75 years ago today, this Sikorsky JRS-1 departed Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, and headed off in search of the Japanese fleet that had launched a surprise attack on the base, killing more than 2,000 Americans and wounding more than 1,000.
The crew, armed with three Springfield rifles, took off amid a barrage of American anti-aircraft fire and stayed aloft for about five hours, coming within 30 to 40 miles of the Japanese fleet and turning back only when fuel was running low.
Today, the aircraft (Navy bureau number 1063) is not only a link to the attack that drew the United States into WW2, it is also the only example of its type in existence. Based at the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, the JRS-1 is described as “pretty far gone” and, although preservation would be the preferred route, restoration may be the only option.
Preservation would involve stabilizing the aircraft and maintaining its original components, however, after being exposed to the elements for years, the JRS-1 is considered a “strong candidate for restoration”. This process would “return the appearance and even somewhat part of the functionality… to a specific date” and would include recovering fabric surfaces, repainting metal, recreating markings, repairing and replacing broken windows, etc.
Smithsonian curator Jeremy Kinney says that it is not yet clear which route will be taken. A final treatment plan reportedly won’t be finalized until after 2020.
Check out the videos below for additional information on the aircraft and the preservation/restoration options, as well as recollections of Wes Ruth, who piloted JRS1 1063 on that fateful day.