Bethel, CT. – November 29, 1942

Bethel, Connecticut – November 29, 1942

     There are few details about this accident.    

Douglas C-39
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 29, 1942, an army C-39 aircraft, (Ser. No. 38-516), with seven men aboard was seen circling the town of Bethel for about fifteen minutes before someone aboard fired a red flare.  Then five parachutes were observed before the plane crashed in a wooded area.  Two men had remained aboard the plane and were killed.   Those who bailed out landed safely.

     The dead were identified n the press as:

     Major Herman B. Leeth, 46, of Indianapolis, Indiana.

     Captain John F. Meehan, Jr., from Wyncote, Pennsylvania.

     The survivors were identified as:

     Colonel George V. McPike of Hannibal, Mo.

     Major Robert V. Dunn, of Marion, Md.

     Captain Gerald Garrard, of Cordele, Ga.

     Lieutenant Ross De Lue, of Chicago, Il.

     A civilian, William Kurylo, of Middletown, Pa.

     The flight had originated at the Rome Air Depot in Rome, N.Y.  The reason for the distress flare and cause of the crash were not stated.

     Sources:

     Hartford Courant, “Plane crash In Bethel Is Fatal To Two”, November 30, 1942

     New York Times, “Two Army Fliers Killed”, November 30, 1942 

 

Rentschler Field – May 3, 1944

Rentschler Field, East Hartford, Connecticut – May 3, 1944

 

B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the night of May 3, 1944, a B-24 Liberator with a crew of eleven men aboard, took off from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a night training flight.  While over the Hartford, Connecticut, area the aircraft developed engine trouble and the pilot, 2nd Lt. John W. Garrett, age 19, attempted to make an emergency landing at Rentschler Field in East Hartford.  The B-24 crashed upon landing, killing Lt. Garrett, and injuring four members of the crew.  The other six escaped without injury. 

     Lt. Garrett is buried in Green Mountain Cemetery in Baltimore, Maryland. To see a photograph of Lt. Garrett, as well as a photo of his grave, see  www.findagrave.com, Memorial #114672261.   

     Sources:

     Springfield Union, “Westover Pilot Is Killed In East Hartford Crash”, May 4, 1944   

     www.findagrave.com

West Hartford, CT. – September 7, 1944

West Hartford, Connecticut – September 7, 1944

 

B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On September 7, 1944, a flight of B-24 Liberators out of Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, were on a combat training flight over the Connecticut River Valley when two of the aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision.  One aircraft crashed, but where it crashed was not stated.  It was initially reported that all of the crewmen aboard that plane parachuted safely however, by the end of the day it was realized that one man was missing.  His body was later recovered in the waters of Hartford Reservoir No. 5, located in West Hartford, Connecticut.

     The other aircraft was able to make it back to Westover Field. 

     The deceased aviator was identified in the press as Corporal John T. Melvin, age 20, of Selma, Alabama.  

     Sources:

     The Springfield Union, “Two Westover Planes Crash”, September 7, 1944.

     The Springfield Union, “Westover Man’s Body Is Found”, unknown date.

East Granby, CT – November 8, 1944

East Granby, Connecticut – November 8, 1944 

Updated December 16, 2017

 

B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 8, 1944, a B-24J, (Ser. No.  42-51001), with twelve men aboard,  left Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a scheduled combat crew training mission.  Once airborne, the plane headed south over Connecticut.  While over Connecticut, one of the engines began trailing smoke and before long flames became visible.  Despite efforts by the pilot, the aircraft continued to loose altitude, and it became apparent that an emergency landing was the only option.   The pilot aimed for an open area of pastureland located off Route 9 in East Granby, on what was then known as the Seymour Farm.   As the plane passed over the highway it clipped a telephone pole sending it out of control into a marshy section of the pasture where the wings and fuselage broke apart before coming to rest.  There was no fire, but one injured crewman was trapped in the crumpled wreckage and it was several hours before he could be extricated.   

     Of the twelve crewmen aboard, five were killed. 

     The dead were identified as:

      Cpl. Gaetano L. Fastiggi, a top-turret-gunner from New Rochelle, N.Y., born September 23, 1925.  He enlisted in the army on April 5, 1944.  He’s buried in Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in New Rochelle.    

      Cpl. Henry Colt Fay Jr., a gunner from Milburn, N.J., born September 12, 1923.  He’s buried in the Winsted Old Burying Ground, in Winsted, Connecticut.    

      Cpl. Charles W. Powell, a gunner from Holdenville, OK., born September 7, 1920.  He’s buried in Holdenville Cemetery.

      Cpl. Furman Watson, a gunner from Seneca, S.C., born June 22, 1923.  He’s buried in New Hope Cemetery in Seneca.

      Pfc. Lester L. Shoemaker, a tail-gunner from Hanover, PA., born September 18, 1918.  He’s buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery, in Hanover.  

     Those who were seriously injured included:

     The pilot, 2nd Lt. Roland C. Curtiss.

     The co-pilot, Flight Officer Reese A. McClennahan, Jr.

     The bombardier, Flight Officer Vincent M. Vallaro.

     Gunner, Cpl. Francis A. Crawford.

     Gunner, Cpl. Cono A. Galliani.

     Gunnery Instructor, Staff Sgt. Charles J. Nigro. 

     The navigator parachuted safely away from the plane and received only minor injuries.  

     Today a housing development occupies the crash site. 

     Sources;

     The Hartford Courant, “Five Flyers Killed, Seven Injured As Bomber Crashes In East Granby”, November 9, 1944, page 1.

     New York Times, “Bomber Crash Kills 5”, November 9, 1944

     Town of East Granby Death Records

     New Rochelle Standard Star, “Cpl. Gaetano Fastiggi Killed With 4 Others In Bomber Crash”, November 9, 1944.

     New Rochelle Standard Star, “Fastiggi’s Body Is Escorted Here”, November 11, 1944.

     New Rochelle Standard Star, “Fastiggi Rites Attended By 300”, November 13, 1944.

 

 

 

Windsor Locks, CT – June 5, 1942

Windsor Locks, Connecticut – June 5, 1942

 Narragansett Bay – Rhode Island

 

Curtis P-40 Aircraft
U. S. Army Air Corps 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 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). 

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

New Canaan, CT – January 2, 1943

New Canaan, CT – January 2, 1943

     At 7:30 p.m. on January 2, 1943, a U.S. Navy aircraft crashed on Ponus Ridge in the town of New Canaan.  The plane came down on the estate of Lindsey Bradford, and the wreckage was strewn for hundreds of yards.  The pilot was found still strapped to his seat lying against a stone wall. 

     As of this posting, no information is available as to the type of plane, where it was from, or the pilot’s identity.

Source: New York Times, “Crash Kills Navy Flyer”, January 2, 1943    

Near Bridgeport, CT – November 12, 1942

Near Bridgeport, Connecticut – November 12, 1942

    

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

     On November 12, 1942, U.S. Army Captain Robert K. Noel, 23, was piloting a P-47C Thunderbolt, (41-6171), on a routine training flight over the Bridgeport area when according to witnesses the plane suddenly dove towards the ground and exploded on impact.

     Noel was from Beckley, West Virginia, and was engaged to be married to a Bridgeport woman in four days.  On the day he crashed, he had gone to Bridgeport Probate Court to obtain a waver of the state’s five-day waiting period.     

     Source: New York Times, “Army Pilot Dies In Crash”, November 13, 1942  

Windsor Locks, Ct. – April 8, 1942

Windsor Locks, Connecticut – April 8, 1942

 

P-38 Lightning U.S. Air Force photo

P-38 Lightning
U.S. Air Force photo

     On April 8, 1942, a U.S. Army P-38 Lightning fighter plane, (Ser. No. AE-982) crashed at Bradley Field in Windsor Locks.  The pilot, Second Lieutenant Philip R. McKevitt of Vinton, Iowa, was killed.  

      Source: The Woonsocket Call, “Army Pilot Killed At Windsor Locks”, April 8, 1942.

     Update March 5, 2016

     Just after takeoff, Lt. McKevitt noticed a problem with the right engine, and attempted to circle around back to base for landing.  (Witnesses later reported hearing the engine sputtering.)  As he was doing so, the aircraft went into a spin with insufficient altitude to recover, and crashed.  The plane came down in an area a quarter of a mile from the Turnpike Road in the southwest section of Bradley Field, and burned. 

     The crash investigation committee requested that the right engine be sent to Middletown Air Depot to be dismantled and checked for any signs of sabotage. 

     Lt. McKevitt began his flight training on May 3, 1941, and graduated from Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas, on December 12, 1941. He arrived at Bradley Field only the week before his accident.  

     Lt. McKevitt is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Vinton, Iowa, Lot 76-so. part of N. For a photo of his grave see www.findagrave.com  memorial #43301321

     Sources:

     U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-4-8-1

     Windsor Locks Journal, “Army Pursuit Planes In Two Fatal Crashes”, April 9, 1942

 

Norwalk, Ct. – June 9, 1944

Norwalk, Connecticut  – June 9, 1944

Updated July 1, 2017

 

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On June 9, 1944, Elizabeth Hooker, (27) a test pilot for Grumman Aircraft in Bethpage, Long Island, was flying a fighter plane at 8,000 feet over Long Island Sound when the aircraft caught fire.  She directed the plane towards shore and bailed out when it had dropped to 1,500 feet.  She had tried to make the plane settle in the water, but instead it continued on and crashed in a swamp near a house in Norwalk.  Miss Hooker came down about a mile from the crash site unharmed except for singed eyebrows.  

     Grumman sent a seaplane to bring her back to Long Island.

     The type of aircraft wasn’t mentioned. 

    Source: The New York Times, “Girl Flier Bails Out” June 10, 1944

     Update:

     The aircraft was a F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 58829).  Miss Hooker took off for the test flight at 2:08 p.m., and at 2:39 p.m. radioed Grumman Tower that her plane was on fire, and at 2:41 p.m. that she was bailing out.   The plane crashed in a swampy area near Walter Avenue and Post Road.  The aircraft burned so completely that a cause for the accident could not be determined.  

     Source: National Archives Aircraft Trouble Report, TD440609CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

North Stonington, Ct. – June 28, 1944

North Stonington, Ct., (Pawcatuck) June 28, 1944

     Shortly before 6 p.m. on June 28, 1944, a single-seat navy plane from Quonset Naval Air Station was flying over the Westerly – Stonington area at 18,000 feet when the tail developed a “flutter”.  The pilot dropped down to 10,000 feet and the “flutter” got worse.  Since the pilot was near Westerly Air Field, he radioed a distress call, and said he would attempt to land there.  As he attempted to reach the field the “flutter” got even worse, forcing the pilot to bail out.

     The plane began falling from the sky, but as it neared the ground it leveled off of its own accord, and swept across North Stonington Road tearing away power lines and smashing into the home of Earl and Grace Norman.  Both received burns from exploding aviation fuel.     

     Meanwhile the pilot landed safely in a field about three miles away.

Source: Providence Journal, “Plane Hits House; Man, Wife Burned”, June 29, 1944, page 1

 

Litchfield, CT. – June 12, 1943

Litchfield, Connecticut – June 12, 1943

 

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

     On the morning of June 12, 1943, a flight of three U.S. Army P-47 aircraft took off from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts for a training flight.  While the airplanes were passing over the area of Litchfield, Connecticut, two of the aircraft were involved in a mid-air collision. 

     One of the aircraft, a P-47C, (Ser. No. 41-6081), piloted by Lieutenant Andrew Lemmens, crashed and burned in a wooded area off Norfolk Road in the town of Litchfield, near the Goshen/Litchfield  town line.  Lt. Lemmens was able to parachute safely, and landed in the woods about a mile from the crash site.  Two local youths who’d witnesses the incident found the pilot and led him out of the woods. 

     The other aircraft involved was a P47C, (Ser. No. 41-6088).  Further details are unknown as of this posting.    

     Both aircraft were assigned to the 320th Fighter Squadron.

     Sources:

     The Torrington Register, (Torrington, Ct.) “Plane Crash Reported Near Goshen”, June 12, 1943, page 1

     The Torrington Register, (Torrington, Ct.), “Airplane Burns Following Crash In Litchfield”, June 14, 1943

Groton, CT. – July 4, 1945

Groton, Connecticut – July 4, 1945

 

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

     On the night of July 4, 1945, a group of navy aircraft were making a series of landings and takeoffs at the Groton Naval Auxiliary Air Field as part of a training exercise.   One of the aircraft taking part was an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70879).  Another aircraft was an F4U Corsair, (Bu. No. 81612).

 

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

  Shortly before 11:00 p.m., the Corsair made a normal landing and taxied towards the end of the runway while the Hellcat made its approach and landed.  The Hellcat landed at a normal speed and proper interval from the Corsair however, due to excessive darkness, what the pilot of the Hellcat didn’t realize was that the Corsair hadn’t completely cleared the end of the runway.  At 170 feet before the end of the runway the Hellcat drove into the rear of the Corsair completely demolishing the Corsair, and causing substantial damage to the Hellcat.  Fortunately neither pilot was seriously hurt.    

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident report dated July 4, 1945.

 

Long Island Sound – June 24, 1943

Long Island Sound – June 24, 1943

 

Lockheed PV-1 Ventura
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the morning of June 24, 1943, a U. S. Navy PV-1 Ventura, (Bu. No. 33146), with five men aboard, left Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a training flight. 

     Those aboard included:

     Pilot: Lt. (Jg.) David William Gottlieb, age 22.

     Co-pilot: Lt. (Jg.) Thomas F. DeVane, age 22 or 23. 

     Radio Operator: ARM2c Philip N. Brown

     AMM3c John E. Williams

     AOM1c Robert W. Welker

     The men were assigned to VB-125, which at that time was stationed at Quonset Point.

     The purpose of the flight was for the crew to engage in a training exercise with a U.S. Navy submarine in Long Island Sound.  The aircraft was loaded with water filled practice bombs which it was to drop on the submarine while making mock attack runs.  

     While making a low level run on the submarine, the aircraft passed over the sub and began a shallow climb to the left.  In doing so the aircraft suddenly rolled up-side-down and dove into the water of Long Island Sound in an area about mid-way between Plum Island, New York, and Niantic, Connecticut.  The plane exploded on impact and sank immediately in 100 feet of water.  None of the crew survived.   

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report #43-7392, dated June 24, 1943

 

Near Groton NAAF – June 13, 1944

Near Groton Naval Auxiliary Air Field – June 13, 1944

 

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

     On the afternoon of June 13, 1944, Lt. (jg.) Robert Shimer took off from the Groton NAAF in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41616), for a routine training flight. At some point the engine began streaming smoke while gasoline began to spray from the left wing.  Then the engine began running very roughly and Lt. (jg.) Shimer knew he couldn’t make it back to the airfield, so he was forced to make a crash landing in an open area nearby.  The aircraft was demolished, and Shimer suffered serious injuries.

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

Groton, CT. – July 20, 1944

Groton, Connecticut – July 20, 1944

 

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

     On the night of July 20, 1944, a flight of F6F Hellcat aircraft were returning to Groton Field after a night training flight.  The pilot of one Hellcat forgot to lower the landing gear and belly landed on the runway.  The aircraft suffered heavy damage, but the pilot was unhurt.

     The aircraft involved in the accident was assigned to Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46)

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report, dated July 20, 1944

Groton, CT. – July 17, 1944

Groton, Connecticut – July 17, 1944

 

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

     On July 17, 1944, Ensign Robert Byron took off in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41485), from Groton Field with a tow target secured to the tail of his airplane.  He was to take part in a gunnery training exercise.

     Immediately after takeoff the engine began to sputter and loose power before stopping completely.  Ensign Byron crash landed in a creek with the tow target still attached. 

     The plane was damaged beyond repair.  Ensign Byron suffered non-life threatening injuries. 

     Ensign Byron was assigned to Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46)

     The cause was found to be mechanical, and no fault was assigned to the pilot.

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

 

 

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1944

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1944

 

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

     On the night of June 29, 1944, a flight of sixteen navy Hellcat aircraft were on a night formation training flight passing over Long Island Sound at an altitude of 500 feet.  One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 41482), piloted by Ensign L. N. Jones, suddenly lost power and fell away from the formation and hit the water.  The aircraft struck the water on a level keel and bounced upwards for a moment, and then struck the water a second time which caused the fuel tank to explode.  The blast flipped the plane over at which time it hit the water again and sank.  Ensign Jones was able to extricate himself while the plane was under water, and bobbed to the surface shortly after it disappeared.  Although injured, he was kept afloat by his life vest, and was rescued six hours later by a submarine.     

     The aircraft was not recovered.

     Ensign Jones was assigned to Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46)

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report – dated June 29, 1944. 

Off Groton, CT. – June 14, 1944

 Groton, Connecticut – June 14, 1944

 

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

     On June 14, 1944, Lt. A. C. Howard was practicing air defensive tactics with other aircraft at an altitude between five to six thousand feet over the Groton area.  At one point Lt. Howard’s aircraft, an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42754), and another F6F-3, (Bu. No. 41482), were involved in a mid-air collision.  Lt. Howard was killed when his plane plunged into the waters of Long Island Sound off Groton.  The other aircraft was able to land safely.

     The aircraft were part of Fighter Squadron 46, (VF-46).           

     Source:  U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report dated June 14, 1944.  

 

Glastonbury, CT. – May 28, 1944

Glastonbury, Connecticut – May 28, 1944

 

P-47 Thunderbolt Fighter Aircraft
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the afternoon of May 28, 1944, a flight of four U.S. Army P-47s were flying in formation over Glastonbury when two of the aircraft collided with each other.  One aircraft, a P-47D, (Ser. No. 42-8285). was piloted by 2nd Lt. Richard H. Ullman, Age 19, of Atlanta, Georgia; the other, a P-47D, (Ser. No. 42-22269), by another 2nd lieutenant.  The flight had originated at Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Ct.

     Lt. Ullman was killed when his aircraft crashed and exploded in a wooded area.  The other pilot managed to successfully bail out of his stricken airplane and landed safely.  Meanwhile his airplane crashed and burned in a neighborhood known as Welles Village near the Glastonbury-East Hartford town line.  A wing of the aircraft struck the roof of one home, but there were no reported injuries. 

     Lt. Ullman is buried in Crest Lawn Cemetery in Atlanta, Georgia.  To see a photograph of his grave go to www.findagrave.com, memorial #126643026.     

     Source:

     The Hartford Courant, “Crashes Kill Two Airmen, Third Hurt”, May 29, 1944.  (The article also refers to two other army plane crashes.)         

Greenwich, CT. – July 2, 1945

Greenwich, Connecticut – July 2, 1945

 

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

     On the afternoon of July 2, 1945, 1st. Lt. George S. Fitch was piloting a P-47D Thunderbolt, (Ser. No. 42-8296), on a ferry mission from Michigan to Bradley Air Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  At about 4:20 p.m.  he encountered severe weather over the area of Greenwich, Connecticut, and crashed.  According to a statement released by Greenwich police, the right wing was found about a mile from the crash site.  The plane came down on the farm of  R. Lawrence Oakley, off Dingletown Road, and narrowly missed the house.  The debris field reportedly stretched for hundreds of feet.  Lieutenant Fitch was killed instantly. 

     Lieutenant Fitch had recently returned from overseas duty where he had served as a B-25 bomber pilot with the 489th Bombardment Squadron.  He’s buried in Rushville Cemetery in Gorham, New York.

     To see photographs of Lt. Fitch, visit www.findagrave.com, Memorial ID 78306938.   

     Sources:

      The Greenwich Press, (Greenwich, CT.), “Army Flyer Killed When Plane Crashes Here” – “P-47 Forced Down In Storm, Misses R. L. Oakley House”, July 3, 1945, page 1.   

     www.findagrave.com

     The Hartford Courant, “Storm Sends Plane Pilot To His death”, July 3, 1945

     The Hartford Courant, “Pilot Killed In Crash At Greenwich Identified”, July 4, 1945 

Coventry, CT. – May 30, 1943

Coventry, Connecticut – May 30, 1943

 

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

     Shortly after 10:00 a.m. on the morning of May 30, 1943, an army pilot from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, was on a training flight over central Connecticut in a P-47B aircraft when a fire developed in the engine.  The pilot, who was not identified in the newspaper, managed to bail out of the burning aircraft, but when he did so was struck by the rear stabilizer, and suffered a severe injury to his thigh.  The aircraft crashed on the eastern side of Grant Hill Road in the northern portion of the town of Coventry, Connecticut.  The pilot landed safely in the area of Coventry’s Creaser Park, near Case and South River Roads.  He was attended to by a passing motorist before being transported to Manchester Memorial Hospital.   

     Source:

     The Hartford Courant, “Two Army Planes Crash, One Killed, Another Hurt,”  May 31, 1943, page 1.   (The article refers to two separate plane crashes.)

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1945

Long Island Sound – June 29, 1945

 

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

     In the early morning hours of June 29, 1945, Lt. (Jg.) George H. MacBride was piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 78176), on a radar mapping flight over Long Island Sound off the coast of Connecticut.  He was part of a three aircraft flight that had left Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island. 

     At 1:40 a.m., while flying over the area of Fisher’s Island, south of New London, the pilots of the other two aircraft observed an explosion on the water followed by a fire.  (The location was about two miles southwest of Fisher’s Island.)  A rescue PBY aircraft was sent from Charlestown NAS and arrived on scene within twenty minutes, and rescue boats arrived at about 3:00 a.m., but neither Lt. (Jg.) MacBride or his aircraft were recovered.  The cause of the accident could not be determined.

     Source: National Archives, 54-45, TD 450629CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I. 

East Haven, CT. – May 23, 1945

East Haven, Connecticut – May 23, 1945

 

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

      On the morning of May 23, 1945, a civilian test pilot took off from Bridgeport Airport in Bridgeport, Ct., in a U. S. Navy F4U-4 Corsair, (Bu. No. 81778), for a production test flight.  At an altitude of 12,000 feet the engine began to misfire, and the pilot radioed that he would be making an emergency landing at New Haven Airport.  At approximately 3,000 feet, and while making a turn to begin his final approach, the aircraft caught fire and smoke and flames began to fill the cockpit.  While attempting to turn off the fuel selector valve the pilot received minor burns on his left wrist and both ankles.  At 2,000 feet the pilot bailed out and parachuted safely, coming down in the middle of  a creek.  He was assisted from the water by some local residents who took him to New Haven Airport where he was treated for shock and minor burns.

     Meanwhile, the unmanned aircraft crashed 75 feet from a home in the area of 263 Short Beach Road in East Haven.  There were no injuries to those on the ground, but the plane was completely destroyed.    

     Source: National Archives, ATR-1 (revised), TD450525CT, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I. 

Norfolk, CT – March 31, 1943

Norfolk, Connecticut – March 31, 1943

    

Curtiss P-40   U.S. Air Force Photo

Curtiss P-40
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 3:34 p.m. on March 31, 1943, 1st Lt. Daniel H. Thorson, 24, took off in a P-40E fighter plane, (#41-36514), from Mitchell Filed, on Long Island, New York, bound for Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut.  The weather was cloudy with a 1,400 foot ceiling. 

     The trip was expected to take less than an hour, however when Lt. Thorson failed to arrive, and no word was heard from him, he was declared “missing”, and a search was instituted.   After a week the search was called off.  Then, on April 24th, two Yale Forestry School students conducting a timber survey on Blackberry Ridge in Norfolk, Connecticut, happened upon the wreck of Lt. Thorson’s plane.  The wreckage was scattered over a wide area at the 1,571 foot level, and it was surmised the ridge had been hidden by the low cloud cover. 

    

Lt. Daniel H. Thorson U.S. Army Air Corps Photo

Lt. Daniel H. Thorson
U.S. Army Air Corps Photo

     Daniel Henry Thorson was born and raised in Great Falls, Montana.  Before the war, he’d worked for Western Air Lines and Lockheed Aircraft in Los Angeles, California.  He enlisted in the Army on February 2, 1942, and completed his pilot’s training at Luke Filed, Arizona, on August 27, 1942.   He was survived by his parents and three sisters, and is buried in Mt. Olivet Cemetery in Great Falls. 

     In June of 2003, a memorial to Lt. Thorson was dedicated at the site of his crash by a group of local citizens.  

     Sources:

     Norfolk/Connecticut Death records

     Memorial dedication pamphlet, dated June 25, 2003

     Great Falls Tribune, “Rites Conducted For Lt. Thorson”, unknown date.

     Great Falls Tribune, “Funeral Rites For Lt. Thorson Will Be Here”, unknown date.

     www.findagrave.com, memorial #59873652

 

Bozrah, CT – March 30, 1943

Bozrah, Connecticut – March 30, 1943

   

North American Texan Military Trainer
Author Photo

     On the morning of March 30, 1943, a flight of four SNJ-4 navy trainer aircraft from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island, were on a cross-country training flight over the Norwich, Connecticut, area.  The cloud ceiling was at 4,000 feet, and the planes were flying under it.  

     The SNJ-4 was the navy version of the army AT-6 Texan.  It was a single-engine, two-seat, aircraft manufactured By North American.    

     The aircraft were on loan to British pilots assigned to Carrier Aircraft Service Unit – 22, (CASU-22) based at Quonset Point.  One of the aircraft, (#26816), was piloted by Midshipman Raymond Clarke, 19, of Nottingham, England, and his instructor, Sub-Lieutenant Donald Frederick Dillon, 21, of Aesterfield, New Zealand.   

    At about 10:25  a.m., while the formation was passing over the town of Bozrah, just west of Norwich, Clarke’s aircraft began to experience engine trouble, and had to drop out of formation.  The plane was over a semi-populated area and neither man attempted to bail out.  They crashed in a wooded area in the village of Gilman, which is located in the northern part of Bozrah.   

     The aircraft was seen by two contractors doing work on the Gilman Mill to be trailing black smoke with its engine skipping just before it crashed and exploded.   

     Midshipman Clarke was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  He was the son of Herbert and Constance Hilda Clarke of Lenton Sands, Nottingham, England.  He’s buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #15037563.  His date of birth is July 4, 1923.

     Sub-Lieutenant Dillon was a member of the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer reserve.  He was the son of Henry Charles Julian and Frances E. Dillon, of Ashburton, Canterbury, New Zealand.   He’s buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #15037560.  His date of birth is October 3, 1921.

     Sources:

     U.S. Navy crash brief, #43-6396

     Norwich Bulletin, “Two Fliers Lose Lives In Crash Of Plane At Gilman”, March 31, 1943.

     Pawtucket Times, “Dead Navy Fliers Are Identified”, March 31, 1943, page 1

     Providence Journal, “Fliers Identified”, April 1, 1943, page 22.

     Town of Bozrah death records.

     www.findagrave.com – Dillon, Clarke

 

Wolcott, CT – June 25, 1942

Wolcott, Connecticut -June 25, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 25, 1942, a flight of Curtiss P-40 aircraft were on a formation training flight over the Wolcott, area.  The aircraft were in a “string” formation following the flight leader.  At one point the formation dove low over the water of Hitchcock Lake, and one P-40, (41-36501),  struck the slipstream of the plane ahead which caused 41-36501 to dip, and the propeller to touch the water.  Upon contact with the water, the propeller abruptly stopped spinning, and an instant later engine oil covered the entire cockpit canopy.  The plane’s momentum carried it across the lake and into some tress at the shoreline.  Although the plane was wrecked, the pilot escaped with no injuries.  

     The aircraft were part of the 65th Fighter Squadron stationed at Rentschler Field in East Hartford, Connecticut.   

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-25-6

Off Bridgeport, CT – April 21, 1942

Off Bridgeport, Connecticut – April 21, 1942

Long Island Sound

    

P-38 Lightning U.S. Air Force photo

P-38 Lightning
U.S. Air Force photo

      On April 21, 1942, 2nd Lt. Willard J. Webb was piloting a P-38E, (Ser. No. 41-2111) at 15,000 feet over the Bridgeport Airport on a performance test flight.  He’d just completed the flight and was starting to head down to the field when the aircraft began to violently shudder and shake.  The following is an excerpt from the Army crash investigation technical report in Lt. Webb’s own words.

     “At 12:58, I was directly over the field at 15,000 ft., at which time I recorded the completion of the performance test.  I turned at 90 degrees to the right, and 90 degrees to the left, making a combination of a lazy 8 and a power let-down, at which time the plane began to shake violently and automatically going completely out of control.  The violent shaking of the airplane left me without any control over the airplane.  I cut  my gun, rolled stabilizer back with no results.  At this time, the speed was tremendous, so my next decision was to jump.” 

     Lt. Webb managed to bail out as the aircraft plunged into Long Island Sound.  Ha too came down in the water and was rescued by a boat and brought ashore where he was treated for a dislocated shoulder.

     At the time of his accident, Lt. Webb was assigned to the 61st Pursuit Squadron (I).  He received his pilot’s wings October 31, 1941.

     Source: U.S. Air Corps Tactical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-4-24-13  

Bradley Field, CT – April 4, 1942

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – April 4, 1942

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On April 4, 1942, 2nd Lt. Robert E. Gibson was landing at Bradley Field in a P-40E (Ser. No. 40-425) when a strong crosswind suddenly pushed the aircraft off the runway and into an obstruction wrecking the plane.  Fortunately Lt. Gibson only received minor injuries.

     Lt. Gibson received his pilot’s rating March 9, 1942.  He was assigned to the 66th Pursuit Squadron.   

     Source: Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-4-4-2

Windsor Locks, CT – August 21, 1941 – The case of Lt. Eugene M. Bradley

Windsor Locks, Connecticut – August 21, 1941

The Case of Lieutenant Eugene M. Bradley

P-40 Warhawk U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk

U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 21, 1941, Second Lieutenant Eugene M. Bradley was killed when the P-40C fighter plane he was piloting (# 41-13348), crashed at Windsor Locks Army Air Field during a training flight.  What makes this accident historically significant is that it led to the air field being re-named in his honor.  We know it today as Bradley International Airport. 

     The accident occurred while Lt. Bradley was  taking part in a mock dog-fight with 1st Lt. Frank H. Mears, Jr.  Both men were assigned to the 64th Pursuit Squadron of the 57th Fighter group which had just arrived at Windsor Locks two days earlier.

     Portions of the Army crash investigation report of the accident are posted here for historical purposes.     

2nd Lt. Eugene Bradley Accident Investigation Report Face Sheet CLICK TO ENLARGE

2nd Lt. Eugene Bradley

Accident Investigation Report Face Sheet

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     Lt. Mears gave a statement to Army investigators in which he related the following:  “Lieutenant Bradley took off at 9:30 a.m., August 21, 1941, for a combat mission.  I took off at 9:35 a.m., and met him at 5,000 feet over the airdrome.  After Lt. Bradley dropped into formation, we proceeded to 10,000 feet.  Normal combat procedures were started and, on the first turn, I got on his tail.  After making several turns we had lost between four and five thousand feet (of) altitude.  Just before getting him in my sights the last time, I called Lt. Bradley on the radio saying that this was enough.  Immediately following this he went into a diving turn and pulled out so hard that heavy white streamers appeared off his wing tips; at this point I was pulling up and away and he went out of sight under my left wing.  I then banked to the left again to see where Lt. Bradley had gone and saw him in a spin; the spin appeared to be a normal spin, but slow.  I immediately told him to straighten out and get out.  He continued in the spin until he crashed, about a mile west of Windsor Locks Airfield”      

Witness Statement Of 1st Lt. Frank H. Mears, Jr. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

1st Lt. Frank H. Mears, Jr.

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     (Later in the war, Lt. Mears was promoted to Lt. Colonel, and became commander of the 57th Fighter Group.)

     The accident was also witnessed by at least four men on the ground, each of whom gave statements to investigators.       

Witness Statement Of 2nd Lt. Glade B. Bilby CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

2nd Lt. Glade B. Bilby

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     One of those four was 2nd Lt. Glade B. Bilby, who wrote in his statement: “I observed the plane in what appeared to me to be the last 3/4 of a slow roll at approximately 4,000 to 4,500 feet.  It continued to roll until bottom side up and then came down in a half roll.  It was not a spinning motion but one of a roll until it turned one turn to the left.  Then it stopped rolling and continued to dive into the ground.  This cessation of roll was at an altitude of approximately 750 feet.  The plane at all times appeared to roll deliberately as if under control until the pull-out should have been started.”      

     (On July 20, 1942, Lt. Bilby survived a crash landing while piloting a P-40 in Africa, (#41-13911).  While overseas, he would be credited with shooting down  3.5 enemy aircraft, and would go on to command the 64th Pursuit Squadron.)    

Witness Statement Of M/Sgt. Guy C. Howard CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

M/Sgt. Guy C. Howard

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     Master Sergeant Guy C. Howard told investigators: “August 21st, at about 10:00 a.m. M/Sgt. Smith, Baird and I were standing on the ramp watching two P-40’s dog fighting.  The airplanes were to my belief at 5,000 feet or better. After a couple of tight turns one airplane got on the other’s tail and stayed there momentarily then pulled up and away.  The other stayed in the turn and turned over on it’s back, (and) nosed down into a slow spin.  It spun slowly to about 500 feet then stopped, and dove at a slight angle to the ground.”  

     Master Sergeant Smith related, “On or about 10:00 a.m. August 21, 1941, I was standing on the ramp with two other Non-Commissioned officers, Master Sgt. Baird and Master Sgt. Howard, watching the dog-fight between two P-40’s, estimated altitude 5,000 feet.  These planes were circling.  When breaking formation both planes let out twin streamers from the tails of the ships.  While the leading ship was making a left bank going away, the other ship nosed down, went into a tail spin and at an altitude of approximately 800 feet, the ship seemed to straighten out and went into a nose dive.  Before the ship hit the ground it seemed as if the pilot was fighting the controls of the ship to straighten it out, because the ship was wriggling in a manner to indicate this.”

Witness Statement Of M/Sgt. Smith CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

M/Sgt. Smith

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     Master Sergeant Charles C. Baird stated:  “About 10:00 a.m. August 21, 1941, I was standing on the ramp watching two P-40C’s doing aerial combat.  The altitude was about 5,000 feet.  the leading ship made a sharp turn to the left and went into an inverted left spin.  It made about four turns in the spin.  At approximately 500 feet the ship came out of the spin and went into a vertical dive.  The nose had not come up at all when it disappeared from sight.”

Witness Statement Of M/Sgt. Charles C. Baird CLICK TO ENLARGE

Witness Statement Of

M/Sgt. Charles C. Baird

CLICK TO ENLARGE

     The accident investigation committee wrote in part: “It is the opinion of this committee that insufficient evidence exists to permit an exact classification of this accident.” 

     After describing the accident in the narrative, the committee wrote: “There is no evidence to establish whether the accident resulted from materiel failure, personnel error, or from other causes.  Whether or not the pilot had full use of his faculties after the spin out and during the decent cannot be determined.  Had there been materiel failure the pilot had sufficient altitude to leave the ship, but since his safety belt was found to be buckled after the accident he apparently made no attempt to get out. There was also ample altitude (5,000 feet) in which to regain control of the airplane after it spun out.  Since a doubt exists in (1) the pilot’s use of his faculties, (2) whether or not the airplane could be controlled in its descent, or (3) whether materiel failure occurred; the cause of this accident cannot be determined.”     

     The investigation committee also ruled out sabotage.

Investigation Committee Findings CLICK TO ENLARGE

Investigation Committee Findings

CLICK TO ENLARGE

      There are photographs in existence reportedly showing the wreck of Lt. Bradley’s P-40 aircraft, however there is no indication in the accident investigation report that any official photos were taken as part of the investigation.  In fact, one portion of the accident investigation committee’s narrative states, “Photographs of the wreck would not add useful evidence…”  Therefore, it can be surmised that any photos of Lt. Bradley’s wrecked aircraft were taken by other persons not involved with the investigation.   

     In 2005, a search was begun to locate the site of where Lt. Bradley’s P-40 crashed.  It was no small undertaking, for the airport had grown and changed significantly since World War II, and although Lt. Bradley’s fatal accident was the first to occur at the field, it wasn’t the last.   

     According to an Associated Press newspaper article which appeared September 15, 2009, when Bradley’s P-40  crashed, parts of the engine were buried thirteen feet deep, and only the tail was seen protruding from the ground.  Heavy equipment removed the wreckage, and the hole was filled by using a bulldozer.   Therefore, researchers didn’t expect to find a complete aircraft, only small pieces of one, which would then have to be identified as coming from a P-40.  

     Researchers sifted through various state and military records, old aerial photographs of the air field, newspaper collections, and other sources while gathering information in their quest.  Several potential sites were examined.  The wreck site was finally determined to be under Runway 33 of Bradley International Airport.  The runway was extended in the 1960s to allow jet airliners to land, and the site was unknowingly paved over.              

     Eugene Bradley was born in Dela, Oklahoma, July 15, 1917,  and was 24-years-old at the time of his death.  He’s buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, in San Antonio, Texas, Section E, Site 67.  He was survived by his wife and unborn child.     

     Windsor Locks Army Air Field came under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Army in 1941 after acquiring the land from the State of Connecticut.  The air field was re-named to honor Lt. Bradley on January 20, 1942.  After the war the airfield reverted to civilian use and is today Connecticut’s primary airport.          

Sources:

U.S. Army Crash Investigation Report, dated August 25, 1941     

Associated Press, “68-Year-Old Plane Crash Site Possibly Found”, by Joe Piraneo, September 15, 2009 

Associated Press, “Crash Site Of Bradley Airport’s Namesake Pinpointed”, November 26, 2010

Connecticut’s Archaeological Heritage: “The Search For Lt. Eugene Bradley’s Plane Crash”, by Nick Bellantoni, Thomas Palshaw, Paul Scannell, and Roger Thompson. (No Date)  

57th Fighter Group – First In Blue, by Carl Molesworth, Osprey Press, copyright 2011.  

Findagrave.com, Memorial #14952762  (Has photo of Lt. Bradley)  

Wikipedia – Bradley International Airport

Lebanon, CT – September 3, 1944

Lebanon, Connecticut – September 3, 1944

    

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

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

     On September 3, 1944, Ensign Timothy Edward Sullivan of the 46th Fighter Squadron was piloting  an F6F Hellcat over Lebanon on a gunnery practice mission when he crashed in Red Cedar Lake and was killed.  The accident occurred about 100 yards from Camp Moween, a summer resort for campers. 

     State troopers from the Colchester barracks had to wade through thick brush to reach the crash scene.  Recovery efforts were hampered by a silty bottom strewn with tree trunks and partly submerged logs.  Ensign Sullivan’s body was recovered hours later in about 12 feet of water by a diver from the Groton submarine base.  

    Ensign Sullivan was from Upper Darby, Pennsylvania, and was 20-years-old at the time of his death.    

Sources:

The Norwich Bulletin, “Navy Pilot Dies In Plane Crash Into Lebanon Lake” , September 5, 1944

Rhode Island Department of Health Records. (N.K. GOV 82)

History of Fighting Squadron 46, Men-O-War. (Has squadron photos and a picture of Ensign Sullivan.)   digicom.bpl.lib.me.us/ww_reg_his/132/

 

Windsor Locks, CT – August 31, 1945

Winsor Locks, Connecticut – August 31, 1945

Updated August 22, 2017

 

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

     On the morning of August 31, 1945, Ensign Richard Henry Di Sesa, age 22, was part of a flight of twelve airplanes out of Quonset Point Naval Air Station practicing formation flight training over the Connecticut River Valley area.  Ensign Di Sesa was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42802), and was flying in the number 2 position in the second division of the flight.   

     At one point, while the formation was only at 2,000 feet, it began a slight downward glide over the Connecticut River in a “follow the leader” pattern.  While pulling out of the glide over the river, Ensign Di Sesa’s aircraft struck two high tension wires strung 120 feet above the water.  His aircraft went out of control and crashed into the ground killing him instantly.     

     Ensign Di Sesa’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island before being sent to Brooklyn, New York, for burial. 

     Di Sesa died just three days after his 22nd birthday.

     For a photo of Ensign Di Sesa, go to:

     www.warmemorial.columbia.edu/richard-henry-di-sesa

     Sources:

    North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-84

     National Archives, AAR VBF-97B-1 revised, TD450831, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Farmington, CT – April 11, 1945

Farmington, Connecticut – April 11, 1945

    

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

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

     On April 11, 1945, a U.S. Army P-47D (42-22360) left Bradley Filed in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, for a combat training flight, and crashed during flight maneuvers while over the town of Farmington.  According to witnesses, the aircraft plunged strait down into a swampy/wooded area on a farm where it exploded, leaving a crater reported to be 12 to 15 feet deep, and 30 feet wide.  One source identifies the farm as belonging to John Lipski, and another as belonging to Leo Grouten.  Apparently the two properties border each other and the crash occurred near the property line.   

     The pilot was identified as 2nd Lt. Vincent Hugh Core, 20, of Brooklyn, New York.      

     In 1987, 41 years after the crash, David Tabol, a Farmington Boy Scout, erected a granite monument near the crash site as a memorial to Lt. Core.  (The site is now part of the Unionville State Forrest.)   Further back in the woods is a crude piles of rocks, which some believe was left by the military clean-up crew to serve as a marker for the site.  

     Sources:

     The Bristol Press, “Pilot Killed, Plane Blown To Pieces In Crash In Farmington”, April 11, 1945, pg. 1

     The Bristol Press, ” Army Investigating Crash Of Plane In Farmington; Brooklyn Flier Is Killed”, April 12, 1945

     The Bristol Press,”WWII Tragedy, Air Force Pilot Crashes, Dies In Unionville Forest In 1945″, by Ken Lipshez, October, 1995.

     Connecticut Department Of Health Death Certificate

         

Somers, CT – April 6, 1942

Somers, Connecticut – April 6, 1942

    Updated March 6, 2016

P-38 Lightning U.S. Air Force photo

P-38 Lightning
U.S. Air Force photo

    On April 6, 1942, a U.S. Army P-38 Lightning, (AF-112) piloted by 2nd Lt. Raymond Allen Keeney, 24, crashed in a potato field in the Somersville section of the town of Somers, Connecticut, and burst into flames.  The wing of the plane clipped a tree just before the crash.  

     Lt. Keeney was born and raised in Somers, Connecticut, and was familiar with the area which he was flying over.  He attended local schools, and after graduation from the Texas Institute of Technology he enlisted in the Air Corps on March 17, 1941, in Lubbock, Texas.  It was while attending Texas Institute that he met his wife Christine, whom he married October 31, 1941, which was also the day he received his pilot’s wings.    At the time of his death he was assigned to the 62nd Pursuit Squadron.    

     Lt. Keeney died on his 24th birthday.  He’s buried in the family mausoleum in West Cemetery in Somers, CT.

      Sources:

     Pawtucket Times, “U.S. Pilot Killed In Plane Crash”, April 6, 1942,Pg. 7

     Findagrave.com #137939503

     U.S. Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-12-30-1

    Unknown newspaper attached to Air Corps investigation report, “Flyer Meets Death Near Somers Home”, unknown date.

     Unknown newspaper attached to Air Corps investigation report, “Lt. Keeney Killed In Somersville”, unknown date.  

     Hartford Times, “Funeral Wednesday For Lieut. Keeney Air Crash Victim”, April 7, 1942.

      

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