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U.S. NAVY VP SQUADRONS

24)THE PLIGHT OF VP 94 P-5


94-P-5 with Lt. (jg) Donald M. Faulkner, USNR, 112 146, as patrol plane commander, Lt. (jg) John T. Cline, USNR 114 446, as co-pilot and Ens. Herbert J. Greenberg, USNR 124 870, as navigator had commenced covering a southbound convoy from Amapa. At 0400 Peter 3 June 19 43 the plane departed Sao Luiz to recommence coverage at a point 200 miles east-northeast of the field. The plane was 45 minutes out of Sao Luiz, heading across the jungle and just out of the overcast at 900 feet when the starboard engine commenced popping.


The tower reported oil pressure going down and seconds later the engine cut out completely and could not be feathered because of the lack of oil pressure. The pilots set course for the coast, losing altitude rapidly. Depth charges were dropped and gas was jettisoned on the port side. Below all that could be seen were light and dark splotches, apparently water. The plane was brought in, in a power stall on instruments on what proved to be the side of a sand dune three miles inland.


Gasoline was pouring out of the plane so it was abandoned immediately. The co-pilots safety belt was not fastened at the time of impact, so he suffered the most severe injury, a gash over one eye. Otherwise injuries were confined to bruised legs, arms and hands. In side of two hours, over 200 natives had assembled about the airplane. They offered coconuts and water to the pilots and crew, but the water had to be tactfully refused for fear of typhoid.


Lt. (jg) Cline and an enlisted man set out for Miritiba, about 30 miles distant with the aid of native guides, in an effort to dispatch a telegram to headquarters at Natal. The trip was made on horseback, mule back, foot,  jangada and ended in a disappointment for the telegraph office was not in operation. The journey was resumed via jangada, up a river and down the coast to Sao Luiz. Meanwhile the gas tanks of the crashed airplane had been completely emptied except for 15 gallons, which was saved for use with the Auxiliary Power Unit (familiarly known as the put-put).


Water breakers, life rafts, flashlights, and other material were salvaged. Radio communications were established after some effort and a very weak report as to position was sent to Natal. Five hours after the radio message was dispatched, another 94 plane appeared over the survivors, communicated with them by blinker and by radio and dropped a supply of food and blankets. The food was canned for the most part and promptly burst upon contact with the ground. A second 94 plane came in to investigate the crash and inquire as to means of rescue. The crew had inspected the plane and found an improperly secured oil cap come loose and that all the oil had been pumped out.


Rescue was effected on 5 June when Lt. John B. Wayne, USN landed a PBY5A on a fresh water lake about three miles from the scene of the crash. The lake had been sounded by the navigator and found to be deep enough for a safe landing and take-off. Accordingly, gangs of natives were organized to haul parts of the damaged plane to the lake for transport to Natal. Six trips were made by PBY5As of the squadron to haul out all usable equipment, including one engine, the wheels, the radio gear, etc. Detonators destroyed what was left except for the fuselage and wing.


The port wing had been broken during the landing, as it trailed along the side of the sand dune. The bow was bashed in and the hull was partially sheared, laterally, at the number seven bulkhead. Ens. Greenberg found himself a second thrill, when he took off with Squadron Commander Lt. Comdr. Joseph B. Tibbets, USN, from Sao Luiz three days later. Five minutes out, a bad carburetor caused an engine failure and the plane would not hold altitude. Bombs were jettisoned before a landing was made in Sao Luiz bay.


Part of the personnel was sent ashore in native boats. Lt. Comdr. Tibbets successfully took off for Sao Luiz after some his gas load had been dumped and the faulty carburetor repaired. Ens. Greenberg found it difficult to find flying companions for some length of time. VP-94 pilots have found themselves in other similar ticklish positions during their stay in South America, but the planes and the personnel have always come back.



The picture shows the dunes where Lieutenant Jg. Donald Faulkner and Lieutenant Jg. John Cline made a forced landing on 3 June 1943 at the first lights of the morning. The place is still preserved exactly the very same as it was 63 years ago. Very likely the remains of the plane are buried under these sands.


 

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