Honor in tragedy: Navy presents pieces from jet fighter discovered 60 years after crash to family
By JOE DARASKEVICH | The Florida Times-Union (Tribune News Service) | Published: February 26, 2018
An unlikely discovery on a Northeast Florida beach gave a little comfort Monday to relatives of a Canadian pilot lost at sea some 60 years ago.
Lt. William Thomas Barry Troy of the Royal Canadian Navy was flying a McDonnell F2H Banshee just off the coast when it went down in a dense fog. The discovery of a wheel, a helmet and a shaving kit confirmed the Feb. 25, 1958, crash, but most of the wreckage remained missing.
Then in the fall hurricanes Irma and Maria churned through and pushed pieces of the wreck to the surface along with a harness, a parachute and a life vest with military markings. They were discovered by Zack Johnson, a Hanna Park ranger with a Navy background.
On Monday, the items were on display at Naval Station Mayport for a ceremony honoring the 29-year-old Troy.
"He was our big brother; he was our hero," Dick Troy said. "We lost him, and now we have him back in a way. So there's some finality to that."
The fatal flight was a training mission in which Troy was supposed to land his fighter jet on the HMCS Bonaventure a few miles off shore. Other pilots flying the same mission turned inland to avoid the fog, but Troy turned toward the aircraft carrier, said Richard Mayne, the director of Royal Canadian Air Force History and Heritage.
He said flying just 500 feet above the surface left little room for error in that type of weather. It's assumed the aircraft went down nose first into the ocean, killing the pilot immediately.
Mayne said the family will have a chance to keep any of the artifacts they choose, and the rest will be displayed at a military museum in Canada.
Dick Troy said his parents were never able to attend a ceremony like the one Monday honoring their son. Their graves have a tribute that says he was lost at sea, so Dick Troy said it would be nice to bury some of the items found in the ground with his parents.
Members of the Royal Canadian Air Force were in attendance Monday because although Barry Troy served in the Navy, the crash is now considered a part of Air Force history.
"The relationship between Canada and the United States is like no other," said Col. Tom Dunne, air attache at the Embassy of Canada in Washington, D.C.
He said Sunday was the 60th anniversary of the fatal crash and that this year will mark the 60th anniversary of the North American Aerospace Defense Command. The strength of that partnership was on full display Monday at Mayport, Dunne said.
"The significance of this event is not lost on us. It is not lost on the United States Navy," said Bill Houlihan, the command master chief at Mayport. "We are partners and friends with Canada, and this is important to us; and I know that it's important to them."
He said the ceremony is something they would do for any lost member of the military. Incorporating active-duty sailors in the event allowed them to understand the history and traditions that are still alive in the military, Houlihan said.
"All military members need to know that if the worst happens we are going to do whatever we can to make sure that their families are taken care of and supported," Houlihan said.
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