Northampton, Mass. C-54 Crash Memorial

Northampton, Mass. C-54 Crash Memorial

Located at Florence Road and Old Wilson Road, Northampton, Mass.  

To learn more about this accident, go to the Massachusetts military aviation accidents section of this website.  

Photos taken May 3, 2018.

Click on images to enlarge.

Memorial at the crash site.
Established 1999.

Epsom, NH – April 24, 1944

Epsom, New Hampshire – April 24, 1944

    

B-24 Liberator  U.S. Air Force Photo

B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the morning of April 24, 1944, a B-24 bomber, (42-5111), with ten crewmen aboard, left Grenier Air Field in Manchester, New Hampshire, bound for overseas duty in Europe.  The weather that day was poor, with only a 1,300 foot cloud ceiling.  Less than ten minutes after take off, the aircraft crashed into the top of  a 1,400 ft. mountain in the town of Epsom, New Hampshire.  All aboard were killed.    

     The Portsmouth Herald news articles of the crash published in 1944 identified the crash site as being on Washtub Mountain. However, one modern source  identifies the mountain as Nats Mountain. 

     One witness to the accident was identified in the Portsmouth Herald as 25-year-old Joseph Bozek of Mountain Road, who ran out of his house after hearing the bomber pass very low overhead. He later told a reporter, “I thought the plane was going to crash into the barn, and then it when it cleared the roof I though the pilot intended to make an emergency landing in the field.  When I saw the plane rise I thought to myself that the crew would have to gain much more elevation than they had in order to clear the mountain.  A few seconds later I heard a terrible explosion”

     Bozek ran up the mountain to see if he could help, but when he reached the crash site he saw there was nothing he could do.       

      The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) 2nd Lt. Marvin M. Rupp, 26, of Winfield, Kansas.  He’s buried in Highland Cemetery in Winfield.  (For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com Memorial #58978546.)  He was survived by his wife Maxine.

     (Co-pilot) 2nd Lt. James H. Jones, 21, of Alumbank, Pennsylvania.  He’s buried in Ligonier Valley Cemetery.  (For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com Memorial #24357871) He was survived by his wife Virginia A.

     (Navigator) 2nd Lt. Ardeth K. Gannon, 26, of Rockwell City, Iowa.

     (Bombardier) 2nd Lt. William G. Hunold, 22, of 404 Sterling Place, Brooklyn, New York.

     (Radio Operator) Staff Sgt. Anthony L. Ferrone, 27, of New York, N.Y.

     (Flight Engineer) Staff Sgt. Marion L. Wolfgang, 23.  He’s buried in Seaman Cemetery in Casnovia, Michigan.  (For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com  Memorial #45592673) 

     (Gunner) Sgt. John L. Eddins, 26, of Kingsville, Texas.  He’s buried in Chamberlain Cemetery in Kingsville.  (For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com  Memorial #62693878) 

     (Radio Operator) Sgt. Joseph H. Negele, 23, of Newark, Ohio.  He’s buried in Cedar Hill Cemetery in Newark.  (For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com  Memorial #61446219) 

     (Gunner) Sgt. Lloyd E. Utley, 25, of Mt. Vernon, Indiana.  

     (Flight Engineer) Sgt. Francis M. Weaver, 36, of Bryan, Texas.  He died just four days after his 36th birthday. He’s buried in Bryan City Cemetery, in Bryan, TX.  (For a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com  Memorial #90458409)  He was survived by his wife Hattie N. Weaver.    

     Sources:

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist 

     Portsmouth Herald, “Nine Bodies Found After Army plane Falls On Mountain”, April 25, 1944, pg. 1

     Portsmouth Herald, “Mass Funeral In Manchester For 10 Fliers”, April 26, 1944, Pg. 1

     Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents In The United States 1941-1945, By Anthony J. Mireles, McFarland & Co. Publishers, 2006 

     Manchester New Hampshire Airport (Grenier Army Air Field) In WWII, by Tom Hildreth

     Concord Monitor, “Ray Duckler: Looking For A Piece Of History”, May 12, 2014

     Town of Epsom, New Hampshire, death records.

     Associated Press, (Unknown Paper) “Nine Bodies Are Found In Wrecked Army Plane”, date unknown.  Specifically mentions the pilot (Lt. Rupp) as being one of the nine.  No other names mentioned.  Posted on Findagrave.com, Memorial #58978546.

     www.findagrave.com

Grenier Field, NH – December 23, 1942

Grenier Field, Manchester, New Hampshire

    

P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On December 23, 1942, a group of four P-40 aircraft were scheduled to fly a gunnery practice mission.  The first aircraft flown by Lt. Julian Adams took off without incident.  The second aircraft (41-13720) piloted by 2nd Lt. Herbert Lawler, 25, suddenly developed engine trouble during take off.  The engine was heard to misfire, and smoke was seen trailing as the aircraft became airborne.  Moments later Lawler crashed into a wooded area just beyond the air field.  

     The P-40 caught fire after impact, and Lt. Lawler suffered fatal burns. He succumbed to his injuries five days later on December 28. 

     Lt. Lawler was from Houston, Texas, and he’s buried at the Earthman Resthaven Cemetery in Houston.  A photo of his grave can be found at www.Findagrave.com  Memorial #47226508.

     Sources:

      Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents In The United States 1941 – 1945, By Anthony J. Mireles, McFarland & Co. Publishers, 2006

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist

     Findagrave.com

WW II Mystery Airmen

WW II Mystery Airmen

     From time to time during World War II military aircraft were lost at sea.  Sometimes the loss was witnessed by fellow airmen, and other times a single aircraft went out on a mission and was never heard from again.  Such incidents happened all up and down the eastern seaboard of the United States.

     On occasion, the bodies of airmen lost on these missions would be found and recovered.  Unfortunately in some cases all identification such as wallet, dog tags, etc. would be missing, and the body in such an advanced state of decomposition that identification was impossible.  In a time when DNA testing did not exist, these servicemen were classified as “unknown” and buried pending any new information.   

     With a war on, and the rapid transfer of personnel, as well as many different commands and air stations that had planes and crew unaccounted for, attempting to match bodies with missing aircraft in a time without computers was virtually impossible.  

     The following information pertains to “unknowns” found in New England waters during World War II.  Perhaps there will be someone who will one day be able to figure out who these men were.   Keep in mind that ocean currents could have carried the bodies a considerable distance.    

     Case #1 involves the body of a U.S. Navy enlisted man recovered from Narragansett Bay, R. I. He’s described as a white male who “presumably drowned”.  The date he was recovered is not stated, but his remains were buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, R. I., August 14, 1943

Case #1 Click To Enlarge

Case #1
Click To Enlarge

 

     Case #2 involves a body recovered from the Atlantic Ocean on October 8, 1944, off Nantucket, Massachusetts, near a bell buoy.  The navy could not establish his identity, nor even his race.  The body was held until January 5th before it was buried in Elm Grove Cemetery, North Kingstown, R.I.   Cause of death was listed as “asphyxia by drowning” due to a “probable accident”.  The death certificate was field with the Rhode Island Department of Health January 5, 1945. 

Case #2 Click To Enlarge

Case #2
Click To Enlarge

Reverse Side - Case #2 Click To Enlarge

Reverse Side – Case #2
Click To Enlarge

 

 

 

  

Norfolk, MA – August 9, 1964

Norfolk, Massachusetts – August 9, 1964

     On August 9, 1964, Eugene Levine of Medway, Mass., and Robert Eldridge of Natick, took off from Norfolk Airport in a 1958 piper Tri-Pacer airplane for a routine flight.  While returning to the airport, the plane developed engine trouble and the motor quit. Levine attempted to make an emergency landing in a hay field about a mile short of the runway, but as it neared the ground a gust of wind sent the craft into a row of trees causing it to crash.  Fortunately both men were wearing seatbelts and escaped without injury. 

     Source: Woonsocket Call, “2 Men Escape Injuries In Norfolk Plane Crash”, August 10, 1964, Pg. 1 

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Atlantic Ocean – September 8, 1949

Updated March 30, 2019 

5 Miles Off Sakonnet Point, Rhode Island

    

F8F Bearcat
U. S. Navy Photo

     On September 8, 1949, two navy F8F Grumman Bearcat aircraft took off from the Quonset Point Naval Air station for what was to be a high altitude instrument training flight.  One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 95332), was piloted by Ensign Henry J. Harling, 22, of Staten Island, N.Y.

     While at 10,000 feet both pilots went on oxygen and continued to climb to 32,000 feet.  At 28,000 feet Ensign Harling reported smoke in his cockpit, and both aircraft began to descend.  A short time later, while at an altitude of 25,000 feet, Harling radioed to the other pilot that he was going to bail out. 

     The other pilot later told investigators that he saw smoke coming from the area of the exhaust ports, and that the tail wheel on Ensign Harling’s aircraft was down.  He observed Ensign Harling open the cockpit canopy, and at that time saw that he was still wearing his oxygen mask.  Harling’s plane was then seen to roll on its back, nose down, and spin twice, before apparently recovering.  It then entered a cloud bank and the other pilot lost sight of it. 

     The other pilot followed Harling’s plane down through the cloud bank, and upon coming through it observed an explosion when Harling’s plane hit the water about five miles off Sakonnet Point.

     Witnesses on boats reported seeing Harling’s plane trailing smoke before it hit the water. No parachute was observed.

     Planes and rescue boats were immediately launched.  An oil slick was discovered, but after a two-day search it was concluded that Ensign Harling had been unable to escape from the cockpit and had remained in his aircraft when it hit the water.  The cause of the accident was speculated to be a failure in the aircraft’s hydraulic system, particularly with the aircraft’s tail wheel.   

     Ensign harling has been assigned to VF-73.

 

     Sources:

     New York Times, “Navy Pilot Dives In Sea” , September 9, 1949 

     U. S. Navy accident report dates September 8, 1949

Atlantic Ocean – June 20, 1947

Atlantic Ocean – June 20, 1947

15 Miles South of Nantucket, Mass.

     On June 20, 1947, Ensign Malcolm Sillars was on an operational flight over the Atlantic Ocean, 15 miles south of Nantucket Island, when the Hellcat fighter he was piloting developed engine trouble.  He was forced to make a water landing, and when his plane sank he inflated his life vest.  There he floated in the water as fellow Hellcat pilots circled above.

     A crash-rescue flying boat was dispatched, but when it arrived on the scene the water was too choppy for a safe landing.  The pilot was ordered not to attempt the rescue, but disregarded the command, and landed anyway, successfully plucking Sillars from the water.

     During take-off, a large wave reportedly tossed the rescue-craft 30 feet in the air, but the pilot successfully made it into the air. 

     Source: New York Times, “Pilot Rescued At Sea” , June 21, 1947      

Narragansett Bay – July 27, 1928

Narragansett Bay – July 27, 1928

Rhode Island

      On July 27, 1928, a U. S. Navy Loeing amphibian aircraft was on a training flight over Narragansett Bay with three men aboard.  The pilot was Ensign Forrest Lockwood McGurk, (USNR) who was receiving flight instruction from Lt. Jg. Thomas J. Kirkland.  Also aboard was Aviation Mechanic Oathe M. Sloane. 

     Shortly after 10:00 a.m., McGurk was attempting to turn the plane in anticipation of a water landing when the plane suddenly went into a spin and crashed into the bay between Conanicut Point and Prudence Island.  Lt. Kirkland was able to free himself and then pull Sloane from the rear cockpit, but McGurk was pinned in the wreckage and sank with the plane.  Twice Kirkland dove under water in an attempt to free him, but was unable.  Fortunately Kirkland and Sloane were able to cling to a wingtip pontoon which had broken free from the impact, and floated for fifteen minutes before being rescued by a boat from the naval torpedo station in Newport.

     When the aircraft was later hauled to the surface, it took over an hour to remove Ensign McGurk’s body. 

     Ensign McGurk was one day shy of his 24th birthday.  He enlisted in the Naval Reserve in May of 1927, and received his officer’s commission five months later.  Two days prior to the crash, he reported for duty aboard the U.S.S. Wright in Newport to continue his flight training before his upcoming sea duty.    

     It was reported that this was the third navy plane crash off Newport in seven weeks. Lt. Homer N. Wilkinson was killed on June 9, 1928, when his plane crashed on the shore of Jamestown, R.I..  Commander Thalbert N. Alford, and Lt. Cmdr. William Butler Jr. were killed when their plane crashed in Narragansett Bay on July 2, 1928.       

Source:

Providence Journal, “Student Aviator Killed As Plane Crashes Into Bay”, July 28, 1928 pg. 1

             

Rocky Point, R.I. – July 4, 1913

Rocky Point, R.I. – July 4, 1913

 

DFP50096     Nels J. Nelson was sixteen when the Wright Brothers flew at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, in 1903.  Eight years later he was building his own airplanes in New Britain, Connecticut.  His first airplane made its maiden flight over Plainfield, Connecticut, May 1st, 1911. 

      Nelson took to giving flying exhibitions which were well received by a public eager to see what those “new fangled flying machines” could do.  By 1913 he’d developed what he called a “Hydroplane” capable of taking off and landing in water.  On July 1, 1913, Nelson flew his Hydroplane over Providence, Rhode Island, where he circled the area of Exchange Place and City Hall twice before making a turn around the dome of the state capitol.  From there he flew south where he landed in the water just off shore from the famous Rocky Point Amusement Park in Warwick.  The purpose of the flight was to generate interest in several flying exhibitions he was to give at Rocky Point as part of the 4th of July celebration festivities.  Advertisements of his arrival had been posted in local papers for several days. 

     Mr. Nelson was scheduled to give three exhibitions on July 4th; at 10 a.m., 2 p.m., and 5 p.m.  An article that appeared in The Woonsocket Call on July 5th described the first flight; “Shortly before 10 o’clock Nels Nelson sailed his 70 horse-power flying boat out into the bay in front of the Mansion House, watched by thousands of interested spectators.  The motor began to buzz and immediately the huge hydroplane commenced to skim at a rapid rate over the water.  As soon as the maximum speed was attained, the planes were slanted and the boat rose into the air, dripping like a sea gull which had captured its prey.  For a few moments Nelson drove the machine on the level – about 12 feet from the surface of the bay.  Soon, however, he rose higher until it became necessary to tip back one’s head to watch the flight.  Higher and higher went the boat, finally becoming but a speck in the sky sailing towards Prudence Island.”    

      On the second flight of the day Nelson took 21-year-old Irving Tukey aboard as a passenger.  The take-off went smoothly and the flight was uneventful until the aircraft was returning to land.  As Nelson was making his final approach, he cut power to the engine in anticipation of gliding down to the water, but at that instant, a strong gust of wind caught the plane and sent it into a sharp down-turn into the Narragansett Bay from an altitude of 60 feet.  

     Tukey suffered a broken wrist, a laceration to his forehead and numerous bumps and bruises.  Nelson was battered and dazed, but otherwise alright.  Both men were rescued by a private boat that was anchored nearby watching the festivities. 

     What became of Nelson’s hydroplane isn’t recorded, but the accident didn’t deter him from further flying.  The following September he flew another plane that he had built from New Britain, Connecticut to Chicago, Illinois.

      Mr. Nelson died in 1964 at the age of 77.  Many of his fellow aviators never reached middle age. His interest in aviation continued throughout his life.  Between 1903 and 1964, (the span of 61 years), he had witnessed the birth of the airplane, the jet, the rocket, and manned space flight.     

 Sources:

The Woonsocket Call, “Birdman Flies At Rocky Point”, July 3, 1913, Page 10

The Woonsocket Call, “Fourth Big Day At Rocky Point”, July 5, 1913, Page. 2

The Woonsocket Call, “Drop Into Bay”, July 7, 1913, Page 1

Internet website  www.earlyaviators.com Nels J. Nelson, 1887-1964

 

 

 

Taunton, MA – October 11, 1920

Taunton, Massachusetts – October 11, 1920

     On October 11, 1920, a plane piloted by Lt. Frederick Smith took off from Fall River, Mass. headed for Taunton.  While en-route, the engine suddenly stopped.  The aircraft fell 1,000 feet before crashing into a tree in Taunton.  Both Smith, and his passenger, Russell H. Leonard, a Fall River mill owner, escaped with minor injuries.    

     Sources:

     Falmouth Enterprise, “Aviator Smith In Accident”, October 16, 1920

     American Wool & Cotton Reporter, October 21, 1920 page(s) (65) 3721

Groton, CT – October 19, 1944

Groton, Connecticut – October 19, 1944

Updated January 13, 2019

    

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

     On October 19, 1944, a navy Hellcat fighter plane crashed into the roof of a home belonging to Fillibert L. Bergeron, causing substantial damage to the structure.  (The exact address was not stated in the press.)  As the plane tore through the house, it snagged the blanket off a sleeping 2-year-old girl.  After striking the home, the aircraft continued onward and came down in the nearby school yard of the Colonel Ledyard School on Chicago Avenue.  State troopers found the blanket amidst the aircraft wreckage. 

     The pilot was identified as navy Lieutenant W. J. McCartney, of Toledo, Ohio, who survived the ordeal with non-life threatening injuries. 

     The sleeping girl was unharmed.       

     Update: Lieutenant McCartney later married a woman who lived in the home his aircraft crashed into.  The story of their romance was published in a book titled “New London Goes To War” (c. 2011), written by Connecticut author Clark van der Lyke, who in 1944 was a child attending the school where Lieutenant McCartney’s Hellcat came to rest.   Mr. van der Lyke has also published the story in Kindle format under the title “Cupid Was His Co-pilot”.

     Source:

     New York Times, “Plane Wrecks Room; Sleeping Baby Saved”, October 20, 1944.    (Two photos with article.)

 

North Smithfield, RI – November 25, 1928

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – November 25, 1928

     On November 25, 1928, a flight of five U.S. Army airplanes were returning to Boston from New Haven, Connecticut, when one piloted by Lieutenant Robert O’Brien developed engine trouble.  The plane was equipped with two gas tanks, and when the first was almost empty, O’Brien opened the fuel supply line from the second, but discovered that the line was clogged.  Almost immediately the engine began sputtering and then stopped, leaving O’Brien with no choice but to make an emergency landing.

     Looking down he saw the old Woonsocket Trotting Park, but noted there was a football game in progress on the field, so he aimed the plane for a nearby farm.  The farm belonged to George Wright, on Woonsocket Hill Road, in North Smithfield, and is still in operation today.   

     As the plane came in to land, the wheels caught the top of a fence which sent it crashing nose first into the sod.    The aircraft was badly damaged, but O’Brien and his civilian passenger, Robert Wise, were uninjured.

Source: Woonsocket Call, “Two Escape Injury When Plane Crashes”, November 26, 1928, Pg. 1

        

Haverhill, MA – October 14, 1921

Haverhill, Massachusetts – October 14, 1921

     On October 14, 1921, Peter Pomerleau and Joseph H. Harrison were flying over Haverhill when their seaplane developed engine trouble.  The sputtering motor was heard by high school football players as the plane passed overhead. 

     Pomerleau tried to land the plane in the Merrimac (Merrimack) River, but lost altitude too quickly and crashed into trees at the waters edge off Riverside Avenue.   The plane was wrecked and both men were trapped inside.  They were pulled free by members of the football team who rushed to the scene after witnessing the accident.  Both suffered serious injuries and were transported to Hale Hospital by automobile. 

     Source: Woonsocket Call, “Two Flyers Injured In Merrimac Glide”, October 15, 1921. 

Dorchester Bay, MA – September 2, 1911

  Dorchester Bay, Massachusetts – September 2, 1911   

     On the morning of September 2, 1911, Joseph S. Cummings took off from Squantum Field in Quincy, Mass., for a flight in his Bleriot monoplane.  As he was flying over Dorchester Bay, he crashed into the water from an altitude of 500 feet.  (Another source puts the altitude at 300 feet.) Fortunately he was quickly recued with only minor injuries by the crew of the Coast Guard cutter Gresham.  

     One source blamed the cause of the accident as being sun glare off the water that temporarily blinded him, while another source blamed engine failure when a cylinder head “blew out”. 

      The New York Times termed it “the first accident in the two years of aviation at Squantum.” 

     Sources;

     The Tacoma Times, (Washington), “Falls Into Sea; Lives”, September 2, 1911 

     New York Times “Airman Falls In Bay”, September 3, 1911

     Evening Star, (Washington D.C.) “Revenue Cutter Service”, September 11, 1911

Long Island Sound – November 17, 1958

Long Island Sound – November 17, 1958

     On November 17, 1958, a four-passenger Piper aircraft left New York’s La Guardia Airport, (Now J.F.K. Airport) on a return trip to North Central Airport in Smithfield, Rhode Island.  The aircraft was piloted by Albino Beltrami, 36, of Providence.  His passengers, George W. Horton, 49, of Cumberland, R.I., and Eugene Sullivan, 50, of Shrewsbury, Mass., were in the aluminum manufacturing business, and had been in New York on business.   Somewhere over Long Island Sound the plane disappeared. 

     No distress call had been received, and it was surmised that whatever had happened, had been quick.  Residents along the Connecticut shore in the area of Madison, Connecticut, reported hearing a low flying plane and then an explosion the night the plane went missing. 

     Three days later a hat believed to belong to Mr. Horton washed up on Hammonasset State Park Beach in Madison.  A friend of Horton’s stated he was “reasonably certain”  that the hat was one the missing man had bought a few days earlier due to the certain way Horton was known to crease his hats. 

     On November 21st, a tobacco pouch washed ashore at Madison, and was positively identified as belonging to the pilot of the missing plane.      

     A large scale search was concentrated in that area involving Coast Guard and Civil Air Patrol personnel, but nothing further was found.   

     On April 28, 1960, a lobster fisherman was dragging for bait off Meig’s Point at Hammonasset Park when his net snagged on the missing airplane in 58 feet of water.  A month later divers confirmed it was the missing Piper with the remains of three men aboard.  

Sources:

Providence Journal, “Hat Found On beach Linked To Lost Plane” November 20, 1958, Pg.1

Providence Journal, “Pilot’s Pouch Found On Beach”, November 21, 1958, Pg. 11

Providence Journal, “Skin Divers Locate Bodies Of Two R.I. men In Plane” May 17, 1960, Pg. 26 

 

Turners Falls, MA – September 20, 1943

Turners Falls, Massachusetts – September 20, 1943

     At about 3:00 p.m., on September 20, 1943, a Pitcairn PCA-3 Autogyro, NC11612 took off from Turners Falls Airport in Montague, Massachusetts, and crashed about a half hour afterwards about one mile west-northwest of the airport.  The pilot, Donald Whitman was seriously injured.

     Whitman was test flying the aircraft for the Department of Agriculture, flying low at tree-top level to simulate aerial spraying which was what the autogyro was to be used for.  At one point the landing gear snagged some electrical wires which caused the accident.    The wires were stretched between poles which were partially hidden by dense foliage. 

     Source: Civil Aeronautics Investigation Report 4066-43, May 19, 1944.

      

 

Narragansett, RI – August 9, 1914

Narragansett, Rhode Island – August 9, 1914

     On August 9, 1914, aviator Harry M. Jones was seriously injured when he crashed his airplane in the Narrow River in Narragansett.  No further details were given.

Source: New York Times, “Narragansett Flier Hurt”, August 10, 1914

     Jones was famous for landing his airplane on the Boston Common on January 2, 1913, to collect a cash prize offered by a Boston newspaper to the first person to do it. Unfortunately the newspaper had rescinded the offer two days earlier. 

Update June 19, 2016

     Jones was involved in an earlier crash on May 25, 1913, when he crashed into Narragansett Bay while giving an exhibition at a baseball game.. For details, see elsewhere on this website under Rhode Island Civil Aviation Accidents. 

        

Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲