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.  


The Woonsocket Call, “Plane Forced To Land Here”, June 13, 1919, Page 1



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