The Story of US Navy Ventura PV-1 28736
Lt. Joseph Robert Cranny USNR(26) of Grinelle, Iowa was the pilot of a crew of six men who were training on the USN Ventura PV1 at Ault Field on Naval Air Station Whidbey Island. Upon graduation they were to be assigned to an operational unit on the Solomon Islands. LT. Cranny was an experienced pilot who had a total 1548.2 of which 50 hrs were flown in the last 3 months. On the 26 December 1943 his crew were one of three aircraft scheduled to fly a navigation exercise from Ault Field. Cranny’s crew took off from Ault Field at 1130 and were to fly on a bearing of 225 True from Tatoosh for 150 miles, changing bearing to 180 true and proceeding for 20 miles then return to Tatoosh and then home. Two of the aircraft returned safely. Radio contact was last made with the Cranny’s flight at 1210. Thereafter no contact could be made. Since the airplane did not return to Ault Field and since extensive searching flights have failed to disclose it whereabouts, the plane was presumed lost.
It was raining very heavily that day at Winter Harbour on Northern Vancouver Island and the cloud cover was thick and dark when Carl Botel heard the heavy engines of a big plane. He listened and wondered, this type of plane was not often seen or heard in the area. The noise grew loud and then gradually faded out.. .then in a short while, he again heard the sound of the plane building as it passed unseen, overhead, the sound fading again. This happened a few times over the next hour, it almost seemed like the plane was searching for something.
It was felt that the Ventura PV-1 was likely circling looking for a break in the clouds which would show Port Hardy Air Force Base. When the clouds did part what it showed instead was the long inviting grassy strip of Lawn Point looking like a safe place to land. However all this was not put together until early June, 1944, when an aircraft for CFS Coal Harbour, carrying out their early morning scouting flight, spotted the fairly fresh clipped off tops of some tall evergreens at Lawn Point, located just south of Quatsino Sound. They swooped down and took a closer check of the trees out of curiosity and spotted the wreckage of an American military plane. They were able to read the plane’s large numbers for I.D. purposes. Back at Coal Harbour Base records were checked and the U.S. Whidbey Island Military Naval Air Base was contacted. Arrangements were made and an investigation team arrived June 15 with plans to proceed to the site the next day by boat from RCAF #20 Bomber Squadron at Coal Harbour, remove bodies and deal with any other necessary work.
On June 16, Coal Harbour personnel headed out with Capt. P.R. Huber of the U.S. Naval Reserve from Whidbey Island Naval Air Station, other personnel, and body bags for the crew. On reaching shore, they were very surprised to find a very well worn trail up from the beach. Following the trail they reached the scene of the downed plane. There was evidence of a bonfire site and the remaining bones of some cooked fish meals laying in a small pile. No one was there. Some quickly checked in the plane. A couple of people walked down to the ocean end of the grassy point where a broken piece of the plane’s plexiglass windshield was propped against a rock where it would catch the sun. There was a worn trail all the way, it had been walked many times. Beside the plexiglass was a stake with a good size piece of a white t-shirt blowing in the breeze. Did Joseph Anderson watch the light from Kain’s Island light and wander how far it was to the other side of the inlet and who was operating that light?
Meanwhile someone at the plane site checked an arranged pile of driftwood. There were some beachcombed planks and other long pieces of wood which had been placed side by side, one edge resting on the smooth upper side of an old log and extending down to the ground 7 to 8 feet opposite. Here they found 5 bodies. They had been put side by side with their heads at the log and the planks covered them. They now knew that not all the crew had died on impact as the bones of one or two bodies were starting to knit before the airman passed away. There was no sign of the missing man, Joseph Anderson. All the dog tags, watches, anything of value and hand guns had been removed from the bodies for safe keeping. Could it be that this person who had tended the injured, caught fish to feed them, removed their valuables and dog tags and hand guns when they passed away, could it be that he took all these things and put them in a box and either hid them or took them with him and tried to walk out to civilization. We will probably never know.
The plane was checked out. The bomb scope was removed. This was taken out to the speed boat and a crew proceeded with the boat out to over 100 fathoms of water and dropped the scope into the depths. This item was still relatively secret and they didn’t want it falling into any foreign hands. The persons in charge instructed the crew to take the one unexploded bomb and roll it under the plane. It was hooked up so that detonation could be activated after they were safely out from shore. It’s not certain if another bomb on the plane which exploded when the other one was exploded from the speedboat. The boat left shore and proceeded well out from the beach, then cut the engine and watched while the button was pushed which set off the large explosion. Personnel watched with their binoculars and then satisfied, gave the order to proceed back to base. No one went back to shore to check on the explosion results. Back at Coal Harbour Air Base the necessary papers were filled out for the Canadian authorities.
Also missing, so the story has reported for 62 years, was a payroll which they were transporting to the Aleutians. This information came from the crew of the boat which was at the scene with the American Military. The purpose of the trip reported in the papers filed after the accident was “Routine Patrol”.
Crew Killed and Missing
Lt. Joseph Robert Cranny USNR(26) of Grinelle, Iowa, Pilot
Ensign Charles H. Schoenfelder(22) of Wathena, Kansas was the copilot(and I think navigator and bombedier);
Robert Louis Maguet(22) of Portsmouth, Ohio, radioman;
Joseph I Winslow Jr.(22) of Pittsburg Pennsylvania was an Ordnanceman(gunner); *
and Ernest L. Morgan of Rockville, Virginia, aviation mechanic
Joseph H. Anderson (19) from Ogden, Utah, aviation Ordnanceman (gunner)*1
All were members of the USNR
Joe Winslow was a direct descendent of the Signer of the Declaration of Independence Jon Hart. He married a Vandergriff which was Joe’s Mother’s maiden name. She said she had been seeing Joe and also sent my Dad a picture of herself, and said that Joe had forgot his dog tags (Identification tag) at her home the night before he went down, and asked my father what she should do with them. He told her she could keep them. He never had his dog tag on and that is why the family always thought they were unable to find or identify him.
(Research on the Ventura crash was conducted by Ruth Botel of Coal Harbour.)
On September 15th 2006 the task to commemorate the six members of the crew of the U.S. Navy Ventura bomber which crashed on December 26th 1943 on the northern Vancouver Island was completed.
On the kind of beautiful, calm, and sunny day that only the west coast of the Island can produce, a moving and colourful service was conducted by the 101 Squadron padre. In attendance were: Iona Campagnolo, Lieutenant Governor of British Columbia; Lieutenant Commander Robert Huntington U.S. Navy; Colonel John Amber, Commanding Officer 19 Wing CFB Comox, complete with his staff and the crew of a 442 Sqn Cormorant; President, Vice President, and the Past President of 888 Wing AFAC; officers and men of the Canadian Coast Guard; members of the Canadian Rangers, a bugler and a piper and members of 101 Squadron AFAC. Twenty family members of the crew who died in the crash were at the service. Adding further colour to that of the traditional uniforms on parade were the flags of both of our countries and that of 101 squadron. The national anthems of both countries were sung as well as the British national anthem in recognition of our Lieutenant Governor’s official presence. The service ended with a traditional poppy ceremony. At that time various documentation relating to the dead crew members were placed in a time capsule and sealed beneath a stainless steel cairn which bore inscriptions from 101 Squadron and from the Squadron of the ill-fated Ventura. The PV-1 fly past was well exercised and particularly moving.
In one of those memorable coastal moments, as the attendees were leaving to return to Port Hardy, two grey whales surfaced and ‘blew’ in the ocean just off Lawn Point.
50° 19’ 37.90” N 127°58’ 17.43”W