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  TBF-1 Avenger Bureau Number 47448  
USMC
VT-21

Pilot  Lt(jg) Edward M. Peck, USNR (rescued) Shreveport, LA
Gunner  AOM2/c Stanley Teft (rescued)
Radio  ARM3/c Jesse Scott, Jr. (rescued) Garden City, KS

Ditched  June 16, 1943 at roughly 9:15

Crew History
Previously, Teft claimed a Zero shot down on February 4, 1943 on a mission against Japanese shipping.

Mission History
On June 16, 1943 took off from Henderson Field on a night mission to drop flares and illuminate targets. Not finding viable targets at New Georgia or Vella Lavella, the formation flew to southern Bougainville in search of shipping.

Over Tonolei Harbor, flying at roughly 3,000' and dropping flares, this Avenger was caught in searchlights and antiaircraft fire. An anti-aircraft shell exploded near the plane fatally damaging it and setting the engine on fire and the crew suffered minor wounds. Pilot Peck managed to steer the burning plane away from the target, and ditched at roughly 9:15 and sank within a minute, roughly 10 miles south of Shortland.

Fate of Crew
Peck and Teft were both wounded by shrapnel in their legs. The crew spent two and a half days in their life raft until they sighted an island. They made landfall on Stirling Island on June 19th at roughly 11am. Peck explored the island alone and met native people at 4pm that afternoon. Mistaken for Japanese, the natives departed to notify the Japanese about them. Initially, Peck entertained surrendering, but the group decided to keep going.

The crew hid themselves until June 22nd, then paddled to nearby Mono Island where they were recognized as Allies and welcomed. A native named "John" approached them, and agreed to hide them from the Japanese. the group was moved five times during the first week to evade patrolling Japanese.

Afterwards, they were joined other American aviators who also ditched in the vicinity. First, P-38G 43-2296 pilot Benjamin H. King who ditched July 17, 1943. Next, the crew of three from TBF Avenger 05923 who ditched July 18, 1943, landing on the island on the 23rd.

Hidden on the island by the native people, the group of seven aviators ate only one chicken and no other meat and rotated reading the Bible at night to keep up their spirits, and on several occasions avoided nearby Japanese patrols. Peck's wounds became more severe, and on several occasions had to be carried.

After nearly three months, a portion of the group (Peck, Teft, Mitchell and King) planned to sail to the south and bring help to the others left on Mono. Using one of their life rafts and departed on September 13 during the moonlight night, and spent four days in the raft, and observed Japanese and Allied planes overhead.

On September 17, their raft was spotted by a patrol plane and dropped rations, but they were not able to retrieve them, and the plane departed. A PT-Boat was deployed to search for them, but was unsuccessful. At 6:00, a PBY Catalina escorted by fighters over flew their raft but departed.

Rescue of Raft
At 10pm, a VP-54 PBY Catalina piloted by Lt(jg) Fred H. Gage, USNR was on a routine night patrol of the Vella Lavella-Shortland-Fauro area. When the men in the raft heard it, they lit a flare in a can of kerosene to signal the flying boat. The Catalina circled for 2 1/2 hours before attempting to land at 2:30am on September 18 and pulled alongside the raft, then roughly six miles NW of Vella Lavella. The men were too weak after 96 hours at sea and had to be lifted aboard, and then their raft was destroyed. Afterwards, they were flown to Henderson Field on Guadalcanal and again had to be carried off the Catalina. Afterwards, the men were returned to the United States.

Rescue of Scott
Remaining on Mono, Scott, plus Estep and Dahl from TBF Avenger 05923 remained behind. Later, on October 18, an Allied reconnaissance party landed on the island. The next day they were told about the three airmen by the natives. Demanding that a white man show himself, so they were sure they were not Japanese, the airmen revealed themselves. The aviators and the recon party were extracted from Mono aboard another PT Boat during the night of October 21 and disembarked at the PT Boat base at Lumbaria off Rendova. Scott had been behind enemy lines for 148 days.

References
Thanks to David M. Estep for additional information
"Stranded! There were 7 Japs and the sea to fight" by Seth Bailey
"Airmen Reports Miracle Rescue"
Medical Report on Survivors Marooned on a South Pacific Island
Lonely Vigil page 279- 284

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Last Updated
January 5, 2018

 

Tech Info
Avenger

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