Seaplane Story 1


As I was going through some pictures this morning I found this picture I can use in this seaplane story but can also tie to some family history.

The picture I’ve attached is of a Martin Marlin P5M-2 seaplane. The tail identification, “SF”, indicates that it belongs to Patrol Squadron Forty-Eight (VP-48) and the “7” tells you that this plane is #7 of a 12 plane contingency. So, this plane’s call name is “Sugar Fox 7”. I flew in Sugar Fox 7 a number of times but was normally in Sugar Fox 1, the skipper’s plane, as I was the lead technician in that crew.

The P5M-2 was an Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW) aircraft and was packed with sophisticated electronic gear in order to hunt submarines. Once a sub was located, the plane was capable of firing rockets or dropping bombs on the target. The cylinder hanging under the starboard wing, near the pontoon strut, was a 1 million candle-power searchlight that created a lot of excitement when you caught a sub running on the surface at night and illuminated him. The plane normally carried a crew of 10 or 11 men with varying job assignments.

In the picture, the plane is heading west and is flying parallel to the edge of Point Loma, a peninsula that juts out into the Pacific. The water that is shown just above the seaplane, from left to right, is the San Diego Channel, connecting San Diego Bay with the Pacific.

Finally getting to the point of my story, on the ground, below Sugar Fox 7, and located along the hillside, is Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery. Among the many veterans buried there you will find the gravesite of our cousin, Donald L. Thomas, a WWI veteran. His wife, Loyce, is buried in the same plot. From their resting places there is a beautiful view to the south of the city of San Diego, the San Diego Channel, North Island Naval Air Station, the city of Coronado, and on the horizon, Tijuana, Mexico. Of course, looking to the right, you see the beautiful blue Pacific.


Dave Thomas
March 13, 2012, revised February 15, 2015

2 thoughts on “Seaplane Story 1

  1. I read with interest on all the seaplane stories. My father, Commander R. C. Payne was Squadron Commander of VP-48 and flew during WW II and peace time! I recall while we were stationed in Coronado and Alameda he would fly in on the P5M’s and watch the flying boats being pulled up the ramps by tractor!
    Yes, CDR Payne got to fly all over the Pacific, while we stayed home! I think that’s why our moms were called Navy Wives.
    I had a great time growing up on NAS Alameda! Sold news papers on all the ships, aircraft carriers, submarines and at sailors mess halls. I had the run of air station, even got to see President Kennedy fly in and the 21 gun salute!
    Vivid memory of my dad wearing a OD sleeve on his bicep, with a model 1911-45 cal, strapped to his leg, driving a security vehicle, with red lights and sirens, thru restricted area! Sometimes he took me with him!
    I cherished my days, growing up the son of a Naval Aviator! Those were the days!
    CDR Payne passed away at age 93, while still Nationally Rank in Senior Tennis, age 80 and over!


    1. Hi, Rick-
      Thanks for your interesting message. I’m glad you enjoyed the seaplane stories. I remember seeing your dad’s name, and I think he was the Skipper just before I joined VP 48. The more I think of it, the more I am sure that your dad was there not long before I arrived. It sounds like you enjoyed your experiences while growing up. This kind of stuff makes for fun memories, and I have certainly enjoyed thinking of them myself. I am 83 now, and my vision is impaired to the point that I am legally blind. My daughter, Terri, helped me read and answer your note. (Hi, Rick) Thanks a lot.
      Dave Thomas AT2


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