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Kodiak Alaska Military History

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Al Knack

The events during this flight were recorded in my flight log and my journal of 1942 during air operations in the Aleutian Islands with Patrol Squadron VP-41.1 am Albert C (Al) Knack AMM 2/c and was the Plane Captain of the Lt W. N. Thies plane crew, A PBY5A Patrol Bomber, known by some as a Catalina Amphibian.

At the time, these events did not seem to have much importance, but later turned out to be very important with the influence of the progress of the air war in the Pacific.

As Plane Captain my duties were to lead and guide the enlisted members of the crew, and see that the proper maintenance was performed on the airplane when on the ground. In the air I maintained the flight Log and was the Flight Engineer, gunner on a .50 cal. Machine gun, or serve as an Observer look out in one of the Blisters. I was assisted by a second mechanic, a radio-radar operator and his assistant who also manned the other .50 cal MG or the .30 cal tunnel or tail gun.

On July 9,1942 we had taken off after a fueling stop at Umnak (Otter Point) for an all night patrol almost due south. This Patrol was very rough with very strong cross winds. We flew for five hours then a short east leg then north back to our starting point. But with the cross winds and not able to take good drift readings in a moonless darkness. Bob Larson our navigator was able after daylight to take a octant sighting and came up with the news that we were about 250 miles east of where we would like to be. So with agreement with Lt Thies a westerly course was agreed upon and soon we made a landfall, it was identified as an Island east of Akutan Island, north and east of Dutch Harbor.

I had been in the Flight Engineers station most of the night, and was relieved by Wahl, my acting second Mech, then I made a pot of coffee, and served all the crew, then went back to the Gun Blister to stretch my legs and enjoy a hot cup of coffee.

Akutan was an Island that interested me. On the north-west side was a very old whaling station, dating back to sailing ships. The entire Island was a silver fox farm, in which the fox ran free. They were trapped to harvest the pelts. Needless to say it had been years since any were removed. We would pass by this Island many times on our way in to Dutch Harbor, We would fly close to the shoreline rather than fly over the mountains. Each time we flew by I would search the valleys looking for the fox or other wild life, and quite often on calm clear days I would see the silver fox, which were black.

On this particular morning the cloud cover, was high enough to see with binoculars the far end of the valleys, and so doing I spotted a light colored airplane upside down in the tundra grass, about two-thirds down the length of the valley. I called Lt. These and gave him a land mark to guide on to bring him over the plane. We circled the plane and I made a sketch of the location. So we would be able to return to it. I think everyone was talking on the intercom and commenting on the find and agreeing that it was a Japanese fighter airplane, there was no mistaking the meatball emblems, I think Lt.These was not sure who made the discovery. I was alone in the blister at the time. I never gave it any thought.

The next day we Traveled by YP boat, A converted Salmon fishing boat with about 12 men to examine the plane and found it was not too badly damaged and we thought it could be salvaged. And it was! It was salvaged, sent to San Diego, And was flying again by the end of September 1942. All in less than 3 months.

I am sending copies of my flight log for the months of June, July, and Aug to give you some idea of our activities during those trying times.

Albert C (Al) Knack

Update from Randy Seiler

Date: Tue, 10 May 2005 13:32:16 -0500 
From: Randall W. Seiler  Randy at

After reading your article on THE DISCOVERY OF KOGA'S ZERO by Al Knack, there is a sentence that says "I think everyone was talking on the intercom and commenting on the find and agreeing that it was a Japanese fighter airplane, there was no mistaking the meatball emblems, I think Lt.These was not sure who made the discovery. "

The discovery was made by George Raptis. George Raptis was my uncle. The family called him "Dutchy". There is an archived article describing the find in the Chicago Tribune dated March 12, 1943.

The article in the Chicago Tribune starts out with this Head Line "HIGHER RANK FOR SPOTTING ZERO". These are the words "Keen eyesight won a promotion for Petty Officer George Raptis, 2nd class 26 year old Chicagoan, on duty in Alaska, his mother Mrs. James Raptis 3531 North Freemont Avenue said yesterday. On flying patrol duty over Alaska, Raptis was the only member of the aircraft crew to spot a downed Zero plane. Ground troops were rushed to the spot and found one of the first zeros to be taken intact. It's pilot was dead, but managed to land the craft. As a result Raptis was promoted to petty officer first class and was awarded a decoration".

I have asked George Raptis's only living brother whether this was true and he could. His brother said that famed fighter pilot "Bong" flew the zero at the Long Beach Airforce Base to find out everything he could about it. It helped our fighter pilots in combat.

You can see that George Raptis was part of this crew at crew.html.

Randy Seiler

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