Daily Event for July 3, 2014

On July 3, 1943 a surfaced U-boat was located about 50 miles south of Rio de Janeiro by a PBM Mariner from VP-74. The pilot, Lieutenant (j.g.) Harold C. Carey, USN who had been involved in the sinking of U-128 on May 17 and had been awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross moved in for the kill. What happened next is not exactly clear.

The boat, U-199, under the command of Kapitänleutnant Hans-Werner Kraus was on its first war patrol, however Kraus was a veteran commander who had served with Günther Prien in U-47 and having commanded U-83 and sinking six ships. He had also been awarded the Ritterkreuz on June 19, 1942.

I have not been able to learn the exact details of what brought down the PBM because there were no survivors from the ten crewmen. Accounts from the German side provide the only information we have. Kraus signaled U-boat headquarters at 1640 hrs (U-boat time) on July 3 that they had repelled a night attack and destroyed the aircraft (Nachtangriff abgewehrt, Flugzeug vernichtet), the signal provided no other details. If I have translated this correctly he gives the impression that the aircraft was shot down, however later statements may be in conflict with this.

U-199 was sunk on July 31, 1943 by another PBM of VP-74 and Kraus was among the survivors. In the interrogation of U-199's survivors there was no mention of an aircraft shot down on July 3, however they claim being attacked by an aircraft "about a week before U-199 was sunk". There is no entry in the Kriegstagebuch of U-199 about an aircraft attack a week before they were sunk, the only attack mentioned was on July 3. The interrogation report suggests that the attack took place at 2100 hrs local time (which would make it July 2 rather than July 3, however the KTB gives no exact time of the attack). The report also says that the survivors "were the most security-conscious group ever interrogated in this country (USA)". Meaning that they were not exactly truthful about what they did, where they were and when they did it.

The attack was described by the survivors as coming from the port quarter at 24S-44W (which is close to the estimated position of the loss given by the Navy at 24.43S-43.13W). Kraus ordered an emergency turn and ordered the guns manned. The aircraft dropped several flares, but before the U-boat's guns could be fired, the aircraft crashed into the sea not far from the boat. This was followed by a loud explosion. A search for survivors found none. The survivors claimed they could not understand what caused the aircraft to crash since they had not fired a shot. Which account is the truth (if the second account is related to this PBM) is unknown. The Navy lost no aircraft at this time (around July 24), but the U.S. Army claimed to had lost several photo reconnaissance aircraft about this time, however I do not have any information on these losses.

I have not been able to find any confirmation as to the exact time and date the PBM took off from Natal, Brazil or what their mission was. It is a good guess that they were hunting this U-boat. It is probable that the U.S. Navy was aware of the U-boat because of her radio signals. Both U-199 and U-513 had been sending signals to each other and to U-boat headquarters in France and therefore may have been detected by HF/DF. U-513 was destroyed on July 19, also by VP-74 aircraft.

To the Navy the fate of Carey and his crew at the time was unknown, apparently no distress call had been made by the aircraft and the only wreckage found was one wingtip pontoon and an unused liferaft. At first it was suggested that pilot error was to blame for the loss. However squadron commander Lt. Commander Joseph C. Toth, USN did not believe this and thought it more likely that the plane was lost due to enemy action. The available information does not clarify the issue. It is also unclear when the Navy became aware of the incident between U-199 and the aircraft.

The information from the Germans (if the two incidents described above are one in the same) is in conflict as well. Perhaps the Germans told U-boat headquarters they destroyed the plane to look like they had been victorious, but told the U.S. Navy the plane crashed not wanting to claim to have killed their crew. The truth may never be known. KpLt. Kraus survived the war as a PoW and died in 1990.
© 2014 Michael W. Pocock
MaritimeQuest.com



Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
Martin PBM-3C Mariner 74-P-1 (6571)
of U.S. Navy Squadron VP-74
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Name
Rate
Burke, James E.
Seaman 1st Class (USNR)
Carey, Harold C.
Lieutenant (j.g.)
Helms, John A.
Lieutenant (j.g.) (USNR)
Hundt, Robert R.
Aviation Radioman 2nd Class
Kofka, Joseph J.
Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class
Magie, Jr., William F.
Aviation Radioman 2nd Class
Mason, James L.
Chief Aviation Machinist's Mate (USNR)
Miller, Norman A.
Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class
Persinger, George W.
Aviation Ordnanceman 2nd Class (USNR)
 
Roberts, Robert H.
Ensign (USNR)
Smith, Robert G.
Ensign (USNR)


To submit a photo, biographical information or correction please email the webmaster.
 
A Martin PBM Mariner.



In June of 2016 MaritimeQuest received the following from Bill DeArmond, whose uncle, William Magie, Jr., was among those lost in the aircraft.

The following account was written by William J. Barnard (Barney) and received in an email Nov. 21, 2000. Don referred to in the email is Don Miller, brother of Norman Miller a crew member.


Dear Bill and Don,

I have finally gotten the time to try and get this story off to you. I realize that this is close to you and that your feelings for your brother and uncle extend even to this day. This afternoon I have had my wife read me the account of the fatal night of July 3-4, 1943. Please understand that I am recalling memories of almost 60 years ago, but I think that my recollection of those two days are fairly sharp and from refreshing this memory a little with the abbreviated tale of that night as it is contained in the squadron history book, I think that I can give you a fairly good account. I hope that you will realize that I am not the best typist in the world and that I am also mostly blind and therefore I write in all caps so that I can look up and with a magnifying glass see what I have written from time to time. So, you can expect a number of typos but the people with whom I correspond frequently know all of this and forgive me these sins.

I suggest that you either set aside a few minutes for the reading of this or that you have your printer ready. I very seldom print anything that I send on email but I think that I will print this and leave a copy in my memory book as I do not think that I have ever written it out before other than the official report that I wrote for our C.O. after the tragedy. My hope that this will help you and your families with some sort of closure after these many years of wondering about the details of the wartime accident that took your uncle and your brother's lives. I do not know what sort of letters that the Navy Department sent your relatives (with their Purple Hearts I hope) at the time.

You might tell me if you know how we got to Rio in the first place. It was a long and diverse trip all the way down from Iceland where Patrol Squadron 74 was located when WWII started. Prior to that the squadron had been on Neutrality Patrol with headquarters in Norfolk, VA and detachments at Iceland and Newfoundland.

The reason that the plane was in Rio in the first place was that we were based in Aratu, Brazil. This was way back in the boonies about 35 miles around the bay from Bahia (San Salvador). I don't know whether Magie or Miller ever got into the town of Bahia as we were equipped with only one personnel carrier and it was 35 miles of mud rut into the town. Aratu was merely the name of the area where we were located.

As you probably know, we had 12 planes in the squadron and they were Martin PBMs. 68,000 lb. twin engine seaplanes. Our range could be stretched to about 15 hours and we often flew 12 or 13 hour patrols. After being in Aratu for sometime, the German submarines were getting so active in the area offshore from Rio de Janeiro that our intelligence people back in the States finally got the word that the Brazilian Air Force could not take care of the problem effectively so they decreed that we were to keep two planes there and to do at least on patrol a day.

The Brazilians had had no luck with their daytime (they did not fly at night) patrols that they told us to make our patrols at night. This was the time when diesel u-boats usually surfaced to recharge their batteries and to open the boat for fresh air. They had not gotten used to the idea yet that American airplanes now had good radar and that we had just as soon fly at night as in the daytime. However, we had never made a successful attack at night and had never up to then actually sighted a sub on the surface at night. To back up a little, our command considered that Aratu was so far back in the boonies that we should take the two planes on rotation down to base out of Rio to give the crews a little break from the primitive conditions that we at Aratu. So, the planes and crews would be rotated down there at about on month intervals.

Our headquarters there was the American Embassy in downtown Rio in a large office building and we operated our planes out of the civilian airport which had seaplane ramps and facilities belonging to Pan American Airways. The first group, which I was in, lived in the Pan Am hangar for some time before the Navy leased two floors of a relatively small hotel [Pax Hotel] which could be gotten to from the plane base by streetcar. The enlisted men were quartered on one floor of this hotel and the officers were on the floor above.

There was a nice restaurant on the top floor and we could order meals there up to the allowance that the contract had called for. Nice posh living for sailors right out of about two years of primitive base living in all of the various places. There were also women in Rio which had been sadly lacking the places where we had been.

I have forgotten how long we had been in Rio, about a week I would think, prior to the fatal night of the last patrol of 74-P-6 and its crew. On about the 27th or 28th of June a Liberty cargo (U.S.) had been attacked by a u-boat off the coast around 100 miles out. The ship had been hit but the torpedo was faulty and did not hurt the ship. The u-boat broke off the attack unexplainably. It could have been out of torpedoes and headed home or it could have been something wrong with its launching facilities. No one knows why the ship was not attacked again.

At any rate, it make Rio a couple of days later and reported the incident and Navy Intelligence finally got the word of a submarine presence somewhere in the off shore area. My plane and crew (74-P-6) as well as the other plane and crew (74-P-5) with Lt. (j.g.) Carey as the Patrol Plane Commander [PPM] were tasked to make a patrol every night over the prescribed area. This meant that each one of us went out every other night. On the night of July 2-3 we performed our flight and my log book shows that we were out for about 12 hours. We had no results. When we returned our plane had no defects that were significant so we left the crew member who had the duty for the night on the plane and we returned to the hotel for our day of rest.

I remember that Lt. Carey came to my room about 4 p.m. and told me that his plane was not flyable for some reason of which I have forgotten. It could have been the radar or an engineering problem. At any rate, we then had to decide whether me and my crew would make another flight the night of the 3-4 or if Carey and his crew would take our plane out and leave his in to continue to work on it. It was decided that his plane could not be made ready for flight at the scheduled time of takeoff for the night's patrol. All patrol plane commanders did not like for other crews to fly their planes for many reasons. Carey was a gung-ho type of aviator and wanted to get out while the hunting was good

I did not like the idea of making another all night flight with a probably still somewhat tired crew. It was a toss up whether he took our plane for his scheduled night patrol or whether he and his crew stayed in and worked on the plane while we made the patrol. The matter became a the toss of a coin and so we did. He won (if you can call it that). It was agreed that he and his crew would take 74-P-6 and that we would do what we could to get his plane 74-P-5 back in commission so that both planes could be flyable when he came in the next day (July 4). By the way, holidays were not very well celebrated or taken off in those days.

I suppose that you might say at this point that your brother and your uncle's lives were lost by the flip of a coin. That is the reason that they were on the flight but I don't think that you can link it with their loss. 74-P-6 was the only plane in the squadron at that time that had a searchlight installed. You will find in the history that the squadron was equipped with searchlights but we were not so equipped until we returned to the States considerably later. This searchlight was still being operationally tested as was some other equipment in the plane. We had the first radio altimeter also in the same plane. Later all planes were so equipped. This altimeter could tell us exactly how high we were down to the last three feet. Again, 74-P-5 did not have either of these.

The searchlight was a large heavy thing that was mounted on the starboard wing about three-fourths of the way out just inside the float. It was about 30 inches in diameter if my memory is correct. It was large enough to eff the aerodynamics of the wing and to change the characteristics of the controls a certain degree. It seemed that the faster the plane was going, the more this large spoiler piece of equipment changed the control characteristics. We hated them. I had had it on my plane for enough flight hours to have gotten used to it and it did not bother me too much.

When we practiced with it the million candlepower could cause cockpit problems also if you weren't expecting the effect in the cockpit and be prepared for it. In a black night with nothing but the dim lighting of the instrument panel showing in the cockpit the sudden switching on of the light meant that the PPC on the left of the cockpit had to get focused on his instrument before hand and stay there and that the co-pilot had to look out of the cockpit and do the visual thing and advise the pilot of what was going on outside the cockpit.

I am not sure, and seriously doubt, that Lt. Carey and his pilots (there were three junior pilots in each plane) had been properly checked out or of how much practice that they had in the operation in flight of this searchlight. I assume, but do not know, that all of the pilots (especially the PPCs) had been checked out. However, we did not consider it a big deal as far as piloting the plane was concerned and I know that we had all been briefed about the cockpit problems when the searchlight was turned on with a previously dark cockpit suddenly being flooded with light. The wing, thus the light, was behind the cockpit making things worse.

Rio Bay was a tough place to take of or land in after dark. The entrance to the bay is relatively narrow with the terrain rising rapidly on each side of the channel. Inside the bay, there are mountains rising to 6000 feet within a very short distance from the water. Also, the bay was full of small boats and ferries transiting in all directions from the downtown area. So, we preferred, and usually did, take off in the daylight and try to come back after daybreak and hope that the place wasn't fogged in. In my memory on the evening of July 3 the crew of 74-P-5 launched the plane before dark (the exact time escapes me) and started their patrol as soon as they cleared the harbor. Also, the only non-emergency communications that were supposed to be done was to be at four hour intervals starting at 2000 (8:00 p.m.). In the meantime my crew and the couple of maintenance men who were not in the flight crews started working on 74-P-6 and within a couple of hours had it flyable again.

We left the duty crew member with the plane and the remainder of the crew went on their way. However, we were on one hour standby and most of them went straight for something to eat and then their quarters. Midnight came around and we hadn't heard from 74-P-6 so we started sending messages every 15 minutes to have him answering up. Nothing came in so about two o'clock (0200) I had my crew alerted to make sure that they were available and had them muster at the plane about one hour before daybreak. The 0400 report never came in so we were sure that we were going out to look. By 0800 we had already been in the air for an hour or so. We went straight from the harbor entrance to their assigned search area beginning and intended to run a search pattern just like they were supposed to have run on their patrol.

We had only been on their track for a half hour or so when the bow lookout (in the bow turret) sighted something on the surface of the ocean. We descended to a couple of hundred feet and got down to the spot and found about a half square mile of obvious aircraft wreckage. We then got down as low as it was safe to fly to inspect the debris even closer and we could determine without binoculars that the wreckage consisted of a badly collapsed “wing tip” float and all sorts of things that would normally carried in one of our planes.

There were blankets, a float and charts which were carried in the plane. A number of life jackets which were deflated and dish shaped pieces of aluminum which were obviously part of the aircraft fuselage skin. The ocean surface was relatively smooth the entire time that we were out there. However, the least little waves seemed to slop over the dished out pieces of aluminum and they were sinking while we watched. We searched the entire area thoroughly a number of times with the hopes that we would sight a life raft or someone in a life jacket or any sign of life whatever. There was none.

When we had first spotted the wreckage and made an assumption that it could be from a crash of our aircraft we called back to base communications and gave them a complete report and requested that some surface craft be dispatched as soon as possible in order to pick up whatever they could before it all sank. It turned out that there was a Brazilian tug boat in the general area and one of our destroyers out at some distance. The tug was there and started picking up stuff in about an hour. They salvaged the float which was still bobbing about like a cork. Most of the remainder of the stuff had either gotten so scattered that it couldn't be picked up or it had already sank. We stayed on the scene for the remainder of the day increasing our search area as the hours wore on and the wind drift and the ocean current could have taken the debris marking the crash site broadened. It didn't take long however for all of the aluminum to sink so we had no markers and could only cut our patrol area by dead reckoning navigation using the original site as the center point.

None of our crew could see how there could be any survivors from a crash where the plane had disintegrated as this one had. My theory, backed up by most of the pilot in the squadron, but not joined by the commanding officer, Lt. Cdr. Joe Toth, was that Carey had picked up a sub on the radar or rather a blip because you could not at that time identify one surface blip from another on the radar, but that he had a blip and assuming that it was a u-boat had started his attack doctrine.

Our attack altitude was 50 ft., yes that is correct. 50 ft. above the surface at the time that we passed over the sub and that the depth charges were dropped by intervalometer in a string which would include all eight 500 lb. Torpex DCs that we carried. The routine was to o to full power at the time of sighting and put the nose over to reach the altitude for dropping about one mile to the stern of the sub if practicable.

Somewhere on the way in (it was up to the pilot's discretion) the bomb bay doors were to be opened and the DC's armed. Usually all of this happened in a relatively short time. When this plane (even without the searchlight) was nosed over and the power thrown to it and the speed increased by 30 or 40 knots and then the bomb bay doors popped open. The entire control characteristics shifted and the pilot had to be prepared for these control changes. With the spotlight hanging out on the wing these changes were magnified and you could find yourself with the yoke in an odd position just to maintain level flight.

You had two strange control problems on your hands immediately. Therefore, I theorized, (and it cannot be proven or disproven) that Carey put his nose over, gained a considerable amount of speed to around 180 knots which was 40 knots above cruising speed. He was in a dive to lose altitude from maybe 3500 feet which was our normal search altitude for best radar coverage and he had to get down to 50 ft. in a hurry. Somewhere in his dive when his speed was probably the greatest, he opened the bomb bay doors and armed the DCs. When he thought that he was in position he dad the copilot flip on the searchlight. When the light came on he suddenly had the cockpit brightly lighted at a relatively low altitude. At that time he lost sight of his instruments and especially his radio altimeter and he could not see the water and never pulled out of his dive. Therefore, he hit the water at a steep angle (indicated by the crushed wing tip float). The plane disintegrated on contact instantly killing all aboard and then the depth charges dropped to the depth where the fuses were set for explosion, 35 ft. below the surface and then there was a giant explosion directly under the spot where the plane had crashed, thus there was a great overkill.If anyone had lived through the crash they would have certainly been killed by the two tons of high explosive going off right underneath them.

After the war, the crew of the German submarine that the plane had supposedly started an attack on were individually interrogated as it turned out there were crew members not only in the conning tower but others out on deck on a dark night that they would not have supposed that a plane would be out looking for them. They all confirmed that they heard a plane noise, but that before they could identify it and get below decks and dive that they saw a bright light go on and heard the impact of something hitting the ocean and the light went out. A minute or so (while the DCs were descending to depth) there was a large explosion and nothing further was heard or seen. The crew made the correct assumption that the plane had crashed and they left the scene and did not bother to dive for the remainder of the night. This all took place just before midnight on July 3. The sub crew's tale seems to verify my suppositions. I don't know if the skipper (Joe Toth) ever wrote to the members of your families, or if he did, what he told them. Cdr. Toth contended that the plane was shot down. The sub crew said that they never fired a shot.

I send you these crew members names with the thought that your brother or uncle might have mentioned one or more of them as special friends in the letters that they wrote home. A couple of of these fellows had flown with me at one time or another. I do have some small memory of Miller having been in my crew at one time. But, for how long or when I can't remember. This is written in the sincere hope that it will be of some value to you in the putting together of the entire story of this tragedy that you are looking for. I send this with all best wishes for you and your families. If you desire the rates of the men mentioned above I can supply them if you would care to send any snail mail or phone me.
-William J. "Barney Barnard


I am deeply indebted to Capt. Barnard for taking the time to so adequately write about the events of July 3-4, 1943. After so many years passing I am grateful for receiving the information.
-Bill DeArmond
(Nephew of Bill Magie)



2005 Daily Event
2007 Daily Event
2009 Daily Event
2010 Daily Event
2011 Daily Event
2012 Daily Event
2013 Daily Event