AJ Accidents and Incidents—Unknown BuNos

I will soon be writing to see if I can get copies of the accident reports on the crashes and incidents that are listed below. If I can get at least the BuNos I will then be able to move the entries from here to the file that I have of "All the Savages and their fates". Perhaps a reader can provide me with one or more of the BuNos or with other accidents that I need to add to the list.

Followup: I did apply to the US Navy on 11 August 2003 for information on the ten accidents that I had listed at that time. I received replies to each of my ten requests on 30 September 2003. In five of the the cases the Naval Historical Center was able to identify the incident and give me a BuNo and other details. Contrary to my original plan, I will at least temporarily leave the entries here, modifying them slightly. I shall also add information to the entry for the individual plane in my file allsavages.html.



Date: 27 October 1950
Squadron: VC-5
Crew: The Plane Commander was LCDR Dave Purdon, the B/N was LTJG Ed Decker, and the Third Crewman was Chief Edward R. Barrett
Known details: The aircraft crashed into the sea on its takeoff run from USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. Dave and the crewman, Chief Edward R. Barrett, were lost, but B/N LTJG Ed Decker escaped from the wreckage with minor injuries and was rescued by the plane guard helicopter. Analysis of witness statements and movie and still photos failed to positively identify the cause of the accident, but the most likely cause was determined to have been an inadvertent engagement of the flight control gust lock. The plane was an AJ-1
BuNo: UNKNOWN 124163
Notes: The information re BuNo was received 30 September 2003. The accident report contains a little more detail than I already had, and states that the accident occurred off Guantanamo Bay.


Date: November 1951 29 November 1951
Squadron: VC-6
Crew: The Plane Commander was LCDR John Francis Refo. The other members of the crew are unknown.
Known details: The aircraft crashed into the sea as it was catapulted from USS Franklin D. Roosevelt. The USS FDR was in the Med with the 6th Fleet and VC-6 was on deployment to Port Lyautey. The biography of LCDR Refo at http://www.usna.com/history/classof1940/R.htm#4 says, "In November, 1951, Johnny was injured in a four-second flight in an AJ from one of ROOSEVELT'S catapults into the Med and spent Christmas recuperating in London."
BuNo: UNKNOWN 124173
More: On 25 June 2004 while at the Sanford Museum I found an article in the Hook from two consecutive issues of the magazine Fall 1989 and Winter 1989. In this article it says that Refo's plane was BuNo 124173. It also says that the bombardier/Navigator was ENS Richard W. Mabee. On 25 June 2004 at the Savage Sons Reunion in Sanford, Roy L. Williams confirmed that ENS Mabee was the BN and added that the third crewman was ATC Scotty Layman. Others in the group disgreed with the rating, saying that Layman was an ALC.


Date: 14/15 July 1952
Squadron: VC-8
Crew: Pilot was Whit Wright, the CO of VC-8, the third crewman was Jim Henson
Known details: Kenneth S. Reightler, Sr. wrote in an email dated 18 August 2003: "Whit Wright CO VC-8 acc 1952 loss of 3rd crewman Jim Henson" Kenneth S. Reightler, Sr. had previously written on 14 August 2003: "CO Whit Wright took one over the side 1-2 AM off the Midway 14/15 July 1952. I was there. We lost 3rd crewman Jim Henson."
BuNo: UNKNOWN


Date: probably summer 1952
Squadron: VC-5
Crew: Included Johnny Walker and a fellow named Chadwick. One of the two, it is not clear which, was plane captain.
Known details: At the Savage Sons Reunion in June 2004, several people, I think including John D. Frederick, told me about a plane that was lost during a hurricane evacuation to Olathe, Kansas from Jacksonville. The plane had a dual engine overspeed. After they parachuted, Johnny Walker landed in a tree and his calls for help were completely ignored by witnesses on the ground who were in a hurry to get to the scene of the crash. Apparently the pilot's chute did not open when he pulled the rip cord, but he managed to reach back and somehow pull it out by hand, injuring his arm in the process.
BuNo: UNKNOWN


Date: 1952
Squadron: UNKNOWN
Crew: Pilot was unknown, unidentified CPO in B/N seat
Known details: Kenneth S. Reightler, Sr. has written in an email dated 14 August 2003: "I was bumming parts from my old command, Service Test, when an AJ from Electronic Test or Armament Test at Pax when an AJ supposedly on it's way back to Columbus, OH it was on a nearby runway and I had a clear view. On roll out and lift off, the bird suddenly nosed up and climbed a few hundred feet and then rounded out and started down where it could not recover and flattened into the runway. It app had a tanker pkg full and the fuel leaked out and caught fire. Despite regs a nr of us ran across the field and tried to get the pilot and a CPO in B/N Seat out. The foam blanket put the fire out and then some idiot broke the blanket and we scattered. The fire burned all day and into the evening. Every drop of foam on the base and in Leonard Town was used up. I only vaguely remember getting the pilot out from the side window. The Aj was smashed flat but upright so the pilots window was about 6-7 feet up."
BuNo: UNKNOWN


Date: 6 September 1952
Squadron: VC-7
Crew: The plane commander was CDR McConnell, skipper of the squadron, the bombardier/navigator was LT Sprague, the third crewman was AT1 Mathews.
Known details: The loss occurred while VC-7 was on deployment to Port Lyautey, French Morocco, 11 April to 15 October 1952. The aircraft was an AJ-1 and bore side # 1.
BuNo: UNKNOWN 122598
More: "September sixth [1952] was a day of tragedy for VC-7. CO McConnell, LT Curtiss Sprague and AL1 William Matthews were declared missing when their AJ crashed near La Spezia, Italy." [Hook, vol. 17, #3, Fall 1989, ISSN 0736-9220]


Date: 4 February 1953
Squadron: UNKNOWN NATC, Patuxent River, Maryland
Crew: Pilot was LT McFaddin Hoise, third Crewman was AD2 James H. Vaughn
Known details: "Vaughn Road at Patuxent is named in honor of Navy AD2 James H. Vaughn who lost his life in an aircraft accident during take-off in an AJ (Savage) on 4 February 1953" [Chuck Huber on 9 August 2002] Hoise Road in Patuxent is named in honor of Navy Lt. McFaddin Hoise who lost his life in an aircraft accident during take-off in an AJ (Savage) on 4 February 1953. [members.cts.com/sd/b/bwickes/ LOW_FLIGHT_OVER_SOUTHERN_MARYLAND.doc]
BuNo: UNKNOWN 122594
Credits: Thanks to Chuck Huber for alerting me to this one. Visit his web site at: http://community-2.webtv.net/charles379/USNComposite/
Notes: The BuNo and the fact that the plane was assigned to NATC was information obtained 30 Septermber 2003.


Date: 1953 (After 28 July and before 15 August) 11 August 1953
Squadron: UNKNOWN VC-5
Crew: UNKNOWN, but apparently Pilot and B/N were rescued and the third crewman was lost
Known details: On 28 July 1953 USS Bennington took aboard 410 midshipmen from the US Naval Academy for a fifteen day cruise. The dates and other details can be found at http://www.uss-bennington.org/stories.html While the midshipmen were aboard an AJ-1 crashed on landing. It seems the plane hit the round down. An engine went onto the flight deck with the propellor cutting through. Some debris, including a wing went below the flight deck. The major portion of the plane dropped into the sea. The helo picked up the pilot and b/n but didn't have room for the third crewman. By the time the helo got back he had gone down with the wreckage. Several accounts from members of the Class of 1955 of USNA appear at http://www.usna.com/classes/1955/Bennington.htm
BuNo: UNKNOWN 122600
More: At the "Savage Sons" Reunion in Sanford in June 2004 John D. Frederick told me that the pilot was LT Minton and the third crewman was Nathaniel Samuel Adolps.
Still More: On 19 February 2009 I received an email from Richard A. Clark [richmar62@yahoo.com], formerly of the V-2 Division of USS Bennington, 1953-1954. He was LSO spotter when the incident occurred and is writing a book that deals with the Bennington from June 1953 through February 1954.


Date: summer or fall 1953
Squadron: VC-5
Crew: UNKNOWN
BuNo: UNKNOWN, but it was an AJ-2
More: At the "Savage Sons" Reunion in Sanford in June 2004 Jerry Kelley and others told me of a wheels up landing by the skipper, Irving G. Peters. Actually there were others who referred to the "wheels up" and attributed it to the XO at the time, who would have been Leopold Weidlein. I, however, think it more likely it was the skipper due to the role that the skipper's third crewman Paul A. Stokes plays in the narrative. The aircraft was the very first AJ-2 that had come to the squadron. It had been long-awaited. The pilot was doing "touch and goes" with it. During this activity, Paul Stokes was lowering and raising the gear. When the practice was finished and it came time for the final landing, Stokes expected to return to the normal procedure of having the pilot lower the gear. The pilot, accustomed to Paul's having been doing it, neglected to do so. It was a bad communication failure, and they came in on the belly. Temporary repairs were made locally in Sanford, and the plane was being ferried to Jacksonville for more serious work when it became completely uncontollable in flight and had to be ditched off Jacksonville.


Date: 1954(?)
Squadron: VC-8(?)
Crew: Pilot was LT Hall, third crewman was "Tiger Willie" Wilson
Known details: Kenneth S. Reightler, Sr. wrote in an email dated 14 August 2003: "In 1954 ? on Carquals ? LT Hall broke a hook and went over the side, Pilot and 3rd Crewmn may have been in B/N seat but was lost "Tiger Willie"Wilson l"
BuNo: UNKNOWN


Date: 6 August 1954
Squadron: VC-6
Crew: Plane Commander was LTJG K. H. McVay, others were UNKNOWN
Known details: This AJ-2, nicknamed "Cho Cho," experienced hook failure while landing aboard USS Yorktown (CVA-10). Ginter shows pictures on page 84 of the aircraft going over the side and apparently in the ocean. Ginter does not say what happened to the crew.
BuNo: UNKNOWN 134057


Date: 8 November 1954
Squadron: VC-5
Crew: Plane Commander was LT. Leon Rex "Bill" Grover, Jr., B/N was LTJG Garth Garreau, Third Crewman was AT2 B[illie]. D."Bulldog" Patterson. My initial clue as to the identity of Patterson came on August 8, 2003 from Larry St. Onge (VC-5) via Jack Demeny (USMC) via Chuck Huber. (This is a story in itself.) Further substantiation of Patterson's identity comes from the Coral Sea web-site at http://www.usscoralsea.net/pages/mishaps.html. The Coral Sea mishap site gives a detailed account of the crash and says that the body of only Patterson was recovered. The pinpointing of the crash to November 8 (rather than late October or early November as I previously had) comes from a genealogical site at http://www.orrellfamily.com/database/dbo/gp225.htm#head3 that gives November 8 as Grover's date of death.
Known details: Aircraft (AJ-2) was being catapulted off the USS Coral Sea when it crashed into the sea. All crew were lost. Also see the Coral Sea mishap web-site at http://www.usscoralsea.net/pages/mishaps.html.
BuNo: UNKNOWN 134040


Date: 1955 (After 15 February and before 20 July)
Squadron: VC-8
Crew: Pilot was LT Donald Bowman, third crewman was Earl Bishop
Known details: Chuck Huber shows on his web site
http://community-2.webtv.net/charles379/USNComposite/page2.html a picture of this plane in the catwalk. The picture can be seen at
http://community-2.webtv.net/cerebralhush/USNavyHeavyAttack/page9.html or here. Huber's web site says that the incident was aboard the USS Randolph. The aircraft is an AJ-1. Kenneth S. Reightler, Sr. has said in an email of 18 August 2003, "I was standing in front of this AJ Side # 7 of VC-8 on the USS Randolph. Bowman had his head down in the cockpit despite the plane's being backed down (or drifting back ?) under the Yellow Shirts direction. "Brakes" was given (Bowman said "no," but I know better}. The port wheels went over the scupper and dropped into the single mount 5" ?area resting on the port nacelle rear portion and on the edge of the bomb-bay. The crew came out quickly but very gingerly, not knowing the balance of the bird. Repair 8 jumped on the problem and many chain tie-downs were put on the nose wheel area and lines where they could."
Chuck Huber has told me that he had once seen VC-8's CO's memories of the incident. The Randolph's CO wanted to push the AJ over the side immediately, but the VC-8 skipper talked him into saving it. Chuck points out that this is the same crew that was killed in the "Glass Factory" crash on 20 July 1955 and thinks that it may very well be the same aircraft.
BuNo: 124854?????


I have discovered in July 2008 after having received some information from Dick D'Antonio that I have had an error in this file concerning the next two incidents. For a long time I have confounded the next two incidents as one. I witnessed the crash east of the field in late February (the second of the two) and initially wrote my somewhat inaccurate description of the incident. Jack Stumpf responded by suggesting that the pilot might have been CDR Guy of VAH-7. I now believe that the first incident (probably AJ-2 BuNo 134038 DBR February 1958) was the Guy incident and was not the one I witnessed. The one that I did witness seems almost certain to be the loss by VAH-8 of AJ-1 BuNo 124179 on 27 Frbruary, 1956, just a couple of days before I left active duty and in the interim when I had returned from TAD at HATU just across the way from Hangar #4.

Date: Late 1955 or early 1956
Squadron: VAH-7
Crew: Plane Commander was probably Jim Guy, other crew were UNKNOWN
Known details: In this spot I had previously (and erroneously) included the description of the accident that I had witnessed.
In a telephone conversation with Kirby P. Sutton, who had in my time been a yeoman in VC-9 but at the time of this accident was in HATWING I and working for the accident board, I learned that the pilot was in fact CDR Guy. Kirby Sutton says that although the two crew bailed out, the pilot did not. He rode the plane down attempting to land on some railroad tracks to the northeast of the field. He ran into and damaged a couple of houses. There were civilian injuries, but no fatalities. BTW, the plane must have been an AJ-2, because I believe that VC-7/VAH-7 never flew AJ-1s — after they switched to AJ-2s, that is.
In a telephone conversation with Fred W. Burton of Elkridge Maryland and a former Inflight Refueling rep, I learned that the third cewman was Ray Hight.
BuNo: UNKNOWN, but probably it was 134038, which is listed as "DBR" in February 1956


Date: 27 February 1956
Squadron: VAH-8
Crew: UNKNOWN
Known details: At midday an AJ-1 was preparing to land at Sanford. Main landing gear came down but would not lock. The pilot was flying eastbound over the field and past the tower, kicking rudder trying to get the gear in locked position, when the vertical tailfin folded. The plane rolled over on its back, and then became upright again. The B/N and third crewman bailed out. Again the plane rolled on its back and then back upright. This time the pilot jumped out. By now the plane was well east of the field over some celery fields, where it nosed in in a big cloud of smoke. The helo quickly found the third crewman and the plane commander but could not find the B/N. It seems that he had landed in the backyard of the plane commander, and after the plane commander's wife and the B/N had gathered up his chute she had driven him back to base. He was at the main gate while the helo was frantically searching for him. [Another version has it, I think from Dick D'Antonio, that the B/N refused a ride in the helo, saying that he had had enough flying for one day and started to walk back to the base.] None of the crew was injured.
[Upon reflection my description of the plane's rolling on its back is probably a melodramatic exaggeration.]
Dick D'Antonio, the AN/ASB-1 officer of VAH-8 has said in July 2008.

The squadron involved was VAH-8. The pilot indeed was trying to rock the gear into locked position when the vertical stabilizer lock failed and began beating on the elevator. The third crewman must have had quite a view! The B/N and third crewman bailed out as the pilot struggled to control the plane. He was considering bringing it in but all on the ground and North American agreed that he should abandon the aircraft . He got it over a swampy area and bailed out. The plane rolled slowly over and nosed straight into the swamp. This is how I remember itI. I am fairly certain no houses were involved . The crash site was typical sandy palmetto brush and bog. As I recall no celery (but Sanford was known for cerery farming).
As ASB maintenance officer I got a call from Washington to locate what I could of the CP66 bombing computer. Apparently there was plenty of money to repair items, but little to buy new, so the plan was to find the nameplate and "repair" the computer. With a group of squadron members and field engineers went out into the crash area. There were very little big pieces and lots of wire dangling from the brush. We came across a large snake, which someone identified as a black "king" snake. "It is harmless, but they eat rattle snakes so there must be a lot of them here". I called off the search and told Washington to make up a new nameplate.
When there was a total loss such as this it was common for a squadron to write off stuff that was otherwise unaccounted for as being in the aircraft that was lost. There actually was several periscope sextants in that aircraft and we had a hard time convincing the skipper to submit the write off.

BuNo: 124179, which is listed as "W/O" on 27 February 1956


Date: Early 1956
Squadron: VAH-9
Crew: The Plane Commander was LCDR Bob Heid, the B/N was LTJG Paul Grunder, and the Third Crewman was Clark (Bud) Warren
Known details: This AJ-1 had a spectacular crash at LeVar airport at Nice, but the crew all got out with only minor cuts and bruises. The plane was a strike.
BuNo: UNKNOWN


Date: 3 July 1956
Squadron: VAH-9
Crew: Plane Commander was LCDR A. "Stub" Herron, B/N was LTJG Leon Foley, Third Crewman was AT2 Johnnie Whisnant (Another correspondent thinks that the third crewman was Seaman. ???)
Known details: Aircraft (AJ-1) crashed in Lake George(?). (I now think the crash was near Eustis, Florida, perhaps even into Lake Eustis.) They went straight in from over 20,000 feet. One conjecture was an overspeeding prop that tore into the cockpit area but nothing for sure. All crew were lost.
BuNo: UNKNOWN 130407
I have the accident report. The third crewman was Whisnant.


Date: August 1956
Squadron: VAH-7
Crew: The Pilot was LT Hall, the B/N was Jerry O'Hara, and the Third Crewman was known as "Ski."
Known details: "...an AJ attempting to return for landing after losing an engine, I believe, crashed a few blocks northwest of the field [NAS Sanford]. The crew died along with three members of one family whose home was destroyed in the crash." [Regie Ashley]
"...My name is Ed Metzger, and I was stationed with VAH-7 to which this aircraft was assigned when it went down. I was assigned crash site security while the investigation went on. I can not remember who the crewmen were....Ed Metzger, AFCM, USN, Retired" [Ed Metzger, 30 August 2003]
Ed's message specified that the a/c was an AJ-2, which is what VAH-7 was flying at the time. [Kenneth Wooster]
"The pilot's name was LT Hall, the B/N was Jerry O'Hara, and the crewman was known as "Ski" to me, but I can't remember his correct name. The plane was making an emergency landing because of a bad engine with a full tanker package, and the investigation showed the good engine was half-in, half-out of feather. Apparently the wrong engine had been feathered by one of them." [Bill Sowell, 1 September 2003]
On 25 February Regie Ashley of Ochlockonee Bay, FL reported to me that an Ed Wagner, Jr. had informed him that the third crewman's last name was Swigonski. Ed Wagner said, "I'm a native of Sanford and my father was with VJ-62 and later with 'Heavy 7'. The crash you referenced happened while we were stationed in Pensacola but we returned to Sanford shortly thereafter. The third crewman's last name was Swigonski. I graduated from Seminole High with his daughter."
On 16 February 2009, Ed Korgan, Jr. of Sanford, Florida, reported to me, "The AJ crashed one mile north of the east-west runway wiping out two houses at 2402 and 2404 Orange Avenue in Sanford. I lived at 2408 Orange Avenue as a youngster. I dated the Swigonski daughter in the early 60's and heard he was involved in the accident near my home. I also know Ed Wagner Jr. from many years back."
BuNo: UNKNOWN, but possibly it was 130419, which is listed as "DBR" in August 1956
Credits: Regie Ashley of Ochlockonee Bay, Florida
Ed Metzger
Bill Sowell
Ed Wagner, Jr.
Ed Korgan, Jr.


Date: June 1957
Squadron: UNKNOWN
Crew: UNKNOWN
Known details: "In the spring of 1957, Windlass operated for three weeks at Chincoteague, Va., in a Jupiter missile nose cone recovery. That summer, the ship recovered most of the wreckage from two AJ Savage bombers that had collided late in June off Oceanview Va." [http://www.hazegray.org/danfs/auxil/arsd4.htm]
(The Windlass was ARS(D)-4, originally LSM-522.) [Chuck Huber]
BuNo: UNKNOWN, but exactly two Savages appear on the list as being lost that month. Both were AJ-2Ps and both are listed as "DBR." They are 128043 and 128049. Squadron assignments unknown.
Credits:Thanks to Chuck Huber for alerting me to this one. Visit his web site at: http://community-2.webtv.net/charles379/USNComposite/
More: In August 2008 PJ Imhof, daddypaddy@cox.net, sent the following message to Chuck Huber, who in turn sent it to me:

The 2 AJ-2P's that had a mid air, over the Chesapeake Bay, off Ocean View Beach, belonged to VAP-62, stationed at NAS Norfolk. I was in the squadron at the time. The accident was on the radio. Many people at the Beach witnessed the mid air. I think that one of the four people killed, was the Personnel Officer, Mr. Niegels. Spelling could be wrong, but it's close. The Norfolk Pilot newspaper from the following day would have the story. A copy of same could be found at the Norfolk Library. VAP-62 moved to NAS JAX in Aug. or Sept. 1957.


Date: June or July 1957 Most likely July 1957
Squadron: VAH-11
Crew: UNKNOWN
Known details: In a message to Don Pierce, a former third crewman from VAH-11 named Keith _____ said, "While in Dallas (Love Field) training for the in-flight refueling [for Project Bullet] we lost an A/C. The tank to plane shut-off valve was stuck in the open position and pumped JP into the A/C fuel system. The engines lost power and the cylinder head temp. went to max. The crew all bailed out safely." VAH-11 appears to have been flying AJ-1s at the time.
BuNo: UNKNOWN, but this appears to be 122591 that is listed as "DBR" in July 1957. The only two other Savages lost in the two month June-July period were AJ-2Ps.
More: On 30 April 2004 I received an email from Mr. Thomas O. Zahay of Gilbert AZ, tzahay@cox.net in which he said:

Dear Sir, Found your history on the VAH squadrons very interesting. I was a PR3 in VAH-11 from November 1955 to April 1958.
Here is a little more info on the plane that was lost in 1957 out of Love Field, Texas. I packed the parachutes that were used by the crew that day to bail from that aircraft. I have the caterpillar club certificates from Switlik parachute company, and they carry the names of the men on that crew. I believe that the Pilot was LCDR Brown. I also think that he was later killed in a crash at sea approaching the ship for landing. If you would like the names of the crew I will dig out my memorabilia and send them on to you.


Date: 1957 or early 1958
Squadron: VAH-7
Crew: Plane Commander was LCDR R. W. Mann. B/N was probably AJ1 Valinski and Third Crewman was probably AM1 Sandifer (or Sandefir or Sandefur).
Known details: CDR R. W. Mann, USN Retired, tells on page 103 of Ginter how he had caught the number 5 wire, had run up the deck, and had dropped his left landing gear in the catwalk. Apparently there were no casualties. The text does not make is clear as to which ship, but it may have been USS Essex.
Bill Sowell says that LCDR Mann was on USS Randolph in Detachment 36. [Bill Sowell]
BuNo: UNKNOWN


Date: 9 December 1958 at 1215 hours
Squadron: VAH-15
Crew: Pilot was LCDR George Wilson USNR, bombardier/navigator was ENS Fred Melton Clancy, III USNR. There were two others aboard, a third crewman and a CPO who was a flight time passenger.
Additional casualties: Two children in house on ground killed and their mother injured.
Known details: Kenneth S. Reightler, Sr. wrote in an email dated 14 August 2003: "In Dec 1958 an AJ with load of JP went down on Granby St, Norfolk VA, 6 were lost, 4 on plane and two children in house. I saw the whole thing except for actual crash as it was behind trees, but I saw it go 90 degrees when they stalled. I heard the recip's breaking up as they went over. Pilot George Wilson, Maint Off VAH-15 was well-experienced. He was in VC-8 1952 on as Electronic Officer. He was a great guy. In my humble opinion the inexperienced striker 3rd crewmn did not cap off the valve that feeds to the recips from the tank." VAH-15 flew AJ-2s.
Additional details: In a telephone conversation on 19 December 2003, Frederick W. Burton, 2nd, a representative of the Inflight Refueling Co., told me that the third crewman was a protege of his whose name was Pat Toomey. The fourth man was named Delaney, was also a third crewman, and was being checked out on the refueling gear by Toomey.
BuNo: UNKNOWN — From a UPI photo of the crash offered on ebay on 4 April 2005 I have learned that this was BuNo 130416. I have bid on the photo. Time will tell if I win it. I won the auction and now have the photo.


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