Atlantic Ocean – April 29, 1965

Atlantic Ocean – April 29, 1965

     On April 29, 1965, a U. S. Navy, Grumman C-2A Greyhound prototype aircraft, (Bu. No. 148147), took off from Long Island, New York, for a test flight over the Atlantic Ocean.  (News accounts did not state the airplane’s intended destination.)

     The pilot was Commander Murdoch M. McLeod, (40), of Minneapolis, Minnesota; and the co-pilot was Lieutenant Commander Thomas A. Eades, (30), of Dallas, Texas.   

     Both men were assigned to the Patuxent River Naval Station in Maryland.

     At about 5:30 p.m. the pilot radioed that they were having engine trouble and that he was making an emergency landing in the water.  A search and rescue operation was instituted, during which an oil slick was sighted off the coast of Charlestown, Rhode Island, (One report states Block Island Sound.)  The oil was analyzed and found not to be the type used for aviation, and was presumed to have been from a fishing vessel. 

     At one point a navy helicopter from Quonset Point, Rhode Island, that was taking part in the search, was forced to make an emergency water landing in Peconic Bay, Long Island, due to lack of fuel.  There were no injuries, and the helicopter was towed to shore by a Coast Guard boat.  

     The search encompassed a huge area of open water ranging from Long Island, New York, to Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts, but no wreckage of the aircraft was found.  One Coast guard vessel involved in the search was the 210-foot Vigilant. 

     On May 1st, the bodies of Commander McLeod and Lt. Cmdr. Eades were recovered from Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts, west of Cuttyhunk Island.  According to all newspaper reports, they were the only two crewmen aboard the aircraft.  


     Unknown Newspaper, Associated Press report,  “Test Plane, crew Sought In Sound”, April 30, 1965.

     The Berkshire Eagle, (Pittsfield, Mass.), (UPI report), “Search Goes On For Missing Navy Plane”,  April 30, 1965, page 30.

     Newport Daily News, (R.I.), “Planes Hunt Sound For Lost Fliers”, April 30, 1965, page 2.

     Sag Harbor Express, (N.Y.), “Bodies Were Recovered”, May 6, 1965.

     Biddeford-Saco Journal, (Biddeford, Maine), under “Personals”, May 11, 1965.  The funerals of Fireman Frederick R. Fredette, of Biddeford, and Electrician’s Mate 3/C Arthur J. Brown, of Old Orchard Beach, Me. were listed together.  It was stated that both had been serving aboard the Coast Guard cutter Vigilant during the search for the missing aircraft ten days earlier.  No details were given.       

Westfield, MA. – October 4, 1974

Westfield, Massachusetts – October 4, 1974

     On October 4, 1974, a Massachusetts Air National Guard F-100D fighter jet was landing at Barnes Airport in Westfield when the drogue parachute failed to deploy properly.  (The parachute is designed to help slow and stop the aircraft during landings.)  

     The fighter jet then overshot the runway after touchdown, and continued at approximately 175 mph through 1,000 feet of brush and two fences before reaching the Massachusetts Turnpike, (aka Rt. 90), where it crashed into a passing car killing the lone 22-year-old woman driver.  The jet then flipped over and came to rest upright on the opposite side of the highway.  There was no fire as a result of the crash, and the 26-year-old pilot wasn’t seriously injured.    

     The aircraft was attached to the 104th Tactical Fighter Group of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.


     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Woman Killed As Airplane Hits Her Car”, October 8, 1974, page 8.

The Williamsburg, Mass. B-24 Bomber Crash – May 1, 1945

The Williamsburg, Massachusetts B-24 Bomber Crash – May 1, 1945


B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the morning of May 1, 1945, a flight of U. S. Army B-24 Liberator aircraft left Westover Field Air Base  in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a combat formation training flight.  Briefing for the flight had been held at 3:00 a.m. during which the pilots had been told that there would be a low cloud overcast covering the area, but that it was expected to clear.  However, after the flight was airborne for nearly two hours, instead of improving, weather conditions had continued to deteriorate, and the overcast gradually extended lower and lower to the ground.        

      Shortly before 8:30 a.m., one aircraft, a B-24J, (Ser. No. 42-50995), began to drop down through the overcast, which by now extended nearly to the ground.  The crew however, was unaware of this.  The pilots watched the altimeter closely.  It was reading 1,500 feet when they suddenly broke through the mist and found themselves at tree-top level over the town of Williamsburg, Massachusetts.  The pilots attempted to climb and gave the engines full throttle but it wasn’t enough.  The plane barely missed a private home before it began clipping tree-tops for a third of a mile and then crashed into a wooded area of second-growth trees off Briar Hill Road. The B-24 plowed several hundred feet though the woods knocking down trees and smashing through stone walls, breaking apart in the process.  Although its fuel tanks held high-octane aviation fuel, there was no fire which saved the lives of crew members trapped in the wreckage.    

     Two of the crew were killed instantly in the crash, a third died two days later.  The other seven suffered serious injuries. Only the co-pilot was able to extricate himself form the wreckage.  

     Among the first to reach the scene were some local residents including Doctor Ruth V. Hemenway, and a group of wood cutters who had been working nearby.  Fire and rescue crews from Williamsburg, Northampton, and Westover Field, as well as state and local police, also arrived to help.  It reportedly took rescuers more than an hour to free those trapped in the wreckage.  The injured were transported Cooley Dickinson Hospital in Northampton.       

     Those who lost their lives were identified as:

     (Nose Gunner) Corporal Kenneth Virgil Powell, age 19, of Urbana, Ohio.  

     (Gunner) Corporal Donald R. McKenzie, of Spokane, Washington. Cpl. McKenzie was survived by his wife and daughter. 

     (Gunner) Corporal Joseph Skwara, of Latrobe, Pennsylvania. Cpl. Skwara survived the initial crash, but later succumbed to his injuries. 

    The following images of the crash scene are from the U.S. Air Force investigation report.

 Click on images to enlarge.

Air Force photo from crash report.

Air Force photo from crash report.

Air Force photo from crash report.

Air Force photo from crash report.


     Army Air Forces Report Of Major Accident, #45-5-1-5

     Research Paper, “Burgy Plane Crash, Briar Hill, 1945”, by Ralmon Jon Black, Williamsburg Historical Society, 2012.  Includes articles from the Springfield Union News, and Daily Hampshire Gazette, and other information about the accident.  

     Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Third Member Of Crew In Bomber Dies From Injuries”, May 3, 1945 

     Daily Hampshire Gazette, “Fire Chief Is Commended By Colonel Henry”, May 8, 1945

     Book, “History Of The Williamsburg Fire Department”, by Mary S. Bisbee, Roger A. Bisbee, Peter B. Banister, c. 1998

     Obituary for Cpl. Donald McKenzie, Spokane Daily Chronicle, May 5, 1945, page 6.





Nantucket, MA. – January 11, 1970

Nantucket, Massachusetts – January 11, 1970

     At 9:29 a.m., a U.S. Marine Corps Beechcraft TC-45J training aircraft took off from the South Weymouth Naval Air Station near Boston for a routine training flight to Nantucket island.  There were two men aboard.  The pilot was Captain Robert Girouard, 33.  The other officer was Captain Almon F. Townsend, 30. 

     The airplane made a safe landing at Nantucket Airport and took off again at 11:00 a.m.  Shortly after takeoff, just as the plane reached an altitude of 1,000 feet, the engines suddenly lost all power.  Captain Girouard was able to bring the aircraft in for a crash landing in an open field near the end of the runway.  There was no fire, and neither of the men were hurt. 


     Providence Journal, “2 Marines Escape Training Plane Crash In Mass.”, January 12, 1973  


Westport, MA – December 17, 1944

Westport, Massachusetts – December 17, 1944


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     At 1:40 p.m. on December 17, 1944, Lieutenant John Brodka left Martha’s Vineyard Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Massachusetts bound for Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.  He was piloting an F6F Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41380).

     Twenty minutes into his flight, while passing over the town of Westport, Massachusetts, the engine began to miss fire and the plane began losing altitude.  Forced to make an emergency landing, Brodka picked out a open field.  As he was making his approach the engine suddenly lost all power and stopped which caused the plane to settle faster than anticipated, which put it on a collision course with a wooded area just ahead of the field.  All the while the pilot continued to try restarting the engine.  Just before he was about to crash into the trees, the engine started and ran for three or four seconds before stopping again, but it was enough to carry the plane over the trees and into the field.

     The field was muddy which affected the brakes.  The aircraft crashed through a fence, crossed a road, and struck a telephone pole and went into a roadside ditch.  Despite extensive damage to the plane, Lieutenant Brodka was not hurt.    

     Lt. Brodka was assigned to VF-52.

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report, dated December 17, 1944

Martha’s Vineyard, MA – February 7, 1945

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – February 7, 1945


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On February 7, 1945, a navy pilot took off from Martha’s Vineyard Auxiliary Naval Air Station in an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70333), for a routine training flight.  About 45 minutes later, the pilot reported that he had engine trouble and was given clearance to return to the naval station.  By the time the pilot returned to the field, a coating of snow and ice covered the runways.  The plane touched down and began to skid.  It then proceeded to crash through a stone wall and was wrecked.  The pilot was injured because the shear pin on his harness broke loose, but the extend of his injuries were not specified.     

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report, dated February 7, 1945

Off Aquinnah, MA – February 17, 1945

Off Aquinnah, Massachusetts – February 17, 1945


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     Aquinnah is a town on the island of Martha’s Vineyard.  Until 1997 it was known as Gay Head. 

     At about 7:35 p.m., on the evening of February 17, 1945, navy pilot Chester Anderson, (Rank not given), was piloting an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 72301), off Aquinnah, Massachusetts, on a night bombing practice training flight.  Anderson and other aircraft in the flight were practicing on a half-submerged wreck off the coast.  Anderson had contacted another aircraft taking part in the exercise just prior to making his “bomb run”.  A short time later he failed to answer his radio.  Nobody had witnessed what happened, but it was presumed he crashed into the water. 

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report, dated February 17, 1945

Off Nantucket, MA – December 10, 1944

Off Nantucket, MA – December 10, 1944


Hellcat Fighters
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the night of December 10, 1944, a flight of eleven F6F Hellcats were engaged in practicing night breakups and rendezvous off Nantucket Island.  Lieutenant John Ignatius Drew, piloting (Bu. No. 58164), was leading a division of four planes in which Ensign John Daniel Cassidy, piloting (Bu. No. 58277), was the second section wingman.  After the final rendezvous, Lieutenant Drew and Ensign Cassidy didn’t join up with the rest of the flight.  Due to the darkness their absence wasn’t noticed and the other nine aircraft began returning to Nantucket Naval Air Station.  Meanwhile, Drew and Cassidy had joined up together, but didn’t see the other aircraft.  Ensign Cassidy radioed the flight leader asking for their position and was told that the aircraft were nearing the navy base. This was the last communication from Ensign Cassidy.  Both Cassidy and Drew subsequently disappeared and were presumed to have crashed in the ocean. 

     As to the cause of the disappearance, it was stated in the navy accident report, “”Since the night was clear and the pilots were familiar with the area the likelihood of their having become lost is small.  Therefore it is assumed that the pilots may have been victims of vertigo or collision.” 

     Both men were assigned to VF-88

    Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report dated December 10, 1944.

Chatham, MA – January 15, 1945

Chatham, Massachusetts – January 15, 1945


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On January 15, 1945, Ensign Robert C. Baker, piloting an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70161), took part in a gunnery training flight off Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  At about 1:15 p.m. as he was returning to base and passing over the town of Chatham,  the engine stopped working.  Baker dropped the landing gear and aimed for an open field.  As he came closer to the field he saw that there was a trench running across the middle of where he intended to set down so he intentionally overshot the area but wound up crashing into some trees lining the edge of the field.  

     Although the aircraft suffered significant damage, Ensign Baker was not hurt.  Investigators believed the engine failure was due to loss of oil pressure.  

     Ensign baker was assigned to VF-88.

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report dated January 15, 1945

Squantum Naval Air Station – January 21, 1945

Squantum Naval Air Station – January 21, 1945

Quincy, Massachusetts


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On January 21, 1945, Lt. (jg.) Peter Rippa, took off in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41789), from Squantum Naval Air station on a routine familiarization flight. 

     As he was returning to the base, he found that the landing gear wouldn’t come down.  After several tires he notified the tower of his situation and was cleared for an emergency landing on Runway 260.  Rippa brought the plane down on its belly and skidded to a stop.  The Hellcat was heavily damaged by Rippa was not hurt.

     The aircraft was assigned to VF-21.

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report dated January 21, 1945  

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