Coast Guard Aviation Tragedies

 


Death on Blyn Mountain©
April 6, 1943

By Ken Freeze

Reprinted By Permission

 

Blyn Mountain sits at the northeast corner of the Olympic Peninsula, just south of Sequim Bay.  It is in the renowned 'rain shadow' of the Olympic Range and because of that, it is often shrouded in clouds. It was on one of those typical northwest days when the Coast Guard Grumman JRF-2 Goose, Number V-176, took off from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles for a cross country training mission.

Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles was commissioned June 1, 1935, becoming the first Coast Guard air station on the Pacific Coast. Its location was chosen for its strategic position for coastal defense of the  Northwest.


Port Angeles as it looked in its early days.

At the outbreak of World War II, the Air Station became an important outpost for the defense of the Northwest and a gunnery school was established to train aerial gunners and local defense. By the summer of 1942 most of the airplanes stationed here were kept busy investigating reports of enemy submarines in the Strait of Juan de Fuca and offshore waters. Other planes were used for convoy escort duty and for towing practice targets for the gunnery school. By 1943 the Air Station had responsibility for all Coast Guard antisubmarine and rescue activities down to the California border. By this time there were detachments of aircraft and boats at Neah Bay and Quillayute, Washington as well as Astoria and North Bend, Oregon.

The Air Station was also the home of the only Coast Guard Land Rescue Team, which proved instrumental in saving the lives of many naval pilots who crashed in this region while engaged in the massive training effort for the war. At the time Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles had many different planes assigned and the Grumman JRF-2 Goose, Number V-176 was just one of them.

V-176 was the third Grumman Goose accepted by the Coast Guard and had been delivered to the Coast Guard in October 1939. With the outbreak of the war, it was being flown out of the Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles for a variety of missions, but mostly investigating reports of enemy submarines.

The Crew of V-176

Lcdr Frederick L Westbrook, Ltjg Carl Heussy, Aviation Radioman First Class Thurlow E. Kesner  and Aviation Pilot First Class Earl H. Muyskens readied the air station's Grumman JRF-2 Goose the morning of Tuesday April 6, 1943 for what was to have been a training flight to Seattle and back. 

Westbrook, had lived in Kansas City, Kansas most of his life and prior to attending the Coast Guard Academy from where he graduated 1935. At the time, he and his wife were been living in Port Angeles.

Heussy came from a well-known Seattle family. Before entering the Coast Guard he had been a prominent attorney in the Seattle, serving as deputy prosecutor there. In 1936 he entered into a partnership to form a private practice. 

Upon arriving in Port Angeles, Heussy quickly became known as quite the sports enthusiasts competing in both service and civilian sport leagues. He was also instrumental in organizing the Port Angeles Commandos, a baseball team,  serving as the team's manager throughout the season. During the winter months he helped to organize a basketball league made up of six military and two civilian teams. He had lived in Port Angeles with his wife and two sons for just eight months prior to that fateful day.

Kesner was a native of Granite Falls, Washington, a small town east of Seattle. He had enlisted in the Coast Guard in 1935.

Muyskens had just married in September. As a boy he had lived with his aunt and uncle in Southworth, Washington. He had just returned to Port Angeles the week before, fresh from earning his wings as an enlisted pilot at the Navy's Flight Training School in Pensacola, Florida. 

That morning they all took off from Coast Guard Air Station Port Angeles never to return.

The Crash

It was shortly before noon when the residents of Blyn, Washington hear the sound of an impact up on Blyn Mountain and notified authorities. Thick fog shrouded the entire mountain as the state patrol, local sheriff's deputies and members of a U.S. Army medical unit rushed to the scene.

The Grumman JRF-2 Goose had crashed into the side of the mountain, breaking off several large firs, and catapulting the plane west to land at the bottom of a small gulch.

When rescue crews arrived, they found Westbrook and Kesner had been killed in the crash. However, two of the crewmen, Heussy  and Muyskens, were still alive. Army medical personnel administered first aid and then fashioned stretchers and carried them through thick undergrowth to the road. An ambulance then rushed them to the hospital in Port Angeles. However, they later died of their injuries. 

 

Copyright © 2002 Check Six

Visit Ken Freeze's Check-Six Website

Return To Coast Guard Stories