40th Anniversary of the loss of Air Force reconnaissance plane in Typhoon Bess

Satellite picture of Typhoon Bess on Oct. 8, 1974

Satellite picture of Typhoon Bess on Oct. 8, 1974

On October 12, 1974, an Air Force C-130 Typhoon Chaser plane, with its six man crew, was lost during reconnaissance of Typhoon Bess while over the South China Sea.  This was the last such reconnaissance flight to go down in a tropical cyclone and the only C-130 to suffer such a fate.

By most measures Bess was an otherwise unremarkable storm.  Bess had formed east of the Philippines some six days before the fatal mission.  It moved west-northwestward and slowly gathered strength before striking the archipelago on Oct. 10th as a minimal typhoon.  It still brought heavy rains across Luzon and surrounding islands.  Mudslides and flash floods claimed 26 lives with 3 others missing.  Bess then moved over the South China Sea and began to regain strength. It was during a regular reconnaissance mission the following day that the aircraft of the Air Force’s 54th Weather Reconnaissance Squadron flying out of Clark AFB in the Philippines went down with no distress signal sent.  Search and rescue missions were begun and eventually involved five aircraft and the USS White Plains.  Only debris and no survivors were found.  Bess continued westward, weakening before making landfall on Hainan Island and later North Vietnam with little damage.

The crew of Swan 38 were

Capt  Edward R. Bushnell
1Lt  Gary W. Crass
1Lt  Michael P. O’Brien
1Lt  Timothy J. Hoffman
Tech Sgt  Kenneth G. Suhr
Sgt  Detlef W. Ringler

55th Anniversary of Typhoon Vera or the “Isewan Typhoon”


Track of Typhoon Vera 1959 (Wikipedia)

On Sept. 26, 1959, a powerful Super Typhoon struck Japan and became the deadliest and most intense tropical cyclone to make landfall in that nation’s history.  The storm was given the name Vera from the Joint Typhoon Warning Center’s list, but in Japan it became infamous for the damage it did to Ise Bay (Isewan in Japanese) and is known there as the “Isewan Typhoon.”

The system was first detected on Sept. 20th and within a day had been upgraded to tropical storm strength by JTWC based on reconnaissance.  It remained under surveillance by the USAF WRS 54 “Typhoon Chasers” until landfall five days later.  They documented a rapid intensification of Vera from its formation until Sept. 23rd when the maximum sustained winds were observed to be 175 kts (324 kn/hr) and its central pressure fell to 896 mb. Although it weakened somewhat from this peak, by the time it made landfall on the main Japanese island of Honshu three days later, the maximum sustained winds were still at 160 kts (260 km/hr).  The typhoon rapidly weakened as it moved quickly over Honshu to the Sea of Japan, then recurved back over the island. It continued out over the North Pacific as an extratropical low.


Relief helicopter over the flooded town of Nagashima

The worst of the storm surge of 13 feet (4 meters) in Ise Bay was caused by the orientation of the winds, the narrow entrance of the Bay, and its shallowness.  Poorly constructed earthen dikes gave way, and storm-driven waves smashed housing along the shore.  In addition, heavy rains preceded Vera and continued through its trek over Japan, resulting in heavy flooding and landslides inland.  The damage and death toll have remained uncertain.  The damage estimates range from US$260 to $600 million. Deaths totals range from 4500 to 5100 people,  Although the storm was constantly tracked and well forecast, the Japanese media’s coverage lacked a sense of urgency and many people were ill-prepared for the typhoon’s arrival.

Despite prompt relief efforts by the Japanese government and U.S. Armed Forces, there was an outbreak of dysentery as well as water shortages and food rationing.  The city of Nagoya remained flooded by salt water for weeks after the storm.  This spurred the government to revamp its disaster preparedness and response system including passing the Disaster Countermeasures Basic Act, which established the Central Disaster Prevention Council.  There were also improvements made to Japan’s coastal flooding defenses.

55th anniversary of tragic loss


Typhoon Ophelia cuts a swath of destruction across Jaluit Atoll, Ponape, Truk, and Yap and finally, on January 15, 1958, brings down an Air Force WB-50 reconnaissance plane, claiming the lives of all ten crewmen.

Aircraft Commander- Captain Albert J Lauer

Pilot- Captain Clyde W Tefertiller

Weathar Observer- Captain Marcus G Miller

Navigator- First Lieutenant Courtland Beeler III

Navigator- First Lieutenant Paul J Buerkle Jr

Flight Engineer- Technical Sergeant Delivan L Gordon

Flight Engineer- Staff Sergeant Kenneth L Tetzloff

Radio Operator- Staff Sergeant Kenneth L Houseman

Radio Operator- Airman First Class Randolph C Watts

Weather Technician- Airman First Class Bernard G Tullgren