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. 


     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. – Ralph Anthony Lennon



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