KADENA AIR BASE, Japan -- Members of the 1st Special Operations Squadron visited the crash site of Stray 59 Feb. 26, to drop a wreath in honor for the eight aircrew members and 15 passengers who died there. The memorial flight has been flown by the 1st SOS every year since the crash 37 years ago.
On Feb. 26, 1981, during the crew’s last mission of a 16-day exercise hosted by the U.S. Navy SEALS, the crew of an MC-130E with the call sign STRAY 59 worked to extract a joint multination special operations forces team from Naval Air Station Cubi Point, Philippines.
Shortly after loading the passengers and taking off, without any indication of a problem, the STRAY 59 crew made a call to the ground radio station to report normal operations.
Minutes later, a local fisherman witnessed the 1st SOS Combat Talon I crash into the water. One survivor, the electronic warfare officer, was thrown from the aircraft and rescued by a local.
“I think we always need to remember the individuals who came before us, and the sacrifices they made on our part,” said Lt. Col. Abraham Friedman, 353rd Special Operations Group pilot. “It also highlights the fact that everyone here is also willing to make that same sacrifice.”
Members from the 353rd SOG joined the 1st SOS aircrew to observe and participate in the ceremony for the fallen.
Two of the lost passengers were 320th Special Tactics Squadron combat controllers. Members of the 320th STS attended to drop additional flowers to pay homage to the lost aircrew and passengers.
It was an opportunity to go there and pay respect to the individuals who fell on that day, Friedman explained.
“The STRAY 59 memorial flight is for us to go out and remember those who have fallen,” said Senior Airman Nathan Yenke, 1st SOS loadmaster, “And to remember that what we’re doing is not small, and it’s not just for us.”
The 1st SOS members lost Feb. 26, 1981, during the STRAY 59 crash were Maj. James Kirk, aircraft commander; Capt. Norman Martel, co-pilot; Capt. Thomas Patterson, navigator; Capt. Gregory Peppers, navigator; Tech. Sgt. Stephen Blyler, radio operator; Tech. Sgt. Barry Chumbley, loadmaster; Tech. Sgt. Gary Logan, loadmaster; and Staff Sgt. John Felton, flight engineer.
The 15 passengers lost were:
From the U.S. Air Force and the 320th STS
Senior Airman James Bach, Senior Airman David Bingaman
From the U.S. Air Force
Senior Airman Glenn Bloomer, and Airman First Class Kyle Wells.
From the U.S. Army
Sgt. 1st Class Danny Janecki, Staff Sgt. Patrick Estel, Staff Sgt. Davis Hagen and Sgt. Bryan Broadwater.
From the Philippine Navy
Radioman Petty Officer 3rd Class Rodrigo Penol and Seaman Manuel Dumo.
From the Australian Army
Sgt. Ewen Miller, Sgt. Murray Tonkin and Signalman Gregory Fry.
From the New Zealand Army
Warrant Officer 2nd Class Dave Heywood and Sgt. Dennis Terry.