VP-31 Crew - In Memorium - VP-31 Crew
"Eternal Father Strong To Save"
The Navy Hymn
Sailor Aviators Version
Eternal Father, Strong to Save,
Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,
Who bid'st the mighty Ocean deep
Its' own appointed limits keep;
O hear us when we cry to thee,
for those in peril on the sea.
Lord, guard and guide the men who fly
Through the great spaces in the sky.
Be with them always in the air,
In dark'ning storms or sunlight fair.
O, Hear us when we lift our prayer,
For those in peril in the air.
But when at length our course is run,
Our work for home and country done,
Of all the souls that flew and sailed,
Let not one life in thee be failed,
But hear from heaven our sailors cry,
And grant eternal life on high.
May all our departed shipmates rest in peace.
Eternal Father by the U.S. Navy Band's Sea Chanters (668 kbytes - WAV file)
Information provided by Diana Spear DiLynne57@aol.com
Wife of AMS2 William S. Lasko, Flight Engineer
2 JUNE 1972
NAVAL AIR STATION
MOFFETT FIELD, CALIFORNIA
A MEMORIAL SERVICE
Prelude Twelth Naval District BandMICHAEL EUGENE HAMLIN
The Opening Sentences/The Invocation Chaplain John W. Berger, USN
The Words of Affirmation
The Prayers Chaplain Peter J. Cary, USN
The Words of Eulogy and Remembrance CDR R. R. Hedges, USN, Commanding Officer, Patrol Squadron Thirty-One
The Calling of the Roll and Tolling of the Bell
The Moment of Silent Memory
The Benediction Chaplain John W. Berger, USN
The Navy Hymn and Presentation of Flags
Petty Officer Second Class
THOMAS EUGENE BRUNK
"...Here is a picture of my husband LT Thomas E. Brunk. He served with VP-19 and VP-31...Janet Brunk Ehlers email@example.com..." [19MAR2012]
"...This year will be the 40th Anniversary of the disappearance of my husband, LT Thomas Eugene Brunk, and his crew...Janet Brunk Ehlers firstname.lastname@example.org..." [25FEB2012]
RICHARD ALLEN NELSON
Lieutenant Junior Grade
"...We still don't know what happened to BUNO: 152155. A FOIA request produced documents saying the aircraft was in perfect working order. So the disappearance really is an unsolved mystery. If anyone has any memories of the crew, or theories about the disappearance, I'd love to hear them...Karen Hoy, LT(jg) Richard Nelson's Niece email@example.com..." [28MAY2005]
WILLIAM STANLEY LASKO
Petty Officer Second Class
"...The reason for my query is that my father, William Stanley Lasko, was aboard that flight.. I was only one and a half when the plane disappeared am now attempting to attain any and all available information regarding this missing plane. Please email me if you can help or have any suggestions. I am stationed at Schofield Barracks, HI. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, SGT. James S. Lasko Tadsfolks@aol.com..." [26APR68]
RONALD CHARLES HAMELIN
Petty Officer First Class
JOSEPH THOMAS BECKER
Lieutenant Junior Grade
BOBBIE G. PARRISH
Major - United Air Force
TERRY RAY COOK
"...This Memorial Day, my thoughts return to the loss of VP-31's BUNO: 152155. My brother, LCDR Terry R. Cook, was aboard that plane off the Monterey Peninsula. Is there any information to be shared from research in later years? I have the report from the Navy regarding the search. It talks of possible pieces of debris but nothing certain. My sympathies to the other flight members' families. It is indeed hard to understand what happened...Sandra Cook Kauffman firstname.lastname@example.org..." [PIX Added 13JUL2009 | 24MAY2009]
VP-31 P-3 Disappears
Moffett News - Vol. 28, No. 22
naval Air Station, Moffett Field
Wednesday, May 31, 1972
Lost Friday (May 26, 1972)...A Patrol Squadron Thirty-One P-3 Orion aircraft was declared missing after leaving on a routine training flight from Moffett Field Friday Morning at 9:15 a.m. with a crew of eight.Memorial Services Held At Moffett
The subhunter patrol plane was the object of an intense air-sea search covering 14,000 miles. The aircraft was due back around 2 p.m. and when it did not appear search and rescue procedures were instigated. The plane is believed down somewhere between Moffett and the local Navy flying area off the coast of Big Sur.
Coast Guard, Navy and Air Force planes and Coast Guard cutters made an extensive search of the area in which the plane might have gone down.
Heavy fog and bad weather hampered the search during the early phases. As the paper goes to press no word of the fate of the crew and aircraft has. been received.
Those aboard the missing plane, are: Lieutenant Thomas E. Brunk, PPC and Instructor Pilot; Lieutenant (j.g.) Richard A. Nelson, student pilot; Lieutenant (j.g.) Joseoh T. Becker, student pilot; ADJI Ronald C. Hamelin, Flight Engineer Engineer; AMS2.Wmnrn S. Lasko, Instructor Flight Engineer; ADJ2 Michael E. Hamlin, Student Flight Engineer, Air Force Major Bobby G. Parish, United Technology Center Plant Representative and; LCdr Terry R. Cook, NARTU Alameda.
naval Air Station, Moffett Field
Wednesday, June 7, 1972
By J03 Michael Klages...A silent reverent hush fell over the Naval Air Station, Moffett Field, on Friday, June 2, at 3 p.m. when memorial services were held for eight missing airmen.Moffett's Unsolved Mystery - Nine Years Later
The solemn memorial ceremony began when the speakers and honorary pall-bearers marched to the mall. Senior Chaplain CDR John W. Berger performed the opening scripture and Invocation, along with remarks. Chaplain Peter Gary delivered the prayers.
Commander Ralph R. Hedges, Commanding Officer of Patrol Squadron Thirty-One then stepped up to the podium and read the Eulogy. He remarked, "With deep regret I have evaluated the circumstances and have determined that the status of those aboard the ill fated aircraft must be changed from missing to dead." He concluded his address, "The officers and men aboard RP-18 were men of arms, dedicated and courageous; aware of the hazards of the profession of defense and willing to accept those risks because they believed the freedom and bountries of life in these United States were worth preserving. These men have met the challenge. Their mission is complete, the journey over. Toll the bell.
Cdr. Hedges then read the missing men's names individually, each man's name, after being announced, was followed by a single bell toll. Then a moment of silence covered the air station mall.
Chaplain Berger then read the Benediction. The Marine Firing Squad fired the three volleys and the bugler played taps. The Twelfth Naval District Band then played the Navy Hymn, as flags were presented to relatives of the airmen.
The P-3 "Orion" aircraft of airmen disappeared off the Big Sur Coastal area on Friday, May 26. When the aircraft failed to return to Moffett, an extensive search and rescue effort was commenced. The intensive search failed to reveal any trace of the missing aircraft or its occupants.
No clue as to the reason for the big four engine turboprop subhunter's loss has been found. The incident is under investigation by Patrol Squadron Thirty-One.
By Ruthann Richter Times Tribune staff…Never before had Moffett Field i experienced so strange an event as. the one that occurred on May 26, 1972. And none has matched it since.
The record of that day - and those that followed - remain I buried in the Naval Air Station files, but the people touched by the experience remember well.
On the warmish Friday, there were a few clouds in the sky, but otherwise it was perfect flying weather.
A morning crowd of anti-war-demonstrators outside the Moffett Gate temporarily disturbed what began as a business-as-usual day.
Shortly before 9 a.m., six Navy airmen and two reserve officers, one an Air Force major, climbed aboard a P3C-Orion sub chaser on one of the many routine training missions launched from the base.
The men and their craft headed southwest toward the BigSur coastal training area As they reached Salinas around 9 a.m., the pilot, LL Thomas E. Brunk, radioed the Oakland air traffic control center that all was well.
The plane was presumed to have been proceeding according to flight plan, beginning at Santa Cruz for several hours of training exercises in the 1,500 square miles of training area over the ocean.
The plane was due back at 2 p.m. but had enough fuel to last it until 5:30p.m.
When the 2 p.m. deadline had passed, however, worried Moffett officials began asking civilian and military fields in the area to see if the plane had landed somewhere.
When the phone calls turned up nothing, several Orions from the same squadron were dispatched to the area to search for the missing plane..
Janet Ehlers, the pilot's wife, recalled that she was expecting her husband home at 5 p.m., in plenty of "time for a 7 p.m. dinner date.
When he didn't show up, Ehlers telephoned the wife of one of her husband's squadron mates and learner that he also had failed to come home.
What she didn't know then was that the squadron mate was out on a special mission, searching for her husband and his crew.
By 7 p.m., Ehlers had passed up "dinner and was visited by a Navy 'chaplain and an instructor ptlot who reported that the craft was 'missing.
While they kept her company, five planes and four ships from the Naval base and the Coast Guard began fanning out into the area between Santa Cruz and Morro Bay in an intense search that covered 12,000square miles.
When nothing turned up by the following day, the squadron commanding officer Cmdr. R. R. Hedges, reported that the incident had him completely befuddled. "I've never experienced anything like lt before We had some of our best minds working on it but they haven't come up with anything."
Still, the intense search continued for the next seven days.
"We saturated the .area for the next week," said Cmdr. Tom Brown, then a lieutenant In charge of the squadron's public affairs, "but we didn't find a scrap-We found zip."
"It just vanished on the face of the earth," said John Shackleton, the Moffett public information officer then and now.
No trace of the- plane has ever been discovered. Cmdr. Brown, .now based at New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport, called it the "Number One mystery of theP3C-Orion."
Death certificates were Issued for the eight men, declared lost at sea, and a funeral service was held at the base on June I, Ehlers recalled.
Now, nine years later, Ehlers said from her home In Lincoln, Neb., that she is still not satisfied with all the possible explanations for the incident:
At the time, she was pregnant with the couple's first child and for Jason's sake and her own, she said she still would like some questions answered.
"There are a lot of pieces that don't fit together in our mind," she said. "Eight men and a $13 million plane just do not disappear without a trace - no nothing."
After the accident, the last radio contact with Oakland was played and replayed, with no clue. There had been no word of radio or other mechanical problems.
"I guess that really bugs me," she said. "He (the pilot) was a super-conscientious individual" and would certainly have radioed for help, given the chance.
That led to speculation that the plane had been hit by some sudden catastrophe, such as an explosion.
But "if there had been a catastrophe, there would have "been pieces everywhere," Ehlers said. "It makes you wonder what happened so rapidly - whatever it was."
Whatever it was that brought down the plane, Brown and Shackleton agreed that something - a helmet, a life raft, or the like - would have surfaced.
"It's highly improbable that it: would have gone into the water at the speed it would have entered without something breaking off or exploding, leaving debris floating ' on the water." said Shackleton.
The current in the area, which moves toward the shore, would also have certainly brought some ' debris onto the beach. But it never did.
There are other puzzling factors, too.
In general, the Orion is a "an extremely reliable plane with an excellent history," Brown said.
Brown also said that the pilot, who had six years of experience, was "a superior aviator. extremely qualified and competent."
In the years since the incident.-,' Shackleton said Moffett officials: have periodically sent out investigators when "suspicious debris" has washed up along the coast.
And those who lived through the i incident still haven't been able to put it out of their minds.
Ehlers, who has since remarried, and had a second child, said her first son is a "constant reminder that I carry around."
And Shackleton said that when he ran into Brown last year at the base, "the first thing we said was. has anybody heard anything more , about that P-3," Shackleton recalled.
Though Ehlers said she has put the past behind her and doesn't ; wait for the day when some clue will surface, Shackleton has a different view:
"I wouldn't be surprised if something turns up. Its got to turn up someday. Nothing just disappears."
"...LT Thomas Brunk was the pilot of the ill fated VP-31 (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends May 26, 1972) training flight that disappeared while training off the coast of California, May 26, 1972. No evidence or wreckage was ever found. This week end marks 49 years since that fateful day. I visited Tom’s marker in Arlington national cemetery. Please help me remember these 12 Naval aviators who gave their lives in service to their country..." Contributed by Janet Brunk Ehlers email@example.com [29MAY2021]
"...Has there ever been any news what may have happened to VP-31’s P3 that disappeared on 25May1972? LT Tom Brunk was the PPC and I had flown many flights with him when he was in VP-19. He was a true gentleman and a superb pilot and Naval Officer..." Contributed by PUNCOCHAR, AFCM Leonard "Ponch" Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [12JAN2018]
On the evening of 25May1972, I was the Flight Engineer on a flight that was returning to NAS Moffett Field, California. CDR H.A. Taylor was the PPC and we had been to a change of Command Ceremony at NAS Barbers Point, Hawaii for VP-6.
Upon our return I stopped by our Duty Office and the phones were ringing and the Duty Office Crew were very busy and unable to answer. So I picked up the phone and a lady asked me if VP-19’s flight had returned. I told her we had just got back and she said “Thank God” that it must have been VP-31. So I asked her what that was about and she informed me of the missing P-3.
Thanks and Regards
PUNCOCHAR, AFCM Leonard "Ponch" Retired email@example.com
Ex VP-19 and VP-4
"...I was stationed at NAS Moffett Field, California and an A/C member of VP-31 at the time of the mishap (SEE: VP-31 - In Memorial for lost friends May 26, 1972). However, I don't ever recall the plane being over water when enroute back to NAS Moffett Field, California. Last I knew, it was inbound via Salinas, CA to NAS Moffett Field, California. I wonder if the surrounding hills where ever searched? From what I remember, all search areas were over and on the ocean?..." Contributed by FILUTA, RM1 Carl Nicholas Jr. Retired firstname.lastname@example.org [08OCT2016]
"...The world is searching for a missing Malaysian airliner and our confused why no debris has been found. In this case the flight deviated from its flight plan course so the best are to search is speculative at best. The first thought in my mind was recalling the missing VP-31 plane in 1972 that disappeared without a trace from a known route and small training area (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends May 26, 1972). I was a LT(jg) in VP-46 when the accident occurred. I completed the VP-31 syllabus less than two years before and retired in 1990. I still think about this occasionally over the years but especially now when no one mentions the fact that an aircraft can just disappear without a trace....as hard as it is for me and others to understand. The VP Reunion is being held next November here in San Diego. I hope Admiral Hedges (then CDR, CO VP-31) will attend and share his thoughts. My heart goes out to the missing crew's family as I now have 4 children and 4 grandchildren and would be devastated not having closure if anything happened to them. I HAVE NOT FORGOTTEN as I am sure others also remember..." Contributed by Mike O'Keefe email@example.com [31MAY2014]
"...In May 1972 I was a PN3 stationed in the personnel office of VP-31 and remember the event and those missing Shipmates from VP-31 very well. I retired from the Navy in 1992 and over the years have never forgotten that day or the memorial service that followed. My thoughts are with the families..." Contributed by PN3 Nancy R. Smith firstname.lastname@example.org [20MAR2014]
"...As May 26th approaches, I would like to ask all of you to say an extra prayer and think fond thoughts of Lt. Thomas E. Brunk and the crew of the ill fated VP 31 training flight that disappeared somewhere over the Pacific Ocean off Monterey California 40 years ago. It hardly seems possible that 40 years have passed but I have our son, Jason Thomas Brunk Ehlers, as a constant reminder of Tom. I placed Tom's stone in Arlington VA National Cemetery--it sits on a beautiful hill not far from the Tomb of the Unknowns. Since my daughter, Amy, lives in Arlington, we visit often. The events of May 26, 1972 remain a mystery. I still have questions but have come to accept that those questions will probably never be answered. Tom thought the world of all his Navy comrades--so please remember him with fondness. My best to all of you. In friendship, Janet Brunk Ehlers email@example.com..." [22MAY2012]
"...This Memorial Day, my thoughts return to the loss of VP-31's BUNO: 152155 (SEE: VP-31 - In Memorial for lost friends May 26, 1972). My brother, LCDR Terry R. Cook, was aboard that plane off the Monterey Peninsula. Is there any information to be shared from research in later years? I have the report from the Navy regarding the search. It talks of possible pieces of debris but nothing certain. My sympathies to the other flight members' families. It is indeed hard to understand what happened...Sandra Cook Kauffman firstname.lastname@example.org..." [24MAY2009]
"...We still don't know what happened to BUNO: 152155 (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends May 26, 1972). A FOIA request produced documents saying the aircraft was in perfect working order. So the disappearance really is an unsolved mystery. If anyone has any memories of the crew, or theories about the disappearance, I'd love to hear them...Karen Hoy, LT(jg) Richard Nelson's Niece email@example.com..." [28MAY2005]
"...Re: VP-31 mishap 26 May '72 and the memorial to the crew: I was a RAG instructor pilot in the squadron when this P-3 disappeared on a training flight. I was searching the web for new information as I am still amazed that no part of any wreckage has turned up after all these years. The syllabus for that days flight included introducing a flight control problem requiring the students to go boost out and experience flying the a/c without the benefit of hydraulic assist to the flight controls. This might be done while checking out with Oakland Control while approaching the Big Sur coastline near the VOR. We did most of our training syllabus overwater just off the coast on a common frequency. You wanted to be in trim when the handles came out as trim became important to reduce aerodynamic loads. Also the autopilot needed to be clicked off or you would be fighting it too. We did these things in the aircraft because we had no simulators in those days. Ditching drills were also exciting by flying 10 knots or so above stall speed and even the go around after a 'sucessfull' drill could be the greater threat if someone called for flaps up before allowing time to accelerate. This of course is speculation but before realistic simulators became availiable the training environment in the actual aircraft was deadly serious business. Decades later my first flight in an MD-11 with an instructor was with passengers from Portland to Nagoya. Everything had been checked off in simulators. On arrival, we finally walked around and under this aircraft I had just flown across the Pacific for the first time (another pilot had done the preflight walk around). Someday I hope to hear that some part of this aircraft has been found to help bring closure to family and friends..." Contributed by Clarke Brant firstname.lastname@example.org [01MAY2008]
"...I grew up in the bay area and remember the VP-31 P-3 going down in 1972 (SEE: In Memorial for lost friends May 26, 1972. I remember being near Mt. Umanum (USAF Radar tower) at onetime. I remember the Navy Copters combing the hills. Did anyone check with the Air Force station up on Mt. Umanum the day the P-3 went missing?...Randy Wren email@example.com..." [24AUG2006]
Mishap Article "...Article on the VP-31 disappearance in 1972..." Contributed by Amanda Pearl Sharp-Sarber firstname.lastname@example.org [03JUL2006]
"...I am writing in regard to the page listing different mishaps in VP-31. The incident that I am inquiring about is the disappearance of the P3 Orion on 26 May 72. Here is the information that it listed: VP31 26MAY72 A/C P3 Location Calif. Type Disappeared SRIKE Yes Deaths 08 BUNO 152155 Cause undetermined...The reason for my query is that my father, William Stanley Lasko, was aboard that flight.. I was only one and a half when the plane disappeared am now attempting to attain any and all available information regarding this missing plane. Please email me if you can help or have any suggestions. I am stationed at Schofield Barracks, HI. Thank you for your time. Sincerely, SGT. James S. Lasko Tadsfolks@aol.com..." [26APR98]
"VP-31 Mishap Summary Page"