Off Cape Cod – October 12, 1953

Off Cape Cod – October 12, 1953


F-94 Starfire
U.S. Air Force Photo

      At 4:55 a.m. on the morning of October 12, 1953, 1st Lt. Joseph F. Grollinger, and 2nd Lt. Louis G. Sebralla took off from Otis Air Force base in an F-94C Starfire, (Ser. No. 50-1027), in investigate an unidentified aircraft which had appeared on air defense radar.  The weather was rainy with thick upper clouds which affected radio communications and radar signals.   Lt. Grollinger’s call sign that morning was “Mailbag  White”.  

     A short time after take off  Otis tower received a last radio  transmission from the aircraft with only the words, “Mailbag 42”, which was not the designated call sign.  No further radio contact could be established.   At about that time, residents of outer Cape Cod reported hearing a loud boom.  

    A large scale air-sea search was instituted.  At mid-afternoon on the 12th, an oil slick was spotted about three miles off shore from Orleans, Massachusetts, but it was too diluted to be conclusively identified as jet fuel.  Investigators later determined the slick likely came from a fishing boat whose captain admitted to pumping oil overboard in the same area.  None-the-less, dredging operations were commenced in the vicinity, but nothing was found.   

     On October 15th, a Coast Guard crew from the Nauset Lifeboat Station was dispatched to investigate a reported sighting of possible aircraft wreckage floating in the water off the town of Brewster, but nothing was found. 

     A two-man inflatable raft that was recovered on October 16th by a Navy boat off Provincetown, Massachusetts.  Air Force authorities didn’t believe it came from the missing jet as those carried aboard the F-94C were of a one-man type. 

     Based on the numerous reports of people hearing a loud boom, some speculated that the F-94 had suffered some sort of catastrophic malfunction, but others theorized that the loud noise could have been the result of the pilot initiating the jet’s afterburner.      

     On October 31st, a fishing boat crew reported they saw an aircraft wing bobbing in the water north of Boston, but didn’t attempt to retrieve it, and a Coast Guard helicopter sent to investigate found nothing.

     Eventually the search was called off with no conclusive answers as to the fate of the F-94 and its crew. 

     The aircraft and its crew were assigned to the 437th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Otis AFB. 

     Another F-94C from Otis AFB was lost fifteen days later off Cape Cod while investigating an unidentified aircraft that had appeared on air defense radar.  For more information click here: 


     Unites States Air Force Crash Investigation Report # 53-10-12-5, dated 12, October, 1953

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “2 Otis Flyers Are Missing In Jet Plane”, Oct. 13, 1953, 1.

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “Plane Makes Forced Landing At Provincetown”, Oct. 14, 1953

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “No Trace Of Jet Found By Searchers”, Oct. 14, 1953

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “Cape Squadron Continues Search”, Oct. 14, 1953

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “Search Continued For Jet Aircraft”, Oct. 15, 1953

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “Air Search For Jet Plane Is Ended, Oct. 16, 1953, 1

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “Life Raft Found, Will Be Examined”, Oct. 17, 1953, 2

     The Lowell Sun, “Push Search For Missing Jet Airmen”, Oct. 13, 1953, 1.



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