Presque Isle, ME – November 2, 1942

Presque Isle, Maine – November 2, 1942

Lost WWII Plane Discovered in Quebec 

Updated April 19, 2016


OA-10 Catalina - U.S. Air Force Photo

OA-10 Catalina – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 2, 1942, an Army Air Corps OA-10 Catalina, (#43-3266), left its base in Presque Isle, Maine and landed in the St. Lawrence River at the town of Longue-Pointe-De-Mingan to deliver personnel to a new military airfield in the town.  The water was choppy, and when it was time to leave the pilot had difficulty taking off.  After one failed attempt, he tried again, and as waves buffeted the fuselage the aircraft suddenly capsized. The accident was witnessed by people on shore, and despite the rough water, local fishermen put out in their boats to attempt a rescue.  Four crewmen found clinging to the outside of the wreckage were pulled aboard boats just before the aircraft sank taking five crewmen still trapped inside with it. 

     The wreck lay undisturbed for more than five decades. Then in 2009, a Canadian dive crew working to document ship wrecks in that area located the lost plane and were surprised to see that it was still in one piece and in relatively good condition. The United States government was subsequently notified, and plans were made to recover any human remains which might still be inside.

     The removal took place in 2012, nearly seventy years after the accident.  In addition to human remains, divers found what one source described as “a trove of items that amounts to a time capsule of the war years” which included personal items such as a crewman’s aviator sunglasses, and a log book with the writing still legible. 

     Those lost in the accident included:

     Lt. Col. Harry J. Zimmerman of Bayside, New York.

     Capt. Carney Lee Dowlen of Dallas, Texas. 

     Sgt. Charles O. Richardson of Charlevoix, Michigan.  

     Pvt. Erwin G. Austin, 23, of Monroe, Maine.

     Pvt. Peter J. Cuzins of Cincinnati, Ohio. 

     Those rescued included:

     Capt. John B. Holmberg, of Chicago.

     Tech. Sgt. George C. Peterson, of Welch, Louisiana.

     Cpl. Robert L. Ashley of Riverside, California.

     Pvt. James E. Click of Lexington, Kentucky. 

     A letter written by Private Erwin Austin to his mother only a week before the accident was published in the Bangor Daily News on November 5, 1942. 

     It read in part:

      “For the last two weeks I’ve been on the PBY all the time except fro last Monday.  I have been up a lot, and Saturday we were up all the morning and then again all the afternoon.  I was the engineer in the forenoon and for an hour and a half in the afternoon.  I got tired so “Rich” took over for me. and I strapped myself into bed and went to sleep.  It is a lot of fun and one feels like he is doing his part.

     You might have seen one of these, but I doubt it as I don’t know of any operating down there, also except when landing the pontoons on the wings are retracted to make less drag.

     Yesterday we washed it out, inside and outside, and what a job.  Today it is in the hangar.  “Rich”, the engineer, is asleep on one of the four bunks, and I’m writing this letter on the navigators table.

     There is more room in this than there is in a big trailer, and it is equipped for living just as well.  In short, we can take off and stay up 22 hours before coming down, and all the time have all the conveniences of home.  We have a full load of water and enough food to last the full crew more than a week, and also there is a two plate electric hot spot stove and also a toilet.  So you can imagine how much at home one can be while in one of these.  I guess you can tell by my letters that I like this very much and hope to get one for myself. ”        

     Private Austin was attending the University of Maine when WWII broke out.  He put aside his studies on December 31, 1941, to enlist in the Army Air Corps.  He received his basic training in Jefferson Barracks, Mo., and from there was sent to the Boeing Aeronautical School in Oakland, California, from which he graduated on July 17, 1942. 


Associated Press, “Plane Found By Canadian Divers Believed To Be Maine-Based Catalina Lost In 1942”, August 8, 2009

Postmedia News, “WWII Plane Target Of Huge Recovery Effort In Quebec Waters”, by Randy Boswell, July 10, 2012

Associated Press, “U.S. Recovers Apparent Remains Of WWII Airmen”, July 30, 2012

Providence Journal, “Five Men Missing As Plane Crashes”, November 5, 1942, Pg. 12 

Bangor Daily News, “Monroe Youth Missing In crash Of Army Plane”, November 5, 1942, Page 1

Bangor Daily News, “5 Army Men Lost When Flying Boat Capsizes Off Main Coast”, November 5, 1942, Page 1.


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