Air Station Cape Cod honors crew of CG-1432

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Post Written by Public Affairs Specialist 2nd Class Dan Bender

It was a somber morning for the crew of Air Station Cape Cod yesterday as they paused to remember four of their brothers in a memorial service.

The flight crew aboard the HH-3F helicopter CG-1432 was on an rescue mission 180 miles southeast of Cape Cod Feb. 18, 1979 when they crashed. They were preparing to airlift a 47-year-old crewman from the Japanese fishing vessel Kaisei Maru 18.

Lt. Cdr. James Stiles, Canadian Forces, Coast Guard Capt. G. Richard Burge, and Coast Guard Petty Officers 2nd Class John Tait and Bruce Kaehler all perished in the accident. Coast Guard Petty Officer 2nd Class Mark Torr was the lone survivor.

9 comments on “Air Station Cape Cod honors crew of CG-1432”

  1. I was the HM2 on the USCGC Active who helped recover the bodies of the air crew of the CG-1432 in 1979. I HM2 Michael A. Harrington, USCG, MK1 Stephen Fielder, USCG, LCDR John E. Williams, XO went over to recover the bodies of Lt. Cdr. James Stiles, Capt G. Richard Burge and PO2 John Tait, and bring their bodies back to the USCGC Active, where they remained for a day or two until the USCGC Reliance came out to take the bodies back to Cape Cod.a The seas were treacherous the day of the recovery. HM2 Bruce Kaehler was on the USCGC Active before the corpsman I relieved, so I had a sense of connection to Bruce seeing how I’d been seeing his name on documents all the time in Sick Bay. I kept telling them that he would be buckled into his seat at the time they were doing the hoist because that how I was trained when I flew Medevac’s out of Cape May, NJ. The Coast Guard Strike team divers out of Elizabeth City, NC. Listened to me and went into the CG-1432 and found Bruce’s body still in his seat, however he had released his seat buckle and gotten tangled up in it and couldn’t get out of the Helo. It’s a good thing the Strike Team divers recovered his body because when the Navy ship who was trying to recover the CG-1432 tried to lift it with a ship board crane, while it was still full of water, the cables they had on the CG-1432 parted and it sounded like a cannon going off and it sank to the depths of sea beyond recovery. I’m glad the Coast Guard diver’s listened to me and took a chance by going into the Helo to recover HM2 Bruce Kaehler’s Body. Bruce’s body was brought aboard the USCGC Active where I had to examin his and place his body in a body bag, (this was not easy for me to do being a fellow Corpsman) . After that tragic day, I had turned down many orders and request for me to go to Coast Guard Air Stations, and fly Medevac’s. Putting Bruce’s body into a body bag made me realize that flying Medevac’s was something I no longer wanted to do. The water in the North Alantic in Febuary was very cold and the shock of all that water rushing into the Helo, Drowning was the cause of death of all the crew members. I do a did and exam as ordered by Capt Fox on all the bodies for injuries that might have been the cause of death but there was no apparent injuries. Capt. Earl Fox, USPHS, Coast Guard Flight Surgeon was the duty Flight Surgeon who worked on this case also. Sadly to say Capt. Earl Fox USPHS , passed away on his Birthday 23, Sept. 2012 at the age of 94. I’m proud to have known and worked with Capt Fox and was one of the first Medevac corpsman to fly under this command in Cape May, NJ. Capt John E. Williams, USCG Ret,, XO of USCGC Active, passed away 17 July, 2010. Capt William was and oustanding XO and I was proud to serve with him and we kept in contact over the years, until the last time I saw him in 1986. To all the men and women who fly out of Cape Cod Mass. May the angles who gave their lives that day on CG-1432 to save another’s always be with you and protect you in your missions to save other. I’m on facebook so anyone who remembers this tragic day, fell free to contact me. I’d also love to talk to Bruce’s wife and children anytime.. The facts about the crash of CG-1432 on Wikipedia are not 100% correct, I was there and also went on board the Japanese fishing vessel, they showed and told us things about the crash that apparently never got into the report as to what caused the crash.

    1. Doc Harrington, wow, thank you for sharing these memories of CG-1432. HM2 Bruce Kaehler is my brother. Your recollections of that terrible event somehow gives my heart peace. It is amazing how many lives were changed beyond his immediate family members. I remember coming to the Cape that week and waiting for news of the recovery of his body. The longest days of my life. Bruce’s parents are still alive. Bruce and his wife did not have any children. Although it has been many years since this great loss, my sister, brother, myself and a large extended family continue to keep Bruce always in our memories. I am going to share this page with my siblings, not sure about with my parents. They have had such a hard time over the years after losing Bruce and as they age, it gets more difficult. Thank you again for sharing your memories!

    2. That was a day I will never forget! I saw the entire crew just the day )before. A Coast Guard unit is a very small and intimate family. I was visiting with my wife’s family in Rochester, NH when I saw a scroll at the bottom of the tv, I immediately called the base and found out what happened, I made it back to the base in record time and made myself available for what ever needed to be done. I was assigned to survey the crash site and take pictures the next day in one of the Goats. They had recovered Bruce’s body that morning (he was the last one to be found) I worked in the admin office (I was a YN2) and we became very focused on the investigation of what happened. We all wanted to be zombies but our crew mates, friends, deserved our very best efforts. No one got much rest. The XO had asked me to be part of the funeral party for Bruce. Mark Torr was spirited off and I worried about him. (I had worked with his brother before I enlisted and was part of Cape Mays Training Division when Mark went through boot Camp (as well as Brad and Bruce but I didn’t know them until I was stationed at Cape Cod.

      The funeral was hard. We had to be professional, but when Bruce’s wife bent down and kissed the casket good bye the entire team lost it, it is something I think about every day!

      I miss my crew mates, I miss serving in the Coast Guard. After this my wife talked me into leaving the service. Every time I look at my children, and grand children, I think about all of the families affected. There are many of us that remember their sacrifice, I wish that the Coast Guard would notify everyone who was assigned to the Air Station for memorials. I have shed many tears for my friends and now many other crew mates that do the same.

  2. I will never forget that day. It was a Sunday and forecast was for Blizzard conditions all along the East Coast. My brother, John Tait (Brad) was the Navigator on the HH3F-1432 and usually called us before he went out on rescue missions. That morning, however, he did not call. Perhaps he was focused on the mission and forgot, no one knows. He loved what his job in the Coast Guard, saving lives! To this day, I miss him and often drift back to Feb 18, 1979. That day changed the lives of five families and the men and women they served with. Brad is resting at Arlington National Cemetery. Both of my parents have since passed and reside with him in Arlington. Mark Torr came to the ceremony and we have been like family since. It’s amazing to me the men and women of the USCG go out on rescue missions with no regard for self. You are all heroes! God Bless, and many thanks to you all for keeping the memory of those men on the 1432.

    Sincerely,
    Brian Tait

    1. Brian, I’m very sorry for the loss of your brother Brad. I was the HM2 on the CGC Active that recoverd his remains with the other crew members from the long line fishing boat that picked them up. You can find me on face book or contact me by phone if you like. I’d like to share a few things about your brother with you. And yes he and the others of the CG-1432 are Hero’s.

    2. I knew your brother Brad, I took care of his service record at the air station, and if I remember right, he had just returned from leave just a few days before. He was a quiet person until he got to know you, he loved what he did and was proud to be a Coastie. All of the pilots loved to have Brad on their air crew. We lost four outstanding individuals! I think of him often

  3. Doc Harrington, thank you for sharing this information on the accident of Recue Flight 1432 back on Feb.18, 1979. John Brad Tait and I were very close friends growing up. I was very proud of him when he joined the U.S.G.C. When the news came in of the accident his family was so grief stricken but also so very proud. We all managed to get through those difficult days. John Brad Tait’s parents have since passed but his brother Brian and sister Beth are doing well. I recently joined the U.S.C.G.A, 12-01, South Bethany, De. It was Brads dedication to service that brought me offering the U.S.C.G.A. my service. In my closet I have his flight jacket hanging, the one he was wearing on the day of the accident. It reminds me of the sacrifice that air crew made on that day 35 years ago. God bless the families of that crew. Thank you for doing the hard job of recovering these fine young men.

    1. Hi Jerry, If you’d like to contact me about this I’m on facebook send me a private message or look me up in the phone book in Connecticut under Michael Harrington. I remember Brad in that flight jacket very well like it was yesterday. Thanks for serving with the USCGA we need guys like you!

      1. Thank you for reaching out to us. I haven’t visited this site for some time and just now saw your post back to me. Please contact me on Facebook under Jerry Roderick. I would like to talk with you on this.

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