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Navy Sues Civilian for Return of Wrecked World War II Plane He Salvaged From Swamp
Associated Press ^ | 03/27/2004 | Associated Press

Posted on 03/27/2004 4:24:34 PM PST by tomball

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) - The federal government has filed a lawsuit against an airplane collector demanding the return of the wreckage of a World War II Corsair fighter that the Navy abandoned after it crashed in a North Carolina swamp in 1944.
Historical airplane enthusiasts say the plane Lex Cralley dug out of the swamp near the North Carolina coast is the only one of its kind known to still exist.

Cralley, an airplane mechanic with a passion for preserving World War II aviation history, salvaged the pieces of the single-engine plane in 1990, registered it as a "non-airworthy model" with the Federal Aviation Administration and began the painstaking work of restoration, which remains far from completion.

The Justice Department sued Cralley on behalf of the Navy on Wednesday, seeking the plane, the cost of returning it and compensation for any damage since Cralley recovered it.

Cralley said Friday he will defend himself, but acknowledged that the suit has rattled him.

"I'm just a little guy," said Cralley, 49, of Princeton, north of Minneapolis. "I have no wealth, work for a living, have four kids."

The lawsuit doesn't say why the plane is important to the Navy. "We're not going to provide anything more than what we'll be saying in court," said Charles Miller, a spokesman for the Justice Department's civil division in Washington.

Cralley said the government contacted him about five years ago to see about getting the plane back, and suggested an exchange with the National Museum of Naval Aviation in Pensacola, Fla. He declined to elaborate Saturday, citing the lawsuit.

Airplane buffs say Cralley's plane is the only known survivor of one particular model of Corsair, a "Brewster F3A-1," built by the Brewster Aeronautical Corp. of Long Island City, N.Y. Brewster turned out 735, compared to more than 12,000 F4U Corsairs built by the Chance Vought Aircraft Corp. of Stratford, Conn. Neither company exists today.

Dick Phillips, a retired Northwest Airlines executive from suburban Burnsville who writes about World War II aircraft, said he knows of only about two dozen Corsairs of any model still flying. "I don't know of any airworthy Corsair that sold in the last five years for less than $1 million," he said.

The Corsair, designed to land on aircraft carriers, is one of the most recognizable World War II fighters, with its long fuselage, huge radial piston engine with a large propeller and a unique inverted "gull wing" design.

AP-ES-03-27-04 1810EST

 



TOPICS: Constitution/Conservatism; Crime/Corruption; Government; News/Current Events; US: Minnesota; US: North Carolina
KEYWORDS: doginthemanger; finderskeepers; lawsuit; losersweepers; usn; warbird; wwii

1 posted on 03/27/2004 4:24:35 PM PST by tomball
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To: tomball
If the gov't abandons property why should they come back 50 yrs later and cite a claim on it?
2 posted on 03/27/2004 4:27:02 PM PST by Bogey78O (I voted for this tagline... before I voted against it.)
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To: Bogey78O
If the gov't abandons property why should they come back 50 yrs later and cite a claim on it?

Helluva good question.

3 posted on 03/27/2004 4:28:19 PM PST by eddie willers
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To: tomball
Mr. Ashcroft is charge of that dept, on the ball as usual.
4 posted on 03/27/2004 4:29:19 PM PST by cynicom
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To: tomball
This is not the first time this has happened. Some guys got into the same bind with the Navy/Feds 10-15 years ago when they raised a couple of Wildcats and Dauntless dive bombers from Lake Michigan off Chicago that sunk during practice carried landings in WW2. The Feds will only allow you to own their stuff if they let you.
5 posted on 03/27/2004 4:32:22 PM PST by Lockbar
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To: tomball
This kind of crap really pisses me off. I'm surprised they didn't let him restore it first before they sued him.
6 posted on 03/27/2004 4:32:57 PM PST by Doomonyou (Molon Labe! FMCDH!)
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To: Bogey78O
"If the gov't abandons property why should they come back 50 yrs later and cite a claim on it?"

If they do have a claim then the owner of the swamp ought to charge them a $20/day storage fee for 50 years.
7 posted on 03/27/2004 4:33:07 PM PST by Rebelbase
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To: Bogey78O
"If the gov't abandons property why should they come back 50 yrs later and cite a claim on it?"

Does the government fill out an "abandoned property" form ? I think not... I would bet that they just gave up the search for it.

BTW - I do think he should get to keep it - unless he completely destroys it they will get it eventually as his decendants will decide it's better to donate it then deal with the taxes...
8 posted on 03/27/2004 4:35:56 PM PST by RS (Just because they're out to get him doesn't mean he's not guilty)
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To: tomball
F4U Corsair at Oshkosh
9 posted on 03/27/2004 4:37:48 PM PST by WSGilcrest (It's hard to get along when you're omnipotent.)
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To: tomball
Another case of pencil-pushers with more power than brains, looking for a way to justify their paycheck......
10 posted on 03/27/2004 4:38:26 PM PST by Viking2002
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To: Doomonyou
But, that might "damage" it, I guess. Note--

"seeking the plane, the cost of returning it and compensation for any damage since Cralley recovered it."

11 posted on 03/27/2004 4:38:34 PM PST by monkeywrench
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To: tomball
As I understand it, Brewster was the only US aircraft company to go out of business during WW-II.
12 posted on 03/27/2004 4:38:38 PM PST by Fresh Wind (George Bush kills terrorists. Bill Clinton pardons them. John Al-Qerry will apologize to them.)
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To: monkeywrench
If they don't steal it back, "the terrorists will have won."
13 posted on 03/27/2004 4:49:30 PM PST by Doomonyou (Molon Labe! FMCDH!)
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To: Lockbar
And if I'm not mistaken, after the government sued and got those Wildcats back...they took the wreckage and scrapped it. It wouldn't surprise me to see them scrap and destroy that F3A-1 if they get their hands on it.

The goobermint needs to back off and let this guy try and find a way to restore that Corsair. We've got fewer and fewer of those old pieces of history left (we lost another Corsair, an F4U-4, in a crash here in Columbia less than a year and a half ago).

}:-)4
14 posted on 03/27/2004 4:50:23 PM PST by Moose4 (This is not a "war of ideas." It is a war of life and death.)
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To: Bogey78O
Da gubmint is full of lawyers, lawyers sue for everything and anything (like vultures eat carcasses) and there are judges and juries out there that will give them anything the sue for...and make you pay them for the trouble of doing it.

There are ship wrecks at the bottom of Lake Michigan, Lake Huron and Lake Erie with zillions of dollars worth of perfectly good stuff, perfectly preserved by the cold fresh water. Nobody will invest the time or money to salvage any of it because ther are vultures waiting to take away from them whatever they salvage or bring up.

Foor instance, there are ship-loads of (now antique) autos from the factory that went down on lake freighters on their way from the factories. Those autos only need to be dried out, the rubber, leather and fluids replaced and start them up and take a ride. The same goes for other new equipment from the factories that went down on lake freighters in storms on Lake Huron. What a shame.

15 posted on 03/27/2004 4:50:56 PM PST by KriegerGeist ("Only one life to live and soon tis past, and only what was done for Jesus Christ will last")
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To: tomball
So let's see, the guy salvages it 13 years ago and now the government wants it? After he's restored it?

Looks like the govt is going to get a free airplane restoration job.
16 posted on 03/27/2004 4:51:24 PM PST by mikenola
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To: tomball
Corsair???

Isn't this the Brewster "Buffalo"?

As I recall, this was an obsolete POS even before the war broke out and most of them were shot down by the Nips early on.

If memory serves me correctly, though, I think the Dutch bought some of these and did quite well with them.
17 posted on 03/27/2004 4:51:50 PM PST by x1stcav ( HOOAHH!)
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To: tomball
Terrorists - guy salvaging airplane - terrorists - guy salvaging airplane.

It was a tough call, but the DoJ and the Navy decided to go after the guy salvaging the airplane. Maybe if this guy gives up quickly, the government will still have time to go after the terrorists again.

18 posted on 03/27/2004 4:53:43 PM PST by KarlInOhio (Bill Clinton is the Neville Chamberlain of the War on Terror.)
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To: tomball
The Justice Department sued Cralley on behalf of the Navy on Wednesday, seeking the plane, the cost of returning it and compensation for any damage since Cralley recovered it.

Your tax dollars at werk for a stupid and crass lawsuit. What a pantload.

FMCDH

19 posted on 03/27/2004 4:55:33 PM PST by nothingnew (The pendulum is swinging and the Rats are in the pit!)
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To: cynicom
Maybe they thought he was going to restore it into a giant radial powered bong, hence the Ashcroft treatment.

The man is a model of hard working grit. He's everything an American should be, which sadly these days includes being the recipient of government harassment.

20 posted on 03/27/2004 4:55:39 PM PST by blackdog (I feed the sheep the coyotes eat)
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To: Geist Krieger
Remember post surrender of Japan, the footage of the navy just pushing Corsairs and Mustangs overboard into the ocean.............Just cleaning house ya know.........
21 posted on 03/27/2004 4:58:38 PM PST by blackdog (I feed the sheep the coyotes eat)
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To: Fresh Wind
As I understand it, Brewster was the only US aircraft company to go out of business during WW-II.

Brewster designed and built the Brewster Buffalo fighter. That should have been enough to put any aircraft builder out of business.

22 posted on 03/27/2004 4:59:20 PM PST by epow
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To: x1stcav
The Finns also bought many Brewster Buffaloes (Navy designation F2A). They took them, removed the Navy-mandated pilot armor and other heavy items, and actually turned what the Navy thought was a POS into a fairly capable (if still slow and obsolete) little fighter. They took it up against the Red Air Force in the 1939-40 Winter War and the 1941-44 "Continuation War." (There were Finnish aces that scored over 40 kills with the Buffalo!) The Dutch also got some decent service out of them. The Navy versions were slaughtered very early in the war around Java and quickly retired; they were slow, underpowered, and overweight, and quickly dumped in favor of the Grumman F4F Wildcat.

I'd never even heard of an F3A before this, didn't even know that Brewster license-built the Corsair. But it makes sense; Goodyear also license-built versions of the Corsair, which were designated F2G. Lots of manufacturers built each others' aircraft in WWII; Lockheed built many Boeing B-17s, Ford built Consolidated B-24s.

}:-)4
23 posted on 03/27/2004 5:02:58 PM PST by Moose4 (This is not a "war of ideas." It is a war of life and death.)
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To: blackdog
Yep. I heard a story that a carrier was sailing to the Pacific carrying a shipment of Corsairs for the British Fleet Air Arm, when Japan surrendered. The Brits signalled that they didn't need the Corsairs any more since the war was over. Obviously, Chance-Vought wasn't going to take them back. So, over the side they went.

It's almost scary to look at the sheer numbers of aircraft we built in WWII--over 10,000 P-47s, over 15,000 B-24s--and realize how few are left flying. But it could be worse--Germany built over 30,000 Messerschmitt Bf 109s, and there isn't a single one left flying with its original Daimler Benz engine. The only flyable ones today are using (irony of ironies) Rolls Royce Merlins. The last Daimler-engined 109 crashed in England a few years ago and will not be restored to flying condition.

}:-)4
24 posted on 03/27/2004 5:06:12 PM PST by Moose4 (This is not a "war of ideas." It is a war of life and death.)
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To: x1stcav
Isn't this the Brewster "Buffalo"?

No, this is the Corsair. The Buffalo was an earlier plane. Chance-Vought was the primary manufacturer for the Corsair, with Brewster and Goodyear providing additional assembly lines to produce them.

25 posted on 03/27/2004 5:08:06 PM PST by KarlInOhio (Bill Clinton is the Neville Chamberlain of the War on Terror.)
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To: x1stcav
Actually, they were famous (or infamous) for the Brewster Buffalo. It is generally agreed that the Buffalo was the worst fighter in WWII. You may be thinking of the Finns who were reasonably successful with the Buffalo against the Russians. Considering they had nothing else, there was not a whole lot to measure it against.

However, the Brewster plant did try to build Corsairs under license since Vought could not produce them fast enough. Unfortunately, neither could Brewster. They built a total of 735 of them before the Navy closed the plant by yanking the contract (this episode is usually described as "closed the badly managed Brewster plant" in most histories). Interestingly, the workforce at Brewster held a strike after the plant was closed down. I don't know exactly what they were striking for, but production did not start up afterward, so I think they lost.

430 of the Brewster Corsairs were given to the British. The remainder were used for training in the US. None were used in combat. That tells me a whole lot about the quality of the workmanship. It also tells me that complaints from the British that we only gave them junk during WWII have some basis in truth.
26 posted on 03/27/2004 5:11:10 PM PST by jim_trent
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To: tomball
Like what is the Navy going to do with this plane?? Sell it on E-bay to the Canadian Forces to modernize their air fleet??? Perhaps this plane will be the backbone of Naval aviation under a Kerry administration.
27 posted on 03/27/2004 5:12:03 PM PST by The Great RJ
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To: Rebelbase
G Gordon Liddy talked about a lawsuit that involved a cotton gin made in the 1800's. The gin when not needed went to the scrap heap, then it became a mooring for a decade or two, back to the scrap heap and then as a counter balance in a factory. While used as a counter balance it fell from it's chain and injured a man. The lawyers found a small plaque on the gin stating the original company. Turned out a subsidiary of the company was still in business and the lawsuit went through!

I think the swamp owner has a case.

Our government paid for the the storage of Helium in case the dirigible might come back for over 60 years. (clintoon stopped it. One good mark on his record.) This would be just a pittance comparatively
28 posted on 03/27/2004 5:12:24 PM PST by lizma
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To: Viking2002
Another case of pencil-pushers with more power than brains, looking for a way to justify their paycheck......

You have just touched on the very essence of bureaucratic life in Washington DC.

29 posted on 03/27/2004 5:15:42 PM PST by Starboard
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To: tomball
Unfortunately the Navy has a long history of this sort of B.S.

Just ask Clive Cussler; he and his non-profit shipwreck hunting team have been on the recieving end of this sort of chrome plated crap. Read 'The Sea Hunters' for an illuminating look at the Navy's arrogance with regards to salvage rights.

Sometimes I think they should just fly the Jolly Roger from their ships.

30 posted on 03/27/2004 5:17:00 PM PST by CarryaBigStick
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To: CarryaBigStick
i after e except after c - AARRG!
31 posted on 03/27/2004 5:18:27 PM PST by CarryaBigStick
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To: CarryaBigStick
Hell, it's enough to make a man hide whatever he finds.

A decade or so ago they sued a man who inherited a vial of moon dust his dad scrubbed off an Apollo EVA suit. Not sure how it turned out.
32 posted on 03/27/2004 5:20:37 PM PST by Bogey78O (I voted for this tagline... before I voted against it.)
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To: The Great RJ
Actually, they're stealing it from this poor guy to put it into the Navy museum. It's a precedent that's already been set.
33 posted on 03/27/2004 5:23:44 PM PST by CarryaBigStick
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To: tomball
This is strictly a USN-driven issue, and it has been their standard policy for some time. If the guy had found a P-47, the U.S. Army (or Air Force) would be more likely to give the guy a pat on the back, wish him luck, let him pump money into the economy, and save the taxpayers a couple of bucks in the bargain.
34 posted on 03/27/2004 5:28:17 PM PST by niteowl77
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To: Bogey78O
Maritime law says a wrecked warship is forever the property of the nation that employed it. No one else has any right to salvage it. I don't know if this covers aircraft, though it does set precedents.
35 posted on 03/27/2004 5:33:02 PM PST by Junior (No animals were harmed in the making of this post)
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To: Bogey78O
"If the gov't abandons property why should they come back 50 yrs later and cite a claim on it?"

They didn't abandon it, they just left it for safekeeping. Actually, they'll probably say something like that. US government property is not lost or abandoned, it is unsecured.

A few years ago, they wanted to pass a law to reclaim every piece of government property ever sold at auction, too. They were specifically interested in recovering weapons and weapons system parts, but the law was broadly written enough that it covered gov't surplus canteens and such, too. All those old civil-war weapons with US markings, etc., too. EVERYTHING. Even if you still had the reciept to show you bought if FROM the government.
36 posted on 03/27/2004 5:40:37 PM PST by Old Student (WRM, MSgt, USAF (Ret.))
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To: lizma
"Our government paid for the the storage of Helium in case the dirigible might come back for over 60 years. (clintoon stopped it. One good mark on his record.) This would be just a pittance comparatively"



Of course now that hes stopped the helium stockpiling, were once again talking about deploying large airships high in the atmosphere for missile defense.
37 posted on 03/27/2004 5:58:42 PM PST by Oblongata
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To: KarlInOhio
At first I thought it was the "Buffalo as well

Turns out the Navy appointed two subcontractors to speed Corsair production. Brewster Aeronautical Corporation produced versions of the F4U-1 and F4U-1D, which were designated F3A-1 and F3A-1D respectively.

Brewster built about 700 Corsairs, but there were severe quality control problems which then made the F3A too dangerous to fly and almost all F3As were grounded. Brewster spent time in court then went out of business.

38 posted on 03/27/2004 6:04:10 PM PST by VRWCTexan
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To: Moose4
"But it makes sense; Goodyear also license-built versions of the Corsair, which were designated F2G. Lots of manufacturers built each others' aircraft in WWII; Lockheed built many Boeing B-17s, Ford built Consolidated B-24s."

Back in the 70's when I did contract work for the DOD, I worked on an RB-57 Canberra that had Buick jet engines on it.
39 posted on 03/27/2004 6:07:06 PM PST by chaosagent (It's not the fall that kills you. It's the sudden stop.)
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To: Starboard
Hey, I'm hip - lived there for 15 years, and was a military/guvmint contractor for a lot of it. I saw the rot festering from the inside.
40 posted on 03/27/2004 6:20:17 PM PST by Viking2002
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To: tomball; E Rocc; Dog; Luis Gonzalez; Grampa Dave; section9; Long Cut; mhking; BOBTHENAILER; ...
Response that should be sent to the Navy: "You left it lying around for 46 years. He has spent 13 years and X amount of money restoring it. Case dismissed with prejudice, and I consider it frivolous."

*BANG*

"Next case, baliff."
41 posted on 04/02/2004 9:01:43 AM PST by hchutch (Why did the Nazgul bother running from Arwen's flash flood? They only managed to die tired.)
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