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Pearl Harbor Survivor Sikorsky JRS-1 Moves to Museum Facility

In March, the world’s only surviving Sikorsky JRS-1 amphibious seaplane (the military version of the Sikorsky S-43) arrived at the Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air and Space Museum (NASM) near Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia.

The JRS-1 is important because it is a Pearl Harbor survivor, a little-known military aircraft that saw real action in World War II.

The move continues a shift of NASM artifacts from a facility in Silver Hill, Md., to the new restoration hangar near Dulles. The JRS-1 is important because it is a Pearl Harbor survivor, a little-known military aircraft that saw real action in World War II.

Sikorsky JRS-1

A U.S. Navy JRS-1 of Utility Squadron One (VJ-1). National Museum of Naval Aviation photo

The U.S. Navy purchased 17 of these utility transport amphibians between 1935 (the year of the plane’s first flight) and 1939, including two that went to the U.S. Marine Corps. The all-metal JRS-1 had a flight crew of two, carried up to 19 passengers, and was powered by two 750-horsepower Pratt & Whitney R-1690-42 air-cooled radial engines. The aircraft had a wingspan of 86 feet and a fuselage length of 51 feet, making it almost as large as the better-known PBY Catalina.

The 15 aircraft operated by the Navy included eight assigned prior to World War II to Utility Squadron One (VJ-1) in San Diego, Calif. The Marines had one JRS-1 each in squadrons VMJ-1 and VMJ-2.

The NASM plans to restore the JRS-1 and eventually to display it.

According to NASM spokesman Frank McNally, fully ten JRS-1s were on station in the Hawaiian Islands when Japanese carrier planes attacked Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941. Shortly after the attack, the Navy launched them in an effort to locate Japanese submarines and ships near Oahu. Initially not armed, the JRS-1s included riflemen positioned on board near open windows and doors ready to shoot any adversary who might be encountered. JRS-1s later carried bombs and depth charges but none is believed to have ever engaged in combat.

The NASM plans to restore the JRS-1 and eventually to display it.

Sikorsky JRS-1

On March 8, 2011, the Sikorsky JRS-1 was transferred from the National Air and Space Museum’s Paul E. Garber Preservation, Restoration and Storage facility in Suitland, Md. to the new Mary Baker Engen Restoration Hangar at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Va. Smithsonian Institution photo

A civilian S-43 is preserved at the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson, Ariz., and is painted to represent a Marine Corps JRS-1 of squadron VMJ-2.

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Robert F. Dorr is an author, U.S. Air Force veteran, and retired American diplomat who...