Kaleva, which was carrying nine passengers – including U.S. diplomatic courier Henry W. Antheil, Jr. – mysteriously exploded 10 minutes after taking off from Tallinn’s airport on the first day of the Soviet-blockade of Estonia during World War II. News of the blockade and of Kaleva’s crash was overshadowed by the Nazi occupation of Paris, which also occurred on June 14. To this day the wreckage of Kaleva and the remains of its nine passengers have never been found.
Estonia’s Minister of Defense Jaak Aaviksoo requested the assistance of a U.S. Navy survey ship in searching for the downed airplane in a January 2008 letter to U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates.
“We are excited to collaborate with the Estonian military and to search for Kaleva,” said Capt. Nicholas H. Holman, the commander of CTF-63/Sealift Logistics Command Europe who oversees all U.S. Navy noncombatant ships and aircraft operating in Europe and Africa. “This is a wonderful opportunity for us to work together and build upon the already strong partnership between our two nations.”
USNS Pathfinder is one of seven noncombatant oceanographic survey ships owned by Military Sealift Command and operated on behalf of the Naval Oceanographic Office, or NAVOCEANO. These survey ships are forward-deployed year-round surveying the world’s oceans using a variety of sonar systems to collect data in coastal and deep sea waters. The ships are operated by U.S. merchant mariners while a team of civilian hydrographers from NAVOCEANO are embarked to carry out the survey mission.
“The survey team is thrilled to have the opportunity to search for Kaleva, and to demonstrate our Autonomous Underwater Vehicle technology,” said Marty Ammond, NAVOCEANO’s senior surveyor aboard Pathfinder.
Oceanographic survey ships have a history of being asked to find missing aircraft. In January 2007, Pathfinder’s sister ship USNS Mary Sears was part of a team that successfully located a commercial jetliner that had disappeared off the coast of West Sulawesi, Indonesia.