Skip to comments.Miracle at sea
Posted on 01/07/2020 5:53:24 AM PST by fugazi
In the pre-dawn hours of 30 December, Ensign Frank M. "Fuzzy" Fisler and his crew made their way through a blacked-out Pearl Harbor to the seaplane base. Their briefed flight plan was to take their PBY-5 Catalina out 500 miles on a heading of 258 degrees, turn right 90 degrees and fly 50 miles, then head home. Weather was forecasted to be rough with a winter storm passing through, churning up 30 to 40-foot seas. [...]
By 1300 hours, the crew had finished their 50-mile cross-leg and made their turn for home when one of the men saw a smoke flare. It could be a submarine identifying himself as friendly or some unfortunate souls drifting on the ocean, so Fisler turned to get a closer look. It was in fact two liferafts tied together, pitching up and down in the heavy seas, but there was no way of knowing in these conditions whether they were Americans or Japanese survivors from the Pearl Harbor attack. To keep from losing sight of the rafts in the weather, they dropped smoke to mark the position as they broke radio silence to tap out an urgent Morse code message to headquarters reporting that they had located a shipwrecked crew. [...]
Cooper and his crew had spotted planes before, but no one saw them. Firing their last signal flare miraculously got the attention of the Catalina, despite the storm. They now had not only hope, but a package of food and water. Between waves, they could see the plane orbiting overhead (as they waited for permission to land), but soon the plane disappeared into the clouds. There was no way that a plane would land in this mess. But at least their position had been reported. Now they just had to [...]
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I understand seeing people fighting for their lives and knowing that if you don't act, they are doomed. But I've never seen seas that high, much less landed in them (granted, the waves they dealt with might not have been as high as those forecasted), so all I can wrap my mind around is that it took a monumental amount of guts to risk their lives to land and rescue the B-17 crew. A thousand things could have gone wrong, putting the Catalina crew in another raft right along the B-17 guys. Really, a lot of things could have gone wrong and the B-17 crew could have drowned or been chopped up by the propellers, and then the Catalina crew would take their place. But everything went right. Wow.
Considering no plane saw them until they were in the middle of a storm and they had to shoot their last flare, and these men were certainly about to die, you'd have a hard time convincing me that this wasn't a divine miracle.
BOTH these crews needed a dump truck for their C. O. Jones.
Famed flyer Eddie Rickenbacher was on a B-17 that ditched in the Pacific. As I recall, the crew drifted for 45 days before they were rescued.
Harrowing doesn’t even begin to describe it.
I just read a story about a small sailboat crew who was adrift for ten days before being rescued last week. Their sailboat was dismasted, rolled over, then righted itself.
Rickenbacker was on a morale tour and headed for the South Pacific I believe. They were at sea for 24 days but I can’t imagine how horrible that would be.
What puzzles me is how an air traffic controller could give them vectors out to sea and they flew far enough to run out of fuel (40 miles southwest of Kauai I believe). Navigators were pretty skilled back then, like those that put the Catalina right on target after fighting the waves for three hours, 500 miles from home. The island was blacked-out and it was night time when the B-17 flew out to sea on the wrong heading. I imagine that what primitive navigational aids they had in January 1942 were probably limited or turned off altogether at that time to keep the Japanese from homing in on them again. But it would be interesting to see how the crew got so turned around.
I don’t remember the details but his 1963 autobiography, Rickenbacher spends quite a bit of time on that chapter in his life.
Speaking of Rickenbacher, he was the second owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Yesterday, Roger Penske just completed the sale to become only the fourth owner.
I also highly recommend a visit to the PBY Naval Air Museum, Whidbey Island, WA, if you're ever in the neighborhood.
You know, it's not as extreme as this case (landing a plane on the ocean in very high sea state conditions - incomparable bravery end loyalty to comrades in arms) but the US Coast Guard will often risk life and limb in rescue operations in conditions like this. It's incredibly courageous and they get very little recognition or appreciation for it. So to any coasties on here reading about this amazing rescue at sea, know that it made me think about how grateful many of us are that you do what you do.
Around that time my Uncle was a Captain in the US Navy and was at Annapolis overseeing admissions or something like that. He had a cool 18th century house on base that we got to stay in and we went over to the base museum. So much cool Navy history there. And then ... there it was. The Raft. Not A raft ...THE raft. With a copy of the book. I lingered in front of that Raft for as long as my parents were willing to let me, just staring at it. It's one thing to read about a raft that three men lived on for 45 days, it's another to see it in front of you and realize that as a 12 year old boy you'd feel a bit cramped on it.
The sea was angry that day
The Catalina was a great seaplane, wish I could find the film clip from “murphys war” where he flew the Grumman duck. Fly you bastard! fly!
I wanted a dehaviland twin otter
Louie said to Murphy “Are you sure you can get her up?”
Murphy says every scrap of her is in my fingers, I’ll get her up.
And Louie says yes, and if you do... can you get her down?
Murphy says “That I know I can do, now stop blathering and cast me of before the war is over...
God bless Donald J Trump
Get me my uniform!
The mullahs are pissing their pants
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