Otis Air Field – March 27, 1944

   Otis Air Field – March 27, 1944

Falmouth, Massachusetts    

U.S. Army - Douglas RA-24B, U.S. Air Force Photo

U.S. Army – Douglas RA-24B, U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 27, 1944, Women’s Air Service Pilot, (WASP), Frances F. Grimes, was killed shortly after take-off from Otis Field.  The aircraft was an RA-24B, (42-54552), the army’s version of the U.S. Navy’s SBD Dauntless dive bomber.   Shortly after taking off, the plane developed engine trouble and dove into the ground. 

     Frances Fortune Grimes was born in Deer Park, Maryland and was a graduate of West Virginia University, and the University of Pittsburg.  She entered the service in January 1943 at Ellington Field in Houston, Texas, and began her flight training at Avenger Field in Sweetwater, Texas, on January 15, 1943.   She completed her training as part of the class 43-W-3 on July, 3, 1943, and was designated a ferry pilot, assigned to Love Field in Dallas.  From there she served at Camp Davis, North Carolina, before arriving at Otis Field on December 15, 1943.   She was 32-years-old at the time of her death.   

     Three other WASP pilots were also serving at Otis Field at the time: Shirley Ingalls, Mildred A. Toner, and Mary L. Leatherbee, all of whom acted as pallbearers at Miss Grimes funeral held at Camp Edwards. 

     This was the second fatal accident involving the same type of aircraft from Otis Field within three weeks.  On March 3, 1944, another RA-24B (42-54555) crashed near the entrance of Woods Hole Harbor killing the pilot, 2nd Lt. Joseph H. Gardner, 29.  (See posting on this website for more info.)  

     For a photo of Miss Grimes, and other information about WASP pilots, go Wings Across America/ Wasp On The Web/ Above and Beyond.

Sources:

Falmouth Enterprise, “Woman Pilot Dies In Otis Field Crash” March 31, 1944   

Lawrence Webster, Aviation Archeologist & Historian

Wings Across America/Wasp On The Web/Above & Beyond – www.wingsacrossamerica.org.

 

    

Pocasset, MA – August 13, 1945

Pocasset, Massachusetts – August 13, 1945 

     On August 13, 1945, Ensign William Orlando Young Jr., 22, was piloting a scout plane from Otis Air Field in Falmouth as part of his training for assignment to the navy’s newest aircraft carrier, the U.S.S. Midway.  When overdue for his return to base, he was reported missing, and a search utilizing aircraft from Otis and Quonset Point, R.I. began.  His body and his wrecked plane were found the following day in Pocasset, Mass. 

     Ensign Young’s body was brought to Quonset Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being sent to Gathersburg, Maryland for burial.  He was survived by his wife Hazel.  

     Sources:

     Falmouth Enterprise, “Pilot From Otis Killed In Crash” August 17, 1945   

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #45-77

 

Otis Air Field/Litchfield, N.Y. – February 14, 1943

Otis Air Field, Falmouth, Massachusetts/Litchfield, New York

February 14, 1943

    

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber - U.S. Air Force Photo

B-25C Twin-Engine Bomber – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 6:23 p.m. on February 14, 1943, a U.S. Army B-25C, twin-engine bomber, (#42-53401), left Rome, New York, en-route to its home base at Otis Air Field in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  The temperature that evening was well below zero, and snow was falling.  Near Albany, New York, the aircraft encountered blizzard conditions and was forced to turn back towards Rome.  As the plane flew over the Mohawk Valley it is speculated that the pilot began looking for a place to make an emergency landing because witnesses remembered hearing the plane circling, and seeing a pink flare light up the sky shortly the B-25 crashed in an area of the town of Litchfield known as “Cranes Corners”.    

     The crash occurred at 7:25 p.m. on the farm of John Wheelock. (Contemporary maps show a Wheelock Road in Litchfield.)  According to one newspaper account, “The bomber, which plowed though the snow as it crashed, burrowed through the field and skidded along to the road, stopping less than 200 yards from the Richards’ home.”  Debris was scattered over a wide area and the plane burned on impact.  There were no survivors.

     Volunteer fire crews from the town of Ilion, (which is about six miles to the north), arrived with great difficulty, hampered by mounting snow drifts, sub-zero temperatures, and gale-force winds.  A snow plow from the town of Litchfield managed to clear a path to the site.  Many of the first responders, which besides the firemen, included state and local police, and military personnel from Rome, suffered frostbite due to the extreme weather conditions. 

     The B-25 took down power lines which left many area homes in darkness. 

     The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) 1st Lt. John R. Rogers, of Gouverneur, New York. 

     (Co-pilot) 2nd Lt. Richard Lee Vance, of Scraggy Neck, Cataumet, (Town of Bourne) Massachusetts.  He was 21-years-old.  he’s buried in Greenlawn cemetery in Columbus, Ohio.     

     (Crew Chief) Technical Sergeant Arthur A. Sobczak, of Milwaukie, Wisconsin.  (This name is misspelled in newspaper and other accounts as “Sobzak”.  The correct spelling is “Sobczak”) T/Sgt. Sobczak is buried in St. Adalbert’s Cemetery, Milwaukie, Wisconsin, Section 15, Block 8, Lot 20.  (Findagrave.com Memorial # 115077354)

     The men were assigned to the 14th Anti-Submarine Squadron stationed at Otis Field.

     Sources:

     Rome Daily Sentinel, “Three Airmen Killed After Leaving Rome”, February 15, 1943, pg. 2

     (Unknown Newspaper), “Cold, Snow, Wind Hamper Salvage Of Wrecked Plane”, February 18, 1943 

     (Book) Litchfield Through The Years, by the Litchfield Historical Committee, C. 1976

     Findagrave.com

     With thanks to the Ilion Free Public Library, Ilion, N.Y.

 

 

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