Grumman F4F Wildcat & TBF-1 Avenger

F4F Wildcat and TBF-1 Avenger
F4F Wildcat grumman-tbf-avenger.jpg
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Collision Details:

Date: August 17, 1942

  • 4 Grumman Avenger bombers making simulated group torpedo run on Meydenbauer Bay, Lake Washington
  • 3 Wildcat fighters attempting to oppose run
  • 1 Wildcat held his attack too long
  • Mid air collision between 1 Wildcat and 1 Avenger; both aircraft crash and sink
  • Avenger Pilot, Radioman Injured, Tail Gunner Killed

Operating out of NAS Seattle at Sand Point, four Avenger torpedo bombers made a simulated torpedo attack on a target in Lake Washington, located near Meydenbauer Bay.

Three Wildcat fighters were simulating defense of the target.

The torpedo bombers were traveling east, toward Bellevue, at about 200 knots. The three fighters made an opposing run from ahead at about 300 knots. The pilot of one Wildcat held his attack too long to affect a safe recovery and collided with one of the Avengers. The fighter pilot continued west, toward Seattle, lowered his landing gear to slow his plane and bailed out. The Wildcat went into the lake off Leshi.

The damaged Avenger and other aircraft flew north toward NAS Seattle. According to Seattle Times cartoonist, Sam Groff, who was fishing
from a boat,

“I saw five planes flying in formation. There were three torpedo bombers and two fighters. Suddenly one of the bombers began to tip on
its right wing. It was getting lower and lower. The next instant it struck. The impact tore off the right wing.” (Seattle Times, August 18, 1942).

After the crash, the pilot, F. W. Janney of Philadelphia, PA, and top turret gunner, Charles W. Price of Houston, TX, managed to get out of the damaged
Avenger before it sank. However, the radioman/ventral gunner, Bernard J. Viscovich of Shamokin, PA, was trapped in the plane and

Another eyewitness, Paul Moran, provided this account of the crash:

“I was on a sailboat near the crash site when it occurred. We had been to a marina in Houghton and were returning toward moorage between Juanita and Champagne Point. Someone aboard shouted “look at that plane!” and when I looked it was approaching the water at high speed and at a fairly steep angle. When it hit, the wings appeared to fold forward and all kinds of debris threw up spray ahead of it. A large piece of debris, which we thought was the propeller, cart wheeled across the water ahead of the fuselage. We saw what we thought to be the pilot thrown 20 to 30 feet into the air. We turned the boat around and proceeded to the crash site to see if there were any survivors. We found a person floating in his life jacket who was dazed and barely conscious. We could see another person also floating in the water some distance away that seemed to be in slightly better shape so we stayed with the first person to be sure he wouldn’t drown. We were afraid to bring him aboard because we didn’t know the extent of his injuries. We held him along side until a crash boat arrived from NAS Seattle which retrieved both persons.” (Personal Communication, December 3, 2004).

Artist’s 3D Rendering of Wildcat today:
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F4F Underwater Images:
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Seattle Times, August 18th, 1942
“Planes Victim’s Body Hunted”
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Avenger Underwater Images:
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Avenger Pilot F.W. Janney
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Sonar Imagery (F4F and TBF-1)
f4f_wildcat_sonar1.jpg avenger.jpg
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