USS Little Rock CL92
Loss of SC-1 Seahawk #35555
on 08 August 1945

Last update: 30 September, 2016


On Wednesday, 08 August 1945, the USS Little Rock lost a Curtiss SC-1 "Seahawk" seaplane off the coast of Cuba during an aircraft launch and recovery operation. The aircraft sank, however the pilot was rescued.

The Navy accident report lists the date as "8/4/45" but this is probably an error. Other records indicate that the ship was secured on 04 August 1945 (a Saturday) because of heavy weather resulting from a hurricane over Santo Domingo.

Here are the details as given in the accident report:

Accident Date: 8/4/1945
Aircraft Type: SC-1
Aircraft Number:
35555
Ship Number: CL-92
Ship Name: USS LITTLE ROCK
Location: OFF CUBA
Area: CENLANT
Pilot: Name not shown
 

An eyewitness account of the acident from CL92 shipmate John
Breslin (S1/C 1945-46) provides this: 

".... from my "Air, Aft" lookout post behind the highest aft director, I witnessed and described (on SP phone), our only complete aircraft loss during my time aboard.  Ensign W. R. Merryman was landing one of our scout planes south of Cuba, on the smoothed-over water surface our ship always created for landings, by making a slowed-down sliding turn.  As Ens. Merryman was taxiing up towards our towed recovery netted sled, his plane suddenly nosed over, engine still turning and tail straight up in the air.  The pilot was pitched forward out of his cockpit, into a bright, clear sea, teeming with hundreds of visible sharks.  I reported the sharks immediately on my SP phone, but they were also clearly visible from all parts of our ship.  The OD immediately ordered the rescue whaleboat's crew not to enter the water. But when the swimming pilot was not able to grasp the boathook, my buddy and bunk-neighbor, (whose rack was directly across the aisle), immediately dove over his bow and swam to the pilot who was losing consciousness.   Grasping the pilot's life vest collar, "Sully",  our Coxswain W.M. Sullivan, swam closer to the whaleboat and then helped push the limp pilot aboard, as others pulled him in. "Sully" did get a Life Saving Medal for risking a plunge into shark infested waters against orders."

From: Anthony Mastroianni, S1/C C Div. 1945-46

"Regarding the 8/4/45 loss of our plane....  I remember that incident quite well as I was on duty on bridge and witnessed the accident. Prior to the accident an object was reported in the water. (The) crew manned the 40mm to sink object. It was shortly after that incident, that as we were preparing to retrieve our aircraft, the pilot approached the ship to land, hit a wave, and capsized. Being on duty on the bridge I was called as part of rescue crew that manned the whale boat to retrieve pilot. On that day the weather was fine."


First launch of SC-1 off Little Rock
This is a photo of the first launching of a Curtiss SC-1 "Seahawk" from the USS Little Rock. This official Navy photo, taken on 25 July 1945, states that the aircraft pilot was "Lt. Frank." Note however that there is nothing that identifies this as aircraft #35555. Little Rock carried three (3) SC-1's.

Photo generously donated by Joseph Hekimian

Pilot Rescue
This photo, taken immediately after the sinking of SC-1 #35555, shows pilot Ensign Merriman aboad the motor whaleboat about to transfer onto the USS Little Rock.
Two items worth noting: (1) the soaked sailor standing in the forward part of the whaleboat. This may be Coxswain W.M. "Sully" Sullivan refered to in the above narrative. And (2) pilots apparently wore neckties while flying!


Photo generously donated by Joseph Hekimian

SC-1 #35555 Sinking
This photo shows a boat crew from USS Little Rock attempting to salvage aircraft #35555. Note that the plane is inverted with only the float above the surface. There is nothing in any records that we have to indicate that the plane was salvaged.

Photo generously donated by Joseph Hekimian

For other photos of this event click HERE.

Details regarding the above incident are from various sources. Your input may be invaluable in helping us keep the facts correct.
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