Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Soviet Sabotage and Submarines: "50 U.S. Servicemen Abandoned at Sea"

Some aspects of an early Cold War mystery are so strange that the absence of any FOIA responses probably indicates an ongoing national security wrap. Later that month (on March 29, 1951), Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were convicted of espionage for their role in passing atomic secrets to the Soviets. The next month (on April 11th), US President Harry S. Truman fired Douglas MacArthur from command of US forces in Korea.

The commander of the 7th Air Division of Strategic Air Command and some 50 of his staff and top U.S. strategic weapons personnel from the 509th Bomb Group were lost at sea. Although a rescue plane noted all had survived and were in life rafts, the first rescue vessel did not reach the area for 19 hours.
It was revealed later that Soviet submarines and surface vessels had been active in the area of the downed U.S. plane.
Lost at sea when ditched in the Atlantic Ocean as the result of a fire in the cargo bay of C-124A Globemaster II transport. What was in the crates? Sabotaged? Mission: Sharing Nuclear Intelleigence with U.K.?
Gen. Cullen and others on the C-124 amounted to an intelligence windfall for the Soviets, if captured and interrogated. Cullen, who was had been a leading aerial reconnaissance and photography expert, had been responsible for photography at the Crossroads A-bomb testing in the late 1940s.

Early March 23, about 800 miles southwest of Ireland, the C-124 issued a Mayday call, reporting a fire in the cargo hold. According to the Walker Air Force Base Museum website, "the aircraft was intact when it touched down on the ocean. All hands exited the aircraft wearing life preservers and climbed into the inflated 5 man life rafts. The rafts were equipped with cold weather gear, food, water, flares and Gibson Girl hand-crank(ed) emergency

According to contemporary reports, a B-29 from England saw several flares fired and life rafts. But the B-29 was not carrying any rescue equipment. It radioed the coordinates of the survivors and circled until it reached critical low fuel and was forced to return to base. source

The U.S. would have been very hesitant to admit his capture by the Soviets and perhaps just as reluctant to make an issue of it. Easier to tell 50 families their loved ones had died at sea --- which few could ever deny.

Freedom of Information Act requests were sent to the State Department, CIA, FBI and other agencies, all of whom directed queries to the Air Force. The Air Force provided a 140-page accident report that can be summarized in one sentence: The C-124 ditched in one piece, but nothing, including human remains, was found aside, from some charred plywood and a single briefcase. [ibid; my bold]
Declared Lost at Sea: 50 good men and a general, 60 years ago, today. Fates remain uncertain.
Submarines are always silent and strange.



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