MISHAPs: 27 DEC 41 A/C: PBY-5A Location: NAS Norfolk, Virginia Strike: No BUNO: 2466 Cause: Plane departed from Richmond,Va at 1635, Dec 27, 1941, enroute to Nas Norfolk ultimate destination of ferry flight from San Diego,Ca. Plane landed in conventional manner, but upon application of brakes, with some 40kts forward motion, the nose wheel retracted with consequent scraping of the hull. Upon examination it was determined that vernier adjustment on forked fitting was to fine and after service use the thrust of the piston perceptibly changed so that locking latch did not engage locking assembly. Damage serious: Mooring shackle worn off keel by frictions; rivets loosened on keel plates a distance of ten inches forward of the mooring shackle mount; lower edges of nose wheel doors worn away by friction approx. one quarter inches for a distance of three feet from forward end of doors. Crew & pass ok. Pilot:Ens.Henry Gibbons Cooper, AV-N USNR, Ens Royal A. Baske, AV-N USNR, AOM2c Howard LaVerne Ripple (NAP), USN, AMM1c Joseph D. Bedford, USN, RM1c Howard C, Brandon, USN, AMM2c Arthur J. McComkey, USN, RM3c James Cain, USN, Lt Marsh W. Miller. Contributed by Terry firstname.lastname@example.org [23NOV2002]
MISHAPs: 16 FEB 42 A/C: PBY-5A Location: VA Strike: No BUNO: 02469 Cause: As the nose wheel was depressed during the landing run to retain contact with the surface the nose wheel doors gave away causing violent water-loop to port. A large quantity of water was shipped due to loss of the doors, and rupture of the nose wheel well seams. Plane taxied slowly and beached at ramp. Repairable damage: Both nose wheel doors torn off and lost. Nose wheel well ruptured at seams. Starboard door torque tube pulled out of forward socket and lost. Hull bottom dented and scraped forward of step. Radio gear and instruments suffered salt water immersion. Crew Ok. Pilot Ens Ralph S. Smyle, AV-N USNR, Ens W. R. Ford, AV-N USNR, AMM1c W. S. Malverhill, AMM3c M. C. Bruno, RM1c W. G. Osborne, RM3c N. A. Schneider, and Sea2c H. F. Harris. Contributed by Terry email@example.com [Updated 26NOV2002 | Updated 23DEC2000 | 17MAR98]
"...I'm looking for info regarding my grandfather, Alvis R. Townsend, especially about the types of aircraft and squadrons he was associated with. Family tradition has it that he was involved with patrol and recon aircraft, and also with radio-controlled drones. He enlisted prior to 1936 as a radioman, and by the early 40s was flying. On 13 Jun 1942 he went down off coast of South America; his letter home says he left the 2nd pilot's seat and went back aft in the catwalk just before the plane went down (will this help someone ID the aircraft?). 7 men were killed; he, a Chief and a passenger survived, were picked up after 18 hours of floating on the debris and taken to a Brazilian hospital. My mother was born in the Portsmouth, VA naval hospital while he was missing. The newspaper clippings about the incident show him in jumper uniform with 1st class radioman's insignia. Subsequent photos (beginning within months) show him sporting wings and rank insignia from ENS to CDR. There's a news clipping of him (c1944?) getting ready for the "Mirror Air Show" along with some Grumman employees and Nassau County officials (in what state, I'm unsure). Anyone recognize this air show? On 5 May 1950, while he was stationed at NAS Moffett Field, California, he went out on a mission and never returned; we know very little about the circumstances. I've been through the extensive Mishap lists here, but unfortunately haven't found any likely matches with the two above. I'd like to write NPRC for his records, but I don't know service #, last unit, etc., so expect I'll have better luck when I've learned a little more. I would appreciate any assistance or pointers to info on his likely aircraft, squadrons, missions, etc. Thanks for this great site, and for any clues forthcoming!...Jennifer Wright firstname.lastname@example.org [25JUN99]
[E-Mail Updated 27OCT99 | 05JUL99] "...I have learned quite a bit more about my grandfather's experience with the VP Navy. I've received wonderful e-mail replies from Mr. Bob Buchal RJBuchal@aol.com, Mr. Richard Wilson email@example.com, and Mr. Bill Bannon...It seems certain that Alvis Rennels Townsend was flying with VP-83 as an enlisted pilot when his PBY5A crashed into the ocean near Natal, Brazil on 13 June 1942"..."
I've included some of the information sent to me by kind and generous readers of your web pages, as well as a couple of small scanned images and an excerpt from his letter home describing the crash.
From the info in your E-mail, I have checked the Roster of the Enlisted Naval Aviation Pilots. They are the unique group of Navy, Marine and Coast Guard pilot that received the Navy Wings of Gold and flew as enlisted pilots. Many were commissioned later. Your g-father's name is in the roster as Alvis R. Townsend. He got his wings in early 1942, before the Brazil incident. He probably was promoted to Chief the day he got his wings. Then later was made an Ensign (Temporary) in 1942 or early '43. In 1950 he was at least a Lieutenant Commander if not a Commander.
The aircraft type was probably a PBY type of patrol A/C. Could have been from a squadron in Coco Solo, Panama.
A couple of ex-Naval Aviation Pilots here in Pensacola think they had heard the name but that is all. However, there are two ex-NAP's in your area. They are in the phone book.
E-mail excerpt #2:
I believe your Grandfather was a part of VP 83 when he crashed and survived on June 13, 1942. I quote from the Chronology of the squadron at that time.
13 June 1942 83-P-12, LT (JG) SKIDMORE, ENROUTE WITH THE SECOND DIVISION TO NATAL, BRAZIL ENCOUNTERED A SEVERE STORM AD CRASHED INTO THE SEA FIVE MILES NORTH EAST OF NATAL LIGHT. THE FOLLOWING OFFICERS AND MEN WERE KILLED:
Lt. (jg) C. H. Skidmore, A-V(N), USNR
Ens. Sherman F. Dixon, A-V(N), USNR
Ens. John A. Madden, A-V(N), USNR
Overburg, John Albert
Storkson, Julian Almer
Jordan, Rudolph F.
Hladilek, Charles Andrew
The remainder of the second division, 5 planes, landed at Natal, making the squadron complement 11 Planes.
14 June - All VP-83 Planes took off at 0500 to search for 83-P-12. Lt. (jg) Cooper, found the wreckage and circled while three enlisted men survivors were taken aboard a Brazilian fishing boat.
I have no further information on your Grandfather from that time. There may be men still alive that would remember him. He apparently was an enlisted man at the time. Was he a radioman? Was he an enlisted Pilot? Our squadron holds a reunion every year. This year it is in Ft. Meyers Fl. in late Sept. The type of aircraft was a PBY5A Catalina flying boat.
In 1997 we held our reunion in Natal, Brazil. At one of the Resorts we visited they displayed parts from a plane the salvaged from the ocean, a propellor and part of a landing gear from a PBY5A. Your grandfathers plane I'm sure.
Excerpt from letter written by Alvis R. Townsend to his sister-in-law, Mrs. Virginia Townsend, on 27 July 1942:
And so it is, I am well on my way to recovery. I had 2 cuts in my head, one on left leg & one on my right thigh, a hole between my shoulder blades, & last but the worst of the lot, a tear about 5" long 2" wide & all the way through to my stomach on my back just over my kidneys. But God has been very good to me, Vi, I am well more or less now, there were bruises, cuts & scratches all over me but these were the worst. We got into bad weather about 1800 on the 13th of June, at 1810 I left the second pilots position & went back aft in the cat walk. The WX continued to grow worse, and at 1815 vis. was zero - we had about 150 miles per hour when we flew into the water down draft was the cause, 7 dead & 3 survivors, a Chief, myself & one passenger. We got on the wing - all that was afloat - no life belts on any of us & only one man could swim, of course I couldn't because of injuries. We were on the wing for 18 hours & then the planes found us, some native fishermen took us off the wing and to their village, then P.A.A. crash boat came for us and then to a Brazilian hospital & out to the station until Sunday a week ago.
The photo attachements follow.
The earliest is from a newspaper clipping that mentions the crash above (clip ran the week of 8 July 1942). It says: "Alvis Rennel Townsend, Tampa, radioman first class, U.S. Navy, is recovering from injuries received in an airplane crash June 13, his mother, Mrs. Gena Townsend, 4710 10th St., was informed by the Navy Department today."
The later photo is from Norfolk/Virginia Beach in the spring of 1946. By this time my grandfather was a Lieutenant.
Thanks! Jennifer Wright firstname.lastname@example.org [05JUL99]
MISHAPs: 19 MAY 42 A/C: PBY-5A Location: NAS Jacksonville, Florida Strike: No BUNO: 2470 Cause: During taxi, plane crashed into parked SNJ-3 #01772, due to hydraulic pressure failure in the braking system. Repairable damage: Anchor cable holding sheave broken off from hull. Radar failure due to radar horn penetrating cockpit of SNJ. Crew Ok: Pilot Ens. F. C. Andretta, AV-N USNR, Ens. R. T. Johnson, E.F.Hudson, C. D. Hudson, J. Wallace, D.F. Russell, L. Bergstrom, and F. A. Sammarco. Contributed by Terry email@example.com [29NOV2002]
MISHAPs: 13 JUN 42 A/C: PBY-5A Location: Enroute to NAF Natal, Brazil Strike: Yes BUNO: 7252 Cause: Plane crashed in heavy rain squall. Pilot believed plane to be in a downdraft. Power settings had previously been increased to over 70% rated power for the plane. Plane crashed into water in a nose down attitude, possibly with one wing low. Most probable cause of accident; flying at low altitude in heavy rain and rough air, the pilot temporarily lost his horizon and put in glide into water. Damage:Total Loss. Crew: Lt(jg).Chester Hugh Skidmore/Killed, Ens. John Aloysius Madden, Jr/Killed, Ens. Sherman Fredrick Dixon/Killed, AP1c. Alvin R.Townsend/Seriously inj, Amm2c. John A. Overberg/Killed, Amm3c. James C. Jordon/Killed, Arm1c. Charles A. Hladilek/Killed, Amm1c. Julian A. Storkson/Killed, Acmm. Walter M. Shaw/Minor inj, and Amm3c. Ralph L. Moore,Jr/Minor inj. Contributed by Terry firstname.lastname@example.org [27JUN2001]
MISHAPs: 14 DEC 42 A/C: PBY-5A Location: 130 miles of NAF Natal, Brazil Strike: Yes BUNO: 7245 Cause: Crashed at sea due to engine failure, crew rescued by British Ship. Crew OK. Pilot Lt(jg). V. G. Hassell (lacerated finger right hand), Ens. D. McKee (lacerated finger's right hand), Ens. Grover C. Rannever, Amm1c. Russell K. Gerahofer, Amm3c. James E. Duggan, Amm2c. G. Brownlee, Amm3c. Merrill E. Hewitt, Amm3c. Robert L. Sexman, and Sea2c. Robert L. Reyff. Contributed by Terry email@example.com [08JUL2001]
"VP-83 Summary Page"