Mission Accomplished
(VS 733’s first assignment)

By Ernie Beffell in collaboration with Hal Neubauer 

One or two days after we arrived (most likely Oct. 26,1961) at Naval Air Station, South Weymouth; the Admiral at ComFairQuonset telephoned the CO, Commander James E. Walley, to see if  we could get a crew airborne to attempt a mission. 

In the best Naval tradition the CO replied, “Can Do!” 

Although assigned to different flight crews, Ltjg. Ernie Beffell, ASW Officer and Ltjg. Hal Franz, Aircrew Officer were assigned to fly the mission. It was the only flight that Lt. Beffell flew that year with Franz and his crew. Hal Franz instructed Hal Neubauer to, “get his gear and crew mate, Bob Stevenson, and report to the ready room ASAP for a mission assignment.” 

The mission was to locate a US Submarine, off the east coast, and vector a US helicopter to the Submarine so they could pick up tape recordings suspected to be of a USSR Nuclear Submarine and fly them to Naval Intelligence. The US Sub was a passive vessel that had made some very unusual and interesting recordings. We suspected them to be of a USSR nuclear submarine cruising the eastern coast line. Naval Intelligence deemed it extremely important to obtain the recordings immediately. Rather than wait for a ship to shore transfer we were assigned to direct a helo to pick up the tapes.

According to Lt. Beffell’s log book we flew aircraft buno # 133239 and it was a 3 hour flight. 2.8 hours were logged as IFR with low ceiling but no violent weather. According to Neubauer’s recollection South Weymouth was socked in with fog. As we accelerated down the runway, looking from the crews compartment, the runway lights were only visible when they reached the relative 10 and 2 o’clock positions. And one pilot commented to the other, “ I’ve flown a lot of IFR but this is the first time I’ve actually taken off using a compass heading.” Until we heard the gear came up, there was an uneasy silence in the crew compartment.

We left Weymouth on a operational clearance direct to Pease AFB where we made contact with the helicopter. They flew east to the coast were we picked them up on radar once they were over water. We flew a race track pattern keeping them in contact and picked up the US Sub about 90 miles out. We only had visual contact with the helicopter once, about 70 miles out, through a sucker hole in the fog. Once we located the sub and directed the helicopter to the pick up, we then tracked the helicopter back to Pease. According to Beffell, “It was a smooth flight and our radar operator was the key to the mission.” When the helicopter arrived at Pease another crew from VS 733 was there and flew the tapes to Floyd Bennet in New York. They were picked up there by Navy Intelligence of Brooklyn.

A regular Navy crew was also assigned to the mission out of Quonset Pt. About 45 minutes into the flight they radioed to us that they were returning to base due to weather conditions.

The crew of Beffell, Franz, Stephenson, and Neubauer returned to Weymouth with satisfaction.

Copyright © 2000NASGIVM  All rights reserved.
Revised: June 30, 2010