San Diego, CA (off shore) Navy Planes Collide, Feb 1938



San Diego, Feb. 3. -- (UP) -- Eight bodies of victims of the naval plane collision off the California coast were recovered today.

San Pedro, Feb. 3. -- (AP) -- The death toll of a mid-air collision of two giant bombers -- worst plane disaster in American naval history -- rose to 11 today as search by sea and air was made for the missing bodies of 10 airmen.
Rescued from the water after the bomber 11-P-4 fell in a splintering impact last night, J. H. HESTER, radioman, first class, of San Diego, died aboard the hospital ship Relief at San Clemente Island early this morning.
Three of his companions also were on the Relief, serously injured, but expected to recover.
Three more of the 11-P-4's crew and the seven men in its sister bomber, the 11-P-3, were hunted by the United States fleet, as Navy sources here admitted unofficially there was no hope they had survived.
The bombers, scouting for a theoretical enemy, collided during a sudden rain squall, within view of maneuvering surface ships.
The 11-P-3 fell in flames. The 11-P-4 smashed into a hundred pieces on the choppy sea.
Searchlights suddenly illuminated the scene and warship launches put out to rescue the men, while the entire war game of the fleet came to a halt.

Those killed in the disaster and their nearest of kin, were:
Crew of 11-P-3:
Lieut. ELMER GLENN COOPER, commanding officer; wife, Mrs. Frances Cooper, Coronado.
Aviation Cadet ERWIN JOHN KOCH, second pilot;
mother, Mrs. John Koch, Toledo, O.
MAURICE FITZMAURICE, aviation chief machinist mate; wife, Mrs. Victoria Fitzmaurice, El Cajon.
GEORGE GORDON GRIFFIN, aviation machinist mate, first class; wife, Mrs. Sadie Griffin, San Diego.
JOE EARL WALTON, aviation machinist mate, second class; wife, Mrs. Mary Walton, San Diego.
PAUL LANDGREBE, aviation machinist mate, second class; father, Frank Landgrebe, Stillwell, Ind.
JULIAN HAWLS, radioman, second class; wife, Cilula Vista.
Crew of 11-P-4:
Lieut. CARLETON BARMORE HUTCHINS, commanding officer; wife, Mrs. Elizabeth Hutchins, Coronado.
MARION WILLIAM WOODRUFF, aviation chief machinist mate; wife, Mrs. Ruth H. Woodruff, San Diego.
J. H. HESTER, radioman, first class; wife, Mrs. Mamie L. Hester, San Diego.
JOHN GREGORY NIEDZWEICKI, aviation machinist mate, first class; father, Felix Niedzweicki, Milwaukee, Wis.
Survivors are:
D. B. McKAY, aviation chief machinist mate, broken leg.
V. O. HATFIELD, aviation chief machinist mate, extensive cuts on right leg.
L. S. CARPENTER, aviation machinist mate, second class, broken arm.
Each has a wife residing in San Diego.
The disaster overtook the bombers, attached to Squadron VP-11 of the North Island naval air base at San Diego, 26 days after a sister plane of the VP-7 squadron vanished off the California coast.
The full strength of the fleet was deployed for swift tactical tests 70 miles at sea, directly south of San Clemente Island, when the collision occurred.
As the concerted rescue attempt began, Admiral Claude C. Bloch lifted a rigid wartime "radio silence" to relay news of the tragedy to the Navy Department at Washington and to the press.
Cause of the crash, beyond bad weather, was not announced immediately, but naval officers ashore said the bombers, flying near each other, may have been crushed together by a sudden downdraft.
They were cruising at about 140 miles an hour, close above four battleships and 20 destroyers.
Only yesterday morning they had taken off from San Diego to join the fleet, which sailed out of Los Angeles' Harbor Tuesday after a record concentration of ships there. Each was a twin-engined seaplane type.
It was the fourth major American plane disaster of the year and the second disastrous naval crash off Southern California within a month.
Thirty-five men were lost in the four crashes.
Seven were killed when one of the Navy's big PBY patriot bombers vanished at sea during fleet maneuvers January 7.
Three days later 10 were killed, including the veteran pilot, NICK MAMER, when a Northwest Airlines plane crashed near Bozeman, Mont.
The following day seven Pan-American Airways fliers were killed when their Samoan Clipper exploded in mid-air near Pago Pago while on a transpacific flight.

Oakland Tribune California 1938-02-03