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News

Obama's coming to town

Obama's coming to town

The president is scheduled to make a stop about noon today at a private residence in Los Altos Hills. He and his entourage are expected to travel south from San Francisco to the event, then head back north for San Francisco International Airport and ...

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Schools

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall

MVLA rolls out laptop integration this fall


Town Crier File Photo
Starting in the fall, daily use of laptops in the classroom will be standard operating procedure for students at Los Altos and Mountain View high schools as the Mountain View Los Altos Union High School District launches a pil...

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Community

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'

Generations blend behind the scenes at 'Wizard of Oz'


Altos Youth Theatre and Los Altos Stage Company rehearse a scene from “The Wizard of Oz.” ELIZA RIDGEWAY/ TOWN CRIER

A massive troupe of young people and grownups gathered in Los Altos this summer to stage the latest iteration of a childhood sta...

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Sports

Football in July

Football in July


Town Crier file photo
Mountain View High’s Anthony Avery is among the nine local players slated to play in tonight’s Silicon Valley Youth Classic.

Tonight’s 40th annual Silicon Valley Youth Classic – also known as the Charlie...

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Comment

Pools should be included: Editorial

Los Altos residents should be receiving calls this week from city representatives conducting a survey to determine priorities for a revamped Hillview Community Center.

Notice that we did not say “civic center” – chastened by a lack of public support...

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Special Sections

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas

Looking for life without lows, local diabetic tests artificial pancreas


Photo by Ellie Van Houtte/Town Crier
Dr. Trang Ly, left, reviews blood sugar readings on a smartphone with Los Altos resident Tia Geri, right, and fellow participant Noa Simon during a closed-loop artificial pancreas study for Type 1 diabetics.
...

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Business

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main

Palo Alto law firm coming to 400 Main


Ellie Van Houtte/ Town Crier
Longtime Palo Alto law firm Thoits, Love, Hershberger & McClean plans to open an office at 400 Main St. in Los Altos after construction is complete in November.

A longtime Palo Alto law firm plans to expand into L...

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Books

"Frozen in Time" chronicles harrowing WWII rescue attempts


Many readers can’t resist a true-life adventure story, especially those that shine a spotlight on people who exhibit supreme courage in the face of adversity and end up surviving – or not – against the odds.

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People

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

RICHARD PATRICK BRENNAN

Resident of Palo Alto

Richard Patrick Brennan, journalist, editor, author, adventurer, died at his Palo Alto home on July 4, 2014 at age 92. He led a full life, professionally and personally. He was born and raised in San Francisco, joined the Arm...

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Travel

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway

Travel Tidbit: Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe offers spa getaway


Courtesy of Ritz-Carlton
The Ritz-Carlton in Lake Tahoe offers fall getaway packages that include spa treatments and yoga classes.

Fall in North Lake Tahoe boasts crisp mornings and opportunities to spend quality time in the mountains. Specially ...

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Stepping Out

PYT stages 'Shrek'

PYT stages 'Shrek'


Lyn Healy/Spotlight Moments Photography
Dana Cullinane plays Fiona in Peninsula Youth Theatre’s “Shrek The Musical.”

Peninsula Youth Theatre presents “Shrek The Musical” Saturday through Aug. 3 at the Mountain View Center for the Performing Arts...

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Spiritual Life

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting

Foothills Congregational: 100 years and counting


Courtesy of Carolyn Barnes
The newly built Los Altos church in 1914 featured a bell tower and an arched front window. Both continue as elements of the building as it stands today.

Foothills Congregational Church – the oldest church building ...

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Magazine

Festival features fun for everyone

Festival features fun for everyone


TOWN CRIER FILE PHOTO
The Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival boasts more than 375 craft and arts booths.

This weekend’s 35th annual Los Altos Arts & Wine Festival promises to be jam-packed with fun activities for just about everyone. The eve...

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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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