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News

West Nile fogging commences today

West Nile fogging commences today


Courtesy of the Santa Clara County Vector Control District
Fogging commences Wednesday within the highlighted area.

The detection of West Nile Virus-infected mosquitos means that Santa Clara County officials will begin mosquito fogging operations...

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Schools

LASD trustees reopen negotiations with Los Altos Teachers Association

The Los Altos School District Board of Trustees last week directed staff to reopen negotiations with the Los Altos Teachers Association, a move intended to shore up the district’s financial picture.

According to the district’s current co...

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Community

LA teenager crowned Miss Golden State, advances to national pageant in Florida

LA teenager crowned Miss Golden State, advances to national pageant in Florida


Alicia Castro/Town Crier
Alexandra McCarthy, crowned Miss Golden State Teen in July, earned “Ms. Personality” honors from her peers.

Alexandra McCarthy has a ways to go before reaching her coveted role as a U.S. Supreme Court justice. Bu...

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Sports

After rough year, Eagles aim to soar once more

After rough year, Eagles aim to soar once more


Megan V. Winslow/Town Crier
Los Altos High senior running back Patrick Vargas snares a pass in practice last week.

Don’t dismiss the Eagles. Coach Trevor Pruitt is adamant that his Los Altos High football team will be better than expected.

&#...

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Comment

Car spotting 2015: A Piece of My Mind

When I was a kid, September was exciting, almost like Christmas, because that was when the Big Three automakers would reveal the new models for the upcoming year.

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Special Sections

Loving on the Edge

Loving on the Edge


Courtesy of Ford
The Ford Edge has been redesigned for 2015. Ford lengthened the wheel base and added cargo space, among other things. The Titanium model sells for approximately $42,000.

Once in a while, a vehicle we test-drive is just right for our...

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Business

Wine bar aims for October opening

Wine bar aims for October opening


Rendering courtesy of Honcho
Honcho, the wine and beer lounge on First Street, expects an October launch. A rendering of the space reveals the interior layout, which includes bar and lounge-style seating.

A downtown libations lounge that anticip...

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People

LOIS CAROLINE WALLES

LOIS CAROLINE WALLES

November, 1928

Lois lost a long and courageous battle with a prolonged illness on July 14th, 2015. She passed away knowing how well she was loved. She was always the life of the party and loved bringing everyone to her home for dinner or an event,...

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Travel

Carmel Valley Ranch unveils upgrades

Carmel Valley Ranch unveils upgrades


Courtesy of Carmel Valley Ranch
Carmel Valley Ranch recently upgraded its Vineyard Oak suites, which feature sweeping views, rocking chairs and private outdoor tubs for soaking under the stars.

Things are heating up at Carmel Valley Ranch, with 30 n...

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Stepping Out

'Dead Man' comes alive at Bus Barn

'Dead Man' comes alive at Bus Barn


Richard Mayer/Special to the Town Crier
The cast of Los Altos Stage Company’s “Dead Man’s Cell Phone” includes, from left, Marjorie Hazeltine (as Hermia), Kristin Walter (Jean) and Adrienne Walters (Carlotta).

Los Altos Stage Company opens its ...

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Spiritual Life

Inside Mountain View

MV actress/playwright Garvin wins NY festival award for

MV actress/playwright Garvin wins NY festival award for "Corners Grove"


Courtesy of Undiscovered Countries
Kaela Mei-Shing Garvin received a New York arts festival award for a featured role in “Corners Grove,” a play she wrote.

New York recognized that one of Mountain View’s own can “make it there” when the Planet C...

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Veterans Day is Monday: Los Altos pilot from World War II resolves mystery at sea


Bridges

Dave Bridges, a Los Altos resident for 60 years, witnessed an event as a U.S. Naval Reserve officer that kept him wondering for nearly 70 years.

The night of Oct. 30, 1944, Bridges was third officer on a Pan Am B-314 Clipper flying boat traveling from Honolulu to San Francisco. At approximately 9 p.m., the flight radio officer received a warning of a disaster at sea. Another Pan Am flying boat, PB2Y3, saw the lights of a ship and noticed a white wake in the water heading to it.

“PB2Y3 radioed the position and circled back to see the ship blow up and fall apart,” Bridges said. “It was torpedoed. When the PB2Y3 let down to get a better look, the plane was machine-gunned by a submarine.”

Bridges’ plane received the PB2Y3’s message and changed course to the emergency site, flying all night to reach it. As dawn broke, the captain told Bridges, who was piloting, to descend to 1,000 feet to reconnoiter the area. They saw nothing. The captain told Bridges to continue timed turns in expanding squares.

“We flew on the new heading for a minute when someone reported a lifeboat with people in it,” Bridges said. “I circled and let down to 500 feet. The plane could not land and assist on sea, due to the probable debris from the wreckage that could puncture the hull. The captain instructed our purser to fill a rubber bag with a Gibson Girl (an emergency radio transmitter), blankets, water and food. Then, he instructed me to fly out, do a 180 turn and come back. When he judged the right moment, he gave the signal and they dropped the bag through a baggage hatch.”

Bridges flew out and circled around to watch the lifeboat’s occupants take possession of the supplies.

“The engineer said that was all the fuel we could spare,” he said. “Just as we pulled back up, the radio officer said he could hear the Gibson Girl transmitting SOS in Morse code.”

Bridges’ plane landed in San Francisco Bay, docking in the lagoon beside the U.S. Coast Guard station at Mills Field (now San Francisco International Airport). Bridges said he and the crew were met by “a plethora” of military and ordered to not say a word about the incident.

Because of its classified nature, he wasn’t able to learn the aftermath.

After moving from the city to raise his family in the sunshine of Los Altos, Bridges often wondered about the fate of the survivors. He even searched the Marine Hall of Records.

Answers to long-held questions

Last summer, Bridges mentioned the story to an old friend, who forwarded the email to the author of several books related to World War II navy ships.

The author forwarded Bridges’ note to a navy researcher who knew exactly what happened.

The navy researcher identified the ship as the S.S. John A. Johnson, the only Liberty ship torpedoed between California and Hawaii.

Using this information, Bridges located statements by survivors in the National Archives.

The Johnson was en route to Honolulu carrying ammunition, explosives and 70 people, including merchant marines and other military personnel. Three different crew members detailed the torpedoing of the vessel, the quick action taken to abandon ship, the Japanese submarine that fired on the men in the lifeboats and the crew’s eventual rescue by the U.S.S. Argus.

Bridges’ Clipper plane’s dropping of supplies and the emergency radio transmitter was also mentioned and credited with enabling the survivors to signal for help. The written accounts state that due to explosions, the crew couldn’t transmit the emergency ashore before abandoning ship. It sank within two minutes, and 60 survivors managed to escape into the water, some in lifeboats and some in a raft.

Bridges said he is satisfied to have learned the final outcome of the tragedy and happy to have contributed to the rescue. He piloted with Pan Am for 37 years, retiring as a captain in 1981.

He recalls watching Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart and the German Graf Zeppelin flying over his home in Alameda as a child. His grandson continues the family tradition of aviation – he recently graduated from Los Altos High and is studying aeronautical engineering.

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