Logo from a painting by Robert Morris

Weather Plane Lost in Typhoon Doris,

December 16, 1953

Additions, Corrections, and Comments are solicited by the Web site author,  crowmax@aol.com


While on low level typhoon penetration on Typhoon "Doris" on 16 December 1953.  The aircraft was, PB4Y-2S:59716, was by A ron radio (receiver only) to attempt radio contact and report "Operation normal at 2245Z".  Base did not receive the message. No further communication could be established.  Intense air and surface search was carried out until 25 December 1953 without finding any trace of the missing plane or the personnel.

We carried a book with "Sea State" pictures to match the sea as we flew over it at low level. Click the link to Sea State photos.

http://vw1assoc.tripod.com/seastate_pix.html   .


photo: Austin Doolittle, VJ1 veteran


Crewmen lost in VJ-1/VW3

Newhall, J. W. Cmdr (pilot) age 39 Marsden, S. B. Lt (co-pilot) age 29
Zimmerman, D. Jr. Lt. Cmdr. age 35 Troescher, F. Jr. Ltjg. age 26
Barnett, F. R. AL1 age 26   Clark, J. N. AD1 Age 32
Myer, E. L. AD3 age 20  Stephens, N. J. AL2 age 23
Stott, A. J. Jr. AO3 age 23  

Letters from Various Veterans of VJ-1 Written in August, 2005 for Posting to this Web site.

From John J. Witten
My squadron, Weather Squadron One (VJ-1) was the outfit that lost the crew on that flight.

Ltjg. Fred Troescher traded Duty Officer with me, as I was supposed to go out on that fatal flight. However, Fred called me the night before and asked if he could take the flight since the Air Force had been covering all the Typhoons for the past week or so.

Our squadron and the weather outfit from Anderson AFB had had some mix up in the flight and we damned near had a midair collision. Sooo, the AF decided it was best if only one outfit did the reconnaissance on the typhoon.  Only that night the AF had trouble getting an airplane up for the flight and asked the navy to cover the typhoon.

When I reported for duty, I discovered that Crew One had left for the day's recco flight, covering that typhoon.  If my memory serves me correctly, when we penetrated a typhoon we were to establish radio contact with base every 30 minutes. I think the Radioman working the Duty Radio that day was John Walpole. He was our radioman in our crew, Crew 2.

Lcdr Perc Kedigh was our Plane Commander, Scotty Jenkins was the copilot, and I the 2nd pilot and navigator. Wes Mellange was Plane Captain, I do not remember the rest of the crew, but I am sure some of the fellows in VJ-1 will be able to fill in the blanks.

Back to the flight: After John had not received any transmission from Crew One after the 30 minute time lapse, he notified me since I was Sqd Duty Officer. I reported the situation, no flight message for more then 30 minutes, to Perc. 
In turn we notified ComFairGuam, I think that's who we called, it's been 52 years and all the facts are not coming to the frontal lobe.  I believe a meeting was held and the plan to start the search was put into play.

Anyway, the very next morning all the planes in our outfit were sent out to search the suspected,
downed PB4Y-2.  After, eight or nine days of 12-14 hour long flights searching for the missing aircraft, the search was called off.

The plane that went into the mountain [crater on Agrihan Island] was not from our squadron, I think it was a DC-3* from NAS Guam. 
John J. Witten

* DC-3 and R4D are same type aircraft.  Each Military service has its own designators. mc


From Austen Doolittle
I was stationed on Guam as a radar/radioman flying in PB4Y2's. Our mission was a weather squadron, and we flew through typhoons, to track them and report to “Shipping and Islands” the direction and speed of the typhoons. We lost my plane and crew in December of ’53. Since I had to man the base radio at NAS Agana my second radioman, who was my best friend, took the flight…  I flew after we lost the plane, every day for about 3 weeks after searching for the
plane.  I was actually receiving the messages from my plane when the messages cut off and we never heard from them again. I had the responsibility to call the base commander and the squadron exec to tell them the bad news.


From Earl Beach
I was a plane captain flying on the PB4Y2 (Privateer) in Vj1/VW3 from 1952- 1954. We had a 6 plane squadron, flying weather reconnaissance out of Agana, Guam. All our crew members had experience flying in the eye of typhoons over 100 knots at 1500 ft. down to 200/300ft. It was a very dangerous flying conditions. At 20 some yrs of age, never concerned, I just knew we’d always make it back. Then 16 Dec 53 we lost a complete crew and aircraft and all of the
searching, as for as I know, not one piece was found. I remember flying search around and over Agrihan we almost lost our a/c when we got near the crater, it was clear but the air current off that crater flipped us around like a feather. We were one of the a/c that tried to drop supplies also but just couldn't get near our drop zone, we kicked them out but they never reached them.

 We lost our a/c and crew plus NAS based R4D8 and volunteers helping spot
 anything, but the Air Force also had a B-29 that returned early in the morning to Anderson on emergency, that crashed into a school that was empty  the said a couple hrs later it would have been full of young students.

It seems like we vanished a couple years after out unit separated.  I bought a web TV unit several years ago and found amazing things on the different web sites. I came across VP Navy site I posted looking for shipmates from that period and I did have some results. I would get an e-mail now and then. How we located most was: Dick Mueller and I had a roster of most of the squadron (last names and initials). We started search on the internet white pages and made 1000s of calls. As more were located, we’d get tips on others. But to answer your question, we never had a web site, Dick has the tech know how but not the time.  Most of our history can be found on VPNAVY but not many
contributed personal experiences.

 I ended up flying in the Air Force until 1968, then got a real job and retired in 1989. I’ve been volunteering at the US Air Force Museum, restoring aircraft, here in Dayton Ohio, ever since.  Earl Beach

From Merlin "Mike" Iverson

I was a member of VJ-1, the weather squadron on Guam that lost the 
weather plane [in typhoon Doris, December 1953].  Several very good friends were on that flight
and but for the Grace of God I would have been also.    I have an article  from the Guam
newspaper with information about the R4D (C-47, DC-3)  with the ten (10)  crew members listed
that went down on the search  and was found in the crater of Agrihan Island.  If you would like
that info let me know and I will get the info to you ASAP.

If my memory serves me right, an Air Force B-29 involved in the 
search  from Andersen Air Force Base on Guam  also went down either 
on landing or take-off and crashed in a housing area and took an 
additional 29 people. It was not a good week. 
Mike Iverson

Painting of the VJ-1/VW3 Squadron's PB4Y Weather Plane
E-Mail from Earl Beach: 
Robert Morris out of Michigan was looking for the correct color for the Privateer to paint it for a friend , and I ended up signing a contract with him to paint our sqd. aircraft. I requested it be flying low over water into the eye of a typhoon He was great , came down to visit the museum several times with pencil drawings. I remember him telling me several times, "You can't paint a black cat in a dark room."  EB


  Arial view of Agrihan Island located by Mike Iverson.
Joseph Meredith CO of USS Hanna DE-449, which participated in the search,
wrote the following in his book, "A Handful of Emeralds" re: Dec. 22nd.

Shortly after starting the checkerboard search..., one of our planes reported definite aircraft wreckage inside the crater at Agrihan, strewn along the southeast wall.

Link to the Agana News article publish Dec. 23, 1953 re: the crash of the search plane
Search Plane Crashes, No Survivors

Earl Beach's note re: Patches  http://www.willyvictor.com/History/VW-3phist.html

Roger Ekman Capt. USN Ret and Whitehurst vet's chronological account of Typhoon Doris 
Jeff Masters Wunderground Blog posted the story 29 June 2009.  See it at


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