1939. His family came from the town of Olena, Arkansas, a community which no longer exists...and his parents were Mr. and Mrs. Aljah Wolford and Nina (Coffield) Wright. This information was provided to me by Ms. Virginia D. Platt, librarian at the DeWitt Public Library, in DeWitt, Arkansas..." Contributed by Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net..." [21SEP99]

MishapsMISHAPs: 25 APR 44 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: Central Pac Strike: Yes BUNO: 08283 Cause: Non combat mission. PBY crashed during an attempt to rescue a B-24 crew. Crew and survivors rescued by another PBY. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [08AUG2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 24 JUL 44 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: SW Pac Strike: Yes BUNO: 08137 Cause: Failed to return from a night search after attacking a target in Kaoe Bay, Northern Halmaheras and are missing in action. Crew: Lt. R. W. Ball, Lt(jg) Robert Federico, Ens Robert H. Hicks, and 2/MIA. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [12AUG2001]

UPDATE "...I have learned the following that I have learned from my research. Sincerely, Bill Pease william.pease@verizon.net..." [28FEB2007]

Henry C. Simmons, Jr., was born 19 May 1919, probably in Union, Knox County, Maine, the son of Henry C. Simmons and Addie L. (Pease) Simmons who had married 29 May 1918.

Henry grew up in Union and attended Union High School, graduating in 1937 (200 YEARS IN UNION, Union, Maine: Union Historical Society, 1974).

During World War II Henry enlisted in the U.S. Navy and served mostly in the Pacific theater of operations. He flew as an aviation radioman first class in a Consolidated PBY-5 Catalina aircraft, which became the Navy's most successful flying boat, highly adept at both rescuing downed fliers and at bombing Japanese submarines and surface ships. The lumbering PBY-5 had a maximum speed of only 180 mph and a cruising speed of only 117 mph, but it could carry bombs or depth charges for anti-submarine patrols to a range of close to 3000 miles. The Catalina did its job well. Ultimately it was responsible for destroying "a tenth of all of the Japanese shipping blasted into oblivion during the forty-four months of fighting in the Pacific." (Creed: PBY, p. 181.)

Robert Hayes, the historian of Henry's squadron VPB-34, writes of the Catalina's capacity and handling as an aircraft of war:

    "Our night patrols would take off at sunset and return at dawn, and the take-offs were exciting, to say the least. With 1,450 gallons of gasoline and 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of bombs, the planes would carry a gross weight of 37,000 pounds, nearly 20 tons, including the crew. The Cat was durable; it was built like a brick outhouse. But it handled like a truck. We would often see a heavily laden Cat disappear over the horizon, still slamming into the ocean swells, trying to get airborne. Once in a while one would come taxiing back, unable to get off at all. The takeoff technique was to apply full power, haul back on the control yoke and, when some speed was generated, push the yoke forward and get 'on the step' (the stepped-forward portion of the boat hull). Then we'd muscle the controls as the plane slammed into the waves and ocean swells, and then, maybe, we would get enough air speed to slam off one more time and hold the Cat inches off the water, until she finally grabbed some flying speed.

    "It was said that the PBY climbed, cruised and stalled out at 90 knots" (Hayes: BLESS 'EM ALL, p. 7-8)
Henry's patrol squadron VP-34 was formed in NAS Norfolk, Virginia, in July, 1942. It moved on to NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone, and from there to NAS Guantanamo Bay, Cuba where it flew its first patrols for three months. It was then transferred to Perth, Western Australia, in September, 1943, and on December 26, 1943, the squadron transferred to Samarai on the most Eastern point of New Guinea. His squadron was assigned air-sea-rescue duties during which time it saved seventy-seven men, but on 17 July 1944 those duties were changed to search and attack and the squadron transferred to Biok Island just northwest of New Guinea and closer to the Philippines. His squadron VPB-34, as it then became known, was part of several squadrons of black-painted PBY Catalina flying boats that operated mainly at night, which were known as the "Black Cats." Their service, heroism, and dedication to duty and country wrote a proud chapter in the history of U.S. Naval aviation.

On the evening of 23 July 1944 Henry Simmons' Black Cat Catalina patrol plane number 70 left on patrol and never returned. Its crew was declared lost at sea, missing in action, on 24 July 1944, and Henry was officially declared dead on 4 February 1946, five months after the Japanese surrender on September 2, 1945.

The loss of his plane and crewmates is recounted briefly on pages 173-4 of Roscoe Creed's definitive book on the aircraft, PBY; THE CATALINA FLYING BOAT (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1985):
    "A Cat flown by Lieutenant (j.g.) Richard Ball was lost early in the tour. During the night of 23 July [1944] he radioed that he had found a target at Halmahera Island and was beginning his attack. The plane never returned to the tender."
Richard Knott in his definitive book on Black Cat operations, Black Cat RAIDERS OF WORLD WAR II, tells of the loss thusly (pp. 161-2):
    "This tour of search-and-attack missions started, unfortunately, on a sour note. On the night of July 23, Lieutenant (j.g.) Richard W. Ball sent a contact report to base, advising that he had found a target in Kaoe Bay at enemy-held Halmahera Island and was commencing an attack. Base radio heard nothing more from Ball's aircraft but another Cat operating in the area received weak and garbled transmissions from his plane as much as an hour and fifteen minutes later. Then all transmissions ceased. The plane did not return to base."
The Navy's brief listing of the loss of the plane was the following:
    " --- 24 JUL 44 A/C: PBY-5 [pby] Location: SW Pac Strike: Yes BUNO: 08137 Cause: Failed to return from a night search after attacking a target in Kaoe Bay, Northern Halmaheras and are missing in action. Crew: Lt. R. W. Ball, Lt(jg) Robert Federico, Ens Robert H. Hicks, and 2/MIA" [One of the Missing In Action was Henry Simmons, Jr.] from website http://www.vpnavy.com/vp34_mishap.html (a website devoted to the history of US Navy patrol squadrons).
The target contact report to base that Henry's plane made that night was later found to be noted in the personal Aviator's Flightlog of another radioman in Henry's squadron, Art Berkovitz (later Berkell), who wrote that the contact report said the target they were attacking was a Japanese transport and three destroyers. The anti-aircraft fire that three Japanese destroyers could send against a slow PBY attempting to bomb them must have been withering, indeed. Berkovitz continued in the back of his Aviator's Flightlog to make this short but moving entry about the missing aircraft and his buddies:
    "Lt. Ball & Crew took off for a nite bombing mission to the same place as we were the nite before-- They sent in a contact report on sighting a transport & 3 destroyers in the same harbour at Helmahera Island. That was the last heard of them-- one more crew missing in action.... There can be no better tribute paid to the...men-- they were swell friends and buddies....Wherever they be-- God be with them."
The war campaign in which Henry and his crewmates were participating had as its objective to take the small Japanese-held island of Morotai (Lat 2° 19' 60N Long 128° 25' 0E) in the Northern Halmaheras Islands northwest of New Guinea. Morotai had a large airfield on it. Once he took that island, General Douglas MacArthur knew he would have a strategic base from which to launch operations against the Philippine Islands, only 400 miles away--- to which MacArthur had said "I shall return!" -- and thus eventually shorten the war. Henry Simmons, Jr., and all the crew of the PBY in which he served, gave their lives for that cause. Moratai was the final island invasion in Dutch New Guinea before the liberation of the Philippines. Just two months after Henry and his crewmates died American troops invaded Morotai on September 15, 1944, completely surprising and dispersing an enemy force of 1,000 men. Airstrips were immediately built to accommodate the Consolidated B-24 Liberator bombers of the Thirteenth Air Force and the Philippine Islands were subsequently taken. The conquest of this small Pacific island, for which Henry and his crewmates gave their lives, brought significant U.S. air power to bear on the Japanese and shortened the war.

Interestingly and coincidentally, on October 23, 1944, a flight of ten Black Cats from Henry's squadron VPB-34 and from squadron VPB-33 became the first American aircraft to officially land in the Phillippines since the Japanese invasion. (Hayes: BLESS 'EM ALL, p. 56)

On 1 January 1945 Lieutenant Commander V. V. Utgoff, USN, Commanding Officer of Patrol Bombing Squadron 34, submitted the following concise summary of operations of his squadron:
    Subject: Squadron operations
      1. The final results of all squadron operations of war during its Pacific war cruise are as follows: approximately 1000 combat sorties flown, comprising about 10,000 combat hours, during which 120,500 tons of enemy shipping were damaged, of which 98,000 tons were sunk or destroyed; 4 destroyers and 2 escort vessels damaged, 75 to 125 luggers, barges and other small craft damaged or destroyed, and 281 Allied personnel rescued, 153 more evacuated from or flown to front line areas, and 3 Japanese prisoners taken.

      2. For this unsurpassed record: 'Well done.'


Squadron Presidential Unit Citation
1 Congressional Medal of Honor
5 Navy Crosses
12 Silver Stars
8 Distinguished Flying Crosses
17 Air Medals
4 Purple Hearts
(These were Navy decorations; many more were awarded by the Army.)

LOSSES: Sadly, two full crews lost on night missions, and one pilot killed by a single enemy bullet."

At the end of the war the Black Cats came home, a very difficult and deadly job well done. The accomplishment of the Cats is summed up superbly on the last page (184) of Richard Knott's Black Cat RAIDERS OF WORLD WAR
    "Slowly, during the last months of 1944 and into the first months of 1945, the Black Cats began wending their way home across the Pacific. They were a sorry sight, dented and pockmarked, with black paint peeling from their battered hulls. Some wore crude patches and others still carried bullet holes that had not yet been plugged. But these were warriors' scars, earned in battle and worn with dignity. And justly so. Never in history has an aircraft so ill-designed for combat wreaked so much havoc on such a dangerous and merciless adversary. Not since David and his slingshot had men gone forth with more courage than those who flew out into the darkness at 95 knots, in search of Japanese Goliaths!"
Henry Simmons' gravestone in the Union Common Cemetery, Union, Maine, carries the correct date of his death, 24 July 1944, but it is commerative only as his body was never found, lost at sea. The gravestone carries the legend:

"He gave his life in the service of his country."

UPDATE Mishap "...My cousin Henry C. SIMMONS, Jr., was an Aviation Radioman First Class on a PBY-5 of VP-34 that was lost on 24 July 1944 in Kaoe Bay near Morotai Island some 300 miles northwest of Sansapor, New Guinea.

I am currently writing a history of our family and plan to dedicate it to James Pease, an ancestor who fought in the Revolutionary War, and to Henry C. Simmons, Jr., who gave his life for his county in World War II.

I would be very interested to hear from any of Henry's Shipmates who may remember him or who have pictures of him. I want to do a thorough job of relating Henry's ultimate service and sacrifice for his country in my book.

I am attaching a picture of his gravestone in Union, Maine, his home town. I'm pretty sure that the stone is commerative only because I do not believe his body was ever recovered.

Sincerely, Bill Pease william.pease@verizon.net..." [20DEC2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 14 AUG 44 A/C: PBY-5 pby Location: Wios Wolndi, Dutch New Guinea Strike: Yes BUNO: 08494 Cause: Hit floating debris during night landing. Hull severly damaged. "Total Loss" Crew OK. Pilot Lt(jg) Frank M. Potts and Sea1c Carl Lee Osborn. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [12AUG2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 25 OCT 44 A/C: PBY-5A pby Location: Philippines Strike: Yes BUNO: 08063 Cause: Plane sank following an open sea landing off southeast coast of Samar. Landing attempted to effect rescue. Pilot Lt.Cmdr. Vadya V. Utgoff (PPC) USN/OK. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [13AUG2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 06 NOV 44 A/C: PBY-5A pby Location: San Pedro Bay, Philippines Strike: Yes BUNO: 08434 Cause: Crashed on landing when engine cut out:No inj. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [13AUG2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 15 NOV 44 A/C: PBY-5A pby Location: Philippines Strike: Yes BUNO: 08283 Cause: damage occurred during twilight take-off with heavy load and large swells. Weak bottom gave away, and plane sank: Pilot Lt. Cmdr.Utgoff/OK. Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [13AUG2001]

MishapsMISHAPs: 04 OCT 51 A/C: PBM-5S Marina Location: NAS Trinidad, British West Indies Strike: Yes BUNO: 84668 Cause: FULL STALL LNDG, CARENAGE BAY Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [13MAR98]


MishapsMISHAPs: 22 MAR 53 A/C: PBM Marina "...Mishap Information..." MUNDAY, Tom thommunday@att.net..." [Updated 27JUN2003 | 28MAY2002]

VP-34 stationed NAS Trinidad, British West Indies was deployed to San Juan, PR for participation in "Operation Springboard". Our tender was the USS Currituck II (AV-7) and we had 10 of our 12 aircraft on site.

We anchored our aircraft on buoys in the body of water adjacent to San Juan's Jose Martin Airport. One of our aircraft, EC-10, had been experiencing random electrical problems while airborne but the problem could not be detected while anchored on the buoy.

It was decided to send one of the lead Aviation Electrician's mate along on EC-10's next flight to see if he could analyze the problem when it occurred.

My recollection was that it was early evening on the 22nd of March, 1953, that EC-10, with it's full crew and the Aviation Electrician, got airborne about 2000.

The aircraft's hourly position reports were received by the Currituck Operations, once at 2100 and again at 2200. The 2200 report was the last message received.

Our squadron was scrambled early the next morning to see if we could find the aircraft and possibly any survivors. Most all of the Atlantic fleet on maneuvers also participated in scouting for the missing aircraft. Our aircraft with crew searched for the next 36 hours but to no avail. The search was called off and we returned to "Operation Springboard." We received a message from a Pan American Clipper, flying from New York to San Juan, that they had sighted something that looked like a life-raft, but after searching the coordinates they provided it turned out negative.

According to web sites Accidents-United States and Honor Roll-United States, it was estimated the aircraft went down at coordinates 2337N & 7007W. It also mentions the aircraft was en route from San Juan to Trinidad. This may be fact however the coordinates listed are quite a bit north of San Juan. If the aircraft was heading for Trinidad you would have thought it would have been quite a bit south of San Juan. It's possible that the decision to go home to Trinidad was made after flying a couple of hours on station.

Crew Members

The pilot and plane commander of the doomed aircraft was LTJG. J.D. Wick. He was a graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy. I believe his father held the rank of Admiral during WWII. I had flown with LT Wick prior to my assignment on EC-12. In my book he was an excellent pilot and officer. He helped me a lot in my training as an aircrewman.

Co-pilot was LT. M.R. Armour. When not flying he was VP-34's Electronic & Electrical Shop Maintenance Officer. Navigator was LTjg E Radovich. The PPC was W.J. Livingston, AD1 and he had D.J. Eames, AD-3, & R.L. Harrington, AD-3 as 2nd & 3rd Mechs respectively.

The 1st radioman was D.C. McLaughlin, AL2, with R.L. Piersante, AT3, sitting 2nd radioman and R.E. Appelt, ATAN, as 3rd radioman.

The 1st ordnance was C.E. Holder, AO1 and C.R. West, AOAN, was the 2nd ordnance. "

The Aviation Electrician, AE1 was also aboard the flight. His name was not mentioned on the Honor Roll-United States web site. I can't recollect his name.

If anyone out there knows anymore about this incident please contact me.

Mishaps --- 25 MAR 53 A/C: PBM-5S Marina Location: San Juan, Puerto Rico Strike: Yes BUNO: 85151 Cause: Flight:Overdue for 36hrs. SAR negative. Terminated Mar 25, 1943. PBM-5S BuNo 85151 tender based aboard the USS Currituck II (AV-7) anchored in the harbor at San Juan, Puerto Rico, Time Zone 4. The aircraft departed San Juan at 210114z March 1953 on a ASW search in connection with a PHIBEX II Operation. The flight plane was a controlled VFR to 19 deg 30'N, the south boundary of the airspace reservation, thence on operational clearance 0' - 4500' VFR, 2000' - 4500 VFR. At 220240z the pilot reported by OW. "On Station" at a predesignated point "A" 20:15M 67.45W. The search area was 340 miles wide along a base line of 315 deg. At 220455z the reported "Plan B" a predesignated point at 24.15N 71.45W. At 220600z, the following message was sent by CW. "Proceed immediately Latitude 22-50 North, Longitude 67-30West. Maintain stationary gambit tactics; report on station and hourly plan. IFR 2000'. You will be relieved approximately 221050z." At 220626z the following, CW transmission was received "Roger" "Wait" The was the last contact with the aircraft. Its estimated position at this time was 23-37North, 70-07West. The aircraft's ETA San Juan was 221315z and it had sufficient fuel to remain airborne until 221515z. The pilot and crew were well qualified to handle any but the most extreme types of emergencies. Because of the complete lack of evidence, it is concluded that an immediate emergency occurred and the aircraft exploded or crash landed at sea in such a manner that aircraft parts and equipment were carried under with hull. Crew missing: Lt(jg). John Glen Wick (pilot), Lt. Emil (nmi) Rakovich (co-pilot), Lt. Mark Robert Armour (navigator), AD1. Wallace J. Livingston (Plane Capt), AD3. Daniel Josiah Fames (2nd mechanic), AL2. Glenn D. McLaughlin (1st radioman), AO1. Clearance Egar Holder (1st ordanceman), ATAN. Howard Edward Appelt (3rd radioman), AD3. Robert Lee Harrington (3rd mechanic), ATS. Leonard J. Piersante (2nd radioman), and AOAN. Charles Ray West (2nd ordanceman). Contributed by Terry pb4y-2@sbcglobal.net [07OCT2003]

MishapsMISHAPs: 00 XXX 55 A/C: PBM Marina Location: NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone Strike: Yes BUNO: 59232 Cause: Unknown

UPDATE VP-34 Mishap ThumbnailCameraMishap Telex "...I have attached a copy of the telex that was sent immediately after VP-34 EC10 crashed into the sea wall at the entrance of the Panama Canal on 31 October 1955. There is one error that I know of in the telex and that is the correct name is William Hopkins not William Hophing. I don't recall how I gained possession of it or how I managed to keep it all these years. FARNETT, Nick njf5@comcast.net..." [17FEB2005]

UPDATE "...I was a LCDR serving with VP-34 at the time we lost EC-10 (10 Boat) when she hit the rock seawall in attempting to land after losing the Starboard engine. I was fairly new to the Squadron and had been assigned as Maintenance Officer. I remember that day very well as I had been assigned to that flight in the morning but was recalled to my office for some emergency so left the aircraft just before she went over the side. The cause of the fire was a loose clamp on the hose to the fuel flow meter on an engine that had been replaced. I had watched the engine replacement work in the hangar and had flown in 10 Boat for the 10 hours required slow time before the plane was ready for operational flight. On this particular morning the ASR aircraft in our sister squadron, VP-45, had gone down and EC - 10 was scheduled to take her place. An additional 300 gallons of fuel was taken aboard making her some 1800 pounds heavier than originally planned. That was one factor that contributed to her loss. Factor #2 was that the seadrome was experiencing a rain squall that blocked visibility in the normal take off direction placing the takeoff run directly at the seawall instead of some 30 degrees to the left. Factor number 3 was that the plane was piloted by a PP2P as I recall, not a PPC with greater experience. I was on the hangar mezzanine when the alarm went off and I looked out the window onto the seadrome and saw 10 Boat go by at about 100 - 150 feet altitude with fire streaming out of the starboard engine nacelle. No attempt was made to turn left (into the good engine) and thus get more seadrome length and the plane continued straight ahead until it hit the rock seawal, ripping open the belly tanks and exploding into flames. They were within 3 feet or so of clearing the rocks. In flight training we were always told with engine failure to land straight ahead - that may have influenced the pilot's decision to fly straight ahead. I do not remember the pilot's name but I do remember Ensign Sperlich and his wife, Ellen. For those of you who have read "Fate is the Hunter" by Ernest Gann, it usually takes several factors occuring at the same time to cause an accident. This one was a prime example: extra fuel ( without the additional weight the plane could have cleared the seawall and landed in the ocean beyond ), rain squall preventing a longer takeoff in a cleared area of the seadrome and perhaps a relatively inexperienced pilot. Since only the inexperienced Airman Aprentice survived ( without seat belt or harness ) there was no on left to give an account from the cockpit or the inside of the aircraft. As for me, for six months I wondered what I might have done to prevent this accident and spent many sleepless nights trying to see what might have been done. Like one of the other crewmen who got releaved before the flight I guess it was not my fate to be aboard that morning...KANE, CAPTAIN John C. Retired johnckane1@aol.com..." [17NOV2002]

UPDATE "...the day 10 boat hit the seawall losing 15 of the 16 people aboard. I came very close to being on 10 boat that day. I had been grounded for an punctured airdrum and got back to flying status that morning, I asked LCDR Tenold if I could go out on 10 boat and get my flight time in. He said no. I thank God every day that he said no. It was strange feeling watching 10 boat burn that day...OGLE, Thomas J. og167@aol.com..." [23MAY2001]

UPDATE "...I was the (teenage) dependant son of a Naval Aviator, LCDR R. H. Bookhamer, assigned to VP-45 NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone from 1954 to 1956. During that time frame, a PBM Mariner (late '55 I believe) from VP-34, A/C #10 crashed during take-off into the Atlantic Breakwater. Later the salvaged wreckage was brought up and placed on a pier very close to our quarters. Being a curious teenager with an old camera my father had given me, I went down to the pier and took these photos. I would have taken more but a Marine guard ran me off after I talked him out of confiscating the camera..." Contributed by Robert Bookhamer Jr. rbookhamer@earthlink.net [08FEB2001]
VP-34 Mishap ThumbnailCameraPhoto 1 Contributed by Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net [08FEB2001]
VP-34 Mishap ThumbnailCameraPhoto 2 Contributed by Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net [08FEB2001]
VP-34 Mishap ThumbnailCameraPhoto 3 Contributed by Michael G. Moskow steelydanman@verizon.net [08FEB2001]

UPDATE "...I was in VP-34 from 1/54 to 4/56. NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone in late "55" or early "56". We lost a PBM on takeoff when one engine caught fire and the plane crashed into the seawall at the entrance to the canal. There was one survivor. Sorry I can't remember any names but a fellow Ordnanceman and basketball player (Roger Ward). He was one we lost..." Contributed by Nick Farnett njf5@comcast.net [12MAR99]

UPDATE "... NAS Coco Solo, Panama, Canal Zone...I don't recall what month or date but we were there from late 1955 to middle 1956. It was a Monday morning. I recall much of it vividly because I was on 10 boat in the water ready for takeoff when the tower called that they were sending out a replacement for me & I was to get aboard 3 boat. It seems that AT1 Alan Johnson & myself were the only two in the squadron qualified to teach our ECM equipment to newcomers & that was the mission for 3 that day & Johnson had been on a flight over the weekend that had been delayed. So when the crew on 3 realized that Johnson was not there they had the Electronics dept look for me & they got me off of 10 & transferred to 3 just before we were ready for takeoff. As 10 made its takeoff run the starboard engine caught fire & power was lost & they tried to make it over the manmade seawall that guarded the Atlantic entrance of the canal but did not make it. All on board except a flight eng. trainee were killed. He was the only one not in a seat with a seat belt on & was standing behind the flight eng. seat. We heard later that the cause of the engine failure was a clamp not tightened on a hose to the fuel flow meter & upon full power for takeoff it came off resulting in the fire. I remember that Mac Childress was the flight eng. & Ens Sperlich was Co-Pilot. I can still picture the others but I can't seem to remember their names. Hope this may help & maybe others can add more..." Contributed by Fred Reitberger horsey@earthlink.net [25JUN98]

"VP-34 Summary Page"