Midway’s Doomed C-117

US Navy C-117 at Midway Island - 1977

Who that were at Midway in the 1970’s remembers the C-117? I used to love that plane but in hindsight it was a doomed aircraft.

It was Midway’s aerial bus and pickup truck, you might say. It was used to haul personnel and supplies to and from Midway via Honolulu between the regular visits of the C-141 Air Force Log Flights. It used to make regular flights to resupply and transfer Coast Guard personnel to and from the even more remote and much smaller Kure Island, the location of a huge Loran tower.

On one particular day I remember taking off from Midway to head to Honolulu for Christmas leave with a full plane, passengers and luggage. We got about 20 minutes out from Midway when all of sudden the port side of the aircraft was smeared with oil and then soon after the engine was shut down.

For those who know this aircraft they will realize that there are only two engines, and with one not operating, and a full load, we weren’t going to make it to Honolulu.

The plane took a sharp about face and headed back to the island. My roommate was the flight engineer and as he walked past me, from the cockpit to the rear of the aircraft, I could see the look of worry in his eyes. He was preparing for a water landing. Fortunately we made it back but in conversation afterward with my roommate it was clear that if we had been much further away from the island we would have had to ditch the plane.

When the island was phased down in 1978 the aircraft was sent to Guam. Not long afterward the aircraft was ditched in the ocean and two people were killed. This article explains a few of the details of that terrible day.

Today this aircraft sits at the bottom of the ocean.

US Navy C-117 Crash at Guam - 1978
US Navy C-117 Crash at Guam – 1978

New Midwayites – Welcome to Midway Brochure

New Midwayites - Welcome to Midway

Below are some pages out of a Welcome to Midway Island brochure. Named “New Midwayites – Welcome to Midway”, the brochure is missing one page from the bird ID section and the section about “Special Information to Submariners” was never included. It’s likely that the brochure was made prior to the sub base shutdown and issued afterward so that section was omitted.  Continue reading “New Midwayites – Welcome to Midway Brochure”

Memories of Midway Island By CDR. Richard G. Rieken, USN Ret.

CDR. Richard G. Rieken, USN Ret.

(As told to his wife Edie in 1997)

After a seven-month training cruise on the USS HORNET CVS-12 through WestPac to China, Japan and the Philippines, Dick’s next assignment took him to Midway Island for a year, ‘way out on the northwest end of the Hawaiian string, over a thousand miles from Honolulu. Continue reading “Memories of Midway Island By CDR. Richard G. Rieken, USN Ret.”

Gooney Bird Monument

The Missing Gooney Bird

Gooney Bird Monument – 1972

The year was 1972 and Midway Island had just created the Battle of Midway Memorial Park. The park displayed a panoramic mural depicting the battle, two huge guns that were once stationed at emplacements built to defend the island against a Japanese attack during World War II and several memorial plaques commemorating  the historical significance of the island and to the men who died fighting to defend it. But the centerpiece would end up being a 11-foot tall “Mahogany Albatross”, a wooden gooney bird called by many the “Giant Gooney”.

Continue reading “Gooney Bird Monument”