Not many Americans know that Thursday, April 8th will be the 71st anniversary of the first loss of life for the Americans during the Cold War. It was the shootdown of a Navy surveillance plane off the coast of Latvia.
As many readers know I was the President of the American Chamber of Commerce in Latvia and a real-estate investor. My partners and I had renovated the largest building of its type in the 3 Baltic states known as Jacob’s Barracks Link. It was a 200 yard long 1750’s military barracks originally ordered built by Peter the Great, Czar of Russia. I became the landlord of the American & Italian Ambassadors Residence, and the European Commission and Royal Netherlands Embassies.
Below is part of a letter I wrote to a high ranking American General.
The American Ambassador was the Honorary President of the AmCham. The AmCham worked closely with the Embassy so I was often there as AmCham President and became good friends with each American Ambassador. Additionally I was his landlord.
The Ambassador was aware that I had many contacts and could solve many business issues. In mid March of 2000 I received a call from American Ambassador James Holmes. He was calling to ask me a favor (when my Ambassador and one of my largest customers calls to ask a favor, I pay attention). He proceeded to tell me that coming up on April 8, 2000 would be the 50th anniversary of the first American loss of life during the Cold War.
On April 8, 1950 a US Navy Privateer PB4Y-2 (link) reconnaissance plane was shot down off the coast of Liepaja, Soviet Latvia. As the story goes, 10 Navy Airman were lost at sea as the Privateer got disoriented in the poor Baltic weather and flew directly towards the (closed) coastal city of Liepaja which is where the Soviet Atlantic Submarine fleet was located. A Privateer is a B-24 Liberator bomber with it’s guns removed.
By the year 2000 I had already taken a few tours of Liepaja and the abandoned Soviet submarine base. When the Russian Military left Latvia in 1993 they scuttled a number of submarines at port. They also left behind an environmental nightmare. So when the Ambassador told me a Privateer had been flying towards Liepaja, I had a good understanding.
The Soviets saw the Privateer heading straight for their submarine base and scramble some MIGs. The story goes that the MIGs intercepted the Privateer and gave signals to land. The Privateer turned and headed for home and the MIGs downed it in the Baltic Sea.
Because of the Cold War there had been no official recognition nor memorial for the shoot-down incident. Now that Latvia was independent and this was the first Cold War incident, Washington wanted a memorial. The problem was that normally the Veterans Administration would take care of making the memorial, and with only 3 weeks there is not enough time to go through the red tape of DC. Additionally, US Embassy funds are prohibited to be spent on such items.
Ambassador Holmes asked if I could take care of getting the memorial brass plaque made. Little did he know I was rather sensitive to our airmen being downed in the European seas as my father was shot down twice during WW II landing both times in the English Channel. My father was a B-25 pilot and flew two tours. He also flew C-47s and delivered Göring, Jodl, von Rippentrop, Kesselring, Donitz and other top Nazis to the Nuremberg Trials.
I made a personal request to the members of AmCham, ten members covered the plaque cost and I had the brass memorial designed, manufactured, and installed in time for the 50 year anniversary and dedication. It is located in the City of Liepaja on the “Monument to Mariners Lost at Sea” Link
It was an honor for us to be able to contribute to the memory of those that defend us. It is probably one of the only memorials put up by the private sector.
God Bless our Service Men and Women that protect us!
attached is a photo of the 2 plaques on the Monument.
The top plaque was put up in 1977 during Soviet times as a memorial to sailors lost at sea when the Monument was erected. The first language is Latvian. The second is Russian. Translated to English it reads:
“Sing sweet breeze, gently, gently,
Carry not the waves ashore;
In the sea's tender depths slumber
My dear, beloved, brothers”
The lower plaque was added April 8, 2000 during freedom times with an official US Embassy ceremony. The first language is Latvian. The second is English.
In memorial of the missing crew of the U.S. Navy PB4Y2 aircraft BUNO 59645 shot down at sea off Liepaja on April 8, 1950
LT John H. Fette
LT Howard W. Seeschaf
LTJG Robert D. Reynolds
ENS Tommy L. Burgess
AT1 Frank L. Beckman
AD 1 Joe H. Danens
AD 1 Jack W. Thomas
AL3 Joseph J. Bourassa
CT3 Edward J. Purcell
AT3 Joseph N. Rinnier
Dedicated April 8, 2000
(An article – Remebering Crew Memebers of U.S. Navy PB4Y-2 Shoot Down April 8, 1950 – Link)
A side note – during the first memorial service some US Military Brass flew in from Germany along with a civilian retired Colonel representing US-Russian POW/MIAs. He informed me that there was information that 3 to 4 of the Navy Privateer crew survived the crash and went to the Gulags.
Now that the Songbird Senator John McCain is dead maybe somebody in Washington DC can tell the true story of our POWs and MIAs that we left behind, and find a pair of brass balls and go and get them.
American Heritage Farms
Our Heritage as Americans is our farms. Wake up!
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