The Sausalito PBY-5A
May 4, 1945
Printed with permission
Web page Copyright 2006
by: Don R. Jordan
Photo courtesy of the U.S. Air Force Museum
departed from NAS Alameda, on the east side of San Francisco Bay, at
May 4, 1945. It carried an operational
load which included 1050 gallons of
gasoline and 4 Mk-54 Depth Charges. At the controls was Lt. Robert
with Lt. Cmdr. Norman W. White in the
copilot’s seat. Lt. Moment did not file
an Instrument Flight Plan, because he thought he could remain clear of
clouds that blanketed the area to the north west. He received
CFR (Contact Flight Rules) flight
plan from Oakland Air Traffic Control and was enroute to the Pacific
which was only eleven miles to the west.
His mission was to patrol the
coastline north of San Francisco. After reaching a point five miles
the field, and in the general vicinity of Alcatraz Island, the aircraft
encountered lowering ceiling. The
lower ceiling made it impossible for
the aircraft to remain on its course, and still stay clear of the
clouds. Instead of turning back, Lt.
to circle below the overcast while
calling Alameda Tower for
instructions. Once he established
contact with Alameda, he requested an instrument clearance to climb up through the clouds. After
the clearance, the aircraft started an enroute climb
and resumed the intended heading for the coast.
Approximately five minutes after turning to the
new heading, the aircraft collided with
terrain at a point eight‑hundred‑fifty feet above sea level, and about
and one‑half miles northwest of Alcatraz Island. The
estimated course at the time of impact was one‑hundred‑seventy
degrees. The nine crew members killed in the crash were:
Lt.(jg) Robert Moment, USNR,
Norman Woodrow White, USN,
Lt.(jg) John Leonard
Hart, A‑1 USNR
Ens. Carlton C.
Truii Jr., A‑V(N)
Rm1c.Frank P. Zappacosta, USNR
Rm2c.William T. Ford, USNR
S. Owens, USNR
Amm1c.Frank H. Spofford, USNR
F. Ibeili. USN
Amm1c.Harold R. Dole, USNR, and
Aom3c.Henri C. Tondreault, USNR
the accident. Both were seriously injured,
but would eventually recover from
their injuries. Both men stated that the aircraft encountered severe
and down drafts after the climb into the overcast was begun. While
the interphone, they heard the last conversation between the pilots.
was heard to say: "We better take
a heading of 210" and a short time later, "Watch your
After the latter statement they
the plane nose over
sharply and almost immediately crashed. It was later determined, that
Alcatraz island, the aircraft was in
solid overcast and neither of the two survivors saw the ground again until an instant before the
crash. It is doubtful the pilots
had visual contact with the
ground before impact.
It was determined that the left
wing tip struck the side of a hill, causing this wing to be torn
catapulting the plane down the hill to the left where it crashed.
the depth charges were all thrown clear and did not detonate.
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