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VP-9 Memorial

"We are Ditching! Ditching! Ditching!"

October 26, 1978

"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.

Eternal Father by the U.S. Navy Band's Sea Chanters (668 kbytes - WAV file)

ADAK, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586 "...I have written a book "ADAK, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586" documenting this unfortunate mishap. Please see overview (PDF Format): ADAK, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586 Overview 529KB..." Contributed by CAPTAIN Andrew C. A. Jampoler, Retired jampoler@earthlink.net [13FEB2003]

UPDATE "...The Naval Institute Press will be republishing my first book, "Adak, the Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586," as a paperback at the end of next month. "Adak" is the true story of the ditching of VP-9's PD-2 off Kamchatka in October 1978. The book first came out in 2003. Ten of the fifteen men aboard survived the ditching, the swim to the rafts, and the night afloat until rescued by Soviet fishermen. Nine of the ten are alive today. "Adak" will be available on line and through all the usual retail book outlets in early November. Thanks!..." Contributed by CAPTAIN Andrew C. A. Jampoler, Retired jampoler@earthlink.net [27SEP2011]

UPDATE "...Just finished Capt Jampoler's book "ADAK - The rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586" (SEE: VP-9 - In Memorial for lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586). This is a MUST READ for every VP Sailor Past Present or Potential. It's a Naval Institute Press 2003 publication. Do yourself a great favor and check out "Mr. Grigsby's great landing."...Tom Frohne t@frohne.com..." [04JUN2006]

UPDATE "...ADAK, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586 was one outstanding book. I read it with huge interest and to be honest, I was looking for editorial glamorization. There was none! Everything in that book was factual and accurate. With almost 9000 hours as an FE I can tell you that. Read it, you won't put it down. Makes me want to go out on a NATOPS Checkride tonight, well maybe not, would have to study to much...Kevin Cahill kevin1fe@aol.com..." [14AUG2003]


Reader's Digest
September 1979
Page 112 through 118


Alfa Foxtrot 586, a U. S. Navy P-3C ocean surveillance and anti-submarine plane on patrol over a slate-gray slice of the North Pacific, flew effortlessly even with one of its four turboprop engines deliberately feathered to save fuel. The plane and the 15 men aboard had departed the Adak Naval Station in the Aleutians that morning - last October 26. In four hours they had found only a couple of surface vessels to track and photograph for intelligence.

The weather was getting worse now, with winds to 43 knots, and senior pilot Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Grigsby decided to fire up the idle turbine on the left wing. Flight engineer Harold "Butch" Miller watched the gauge showing the prop's revolutions per minute as it edged up to 103.5 percent of normal. Miller yanked an emergency handle. The engine stopped; the propeller did not. It was out of control, whipping faster and faster in the onrushing airstream. The gauge showed 110 percent, then 120, then 129.9, the highest it could record. The crew's fear was that at that velocity centrifugal force would wrench the 1200-pound prop from its mount, sending Alfa Foxtrot 586 into a crash from which there could be no survivors.

Grigsby was a superbly trained aviator, with thousands of flight hours. Coolly riffling through his options in this emergency, he initiated a climb to slow the prop by slowing the airplane. But at 11,000 feet, the maximum altitude he felt prudent, r.p.m.'s were still 115 percent, critically high.

All checklist procedures for halting a rogue propeller proved futile. Grigsby had to face the gnawing possibility that to stop the prop before its blades ripped loose, he might have to ditch in the open sea, near where the Aleutian trench sinks for 26,000 feet. No such ditch by a P-3C, he knew, had ever yielded survivors.

Fire Aboard! Through a porthole ten feet behind Grigsby, Lt. (j.g.) Matthew Gibbons, the flight's tactical coordinator, saw the prop's dome beginning to wobble. Gibbons sent a message reporting the situation to Alaska's Elmendorf Air Force Base. At 1:37 p.m., Elmendorf queried whether the plane was declaring an emergency. "That," replied Gibbons, "is affirmative."

The runaway prop was getting touchier, as co-pilot Lt. Edward Caylor could see. Grigsby and Caylor chopped speed to 130 knots, where Alfa Foxtrot 586 was perilously close to a stall. Adak was still 800 miles away - a distance they clearly couldn't make. They decided to veer east toward the Air Force base on the island of Shemya, 337 miles away.

At Grigsby's order, the crew put on life-preserver vests and QD-1's, survival suits with tight rubber cuffs to keep out water. At 1:42, a blaring alarm suddenly went off, signaling a fire. Engineer Miller at once pushed a button to dump fire-fighting compound on the over-heated engine, snuffing out the flames. But the runaway prop was certain to cause fresh fires, and their was precious little firefighting compound left.

To be nearer the water in case of explosion, Grigsby brought his crippled plane down to 1000 feet. And suddenly the alarm horn burst into life again. It was 1:52 p.m. when Gibbons radioed Elmendorf: WE ARE DITCHING! DITCHING! DITCHING! ONE FIVE SOULS ON BOARD. THREE ORANGE LIFE RAFTS.

The news spread quickly. Because of the intelligence-sensitive area in which Alfa Foxtrot 586 was operating, the National Security Council and the departments of State and Defense in Washington were informed at once. At Adak, another P-3C, commanded by Lt. Patrick Conway, made ready to fly to the wounded plane. And Coast Guard 1500, a C-130 Hercules prop jet, was diverted to help. At Moffett Field near San Francisco, home base for Grigsby's crew, the squadron's skipper, Cmdr. Byron Powers, learned of Alfa Foxtrot 586's plight. Knowing the North Pacific's killer seas, he could not believe anyone would survive a ditch in the raging hellhole.

"That Is It!" Aboard Alfa Foxtrot 586, the last of the firefighting compound had doused the second fire. Anxious to be even closer to the water, Grigsby descended to 500 feet, where the plane limped along, bobbing in the turbulence but at least momentarily under control. Bibbons radioed Elmendorf: CONDITION HAS STABILIZED AGAIN. WE'RE GONNA TRY TO, AH, DRAG IT ON IN TO SHEMYA.

Airman Richard Garcia, the radar operator, sought to locate a ship so that Alfa Foxtrot 586 could set up a ditch leading to quick rescue. A tiny speck appeared on his radar screen - possibly one of the ships they had passed earlier. Grigsby headed for it as Gibbons notified Elmendord.

But now fire alarms went off again, and clouds of smoke shot from the stricken engine. "This is it!" shouted Gibbons. "We're going to do what we are trained to do."

Out his porthole, Gibbons saw the ocean rising. "Twenty seconds to ditch position," he called. He radioed Elmendorf the plane's exact location, then added: THIS IS FIVE EIGHT SIX. OUT...

As massive swells rose 25 feet to meet them, Grigsby strove to slide his plane onto the water on the upside of a trough between two big waves. Like a stone skipping across the water, the plane nudged, rose, smacked down harder, rose again. The right wing tore off. Fuel tanks ruptured. Engines exploded in steam balls as cold sea water met hot metal. Near the tail, the underbelly of the 116-foot fuselage cracked open. Water thundered in. But finally Alfa Foxtrot 586 barreled to a bone-rattling stop. Against impossible odds, Grigsby had landed the plane.

Last to Leave. Engineer Edwin Flow popped out of the flight deck's overhead escape hatch, followed by Caylor, then Grigsby. But Grigsby didn't join the other in the water. Instead, on hands and knees atop the fuselage, he watched his men exiting from the left and right escape hatches.

In the cabin, something had clobbered navigator Lt. (j.g.) Bruce Forshay on the back, leaving him crumpled, head down. Gibbons pulled him up. Radarman Garcia opened the right hatch and unclasped and pushed out two rolled-up lift rafts - one large, one smaller. Then ground technician Gary Hemmer, Gibbons, Forshay, Master Chief Garland Shepard and Lt. (j.g.) John Wagner exited in turn.

In the aft of the plane, ordnanceman David Reynolds had been buried under debris. Clearing it away, he plodded to the left hatch, where crewmen Howard Moore and Randall Rodriguez were struggling to free the plane's third raft. It refused to release from its clasps, and Moore, Reynolds and Rodriguez scrambled into the ocean without it.

In the fuselage's far aft, Lt. (j.g.) John Ball, another navigator, had plunged his left foot through the jagged edges of a hole in the floor. God! he wondered. Am I going to be trapped in here? Untangling his foot, he waded forward another five yards searching for an escape hatch. Then, miraculously, the fuselage rolled slightly, lifting enough to reveal the left hatch. He dived under and out. Surfacing, he saw Grigsby still astride the fuselage. With Ball in view, Grigsby slipped into the water on the other side of the plane. Ball figured that Grigsby had been up there, counting his men, disregarding marrow-deep drives for self-preservation, until he could be reasonably sure he was the last to leave.

Inflating his life preserver's air lobes, Ball swam to the large raft. With Moore and Reynolds, he pulled Gibbons on board, then spotted Grigsby trying to swim to them. After vainly throwing Grigsby the raft's sea anchor, Gibbons pointed to the second raft. For a few seconds it appeared to be within Grigsby's reach; then rising swells blocked sight of him. "Dear God," Ball cried, "please save this man!"

Grigsby got within 25 feet of the other raft. Flow heaved him a rope-anchored emergency radio, hoping to pull him in with it. It fell five feet short. Men slid into the water again, trying to tow the raft to Grigsby. But the icy current had too much muscle for them. In minutes, Grigsby's helmet and left-preserver lobes were only a dot vanishing in the cruel sea.

Flash of Orange. Gibbons, Ball, Reynolds and Moore were in the large raft, built to hold 12. Adrenalin flowing, Ball shot off pencil-gun flares. Then he and Gibbons extended the 15-foot antenna of their survival radio beacon to signal aircraft. Together, the four men zippered the raft's tarpaulin cover, it spared them the worst of the constant, smashing breakers.

There were nine men in the smaller, seven-man raft. Caylor and Forshay were at one end, Hemmer and Shepard at the other. Wagner, Garcia and sonobuoy technician James Brooner lined one edge, facing Flow and Rodriguez. Flow asked if anybody had seen Miller, Nobody had. Seven-man rafts don't have tarpaulin covers. Thus the mountainous swells threatened to swamp the tiny craft within minutes. Wagner, Rodriguez, Flow and Brooner began to use the raft's metallic survival blanket to scoop water overboard, and exhausting effort. And nobody noticed that their jostling had loosened an air valve on the raft.

AT 4:05 p.m., a Strategic Air Command reconnaissance jet, re-routed from a classified intelligence mission out of Shemya, reached Alfa Foxtrot 586's last-known position. No rafts were sighted. Pilot Capt. Clifford B. Carter curled his RC-135 into a search pattern of ever-expanding circles. The weather was frightful: low scud clouds, rain, strong winds, limited visibility. At 4:18, Carter's co-pilot caught sight of a flare two miles away. They overflew that spot. No raft. Another overflight. This time the men picked up a flash of orange - one raft. A very strong beacon signal was reported from the left side. All eyes went left. There it was, the second raft.

"Waah! Waah." Euphoria fleetingly touched the men in the rafts, In any search and rescue, the toughest job is finding the survivors. Hearing the plane, Caylor figured its crew would alert the ship they had noticed prior to ditch, which meant that rescue was almost surely at hand. What he did not know was that the ship had its radios off, could not be contacted by the plane's crew, and was, in fact, ignorant of the ditching.

Elation faded in the biting cold and pelting rain. After hours on the heaving sea, fighting continuous nausea, the men were losing their coordination and acuity. For a long time those in the seven-man raft didn't even notice that they were riding ever lower in the water. Then Wagner exclaimed, "The raft is going slack! We have to be losing air!" The shock of his words galvanized the men into searching for a leak. Rodriguez found the loosened valve and closed it.

Within an hour of sighting the rafts, the reconnaissance jet was relieved by the Navy P-3C from Adak. This was an emotional mission for Pat Conway and his crew - all had friends on Alfa Foxtrot 586. Yet emotions had to be shunted aside, for tough duty lay ahead: keep track of the rafts with night coming on.

In the small raft, Hemmer had been aware for some time that water was penetrating his QD-1. He found it hard to keep his eyes open. A hand clapped his helmet. Shepard would not let Hemmer doze.

Brooner, one of those who had gone overboard to help Grigsby, was also exhausted. Gradually, he slid under the raft water until only his head was visible. Heart, lungs and chest were progressively chilled. He moaned. Caylor pulled him up. Forshay suggested that they all sing. Brooner could only wail: Waah! Waah! Waah! Caylor, Forshay and Wagner talked to him, shook him, slapped his face. His reactions were minimal.

At 8:38 p.m., Coast Guard 1500, piloted by Lt. (j.g.) Bill Porter, tucked in behind Conway's P-3C to bird-dog the rafts. The P-3C climbed to 2000 feet to search for ships on the radar-scope. Astoundingly, there was one, 28 miles west. The P-3C (without marine-radio capability) flew to it, but none of the standard patters for directing a ship to trail an aircraft were understood. The P-3C's lights blinked in Morse code. Still the ship didn't respond.

Low on fuel, the P-3C had to depart for Shemya, leaving Coast Guard 1500 to alert the ship. And now, finally, its radioman answered. He said he was the Soviet fishing vessel MYS Synyavin. Was the plane in trouble? "No, no," said Porter. "Men in water. Course 090 at 25 miles. Please go."

"Who in water?" At this question Porter hesitated. If he said U. S. Navy, would the Russians go?

"Friends in water," he equivocated. "I understand," said the Russian.

"Ship Coming!" It was after midnight when the Synyavin, finally in sight of the rafts, turned on all its lights and foghorn. "We got a ship!" Wagner exulted. "We got a ship!" Shepard rapped Hemmer on the helmet. Flow, Forshay and Caylor continued to shake Brooner. "Ship coming!" said Caylor. "Ship coming!" Brooner did not react.

Canny seaman, the Russians hung their lives on the line in rescuing Americans. After maneuvering the Synyavin into position as a wind barrier, they lowered a 30-foot, motorized whaling board. Lighter than the waterlogged rafts, and riding higher, the little craft nearly capsized in the cross-sweels. As it approached the large raft, a loudspeaker suddenly blared forth strange-sounding words. "Uh-oh" said Gibbons, "we're going to Russia." "Who cares?" said Reynolds. "They get us out of here and I'll never say anything bad about them again!"

In the blaze of strong searchlight, the Russians grappled the four-Navy men from the large raft aboard the whaler, plopping them onto the floor and giving them coats. When they reached the small raft, they found the men so paralyzed from squatting that they could be little help as they were hauled into the whaler. They also found the dead-Rodriguez, Garcia, Brooner. As for the raft, it sank from sight before the Russians could latch onto it.

Final Testament. The ten survivors (it was later determined that Miller must have gone down with Alfa Foxtrot 586) were moved to the Russian port of Petropavlovsk, flown to a hospital, transferred to Japan and from there returned to Moffett Field, arriving on November 4.

One day late last fall, in the Grigsby home near Moffett Field, Grigsby's wife and parents met with Cmdr. Peter Cressy, executive officer of Grigsby's squadron, to learn about their Jerry's last moments. (The family has a tradition of giving its own to the nation: in each of the last four generations, at least one Brigsby has died in military service.) Cressy told them of Grigsby's heroism: "Ditching that type of aircraft successfully in those seas, under those circumstances, was something never before done. And Jerry waited until he could be sure he was the last off his plane. . . ." Here Cressy paused, clearly near tears.

Grigsby's mother, white-haired, weather-beaten from life on the mid-western plains, saw and understood. "Son," she said to Cressy, "let me tell you about Jerry. Twenty-four years ago, when he was 12, he about drowned in a pool. We got him out and revived him. And we have had 24 good years of life with him, 24 years of helping him get ready for this one moment when he had the opportunity to save the lives of ten others. We can't get to upset about that, can we? It hurts a lot. But we have gained, too."

====


Last spring, the Navy presented Air Medals to all members of Alfa Foxtrot 586's last flight, and to Conway's crew. In addition, Matthew Gibbons received the Navy Commendation Medal and Edward Caylor the Meritorious Service Medal. Posthumously, Jerry Grigsby was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, one of the military's highest peacetime medals, for "extraordinary heroism and professionalism above and beyond the call of duty."

Soviet Ship Helps Rescue U.S. Crew in North Pacific
Washington Post, Oct 28, 1978


ADAK, Alaska (AP)--A Soviet trawler dispatched after a White House request rescued 10 crewmen from a downed U.S. Navy antisubmarine plane 600 miles at sea early yesterday, and took aboard the bodies of three who died, Coast Guard officials said.

The Soviet ship was next reported searching for two Americans who remained missing in the stormy North Pacific, about 690 miles west-southwest of Alaska's Aleutian Islands and 600 miles east of the SOviet port of Petropavlovsk. Winds were at 35 knots, seas at 65 feet.

The Navy P3 Orion was forced to ditch Thursday afternoon, and Petty Officer Philip Franklin of the 17th Coast Guard District headquarters in Juneau said the crewmen apparently made it into three life rafts.

American aircraft spotted them, but the nearest American rescue ship, the cutter Jarvis, was more than 24 hours out of range. So the survivors spent a night and part of the day in rafts, with the wind howling and the air temperature about 50 degrees, the water about 45.

Then the Soviet fish factory ship, the Syntavina, appeared and hoisted four survivors from one pitching life raft and six frrom another, the Coast Guard said.

A third liferaft bobbed nearby, said Lt. Steve Becker, a Navy spokesman in Honolulu, but it was unclear whether that was where the three bodies were found.

Western sources in Moscow said the Soviets had "reacted promptly" to an American request for help and showed "a remarkable spirit of contribution".

In Washington, White House press secretary Jody Powell said the trawler had been spotted by U.S. rescue aircraft and was sent to the rescue by the Soviet Ministry of Defense after communications involving the aircraft, the Pentagon, the White House, the U.S. embassy in Moscow and Soviet defense officials.

The prompt Soviet response to our request for assistance is appreciated by the government of the United States, and Secretary of State Cyrus R. Vance has expressed that appreciation to Soviet Foreign Minister {Andrei} Gromyko," Powell said.

The names of the aircrewman were not released immediately, and Petty Officer Philip Franklin of the 17th Coast Guard District headquarters in Juneau said the conditions of the survivors were not immediately known because of the communications problems.

The stricken craft "made a controlled ditch" 690 miles west-southwest of Adak, a naval base in the Aleutians, about 3:30 p.m. ADT (8:30 p.m. EDT) Thursday, said Becker. It had reported engine problems, said the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center at Elmendorf Air Force Base at Anchorage. http://fleetaw.tripod.com/Memorial/Garcia.html [12SEP2000]

Survivors of Navy Crash Praise Their Dead Pilot
Washington Post, Nov 7, 1978


MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (UPI)--The 10 survivors of the crash of a Navy surveillance plane in the frigid North Pacific agree that the skill of their pilot--who died--saved their lives.

They arrived at Moffett Field Saturday, eight days after the Bering Sea crash that killed five.

Lt. (J.G.) Edward Caylor said the P3 Orion sank within nine seconds after Lt. Cmdr. Jerry Grigsby, the pilot, landed it on the water because of engine trouble.

The seas were running 15 and 20 feet high in winds of 40 to 50 knots. The water temperature was 45 degrees.

"We would none of us be here today if it hadn't been for his great experience in flying that aircraft into the water," copilot Caylor said of Grigsby.

Crewmen later said "He rewrote the book about landing an aircraft in water."

The survivors spent 12 hours in life rafts before they were rescued by a Russian trawler. Three men died in the rafts, Grigsby and another crewman went down with the plane.

Caylor said, "We had a crucial propeller failure, then multiple fires in the engines. We knew that if we didn't set it down we would have exploded in the air.

"I can't believe he did it, but Grigsby put us down."

The P3 was flying out of Adak in Alaska's Aleutian chain on surveillance patrol near Siberia.

In the rafts the spirits of the survivors were buoyed by the sound of Navy, Coast Guard, Air Force, and Russian planes circling overhead.

"Even though it was pitch dark, we could see the lights," a lieutenant said. "When they flew over, we would set off flares to let them know we were still alive, and they'd blink their lights to let us know they saw." http://fleetaw.tripod.com/Memorial/Garcia.html [12SEP2000]

Yevtushenko Offers Celebration of a Rescue

N.Y. Times, Nov 8, 1978


The rescue of 12 United States Navy airmen by a Soviet fishing trawler in the northern Pacific Oct. 26 has inspired Yevgeny Yevtushenko, the popular and often controversial Russian writer, to dash off a poem. Published yesterday in Pravda, the Soviet Communist Party newspaper, the 80-line poem was prefaced with the comment of one of the rescued fliers, Lieut. Edward N. Caylor, who was quoted as saying, "We met among the Soviet people displays of attention, sympathy, a desire to live in peace with American citizens."

Mr. Yevtushenko's poem said, in part:

Souls are tested by the X-ray of danger

And the man who rescued you is all of mankind.

Not for the sake of an award

Not for the sake of a "thank you,"

A boatsman smelling of heavy oil and fish

Having noticed

How a young pilot

Was struggling against the waves

Offered him his hand

As is to his own son

There was no politics in that


http://www.linkor.ru/okvest/199812/History.htm

The article recalls events which took place in October 1978 in rough ocean waters near Kamchatka.

The US military aircraft Orion, because of engine trouble, had to make an emergency landing in the ocean.

The aircraft sank in a few minutes but the crew managed to climb aboard two life rafts. The air and water temperature was +4-5 C with stormy wind and pouring rain. The crash took place 150 miles from the nearest US military base, and over 300 miles from Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky in Russia. On the request of the US Navy Command, Russia's Pacific Navy was eager to provide help and dispatch fishery and border guard ships to rescue the American crew. Twelve hours after the crash, the ten men were rescued. According to the men, they were provided with food, clothing, and medical care on the Soviet ships. The American crew was safely delivered to Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. That year, the Christian Science Monitor published an interview with the mother of a rescued American. She said that if our countries were able to cooperate in such an emergency situation, it was evident that the USA and Soviet Union may be partners in a larger field.

This year is the twentieth anniversary of the heroic actions of the Soviet Navy. The head of the Russian rescue team who participated in the event applied to the US Consulate General in Vladivostok and the US military attache at the US Embassy in Moscow with a request to find out something about the lives of those Americans rescued by the Soviets.

Unfortunately, no answer was received. This is ironic considering that the US media and ordinary citizens still remember the Russian soldiers who survived 62 days at sea practically without food and were rescued by a US aircraft carrier in calm weather. http://fleetaw.tripod.com/Memorial/Garcia.html [12SEP2000]


UPDATE "...One of the crewmen, Ed Flow, who survived the ditching of Alfa Foxtrot 586 in 1978 (SEE: In Memorial for VP-9 lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586), is my nephew. I read the book about this horrific incident and the brave men involved. I am a 36-year DoD civilian retiree and am so proud of our military warriors and peacemakers. I'm especially proud of my nephew, Ed Flow. The book is a "must-read"!..." Contributed by Mary Ann Flow martindb1@cox.net [17FEB2012]

UPDATE "...I was a FE with VP-50 at the time of the ditching and subsequent accident report. I remember the report stating that on engine re-start the probable cause of over speed was the cold oil temp of the prop. I also remember reading that the crew did not complete the "fails to feather" NATOPS procedure "push in the emergency handle and pull the prop oil tank circuit breaker and pull the emergency handle out" to restore oil to the over speeding engine which would have prevented the engine fires. This is because the crew did not want to disturb the over speeding prop. After this accident the NATOPS Book was revised to include a preflight action of pulling all four oil tank circuit breakers before flight and also pushing the the circuit breaker in if there ever was an engine fire and stop oil from feeding the engine fire..." Contributed by MARSILIO, Steve steve48la1@gmail.com [26JAN2011]

UPDATE "...Picture of the crew of USCG 1500 that was on the SAR case for the P-3 Orion on 26 October 1978. Left to right is LTJG Bill Porter, AT1 Barry Philippy, AT3 Ray Demkowski, AM1 Ken Henry, ASM1 Darryl Horning, AM3 Butch Miconi, LT Holzshu (co-pilot)..." Contributed by Barry Philippy barrypphilippy@hotmail.com [Crew Listing Updated 24JAN2011 | Crew Photograph Updated 23JAN2011 | 28JAN98]
History - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge ThumbnailHistory - Tap To Enlarge Thumbnail


UPDATE "...Information from this mishap (In Memorial for lost VP-9 friends Alfa Foxtrot 586) was used for the P-3 chapter in the NATOPS Survival Manual 00-80T-101. The manual was pubished circa 1985. The P-3 NATOPS Model Manager contributed to the document. I was 00-80T-101 production editor from 1981 to 1985. Previously I served as a Training Analyst at the Naval Safety Center from 1971 to 1976. Too, the P-3 Community attempted to have the Universal Underwater Egress Trainer (Device 9D5) given a P-3 configurtion. Lockheed produced some drawings fitting the device configuration and permit as realistic as possible drills. The initial plan was to practice both surface and sinking abandonment.
CDR John F. Greear, MSC, USN (Ret) johngreear@att.net..." [19JUL2010]

UPDATE "...I am the oldest son of MCPO Gary Hemmer, crewman of the October 1978 (SEE: In Memorial for VP-9 lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586) mishap. I would like to hear from any survivors of that fateful crash. My Father passed away 11 years ago and I miss him terribly, but that day will remain with me for the rest of my life. Bradley Hemmer firebirdv695@yahoo.com..." [16JUN2009]

UPDATE "...My father, MCPO Gary Hemmer, one of the survivors of the In Memorial for VP-9 lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586. I was 5 years old when the plane went down. I just want to thank everyone that had a hand in bringing back to our family. My father was the most important man in my life. Thank you very much. Bradley Hemmer firebirdv695@yahoo.com..." [21FEB2009]

UPDATE "...I flew with LCDR Bruce Forshay at VP-65. A fine NAV and TACCO, he always raised a toast to his fallen comrades from VP-9. I'd like to hear from him again. PRODROMOS, AWCS Dean H. Retired d.prodromos@comcast.net..." [07FEB2009]

UPDATE "...I just wanted to state that it was the USCGC JARVIS (WHEC-725) that responded to the VP-9 Alfa Foxtrot 586 tragedy in 1978. I was aboard the USCGC JARVIS at the time. We got the message to get underway for a SAR case. We just pulled in for our mid-patrol break. We just had enough time to load fuel, mail, and some provisions. It took us three whole days to arrive on scene. We did find some of the wreckage. I do remember the weather those three days were worse then what was reported when the plane ditched..." Contributed by FS1 Danny Gutfeld, USCG, (RET) gutsix@frontiernet.net [05NOV2006]

UPDATE History ThumbnailCamera061026-N-4515N-185 Elizabeth City, N.C. (Oct. 26, 2006) "...Crew Six of a HC-130H Hercules class aircraft, Coast Guard 1500 (CG 1500), stand in front of their old plane during a vintage award ceremony. CG-1500 was recognized Oct. 26, for their part in the heroic rescue of 10 lives from a P-3 Orion class aircraft (Alfa Foxtrot 586) that crashed in the Pacific Ocean, 28 years ago. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo (RELEASED)..." WebSite: Navy News Stand http://www.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=40422 [05NOV2006]

UPDATE History ThumbnailCamera061026-N-4515N-172 Elizabeth City, N.C. (Oct. 26, 2006) "...A guest at the vintage awards ceremony to honor the coast guardsmen that rescued Navy Sailors from a crash sits in the cockpit of a P-3 Orion. The crew of a HC-130H Hercules class aircraft, Coast Guard 1500, was recognized Oct. 26, for their part in the heroic rescue of 10 lives from a P-3 Orion class aircraft (Alfa Foxtrot 586) that crashed in the Pacific Ocean, 28 years ago. U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Apprentice Joshua Adam Nuzzo (RELEASED)..." WebSite: Navy News Stand http://www.navy.mil/view_single.asp?id=40421 [05NOV2006]

UPDATE"...I went through basic and advanced NFO training with Matt Gibbons, the TACCO of the ill-fated VP-9 aircraft which ditched off the Aleution Islands in 1978 (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586). I have just read with great interest CAPT (RET) Jampoler's book. It brought back many memories. Wonder whatever happened to Matt?...Edward Zumstein edwardzumstein@juno.com..." [23OCT2005]

UPDATE"...I was an RM3 (Radioman 3rd Class) at Coast Guard Radio Station Adak/NOX during the AF 586 ditch (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586). CG RADSTA ADAK/NOX was going through a period of remoting operations, and was reduced in capability from a HF/MF CW (Morse Code), some HF voice circuits to a MF CW operation on 500KHZ marine band. What a night! I can honestly say, that it was the busiest night I have ever experienced. Message traffic was flying over the circuit, and the Soviets were no slouches at rapid CW communications. Those Russian radio operators pounded out CW like a 2nd language. I was inundated with requests for positions, weather reports etc... For a 1-position (1 operator) watch, it was coming fast and furious. Mariners from many countries were offering assistance, but the F/V Synyavin had altered course and was enroute. A few days prior to the event F/V Synyavin had sent along their NMFS report in that they were departing or shifting fishing areas (it was 29 years ago). Having worked them on that report, I called Juneau on the landline... apparently there was a lot of like-mindedness, communicating, etc... going on simultaneously... I called the F/V Synyavin on CW and they fired back a response that at an incredible CW speed! Expressing that they were heading to the scene. My adrenalin was pumping and I was able to copy most of the rapid communication. Sending along CW reports via teletype to Juneau, logging, receiving and answering ships preparing to divert, but discouraged from doing so by RCC Juneau, was the bulk of the Radio Watch. As I recall the weather (WX) was pretty nasty out, and a number of ships could not respond to the scene or divert to assist due to the sea state, winds and general poor weather conditions It wasn't necessary to divert Mariners, as a rescue was forthcoming, and under control... but the code of the Professional Mariner was to divert and assist. All were willing to do so, if needed. Juneau advised any not in the immediate vicinity to continue on their present courses and thanked them for their willingness to help. The last thing the Coast Guard needed were more hazardous conditions on a raging night at sea. Again, it was the busiest night I think I ever experienced in the Coast Guard.... ever. Things settled down around dawn the next morning. I remember either hearing or reading reports that the F/V was proceeding to the Soviet Union to put the survivors in the hospital for immediate care. I though it as Vladavostok, but after reading your website, learned differently...George M. Bruhl gmb12855@wmconnect.com..." [12MAY2005]

UPDATE"...My name is Jason Fryman. My mom married MCPO Gary Hemmer in 1986. He was my step dad, but I want to thank all who were involved in his rescue ((SEE: In Memorial for lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586). He has passeed away now, but he was an awesome guy, and if you wouldn't have saved him, I wouldn't have had the privilige of having him as my father...Jason Fryman jasongina99@msn.com..." [10FEB2005]

UPDATE"...I was on the one hour ready alert on October 26th, 1978 in NAS Adak, Alaska (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586, flying with Crew 2 on the first Search and Rescue of Crew 6. A flight I will never forget as long as I live! I just purchased a copy of Andrew C. A. Jampoler's Book entitled "ADAK, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586." After reading the first 4 chapters, through intermittant tears and chills, I couln't sleep last night. Talk about Harrowing!. If any of you VP-9's are out there please contact me as I would love to share some experiences and or thoughts, about Adak and or events of 1978 to 1980 while attached to VP-9 at NAS Moffett Field, California!...RATTENNI, Billy "Ratt" bjejn@aol.com [14NOV2003]

UPDATE"...I was going thorough some old boxes this weekend and came across the Reader's Digest article. STRINGER, AW1(AW) Kenneth W. aloha5o@hotmail.com...." [18FEB2003]
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Reader's Digest - September 1979 - Page 112 through 118
By Earl and Miriam Selby


UPDATE"...I was on Adak when we lost PD-4 in the North Sea. Reader's Digest wrote up a story called "We are Ditching Ditching Ditching This is Not a Drill". I have been looking for a copy for 17 years. It is an amazing story of North Sea survival and heroism between the crew of PD 4 and the Soviet Navy during the height of the Cold War..." Todd finally found a copy in a local library..." Contributed by Todd Broome broome@cisco.com

UPDATE"...Attached is an article from the 1 Nov 03 issue of Pravda regarding the 1978 VP-9 ditching in NorPac. Thought it would be of particular interest to the survivors of Alpha-Foxtrot 586 and those from that era of VP-9 and others that were involved - American Pilots Rescued by Russians 10/31/2003 20:14 - Nov 1, 2003 Issue of Pravda Newspaper (Online Edition) http://english.pravda.ru/main/18/90/363/11193_pilots.html ...(PDF Format): American Pilots Rescued by Russians 49KB..." Contributed by Woody Crandall wcrandall@aharinc.com [05NOV2003]

UPDATEADAK, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586 "...I have written a book "ADAK, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586" documenting this unfortunate mishap. Please see overview (PDF Format): ADAK, The Rescue of Alfa Foxtrot 586 Overview 529KB..." Contributed by CAPTAIN Andrew C. A. Jampoler, Retired jampoler@earthlink.net [13FEB2003]

UPDATE"...As one of the members of the crew surviving the Alfa Foxtrot 586 ditch. I would like all to know the I still hold the deapest appriciation for everyone that contributed to our rescue. I found out before Christmas that the Russian's had been looking for the survivors to see how their lives were 20 years later. They were not successful. I have just recently through very supportive Americain Officials in Russia, been told that they have found the head of the Russian rescue team. They are planning to present him with a letter of appreciation and has requested any of the survivors to provide letters, pictures of then and now, really anything that they can put together to show our thanks. I am very glad to support that effort. If any survivors from that day read this in time please e-mail LCDR Jerri Bell at burydav@glasnet.ru as they plan to do the presentation by mid May. Please e-mail me also as I would like to hear from you too...MOORE, Howard homoore@mindspring.com..." [20APR2001]

UPDATE"...My children found this while searching for info on EP-3 in China. So many similarities to our situation in '78. (SEE: (VP-9 October 78 In Memorial for lost friends Alfa Foxtrot 586) Thanks to Jerry Grigsby, I'm here to meet my grandchildren. God Bless!...John W. Ball poppopball@aol.com..." [16APR2001]

UPDATE"...I was the Aircraft Commander of CG 1500 during the rescue of the ditched VP-9's P-3 in Oct. 78. I wrote this article for Alaska Magazine....Bill Porter bport@hawaii.rr.com..." [29AUG2000]

"MANISLOV, THIS IS BILL"

Our flight proceeded normally until about one hour out of our home station, Kodiak, when the radio operator said the Kodiak Rescue Coordination Center (RCC) wanted to know our fuel endurance. It was Oct. 26, 1978, and our Coast Guard C-130 was returning from Adak after three days of foreign fishing patrol and domestic logistical support. We were flying at 500 feet, observing the Japanese, Korean and Russian fishing fleets, enforcing the 200 mile fishing limit.

Usually, the fuel endurance questions means only one thing: search and rescue (SAR). We were to divert to assist a ditching Navy aircraft.

We had 35,000 pounds of fuel for about seven hours to dry tanks. Our navigator indicated we were 1,300 miles from the ditching position, and it would take more than four hours to get there. Not only that, we would be extremely low on fuel to help anybody upon our arrival. We had only one choice, to proceed to Adak, refuel, then continue to the downed aircraft. Kodiak RCC concurred.

Two hours later we landed at Adak and quickly taxied to the same area where we had departed seven hours earlier. An hour later we left Adak, proceeding this time to the southwest. It would take us just over two hours to get on scene and it would be dark when we arrived. Awaiting our arrival was a Navy P-3, which had spotted life rafts and survivors in 20 foot seas. Their fuel had now become critical and they were glad to see us. The P-3 climbed to 1,500 feet and we descended to 500 feet and began tracking the rafts, visible to us only by an occasional strobe light flashing in the darkened sea. Before the Navy aircraft departed, it proceeded toward a ship some 26 miles west of the rafts, but was unsuccessful in attempts to establish communication. At that same time, we were maneuvering to set up a radio drop to the bobbing rafts; the wind was out of the southeast at 30 knots. Dropping equipment from a C-130 to a fishing boat in daylight can be a challenging experience, but to drop a radio, packed in a large can, to a life raft at night in 20-foot seas takes as much luck as skill. At 200 feet we made the radio drop, but apparently it was not recovered by the raft. No telling how close we were.

Then we headed for the surface contact the P-3 had been unable to alert. The co-pilot began transmitting on the marine band emergency frequency and was finally answered by the Soviet fishing vessel Syntavirm. The radio operator did not speak very good English, and we spoke even poorer Russian. Finally another radioman, whose English was just a little better took over. Speaking simply and clearly, I was able to direct the ship to change course. At first, the Russians thought we were the aircraft in trouble and kept wondering when we would be crashing next to them.

"No, no. Men in the water. Course 090 at 25 miles. Please go."

Finally they understood and complied with our request.

"Russian radioman, name please."

"Manislov."

After asking my name, he replied, "Bill, Bill, we go. Who in water?"

That was tough. I couldn't be sure that if I told him U.S. Navy, they would continue to the rafts.

"Manislov, friends in water, please go.

"I understand, Bill, thank you."

"Manislov, you speak good English."

"Thank you. Bill, Bill, Bill, how far?"

"Course 090 at 20 miles."

"Bill, you speak good English too." Laughter filled our aircraft.

The winds were picking up. The Russian ship was going to help, but could only make about 10 knots because of the sea conditions. We flew back and forth between the ship and the rafts. Every other pass or so we dropped a 15-minute smoke float, which gave us a good flame target and was easier to see than the little strobe light. Also, we dropped a Datum Marker Beacon so we could follow the rafts electronically.

Manislov was getting closer. Just five miles from the rafts, it was time to get him to turn on all his lights and blow his foghorn. The lights he understood, but the horn was another matter.

"Manislov, horn please."

"Bill, Bill, I do not understand, speak slowly."

"honk, honk, honk." Again laughter filled the plane.

"O.K. Bill, I understand."

About this time a sick feeling overcame me. What if we had been tracking our radio that we dropped hours earlier? The radio had strobe lights attached for the rafts to see. What if the rafts were elsewhere?

By now the ship could see our smoke floats. They were two miles away. Just then, a red flare burst in front of our plane. What a beautiful sight. Everyone on the plane got very excited, as did Manislov.

"Bill, Bill, we see."

Beautiful! The flare was right between our smoke floats.

While the Soviets were recovering the first raft, we spotted another flare some two miles north. As we passed over the position, another flare just about hit our right wing. We dropped our last smoke near the raft and directed the Soviet ship to it.

Then, we heard from our relief Coast Guard C-130, which had just decided to proceed from its intended destination of Shemya back to Adak because of tile extreme crosswinds at Shemya. We could not waste any time. Shemya had been our destination also, and with frequent weather checks, we had felt confident about getting in. Now, we too had to go to Adak.

"Manislov, this is Bill. Must go, no more gas. Thank you, Manislov."

"Bill, Bill, four men in raft. We think five in other raft."

"Thank you, Manislov. Goodbye." What a job the Russians had done.

Approaching Adak, we were informed by an Air Force C-130 that they had decided not to go into Adak because of the extreme turbulence. We had to.Fuel was a factor. What a way to end a long day. We made a radar, circling approach to Adak, which turned out O.K. Walking on the ramp after shutdown proved to be very difficult though. It was almost 5 a.m. and we had had 17.3 hours of flight time. We later found out that Manislov's ship had picked up 10 survivors.

I cannot speak highly enough of Manislov and his ship. U.S. Navy personnel in the water were picked up by the Russians. What it actually amounted to was people in distress being aided by others. I know countries were involved, but on the working level it was not the generals, admirals, congressmen, or even the president or the prime minister, but just a Russian fishing boat helping "friends" in the water.

"Thank you, Manislov ... Bill."

THIS ARTICLE WAS PUBLISHED IN ALASKA MAGAZINE IN 1981...Bill Porter bport@hawaii.rr.com..." [29AUG2000]

UPDATE"...I was stationed at ASWOC/TSC NAS Adak, Alaska the day VP-9 lost an aircraft during a reconnaissance patrol (October 26, 1978). The ASWOC/TSC worked port/starboard throughout the rescue operations and I operated a newly-installed satellite communication link (ASWCCS). Amazingly, the day before I had turned down an opportunity to fly to Hawaii on a surface surveillance, a serendipitous choice since only two of us knew how to operate ASWCCS at that time. The weather was spectacularly bad all along the Aleutian chain that day, worst at Shemya with 60 knot crosswings, 45 knots at Adak and 25 knots at Cold Bay. Search aircraft were, for a time, unable to return to either Shemya or Adak but forced all the way to Cold Bay or Elmendorf AFB. The Coast Guard had a fine ship (USCGC Munro or USCGC Boutwell, http://www.orneveien.org/adak/batch2/uscg.jpg for photo of WHEC 719 at Adak Fuel Pier) but the high winds and heavy seas made forward progress almost impossible. NAS Adak, Alaska launched its available P-3's knowing they could not return to NAS Adak, Alaska because of the worsening weather, but intended they would return to Elmendorf after searching. It was a roller coaster of intense professional activity and high emotion; the high hope that maybe they could reach Shemya then the certainty they would not. Finding a rescue ship but not being able to communicate with it. The uncertainty of not knowing how many survivors were under the cover atop the raft combined with the frustration of not being able to talk to the survivors. Luckily, the United States had established a thawing in the cold war, "detente", which permitted a cooperative rescue effort. Ultimately we felt joy in the return of the survivors and pride in their accomplishment. Senior Chief Shepard came back with a souvenir, extremely rare in those days, a Russian black fur hat with a genuine Cyrillic label. Two of the crew were stationed at the ASWOC/TSC and were flying with the squadron to maintain proficiency. AWCS Shepard was the ASWOC Command Senior Chief; well known for his strict adherence to policy and procedure, and as we have seen, it served him and his crewmates well during this emergency. http://adak.orneveien.org/batch2/p3sunr.jpg Photograph of P-3's on the flight line at NAS Adak, Alaska, on a cold, windy morning, VP-9 most likely. When I find the date on the photo I will be able to identify the squadron....Michael "Flash" Gordon (CPO, USN Ret) mgordon@orneveien.org..." [18JUL2000]

UPDATE"...I was on a plane coming back to NAS Moffett Field, California that fateful day of 26OCT78 when PD4 crashed (VP-9/October 78 "We are Ditching! Ditching! Ditching!") into the sea near NAS Adak, Alaska. When we landed all that greeted us were happy to see us since they thought it was our plane that went down. I lost some good friends on that flight but they will always be rememered in our hearts..." Contributed by Jim Geary jgeary@nortelnetworks.com [27MAR98]

UPDATE"...I was stationed with Jerry Grigsby in VP-50 (67-70). As all his friends, I was saddened by his death (VP-9/October 78 "We are Ditching! Ditching! Ditching!"), but proud of his conduct during the ordeal. Around 1983 I was stationed at the Schools Command in Pensacola when the new water survival building was completed and the Navy requested a name for the building . Another VPer (Ralph "Squirel" McCrory and I submitted Jerry's name along with the Readers' Digest article and it was selected! One of Jerry's daughters attended the dedication and it was very moving. Thought all you VP-9ers and anybody else that knew Jerry might be interested..." Contributed by Jim Carlson carjimbo@TheRamp.net

UPDATE"...I am ATCS Barry Philippy, USCG, Ret. I was an AT1 at that time, and navigator aboard Coast Guard C-130 1500 that night. That was a very long and rewarding day. In my 22 years in the USCG, that single flight was the most rewarding flight I ever had. We had logged 17.3 flight hours, and 23+ hours crew mission time during that 24 hour period...One note I would like to point out to anyone who might be interested. From the time we fell in behind the P-3 to assume the vigil over the rafts, until the rafts were illuminated by the Russian Fishing Vessels lights, we never visually confirmed the rafts were there, it was night time. We were so thankful that the Data Marker Bouy we dropped when we first arrived on-scene drifted with the rafts. The most beautiful sight I'd seen in my 4000 flight hours was when the ship reached the first raft, a green flare rose to within feet of our right wing-tip as we were in a steep right turn at that moment. That flare came from the farthest raft from the ship..." Contributed by Barry Philippy barrypphilippy@hotmail.com [E-Mail Updated 23JAN2011 | E-Mail Updated 29AUG2004 | E-Mail Updated 19MAY2002 | 28JAN98]

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