Aircraft Wrecks in the Mountains and Deserts of the American West

North American FJ-4
Project Remembrance

Further reading: Article by the San Diego Union-Tribune

3/27/61  North American FJ-4 #139291 crashed in cloudy weather killing the pilot Lt. JG Henry M. "Hank" Harding, USN. Site is on West Otay Mountain at the 2,500 foot level near the Mexican Border about a half mile north of road in heavy brush.


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Empennage section from FJ-4 #139291.


Dive brake from #139291 with squadron markings of VU-7 based at Brown Field, east of San Ysidro.


Inverted vertical stabilizer of #139291.


FJ-4 #139291 was a drone director aircraft with a blue, red, and yellow paint scheme for high visibility as shown on these photos of the horizontal stabilizer.


On October 22, 2005 Marc Harding, the son of Lt. JG Henry M. "Hank" Harding, Jr. joined myself, Patric J. Macha, and a CBS News team in an effort to return to the crash site of BuNo 139291. Once there Marc planned to place a memorial plaque on the wing of his dad's plane. The weather did not cooperate, as heavy clouds enshrouded the Otay Mountain region. After hiking for several hours in limited visibility we were forced to retreat.

On January 21, 2006 Marc once again traveled a great distance to join us this time in the company of a San Diego Union Tribune news reporter and photographer. The weather was clear and cool as we finally reached our goal. Scattered across a wide area of mountain side lay the remains of North American FJ-4 BuNo 139291. It was seven years since I had visited the crash site, and the chaparral had really grown up around it. Marc spent some time alone at the initial point of impact. The flag of service and respect was placed among debris.

Photos were taken, several hours were spent mapping the crash area, and finally Marc placed the memorial plaque honoring his father on the starboard wing. The plaque was secured to the wing by a battery powered drill, and special screws. Once again Marc spent some time alone to reflect. In the late afternoon we started the long hike back to the road. Marc Harding had come to pay his respects to the memory of his father. All of us admired his goodness, effort, and courage.


Mark Harding is a son his father would be proud of.

Mark Harding scans the undergrowth for any sign of his dad's FJ-4.

Patric J. Macha holds one of the wing tips of BuNo 139291.


Patric J. Macha examines FJ-4 wing section.

Mark Harding reaches the first wreckage of his father's North American FJ-4 Fury.


Marc Harding holds the plaque that he had made to honor the memory of his father.

Mark Harding places the memorial plaque on the wing of BuNo 139291. 

After a full day on the mountain we gather to say mission accomplished. Left to right are: Pat J Macha, Marc Harding, and G. Pat Macha.



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