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VP-2 ATU-3 - In Memorium - ATU-3 VP-2

"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.


"...Dec. 5, 1945, 6 aircraft and 27 men disappeared and the cause has never been established..."

Contributed by Bob Woerner (former shipmate VPB-2 OTU- (Later ATU) 3) drexel@litenet.net

1945: In December 1945 we were all getting ready to go home for Christmas. For most of us in the Combat Aircrewman Training Program at NAS Banana River, Florida, we hadn't been home since we started the program in Sept. 1944. The war was over, most of the flying had stopped, and in 1946 we would all be getting orders to transistion to the separation center nearest our home as "ship's company" until we had enough points to get discharged.

Fred Zywicki and I had trained together since boot camp at Jax in Sept. '44. Then on to Norman, Okla. for AOM "A" School and Radar School. Gunnery School was next at Yellow Water, then on to Banana River after a TDY at
NAS Melbourne, Florida. We were in the same crew, CAC 88-I and flew many patrols together during the 3 months of Operational Training.. We were the 2 ordnance waist gunners and doubled also in the upper deck...Fred was looking forward to getting home to the Chicago he had left 16 months before.

On Dec. 5th, I was assigned to the Beaching crew, cursing the PBM-3s that still didn't have wheels. Other members of the crew were assigned to other "non-flying" duties. But some stayed on standby, including Fred.------------ I was lucky.

Somewhat to the south, on that day, at NAS Ft. Lauderdale, 5 TBM Avenger Torpedo Bombers were warming up to take their last training hop. The Navy and Marine Combat Aircrewman needed one more flight to qualify for their wings. And the pilots, except for the flight leader, needed one more navigational training flight to finish. One Marine missed the flight. This was the famous "Flight 19", a composite training flight of both Navy and Marine Corps airmen, that would become the subject of every "Devils Triangle" story on TV and books for decades to come. After flying eastward and then northward for some hours, they became lost. They reported trouble with their compasses and couldn't orient directions correctly. As nightfall approached they were almost out of gas.----And then all Florida East coast bases lost radio contact with them.

NAS Banana River, Florida, two PBMs were alerted to take off on a Search and Rescue operation down to North of the Bahamas to fly a "box" pattern. Their long range meant that they could fly all night if necessary. They were fully gassed. They passed all pre-flight checks. The crew on PBM No. 59225 was made up of our crew and other volunteers. Curiously, there were 5 pilots, and 8 crewmen. We seldom flew with 13, and never with 5 pilots.

Both PBMs took off and headed off in different directions. Radar had them both plotted. ---------Suddenly, PBM 59225 disappeared from the radar. A merchant ship, the SS Gaines Mills, reported seeing a massive explosion high in the sky, which then gravitated down to the ocean and continued to burn with flames 100 feet high.

A large search and rescue mission was already being formed by sea for the 5 TBMs. In the morning, the USS Solomons CVE-67 approached the approximate site of the crash and found only a small oil slick, no debris, no survivors. The plane and crew had apparently vaporized.----------The other PBM and the search vessels and aircraft continued their search for the TBMs for several days with no results.

On this day, Dec. 5, 1945, 6 aircraft and 27 men disappeared and the cause has never been established. They joined the many other aircrewmen who also disappeared in flight in this area known as "The Devil's Triangle", some were other PBMs from Banana River. The Navy convened a Board of Inquiry, which is available on Microfiche, but little was found to add to the facts.

Alfred Zywicki, S1/c (AOM)(CA), USNR, would not be going home for Christmas.

In Memorium: The would be rescuers:

PBM RP-49:
The PPC Walter G Jeffery Lt/USNR/MIA
Pilot Harry G Cone Lt/USNR/MIA
Pilot Charles D Arceneaux Ens/USNR/MIA
Pilot Roger M Allen Ens/USNR/MIA
Pilot Lloyd A Eliason Ens/USNR/MIA
Alfred J Zywicki S1/c(AOM)(CA)/USNR/MIA
James F Osterheld AOM3/c/USNR/MIA
John T Menendez AOM/USNR/MIA
Philip B Neeman S1/c/USNR/MIA
James F Jordan ARM3/c/USNR /MIA
Robert C Cameron ARM3/c/USNR/MIA
Wiley D Cargill S1/c/USNR/MIA
Donald E Peterson AMM1/c/USNR/MIA

In Memorium: Those to be rescued:

Flight 19: Fox-Tare
TBM Avengers

Fox-Tare 3
Pilot J T Bossi Ens/USNR/MIA
A H Thelander S1/c/USNR/MIA
B E Baluk Jr S1/c/USNR/MIA

Fox-Tare 28
Pilot C C Taylor Lt/USNR/MIA
G F Devlin AOM3/c/USNR/MIA
W R Parpart ARM3/c/USNR/MIA

Fox-Tare 36
Pilot E J Powers Capt/USMC/MIA
H Q Thompson Sgt/USMCR/MIA
G R Paonessa Sgt/USMC/MIA

Fox-Tare 81
Pilot F J Gerber 2ndLt/USMCR/MIA
W E Lightfoot Pfc/USMCR/MIA

Fox-Tare 117
Pilot G W Stivers Capt/USMC/MIA
R P Gruebel Pvt/USMCR/MIA
R F Gullivan Sgt/USMC/MIA

And 26 others, also, would not be going home for Christmas.
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Lieutenant Taylor was to fly in the lead plane, whose radio call sign was FT-28.
With him were Walter R. Parpart and George F. Devlin.

Captain Edward J. Powers, Jr., 26 years old, was flying FT-36 with Howell O.
Thompson and George R. Paonessa. Powers had entered the Marine Corps after
graduating from Princeton. He was the only married man in Flight 19.

Second Lieutenant Forrest J. Gerber, 24, would fly FT-81 with William E. Lightfoot.
Gerber had received his commission and gold wings four months earlier. (Allen Kosner
would have flown in this plane had he not opted out.)

Captain George W. Stivers would fly FT-117 with Robert F. Gallivan and Robert F.
Gruebel. The 25-year-old pilot had graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy, then
served as a combat officer for two years in the South Pacific before applying for flight

Ensign Joseph T. Bossi was in FT-3 with Herman A. Thelander and Burt E. Baluk. Bossi
had attended the University of Kansas before enlisting as an aviation cadet. He planned to
be home with his parents on Christmas Day--which would also be his 21st birthday.

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