Off Long Island, N.Y. – March 31, 1943

     Off Long Island, New York, – March 31, 1943


U.S. Navy Wildcat Fighter
U.S. Navy Photo

On the evening of March 31, 1943, a flight of four F4F-4 Wildcat aircraft took off from the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island bound for Floyd Bennett Field on Long Island, New York.  Ensign Robert G. Carlson led the first section, which took off at 4:05 p.m., and Lieutenant Ernest C. Houck Houck led the second section, which took off at 4:23 p.m.  Lt. Houck’ s wingman was Ensign Leonard E. Byrer.  Both sections had been cleared under CFR direct, but soon after take off they encountered foul weather which included falling snow and low cloud cover. 

     While flying about 50 feet over the water just off the south shore of Long Island, Ensign Carlson’s wingman  observed Carlson’s aircraft suddenly bank sharply and disappear.  Ensign Carlson perished when his aircraft, (Bu. No. 12200), crashed into the water about 500 feet off shore.  Meanwhile his wingman landed safely after flying on instruments for an hour. 

     A short time later Ensign Byrer’s aircraft, (Bu. No. 12205), went down in the water near U. S. Coast Guard Station #79.  His body was recovered.   To see a photo of Ensign Byrer click here:

     Lieutenant Houck, flying Bu. No. 12207 never made it to Floyd Bennett Field and it was assumed that he too crashed at sea.  Neither his aircraft nor his body were ever recovered.  To see a photo of Lt. Houck click here:  

      Ensign Carlson’s body was recovered on May 1. He’s buried in Riverview Cemetery in St. Joseph, Michigan.  

     The men were assigned to VF-24. 


     Three U. S. Navy accident reports, #43-6380, #43-6381. #43-6382, all dated March 31, 1943.

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