Consolidated PB4Y-2 Privateer

PB4Y-2

On 8th Apr 1950 a version of the wartime Liberator bomber, the PB4Y-2 Privateer 59645 operated by VP-26 of the US Navy Detachment A, based at Port Lyautey in French Morocco, became the first casualty of the missions to probe the boundaries of the USSR. Commanded by Lt Jack Fette, the aircraft took off from Wiesbaden in West Germany and headed north towards the Baltic. The plan was for the aircraft to gather intelligence on Soviet naval activity along the Latvian coast.

PB4Y-2 Privateer 59645

Near the Latvian port of Liepaja the PB4Y-2 was intercepted by a number of Soviet fighter aircraft and was eventually shot down by a Lovochkin LA-11 (Fang) fighter flown by Lt Ivan Ivanovich Tezyaev. The other pilots who were also involved were St Lt's Boris Pavlovich, Anatolii Stepanovich Gerasimov and Lt Yevgraph Sataev - all were also flying LA-11 aircraft.

It was believed at first that all 10 crew members of the PB4Y-2 died when the aircraft crashed into the sea between 5 and 10 km off the coast. The Russians eventually admitted that they had shot down the aircraft, which they incorrectly identified as a B-29, but insisted the aircraft was over 13 miles inside Soviet airspace at the time of the incident. However, the overwhelming evidence suggests that the aircraft was in International airspace out over the Baltic when it was attacked. As well as Jack Fette, the other crew members were: Howard W Seeschaf, Robert D Reynolds, Tommy L Burgess, Frank L Beckman, Joe H Danens, Jack W Thomas, Joseph J Bourassa, Edward J Purcell and Joseph N Rinnier Jr. Reports were later received that at least one crewmember from this aircraft was sighted in 1950 and 1953 in a Soviet Prison Camp near Taishet. When questioned by other prisoners one of the crewmen stated that they were serving a 25 year sentence for espionage.

Despite protest notes to the USSR, the Soviets continued to deny any knowledge of the crewmen and all those who survived the crash are presumed to have suffered a lonely death, somewhere in captivity in the frozen wastes of the USSR.

Dirk Pohlmann has made a German documentary film about this incident and you can read his report on the loss of the PB4Y-2 here.