The Secret Cold War Aerial Conflict

Posted on 06/04/2015. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , |

Routine Patrol Cover

Shown above is the cover of a short story describing a patrol flight being flown during the cold war along the China Coast. The aircraft being flown in the story is a P4M-1Q. The P4M Mercator was a rare bird. There were two prototypes and nineteen production models. All of the production models were eventually converted to the P4M-1Q configuration to be used for the electronic surveillance mission.

During the 50’s and through the  60’s and 70’s when the Korean and Viet Nam wars took place, the cold war was at its peak and the peripheries of the communist nations were continually patrolled by United States Navy and Airforce aircraft. Sometimes these flights were intercepted and resulted in over two hundred navy and airforce airmen dying during that period due to hostile actions.

The public knew very little of this activity. As far as the United States government was concerned it wasn’t happening and couldn’t protest if one of their reconnaissance aircraft that didn’t exist had been attacked or shot down.

A web site,  Intrusions, overflight, shootdowns and Defections during the cold war, ( , attempts to list all of the documented intercepts. The author of the story, US. Navel Air Routine Patrol has found the web sites list of intercepted intrusions and shootdowns voluminous but not complete. However the list has many pages of incidents and likely has the majority of significant incidents listed.  During 1952 and 1953, the period in which the story, “U.S. Naval Air Routine Patrol,” took place, thirty two incidents involving intercepts of aircraft flown by the United States and its allies near or within the borders of communist nations are recorded. Not many of these activities made the news since they were treated as top secret by the United States.

These numbers need to be put into perspective. During a two year period, starting in 1951 and ending in 1953, the author of the story “U.S Naval Air Routine Patrol, ” flew on 95 patrols lasting approximately ten hours each. That is approximately fifty patrols a year. The four plane contingent the author was associated with operated at about the same level and flew around two hundred patrols a year. That four plane contingent was only a small portion of the overall reconnaissance activities occurring around the periphery of the communist nations at the time. In other words, the electronic surveillance reconnaissance experience was more boring than exciting. The most excitement occurred because of the weather or mechanical problems.
There were three intercept incidents involving the four plane contingent that the author  is aware of while associated with it. One of the incidents has been listed in the Intrusions, overflight, shootdowns and Defections while two weren’t.
The one mentioned occurred on 23 April 1953.  U. S Navy plane (BuNo 124369)  was attacked by two MiG-15 Fagots while flying off the Chinese coast near Shanghai. The MiGs made several firing runs and the crew of the Mercator returned fire. The Mercator was not hit, and as far as the Mercator crew could tell, their return fire did not damage the MiGs.
In another incident the author, as radioman on BuNo 121453, sent an under attack message while on a patrol along the west coast of Korea. The officer overseeing the electronic surveillance in the back of the plane had reported excitedly that fire control radar had locked in on their plane. Nothing came of the incident except a debriefing after returning to Atsugi Navel Air Station.
The third incident is based on excited talk by enlisted crew members who said that they had been attacked by MiGs off Shanghai. This incident can’t be found in any literature the author has seen. Neither had the author seen or heard anything confirming the attack on BuNo 124369 at the time it occurred. The only source of information the author had at the time has been enlisted crew members talk.
There are documented attacks of other Mercators in other theater’s and at later dates. These included: On 22 August 1956 a U.S. Navy P4M-1Q (BuNo 124362) disappeared after a night time attack 32 miles off the coast of Wenchow China. There were no survivors of the 16 crew members.

Damaged P4M

P4M made crash landing after attack over the Sea of Japan.

On 6 June 1959 while flying a patrol mission over the Sea of Japan a U.S. Navy P4M-1Q (BuNo 122209) was attacked 50 miles east of the Korean DMZ by two MiG-17 Frescos. During the attack the Mercator sustained serious damage to the starboard engine and the tail gunner was seriously wounded. The badly damaged plane was able to land at Miho AFB Japan.

In the European theater on 14 January 1960 a P4M-1Q flight originating out of Incirilik AFB Turkey was lost with all sixteen crew members.

A Kindle version of the short story, U.S. Naval Air Routine Patrol, can be found at Alfred Wellnitz Books.


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At War

Posted on 09/06/2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , |

This has nothing to do with reading, writing, publishing or editing books.

Alfred Wellnitz War Story
I served in the Navy for seven years. That’s about as much of the story I ever admit to. If pushed I would admit it had been too long. I joined the Navy in November of 1947 at a point in my life when I had nothing better to do. The navy asked me what I wanted to do and I said I always liked airplanes. The navy sent me with a bunch of others to eight weeks of classes that introduced us to all the aviation ratings the navy had. I selected the Aviation Electronicsman (AL) training because it offered the best chance to become an aircraft crewman. After nine months of training I was assigned to a patrol plane squadron at Miramar, a base near San Diego California. The squadron flew WWII B17 planes (Designated the PB1W by the U.S. Navy) configured to carry APS 20, an advanced radar that could detect a submerged submarine using a snorkel. The squadron spent most of its time perfecting anti-submarine techniques by playing games with U.S. submarines off the west coast. At the time that testing and training took place the navy had an all hands effort going to develop a nuclear submarine capability which would make the use of radar ineffective for detection of submerged submarines.None of these high level concerns affected the bored crews doing the flying to perfect the use of the APS 20 radar for anti-submarine warfare


e.PB1W parked

PB1W; Note Large Radom Mounted on Plane’s Underside

I had been in the PB1W squadron for about a year and a half when North Korea invaded South Korea in June of 1950. At the time I had been anticipating the end of my three year enlistment the following fall.Instead of my enlistment ending I faced the choice of having my enlistment extended or re-upping. If I reenlisted I would get a two hundred dollar bonus. That seemed like a no brainer and I reenlisted for four more years and spent most of the bonus for a Remington Automatic 12 gauge shot gun.

Soon after reenlisting a notice circulated asking for volunteers to join in the formation of a special project. They wanted single men with ratings such as mine with a two year minimum navy commitment. Not looking forward to spending more time as crewman on a PB1W, I volunteered. Things started happening including being cleared for top secret information. The special projects electronics personal were sent to a series of classes to learn something about the new equipment we would be using. We were also sent cross country from San Diego to Baltimore Maryland by rail to get training on the planes we would be using in the special projects mission. Unfortunately the Marten factory people didn’t have the training program ready to go and we spent several weeks in Baltimore cooling our heels and visiting some very good Italian restaurants. We did get to see a P4M and climb through the planes that were being retrofitted for the ECM (Electronic Counter Measure) mission. The P4M looked pretty impressive, a big step up from the World War II PB1W I had been flying in. The planes still had the new plane smell and were equipped with two 4360 reciprocating engines, the most powerful conventional engine used by US military aircraft at the time and, two J33 jets.

Four of the P4M-1Q planes were flown from Baltimore to Miramar where additional  training to become familiar with the plane and its equipment occurred. Then the four planes headed for Sangley Point, a Naval Air Station located in the Philippines on a small point of land that jots into Manila Bay. We didn’t fly the most direct route which would have been to Hawaii then island hopped to the Philippines. Instead we flew to Whidbey Naval Aviation Station in Washington, then to Kodiak Island, then to Shimya and Japan and finally Sangley Point. We laid over in Japan and were briefed on what we would be doing and had a lecture by a survival expert who scared the pants off us describing how we could survive if shot down over China or North Korea. Remember we were supposed to be at war with China at the time, although they called it a police action.

We started doing ECM patrols toward the end of 1951. Our territory ran from Vladivostok Russia in the north, along the Korean and Chinese coast lines to Vietnam in the south. We flew patrols out of Sangley Point, Naha and Kadena on Okinawa and Atsugi and Iwakuna in Japan. I flew on ninety five patrols during the twenty six months I was a part of the special projects. I was awarded an air medal during that time which was sort of a joke. The navy had a policy that awarded aircraft crewmen an air medal after they flew twenty five missions within an area in and around Korea. The number of missions flown within the Korean zone could be finagled by having a patrol flown from Sangley to Okinawa or a in and out patrol from Okinawa configured to catch the edge of the zone. I think I had almost enough missions for a second air medal by the time I rotated out of the special project tour.



P4M 1Q


Picture of P4M-1Q  in flight over the South China Sea in the early 50’s.


Although we weren’t supposed to take pictures of the P4M-1Q, we did. However we were careful not to flash them around. Below is a picture of the plane that I took while it was parked at the Kadena airfield in Okinawa. Early morning light through broken clouds caused an interesting affect. The plane and I were alone that morning. When the planes were away from the Sangley Point home base, at least one crewmember had to be with the plane and I had the duty that morning.


P4M at Kadena Okinawa


I returned to the states in time to spend Christmas at home in 1953. After the holidays I reported to VR-5, a naval air transport squadron located at Moffet Field, a naval air station south of San Francisco. VR-5 moved personnel and material across the Pacific and to Alaska and to Adak on the Aleutian chain. Those were the regular routes with “as needed” flights going anywhere when needed. VR-5 flew R6D aircraft, equivalent to the DC-6 commercial version and state of the art at the time but slow by today’s standards. The time to fly from San Francisco to Japan using the Hawaii, Midway Island route took approximately twenty five hours. The Japan route was flown airline style, one crew would fly it to Hawaii, layover and another crew would take the plane to Japan.  We often had a nurse with us when we flew to Adak. Adak had a history of generating mental instability and we occasionally provided transportation for passengers in straitjackets. On one flight we flew a base commander who had finished his tour in Alaska back to San Francisco and he was in a happily inebriated mode. He came into the cockpit area singing “San Francisco here I come, right back where I started from,” in a slurring voice.




The R6D Used in the VR-5 Naval Air Transport Squadron


Soon after the Korean War started the GI Benefits given to World War II veterans were reinstated for Korean veterans. When I became aware of this I decided I would go to college and study engineering after I got out of the Navy. During the summer of 1954 I applied for an early discharge in order to enter South Dakota State College School of Engineering in September, two months before my enlistment would have expired. The Navy happily agreed since the Korean War had ended and they were in a downsizing mode. When I left the navy I had flown 2595 hours as a crewman on various navy aircraft. In June of 1958 I graduated with a bachelor’s degree in Electrical Engineering. That is the beginning of another story.

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