A Fuel Tank Falls On Providence – 1948


Providence, Rhode Island

August 26, 1948

      Motorcycle Patrolman A.F. Baribault of the Providence Police Traffic Division was cruising along Chestnut Street near the city’s Jewelry District when he saw what appeared to be a bomb fall from an airplane.  

    Lawrence Tabor, a worker at Speidel Jewelry on Bassett Street also saw it drop, and could plainly see liquid spewing from the cigar shaped object as in tumbled earthward.   It struck the ground only 100 feet away at the intersection of Bassett and Ship Streets.  An explosive concussion shook the areas as flaming gasoline showering the street.  

     Emergency lines were quickly jammed with reports of an explosion.  Some said a manhole had blown up, others claimed it was a bomb.     

     One of the first to arrive was Officer Baribault who quickly determined the object was not a bomb, but an auxiliary fuel tank used by military fighter planes since World War II.  The aluminum tank had ruptured and split apart with one section lying in the roadway and another landing in a nearby lot.     

    Droppable fuel tanks for fighters had been developed during World War II to give the fighter aircraft greater range. The tank that dropped on Providence came from a U. S. Navy F6F Hellcat, a World War II aircraft carrier fighter produced by Grumman between 1942 and 1945. 

    Navy officials from the Quonset Naval Air Station responded to Providence and recovered the damaged fuel tank.  Fortunately nobody had been injured and property damage had been minor. The Navy released a statement that the pilot had accidentally dropped the tank while on a routine flight and that a formal inquiry into the incident would begin right away.

     A Navy spokesman told the Providence Journal; “This external or droppable tank is made to drop at the discretion of the pilot to get rid of the weight and friction.” 

     This particular tank had been loaded with 150 to 300 gallons of fuel when it was dropped.       

Source: Providence Journal, “Gas Tank Drops From Navy Plane, Misses Cars At City Intersection”, August 27, 1948, pg. 1 

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