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James Frank Hand

AD2 United States Navy



From the age of 10 James Frank Hand was raised by foster parents. He enlisted in the Navy on November 29, 1948 at age 18. Joined Squadron VP-2 on January 1, 1950 and remained with VP-2 until his death 4 years later. His service record states he was entitled to wear the China Service Medal for services performed with VP-2 during August 1, 1951 thru November 30, 1951 while deployed in Formosa Straits Patrol. Expecting to make the Navy his career, he re-enlisted for 6 more years on April 10, 1952. He participated in Operation Ivy while based on Kwajalein, Island from August 1952 thru November 18, 1952 resulting in a Letter Of Commendation. He may have made as many as 3 deployments to Kodiak, Alaska, the last being January 8, 1953 thru March 12, 1953. Documents dated February 17,1953 state that he qualified as Plane Captain in P2V aircraft.

Link to PBS Article on Operation Ivy

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Jim is fourth from left in the front row of "white hats."

He joined VP-2 January 1, 1950.


P2V-3 Neptune   VP-2 Squadron





Norma and Jim married December 6, 1952




December 26th, 1953, VP-2 Squadron deployed across the Pacific to Iwakuni, Japan. 


1 January '54

Dearest Norma & Susan,

Happy New Year! I hope you had more fun today than I did. We didn't have to fly today but I had to work most of the day. Archbold & I pulled a check on both of our engines this morning & then turned up this afternoon. It is colder than a witches tit so it wasn't much fun.


Do you remember me telling about a guy named Willie P? Well, he is stationed here and came over to the barracks to see me last night.

I guess we will get paid some time next week. I sure hope so because I need stationary & stamps, not to mention razor blades. I left my pack I had at home. I'm also out of cigarettes.

I can't think of anything more today. Maybe when I hear from you I'll think of enough things to write a long letter. I love you both and miss you very much.

All my love,



3 January 1954

Dearest Norma & Susan,

How is everything with my darling wife and sweet little baby? Your old Dad is getting along alright but I miss you both an awful lot. The longer we stay the worse it is going to be.

I'm sorry I didn't get a letter written last night but I had to work late and was so tired all I wanted to do was hit the rack. Some of the guys have started getting mail but I haven't made out yet. Maybe tomorrow, sure hope so because I'm getting mighty anxious to hear from you honey.

We got paid some yesterday but no flight pay. We will get that Tues. so I am going to wait till then to send some money. The post office is closed till tomorrow anyway so I can't get a money order.

I have looked at some of the things in ships service and all of the prices are pretty high. I think I will wait until we get a change to go to Atsugi where they have a bigger store before I buy anything.

I guess I'll have to buy a bicycle one of these days. It is about a mile to the working area with pavement most of the way and its pretty hard walking back and forth 3 or 4 times a day. I can get a good one for $15 or $20 and sell it when we leave here.

An old Japanese man was around the barracks today trying to sell oil painted pictures. They take a regular picture and use it for the copy. He showed us some that had been painted and they look pretty good so I'm going to have him make one from the picture you gave me and if it turns out good get some of the baby and maybe all three of us together. They can take three separate photos and make one group picture that looks very good.

Most of the guys have gotten here now. Towhead and Smitty came in last night.

It has been a little warmer today but still pretty cold.

We have to fly our first patrol tomorrow afternoon. I don't know how long it will be but probably 8 to 10 hrs. Boy it is nothing but mass confusion around here with our squadron just getting here and the other one leaving. Things should get pretty well squared away in a couple of days.

Well, darling, I reckon I had better close for now. I love you honey.

All my Love, Jim


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Ken Price ( VP-2 1952-1954) remembered Jim and how he was the envy of many of the guys when he bought his new car. He also recalled after Jimís disappearance the car was left in The Deployed Personnel Parking area for several weeks. Then one day it was gone.

4 Jan. '54

Dearest Norma & Susan,

I don't know if I can think of anything to write today but I will try anyway. Seems like I wrote about anything of interest yesterday.

I just sent my first bunch of laundry in this morning. The houseboys keep the bills and then we pay them up every payday. All our dry cleaning is the same way I guess although I haven't sent any in yet.

I guess I'll have to get started on that purse for you pretty soon, will probably take six months to finish it. I haven't been to the hobby shop yet but I suppose they have leather and purse designs in there. In fact I'm not too sure if Spick has his leather tools here yet but I think so. I had probably better make a billfold first to find out how to do it.

When you get a chance to, Norma, you will take some more pictures of Susan and send them to me won't you? If I can't be there to watch her grow I'll have to see it in the pictures you send. Damn it, there should be a law against sending a man away from his wife and kids like this.

I have to go to a briefing on our hop this afternoon in a few minutes so I had better close for now. I love you both loads and loads. Bye for now.

All my love, Jim

P. S. I sure hope I get some mail today!!



The preceding letter was Jim's last letter home.  
Just before midnight, January 4th, 3CapeCod crashed with no survivors. 





Thursday nite (Jan. 7, 1954)

Dearest Mom & Pop,

I really should call you and talk to you but I just can't keep from crying long enough to talk. I suppose you've heard by now about Jim missing. I got a telegram Wed. AM. His plane is  missing off the South coast of Korea. The last report I got today, they're still searching. I'm just about to go crazy waiting. I've tried thru the Red Cross, tried calling him in Japan. They told me he isn't there right now and his return is indefinite. The last letter I had from him was dated Jan. 2. They were on their first patrol. Today I found out-10 men aboard. They had the  names of 6 of them they knew had left on it. I've prayed & prayed ever since I found out so I still have faith. I think I'm in touch with just about every source that can let me know when  they find him. I pray it will be soon. I can't eat or sleep or take care of Susan-I'm just hysterical. I'm at my Mothers. She tries to comfort me but I'll never rest until he is safe here with me  again. I can't think of anything else at all. Just as soon as I hear anything I'll let you know at once. The baby is fine. Mother is taking care of her.

Love, Norma


Jan. 15, 1954

Dearest Mom and Pop,

If this letter doesn't make sense I think you'll understand why. I don't know how much longer I can go on like this. I still feel in my heart that my darling is still alive and safe somewhere. I love him more than anything else in the world, him and Susan, and I know Jim loves us just as much. I don't think God would take away anything like the love we have for each other. He  hated to leave so much. The day before he left he was holding Susan, telling her how he hated to leave us and he started crying. It was the first time I ever saw him cry.

I had a letter from him dated the same morning of the patrol. He wanted some pictures of the baby. He said, "If I can't be there to see her grow you'll have to send me lots of pictures of  her". He has written me every night since he left. They stopped at Alameda, California, Honolulu, Kwajalien, Guam then Iwakuni. (Their base in Japan)

The day I got the first telegram I tried to call Japan. I asked for Jim first, then Smitty, the kid that came home with Jim. They told me Jim wasn't there and his return was indefinite. Saturday  night they tried again, they called me about 10:30 and told me they had a report from the Tokyo operator that they had contacted Jim and that he would be ready to talk to me in an hour. I was so happy I almost had a fit. I waited an hour, then two hours. Finally I couldn't stand it any longer so I called again and they told me it must have been a mistake. I was so let down it  was pitiful. 

The same night I got to talk to Jim's commanding officer in Japan. He told me that they had found the two bodies and the raft but the bodies weren't on the raft. They weren't injured so  they figured they died from exposure. He said the plane was on its way back from the patrol and they got word from them that one engine was running rough but they were going to try to  make it. Then later they sent word they were having trouble with the other one and were losing altitude. Then the last they heard was a flash from them that they were getting pretty low and  were going to "ditch" the airplane and head for the beach. So they must have had time to put on their survival suits and get ready don't you think?

I was talking to the Chaplain from Whidbey yesterday. He told me that some natives on one of the little islands around there had seen some flares on the same day the plane went down.  So now they are hunting all these little islands. I'm praying with all my heart they'll find the rest of them safe on one of them. I think God will answer my prayers too, don't you?

I only knew of the other guy, Spickelmier. I saw them all the morning they left for Japan. The pilot, Beasley, his wife is expecting a baby soon, so is the plane captain, Archbold.

Smitty said he was talking to Jim the night before and he was going to go with them but he didn't get up on time. He told me that last Sunday all the guys in VP-2 went to the Chapel and  prayed for them. 

(Mom didn't know until years later but this is actually the day they held a memorial service for the 10 men in Iwakuni. At this point they were telling her they were still  searching for the missing men.)

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Western Union Telegram
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I was almost down sick in bed from not eating or sleeping. I didn't go to bed for 4 days, then I started getting so weak and run down I could hardly walk and I know Jim wouldn't want me  to do that and not be able to take care of the baby. So I've been making myself eat and I got some sleeping pills and I'm feeling better.

When Jim left Susan was fussing and he said, "Now you be a good girl while Daddy's gone and don't cry and tell your Mommy not to cry, too". I couldn't help crying when he left.

What kills me, the last letter I had from him he still hadn't gotten any of my mail and I started writing the second day after he left.

Well, I guess I'd better go to bed and rest awhile. It turned awfully cold here last night. It's snowing and a northeast wind is blowing. I hope it ends soon. Please write to me.

Lots of love,

Norma and Susan


February 1, 1954

Dear Mom & Pop,

I'm sorry I haven't written before now but I've just been so nervous it seems like I can't sit still that long. I haven't heard anything different though. Did you get a letter from Jim's  Commanding Officer? In case you didn't I'll send mine to you, but please save it.

Since then I had a letter from one of Jim's buddies that lived by us in Anacortes.
He said all those islands are Communist. He said, "whatever you do, Norma, don't give up hope because  you know there is still a chance." I haven't because I feel in my heart that he's coming back one of these days. I still have great faith that God will send him back to me. Towhead said all  we can do is pray and wait. You know if those Communists did get them it might be a long time before they'd let them go.

The two guys they found were the radar man and the navigator. The guys here say the rest of them should have gotten out if these two could have because they would have been in places  harder to get out of than some of the rest.

When one of those planes go down in the water it only floats for 45 seconds, but they say it's plenty of time for them to get out.

This kid told me too, that the two guys they found died from drowning. One had minor cuts and bruises and the other was in perfect condition. They both had all their survival gear on. He  said he knew they were all prepared because they had 80 some minutes to get ready.

I'm so proud of little Susan. She cut her first tooth yesterday. The other one is almost through. She's sure growing fast now, everything she does I long for Jim to see, he's so proud of her.

I've been staying down home here now. My sister lives right behind us so I spend most of my time with
her except when I sleep. If I stay alone very long I go crazy.

Well, I guess this is all for now. Please write soon.

All our love,

Susan & Norma



March 6, 1954

Dear Mom & Pop,

I've been in Bellingham all this week and it seems like I've been so tired out I don't get much done. Susan got over her measles alright, they were only three day measles....

I'm glad you like her pictures. Jim wanted me to get them taken for him, wouldn't he be crazy about it? He loves her so much. He told me one day he was never so happy in his life to think he had a family of his own now. I don't think God would take him away from us now. I'm sure he's alive somewhere. I haven't had any further word at all except that his stuff is on the way, but it hasn't arrived yet. That will be another heartache when it comes. I've been so blue all day. Today is our 16 month anniversary. We always keep track of it every month and kind of celebrate. 

They fouled my allotment up this month. I got it raised last month and I guess they overlooked it this time. The Chaplain is trying to get it straightened out for me. He's very nice and tries to do everything he can for me but he doesn't think there's much chance for Jim to come home to us unless a miracle happens, he says. But I just can't see it his way. I don't believe he knows too much about it. He told us at first there was a mid-air collision with a jet plane, no survivors, but that proved wrong too.

I haven't found a place to move yet. I don't think I'll be in any hurry yet. Sometimes I think maybe I'm not supposed to leave this place because I haven't found another one yet and I know Jim would be disappointed if I moved away and lost our place in line for Navy housing. It's so hard for me to make up my mind what to do about so many things. I just have to go by what I think Jim would want me to do.

I hope I'll be seeing all of you before long.

Lots of love,

Norma & Susie





From Bellingham Herald

Military Mystery Haunts Daughter

PEOPLE: Woman seeks answers about father's death in 1954 Navy airplane crash.


A black-and-white photo takes center stage on a table at Susan Hansen's Bellingham-area home. The image shows Hansen as a newborn in the loving arms of her first-time dad, a handsome 23-year-old U.S. Navy mechanic, James Frank Hand. Sadly, the grainy photo is one of the only tangible connections linking the Bellingham native to her father. Weeks after the snapshot was taken, Hansen's dad was on a P2V-5 Neptune carrying 10 men that crashed because of engine problems in the Yellow Sea during what the Navy later called a "tactical reconnaissance flight."

It was Jan. 4, 1954 - only months after a cease-fire agreement officially ended the Korean War - and no one survived. Hand's death left a 23-year-old widow and a 4-month-old child at home in Bellingham. No one knew much about the death - relayed to a grieving Norma Hand and her child by a series of Western Union telegrams - so Hansen decided a decade ago try to find out more to satisfy her curiosity. During her search, the married mother of three and twice-blessed grandma discovered there were other family members of the 10-member crew who wanted more answers, too. The deeper the families probed the Cold War crash, the more questions they had about the disappearance of a plane dubbed "3 Cape Cod."

Charles "Satch" Beasley, the son of the plane's pilot, Lt. Jesse Beasley, had been on a one-man crusade to prove the plane may have been shot down by either the Soviet Union or the Chinese while flying spy missions over North Korea and China. The Tennessee man even unsuccessfully searched Korean waters himself to find the sunken plane and remains of the eight crew members whose bodies weren't found in the Navy search. His quest was documented last year by the state's largest newspaper, The Tennessean.

 Hansen just wants to know the truth - but she believes the discrepancies uncovered by documents and maps gathered by Hansen, Beasley and others point to a hostile encounter.  "There's all these questions that no one seems to have an answer to," she said. Beasley agreed. "The simple, straight-forward questions that we ask the Navy never get straight answers," he said in an e-mail. Because the plane went down after the Armistice was signed, the crew's demise brought no medals or names engraved on Korean War memorials.

The only tangible reminder of Hand's service to his country is a simple marker at Eagle Point National Cemetery near Medford, Ore. His body was never found. Hansen wants the government to recognize her father's sacrifice, or give evidence why he and the others shouldn't be honored. "If they have evidence about what happened, let's see it," she added. Hansen's husband of 29 years, Jeff Hansen, said it's the least the government can do. "You'd think somebody who gave his life for his country would get more respect," he said.

The flight

The crew arrived in Japan from the Whidbey Island Naval Air Station on New Year's Eve, 1953. Many of the men had flown several missions together. According to the released flight log, the plane left Iwakuni, Japan at 2:28 p.m. on Jan. 4, 1954, and flew about 70 miles off the coast of Manchuria and within 50 miles of both North Korea and China.

At 6 p.m., the crew's transmissions were full of static. Fifteen minutes later, in a lull in the declassified radio log, Beasley and Hansen believe the plane may have been attacked. The area had a history of troubled missions before and after the cease-fire began, she said.

At 6:23 p.m., the crew sent an urgent signal saying an engine was out and it was returning to base. Minutes later, they radioed for help. With the plane losing altitude and speed, crew members apparently ditched equipment - including a special bag used by Hand with his dogtags and flight log that was later recovered - but the plane was still dropping, according to the report. By 7:44, the plane was gone. Naval documents show two bodies were found later, those of radar man Lloyd Rensink and navigator Stanly Mulford. The plane was never found.


Hansen has all the telegrams her mother received when her father's plane went down off the South Korean Coast. They produce more questions, not answers, about his death in light of the report Beasley and Hansen got from the government, she said.

The telegrams talked about the loss of the plane, mentioning the search efforts. In a Jan. 18, 1954, telegram, Navy officials said they were still looking for the crew - even though they had already held a private chapel service for the men 10 days earlier on the Japan base, according to documents.

The Navy telegrams also mentioned that the recovered bodies had been discovered in a life raft, but family members later learned they were discovered floating miles away from the raft and each other, she said.

There is also a difference of opinion about the causes of death of the found crew members, which was explained by Navy officials as exposure. The ship that picked up the body of Rensink apparently reported in its logs that the left side of his head and body was smashed in, Hansen said.

No one has explained why Hand's dogtags were found - leading Hansen to believe he may have been ordered to ditch any identification, especially if he was on a secret mission, she said.

Then there's the official report, she said. There are holes in the log time, flaws in the communication log and reports of where the plane was calculated to be headed when it had problems, she said.

Beasley agreed.

"The recon mission took place a couple of hundred miles from where we were told it took place and lasted many more hours than the 5.3 hours that we were told, none of which is denied by the Navy," Beasley said.

"At the time of the disappearance in 1954, our families were given the cover story that the plane was on a training flight," he added.

This kind of action fuels the fire that the plane was flying over the enemy to spy on Cold War opponents, Hansen said.

Beasley has brought his own findings to the Navy and asked for help in locating it and the remains of the crew. That hasn't happened - yet.

In the 1999 Tennessean article, Commander Tim Coolidge, special assistant for Naval Personnel in Washington, D.C., said the case was still being reviewed.

"No decision has been made yet" as to whether the military will join in the search, Coolidge told The Tennessean.

Life after dad

Hansen's mother remarried when she was 4. Her mother had four more kids, Hansen's three half-sisters and half-brother. Hansen attended Bellingham schools and graduated from Bellingham High School in 1971, where she met her future husband.

"My father was kind of shy, and he was very gentle," said Hansen, who has cobbled her recollection of her dad through talks with her mother and the dozens of letters he sent to the family while in the Navy.

Hansen said she didn't even know she was adopted until she saw a photo of herself with a different name when she was about 9, she said. She and her mother would then talk about her dad. She met her father's family when she was 18.

"My mom always believed that something else happened to him," said Hansen, whose mother died in February of 1999. "She didn't believe what the Navy told her happened."

Hansen, 47, pored over the lists of recovered Prisoners of War during the Vietnam era with her mom, searching for her father's name - in the outside chance he was alive.

Her search intensified after her mother died. Her stepfather wouldn't allow her to put in the obituary that her mother once had been married to a man she loved who died in service of his country, and the union produced a child, she said.

"That's what spurred me on," she said. "I had a nagging need to know."

The search

Hansen has stacks of carefully documented correspondence with the government about her dad. She has been in contact with the U.S. Navy Casualty Office, the U.S. Navy Historic Office, the Defense POW/MIA Office (DPMO) as well as the National Security Agency and the Navy Judge Advocate General Office (J.A.G.)

She also has contacted the offices of Rep. Jack Metcalf, R-Langley, and also Washington state Sen. Slade Gorton's office, with no response to date.

She even forwarded a Freedom of Information Act request to the Navy to ask for the entire box of information about the crash, but a letter from the government told her that the box had been lost - and it wasn't known who signed out for it, she said.

Just getting in touch with other family members was hard, Beasley said.

"She and I both called the Navy within two hours of each other for information about the disappearance of our fathers," he said. "How ironic, after 45 years we both called on the same day. I was finally able to get the Navy to give me her name and phone number, but it took several days. I'm sure they did not want the two of us to get together."

Whenever Navy personnel see the word "mishap" on documents, they don't search any further, Hansen said.

Navy officials might not know any more than they did when the report was complete, but if her father was flying a secret mission, other documents from the NSA or CIA might exist, she said. She's hoping documents being declassified on a daily basis by the Pentagon will contain more clues, she said.

Beasley is confident he and Hansen will get the truth.

"Nothing is as successful and effective as her doggedly focused determination," he said. "She will prevail."

Hansen is under no illusions about the uphill battle she faces to find out more about her father's death and to have the government honor his sacrifice. She is not consumed by the quest at the expense of her family and free time, but she wants some answers, she said.

"At what point do you give up?" she asked rhetorically, glancing at a special case that holds her father's flight log, dogtags, special letters and other personal effects. "And then I remember why I am doing this - if I don't, who will?"