Times A Wastin

Newfoundland and Labrador has long aviation history; much longer than most people realize.  Because of the province’s proximity to Europe it was the starting point for many of the earliest attempts at transatlantic flights such as the first successful transatlantic one by Alcock & Brown who took off from Lesters Field in St. John’s on June 14, 1919.  This proximity to Europe also made Newfoundland and Labrador of strategic importance during World War II when air and naval bases were constructed at Gander, Stephenville, Goose Bay and Argentia.  These bases have resulted in several aircraft and ship wrecks and these have been issued Borden numbers and protected as archaeological sites.  Of note is an aircraft wreck that crashed in Saglek, Labrador which is part of this province’s archaeological inventory.

In 1942 the United States had an airbase at Narsarsuaq, Greenland.  On 10 December 1942 a crew of 7 men on board the “Times A Wastin”, a Martin B-26 “Marauder” Medium Bomber of the 440 Sqn, 319 Bomb Group departed Narsarsuaq on their way back to the United States via Goose Bay.  The crew of the B-26 were pilot 1st Lt. Grover Cleveland Hodge, Jr., co-pilot 2nd Lt. Paul Jansen, navigator/bombardier 2nd Lt. Emmanuel J. Josephson, radio operator, TSgt. Charles F. Nolan and gunners Sgt. Russell (NMI) Reyrauch, Cpl. James J. Mangini and Cpl. Frank J. Golm.

Part of the crew with their new B-26 in October 1942.
B-26 Marauder
The location of Narsarsuaq, Greenland, Saglek, Hebron and Goose Bay, Labrador.

After crossing the Davis Strait between Greenland and Labrador the B-26 ran into rough weather and crashed at Saglek. All of the crew survived and the plane didn’t suffer too much damage.  As per their training the crew stayed with the wreck assuming they would be rescued; but rescue never came.  By December 23rd three of the crew had decided to head south in a small boat that was part of the aircrafts rescue kit.  They were never heard from again.  Despite knowing, early into their ordeal, that they were close to the Inuit village of Hebron they didn’t try to find it until January 1943.  By that time they were weak from hunger and the snow made it more difficult to walk.  Like so many Arctic stories of survival the whole crew could have survived if they had all tried to walk south to Hebron which was just 18 miles (in a straight line) south of the wreck.

The remaining four crewmen stayed with the aircraft in a desperate attempt to survive.  We know of their ordeal in detail from a diary kept by the pilot, 1st Lt. Grover Cleveland Hodge.  The following are several excerpts from that diary.  The complete diary is online and can be read here: http://www.lswilson.ca/page8.htm

DECEMBER 14, 1942  Wind blew all day with increasing velocity and snow. Our lake went dry so we were back to melting snow. Went to bed early.

The wreck in November of 1951

DECEMBER 20, 1942 It was so windy we stayed in bed all day.

DECEMBER 23, 1942  Got up at 0715, got the boat ready and started carrying it. The wind was pretty strong and the boat was heavy, so we had a pretty hard time of it. We didn’t get to the water until noon and then it took quite a while to find a place to put it in the water. We intended to put them off shore, but they appeared to be making slow headway to the south. That was the last time we saw them. We had a hard time coming back across the snow. We had some peanuts and caramels and went to bed.

The wreck in 1957

JANUARY 1, 1943  Happy New Year. It snowed and blew all night long and kept it up all day. So since we had no fire we stayed in bed all day.

JANUARY 4, 1943  Had a blue sky when we got up, but it stayed overcast all day. There wasn’t much wind, however, so we got up and went to work. Weyrauch and I got quite a bit of gas out of the other wing, so we are pretty well fixed on that. Mangins has the putput almost ready to try again. We are just praying for good weather both in hopes of a rescue plane (if the boys got through). I am cutting down still on the rations.

JANUARY 8, 1943  Today was the most strenuous for me since we got here. I tried to get to Hebron, and I still think I know where it is, but there are two mountains in the way. I can feel myself growing weaker and we have less to eat every day. I don’t know what we would do if we didn’t have that three pounds of coffee. We sit around and drink that and talk about all kinds of food, but I think we all crave chocolate candy more than anything else. The boys have dug out the back of the ship so if tomorrow is clear, we still have one last try with the putput radio.

The wreck in August 1963

JANUARY 13, 1943  Another calm overcast day. We dug up the oil, dried out blankets, made a new bed on snow and ate our last food, a slice of spam and a soda cracker a piece. All we have left is a half pound of chocolates and three drink powders, but we talk like rescue was certainly tomorrow. It cleared off late this afternoon, so maybe there is hope for tomorrow.

JANUARY 21, 1943  Six weeks today and rough night with snow and rain, so everything was soaked when we got up. Only Weyrauch and I got up and then only long enough to melt snow for water. Things could be worse.

The wreck in 2009 (Brake)

FEBRUARY 3, 1943  Slept a solid week in bed. Today Weyrauch died after being mentally ill for several days. We are all pretty weak, but should be able to last several more days at least.

NOTE:  This is the last entry in the diary. The remains of the crew were found April 9, 1943 by Inuit  from Hebron

The wreck viewed from Google Earth

This wreck has attracted a lot of visitors over the years and many people have taken away parts of it as souvenirs. While no archaeological work has been done on the wreck an archaeological Borden number (IcCp-17) was issued in an attempt to protect it from collectors.

19 thoughts on “Times A Wastin

      1. Thanks for the comment.

        You’re welcome, happy to do so. Part of my goal with this site is to make people aware of the archaeology and history of this province. This plane wreck is a little known part of our history.

    1. Hello Denise,
      My name is Tom Drodge. I am from Newfoundland and I am doing some research for a book that I am currently working on and I saw that you had posted online stating that Russell Weyrauch was your father’s uncle. I am having a problem getting any information on any of the crew members except the pilot. Would it be possible that you could give me a brief history of Mr. Weyrauch. I have seen their pictures online but no information could I access anywhere. If you could do that for me, when my book is completed I would be only too glad to post you a free copy for your help.If you know of any other contact of the crew members it would be greatly appreciated.
      Just a note that in one of the write-ups online Mr. Russell’s last name is spelled Reyraunch.
      My email is tomdrodge@yahoo.ca
      Thank you and look forward to your reply

    2. Hi Denise
      Just want to let you know that my book is out. Please forward me your mailing address again so I could forward you a copy as I said I would.
      Tom Drodge

  1. The wreck is right beside a runway. When was the runway built? Did the fellows wreck while trying to land on that runway, or was the runway built years later beside the wreckage?

    1. Hi Karen,I have not finished my book yet.  I am hoping to get at it again very shortly.  The book just needs to be fine tuned a little and it is done. This pass spring my kidneys gave out and I am currently on dialysis. This has set me back somewhat but I have good intentions to get at it within the next couple of weeks.  I have not forgotten about you and when I do, I will forward you a copy, as I promised. Take care and I will be in touch later.Tom Drodge

      1. My uncle was GC Hodge, Jr. and my father was WT Hodge, with whom you corresponded. I am also very interested in your book. My email address is mrhlowe@aol.com. Please let me know where I can get a copy.
        Marilyn Hodge Lowe

  2. Dec 27 2017

    Indeed a sad story. I heard about it in 2015 and read the Lt Hodge’s diary. I was touched and saddly impressed by the outcome of that flight. As a private pilot (and ex military) I decided from then that if I could have a chance I would fly over there to pay a tribute to the boys.
    2016 getting jjust retired and with spare time on me I planed the trip from Gatineau, (Québec) to Saglek Labrador, a 2400 nautical miles, 4500km (two ways) of bush and mountain flying with my Cessna 172.
    July 2017 It was supposed to be a 10 day trip back and forth that turned out to be almost a month grounded by and incident with the plane and by bad wheather close to Saglek at just an hour flight from. I finally made it and landed in Saglek. I walked down the runaway up to what is left of the wreckage of the B 26, had a thought for the boys, took some pictures of the memorial dedicated to the crew and took off. I was not authorized by the military (Saglek is now a Radar Base called Lab 2) to camp on the airfield due to the danger of polar bears presence. If anyone is interested with pictures of the wreck, the runaway, aerial pictures of Saglek, just let me know.

    Patrick Vergobbi pilot

    1. I also found this to be a very sad story.I have been interested in this account for many years.In 2015 myself and three brothers left Lanse Au Loup on the south coast of Labrador and made the long journey to ST. John bay and southwest arm in Saglek fijord.It was a very interesting trip that took us just over three weeks to complete.We were impressed with the rugged beauty of the bigland.There were many conversations around the hardships that the crew of this plane must have endured.Unfortunately we did not make it ashore to visitthe crash site as sea conditions didn’t allow us.Patrick if you could forward me the pictures that you have I would certainly appreciate it.Thanks in advance.

      1. Hi Bert,
        It seems that your email address was not will included in your message I don’t have it. It will be a pleasure for me to send you a bunch of pictures of Saglek, from the air and on the ground, the remains of the wreck of the B 26, the memorial honoring the crew, etc. I include my email address and you’ll send me yours in order to forward you the pics.
        Patrick Vergobbi

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s