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VP-3 Memorial

VP-3 Crew - In Memorium - VP-3 Crew

December 15th, 1953

"Eternal Father Strong To Save"
The Navy Hymn
Sailor Aviators Version

Eternal Father, Strong to Save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its' own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.

Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In dark'ning storms or sunlight fair.
O, Hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air.

But when at length our course is run,
Our work for home and country done,
Of all the souls that flew and sailed,
Let not one life in thee be failed,
But hear from heaven our sailors cry,
And grant eternal life on high.

May all our departed shipmates rest in peace.

Eternal Father by the U.S. Navy Band's Sea Chanters (668 kbytes - WAV file)

Articles Contributed by
HARMON, AL2 Keith W. de8e95@windstream.net [27FEB2001]

Glacier Skiers Race To Nine In Bomber Wreck
Believe at Least Three Are Active

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, Dec. 18 (AP) -The wreck of a United States navy bomber was sighted on MyrdalsJokull glacier today and at least three of the nine man crew were reported alive.

American flyers and Icelandic rescue parties raced to the bleak scene on the mile high glacier, 110 miles southeast of Reykjavik, to reach the wrecked plane tonight. News from their efforts was expected in early morning.

"Survival equipment has been dropped and land rescue operations are in progress," said a message from the United States commander in Iceland received by United States navy communications in London.

The bomber, a two engine Lockheed Neptune with a nine man crew, disappeared yesterday on a patrol flight from Keflavik airport, a field near the Icelandic capital of Reykjavik.

Spotted by Plane

A United States air rescue plane this afternoon spotted the wreckage. Described as "badly broken up," the bomber was sighted after a 24 hour search thru blizzards by 10 planes and at least two ships.

The United States 53d air rescue squadron in Iceland quickly flew an Icelandic ground rescue party, including expert skiers, to a small air field at the foot of the glacier.

The glacier is 30 miles long and 10 to 20 miles wide. It rises as high as 5,466 feet above sea level. The wreckage lies in the snowy wastes at an altitude of 4,000 feet.

Weather May Improve

Icy winds still swept the barren area, but there were signs the weather might be improving. Visibility at sundown was 3 to 10 miles, with intermitten rain.

The bomber took off from Keflavik airport at 10 a. m. yesterday and was due back about 5 p. m. The last message from the plane, radioed at 2:17 p. m., said it was loo miles southeast of KefIavik and made no mention of any trouble.

An air force spokesman said it is not known here how far the ground party will have to travel to reach the wreckage, but the trip may take hours.

Neptune bombers are used by the navy as air "eyes" against submarmes.

Climb Glacier To Rescue 3 In Plane Wreck
Flyers Turn Back; Skiers Hole Up

REYKJAVIK, Iceland, Dec. 19 (AP) - Icy gales swept mile high Myrdals Jokull glacier tonight, handicapping efforts to rescue three reported survivors, of the crash of a United States navy Neptune bomber on its snowy wastes.

A United States patrol plane striving to pinpoint the wreckage, first spotted yesterday afternoon, was obliged to turn back at 4 p. m. because of the wind.

The dangerous weather hinting of another blizzard like that in which the twin engine Lockheed bomber cracked up with its crew of nine on a patrol flight Thursday - immobilized at least one of the three Icelandic parties assigned to the ground search.

Hole Up 15 Hours

Expert skiers and mountaineers, they were forced to hole up for 15 hours and perhaps cannot get moving again before morning.

The other parties, approaching from different directions, may have reached their goal, but they have no walkie-talkie or other means of communication. All the parties are otherwise well equipped.

The glacier-a mass 30 miles long and from 10 to 20 miles wide on Iceland's largely uninhabited south shore-is centered about 110 miles southeast of Reykjavik, the capital. It was reported broken up in many places.

Flares Sighted

Two orange colored explosions believed to be flares sent up by the survivors were sighted in the night by rescue planes. Lights that perhaps had been rigged from the wreckage were seen briefly in the murk. Clothing and medical supplies were dropped.

United States air force head quarters said pilots reported visibility was so bad they got only a glimpse of the explosions and later spotted "an object" moving toward the spot where the supplies were dropped.

"It was absolutely impossible to determine whether the object was human," one-of the flyers reported.

The searchers expressed belief last night that at least three of the crewmen got out of the wreckage. The problem now is to reach them before they succumb in the freezing weather.

Down Near Volcano

Icelanders speculated that the plane went down near a dormant volcano named Katla. Tho close to the Arctic circle and studded with glaciers, this westernmost European state has more than 100 volcanoes, many of them active.

The hunt is being directed by the United States 53rd air rescue squadron from the International Airport at Keflavik, built by United States forces in World War II. The airport, 20 miles southwest of Reykjavik, was the Neptune's base.

The Neptune took off from Keflavik at 2 p.m. Thursday for a routine patrol over North Atlantic waters. It was circling back thru the storm toward that base when it radioed its last positional report. Then 100 miles outheast of Reykjavik, it made no mention of any trouble.

8 Crash Dead May Stay On Glacier

Reykjavik, Iceland (UP) - U. S. Air Force officials said today the bodies of eight men killed in a Navy bomber's crash on Myradasjokull Glacier may remain in the frozen wreckage until next spring.

A helicopter lift was abandoned yesterday after only one body had been recovered. Howling snow storms made further operations impossible.

The American Neptune bomber crashed on the glacier nine days ago while the nine crewmen were returning from a routine training flight.

Ground rescue teams spent days on the glacier trying to reach the plane in hopes of finding survivors.

VP-4 December Mishap

UPDATE "...My first cousin of, ATAN William A. Ward, was killed in a P2V-5 crash on 17 December 1953 (In Memorial for VP-3 lost friends...17 December 1953). I retired from the USAF in March 1999 after a 30 year career, mostly in aircraft maintenance/logistics. I worked for Lockheed Martin as a Program Manager at Tyndall AFB, FL from 2002 through 2006...Jack D. Ward jwardraptor@earthlink.net..." [26JUN2009]

UPDATE "...I have just returned from a holiday in Iceland. While I was there I visited the Myrdalsjokul glacier and whilst there came ac cross some aircraft wreckage. I have visited several WWII crash sites near my home in Manchester (UK) and recognised the various bits as an aircraft. I noticed that on the external surfaces there were traces of a blue colour, and form the size of some of the pieces thought it must have been a large aircraft. When I returned home yesterday I searched the Internet to see if I find reference to this aircraft. From your site I think it more than likely that it was the VP-3 Neptune that crashed on December 15th, 1953. I didn't spend too much time investigating the site but the reason for my email is that I did take a picture of a large section of wreckage..." Contributed by Frank Pleszak fpleszak@yahoo.co.uk [12APR2007]

Photograph's Left to Right: Mishap Site, Mishap Wreckage, Iceland and Iceland.

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

UPDATE "...I show the date at 17 Dec 1953 vice 15 December 1953. Crew list (All carried as MIA but see note below): LT Henry Cason, LT Ishmuel M. Blum, ENS Sven Shieff, AD2 Eddie L. Cater, AN Everett Humbert, *AT3 Amos W. Jones, AL2 Robert B. Whale, AO3 Marvin L. Baker, and ATAN William A. Ward..." Contributed by WFI Research Group wreck1@localnet.com WebSite: http://wfirg.com/ [05APR2004]

UPDATE "...My older brother, ENS Sven Schiff, served with VP-3 as a Navigator . He was in the last group to get their basic training in the SNJ. He then went on to multi-engine training in the PB4Y-2. Their last multi-engine training trip was to fly the planes to Davis Monthan "to be cut up for scrap". They then went to the Lockheed plant to pick up their brand new P2. He told some scary stories of problems with the PB4Y-2 about them not being well maintained, etc. It is ironic that he was lost (In Memorial for lost friends...15 December 1953) probably because of a mechanical problem with the radar on a brand spanking new plane. As I remember it the plane crashed on December 17 with no survivors. It was 15 years ago that I met my wife and I was able to experience Christmas away from my family and the pall that had been over the holidays. Those PB4Y-2s that were supposed to be cut up for scrap that were so poorly maintained? One of them crashed last year on a fire bombing mission for the California Department of Forestry 50 years after it was supposily scraped...Tom Schiff tomschiff@comcast.net..." [05APR2004]

UPDATE "...My Father, John O. Schaefer, passed away this past Memorial Day 2003. He was a member of VP-3's P2V Neptune Crew 3, stationed in NAS Keflavik, Iceland, in 1953, the year I was born in Pensacola. He was a radar operator. I read that the P2V that hit the glacier on 12/17/53 had been found and remains returned (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends...17 December 1953). My Dad never spoke of it much, but he lost a good friend on that flight. A young man he went to electronics school with. As my Dad told it, what happened was that his crew, Crew 3, had taxied out for takeoff, but they were called back because they had flown too many missions. Crew 11 took over. My Dad said he didn't have time to even take his flight, or seabag, off the plane. Crew 11 took off and was lost. If my Dad's seabag was returned, is there any way I could have it, or its contents, returned to me? Highest regards. PS Thank you all for remembering. I wish my Dad were still with us; he would love this site!...Bruce Reid Schaefer breidsch@aol.com..." [30NOV2003]

UPDATE "...Foreign News Briefs - October 14, 1982 "Bodies from 1953 Air Crash To Come Home - NORFOLK, Va. - The remains of American crewmen found 28 years after their plane crashed into an isolated Icelandic glacier will be brought home by the end of the week, the Navy said Tuesday. "We can confirm that the wreckage found is in fact that of the P-2V that crashed Dec. 17, 1953, because of identifying articles found at the site," said Lt. Cmdr. Ken Pease of Atlantic Fleet headquarters. Last weekend, farmers rounding up stray sheep discovered the wreckage, apparently recently uncovered by the glacier's movement..." Contributed by MARSH, AT3 Bob bobmarsh@msn.com and HARMON, AL2 Keith W. de8e95@windstream.net [11MAR2002]

UPDATE "...I was the radar operator on MB-7 during VP-3's tour in NAS Keflavik, Iceland. The plane that crashed in December of 1953 was MB-11 (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends...17 December 1953). Crew 7 was scheduled to fly two or three days before MB-11 crashed. The procedure was for each crew to use its own plane. However, at the least minute, we had to ground MB-7 due to mechanical problems found during the pre-flight check. Thus, we grabbed MB-11 for our flight. The radar was working fine on MB-11 during the early part of our flight. Then, all of a sudden, the return on the radarscope was merely a “sea return” (which is a reflected signal from the water immediately below the plane). The antenna was pointing down at the ocean in a fixed position. Thus, we could not “see” distant coastlines or landmasses on our scope. Obviously, it's extremely dangerous to fly “blind” at night or in dense fog. Fortunately, by tinkering with the below-deck control mechanism, we got the antenna to work again. But the fix was only temporary. After a while, all we got was more sea return. However, by “hitting” the antenna control mechanism when necessary, we managed to get the antenna to work intermittently, long enough to make it back to base. Note: In CDR Nokes' update of 8-29-99, he mentioned that “The radar on that A/C [MB-11] often hung up, but our operator knew how to hit it to get it going.” The CDR was right. We also figured out how to hit the antenna control to get it going again. However, if repairs were not made promptly, then maybe “hitting it” would no longer provide even a temporary fix. I reported the antenna problem to our repair crew. I don't know if the repairs were made. All I know is that two or three days after we flew MB-11, Crew 11 took the plane out, never to return. We will never know the exact cause of the crash. All we can do is mourn the loss of our nine comrades. I still remember them with great sorrow....NOVAK, Gerald novakgt@att.net..." [03MAY2001]

UPDATE "...Some references by others in VP-3 wedsite refer to the P2V lost on the Icelandic glacier. I was there. MB8 stopped over in Norfold for submarine exercises. The rest of the squadron went directly to Iceland. With a stopover in Argentia to handle some mechanical problem, MB8 took off for Iceland. Enroute, I began to get radio inquiries from base radio and a squadron plane (MB6 ?) about contact with the lost plane. MB8's crew also spent one night circling the crash site with an Icelander aboard to communicate with the ground parties trying to reach the plane. I still have news releases and the pamphlet from the memorial service. According to those the Neptune took off at 2:00 p.m. 12/17/53. It reported in at 2:17 100 miles southeast of the base (VM). The wreckage was found on 12/18/53. Three survivors were reported (a wrong report), and survival gear was dropped. As I recall, one of the dead was found outside the plane was brought down. Weather precluded any further recue efforts..." Contributed by HARMON, AL2 Keith W. de8e95@windstream.net [11FEB2001]

UPDATE "...I was the SDO the day the P2 took off. The PPC had downed his A/C and wished to cancel his mission since the WX was very bad. I agreed with him but as an Ens. defered to the OPS Officer who after hearing the PPC's request said "Lets give it a try." I offered them the plane I was NAV on and with that they took off. We believed they returned from patrol and turned inbound to NAS Keflavik, Iceland before reaching VM beacon. The radar on that A/C often hung up but our operator knew how to hit it to get it going. Without radar the crew had only the low freq Bird Dog and either it malfunctioned or the crew misread it. We did't find the crash site for several days and no one could reach it. VP-16 had lost a crew off NAS Keflavik, Iceland the month before so there was little Xmas cheer that year. All the best to my old Shipmates from Ens. Nokes ( Cdr.,USN, Ret.)..." Contributed by CDR Neil Nokes, Retired nokesneil@bellsouth.net [29AUG99]

UPDATE "...VP-3 lost one that hit a glacier about 15 Dec, 1953 in Iceland when they were relieving VP-5. It made the news about five years ago when it appeared from the ice. Also there was a P2V crashed right after take off from nassau when VP-5 and another squadron were operating from an abandonded WW2 airfield. It crashed after take off in shallow water,no suvivors. I was there at the time and I think there awere ten killed, one chief was from New Castle Indiana, close to home, but I didn't know him. jthis was either the summer of 1953 or 1954...I checked with a former crewa member of mine and he thought tahe plane crash in Nassua was also in VP-3. Charles Butcher an AT on crew 7 of VP-5 said he was in the air when they got the report of the missing plane..." Contributed by Earl Ryan earlryan@yahoo.com [21MAR99]

UPDATE "...Just read the posting on VP Navy website about the VP-3 fatal accident involving P2V BuNo 128388 in Iceland in December of 1953. Though I would provide an update. The Navy history card for BuNo 128388 shows that it was a P2V-5, (not a -2) and a fairly new one at that. The aircraft was with VP-3 and had less than 200 hours on it when lost. The history card says the accident was on 24 December 1953, obviously one of the worst days to have an accident like that. perhaps the accident report, which I do not have, can shed more light on this one..." Contributed by Richard Douglass rmdover2u@earthlink.net [27OCT99]

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