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Old 04-22-2012, 06:31 PM   #1
Diver1111
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Default Searching for information-air droppable lifeboats

Hi All,
I got a call from a man who suggested I look for WWII-era air-droppable lifeboats in Winnipesaukee, part of WWII flight experiments to see if it could be done and put to use.

What he was referring to were lifeboats carried on the belly of modified B-17s and dropped as one package-water tight, engine and sail driven craft. Technically they were SB-17s (S for Search) equipped with food and water for downed airmen and sailors during the war; His father was a mechanic at Grenier AFB, now Manchester-Boston and had something to do with them among other aircraft at the base.

He said that the Air Force used Winnipesaukee as a testing area due of course to its size; They would make their runs over the lake early in the morning and late in the day due to traffic below. He said with some confidence that there are 3 of these boats in the lake based on what his father told him. His father was in charge of recovering downed aircraft in general so he knew a bit about these mishaps on Winni..

The caller was under the impression that they were metal, either aluminum or steel but my research indicates laminated mahogany (plywood), not good for a side-scan-sonar search if this is correct; However their experimental models could well have been metal. I hope so.

While I have a decent idea where all 3 are I need all the help I can get in getting more information on this very cool WWII project.

I've read they were also equipped with salt-water activated explosive devices of sorts that shot out a number of floating rescue lines after hitting the water to allow people in the water the ability to grab them.

One article I found is attached with some great pictures and background. Imagine being in the water and seeing a B-17 overhead, circling and making a pass at 120 mph and 1,500 feet and dropping one of these bad boys down to you on parachutes?? Wow.

Thanks.
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File Type: pdf Boeing_PB1.pdf (329.7 KB, 251 views)
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Old 04-23-2012, 07:32 AM   #2
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Default Glad to help you look

Definitely a cool boat. If you think you know where it is be glad to help you look for it. I'll e-mail you with weeks I will be at the lake. First 2 weeks in July you could get 2 of us to search.
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Old 04-23-2012, 07:49 AM   #3
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Default Very Interesting article

thanks for attaching the PDF article. Very interesting reading. Had the pleasure of seeing a couple of B17's in person while I was an ATC stationed in Louisiana back in the 70's and early 80's.
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Old 04-28-2012, 03:36 PM   #4
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thanks for attaching the PDF article. Very interesting reading. Had the pleasure of seeing a couple of B17's in person while I was an ATC stationed in Louisiana back in the 70's and early 80's.
Well, another ATC! I was mostly at South Weymouth Naval Air Station, Massachussets, in late 60's. Of course the school was in Brunswick Georgia. Both are no longer military facilities.

Maybe Coast Guard Auxiliary may be able to help out.

I think in Hull, MA, there's a museum dedicated to Coast Guard search & rescue.
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Old 05-02-2012, 06:07 PM   #5
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Default Wild shots of an air-drop

Further research has turned up the following shots taken by an airman from his big bird-and done on a practice run over a "Lake Washington"-so yes, they did practice over lakes.

Makes Winnipesaukee an even more promising site for my search.

http://members.peak.org/~mikey/746/boat.htm
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Old 06-17-2015, 04:34 PM   #6
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Maybe they dropped more than 3 rafts as the 1st writing says. Maybe an earlier experiment used rafts from 1917 time period.
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Old 06-19-2015, 09:32 AM   #7
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I saw this on side scan sonar ...

How this commercial life raft ended up in Winnpesaukee of course I do not know.
Found this
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Old 09-03-2016, 08:37 AM   #8
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Default Video of a drop

Dan Simpson on Welch sent me this link showing a drop of a life boat. Thank you Dan!

https://youtu.be/9xrjEFlvaGI
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Old 09-03-2016, 09:16 AM   #9
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Arrow PBY Patrol/Rescue Craft, Known as "Dumbos" During WWII...

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Further research has turned up the following shots taken by an airman from his big bird-and done on a practice run over a "Lake Washington"-so yes, they did practice over lakes. Makes Winnipesaukee an even more promising site for my search. http://members.peak.org/~mikey/746/boat.htm
There's a Lake Washington a short flight to a WWII B-17 airfield located at present-day Sebring International Airport, Florida. (Named for Henry Washington, the surveyor!)

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Dan Simpson on Welch sent me this link showing a drop of a life boat. Thank you Dan! https://youtu.be/9xrjEFlvaGI
Scroll to 1:21, and you'll see the dropped lifeboat sailing on a lake that looks suspiciously like Lake Winnipesaukee! (Though I don't recognize the hills and mountains in the film).

Lifeboats were also dropped from Coast Guard PBYs—a likely source, being inland.



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Old 09-04-2016, 10:45 AM   #10
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Diver,

That would be one hell of a find on the lake!

I believe last time we talked you thought there could be as many as three in lake somewhere? I would almost have to think if there are any out here they would be in the broads in deep water...

Dan
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Old 09-16-2016, 01:21 PM   #11
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Default Drift?

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Diver,

That would be one hell of a find on the lake!

I believe last time we talked you thought there could be as many as three in lake somewhere? I would almost have to think if there are any out here they would be in the broads in deep water...

Dan
Dropping in the broads makes sense. I had that initial impression too, then I wondered...
Were there teams on the surface to collect the boats after drop? Might they have been closer to shore, say along the marked aircraft landing strips?
There wasn't much gas around here in those days. The airplane could fuel up in Manchester or Plattsburg, but gas for boats was virtually non-existent during the war, right?

If there was no surface crew nearby, dropped boats could have drifted, probably south, from the broads. After all, the lifeboats were designed to float, unlike all the "wrecks" that were scuttled intentionally.

Maybe a story in the Weirs Times with a different readership than the Forum, would turn up somebody who heard a story from grandparents that would give a clue?

Interesting thread.
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Old 09-16-2016, 01:26 PM   #12
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Dropping in the broads makes sense. I had that initial impression too, then I wondered...
Were there teams on the surface to collect the boats after drop? Might they have been closer to shore, say along the marked aircraft landing strips?
There wasn't much gas around here in those days. The airplane could fuel up in Manchester or Plattsburg, but gas for boats was virtually non-existent during the war, right?

If there was no surface crew nearby, dropped boats could have drifted, probably south, from the broads. After all, the lifeboats were designed to float, unlike all the "wrecks" that were scuttled intentionally.

Maybe a story in the Weirs Times with a different readership than the Forum, would turn up somebody who heard a story from grandparents that would give a clue?

Interesting thread.
The dropped boats actually had gas and a motor on board as well as food and supplies I believe for 30 days. Diver111 can tell us and knows much more more about it than I do.

I would think rather than remove the boat from the lake after trying them out, they simply sunk them....not certain though.

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Old 09-17-2016, 01:41 AM   #13
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Default Empty?

I thought test drops would have no supplies. That doesn't affect where they might drift or sink, though. I guess Diver 1111 will have to find one and let us know if we don't turn up a piece of information elsewhere first.
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Old 09-19-2016, 07:28 AM   #14
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....not certain though.
Dan

Given the material shortages of the day, I doubt these things would have been wasted. Re-using them would have been useful as a training exercise for the factory workers or military personnel responsible for periodic inspection.

There could also have been a substantial black-market for them if they were considered expendable, even as a training item. Not to mention they would be trade able with other units who might use them as 'R&R' items like ice-tubs for parties.
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Old 09-19-2016, 09:31 AM   #15
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I thought test drops would have no supplies. That doesn't affect where they might drift or sink, though. I guess Diver 1111 will have to find one and let us know if we don't turn up a piece of information elsewhere first.
I doubt the dropped boats in Winni had the supplies aboard but wouldn't doubt if the outboards and a small amount of gas were onboard for testing purposes. I only made mention of the supplies because the actual ones did in fact have these supplies on board.

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Old 09-19-2016, 04:32 PM   #16
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I wish I could answer these questions. Models were the A-1 (plywood) and the A-3 (metal).

My info says there are 3 in the Broads possibly as far south as Parker Island.

As to whether or not they were left to sink I doubt it very much because the man who contacted me said his father (at Grenier Airfield in about 1942) was dispatched to get them back. If I was on the development team I certainly would want them back to see how they fared when they hit the water among other things to look at.

How they loaded them for testing I also do not know. Simple dead weight would help but actual supplies on board would lend a realistic touch to the tests.

They are high on my list to find but the Broads is brutal with both depth issues and terrain issues. I do like the idea of contacting the Weirs Times and will do so.

Thanks all.
HH
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