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04 JULY 2005

The "Air Force Navy" sails into Tacoma
Courtesy Photo                                                                                                   p-520crashboat.com

Former AAF/USAF crash rescue boat # P-520 is seen here before leaving for Washington State. P-520 is similar to the boat (# P-615) manned by McChord crews at Tacoma's Point Defiance.

A little known piece of local history visited Tacoma’s first Tall Ships Festival during this 4th of July weekend, P-520 a Army Air Force 85ft Crash Rescue Boat.   

A few years before WWII, McChord was one of few Army Air Corp bases to have watercraft available to recover a downed aircrew during water emergencies. During the war, the AAF would form a number of “Emergency Rescue Boat Squadrons” with various sizes of crash rescue boats to protect it’s aircrew around it’s bases located around water. Much of the crash boat fleet was sold off to private parties after World War II others would go on to serve until 1956. McChord’s Rescue Boat Squadron patrolled Puget Sound from Tacoma’s Point Defiance Marina from 1942 to 1945.

The boat visiting The Tall Ships Festival “P-520”, is the only former AAF/ USAF Crash Boat that remains in near original condition except for the V-12 diesel engines that replaced the V-12 Packard engine used in P-520 during her military career. P-520 sailed its entire military career off the shores of California. After the boat was decommissioned the boat, which cost $250,000 to build, sold for around $6,000 to be used as a yacht. In 1995, P-520 was purchased by a collector and donated to the  AAF-USAF Crash Rescue Boat Association who spent about seven years rebuilding the boat into its 1944 configuration.

P-520 and its crew made the trip from Long Beach to the Puget Sound in May. Rough weather forced it to stop at California’s Avila Beach near the San Luis Obispo Yacht Club, which served as the P-520's headquarters during the war. 

After a 10-day stop the boat continued north, eventually stopping in Port Townsend, Everett, Winslow, Bremerton, Gig Harbor, Olympia, Tacoma and Seattle before heading home on July 7.

For additional information on the AAF/USAF Crash Boats and the Tacoma Tall Ships Festival visit the sites below: 

AAF/USAF Crash Boat Association

P-520 Crash Boat 

Tall Ships Tacoma!

Website provided and maintained by:
The McChord Air Museum Foundation
P.O. Box 4205
McChord AFB, WA. 98438-0205
e-mail - mamfound@mcchordairmuseum.org