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Remains of 5 US airmen recovered from watery grave in Saint Lawrence River

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posted on Aug, 9 2012 @ 02:33 PM
PBY Catalina

Did you ever hear of the Crimson Route?

Before the bombing of Pearl Harbor on Dec 7, 1941, the US had not yet entered WWII with the allies, but it was quite involved in it nevertheless, shipping its California and midwestern-made planes and war products to the European war front. The Germans were well aware of supply convoys going across the Atlantic and anyone in the Merchant Marines soon learned that they would be very lucky to survive the war.

In order to ferry the supplies overseas to the allies through Greenland without letting the American populace know, the US would dispense Catalina seaplanes along routes it devised with Canada, routes which became known as the Crimson Route, the crimson part of the plan standing for Canada. The cargo routes throughout the US were varied and secret, and in Canada even went all the way up to the high Arctic via the west coast into Russia, or Hudson's Bay, to Iqaluit, then overseas. However the great majority of routes converged at or near the different North Atlantic staging areas for the Atlantic crossing. Read an interesting and decent wiki on them here.

One such route required stopover and emergency landing strips west of the general staging area of Goose Bay, Labrador, which would be of much interest to the Germans. The largest air base in the world in 1945 was in Goose Bay, Labrador, built jointly by the US and Canada in 1941, a base from which over 24,000 overseas flights originated. info link

One such emergency landing strip along the route was in a predominent Metis area, near a very small French-speaking fishing village in the Gulf of Saint Lawrence called Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, on an island hugging the northern coast of the Province of Quebec. That area is now a National Park Reserve and if you enter exactly and only what's inside the following parentheses (50.007739, -63.006592) into Google Maps you can easily locate it. (In the above pic, the village is located near the mainland across from the fishtail end of the large Anticosti island colored in dark blue). Other than its regular fishing, wildlife and lighthouse activities, the building of that emergency airstrip would have caused a great deal of excitement and perhaps raised a little more interest in the war than previously, since French Quebec generally was against conscription (the draft) and generally not interested in defending England, its despised conqueror.

It must have been something to see those Catalina seaplanes taxiing out of the harbour and taking off. Who could help but take notice and talk about this marvel-plane? Those seaplanes were known as seaboats. They were big daddies. Had I money to spare, I'd lay lots down that the locals speculated a great deal on what those seaplanes carried.

In May 1942 the Germans launched the war on the overseas convoys. U-Boats were active in the exact same area, sinking cargo ships and even firing a torpedo that landed on the beach of St-Yvon directly across from the little landing strip, causing the windows in houses to shatter. When the body of a seaman washed ashore how could they ignore it? No doubt wartime activity in the area would surely now become a local preoccupation at the Pointe, just as it was in various areas throughout the rest of the world. So I contend that the Americans built an emergency landing strip there and it excited the locals from the very beginning; and, since loose tongues mostly spoke in French or a local native language, there was perhaps less sensitivity about their having to maintin secrecy, but here I admit I'm speculating.

November 2, 1942, was Josephine Vibert's wedding day. Vibert is a recognized Metis name, so it's possible that she is part native. It is easy to picture the weather at that time of year: It would have been pleasant enough but cold with perhaps a little snow on the ground, salty air, the winds always bitingly icy, and given the village's location, subject to the vagaries of tides and weather.

History was to put a stamp on Josephine's wedding day. In late afternoon of Nov 2nd, 1942, not long before the reception, the wedding guests in the village watched an American seaplane taxi out of the harbour. The water was choppy with large waves and the wind was fierce. There's no doubt in my mind that the villagers stood in awed silence and wished the crew godspeed. However to their horror, they watched it crash into the water.

Late in the afternoon on Nov. 2, 1942, not long before the wedding reception, Vibert and most of the village stopped to watch a U.S. Army seaplane taxi from the harbour.

But the plane — a PBY Catalina — struggled to clear the water. Vibert recalls the towering waves of the Gulf of Saint Lawrence lashing at the cockpit during its second takeoff attempt.

“I counted five waves, but there may have been more,” she says from her home, still in Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan, north of Anticosti Island. “After the last one, water started entering their plane.”

The town’s fishermen braved the frothing waters to find four crew members clinging to the fuselage.

Just moments after the survivors were hauled aboard the local fishing boats, the plane, along with the five remaining crew members, slipped beneath waves, never to be seen again.

The story was therefore very well-known in the small village of Longue-Pointe-de-Mingan because the village was involved in rescuing five of the occupants. So for years it was considered a graveyard by those who knew the story. Burial at sea, leave the bodies there, do not disturb, respect for the deceased, RIP? No! It is much more than that. It is common knowledge that the indigenous populations of North America call such places "sacred burial grounds." It is therefore not a stretch to believe that they might also have been conducting some prayer rituals over the site from time to time, but disturb it? Never.

But what of the non-native francophones? Fisherman from that area generally do not know how to swim. Their experience with the tides, the currents, the winds and the waves created in them a deep respect for the ocean, and even though it is the Gulf, the river and ocean waters have met and mingled further on upstream. Those same fishermen therefore are not likely to be deep sea divers either, imho.

(to be continued)

posted on Aug, 9 2012 @ 02:42 PM
Recent story

The recent part of the story began with a lighthouse in 2009. In trying to discover all they could about the lighthouse, Parks Canada naturally looked to find all they could about possible shipwrecks near it. However locals said there weren't any known shipwrecks but that there was a well-known sinking of an American seaplane in 1942 just a mile or so to the west of the lighthouse.

You can view video of the account here

In keeping with procedures, they notified the American embassy who in turn notified JPAC

article source

So is there a conspiracy in all of this?
Four crew members were saved on that fateful day. It is to be expected that these men found their way back to the US where their military establishment would further debrief them. This means that the US knew not only about the plane going down, but probably had first-hand descriptions of its sinking including the names of those who perished. The military knew there were service members who drowned that day. In another thread, it was made clear by submariners and navy people that the military does not disturb a watery grave (Honolulu being one of a few exceptions). link to comments

In the same quoted story above,

Earlier this month, the Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command (JPAC) dispatched a 50-person team to investigate the site. They arrived on a 78-metre salvage ship, the USNS Grapple. Their 30-day mission is close to wrapping up.

Wow! Did some policy change overnight here? What happened to the not disturbing a grave? They have already brought up all kinds of artifacts, and have recovered the bodies, sending them to a lab for ident purposes. And since there were survivors, they surely knew about it. So why wait all these years? Are they really afraid that the gravesite might not remain as is? What is the changing policy variable in all of this?

Your comments are invited.

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