April 15, 2016
In the tradition of great tales of men against the sea, this story offers a compelling look at courage and commitment in the face of certain tragedy. It is a powerful blend of human drama and real-life naval operations, but unlike most books in the genre, its heroes are airmen not seamen, and most survived their ordeal. Published on the 33rd anniversary of Alfa Foxtrot 586’s fatal mission as a tribute to those lost, the account was written by a naval aviator who has flown the same aircraft on the same mission from the same air base. The aircraft is a P-3 Orion on station during a sensitive mission off the Kamchatka Peninsula in the north Pacific. The time is mid-day on 26 October 1978. Andy Jampoler takes readers into the cockpit of the turboprop as a propeller malfunction turns into an engine fire, eventually forcing Jerry Grigsby to ditch his patrol plane into the empty, mountainous seas west of the Aleutian Islands. His fourteen crewmembers, strapped in their seats, expect the worst—and get it. The aircraft goes down in just ninety seconds, taking one of the three rafts with it. A second raft, terribly overcrowded, soon begins to leak.
The flight crew’s desperate battle to survive is told with the authority, drama, and sensitivity that only someone with the author’s background could provide. He draws on interviews with survivors, searchers, and even the master of the Soviet fishing trawler that saved the living and recovered the bodies of the dead. He also draws on recordings of radio communications, messages in the files of the state and defense departments, and the patrol squadron’s own investigation of the ditching. Everyone who likes survival epics and enjoys reading sea and air adventures will be entertained by this engrossing true story.
ANDREW C. A. JAMPOLER, a retired naval aviator, is a former commanding officer of Patrol Squadron 19 and of Naval Air Station Moffett Field in California. He has logged more than three thousand pilot hours in P-3A and P-3C aircraft. His last flight as a P-3 Orion patrol plane commander from Naval Station Adak, Alaska, took place just twenty-one months before Alfa Foxtrot 586 went down.
As a civilian Jampoler has been a senior sales and marketing executive with U.S. and German companies. A graduate of Columbia College and Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs in New York City, he now lives with his wife, Susan, in Leesburg, Virginia. Jampoler is the author of Adak, Sailors in the Holy Land, The Last Lincoln Conspirator, Horrible Shipwreck!, Congo: The Miserable Expeditions and Dreadful Death of Lt. Emory Taunt, USN (June 2013), and Black Rock and Blue Water: The Wreck of Royal Mail Ship Rhone in St. Narciso’s Hurricane of October 1867 (eBook, Fall 2013)—all published by the Naval Institute Press.