Army Air Forces
Report of Major Accident

Date of Accident: Nov 12, 1948    Air Craft Type: B29    Serial#: 44-62076
Strategic Air Command, 15th Air Force, 92nd Bomb Wing, 98th Bomb Group, 343rd Bomb Squardron

Description of the Accident

To read about any of the individuals accounts of the accident, click on their names.

Capt. Charles B. Hodges Jr.
Lt. Christopher P. Dixon
M/Sgt. Eugene G. Hogan
Capt. Kenneth E. Blood
Sgt. Michael D.Scrima
Cpl. John N. Minion
S/Sgt. Harlyn G. Turner
S/Sgt. Elroy C. Foley
S/Sgt. Raymond E. Miller
Sgt. George R. Ham

Description of the Accident

plane

The crew states the detailed history of the aircraft reveals a successive series of electrical difficulties that were remedied for a time, but these would occur frequently. On this particular flight, the aircraft developed a series of electrical malfunctions. Namely: Loran not operating properly, liaison radio became inoperative, and the interphone system did not function prior to ditching.

The aircraft and crew were flying a routine night search mission for another aircraft and crew that had been reported missing on 7 Nov 48. They were performing an expanding and diminishing square search in the area of 136 degrees 00í E, 20 degrees 20í N (Parace Vela Reef) where a Pan American Airways Pilot had reported sightings of flares the previous morning. This crew was a volunteer crew and had been working all day making their takeoff at 1727 King. At the investigations, it was noted that the navigator had flown only two long-range navigation missions since arriving in the Pacific Theater in Sept 1948.

While flying the search, the following events took place: The navigatorís sextant was knocked off his desk onto the cockpit floor and rendered inoperative two (2) hours after take off; the Loran was not operating properly and went out completely at approximately 0400k; for the remainder of the flight navigation was done by DR. The winds were noted to greater than forecasted. The search being completed, the navigator gave a heading and ETA for Guam. When the ETA ran out, land was sighted and believed to be the north tip of Guam. Upon closer investigation, it was determined that the sighted land was not Guam but was thought to be an island north of Guam. A very weak "N" signal could be picked up at this time from the Saipan range, and the pilot elected to turn south. He flew south for approximately forty-five (45) minutes without sighting any more landmarks. The pilot received no fade, but the range went off. He then went back to the originally sighted island notifying WO 0 (radio on NGAFB) that they were lost and requested a DF and QDM fix. Upon reaching the island again, they awaited a fix but could not receive one and with an estimated three (3) hours supply of fuel, "they drug the island" and prepared to ditch off shore on a submerged coral reef. The pilot held his VHF microphone transmitter button down at intervals during the attempted DF, but contact was probably impossible since the aircraft was at 1000 feet and at the approximate distance of 320 miles from Guam. The entire flight was made at an altitude of 1000 feet. The pilot and engineer were doubtful as to the accuracy of the fuel gauges because of previous questionable readings on other flights. After these considerations, the crew made a successful ditching.

The Board concludes that: The primary cause of the accident is a result of the navigator becoming lost. The contributing causes to the accident are:

1. History of electrical trouble in the aircraft.

2. Failure of the Loran set in the aircraft.

3. Damage to the sextant by knocking it off the table.

4. Failure to take a noonday ASTRO compass fix.

5. Poor radio emergency procedure on the part of the aircrew personnel after emergency was known to exist.

Recommendations

1. That the navigator be given a thorough proficiency check in all methods of navigation.

2. That emergency radio SOPís be placed in effect and adhered to as soon as an emergency is known to exist.

3. That all pilots and engineers be reminded that cruise control data is more reliable than the fuel quantity gauges.

Action Taken

1. Continued emphasis on emergency SOPís and radio aids will be made at briefings for all over water flights.

2. Complete details of this mission and resulting accident are being presented to all flying personnel with all emphasis placed on the importance of adhering to SOPís when an emergency exists.

 

Statements - 18 November, 1948

 

hodges Capt. Charles B. Hodges, Jr.

I, Charles B. Hodges, Jr., Captain, USAF, AO-736521, of the 343rd Bomb Sq, 98th Bomb Group, 92 Bomb Wing, Fifteenth Air Force, Strategic Air Command, was the Instructor Pilot on B-29 aircraft, serial number 44-62076 on 11 and 12 Nov 1948 on a routine search mission from North Guam Air Force Base.

On 11 Nov 1948 we were ordered out on a routine search mission to look for a missing B-29 crew from the 23d Reconnaissance Sq Base at Kadena, Okinawa. At 0500 the morning of 11 Nov, a commercial airliner reported flares in the vicinity of Parisi Villa. Our mission was to fly an expanding square search in this area at night to determine if any flares or missing crewmembers could be found. Our take-off was routine and our first CW contact was made satisfactorily. Our first CW position report was unable to be sent because of liaison radio trouble. One hour and a half after our last CW contact we turned around to proceed back to Guam. I went back to the radio compartment to see if I could help the radio operator to determine his trouble. While going back by the navigatorís table, the sextant was knocked off onto the floor. Shortly after, the radio operator made contact with the Guam ground station. We then proceeded to the search area and flew our briefed search mission.

We left the area and started for Guam at approximately 0600 hours. Our loran had been in-operational for approximately two hours at this time. However, this was of no concern as we figured we had a good position and would be able to make Guam o.k. At the termination of our ETA, we spotted a landmass on the horizon, which was believed to be the northern tip of Guam. Our altitude at the time was 1,000 feet. Upon investigating, we discovered the land mass to be a small island which we failed to recognize. Our radio compass was tuned in to pick up either the Guam or Saipan range stations. We were unable to receive Guam and Saipan was coming in very weak. We were in the N quadrant of the Saipan range. We decided to fly a southerly heading to check for a build or a fade on this range. We flew approximately one hour without being able to determine either a build or a fade. The station was still coming in very weak but did not appear to be fading out. After approximately one hour the station faded completely and we did a 180 turn and proceeded back along the course that we had just come. We never picked up the range again, either Guam or Saipan. At this time we were trying to get a QTE from the Guam ground station. The only thing we could get from them was "stand by and give the ground station a five-minute call." An emergency was declared at 1100 hours. However, the Guam ground stations was unable to give a bearing or a fix.

At approximately 1115, our liaison radio also became inoperational. We were unable to contact the Guam ground station by any means. We proceeded back to the island we had seen previously and decided to make an emergency landing beside the island rather than ditching in the open sea. This, I believe, saved the lives of the entire crew due to the typhoon "Agnes" which blew up a couple of days later. All crew members were notified to prepare for an emergency landing, all loose equipment was thrown out of the airplane, the proposed landing spot was buzzed to determine the best place to set down and at this time our inter-phone went out. The only means of communications we had in the airplane was by word of mouth. The radio operator was sent into the aft-pressurized compartment to inform the crew that we were setting down on the next approach. All crewmembers assumed their briefed positions and a wheels-up, full-flap landing was made.

As soon as we stopped, all crewmembers abandoned the aircraft in case of fire. When it was determine no fire could result, we started salvaging all emergency equipment aboard the aircraft. The Gibson Girl radio was put into operation and contact was made with the natives. The Gibson Girl was operated all night of 12 Nov and at approximately 1030 hours the following morning, a B-29 received a fix and determined our position. He flew to the island and radioed Guam that he had spotted us. At 1700, a Navy PBM landed and picked us up and flew us to Saipan.

All the personal equipment such as parachutes were used for bedding and mosquito netting. The seven-men life rafts and dingys were opened to obtain the emergency equipment. Lt. Dixon and I destroyed the bombsight and VHF radio. The Radar operator, S/Sgt Foley, destroyed the IFF and radar set under my supervision. Prior to leaving the ilsand, confidential and restricted data such as tech orders, were burned by Lt. Dixon, Capt. Blood, and myself, witnessed by the remainder of the crew. Some articles such as mirrors, whistles, fishing equipment, etc., were used to barter with the natives for food and water. The two Gibson Girl radios were locked in a building with a padlock. This building was used for a storehouse for medical supplies obviously left by the Army when the island was taken from the Japs. From dealing with these natives, I feel sure that the radios will remain in this building until, if at some future date, other Americans come to Fais Island, the radios will be turned over to them.

King Mahol himself, supreme ruler of Fais Island, assured me that these radios would not be touched by his people but would be kept under lock until more Americans come to Fais Island.

We were unable to bring any equipment back with us due to the fact that we were taken from the island to the PBM in native canoes and there was not room.

Charles B. Hodges Jr.

Capt.,USAF
Instructor Pilot

 

dixon Lt. Christopher P. Dixon

I, Christopher P. Dixon, AO-834766, USAF, 343rd Bomb Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, 92nd Bomb Wing, Fifteenth Air Force, Strategic Air Command, was Pilot on aircraft 77-62076 on 11 and 12 November 1948 on a routine search mission from North Guam Air Force Base.

About 1500 on 11 November, we were notified that we would take off at 1630 for an all-night search mission. Briefing was routine. Weather briefing was complete with Omar. I was in the left seat at take-off at 1730. Take-off and climb to 1,000 feet, our cruising altitude, was normal.

Shortly after take-off, initial radio contact (CW) was made. About one hour and twenty minutes later, the radio operator reported that he could not make our position report. He was given ten minutes and at the end of that time we turned and headed back for Guam. The instructor pilot went back to the radio compartment to see if he could aid the radio operator. In passing the navigatorís position, he knocked the sextant off the navigatorís table. Twenty minutes later, contact was made and we turned to continue our search. We reached the search area in darkness with about a three-quarters moon Ė very good visibility. We could not see Parisi Villa so the radar operator was sent from his position in the nose to the rear to see if he could pick up Parisi Villa on the radarscope. He reported the radar very poor, getting only smoke on the screen. This same thing had occurred many times in the past, but it was ground checked prior to take-off and found to be o.k. The radar operator was called back up front where he could observe in the search and the navigator said he could do it o.k. because he had fair loran fixes.

We completed three (3) expanding and contracting square searches without sighting any sign of the missing aircraft. The search was routine except that somewhere near morning, I would guess near 0400, I was told that the loran was now inoperative, too. We continued our search pattern and left the search area at dawn. The navigator was doing dead reckoning and so the instructor pilot and I were listening to the Saipan range. The radio compass needle would complete 360 of turning without ever remaining stationery, but we were receiving a very week N signal and we could not receive any signals from the Guam range. From this we gathered that we must be north of Saipan. We continued on the navigatorís heading, listening for a build in the Saipan N signal. However, the navigatorís time ran out and we still did not have a build or a fade in that signal. Shortly after the navigatorís ETA ran out, a landmass was sighted off to the west. We thought it probably north Guam, but upon turning to it we found that we could not identify the island. Since we still had a slight N signal from Saipan, we continued on a southerly heading. That heading was continued until we could be definitely sure that we could not have been north of Saipan or we would have seen Guam or the surrounding islands. Upon our decision that we must be south, we turned to the northerly heading and shortly after lost all signs of Saipan radio. We still could not receive any signals from Guam. The gas was being checked constantly and open talking to the engineer, I found that we had approximately four and one-half hours of fuel. I became disturbed and talked to the navigator and he said that our position was certainly doubtful so the radio operator was instructed to contact Guam or any other station that could give him QDM or QTE or any other aid to guide us in. He contacted Guam successfully, however, they could not give us a bearing or a fix. We were told constantly to wait out. The radio operator was instructed to hold down his key and I to hold down the VHF key. This was repeated several times and I called every channel on VHF many times repeating "MAYDAY" and aircraft number, but got no answer. At 1100 the radio operator was told to send out a message that the pilot declares an emergency. Guam "Rogered" the message but still could not give us a fix or a bearing. The IFF was set on emergency at 1100.

Since Guam nor anyone else seemed to be able to aid us in finding our position, all crew members were briefed personally by me as to their duties and positions and their responsibilities in case of either ditching or crash landing. All crewmembers understood fully and all questions were discussed at length. In the meantime, the radio operator, the instructor pilot and the navigator were trying to ascertain our position. Nothing seemed to make our position certain so upon our return over the island that we had once thought was Guam, the instruct pilot, the engineer and myself began looking for a possible site for crash landing. At 1145, we were over the island and the radio operator said he could no longer contact Guam. When this happened, we acted as in a full emergency. Since the instructor pilot had more time, more experience and was the ranking man, I switched seats with him. I believed it best both from time and experience and the fact that it was my crew and I knew them personally and thought I could do more sitting in the right seat and continuing our briefing and governing our actions that we had talked over. I instructed Sergeant Turner that he was the Non-commissioned officer-in-charge in the rear. He was to throw all equipment that would endanger any lives overboard Ė the downlocks, the loose equipment, the battery, etc. He called that this was completed and in the meantime the navigator had removed his astrodome, the engineer his escape hatch and the pilots had opened their windows and ditching braces were installed. The equipment we could not throw overboard from up front was satisfied. Smoke bombs were dropped on the two possible sides of the island where we could have crash-landed. Wind directions were determined, headings that we could land on, depth of water, and surface below the water. All men reported in their positions and ready for the landing. The engineer was to be given twelve (12) seconds before contact with the water for cutting switches. The pilots adjusted their safety belts and shoulder harnesses and were prepared to crash land at approximately 1205. However, the inter-phone went out. The special inter-phone was tried, but to no avail. We had to make another pass while the radio operator went back to the rear to inform the other crewmembers that this was to be the final approach. He reported that every one understood and was ready. The final approach was made with full flaps and an air speed of about ninety-seven (97) miles an hour with about ĺ power. We touched down at about ninety-five (95) and halted within approximately two hundred feet. All crewmembers were accounted for immediately and were all found to be in very good shape. As soon as we were certain that no fire would result, we removed all equipment that we thought we would need. However, natives interrupted this operation to take us to the King. Upon proper introductions we proceeded to get natives to help us to remove all possible equipment. We set up operations for a long stay. The Gibson Girl was put into operation as soon as practical and kept in continuous operation. Members were assigned to tasks necessary for survival. At 1030 in the morning of 13 November, B-29 9800 was overhead. Messages and instructions were dropped and all received and complied with. Navy PBM 3 arrived at 1650 and we met them in native boats and were taken to Saipan.

The past history of this aircraft will show the same series and cycles of electrical difficulties and I believe this was the greatest contributory factor that led to the crash landing.

Under the circumstances, I believe that in our crash landing we did the only correct thing left to do. I believe that we can attribute the sound health of these crewmembers to cool deliberation and each and every man knowing his position and his duties and doing them to the best of his ability. Upon inspection of the aircraft, there are many things not covered adequately in the published emergency procedures for B-29 aircraft. Also our survival equipment proved to be rather poor.

All personal equipment aboard aircraft 44-62076 was removed as soon as possible. Most chutes were wet from the salt water, but were used for bedding and as protection against the hordes of flies and mosquitoes. A couple of one-man rafts were used for oil containers in case we needed signals. All flares were removed from all dingys. Some rafts and life vests were used as gifts to natives in return for food and water. Our large seven-man rafts were set up to gather rainwater, the only source of drinking water. The bombsight, VNF, radarscope and IFF were destroyed, as were all restricted and confidential equipment.

The Gibson Girl radios (2) were padlocked in the hut along with all other equipment we had on hand. From our experience in dealing with these people, I feel certain all this equipment will be kept safe in that hut in case any other American should ever come there. That was our arrangement with them.

It was impossible to take this equipment over the breakers in the nativesí outriggers to the PBM.

This is true to the best of my knowledge and belief.

Christorpher P. Dixon
1st Lt., USAF
Pilot

 

hogan M/Sgt. Eugene G. Hogan

I, Eugene G. Hogan, M/Sgt, AF-6925321, Engineer, was scheduled to fly in Aircraft, 44-62076 on 11 November 1948 to search for a missing aircraft. Take-off was at 1725 K; search altitude was 1,000 feet. Upon reaching search altitude we set up maximum range cruise and continued to fly maximum cruise until the emergency arose, at which time we set up maximum endurance and flew at this power until we crash-landed in the water. Approximately three (3) hours after take-off, we reached the search area and remained there approximately nine (9) hours. While in the search area, we flew a square search pattern. Venus appeared at approximately 0400 K. We mistook it for a flare and turned off course to investigate. We returned to search area. A comet was sighted and again we turned off course to investigate, and returned to the search area. We left the search area at 0500 K and took up a heading for Guam.

At approximately 1030 K on 12 November 1948, the pilot decided that we were confused and I set up maximum endurance to conserve gasoline. We were getting to the point where we were using our reserve and I informed the pilot at which time he decided that an emergency existed. We sighted an island and flew past it for approximately 1:30 hours and then the pilot decide we were lost and turned to fly back to the island, to either crash land or ditch as near the island as possible. I asked the pilot to inform me twelve (12) seconds before impact so that I could close the fuel shut-off valves and stand by on the master magneto switch and also the fire selector in case of fire. All loose equipment had been thrown out and the hatches were open. We made a normal tail low approach. Flaps were at 25, we touched at 95 miles per hour, and after the plane came to a full stop, we climbed out pretty fast but in an orderly manner. No one was injured although the aircraft was severely damaged underneath the fuselage and in the radar compartment. All radar equipment was torn from its mounted (normal) position and all the gunnery equipment and everything under the floor in the radar compartment was torn loose. The lower forward turret moved back about six inches. The Loran set and everything next to the navigatorís position moved inward toward the forward turret approximately six inches also. The nose wheel well hatch opened and a wave of water covered the engineer and co-pilot and filled the bombardierís position with water. One man was sitting on the hatch next to the engineer and when the hatch opened, he was slightly shaken up. My fuel gauges indicated that I had approximately 900 gallons of gasoline left. On a previous flight, the gauges showed the same amount and upon servicing it, it was found that we only had 443 gallons aboard. My log showed slightly under 900 gallons and as my quantity gauges had never been calibrated, I thought it best to fly by them.

I used my personal equipment as bedding and mosquito netting. My dingy was used to drain oil from #1 engine for signal fires. Flares and smoke signal equipment was removed to be used as needed. All TOís and restricted material was burned prior to leaving the island.

Eugene G. Hogan
M/Sgt, AF-6925321

 

blood Capt. Kenneth E. Blood

I, Kenneth E. Blood, Captain, USAF, AO-52880, of the 343rd Bomb Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, 92nd Bomb Wing, Fifteenth Air Force, Strategic Air Command, was the Navigator on a B-29 aircraft, serial number 44- 62076 on 11 and 12 November 1948. I was participating in a routine search mission from North Guam Air Force Base.

On 11 November, request came to our operations for one B-29 crew to take off as early as possible that afternoon and fly the following night in an area where a rocket had been reported the night before. The ship I was navigator on, 076, was in commission, the crew was available and we were assigned to take the mission.

After the necessary preliminaries, we were briefed by the 19th Bomb Group. I was informed by the navigator from the Bomb Group that I was to fly an expanding square search starting at a point approximately fifteen (15) miles from Parisi Villa and expanding the search until we were thirty (30) miles from the starting point. Then I was to conduct a contracting square search coming back to the same starting point. I checked my maps to be sure they would cover the area and the rest of my equipment was in the aircraft. I signed for the IFF frequency and also attended the communications briefing with the instructor pilot and the radio operator. We went to chow after briefing and arrived at the aircraft at approximately 1630.

The aircraft was in good mechanical shape and we took off at approximately 1725 K time. Within a short time after take-off, I checked my sextant by shooting a sun line and also checked the loran and they both seemed to be working satisfactorily. Approximately two (2) hours out, the radio operator informed me that he had lost contact with the ground station at Guam. I relayed the information to the pilot. At the time we had been out of contact for one hour and a half, we turned around and headed back for Guam.

At this time, Captain Hodges, the instructor pilot, went to the radio compartment and assisted the radio operator in finding his difficulty and as contact was made shortly after we again assumed our original heading and proceeded to the search area. As Captain Hodges was going past my position toward the rear of the aircraft, he accidentally knocked my sextant from the table. I immediately checked the sextant and found the bubble had disappeared and the altitude mechanism was jammed so badly that I could not turn the altitude knob. As the loran set appeared to be operating satisfactorily at this time, I did not consider the loss of the sextant too serious.

We arrived in the search area approximately three and a half (3 Ĺ) hours after take-off and after ascertaining my exact position by loran fix, we started our first expanding square search. The winds at this time were approximately as briefed but were from three (3) to five (5) knots more intense. They remained this way as long as I was able to check my winds accurately. We made one complete expanding square, extending the pattern beyond the briefed distance from the starting point as we were anticipating a longer flight than the briefing officers had considered. When we were approximately forty (40) miles from the starting point, we started our contracting square search. At the time we originally arrived at the search area, I requested the radar operator to try and pick up the reef at Parisi Villa. He tried for approximately one-half (1/2) hour and found his set to be in very poor shape. I checked on my repeater scope in my navigatorís compartment and found we were receiving such severe shocking that it was impossible to give any return whatsoever. He continued for some time to try to adjust his set but to no avail.

Midway through the contracting search pattern I began to have extreme difficulty with the loran set, but was still able to pick up fixes of a sort. Thinking that possibly the set would clear up I did not recommend at this time that the pilot return to Guam. We completed the contracting search and after consultation with the instructor pilot and the pilot, we decided that we had ample gasoline to conduct one more expanding square search. We did conduct the third search pattern and on approximately the fourth leg my loran set went out completely. We finished that pattern and started home, using the briefed wind which was carried on our Pomar. Using the briefed wind, I added three or four knots to the velocity and gave the pilot a heading back to Guam. My ETA to Guam was 1045 K time.

At this time I was relying solely upon the radio compass and dead reckoning. As we approached our ETA, we were able to pick up a faint signal from the Saipan range. We were at this time in the N quadrant and the MM identification code was clearly discernible. We flew out my ETA without being able to tell whether we had a build or a fade signal. Because we were unable to pick up the Guam range, we figured we must be north of course. As our ETA expired, we sighted a land mass approximately thirty-five (35) to (40) miles to our right. We turned on my ETA and headed for the landmass which we were unable to identify satisfactorily from my charts. It was a small island with very little elevation, approximately ĺ mile across from north to south and approximately two (2) miles across from east to west. There were signs of habitation and on the northeast corner of the island there were remains of a large factory or plant. We thought at this time that it was an abandoned sugar mill. Still thinking that we were north of Saipan, we took up the heading of 195 degrees and flew for approximately one (1) hour. As we received no build or fade from Saipan, we took a reciprocal course after the hours flight and headed back north. As we made our turn, the signal from the Saipan range faded completely. We never were able to pick it up again. At this time and for some time previously I worked frantically with the loran set calibrating it as best I could with the very weak signal I was picking up but was unable to get any type of a fix whatsoever. As I was busily trying to locate our position, I was not paying much attention to the instructions the pilot was passing to the radio operator, but I understand the radio operator was unable to get a fix or a heading.

At approximately 1100 K time, we declared our condition an emergency and prepared to either ditch or crash land near the island which I mentioned previously. From that time until the actual crash landing I was busy making the necessary preparations. I removed the astrodome and threw it into the forward bomb bay. I also got rid of all loose equipment and prepared my ditching position behind the forward upper turret. Approximately fifteen (15) minutes before it was necessary to crash land, the inter-phone and emergency interóhone both became inoperative. It was necessary then to relay messages to the rear of the aircraft by sending the radio operator through the tunnel. At approximately 1200, the pilot said we were definitely in the pattern for our landing. The radio operator and I assumed positions against the rear of the aircraft. We were well padded and well prepared for the landing. At approximately 1215 K time, we landed and as soon as the ship had come to a stop, I sent the radio operator out through the astrodome and followed myself shortly thereafter.

The entire crew went through the crash landing without a scratch and the necessary emergency equipment was immediately removed from the aircraft. We set up the Gibson Girl as soon as possible after we hit the beach and it was in constant operation from then until approximately 1030 the next morning when we were spotted by a B-29. We received messages from the B-29 and the B-29 which followed him there that we would be picked up that afternoon by a Navy PBM. The PBM arrived and we were aboard approximately 1700 K time. The PBM then flew us to Saipan.

I used my parachute for a mosquito net and my Mae West for a pillow. I opened my one-man life raft and used the signal flares for signaling the rescue aircraft. I personally removed the bombsight from the aircraft and handed it out the pilotís window to the pilot, Lt. Dixon, who then, with the help of the instructor pilot, Capt. Hodges, completely destroyed it by smashing it against the rocks near the aircraft. As I left the aircraft hurriedly after the crash landing and the entire crew was immediately escorted to meet the King of the Island, it was several hours before I was able to re-enter the plane to try and find my equipment. I located my astro-compass, Weems plotter and navigation brief case. The rest of my equipment had either washed out to sea or had been confiscated by the natives. After we had been sighted by B-29 Aircraft 9800, and informed that we would be picked up by a PBM at 1700 hours that afternoon, Lt. Dixon, Capt. Hodges, and I gathered up all the confidential and restricted materials and burned them thoroughly in a large bonfire. I personally burned the IFF settings. The Gibson Girl radios and other pieces of equipment were locked in a storehouse which obviously had been used by the United States Army when they occupied the island during the war. It was locked when we arrived and the natives assured us that after our two (2) Gibson Girls and other equipment had been put inside, that it would stay locked and also the two (2) Gibson Girls would only be used by other Americans who might come into difficulty there.

Kenneth E. Blood
Capt., USAF
AO-52880

 

scrima Sgt. Michael D. Scrima

I, Michael D.Scrima, Sgt.,AF-11154592, Radio Operator, was scheduled to fly in Aircraft 62076 on 11 November 1948, on a search mission for a missing aircraft. Radio checklist complete, we departed North Field, Guam at 1725K. Because of wanting to maintain radio discipline, I waited approximately forty minutes before traffic permitted me to establish my first CW contact with Guam.

According to Flight Plan I continued to send in hourly positions reports. I believe it was my 3rd position report that had me quessing. Everything seemed to be correct. Re-checked antennae and must have returned frequency several times, because it wasnít until after an hour plus thirty minutes that I regained contact. During that time I returned all my assigned frequencies but to no avail. Radio operators have a legend about the general flight area. They say itís a complete dead spot for communications. That was my only excuse to the pilot. Lt. Dixon turned the aircraft and started to return to Guam according to AF Regulations. Capt. Hodges came back and tried to assist me. About fifteen minutes after point of return I regained contact. All my contacts and position reports thereafter were made with no trouble.

Some hours later, just after Ground Station cleared me to close down because ETA was within the next sixty minutes, the pilot told me to get a fix or bearing from Guam Ė no emergency, just a doubt as to correct position. After sending the correct radio message the ground station answered, telling me to transmit twenty-second dash Ė better known as QDN. A few minutes later he told me he couldnít take a fix but could try to take a bearing (QDM). I sent out a five-minute signal (QDN 5) and he told me to stand by (QDF) for he would have to phone the direction finding station for the "info." This was requested several times. Finally the pilot told me to send a message expressing Ė "# hours fuel remaining Ė lost Ė pilot claims emergency." During the process of trying to establish a bearing the Ground Station advised a few things Ė "Stand by on 500 KCís. Contact North Field tower on Baker Ė send out side tone signal on assigned VHF." Fuel time was getting short. The pilot told me to transmit a message explaining that "Fuel was low; crash landing off island; believed south of Guam; identity Sugar Mill; inhabitants and vegetation." It was more specific, but, presently, thatís all I can recall. I tried in vain to get this message through, but I guess my transmitter objected. I noticed on my meter, zero current; I checked my antennae and dials for correct position. About this time our inter-phone went out. The navigator told me to prepare for crash. Together we put ditching braces on, took out the astrodome, and put our parachutes in crash position to oppose impact. I rushed back through the tunnel and advised the boys of our inter-phone being out; to prepare for crash and gave a few encouraging additions. I took my crash position with the navigator and waited. I might add that the extremely good behavior of the crew resulted in a successful ditching. All crewmembers acted quite normally and were very confident. After the crash, I went out of the astrodome and jumped into the water from the nose of the aircraft. All ten (10) crewmembers were out, with few minor injuries. The pilot checked all of us to make sure there was no shock nor injury. Most of our equipment had been exposed to the salt water. The crash was made on coral, ripping practically all of the shipís bottom. We took out all available emergency equipment, including parachutes, etc.

After a good pep talk from the pilot, we set up the Gibson Girl and transmitted signals and messages from then until that wonderful moment when a B-29 was sighted flying toward the island. Being my first real experience with this emergency radio transmitter, I suggested we take the radio equipment from the airplane and rig it up on the beach. While taking equipment out of our crippled plane, a 344th Bomb Squadron B-29 was sighted off the island. They dropped food and message. Hours later, a Navy PBM picked us up.

I did use most of my available personal equipment for padding against impact. Bedding and mosquito nets were made of parachutes and other equipment. During the effort to try and transfer the equipment from the aircraft to the beach, some of the equipment had been exposed to salt water by the waves. The Gibson Girl was carefully packed away after the rescue became effective.

Michael D. Scrima
Sgt., AF-11154592

 

minion Cpl. John N. Minion

I, Cpl., John N. Minion, USA, AF-16206647, Central Fire Control Gunner, 343rd Bomb Squadron (M), 98th Bomb Group (M), 92nd Bomb Wing (M), Fifteenth Air Force, Strategic Air Command, was notified at approximately 1500 K, on the afternoon of 11 November 1948, that flares were sighted on the previous night approximately half way between Okinawa and Guam, and that our crew had been delegated to fly a search mission in that area that night in B-29 Aircraft No. 44-62076.

After a normal briefing, we reported to the aircraft and were ready for takeoff at 1700 or 1730 K. During the taxi I set up and turned on the IFF. We made a normal take-off during which I was riding in the left gunnerís position.

After the take-off had been completed I turned on the Loran inverter and returned to my position as left gunner. After we were 100 miles out, I turned off the IFF. We then proceeded to the search area.

With the exception of the short period of radio failure, the search and flight were uneventful until about 0400 K, when the pilot asked me if I could see a flashing light on the horizon at approximately 11 oíclock. View of this area was obstructed by the left wing and I could see nothing irregular. Later we found this flashing light to be the "Morning Star."

A few minutes later when we had returned to the search pattern, the pilot and I noticed what appeared to be a search light shining from below the horizon at about 10 oíclock. We then headed towards this searchlight but when the source of the light came over the horizon, we learned that it was a comet, and we again returned to the search pattern. We then completed the search without any other sightings and began our return flight to Guam.

I turned on the IFF at the pilotís request.

At approximately 1000 K the pilot informed the men in the rear that they were somewhat confused about our position. At approximately 1100 K the pilot declared that an emergency condition existed and instructed me to turn the IFF to the emergency position, which I did.

At approximately 1115 K, I began assisting S/Sgt Turner in the disposal of all loose equipment in the rear, that would not be needed for survival. We had predetermined what each man would do, and the crash preparation went very smoothly. We also padded our landing positions and at this time the ditching braces were installed on the bomb bay bulkhead door.

A few minutes before the impact the radio operator came to the rear to tell us to prepare for the impact. He then returned to the forward portion of the aircraft and I assumed my ditching position on the floor of the aft unpressurized compartment against the forward bulkhead. I remained in this position through the approach, the impact and until all motion of the aircraft had stopped. Then, after assuring myself that no-one in the rear of the aircraft needed my help, I climbed out of the aircraft. After I was sure that there was no longer any danger of fire, I helped in the removal of emergency equipment.

I, did, during my emergency stay at Fais, use my own and a number of extra parachutes in the preparation of shelter and bedding for myself and other members of the crew. My one-man dinghy was opened for flares and smoke signals. I assisted in the removal of all loose equipment in the rear-pressurized portion and rear unpressurized portion of the aircraft prior to the landing. I aided in the destroying of the restricted literature.

My position on the crew was central fire control gunner.

John N. Minion
Cpl, AF-16206647

 

turner S/Sgt Harlyn G. Turner

I, S/Sgt. Harlyn G. Turner, AF-17071595, 343rd Bomb Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, Right Scanner on B-29 44-62067, was scheduled to fly a search mission on November 11, 1948. After a normal briefing, we reported to the aircraft. Take-off was at 1725 K. I was flying right scannerís position on take-off. Take-off was normal.

The flight to the search area was uneventful with the exception of the short period of radio failure.

We searched all night until approximately 0600, November 12. After leaving the search area, we headed for Guam. At approximately 1100, the pilot declared a state of emergency existed, at which time the pilot briefed the crew on emergency procedures. At this time the pilot appointed me Non-commissioned officer-in-charge of the men in the rear of the aircraft. At approximately 1145, the pilot instructed me to throw out all loose equipment in the rear of the aircraft. At approximately 1200, he instructed me to drop two smoke signals; one on each side of the Island to determine the direction of the wind. After dropping smoke signals, we removed battery and threw it out. At this time, the inter-phone went dead. The radio operator came through the tunnel and informed us that this was the final approach. At this time, I checked each man in his position and then took my position for ditching. After the aircraft came to a stop, we went out of aircraft as briefed. When we were certain that there would be no fire, we started removing all our emergency equipment from the aircraft.

I may add at this time that perfect crew discipline prevailed throughout the entire operation.

I used my parachute for bedding. My one-man dinghy was opened to get the flares and other emergency equipment. The equipment was left in the hut we lived in on Fais Island.

Harlyn G. Turner, AF-17071595
S/Sgt, USAF

 

foley S/Sgt Elroy C. Foley

I, S/Sgt. Elroy C. Foley, AF-20653990, Radar Operator on B-29 44-62076, of the 343rd Bomb Squadron, 98th Bomb Group, was scheduled to fly a search mission on the 11 of November 1948. Take-off time was approximately 1725 K. My position on this mission was in the nose, in the Bombardierís seat. My duty was to monitor 500 KCís throughout this search mission. When nearing the search area, I was told to go to the rear and work my set to find Parisi Villa Reef. My set checked out before takeoff but when I tried to get it working near the Reef, all I could get on the scope was spoking. My set was in bad shape ever since we left Spokan Air Force Base on September 11, 1948.

After finding out my set was out, I went up front again and searched from the Bombardierís position for signs of life from the men we were looking for. When leaving the area at approximately 0600 K 12 November 1948 for Guam, we flew until approximately 1100 K when our Airplane Commander declared a state of emergency existed. Lt. Dixon briefed our crew on emergency procedures and each man knew his job if and when we had to go down. At approximately 1145 I helped the men up front in preparing for a crash landing on the water line of Fais Island. The set-down was at 1215 K, 12 November 1948, and a beautiful job it was, too.

All men cleared Airplane safe, without injury. We removed our equipment with the help of the natives. After a short talk by our Airplane commander, we started the Gibson Girls and sent out our SOS. A B-29 from the 344th Bomb Squadron found us the next morning. We were picked up by a Saipan Base Navy PBM at approximately 1600 K, and were taken to Saipan.

I used my parachute for bedding and mosquito netting. My dinghy was opened to obtain the hand flares and smoke bombs. I destroyed my Radar Scope and IFF. The rest of my radar set was busted up and submerged under water when Radar room ripped open on landing. I also witnessed the burning of all TOís and restricted material before leaving Fais Island on the 13th of November 1948.

My position on crew is Radar Operator.

Elroy C. Foley, AF-20653990
S/Sgt, USAF

 

miller S/Sgt Raymond E. Miller

I, S/Sgt. Raymond E. Miller, AF-33831287, 28th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, was a member of crew 2076 when it took off to pull a search mission. Mission was made as briefed but with no results. Upon return trip to Guam, the navigator found out that he was lost. He notified the pilot, who in turn asked the radio operator to get a QDM. For some reason this plan of action failed. By that time, we had run low on fuel, and had also sighted the Island of Fais. Upon trying a few headings, and not sighting any other land, we returned to Fais, to crash land on the beach. My position was right scanner where I stayed through the landing. The pilot ordered all loose equipment to be thrown out and ditching braces put in place. All this was accomplished. Upon striking, I was completely covered by water. When the ship stopped, water receded and I started out of the ship. The radar floor was completely wrecked. (Do not think radar room would be a good place to ditch or crash land). I had a little trouble getting over crumbled up floor, but I made it O.K.

All ditching braces held and not too much equipment ripped loose in the CFC room.

Upon getting on the beach, we met the King and then set up the Gibson Girl. We sent messages ten to twenty (10 Ė 20) and forty to fifty (40 Ė 50) minutes after the hour. The next morning a B-29 sighted us. That evening a PBM picked us up and took us to Saipan. A C-47 then brought us back to Guam.

This is a complete account of the accident in my own words, as much as I know about it.

Raymond E. Miller
S/Sgt., AF-33831287

 

ham Sgt. George R. Ham

I, Sgt, George R. Ham, Af-18228384, 29th Bomb Squadron, 19th Bomb Group, was one of the gunners on the crew of 2076 when we took off on a search mission the night of November 11, 1948. In as far as the search was concerned, it was as briefed and results were negative. On the return trip we were found to be lost, and fuel was too low for any extended length of flying time. When the pilot gave the order that we were to crash land on the small island of Fais, I was in the left scannerís seat. We were ordered to toss any loose equipment overboard. We threw out the downlocks, ladders, toolboxes, and the battery Ė at that time, the interphone went dead. The radio operator came through the tunnel to warn us when to expect the impact. Two men in the rear had positions in the aft unpressurized compartment by the entrance hatch, and two of us were in the gunnerís seats. On impact so much water came in through the bottom of the radar room that I couldnít see to go out the rear and so I went through the tunnel and got out by way of the astrodome.

The night we got the Gibson Girl set up and started sending the distress signal. The next morning we were found by a B-29 and later that same afternoon, rescued by a Navy PBM.

George R. Ham
Sgt., AF-18228384


For additional reading about this exciting adventure click on the following links:

Hogan's goat ditched at Sea
Plane spared WWII gunner
Ditched Plane Crew Safe and Sound
WWII Vet plans return to Fais Island

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