Quonset Point Naval Air Station – December 5, 1943
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 www.findagrave.com, 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.