Already hot and muggy in the predawn hours of 19 July 1980, our day began in the barrack’s parking lot as the 12-man aircrew climbed into battered Navy pickups and drove to our P-3 Orion parked on the flight line.
We had landed at Naval Air Station Agana, Guam, the day before after island-hopping across the Pacific from our home base in California. It took four days. Massive thunderstorms rumbling across the Marianas had required a diversion to Kwajalein, delaying us by a day.
Finally arriving, we were quickly informed by our harried squadron-operations officer that a Pacific Missionary Aviation Beech 18, flying from Yap Island to Woleai Atoll with seven souls on board, was missing.
He added: “You’re the only ones available—it’s your job to find them.”