miles
southeast
of
Liepaja,
Latvia;
an unprovoked
attack
that took
the
lives of
all
l0 sailors
aboard
"Turbulent
Turtle"
(NSG
personnel
are denoted
with an
asterisk):
AII
Frank L.
Beckman
AL3
foseph
J.
Bourassa
ENS Tommy
L. Burgess
ADI
Joseph
H. Danens
LI
John
H. Fette
Although
some
wreckage
was eventually
recovered,
there
was
no trace
of the
missing
men, who
were
presumed
dead due
to the
fact that the
lumbering
PB4Y2
was blasted
out of the
sky, as
evidenced
by the bullet-ridden
state
of
what
wreckage
was found.
Soviet authorities
were unhelpful
about
the
missing
men.
The Nary
had little
public
comment
on the
incident,
as the SESP
missions
were top secret
and considered
of
vital importance
to
national security.
Establishing a
precedent for the remainder
of the
Cold
Wat the
Navy told
the
families of
the missing
sailors
little about
the loss
-
in
part
because
the
Navy
did
not know
much, as there
were
no survivors
-
but the
lack of
information
gave
rise to unfortunate
yet unsubstantiated
rumors that
the missing
men
might be alive
in Soviet
captivity.
The
Years of
Living Dangerously
t-ft
h.
young men of
"Turbulent
Tirrtle" became
the
Naly's first
casualties
in
I the secret
reconnaissance
war with the
Soviet
bloc, but they
would
be far
from the
last. Yet despite
the considerable
risks involved
in the
SESP
program,
there
was
no question that
it had to
continue.
The Cold
War had
just
begun,
and the
need for
intelligence on
the Communist
enemy
only
grew more
pressing with the
Korean War,
when the
Pentagon
feared that
a global
atomic
conflagration
could
break out
without notice.
The SESP
program
expanded, and
soon
the
mission would be
taken over
by
specially
trained
Fleet Air
Reconnaissance
Squadrons
(VQ),
with VQ-1
for the
Pacific
Fleet and
VQ-2 supporting
the
Atlantic
Fleet.
Naval
crews began
flying
ELINT
missions against
the Soviet
Union and
its allies
on
a daily basis,
attempting
to
give the fleet
and the
Intelligence Community
a
current
picture of enemy
air defenses
and
force dispositions.
Such a
high ops
CT3
Edward
J.
Purcell"
LIJG
Robert
D. Reynolds
AI3
foseph
N.
Rinnier
LT Howard
W. Seeschaf
ADI
JackW.
Thomas
PB4Y2 in Flight
tempo
took a toll
on sailors
and their
aircraft.
On 7 March
195 l, VP-26's
special
detachment
(soon
to
be called VQ-2)
lost
another PB4Y2,this
time
to
mechanical
failure. The
SESP craft abruptly
lost
three of its
four engines
over
the Mediterranean
and
was forced
to ditch. Although
the
privateer
went
down
only a few
miles
off the Italian
coast,
eight of its 14-n-ran
crew were lost
atnd
presumed
drowned:
ET2
RussellAiken
AOC Andrew
A. Andrews
ADAN
Ernest E.
Craig
AOAN
Frank
J.
Dacunto
ENS
Elmer E.
Jackson
AL3
Donald
E.
fones
LT
Richard E.
Lampkin,
Ir.
ADC
Roy R.
Radcliff
Although
six
sailors were
rescued
(including
CTI Robert
Warner
of NSG),
the
Ioss
of the
majority
of the crew
due to engine
failure illustrated
the hazardous
nature
of every
SESP mission.
Only
a
year
later,
on 7 September
1952,
VQ-2
lost
a P4M-1Q
Mercator
on
an electronic
reconnaissance
mission
over
the
eastern Mediterranean
and Black
Sea due
to engine failure.
The
aircraft
ditched
in
the middle
of the night
just
off the Turkish
coast. Fourteen
crewmen
were
saved after
many hours
in the water,
but
the
pilot,
LT
Robert B.
Hager, gave
his
life
while saving
others.
Although
the twin-engined
Mercator
was
a more
modern
and reliable
aircraft
than the World
War II-vintage
Privateer,
mechanical
difficulties
continued
to
plague
the SESP
program
due to the
extreme stresses
the long-range
missions placed
on rnan
and machine.
P4M 1Q
oi VQ-2
compared in size with
an 18-wheel
oil transporl
truck
For VQ- 1
sailors in
the Pacific,
the risks
were no less.
Indeed,
they were possibly
greater
since
there was not
just
one
enemy, but
two. The People's
Republic
of
China took
unkindly
to American reconnaissance
aircraft
operating
off its
coast and, like
the Soviets,
the Communist
Chinese
regularly
challenged
the
flights and
sometimes
shot them down.

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