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Frozen Odyssey

I read with interest the article in the January issue by Joseph Caro about the Junkers W33 Bremen crash. Not mentioned was the rescue of Bremen’s crew via the Ford Tri-Motor pictured on skis on the front page of the Evening Graphic newspaper [P. 51 in Caro’s article]. That aircraft, which is still flying today, can be seen in beautifully restored condition [see photo at right] at the Golden Wings Museum at Minnesota’s Anoka Airport. It was flown by several well-known pilots, including Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, Floyd Bennett—who piloted it during the Bremen rescue [and died of pneumonia on the return trip]—and Bernt Balchen, among others. The first Ford to be placed on floats, it was also one of the few to be fitted with skis. Great article in the best aircraft magazine in print.

Dick Houck
Roseville, Minn.

Compliments to Aviation History and Joseph Caro for “A Newsman’s Frozen Odyssey.” Your readers might be interested in a few noteworthy ties to Bremen’s flight in my hometown:

  • Copilot Colonel James Fitzmaurice later moved to Massapequa Park, on Long Island, and opened Fitzmaurice Flying Field (now the site of two Massapequa schools).
  • Five streets in the village of Massapequa Park are named after aviation heroes: Lind­bergh, von Hünefeld, Fitzmaurice, Köhl and Balchen.
  • There’s a small memorial in the lobby of Massapequa Park Village Hall commemorating Bremen’s flight from Baldonnel aerodrome, which was supposed to have ended at nearby Mitchel Field.

It was most enlightening to read that the restored Bremen can be seen at Germany’s Bremen Airport Museum. Perhaps someday it will be displayed at the Nassau County Cradle of Aviation Museum, on the site of Mitchel Field.

John Joseph Budnick
Massapequa Park, N.Y.

The Lost Squadron

While Lieutenant Ted Thurnau (not Thurneau) of VMF-422 was fortunate in having survived the ditching of his F4U Corsair on January 25, 1944 (see “The Lost Squadron,” January 2015), his luck ran out the following month on February 28, during a stopover at Abemama airfield in the Gilberts. He was on his way to Engebi in the Marshalls when the left wing of his Corsair folded on takeoff. Thurnau died in the crash. The official history of VMF-422 indicates that the left wing locking pin had worked out of its position just as the Corsair became airborne.

During a November 1974 visit to Abemama, I found the wreck of Thurnau’s ship, broken in half at the cockpit and missing its engine and left wing. This and my other experiences in searching for war relics in the Gilbert and Ellice islands were published in After the Battle magazine in 1977.

Bill Bartsch
Reston, Va.

P-51 Pilot’s Long Haul

I thoroughly enjoyed John Ottley’s article “The Long Haul,” about the last bomber raid of World War II, in the September 2014 issue. As an Iwo Jima–based pilot with the 47th Fighter Squadron “Dogpatchers,” VII Fighter Command, Twentieth Air Force, I was supposed to be on that August 14, 1945, mission escorting the B-29s in my P-51D, Clamwinkle McSlop. As a young second lieutenant, I was unaware it might be the last mission of the war, but some of the higher-ups did know—and as a result I was bumped off by a colonel. It turned out he had gotten into the air at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and wanted to be able to say he had flown both the first and last missions of the war. So I flew all the way to Japan, four hours each way, and stood by patrolling over the downed-pilot rescue submarines, but didn’t get credit for the mission because that colonel took my place over the target.

Donald L. Kiggins Sr.
Darien, Conn.

Another Vega Restoration

I read your January 2015 article about John Magoffin’s Lockheed Vega [“Restored”] with great interest. However, Stephan Wilkinson’s mention of “five surviving Vegas” overlooks another Vega that is alive and well. NC-13705, serial no. 203, has been undergoing restoration since 2011, with a goal of returning it to airworthy status. The work is now about 85 percent complete. The aircraft is currently being re-covered and painted and lacks only a new cowl and oil radiator.

This Vega was part of Shell Oil’s fleet, designated as Shell No. 7. We have a dated photograph of the aircraft at a California airport, with a notation on the reverse that Jimmy Doolittle was its pilot. An article on our Vega appeared in the April 2014 issue of Skyways: The Journal of the Airplane 1920-1940, and I have included a photo of it.

William McDevitt
Heritage Aircraft
Chalfont, Pa.

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