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Lost Cold War Aviators August 1956

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P4M Mercator of VQ-1 ca. 1959 (Photo Jay Henning)

On 22 August 1956 a P4M Mercator on night patrol flying 32 miles off the Chinese coast in international waters reported being under attack. Wreckage and the bodies of two Navy flyers were located, but none of the sixteen crew members survived. The American crew members killed were: LCDRs Milton Hutchinson and J.W. Ponsford; LTJGs F.A. Flood and J.B. Dean (see picture below); PO1/c W. Haskins, H. Lonnsbury and A. Mattin; PO2/c C.E. Messinger, D. Barber, W. Caron and W. Powell; PO3/c J. Curtis, w. Humbert, D. Sprinkle, L. Strykowski and L. Young.

Lt. j.g. James Deane outside the bachelors' officers quarters at Naval flight school in Pensacola, Fla., in 1955. (Photo vpnavy.org)

VQ-1 had just started flying SIGINT (Signals Intelligence) missions out of Naval Air Station Iwakuni beginning in October 1955. They would fly missions along the Chinese and Soviet coastlines listening for radar and air defense network signals to provide real-time intelligence for our strategic bomber forces. From 1950 until 1969, the Navy lost approximately one dozen electronic reconnaissance aircraft and the loss of at least 79 lives.

VQ-1 Martin P4M Mercators on the ramp at Iwakuni, Japan ca. 1959. (Photo Jay Henning)

 

L-R: Unknown; Lt. Jack Henning - pilot; Unknown; Unknown, Lt. Al de Witt - pilot standing in front of P4M Mercator (Photo Jay Henning)

Read more about VQ-1 here…and below is a newspaper clipping from the 1956 incident.
 

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