OS2U Kingfisher – Fisher of Men

Kingfishers carried out many of the war’s most thrilling rescues, putting into practical use the Navy’s humane policy of doing everything possible to save pilots and crewmen forced down or shot down at sea.

One of the earliest and most publicized of the Kingfisher rescues in the Pacific was that of America’s World War I ace-of-aces, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker.  He was a passenger in a B-17 on a special mission into the Pacific in October 1942 when the B-17 was forced to ditch.  The occupants took to the sea in two rubber life rafts with a minimum of provisions.  An extended search that lasted more than three weeks was launched once the B-17 was deemed overdue, but no signs of survivors were found.  On November 11, 1942, L.H. Boothe, the observer in an OS2U-3 (named “The Bug”) that had survived Pearl harbor and was now stationed on Ellice Island, 600 miles east of Guadalcanal, spotted one of the rafts. His pilot, Lt. F. E. Woodwards, radioed the news and then landed to carry out the rescue.  However, this was the raft occupied by the B-17 pilot and four others, not the raft occupied by Rickenbacker.

The next day another plane spotted Rickenbacker’s raft and radioed for a seaplane to make the pickup.  The same “Bug”, with the same observer but a different pilot, went to the rescue again.  It took all three survivors aboard, with a badly injured man in the rear cockpit and Rickenbacker and one other lashed to the wing. Unable to take off with the overload, the two-ton plane taxied 40 miles to the nearest land.  The Kingfisher had been designed for loitering. Officially, it was not conceived to carry large loads, but this would soon change.

More VE-7:

Engineering Triumph and War Hero
Fisher of Men
One Saves Ten Men
Tortoise Nips the Hare