Quonset Point, R. I. – July 20, 1942

Quonset Point, Rhode Island – July 20, 1942


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     At 1:15 p.m. on July 20, 1942, a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 00524), was returning to Quonset Point Naval Air Station after a training flight when the engine lost all power and crashed into a pile of rocks at the end of the runway while attempting an emergency landing.  Two men were aboard the aircraft at the time, and both suffered broken bones.

     The aircraft was a total loss.

     The aircraft was assigned to VF-4.   


     U. S. Navy accident report #43-4516

Quonset Point, R. I. – June 22, 1944

Quonset Point, Rhode Island – June 22, 1944


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On June 22, 1944, a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 06152), was taking off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station when the engine suddenly lost power.  The aircraft came down at the end of the runway with it wheels retracted.  It went off the end of the runway skidding through soft dirt and then over a seawall.  The aircraft required a major overhaul but the three-man crew was not hurt.  The accident was blamed on mechanical failure.

     The aircraft was assigned to VT-48. 

     As a point of fact, this same TBF Avenger, (Bu. No. 06152), had been involved in a previous accident.  On January 13, 1944, while landing at Martha’s Vineyard Naval Air Station during strong wind gusts, the aircraft went off the runway and was damaged, but the crew was not injured.  At that time the aircraft was assigned to VT-7. 


     U. S. Navy accident report #44-15764 dated June 22, 1944

     U. S. Navy accident report #44-10853 dated January 13, 1944

Quonset Point NAS – September 24, 1943

Quonset Point Naval Air Station – September 24, 1943    



Douglas SBD Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     Due to low lighting conditions, on the night of September 24, 1943, an SBD-5 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 28340), taxied off the end of the runway and dropped off a seawall where it sank in 3o feet of water.  The pilot and the gunner escaped without injury.   The aircraft was recovered.     

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report dated September 24, 1943.

Narragansett Bay, R. I. – October 4, 1945

Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island – October 4, 1945


F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     On October 4, 1945, Ensign Clinton S. Winter, Jr., took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in an F4U-4 Corsair, (Bu. No. 81380), for a routine training flight.  Just after takeoff, while at an altitude of 200 feet, the engine suddenly lost all power and the plane crash-landed into Narragansett Bay about two miles off the end of the runway.  The plane sank, but Ensign Winter escaped and was rescued a short time later.

     At the time of the accident, Ensign Winter was assigned to VBF-81.

     Source: National Archives, AAR 7-45, TD451004RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.


Quonset Point, R.I. – November 5, 1943

Quonset Point, R. I. – November 5, 1943



F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On November 5, 1943, Lt. (jg.) George E. Orenge was piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (#65895) on a test flight from Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  At about 10:00 a.m. he came back to land at Quonset Point.  After touching down on the runway, the left tire on the landing gear blew out causing the plane to swerve into an ordinance truck parked on the extreme edge of the tarmac.  There were no injuries, but the aircraft required a major overhaul. 


     U.S. Navy Accident Report # 44-9523


Quonset Point, R.I. – March 28, 1944

Quonset Point, R.I. – March 28, 1944


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

     At 7:45 p.m., on the night of March 28, 1944, members of the U.S. Navy’s VF-7 squadron were at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, preparing for a night tactics training flight.   All aircraft involved in the operation were F6F-3 Hellcat fighter planes.

     The first six aircraft left the ground without incident.  The next aircraft in line, (Bu. No. 41964), was piloted by Ensign Claude Earl Schilling.  When Ensign Schilling was granted clearance, he proceeded down the runway.  After traveling approximately 2,000 feet down the tarmac, his aircraft inexplicably veered to the right and went off the runway and onto the grass where it ground-looped back onto the runway and came to rest.   Meanwhile, the eighth aircraft, (Bu. No. #41938), piloted by Ensign Charles Francis Sullivan, had also been granted permission to take off on the same runway used by Schilling.  Due to the dark conditions, nobody realized that Schilling hadn’t made it into the air,  and Sullivan’s Hellcat struck Schilling’s plane just aft of  the cockpit severing the fuselage and igniting the fully loaded fuel tanks. 

     Sullivan managed to escape the burning wreckage, but Schilling was killed.

     According to the navy investigation report, what caused Ensign Schilling’s aircraft to leave the runway could not be determined.   

     Ensign Schilling is buried at Rio Vista Fellows Masonic Cemetery, in Rio Vista, California.  See www.findagrave.com, Memorial #135531762. 


     U.S. Navy Investigation Report #44-12718    




Off Block Island – January 31,1944

Off Block Island – January 31, 1944

Rhode Island


U.S. Navy PB4Y-1
With Gray Over White Paint Scheme
U.S. Navy Photo – 1943

    On the night of January 31, 1944, a U.S. Navy PB4Y-1 (Bu. No. 32181) left Quonset Point Naval Air Station for an anti-submarine patrol – searchlight training flight over the Atlantic Ocean.  The airplane was equipped with a powerful searchlight mounted under one of the wings to be used in spotting surface vessels at night.  Therefore, the plane would be flying fairly low over the water during its searches.

     The weather that night was snowy with strong gusty winds.  At some point the aircraft crashed into the ocean and disappeared taking all ten crewmen aboard with it.  A search was organized, however nothing was found, and Naval investigators could only guess as to what might have happened. 

     The navy’s official investigation report (#44-11364) listed some possibilities, among them:

     1) The pilot experienced vertigo and crashed.

     2) Instrument failure, specifically the radio altimeter or artificial horizon.

     3) Engine failure.

     About two months later, on April 6, 1944, the Nathaniel B. Palmer, a fishing boat dragging its nets in the vicinity of Block Island snared an unexploded bomb which blew up when it was brought to the surface killing all but one man aboard.  

     More bombs were later recovered by other boats dragging their nets in the same area, and warnings were posted to stay clear. 

     If the bombs had come from the missing aircraft, it didn’t necessarily indicate that the plane rested in that area, for they could have been jettisoned due to an emergency.  

     Nearly 50 years later, in April of 1992, another fishing boat, the Nancy & Gary, brought up a three-blade aluminum aircraft propeller in its nets while dragging about thirteen miles off Block island.  The condition of the prop indicated it had been in the water for a long time. The artifact made its way into the possession of Lawrence Webster, a well known aviation historian and archeologist affiliated with Rhode Island’s Quonset Air Museum.  Through his research, Webster determined the propeller had come from a PB4Y-1, and records indicated that only one such aircraft had been lost in the area where the propeller had been found. 

     Webster contacted two New England companies that had sonar equipment capable of scanning the ocean floor hoping to find the wreck site of the long lost aircraft.  The search was successful, and the mystery of the missing navy plane was solved.  Unfortunately, no human remains could be recovered.    

     The aircraft lies in 150 feet of water at approximately 41 degrees 9′ N and 71 degrees, 16.55 W.  

    The crew included:

     (Pilot)  Lieut. Harold Leroy Neff, 29, of Centralia, Missouri. Lieut. Neff was killed just one day after his birthday.  To see a monument to his memory and learn more about him, see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #47219916.

     Lieut. Hubert C. McClellan, 25, of Plymouth, Michigan. To see a monument  to his memory, see www.findagrave.com, memorial # 129372432.

     Ens. Niles D. Kinney, of Woodlake, Minnisota.

     AMM1C Arthur Joel Lien, 24, of Hixton, Wisconsin.  To see a photograph of Arthur Lien and a memorial to him, see www.findagrave.com, memorial # 60612769.

     AMM1C Nathaniel Hornstein, of Bridgeport, Connecticut.

     ARM3C Wilton Hardin, of Elizabethtown, North Carolina.

     ARM3C Willard Joseph Hinger, 20, of Newark, Ohio.  To see a photograph of Willard Hinger, as well as a monument to his memory, and to read a newspaper article about him, see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #130964218. 

      AMM2C Peter Yezersky, Hermine, Pennsylvania.

     ARM3C William J. Kline, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

     AOM3C John H. Linnehan, Jr., of Albany, New York. 

     The crew had been assigned to bomber group VB-114. 


     U.S. Navy investigation report #44-11364, dated January 31, 1944

     Book, “Come Aboard The Draggers – Sea Sketches”, by Cap’n Ellery Thompson, 1958, page 60.

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “48-Year Mystery Solved?”, May 19, 1992

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Liberator Wreckage Found”, May 27, 1992, page 5

     Narragansett Times, (RI),”Scientists To View Plane Crash Site”, May 29, 1992, page 2.  

     Advocate Tribune, (Minnesota), “Final Chapter Written In Serviceman’s Death”, May 27, 1993, page 1 

     Cape Cod Times, (Mass.), “Deep Sea Search Finds Bomber – Navy Plane Went Down In 1944 Off R.I.”, May 20, 1992

     Banner Journal, (Wisconsin), “Looking Back Jackson County – History Comes Closer To Home”, October 21, 1992

    Other information supplied by Lawrence Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist – Quonset Air Museum.    


     Unknown newspaper, “Hinger Now Listed Dead”, February 16, 1945.

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