Posted by: Waring Hills | 22 June 2011

Cold War Shootdown 1955

VP-9 P2V Neptune (bureau number 131515) shot down by the Soviet Air Force. (Photo courtesy of Tom Bigley, Cdr, USNR-TAR (ret))

On 22 June 1955 a P2V Neptune from Navy Patrol Squadron Nine (VP-9) was flying a routine maritime patrol in the Bering Strait. The aircraft was at 8000 feet altitude and 40 miles west of  Saint Lawrence Island. Suddenly the P2V was attacked by two Soviet MIG -15 fighters and the plane commander  Lieutenant Fischer saw tracers past under his starboard (right) wing. He dove his aircraft into the cloud deck, which luckily was just 100 feet below him. Fischer also turned his aircraft towards the nearest land, Saint Lawrence Island.

Gambell on Saint Lawrence Island and the relative positions of NAS Kodiak and Elmendorf Air Base at Anchorage, Alaska (Google Earth).

LT Fischer soon learned that his port (left) engine was on fire and three of his eleven crew members ( Ensign Assard,  AT3 Benko and AQ2 Lerg) were wounded by the Soviet attack. His attempts to put out the engine fire failed and he shut it down. However, the fire continued to burn and spread on the port wing.  Soon the aircraft broke out of the overcast at 1500 feet and Saint Lawrence Island was in sight. LT Fischer informed the crew to prepare for a gear up landing on the tundra. The Neptune made a smooth landing on the tundra, but halfway through the slide a gas tank in the bomb bay burst into flames. The crew exited quickly, but several received burns from the flames. LTJG Lockhart broke his leg jumping from the cockpit to the tundra, but all eleven crew members would survive the day.

P2V Neptune of VP-9 in 1955, notice the rear guns, top gun and nose gun (US Navy).

Natives at the nearby village of Gambell saw the burning aircraft approach the island. They quickly mobilized a rescue party of skin boats with people, rescue equipment and the village nurse. The crew were well cared for and returned to the village, where eventually an Air Force C-47 arrived at their airstrip and evacuated the VP-9 crew to the Elmendorf Air Base hospital at Anchorage, Alaska. Seven crew members were hospitalized. The remaining four crew returned to Naval Air Station Kodiak.

Some of the crew of the VP-9 aircraft shot down. Only crew identified are Chief Radioman Jenke with the head bandage and LTJG Lockhart on crutches (Photo US Navy).

At the height of the Cold War from 1950 to 1970 there were at least 20 American aircraft shot down by Soviet military forces. It was only a Cold War if you were not being shot at…read more about other Cold War shoot downs here…

For more detail on VP-9’s shoot-down story and other pictures visit the VP Navy site here…

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