The Navy Hymn
Sailor Aviators Version
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.
VP-50 P-3 BUNO: 158213
N.Y. Times, April 18, 1980
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa, April 17 (AP)--A United States Navy plane crashed today outside an historic bayfront hotel after snagging an aerial tramway cable in an Independence Day show in this tiny island territory in the South Pacific.
In Honolulu, the Navy said that seven persons had died in the crash, including all six crewmen of the plane. The seventh victim was believed to have been a tourist.
One civilian, a Japanese man, was critically burned in the crash at 10:10 A.M. which left one wing of the 250-room Rainmaker Hotel in flames, said Fred Rohlfing, who heads the American Samoa liaison office in Honolulu.
The names of the victims were withheld pending notification of their families.
The plane was based at NAS Moffett Field, California in Mountain View, Calif. It had just dropped six parachute jumpers over Pago Pago's central square, said a witness, who asked not to be identified. WebSite: Fleet AW Association http://www.tourohio.com/fleetaw/Memorial/Buchanan.html
N.Y. Times, April 18, 1980
Three of the jumpers were blown away from their target and the plane turned, apparently to follow their descent, when it snagged on a cable of the cross-bay tramway,he said.
"It was chaos," the witness said. "Thousands ran toward the scene of the crash, then ran the other way when the plane's fuel tanks exploded."
"All you could hear were shouts of 'Melae, melae,' 'Danger, danger' " he said.
The four-engine P-3 Orion turbo-prop narrowly missed the main square, jammed with an estimated 30,000 residents and tourists here for the scheduled two-day celebration.
It fell just outside the hotel and sprayed the old wing with burning fuel. The witness said 70 to 75 rooms were destroyed by the fire before it was extinguished. However, he said, the hotel was virtually empty, with most of the guests outside watching the show.
The witness said the crash knocked out power lines, cutting electricity to about half the island, and also damaged communication circuits.
The P-3, normally used in antisubmarine missions, had just completed a drop of an Army parachutist demonstration team as part of American Samoa's 80th annual Flag Day celebration. WebSite: Fleet AW Association http://www.tourohio.com/fleetaw/Memorial/Buchanan.html
Washington Post, April 18, 1980
PAGO PAGO, American Samoa--A U.S. Navy plane crashed yesterday outside a historic bayfront hotel after snagging aerial tramway cables during an Independence Day show in the capital of this U.S. territory in the South Pacific.
The Navy in Honolulu said seven persons died in the crash, including all six crewmen of the plane. The seventh victim was believed to have been a tourist.
One civilian, a Japanese man, was critically burned in the 10:10 a.m.--4:10 EST--crash that left one wing of the 250-room Rainmaker Hotel in flames, said Fred Rohlfing, who heads the American Samoa liaison office in Honolulu. Most of the guests were outside at the time to watch the show.
The plane was based at Moffett Field Naval Air Station, Calif. It had just dropped six U.S. Army parachute jumpers over Pago Pago's central square.
Three jumpers were blown off their target and the plane turned, apparently to follow their descent, when it snagged on a cable of the cross-bay tramway, a witness said.
The four-engine P3 Orion turboprop narrowly missed the main square, jammed with an estimated 30,000 natives and tourists here for the scheduled two-day celebration. WebSite: Fleet AW Association http://www.tourohio.com/fleetaw/Memorial/Buchanan.html
The Navy identified the dead as:
San Jose, Calif
LT(jg) Patrick Conroy
Missouri City, Texas
Mountain View, Calif
The bodies were flown from the Territory Friday night for burial.
The Civilian who died in the accident has been identified as Robert Burns - a local NASA worker. Kiyoshi Nagai, 35 of Tokyo, was seriously burned in the tragedy and was evacuated to Tripler Army Medical Center in Honolulu - Thursday night for treatment where he was listed in critical condition.
In honor of the dead, memorial services were held on the Fagatogo malae Friday Morning with several hundred people in attendance. Telegrams of mourning poured in from several island nations, including Western Samoa and Fiji, and were read aloud to the assembly.
Church choirs representing several religions sang hymns honoring the dead and fourteen fine mats were presented to local government leaders and to military officials in traditional Samoan style.
The exact cause of the crash is unknown and a Navy investigation team arrived in the territory Friday to probe the ruins. Several witnesses said they heard an explosion and saw one of the plane's engines burst into flames before hitting the tramway cable, which ripped of the aircraft's vertical stabilizer. "I heard a bloody boom, then three seconds later I saw the flames," said New Zealand Yachtsman Stanley Perrott. "It was such a beautiful bloody plane."
Mrs. Robert Japp, who lives near the hotel, said she heard a "tremendous explosion" and said she thought, "Oh my God, they're not doing this for the celebration." Japp said when the plane crashed it cut off the electricity immediately. "All I thought of was that oil tank down below," she said, referring to the island's main oil loading dock adjacent to the hotel. "I didn't try to save a thing" and left the house immediately, Japp said. The crash cut the power to the entire western end of the island but Electric utility workers restored power by 3 PM. Thursday. Telephone service to the hotel was also cut off. One former military pilot who served in the Viet Nam War said the pilot, Glenny, should be commended for avoiding the oil dock and not crashing directly into the hotel. By studying the pilot's last second maneuvers, the Viet Nam veteran said the pilot crashed the plane in the best spot available. Brown said all rooms that were destroyed in the hotel were rented but that most of the guests were at the malae for Flag Day. "It was an accident, you cant help it," Brown said. Several island residents opened up their homes to the travelers whose hotel rooms were destroyed in the blaze. Rescue efforts by the Territorial Fire Department were hampered by the large crowds that flocked to the scene and the department also had trouble with some fire equipment. One fire engine was stalled at the hotel road entrance for about 45 minutes and several fire hoses sprung leaks caused by sharp metal strewn about the hotel area from the crash. The fire was under control by about 3pm.
There were also reports of looting from the hotel as fire workers and volunteers hurled furniture from the rooms in a last ditch salvage effort. Larry Thompson, from Florida, said he saw several trucks laden with furniture leaving the hotel area. Hotel officials are requesting the goods be returned.
A woman from Oregon said one of the plane's engines was "definitely" on fire before the craft hit the cable and speculated that the pilot may have been attempting to land the plane in the harbor. But military personnel said it was too early to speculate about the cause of the crash. Lt. Peter Lindberg, who was an assistant crew-member on the aircraft but wasn't aboard because he "wasn't necessary for the drop," said it wasn't a "standard (emergency) maneuver" to land in the water and doubted the pilot intended to land the craft in the harbor. All six skydivers were reported in good condition, contrary to preliminary reports. The first set of three parachutists landed squarely on the malae but the second group landed on the mountain above the village of Fagatogo, one landing directly on a small taro patch. One jumper said landing on the mountainside was planned and said, "in no way is this jump related to the accident."
Richard Montgomery, chief of advertising for the Honolulu Recruiting Command, said there was "no communication with the plane after the last three jumpers left (the plane)." The plane was based at Moffett Naval Air Station in Mountain View, Calif. The senior officer in command was Army Col. Dave Harrison. WebSite: Fleet AW Association http://www.tourohio.com/fleetaw/Memorial/Buchanan.html
"...Here are a few photos of the crash site. I attempted to get in touch with the son of one of the crash victims but the emails were "returned"..." Contributed by Peter email@example.com [05DEC2014]
FIRST ROW - LEFT TO RIGHT: North Front Rainmaker Hotel, Spectators near Rainmaker Hotel, Rainmaker Hotel, Police Rainmaker Hotel, Pilot Helmet Rainmaker, Looking for Personal Items and Wreaths Rainmaker Hotel...
SECOND ROW - LEFT TO RIGHT: Crash Pango Pango Hbr Cable, North Front Rainmaker Hotel, Crash Hoses Rainmaker Hotel, Crash Hoses Rainmaker Hotel, After Fire Extinguished and Crash Site Entrance Rainmaker Hotel...
"...I was probably the first person to arrive at the US Navy Orion crash site in Pago Pago (SEE: In Memorial for lost VP-50 friends...April 17th, 1980). I'd not thought about it for 34 yers until coming across your site. I have many clear recollections of the morning and also photos of the event. I'd be pleased to share them with any persons associated with the crash..." Contributed by Peter firstname.lastname@example.org [28NOV2014]
"...I was a witness to the crash (SEE: In Memorial for lost VP-50 friends...April 17th, 1980). I was a young teacher in Pago, on a 2-year GAS (Gov't of American Samoa) contract, and we were all standing on the green with our students. It happened right in front of us. My memory is a bit unclear now about the order of events: I thought the bang and the flames happened when the plane hit the cable, but yes, it might have been just a couple of seconds before it snagged the cable. Somehing came off the plane. The P-3 immediately veered down and to the right, and the pilot had only about 7 seconds, I'd say, before coming down, just out of our direct line of sight. I think he put it in the best possible spot. A few of us teachers walked up the driveway of the Governor's residence, on the hill overlooking the Rainmaker Hotel - which we ordinarily would not have dared to do - and there was the Governor standing by himself watching the fire, with a heck of a worried expression on his face. A sad day, I still see it clearly..." Contributed by Chris F. email@example.com [15MAR2014]
"...Remembering my friendship with LT LT Allen Glenny (SEE: In Memorial for lost VP-50 friends...April 17th, 1980). Blessings to all..." Contributed by AT2 Al KRULL firstname.lastname@example.org [20MAY2013]
"...I am a CPA and was in American Samoa when the P-3 crashed (SEE: In Memorial for lost VP-50 friends...April 17th, 1980). I was no more than 60 yards from it driving down the road that passes the Hotel. I did not know the name of the Pilot until a few days ago when I found this web site. I just wanted to say that it was clear to me the Pilot put the plane into the only piece of open ground he couls to save the lives of people on the ground, including me. He was able to miss hitting the Hotel buildings and put the plane into the open drive in and grass area between the Hotel's three buildings. Many more people would have been killed or injured had he notdone this, and it was clear to me he did this to save others. I never forgot that day, and think the guys in this crew concerned themselves with protecting the rest of us till their last seconds..." Contributed by Peter E. Panagakos email@example.com [31AUG2011]
"...I served in VP-50 as an NFO during the period of the Pago Pago mishap. I had been asked to go to Pago Pago by the PPC Al Glenny, but I had planned to visit my folks in Boise the weekend following the crash so I delined. In fact my crew was airborne conducting a Minex on the range off Whidbey Isaland when we received an airborne recall. We were about an hour out of Boise, as the crew was going to drop me off for the weekend. When we landed and phoned the duty office I was physically sick. Had I gone to Pago Pago with the crew I would have certainly perished in the crash. I still have my wooden model in my office of Buno 158213 which was our crew (crew 3) aircraft..." Contributed by Phil Wickliff firstname.lastname@example.org [01MAY2010]
"...I was the VP-50 Personnel Chief when one lost one of our P-3's (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends...April 17th, 1980)..." Contributed by Betty Miller Ball email@example.com [13JAN2010]
"...There will be a Memorial Service on 15 March, 2008 at 1400 at the former NAS Moffett Field, California to remember those lost in the VP-50 Mishap (Mid-Air Collision) on March 21st, 1991. This is the 17th anniversary of the Maritime Patrol community's largest loss of Shipmates, and especially from one squadron. For the first time, we are also including a remembrance for those lost in the VP-50 Mishap (American Samoa) on April 17th, 1980 where 6 more Shipmates were lost. Friends and family from this accident will be participating. Thank you. Herb Parsons (AVCM-ret) firstname.lastname@example.org Moffett Wing VP International..." [28JAN2008]
"...Just when I think I have heard from everyone that remembers, another message will come in. I have been in contact with one of my fathers best friends, Dad actually spent the night with him in HI before the crew headed to Pago. Again, thank you so much everyone who has come forward with stories and memories of my father. This has been an amazing journey...Amanda Pearl Sharp-Sarber email@example.com..." [23JUN2007]
"...I am the daughter of AD1 James Harvey Sharp Jr who died in the VP-50 Mishap at Pago Pago American Samoa on April 17th, 1980. I would love to hear from anyone who may remember the VP-50 squadron who served at NAS Moffett Field, California in the late 1970's to early 1980 who may have served with my Dad. My younger brother was too little to remember our Father. I would love to have your stories for him...Amanda Pearl Sharp-Sarber firstname.lastname@example.org..." [20FEB2006]
"...I have actually heard from one of the crew members that was in Pago for the flight. He has really helped me to understand what went on. I have also heard from a few folks with stories of how they met my father, it is really wonderful! Their words are priceless to my family. Thank you. Amanda Pearl Sharp-Sarber email@example.com..." [28JUN2006]
"...I just wanted to say a little about the accident involving SG-3 in Pago-Pago Samoa. The morning they left NAS Moffett Field, California was a beautiful spring day. The pre-flight consisted of kicking the tires and loading the gear on-board for a fun run. I helped AT2 Tom Delviscio (Deli) with a Radar alignment, then they were gone to help celebrate Samoan independance day in a warm tropical place. Everyone was happy. The final flight consisted of dropping an Army parachute team off and after that they were to go back and land and have fun. I'll never forget how the news hit the Squadron, the people were completely stunned. But through it all we stuck together and helped each other out as best we could. The professionalism and caring of the entire Squadron, from top to bottom, is something that will always be with me and it made me proud, through all the sorrow, to be a part of. Ken Jones firstname.lastname@example.org..." [14MAR2002]
VP-50 P-3 BUNO: 158213 "...Photo of SG-03, BUNO 158213 on the ramp at Pago Pago, American Samoa, the day before the crash. Cloud covered mountains in the background were typical of crash day meteorological conditions..." Contributed by Peter Lindberg email@example.com [21SEP2000]
VP-50 P-3 BUNO: 158213 Contributed by Curtis Whaley [No E-Mail] [05MAY2000]
VP-50 P-3 BUNO: 158213 "...U. S. Navy P-3 Orion aircraft banks to the right...it crashed into Pago Pago's Rainmaker Hotel...Samoa. The plane struck a tramway cable shown...stablilizer sending it out of control. Six crew and a civilian were killed in the tragedy..." Contributed by Gary Jackson firstname.lastname@example.org [19AUG98]
"...Just got an e-mail from Larry G. Hardman e-mail email@example.com with what he says is the correct BUNO of that VP-50 plane crash...He says BUNO is 158213..." Contributed by Gary Jackson firstname.lastname@example.org [25AUG98]
Larry is correct! I just found this: BUNO: 158213 P-3C 21-05-71 VP-50 SG-3; 17-04-80 w/o flew into tramway wires during an air display at Pago Pago, American Samoa Title: "P-3 Orion" by Marco Borst and Jaap Dubbeldam...booklet on the P-3 Orion which was published in February 1996, with b/w photo's, 111 pages full of history of every P3 produced, etc. Contact Marco P.J. Borst email@example.com WebSite: http://p3orion.nl/index.html [25AUG98]
"VP-50 Mishap Summary Page"