Appointment at Aparri

By Louis M. Guerrieri

Historian’s note: This great sea story was sent to me by Lou Guerrieri (VP-46) and chronicles a single engine emergency in a P5M-1. The real damage, however, occurred after help arrived. – Paul H. Hebner

In January, 1955, after serving a year at the U. S. Naval Station on Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands, I was assigned to Patrol Squadron 46 (VP-46), home-ported at the Naval Air Station, North Island, San Diego, California. This squadron was flying P5M-l, Martin-built ‘Marlin” twin-engine flying boats, the follow-on to the PBM-5, Martin-built “Mariner.” In comparison to the Mariner, the Marlin was a superb machine, with much more powerful engines, and a sleeker look. It flew well, faster, and was very reliable.

Following several months of training and readiness, the squadron deployed from San Diego to Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, in August, 1955. That flight took 13 3/4 hours. The aircraft of which I was the Patrol Plane Commander was Bureau Number 130283. Maybe it was just coincidence, but on June 30, 1954, when on rescue patrol while stationed at Kwajalein, our crew intercepted and escorted this same plane to a landing at Kwajalein because it had had an engine failure in flight. The co-pilot on the stricken plane at the time, LT(jg) Charles W. Ferguson, became my co-pilot when I joined the squadron.

After a month of further training at Pearl Harbor, the squadron continued its deployment to the Naval Station, Sangley Point, Cavite, Philippines, and west of Manila. The route from Pearl Harbor was via Johnston Island, a 5 hour flight; then to Kwajalein, 8½ hours; on to Guam, 8 hours; then to Sangley Point, another 8 hour flight

The squadron’s assignment at Sangley Point was to fly sector patrols to the southwest, west, northwest, and north of the base into the South China Sea in the westerly directions, and into the Luzon Strait between northern Luzon and Taiwan to the north to detect, identify, and record the progress of surface shipping. The patrol sectors were established to cross and recross known shipping lanes. These patrols involved flights varying between 9 1/2 and 12 hours. They were flown at relatively low levels, from 4,000 to 1,500 feet, but generally at the lower altitudes since identifying a shipping target required seeing its name, taking photographs, and recording its mast, funnel, kingpost configuration sequence, estimated tonnage, course, and speed. The close identification was done by flying past the ship one or more times at an altitude of about 100 to 200 feet. The identification process was called “rigging,” since confirmation of the identification was done by consulting a Navy “rigging” manual of almost all known ships by their “rigging” of masts, funnels, and kingposts.

After two months of flying these patrols, my crew was assigned the “Love” sector patrol on November 14, 1955.

Continued . . .


More on this articles and more are found in the Summer 2012 MMA Newsletter.

MMA Association’s 2013 Reunion – Branson, Mo
Official Record: Third VP-44 / Dictionary of American Naval Aviation Squadrons – Volume 2, by Michael D. Roberts
MMA 2012 Reunion at San Diego
Airborne Mariner / August 1997, WINGS MAGAZINE
Appointment at Aparri / By Louis M. Guerrieri

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2 thoughts on “Appointment at Aparri

  1. richard e. bryson says:

    I was stationed in VP-49 in Bermuda from 1959 – 1961

  2. Great story. The P5M-l was known to be tricky to fly, but great plane.

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