On July 1, 1950, the clandestine Naval Air Activities (NAA), Port Lautey Patrol Unit (NPU) was established with three PB4Y-2 Privateer aircraft and personnel transferred from VP-26.In the early days, the NPU personnel were a part of the NAF Operations Department, and then the unit slowly became a mini-squadron of 12 officers and 50 enlisted.  Heading the unit was CDR Larson as the OIC with LCDR Peeler as his assistant.  The Naval Communications Unit 32 George (NCU32G), the Naval Security Group activity, was still located in Port Lyautey.  Supposedly, they started to fly with NPU using a couple of very ancient ALR-1 receivers and other old equipment which they lugged on and off the planes.  Around this time, the mission of Electronic Reconnaissance in Areas of Naval interest was receiving more emphasis and more funding and the Security Group persuaded the Chief of Naval Operations and BuAer that a dedicated aircraft was a necessity.

On June 28, 1950, VP-21 received the first of the 19 production Martin P4M-1 Mercators and deployed them to Port Lyautey in November-December 1951.  However, due to maintenance problems this aircraft was relegated to mine laying duties and replaced to the more capable P2V Neptune.  Washington subsequently decided to reconfigure all but one P4M-1 as P4M-1Qs and permanently assign them to the Naval Communications Units established at Sangley Point and Port Lyautey.

On May 7, 1951, a PB4Y-2 Privateer was lost to mechanical failure.  The aircraft was returning to Rome, Italy and after experiencing carburetor icing, lost three of its four engines over the Mediterranean Sea.  The aircraft had to be ditched a few miles off the Italian coast.  Eight of its 14 man crew were lost and presumed drowned.

LT Ricard E. Lampkin, Jr.
ENS Elmer E. Jackson
ADC Roy E. Radcliff
AOC Andrew A. Andrews
ET2 Russell Aiken
AL3 Donald E. Jones
ADAN Ernest E. Craig
AOAN Frank J. Dacunto

The other six crewmen were rescued in a joint U.S. Italian SAR operation.

Prior to the establishment of the NAA Port Lyautey Patrol Unit, the first PBAY-2 aircraft lost was on April 8, 1950, when Soviet La-11 fighters shot down a a PB4Y-2 Privateer (59645) over the Baltic Sea, off the coast of Liepāja, Latvia.  The aircraft was assigned to Patrol Squadron 26 (VP-26), Det A.

Soviet La-11 fighter

In addition to other types of missions, privateers were used for signals intelligence (SIGINT) flights off of the coast of the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China. The crew was reported missing in action on April 9, 1950 in the Baltic Sea, 80 miles southeast of Libau, Latvia.  Below are the names of the ten sailors from the Naval Security Group that were on the flight 59645.

AT1 Frank L. Beckman
AL3 Joseph J. Bourassa
ENS Tommy L. Burgess
AD 1 Joseph H. Danens
LT John H. Fette
CT3 Edward J. Purcell
LTJG Robert D. Reynolds
AN Joseph N. Rinnier
LT Howard W. Seeschaf
AD 1 Jack W. Thomas
Each of the crew members were posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.

April 1, 1951:
NAA Port Lyautey Patrol Unit Redesignated NAF Port Lyautey Patrol Unit

On April 1, 1951, Naval Air Activities (NAA) Port Lyautey was redesignated Naval Air Facility (NAF) Port Lyautey, and NPU became NAF Patrol Unit (NPU) Port Lyautey with CDR Larson serving as the OIC.  The NPU started replacing the PB4Y-2s with the Martin P4M-1Q Mercators, converted from the original P4M-1s operated by VP-21.  The first two (124337 and 127472) arrived on April 2 and 9 respectively.

By the end of the month, the last two PB4Y-2 were replaced and the third and fourth Mercator (124370 and 122208) arrived on May 13 and September 11.  The NPU was initially manned by approximately 70 personnel and was fully dedicated to the mission of Airborne Aerial Reconnaissance for the European theater.  Similarly, another Patrol Unit was established at NAS Sangley Point, Philippines, in support of Far East Theater of operations.


On February 7, 1952, the first NAF Patrol Unit’s P4M-1Q 124371 was lost with its crew.  The aircraft had launched in the evening of February 6 from the Royal Air Force base in Nicosia Cyprus on a secret Electronic Search Mission (ESM).  There were 15 men on board the aircraft, including the crew and intelligence specialists from NPU and NCU32G.  Take-off and climb were uneventful.  After crossing the southern coast of Turkey, near Adana, at the planned altitude and on course, LT Bob Hager, the plane commander, secured the two J-33 jet engines.

The aircraft and crew then settled down.  Normal operations meant radio and radar silence; the radar, if used at all, was operated discretely in short sweeps in specific directions.  The aircraft continued on track and crossed the north coast of Turkey between Trabzon and Batumi, a few miles from the border between Turkey and the Soviet Union.  All hands were alert for any unfriendly reactions to their presence over the Black Sea.  The aircraft then climbed and signal activity increased.  Approximately 50 miles south west of Sevastopol and Yalta in the Black Sea, the starboard R4360 engine blew an oil line; the crew feathered the prop and secured the engine.  The situation of the aircraft was evaluated and the mission was aborted.  LT Hager started the 2 J-33 engines and headed home.  The aircraft descended to get below the Soviet radar horizon and slowed to 150 knots to conserve fuel, crossing back into Turkey northwest of Samsun, in the vicinity of Sinop Turkey.  At 10,000 feet the aircraft cleared the Kuzey Anadolu mountain range, but it was consuming too much fuel. LT Hager secured the port J-33 engine and told the crew to lighten the load to maintain altitude.  The aircraft had some more mountains in front of it.  The nature of the mission precluded a landing in Turkey and Nicosia was the only option.

PIC 2: P4M-1Q Mercator

The hatch was opened and the classified equipment was destroyed and thrown out.  The crew then went to bail out stations, passing Mount Hasan Dagi’s 10,672 feet peak, which was higher than the P4M-1Q was flying.  The aircraft cleared the ranges and the Taurus Mountains.  On February 7, at 00:45 AM the aircraft crossed the Turkish coast outboard at Tasuco and the crew went to diching stations.  Approximately 10 minutes after crossing the coastline and at 7,500 feet, the engines quit due to fuel exhaustion.  The only lights in sight were in the glow over a city in the distance.  LT Hager executed an open-ocean dead-stick ditching at approximately 01:00 AM.  Although the sea state was 4 to 5, the aircraft landed smoothly.  Immediately, all hands began exiting the aircraft with deployed life rafts.  When all crew member names were called, everyone was accounted for except for LT Hager.  LTjg Ralph Parsons commented that LT Hager helped him out of the aircraft because he had hurt his back on impact.  Although LT Hager escaped from the plane, apparently he reentered it to ensure everyone was out and got trapped and sank with the aircraft.  LTjg Parsons had a broken back, ENS Wojnar had a nasty cut on his head and LT Huddleston had some bruises and contusions.  Seven hours later, at 08:20 AM, the HMS Chevron rescued the crew.  14 surviving crew members were:

LTjg Ralph Parson (Copilot)
ENS John Wojnar (Navigator)
LT Don Huddleston (a pilot on a route familiarization)
AT1 H Shaw (Radar Operator)
AL1 J. Johnson (Radar Operator)
AL3 A. Bostick (Radar Operator)
ADC E.J. Blair (P/C)
ADC W. Gregg (Assistant P/C)
AO2 K. Woll (Turret gunner)
ENS Bob Ottensmeyer (Signal Evaluator)
ATC W. Flanagan (Signal Operator)
Al1 G. Dundy (Signal Operator)
AT3  E. Connelly (Signal Operator)
AT3 J. Melo (Signal Operator)

Source: From Bats to Rangers