USS Whitehurst Logo by: Pat Stephens, Webmaster, DESA

  US Army Recovers the Remains of the Navy Airmen
who Perished during the search for the Lost Weather 
                     Plane by Thomas A. Knox

Mr. Crow,
Here is what I re-discovered while reviewing my "interview" with my dad
( this occurred while he was sick with lung cancer, from which he died approx.
4 months later, eleven years ago): My dad, Pfc Thomas P. Knox was 22 years
 old when he, along with 9 other members of the 8147th AU, Mountain Training
School were assigned TDY to the Navy in order to investigate & recover the
bodies of the naval aircraft crash into the crater on Agrihan. This occurred on
March 9, 1954. I have attached the official report of this mission ( along with a
photo of Agrihan taken from the USS Edmonds) so I will not recount it here, but
will insert observations my father made, which were not in the report. My dad was
the 1st man in this party to rappel into the crater, and he said that he did as he
normally would & descended on a 60 foot line ("don't call it a rope", he informed
me!). The hot air rising out of the volcano, along with the wind coming off of the
Pacific, managed to "grab me, and lift me straight out, horizontal across the mouth
of the crater, for a full sixty feet distance of the line." While this was frightening,
my dad stated that "...the wind ended just like it began, and he was gently lowered
back to the face of the crater." After this experience though, he rappelled the rest
of the way down on ten to twelve foot lines! My dad described the crash site exactly
as it has been described  in other posts to this site; the majority of the wreckage
was resting on a small ledge part of the way down the facing wall. My dad said that
it was "terribly warm" inside of this "somewhat active volcano", and that the Navy
attempted some airdrops of food and water supplies, but they would descend on
the parachute into the crater, and then, because of the heated air, rise back up and
drift out to sea. Eventually, they attempted a drop without a chute, but most of the
food was destroyed by the impact with the ground. My dad stated that they recovered
six bodies and transported them out of the crater and returned the deceased to the
Navy. He was reluctant to describe the condition of the deceased, but he noted that all
of the bodies were missing their shoes - speaking to the great impact with the crater wall.
You can read the results of this mission in the attached report. My dad received letters
of commendation from several officers, in both the Army and Navy, for his part in this
. He only recounted this to me at my prodding. I believe that he, along with all
of the men that have posted to your site about this, and other adventures in the military,
looked at it as if was not that great of a deal - that they were just doing the jobs that
needed to be done. However, I know that this is not actually the case, all of the men that
are mentioned here, as well as all of the men who have served our country, have shown
incredible honor and fortitude, and I am extremely proud of, and grateful to all of you. If
anyone that reads this, or knows of anyone who served on the USS Edmonds in 1954,
(the ship that transported my dad and his unit to Agrihan for this mission)  would like to
contact me, I would be extremely grateful. I look forward to any further information that
may be out there!
Thomas A. Knox
Hayden, Alabama
Aug. 2, 2013  


                         Agrihan, Northern Marianas, view approaching

          Agrihan as photographed by Pfc Thomas P. Knox from USS Edmonds

                Rocky Beach on Agrihan as seen from Rubber Raft

     Aerial view of Agrihan, if the crater is viewed as a clock face the crash
     site would be at roughly 4 - 5 o'clock

The following are official documents describing the mission to recover the
bodies of Navy Airmen who died in the search for the missing Weather plane.


The plane that crashed into the crater was a Douglas DC-3.  It was a workhorse air plane,
extensively used by civilian and military. It had many designators including C-47, RD-4,
and D4-Y, but was often affectionately referred to as the Gooney bird.   mc

Many thanks to Thomas A, Knox for providing this chapter to the story of
SAR Mission Dec. 1953, Max Crow Webmaster, USS Whitehurst Assn.


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