Saved From the Sea III: Pilots Rescued – Ditching Near the Azores

On August 27, 1944, VC-13 lost ten aircraft (five FM-2 Wildcats and five TBM-1C Avengers) near the Azores Islands, in an event somewhat reminiscent – albeit on a smaller scale – of the group ditching of 23 VMF-422 F4U Corsairs in the Pacific Ocean on January 25, 1944. Aviation Archeological Investigation and Research’s website indicates that all ten pilots of these VC-13 aircraft survived, which hopefully implies that the TBMs’ radio operators and gunners (whose names are unknown) survived as well.

The aircraft, listed by aircraft Naval Bureau Number and pilots’ names, are given below:


16245 Blanks, Thomas N. Lt. JG
16008 Brown, Edward V. Lt.
16077 Brownstein, Julius R. Lt.
16255 Gregg, Donald B. Lt.
16789 Johnson, Alden V. Lt.


46287 Carpenter, John E. Ens.
46390 Ecclefield, Vincent Lt.
46365 Hurst, Fred J. Ens.
45876 Rockett, P.M. Lt. JG
46394 Smith, Thomas Ens.

This incident, as recounted by Julius Brownstein:

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The story of Julius Brownstein’s rescue from the North Atlantic, specifically the way this event was visually captured in such thorough detail, is simultaneously dramatic and fascinating, and makes one ponder the myriad of similar events – some with equally fortunate outcomes, some with far more tragic endings – the accounts of which never became part of the photographic or historical record.  Like most aspects of human endeavor – whether in World War Two or other conflicts; in the routine of “life”, in general, the memories of these events remained – for a few brief decades – in the personal memories of their participants and observers.  Well, it would seem that this aspect of our existence – the fragile natural of the historical record, and memory, both individual and collective – has always been and will ever be a central part of the human condition.

On a more contemporary level, it’s notable that I simply, nominally learned “about” this incident purely through chance; solely by luck; only by happenstance, using a markedly “low-tech” information storage and retrieval system: 35mm celluloid microfilm, viewed through an electro-mechanical reader / printer.  While hardly negating the convenience, versatility (and economic advantages) of information storage and retrieval in a purely “digital” medium, this small discovery is a telling reminder that there is, and will continue to be value that refreshingly cannot be quantified! – in the “real”, as well as the “virtual” world.

– References –

Doll, Thomas E., Jackson, Berkley R., and Riley, William A., Navy Air Colors – United States Navy, Marine Corps, and Coast Guard Aircraft Camouflage and Markings, Volume 1 – 1911-1945, Squadron-Signal Publications, Carrollton, Tx., 1983.

A Navy Pilot Takes an Unscheduled Dip in the North Atlantic, The New York Times, January 27, 1944.

– Michael G. Moskow