Seymour, Connecticut – June 30, 1942
On June 30, 1942, a flight of three P-47 aircraft were engaged in a training flight over Seymour, Connecticut. One of those aircraft (#41-5911) was piloted by 2nd Lt. Henry Andrew Plahetka, 25, of Chicago.
The following is a partial narrative from the Air Corps investigation report (42-6-30-3):
“During a routine formation training flight, the flight leader dived from 10,000 feet to approximately 5,000 feet. On pulling out of the dive the tail assembly of Lt. Plahetka’s plane, the third and last of the flight, separated from the fuselage causing the plane to spin to the ground. The maximum speed obtained by the Flight Commander, in the dive, was 375 MPH.”
Lt. Plahetka’s plane crashed in a thickly wooded area owned by a water company to the rear of what was known as the “Arthur Brooks place”, in the Great Hill section of town. (One source identified the water company as the Ansonia Water Co., and another as the Birmingham Water Co.)
According to press reports, pieces of the tail section came down on property on Bungay Road, Great Hill Road, and Curry Road.
It was determined that Lt. Plahetka had considered bailing out by the fact that the emergency canopy release was found about a mile from the crash site, and that his seatbelt had been released. It’s possible he chose to stay with the aircraft because he feared for the safety of civilians on the ground. When his plane impacted, he was thrown from the cockpit and killed.
Investigators blamed the cause of the accident on “100 percent material failure on the part of the aircraft structure.” The P-47 Lt. Plahetka was piloting was a “B” variant, and had been delivered to the Air Corps on June 6, 1942 – just 24 days before the accident.
Lt. Plahetka enlisted in the Air Corps in Chicago on November 3, 1941, and obtained his pilot’s wings on May 20, 1942. At the time of his accident he was assigned to the 61st Fighter Squadron based in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
After this training flight he was due to begin a five day furlough so he could return to Chicago and get married. He’s buried in St. Adalbert Catholic Cemetery, in Niles, Illinois. (See www.findagrave.com, Memorial # 133140833.)
U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident,#42-6-30-3
Unknown newspaper article accompanying army investigation report, “Lt. Plahetka crashes To Death In Birmingham Water Co. Woods After Plane’s Tail Assembly Falls Apart”, unknown date.
Unknown newspaper article accompanying army investigation report, “Army Pilot Dies In Crash At Seymour”, (AP) June 30, 1942