THOMAS J. TIERNAN, LT, USN
Thomas Tiernan '47
Date of birth: March 31, 1924
Date of death: November 20, 1952
From the 1947 Lucky Bag:
In the early morning hours of November 20, 1952, a two navy P2V Neptunes from Quonset Point Naval Air Station were taking part in an anti-submarine warfare exercise off Block Island with the submarine USS Piper, (SS-409), and the navy tug, USS Hopi, (AFT-71).
Shortly after 4:00 a.m. the two planes rendezvoused over the Jamestown Bridge in Narragansett Bay, and headed for the operational area about 70 miles off Block Island. One planes was piloted by Lieut. Alvin S. Hibbs, and the other by Lt. Cmdr. Noble R. Kean. (Bu. No. 124242)
Hibbs later told investigators, “Commander Kean was behind me a mile or so, and we carried on radio chit-chat. He said all the other men were in very high spirits over the radio. We arrived at the operating area a half hour later and circled for awhile, and then endeavored to make radar contact with out target. There were two targets visible by radar, and I investigated on while Commander Kean investigated the other.”
Hibbs found his “target” and after making two “runs” on it he tried to contact Kean by radio, but couldn’t. Then the submarine and tug tried to make contact and were unsuccessful.
Hibbs flew over Kean’s last known position and found two smoke lights and debris on the water’s surface. The smoke lights had apparently broken free of the wreck and were automatically activated. The tug arrived in the area and collected some of the debris, but found no sign of the crew.
One of the last to see the missing aircraft was Lieut. Herbert C. Taft, who was aboard the submarine Piper when Kean’s Neptune passed over. “I observed the aircraft going across our bow on his run. I observed no malfunctioning of the aircraft and received no notification by radio that anything was wrong. I followed his flight out for approximately four or five miles.”
At that point the lights on the Neptune, “indicated it was making a right banking turn.”
“Shortly thereafter”, Taft went on, “we heard a dull thud. Because there was no indication of an explosion and no flash, this particular noise worried me, so I went below and tried to contact the aircraft to no avail.”
The cause of the crash could not be determined.
The dead were identified as:
- Lt. Comdr. Noble R. Kean, 34, a native of Evanston, Ill. He was survived by his wife Sarah.
- Lt. Thomas J. Tiernan, 28, of Wickford, R.I.
- Aviation Mechanic 2c John R. Quirk, 27, of Lavelle, Penn. He was married just twelve days earlier on November 8, to Miss Constance Lussier of West Warwick, R.I.
- Aviation Ordnance Man 2c George A. Buehler, 22, of Nekoosa, Wis. He too was recently married on October 4 to Miss Irene Carvalho of West Warwick.
- Lt. Seymour A. Moyl, 26, of Bronx, N.Y.
- Aviation Electronics Man 1c Roland O. Eades, 29, of Indiana.
- Seaman Salvatore A. Coia, 21, of Rome, N.Y.
- Seaman Joseph A. gray, 20, Bronx, N.Y.
VP-7 mishap page has some additional information.
Could not find a memorial marker for Tom.
He was survived by his parents; his father retired from the Navy as a Captain. He was also survived by his brothers, Frank ('48B) and Michael ('62). (Information from December 1967 issue of SHIPMATE.)