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In January of 1954, the pilot of an American plane, "3 Cape Cod", sent out the distress message, "We need aid." The plane and its 10-member crew disappeared a few short minutes later, and no plane wreckage was ever found. Did the plane land with a fiery crash in the waters off the west coast of Korea, or did it crash on a hill in central Korea as the result of "friendly fire" from an American Douglas Skyraider? Because of discrepancies in official accident reports, missing messages from log books, and lost government document boxes, some family members believe that they have not been told the whole truth about the plane’s disappearance. More on the story of 3 Cape Cod will soon be published on the Korean War Educator website. Satch Beasley of Nashville, Tennessee, son of USN Lieutenant Jesse Beasley. Satch, was eight years old when his family received the news that 3 Cape Cod did not return from its listening mission off the coast of China.  He has never given up his quest for the truth about his father’s disappearance. He tells us that his career decision to become a commercial pilot was based in part on his desire to gain some kind of understanding about his father’s fate and that of the other devoted Americans serving on 3 Cape Cod.

View these pictures of the ten crew members whose families never saw them alive again. Left to right, top row, they are:  Chief Mechanic Robert George Archibald; Co-pilot Fredric Traynor Prael; and Mechanic James Frank Hand; second row: Navigator Paul Dominick Morelli; Navigator Stanley Burt Mulford; and Radioman Rex Allen Claussen; bottom row: Radioman Bruce David Berger; Radarman Lloyd Bernard Rensink; and Ordnanceman Gordon Spicklemier.

More Details by Satch Beasley

This narrative concerns the 1954 loss of an armed Navy P2V-5 Neptune call sign 3 Cape Cod and piloted by Lt. Jesse Beasley. The plane reportedly crashed and disappeared into the Yellow Sea while on a training mission. The information in this account has been gathered from various sources, but also includes theories postulated while trying to locate the missing aircraft and what remains of its crew.

Three Cape Cod departed Iwakuni Air Base in Japan at 2:26 on the afternoon of January 4, 1954. The crew consisted of ten; two bachelors and eight married. The Flight was categorized as ‘COMBAT’ and its purpose was reconnaissance along the coastlines of North Korea and China.

Near the coast of China the plane encountered trouble resulting in one engine being reported as disabled. Over the course of one and a half hours the plane signaled a distress call "WE NEED AID" to Iwakuni air base and requested co-ordinates for South Korea’s air base at Kunsan. Initially the plane made a rapid decent and then gradually returned to stable flight. Throughout the flight there was interference with radio communications between the plane and its base. Locations and conditions were not shared in a timely, nor accurate manner. Three Cape Cod was tracked by radar at least part of the time during its fateful flight and descent. The plane gradually lost altitude until reporting 300 feet and it reported " PORT ENGINE ROUGH". The last communication received from 3 Cape Cod were a series of V’s which the base had requested and not, as the Navy has put forth, an indication that the radio key had been tied down to signal an imminent ditching or crash situation.

While before the enemy all practical relief and assistance may not have been afforded 3 Cape Cod. For some unexplained reason search and rescue aircraft were not dispatched until after the crash and then may have been diverted to the wrong co-ordinates, causing some crew members, if any survived the crash, to lose their lives. Autopsy reports on the two recovered crewmen give the date of death as two days after the time of the crash.

The official Navy report is filled with inaccuracies and mistakes that have been proven wrong or logically impossible through contemporary documents. It is therefore believed that the official report was changed for some reason.

One reason postulated for the change is that 3 Cape Cod was on a secret ‘Ferret’ mission when it was subjected to a hostile attack, causing the breakdown of the first engine and eventually leading to the second engine becoming rough. The aircraft may have been improperly suffered to be hazarded in the presence of the enemy by the absence of essential onboard VHF radio equipment. Documents show that it was directed in 1953 that all deploying patrol aircraft be equipped with VHF as a dual installation with UHF because the majority of communications with South Korea’s Search & Rescue as well as their Air Defense was done using VHF. As the crippled plane crossed South Korean’s border it may have been mistaken as a hostile intruder and a second aerial attack on the plane may have occurred. Due to known tension in the area and earlier incidences of attacks were being arbitrated at the time of the loss, it is plausible to believe that the loss of a reconnaissance mission under such circumstances would have been disavowed and records changed to cover real activities. Our great nation should publicly acknowledge and honor these men as courageous Cold War heroes.

Crew of P2V-5 BuNo127752 missing January 4,1954:

Jesse Beasley Lieutenant USN 1310/351146(age 31)………Pilot………………-Missing / Married

Fredric Traynor Prael Lieutenant USNR 1315/3962(age 34) Co-Pilot………….-Missing / Married

Paul Dominick Morrelli Ensign USNR 1325/568090(age 25) Navigator………..-Missing / Married

Robert George Archbold ADC USN 300 41 28(age 30) …….Plane Captain…..-Missing / Married

James Frank Hand AD2 USN 369 27 26(age 28) …………..Second Mechanic-Missing / Married

Bruce David Berger AT3 USN 340 72 62(age 23) …………..Radioman……….-Missing / Married

Gordon Spickelmier AO3 USN 386 63 32(age 28) ………….Ordanceman…….-Missing / Married

Rex Allen Claussen AL2 USN 303 82 59(age 24)……………Radioman……….-Missing / Married

Stanley Burt Mulford Ensign USNR 1325/556706(age 24) ....Navigator-Body recovered / Bachelor

LLoyd Bernard Rensink AT2 USN 318 70 25(age 25) ……..Radarman-Body recovered / Bachelor



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Excerpt from a Letter Home

Written by Lt. Jesse Beasley to his wife:

"We have a patrol tomorrow that takes us on across the Bering Straight and around the Russian coast as far as we can go.  I certainly don't look forward to them 'cause flying conditions here are absolutely terrible."

Remember them – and remember their families.
Never forget that freedom is not free.
In each and every war, human sacrifice is the price of liberty.

Map of Cape Cod
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