Atlantic Ocean – April 23, 1948
On April 23, 1948, a U.S. Navy P2V Neptune, (Bu. No. 39325), took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island for what was to be a long-range navigational training flight from Quonset to Bermuda and back.
There were five men aboard the aircraft:
Pilot – Lieutenant Harvey H. Rouzer
Co-pilot – Ensign Philip J. Fagan
Navigator – Sherman P. Dudley
Plane Captain – Thomas T. Thurston
Radioman – William Delligatti
All were assigned to VPML – 7 At Quonset.
At 6:25 p.m., while the aircraft was still over the Atlantic on the last leg of the return trip, about 100 miles south of Rhode Island, the right engine suddenly developed a vibration followed by a drop in oil pressure. Then the same problem developed in the left engine, followed by the right engine catching fire.
Power was cut to both engines and the plane began a glide to the water from 12,000 feet, while a distress call was sent. The pilot managed a smooth water landing in a relatively calm seas, and the crew scrambled out as the aircraft sank. Before entering the water they successfully deployed one of the aircraft’s two life rafts. Fortunately the second raft bobbed to the surface shortly afterwards. With three men in one raft and two in the other they waited for rescue as darkness closed in.
Approximately two hours later they saw a ship on the horizon and fired a signal flare, but the ship continued on without stopping. Not long afterwards a navy search plane circled above, its crew having seen the flair from a distance. The search plane dropped a series of flairs for other aircraft and ships to home in on.
The men were rescued about 10;20 p.m. by the passenger liner S. S. Washington which was on its way to New York from overseas.
Providence Journal, “Quonset Bomber Crashes In Ocean”, April 24, 1948, page 1
Providence Journal, “Quonset Fliers Describe Dramatic Rescue From sea”, April 25, 1948, Page 14
(Magazine) Naval Aviation News, “Ditching A Neptune”, July 1948, Page 20