USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

The Marines Ascend Agrihan
By Marine Sgt. Jerry Smeck as told to Max Crow
All unaccredited photos and photo copies supplied by Jerry Smeck

Note:  After Whitehurst evacuated the population of Agrihan to Saipan, the ship went on to Guam where she picked up a specially trained and equipped
party of US Marines who would climb to the Crash Site, identify the plane as the missing Navy Search Plane, and verify there were no survivors.        mc 


  It was a wild ride on the Navy Destroyer Escort, Whitehurst, shortly after the typhoon.  We went into a near fatal roll on at least one occasion.
  Agrihan taken as Whitehurst approached.                                                     photo by max crow

Captain Charles Schmidt was our leader on this venture and we had a native of Agrihan as a guide.  Most everyone liked Capt. Schmidt; he was rumored to have done a tour in the French Foreign Legion??  The guide was a strong, small guy. Our Overland & Sea Rescue Team was made up of approximately eight guys, Hawaiian and statesiders.  The only names I remember are Schmidt, John Kormanik and Cabrillo.   

 I have photos of our rubber raft landing on a very black volcanic, rocky shore and others of our assent up the mountain and descent down into the crater. 
  Beach on Agrihan, note black volcanic rock                                                          Internet photo
Whitehurst is on the horizon, the ship's motor whaleboat is returning to the ship after towing the Marines'
and their Rubber Raft to rock coast of Agrihan, where their  difficult mission requires them to be during Christmas, 1953.

We ran out of C rations as the project lasted longer than expected.  The guide hacked a path through the jungle and was very adept at it as well as laying coconuts on his thigh and chopping off a perfect piece so we could drink the coconut milk. 

Marine Overland Rescue Team and their native Guide take a rest break during the steep climb to the crater. 

Our mission was only to confirm the tragedy; not recovery of bodies. 

We entered the crater through the large cradle in the volcano summit which was assumed, later, that the aircraft entered before hitting a vertical rock wall on the other side of the crater. 
           Aerial view, Agrihan Crater                                                                     Internet photo



 I assumed the aircraft pilot thought the smoking volcano was the prior lost aircraft that they were searching for.  It was very eerie down in the crater.  The sulfur smell from the blow hole was strong.  The aircraft was literally plastered into the face of the crater with the tail section lying below the impact.  I won't describe the scene.  It was quite an experience for me and very humbling.

After accomplishing our mission, we made our way back down the side of the mountain to our rubber craft, and back to Whitehurst, which carried us back to Apra harbor Guam. 

  Letter of appreciation written by Jerry Smeck's Commanding Officer for Marine Corps Record.


Letter written by Jerry Smeck's Commanding Officer to Jerry's father.

A team of army personnel did the recovery.  We were not prepared for that arduous task.  My memory tells me that their expedition was actually quite a long time later.  Recovery of Navy Airmen

 Respectfully,  Jerry Smeck, Sgt.,  132996. 

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