Nora Mayes in North Bend in 1961, not removed from Black Lake within the Cascade foothills the place her son’s airplane might have crashed. (Courtesy Lee Corbin)
The long-suspected ultimate resting place of a navy airplane that disappeared after taking off from Seattle greater than 70 years in the past was formally acknowledged this week by an official of the US Navy.
Households of the 2 naval aviators aboard – 23-year-old Ensign Gaston Mayes and 25-year-old Lieutenant (Junior Grade) Benjamin Vreeland – have been notified of a call made by the Underwater Archaeology Branch of the Naval History and Heritage Command in Washington D.C.
This formal recognition will seemingly pave the best way for dedication of a monument to the lacking males.
Based mostly on new analysis and on the outcomes of a latest search carried out by two native navy aviation historical past lovers – Lee Corbin and Shawn Murphy – the Navy now believes the lacking airplane and the 2 aviators are seemingly in Black Lake in east King County.
“That was excellent news,” stated David Mayes of Carey, North Carolina as he described how he felt when Lee Corbin known as earlier this week to let him know of the Navy’s resolution concerning his long-missing uncle, Gaston Mayes.
Daniel Vreeland, nephew of the opposite lacking pilot Benjamin Vreeland, was equally happy.
“That is most likely a number of the higher information I’ve heard ever about this complete factor,” Vreeland stated by cellphone from close to his house in Austin, Texas.
Although each David Mayes and Daniel Vreeland have been born after the airplane went lacking with their uncles aboard, to listen to every describe the results of the tragedy, each households have wrestled with loss, grief and lack of closure for greater than seven many years.
On March 11, 1949, Gaston Mayes and Benjamin Vreeland have been flying a World Warfare II-era SNJ-5 coach that took off from the previous Naval Air Station at Sand Level, now web site of Magnuson Park in Seattle. The SNJ-5 by no means returned.
After preliminary search efforts didn’t find the lacking plane, the mom of Ensign Mayes spent a lot of the subsequent 20 years trying to find her son. Piecing collectively clues with assist from her husband and different members of the family and from loggers and others working within the woods that day, Nora Mayes got here to imagine her son’s airplane had crashed into Black Lake, a small physique of water within the Cascade foothills east of Carnation.
Mrs. Mayes, who lived close to Knoxville, Tennessee, returned to the Pacific Northwest each summer season till the late 1960s. Regardless of finding particles that gave the impression to be from the SNJ-5, and overseeing dive groups outfitted with early metal-detecting expertise, searchers failed to search out conclusive proof.
Nora Mayes handed away in 1983. David Mayes – her grandson – says this new growth “would have given her a little bit little bit of closure. She actually needed to search out the physique, that was her huge drive for all these years to get closure, however it could nonetheless give her partial nearer to know that the Navy was acknowledging that she was proper” about Black Lake.
Lee Corbin and Shawn Murphy have spent the previous few years dedicated to conducting additional searches of Black Lake in addition to combing archival letters and different supplies shared by the aviators’ households. Additionally they related with Scott Williams of the Maritime Archaeology Society, who assisted with analysis and who authored a report on the workforce’s latest search of Black Lake. Williams’ report was forwarded to the Navy together with Corbin and Murphy’s different analysis.
Each Corbin and Murphy imagine that whereas the deep sediment at Black Lake and certain violent destruction of the plane make it unlikely that identifiable stays of the SNJ-5 or of the aviators will ever be discovered, all proof factors to Black Lake as the ultimate resting place.
In an e mail to Shawn Murphy final week, George Schwarz of the US Navy’s Underwater Archaeology Department wrote, “Based mostly on the varied sources of data that we’ve acquired from you and Scott, it does seem to our workplace that the SNJ stays seemingly reside within the lake.” Schwarz additionally provided to offer an official letter stating as a lot – which might seemingly facilitate dedication of a memorial to Vreeland and Mayes at or close to Black Lake.
Lee Corbin, who first stumbled throughout newspaper tales in regards to the misplaced airplane and Mrs. Mayes practically a decade in the past, is glad to know that the Navy’s resolution is bringing some closure to the households.
“I recognize the Navy formally recognizing Black Lake because the possible crash web site, and assume it would obtain an archeological designation of some sort,” Corbin wrote earlier this week. “Hopefully that’ll enable for the same designation from the state. Finally, we’d prefer to see if we will have a memorial positioned on the shore of the lake.”
Shawn Murphy agrees with Lee Corbin, writing that the “resolution permits as soon as and for all of the households to know the Navy acknowledges the lake as being the positioning and opens up for applicable memorials being completed.” Murphy want to see a memorial on the privately-owned lake in addition to a extra accessible memorial within the close by communities of Snoqualmie or North Bend, the place, Murphy says, numerous native folks welcomed and assisted Nora Mayes every year she returned to go looking.
David Mayes is grateful to Shawn Murphy and Lee Corbin for what they’ve completed for the Mayes and Vreeland households.
“They’ve been improbable, they usually actually put quite a lot of effort and time and cash on their very own half into it,” Mayes stated. “Each of them are very critical about attempting to find the airplane and have been invaluable with gathering info and placing items collectively, they usually’ve each been preserving me up to date.”
Daniel Vreeland is disenchanted that the Navy didn’t make extra of an effort to search out the lacking airplane again in 1949, however, like David Mayes, he’s touched that Lee Corbin and Shawn Murphy by no means gave up.
“I’m actually proud to know these two guys, and I’m nonetheless type of in awe that they cared this a lot about it,” Vreeland stated. “The extra info I discover out about how many individuals helped Mrs. Mayes do the looking in that space of the Northwest, it’s simply wonderful that each one these folks tried to assist her.”
Each David Mayes and Daniel Vreeland plan to be current if and when a memorial is devoted at Black Lake or in Snoqualmie or North Bend.
Each Shawn Murphy and Lee Corbin would nonetheless like to search out irrefutable proof sometime and, in an ideal world, see that the our bodies of each aviators be correctly interred alongside long-deceased members of the family – particularly on the subject of Gaston Mayes and his mom Nora Mayes.
In need of this, Corbin, who’s himself a retired navy aviator, is philosophical about Black Lake.
The resting place of the 2 naval aviators, Corbin wrote, is “really not a foul place to be interred, a pristine alpine lake and the plane that introduced you there.”