Mystery Grumman S2F
Tracker in Guantanamo Bay
Below are photos taken of an S-2
Tracker that is sitting on the bottom of Guantanamo Bay at a depth of 130
feet and that has been identified as 133337 that went down on April 28,
1959. Below is the story and underwater photos.
From. Capt John L. Tarn,
I believe I
can answer the Gitmo Stoof question. We were on a cruise aboard CVS-39,
USS LAKE CHAMPLAIN in April 1959. This particular flight took place on
the 28th. It was a S2F-2, bureau #133337. The carrier was in
port and we had flown ashore on the 27th to a small north/south gravel
runway (This is where the Gitmo detainees are lodged today!) We were
getting ready to carqual and were assigned to get some stick time in
preparation for this. Lt. Al Chandler and myself Ltjg John L.
Tarn were to fly a three hour flight with the left seat first pilot
time split between us. We took off and just joy rided south of the
base. It was during this time that Ltjg Phil Schaffner "shot" us down.
His airplane flew all around us "shooting" us with a 35mm camera. At
the completion of the camera shoot we headed back to base to land and
change seats for my turn. I called for landing clearance and we were
cleared to report downwind with gear for a left hand approach to the
south, runway 18. I started over the landing checklist. As we
approached the downwind turning point at about 1100 feet things got REAL
quiet with BOTH engines quitting!! LT. Chandler set up a glide to the
west with a right hand turn into the wind. He made a textbook water
landing with 6 foot waves as a runway. We came to rest nose down. My
hatch came forward on touch down and with so many bubbles I could not
see the pilot next to me. I unbuckled my seat belt and headed for the
rear of the aircraft where I could see light. Climbing out the hatch
and onto the wing I could see our two crewmen bobbing in the waves and
Lt. Chandler riding the waves in the one man raft. I joined them by
jumping off the wing. Al told me to get in the raft with him. I was
quite content in my maywest, but he insisted. We were midway between
our airfield and Leeward Point. A HUP could be seen coming toward us as
well as a crash rescue boat.
With the arrival of the HUP we signaled for him to pick up the crewmen
first. This turned out to be the hairiest part of the flight! He moved
over one of the crewmen who hooked up and when about 20 feet in the air
the hook came undone dropping him into the water. The HUP moved into
position to repeat the pickup and the hook came undone AGAIN. The HUP
pilot moved into position again, but the crewman would Not hook up and
waved him off. The pilot then went to the other crewman and
successfully got him into the chopper. By this time the crash boat
was circling us. Unfortunately he was circling through our parachute
lines. The coxen (first class) managed to get the three of us in the
boat. However, the lines were wrapped all around the propeller. The
first class got ahold of the lines and lifted them clear of the water
and told his seaman to cut them with a machete. The seaman wound up and
MISSED and sliced the leg of the first class. The seaman piloted the
boat to the hospital while the two rescued pilots preformed first aid on
the first classe's leg. At the hospital it is customery to give the
survivors a "shot" of whiskey. The other pilot and I looked at each
other an both of us gave our "shot" to the first class.
It is interesting that the
plane was found in only 130 feet of water. We thought it was in over
600 feet. It was not determined what caused the simultaneous failure of
BOTH engines. My guess was that it had to be some sort of failure in
the master ignition switch? Lt. Chandler lost his wings at least partly
because of this. All I know, is he made a hell'uva fine water landing.
Welcome to Naval Aviation, and thank god for Dilbert Dunkers!
This and the map below was provided to me
after a dive on the Tracker on August 8, 2010.
Unknown Tracker at the bottom of Guantanamo
Bay. This is the unedited photo provided a diver who has made
several dives on the aircraft. At 130 feet of depth and not much
light he has taken some excellent photos of the site and the
aircraft. Due to the depth the dive team only has 5 minutes maximum
The remaining photos have been lightened by
the webmaster to try and give a better view of the detail.
The prop looks like a pretzel. The nose
was either damaged on contact with the water or when it hit bottom.
This photo shows the starboard wing looking
from the the rear. Engine nacelle and the ECM Direction Finder
Dome (Football) AN/APA 69 Antenna over the cockpit are visible in this
photo. Note the flaps are down. It also looks like the
sonobouy rack at the rear of the engine nacelle has been removed.
Starboard wing and engine, twisted prop and
Twisted prop. It also looks like the
engine has separated from the mounts or the mounts from the airframe as it
seems to be down in front.
For some reason the leading edge
inspection panel in the foreground has been opened.
We are looking at the rear of the outboard
starboard wing. It looks like the wing tip has been torn off.
We are looking at the front of the outboard
starboard wing. Apparently it was carrying rockets of some sort
although they look too small to have been the five inch rockets that were
in use at during the Tracker's time of service. To the left of the
rockets is a hole where the searchlight would have been. The
Plexiglas covering is gone but the internal part such as the filament seem
to be there yet.
You are looking down at the Number Four
Station which is the sonabuoy operator location. In the upper right
is his chair. When the Tracker went in the water the operator would
have opened the hatch directly above him and then exited the aircraft.