Daily Event for April 19, 2015

On April 19, 1944 at the Lighter Than Air base at NAS Houma, Louisiana the U.S. Navy blimp K-133 was about to take off to provide air cover to convoy KH-515. Their morning started with a glitch when the hanger door malfunctioned causing a delay in their take off time. They finally took off at 0739. Before they could join the convoy K-133 ran into a thunderstorm. Storms are common in the Gulf of Mexico at this time of year and it was known that there were scattered showers in the area before they left the base.

K-133 was caught in an updraft and carried up to 11,000 feet before beginning to plummet toward the sea. Apparently a large amount of helium gas had escaped at altitude and the ship fell at a rate of about 1,000 feet per minute. At 600 feet the bag collapsed and K-133 plunged into the sea about 10 miles southwest of Garden Island Bay, Louisiana at about 1030 hours.

According to the only survivor, Ensign William Thewes, USNR, the control car sank immediately taking with it the radioman, but the other nine men escaped. Several were badly injured, but all had on the May West life vests, however the liferaft which had been dropped failed to inflate and could not be found. Only moments after entering the water the first mad died from injuries received in the crash. Two others either died soon thereafter or just after getting out of the control car. The remaining men, according to Ens. Thewes, died one by one from a combination of injuries and exposure or exhaustion. He later told investigators that he saw every one of them sink below the water and never come up again. By 2000 he was the only man still alive, the pilot being the last man to die.

The crash was not unknown, they had got off a distress call at about 1010 which was received at Burrwood, Louisiana. By 1045 several ships, aircraft and two other blimps (K-56 & K-57) were already en route to the crash scene. Ships and aircraft continued to be sent out until late in the afternoon of the 19th, but by the time the sun went down, no trace of the blimp or her crew had been found. The search continued through the night, but it was not until 0755 Apr. 20 that the only survivor was found. He was picked up by USS YMS-366 about 20 miles from the crash site.

After he told them that he had seen all the others perish the search was officially called off, however another officer asked that it be continued so several ships remained on scene recovering debris. YMS-366 brought Ens. Thewes to Burrwood where he received treatment for his wounds and was further questioned about the incident.

The next day (Apr. 21) an aircraft sighted the wreck of the blimp and YMS-366 was ordered to the area. They arrived before 0100 on the 22nd, but did not located the wreck until 0958 the same day. They were ordered to recover what they could and over the next three days the men in YMS-366 struggled to salvage the bag. Rough seas and the extra weight being on one side of the ship nearly caused her to capsize more than once, but the diligent work of the crew paid off and on Apr. 25 at 1040 hours what remained of K-133 was landed at New Orleans and delivered to the salvage crew from NAS Houma.

As a side note only two days after K-133 crashed, the two blimps which were involved in the search (K-56 & K-57), along with K-62 of BLIMPRON-24, were destroyed at NAS Houma during a wind storm. A door was stuck open (perhaps the same door which had delayed K-133 on the 19th) and a wind strong enough to blow the Northwest door open came through. The wind dislodging the blimps from their moorings and blew them outside. While K-62 crashed on station, K-56 and K-57 floated and crashed five miles away. Fortunately there were no injuries to personnel.
© 2015 Michael W. Pocock

Roll of Honor
In memory of those who lost their lives in
U.S. Navy blimp K-133
"As long as we embrace them in our memory, their spirit will always be with us"

Adams, Gaylord D.
Aviation Machinist's Mate 2nd Class (USNR)
Blau, Kenneth S.
Aviation Radioman 1st Class
Byrne, John E.
Aviation Radioman 2nd Class
Clulee, Jr., Arthur
Lieutenant (j.g.) (USNR)
Commanding Officer
Dyste, Harold O.
Ensign (USNR)
Fitzgerald, William J.
Aviation Ordnanceman 3rd Class (USNR)
Foster, George A.
Ensign (USNR)
Hanninen, Veikko J.
Aviation Machinist's Mate 1st Class
Ostrowski, Julius F.
Boatswain's Mate 2nd Class (USNR)

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Feb. 7, 2023 I've been researching the K-133 crew as my mother's cousin, John E. Byrne, was a radioman and one of those lost. I understand he was married but haven't been able to find anything more on his wife Patricia Ruth. I've also researched the other crew members and have put together some limited bio information on them including a couple high school or college photos. Below is some of the information I have been able to put together.

Ensign George Alexander Foster, USNR
Birth: 17 Sep 1920 Belfast, County Down, Northern Ireland

The body of Ensign George Foster was never recovered after the crash of U.S. Navy Airship K-133 of Blimp Squadron 22 over the Gulf of Mexico from Naval Air Station Houma, Louisiana. Son of James H. and Margaret H. (Wilson) Foster. Brother of Eileen M. Foster. George graduated from Swampscott, MA High School in 1940 where he played football. He was a student at Tufts University, Class of 1944 when he left and registered for the draft on February 16, 1942. He graduated from Navy Blimp Pilot training in January 1944.

Aviation Machinist's Mate 1st Class Veikko John Hanninen
Born: July 4, 1919

"John" was the son of Otto William Hanninen & Ida Lydia Hahlberg who were born in Finland. He married Elizabeth Dobson Wood in 1942 in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Co., PA. They had one son, William John. After John's death, Elizabeth married William Thomas Whalen and their son was adopted by William Whalen. John enlisted in the Navy on 22 July 1940. John was lost in the crash of U.S. Navy Blimp K-133.

Mike Steinberger