The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland Tennessee (TN) and Bradley County Tennessee (Tn).

Of Bradley County Tn.


                            The People News, a free newspaper serving Cleveland and Bradley County Tn.






Bizarre, Fascinating, and Wacky World War I & ll Secrets.

The Last Ice Patrol of LA-9

by Cecil Owen

This story is not concerning World War 1 nor World War ll. but it is a very special story that everyone should be informed and concerned about.

The date is Friday January 12th 1962, and the place is the Naval Air Station at Keflavik, Iceland. It is 7:58 am, on a very cold and windy morning, in fact some would say that blizzard conditions existed. Winds were blowing across the ice at around 70  knots (miles per hour.) A VP-5 Navy Neptune Bomber No. 131521 designated LA-9 of patrol squadron five was warming up. The Neptune Bomber was a very versatile airplane that was used for several different types of missions. It was a two engine propeller driven aircraft, with two small jet engines for assistance when needed. The cruising speed was around 180 knots. The crew usually consisted of four officers and seven enlisted men but LA-9 had an extra member, flight surgeon Dr. John Brown. He had to log enough flying hours every month to keep his wings. LA-9 carried no bombs, instead it was packed with secret electronic equipment used to track Russian submarines under the water. Actually this was the job of patrol squadron five, keeping track of all Russian submarines that came through the Denmark Strait. This was part of the Atlantic ocean and the

Cecil Owen

shortest route from Russia. It flows between Iceland and Greenland.

This was supposed to be a routine eight and one half hour ice patrol mission. LA-9 was not the regular airplane scheduled for this patrol, which was in the hangar. The LA-9 was worked on all night, so it could be flown the next day. AT3 Joseph Hussey was the duty driver who drove the flight crew out to the plane. He recalls that the wind was so strong, he had to drive his vehicle at an angle because the wind was actually pushing it sideways. He also believes that one of the crew members, AT3 Allen Millette had a premonition concerning the flight. He said that he was sure they would not return from the flight yet he willingly went aboard the plane in order to perform his duty for his country!

So the Navy Neptune bomber 131521 LA-9 took off from the naval air station at Keflavik, Iceland, and flew into eternity!!!

They were supposed to report their position every hour during the flight. The first report came on time, but the plane

was much too far west and that was the last report ever received. When LA-9 became overdue the Navy launched a massive search by air and sea. After eight days no trace was found, so the search was canceled. All twelve families were notified that the plane had crashed into the ocean and all onboard were lost. The United States Navy closed the case.

Now the date is Friday August 8th 1966, almost five years later. Four British geologist explorers from Oxford University are on the east coast of Greenland. The group was led by the well known Dr. C. Kent Brooks, who first spotted the wrecked airplane. They were traveling across the Kronborg Glacier, located on the eastern coast of Greenland near the Denmark Strait. The wreckage was scattered over a wide area, with several partly mummified bodies inside the fuselage. This is a very primitive and remote area and the four Geologists were isolated here for a whole month. But a month later they returned to

Iceland and reported the crash site to the U.S. Embassy in Reykjavik. On Friday September 19th 1966, a team of 15 members was put together; 5 Marines, 2 Navy and 8 members of the Icelandic Sea/Ground Rescue Service.

The icebreaker USS Atka was used to transport the recovery team to Kap Raven, Greenland. The next day, the ship's helicopter flew the men and their equipment to the glacier crash site. However,  during the time the wreckage had been found and the time it took the recovery team to reach it... four feet of snow had fallen. So it took the team 24 hours to clear away the snow around the plane. They had to spend the night on the glacier,  sleeping in tents. The next day, the bodies of seven crew members were recovered, along with the partial remains of possibly three other

crewmen. The seven identified crewmen were returned to the United States and buried in Arlington National Cemetery and in various cemeteries according to the wishes of the families. The unidentified remains were buried in a "common" grave plot in Arlington National Cemetery with a marker containing the names of the other five crewmen. Again, the United States Navy closed the case.

In August of 1995, Dr. C. Kent Brooks was head of another team of geologist explorers, in the same region. Much to his surprise, he found the crash site again. He did not think that anything would still be there, as the Navy was supposed to have blown the plane up (Because of the secret classified electronic equipment onboard.) As his helicopter hovered over the crash site, he was horrified to see human remains. The snow had melted from around them and they were clearly visible. Pictures were taken and sent to the Navy Casualty Division, BUPERS. The Navy discussed a second recovery attempt that same year but nothing ever came of it.

In March of 2001, a group of the deceased crewmen's family members, shipmates and

friends begun a nationwide effort to alert Congress and the general public. Many letters have been written to Congress, and newspaper articles published also. The story of LA-9 Neptune Navy Ice Patrol Mission has also been broadcast on talk shows.

The Navy has stated that because the plane crashed in peace time, it cannot fund the recovery attempt. Congress has passed recovery legislation, but only for military personnel lost during war time. (WW ll. Korea, Vietnam) But in  February of 2003, a recommendation was made from the Navy Casualty Division, BUPERS, to the office of the Chief of Naval Operations that an office of responsibility be assigned, and also funding be appropriated to handle the situation. That is what is holding everything up now, waiting for the decision of the Chief of Naval Operations.

The person who has pushed this project from the beginning is Robert T. Pettway of McDonald Tennessee, who was stationed at the Naval Air Station in Iceland. He was there when this tragedy took place, and was a personal friend of the plane's crew members. He has spent countless hours of labor and used personal finances for this cause. He has even obtained DNA samples from all crew members families and shipped them to the Navy! It is a shame and disgrace that the United States Navy has been dragging feet all these years. Those servicemen died in the service of their country. We welcome all support for this worthy cause. Please write your Congressional Representatives and demand that the United States Navy recover the remains of these crewmen from LA-9 Navy Neptune Patrol Bomber 131521. That they might be given a "Burial with Honor" where they belong, in the Arlington National Cemetery. For more information you may contact:
Robert T. Pettway (Bob)
5071 Johnson Road
McDonald, TN 37353
Home phone (423) 396-3082
Fax: (423) 396-4028

Editor's note: We were surprised to learn that the remains of US servicemen were lying unprotected on the surface of the Kronborg Glacier and that the US navy had failed to bring them home after so many years. The People News join Robert (Bob) Pettway and Cecil Owen in urging you to contact your congressman to rectify this shameful situation.
Congressman Zach Wamp: (423) 756-2342 Chattanooga office.
Congressman John Duncan: (423) 745-4671 Athens office.

Four members of the crew of LA-9.  From top:
Alan P Millette
Anthony F Caswick
John A Brown MD
Norman Royce Russell Jr.