Atlantic Ocean – June 19, 1975

Atlantic Ocean – June 19, 1975

 

     On June 19, 1975, a navy helicopter with four men aboard took off from the destroyer-escort USS Aylwin, (DD-1081), while six miles off the coast of Newport, Rhode Island.   Moments after becoming airborne, the helicopter was observed to suddenly drop into the water and sink.   Two of the men aboard, Lt. (Jg.) Timothy Stone, 27, and Lt. (Jg.) Philip Hennaford, 33, were rescued a short time later, but two men remained missing.

     The missing men were identified as Lt. Cmdr. Harold W. Guinn, Jr., 35, of Virginia Beach, Va., and Petty Officer 2/c Lawrence J. Kamas, 38, of Moyock, New York.   

     The helicopter, identified only as a “light airborne multi-purpose craft” went down in 100 feet of water about two miles east of the Brenton Reef Light Tower.   The helicopter, and the bodies of the two missing men, were recovered.

     To see a photograph of Lt. Cmdr. Guinn, go to www.findagrave.com, Memorial #178020310.

     Investigators determined that the cause of the accident was due to one of the helicopter’s rotors striking an antenna aboard the ship during take off.

     Sources:

     Unknown newspaper, “2 Navy Men Saved, 2 Missing, In Crash”, June 20, 1975

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Body Of Helicopter Crash Victim Is Recovered Off Newport”, June 21, 1974, page 5.

     Westerly Sun, (R.I.), “Second Body Is Found By Divers”, June 22, 1975, page 1 

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Crash Victim’s Body Found Off Newport”, June 22, 1975, page C-9 

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Search For 2 Crewmen Missing IN Crash Of Helicopter Continues”, June 30, 1975, page 2

     Unknown Newspaper, “Resume Search For Missing Navy Men”, unknown date.

     Westerly Sun, (R.I.) “Determine Cause Of Copter Crash”, July 1, 1975, page 2

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Copter Hit Antenna, Navy Says”, July 1, 1975

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Copter Victims Drowned”, July 2, 1975, page A-27

     www.findagrave.com.  Note: Petty Officer 2/c Kamas was identified in the press as having the middle initial “W”, however, on his grave the middle initial is “J”. 

 

Off Block Island – May 10, 1956

Off Block Island – May 10, 1956

 

T-33 Trainer Jet
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On May 10, 1956, a U. S. Air Force T-33 jet trainer took off from Suffolk County Air Force Base in Westhampton, Long Island, New York, for an instrument check flight.  The pilot was Captain Howard M. Blanton, 32, of Baltimore, Maryland, and the observer was First Lieutenant William J. Reichard, 26, of Berwyn, Illinois.   

     The aircraft headed eastward out over the Atlantic Ocean.  At some point the crew discovered that the radar compass wasn’t working properly, and that they were lost.  They flew for a period of time until picked up by radar at Montauk Point, New York, and Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.   By now the jet was running low on fuel, and being closer to Rhode Island, was given emergency clearance to land at Quonset. 

     At about 12:30 p.m. the T-33 ran out of fuel as it approached Block Island/New Shoreham, which is located three miles off the Rhode Island Coast.  The crew ejected and the jet went into the water about a half-mile east of Block Island.

     Both crewmen landed safely in the water several miles apart from each other and rescue craft were immediately dispatched to the area.  Navy and Air Force helicopters found the men quickly due to the yellow dye markers each had carried, and directed surface vessels to their locations.  Both men were still alive at this point, but the cold temperature of the water was sapping their strength. 

     A sling was lowered form the Quonset helicopter to Lt. Reichard who managed to grip on to it, but moments later he fell back into the water and became entangled in the cords of his parachute.  He was retrieved by the crew of a Coast Guard boat, but wasn’t breathing when hauled aboard.  The crew attempted to revive him with artificial respiration without success.    

     Meanwhile, another Coast Guard boat recovered Captain Blanton, and he too was not breathing.  Attempts to revive him also failed.        

     Source:

     Unknown newspaper, “Two Jet Pilots Die Off Block Island”, May 11, 1956

 

Narragansett Bay – June 5, 1942

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – June 5, 1942

Windsor Locks, Connecticut – June 5, 1942

 

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 5, 1942, 2nd Lt. Martin Taub of Newark, New Jersey, was piloting a P-40E (41-24782) over Rhode Island when his aircraft crashed in Narragansett Bay, killing him. 

     It was reported that he was the second serviceman from New Jersey to loose his life in an aviation accident over southern New England that day.  The other pilot was Lt. Richard M. Stafford, of Summit, N.J. who was killed in a crash at Windsor Locks, Connecticut. Stafford’s plane was a P-40F, (41-13765). 

     Source: New York Times, “New Jersey Pilot Killed”, June 7, 1942

     Updated March 12, 2016    

P-40E-1   #41-24782 Quonset Point NAS June 5, 1942 U.S. Army Photo

P-40E-1 #41-24782
Quonset Point NAS
June 5, 1942
U.S. Army Photo

     According to the Army Air Corps crash investigation report relating to Lt. Taub’s accident, his airplane crashed on land at Quonset Point Naval Air Station, and not in Narragansett Bay.  (Quonset Point NAS was situated on Narragansett Bay.)

     On June 5, 1942, Lt. Taub was part of a three aircraft formation flight over Narragansett Bay when he radioed the flight leader that his P-40 was having mechanical difficulties.  The Flight leader advised that the formation would return to Quonset Point, and that Lt. Taub would land first.   Taub’s aircraft was also having problems with the electrical system, which affected the radio and lowering of the landing gear.  (Lt. Taub had to lower the landing gear manually.)          

     As he came in to land the plane, he overshot the runway, and then turned sharply towards the hangars and flew over them.  Witnesses said the engine was running smoothly, but laboring at low RPMs.  Suddenly the engine started popping, and without sufficient speed to land on a runway, the aircraft craft fell from the sky and landed upright before catching fire.  

     At the time of his accident, Lt. Taub was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron. 

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-3-11    

West Greenwich – March 24, 1943

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – March 24, 1943

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

P-47B Thunderbolt

U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 24, 1943, two Army P-47B fighter aircraft (41-6002) and (41-6040) were training over southern Rhode Island when both were forced to land for reasons not stated in the press. One plane, piloted by Flight Officer Oscar C. Kline, 22, of Barrington, New Jersey, came down on Nooseneck Hill Road in West Greenwich, barely missing an automobile before cartwheeling into the woods lining the east side of the highway.  The plane caught fire but did not explode.  The flames were quickly extinguished by the driver of the vehicle that was almost hit, and some other passers by, using brush-fire pump cans obtained from the nearby home of Richmond’s Chief of Police, John Potter.  Unfortunately Flight Officer Kline died as he was removed from the plane.  

     The second P-47B landed about a mile-and-a-half farther down Nooseneck Hill Road in the town of Richmond, near Dawley Memorial Park.  

     Witnesses told investigators that the two P-47s had circled the area several times with their wheels down before attempting to land. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Plane Crashes Kill 2 Pilots – Officials Of Army, Navy Probe Accidents In South County”, March 25, 1943   (This headline is in error.  Only one pilot was killed.)   

Woonsocket Call, “Pilot Identified In State Crackup”, March 25, 1943, Pg. 1 

Springfield Union, (Mass.), “Westover Fighter Pilot Killed, Another Escapes In Two-Plane R.I. Crash”, March 25, 1943

Cumberland, R.I. – June 13, 1951

  SABRES CLASH OVER CUMBERLAND

Cumberland, Rhode Island – June 13, 1951

                                                                         By Jim Ignasher

Copyright, 2007

       On the morning of June 13, 1951, an accident occurred between to F-86-A Sabre jets over Cumberland, Rhode Island. The flight was part of 58th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron attached to the 33rd Fighter-Interceptor Group, then based at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts.    

     The incident began at 8:05 a.m. that morning when a flight of four Sabres took off from Otis AFB for a routine training flight.  The day was clear with 12 miles visibility with some haze at 27,000 feet.

U.S.A.F. F-86 Fighter Jet

U.S.A.F. F-86 Fighter Jet

The planes were to fly a simulated combat mission which would take them over the Providence metropolitan area. Once at altitude, they would split up into two teams called “elements” and would practice making mock attack runs at each other.  Each aircraft was equipped with gun cameras to record a “kill”.

     At 24,000 feet they leveled off and separated into two elements.  Each element was designated a color.  There was the Red Element, consisting of the Flight Leader, 1st Lieutenant Arnold W. Braswell, and his wingman 2nd Lieutenant Michael A. Corba.  The second was Blue Element consisting of 1st Lieutenant Leo R. Kirby Jr., who would be Blue leader, and his wingman 2nd Lieutenant Everett T. Brown. 

     Each element was to consider the other to be enemy aircraft.  The Red Element broke away and headed towards Boston while the Blue Element began to make wide circles around the Providence area climbing to 26,000 feet.  Once Red Element reached Boston, it turned around and headed back towards Providence. 

     As Red Element was returning they were spotted by Blue Element and Lieutenant Kirby made a run at them centering both jets in his camera sights.  At the end of this engagement, Blue Element broke off and headed towards Boston while this time Red remained over Providence.

     As Blue Element returned from Boston they saw Red Element flying 1,000 feet below and engaged them. Lieutenant Kirby later recalled to investigators; “About ten miles northeast of Providence my wingman (Lt. Brown), called in that he had the first element in sight at 10 o’clock low to us.  Looking in that direction I could see only one aircraft about 3 miles out and therefore did not make an attack on it, as I did not have the second aircraft of the first element in sight at that time.  The one aircraft passed the second element on a reciprocal heading approximately 2,500 yards off to the left and low about 1,000 feet.” 

Tail fin of Lt. Kirby's F-86 - US Air Force Photo from Investigation Report

Tail fin of Lt. Kirby’s F-86 – US Air Force Photo from Investigation Report

     The men of Red Element saw Blue Element coming and began evasive action. The four aircraft quickly became mixed in a high speed “dog fight” during which Lt. Kirby’s aircraft of Blue Element, and Lt. Corba’s aircraft of Red Element, were involved in a mid-air collision. 

      The impact knocked Corba unconscious for a few seconds, and when he came to, he found himself being thrown around the cockpit as the plane tumbled through the air.  In his statement to investigators he recalled what happened next; “After the explosion knocked me out and I came to the strap (from a safety belt) was snapping around the cockpit.  The spin threw me against the cockpit.  My helmet stayed on, luckily.  I remember trying to get out.  I tried to grab the ejection handle but the aircraft snapped every time I tried.  Finally got to where I could get it and hung on to the handle. I was humped up underneath the canopy when I pulled it and then I blacked out again.  When I opened the parachute I felt a sharp pain in my back and noticed that my hands were cut up.” 

     He later told investigators that he distinctly remembered checking his watch and noting that the time was 8:42 a.m.   

    At first Lieutenant Corba didn’t realize that he had been involved in a crash, but instead thought there had been some type of malfunction with his plane. He later told investigators from his hospital bed; “I just thought I blew up.  Never knew what hit me until I got on the ground.”      

     Lieutenant Kirby later related to a Woonsocket Call reporter his recollection of the moment if impact; “I suddenly saw the wing of a plane in front of my nose.  The other plane had apparently come up from under my belly.  I felt a light bump at first and then a real crash.  I saw a red flash in back of me as if there had been an explosion.  It stunned me for a second.  Then my actions were apparently automatic.  I pulled the seat handle that works the automatic ejector seat.”   

      Lieutenant Braswell saw the collision from his vantage point in the sky; “I followed Blue leader (Lt. Kirby) at a distance, since he had a speed advantage. I then observed Blue 2 (Lt. Brown) pulling up above the horizon in a climbing turn, followed by Red 2 (Lt. Corba) about 500 yards behind.  Just as Red 2 emerged above the horizon, turning at 90 degrees to my line of sight and about 2 miles away, I saw Blue leader pull up on him and for a brief instant appear to be almost in formation with red 2.  Just as I realized that something was wrong and was about to call, the two airplanes collided, Red 2’s aircraft exploding with an orange burst of flame and breaking up into several pieces.  It appeared that Blue leader’s nose struck the tip of Red 2’s right wing.”

     He noted that Lieutenant Kirby’s aircraft “…remained generally intact and spun to the ground in a flat spin”  

     Lieutenant Braswell called to Brown asking if he had seen any parachutes deploy.  Ten to fifteen seconds later Brown advised he could see two chutes at 14,000 feet.  Brown later recalled, “…Upon looking back, I saw an aircraft behind me and then it dropped below my line of vision.  The next instant I saw a tremendous explosion in the rear view mirror and it seemed that two aircraft had collided and completely disintegrated with the wing of one being thrown away from the area of flame.  It did not seem possible for the pilots to get out.  However, after watching the flaming wreckage fall, two parachutes appeared.”    

      Satisfied that both airmen had at least survived the initial impact, Lieutenant Braswell instructed Brown to notify Otis Air Base on “B” channel while he switched to “D” channel and called Quonset Naval Air Station for a helicopter to be sent to the scene.  In addition, Salem Coast Guard Station in Massachusetts also sent a helicopter and a PBY search aircraft to assist. 

     Both aircraft had been going over 500 mph at the time of the collision and the fact that either pilot escaped was a miracle.  As they hung in the air from their chutes, the debris from their aircraft began crashing to the ground in the area of Abbott Run Valley Road in north Cumberland.

     Lt. Kirby’s plane, serial number 49-1107, dropped relatively intact in a field near Rawson Pond. William H. Rawson, a local farmer, was spraying trees on his property with James Postle and Ronald Forte when they heard the explosion overhead and looked up to see the flaming debris falling towards them and began running for cover.  The plane crashed in the field 300 feet from Rawson’s home and exploded into a huge fireball.  The impact sent an engine portion tumbling through the air for several hundred feet before coming to rest near the Cumberland Grange hall. The explosion set several smaller fires to nearby grass and trees. Before long, .50 caliber bullets from the aircrafts gun magazines began going off sending live rounds wizzing through the air forcing bystanders to dive for cover. 

     Mr. Rawson was quoted in The Woonsocket Call as saying, “Bullets started going off and we though all hell had broken loose.  Then, we saw the parachutes coming down and we began to realize what happened.”

    The pieces of Lieutenant Corba’s plane, serial number 49-1106, came down in various yards of the houses along Abbott Run Valley Road.  One piece landed in the yard of Mr. and Mrs. Russell White who lived diagonally across from the Community School on Whipple Road just off Abbott Valley Run Road.  Another portion slammed into the back yard of Walter and Carrie Buchanan while Mrs. Buchanan was outside washing windows.  She ran to see if anyone was inside, but the flames set that plane’s gun magazines off too, sending her running into her house.     

Photo from Air Force Crash Investigation report.

Photo from Air Force Crash Investigation report.

 Fire Chief Nathan Whipple and Assistant Chief Shelton Parker were on duty at the North Cumberland Fire Station on Route 120 about a mile away when the accident occurred.  Chief Whipple ordered a general alarm sounded which would bring help from other fire stations in the area, then raced off towards the scene. Once there, he took charge of the crash site at the Rawson Farm and sent his assistant chief to oversee the fire at the Buchanan house.  Parker later commented to a Woonsocket Call reporter that the jet at the Buchanan house was, “spitting out bullets a mile a minute”   Cumberland firefighters from Ashton, Berkeley and Valley Falls responded, as did firemen from the Manville station in Lincoln, as well as companies from North Attleboro, Massachusetts, and the Cumberland town ambulance.   

     About four miles away in North Attleboro, Massachusetts, Patrolman Joseph A. Joubert was on a traffic detail in front of St, Mary’s Church when he heard the explosion and watched the planes fall from the sky.  When he saw the parachutes, he commandeered a passing ambulance and directed the driver to head towards the scene.     

     Lieutenant Kirby landed in heavy brush on the east side of Abbott Run Valley Road not too far from his plane and was helped by several nearby residents who ran to his aid. He was suffering from injuries related to the bailout, and as Officer Joubert arrived with the ambulance, Kirby was placed inside and taken to Notre Dame Hospital in Central Falls.  

     Lieutenant Corba came down through some utility wires which softened his landing, as he dropped by the side of Abbott Run Valley Road, in front of the home of Mrs. William G. Carpenter.  His injuries were more severe than Kirby’s, but not life threatening.   He was assisted by James Welch and George Miller who helped him out of his parachute harness and drove him to Notre dame Hospital in Mr. Welch’s personal vehicle. They later told a reporter from The Providence Journal that all the way to the hospital Lieutenant Corba repeatedly thanked God and the engineers who designed the automatic ejection mechanism.              

A Fuel Gauge from an F-86-A Sabre Jet.

A Fuel Gauge from an F-86-A Sabre Jet.

State and local police also raced to the scene and upon learning that both pilots had been taken to the hospital before their arrival focused their attention on trying to keep the throngs of curious onlookers away.  Shortly afterwards, a detail of National Guardsmen led by Major Robert W. Tucker arrived from Hillsgrove, (Now T.F. Green State Airport.), and took over the scene.   

     Lieutenant Kirby had joined the 58th FIS on May 25th, only seventeen days before the accident.  He earned his pilots wings on February 25, 1949, and flew 102 missions as a combat fighter pilot in Korea with the 36th Fighter Squadron of the 8th Fighter Wing. In all that time he had logged 925 flying hours and had never had any previous accidents.   

     Lieutenant Corba received his wings September 15, 1950, and joined the 58th FIS October 16, 1950.  Up to the date of the accident he had logged 505 hours of flight time. He had just celebrated his 23rd birthday less than two weeks before the crash.  

     Lieutenant Braswell later went on to have a distinguished career with the U.S. Air Force, rising to the rank of Lieutenant General in command of the entire Pacific Air Forces, in charge of over 34,000 personnel, eight major air bases, and numerous other facilities. 

     In 1952 he was sent to Korea where he flew 155 combat missions, and later flew 40 additional combat missions in the Vietnam War in 1967.  Overall, he logged more than 4,500 hours in the air, most in jet fighters.  He earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, Distinguished Service Medal with oak leaf cluster, Defense Superior Medal, and the Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster.  He retired October 1, 1983, with 33 years of service.          

 Sources:

 U.S. Air Force Accident Crash Investigation Report (51-6-13-1)

The Evening Bulletin, “Pilot In Crash Unhurt”, June 15, 1943, Page 3. 

The Evening Bulletin, “520 MPH Jets Crash 30,000 Feet Over R.I.”(Two Pilots Parachute To Safety), June 13, 1951, Page 1. 

The Woonsocket Call, Over Cumberland, Pilots Escape, Bullets Endanger Householders”, June 13, 1951 

The Woonsocket Call, “Airmen Jump 10,000 Feet.  Badly Injured”, June 13, 1951 

The Woonsocket Call, “Jet Debris Moved, Abbott Run Serene”, June 14, 1951, Page 1. 

The Woonsocket Call, “Probe Started In Cumberland Jet Air Crash”, June 15, 1951, Page 10. 

Website, History of the 58th FIS, www.fisrg.com

Website, 33rd Fighter Wing History, www.elgin.af.mil

 

 

Hopkins Hill, R.I. – April 3, 1942

THE HOPKINS HILL BOMBER CRASH 

West Greenwich, Rhode Island

April 3, 1942

By Jim Ignasher

 

B-25 Mitchel bomber USAF Museum photo

B-25 Mitchel bomber
USAF Museum photo

      At 5:52 a.m. on April 3, 1942, a B-25A Mitchell Bomber (40-2193) left Westover Army Air Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, headed south towards Narragansett Bay and the Atlantic for an anti-submarine patrol.  The belly of the aircraft was loaded with depth charges.

    The crew of five servicemen aboard included: the pilot, 2nd Lt. George Loris Dover; co-pilot, 2nd Lt. Neil W. Frame; radio operator S/Sgt. Robert H. Trammell; the bombardier, Pvt. Robert H. Meredith; and tail gunner, Pvt. Thomas J. Rush. 

    The men were assigned to the 41st Bombardment Squadron, attached to the 13th Bombardment Group, recently transferred from Orlando Army Air Base in Florida.

     The weather that day was seasonable for early April with clear skies and five miles visibility.  The plane took a course over Rhode Island, but barely twenty minutes into the flight one of engines began to sputter and loose power.  Lt. Dover was an experienced pilot and evidently didn’t deem the situation serious as no radio distress call was sent and no attempt was made by the crew to bail out or salvo the depth charges.  What happened next is based on the findings of the Army Air Corps crash investigation committee.

     While still over the southern part of Rhode Island, the pilot turned the plane around and was most likely going to attempt a landing at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick.  As the B-25 was passing over West Greenwich, Rhode Island, it either stalled or completely lost power, before it crashed into Hopkins Hill.

    The official crash investigation report (42-4-3-1) stated in part, “…the absence of a swath approaching the final scene of (the) accident would seem to indicate a complete lack of power.  The pilot is believed to have established a steep glide in order to maintain flying speed and headed for the nearest clearing.  Upon reaching terrain expedient with altitude and circumstances he is thought to have attempted recovery from this glide and mushed on into ground in a complete stall.”  

     When the plane hit the ground it was assumed that the crew was either killed or rendered unconscious.  Fire broke out immediately when the nearly full gas tanks ruptured, which set off the depth charges sending debris from the plane hurtling more than 200 yards.  Those living nearby later reported that the blasts shook their homes. 

     The first to arrive at the scene was Earl B. Harrington of Hopkins Hill Road.  He had heard the plane pass over his house; “It was fairly low”, he later said in his statement to the Army, “and the motors were not functioning properly in that they were skipping, popping, and snapping.”  

     Shortly afterwards one of his sons informed him that there was a column of smoke rising from the woods.  He related, “As soon as I could get dressed, my boy and I made our way through the woods towards the column of smoke.  On our way we heard three small explosions followed by a very big one which nearly knocked us to our knees.  We were at the time about two hundred and twenty five yards away.  Wreckage and rocks went over us.  We were shielded by the low hill.  We knew it was a plane then and that it was burning so we hurried to the Victory Highway and phoned the State Police.”  

     Mrs. Anne E. Esleck of Ten Rod Road in Exeter also heard the plane go overhead and the subsequent explosions.  In her statement to the Army she recalled, “The time was about 6:30.  The motors seemed to cut out, and in about two or three minutes we heard a series of small explosions for about ten minutes.  Then came the large explosion, which rocked the pictures on the walls.” 

     Another person who reported feeling the force of the explosions was Mr. R.F. Rathburn who stated, “About ten minutes later we heard a very loud explosion just over the ridge to the south, which shook the house badly.  I looked out the window and saw a lot of white smoke, and many bright sparks in the air.” 

     At 6:40 am Trooper Francis D. Egan of the Wickford Barracks received the first report of the plane crash and dispatched Sergeant Harold E. Shippee and Trooper Wilfrid L. Gates to investigate. 

A poor quality reproduction of the army investigation report photo of the  blast crater.

A poor quality reproduction of the army investigation report photo of the blast crater.

    While searching for the plane. Sergeant Shippee met Earl Harrington who directed him to the general location.  The sergeant parked his cruiser at the intersection of Hopkins Hill Road and Brown Trail Road and proceeded on foot through the woods.  (In 1942 the Brown Trail an unpaved dirt trail.)  When he reached the scene he discovered that there were no survivors and realized that the aircraft was a military plane by the star insignia on one of the wings.   He made his way back to his car and radioed the barracks requesting notification of military and fire officials.   

     Trooper Gates took a post at Hopkins Hill Road and Brown Trail Road to divert sightseers away from the area and keep the road clear for military vehicles. 

     Sergeant Shippee then returned to the crash site and made a wide search of the immediate area.  The fires were still burning and some of the aircraft metal was described in the official state police report as being “white hot”.  The sergeant noted a wide debris field and a large crater, about 25-30 feet wide, where the plane had landed and exploded.  

     At about 7:00 a.m. Captain Leonard C. Lydon, squadron commander of the 66th Pursuit Squadron, stationed at Quonset Point, was notified of the crash by Naval Operations.  He drove to the scene with Squadron Flight Surgeon, Lieutenant Mark E. Conan, and the Squadron D.P. officer, 1st Lieutenant Sherman Hoar, and a detail of eleven men.

    According to official reports, the contingent arrived at the scene about 9:00 a.m.  Sergeant Shippee met with Captain Lydon and turned the scene over to him.  The captain was informed that Trooper Eagan in Car 41 would be assigned to stand by in case any radio messages needed to be sent over the cars’ two-way radio. 

     In the meantime, firefighters led by Chief Fire Warden John H. Potter had been busy putting out the numerous fires since 8 a.m.  The chief had also detailed a group of men to conduct a search for anyone who may have parachuted out of the plane before it went down. 

X marks the Approximate location of the crash site.

X marks the Approximate location of the crash site.

    Two bodies and one partial one were found about one hundred yards and two hundred yards respectively from the major portion of the wreckage.  Two more were removed from the shattered tail section. All were transported to the Gorton Funeral Home in Coventry, R.I. under the supervision of Lieutenant Conan.

     At about 9:30 a.m., 2nd Lieutenant Kenneth B. Skoropowski, Armament Officer of the 66th Pursuit Squadron at Quonset, arrived to oversee the removal of all ordinance from the scene.  He recovered three .30 caliber, Browning M-2 machine guns, one .50 caliber Browning machine gun from the tail section, two flare pistols, and some live ammunition.        

     Captain John L. Sullivan, Lt. Harcos, and 1st Lt. Charles P. Sheffield arrived on the scene from Westover Field to take over the investigation.  They sifted through the debris, took photographs, and interviewed witnesses.

Diagram of the crash site drawn by 1st Lt. Charles P. Sheffield that was included with the official investigation report.

Diagram of the crash site drawn by 1st Lt. Charles P. Sheffield that was included with the official investigation report.

  Lieutenant Sheffield drew a diagram of the crash site which he included as “Exhibit 7- B” with the official report. 

     One item of interest to the investigators was the planes ignition switch, which the investigation report stated “The ignition switch installation was burned and damaged so as to preclude drawing of precise conclusions but the master ignition switch is believed to have been in the “off” position.”  This could be an indication that the pilot cut the engines just before impact in an attempt to prevent a fire. 

      The investigators concluded that the aircraft was almost level when it hit the ground due to the pattern of debris.  Weather and sabotage were ruled out as factors in the crash.

     The Army, as was the custom, made arrangements for all debris to be removed from the site.  Today, time and Mother Nature have erased all traces of the disaster, and except for the blast crater, there is nothing to suggest that a horrific tragedy once occurred there.

     The official investigation report contains several testimonials to the flying ability and competence of the pilot, Lieutenant Dover, and it is clear that investigators did not fault him for the crash.  

      The crash was blamed on a faulty engine and went on to state that there had been other problems with the R-2600-9 engines on other aircraft.  In paragraph #30, under “recommendations”, the report stated; “That the R-2600-9 airplane engine be tested in detail and that 17 engines changed (all for reasons other than normal running time and crashes) in this group since 1 Jan. 1942 to present date be minutely examined for such modifications and structural changes as are found necessary.  Unofficial information indicates that technical organizations other than this Group are experiencing like difficulties with this engine and that a serious situation exists endangering materiel; lives of flying personnel; and morale of Combat Crews.”     

     In paragraph 32 section b, the report states: “ A report, subject: “Troubles with R-2600-9 Engines” dated April 10, 1942 has been forwarded to the Commanding General Bomber Command, a copy which has been furnished the Commanding Officer, Sub-Depot, Westover Field, Mass.”

     It’s unknown if this accident report had any direct effect, but it’s interesting to note that future production B-25’s, beginning with the B-25D model, were equipped with different engines – Wright R-2600-13’s. 

Lieutenant George Dover. Photo from the Shelby Daily Star, April 6, 1942.

Lieutenant George Dover. Photo from the Shelby Daily Star, April 6, 1942.

     The pilot, 2nd Lieutenant George Loris Dover, known as Loris to his friends and family, came from Shelby, North Carolina. He was born December 23, 1916 and was 25 years old at the time of his death.

     He graduated Shelby High School and went on to attend Mars Hill College in Mars Hill, North Carolina, where he graduated in 1935.  He then went to the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, and graduated in 1937.

     After graduation, he relocated to Kent, Ohio, where he worked for Davey Tree Surgery before enlisting in the Army Air Corps on December 28, 1940.  He graduated flight training and was awarded his “wings” August 15, 1941 at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas.  From there he was assigned to the 41st Bombardment Squadron and sent to Orlando Air Field, in Orlando Florida.  In January of 1942 his squadron was transferred to Westover Field in Massachusetts.

     He was waked at his father’s home at 851 West Warren Street, and flowers completely filled two rooms of the home.  More than 3000 townspeople filed through the house to pay their respects. The funeral service was held at First Baptist Church, with members of the Warren Hoyle American Legion Post acting as pallbearers.  He was the first serviceman from Shelby, as well as Cleveland County, to lose his life in World War II.

     Lieutenant Dover was survived by his father and step mother, one sister, Nancy Ellen of Mars Hill, N.C., a half-sister Mary Ann Dover of Shelby, and two brothers, Grady Eugene and Paul.  He also left behind a fiancée, Miss Virginia Rose of LaGrange, Illinois.  They were to be married in August of 1942.

     The V.F.W. Post 4066 in Shelby, North Carolina, was named in Lt. Dover’s honor.  

     George was not the only loss suffered by the Dover Family in World War II.  At the funeral, George’s younger brother, 21-year-old Grady who was attending the University of North Carolina at the time, was quoted by the Shelby Daily Star as saying, “Somebody’ll have to take Loris’ place.”  He entered the Army Air Corps as a pilot and was promoted to 1st Lieutenant.  He was killed in action when his B-17 bomber went down on a raid over Germany on February 10, 1944.

     George and Grady are buried next to their mother, who died in 1928, in the Cora Section of the Sunset Cemetery.   

Funeral of Lt. Dover - Shelby Daily Star April 8, 1942

Funeral of Lt. Dover – Shelby Daily Star April 8, 1942

     Co-pilot, 2ed Lieutenant Neil Ward Frame, was born in Porterville, California, during the First World War, on September 22, 1917, the youngest son of Jesse E. and Madge E. Frame.  He grew up with six brothers and sisters, graduated from Porterville High School, and went on to junior college before transferring to the University of California to study agriculture.  It was while he was attending college at Davis, California, that he decided to enlist in the Air Corps.  He earned his pilot’s wings at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas on August 15, 1941, graduating in the same class as Lieutenant Dover.    

     Like Lieutenant Dover, he was the first from his community to lose his life in World War II.  His boyhood friends served as pallbearers at his funeral, which the local paper, the Porterville Recorder, stated, “No funeral held in Porterville ever brought such a throng of sympathizers”. 

     An Episcopal service was conducted by Rev. Ralph Cox, assisted by the Rev. H.G. Purchase, at the Loyd-Frietzsche Chapel, before the procession proceeded to the Porterville Cemetery where the local American Legion conducted a funeral ritual and the high school band played “Nearer My God to Thee”, before an eight-man firing squad fired a salute, and two buglers played taps.  He was laid to rest in plot B-125-2.

     The Merchants Committee of the Porterville Chamber of Commerce voted to close all stores in the city during the funeral as a show of respect and patriotic duty. 

     Lieutenant Frame lived at 600 E. Street, Porterville, California, and besides his parents, he was survived by his brothers, Harold and Carl, and four sisters, Mrs. Carl Martin, of Palo Alto, California, Mrs. Kenneth Hill of Visalia, Mrs. Norman Castle and Miss Barbara frame both of Porterville.  His brother Carl had enlisted as a doctor in the armed forces and had sailed only a week earlier for overseas duty.   

    Staff Sergeant Robert H. Trammell was born April 23, 1916 and was 20 days shy of his 26th birthday.   Before the war he lived at 2309  Ellis Street , Brunswick, Georgia.  He was survived by his parents, Mildred B. and Joseph H. Trammell Sr., a sister, Mrs. H. Lee Haskins also of Brunswick, and an older brother, Blair Trammell, who was also in the service stationed at Pensacola Air base in Pensacola, Florida. 

     He is buried in Palmetto Cemetery, Glynn County, Georgia, Lot 152-8    

     Private Robert Huel Meredith, the bombardier, was the only married man of the crew.  He was survived by his wife of only three months, listed in his obituary as “Mrs. R.H. Meredith”, of Alexandria, Louisiana. 

     He was born May 22, 1920, which also made him the youngest of the crew – about five weeks away from his 22nd birthday.

     He attended high school in Thyatira, Mississippi, and went on to Harding College in Searcy, Arkansas.  He left his studies to join the Army Air Corps in 1941 and went to bombardier school.    

     Being a bombardier during World War II was considered a big responsibility.  According to the United states Air Force Museum, the training to become a bombardier lasted 12 to 18 weeks, during which the student learned his skill by dropping approximately 160 bombs.  He was scored by his “hits” and “misses”, and roughly 12% of each class was “washed out” for failing to gain enough “hits”.  

     In the beginning of the war, bomber aircraft such as the B-25 carried the Sperry S-1 Bombsight.  When the highly classified, top secret, Norden M-1 Bombsight was introduced later, bombardiers were required to take an oath stating they would protect the Norden with their life! 

     In addition to his wife, he left behind his parents, Kathleen Meredith of Thyatira, and  T.H. Meredith of  Memphis, Tennessee, as well as two sisters and a brother, Miss Marinelle Meredith, Thyatira, Mrs. Leonard Jones, Memphis, and Wilfred Meredith of Independence, Missouri.  

     The funeral services were conducted by Rev. H. I. Copeland, held in the Thyatira School Auditorium.  Burial was at Mt. Zion Cemetery

     The tail gunner, Private Thomas J. Rush, was the oldest crewman at 27.  He was born August 23, 1915 and enlisted in the Army Air Corps in June of 1941.  Before entering the service, he had been a caddy master at the Overbrook Golf Club in Philadelphia and an amateur boxer.  He had lived at 1688 N. 56th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and was survived by his parents, Joseph and Catherine Rush, as well as three sisters, Mrs. Benjamin B. Evans, Mrs. John F. McFadden, and Miss Sue Rush, and three brothers, James, Joseph, and Patrick.

     The funeral was held at St. Gregory’s Church and burial took place at Holy Cross Cemetery.

     The B-25 Mitchell was a twin-engine medium bomber built by North American Aviation of Inglewood, California, and Kansas City, Missouri.  Of the roughly 10,000 that were produced between 1939 and 1945, only 40 were designated B-25A’s, thereby making this particular aircraft rare.   

     The “A” variant was an early production model powered by two Wright R-2600-9 engines capable of delivering a maximum of 1,700 hp each.  It was designed to carry up to 3,660 pounds of bombs and could defend itself against enemy fighters with up to four .30-caliber, and one .50-caliber machine guns.

    The plane involved in this accident was the only B-25 to ever crash in Rhode Island

Sources:

U.S. Army Air Corps crash investigation report dated April 1942, (#42-4-3-1)

Rhode Island State Police report, dated April 3, 1942

Newspaper article, “Five Killed In Bomber Near West Greenwich ”, The Pawtucket Times, April 3, 1942, page 1

Newspaper article, “Couple Heard Plane Motor Sputter before fatal Dive”, The Pawtucket Times, April 3, 1942, page 6

Newspaper article, “Lt. Neil frame Dies In Crash (of) Army Bomber”, Proterville Recorder, April 3, 1942, Page 1

Newspaper article “Local Boy One Of Five Victims OF Air Tragedy”, The Shelby Daily Star, April 3, 1942, page 1

Newspaper article, “Army Probes Bomber Crash”, The Pawtucket Times, April 4, 1942, page 1

Newspaper article, “Cause Unknown In Air Crash; 1 Body Missing”, The Woonsocket call, April 4, 1942, page 1

Newspaper article, “Bomber Crashes in R.I., Five Dead”, The Providence Journal, April 4, 1942, page 1

Newspaper article, “Dover’s Body On Way Home”, The Shelby Daily Star, April 4, 1942, page 1

Death notice, “Robt. Trammel Be Buried Here”, Brunswick News, Saturday, April 4, 1942

Newspaper article “Loris Dover To Be Buried Here”, The Shelby Daily Star, April 6, 1942, page 1

Newspaper obituary, “Lt Neil frame Funeral Rites 2 P.M. Friday”, Porterville Recorder, April 6, 1942

Newspaper article, “Dover Funeral Is Conducted”, The Shelby Daily Star, April 8, 1942, page 1, (two photos with article)

Newspaper article, “Close Stores For Lt. Frame Rites Friday”, Porterville Record April 8, 1942

Newspaper article, “Dover Funeral Hero’s Tribute”, The Shelby Daily Star, April 9, 1942, page 1

Obituary, “Robt. H. Meredith 2nd Tate Casualty Buried Tuesday”, The Tate County Democrat, April 9, 1942, Page 1

Newspaper article, “Military Service For First Porterville Boy To Give His Life In New World War”, Porterville Record, April 11, 1942

Obituary, “Thomas J. Rush Rites”, Unknown newspaper & date, sent by The Free Library of Philadelphia, to Greenville Library in June 2006.

Book, “Troopers Of The Rhode Island State Police And Their Story”, By Harold C. Jones, 2001, Vantage Press

United States Air Force Museum Website

Town of West Greenwich, R.I. Death Records

Footprints In Time, Tombstone Inscriptions In Tate County, Mississippi, Compiled by Mrs. Janice Barnett Craft, Page 17

Special thanks to Mr. Aaron Coutu, former Young Adult & Reference Librarian, Greenville Public Library, Greenville, R.I.,  for obtaining obituaries and news articles for this story.

 

 

 

 

Georgiaville, RI – August 5, 1943

The Wolf Hill Plane Crash – Georgiaville, R.I. 
August 5, 1943

By Jim Ignasher

A U.S. Army RB-34 like the one that crashed on Wolf Hill in the Georgiaville section of Smithfield, R.I. - August 5, 1943. U.S. Air Force Photo

A U.S. Army RB-34 like the one that crashed on Wolf Hill in the Georgiaville section of Smithfield, R.I. – August 5, 1943.
U.S. Air Force Photo

      On August 5, 1943, a U.S. Army Air Corps, twin-engine aircraft, crashed on the Georgiaville side of Wolf Hill and three servicemen lost their lives. As with many events, details get forgotten over time. The story is worth re-telling both as an historical event, and as a way to remember the three men who died in the service of this country within the Town of Smithfield.

     The plane was a Lockheed, RB-34. To be more precise, it was an RB-34A-4, Target Tug, one of only 16 produced for this purpose. Its military serial number was 41-38116.

     The B-34 was initially designed as a light coastal patrol bomber to be used in anti-submarine warfare by the British military before the United States had entered World War II. It had its origins in the Lockheed, Model 18, Lodestar, a civil aircraft, which was re-designed and given the military designation of the Hudson MK I. In 1940, the British Government ordered 375 Hudsons. Subsequent orders were placed with technical improvements and modifications to armament, thus giving the planes designations of MK II, MK IIA, and GR.MK V.

     When the United States entered the war in December of 1941, 200 Hudsons destined for England were diverted off the production line for use by the U.S. Army Air Corps and given the new military designation of B-34. The “B” designated it as a bomber aircraft. Most of the B-34s were later converted for use as training aircraft. Of these 200 aircraft, 57 were used as bomber trainers, 28 were used as gunnery trainers, 16 as target tugs, and 13 as navigational trainers. The remaining 86 planes were passed over to the U.S. Navy when it was decided that coastal protection should fall under the Navy’s jurisdiction. The Navy re-designated the planes as PV-1 Ventura’s and from 1942 onwards, all future orders went to the Navy. The Ventura’s were used by both the United States and Britain throughout the war.

     In October of 1942, the planes that remained with the Army were re-designated RB-34’s to indicate their changed operational status as training aircraft, followed by a letter and number designation to indicate its training role. For example, bomber trainers were designated RB-34A-2, gunnery trainers as RB-34A-3, target tugs as RB-34A-4, and navigational trainers as RB-34B.

     The plane that crashed on Wolf Hill was a target tug. Its function was to tow canvas gunnery targets a safe distance behind it, usually over open water, where fighter pilots would take turns making “runs” at it with their aircraft. The fighter pilots would shoot paint-coated ammunition, with each pilot given a different color, so that afterwards, when the target was evaluated, one could see which pilots had done well and which hadn’t.portewig

     According to the now de-classified official Army Air Corps accident investigation report obtained from the government, on the date of the accident, the plane was being ferried from Westover Field in Massachusetts to Otis Air Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts. The flight plan filed by the pilot, 2ed Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, stated that take-off time would be 16:00 hours, (4 p.m.), and the flight would take 45 minutes passing over Rhode Island en-route.

     Flying conditions for that day were good. There was a 3000 foot ceiling of broken clouds, with scattered clouds at 1600 feet. Visibility was unrestricted, and winds were out of the north-north-west at 8 to 12 miles per hour.

     The plane was given enough fuel for four hours of flight time. While passing over Scituate, Rhode Island a mechanical problem developed with the right engine.

     Several witnesses gave statements to Army investigators charged with determining the cause of the accident. The following quotes are taken from the official U.S. Army crash investigation report.

     One witness was Robert Swan of North Scituate, who was tending to his garden when the plane passed overhead. He told investigators; “I was attracted by a sputtering of airplane engines coming from a northeasterly direction. I located the plane by sight, which was about a mile from where I was standing. The sputtering was of a back-firing sound, and soon afterwards the motors appeared to have stopped completely. Judging from where I was at, the plane had an altitude of approximately a thousand feet. The plane did not change its course, but seemed to glide in its general heading. It was about two or three minutes from the time I sighted the plane until it went out of view.”

     From there the plane passed near Waterman’s Lake in Smithfield where it was seen by Aashel H. Thorton of Greenville, who recalled; “As I continued to watch the plane, I noticed the right engine had begun to stop. It appeared to me as if the pilot was attempting to start his motor again. I continued to watch the plane until it had gone completely out of sight.”

     Young Daniel Raiche was also at Waterman’s Lake with his mother. His statement said, “My mother and I were on the island at Waterman’s Lake when we heard a plane in the distance. I had a telescope with me so I picked him up when he was some distance away. Just as he was pretty nearly overhead I observed brown streaks of smoke coming from the motors and soon after we heard a sound like backfire. The motors went dead and the ship glided for awhile; the plane sounded like it was going to start up again but the motor went dead. The plane continued to glide in the direction of Greenville; then it banked to the left losing altitude. I watched through the telescope until the plane flew behind a hill. We then packed our stuff in the boat and jumped in the rowboat and rowed to shore. When we arrive(d) there we could see smoke coming from the plane and we knew it had crashed.”

     Daniel arrived home at about 5:30 p.m. and told his father what he had seen. His father directed him to write it all down right away and later forwarded the report to the Army.

     From his home on Coolridge Avenue in Greenville, Francis Kane also saw the plane pass overhead. He reported, “The plane seemed to be gliding, because the left engine was not running, and the right engine was just sputtering. When I first saw the plane it had an approximate altitude of 500 ft. and was loosing altitude all the time.” Mr. Kane was also a volunteer fireman from Greenville and a few minutes later he responded to the crash site.

     Walter Caine and Charles Young watched the plane from the Spragueville section of town. Mr. Caine stated; “The plane appeared to be at a very low altitude just skimming the tops of the trees. I only saw the plane for about a minute and then I lost sight of it. I immediately noticed a pillar of smoke coming from the direction of which the plane was heading. I immediately went to the scene of the crash. When I got there the plane was completely enveloped in flame. Some other men and myself located two bodies from the plane.”

     Mr. Young, a Smithfield police officer, related a similar recollection; “The plane was at tree top level most of the time. As soon as I lost sight of the plane I saw a pillar of smoke coming about three quarters of a mile distance from where I was. I immediately went to the location of where the plane had crashed. The plane was completely engulfed in flames. I found the body of a person about fifty or sixty feet from the fuselage of the plane. I then saw another body which was located about ten feet on the opposite side of the main part of the fuselage.”

     From the other side of Wolf Hill, Corporal John J. Corte of Hill Street also saw the aircraft. In his statement he recalled; “At approximately 4:30 P.M., I was attracted by a B-34 airplane which was in a glide at a very low altitude. The motors of the plane were not running from the time I first sighted it until it went out of view, which was about 5 or 10 minutes. The plane appeared to circle in search of an open field. The plane circled twice and then finally went into a right bank and out of view. A large cloud of smoke came up from the general area in which the plane was last sighted. I immediately went to the scene as a member of the local fire department. When I arrived, I noticed that the right wing had hit into the ground and the plane was completely engulfed in flame.”

     According to a Providence Journal newspaper article which appeared August 6, 1943, on page 1, witnesses reported that, “the plane appeared to be operating on one motor and was circling in search of a landing place.”

     A news item which appeared on the front page of the Pawtucket Times on August 6, 1943, stated that, “Eye-witnesses said the ship first started to spit fire in midair, burst into flame, then crashed with an explosion which set the surrounding woods afire.” 

      The crash site, according to the Providence Journal, reportedly occurred on a rocky ledge on Wolf Hill, about a mile west of Farnum Pike, and about a mile and a half south from the old Smithfield Airport, which was then located where Bryant University is today. The debris field was supposedly spread over an area 50 yards long and 20 yards wide, “with the body of the plane having come to rest on a huge rock”.

Site of the Wolf Hill military plane crash, August 5, 1943, Smithfield, R.I.

Site of the Wolf Hill military plane crash, August 5, 1943, Smithfield, R.I.

     One of the first to reach the scene was Fred Andrews, the owner of a farm located near present day Farnum Pike and Route 295. The Providence Journal article reported that Mr. Andrews had said that a “heavy explosion followed the crash”, followed by a “second heavy detonation, and several lighter ones.” When he reached the scene everything was on fire. Mr. Andrews’ wife later recalled that the explosions “shook the ground like an earthquake.”

     The explosions and column of black smoke from the fire attracted curious spectators from the surrounding area. A call was placed to the volunteer fire department and crews from Georgiaville and Greenville responded. Once they arrived, they found they couldn’t get near the scene with their engines, so they had to walk in with portable pump cans and shovels to attack the fire.

     Officers of the Smithfield Police, led by Chief Albert N. Lacroix rushed to the scene with first aid equipment. State Troopers from Chepachet and Lincoln also arrived, as well as members of the state forest fire patrol. When word reached St. Michaels Church in Georgiaville, Reverend James H. Beattie went to the scene to administer last rites to the deceased.

     Barbara True Gregor, formerly of Greenville wrote in May of 2004; “I was only eleven years old then; my sisters were thirteen and fourteen. The sight we beheld that day left an indelible impression on our minds. When we arrived, the Army plane had been quickly doused with water by volunteer firefighters, most of whom were teenagers. The boys and men of our town who would normally be on call, were overseas fighting in World War II.”

     “There were three soldiers who died in that fiery crash but only one stands out in my mind all these years later. His charred body was outside the plane, and he died in a crawling position trying to escape the flames. I remember vividly that he wore a metal wristwatch on his outstretched arm.”

     Teresa (Beausejour) Beaudoin, who was 14 at the time of the crash, recalled a similar expierence in September, 2005. “One day during that summer when I should have been cleaning my room, I took time out to look out the window. Suddenly, I heard the high pitched screaming sound of a plane, nose diving toward the earth. Then a crashing sound.

     Curiously, I ran toward the area of the crash, which seemed to be close by. I arrived at the same time as the Georgiaville Fire Department, so I followed the fire fighters carrying water tanks on their backs, into the wooded area behind Fred Andrew’s house, also on Farnum Pike.

     At the site, I observed, a soup bowl shaped area, about thirty or forty feet in diameter and about six feet deep (in a child’s eye). Halfway up the incline, was the motionless figure of a person attempting to crawl out of the hole. He was about halfway up, on his knees, with one hand on the ground reaching and grasping for something to help him out.

     His clothes were completely black, but neither he nor his clothes were on fire. He resembled a statue of coal. I knew instantly he was dead.”

     Other’s who were at the scene that day, have also described how two of the bodies were found in “a crawling position” outside the wreckage. Based on this information, it’s possible that two of the men aboard survived the initial crash and were killed by the subsequent explosions that followed.

A detail of Army troops arrived and quickly roped off the area and took over the scene, forcing everyone to evacuate the area. Once the fire was out, according to a retired firefighter who remembered the incident, “Nobody except Army personnel were allowed back up to the site.”

     Blocking off the crash scene was, and still is, common practice for a number of reasons. Afterwards, very little information about the crash was released by the Army, and with the war in full swing, it quickly became old news as far as the press was concerned as there were no follow-up articles about the incident in any of the newspapers.

     This later led to speculation and rumors by townspeople that there was more to the story. Some claimed the plane was overloaded with bombs and that was the reason for the crash. Others said it was on a secret mission and that was the true reason everyone was kept away. One rumor went that the plane was testing secret experimental radar jamming equipment. All of these rumors were false, but they persisted for many years.

     Army officials probed the crash site for clues to the disaster. Captains Joseph T. Klemovich and Howard A. Tuman, along with First Lieutenant Charles B. Gracey Jr., are listed in the accident investigation report as the three men assigned to investigate the crash. They were pilots assigned to the 58th Fighter Group of the Fifth Air Force, then training at Green Field to go overseas. (Green Field is known today as T.F. Green Airport in Warwick.) The fighter group was transferred overseas shortly afterward.

     Lieutenant Gracey arrived at the scene several hours after the crash. In his report dated August 19, 1943, he wrote, “Judging from the position of the parts of the ship I feel certain that the ship struck the ground with its right wing first, for the right wing was very badly damaged and lay a hundred (100) feet to the rear of the main part of the wreckage.”

     Lieutenant Gracey was killed a few months later on a mission in New Guniea.

     Captain Klemovich retired a Colonel in the Air Force and passed away in 1984.

     Captain Tuman also retired a Colonel in command of the 310th Squadron of the 58th Fighter Group. On June 17, 2003, he related from his home in Oregon that he and the other investigators were 21 and 22 years old at the time training to be fighter pilots at Green Field in preparation for overseas duty. He didn’t remember many details about the investigation but related that the transfer of troops and personnel happened fast and was common during the war. He added that stateside military aircraft crashes unfortunately happened all too often. There simply wasn’t the time or the resources to conduct long-term investigations as would happen today.

     The three investigators, in their final report, dated August 19, 1943, stated; “The Accident Committee, after considering all the statements of the witnesses, decided the right engine failed in flight. The pilot having insufficient altitude to recover properly, crashed on a wooded hill.” The report further stated; “The Accident Committee, after considering the statement of Capt. Victor K. Wagner, Maintenance Officer, 331st Sub-depot, Bradley Field, Conn., feels the accident was due largely to faulty maintenance.” Under “recommendations”, the report suggested, “a more thorough supervision of maintenance personnel.” and, “consistent practice in one engine procedure for pilots.”

     All three men on board the RB-34 died in the crash.

     There was the pilot, 2ed Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, age 27, of Richmond, Virginia. A native of Richmond, he graduated from John Marshall High School, and went on to Roanoke College where he specialized in Aviation. He learned to fly at Central Airport and later became an instructor there. On one occasion he won first place in a spot landing contest He was also a flight instructor at Byrd and Hermitage Airports in Richmond, as well as an instructor at the Lynchburg Aviation School, in Lynchburg, Virginia.

     He enlisted in the Army Air Corps on November 15, 1942, at Indianapolis, Indiana, and was commissioned a second lieutenant due to his seven years of flying experience. While in the Army, he was stationed at Judson Barracks, Missouri, the Bel Val Air Base in Austin, Texas, the Alliance Air Base in Nebraska, and at Langley Field in Virginia. He also served as a flight instructor in the Army.

     He was attached to the 3rd Air Force, 1st Air Support Command, 66th Troop Carrier Squadron. In June of 1943, he was transferred from the Troop Carrier Squadron to the 1st Towing Squadron out of Otis Air Field in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

     Lieutenant Portewig was survived by his mother, Maud Portewig, and two brothers, James M., and Edwin, L. Portewig.

Sergeant Herbert D. Booth

Sgt. Herbert D. Booth

     Technical Sergeant Herbert D. Booth was the crew chief aboard. A native of Rahway, New Jersey, he graduated Rahway High School June 17, 1941. He was also attached to the First Towing Squadron at Otis Air Field. At the time of his death he was 30 days shy of his 22ed birthday. He was survived by his parents, Mr. And Mrs. William D. Booth. (No further information was available at this time about T/S Booth.)

     Then there was 2ed Lieutenant Saul Winsten, age 25, from Pawtucket, Rhode Island. He was assigned to the 901st Quartermasters Company, Aviation Service.

     He graduated from Pawtucket High School and attended Rhode Island State College before entering Brown University School of Law. He worked his way through college and law school by working at the university and at Saltzman’s in Pawtucket. He graduated law school in June 1941, and shortly thereafter, passed both the Rhode Island and Massachusetts Bar Exams getting high marks on each. Two months later, he entered the Army on January 17, 1942, and was accepted to Officer’s Candidate School for the Quartermasters Service at Camp Lee, Virginia.

     He was survived by his mother Leah Winsten, and two brothers who were also serving in the military, Cpl. Harold Winsten, Quartermasters Service, and Joseph Winsten, a medical student at the Navy’s V-12 College Program at Brown University.

     Lieutenant Winsten normally would not have been on the plane. On that day, he was at Westover Field and needed to get to Otis Field. At that time, there was no interstate highway system, and with a war on, and gas rationing, the trip by automobile would have taken about 4 hours. Therefore, it was a common practice to check at the airfield operations center to see if a plane was heading in the direction one needed to go. With a flight scheduled for Otis, he naturally opted to fly instead of drive.

     The Army, as was the custom, cleaned up the crash site and removed most of the plane. The word “most” is accurate because according to some who visited the site in later years, small pieces of airplane aluminum, the size of a dollar bill and smaller, remained on the ground. Over the years, souvenir hunters, and Mother Nature, have removed all traces of the plane. If someone were to visit the site today, they would find nothing to indicate that a tragedy had once occurred there.

     Though time and Mother Nature have returned the site to its original condition, we should never forget the names of those who died there while in the service of their country. To that end, three bricks bearing the names of Lieutenant Saul Winsten, Lieutenant Otis R. Portewig, and Technical Sergeant Herbert D. Booth were added to the Veterans Memorial in Deerfield Park in 2004.

memorial bricks

Bricks at the Smithfield Veterans Memorial at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.

    In August & October of 2009, two separate memorials were dedicated to the three servicemen who lost their lives in the Wolf Hill plane crash. One was placed in Deerfield Park in the Greenville section of Smithfield, Rhode Island, and the second was placed at the crash site in Gerogiaville. 

Memorial to three servicemen killed in a plane crash Aug. 5, 1943, Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.

Memorial to three servicemen killed in a plane crash on Wolf Hill, Georgiaville, R.I., Aug. 5, 1943. (Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I.)

 

Memorial in Smithfield, R.I. dedicated to the three men who died in a military plane crash, August 5, 1943

Memorial in Smithfield, R.I. dedicated to the three men who died in a military plane crash, August 5, 1943

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Saul Winsten's brothers at the Aug. 2009 Deerfield Park  ceremony.

Saul Winsten’s brothers at the Aug. 2009 Deerfield Park ceremony.

Monument at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I. - August 2009

Monument at Deerfield Park, Smithfield, R.I. – August 2009

Wickford, R.I. – March 24, 1943

Wickford, R.I. – March 24, 1943

    Not much is known of this incident as of this writing due to minimal information in the newspaper.   According to an AP release, Ensign George William Beal, 25, of Lisbon Falls, Maine, was killed when his navy aircraft crashed off Wickford Beach in Rhode Island. 

Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Pilot Identified In State Crackup”, March 25, 1943, Pg. 1

North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #43-16

Atlantic Ocean – September, 1942

Atlantic Ocean Off Newport, Rhode Island – September, 1942

     On September 8, 1942, it was announced by the Navy public relations office that a four-man naval aircraft was over due from a routine flight and presumed lost in the ocean off Newport, R.I..  

     Crew members were listed as:

     Lieutenant Jg. Eugene F. Gooding (24) of Albany, California

     Aviation Pilot 1st Class Hilmar W. Holey, (28) of Fairview, Mont. 

     Aviation Radioman 2d Class Joseph Mikes, (18) of Flushing, N.Y.

     Aviation Machinist 3d Class Erwin Match (22) of Brooklyn, N.Y.

Source: New York Times, “Four Lost In Navy Plane”, September 8, 1942

Point Judith, R.I. – June 28, 1944

Narragansett Bay – Point Judith, R.I., June 28, 1944

 

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

P-47D Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 7:15 p.m. on June 28, 1944, a P-47D (Ser. # 42-8040) piloted by Elmer Gatti, was on a routine training flight out of Hillsgrove Army Air Field when it crashed into the water just off Point Judith, Rhode Island.   Gatti was uninjured, and was rescued from the water by a Coast Guard boat from Point Judith Coast Guard Station.  The plane sank. 

     Source: Lawrence Webster – Aviation Historian

     Source: Providence Journal, “Plane Hits House; Man, Wife Burned” , June 28, 1944, pg. 1  (The headline refers to another crash that occurred the same day in Stonington Connecticut.)

Hillsgrove Army Air Field – June 28, 1944

Hillsgrove Army Air Field, Warwick, RI, June 28, 1944 

At 5:05 p.m. on June 28, 1944, a U.S. Army P-47 (Ser # 42-22591) took off from Hillsgrove Army Air Field on a routine training mission and crash-landed a few hundred yards north of the field.   The pilot, Daniel S. Miles, was relatively unhurt, and got away from the plane before it burst into flames.

 

Source: Providence Journal, “Plane Hits House;Man, Wife Burned”, June 29, 1944, pg. 1 (The headline refers to another accident in North Stonington Connecticut. )

Lawrence Webster – Aviation Historian

 

2 R.I. Guard Fliers Killed – 1966

     On March 9, 1966, an amphibious HU-16 assigned to the 143rd Air Commando Group stationed at T.F. Green Airport in Rhode Island, crashed near Smithfield, Virginia, on a routine training flight.  The cause was believed due to engine trouble.  No distress calls were sent.   

     The dead were identified as (Pilot) Col. Robert H, Magown, 44, of Warwick, R.I., and (Co-pilot) Lt. Col. Edward F. Roberts, 42, of Swansea, Mass.  Magown was the commanding officer of the 143rd.

     Injured included Lt. Col. Siegel M. Dickman, of North Kingstown, Lt. Col. William W. Dube, of Warwick, Major Gulseppe Montecalvo, of East Greenwich, and M. Sgt. Charles R. Hennigan, of Warwick.

     Brig. Gen. Robert W. Tucker of the RI National Guard said that the skill of Colonel McGowan in controlling the stricken aircraft “probably saved the lives” of the four injured men.

     Source: Woonsocket Call,  “Two RI Air National Guard Fliers Killed In Va. Crash”, March 10, 1966, page 1.     

Wolf Hill Memorial Tablet

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Granite tablet located on Wolf Hill, Smithfield, R.I.

Wolf Hill Crash Memorial Site

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Monument honoring three servicemen killed in a military plane crash August 5, 1943 on Wolf Hill in Smithfield R.I.

Wolf Hill Crash Site Aug. 5, 1943

Site of the Wolf Hill military plane crash, August 5, 1943, Smithfield, R.I.

Site of the Wolf Hill military plane crash, August 5, 1943, Smithfield, R.I.

Off Charlestown, R.I. – October 21, 1945

Off Charlestown, Rhode Island – October 21, 1945

 

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

     On October 21, 1945, Lt. (Jg.) T. R. Delehunt was piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70915), taking part of a training exercise off Block Island when he noticed grey smoke streaming from one side of his engine.  After declaring an emergency, he set a course for Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  Despite the smoke, all instruments were reading normal, until he came within the area of Point Judith.  At that time his oil pressure began dropping, so he was re-directed to the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field.  The oil pressure continued to fall, and as he neared Charlestown Beach the engine suddenly stopped.  Lt. Delehunt was forced to make an emergency landing in the water, coming down about a 1/2 mile from shore.  The aircraft was a total loss, but Delehunt was not injured.

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

 

Block Island Sound – October 11, 1945

Block Island Sound – October 11, 1945

 

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

     On the night of October 11, 1945, Ensign J. A. Guice, (USN), took off from Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 79664), for a gunnery training flight approximately 17 miles south of Block Island.  The night was particularly dark and the horizon wasn’t visible, necessitating instrument flight.  At the designated area, Ensign Guice and other aircraft took turns firing rockets at a target-spar that was being towed by boat and illuminated by flares.  While making a run at the target from an altitude of 3,000 feet, Ensign Guice’s aircraft was observed to clear the target and enter a barrel roll to the left and strike the water.  He didn’t get out of the aircraft before it sank.  

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report dated October 11, 1945.

 

 

Charlestown, R. I. – May 29, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 29, 1945

 

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

     Just after midnight, on the morning of May 29, 1945, Lieutenant David Warren Allen took off from the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field in an F6F-5n Hellcat, (Bu. No. 79104), for an OCI interception flight.  The night was particularly dark with scattered rain squalls.  Lt. Allen’s plane was last seen 100 feet in the air and climbing.  It was later learned that Lt. Allen was killed when his plane crashed into the water not far from the end of the runway. 

     There were no eye witnesses to the accident.  Due to the fact that Lt. Allen was an experienced pilot with 2,000 hours of air time, investigators concluded that the accident was caused by mechanical or structural failure of the aircraft.   

Charlestown, R.I. – May 31, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 31, 1945

 

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

     Shortly before 10:00 p.m. on the night of May 31, 1945, Ensign George Robertson Miller was returning to the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field after a night operations flight.  The wind was gusting strongly that evening as he approached runway 35 in his F6F-5N Hellcat fighter aircraft, (Bu. No. 78136).  As he was coming in to land, a strong cross wind struck the aircraft causing it to crash. Ensign Miller was killed when the plane hit the ground.  

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident report dated may 31, 1945 

Hopkinton, R. I. – July 5, 1945

Hopkinton, Rhode Island – July 5, 1945

 

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

     On the morning of July 5, 1945, a flight of U. S. Navy F6F-5 Hellcat fighter planes took off from Westerly Air Field in Rhode Island for a “section tactics” training flight.  One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 71620), was piloted by Ensign William Warren Rehberg, of Decatur, Alabama.  The other F6F, (Bu. No. 53055), was piloted by Lt. (Jg.) Wallace F. McCoy, 23, of Dallas City, Texas. 

     At 12:03 p.m., which conducting aerial maneuvers at 6,300 feet over the Westerly area, Rehberg’s and McCoy’s aircraft were involved in amid-air collision.  Both airplanes were seen to be trailing smoke as they dove toward the ground, and both crashed and burned in the Ashaway section of Hopkinton, Rhode Island, a town the borders Westerly to the north.  Neither pilot survived.

     To see a photograph of Lt. (Jg.) McCoy, go to www.findagrave.com, Memorial #61030688.

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated July 5, 1945. 

 

 

Quonset Point NAS – June 17, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 17, 1943

     On June 17, 1943, an Ensign pilot was in the cockpit of a navy NE-1 trainer aircraft, (Bu. No. 26273), while Lt. (Jg.) Robert Allen Pierce stood at the nose and pulled the propeller thru to start the engine.  Once the engine started, Pierce turned to walkaway, and as he did so the aircraft suddenly lurched forward and struck him with the spinning propeller critically injuring him.     

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report #43-7295, dated June 17, 1943

Quonset Point NAS – January 31, 1944

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – January 31, 1944

 

Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     On January 31, 1944, Ensign A. G. King was piloting an SBD-5 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 29030), while practicing field carrier landings at Quonset Point.  As he was making a landing approach, he lowered the landing gear, but due to a mechanical failure with the aircraft, only one of the wheels came down.  The aircraft suffered heavy damage, but Ensign King was not hurt.

     Source; U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-11373 

 

Quonset Point NAS – December 9, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – December 9, 1943

 

Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the night of December 9, 1943, an SBD-5 Dauntless aircraft, ( Bu. No. 28767), struck an unoccupied truck that was left parked along the side of the runway during take off.  The aircraft was damaged beyond repair, but the pilot and the gunner were unhurt. 

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report #44-19181

Quonset Point NAS – September 24, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – September 24, 1943    

 

 

Douglas SBD Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     Due to low lighting conditions, on the night of September 24, 1943, an SBD-5 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 28340), taxied off the end of the runway and dropped off a seawall where it sank in 3o feet of water.  The pilot and the gunner escaped without injury.   The aircraft was recovered.     

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report dated September 24, 1943.

Middletown, R.I. – May 26, 1943

Middletown, Rhode Island – May 26, 1943

 

     On the morning of May 26, 1943, an Ensign left Quonset Point Naval Air Station in an NE-1 trainer aircraft, (Bu. 26207), for a familiarization flight.  After about 45 minutes in the air the pilot noticed a decrease in engine RPMs which he though might be related to trouble with the plane’s magnetos.  He landed in an open hay field in Middletown, where he checked his engine and found everything in good order.  He then made preparations for takeoff.  The field had a slight downgrade to it, and the pilot taxied to the bottom of the grade.  He then proceeded to attempt an up-grade take off into the wind. Unfortunately the long hay slowed the speed of the aircraft, and the plane didn’t leave the ground until it was almost at a tree line bordering the field. The pilot, believing he wasn’t going to clear the trees, attempted a climbing left turn and stalled the aircraft at an altitude of about 30 feet.  The plane then crashed into an adjoining graveyard.  The plane was a total wreck, but the pilot wasn’t injured.  

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report #43-7026, dated May 26, 1943 

 

 

 

Off Jamestown, R.I. – December 5, 1943

Off Jamestown, R. I. – December 5, 1943

 

Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     At about 12:30 p.m. on December 5, 1943, APlc O. W. Putner, was piloting an SBD-4 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 10543), 1000 feet over Narragansett Bay when a fire suddenly erupted in the engine necessitating an immediate emergency landing.  The aircraft came down in the water about 500 yards south of Beavertail Point on Jamestown Island.  Both the pilot and the gunner, AM2c A. A. Bartczak, escaped form the plane before it sank and were rescued.  Both men were assigned to CASU-22 at Quonset Point.      

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident report #44-10109, dated December 5, 1943

Charlestown, R.I. – November 7, 1943

Charlestown, R. I. – November 7, 1943

 

Douglas SBD Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     At 9:20 a.m. on the morning of November 7, 1943, Lieutenant George F. Connolly was returning to the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field in an SBD-5 Dauntless aircraft, (Bu. No. 28818), after a dive-bombing training flight.  He lowered the landing gear and made his approach, but upon touchdown with the runway, the right side landing gear collapsed causing the plane to be thrown sharply to one side, which tore away the left side landing gear before the plane skidded to a stop.  The aircraft was damaged beyond repair, but Lt. Connolly and the gunner, ARM3c  J. C. Burkhart, were not injured.  Both men were assigned to VC-52.

     The cause of the accident was found to be metal fatigue of the landing gear strut.      

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report – #44-9546, dated November 7, 1943

Westerly, R. I. – September 20, 1943

Westerly, Rhode Island – September, 20, 1943

 

Douglas SBD Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     On September 20, 1943, Ensign Charles Frederick Leiserson, age 21, was piloting an SBD-4 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 10470), on a gunnery training mission when the aircraft crashed and burned in Westerly, R.I.   Also aboard was Ensign Raymond R. Strimel, age 28.  Both men were killed. 

     Ensign Leiserson is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, and Ensign Strimel is buried in East Lawn Memorial Park in Reno, Ohio.

     Sources:

     U. S. Navy Accident Report #44-8706, dated September 20, 1943

     www.findagrave.com  

Charlestown, R.I. – September 14, 1943

Charlestown, Rhode Island – September 14, 1943     

 

Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the night of September 14, 1943, Ensign William Haley Brown was at the controls of his SBD-5 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 28204), awaiting instructions as he sat on one of the runways at the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field.  He and other aircraft in his squadron were scheduled to begin night field carrier landing training.  Ensign Brown was assigned to VC-32.

 

 

 

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

     Meanwhile, an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 25732), was approaching to land on the same runway occupied by Ensign Brown and the other aircraft.  Due to darkness, and light intermittent drizzle, the pilot of the Hellcat didn’t see the Dauntless until it was too late.  The Hellcat crashed into the Dauntless killing Ensign brown.  The pilot of the Hellcat escaped without injury.

     The Hellcat received major structural damage, the Dauntless was damaged beyond repair.

     The accident was blamed on the airport facilities and poor organization. 

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-8817, dated September 14, 1943

Jamestown, R.I. – October 25, 1943

Jamestown, Rhode Island – October 25, 1943

 

Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     On October 25, 1943, flight of SBD Dauntless aircraft was passing over Jamestown on a patrol training flight.  As the aircraft began to peel off, one SBD-5 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 28822), was seen to go into a right-spin and nose dive to the ground where it crashed and burned.  Both men aboard were killed instantly.

     Pilot: Ensign Charles Morgan Perry, age 22.  He’s buried in Evergreen Cemetery in New Haven, Connecticut.   To see a photo of him, go to www.findagrave.com, memorial #14739026.

     Gunner: Keith Eugene Phend, age 21.  He’s buried in Greenhill Cemetery in Columbia City, Indiana.  

     Both men were assigned to VC-31. 

     Sources:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report, #44-9297

     www.findagrave.com 

Quonset Point NAS – August 24, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – August 24, 1943

 

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

     On the night of August 24, 1943, an Ensign was practicing “night familiarization landings” at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station when he failed to put the “wheels down” lever in the full “down” position.  The landing gear subsequently collapsed and the aircraft, an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 08945) was seriously damaged.  The pilot was not  injured.

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-8263

 

Charlestown, R.I. – December 7, 1943

Charlestown, Rhode Island – December 7, 1943

 

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

     On December 7, 1943, Lt. (jg.) Spero Constantine was making a landing approach to the runway at the Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Field when the engine of his F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 40354), suddenly lost all power.  Unable to make it to the runway, the aircraft landed in the water off the end of the runway and sank.  Fortunately the water was only eight feet deep and the pilot was able to extricate himself.  Due to its total submersion in salt water, the aircraft was scrapped.   

     Lt.(jg.) Constantine was assigned to Fighter Squadron 77, (VF-77)

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-10142, dated December 7, 1943

Hope Valley, R.I. – June 6, 1944

Hope Valley, Rhode Island – June 6, 1944

D – Day

 

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

     On the evening of June 6, 1944, a civilian was piloting an F6F-3, (Bu. No. 41461), on a ferry flight from Boston, Massachusetts, to the Naval Air Station in Atlantic City, New Jersey.  While passing over the Hope Valley area in southern Rhode Island at 10,000 feet, the aircraft suffered a complete engine failure.  The pilot managed to make a wheels up landing in a field where the aircraft suffered relatively minor damage.  The pilot was uninjured. 

     Investigation revealed that the cause of the failure was due to a vent plug to the “A” diaphragm chamber of the carburetor coming out during flight.

     The specific name of the town in which the plane landed was not mentioned.

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report, dated June 6, 1944 

 

 

Off Charlestown, R.I. – July 13, 1944

Off Charlestown, Rhode Island – July 13, 1944

 

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

     On the night of July 13, 1944, a flight of U.S. Navy F6F Hellcats were practicing night field landings at the Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Field.  The night was relatively dark with no moon, and low cloud overcast obstructed the horizon line.  The aircraft were flying a in wide circle pattern at an altitude of only 200 feet.

     At approximately 11:45 p.m., two observers at the signal platform thought they heard an aircraft engine cutting-out followed by a possible crash into the water.  The control tower was notified, and a roll call of the aircraft was begun.  One pilot to acknowledge the roll call was Ensign George R. Rymal, piloting an F6F-3N, (Bu. No. 41478).  However, just as he was replacing the microphone he struck the water.  He managed to escape before the plane sank and was rescued shortly afterwards.

     When the roll call was completed, it was discovered that Ensign Gerald V. Brostkaux, piloting F6F-3N, (Bu. No. 42954) was missing.  An oil slick was later found in the water where it was believed his plane went down.   

     Both pilots were assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 102, (VF(N)-102)

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report, dated July 13, 1944

Off Block Island – July 25, 1944

Off Block Island – July 25, 1944

 

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

   On the evening of July 25, 1944, Lieutenant Kenneth D. Smith was piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 58238), about twenty miles off Block Island participating in a gunnery training flight.  Shortly after 8 p.m. he began making his run at a surface target from an altitude of 20,000 feet and pulled out of the dive at 14,500 feet.  He then began to climb to back to 20,000 feet when he noticed the cockpit gauges indicating a high oil temperature and low oil pressure.  Then the aircraft began loosing power and Lt. Smith was forced to make an emergency water landing.  The plane remained afloat long enough for Smith to climb out and swim away.  He then inflated his life vest and emergency raft and was rescued less than an hour later by a Coast Guard boat. 

     The aircraft was not recovered.

     Lt. Smith was assigned to Fighter Squadron 106, (VF(n)-106)

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report, dated July 25, 1944

Quonset Point NAS – October 23, 1942

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – October 23, 1942

 

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
U.S. Navy Photo

     On October 23, 1942, a navy PV-1 Ventura, (Bu. No. 33946), with four men aboard, crashed on takeoff from Rhode Island’s Quonset Point NAS.  The takeoff run had been normal until the plane became airborne.  Once leaving the ground it began to swerve to the left, and then settled back onto the runway where it went into skid.  The plane left the end of the runway and crossed a portion of open ground before crossing two railroad tracks, after which it came to a stop with the landing gear torn off.  The plane was so badly damaged that it was recommended that it be scrapped.  Fortunately none of the men aboard were injured.

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report #43-5128   

Quonset Point NAS – June 17, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 17, 1943

 

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
U.S. Navy Photo

     On June 17, 1943, a navy PV-1 Ventura, (Bu. No. 29860), with six men aboard, was making an approach to Rhode Island’s Quonset Point Naval Air Station after six hours of flying cross country.  Thirty other aircraft were all in the vicinity attempting to land after being advised by the tower that the airport would be closed shortly due to the bad weather that was closing in.  As the plane was about to touch down it hit an air pocket and slammed onto the tarmac, the wheels causing it to bounce back into the air. It fell again, and this time the landing gear collapsed, sending the aircraft skidding on its belly down the runway.  Fortunately there was no fire and no serious injuries to those aboard.

     Source:

     U. S. navy Crash Investigation Report #43-7297

Wickford, R.I. – September 12, 1944

Wickford, Rhode Island – September 12, 1944

 

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

     On September 12, 1944, Ensign John Rodney Stone, was piloting an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 58171), on a ferry flight away from Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  He was flying in the wing position of another F6F piloted by an Ensign Savage.    

     The weather at the time was poor, with a low cloud ceiling of 2,000 feet.  While passing over rugged terrain north of Quonset Point Ensign Stone reported his engine was cutting out, but then reported that the engine was now running smoothly again.  The flight turned towards Hillsgrove Army Air Filed in Warwick, R.I. to allow Stone to make an emergency landing, but then Stone radioed that his engine had suddenly failed and the he was going to bail out.  Ensign Savage later told investigators that in his estimation, Stone’s aircraft was below 1,000 feet when he jumped. 

     Due to the low altitude, Ensign Stone’s parachute failed to fully open, and he was killed when he hit the ground.  His plane crashed and exploded about a quarter of a mile away.  Due to the massive damage to the engine, investigators were unable to determine what caused the mechanical failure. 

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report, dated Sept. 12, 1944.   

 

Charlestown, R. I. – May 20, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 20, 1945

 

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

     On May 20, 1945, an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 79082), was about to land on the runway at the Charlestown Naval Air Station when the right wing suddenly dropped and hit the tarmac causing the plane to leave the runway and flip over onto its back.   The pilot suffered minor injuries, and the plane was damaged.

     Source: U. S. Navy crash report.    

 

Charlestown, R.I. – May 7, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 7, 1945 

 

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

     On the night of May 7, 1945, an Ensign was taxiing in an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71572), along the runway at Charlestown Naval Air Station, and didn’t see another F6F-5N, (Bu. No. 71938), occupied by a Lieutenant Commander, that was parked on the runway.  Both aircraft had their running lights on at the time.  The Ensign’s aircraft collided with the one occupied by the Lieutenant Commander and both aircraft were damaged beyond repair.  Fortunately, neither pilot was seriously injured.      

     Source: U. S. Navy crash report.      

Quonset Point NAS – March 29, 1945

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – March 29, 1945

 

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

     At 3:36 a.m. on the morning of March 29, 1945, an Ensign was practicing night landings and take offs at Quonset Point NAS in an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71001).  As the pilot was coming in to land, the right wing of the aircraft  suddenly dropped and the plane rolled over and crashed into a wall.  The aircraft was completely wrecked, and the pilot received lacerations, burses, and possible internal injuries, but he later recovered.          

     Source:

     U.S. Navy crash investigation report #33-45

Coventry, R. I. – June 25, 1944

Coventry, Rhode Island – June 25, 1944 

 

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

     On the afternoon of June 25, 1944, a flight of three P-47 aircraft took off from Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, for a low altitude, cross-country navigational training flight to Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island.  (Today Hillsgrove Field is known as T. F. Green Airport.)  From Hillsgrove, the flight was to continue to Groton, Connecticut, and from there back to Bradley Field.   The flight leader was First Lieutenant William H. Brookman, (27), an experienced pilot and flight instructor.  The other two pilots were trainees. 

     During the first leg of the trip, Lt. Brookman supervised the other two pilots from the number 3 position.  As the flight neared the Connecticut – Rhode Island state border, it ran into thick cloud cover.  At that time Lt. Brookman ordered the flight to return to Bradley.  After turning around, the other two pilots noticed that Lt. Brookman’s aircraft, a P-47D, (Ser. No. 42-27835), had disappeared from the formation.  Attempts to contact Brookman by radio were unsuccessful.  The other two aircraft made it safely back to Bradley and reported the incident.     

      Lt. Brookman was reported missing, but no reports of a plane crash had been received, nor had he radioed to the other pilots that he was having any problems with the aircraft.  The wreckage of his P-47 was spotted from the air during a search the following day.  His plane had crashed and burned in a heavily wooded area in the western portion of the town of Coventry, Rhode Island, just a short distance to the west of Pig Hill Road.  The exact location is unknown.         

     Military investigators were unable to determine the direct cause of the accident due to the airplane being completely destroyed.  However, the following excerpt is taken from the Army Air Force investigation report of the incident.

     “The aircraft and engine were completely demolished, and the aircraft crashed approximately two and one half miles from the nearest house, thus, no person was found who had heard or seen the airplane. 

     The carburetor is the only evidence found that gives any clue to the probable cause and it was broken from the engine.  The bolt holding the fuel strainer was loose and could be turned slightly by hand.   The gasket was in good condition.  The seat under the strainer cover shows signs of burning which leads one to believe that gasoline did escape at this point and caused a fire in flight prior to the airplane’s contact with the terrain.  Picture 231 indicates a crack as well as picture 230 but these are only marks. 

     Although only the fuel strainer side of the carburetor was burned, it is possible that it could have caught fire as a result of the terrific impact and been covered with raw fuel during the crash, burning until it landed several yards from the engine as the grass upon which the carburetor was found was not burned.

     The 41-B shows that the carburetor screen was checked on the 22nd of June, on the 23rd and 24th the ship flew fifteen hours during which no notation of gas fumes were reported by the pilots.  This leads one to believe that the above assumption may be improbable and that the looseness was caused by the impact.”  

     Lt. Brookman enlisted in the Army Air Corps in January of 1942, and received his officers commission the following October.  He was assigned to the 9th Air Force, and served in North Africa until the German surrender in June of 1943.  He then returned to the United States to become a flight instructor, and after completing training in Stuttgart, Alabama, was assigned to Bradley Field in Connecticut.    

     Lt. Brookman is buried in Woodlawn – Hillcrest Cemetery in Omaha, Nebraska.  To see a photo of him, go to www.findagrave.com, see ID# 75022710. 

     Sources:

     Army Air Force Crash Investigation Report 44-6-25-27

     Town of Coventry R.I. Death Records, Registration #61, page 299. 

     www.findagrave.com, ID #75022710

     Book, “Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents In The Unites States, 1941-1945”, by Anthony Mireles, McFarland & Co., 2006, via research library, New England Air Museum, Windsor Locks, Ct.      

Narragansett Bay, R.I. – November 3, 1945

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – November 3, 1945

 

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

     On November 3, 1945, Ensign Henry A. Clark was piloting an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 78639), from Floyd Bennet Naval Air Station in New York, to Squantum Naval Air Station in Massachusetts.  As he was passing over Narragansett Bay the engine began cutting out resulting in loss of power and altitude.  Ensign Clark made an emergency water landing about 3/4 of a mile southwest of the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.  The aircraft sank, but Ensign Clark escaped without injury.  The aircraft was salvaged on November 6. 

      Source: National Archives, TD451103RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Narragansett Bay, R. I. – October 4, 1945

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – October 4, 1945

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     On October 4, 1945, Ensign Clinton S. Winter, Jr., took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in an F4U-4 Corsair, (Bu. No. 81380), for a routine training flight.  Just after takeoff, while at an altitude of 200 feet, the engine suddenly lost all power and the plane crash-landed into Narragansett Bay about two miles off the end of the runway.  The plane sank, but Ensign Winter escaped and was rescued a short time later.

     At the time of the accident, Ensign Winter was assigned to VBF-81.

     Source: National Archives, AAR 7-45, TD451004RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

 

Charlestown, R.I. – September 26, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – September 26, 1945 

 

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

     On the evening of September 26, 1945, Ensign G. R. Looney was piloting an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 72031), over Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in preparation for landing.  After being cleared to land, he made his approach towards the runway, and discovered that his aircraft was no longer responding to the throttle controls.  He radioed the tower and declared an emergency and was advised to turn towards the duty runway.  As he did so he saw other aircraft at the end of the runway, and realized if he landed he would collide with them, so he aimed for a small hill beyond.  There he was able to stall the aircraft and crash land into the trees.  The plane was wrecked, but Ensign Looney was not injured. 

     Investigation revealed that the cause of the accident was due to a broken throttle linkage. 

     Source: National Archives, AAR 94-45, TD450926RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Westerly, R.I. – August 30, 1945

Westerly, Rhode Island – August 30, 1945

 

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

     On the morning of August 30, 1945, Ensign Robert L. Voight was scheduled to take off from Westerly Auxiliary Naval Air Station for a training flight.  Just as he was taking off on Runway 7, the engine of his F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 78419), began to misfire so he set the plane back down and applied full brakes.  At this point Ensign Voight was near the end of the runway and the aircraft was still moving fast.  The plane then went off the runway and flipped over on its back.  Fortunately Ensign Voight was not seriously injured.

     A similar accident had occurred at the same airfield on August 2, 1945, in which another F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 78413), experienced engine failure just after becoming airborne.      

     Source: National Archives AAR W7-45, TD450830RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Westerly, R.I. – August 2, 1945

Westerly, Rhode Island – August 2, 1945

 

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

     On the morning of August 2, 1945, Ensign Walter G. Davies was cleared for takeoff from Runway 32 at the Westerly Auxiliary Naval Air Station.   Just after becoming airborne the engine of his F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 78413), lost all power and the airplane came back down on the runway.  The plane touched down near the end of the runway.  Ensign Davies applied full brakes but was unable to prevent the plane from going off the end of the runway and over an eight-foot embankment where it flipped over in trees and scrub brush pinning Davies inside.   There was no fire, and Ensign Davies was rescued a short time later with no serious injuries.  The aircraft was a total loss. The cause of the crash was blamed on faulty engine magnetos.     

     Source: National Archives, AAR W6-45, TD450802RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Off Block Island, R.I. – June 13, 1945

Off Block Island, Rhode Island, June 13, 1945

 

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

     On June 13, 1945, Ensign Herbert J. Audet took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, R.I., for a gunnery training flight off Block Island.  He was piloting an F6F-5E Hellcat, (Bu. No. 72735).

     After making a run, he began to climb and noted that the oil pressure began to drop.  The propeller went into a low pitch, and as the oil pressure continued to drop the engine froze.  Ensign Audet was able to make a safe emergency landing in the water about a half-mile south of Block Island.  He scrambled out of the plane before it sank, and was rescued a short time later.

     Sources:

     National Archives, AAR 11-45; TD450613RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     U. S. Navy Accident Report dated June 13, 1945

Charlestown, R.I. – April 5, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – April 5, 1945

 

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

     On the night of April 5, 1945, a navy ensign was practicing “touch and go landings” in an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71109), at Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, R.I.   His first five attempts were successful.  As he was approaching the runway “low and slow” for his sixth landing, the Runway Duty Officer noticed that the plane’s landing gear was still in the “up” position.  The duty officer fired a red flair to warn the pilot not to land, but the flair was released at about the same time the plane was about to touch down.  The aircraft hit the runway and the belly fuel tank was torn open as the plane skidded to a stop.  Fire engulfed the aircraft, but the pilot escaped with relatively minor injuries.  The aircraft was a total loss.

     Source: National Archives TD450405RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Narragansett Bay, R. I. – March 31, 1945

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – March 31, 1945

 

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

     On March 31, 1945, Ensign Setomer took off from the Westerly Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Westerly, Rhode Island, for a training flight in an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70345).  After two hours of flight time he noticed a drop in oil pressure and made a deferred emergency landing at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.   There his plane was inspected and serviced, with four gallons of oil added.  Ensign Setomer then took off headed for Westerly, but after one minute of flight time the engine began to sputter and then froze.  Ensign Setomer made an emergency water landing in Narragansett Bay about one mile south of Quonset Point.  He successfully inflated his life raft before the plane sank, and was rescued a few minutes later by a crash boat.    

     Source: National Archives AAR 338; TD450331RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Quonset Point, R.I. – March 29, 1945

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – March 29, 1945 

 

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

     In the early morning hours of March 29, 1945, an Ensign piloting an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71001), was making night practice landings on Runway 34, when the aircraft stalled and crashed into a sea wall coming to rest upside down.  The aircraft was a complete loss and the pilot was seriously injured.  

     Source: National Archives AAR 33-45: TD450329RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Charlestown, R.I. – February 15, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – February 15, 1945 

 

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

     On February 15, 1945, Ensign James T. Wylie, piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42970), was making practice landings and take-offs on Runway 22 at the Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island.  (The air station was located on the shore of a large body of water known as Ninigret Pond.)  After his fourth landing he took off again, and when he was about 3/4 of a mile off the end of the runway at an altitude of 200 feet, the aircraft’s engine began to sputter, and then stopped.  Ensign Wylie made a successful emergency landing in the water and was able to inflate a rescue raft before the plane sank.  He was rescued by a crash boat about 20 minutes later.

     Source:

 National Archives TD450215RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Atlantic Ocean – February 1, 1945

Atlantic Ocean – February 1, 1945

 

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

     On the night of February 1, 1945, Ensign John M. Roe, age 22,  took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a night training flight.  He was piloting an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41144).

     On the same night, Ensign Robert L. Herren, age 23, also left Charlestown on a night training flight in an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42776).  It is unknown if both aircraft were part of the same training flight.    

     About 25 miles off  Nantucket Light, two aircraft were seen by ships in the area to crash in the ocean, but in different proximity to each other.  Search and rescue operations were instituted, but neither  aircraft nor the pilots were recovered. 

     There is a memorial erected to Ensign Roe at the New Weston Cemetery, in Weston, Ohio.  See www.findagrave.com, memorial #121796478.

     There is a memorial to Ensign Herren at the Abilene Cemetery in Abilene, Kansas.  See www.findagrave.com, memorial #38430818 

     Ensign Roe and Ensign Herren are also listed on the memorial at the former Charlestown Aux. NAS, today known as Ninigret Park.   

     Sources:

     National Archives TD 450201RI

     www.findagrave.com

Charlestown, R.I. – February 10, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – February 19, 1945

 

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

     On the night of February 10, 1945, Ensign Marion Joseph Keenan left Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station for a night bombing training flight. He was piloting an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71005).  After the flight, he returned to Charlestown NAS.  As he touched down on Runway 12, his landing gear struck a snowdrift that had formed across the runway causing the plane to nose over and skid along the tarmac until it came to rest.  The aircraft suffered significant damage, but Ensign Keenan was not injured.

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report dated February 10, 1945

North Kingstown, R. I. – December 7, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island – December 7, 1944

 

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

     On the night of December 7, 1944, a flight of six F6F-5 Hellcat Aircraft took off from the Quonset Point Naval Air Station to practice night carrier landings on Quonset’s runways.  After takeoff, Quonset tower instructed the aircraft to orbit the field two miles outside the designated landing circle to allow an incoming flight of airplanes to land.  After that incoming flight was on the ground, Quonset tower gave clearance for the six Hellcats to begin their practice landings, but when the aircraft circled the field it was noticed that there were now only five airplanes instead of six.  After ordering all five to land, an accounting was made, and it was discovered that one Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71036), piloted by Ensign Patrick Aloysius Hackett, age 22, was missing.

     Shortly afterward another pilot reported seeing a fire in a wooded area of North Kingstown.  State police found the wreckage of Ensign Hackett’s plane on Stooke Hill to the north of Route 138. 

     There had been no witnesses to the crash, and investigators speculated that the cause may have been due to engine failure.   

     Ensign Hackett is buried in Philadelphia National Cemetery in Philadelphia, PA. 

     Sources:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated December 7, 1944  

     North Kingstown, R. I. death records, # 44-96 

Narragansett Bay, R.I. – December 18, 1944

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – December 18, 1944

 

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

     In the early morning hours of December 18, 1944, Ensign Robert I. Lane, piloting an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42570), took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station for night carrier landing practice on Quonset’s runways.  At 4:30 a.m., he contacted Quonset tower and advised he was over Narragansett Bay and approaching the runway.  This was the last heard from him.  His aircraft crashed into the water, but the accident was not witnessed.  A search was conducted, but nothing was found and he was declared missing.  A handwritten notation in the navy accident report states he was “found later in water 5 mi. SW of Quonset”.     

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report dated December 18, 1944

Off Charlestown, R.I. – January 4, 1945

Off Charlestown, Rhode Island – January 4, 1945

 

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

     On the night of January 4, 1945, a flight of U.S. Navy Hellcat aircraft took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station for a night gunnery practice flight.  Once sufficiently off shore, two float lights were dropped into the water, only one of which ignited. 

     After the aircraft had made a few runs at strafing the “target”, Ensign Bruce S. Little, piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71411), was advised by the flight leader to drop his float light.  Ensign Little acknowledged and said he would drop it at the end of his run.  Ensign Little was seen turning his aircraft and start his run at a diving angle.    When he reached the area of the target-float-light his aircraft hit the water and disappeared. 

     The accident occurred at 40 degrees, 55′ N, 71 degrees, 01′ W.

     Lt. (jg.) Little was assigned to VF(N)-91

     Source:  U.S. Navy Accident Report dated January 4, 1945

 

 

Charlestown, R. I. – May 16, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 16, 1944 

Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station

 

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

    On May 16, 1944, Ensign Marion F. DeMasters took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42550), for a rocket gunnery practice flight over Matunuck  Beach, about five miles from the airfield.  This training consisted of diving from an altitude of 6,000 feet towards a simulated target on the beach while maintaining a constant 40 degree glide angle. 

     While making his seventh training dive for the day, a large portion of the rear stabilizer suddenly tore away.  Ensign DeMasters was able to bring his aircraft in for an emergency landing at the air station, but just as he was about to touch down a gust of wind forced the right wing to strike the runway.  The aircraft suffered severe damage, but the pilot was not hurt.

     Ensign DeMasters was assigned to VF-74.  

      Source:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-14219

Quonset Point, R.I. – October 14, 1970

Quonset Point Naval Air Station, Rhode Island – October 14, 1970

     At 5:55 p.m. on October 14, 1970, a U.S. Navy Grumman S-2E Tracker, (Bu. No. 153), left Quonset Point for a routine training flight.  The S-2E was used by the navy in anti-submarine patrols, and this plane was attached to Antisubmarine Squadron 30.   

    The aircraft carried a crew of two men: the pilot, Lt. Cmdr. George H. Wigfall, 33, and Lt. (jg.) Richard J. Moriarty, 24. 

     Twenty five minutes into the flight, the crew realized that the landing gear was malfunctioning.  After alerting the Quonset tower of their situation, the base crash trucks were activated and began spraying foam over the runway.  Meanwhile the plane circled overhead until this was completed.   

     The aircraft made a wheels up belly landing and skidded for 2,300 feet along runway 16 causing extensive damage to the plane, but the crew was not injured.

     Source:

     Providence Journal, “Navy Antisub Plane Make Emergency Landing At Quonset”, October 15, 1970 

Narragansett Bay, R.I. – August 31, 1963

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – August 31, 1963

 

Douglas AD-4N Skyraider
Naval History And Heritage Command

      On August 31, 1963, navy Lieutenant (jg.) John L. Grunert, 25, was piloting a Douglas Skyraider aircraft over Narragansett Bay on a routine training flight when the aircraft developed engine trouble.  Grunert was forced to ditch the plane in the water between the Quonset Point Naval Air Station and the southern tip of Jamestown.  He escaped from the plane before it sank, and was rescued by a passing civilian boat.  He suffered only minor injuries.

     Lieutenant (jg.) Grunert, a native of Florida, was attached to Early Warning Squadron 33, aboard the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Essex, which had arrived at Quonset Point the day before.    

     Source:

     Providence Evening Bulletin, (R.I.),”Navy Pilot On Training Flight Ditches In Narragansett Bay”, August 31, 1963  

 

Charlestown, R.I. – September 29. 1952

Charlestown, Rhode Island – September 29, 1952

 

U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

     On September 29, 1952, a flight of Grumman F9F Panther fighter jets took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a training flight.  The purpose of the flight was to practice carrier landings, or “bounce drills” at the Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station. 

     At one point during the exercise, one aircraft, (Bu. No. 125308), crashed on Quonochontaug Beach in Charlestown.  The aircraft was approaching the beach from the west before it suddenly dropped to the sand about one mile east of the ocean end of East Beach Road, and bounced “two or three times”, before cart-wheeling into the water on the Atlantic side. 

     The accident was witnessed by a man operating a bulldozer nearby who was in the process of pushing up sand dunes along the beach.  The man ran to the scene of the crash, but when he got there the unidentified navy pilot was wading ashore on his own in no need of rescue.  The aircraft was completely wrecked, but the pilot only received minor injuries.    

     Source:

     Providence Journal, “Quonset Pilot Escapes Crash In Surf With Minor Injuries”, September 30, 1952

 

South Kingstown, R.I. – April 10, 1944

South Kingstown, Rhode Island – April 10, 1944

 

     On April 10, 1944, a U.S. Navy, North American SNJ-4 Texan, (Bu. No. 26988), with two men aboard, left the Lakehurst (N.J.) Naval Air Station bound for the South Weymouth, (Mass.) Naval Air Station.  The pilot was Herman Walter Smith, age 38, a pilot for the navy, and with him was Daniel Layton Humm, age 34, a civilian.  While passing over southern Rhode Island the men found themselves surrounded by heavy fog.  It was while flying in fog that the aircraft clipped the top of a 60 foot tree, causing the plane to crash and burn about 300 feet beyond, killing both men. 

     The crash occurred just to the north of Walsh Pond, about a half-mile north of Post Road, (aka Route 1), almost in line with Matunuck Beach Road.      

     Source:

     U. S. Navy Accident Report #44-13 053

     Lawrence Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.     

Narragansett Bay, R. I. – July 16, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – July 16, 1943

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the morning of July 16, 1943, Ensign Joseph Paul Staar was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 25848), over southern Narragansett Bay as part of a training flight.  The purpose of the flight was “Fighter Director Practice”, and Staar’s aircraft was part of a large group of aircraft.  

     As the flight of Hellcats was in the vicinity of Newport, Rhode Island, another aircraft made two diving passes at them from out of the sun.  On the second pass Ensign Staar’s aircraft entered a “high speed stall” due to “an abrupt climbing turn”, which led to his crashing into the water about 500 yards off Brenton Point in Newport.  He did not survive. 

     Source:

     U. S. Navy Accident Report #44-7667 

 

Narragansett Bay, R.I. – June 28, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – June 28, 1943

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of June 28, 1943, Ensign Sven Rolfsen, Jr., was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 80908), at 30,000 feet over Narragansett Bay when the engine suddenly lost all power.  He put the plane into a glide and tried to restart the engine, but without success.  He was forced to make an emergency water landing on Narragansett Bay in an area just off shore from the Quonset Point Naval Air Station.   Rolfsen was able to climb out of the plane before it sank.   He was not injured.

     Source:

     U. S. Navy Accident Report #43-7446

Richmond, R.I. – March 9, 1943

Richmond, Rhode Island – March 9, 1943

 

North American Texan Military Trainer

     Shortly before noon on March 9, 1943, a North American SNJ-4 Texan, (Bu. No. 26615), was flying over southern Rhode Island on a routine training flight.  There were two men aboard; Ensign Robert Foster Crader, age 21, of Gardena, California, and Ensign Robert Francis Wolfe, age 21, of Clinton, Iowa. 

     While over the town of Richmond, Rhode Island, the left wing of the aircraft suddenly folded and broke away which sent the plane into a violent spin.  Neither Crader or Wolfe were able to bail out before the plane crashed and burned in the apple orchard of the former Holly Farm, about 400 feet south of the junction of R.I. Route 2 and Heaton Orchard Road. 

     The left wing landed about a mile west of Route 2.

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Crash Report #43-6177   

Narragansett Bay, R.I. – November 1, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – November 1, 1943

 

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

     On November 1, 1943, fighter squadron VF-14 was commencing a carrier breakup over the Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  Two flights were in the air at the time; one flight of six planes, and a second flight of four.  All aircraft were F6F-3 Hellcats. 

     As the flight of four planes crossed over the flight of six, the last two planes in each group collided in mid-air.  On aircraft, (#66024), was piloted by Ensign Prentice A. Martin, age 23.  The other aircraft, (#65923), was piloted by Ensign George E. Kloss, age 23.  Both planes fell into 26 feet of water not far from the shore of the naval air station.  Neither pilot survived. 

     Ensign Kloss is buried in Holy Sepulchire Cemetery in Alsip, Illinois.

     Ensign Martin is buried in Memorial Park Cemetery in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-9424 

     www.findagrave.com, Memorial #58751036, and # 43654228

Quonset Point, R.I. – November 5, 1943

Quonset Point, R. I. – November 5, 1943

 

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 5, 1943, Lt. (jg.) George E. Orenge was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (#65895) on a test flight from Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  At about 10:00 a.m. he came back to land at Quonset Point.  After touching down on the runway, the left tire on the landing gear blew out causing the plane to swerve into an ordinance truck parked on the extreme edge of the tarmac.  There were no injuries, but the aircraft required a major overhaul. 

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report # 44-9523

 

Narragansett Bay, R.I. – November 27, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – November 27, 1943

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 27, 1943, Ensign Paul M. Churton took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 65925), for a routine training flight.  Approximately two minutes into the flight the aircraft motor started cutting out and then stopped altogether, forcing Churton to make an emergency landing in Narragansett Bay.  Ensign Churton escaped from the aircraft uninjured. 

     Investigation revealed that the same aircraft had been grounded three times by three different pilots the previous day for the same problem, and each time it had been placed back in service by the mechanics.  After examining the recovered aircraft, a crack was found in the engine which had allowed foreign matter to impede fuel and oil flow.   

     Ensign Churton was assigned to VF-14.

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-9977

Atlantic Ocean – December 23, 1943

Atlantic Ocean – December 23, 1943

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On December 23, 1943, Ensign Curtis L. Johnson was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat aircraft, (#65933), off the coast of Westerly, Rhode Island, on a night training flight when his airplane developed engine trouble.  After reporting his situation, he was ordered to return to shore, and was following another aircraft in that direction when he evidently crashed into the sea and was killed.   The crash was not observed by the pilot of the other plane, but according to the navy accident report, a “civilian reported seeing a plane crash into (the) water but wreckage (was) never found.”  

     According to the navy accident report, Ensign Johnson was assigned to VF-51. 

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-10170

 

Off Block Island, R.I. – December 30, 1943

Off Block Island, Rhode Island – December 30, 1943

 

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

     On the night of December 30, 1943, a flight of F6F-3 Hellcat aircraft assigned to VF(n)-76, took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a night training flight.  The night was clear, but there was no moon.

     One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 65930), piloted by Ensign Waldo E. Neuburg, was assigned to orbit the northern end of Block Island, which lies three miles off shore from Rhode Island.  About thirty minutes into the flight, Neuburg’s aircraft began having engine trouble.  He notified the flight leader, who advised him to return to Quonset Point.  Neuburg  put the plane into a climb and headed for shore, but a short time later radioed that he wasn’t going to make it and that he was bailing out.  Fifteen seconds later his aircraft disappeared from the Jamestown (R.I.) radar station’s tracking scope somewhere NNE of Block Island.   A search and rescue operation was instituted, but no trace of Ensign Neuburg or his airplane was ever found. 

     Source:

      U.S. Navy Accident report #44-10567

Charlestown, R.I. – February 16, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – February 16, 1944

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On February 16, 1944, Ensign James G. Canning, 23, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a training flight in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41235).  The purpose of the flight was to practice take-offs and landings. 

     At approximately 3:40 p.m., as Ensign Canning was making a runway approach, his aircraft suddenly lost power and fell into a lagoon to the south-west of the field.  The aircraft hit the water and flipped over, trapping Canning inside, and then sank to the bottom in five feet of water.  By the time help arrived, Ensign Canning had drowned.  

     At the time of his death Ensign Canning had been assigned to VF(n)-78.  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  (see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #49163354)

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Crash Report #44-11788

 

Quonset Point, R.I. – March 28, 1944

Quonset Point, R.I. – March 28, 1944

 

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

     At 7:45 p.m., on the night of March 28, 1944, members of the U.S. Navy’s VF-7 squadron were at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, preparing for a night tactics training flight.   All aircraft involved in the operation were F6F-3 Hellcat fighter planes.

     The first six aircraft left the ground without incident.  The next aircraft in line, (Bu. No. 41964), was piloted by Ensign Claude Earl Schilling.  When Ensign Schilling was granted clearance, he proceeded down the runway.  After traveling approximately 2,000 feet down the tarmac, his aircraft inexplicably veered to the right and went off the runway and onto the grass where it ground-looped back onto the runway and came to rest.   Meanwhile, the eighth aircraft, (Bu. No. #41938), piloted by Ensign Charles Francis Sullivan, had also been granted permission to take off on the same runway used by Schilling.  Due to the dark conditions, nobody realized that Schilling hadn’t made it into the air,  and Sullivan’s Hellcat struck Schilling’s plane just aft of  the cockpit severing the fuselage and igniting the fully loaded fuel tanks. 

     Sullivan managed to escape the burning wreckage, but Schilling was killed.

     According to the navy investigation report, what caused Ensign Schilling’s aircraft to leave the runway could not be determined.   

     Ensign Schilling is buried at Rio Vista Fellows Masonic Cemetery, in Rio Vista, California.  See www.findagrave.com, Memorial #135531762. 

     Source:

     U.S. Navy Investigation Report #44-12718    

 

    

 

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.

     Source:

     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.  

     Sources:

     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 www.findagrave.com, Memorial #47219916.

     Lieut. Hubert C. McClellan, 25, of Plymouth, Michigan. To see a monument  to his memory, see www.findagrave.com, 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 www.findagrave.com, 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 www.findagrave.com, 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. 

     Sources:

     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.    

     www.findagrave.com

     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.    

     Sources

    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 

     www.cieldegloire.com – 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 www.findagrave.com 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.    

     Sources:

     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 www.findagrave.com, 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.

     Sources:

    Troy Record, June 20, 1950.

     www.findagrave.com

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 www.earlyaviators.com,  Gallaudet D-1.  Site also has photographs.   

     Sources:

     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.)

    www.findagrave.com, 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 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. 

     Sources:

     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.  

 

    

Quonset Point NAS – May 29, 1957

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – May 29, 1957

Quonset Point, Rhode Island

   

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

      On May 29, 1957, a U.S Navy P2V-5F Neptune aircraft, (#124905), crashed in the water of Narragansett Bay about 500 feet north of runway 19.  All six crewmen aboard were rescued.  No further details. 

     The photos below show the aircraft being recovered from the water.

 

 

 

 

P2V-5F Neptune, Bu. No. 124905 U.S. Navy Photo

P2V-5F Neptune, Bu. No. 124905
U.S. Navy Photo

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

P2V-5F Neptune Bu. No. 124905 U.S. Navy Photo

P2V-5F Neptune Bu. No. 124905
U.S. Navy Photo

  

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

   Source: U.S. Navy, Aircraft Crash Fire Report, Quonset Point NAS, Rhode Island, #7-57

Off Watch Hill, R.I. – October 26, 1944

Off Watch Hill, Rhode Island – October 26, 1944

    

Ensign Norman Francis Day U.S. Navy - WWII

Ensign Norman Francis Day
U.S. Navy – WWII

     At 6:52 p.m., on October 26, 1944, Ensign Norman Francis Day, 20, piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70895), and Ensign W. D. Cochran, piloting another F6F Hellcat, took off from Charlestown Aux. Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a night training mission. 

     The pair flew to Fisher’s Island, New York, (Off the eastern end of Long Island) and engaged in simulated strafing maneuvers on searchlight positions.  After about 40 minutes, Ensign Cochran attempted to call Ensign Day by radio and got no response. 

     A fisherman on a boat reported a plane apparently experiencing engine trouble had crashed into the water about 2 miles due south of Watch Hill, Rhode Island.  Watch Hill is in the town of Westerly, Rhode Island.

    

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

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

     The crash was not witnessed by Ensign Cochran.

     At the time of his death, Ensign Day was assigned to Carrier Aircraft Service Unit 27, (CASU-27), assigned to the Naval Air Station at Charlestown, Rhode Island.  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  

     Source:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Rhode Island.  

     U.S. navy Aircraft trouble report 48-44

Coventry, RI – March 28, 1952

Coventry, Rhode Island – March 28, 1952

    

U.S. Navy  Grumman F9F Panther U.S. Navy Photo - National Archives

U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

     On March 28, 1952, a flight of three navy F9F-5 Panther jets took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a training flight.  At some point after take off, one pilot noticed that one of the other aircraft was on fire and radioed a warning.  The burning aircraft (#12528) was piloted by Commander Richard L. Wright, the commanding officer of Fighter Squadron 73, (VF-73).  Being over a populated area, Commander Wright made no effort to bail out, and elected to stay with the aircraft.  His plane crashed and exploded in a wooded area off Tiogue Avenue in the town of Coventry, near the East Greenwich town line.     

     Commander Wright was a veteran of WWII, and had earned the Distinguished Flying Cross, four Air Medals, and various other medals during his time in the service.  He was survived by his wife Susan, and a son, Richard Jr..  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery. 

     There has been some discrepancy over the years as to the location of this accident.  Some sources say it occurred in the water off Little Compton, Rhode Island, or in the town itself.  Others state Coventry-East Greenwich.  A check with the Coventry Town Hall has revealed that the crash actually occurred in Coventry, Rhode Island. 

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Quonset Jet Pilot Killed In Crash”, March 28, 1952, Page 1 

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Pilot Identified”, March 29, 1952, Page 3.

     Newport Mercury, “Navy Pilot Identified”, April 4, 1952 

     Town of Coventry, R.I., Death Records

    

Hillsgrove Air Field, RI – December 21, 1941

Hillsgrove Air Field

Warwick, Rhode Island – December 21, 1941

    

O-52  #40-2714 Hillsgrove, R.I., Dec. 21, 1941 U.S. Air Corps Photo

O-52 #40-2714
Hillsgrove, R.I., Dec. 21, 1941
U.S. Air Corps Photo

     On the morning of December 21, 1941, an army 2nd lieutenant was piloting an O-52 observation aircraft, (#40-2714), from Fort Devens, Massachusetts, to Hillsgrove Field in Warwick, Rhode Island. 

     At 9:23 a.m. the pilot radioed Hillsgrove Tower  and received permission to land on runway 4.  As the pilot was making his approach, he received instructions from the tower to land on the grass to the left of the runway because a flight of three P-39 aircraft were also approaching the same runway.  The pilot altered his approach and landed on the grass. 

     As he taxied along the grass, two of the three P-39s came in for a landing on runway 4.  As he watched for the third to land, one of the P-39’s (#41-6744) moved off the runway and into the path of the O-52, and parked with its propeller still turning.  Due to the configuration of the O-52 while on the ground, with its nose high and its tail low, the lieutenant couldn’t see the P-39 in his “blind spot” until it was too late.  The prop of the P-39 cut the wings off the O-52.  Neither pilot was injured.     

     The O-52 was assigned to the 152nd Observation Squadron.   

     Source: U.S. Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-12-21-14

Narragansett Bay – June 11, 1942

Narragansett Bay – June 11, 1942

     

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 11, 1942, 2nd Lt. William K. Liggett was piloting a P-40E aircraft (Ser. No. 41-25019) as part of a formation training flight with other P-40 aircraft over the Narragansett Bay area.   At about 1:45 p.m. his aircraft developed engine trouble and he was forced to look for a place to set down.  He chose what he thought to be an open area of beach about one mile northeast of the town of Portsmouth, but as he got closer he realized there were civilians on the beach.  Witnesses later told investigators that at the last moment Lt. Liggett abruptly turned towards the water and was killed when the plane crashed into the bay. 

     The crash was blamed on a problem with the aircraft’s fuel system. 

     Lt. Liggett obtained his pilot’s rating on April 29, 1942, and at the time of his death he was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field, In Warwick, Rhode Island. 

     Source:  Army Air Corps Technical report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-11-8    

Cranston, RI – September 8, 1925

Cranston, Rhode Island – September 8, 1925 

 

    Curtiss Jenny On September 8, 1925, 1st Lt. Clarence J. A’Hearn  was piloting a Curtiss JN-4 bi-plane (Ser. No. 24-100) out of Boston on a training flight with 2nd Lt. F. S. James as a passenger.   While over Rhode Island they encountered heavy cloud and fog conditions and lost their way.  (This was an era when aircraft weren’t equipped with modern navigational equipment.) 

     Lt. A’Hearn decided to land so as to determine their location, and discovered they were in Cranston, Rhode Island.  (Cranston is about an hours drive from Boston using modern interstate highways.)   He then topped off the fuel tank with commercial gasoline, but evidently there was something wrong with the gas for when he tried to take off for Boston the engine lost power and the plane began settling back to the ground.  As it did so the lower wing struck a fence causing the plane to hit the ground and roll onto its back.  Neither  A’Hearn or James were injured. 

     The aircraft was repaired and put back into service.  However, it was wrecked in another accident at Boston Airport on December 19, 1925.  In that incident, while attempting to land, the plane’s landing gear struck a stack of iron pipes at the end of a runway.  The wheels were torn away and the plane crashed on the pavement and broke in two.  The pilot suffered serious injuries.  

     Sources: U.S. Air Service Aircraft Accident Reports, dated September 8, 1925 , and January 11, 1926.          

 

Atlantic Ocean – December 7, 1955

Atlantic Ocean – December 7, 1955

    

Lt. (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker Photo courtesy of Judith (Walker) Miles

Lt. (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker
Photo courtesy of Judith (Walker) Miles

     In 1955 the aircraft carrier U.S.S. Leyte was stationed at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.  In early December of that year, she put to sea for a three day cruise off New England to participate in anti-submarine training maneuvers.  Navy pilot, Lieutenant (J.g.) Alfred G. Walker, 23, of Akron, Ohio, volunteered to go. 

     On December 7, Lieutenant Walker, piloting an AD Skyraider, participated in a gunnery training flight over the water.  As he was returning to the Leyte, the arresting cable snapped when it caught the Skyraider’s tail hook.  The aircraft careened into the carrier’s superstructure and then cartwheeled into the sea.     

     The Skyraider quickly sank  to the bottom taking Lt. Walker with it, but his back-seat crewman, Aviation Ordinance Man 2nd Class William E. Deering of Atlantic City, New Jersey, managed to escape. 

     One of those who witnessed the accident was Boatswain’s Mate 2nd Class David Cata of the Bronx, New York, who was stationed aboard the nearby destroyer, U.S.S. Wadleigh.   Upon seeing Deering bobbing helplessly in the water, Cata jumped overboard and swam to his aid and held Deering afloat until they were plucked form the water by a helicopter.  Both men survived their ordeal.

     Lieutenant (J.g.) Walker was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve on December 3, 1953.  His body was never recovered.

     Some sources describing this event state that it took place in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island, however, the Ohio Informer, a newspaper from Akron, Ohio, where Lt. Walker was from, gave the location as 90 miles out to sea off the coast of New Jersey. 

     Sources:  

     New York Times, “Sailor Rescued Airman”, December 9, 1955     

     Bridgeport Telegram, “Sailor Rescues Airman In Water”, December 9, 1955  

     Ohio Informer, “Lt. Alfred G. Walker Dies In Plane Crash”, December 17, 1955, Vol. X, No. 16    

Hillsgrove Airport, RI – December 31, 1934

Hillsgrove Airport, Rhode Island – December 31, 1934

Warwick, Rhode Island

     At 3:30 p.m. on December 31, 1934, an army reserve 2nd Lieutenant took off from Boston Airport bound for Hillsgrove State Airport in Rhode Island.  He arrived at Hillsgrove at 4:10 p.m. and attempted to land.  As he came in over the runway he overshot the landing and crashed through a fence and ended up on the roadway beyond. 

     Although the plane suffered damage, neither the pilot or his passenger were injured. 

     The aircraft involved was an O-1E observation plane, (Ser. No. 29-304) 

Click on image to enlarge.

    

Consolidated PT-3A, Ser. No. 29-121
Damaged at Hillsgrove, R.I.
November 4, 1935

     About ten months later on November 4, 1935, the same pilot was flying a PT-3A trainer aircraft, (Ser. No 29-121) from Mitchel Field, Long Island, N.Y., to Hartford, Connecticut, when he was blown off course by a strong easterly wind and wound up over Rhode Island.  After finding Hillsgrove Airport, he landed to refuel.  At time he landed there was construction going on at the airport involving the installation of runway lights.  Landing in a strong cross wind, the lieutenant’s aircraft drifted over into one of the construction ditches situated along the runway and ground looped.  Damage to the aircraft consisted of left wing crumpling and the left landing gear being torn off.   The pilot was uninjured.

     Sources:

     Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, (Two reports) dated January 14, 1935, and November 15, 1935.  

     Photo Credit: Louis C. McGowan, R.I.

 

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – May 24, 1966

Quonset Point Naval Air Station  – May 24, 1966

     On the night of May 24, 1966, Lieut. Cmdr. Bruce R. Richmond, 31, and Lieut. Stephen Losey, 37, were practicing landings and take offs at Quonset Point Naval Air Station when their twin-engine aircraft crashed in Narragansett Bay.  Both men were killed. The type of aircraft was not stated.

     Lieut. Cmdr. Richmond is buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.  To see a photo of his grave see www.findagrave.com memorial #3427105.

     Lieut. Losey is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com memorial #49249517.   He was from New Jersey.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Two Navy Fliers Die In Crash”, May 25, 1966

     www.findagrave.com

Hillsgrove Airport, RI – June 24, 1942

Hillsgrove Airport, Rhode Island – June 24, 1942 

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 7 p.m. on June 24, 1942, 2nd Lt. Herbert Chester Chamberlain, 23, was scheduled to take off from Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island, in a P-40E-1 aircraft, (Ser. No. 41-24990), for a routine training flight.  Just as the aircraft left the ground, the engine quit, and the plane crashed into some woods near the edge of the field. Lt. Chamberlain was transported to a hospital in Providence where he succumbed to his injuries.

     The accident was blamed on mechanical failure of the aircraft.

     Lt. Chamberlain received his pilot’s wings April 29, 1942, and at the time of the accident he was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron stationed at Hillsgrove.  He’s buried in Long Island National Cemetery, in East Farmingdale, Long Island, New York.  To see a photo of Lt. Chamberlain in uniform, see www.findagrave.com, Memorial # 480983.

     Lt. Chamberlain had survived another aviation accident only a few days before his death.  On June, 16, 1942, he was piloting a P-40E, (Ser. No. 41-25161) over Norwood Massachusetts when the aircraft experienced engine trouble.  He attempted an emergency landing at Norwood Airport, but crash landed in a swampy area near the edge of the field.  He was uninjured in that accident.

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-24-10, and # 42-6-16-37

     www.findagrave.com          

Conimicut Light, Warwick, R.I. – July 30, 1964

Conimicut Light, Warwick, Rhode Island – July 30, 1964

    

U-10 Helio Courier U.S. Air Force Photo

U-10 Helio Courier
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the night of July 30, 1964, a flight of six Rhode Island National Guard Aircraft left Hillsgrove Airport, (Today known as T.F. Green Airport) for a two-and-a-half hour training flight.  The aircraft belonged to the 143rd Air Commando Group. 

     One of the aircraft, a U-10 Helio Courier with two men aboard developed engine trouble and attempted an emergency landing.  As the plane neared the Conimicut Lighthouse at Conimicut Point in Warwick, one witness said he could hear the engine “spitting and sputtering” as it crashed into the shallow water of Narragansett Bay between the lighthouse and the mainland.

     Both the pilot and navigator were killed.  The dead were identified as (Pilot) Captain Donald E. Leach, 31, of Cranston, R.I., and (Navigator) Major Alan Hall Jr., 39, of East Greenwich, R.I.      

     The aircraft was recovered the following day with the bodies of both men still inside.

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “2 RI Airmen Killed In Bay Plane Crash”, July 31, 1964, Pg. 1

     Woonsocket Call, “Recover Bodies Of 2 Guardsmen”, August 1, 1964 

Quonset Point NAS – March 1, 1942

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – March 1, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 1, 1942, a Curtiss P-40E, (41-5547) piloted by 1st Lt. Charles R. Fairlamb, was making a normal landing at Quonset Point Naval Air Station when the aircraft’s right landing gear suddenly struck a small pile of snow about two feet high that was on the runway.  The jolt caused the landing gear to collapse, which caused the right wing to fall and drag along the tarmac causing the plane to rotate 90 degrees.  As this was happening, the left landing gear suddenly collapsed dropping the plan causing damage to the underbelly and propeller blades.  As the plane came to rest Fairlamb cut the switches and quickly climbed out of the plane.

     The accident investigation committee did not fault Lt. Fairlamb for the accident, noting that the pile was not visible from the air, and had been covered with sand. 

     Lt. Fairlamb was assigned to the 66th Pursuit Squadron (I) as Squadron  Operations Officer.  He received his pilot’s rating March 14, 1941.

     Lt. Fairlamb was later promoted to Major, and became the Commanding Officer of the 66th Fighter Squadron while serving in North Africa.  He flew 48 combat missions before being injured in a tent fire while serving in Libya. 

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-3-1-6

     Book – 57th Fighter Group, ‘First In The Blue’, by Carl Molesworth, Osprey Press, 2011

South Kingstown, R.I. – November 26, 1945

South Kingstown, Rhode Island – November 26, 1945

Worden’s Pond

   

SB2C Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

SB2C Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 26, 1945, Ensign Nelson Earl Carter, 22, was killed when the SB2C Helldiver (Bu. No. 65286) that he was piloting, crashed in Worden’s Pond during dive bombing practice.

     Ensign Carter’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Holland, Michigan for burial.  He’s buried in Pilgrim Home Cemetery in Holland, Plot PH3-C-74-4.  For a photo of the grave, go to findagrave.com, Memorial # 49817091.    

     Ensign Carter had been a recipient of the Air Medal. 

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Archaeologist & Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Findagrave.com

Narragansett, R.I. – November 9, 1945

Narragansett, Rhode Island – November 9, 1945    

 

F4U Corsair National Archives Photo

F4U Corsair
National Archives Photo

     On November 9, 1945, Ensign William Edward Andrews, 23, was killed when the F4U-4 Corsair, (Bu. No. 81327) he was piloting crashed on farm land off Boston Post Road in the town of Narragansett.  Further details of the accident are not available.

     Ensign Andrews was assigned to Fighter Squadron 81. (VF-81)

     His body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Georgia for burial.  He’s buried in Oak Ridge Cemetery in Tifton, Georgia. 

     To see a photo of Ensign Andrews, go to Findagrave.com, Memorial #30436265.     

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archaeologist, Charlestown, R.I.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records, #45-105   

Block Island Sound – April 1, 1944

Block Island Sound – April 1, 1944

     On the night of June 24, 1944, the body of navy Lieutenant Edward Roy Sladek, 22, was found by the Coast Guard at Shagwong Point, in the town of Montauk, (Long Island) New York.  He had been missing since April 1st, when the aircraft he was aboard went down in the water off Block Island, R.I. 

     According to one news report, Sladek was one of “five or six” men aboard that aircraft when it crashed.    The unidentified plane was out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station in R.I.

     Sources:

     The East Hampton Star, “Navy Flyer Found”, June 29, 1944, Pg.4 

     Rhode Island Department Of Health death certificate

Little Narragansett Bay – July 12, 1945

Little Narragansett Bay – July 12, 1945

Updated August 21, 2017

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     On July 12. 1945, five navy fighter aircraft from Groton (Ct.) Naval Air Station were participating in a dive-bombing training flight over Little Narragansett Bay on the Connecticut/Rhode Island state line. All planes were scheduled to make eight runs at the target.  The first seven runs were completed without incident.  As the flight of aircraft were making their eighth run, Lt. (Jg.) Frankilton Nehemiah Johnson, 23, piloting an F4U Corsair, (Bu. No. 81435), made his dive on the target from 8,000 feet and leveled off at 80 feet at the completion of his run.  It was at this time that his aircraft was seen to suddenly nose over and crash into the water of Little Narragansett Bay about 140 feet from shore.  The plane exploded on impact and he was killed.       

     Little Narragansett Bay is a body of water located on the Rhode Island/Connecticut state line where the towns of Westerly, R.I. and Stonington, Ct. meet.  

     Johnson’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent home to New Orleans, La., for burial.  He’s buried in Garden of Memories, Metairie, Louisiana. (see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #119852076)   

     Lt. (Jg.) Johnson was assigned to Air Squadron 19, aboard the USS Lexington.   

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-64

     National Archives, AAR 21-45, TD450712RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     www.findagrave.com

North Smithfield, R.I. – November 25, 1928

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 25, 1928

     On November 25, 1928, a flight of six U.S. Army airplanes were returning to Boston from the Yale-Harvard football game in Connecticut when one aircraft unexpectedly ran out of fuel.  The pilot, Lieutenant Robert L. O’Brien, made a forced landing on a farm in North Smithfield.  Although the aircraft suffered damage in the landing, O’Brien, and his passenger, Robert Wise, of Boston, were unhurt.  

     The aircraft was a Consolidated PT-1 biplane, tail number 26-319.  The PT-1 was a primary trainer used by the U.S. Army.

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Snow Forces Planes Down”, November 26, 1928 

     www.accident_report.com

Off Jamestown, R.I. – December 5, 1943

Off Jamestown, Rhode Island – December 5, 1943

     On December 5, 1943, a Navy plane with two men aboard crashed in the water about a mile to the north of Beavertail Light.  Acting on orders from his commanding officer, Seaman First Class C. A. Wood ran on foot along the shoreline before diving into the icy water and swimming out to the wreck.  Upon reaching the wreck he freed the trapped crewmen and assisted them to shore.  For his efforts he was awarded the Navy-Marine Medal. 

     Today Beavertail Light is automated, and home to the Beavertail Lighthouse Museum.

     Source: The Beavertail Lighthouse Museum

 

Little Compton, R.I. – July 6, 1945

Little Compton, Rhode Island – July 6, 1945

     On July 6, 1945, navy Lieutenant Nelson Eugene Wiggins, 29, was killed when the SNJ-3 trainer aircraft he was piloting crashed in Little Compton.  No further details are available.     

     Lt. Wiggins’ body was brought to Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Sulphur, Oklahoma, for burial.  He’s buried in Oaklawn Cemetery.   A photo of his grave is on Findagrave.com, Memorial # 38305859.

Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-62

    

Off Point Judith, R.I. – July 16, 1943

15 Miles Off Point Judith, Rhode Island – July 16, 1943

    Updated March 9, 2018         

    

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

     On July 16, 1943, a division of navy F6F-3 Hellcats were engaged in a “Fighter Director Practice” off southern Rhode Island when an army P-47 Thunderbolt made two passes at the group.  Both passes were made from out of the sun, and each time the P-47 came within 50 to 200 yards of the division of Hellcats. 

     According to the U.S. Navy accident report, (#44-7667), “Immediately following the second pass, Ensign Staab entered a high speed stall from an abrupt climbing turn, resulting in a vertical dive and progressive stall.”  Ensign Staab, age 23, was killed when his Hellcat, (Bu. No. 25848), then dove into the Atlantic Ocean 15 miles off Point Judith, R.I.

     Ensign Staab was assigned to Fighting Squadron 31, (VF0-31).

     His hometown is listed as Burlington, Vermont.  He’s buried in Kingston, New York.

     The army P-47 was from the 326th Fighter Group at Westover Field.  There is a notation in the report that the pilot was disciplined however, he is not identified.  

     Sources:

     Rhode Island Department Of Health, death certificate.

     U.S. Navy Accident Report, #44-7667, dated July 16, 1943

Quonset Point, R.I. – November 16, 1956

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – November 16, 1956

     On November 16, 1956, a U.S. Navy, S2F-1 Sentinel, twin-engine aircraft crashed just after take off from Quonset Point NAS.  The plane went down 200 yards off the seawall at the end of Runway 5, and sank in 30 feet of water in Narragansett Bay.  All three crewmen aboard were killed.  Their names were not published pending notification of kin.

     The aircraft was assigned to Antisubmarine Squadron 39 at Quonset Point.  

     Source: Lewiston Evening Journal, “Three Killed In Crash Of Navy Plane”, November 16, 1956

 

Off Jamestown, R.I. – September 4, 1942

Off Jamestown, Rhode Island – September 4, 1942

     On September 4, 1942, a Navy plane with two men aboard crashed in the water about 1,000 yards off Beavertail Light in Jamestown.  At the time, the area known as Beavertail was occupied by a coastal artillery unit to protect Narragansett Bay, and Beavertail Light was occupied by the U.S. Coast Guard.  Today the area is a state park, and the light is automated, and now serves as a museum.

     The crash was witnessed by shore personnel, four of whom entered the water and swam out to rescue the airmen.  They were identified at Privates First Class V.S. Sousa, and F. A. Hamilton, Corporal D. A. Corey, and Seaman Second Class R. F. Kirscher. The men reached the wreck at the same time as a passing Coast Guard boat.

     The plane’s crew consisted of (Pilot) Lieutenant Harry Stubbs, 29, of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3C Fred Schumm, 20, of New York.  Lt. Stubbs was unconscious from a head  injury, while Schumm was cut and bleeding in several places.  Both were taken to the Fort Getty hospital located at Jamestown.

     The type of aircraft was not stated.

     Source:

     New York Times, “Plane Dives Into Sea; Crew Of Two Saved”, September 5, 1942

            

Richmond, R. I. – March 16, 1944

Richmond, Rhode Island – March 16, 1944

Updated June 28, 2017

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     At approximately 7:40 p.m. on the night of March 16, 1944, Ensign Herbert Leslie Woods, 22, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air station In Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a night training flight.  The weather that evening was cloudy, with a 500 to 600 foot cloud ceiling, and poor visibility of less than a mile.

     Ensign Woods was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41008).

     Ensign Woods was last seen entering the clouds by those in the control tower.  At 7:46 p.m., an emergency IFF signal was received by the tower.  The signal lasted approximately three minutes before it stopped.  Afterwards Ensign Woods could not be contacted.

     The following morning the wreckage of Ensign Woods’s Hellcat was found next to a stream in a wooded area of the village of Kenyon, which is located within the town of Richmond, Rhode Island.  The plane hat crashed at high speed and Woods had been killed instantly.

     At the time of his death, Ensign Woods was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 79, VF(n)-79.  

     Ensign Woods was from Springfield, Illinois.  He’s buried in Camp Butler National Cemetery in Section 3, Site 809.  One can see a photo of his grave at the Camp Butler National Cemetery, site search, www.Findagrave.com, Memorial #2562708     

     Sources:

     U.S. Navy Crash Report #44-12450 

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Larry Webster – Aviation Archaeologist and Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

     www.Findagrave.com

Wickford Harbor, R.I. – June 25, 1953

Wickford Harbor, North Kingstown, Rhode Island – June 25, 1953

     On the morning of June 25, 1953, an AD Skyraider took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station to take part in search and rescue operations taking place in Exeter and West Greenwich, Rhode Island.  The night before, two F2H Banshee fighter jets out of Quonset had collided in mid-air, and one pilot, Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes, was still missing.

     (For more information about the mid-air collision, see “Exeter/West Greenwich – June 24, 1953” under “Rhode Island Military Aviation Accidents” on this website.)

     Just after take off the Skyraider developed engine trouble and crashed in Wickford Harbor.  The pilot, Lt. Comdr. Michael J. Baring, and the two-man crew, Joseph K. Keeple Jr., 21, of Pinehurst, Mass., and Donald F. Hart, 20, of Albany, N.Y., all escaped without injury.   

     Commander Baring related to the press that this was the 18th plane crash he’d survived during his career. 

     His commanding officer, Commander Robert M. Miner credited Baring with a perfect crash-landing and for keeping the aircraft away from populated areas.

Source: Providence Journal, “Searchers Fail To Find Trace Of Missing Banshee Jet Pilot”, June 26, 1953.  (200 men comb West Greenwich Crash Area In Vain; Three fliers unhurt in Wickford harbor plunge.)   

  

Quonset Point, R.I. – May 1, 1962

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – May 1, 1962

     On May 1, 1962, an U.S. Navy, AD5W Skyraider, crashed on take off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  The plane went down in the waters of Narragansett Bay about 500 years northeast of Pier 2. 

     Both crewmen aboard were killed.  They were identified as:

     (Pilot) Lieutenant Harold E. Richlie, 27, of Missoula, Montana.  he was survived by his wife Janet.

     Parachute Rigger 2C Kenneth M. Robinson, 33, of Randolph, Massachusetts.  He was survived by his wife Ann.

     The aircraft was assigned to Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron 33.

     Source:

     Lewiston Evening Journal, “Fear Two Dead In Navy Crash”, May 2, 1962 

    

Exeter/West Greenwich, R.I. – June 24, 1953

Exeter/West Greenwich, Rhode Island – June 24, 1953  

Updated October, 2017

 

U.S. Navy F2H-3 Banshee,  (Bu. No. 126384) of VF-71 This is the plane flown by Lt. Jg. Jack O. Snipes  on the night of June 24, 1953.

U.S. Navy F2H-3 Banshee,
(Bu. No. 126384) of VF-71
This is the plane flown by Lt. Jg. Jack O. Snipes
on the night of June 24, 1953.

     On June 24, 1953, a flight of U.S. Navy F2H Banshee jets out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station were on a night training mission over southern Rhode Island when two aircraft in the formation collided in mid-air.  The resulting flash and explosion was seen for miles by those on the ground.   

     The crash occurred at 19,000 feet near (over) the Exeter/West Greenwich town lines, and debris was scattered for several miles in all directions, most of it coming down in woodlands, but some of it on public roadways.      

     A large portion of one Banshee, (Bu. No. 126384) piloted by Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes, 24, came down in Robin Hollow Pond, off Robin Hollow Road, in West Greenwich.  It was later recovered by the navy.

     It is believed Lt. Snipes was killed instantly in the collision.  The nose portion of the his aircraft up to the cockpit was torn away by the impact, and Snipes fell away still strapped to his ejection seat.   His body was later recovered still in the seat in a wooded area off Breakheart Hill Road in West Greenwich.

     The main portion of the other Banshee, (Bu. No. 126411) piloted by Lt. Jg. James J. Schollian, 23, came down in an area off  Austin Farm Road in the town of Exeter.  Schollian was able to successfully eject from his aircraft, and parachuted safely.    

     At the moment of impact Lieutenant Schollian’s cockpit was illuminated by the intense light of the explosion, and his aircraft was set ablaze.   As Snipes’ plane spun away in a flat spin, Schollian attempted to bail out, but discovered his ejection seat was not working.  Remembering his training, he released his seatbelt and literally floated up and out of his seat, then pushed himself out of the falling jet with his feet.  It took him several more seconds to locate the parachute D-ring, but he finally deployed the chute at about 10,000 feet.

     Hanging in the air, he watched his doomed aircraft continue on its fiery plunge to oblivion.  As he got closer to the ground he saw two cars stopped by the side of a road, and lit a signal flare, but it failed to gain any attention.  Prevailing winds carried him over heavy woodlands where he came crashing down through the treetops.  After assessing himself for injuries, he set out to find a road, but the woods were near pitch-dark, and he didn’t have a compass.  After stumbling around in the dark for awhile he came to a clearing next to a swamp and decided to light a signal fire.  After awhile a circling aircraft spotted the fire and led him out of the woods where he was found about three miles west of Nooseneck Hill Road, West Greenwich.        

Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes  aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)  National Archives Photo

Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes
aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31)
National Archives Photo

      The flash of the mid-air collision was seen by those in the air-traffic control tower at the Quonset Naval Air Station, and within seconds their worst fears were confirmed as the flight leader contacted the tower.    As crash-rescue personnel were mobilized, hundreds of civilian curiosity seekers converged on the area clogging the roadways which hindered fire fighters battling numerous brush fires started by the falling debris, and search and rescue operations being conducted by the navy.  State and local police did their best to block access to the area, but the throngs of humanity were no match for the comparatively small contingent of law enforcement.   

     The dark night and poor visibility hampered search teams, and authorities had to deal with conflicting reports based on rumor and vague witness accounts.  It is therefore understandable why the following morning local newspapers erroneously reported that both pilots had been found, and that only one had suffered any injury. Unfortunately this was untrue.  While at the time the papers went to press Lieutenant Schollian had been located by searchers, Lieutenant Snipes was still missing. 

     As the sun came up on the morning of the 25th, a contingent of aircraft took off from Quonset NAS to conduct an aerial search of the vast wooded areas of Exeter and West Greenwich.  The search was partially delayed when one of the search aircraft developed engine trouble shortly after take-off and went down in Wickford Harbor.  Fortunately the crew escaped without serious injury, but some of the resources allocated to looking for Lieutenant Snipes had to be diverted to Wickford.  

     (That incident involved an AD Skyraider piloted by Lt. Comdr. Michael J. Baring.) 

     The body of Lieutenant Snipes was recovered on the morning of the 26th.   A memorial service for him was held the following Monday at the Quonset Chapel, and was attended by his squadron mates. 

     Jack Oliver Snipes was born October 1, 1928 in Greensboro, North Carolina, to Ransom Oliver, and Maude Elizabeth Snipes.  The family later moved to Nashville, Tennessee, where Jack attended local schools.  He attended North High School in Nashville from 1945-46, before transferring to East High School, also in Nashville.    

      Jack left high school during his senior year, and enlisted in the United States Navy on February 18, 1947.  After basic training in San Diego, California, he was sent to Aviation Fundamental School in in Jacksonville Florida, then on to Aviation/Aerial Photography School in Pensacola, Florida. From there he was assigned to Utility Squadron 10, (VU-10), stationed at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a photographer.       

Ensign Jack O. Snipes
U.S. Navy

    While in the navy, Jack completed his high school studies and received his GED from East High School in 1948.  He later applied for and was accepted to pilot training school.  He began flight training on January 26, 1949 at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, and did extremely well.  After Pensacola, he was sent for advanced training at the naval air station in Corpus Christi, Texas, where he was stationed from March thru September of 1950.  On September 20, 1950, he received his officer’s commission as an Ensign in the United States Naval Reserve, as well as his navy pilot’s wings. 

     After being sent to Whiting Field in Florida for more advanced training, Ensign Snipes was assigned to Fighter Squadron 71, (VF-71), and transferred to Quonset Point, R.I., where he reported for duty on November 18, 1950.       

     In January of 1952, VF-71 was assigned to Carrier Group Seven, Atlantic Fleet, to conduct test flights of the Navy’s new F9F-5 Grumman Panther fighter jets equipped with various experimental engines to determine how the different engines would affect the operational performance of the aircraft in simulated combat conditions.   One can see the potential hazards connected with such an assignment.  Testing took place 24/7 under any and all types of weather conditions, because the information to be learned was considered vitally important to the on-going war effort in Korea. This testing period continued until March 1, 1952.

     For his participation in these test flights, Ensign Snipes received a letter of commendation in his navy personnel jacket which stated in part: “The Commanding Officer notes with pride that as a pilot attached to this command during the tests, you bravely and unselfishly participated in hazardous test flying.  Your excellent performance of duty reflected credit to the squadron.”     

U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

  On May 14, 1952, VF-71 was transferred to the aircraft carrier Bon Homme Richard, (CV-31).  During this time period the squadron was flying F9F Panther jets. The Bon Homme Richard sailed into the Korean Theatre of Operations on June 22, 1952.  

     The following day Ensign Snipes participated in a coordinated air strike on a hydro-electric complex in North Korea for which he was later awarded the Air Medal with gold Combat Star.   

     His award citation reads as follows: “For meritorious achievement while participating in aerial flight as a pilot of a jet fighter plane attached to Fighter Squadron Seventy One, during operations against enemy Communist Forces in North Korea on 23 June 1952, Ensign Snipes bravely and skillfully executed two bombing and strafing runs against Fusen number two hydro-electric power plant obtaining hits in the target area.  He inflicted serious damage to the installation in the face of enemy anti-aircraft fire and contributed materially in the complete destruction of this vital plant.  His outstanding courage and skillful airmanship were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service”   

     Between September 22, 1952, and December 12, 1952,  Ensign Snipes flew twenty combat missions over North Korea.

     According to fitness evaluations in Ensign Snipes’ navy personnel file, he was considered an excellent pilot and showed great leadership capabilities. He was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on October 17, 1952.             

     After serving aboard the Bon Homme Richard, VF-71 returned to duty at Quonset Point.  One week before his death Ensign Snipes had visited his sister in Nashville.  He’s buried in the Prospect Free Will Baptist Cemetery in Erwin, North Carolina.   To see photos of his grave, click here: www.findagrave.com

    Lieutenant (Jg.) James Schollian continued to serve in the Navy until his retirement in 1976 at the rank of captain.     

VF-71 Aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard Lt. Jg. Snipes standing third from left, back row. Lt. Jg. Schollian third from left, front row.   U.S. Navy Photo - Click To Enlarge

VF-71 Aboard the USS Bon Homme Richard
Lt. Jg. Snipes standing third from left, back row.
Lt. Jg. Schollian third from left, front row.
U.S. Navy Photo – Click To Enlarge

     The F2H-3 Banshee was a Cold War era, single-seat fighter jet, designed by the McDonnell Aircraft Corporation for the United States Navy. It was a large, well-armed, aircraft, measuring 44’, 10” in length, and 40’, 2” wide, capable of sailing through the sky at over 500 mph.  When fully loaded, it carried slightly more than eleven-hundred gallons of high octane aviation fuel, which could explain the massive fireball created when the collision occurred. 

     The word Banshee comes from Irish and Scottish folklore, and refers to a female spirit who is a harbinger of death.  It is said that banshees can attach themselves to a particular family, and when a member of that clan is about to die, the banshee will begin a melodic sorrowful moan foretelling the impending death.        

 

A portion of the F2H-3 Banshee  undergoing restoration  at the Quonset Air Museum.

A portion of the F2H-3 Banshee
undergoing restoration
at the Quonset Air Museum.

     In 2011, the Quonset Air Museum of Rhode Island acquired an F2H-3 Banshee in need of restoration.  Restoration was begun, and plans were underway to give it the same paint scheme and markings as the one flown by Lieutenant Snipes as a memorial to him.  Unfortunately, in March of 2015 a portion of the museum’s roof collapsed under the weight of heavy snow, and the building was closed to the public.  Then, for a variety of reasons, the museum was forced to permanently close in 2017.  Thus the project was never completed.     

     Update, October, 2107: The Quonset Air Museum Banshee has since been sold to a private individual who had the pieces transported to his property where he plans to continue the restoration.    

      The accident scattered debris from both aircraft over a wide area, and due to the rural nature of the towns of Exeter and West Greenwich, some of it was never recovered by the navy.  Over the years pieces have been found in the woods by hunters, hikers, and metal scrapers.       

A center-wing portion of the Quonset Air Museum F2H Banshee under restoration. Now in the possession of a private individual.

     According to a Providence Journal article dated 6-26-53, Navy crews buried the wreckage of Lieutenant Schollian’s Banshee “off Victory Highway where it fell to earth.”  It presumably lies there yet, waiting for the day when future development might bring it to light.  Those who find it may wonder how it came to be there.  Hopefully they will know of this story.     

Sources: 

Providence Journal, “2 Navy Jets Crash: Pilots Found, One badly Hurt”, June 25, 1953, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, ”Searchers Fail To Find Trace of Missing Banshee Jet Pilot”, June 26, 1953.

Providence Journal, “Fire Believed Started By Jet Flier Is Under Control After 17 Hours”, June 26, 1953, Pg. 6

Providence Journal, “Body Of Missing Jet Pilot Found”, June 27, 1953.

Woonsocket Call, “Quonset Fliers Safe In Crash In Search For Missing Airman”, June 25, 1953, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Jet Pilot’s Body Found In Woods In W. Greenwich”, June 26, 1953, Pg. 1

U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report #53 06 45

U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report #53 06 46

The Meridian Record Journal, “Pilot Hunted After Two Jets Crash In Air”, June 26, 1953.

Nashville Tennasean, “Nashville Pilot Sought After Mid-Air Crash” June 27, 1953 (Snipe’s mother and sister lived in Nashville at the time.)

Book, United States Navy Aircraft Since 1911, by Gordon Swanborough & Peter M. Bowers, Funk & Wagnalls, 1968.

The Naval-Aviator Network, Capt. James J. Schollian, (1948-1976)

Information supplied by Lawrence Webster, Aviation Archeologist & Historian.    

June, 2017 – Copy of Lt. Jg. Snipes’ navy personnel record.

Newport, R.I. – November 4, 1951

Newport, Rhode Island – November 4, 1951 

    

U.S. Navy  Grumman F9F Panther U.S. Navy Photo - National Archives

U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

     On Sunday, November 4, 1951, a flight of several U.S. Navy, Grumman F9F-5 Panther jets took off from Quonset Point for a routine training mission.  While over the Newport metropolitan area, one of the aircraft (Bu. No. 125269) suddenly began trailing “yellowish smoke” and loosing altitude.   

     The pilot, Ensign Ralph Anthony Lennon, 23, of Flushing, New York, elected to stay with the aircraft to maneuver it away from a populated area and aimed the plane towards the water near Easton’s Beach. 

     Witnesses on the ground reported that after trailing smoke, the plane suddenly burst into flame and began to break apart.  The tail section came down on top of a home at 77 Cottage Street while the main body of the plane came down on property at 396 and 428 Gibbs Avenue.  Cottage Street intersects with Gibbs Avenue, and the three locations are close to each other, and close to Easton Pond behind Easton’s Beach.

     Ensign Lennon was killed in the crash.  Had he not stayed with his aircraft it would have crashed in downtown Newport where the streets were crowded with people and traffic.  As it was, pieces of his jet rained down over an area a 1/2 mile from the crash site, with one piece reportedly narrowly missed a baby sleeping in its carriage.

     There were no reports of anyone on the ground being injured, and the debris that landed on homes didn’t start any fires. 

     Thousands of onlookers descended on the area, sifting through debris, trampling the scene, and hampering fire and rescue efforts. 

     The cause of the accident wasn’t immediately apparent.        

     Ensign Lennon was born October 9, 1928.  He graduated from Cardinal Hayes High School in The Bronx, N.Y., and the University of Iowa, before joining the navy in 1946.  He was a veteran of the Korean War, and at the time of his death was attached to VF-71, then stationed at Quonset Point.  He’s buried in Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, New York. 

     Sources:

     Newport Daily News, “Navy To Probe Crash Of Quonset Jet Plane In City” November 5, 1951, Page 1

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Jet Plane Crash Spectators Give harrowing Stories Of Incident”, November 5, 1951, page 1.

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Salvage Crew Clears Scene Of Jet Crash”, November 6, 1951, page 3.

     www.Findagrave.com – Ralph Anthony Lennon

     

    

Narragansett Bay – October 11, 1942

Narragansett Bay – October 11, 1942 

     At 3:15 p.m. on October 11, 1942, Aviation Radioman Stanley D Overfelt, 25, was killed when the aircraft he was on crashed in Narragansett Bay during dive bombing training.   No further details are available. 

     Mr. Overfelt was from Clarence, Missouri. According to his death certificate, he was assigned to VS-42.

     Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-31

     Update: August 13, 2015.   What may be the same incident is mentioned in a New York Times snippet with no title, dated October 12, 1942, which stated that an airplane believed to have been carrying two men went down in Narragansett Bay.  No names were given.     

     Update: June 19, 2017

     Stanley D. Overfelt is buried in Maple Hills Cemetery, in Kirksville, Missouri.  Source: www.findagrave.com, memorial #59737610 

Near Tiverton, R.I. – September 29, 1942

Near Tiverton, Rhode Island – September 29, 1942

     At 8:16 a.m., on September 29, 1942, Aviation Machinist’s Mate James Harris Elmer, Jr., 18, was killed in a plane crash, “near Tiverton”.  No further details are available.

     He was from Bridgeton, New Jersey, and is buried in Fernwood Cemetery in Hopewell Township, N.J.

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-29

     Findagrave.com  Memorial # 144801195  (Shows a photo of the grave.)

Quonset Point NAS – May 2, 1944

Quonset Point NAS – May 2, 1944

    

     On May 2, 1944, a TBM-1C Avenger, (25430) was taking off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station when a wing folded and the plane crashed into Narragansett Bay off the end of Runway 19. 

     The Avenger generally carried three men, and there was at least one casualty.  Lieut. (Jg. )William Hinson Gallagher, 22, of Charlotte, North Carolina, was killed.   He’s buried in Elmwood Cemetery in Charlotte, in plot DX-121. 

     For photos of his gravesite go to the find-a-grave link below and click on “Search 121 grave records”.   www.findagrave.com    

     It is unknown at the time of this posting if there were other fatalities involved with this accident.

Sources:

Rhode Island Department Of health Death Records.

Find A Grave website www.findagrave.com

Larry Webster – Aviation Historian & Archeologist

 

 

 

Off North Kingstown, R.I. – June 28, 1942

Off North Kingstown, Rhode Island – June 28, 1942

  

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 10:30 a.m. on June 28, 1942, army aviator (rank unknown) Robert M. Flanders, 24, was killed when the airplane he was piloting crashed at the water at the east end of Hope Island, which is located in Narragansett Bay, just off shore from the former Quonset Naval Air Station in North Kingstown.   The type of aircraft and details of the accident are unknown.

     Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-23  

    Update September 15, 2015:  Robert Flanders was a 2nd Lieutenant, and was from Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The aircraft he was piloting was a P-40E (#40-440)

    Sources:

     New York Times, “4 Army Fliers Die In Ohio”, June 29, 1942.  (The article covered more than one plane crash.)

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archaeologist.

     Update March 2, 2016:   This accident occurred while Lt. Flanders, and 2nd Lt. David H. Brown were engaged in a mock aerial dogfight at 15,000 feet in their P-40 airplanes.  At one point, Lt. Flanders’ P-40 began to dive at high speed, reaching the speed of 400 mph.  At 8,000 feet he began to pull out of the dive at which point his plane exploded in mid-air. 

     A statement filed by Lt. Brown to Army investigators reads as follows:

     “Lt. Flanders and I were on a combat mission when his plane exploded and he met his death.

     We were on oxygen and fighting at 15,000 feet at this time.  Lt. Flanders rolled over on his back and started down in a split-S.  I immediately rolled over and followed him down.  As he started to pull out at about 8,000 feet, and traveling at approximately 400 mph, there was a terrific explosion and his plane went to pieces.”    

      The accident was also witnessed by at least three observers on Hope Island, all of whom basically stated that after the explosion the plane fell nose first into the water.

     It was the opinion of the accident investigation committee that the explosion originated in the reserve fuel tank, possibly caused by a portion of engine cowling being ripped loose from the force of the dive and cutting into the tank.  

     Both pilots were attached to the 66th Fighter Squadron then based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island. 

     Lt. Flanders had obtained his pilots rating on May 29, 1942.

     Lt. Flanders was born June 23, 1917, and died just five days after his 24th birthday. He’s buried in Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence, Massachusetts.

     Sources: 

     United States Army Crash Investigation Report#42-6-28-8

     www.findagrave.com

     Updated March 9, 2016

     On June 12, 1942, sixteen days before his fatal accident, Lt. Flanders had a close call while flying another P-40 aircraft, (Ser. No. 41-36514).  On that date, he was returning to Hillsgrove Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island, after a routine training flight.  Just as he was landing, a strong gust of wind lifted the left wing, causing the right wing to touch the ground and send the plane into a 270 degree “ground loop”.  The aircraft suffered some damage, but Lt. Flanders was unhurt.

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-6-12-32, dated June 26, 1942.

    

  

East Providence, R.I. – January 12, 1943

East Providence, Rhode Island – January 12, 1943

Updated December 29, 2015

    

U.S. Navy SBD auntless National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy SBD auntless
National Archives Photo

     At 3:00 p.m. on January 12, 1943, two U.S. Navy SBD-4 Dauntless aircraft were returning to Quonset Point Naval Air Station after a patrol/photographic  flight when they encountered snow squalls over the Providence metropolitan area and were forced to make emergency landings. 

     One aircraft (Bu. No. 06925) attempted to land in a field near St. Mary’s Seminary on Pawtucket Avenue in East Providence, and in the process collided with a tree and flipped over.  The pilot, Ensign John Robert Jasper, 22, of St. Louis, Missouri, was killed, and his companion, Photographer 3C, Ollen Amay Stevens, 26, of  Detroit, Michigan, was seriously injured.

     St. Mary’s Seminary is today known as St. Mary’s Bay View Academy located at 3070 Pawtucket Avenue.  

    The second aircraft made a hard landing in another field about a quarter of a mile away.  The pilot, Ensign William E. McCarthy, 23, of Mansfield, Mass., and his companion, Seaman Apprentice Edward Goumond, 20, of Johnston, R.I., were slightly injured.      

     Ensign Jasper had just celebrated his 22nd birthday twelve days earlier on December 30th.   His body was brought to Quonset Naval Air Station In North Kingstown, Rhode Island in preparation for burial. He’s buried in Resurrection Cemetery in Afton, Missouri.  To see a picture of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see Memorial # 47782542. 

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records, #43-17

     Larry Webster, R. I. Aviation Archaeologist & Historian

     Newport Daily News, “Navy Pilot Killed In Crash Upstate”, January 13, 1943, page 12

    

North Smithfield, R. I. – May 19, 1959

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – May 19, 1959

 

F-89 Scorpion U. S. Air Force Photo

F-89 Scorpion
U. S. Air Force Photo

     On May 19, 1959, two U. S. Air Force F-89 Scorpion jets attached to the 58th Fighter Interceptor Squadron were dispatched from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to intercept an unidentified aircraft that appeared on air defense radar.  The flight was actually an unannounced drill.  Such drills were common, one air command would send a plane into another air command’s air space to test readiness and proficiency.

     The crew of one F-89 consisted of the pilot, Captain Arthur Canella, 29, and his radar observer, Lieutenant Robert J. Scearce Jr., 26.  Once airborne, Canella’s F-89 was designated the radio call sign, “Kilo November Nine”, and the other “Kilo November Ten”.  Even though they were scrambled out of Massachusetts, they were put in radio contact with the New York Air Defense Sector which was using the call sign “Occasion”. 

      Ironically, Lieutenant Scearce wasn’t scheduled to be on this particular flight.  He was supposed to be relieved at the end of his shift by another radar observer, but when the man showed up he asked Scearce to cover for him for an hour or so until he could register his car.  Scearce agreed, and thirty minutes later the scramble horn sounded.

      As the Scorpions sped through the upper atmosphere at 30,000 feet on an interception course, both jets found themselves flying in thick clouds, or “popeye” in Air Force jargon, and were forced to fly in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules).  Canella and Scearce, (Kilo November Nine) began closing in on the “target” using their on-board radar, while Kilo November Ten was positioned a few miles away serving as the surveillance aircraft per instructions from Occasion.  The following dialogue leading up to the accident is taken from a radio transcript submitted with the official Air Force Crash Investigation Report.  (59-5-19-2) 

OCCASION: “Kilo November Nine, your heading is two eight zero, your target, thirty five port now twelve miles.  Do you have a contact?”  

NINE: “Rog, we have a contact.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, Contact.” 

After a few moments of radio traffic between Occasion and the other aircraft: 

NINE: “Zero Nine has a Judy.” 

OCCASION: “Judy for zero nine.  Investigate, full I.D. please.” 

NINE: “Zero nine.” 

A few moments later: 

OCCASION: “Ten, nine is now a mile and a half behind the target, you hold them both the port side twenty five degrees at fourteen to thirteen miles.” 

TEN: “Roger, ten” 

OCCASION: “Ten, they’re in ten miles.  Do you have a contact?”  (Occasion was informing ten that nine and the target were now within ten miles of his aircraft and asking if he had them on radar.)  

TEN: “Negative, ten seems to be bent here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger ten, let’s come port two eight zero degrees that’ll place them fifteen to twenty your port side at seven to eight miles.” 

TEN: “Roger two eight.” 

OCCASION: “Nine, are you Victor Fox now?” (Asking if Nine was now above the cloud cover and flying on Visual Flight, (Victor Fox), Rules.) 

TEN: “Roger, we’re on top at thirty seven.” (The report lists ten as answering, but nine was asked the question.  This could be a typo.) 

OCCASION: “Ten, your heading two seven zero, the target will be your two thirty position twelve miles.” 

TEN: “Roger, understand, two thirty at twelve.  Do you have a stranger passing about twelve o’clock at four or five miles?”  (Apparently the aircraft’s radar was picking up another plane and was asking if Occasion had it on their radar.)  

OCCASION: “Ten, that’s negative, you have a stranger off your starboard side at one thirty at fourteen.  I have no stranger that neck of your position.”  

OCCASION: “Ten, I now have a stranger in your heading of two seven zero in your ten o’clock position at six.” 

After some course correction instructions between Occasion and Ten, Occasion checks on Nine. 

OCCASION: “Nine, are you still popeye?” 

NINE: “That’s affirm, I think we are going to get him soon here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine.” 

OCCASION: “Ten, what state fuel?” 

TEN: “Roger, ten has ten thousand pounds, oxygen sweet.” (10,000 lbs. of fuel and plenty of oxygen to breathe due to the altitude.) 

OCCASION: “Roger, ten continue at gate your pigeons home plate zero seven zero degrees at forty five.” (“gate your pigeons” – Air Force slang for use afterburner for maximum power.) 

TEN: “Roger.  Forty-five starboard twenty four.” 

NINE: “It’s a B-47 type aircraft, I’ll pull in and get numbers.”  (The pilot was required to get the serial number on the tail of the target aircraft as proof they had identified it.) 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine, we’re standing by.” 

OCCASION: “Kilo November Ten, starboard three-three zero.” 

TEN: “Roger three-three.” 

NINE: “Zero nine is breaking it off.  I’ll give you the numbers here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine, nine break port – port one eight zero degrees the hard way.  I’ll join ten up with you.”  

NINE: “I’ve already broken starboard, I’d had to break into the aircraft to break                               port.” 

     This was the last radio transmission received from Kilo November Nine.      

     Canella and Scearce had broken to starboard, and unknowingly began heading almost straight down due to the lack of visual reference points.  The aircraft began picking up speed, and then broke the sound barrier, something it was not designed to do.  When it finally broke free of the clouds the situation became apparent, and the crew was forced to eject.  

     The Plexiglas canopy flew off as explosive charges under the crews’ seats blew them free of the cockpit.  For the two men, hitting the slipstream at 700 mph was like being slammed into a brick wall. Both injured their shoulders in the bail out leaving them incapable of controlling their parachutes as they descended.   

     Meanwhile, those at Air Defense Command began to realize something was wrong.  Both Occasion and Kilo November Ten tried to radio Nine, but got no response.  Occasion reported to Ten that they had lost Nine on radar.  

OCCASION: “Kilo November Ten, your Nine should now have gone off  your starboard side.  His last position that I had him was about fifteen your port side seven miles.”   

TEN: “Roger, you still have no paint on him?” 

OCCASION: “Negative, I’m not painting his parrot, (not on radar) I lost him, you heard the last transmission that he made to us as he turned starboard.” 

TEN: “Roger, you want to clear me down through this stuff, (the clouds) I’ll drop on down here a little bit lower.” 

OCCASION:  “Ten that negative, be advised we’re over land and if anything did                             happen to Nine, no sense taking you down there too.”  (Kilo November Ten was the given instructions to return back to Otis AFB.) 

     The men bailed out over the city of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  Many on the ground who witnessed the parachutes deploy first thought it was all part of a stunt connected to the upcoming Madi Gras celebration.       

Former U. S. Rubber Company, aka Alice Mill,  at 85 Fairmont Street, Woonsocket, R. I.   The mill burned to the ground in June of 2011

Former U. S. Rubber Company, aka Alice Mill,
at 85 Fairmont Street, Woonsocket, R. I.
The mill burned to the ground in June of 2011

     Lieutenant Scearce landed hard on the roof of the U.S. Rubber Company at 85 Fairmont Street,   suffering from multiple serious injuries connected to the bailout.  

      Employees of the plant climbed to the roof using a fire escape.  Dorothy Kane, the industrial nurse for the company, began administering first aid while police and firemen converged on the area.  Scearce was transported to Woonsocket Hospital where he stayed for the next eleven days.        

      Meanwhile, Captain Canella landed in Harris Pond next to the Precious Blood Cemetery in northern Woonsocket.  Looking down during his descent he saw 17-year-old Roland Ruge working in the cemetery and began calling for help. The wind carried him across the cemetery and straight into Harris Pond where he became tangled in the cords of his parachute.   Acting quickly, Roland dove into the chilly water and swam 200 feet from shore to reach Canella.  Roland struggled to pull the injured flyer to shore while keeping his head above water.  As he neared shore someone threw him a rope. 

     Both Canella and Ruge were transported to Woonsocket Hospital for treatment.  While the captain was admitted for his injuries, Roland was treated for hypothermia and released.   

    While the crew of the F-89 came down in Woonsocket, the aircraft continued down into the neighboring town of North Smithfield, about 200 yards west of Greenville Road, (Rt. 104), at a point about three-tenths of a mile south of where Providence Street intersects with Smithfield Road.  The plane exploded in a massive fireball. 

     The wreckage at the crash site was scattered in a swath a half-mile long and roughly 300 feet wide.  Both engines were found intact approximately 300 feet past where the initial impact occurred.  The fires burned hot enough to melt the aluminum from the plane.  In one area, it was reported that the melted aluminum remained liquid until the firemen cooled it with water from their hoses. 

     The ejection seat belonging Lt. Scearce was later recovered by on Wright’s Farm on Woonsocket Hill Road, in North Smithfield, which is several miles away from where the air-crew parachuted to earth. 

     The Scorpion involved in this crash was an F-89 J, serial number 53-2621A.   

     While the aircrew lay recuperating at Woonsocket Hospital, Roland Ruge was hailed a hero by the Air Force for saving Captain Canella’s life.  Roland later received an official award from the Air Force and was given a tour of Otis Air Force Base.  While being given the tour, he was able to view the remains of the wrecked F-89, and was presented with the cockpit compass as a keepsake.     

Sources:

United States Air Force Crash Investigation Report #59-5-19-2

Woonsocket Call, “Two Bail Out Safely As AF Jet Crashes In North Smithfield”, May 19, 1959.

Providence Journal, “2 Airmen Hurt Parachuting”, May 20, 1959, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Crash Pilot Blames Going Too Fast”, May 20, 1959

Cape Cod Standard Times, “Plane Crashes In Rhode Island”, May 20, 1959   Cape Cod Standard Times, “Explosion Of Otis jet Being Probed”, May 20, 1959

Cape Cod Standard Times, “Investigation Is Continuing”, May 21, 1959

Woonsocket Call, “AF, Pilot’s Wife Pour Thanks On Hero Ruge”, May 21, 1959

Providence Journal, “Gathering Up Of Fighter Pieces Begins”, May 21, 1959, Pg. 19

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narragansett Bay – February 25, 1945

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – February 25, 1945 

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On February 25, 1945, Ensign Thomas William McSteen, 21, was killed when the F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70670) he was piloting crashed near Fox Island in the west passage of Narragansett Bay, between Jamestown and the mainland.  Ensign McSteen and three other Hellcat aircraft were taking part in a carrier landing training exercise at the time.  After examining the recovered aircraft, investigators concluded the accident occurred as a result of engine failure.  

     Ensign McSteen graduated Mt. Lebanon, Penn. High School in 1941, and enlisted in the navy in February of 1943. He received his Ensign’s commission and his pilot’s wings at Pensacola Naval Air Station in Pensacola, Florida, in July of 1944.

     Ensign McSteen was survived by his wife Margaret Elizabeth, who he married at Pensacola NAS on July 22, 1944.  He’s buried in St. Mary’s Cemetery in Pennsylvania.    

  

Image from  "That We Might Have A Better World" by the Mt. Lebanon, Penn. School Dist. 1946 CLICK TO ENLARGE

Image from
“That We Might Have A Better World” by the Mt. Lebanon, Penn. School Dist. 1946
CLICK TO ENLARGE

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian & Archaeologist

     Pittsburgh Post – Gazzette, “Mt. Lebanon Girl Ensign’s Bride”, July 30, 1944 

     Historic Pitsburgh General Text Collection – Pittsburgh Library, “That We Might Have A Better World”, authored by the Mt. Lebanon School District, 1946. www.images.library.pitt.edu 

U.S. Navy Accident Report dated February 25, 1945

Hopkinton, R.I. – December 13, 1945

Hopkinton, Rhode Island – December 13, 1945

SB2C Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

SB2C Helldiver

U.S. Navy Photo

     On December 13, 1945, an SB2C-4E Helldiver (Bu. No. 83080) took off from Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a gunnery training flight.  While making a tight turn in the air at 1,400 feet, the plane suddenly spun in and crashed in woodland off Panciera Road in the town of Hopkinton, Rhode Island.  (The area of the crash is approximately eight miles from the airfield.) 

     Both crewmen aboard were killed instantly.  They were:

     (Pilot) Ensign Kenneth Walter Barnes, 25, of Cincinnati, Ohio.  He’s buried in St. Joseph’s New Cemetery in Cincinnati. He was survived by his wife Dorothy. 

    Aviation Ordnanceman 3cl Charles Otmar Henninger, 28, of Sumner, Iowa. He’s buried at St. Peter’s Evan. Cemetery in Bremer Co. Iowa.  He was survived by his wife Geneva.  For more information about the life of Charles Henninger see the website “Bremer County Veterans Affairs” at  www.bremercountyva.org/gravesite/charles-otmar-henninger/

     Sources:

     (book) BuNos! Dispostion of World War II USN, USMC, And USCG Aircraft Listed By Bureau Numbers, by Douglas E. Campbell, copyright 2012.

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records: 45-118, and 45-119. 

     Findagrave.com- Charles Otmar Henninger, Memorial # 27384806

     Findagrave.com – Kenneth Walter Barnes, Memorial # 129069814

     Bremer County Veterans Affairs website – see above.

     U.S. Navy Crash Brief, 6-45 

Charlestown, R.I. – April 17, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – April 17, 1944

Great Swamp

Updated July 8, 2017 

 

Hellcat Fighters
U.S. Navy Photo

     On April 17, 1944, a flight of four F6F-3 Hellcats left Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a familiarization training flight.   During the flight the aircraft flew in a line of four, in a “follow the leader” type of pattern.  It was during a phase of the exercise when the aircraft were changing positions in the formation that a mid-air collision between two of the aircraft occurred.  Both aircraft, (Bu. No. 40345), piloted by Ensign Stephen L. Smith, 21, and (Bu. No. 66034), piloted by Lieutenant Robert C. Stimson, 27, crashed and exploded in a wooded portion of the “Great Swamp” area of Charlestown.  Neither pilot survived.

     Ensign Stephen Luther Smith was from of St. Andrews, Florida. He’s buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Panama City, Florida.  (See www.findagrave.com, memorial #32844142)

     Lieutenant Robert Charles Stimson was from of Shelby, Ohio, and was survived by his wife. He’s buried in Oakland Cemetery in Shelby.  To read more about Lt. Stimson, and to see photographs of him, go to www.findagrave.com, memorial 73196817.

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records       

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-12263

North Kingstown, R.I. – March 30, 1950

North Kingstown, R. I. – March 30, 1950

Near Quonset Point Naval Air  Station

   

F4U-4 Corsair 81347 Pilot: Ens. Henry F. Hite Killed March 30, 1950 North Kingstown, Rhode Island Navy Photo

F4U-4 Corsair 81347
Pilot: Ens. Henry F. Hite
Killed March 30, 1950
North Kingstown, Rhode Island
Navy Photo

   On March 30, 1950, two U.S. Navy F4U Corsairs collided in mid-air about a mile from the Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  One plane crashed in a residential neighborhood, and the other in woodland.  Both pilots were killed.

     The pilots were identified as Ensign John Hall, 22, of Hamburg, New York, and Ensign Henry F. Hite Jr., 23, of Waco, Texas.

     Source: New York Times, “Air Collision Kills Two”, April 1, 1950

 

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island

     On September 8, 1949, Ensign Henry J. Harling, 22, of Staten Island, N.Y. was piloting a Grumman Bearcat at 25,000 feet over the ocean when his aircraft caught fire.  Witnesses on boats reported seeing a plane trailing smoke crash into the water off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island.  Planes and rescue boats were immediately launched to search for Ensign Harling, but nothing was found.

     Source: New York Times, “Navy Pilot Dives In Sea” , September 9, 1949 

Block Island Sound, R.I. – July 13, 1944

Block Island Sound, Rhode Island – July 13, 1944

5 miles off Charlestown, R.I.

    

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

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

     Ensign Gerald Vivian Brosteaux was killed during a night training flight July 13, 1944 when the F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. #42254), he was piloting crashed in the water five miles off Charlestown, Rhode Island.

     Ensign Brosteaux was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 102 at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  He’s buried in Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego OSA Site 25-A.

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

     Findagrave.com #67092141   

Off Block Island – August 1, 1944

Off Block Island – August 1, 1944

    

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

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

     On August 1, 1944, a U. S. Navy F6F-3N Hellcat fighter assigned to VF(N)-104 at Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station, in Charlestown, Rhode Island, crashed in shallow water just off Block Island, R.I.  The pilot, Rex Milton, (Rank unknown.) escaped injury, and swam to shore. 

     It was reported that the aircraft would be recovered.

    

 

      Sources:

     Newport Mercury, “Navy Gives Names Of Missing Flyers”, August 4, 1944.  The newspaper article’s headline refers to another crash in which three navy airmen were lost off Block Island on July 28, 1944.  This accident is also mentioned in the article.  

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist.

      

Off Block Island – July 28, 1944

Off Block Island – July 28, 1944

    

U.S. Navy Avengers National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy Avengers
National Archives Photo

     On the night of July 28, 1944, a U.S. Navy TBM-1D Avenger (Bu. No. 47455) was on a routine flight over the Atlantic Ocean -possibly on anti-submarine patrol – when it crashed about five miles south of Block Island.  Exactly what happened to the aircraft was never determined. 

      The aircraft was assigned to Escort Scouting Squadron 13, (VC-13). 

      All three crewmen aboard were lost.

     (The Pilot) Lieutenant William Van Arsdale Wilson, of Marysville, Calif.  Lt. Wilson was born July 4, 1919, and enlisted in the Naval Air Corps in August of 1941.  He was promoted to Lt. (jg.) in June, 1943, and to full Lieutenant on July 1, 1944.  He’d been with VC-13 for 19 months.  He’s buried in New Castle Cemetery in Newcastle, California.  (See Findagrave.com  #9376360 for a photo of his grave.)

     Aviation Radioman 2C Lloyd Elmer Hay, of Apopka, Fla.  AV2C Hay was born April 15, 1921, and is buried at Ft. Donelson National Cemetery in Dover, Tenn.  (See Findagrave.com  #132967419 for a photo of his grave.)

     Aviation Meatelsmith 2C James Wilburn Glover.  

     Sources:

     Newport Mercury, Navy Gives Names Of Missing Flyers” August 4, 1944

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist.

     Findagrave.com

South Kingstown, R.I. – May 31, 1944

South Kingstown, Rhode Island – May 31, 1944

Worden’s Pond

     

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

     At 11:30 a.m. on May 31, 1944, Lt. Jg. Maxwell Michaux Corpening, 24, was killed when the U.S. Navy F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 58317), he was piloting crashed in Worden’s Pond during a training flight.   

     Lt. (jg.) Corpening  was part of a flight of seven Hellcats practicing dive bombing techniques.  According to the U.S. Navy Accident Report, after the fourth dive, the formation was joined by “three strange planes” that were “seen to dive from above and maneuver in weaving stern attacks on the Hellcats, who were in extended column formation.  The flight leader continued to circle and climb as any further bombing runs would have been inadvisable while the other planes were mixed in the formation.”

     The “strange planes” are not identified, however their actions led to the breakup of the formation, which led to a mid-air collision between Lt. (jg.) Corpening’s aircraft and another Hellcat.  The other Hellcat was able to land safely at Groton Naval Auxiliary Air Field.     

Sources:

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-44697, dated May 31, 1944

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.  (Many navy deaths during WWII were recorded in North Kingstown, (Not South Kingstown) because Quonset Point NAS was located in North Kingstown.)   

 

Woonsocket, R. I. – August 22, 1946

Woonsocket, Rhode Island – August 22, 1946

Barry Memorial Field

     On the afternoon of August 22, 1946, a U.S. Navy OY-1 training aircraft, (120461) took off from Weymouth (Mass.) Naval Air Station with two men aboard.  The pilot was identified as John Cote, of Belmont, Mass., and the passenger as Dr. Leonard P. Johnke. 

    Shortly before three o’clock, while the plane was over North Smithfield, Rhode Island, the engine began skipping and loosing power.  Cote began looking for a place to land, and saw Barry Memorial Field on the Woonsocket/North Smithfield town line.   As the plane lost altitude it barely missed the power lines of the New England Power Company on Greenville Road. 

     As they came upon the field they discovered that there was a youth baseball game in progress.  Sticking their heads out of the airplane they began shouting warnings for the players to get out of the way, but the boys just stood transfixed.  Seeing that the boys weren’t getting out of the way, Cote gave the plane full throttle and had just enough power to swoop low over their heads.  At the far end of the field he attempted to turn the plane around, and as he did so, nosed into the field.      

     Besides the players and spectators, the crash was witnessed by two Rhode Island state troopers who happened to be a block away at Park Square when the accident happened.  They transported Cote and Johnke to Woonsocket Hospital in the back of their patrol car to be treated for non life-threatening injuries. 

     This was not the first time an aircraft had landed in Barry Field.  On June 27, 1934, a Greenfield, Mass. couple en-route from Greenfield to Boston got lost in foggy weather due to a malfunctioning compass.  While trying to orient themselves, they came upon Woonsocket, and landed at Barry Field to get their bearings.  

Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “”Plane Crashes At Barry Field; Two Injured”, August 22, 1946

Woonsocket Call, “Crash Victims Leave Hospital”, August 24, 1946

Woonsocket Call, “Aviator Lands At Barry Field Here To Get Bearings”, June 28, 1934.

 

 

Charlestown, R. I. – March 8, 1946

Charlestown, Rhode Island – March 8, 1946

       

Early U.S. Navy Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

Early U.S. Navy Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On March 8, 1946, Ensign Clinton Graham Thornton was piloting an SB2C-5 Helldiver, (Bu. No. 89304) on a training flight with five other aircraft.  The aircraft were practicing dive-bombing techniques, and Thornton’s aircraft was in the number 2 position in a line of six. 

     The flight leader was executing a series of maneuvers with the other five planes following behind.  At one point Thornton’s Helldiver spun out of control and crashed about 2,000 feet north-east of a church belonging to the Narragansett Indian Tribe.  Ensign Thornton was unable to bail out and was killed.

     Ensign Thornton was based at Quonset Point, assigned to VT-74

     Source: Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist      

Quonset Point NAS – April 6, 1945

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – April 6, 1945

North Kingstown, Rhode Island

    

U.S. Navy TBM Avengers  National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy TBM Avengers
National Archives Photo

     On April 6, 1945, two TBM Avengers assigned to Night Torpedo Squadron 55 at Quonset Point, were taking off at the same time for a night training mission when they collided at the intersection of runways 19 and 28. 

     Lt. Jg. John Frederick Kalb, 25, of West Helena, Arkansas, in aircraft #46123, was killed.

     Lt. Jg. W. F. Leeker in aircraft #16885, was seriously injured, but survived.  

     Night Torpedo Squadron 55 was commissioned at Quonset Point NAS on March 1, 1945.  The squadron’s first fatal accident occurred not long afterwards on March 9, 1945, when Lt. Jg. Harold Boren was killed when his plane crashed in Westerly, Rhode Island, during an instrument training flight. 

     For more information about Night Torpedo Squadron 55 see the website;  vtn55.org 

     Sources:

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-30 

     Night Torpedo Squadron 55 history        

West Greenwich, R.I. – April 24, 1946

West Greenwich, Rhode Island – April 24, 1946 

     On April 24, 1946, two navy F4U Corsairs on a training flight out of Quonset Point NAS were involved in a mid-air collision over West Greenwich.  Moments later, the pilot of one plane bailed out.  His Corsair, (81416), came down onto a house and exploded, killing a mother and her 2-year-old son.   

     Despite a damaged wing, the pilot of the other Corsair, (81312), managed to make it back to the Quonset Naval Air Station. 

     Both planes were assigned to VBF-82.

     The dead were identified as Mrs. Eva Parenteau, 30, and her son Raymond.   Mrs. Parenteau’s other two children, Phillip, 9, and Joseph, 8, were playing in a nearby yard at the time and weren’t injured.   

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Mother, Baby Killed, Plane Crash Probed”, April 25, 1946, Pg. 1 

Narragansett Bay – September 1, 1944

Narragansett Bay – September 1, 1944

     On September 1, 1944, Lt. Charles W. Turner took off from  Hillsgrove Army Air Field in a P-47D Thunderbolt, (42-8666) for a routine training flight.  At some point the aircraft developed engine trouble and Turner was forced to make a belly landing in the water about 3/4 of a mile off Conimicut Point, between the Conimicut and Pomham light houses.

     As the plane sank, Turner scrambled out and inflated his life vest which kept him afloat in the chilly water.  As luck would have it, he landed near a boat with two teenagers inside, Amy Heddenberg, 15, and William Smythe, 16, who quickly rescued the downed airman.  

     Turner was brought ashore at the foot of Stokes Street in Warwick, where he was met by Warwick police patrolman Albert Izzi who brought the pilot back to Hillsgrove.  Turner was standing before his commanding officer before rescue parties from Hillsgrove had reached the shore. 

     The plane was wrecked, but Turner was unhurt.   

     Source:

     Providence Journal, “Army Pilot Unhurt In Crash Into Bay”, September 2, 1944, Pg. 3

    

East Greenwich, R. I. – May 16, 1944

East Greenwich, Rhode Island – May 16, 1944 

Near the Exeter town line, off Shippey Road

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On May 16, 1944, Lt. Cmdr. David Wooster Taylor, 32, took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in a F6F-3 Hellcat (Bu. No. 41944) for a routine training mission.  He was killed when his aircraft crashed and burned at the Sunset Valley Reservation in East Greenwich.  The cause of the crash was not stated in newspapers.

     Taylor was survived by his wife Virginia, and two young children, Jean, 4, and David, 3.

     A housing development now stands on the site where this accident took place.

     Lt. Cmdr. Taylor was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross while assigned to the aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) for his part in an attack against enemy shipping off Bodo, Norway, on October 4, 1943.   

Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Lt. Cmdr. D. W. Taylor Killed In Plane Crash”, May 17, 1944, Pg. 1

North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

      

Charlestown, R.I. – May 14, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 14, 1944

    

F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On May 14, 1944, Ensign James Patrick Gannon, 22, of Jersey City, N.J., was flying an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42389)  practicing dive bombing at Worden’s Pond in Charlestown, R.I., when according to a witness, “something white” fell away from his plane.  The Hellcat then went into a roll and dove into the ground.  Gannon was killed instantly. 

     The cause of the crash was never determined. 

     Ensign Gannon is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, New Jersey.

Sources:

Hudson Dispatch, “Two Jersey City Fliers Killed In Plane Crashes”, May 16, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

The crater left by Ensign Gannon's Hellcat when it crashed on May 14, 1944.

The crater left by Ensign Gannon’s Hellcat when it crashed on May 14, 1944.

 

 

 

 

Wickford, R.I. – December 8, 1943

Wickford, Rhode Island – December 8, 1943

     On December 8, 1943, a U.S. Navy SB2C-1C Helldiver, (#18272) crashed in the woods behind the Wickford Barracks of the Rhode Island State Police.  According to one witness, the aircraft had a broken wing as it fell.  The pilot was killed.

    The pilot was Ross Allen Bennett, 22, of Amarillo, Texas.  He’s buried in Llano Cemetery in Amarillo.  

Source: Larry Webster, Aviation Archeologist and Historian.

       

Tiverton, R.I. – June 14, 1943

Tiverton, Rhode Island – June 14, 1943

Updated April 27, 2016

     On June 14, 1943, a Corsair I on loan to the British Navy, (#JT-110), piloted by British aviator Lieutenant Anthony Max Leslie Harris, crashed into a wooded area near the Old Stone Church Cemetery in the Adamsville section of Tiverton, R.I.  The plane exploded on impact and Harris was killed. 

    Harris was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve serving at Quonset Point Naval Air Station. 

     Lt. Harris is buried in Island cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com, Memorial #15037581

     Sources;

    Woonsocket Call, “British Aviators Named In R. I. Fatal Crashes”, June 17, 1943, Pg1.

    Larry Webster, Aviation Archeologist & Historian

     www.findagrave.com

   

Warwick, R. I. – April 6, 1943

Warwick, Rhode Island – April 6, 1943

     On April 6, 1943, a U.S. Army P-47C (41-6321) was coming in to land at Hillsgrove Army Air Field when the pilot overshot the runway and crashed into a private home at 252 Strawberry Field Road.  The plane tore into the structure seriously injuring a 70-year-old woman sitting in the living room.  Her two grandchildren had just left the room and gone into the kitchen moments before the crash occurred.  They were not injured. 

     The pilot had shut off the engine just before striking the house thereby averting a fire.  He crawled from the cockpit with only a scratch to the back of his neck.   He was assigned to the 340th Fighter Squadron, 348th Fighter Group.  

     The house suffered extensive damage and was knocked off its foundation. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Woman Hurt As Plane Rips Into Dwelling”, April 7, 1943, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Army Plane Smashes House In Warwick; Woman Injured”, April 7, 1943, Pg. 1

Warwick, R. I. – November 2, 1942

Warwick, Rhode Island – November 2, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 2, 1942, two U.S. Army P-40 fighter planes, based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, were on a training flight over Narragansett Bay when they collided in mid-air.   

     One plane, (41-14135), piloted by Staff Sgt. John W. Smallseed, 21, of Newton Falls, Ohio, suffered minor damage and was able to return safely to Hillsgrove.    

     The second plane, (41-14183), piloted by 2nd Lt. William H. Pierson, 23, of Chicago, suffered heavy wing damage, and he was forced to bail out.  After the bailout, Pierson’s plane continued on and crashed in the center of the intersection of Barton Street and Grand Avenue in the Warwick Neck Section of the city. 

     The aircraft narrowly missed an automobile being driven by Edward W. Thurber of Pawtuxet.  The explosion of the P-40’s impact spewed debris and gasoline onto his car setting it on fire.  Thurber, not knowing for sure what had just happened, jumped from his flaming car and allowed it to roll down a hill where it came to rest in a vacant lot and continued to burn.   

     A home at 49 Barton Avenue was also set on fire, but the owner was able to extinguish the flames with a garden hose. 

     Mrs. Forrest B. Morgan of Grand Avenue told reporters that she had been standing where the plane crashed for twenty minutes waiting for her daughter.  She had just started back towards her home when the plane hit and was not injured.

     Meanwhile, Lt. Pierson was seen landing in Narragansett Bay where he disappeared after hitting the water.  Four volunteer firemen from the Conimicut Fire Department launched a boat to rescue Pierson, but needed to be rescued themselves when their boat capsized in the rough water. 

     Some reports were later received that Pearson had been rescued, but these were found to be in error.  He was officially reported as “missing”.  

     Harry Robbins, an eye witness to the crash, told reporters, “One (plane) passed under the other and the two wings hit.  The bottom plane turned over a couple of times, the pilot jumped out, and one wing started to smoke.  Then the plane made two wide circles and I saw it coming towards me.  The explosion it made when it landed was deafening.” 

Source:

Providence Journal, “Two Army Planes Collide Over bay; One Pilot Missing”, November 3, 1942, Pg. 1

          

   

North Kingstown, R.I. – August 21, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island – August 21, 1944

The Rose Hill area of Saunderstown

    

U.S. Navy Avengers National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy Avengers
National Archives Photo

     On August 21, 1944, a flight of TBM Avengers out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station were flying in formation over southern Rhode Island when one aircraft grazed its wing against the elevator of another sending it down over the Saunderstown section of North Kingstown.  The plane’s wing struck the roof of a vacant house belonging to Mrs. Mabel Barton before it crashed nose first into the side yard and exploded.  Flaming gasoline showered the home and set it ablaze.  All three crewmen aboard were killed instantly.

     The three men who lost their lives were:

     Walter Lee Miller Jr., 21, of Morton, Texas.

     Joseph Camel Beam, 20, of Pottstown, Penn.

     Donald Joseph Finkler, 19, of Cleveland, Ohio

     The other aircraft involved in the accident made it safely back to Quonset NAS.

     At the time of the crash, an 8-year-old boy was playing in his front yard nearby the Barton home, and suffered minor burns as a result of the flaming gasoline. 

     One eyewitness told reporters that after falling out of formation, the pilot had raced the motor in an effort to gain altitude.

     A second house in which an elderly invalid woman was residing was also set ablaze.  She was rescued by two Coast Guardsmen, Meredith E. Dobry, and Daniel Caruso, who happened to be in the area at the time of the crash.     

Sources:

Providence Journal, “Three Quonset Airmen Die As Plane Falls, Fires House”, August 22, 1944, Pg. 1

New York Times, “Plane Hits House; 3 Die”, August 22, 1944 

Town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.

 

Exeter, R. I. – September 8, 1943

Exeter, Rhode Island – September 8, 1943

Updated March 9, 2018

    

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     Navy pilot Ensign Robert R. Hirshkind was killed instantly when his F4U-1 Corsair, (Bu. No. 02368), crashed on the farm of Wallace Foster in the town of Exeter, R. I.  Ensign Hirshkind had been on a formation training flight out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station when the accident occurred.  Approximately 12 miles south-west of Wickford the flight encountered thick overcast that dropped nearly to the ground.  The accident occurred as the flight was descending through the overcast on instruments.  

     Ensign Hirshkind was assigned to Night Fighter Squadron 75, (VF(n)-75).

Sources:

     The Standard, “Exeter Plane Crash Kills Navy Pilot”, September 9, 1943, Pg. 8 

     U.S. Navy Accident report, #44-8367, dated September 8, 1943

Scituate, R. I. – June 17, 1943

Scituate, Rhode Island – June 17, 1943

    

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

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

     On June 17, 1943, a group of four army P-47 fighter aircraft left Hillsgrove Air Field in Warwick, R.I., for a training flight.  After an hour of flight time, the plane flown by 2nd Lt. Robert W. Powell developed engine trouble.  After notifying the flight leader of his situation his engine failed completely, and he was forced to “belly land” in an open field off Darby Road in the town of Scituate, R.I.   In coming down, the plane clipped the top of a tree, and skidded into a stone wall surrounded by brush.  The plane remained upright, and there was no fire.  Lt. Powell was relatively uninjured. 

 

 

     Scituate MapOne interesting footnote to this incident is the area in which this crash occurred.  Few people know that during World War II the former Suddard farm on Darby Road was the site of a top secret radio monitoring post, protected by armed guards, and staffed 24 hours a day by people tasked with listening to radio transmissions all over the world.  For some unexplained reason, this area of Scituate is capable of doing so.   

     The site was established in March of 1941, and remained in operation throughout the war.  It was credited for saving the Queen Mary with 10,000 troops aboard, and for preventing Japanese attempts to bomb American soil using hot air balloons. 

     Of course, Lt. Powell had no idea of this when he made his unexpected landing just down the street. 

     Powell’s aircraft was a P-47C Ser# 41-6132, assigned to the 58th Fighter Group, 311th Fighter Squadron.

     Another footnote: This was not Lt. Powell’s only forced landing.  On October 21, 1944, he and seven other P-47 pilots were forced to ditch in the water when low on fuel after an attack mission.  Powell’s plane’s serial number was 43-25636.     

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Crash Investigation report #43-6-7-14

     Providence Journal, “Army Plane Lands In Scituate Field”, June 18, 1943, Pg. 4.

     P-47 Ditching Story, www.pbyrescue.com/stories/p47_story.htm

               

Warwick, R. I. – April 12, 1943

Warwick, Rhode Island – April 12, 1943

 

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

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

     On the morning of April 12, 1943, four army P-47C  Thunderbolts took off from Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick for a formation training flight.  The flight leader was 2nd Lt. Eldred G. Howard, with 2nd Lt. Gordon M. Kimpel in the number two position, followed by 2nd Lt. John H. Schrik, and 2nd Lt. Clifton D. Wheeler Jr.

     While flying an extended string formation at 8,000 feet, Lt. Howard pulled upwards expecting the other three planes to follow.  Lt. Kimpel followed, but the sun temporarily blinded him causing him to loose sight of Howard.  Kimpels’ aircraft (41-6634) then crashed into the rear of Howard’s (41-6174). 

     Howard’s plane went straight down into Narragansett Bay killing him.  Kimpel’s P-47 crashed in a swampy area off Cowesett Avenue in the Cowesett section of Warwick.  Kimpel managed to bail out, but was struck by the rear stabilizer of his plane and killed.  His body came down in a small pond near Meunier’s Shell Fish Company at Arnold’s Neck.    

      In his witness statement given later to army investigators, Lt. Schrik stated: “On April 12th, I was flying in a formation consisting of Lts. Howard, Wheeler, Kimpel, and myself.  The time was approximately 0845. I saw Lt. Howard’s and Lt. Kimpel’s planes collide and Lt. Howard’s plane went almost straight down.  I saw the plane hit the water and disappear.  As I was watching the plane during its entire descent, I know that Lt. Howard did not bail out or jump from the plane.”    

     Lt. Wheeler related the following in his statement.  “On April 12th, at approximately 0845, I was flying in a formation consisting of Lts. Howard, Kimpel, Schrik and myself.  I saw Lt. Howard’s and Lt. Kimpel’s planes collide.  Lt. Howard’s plane went straight down at an angle of about 35 degrees in a south easterly direction.  I saw the plane hit the water and know that Lt. Howard did not bail out or get out of the plane, as I watched it during the entire descent.  The plane disappeared immediately upon hitting the water.” 

     As a footnote to this incident, Lt. John H. Schrik did not survive the war.  He was killed in action in New Guinea on August 15, 1943, and is buried in Mount Emblem Cemetery, Elmhurst, Illinois. 

Sources:

Pawtucket Times, “Pilot Is Killed In Plane Crash”, April 12, 1943, Pg. 1 

U.S.  Army Crash Investigation Report # 43-4-12-7

Website: Find-A-Grave – John H. Schrik 

 

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 14, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – June 14, 1943

Updated April 27, 2016

    

    On June 14, 1943, Sub-Lieutenant Douglas Hamilton Morgan, (Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve) crashed on take-off at Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  The impact detonated a bomb the plane was carrying, fragments of which injured twenty-three men in the immediate area, but only three of them seriously.  

     Morgan initially survived the crash, but died the following day.  He was born in Edinburgh, Scotland, November 11, 1923, and was 19-years-old at the time of his death.  He was commissioned a midshipman in the R.N.V.R in 1942. 

     It was reported that Morgan was flying a single-seat aircraft, but the type was not specified. (Possibly a Corsair)  A newspaper account published June 17th mentioned another R.N.V.R. pilot was also killed on June 14 in an air crash in Rhode Island, but no specifics were given.  That pilot was identified as Lieutenant Anthony Max Leslie Harris, 20, R.N.V.R., of Surrey, England.    

     Update 1: It has since been learned that Lt. Harris was killed when his Corsair I crashed behind a church in Tiverton, Rhode Island, on June 14, 1943.   

     Update 2:    

Quonset Point NAS June 14, 1943 U.S. Navy Photo

Quonset Point NAS
June 14, 1943
U.S. Navy Photo

     There is information to suggest that Sub-Lieutenant Morgan’s aircraft crashed into a bomb bunker setting off a series of explosions which might explain the high number of casualties connected to this incident.

     The aircraft piloted by Sub-Lieutenant Morgan was a Corsair I, on loan to the British.  

     (U.S. Navy Bu. No. 18139)

     (British number JT-117)

     

     Both Lt. Harris and Sub-Lieutenant Morgan are buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island. 

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Victim Of Bomb Crash In Critical Condition”, June 16, 1943, Pg.1

     Woonsocket Call, “British Aviators Names In R.I. Fatal Crashes”, June 17, 1943, Pg. 1

     University of Edinburgh Roll Of Honor, 1939- 1945

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #43-36

     www.findagrave.com, Memorial #15037581, and 15037579

 

      

Cumberland, R. I. – June 14, 1943

Cumberland, Rhode Island – June 14, 1943 

     On June 14, 1943, a U. S. Army P-47C Thunderbolt (41-6091) crashed on Abbott Run Valley Road in north Cumberland.  The aircraft came down clipping several tree tops before striking a telephone pole and crashing into the roadway.  The engine was torn loose and came to rest in a nearby potato field.  The plane was demolished.

     The cause of the crash was not stated.

     The pilot, William King, assigned to the 326 Fighter Group, survived the crash with relatively minor injuries.   

     Source: Evening Bulletin, “Pilot In Crash Unhurt”, June 15, 1943, Pg. 3

Off Conimicut Point, R.I. – August 4, 1916

Off Conimicut Point, Rhode Island – August 4, 1916 

     The information about this accident comes from a small news item that appeared in the Norwich Bulletin on August 5, 1916, Page 1, under the heading “Condensed Telegraphs”. 

     The new hydro-aeroplane of the Rhode Island Naval Militia struck a submerged oyster stake off Conimicut Point in Narragansett Bay.

     No further details were given. 

East Greenwich, R. I. – May 16, 1944

East Greenwich, Rhode Island – May 16, 1944

     On May 16, 1944, an F6F-3 Hellcat (41944) assigned to VF-7 at Quonset Point Naval Air Station, crashed at the west end of the former Sun Valley Rifle Range in East Greenwich.  Witnesses said the plane had been maneuvering over the area when it suddenly went into a tail spin and crashed.  The pilot was killed, and the subsequent fire ignited the surrounding woods. 

     The pilot, Lt. Comdr. David W. Taylor, was a squadron commander.  He was survived by a wife and two children.  

     Source: The Standard, “Quonset Pilot Falls To Death”, May 18, 1944.

         

    

North Kingstown, R.I. – April 22, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island – April 22, 1944

Updated July 7, 2017

    

Hellcat Fighters
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of Saturday, April 22, 1944, two F6F-3 Hellcats assigned to VF-7 at Quonset Point Naval Air Station, collided in mid-air over the Quonset Manor neighborhood of North Kingstown.  Both pilots were killed.

     One plane sheared the tail off the other while both planes were several hundred feet in the air. 

     One of the Hellcats, (Bu. No. 42706), piloted by Ensign Joseph Clyde Rust, 22, of Alliance, Nebraska, crashed on King Phillip Drive and exploded. 

     The other Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41965), piloted by Ensign Oswald Eugene Asplundh Jr., 21, of Glenview, Illinois, crashed and burned to the waterline in Sawmill Pond.    

     Update:  The accident occurred while a flight of three Hellcats was flying in a Vee formation at 4,000 feet.  The flight leader, flying at the point of the Vee, suddenly began to pull away from the formation, and Ensigns Rust and Asplundh attempted to follow, and that’s when the collision occurred.  

Source:

Providence Journal, “2 Planes Collide At Quonset Manor”, April 23, 1944, Pg. 1

The Standard, “Two Planes Crash At Quonset Manor”, April 27, 1944, Pg. 1

     U.S. Navy Accident Report 

    

 

 

Atlantic Ocean – July 23, 1942

Atlantic Ocean – July 23, 1942

Approximate Location: Lat. 40-40 N, long. 70-25 W.  

 

OS2U Kingfisher U.S. Navy Photo

OS2U Kingfisher
U.S. Navy Photo

     On July 23, 1942, a flight of U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft were on a training flight over the Atlantic off the coast of Rhode Island when they encountered what the navy termed “extremely bad weather”.   As the planes continued on visibility dropped to near zero. 

     One of the planes was piloted by Ensign Harold W. Gray.  Upon entering the weather system, the flight leader signaled to Gray close in tighter which he did, taking a position to the leader’s right.  The leader wanted Gray to be able to keep him n sight as visibility dropped.  The flight leader went on instrument flight shortly afterwards, and at this time the planes were only 500 feet above the water. 

     The leader began a shallow turn to the right, and as he did so, Gray elected to slide his aircraft up and over the tail of the leader to take a new position on the leader’s left.  Gray’s aircraft disappeared into the scud and was never seen again. 

     According to the naval investigation report, it was the opinion of naval investigators that Gray, “lost sight of the leader and being in an unusual position and finding himself with no reference point, due to vertigo, he was unable to orient himself on instruments in time to avoid crashing into the water.” 

     Also lost in the accident was Lt. Jg. William Boddie Bartels of Memphis, Tenn.     

    The aircraft was an OS2U-3 Kingfisher, Bu. No. 09404, assigned to Quonset Point Naval Air Station, VB-9. 

Sources:

U.S. Navy Accident Investigation Brief #43-4537

Woonsocket Call, “Navy Airmen Lost On Patrol Flight”, July 24, 1942, Pg. 1

Atlantic Ocean – February 13, 1943

Atlantic Ocean – February 13, 1943

 Rhode Island

     There isn’t much information available about this accident as news reports were vague.     

     On February 13, 1943, two navy planes collided in mid-air while on a training flight over the Atlantic Ocean somewhere off the coast of Rhode Island.  The type of planes was not stated, but there were four crewmen between the two planes, three of whom were lost.   Their names were not stated.

     The sole survivor was identified as Aviation Mechinist’s Mate Joseph Leo Wallace, who was thrown clear by the impact, and saved by his parachute.  Wallace was rescued by a “fast Navy motor boat” which then developed engine trouble off Newport and drifted onto some rocks.  Wallace and the boat crew were rescued by the Coast Guard.  (The boat could not be saved.)

     Sources:

     Providence Journal: “4 Lost, 2 Rescued In Plane Mishaps”, February 14, 1943, Pg. 5 (It should be noted that the headline does not match up to this particular story because two crashes were reported ion the same article.  The other crash occurred in Maine where one man was lost and another saved.)

The Milwaukee Journal, “Tossed Into Space As Planes Collide, Chute Saves Him”, February 14, 1943, Pg. 1

    

    

Charlestown, R.I. – March 2, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – March 2, 1945 

Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Field

     Updated July 13, 2017

 

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

     At 11:15 p.m. on March 2, 1945, Lt. (jg.) Kenneth B. McQuady, age 21, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71418,) for a night training flight.  Just after he became airborne, his aircraft was seen to lose altitude and crash on the ice covered water of Charlestown Pond at the end of Runway 22.  Upon impact the belly tank ruptured and caught fire.  The plane bounced another 100 yards before coming to rest.   Lt. McQuady received fatal injuries.

     Lt. McQuady is buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Bartow, Florida.

     The propeller from Lieutenant McQuady’s Hellcat was recovered years after his accident and presented to the Quonset Air Museum and made into a memorial. 

    

Quonset Air Museum Memorial to Lt. Jg. Kenneth Bruce McQuady

Description of accident that killed Lt. McQuady

     Unfortunately, since this original posting, the Quonset Air Museum has closed.

     Sources:

     Quonset Air Museum 

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated March 2, 1945

Hillsgrove Airport – September 21, 1936

     Hillsgrove Airport – September 21, 1936

Warwick, Rhode Island

    

Martin B-10 Bomber U.S. Air Force Photo

Martin B-10 Bomber
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the beginning of September, 1936, members of the U.S. Army 99th Bombardment Squadron came to Hillsgrove Airport for two weeks of training.  On the evening of September 21st, three B-10 Bombers took off a night training mission.  Shortly afterwards, heavy fog settled over the area, and when the planes returned the pilots were given instructions via radio on how to land.

     The first bomber to attempt a landing overshot the runway, and according to witnesses, its wheels almost touched down before the pilot gunned the engines for another attempt.  Due to the heavy fog, the pilot evidently didn’t realize how close he was to the end of the runway, and the plane plowed into a patch of woods, broke apart, and caught fire.  All three crewmen aboard died as a result of the crash.   

     The other two planes left the area and landed at Boston and Albany, New York.    

     The crew were identified as:

     (Pilot) 2nd Lieut. Jack J. Neely, 25, of Hempstead, N.Y., died at St. Joseph’s Hospital. (Newspaper accounts state he was from Texas, but death records state Hempstead.)  

     Corporal Angelo Mazzaco, 26, of Long Branch, N.J., died at the scene. (Newspaper accounts state he was from Jersey City, N.J., but death records state Long Branch.)

     Private Thaddeus Macaziewski, 28, of Schenectady, N.Y., died at St. Joseph’s Hospital.  (Newspaper accounts identify him as Joseph, J., but Providence death records list him as Thaddeus.)     

     Sources:

Woonsocket Call, “Tragic Hillsgrove Accident Subject Of Two Inquiries”, September 22, 1936, Pg. 1

City of Providence, R. I. death records.

City of Warwick, R.I. death records.

       

    

    

 

 

 

North Smithfield, R.I. – June 29, 1934

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – June 29, 1934

Montgomery Airport

     On June 29, 1934, Lieutenant Malcolm Stewart (U.S. Army)  left Boston in a Douglas bi-plane bound for Montgomery Airport in North Smithfield to pick up Lieutenant Paul L. Smith, who was to fly the plane back to Boston for tactical flight training.  As Stewart was coming in to land, he overshot the field, and just as the wheels touched down he gunned the engine for another try, but there wasn’t enough open space to gain altitude.  The plane crashed into a stone wall and a cusp of trees at the end of the field.  Stewart was saved from serious injury by his safety belt.      

     Montgomery Airport was located in the Waterford section of the town of North Smithfield, east of the Blackstone River, and north of present-day Route 146. Information gleaned from old Department of Commerce maps indicates the airport was in use only a short time beginning in the early 1930s, and was closed by 1936.  

Source:

Woonsocket Call, “Local Airport Is Visited By Three Big Army Planes”, June 30, 1934, Pg. 1

Hillsgrove Airfield – May 26, 1927

Hillsgrove Airfield – May 26, 1927

Warwick, Rhode Island

 Hillsgrove Airfield is now T. F. Green State Airport

    

Navy Lieutenant Adolphus W. Gorton standing next to the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy which he won in 1922. Library Of Congress Photo

Navy Lieutenant Adolphus W. Gorton standing next to the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy which he won in 1922.
Library Of Congress Photo

     On May 26, 1927, navy Lieutenants Adolphus W. Gorton and Clifton Sprague were scheduled to fly from Hillsgrove Airfield in Warwick, Rhode Island, to Washington, D.C..  The plane took off with Gorton at the helm, and when the aircraft was barely 100 feet off the ground it suddenly looped in a circle and struck the top of thirty-foot tree near the end of the field.  After glancing off the tree, the aircraft plunged downward into the ground, plowing the turf for thirty-five feet before coming to rest in a heap of wreckage. 

     Lieutenant Sprague escaped with minor injuries, but Gorton suffered the loss of three teeth and his nose was reportedly “torn nearly from his face”.   The crash was witnessed by Lieutenant Gorton’s mother who had gone to the airfield to see him off.   Gorton later recovered rom his injuries.

     Lt. Adolphus Worthington Gorton was born in Pawtuxet, Rhode Island, on January 29, 1897, the son of Charles A. Gorton Jr..  After attending Dartmouth College for one year, he entered the American Ambulance Service shortly before the United States entered WWI, and served in France.  Seven months later he was operated on for appendicitis and was sent home.  After his recovery, he transferred to the naval air service and began pilot training.  

     As a naval pilot, he distinguished himself in may ways throughout his career.  A few examples include:

     On October 8, 1922 he won the Curtis Marine Flying Trophy in Detroit, Michigan for attaining an average speed of 112.6 mph.  The trophy was sterling silver worth at the time to be $5,000.  

     On August 8, 1923, he broke two aviation speed records in one day flying a U. S. Navy NW-2 over the Delaware River at 177.5 mph, and then 185.5 mph respectively.   

     On July 3, 1929, Gorton successfully “docked” his aircraft while in flight to the airship USS Los Angeles. 

     Gorton died September 28, 1989 in Florida at the age of 92.   

Sources:

New York Times, “Lieut. Gorton Wins Air Race”, October 9, 1922 

Providence Journal, “Lieut. Gorton Hurt As Plane Crashes”, May 27, 1924, Pg. 1

 

 

Narragansett Bay – February 10, 1945

Narragansett Bay – February 10, 1945

One mile northeast off Quonset Point Naval Air Station

    

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

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

     On February 10, 1945, Ensign Pierce Hubert Beach, 22, took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, in an F6F-5N Hellcat (Bu. No. 58058) for a routine training flight where he and other aircraft were to practice carrier landings and takeoffs.  He was killed when his plane crashed into Narragansett Bay.  

     Ensign Beach earned his pilots wings at Pensacola, Florida, in May of 1944, and was married in June, ’44.   

     Sources:

     Lewiston Daily Sun, “Navy Pilot Killed; Another Missing”, February 12, 1945, Pg. 1

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian & Archeologist

     The (Bunnell Florida) Flagler Tribune, (no headline) February 15, 1945

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated February 10, 1945

Narragansett Bay – July 27, 1928

Narragansett Bay – July 27, 1928

Rhode Island

      On July 27, 1928, a U. S. Navy Loeing amphibian aircraft was on a training flight over Narragansett Bay with three men aboard.  The pilot was Ensign Forrest Lockwood McGurk, (USNR) who was receiving flight instruction from Lt. Jg. Thomas J. Kirkland.  Also aboard was Aviation Mechanic Oathe M. Sloane. 

     Shortly after 10:00 a.m., McGurk was attempting to turn the plane in anticipation of a water landing when the plane suddenly went into a spin and crashed into the bay between Conanicut Point and Prudence Island.  Lt. Kirkland was able to free himself and then pull Sloane from the rear cockpit, but McGurk was pinned in the wreckage and sank with the plane.  Twice Kirkland dove under water in an attempt to free him, but was unable.  Fortunately Kirkland and Sloane were able to cling to a wingtip pontoon which had broken free from the impact, and floated for fifteen minutes before being rescued by a boat from the naval torpedo station in Newport.

     When the aircraft was later hauled to the surface, it took over an hour to remove Ensign McGurk’s body. 

     Ensign McGurk was one day shy of his 24th birthday.  He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in May of 1927, and received his officer’s commission five months later.  Two days prior to the crash, he reported for duty aboard the U.S.S. Wright in Newport to continue his flight training before his upcoming sea duty.    

     It was reported that this was the third navy plane crash off Newport in seven weeks. Lt. Homer N. Wilkinson was killed on June 9, 1928, when his plane crashed on the shore of Jamestown, R.I..  Commander Thalbert N. Alford, and Lt. Cmdr. William Butler Jr. were killed when their plane crashed in Narragansett Bay on July 2, 1928.       

Source:

Providence Journal, “Student Aviator Killed As Plane Crashes Into Bay”, July 28, 1928 pg. 1

             

Woonsocket, R.I. – June 12, 1919

Woonsocket, R.I. – June 12, 1919

         

Post card view of a U.S. Army plane at  Mineola Filed, N.Y. - 1918

Post card view of a U.S. Army plane at
Mineola Filed, N.Y. – 1918

     In the spring of 1919, the U.S. Army was looking to recruit new pilots to replace those that had been discharged since the end of World War One.  To that end, the army organized “air circuses” to be performed by army pilots at local airfields around the country.  The events would be advertised in local papers to generate interest, and usually drew large crowds. 

     So it was on June 12, 1919 that a U.S. Army, Curtis bi-plane, took off from Mineola, Long Island at 11:15 a.m. headed for Middletown, Connecticut.  The pilot was Lieutenant R.C. Mofett and the observer was Private O.V. Rubel.  They arrived at Middletown in the early afternoon and ate lunch while their plane was serviced.  An hour later they were airborne again and set a course for Camp Devens, Massachusetts, where they would join up with other aircraft.

     As they were passing over Burrillville, Rhode Island, Lieutenant Mofett realized they were low on fuel.  Apparently the ground crew at Middletown had neglected to top off the tanks.

     Air fields were few and far between in those days and landing in just any open field carried risks.  The landing gear could land in a rut causing it to nose-over, or a wing could dip causing it to tear away.  Their maps showed that the nearest airfield was in Woonsocket only a few miles away.

     As the plane neared Woonsocket Airport, the motor began to sputter and Mofett realized they would never make the air field.  Looking down, he spotted an open area known as “Ronian’s Field” near present-day Mount St. Charles Academy, and put the plane in a glide and aimed for the field.

     As the ground loomed closer, Mofett suddenly noticed young Evelyn Moody sitting on a stone wall at the near end of the field.  He could feel the plane dropping lower than he expected, and realized there was a good chance they might not make the field.  If that was the case then they would strike the wall right where the little girl was sitting!  

     Mofett shouted desperately at the little girl who looked up to see the aircraft coming straight at her.  There are many children and adults alike who would have sat frozen in terror at such a sight, but Evelyn was quick to react.  Not a moment to soon, she rolled off the wall and landed on its opposite side just as the landing gear crashed into the very spot where she had been sitting!  With its landing gear torn away, the aircraft passed over Evelyn as she lay hugging the ground against the far side of the wall.  When the fuselage struck the grassy field it plowed into the soft earth throwing its occupants forward against the front of their cockpits.  Lieutenant Mofett suffered a gash to his head that would require stitches, but otherwise the men were alright.  Evelyn was lucky too, and stood up to stare at the wrecked plane, a sight she would undoubtedly remember for the rest of her life.    

     It was reported that the accident attracted almost 5,000 people from the area. Woonsocket’s Chief of Police was forced to detail a squad of officers to hold crowds at bay until Army officials could send mechanics to remove the plane.  In the meantime, the aircrew was taken to the St. James Hotel in downtown Woonsocket.  

Source

The Woonsocket Call, “Plane Forced To Land Here”, June 13, 1919, Page 1

 

 

Newport, RI – July 2, 1928

Newport, Rhode Island – July 2, 1928 

     On July 2, 1928, Commander Thalbert N. Alford, USN, was piloting a Vought O2U Corsair over Newport Harbor.  Lieutenant Commander William Butler Jr. was aboard as an observer. 

     Commander Alford was doing some stunt flying, going through a series of loops and rolls 5000 feet over Newport, to the delight of onlookers on the ground.   After the plane made three successive loops, it suddenly went into a spinning dive and slammed nose first into the water. Butler managed to free himself and floated to the surface, but Commander Alford went down with the aircraft. 

     Crewmen from several nearby naval vessels immediately launched boats and raced towards the scene. The first to arrive was a boat from the U.S.S. Antares with the ship’s doctor aboard. 

     Lieutenant Commander Butler was plucked from the water and rushed to Newport Naval Hospital where he died shortly afterwards.  His injuries were severe, but he reportedly maintained consciousness up until about five minutes before his death.  At his bedside were his wife Adelle, and three officers from the U.S.S. Wright who would later make up the board of inquest. At one point he told the men, “They should not allow such planes to be used for stunting.”

      Meanwhile recovery efforts for the aircraft and the body of Commander Alford were taking place. The navy tug Bob-o-link successfully hauled the plane to the surface.  Commander Alford was found still strapped in the cockpit, dead from the crushing force of the impact and not from drowning.  

     Commander Alford was born in Wills Point, Texas, October 26, 1888, and entered the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, in 1905, shortly before his 17th birthday. 

     During World War I he earned the Navy Cross while serving overseas as commanding officer of the destroyer U.S.S. Nicholson.  After the war he served in Washington, D.C. with the Bureau of Engineering, later transferring to the Naval Communications Office. 

     He earned his wings as a navy pilot in August of 1927, less than one year before the accident.   

     Lieutenant Commander Butler was born October 2, 1896 in Hazelton, Pennsylvania, and was 31-years-old at the time of his death.  He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1920, and earned his pilots wings December 21, 1926.

     The Corsair involved in the accident was assigned to Lieutenant Commander Butler, who at the time was serving aboard the cruiser U.S.S. Concord.  On the day of the crash, the Concord was away at sea, and both the plane and Lieutenant Commander Butler had been detailed to Gould Island.   

Source:

Providence Journal “Navy Fliers Fall To Death In Bay”, July 3, 1928, Page 1

 

North Kingstown, R.I. – May 18, 1957

North Kingstown, R.I. – May 18, 1957

Quonset Point NAS

      Saturday, May 18, 1957, was Armed Services Day at Quonset Point, Rhode Island, and as part of the day’s observance, the Navy was hosting an air show which included flight exhibitions by some of the newest aircraft.         

     Shortly before 2:30 that afternoon, an FJ-3 Fury piloted by Navy Lieutenant Raymond C. Shaw Jr. took off for what was to be another routine demonstration flight.  Once airborne, he circled over Narragansett Bay before coming in low over the runway and whizzing past the waving crowds.  Once clear of the runway, he pulled upwards to the north where he suddenly went into a spin and dropped from sight.  Almost immediately a distant boom was heard followed by a rising pall of black smoke a little more than a mile away. 

     The jet crashed at the Davisville Seabee Station just off Fletcher Road in North Kingstown.  After ripping through a clump of trees it plowed through a fence and onto the property of Elmer Norden where it exploded.  Debris was hurled in all directions for 400 yards, and nearby trees were impaled with flying shrapnel. 

     The Fury’s supercharger and other debris came down on the property of Ralph B. Armstrong who was working in his yard at the time, but he wasn’t injured.

     Firefighters from Quonset NAS and North Kingstown raced to the scene and put of the flames. Ironically, the base fire department was scheduled to give a fire fighting demonstration later in the day. 

     Navy investigators concluded the crash was due to the leading edge of the horizontal stabilizer breaking loose during flight.  It was found about a mile short of the crash site along the path the aircraft had traveled.     

     Lieutenant Shaw, 27, was from Charlotte, North Carolina. He graduated Central High School in Charlotte, and went on to attend Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, and Catawba College in Salisbury, North Carolina.  After graduating in 1952, he enlisted in the Navy and became a pilot.  He worked hard and had recently been promoted to the rank of Lieutenant before the crash.

     Besides his parents, he was survived by his wife Rita and a 3-year-old son, Raymond III.  His funeral was held at Plaza Presbyterian Church in Charlotte.

      The FJ-3 Fury was produced by North American Aviation as a Navy version of the Air Force’s F-86E Sabre, to be a carrier-borne fighter jet.   Production was halted in May of 1958 as newer and more technological advanced aircraft came into service.    

Sources:

The Providence Journal, Quonset Navy Pilot Killed As Jet Fighter Crashes, Explodes in Davisville”, May 19, 1957, Pg. A1

The Charlotte Observer,  “Jet Explodes In Air, Killing Charlottean”, May 19, 1957, Pg. 1

The Charlotte Observer,Shaw Funeral Here Thursday”,May 22, 1957, Page 5A

The Charlotte Observer, Funeral Notice, May 23, 1957, Pg. 11A

 

Narragansett Bay – June 4, 1971

Narragansett Bay – June 4, 1971  

       

The canopy to Commander Harley Hall's F-4J Phantom jet that he was forced to bail out of over Narragansett Bay on June, 4, 1971, on display at the Quonset Air Museum. Photo by Jim Ignasher

The canopy to Commander Harley Hall’s F-4J Phantom jet that he was forced to bail out of over Narragansett Bay on June, 4, 1971, on display at the Quonset Air Museum.
Photo by Jim Ignasher

     On June 4, 1971, an F-4J Phantom jet (#153082) belonging to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels team, caught fire in flight over Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island.  The pilot, Commander Harley H. Hall aimed the plane towards Narraganset Bay before bailing out.

     Hall was commanding officer of the Blue Angels for two years.  He was promoted to the rank of Commander at the age of 32, which at the time made him the youngest Commander in the navy. 

     By 1973, Hall was serving aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise (CVN-65) flying combat missions over Vietnam.   On January 27, 1973, Commander Hall and Lt. Cmdr. Phillip A. Kientzler took off from the Enterprise in an F-4J Phantom to attack Vietnamese supplies and logistics vehicles 15 miles northwest of Quang Tri.  During the attack the Phantom was hit by anti-aircraft fire and Hall and Kientzler were forced to bail out at 4,000 feet.  On the way down, Kientzler was shot in the leg and quickly captured.  Hall landed safely, and was last observed by another F-4 pilot circling overhead entering the jungle to evade enemy forces.  He was never seen again.    

     In Vancouver, Washington, there is a building named in Commander Hall’s memory.  The H. H. Hall Building located at 10000 NE 7th Avenue.  (www.hhhallbuiding.com)

    There is also a book about Harley Hall and the Blue Angles titled “Left Alive To Die”, by Susan Keen, c. 2011      

      Sources:

     Nashua Telegraph, “Pilot Killed In Accident At Air Show”, June 7, 1971, Pg. 3.  The headline of this article is actually about an accident at the Quonset Air Show that took the life of J. W. “Bill” Fornof on June 5, 1971.  The accident involving the Blue Angel aircraft was mentioned in it because it happened the day before.       

     The Columbian, “Cmdr. Harley Hall, Shot Down 40 Years Ago”, January 27, 2013 

     www.pownetwork.org/bios/

 

 

Westerly, R.I. – October 24, 1943

Westerly, Rhode Island – October 24, 1943

    

U.S. Navy Grumman Avenger National Archives Photo

U.S. Navy Grumman Avenger
National Archives Photo

     On October 24, 1943, a Grumman TBF-1 Avenger (Bu. No. 06096) piloted by Ensign Ralph E. Sethness, 28, was approaching Westerly Auxiliary Air Field (Today known as Westerly State Airport) when the plane developed engine trouble and crashed on the golf course of the Winnapaug Country Club.  (The club was, and still is, located at 180 Shore Road in Westerly.)

     The plane came down near the 7th hole and burst into flames.  Two local men, Robert C. Gentile, and Benjamin B. York, were the first to arrive at the scene where they found the badly injured pilot lying right next to the burning wreck with live ammunition from the plane’s machine guns starting to go off.  With disregard for their own safety, they carried Ensign Sethness fifty feet away and lay him down.  No sooner had they done so, the plane’s fuel tanks exploded spraying flaming gasoline all about the area.  The flames quickly set off a succession of machine gun rounds, and Gentile shielded the injured man with his body.   This lasted for about two minutes until the heat of the flames forced them to move Ensign Sethness another fifty feet away.  There they tended to him as best they could until fire and rescue units arrived.     

     Both men were later awarded the Carnegie Medal of Heroism for their efforts.  

     The Grumman Avenger generally carried a crew of three men however, on this particular flight Ensign Sethness was alone.  The reason for the flight was not stated, nor was the cause of the accident.   Ensign Sethness was assigned to torpedo squadron VT-15.

    Sources:

     The Westerly Sun, “Saw Plane Crash, Shore Road Men Rush To Scene”, October 25, 1943

     Carnegie Hero Fund Commission

 

North Smithfield, RI – November 25, 1928

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 25, 1928

     On November 25, 1928, a flight of five U.S. Army airplanes were returning to Boston from New Haven, Connecticut, when one piloted by Lieutenant Robert O’Brien developed engine trouble.  The plane was equipped with two gas tanks, and when the first was almost empty, O’Brien opened the fuel supply line from the second, but discovered that the line was clogged.  Almost immediately the engine began sputtering and then stopped, leaving O’Brien with no choice but to make an emergency landing.

     Looking down he saw the old Woonsocket Trotting Park, but noted there was a football game in progress on the field, so he aimed the plane for a nearby farm.  The farm belonged to George Wright, on Woonsocket Hill Road, in North Smithfield, and is still in operation today.   

     As the plane came in to land, the wheels caught the top of a fence which sent it crashing nose first into the sod.    The aircraft was badly damaged, but O’Brien and his civilian passenger, Robert Wise, were uninjured.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Two Escape Injury When Plane Crashes”, November 26, 1928, Pg. 1

        

Atlantic Ocean – November 20, 1952

Atlantic Ocean – November 20, 1952

70 miles south-east of Block island

    

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the early morning hours of November 20, 1952, a two navy P2V Neptunes from Quonset Point Naval Air Station were taking part in an anti-submarine warfare exercise off Block Island with the submarine USS Piper, (SS-409), and the navy tug, USS Hopi, (AFT-71). 

     Shortly after 4:00 a.m. the two planes rendezvoused over the Jamestown Bridge in Narragansett Bay, and headed for the operational area about 70 miles off Block Island.  One planes was piloted by Lieut. Alvin S. Hibbs, and the other by Lt. Cmdr. Noble R. Kean. (Bu. No. 124242) 

     Hibbs later told investigators, “Commander Kean was behind me a mile or so, and we carried on radio chit-chat.  He said all the other men were in very high spirits over the radio.  We arrived at the operating area a half hour later and circled for awhile, and then endeavored to make radar contact with out target.  There were two targets visible by radar, and I investigated on while Commander Kean investigated the other.” 

     Hibbs found his “target” and after making two “runs” on it he tried to contact Kean by radio, but couldn’t.  Then the submarine and tug tried to make contact and were unsuccessful.

     Hibbs flew over Kean’s last known position and found two smoke lights and debris on the water’s surface. The smoke lights had apparently broken free of the wreck and were automatically activated.   The tug arrived in the area and collected some of the debris, but found no sign of the crew.  

     One of the last to see the missing aircraft was Lieut. Herbert C. Taft, who was aboard the submarine Piper when Kean’s Neptune passed over.  “I observed the aircraft going across our bow on his run. I observed no malfunctioning of the aircraft and received no notification by radio that anything was wrong.  I followed his flight out for approximately four or five miles.” 

     At that point the lights on the Neptune,  “indicated it was making a right banking turn.”     

     “Shortly thereafter”, Taft went on, “we heard a dull thud.  Because there was no indication of an explosion and no flash, this particular noise worried me, so I went below and tried to contact the aircraft to no avail.”

     The cause of the crash could not be determined.

     The dead were identified as:

     Lt. Comdr. Noble R. Kean, 34, a native of Evanston, Ill. He was survived by his wife Sarah.

     Lt. Thomas J. Tiernan, 28, of Wickford, R.I.

     Aviation Mechanic 2c John R. Quirk, 27, of Lavelle, Penn. He was married just twelve days earlier on November 8, to Miss Constance Lussier of West Warwick, R.I.

     Aviation Ordnance Man 2c George A. Buehler, 22, of Nekoosa, Wis. He too was recently married on October 4 to Miss Irene Carvalho of West Warwick.

     Lt. Seymour A. Moyl, 26, of Bronx, N.Y.

     Aviation Electronics Man 1c Roland O. Eades, 29, of Indiana.

     Seaman Salvatore A. Coia, 21, of Rome, N.Y.

     Seaman Joseph A. gray, 20, Bronx, N.Y.

     Sources:

     Providence Journal, “Bomber Plunges Into Atlantic Off Block Island”, November 21, 1952, Pg. 1

     Providence Journal, “Quonset pilot Described Crash As Observed From Submarine”, November 21, 1952 

       

        

         

 

         

Block Island Sound – September 4, 1951

Block Island Sound – September 4, 1951

    

P2V Neptune U.S. Air Force Photo

P2V Neptune
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 4, 1951, a navy P2v-3 Neptune, (Bu. No. 122978) took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station with seven men aboard to take part in an exercise with a submarine in the waters between Block Island and Montauk Point, Long Island, N.Y.  

     According to one eyewitness account, “The plane showed evidence of being in distress.  Then it suddenly plunged, struck the water and exploded.” 

  

      The plane was assigned to Patrol Squadron 5, (VP-5) tasked with locating submarines using sophisticated electronics.

     The plane crashed about 30 miles east of Montauk Point. (71-42W, 40-30N) 

     The cause of the accident was not determined.  All seven men aboard were killed.

     The dead were identified as:

     Lt. Cmdr. Jerome J. Rossillion, 32, Jacksonville NAS.

     Lt. Herschell B. Thorpe, 30, Jacksonville, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Technician Charles G. Chapman, 21, Malden, Mass. 

     Chief Aviation Machinist Charles L. Cook, 32, Yukon, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Operator Ralph R. Maxfield, 29, Jacksonville, Fla.

     Aviation Electronics Operator Frank M. Roeder Jr., 21, St. Louis, Mo.

     Aviation Ordinance Man Kenneth G. Peterson, 26, Jacksonville, Fla.   

     According to naval authorities, the plane had been at Quonset for two weeks, and had left about an hour before the accident.

     Source: Pawtucket Times, “Quonset Plane Crashes, 7 Die” September 5, 1951, Pg. 1

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