Atlantic Ocean – March 23, 1949

     Atlantic Ocean – March 23, 1949

Updated October 7, 2023

Lt. Cmdr. Albert D. Foster

       On the evening of March 23, 1949, Lt. Cmdr. Albert D. Foster and Lt. Cmdr. S. Larch Miller, took off from Quantico, Virginia, in a pair of F4U Corsairs on what was to be a ferry mission to the Squantum Naval Air Station in Quincy, Massachusetts.   Shortly after 7:00 p.m. the two men found themselves in thick fog conditions over the Providence, Rhode Island, area and began circling in hopes of gaining a visual reference to pinpoint their exact location during which time the two became separated.   At 7:20 p.m. Lt. Cmdr. Foster reported he was low on fuel and would have to bail out.  

     Lt. Cmdr. Miller found his way to Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, and safely landed there.     

     Meanwhile a search was begun for Foster.  As word spread through the media, authorities were contacted by numerous well-meaning citizens anxious to report what they thought they might have seen or heard the night before, yet there had been no reports of a plane crash, or any sign of the missing airman. 

     Initially the search centered on Rhode Island, but was widened to include Massachusetts and Connecticut.  Numerous military and civilian searchers took part both on the ground and in the air. 

      It was speculated that Foster might have been injured when he bailed out and was lying injured in a remote wooded area.  One area of Rhode Island that was searched was the Buck Hill Management Area because a civilian had reported hearing a plane flying in that direction with its engine sputtering. 

     Another civilian pilot reported seeing what he thought was a parachute in the Massachusetts woods between North Grafton and Westboro. 

     Yet another search concentrated on a wooded area of Northbridge, Massachusetts, after two credible witnesses reported hearing cries for help near the Rice City Dam.  Despite an extensive search of the area nothing was found.   

F4U Corsair
US Navy Photo

     Then on March 26, the fishing vessel Calista D. Morrill was dragging its nets off Thatcher’s Island (Massachusetts) when it snagged portions of an aircraft that were later identified as being part of the one flown by Lt. Cmdr. Foster.  The recovered pieces, which included the engine, a wheel, and parts of the wings and fuselage, were brought to the Dolliver’s Neck Coast Guard Station.  The condition of the artifacts suggested the aircraft had crashed into the water, and had not made an emergency water landing.  The question relating to initial reports about Lt. Cmdr. Foster bailing out over the Providence metro area were never answered. 

     Lt. Cmdr. Foster’s body was later recovered and it was announced in his obituary that his remans would be cremated and interred later.

     Lieutenant Commander Foster was an experienced pilot who’d flown combat missions in the Pacific during World War II.  He served aboard the aircraft carrier USS Lunga Point, and participated in attacks at Leyete, Lingayen Gulf, Iwo Jima, and Okinawa, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross with one gold star, and the Air Medal with five gold stars.

     He was survived by his wife and child.

     A related story to this incident involved two civilian volunteer searchers who were seriously injured when their light plane crashed in Norfolk, Massachusetts, when it ran out of fuel. 


     Pawtuxet Valley Times, (RI), “Navy And Police Puzzled At Plane’s Disappearance”, March 24, 1949, page 1

     Pawtuxet Valley Times, (RI), “50 Planes search For Missing Flyer”, March 25, 1949, page 1

     Pawtuxet Valley Times, (RI), “Navy Experts Examine Plane Wreckage Found”, March 26, 1949, page 1

     Woonsocket Call, (RI), “Planes Fly Grim Hunt For navy Flier Who Bailed Out Last Night”, March 24, 1949, page 1

     Woonsocket Call, (RI), “Planes Search Mid-Bay State For Lost Flyer”, March 25, 1949, Page 4

     Woonsocket Call, (RI), “Woods Scoured – Navy Pilot Missing 3 Days; Wreckage Spotted In Ocean”, March 26, 1949

     Woonsocket Call, (RI), “Navy Calls Off Uxbridge Area hunt For Pilot”, March 26, 1949

     Quincy Patriot Ledger, (Mass.), “60 Planes Continue Search For Missing Weymouth Flier”, March 25, 1949

     Quincy Patriot Ledger, (Mass.), “Plane Wreckage Found At Sea”, March 26, 1949, page 1 

     Quincy Patriot Ledger, (Mass.), “Navy Planes Scan Coastline For Trace Of Missing Flier”, March 28, 1949, page 1

     Quincy Patriot Ledger, (Mass.) “Leak In dragger Forces Postponement Of Plane Salvage”, March 30, 1949

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