The Mystery Surrounding Charles Lindbergh’s Letter To Woonsocket, R.I.

The Mystery Surrounding Charles Lindbergh’s

Letter To Woonsocket, Rhode Island

 

Charles Lindbergh flying over Woonsocket, R.I. – June 1927.
Photo courtesy of The Woonsocket Historical Society.

     The following is a little known story about Col. Charles A. Lindbergh, famous for being the first person to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in May of 1927.  

     On July 22, 1927, shortly after his historic trans-Atlantic flight, Charles Lindbergh landed in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, in his Spirit of St. Louis, as part of a nation-wide good-will tour.  From there he traveled to Providence via motorcade escorted by the Rhode Island State Police along a route lined with thousands of adoring fans. 

     In Providence, Lindbergh gave a speech on the steps of City Hall, and was presented with a medal by Mayor Joseph H. Gainer.    

     After Providence, Lindberg’s next stop was Boston, and upon leaving the state, he’d arranged to circle the City of Woonsocket, and drop a personal note of goodwill from his airplane. The specific wording of the message is unknown, but the note was retrieved, placed in a frame, and put on display at Woonsocket’s Harris Institute Library then located in Woonsocket City Hall on Main Street.  There it remained until the night of November 16, 1927, when it was stolen from its frame during a break-in at the library. 

     It was believed that the crime was committed by the same person or persons responsible for other recent burglaries throughout the city.  Chief Inspector Joseph H. Jalbert, Captain John F. Crowley, and Sergeants John T. Whalen and Omer Daigle worked on the case, and in a few days arrested a 17-year-old youth who confessed to the crimes.  The youth led them to the basement of a friends home on Front Street, and showed them a concealed hiding place under the floor of the washroom where he’d hidden the letter and other items from other burglaries that he’d taken. 

     Although the Lindbergh letter was dampened from being in its hiding place, it was in otherwise good condition, and was returned to the Harris Institute Library.  However, in 1974, the library re-located from City Hall to its present location on Clinton Street.  It was during this move, according to one library employee, that the note disappeared, and its present whereabouts is unknown.    

     A possible reason as to why a special message was dropped over Woonsocket, and not any other Rhode Island municipality, might be due to the fact that Governor, Aram J. Pothier, then governor of the state, resided in Woonsocket.

     Sources:

     Woonsocket Call, “Col. Lindbergh Will Fly Over This City”, July 21, 1927, page 1

     Woonsocket Call, “Lindbergh Thanked For Favoring City With Aerial Visit”, July 23, 1927, page 2.  

     Woonsocket Call, “Lindbergh Message Stolen From Frame At Harris Library”, November 17, 1927, page 1.  

     Woonsocket Call, “Youth Is Bound Over To Grand Jury For Series Of Breaks”, November 25, 1927, page 1.

 

 

 

Atlantic Ocean – December 10, 1944

Atlantic Ocean – December 10, 1944 

     On December 10, 1944, a group of eleven navy fighter planes left Otis Field in Falmouth, Massachusetts, for an operational training flight over the Atlantic, but only nine returned.  By 8:00 p.m. a search was begun for the two missing planes, and aircraft from Otis and Quonset Point, R.I., as well as crash boats from Woods Hole, Martha’s Vineyard, and Nantucket, searched the area north of Nantucket where there had been unconfirmed reports of flares being sighted. 

     Despite the efforts, no trace of the missing aircraft or the pilots was ever found.

     The missing men are: Ensign John D. Cassidy, 21, of Macon, Georgia, and Lieutenant John I. Drew, 27, of Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 

Source:

Falmouth Enterprise, ”Planes Lost On Training Flight”, December 15, 1944.   

 

 

 

Missing Aircraft – April 19, 1980

MISSING AIRCRAFT – April 19, 1980

Aircraft: Cessna 150, Registration N19593

      At 9:00 a.m., on April 19, 1980, a Cessna 150 left Bayport Airdrome on Long Island, New York, for a three-leg navigational training flight to Newport, Rhode Island, then to Oxford, Connecticut, and back to Bayport.  The pilot was 55-year-old Rose Heinlen, a student pilot from Lake Ronkonkoma, N.Y. with less than 60 hours of flight time.  Somewhere between Long Island and Newport she and the Cessna disappeared and have not been seen since.  No distress calls were received.

     Civil Air Patrol wings from New York, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, as well as the U.S. Coast Guard participated in the search.  25 aircraft of all types searched the waters from Montauk, Long Island, to Martha’s Vineyard, including waters along the coasts of three states.  

     One area of focus was Narragansett Bay north of the Mount Hope Bridge, where it was reported that an oil slick had been sighted on the water.  A Coast Guard vessel sent to investigate found only a wooden raft that was not connected to the missing plane.

     One woman reported that she had seen an airplane resembling a Cessna flying only ten feet off the water of Narragansett Bay on the day of the disappearance. Three fishermen later corroborated this, but nothing was found. 

     Part of the investigation revealed that a steady 20 to 30 knot wind had been blowing at the time of the flight which could have pushed the aircraft as much as 300 degrees off course towards Cape Cod and the islands, and Mrs. Heinlen may not have been aware of this.

     On April 23rd it was reported that Mrs. Heinlin may have communicated with another pilot via radio between 10:30 and 11:00 a.m. stating she was lost.  The revelation came about after a Rhode Island pilot reported hearing a radio conversation between a woman and another pilot.  The woman stated she was lost, and the pilot was attempting to give her directions.  Unfortunately, the pilot giving directions was never identified. 

     As of this time the case remains open. 

 Sources:

Providence Journal, “4-state Search For Small Plane Centers Briefly In Touisset Area”, April 22, 1980, Pg. A-3

Providence Journal, “Lost Pilot May Have Sought Directions”, April 23, 1980, Pg. B-13

Providence Evening Bulletin, “CAP Widens Search For Lost Cessna”, April 22, 1980, page A-6    

NTSB Brief – NYC80FAMS4

 

 

 

Missing Aircraft – February 10, 1943

Missing Aircraft – February 10, 1943

Updated June 30, 2017

     On the afternoon of February 10, 1943, a U.S. Army O-47B observation plane, (ser. #39-72) with two men aboard left Bradley Field in Windsor Locks, Connecticut, bound for Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York, and disappeared en-route.  Searchers flying the intended route of the plane failed to locate anything.  It’s possible that the plane went down in Long Island Sound.

     The pilot was Flight Officer Talmadge J. Simpson, 23, of Atlanta, Georgia, and his observer was Corporal Louis T. Vogt Jr., 25, of Brooklyn, New York.     

     Update: This aircraft was located in October of 1976 in 50 feet of water near the Long Island Lighting Company loading platform in Northport, Long Island, New York, when a fishing boat snagged it nets on the wreckage.  

     Sources:

      New York Times, (No headline – press release from Westover Field, Massachusetts, from the Eastern Defense Command.), February, 14, 1943  

     Newsday, (long island, N.Y.), “A 33-Year-Old Mystery In The Sound”, October 24, 1976 

Missing Aircraft – April 27, 1966

Missing Aircraft – April 27, 1966

    

B-57 Reconnaissance Bomber U.S. Air Force Photo

B-57 Reconnaissance Bomber
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On April 27, 1966, an Air Force B-57 reconnaissance bomber was on a training flight from Newburgh, New York, to Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, when it disappeared after radioing a distress signal, presumably  somewhere near the Falmouth area. 

     There were two men aboard the aircraft: (Pilot) Major Malcolm T. Kalser, 42, of Biggs, California, and (Navigator) Major Frank N. Guzzetta, 40, of Darby, Penn.    

     After a widespread search nothing was found, and the Air Force called off the search after eight days.

     Then, on Sunday, May 9, 1966, two fishermen from Cuttyhunk Island reported finding what they though might be pieces of the missing aircraft on a nearby beach.  “The wreckage”, it was reported, “included one part about five feet long and a rubber de-icing boot.” 

     The pieces were turned over to the Air Force.

    Source:

    Woonsocket Call, “Plane Search May Resume; Parts Found”, May 9, 1966, Pg. 6       

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