THOMAS L. GREANEY, LTJG, USN
Thomas Greaney '53
Date of birth: September 21, 1929
Date of death: September 26, 1955
From the 1953 Lucky Bag:
From Weather Underground:
The only Atlantic Hurricane Hunter flight to go down occurred on September 26, 1955. Snowcloud Five, a U.S. Navy P2V Neptune weather reconnaissance airplane flying out of Guantanamo, Cuba, was lost in Hurricane Janet, 300 miles southwest of Jamaica. Snowcloud Five was part of the Airborne Early Warning Squadron Four (VW-4), based at the Jacksonville, Florida Naval Air Station. Carrying a crew of nine and two reporters from the Toronto Daily Star, Snowcloud Five took off at 0630 local time, and performed its initial penetration into Janet at an altitude of 700 feet. At the time of the crash, Janet was a Category 4 hurricane with 145 mph winds. The aircraft sent back this transmission, then was never heard from again:
NAVY RECONNAISSANCE FLIGHT 5U93, OBSERVATION NUMBER FIVE, AT 1330 GMT (8:30AM EST), MONDAY, LOCATED AT LATITUDE 15.4 DEGREES N, LONGITUDE 78.2 DEGREES W. OBLIQUE AND HORIZONTAL VISIBILITY 3-10 MILES, ALTITUDE 700 FEET, FLIGHT WIND 050 DEGREES (NE) 45 KNOTS (52 MPH). PRESENT WEATHER LIGHT INTERMITTENT SHOWERS, PAST WEATHER SAME, OVERCAST AND SOME SCUD BELOW, SURFACE PRESSURE 1,003 MILLIBARS (29.62 INCHES), SURFACE WINDS 050 DEGREES (NE), 45 KNOTS (52 MPH). BEGINNING PENETRATION.
An intensive air and sea search operation combed a 300 by 200 mile region of the Caribbean for the airplane over the next five days. In all, sixty aircraft, seven ships, and three thousand personnel were involved. No trace of Snowcloud Five was ever found. A book called Stormchasers (David Toomey, 2002) provides a detailed story of the flight into Hurricane Janet and offers some insight as to what may have gone wrong. Dr. Hugh Willoughby, former director of NOAA's Hurricane Research Division, speculated on the fate of Snowcloud Five in a review of Stormchasers that appeared in the February, 2003 issue of the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society: "The enlisted aerographer's mate was left behind that day in order to accommodate the Toronto Daily Star reporter. This key crew member was normally responsible for keeping the pilots aware of altitude by calling out readings from the only radar altimeter on board, located at the aerologist's station. Without him, the aerologist, Lt. (jg) William Buck, had to do two demanding jobs: He had to simultaneously read the bouncing, flickering altimeter and peer down from his Plexiglas bubble in the nose to discern the wind from streaks of foam on the sea. It is easy to imagine how he might have lost control of the situation as he struggled to keep the airplane safely above the waves and flying perpendicular to the wind towards the eye."
The crew members lost on the mission were:
- Lt. Cmdr. Grover B. Windham Jr. of Jacksonville, FL, Plane Commander
- LTjg Thomas R. Morgan of Orange Park, FL, Navigator
- LTjg George W. Herlong of Yukon, FL, Co-Pilot
- Aviation Electronics Technician Second Class Julius J. Mann, 22, of Canton, Ohio
- LTjg Thomas L. Greaney, 26, of Jacksonville, FL, Navigator
- Aviation Mechanic First Class J. P. Windham, Jr., 32 of Jacksonville, FL
- Airman Kenneth L. Klegg, 22, of Cranston, RI
- Aviation Electronics Man First Class Joseph F. Combs of Forest Park, NY
- Aerologist William A. Buck, of Jacksonville, FL
- Toronto Daily Star Reporter Alfred O. Tate
- Toronto Daily Star Photographer Douglas Cronk
Tom has a memory marker in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife survived him; she remarried and died in 2012. He was also survived by his daughters, Coleen and Maureen. (Information from December 1955 and January 1956 issues of SHIPMATE.)
From USNA '53 SHIPMATE (July-August 2015):
Thomas L. Greaney, LTJG USN, was lost in September 1955 along with all on board their aircraft while flying into Hurricane “Janet.” Nothing was ever found. His wife, Peggy, wanted to make sure that Tom’s life and legacy would be remembered and appreciated. Peggy has since died, but family members headed by Tom and Peggy’s daughter, Tracey Weis, carried out the plan. On April 30, 2015 the Memorial Service was held at Arlington National Cemetery with full military honors. Family members from all corners of the USA, and overseas, came to honor Tom. Classmates and wives present were Al and Jean Glazier, Chuck Fellows, Darrell Dempster, Alfred “Pete” and Jean Smith, and Art Bivens. After the ceremony, the reception at the Ft Myer O-Club was like a big happy family reunion. Tom’s older brother, “Uncle” Dan Greaney, is very fit for 90 years.