Cranston, R.I. – April 27, 1919

Cranston, Rhode Island – April 27, 1919 


     On April 26, 1919, several U.S. Army aircraft left Mineola, Long Island, New York, bound for Boston to take part in the flying circus Liberty Loan demonstration scheduled to take place in that city.  Due to poor weather, the aircraft became separated, and one airplane, a JN-4H, piloted by Lieutenant Douglas E. Martin, with his mechanic, Lieutenant H. E. Hall, developed engine trouble and was forced to land in Springfield, Massachusetts.  The following day they resumed their trek to Boston, but lost their way and ended up over the City of Providence, Rhode Island, and attempted to land on the grounds of Rhode Island’s State Institutions located in the Howard section of the City of Cranston.  Upon landing, a gust of wind drove the plane into the ground breaking the propeller.  There were no injuries, but the plane remained grounded until a new propeller could be installed.


     Hartford Courant, “Airplane Wrecked At Cranston, R.I.”, April 28, 1919   

Atlantic Ocean – April 23, 1948

Atlantic Ocean – April 23, 1948


P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On April 23, 1948, a U.S. Navy P2V Neptune, (Bu. No. 39325), took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island for what was to be a long-range navigational training flight from Quonset to Bermuda and back. 

     There were five men aboard the aircraft:

     Pilot – Lieutenant Harvey H. Rouzer

     Co-pilot – Ensign Philip J. Fagan

     Navigator – Sherman P. Dudley

     Plane Captain – Thomas T. Thurston

     Radioman – William Delligatti 

     All were assigned to VPML – 7 At Quonset.

     At 6:25 p.m., while the aircraft was still over the Atlantic on the last leg of the return trip, about 100 miles south of Rhode Island, the right engine suddenly developed a vibration followed by a drop in oil pressure.  Then the same problem developed in the left engine, followed by the right engine catching fire.  

     Power was cut to both engines and the plane began a glide to the water from 12,000 feet, while a distress call was sent.  The pilot managed a smooth water landing in a relatively calm seas, and the crew scrambled out as the aircraft sank.  Before entering the water they successfully deployed one of the aircraft’s two life rafts.  Fortunately the second raft bobbed to the surface shortly afterwards.  With three men in one raft and two in the other they waited for rescue as darkness closed in.

     Approximately two hours later they saw a ship on the horizon and fired a signal flare, but the ship continued on without stopping.   Not long afterwards a navy search plane circled above, its crew having seen the flair from a distance.  The search plane dropped a series of flairs for other aircraft and ships to home in on.

     The men were rescued about 10;20 p.m. by the passenger liner S. S. Washington which was on its way to New York from overseas.  


     Providence Journal, “Quonset Bomber Crashes In Ocean”, April 24, 1948, page 1 

     Providence Journal, “Quonset Fliers Describe Dramatic Rescue From sea”, April 25, 1948, Page 14

     (Magazine) Naval Aviation News, “Ditching A Neptune”, July 1948, Page 20





Off Block Island – January 31,1944

Off Block Island – January 31, 1944

Rhode Island


U.S. Navy PB4Y-1
With Gray Over White Paint Scheme
U.S. Navy Photo – 1943

    On the night of January 31, 1944, a U.S. Navy PB4Y-1 (Bu. No. 32181) left Quonset Point Naval Air Station for an anti-submarine patrol – searchlight training flight over the Atlantic Ocean.  The airplane was equipped with a powerful searchlight mounted under one of the wings to be used in spotting surface vessels at night.  Therefore, the plane would be flying fairly low over the water during its searches.

     The weather that night was snowy with strong gusty winds.  At some point the aircraft crashed into the ocean and disappeared taking all ten crewmen aboard with it.  A search was organized, however nothing was found, and Naval investigators could only guess as to what might have happened. 

     The navy’s official investigation report (#44-11364) listed some possibilities, among them:

     1) The pilot experienced vertigo and crashed.

     2) Instrument failure, specifically the radio altimeter or artificial horizon.

     3) Engine failure.

     About two months later, on April 6, 1944, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a fishing boat dragging its nets in the vicinity of Block Island snared an unexploded bomb which blew up when it was brought to the surface killing all but one man aboard.  

     More bombs were later recovered by other boats dragging their nets in the same area, and warnings were posted to stay clear. 

     If the bombs had come from the missing aircraft, it didn’t necessarily indicate that the plane rested in that area, for they could have been jettisoned due to an emergency.  

     Nearly 50 years later, in April of 1992, another fishing boat, the Nancy & Gary, brought up a three-blade aluminum aircraft propeller in its nets while dragging about thirteen miles off Block island.  The condition of the prop indicated it had been in the water for a long time. The artifact made its way into the possession of Lawrence Webster, a well known aviation historian and archeologist affiliated with Rhode Island’s Quonset Air Museum.  Through his research, Webster determined the propeller had come from a PB4Y-1, and records indicated that only one such aircraft had been lost in the area where the propeller had been found. 

     Webster contacted two New England companies that had sonar equipment capable of scanning the ocean floor hoping to find the wreck site of the long lost aircraft.  The search was successful, and the mystery of the missing navy plane was solved.  Unfortunately, no human remains could be recovered.    

     The aircraft lies in 150 feet of water at approximately 41 degrees 9′ N and 71 degrees, 16.55 W.  

    The crew included:

     (Pilot)  Lieut. Harold Leroy Neff, 29, of Centralia, Missouri. Lieut. Neff was killed just one day after his birthday.  To see a monument to his memory and learn more about him, see, Memorial #47219916.

     Lieut. Hubert C. McClellan, 25, of Plymouth, Michigan. To see a monument  to his memory, see, memorial # 129372432.

     Ens. Niles D. Kinney, of Woodlake, Minnisota.

     AMM1C Arthur Joel Lien, 24, of Hixton, Wisconsin.  To see a photograph of Arthur Lien and a memorial to him, see, memorial # 60612769.

     AMM1C Nathaniel Hornstein, of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

     ARM3C Wilton Hardin, of Elizabethtown, North Carolina.

     ARM3C Willard Joseph Hinger, 20, of Newark, Ohio.  To see a photograph of Willard Hinger, as well as a monument to his memory, and to read a newspaper article about him, see, Memorial #130964218. 

      AMM2C Peter Yezersky, Hermine, Pennsylvania.

     ARM3C William J. Kline, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

     AOM3C John H. Linnehan, Jr., of Albany, New York. 

     The crew had been assigned to bomber group VB-114. 


     U.S. Navy investigation report #44-11364, dated January 31, 1944

     Book, “Come Aboard The Draggers – Sea Sketches”, by Cap’n Ellery Thompson, 1958, page 60.

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “48-Year Mystery Solved?”, May 19, 1992

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Liberator Wreckage Found”, May 27, 1992, page 5

     Narragansett Times, (RI),”Scientists To View Plane Crash Site”, May 29, 1992, page 2.  

     Advocate Tribune, (Minnesota), “Final Chapter Written In Serviceman’s Death”, May 27, 1993, page 1 

     Cape Cod Times, (Mass.), “Deep Sea Search Finds Bomber – Navy Plane Went Down In 1944 Off R.I.”, May 20, 1992

     Banner Journal, (Wisconsin), “Looking Back Jackson County – History Comes Closer To Home”, October 21, 1992

    Other information supplied by Lawrence Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist – Quonset Air Museum. 

     Unknown newspaper, “Hinger Now Listed Dead”, February 16, 1945.

Four P-47 Thunderbolts Lost February 11, 1943

Four P-47 Thunderbolts Lost February 11, 1943

Cranston, R.I., Narragansett Bay, & Atlantic Ocean


P-47B Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the morning of February 11, 1943, a flight of four P-47B Thunderbolts took off from Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island, for what was to be a routine half-hour flight to Trumbull Field in Groton, Connecticut. None of them ever arrived at their destination.

     Conditions were foggy that morning, with a cloud ceiling of only 900 feet. Once airborne the pilots would have to rely on their instruments to get them where they were going.

     The flight leader was 1st Lieutenant Gene F. Drake. The other three pilots, all second lieutenants, were Raymond D. Burke, Robert F. Meyer, and John Pavlovic. All were assigned to the 21st Fighter Squadron of the 352nd Fighter Group. The 352nd was a newly formed unit then based at Trumbull Field.

   The flight took off at 10:15 a.m. with Lieutenant Drake flying aircraft #41-5922, Lieutenant Burke, #41-5943, Lieutenant Mayer, #41-5940, and Lieutenant Pavlovic, #41-5944.

     Witnesses later reported that the formation circled the airfield three times, but by the third pass one of the planes had disappeared. The remaining three P-47s were last seen headed in a southerly direction.   

“X” marks the approximate location in Cranston, R.I., where Lt. Meyer crashed Feb. 11, 1943

     The missing plane was piloted by Lieutenant Mayer. How he became separated for the group is unclear, but just minutes after take-off he crashed on some railroad tracks in the city of Cranston, Rhode Island, which borders Warwick to the north. Witnesses stated the right wing of Lt. Mayer’s aircraft struck a boxcar parked on a siding which caused it to crash and burn. Lt. Mayer was likely killed instantly. The site of the crash was located just south of Park Avenue, about four miles from Hillsgrove Field.

     Meanwhile, the other three P-47 pilots were heading southeast in zero visibility towards Jamestown and Newport instead of southwest towards Connecticut.  Shortly before 11:00 a.m. Lieutenant Raymond Burke crashed in the waters of Narragansett Bay between Jamestown and Newport on the eastern side of the island.  (For those unaware, the town of Jamestown is located on Conanicut Island, situated in the middle of Narragansett Bay.)  A short time later, one of the other P-47s crashed on the western side of the island, just off shore from Fort Getty, where the 243rd Coast Artillery was stationed.

     One serviceman who was stationed at Fort Getty was 2nd Lieutenant Roland D. Appleton who reported hearing a low flying aircraft pass over his duty station and then a loud crash out over the water a short distance from shore. Several enlisted men also reported hearing the same, but due to heavy fog nothing had been observed. However, within a few minutes the scent of gasoline wafted to shore confirming what they all suspected.

     In his official statement to investigators, Lieutenant Appleton later wrote, “I immediately called for a boat from the Fort Getty dock to go out searching. I called the Fort Wetherill dock to send a boat out and was informed that the USAMP Hunt would be sent at once to the area. In addition a Coast Guard boat was sent to assist in the search. Seaward Defense Station and the Adjutant, 243d Coast Artillery (HD), were notified.”

     By this point, the military was dealing with two downed aircraft, one on either side of the island.  

     Lieutenant Appleton’s statement continued, “Within 10 or 15 minutes the fog lifted and I searched the area with field glasses but did not discover any signs of the plane. A report was received that an oil or gas slick was sighted about 500 yards off shore and that the gas odor was still strong. The shore patrol continued searching.

     It is believed by the undersigned that the plane crashed and sank within a very few minutes. Approximately an hour and a half after the crash a black canvas bag about 15 inches long filled with cotton was picked up on shore. The center of the cotton was dry which indicated to me that it had been in the water but a short time. Other articles picked up on shore included a piece of leather possibly from an earphone, four rubber pieces of peculiar design, a handkerchief with numbers on it.

     The circumstances of the crash and the sounds heard at the time would indicate that the plane exploded just prior to or at the instant of crash.”

     Unfortunately, the numbers on the handkerchief were not recorded in the investigation report.  

     One of the officers in charge of the search detail along the shoreline at Fort Getty was Captain Stanley W. Smith. In his official statement to investigators he wrote; “At 1700 I went down to the beach again to investigate a stick-like object projecting out of the water approximately 50 yards off-shore. The visibility was poor. It was projecting about two feet above the surface of the water and appeared to be a stick.   It was impossible to distinguish any color on it or to tell just what it was without going out in a boat to see the object.”  

     Another officer who assisted in the Fort Getty search was Captain George E. Blicker. In his official statement he wrote, “Captain Smith immediately contacted me and together with a corporal and six men went down to investigate the accident. There was a dense fog that was beginning to lift about this time. Visibility was poor, but noticeable about 500 yards off shore was a slick approximately 50 yards in diameter with vapor fumes rising. The slick spread quickly and then disintegrated, giving off a strong gas odor in the air.”

     The following day, February 12th, The Newport Daily News reported that the body of Lieutenant Raymond Burke had been recovered from the bay between Jamestown and Newport by a navy picket boat and taken to Newport Hospital.

     On February 13th, a small news item appeared in The Woonsocket Call concerning the other plane that had crashed off Fort Getty. It reported that the unidentified P-47 had been located in 58 feet of water, but that the pilot was still unaccounted for.  

      The unidentified plane was marked with a buoy and a salvage boat was sent to attempt a recovery, however, bad weather and floating ice prevented this from happening. Unfortunately, the aircraft and its pilot were never identified in either newspaper accounts, or the official investigation report, nor does it appear that the pilot or the aircraft were ever recovered. Therefore, it has never been determined if this aircraft was the one flown by Lt. Pavlovic, or Lt. Burke.

   The fate of the fourth P-47 of this flight has never been determined, for the pilot and his aircraft were never seen or head from again. Presumably, the pilot continued on a southeasterly course and flew out to sea.

     1st Lieutenant Gene Frederick Drake, (Ser. # O-430925), was from Wilmette, Illinois,  born August 3, 1920.  He enlisted in the Air Corps in March 17, 1941, (Some sources state February, 1941), about ten months before the United States entered World War II. 

     From January to November of 1942, he served in Australia flying combat missions against the Japanese.  On his 22nd birthday, (Aug. 3, 1942), he was  flying a patrol mission when he and his fellow fighter pilots spotted 27 enemy bombers flying in formation approximately 2,00o feet below.  

      One newspaper described what took place in Lt. Drakes own words. “We flew into them and I shot up the first bomber.  I saw him stagger, burst into flames, and then go down.  I headed for another bomber but heard bullets going through my own crate.  Suddenly a solid sheet of oil came over my windshield and the cockpit was full of fumes.  I saw two little zeroes (Japanese fighting planes) sitting on my tail and it looked like time for me to leave.”   

     Lt. Drake was forced to bail but he landed safely. 

     Lt. drake was credited with shooting down the enemy bomber, as well as two more Japanese aircraft later that same month.  For his outstanding service he was awarded the Oak Leaf Cluster for gallantry in action under heavy fire, the Purple Heart, and the Silver Star.

     In late 1942 he returned to the states and became a flight instructor, training new pilots for overseas duty.  

     He was survived by his wife Shirley, and his son, Gene Jr..   

     He was officially declared dead on January 31, 1944.  

     Lt. Drake also had a brother serving in the Marine Corps, 1st Lt. Stafford W. Drake Jr.    

    2nd Lieutenant Robert Frederick Meyer was born January 29, 1920, in Shepherd, Michigan, making him just barely 23 at the time of his death. He was survived by his parents, and is buried in Deepdale Memorial Park, Lansing, Michigan.

     2nd Lieutenant Raymond D. Burke was just 15 days shy of his 22nd birthday when he died. He was born in Wilton, New Hampshire, February 26, 1921, the son of James R. and Margaret E. Burke. He’s buried in Mt. Calvary Cemetery in Wilton.

    2nd Lieutenant John Pavlovic, (Ser. # O-732341), was from the town of River Forrest, Illinois, and was 23-years-old at the time of his death.   He entered the Air Corps in March, 1942, and was commissioned a 2nd Lieutenant in October of 1942 at Luke Field in Arizona.  He was officially declared dead one year after his disappearance.    


    United States Army Air Force crash investigation reports for all four aircraft, Report numbers:

     43-2-11-3, dated March 29, 1943

     43-2-11-4, dated March 29, 1943

     43-2-11-5, dated March 25, 1943

     43-2-11-6, dated March 25, 1943

     Death Certificates obtained from the Rhode Island State Archives for Lt. Robert F. Meyer & Lt. Raymond D. Burke

     The Providence Journal, “Two Army Pilots Lose Lives In Crashes In R.I., Two Other Planes In Unit Believed Lost”, February 12, 1943, page 1

     The Newport Daily News, “Body of Army Pilot Recovered From Bay”,February 12, 1943

     The Woonsocket Call, “Searchers Locate Airplane In Bay”, February 13, 1943, page 1

     University of Illinois Veterans Memorial Project

     Chicago Sunday Tribune, “Wilmette Flyer Gets 2nd Award In Pacific Fight”, November 15, 1942, part 1, page 13 – 49th Fighter group – USAAF – Ciel de Gloire

     Wilmette Life, (Wilmette, Il.),”Flier Celebrates Birthday”, August 13, 1942

     Wilmette Life, (Wilmette, Il.),”Lieut. Gene Drake Reported Missing On Airplane Flight”, February 18, 1943

     Falling Leaves, (Oak Park, Il. newspaper), “River Forest Teacher Leaves For Navy,; Service Men’s News”, September 24, 1942  

     Falling Leaves, (Oak Park, Il. newspaper), “Lost Flyer Is Assumed Dead”, February 22, 1944 







Off Jamestown, R.I. – June 6, 1944

Off Jamestown, Rhode Island – June 6, 1944

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura

U.S. Navy Photo

     At 9:34 a.m. on June 6, 1944, a U.S. Navy Pv-1 Ventura (Bu. No. 29917) took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station with seven men aboard bound for Nantucket, Massachusetts.   Six minutes into the flight the plane went down in the water just 200 yards off the shore of Jamestown (a.k.a. Conanicut) Island in an area known locally as “The Dumplings”.  (The area is so-called due to the rock formations that protrude from the water.)  The fuselage reportedly hit the water between “Big Dumpling” and what was then the Jamestown Ferry Company dock, which is today part of a marina.  

     There are conflicting accounts of the accident.  It was initially reported that the plane suffered some type of explosion while airborne, and possibly a second on impact with the water, and it was further reported that the aircraft was in several pieces on the bottom of the bay.  However, the official findings listed in the Navy Investigation Brief, (#44-14865), indicated pilot error and poor weather conditions as the cause for the accident, with no mention of an explosion. 

     In the report it was stated in part:, “Opinion from Adm. Report: That the plane crossed over Conanicut Island on a southerly heading and upon entering the vicinity of poor visibility in the Newport Area , either developed engine trouble, causing the pilot to turn and let down to a lower altitude to establish absolute visual contact with the water or ground in case of a forced landing.  Upon suddenly finding the island so close ahead he attempted to pull up and turn away in a sharp left turn with an immediate application of full power.  The violence of this maneuver or the possible failure of the port engine could have been sufficient to invert the airplane from which recovery at this low altitude was impossible. ”   

     All aboard the aircraft were killed in the crash.  They were identified as:

     Pilot: Lieutenant Jack Collins Sullivan, 25, of Dearborn, Michigan.  He was survived by his wife Marcia. 

     Aviation Machinist Mate 1st Class Thomas Joseph Kiernan, Jr., 22, of Albany, New York.  He was survived by his wife Virginia. 

     Photographer’s Mate 2nd Class Regis Aloysius McKean, 23, of Queens, New York.  He was survived by his wife Patricia.  Petty Officer McKean was married on March 2, 1944, just three months before the accident.  To see a photo of the couple on their wedding day, go to and look under memorial #82683365. 

     Aviation Ordinance Man 2nd Class Frank Peter Van Oosten, 23, of Malden, Massachusetts. (The only New Englander aboard) He was survived by his wife Hazel. 

     Aviation Machinist Mate 2nd Class Albert Lee Kresie, Jr., 26, of Kansas. 

     Aviation Radioman 2nd Class Francis Gabriel Hricko, 27, of Hastings, Pennsylvania.  He was survived by his wife Jane, whom he’d married just two weeks earlier.  

     Doctor John McMorris (Ph. D), 39, of California.  He was survived by his wife Helen.   Dr. McMorris was a civilian working on an undisclosed project for the military.  Dr. McMorris was a pioneer in developing ways to recover formerly unrecoverable fingerprints at police crime scenes.  His research, discoveries, and techniques developed in the 1930s are commonly used by police today. 

     This incident remains the worst aviation accident to occur in the town of Jamestown, Rhode Island.    


     U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report brief, #44-14865

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Plane Blows Up Off Jamestown”, June 6, 1944

     Woonsocket Call, “Plane Explodes, Seven Killed”, June 6, 1944, page 1

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Seven Are Lost When Navy Plane Explodes In Air”, June 6, 1944, page 20

     Providence Journal, “7 Thought Dead As Plane Crashes”, June 7, 1944, Page 20, Col. 1

     Malden News, (Mass.) “Frank P. Van Oosten Starts Navy Life”, September 10, 1942, Page 5, Col. 6

     Malden News, (Mass.) F. P. Van Oosten Killed In Plane Crash”, June 7, 1944, Page 1

     Malden Press, (Mass.) “Malden Sailor Killed In Plane crash”, June 9, 1944, Page 5.

     The California Identification Digest, March/April 2006 edition, Volume 6, Issue 2 , “The Iodine/Silver-Transfer Method For Recording Latent Fingerprints”, by Darrell Klasey  

     The California Identification Digest, May/June 2006 edition, Volume 6, Issue 3, “Dr. John McMorris, Fume Pipe Inventor, Dies In Airplane Fall”, By Darrell Klasey

     Obituary for Frances G. Hricko, unknown newspaper.

     Town of Jamestown, Rhode Island, death records.

Quonset Point NAS – June 1, 1950

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 1, 1950

Rhode Island

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune

U.S. Air Force Photo

     One of the worst military aviation accidents to occur in Rhode Island in terms of loss of life occurred on June 1, 1950, at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  On that day, a P2V-2 Neptune aircraft, (Bu. No. 122454),  left Jacksonville, Florida, and landed at Quonset to refuel before proceeding on to Newfoundland.  After the brief stop-over, the Neptune resumed its journey. 







P2V Neptune Crash Quonset Point, R.I., June 1, 1950 U.S. Navy Photo

P2V Neptune Crash

Quonset Point, R.I., June 1, 1950

U.S. Navy Photo

     Shortly after leaving Quonset, a fire developed in one of the engines forcing the pilot to declare an emergency and turn back.  As the aircraft was making its final approach on runway 34, a strong gusty cross-wind suddenly caught the wing and flipped it over while still in the air.  The plane crashed down on the runway and the fully loaded fuel tanks exploded.  The pilot and co-pilot managed to escape through emergency hatches, but the other nine men aboard were killed.

     The dead were identified as:     

     Lt. (Jg.) Clarence R. Plank, 25.  He’s buried in Evergreen Home Cemetery in Beatrice, Nebraska.  

     Ensign David M. Arter, 23.  He’s buried in Lisbon Cemetery in Lisbon, Ohio. 

     Midshipman Clarence A. Payne. (No further info.)

     Chief Aviation Machinist Mate Francis J. Mc Swiggan, 34.  He’s buried in Beverly national Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey.

     Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate Huilette E. Fountain, 29.  He’s buried in Elmwood cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama.

     Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Clarence A. Thorson Sr., 27.  He’s buried in Cypress Grove Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana.  For more information and a photograph of Clarence, see, Memorial #5660419. 

     Chief Aviation Electricians Mate Harvey D. Thomas.  He’s buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.  

     Chief Aviation Machinist Mate John A. Seger, 27.  He’s buried in Garden of Memories Cemetery in Salinas, California.

     Aviation Ordinance Mate 1st Class Peter Rapnick.  (No further info.)     

P2V Neptune, Bu. No. 122454 Quonset Point, R.I., June 1, 1950 U.S. Navy Photo

P2V Neptune, Bu. No. 122454

Quonset Point, R.I., June 1, 1950

U.S. Navy Photo

     The aircraft was assigned to AP-3 based in Jacksonville.

     Another aviation accident that also took the lives of nine navy men occurred several years earlier at Quonset Point on December 5, 1943 when a PV-1 Ventura crashed into a hangar and exploded. The details of that accident can be found elsewhere on this website.


    Troy Record, June 20, 1950.

Off Block Island, R.I. – February 3, 1945

Off Block Island, Rhode Island

February 3, 1945


F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On February 3, 1945, a flight of five F6F-5N Hellcat navy fighter aircraft took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a night gunnery training mission.  All aircraft were assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 52, (VFN-52), then based at Charlestown, R.I.  Such training was necessary to prepare pilots for overseas duty in the Pacific Theatre of Operations.     

     Once airborne, the flight flew on a heading of 170 degrees until it reached a point over the Atlantic Ocean about five miles south of Block Island.   The weather was clear but the night was very dark.      

High School Graduation Picture Ensign Jack Ragan Gross Courtesy of Daniel Gross

High School Graduation Picture
Ensign Jack Ragan Gross
Courtesy of Daniel Gross

     At 8:36 p.m., Ensign Jack Ragan Gross, piloting aircraft #71537, left formation and descended towards the water with the intention of dropping a flare that would serve as a target for the pilots to strafe with machinegun fire.  Once the flair was dropped each pilot would take turns making “runs” at the “target”.  However, as Ensign Gross was descending to drop the flare something went wrong and he crashed into the ocean.  The flight leader saw the flare in the water, indicating it had been dropped successfully, but flames were seen on the water a few hundred feet away indicating that Ensign Gross had crashed.  Several unsuccessful attempts were made to raise Ensign Gross by radio.  A search and rescue operation was instituted but nothing was found.   

     Source: Norfolk Records – Card Index Files – AAR-0021, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Quonset Air Museum.   

     This wasn’t the only loss suffered by the Gross family during World War II.  On April 4, 1945, 2nd Lt. Robert Gustave Gross was lost on a training flight over the southern United States.  

2nd Lt. Robert Gustave Gross Lost April 15, 1945 Photo courtesy of Daniel Gross

2nd Lt. Robert Gustave Gross

Lost April 15, 1945

Photo courtesy of Daniel Gross

Narragansett Bay – July 19, 1918

Narragansett Bay – July 19, 1918


     On July 19, 1918, U.S. Navy Lieutenant Arthur F. Souther, 22, was test flying a new aircraft over the west passage of Narragansett Bay when the plane abruptly dove into the water from an altitude of 100 feet.  Lt. Souther was conducting a speed test at the time of the accident, and the plane struck with such force that it broke apart on impact and Lt. Souther was killed instantly. 

     The new aircraft was a Gallaudet D-4, (Ser. # A-2653), an experimental sea plane, one of two produced by Gallaudet Aircraft Corporation which once had a factory on Chepiwanoxet Island on Cowesett Bay, on the Warwick-East Greenwich line.   

     Witnesses reported the aircraft began to sway back and forth and the elevators were seen to flutter moments before the crash.  Lt. Souther had flown the same airplane without incident three times prior to the fatal crash.

     Lt. Souther had begun his duties as a test pilot for Gallaudet only a few days prior to his death.  He succeeded the previous test pilot, famous aviator Jack McGee, who was killed in another aircraft he was testing for Gallaudet on June 11, 1918. 

     Lt. Souther had enlisted in the air service in 1917, and was designated Navy Aviator #239 on January 2, 1918.  He’s buried in Lake View Cemetery in Cleveland, Ohio.  His father was the late Major Souther of the United States Signal Corps.

     To learn more about Gallaudet Aircraft and the D-4 sea plane(s), see,  Gallaudet D-1.  Site also has photographs.   


     Providence Journal, “Lieut Arthur F. Souther Killed In Speed Trail With Navy Plane”, July 20, 1918. (Article contributed by Patricia Zacks.)

     Providence Journal, “Naval Officials Start Inquiry Into Death Of lieut. Souther”, July 21, 1918.  (Article contributed by Patricia Zacks.), memorial #48882528

     Hartford Courant, (Conn.),”Naval Aviator Souther Killed”, July 20, 1918






Charlestown NAS – August 21, 1949

Charlestown Aux. Naval Air Station – August 21, 1949


     On August 21, 1949, this U.S. Navy, TBM-3E, Avenger, (Bu. No. 53100), stalled at an altitude of 50 feet while landing at Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island.  The pilot was uninjured. 

     The aircraft was determined to be beyond repair, and as bulldozed into a pit and buried.  

TBM-3E Avenger BU. No. 53100 Charlestown NAS August 21, 1949

TBM-3E Avenger BU. No. 53100
Charlestown NAS August 21, 1949

TBM-3E BU. No. 53100 Charlestown, R.I. Aug. 21, 1949

TBM-3E BU. No. 53100
Charlestown, R.I. Aug. 21, 1949


     Source: Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.,

     Photos via Donald Campbell/Larry Webster 

Quonset Point NAS – December 5, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – December 5, 1943


Lockheed PV-1 Ventura U.S. Navy Photo

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
U.S. Navy Photo

     One of the worst aviation accidents to occur in Rhode Island happened on December 5, 1943 at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  Early that morning a U. S. Navy PV-1 Ventura, (#33413), took off from Quonset Point to practice bombing techniques off Block Island.  The aircraft was assigned to bomber squadron VB-134. 

     The plane returned to Quonset Point at 11:38 a.m. and the pilot attempted to land on runway 34.  While doing so the aircraft went out of control and crashed into Hangar #2 and burst into flames.  

     The Navy investigation report describes the final moments before the crash. 

     “Aircraft crossed edge of runway 34 at 50-75 ft. at approximately 100 knots.  Plane made “back of  wheel” landing at too great a speed.  Maine wheels hit the ground first and then the tail-wheel, as tail-wheel hit – the plane bounced off the ground and assumed an unusual nose high attitude at which time the pilot pushed his engines full on in an attempt to go around the field again.  The main landing gear seemed to be retracting which would tend to verify that the pilot was attempting to go around again.  The initial bounce plus the use of engines took the plane up to about 100 ft. of altitude in a very nose high attitude.  Nose high tab used in landing probably increased the pilot’s dilemma and ended with the plane in a full-power stall at 100 ft.  The control surfaces in this stalled condition could not counter-act the torque at full power and the plane began a slow steady turn to the left  barely maintaining altitude. When approximately 90 degrees to the original heading of 340 degrees, the plane’s left wing began to slowly drop and at about the same time it struck the hangar and sheared off near the wing tip.  The rest of the airplane crashed into the hangar and was consumed in flames.”            

     All six crewmen aboard the Ventura were killed, as well as three men working in the hangar.  The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) Lt. Walter Philbrick Craig, Sr., 27, of Jacksonville, Florida. He was survived by his wife and son.  He’s buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Jacksonville, Florida.  

     (Radioman) ARM2c Max Ivan Colaw, 19, of Yates Center, Kansas.  He was survived y his wife, Marie, and two brothers, Orrie, and Victor, both of whom were also serving in the military.  He’s buried in Long Island national Cemetery in East Farmingdale, New York.  

     AOM 3c  Norman Louis Simoneau, 18, of Portland, Maine. He’s buried in Calvary Cemetery, South Portland, Maine.  

     AMM 3c William George Wheeler, 22, of Braintree, Massachusetts.  He’s buried in Evergreen Cemetery, Woodville, Massachusetts.  

     AMM 3c Hugh Patrick Biddick, 22, of New Hyde Park, New York.  He’s buried in St. John’s Cemetery, Middle Village, New York.   

     AMM 3c William Edward O’Hern, 20, of McKeesport, Penn.  He was survived by his wife Dorothy. He’s buried in McKeesport Versailles Cemetery in McKeesport, Penn.  To see a photograph of AMM 3c O’Hern, and read more information about him, see, Memorial #56158727.  

     Those killed in the hangar were identified as:

     AOM 3c Luvern Charles Klinger, 22, of Richville, Minnesota.   He’s buried in St. Lawrence Cemetery, Otto Township, Minnesota.   

     AOM 2c John Stanley Wojcik, 23, of Amsterdam, New York. He’s buried in Amsterdam, N.Y.

     AOM 2c Walter Edward Connelly, 19, of Milford, Nebraska. He’s buried in Dorchester Cemetery, Dorchester, Nebraska.

     The hangar in which the plane crashed was repaired.  It was one of four that stood near the runway.  It was torn down in 2010. 


     U.S. Navy Crash Report, #41-10111

     Town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     New York Times, “Eight Killed In Navy Plane Crash”, December 6, 1943, Pg. 24. 

     Providence Journal, “Eight Men Killed In Bomber Crash At Quonset Base”, December 6, 1943, Pg. 1

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Quonset Death Toll Now Nine”, December 6, 1943, Pg. 1 

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, Quonset’s Fatal Accident Probed”, December 7, 1943, pg. 4.   

     Amsterdam Evening Recorder, “Amsterdam Boy Meets Death In Plane Crash While Serving At Naval Station In Rhode Island”, (John S. Wojcik), December 6, 1943

     Florida Times-Union, “Navy Aviator Dies In Crash”, (Lt. Craig.) December 8, 1943.    

     Perham Enterprise Bulletin, “Luvern Klinger Fatally Hurt In Airplane Crash”, December 9, 1943.

     Yates Center News, “Max Colaw Killed In Navy Plane Crash”, December 9, 1943.  



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