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david leigh-smith
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On This Day…March 22nd.

March 22, 2019 · in Photo Collections · · 10 ≡

In the 1960’s, recently retired Thomas W Kendall, a millionaire (air conditioning) businessman, bought a PBY-5A from the USN and fitted her out as a luxury ‘flying yacht’. In the spring of 1960 Mr Kendall took a pleasure trip around the world with his wife and children together with his secretary and her son. This had become something of a trend in the rich; Mr. Kendall and his wife were both certified pilots and planned to travel the world.

They took a ‘Life’ magazine photographer along for the Middle East section of their journeys.

On the 22nd March 1960 they landed at the Strait of Tirana, in the northern Red Sea. They anchored the aircraft a short distance from the shore to spend the night there. In the night they heard some people shouting but didn’t pay any attention. In the afternoon of the following day they were attacked with machine guns and automatic firearms from a headland nearby while they were picnicking on shore.

The children were able to swim back to the aircraft and Mr Kendall and his secretary were wounded while trying to start the Catalina - but they were able to move it about Out of range of the bullets before it ran aground on a coral reef. The firing lasted 30 to 40 minutes and no fewer than 300 shots hit the aircraft. The fuel tanks were perforated and 4000 litres of fuel poured from the holes but amazingly the aircraft did not catch fire.

As the sea was only about 1.5 metres deep, all aboard managed to leave the aircraft and reach the shore. On the beach they were gathered by a group of Bedouin attached to the Saudi Arabian army, who had thought them to be Israeli commandos.

They were eventually taken to Jeddah, interrogated and finally set free with the help of the American Ambassador. The Ambassador protested to the Saudi Arabian government but they refused to accept any liability for the attack and consequent loss of the aircraft.

The Catalina remains stranded on the beach to this very day, a monument to one man’s dream retirement holiday turned nightmare. Be careful what you wish for.

Today on March 22nd a certain Mr James Stewart signed up to join the army in 1941

After the war, Stewart stayed in the military, rising the rank of brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force reserve. His flying jacket is displayed in the History Centre, Dayton, Ohio.

126 Fighter Wing - Canadian Spitfires at B.88 Aifrfield in Heesch, Netherlands, March 22nd, 1945.

March 22nd 1944; Sub Lt H. J Pain in Wildcat JV399 ('7Y') of 898 Squadron landing on, or at least attempting to land on, HMS Searcher.

Navy fighter ace Ira ‘Ike’ Kepford pictured 22nd March, 1944 in a press photo shoot after the second combat deployment of Fighting Squadron 17 (VF-17) - the ‘Jolly Rogers’. Kepford was at the time the U.S. Navy's leading ace with 16 credited victories.

German carrier hull ‘Flugzeugträger A’ (which was to become the ‘almost first Nazi aircraft carrier ‘Graf Zeppelin’) under construction, Kiel, Germany, 22nd March 1937.

The 452 Bomber Group over Berlin on March 22nd, 1944.

The training aircraft carrier USS ‘Wolverine’ (IX-64) underway on Lake Michigan with the Chicago skyline behind, 22nd March, 1943.

On March 22nd, 1956, while carrying the U.S. Navy’s Douglas D-558-II Skyrocket, problems developed aboard both the research rocketplane and the ‘mothership’ . The B-29 had developed a runaway propeller on the Number 4 engine (outboard on the right wing). The propeller broke apart from excessive rotational speed, slicing through the Number 3 engine, the fuselage, and striking the Number 2 engine.

The Superfortress pilots, Stanley Paul Butchart and a certain Neil Alden Armstrong, landed the plane safely on the lake bed at Edwards Air Force Base.

13 years later Neil Armstrong would walk on the moon. How fragile history is.

Reader reactions:
10  Awesome

2 additional images. Click to enlarge.

10 responses

  1. This is another fascinating set of pictures David. I have seen one of the PBY as it looks sitting derelict today. I always wondered what happened to it... now I know. Thanks !

    Do you happen to have the Bureau Number of the B-25 parked as Mt. Vesuvius is erupting ? It looks like it could belong to the 321st Bomb Group... I can't make it out. It would be the digits painted on the vertical fin / rudder assembly.

  2. Hi David, I agree with everyone here! You do an outstanding job and I enjoy the posts everyday. ?
    One small question? Are the two PBY planes the same? One seems to have the front turret removed and replaced with an access hatch but the derelict still has the turret housing.

  3. Ah, AG - you get the gold star. No, the black and white shots are of another entrepreneur who had exactly the same idea in the 1950’s - Glenn Odekirk.

    The shots below are of Kendall’s ‘Cat’

    Thanks for checking in, AG.

    2 additional images. Click to enlarge.

  4. Thank you also David! ?

  5. Another "cool-headed Neil Armstrong" story, to go along with flying an F9F Panther that collided with a "spider's web" over North Korea and lost 6 feet of the right wing, yet he flew it 68 miles to get south of the MLR before bailing out, after recovering from the out-of-control dive at an altitude of 10 feet AGL; to add to ejecting from the lunar module trainer 20 seconds before it blew up; to add to taking control of the Eagle 100 feet above the Sea of Tranquility and flying it 200 feet to land away from the field of boulders, with 20 seconds of fuel left when they shut down and he calmly said without the slightest emotion, "Houston, Tranquility Base, the Eagle has landed." Definitely a guy with the rightest of the Right Stuff.

    Louis: the B-25D is from the 486th Bomb Squadron of the 340th Bomb Group at Pompeii Airfield. The 321st was up at Foggia East when Vesuvius erupted, about 70 kilometers north. The 340th used the last number of the squadron (486 here) with the aircraft letter on the vertical fin.

    • Thanks for the answer Tom...This makes perfect sense now after looking at the picture again. I remember reading about Roman Numerals also being in use on the vertical fins on some B-25's based in Italy as well, but don't remember much else about their use.

      I appreciate the response. Thanks.

  6. David, so much for cruising for babe's in nice car, looks like back in the day all you needed was a decked out Catalina !

  7. I'm sure Israeli commandos always have a picnic during a mission !

  8. Given their reputation, it wouldn’t surprise me, Allan.

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