Gould Island, R. I. – October 25, 1941

Gould Island, Rhode Island – October 25, 1941

     On the morning of October 25, 1941, a U. S. Navy, Grumman JF-1 Duck, (Bu. No. 9448), with two men aboard, was due to take off from the Gould Island Navy Torpedo Station for an observation flight.  Gould Island is  located in Narragansett Bay off the eastern side of Jamestown.  The aircraft was taking off from the water, and as it was making its take-off run the lower left wing struck a marker buoy of the Magnetic Survey Range.  The impact tore the wing in half and caused the upper wing to buckle.  The aircraft then nosed over, skidded to the right and capsized.  

     The pilot managed to free himself, but the passenger, Petty Officer Alexander C. MacClellan, could not, and drowned.    

     The aircraft was assigned to VX Squadron 2D1.

     Source: U. S. Navy accident report #3428, dated October 25, 1941


Narragansett Bay, R. I. – August 20, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – August 20, 1943


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On August 20, 1943, a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 24296), took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a low-level practice-bombing training flight over Narragansett Bay.  The weather at the time was clear and the water was reportedly smooth and glassy.  At about 10:15 a.m., as the pilot was making a low level pass at a target, the propeller struck the surface of the water causing damage to the aircraft and the engine.  Fortunately the aircraft made it back to Quonset Point safely and there were no injuries to the crew.  The engine required a major overhaul.

     The aircraft was assigned to VC-19.

     Source: U.S. Navy accident report dated August 20, 1943

Narragansett Bay, R. I. – August 13, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – August 13, 1943


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of August 13, 1943, a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 24031) , was returning to Quonset Point Naval Air Station after a training flight when the engine suddenly lost all power.  At the time this occurred, the aircraft was at an altitude of 900 feet over Narragansett Bay. The pilot turned into the wind and made an emergency water landing with wheels and flaps down.  None of the crew were injured.

     The aircraft was assigned to VT-2.


     U. S. Navy crash report #44-8098

Narragansett Bay, R. I. – August 3, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – August 3, 1943


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of August 3, 1943, a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 24028), with a crew of three aboard, left Quonset Point Naval Air Station on a navigational training flight.  When the aircraft was about fifty miles southeast of Quonset Point, and over the Atlantic Ocean, an oil line broke causing the pilot to turn back towards the air station. When the aircraft was about two miles from the base, and at an altitude of 1,000 feet, the engine suddenly stopped running.  The pilot made an emergency water landing, but the impact with the water tore away the bomb bay doors causing the plane to rapidly fill with water and sink within 45 seconds.  The pilot and turret gunner escaped, but the radioman, P. E. McCarthy, went down with the plane and was drowned.

     The aircraft was assigned to VT-2.


     U. S. Navy crash report #44-7931       

Narragansett Bay, R. I. – December 22, 1943

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – December 22, 1943


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On the morning of December 22, 1943, a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 05900), with three men aboard, was making practice carrier landings on a platform off the shore of Point Judith when the plane went off the platform and into the water and sank.  The crew escaped without injury.  The accident occurred due to faulty brakes.


     U. S. Navy crash report #44-10432  

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

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – July 16, 1943


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     At 12:20 p.m. on the afternoon of July 16, 1943, a U.S. Navy TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 47517), took off from the Quonset Point Naval Air Station for what was termed a “special exercise” by the navy.   The weather was clear with unlimited visibility with surface winds of 15 knots. 

     There were three crewmen aboard the aircraft.

     The pilot: Lieutenant Robert Yarnell Bair, 29, of Iowa.

     AOM3C Wade Alexander Harris

     ARM3C Thomas Francis McConnon  

     At about 2:30 p.m., the aircraft was observed by crew members of the USS Thrush, a WWI era minesweeper operating in Rhode Island waters.  At the time, the Thrush was about four to five miles away from the aircraft, when the aircraft was seen diving towards the water and explode on impact. 

     All three crewmen aboard the Avenger were killed, and the aircraft was not recovered.  However, it is mentioned in the navy report of the incident that “confidential gear” was recovered by divers from the USS Thrush. 

     The aircraft was assigned to the Aircraft Anti-Sub Development Project Unit.


     U.S. Navy  crash report #44-7664      

Narragansett Bay – October 26, 1984

Narragansett Bay – October 26, 1984

     At 6:40 p.m. on the evening of October 26, 1984, a Cessna Skyhawk with a husband and wife aboard left T. F. Green State Airport in Warwick, Rhode Island, bound for a small private airport on Prudence Island in Narragansett Bay, a distance of only six miles.  The weather was overcast and raining at the time, with a cloud ceiling of about 300 feet and 1 mile visibility.  By 8:25 p.m. the aircraft was reported as overdue and a search was instituted. 

     The following day the aircraft was located upside-down in about eight feet of water in the channel that runs between Prudence and Patience Islands.  The woman’s body was still inside, however the husband was missing.  Divers who made the recovery reported that the pilot’s door was missing, and that the tail section had been torn away.  

     On November 11, 1984, the body of the missing husband was located along the southern shoreline of Prudence Island.  


     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Search Under Way For Overdue Plane”, October 27, 1984, page A-8

     Providence Sunday Journal, “Missing Airplane Found Off Prudence Island”, October 28, 1984, Page A-2

     The Sun, (Westerly, R.I.), “One dead, One Missing After Plane Crash In Bay”, October 28, 1984, page 33

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Bay Searches For Pilot, Fisherman Are Suspended”, October 29, 1984, page A-2.  (Searchers were also looking for a missing fisherman near the Mt. Hope Bridge.)

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Local Flyers Puzzled By Crash Of Couple On 6-Mile Hop Home”, October 30, 1984, page C-4

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Body Washed Up At Prudence Island Identified By Family As Lost Pilot”, November 13, 1984, page A-4 



Narragansett Bay – June 20, 1982

Narragansett Bay – June 20, 1982

     On June 20, 1982, a Bell Jet Ranger helicopter, (#N20303), with three men aboard was flying about six miles south of Jamestown Island when there was a malfunction with the tail rotor and the craft crashed into the water and immediately flipped over.   All three men aboard managed to escape, and were rescued by nearby pleasure boats. 

     At the time of the accident the men were filming the start of the 635 mile Newport-to-Bermuda yacht race for a national television station.  

     The helicopter sank in 105 feet of water, and was recovered in mid-July of 1982.      


     The Sun, (Westerly, RI), “Helicopter Crashes, Crew Saved”, June 21, 1982, page 16. (With photo)

     The Providence Evening Bulletin, “TV Crew, Pilot Saved As Copter Crashes”, June 21, 1982, page A-6 (With Photo)

     Providence Evening Bulletin, Photo with caption of recovered helicopter, July 15, 1982, page A-6 



Narragansett Bay – September 28, 1980

Narragansett Bay – September 28, 1980 

     On September 28, 1980, a single engine Cessna 210, with a lone pilot aboard, left Georgia bound for Newport, Rhode Island.  The 56-year-old pilot was coming to Newport to attend his daughter’s graduation from Naval Officer Candidate School.   

     Shortly after 8:00 p.m. that evening, the aircraft landed at Quonset Point, and the pilot reported he was low on fuel.   The aircraft took off about ten minutes later without refueling, bound for Newport Airport.  At about 8:20 p.m. the pilot radioed that he was now out of gas and would be ditching in the water.   Several witnesses reported seeing  the Cessna crash into the East Passage of Narragansett Bay between Short Point and Hull Cove off Jamestown, and Butterball Rock in Newport.

     Despite an intensive search conducted by the Coast Guard, the missing aircraft could not be located, and the search was eventually called off.  The missing plane and its pilot were found on October 21, 1980 when the fishing trawler Rose Jarvis accidentally snagged the wreckage in its nets near Hull Cove.  The aircraft was badly damaged but still intact.  It was brought to Middletown, Rhode Island, for examination. 


     Providence  Evening Bulletin, “Plane Crash In Bay Reported; Search Fails”, September 29, 1980, page 1     

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Search For Airplane Continues”, September 30, 1980, page 15

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Search Ended For Lost Plane, Pilot’s Daughter In OCS Rite”, October 1, 1980, page A-1  

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Body Of Georgia Flyer And Plane Found In Water Off Jamestown”, October 22, 1980, page A-3

     Providence Evening Bulletin, Photo of aircraft with caption, October 23, 1980, page B-1 

     Westerly Sun, “Pilot Said he Was Out Of Gas”, December 7, 1980, page 31

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

Narragansett, R.I. – August 25, 1974

Narragansett, Rhode Island – August 25, 1974

     At about 1:30 p.m. on August 25, 1974, a single-engine, one-man, “experimental” aircraft was seen passing over  DeLuca’s Beach in the town of Narragansett, heading out over the water.  Suddenly a loud “pop” was heard, and the aircraft spun into the water from an altitude of 200 feet.  The airplane struck nose first, crumpling the front of the aircraft and pinning the pilot inside as the cockpit sank below the surface.  Although the cockpit was underwater, the wreckage remained partially afloat about 250 yards from shore, in water estimated to be 40-50 feet deep.   

     A man and woman from a nearby boat dove into the water to attempt a rescue, but were unsuccessful.  They were relieved by six life guards who rowed out to the scene in two small boats, yet they couldn’t free the pilot either.  When a Coast Guard vessel from Point Judith arrived the aircraft was towed to shore.  There the body of the pilot was removed and transported to South County Hospital where he was pronounced dead.  


     The Providence Journal, (Massachusetts Edition), “Pilot Dies When Homemade Plane Crashes Off South County Beach”, August 26, 1974, page 1. (With Photo)

     (Providence) Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Dies In crash Of Homemade Plane”, August 26, 1974, (With Photo)

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.

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

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.    


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


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. 


     U. S. Navy Accident Report #44-7667 


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.


     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-9424 

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

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.


     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-9977

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.    


    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 







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.   


     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






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

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    

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.


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


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.


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


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 

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)


     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.


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


     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.



Jamestown, R. I. – July 1, 1976

Jamestown, Rhode Island – July 1, 1976

Off Beavertail Light

     As part of America’s 1976 bicentennial celebration, a flotilla of tall ships comprising sailing vessels from around the world made their way to the United States and down the east coast.   On July 1, 1976, after visiting Newport, the ships left Rhode Island for New York.  As they were passing for review just off the coast of Jamestown near Beavertail Light, two private aircraft narrowly missed having a mid-air collision.   As one aircraft flew on, the other was seen going down into the water about 50 yards off the eastern shore of Beavertail Park.  It sank immediately and no survivors were seen in the water.

     The downed aircraft, a Piper PA-28, (N9184K) was piloted by Charles Kramos, of Barrington, R.I.  His body was later recovered by divers.  The other aircraft was not identified.


     (Meriden Ct.) The Morning Record, “Plane Crashes While Circling Ship Parade”, July 2, 1976

     (New London, Ct.) The Day, “Plane Crash Mars Start Of Tall Ships”, July 2, 1976, 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


     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

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.   


     Providence Journal, “Army Pilot Unhurt In Crash Into Bay”, September 2, 1944, Pg. 3


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. 


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 


Off Prudence Island, R.I. – October 26, 1984

Off Prudence Island, Rhode Island – October 26, 1984

     On the evening of October 26,1984, a small private plane with a husband and wife aboard left T.F. Green State Airport in Warwick, R.I., bound for Prudence Island, an island located in Narragansett Bay.   The couple owned property on Prudence Island, and routinely commuted via airplane to the mainland.

     The plane left T.F. Green at 6:40 p.m.  The weather at the time was cloudy and rain was falling.  At 8:25 p.m. that night the plane was reported overdue.

     The following morning, two friends of the missing couple began a search using an aircraft, and spotted the wreckage in 8 feet of water between Prudence Island and Patience Island.  The tails section had been torn away by the crash.

     Divers recovered the body of the wife inside the aircraft, but the husband was reportedly missing.  


     The Day, “One Dead, One Missing In R.I. Plane Crash”, October 28, 1984

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.   


     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 – 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      


     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 




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