This is the story of one of the best preserved aircraft wreck sites on Oahu Hawaii.
A legacy of the Korean War on Oahu.
U.S. Navy aircraft fought in the Korean War. Navy Patrol Squadron (VP) aircraft shared in the action. In the Korea area of operations, VP squadrons participated in the blockade of North Korea, keeping merchant shipping and fishing fleets under surveillance and deterring hostel submarine activity. Patrol aircraft contributed to mine hunting and laying as well as dropping flares for air strikes. They also conducted weather reconnaissance and search and rescue operations.
Patrol Squadron Seven (VP-7) arrived in June 1953 from NAS Quonset Point, Rhode Island less than one month before the armistice on July 27, 1953. It was the only squadron from the Atlantic Fleet to deploy to the war zone. The squadron was equipped with P2V-5 Neptune patrol aircraft and was based out of NAS Iwakuni Japan. During the deployment the squadron patrolled the Sea of Japan and the Yellow Sea. The squadron departed the Western Pacific in January 1954. The last aircraft to depart was tail code HE 10 BuNo 124874. Aircraft number 124874 was configured for mine laying and was the “Hanger Queen” during the deployment, meaning that it was used for parts and that it spent much of its time parked in the hanger.
On 21 January 1954, the eight-man crew of HE 10 made a missed approach trying to land at NAS Barbers Point Hawaii on its way home after the war. The aircraft turned left into the center of the island, rather than turn right out over the ocean. The aircraft impacted the Waianae Mountain range at approximately 9:30 PM. You could consider these men to be some of the last casualties of the Korean War. The eight crewmen aboard were:
Walter J. Hanzo, JR., LT. (jg), Pilot
Gerald Martin Hazlett, Ens.
Wilbur D. Cooper, Ens.
John Robert Staples, ADC
Joseph Daniel Beczek, AD2
Paul Martin Kohler, AM2
Joseph Michael Maksymon, AT2
Richard Knuton Brown, AT3
The legacy of the aircraft and crew still remain today. The sad remnants of the VP-7 P2V-5 Neptune still lie in the Waianae Mountain range on Oahu. The aircraft rests on a steep, thirty-degree slope. A broken tree stands testament to the tremendous impact forces. Many small trees have grown up around and into the site. Countless twisted and mangled pieces of metal are scattered around the site. The remains of the crew along with the guns and some of the electronics have long since been removed. The tail section including the tail gun turret is the largest piece of wreckage. The BuNo under the left tail plane is in perfect shape, almost like it was painted yesterday. Evidence of the traumatic crash and fire can be seen on the fuselage and various parts. A left wing section still bears the insignia of a white star on one side and the letters NA for NAVY on the other. One of the 3700 hp Wright Cyclone R 3350-30W engines is located next to the fuselage and the other is further down the slope next to a tree. It is believed that a large amount of wreckage was either lost to the post crash fire or buried in the dirt. No excavation at the site is permitted.
This site represents a lost piece of history. The crash site is dramatic even today. A hiker who visited the site said, “It is impressive, yet sad.” His first feeling was of awe, as it is so unusual to see an aircraft on a ridge like that, like finding the bones of an old dinosaur. Viewing the crash site is an opportunity to examine the legacy today of a war so fiercely fought on a faraway place in the Pacific. It is history worth remembering. A person can look back and try to capture impressions of the war and its time and it allows them to get a sense of how it was.
As you may know if you've been to a site, visiting a crash site can have a tremendous impact on ones awareness and understanding of a time period and can provide quite an education. While accidental deaths are not seen as being as "glamorous" as combat deaths, they paid the ultimate price for freedom nonetheless. This was part of the price of war and peace. Many of these people have been forgotten and the history lost. The goal of aviation archeology is to record these incidents in historical context rather than record just why it crashed as can (sometimes) be found in government records.
The crash of this P2V-5 Neptune aircraft is an important legacy of the Korean War. Don’t forget those who served and sacrificed in the Forgotten War.