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ASN Wikibase Occurrence # 81747
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Type:Silhouette image of generic P4Y model; specific model in this crash may look slightly different    
Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer
Owner/operator:VPB-121, US Navy
Registration: 59477
Fatalities:Fatalities: 0 / Occupants: 8
Aircraft damage: Written off (damaged beyond repair)
Location:500 miles off San Diego, by 30° 54’ N 125° 42’ W -   Pacific Ocean
Phase: En route
Departure airport:
Destination airport:
Confidence Rating: Information is only available from news, social media or unofficial sources
On 1 January 1945, VPB-121, a patrol bombing squadron of the US Navy, was based at the Naval Auxiliary Air Station of Camp Kearney, California and consisted of 58 officers, 160 enlised men and 15 PB4Y-2 aircraft. The squadron was to fly to Kaneohe Bay, Hawaii, that month for further deployment in the Pacific.

On the 6th, three planes flew to Kaneohe. Two more followed on the 7th and nine more on the 11h, but two of the later did not reach the destination and turned back. One of them, the PB4Y-2 Buno 59478, flown by Lt Randleman and his crew landed back at Camp Kearney at 1149 hrs on the 12th.

The other was the PB4Y-2 Buno 59477. All flights from the mainland to Hawaii were night flights at that time, so each crew took off from Camp Kearney (later NAS Miramar, just outside of San Diego) late in the afternoon. They had one engine running slightly rough but kept going.

After flying 800 miles they lost two engines at 0230 hrs on the 12th at 29° 10’ N 129° 30’ W and the pilot turned back to return to San Diego, as it was closer than Hawaii. The plane had extra bomb bay tanks installed for the fuel needed for the long flight and was still heavy at that time. There were also carriers installed in the bomb bays that were loaded with the crew’s personnal effects. The pilot, Lt(jg) Francis Joseph Leary, ordered the crew to lighten ship by throwing everything not essential over the side. They dropped the bomb bay tanks and carriers and all non-essential equipment.

At 0445 hrs, all four engines quit simultaneously and pilot was forced to land at sea. RM2 Billy Bob Buckley was then on the radio watch and sent the distress message. The pilots had feathered three of the engines, but kept number three windmilling so we could have power for the lights and radio. At this time they were about 500 miles from San Diego, at about 8,000 feet, and it was dark.

By 30° 54’ N 125° 42’ W, a dead stick ditching was successfully accomplished, about 500 miles of the coast of California. All aboard got in rafts, including Turbo their mascot dog. About six hours later they saw the first search plane. It just kept going. A few minutes later they saw another, and it turned toward the rafts. It was a great feeling. They were rescued by a Coast Guard PBM ten hours after ditching and flown back to San Diego NAS at North Island. They got back to Kearney that night owing nothing but the flight suits they were wearing.

Crew (all unhurt):
Lt(jg) Francis Joseph Leary (pilot)
Ens Evan K. Fleser
Ens Loyd M. Bettis
Ens Ray Krane
AMM2 John Francis Feele
AMM2 Harry Ballard Maupin
RM2 Billy Bob Buckley
RM3 Bennie Webster Lee
Turbo (their dog mascot)


VPB-121 War Diary, January 1945 (available online at
"Above an Angry Sea: United States Navy B-24 Liberator and PB4Y-2 Privateer Operations in the Pacific, October 1944-August 1945", by Alan C. Carey. ISBN 0-7643-1286-3

Revision history:

14-Nov-2010 11:55 ASN archive Added
13-Jan-2017 07:13 Laurent Rizzotti Updated [Time, Operator, Total fatalities, Total occupants, Location, Country, Phase, Nature, Source, Narrative]

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