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Bill Loftus


Date and Place of Birth: 1925 Omaha, NE
Date and Place of Death:    August 6, 1947 Pacific Ocean
Baseball Experience: Amateur
Position: Outfield
Rank: Yeoman Second-Class
Military Unit: US Navy
Area Served: Alaska

William R. “Bill” Loftus, the son of Dominic and Catherine Loftus, was born in 1925 in Omaha, Nebraska. He played centerfield for St. Mary’s in Omaha’s Catholic Youth Organization (CYO) League and entered military service with the Navy the following year.

Yeoman Second-Class Loftus was stationed at Dutch Harbor Naval Operating Base on Unalaska Island, Alaska, and his ballplaying skills earned him a place on the Dutch Harbor Army-Navy all-star softball team. In August 1947, the all-stars (seven Navy players and six Army players from nearby Fort Mears) were playing in an Alaska-wide tournament held at Kodiak on Kodiak Island. After the tournament finished, the 13-man team left Kodiak on August 6, at 0626 hours to make the 600-mile journey to Dutch Harbor aboard a U.S. Navy Consolidated PBY-5A Catalina flying boat. The PBY had a crew of five plus two other Navy passengers as well as the team. Pilots Lt (jg) William H. Zeigler and Lt (jg) Nave A. Fuliehan made their last report at 1045 hours about 150 miles from Dutch Harbor. After that, the PBY was never seen or heard from again.

A major search was conducted in the hope that the plane might have made a safe landing in sheltered waters along the route, with its radio damaged. Joining the search were transient aircraft and military planes from Fort Randall, Fort Richardson, Kodiak and Adak. The Navy cargo ship USS Sussex, enroute to Adak, was sent to the area to direct the surface operations, in which Coast Guard vessels and the Navy fleet tug USS Potawatomi participated.

All searches failed to locate anything that might indicate what happened to the PBY. A year later, with still no trace of the plane or passengers, all 20 passengers were declared dead. Ironically, many of the Navy personnel were due to have been discharged from service three weeks after the tournament.

Some years later, wreckage that washed ashore at St. George Island, Alaska, is believed to have come from this plane.

Sandusky Register Star-News, August 8, 1947
Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, August 9, 1947
Ottawa Citizen August 9, 1947
St. Petersburg Evening Independent, August 26, 1947
Omaha World Herald, August 10, 1948

Date Added: August 11, 2013

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