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Missing Airmen Cases

At some point during my research of the DB Cooper case, I came across a list of missing planes and airmen. I have since lost the link, so I hesitate to publish this. However, there’s value in realizing that a lot of airmen have gone missing in the United States and have not been found. It’s still perfectly plausible that Cooper died in the jump and disappeared into the landscape. So, here are the missing airmen cases for Washington and Oregon from an unknown source (If you recognize where I got this, please leave a comment):

– 26 November 1945 USAAF C-46A Unknown 12 PAX Sedalia AAF, MO to McChord Field, WA

The transport was on a cross country flight after a refueling stop at Oakland, CA when it ran into a winter storm in southern Oregon. High winds, fog and poor visibility forced the aircraft off course and over the southwestern Oregon coastline where is ran out of fuel. The pilot ordered all passengers to bail out, which took place about 30 northeast of Coos Bay. The pilot and co-pilot rode the plane down and were killed in the crash.

The 10 passengers who jumped became the subject of an intensive air-ground search conducted by over 60 personnel from the ARS at McChord Field, the US Coast Guard, Douglas County Sheriff’s posse and local loggers and woodsmen familiar with the search area. Nine of the passengers and crew were rescued to include a glider pilot who was rescued by loggers after spending over 36 hours hanging in his parachute from a tall pine tree. After five days, nine of the jumpers were rescued alive. However, one of the passengers, SGT Robert T. W. Neal, was never found.

On 18 December 1959, two lumberjacks working for the Weyerhaeuser Timber Co. felled a 200 foot fir tree in the Lake Creek area in Douglas County 45 east of Coos Bay and discovered a parachute and harness snagged in the tree. Two Air Force officers sent to investigate confirmed that the parachute was packed at Sedalia Field in 1945. They stated that all but one buckle on the harness were found still buckled and made it appear that whoever was in it never got out alive.

In April, 1960 the US Air Force sent a 10 man team from Portland Air Force Base to conduct an extensive search around the Lake Creek area. Airmen using rakes, metal detectors and other tools searched around the base of the tree and the general area, but found nothing. The Air Force announced at that time that there would be no more organized searches for SGT Neal.

– 29 November 1945 USN PV-1 BuNo 49459 5 PAX Whidbey NAS to Miramar NAS, CA

The same winter storm that downed the USAAF C46A also downed this aircraft in the Mount Saint Helens area of southern Washington State. Flying into icing conditions about 10 miles east of Cougar, the pilot ordered the two passengers to bail out. One of the passengers, Army 1LT Warren Lawson, successfully bailed out and walked into Cougar on 2 December. However, he could not say for sure what happened to the other four. The other passenger, a young sailor, was found by loggers dead from exposure on 3 January 1946, still hanging in his parachute from a tall fir tree. That same day another parachute was found less than a mile away but no sign was found of the occupant. An intensive ground search was conducted for over a month in deep winter cold but no further trace of the other three crewmen was found.

In August, 1962 a Forest Service ranger found a crude snow shoe made from a military style survival life raft about 10 miles east of Cougar near Swift Reservoir. A search of the area found no other evidence or human remains. This was reported to the State CAB and the US Navy. However, no further investigation was conducted. On 5 August 1963, a Forest Ranger found the crash site of the PV-1. It was located about 10 miles east of Cougar, 8 miles north of Swift Reservoir and approximately 1.5 miles from a logging road.

On 8 August, a team of 8 US Navy personnel from NAS Whidbey Island accompanied by the county sheriff’s and a representative from the State CAB investigated the crash site. What appeared to be a camp site was found on a hill about 100 feet east of the crash site. It appeared that two or more of the survivors may have found their way to the crash site and salvaged what they could in an attempt to survive the winter cold. Remnants of the survival life raft, paddles, a flashlight, torn cloth and clothing, a camera and an empty wallet was found. Two parachutes were found in the wreckage. However, no human remains were ever found. Investigators theorized that it is possible that two of the crew may have rode the plane down and survived the crash. After several days waiting for rescue, they may have attempted to walk out and perished in the forest.

– 10 Nov 1962 USAF F102A 56-1387 1 PAX Paine AFB, WA to Local

The F102A left on a training flight over the Olympics when it vanished. Radar tracked the aircraft to a point NW of Shelton in Grays County. There was no indication of any problems during communications with the pilot, CPT Robert Lucas, 34, with 11 years service in the USAF. A three week search centered on an area 25 miles north of Shelton was conducted by Air Force helicopters, US Navy and Coast Guard aircraft and 20 fixed wing aircraft of the Civil Air Patrol. Rain, snow and high winds curtailed the search on some days. The ground search included over 100 soldiers from the US Army’s 12th Infantry at Fort Lewis, 40 members of the Tacoma, Seattle and Olympia Search and Rescue Councils, 50 Explorer Scouts and 20 airmen from Paine AFB. The only clues found during the search was a faint beeper that was heard in the Mount Tebo area during the first three days of the search, but the source could not be pinpointed. Hunters claim to have heard a crash in the vicinity of Church Creek 3 miles south of Mount Tebo. The search failed to find any other trace of the missing jet.

On 14 May 1965, loggers found a parachute and harness in a tall pine tree in the Camp Gobey area 12 miles west of Hoodsport on the Hood Canal. This was the center of the search area. It appeared that whoever was in the harness cut himself free and lowered himself to the ground. A search of the area revealed aircraft parts and wreckage that were identified as being manufactured by North American Corporation. However, it could not be proven that the harness or the wreckage belonged to the missing pilot. On 4 November 1968, the Civil Air Patrol reported finding wreckage of an unknown F-102A further north in the Olympic Mountains and submitted photos and wreckage for evaluation. Examination of the wreckage revealed an old SAR data plate placed at discovered crash sites by the State that verified the wreckage was of another F-102A that had been previously recovered.

Recently, the family and relatives of the missing pilot announced they are continuing to search for the wreckage of this jet. The area where the jet was presumed to have crashed has long since been logged out and populated. Other than the parachute harness, no trace of the jet was found in that area. The current theory now is that the jet crashed somewhere deep in the southern Olympic Mountains. Other than family members, there is no “official” active search going for this missing jet.

– 28 August 1963 USAF F106A Unknown 1 PAX McChord AFB, WA to Local

The jet intercepter, accompanied by a wingman, flew an afternoon interception mission against a USAF RB-57 out of Hill AFB, Utah. The pilot, 1LT Roger Auxland, 27, from the 489th Fighter Interceptor Squadron, attempted to close on the “target” about 5 miles over the ocean off the mouth of the Queets River on the Olympic Peninsula. The F-106A collided with the RB-57 and exploded in a ball of flames and plunged into the ocean. The damaged RB-57 managed to return to McChord AFB. The wingman thought he saw a distinct “explosion” that looked like the pilot ejecting from his stricken aircraft. This prompted an air-ground search for the missing pilot.

Several leads were developed that led searchers to believe that the pilot may have landed on the rugged coastline. A fisherman who saw the collision also saw a parachute drifting down toward land. Later that same evening a camper heard three gunshots in the vicinity of the beach in the search area. The USAF later estimated that wind and ocean currents could have pushed the parachute within a mile of the shore.

The week long search was conducted by USAF helicopters from McChord AFB, and Coast Guard helicopters from Port Angeles Coast Guard Station as well as fixed wing aircraft from the Coast Guard auxiliary. They were joined that weekend by fixed wing aircraft and ground teams from the Civil Air Patrol. Over 30 members of the Search and Rescue Council from various cities conducted an extensive ground search of the shoreline and a half mile inland. Rescue boats from La Push Lifeboat Station searched off shore.

No trace of the pilot was ever found and he was declared dead by the US Air Force on 4 September 1963.

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