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Post-WW2 Military and Naval Aviation Please use this forum to discuss Military and Naval Aviation after the Second World War.

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Old 6th January 2015, 06:15
pdame141 pdame141 is offline
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Operation Mainbrace September 1952

My Great Uncle was a USAF pilot on exchange duty with the Navy flying Banshees with VF-171 off the USS Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1952.

He was lost at sea while attempting to land on the USS FDR during a NATO exercise called Operation Mainbrace off the coast of Norway on 17 September 1952.

I have tracked down some primary records regarding the crash, but am interested in whether there are any other sources of information regarding this NATO exercise, the operational tempo, etc.

To be clear, I am not at all interested in the purported UFO sightings during Operation Mainbrace.

Thanks,
Paul Dame
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Old 7th January 2015, 19:49
Seaplanes Seaplanes is offline
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Re: Operation Mainbrace September 1952

The Norwegian newspaper "Aftenposten" had their correspondent on board "Franklin D. Roosevelt" and he was an eye witness to your grand uncles attempted landing. The newspaper published many artiles regarding exercixe "Main Brace" and they have an historical on-line Archive on www.aftenposten.no. Use Main Brace as search words and limit the time to 1. September 1952 to 31. October 1952. Unfortunately, everything here is in Norwegian but it is the best source I have found.
Your grand uncle had participated in simulated attacks on the town of Bodö and Bardufoss airfield in Northern Norway when he returned to the carrier. Some aircraft had already landed when he came in too low and was flagged off by the landing controller. Your grand uncle possibly misunderstood the signals and continued the landing. The aircraft hook caught a wind barrier on the aft deck. He lost control of the plane that turned over and went over the side of the carrier. One wing crashed into the carriers aircraft lift and the plane went belly up into the sea. The crash site was immediately marked with a smoke"bomb" from a helicopter overlooking the landings. In spite of intensive search, nothing was seen of the aircraft or pilot. The name of the pilot was not released except that he was a well known Second World War Pilot. Hope this is of some value to you.
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Old 8th January 2015, 05:09
pdame141 pdame141 is offline
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Re: Operation Mainbrace September 1952

Thanks, Seaplanes! There were apparently a number of journalists on FDR for Operation Mainbrace, because I have a copy of a very similar report published in the Tulsa, Oklahoma newspaper. This makes sense, as my understanding is that Operation Mainbrace was intended by NATO to show the USSR that NATO could defend the northern maritime approaches to Europe.

I also have the letters the CO of VF-171 and the FDR's Captain sent to my great grandparents regarding the incident.

The story is very consistent -- he was landing, the deck pitched unexpectedly in heavy seas, he was given a waveoff, he powered up and began to turn away from the ship, but his wingtip caught the crash barrier forward along the deck. The impact cartwheeled his plane into the sea and he didn't make it out of the plane.

He was indeed a decorated WWII pilot. Two tours in Europe flying P-47s with the 368th FG/397th FS, over 100 missions/300hrs combat flying, two DFCs, etc.

Thanks again for your reply.

Best regards,
Paul Dame
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Old 8th January 2015, 06:32
Frank Olynyk Frank Olynyk is online now
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Re: Operation Mainbrace September 1952

Paul,
Two possible sources of information:

The deck log of FDR is held at NARA II in College Park, Maryland. It will only have brief details however. But it might have more information on MAINBRACE.

The accident report should be available through http://www.history.navy.mil/branches/org4-2.htm

Enjoy!

Frank.
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Old 10th January 2015, 18:16
Leendert Leendert is offline
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Re: Operation Mainbrace September 1952

Paul,

A personal account on Operation Mainbrace here: http://thebrownshoes.org/content/harley-d-wilbur

Scroll down to the Mainbrace diary.

There's also a wikipedia page about Mainbrace

And you'd like to watch
http://www.britishpathe.com/video/exercise-mainbrace

Regards,

Leendert
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Old 10th January 2015, 21:53
pdame141 pdame141 is offline
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Re: Operation Mainbrace September 1952

Leendert and Frank:

Thanks for the replies. I did track down the USN accident report (30 pages with photos). The British Pathe newsreel is a great find. Thanks again for your help.

Best regards,
Paul Dame
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