-731 Port Lyautey Cruise 1958
On Sunday morning 13 July 1958 five P2V-5F aircraft depart NAS Grosse Ile
on runway 17 for Argentia, Newfoundland. The
Pilots for the planes are: 201 Lt.
John Paul, 202 Lt. Herbert Ermolik
from Dearborn, 203 Lt. Charles
Davis, from Dowagiac, 204 Lcdr.
Ralph Mc Brien, from Detroit, and 205 by Lt. Kenneth Drew, from Taylor.
The route takes the planes over London and Ottawa in Ontario, Montreal Quebec,
Fredericton and Moncton in New Brunswick, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island,
and Sydney, Nova Scotia then on to Argentia Newfoundland.
As we near Argentia we are notified that Argentia is fogged in.
One of the planes, 204, tries a GCA,
Ground Controlled Approach, but the weather is too bad, so this flight
diverts to the Canadian air base at Torbay north of St. John’s Newfoundland.
The sky is overcast when we land. The
crews are bussed to the Pepperell Army base in St. John’s where we spend the
night. We now learn that
Newfoundland is in a time zone that is not the usual one hour difference but a
1/2 hour time zone.
14 July 1958
sun is shining this morning as we ride the bus back to Torbay.
The area around Torbay has many trees, almost like forest.
After take-off we head out to sea to the ESE toward Lajes in the Azores
about 1300 miles away. About a ½ hour after take off I go down to the observers
position in the bow of the plane. Can
see only miles and miles of open water. About
an hour later I go back up to the flight deck and watch the Navigator, Lt.
Howard Beesley at work. He is
using sun fixes as well as radar. About
3 ½ hours into the flight we pass ocean station “Delta”, a ship located
about ½ way from Newfoundland and the Azores.
About 5 hours into the flight we can now see the island of Flores on the radar, and about 40 minutes later we are near
Graciosa, in the Azores. Lajes
Field is on Terceira Island. The
Field has one long runway in the valley between two mountains. After servicing the planes we take the bus to the barracks
area across the field and on a mountain. From
this side of the base we can look down into the valley and see the airport and
the planes across the field. A
surprise is finding slot machines in the Barracks.
The Azores belong to Portugal.
15 July 1958
we will fly from Lajes, Azores to Port Lyautey, Morocco.
We depart Lajes and head to the SE about 100 miles until over Santa Maria
then turn to the east toward Casablanca. For
a while we are in and out of the clouds. About
2 hours out of Port Lyautey we learn that President Eisenhower has ordered the
marines to land in Lebanon. The
flight continues to the African Coast over Casablanca then turn to the NE,
toward Rabat and Port Lyautey, at
Kenitra, Morocco. As we
circle the field we can see the regular Navy P2V’s departing for the
Eastern Mediterranean. VP-731 is
now the only patrol squadron in Port Lyautey.
As we depart our aircraft we are immediately aware that we are in a
Later in the day we go to the Navy Exchange and find out that our US
money is no good. All sales on the
base are made with “script”, MPC,
Military Payment Certificates. I
buy 7 X 50 binoculars which I have
to this day.
16 July 1958
there seems to be a never ending stream of marines being airlifted to the
eastern Mediterranean. Planes are
arriving refueling and departing, and
troops are eating in the mess hall at all hours.
afternoon we all go to an orientation meeting to learn about the world
situation, the marines had landed in Lebanon without opposition, the status of
VP-731, and about the local area around the base, where it was safe to go and
what areas to avoid.
17 July 1958
Today we learn that 201 and 202 will fly to
Naples, Italy on Friday and return on Sunday.
The other planes will go to other locations then to Naples.
This evening as we were leave the mess hall we are shocked to hear of the
death of Lcdr Alan Dale and Lt. Don L. Southworth in the S2F crash at Grosse
18 July 1958
and 202 will fly directly to Naples. On
this flight we have Detroit Times reporter Jerry Kabel with us.
Leaving Port Lyautey we fly along the coast of Morocco to the Strait of
Gibraltar, then head east over the Mediterranean Sea, south of the Balearic
Islands, across Sardinia and on to Capidicino Airport in Naples.
NAF Naples is located at Capidicino.
As we taxi to our parking spot can see farmers cutting hay on the field
between the taxiways. Also we have
our first view of Mt. Vesuvius. After
servicing the planes we are taken into the city to the Mediterranean Hotel, on
Piazza Municipio. The hotel was new, only about a month old.
In the area near the hotel it was still possible to see some damage to
buildings from WW II. From the roof
of the hotel is a beautiful view of the harbor, the Castle, and Mt. Vesuvius.
This flight included the following: Harold McNeil AD2,
Roosevelt Secars AD2, Charles Mitchell AT? and Leroy Kelly.
Back in Michigan the Detroit Free Press has a headline “Grosse
Ile Airmen Join Sixth Fleet” “Planes
Called To Hunt Subs”. The Detroit
Times has an article on page one, “Ile Fliers On Secret Mission”.
19 July 1958
we will participate in an Exercise with the Italian Navy, locating an Italian
Submarine. This will take place in
the Mediterranean near Naples. Jerry
Kabel is with us. (On Monday 28
July 1958, after return to Grosse Ile) he writes about this flight in the Detroit
Times. “They Play a
Deadly Game Over the Mediterranean” and includes a picture of the
crew. He said this exercise took
place at a secret location in the Mediterranean.
(This actually took place within sight of the Isle of Capri.)
20 July 1958
is another beautiful sunny day in Naples. The
farmers have now stacked the hay on the field.
Just before our departure Jerry Kabel takes several pictures of the crew.
Today we will fly back to Port Lyautey, departing about 1100 for the 6
hour flight. It is a beautiful
afternoon can clearly see Sardinia and also have a good view of the Rock of
Gibraltar. Can clearly see across
the strait of Gibraltar with Spain, Europe to the north and Morocco, Africa to
the south. We arrive back in Port
Lyautey about 1830. The other
3 P2V’s had departed for Barcelona and then to Naples.
They will return on Tuesday or Wednesday.
From what I am told 204 went to Barcelona and many of the crew attend a
P2V had one or two stationkeepers on board. This is how I remember it:
201 - Homer Crook
AD1 and John Sanger AT2
202 - Donald Coombs
203 - Wm. Jerome Steele AD1
and Robert E. Raines AT2
204 - Bruce Badger AD2 and
Edward Phillips AD2 (changing rate to AT)
205 - A. A. Bartczak AT1 and
George Yoscovitts AD1
Three newspaper reporters accompanied VP-731 on the cruise they were:
USNR Capt. John C. Treen from the Detroit News, Civilians Jerry
Kabel from the Detroit Times, and Miller M. Hollingsworth
from the Detroit Free Press..
After arriving in Port Lyautey the Willow Grove VR squadron was put into
service flying to and from Beruit, Lebanon.
From Monday 21 July to Friday 25 July the Grosse Ile P2V flew
patrols near the Strait of Gibraltar.]
24 July 1958
We are preparing our planes for the return
flight to Grosse Ile. Going to the
planes I am surprised to see names on the four Grosse Ile planes.
The names are as follows: 201
“Adios Mama”, named after an Arab entertainment place in Kenitra.
203 “Little King”
There were two stories about this name:
One is that is was named for Sultan Mohammed V of Morocco and the other
was that this is Jerry Steele’s plane and he can be very English at times.
Also when 203 landed at Grosse Ile “Have Fez Wont Travel” was painted on the
“Barcelona Baby” because the crew had gone to Barcelona and to a
bullfight, and 205 “Pogo”
because of the landing on arrival at Port Lyautey.
We receive word that a Willow Grove R5D will need an engine change when
it returns to Port Lyautey. So the
P2V crews are changed. Most
stationkeepers will stay in Port Lyautey and return on the R5D later.
I am assigned to return on 205, 127737 with Lt Kenneth Drew and his crew,
co-pilot was Lcdr Doyle and navigator Lt. Parkey.
25 July 1958
Make the flight back to Lajes without
incident. One of the Willow Grove
R5D now has to leave 1/2 of its passengers in Lajes and go to Argentia and
return to Lajes for the others due to the duration of the flight over 8 hours,
and fuel requirements.
26 July 1958
Flight from Lajes to Argentia is long over 8
hours. On the way there is some
concern about the weather in Argentia, and where we can go as a possible
alternate. However when we arrive
the field is open with clouds and some fog. All planes make a GCA
27 July 1958
Depart Argentia early for Selfridge ANG
Base. Follow the same route that we
took going to Argentia. It was a
nice sunny day and I can see Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and the locks on
the St. Lawrence River near Montreal. All
5 P2Vs land at Selfridge for Customs. We are bussed to a building and the
customs inspector takes our declarations and clear us.
The 5 planes take off and fly in formation across Lake St. Clair, down
the Detroit River over Wyandotte and Trenton arriving over Grosse Ile about
Back in Port Lyautey Morocco, Grosse Ile stationkeepers were busy
“Working Their Way Home” by changing the engine on the Willow Grove R5D.
This engine change crew consisted of: Bruce Badger, Becker, Ed Harker,
Jerome Steele, Harry Barriger, James Osgood, George Yoscovitts, and Haynes. The
remaining stationkeepers returned to Grosse
Ile on the repaired Willow Grove R5D early Tuesday morning.
P. Sanger, Lt USNR, Ret.
A, 5 May 2000
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Revised: June 30, 2010