STILL A MYSTERY: 78 Years Ago a PM-3S Martin Mariner Seaplane Departed From Patrick Air Force Base and Never Returned
By Space Coast Daily // August 4, 2023
The disappearance of the plane and its crew of 12 young Navy men remains a mystery to this day
BREVARD COUNTY • PATRICK AIR FORCE BASE, FLORIDA – A PBM-3S Martin Mariner seaplane took off from Naval Air Station Banana River, now known as Patrick Air Force Base, 78 years ago this summer – never to return.
The disappearance of the plane and its crew of 12 young Navy men remains a mystery to this day.
The massive PBM’s regularly flew out of NAS Banana River on training and submarine hunting missions. This particular plane took off on a scheduled, round trip flight to the Bahamas on July 9, 1945.
Its disappearance resulted in one of the largest search and rescue efforts ever launched by the U.S. Navy which lasted over two weeks.
Nothing was ever found.
The first PBM-1s entered service with Patrol Squadron Fifty-Five (VP-55) of the United States Navy on 1 September 1940. Prior to the USA’s entry into World War II, PBMs were used (together with PBYs) to carry out Neutrality Patrols in the Atlantic, including operations from Iceland.
Following Japan’s attack on Pearl Harbor, PBMs were used on anti-submarine patrols, sinking their first German U-boat, U-158, on 30 June 1942. PBMs were responsible, wholly or in part, for sinking a total of ten U-boats during World War II. PBMs were also heavily used in the Pacific War, operating from bases at Saipan, Okinawa, Iwo Jima, and the South West Pacific.
The United States Coast Guard acquired 27 Martin PBM-3 aircraft during the first half of 1943. In late 1944, the service acquired 41 PBM-5 models and more were delivered in the latter half of 1945. Ten were still in service in 1955, although all were gone from the active Coast Guard inventory by 1958 (when the last example was released from CGAS San Diego and returned to the U.S. Navy).
These flying boats became the backbone of the long-range aerial search and rescue efforts of the Coast Guard in the early post-war years until supplanted by the P5M Marlin and the HU-16 Albatross in the mid-1950s.
PBMs continued in service with the U.S. Navy following the end of World War II, flying long patrol missions during the Korean War. It continued in front line use until replaced by its successor, the P5M Marlin. The last Navy squadron equipped with the PBM, Patrol Squadron Fifty (VP-50), retired them in July 1956.
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