Narragansett Bay – June 11, 1942

Narragansett Bay – June 11, 1942


P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 11, 1942, 2nd Lt. William K. Liggett was piloting a P-40E aircraft (Ser. No. 41-25019) as part of a formation training flight with other P-40 aircraft over the Narragansett Bay area.   At about 1:45 p.m. his aircraft developed engine trouble and he was forced to look for a place to set down.  He chose what he thought to be an open area of beach about one mile northeast of the town of Portsmouth, but as he got closer he realized there were civilians on the beach.  Witnesses later told investigators that at the last moment Lt. Liggett abruptly turned towards the water and was killed when the plane crashed into the bay. 

     The crash was blamed on a problem with the aircraft’s fuel system. 

     Lt. Liggett obtained his pilot’s rating on April 29, 1942, and at the time of his death he was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field, In Warwick, Rhode Island. 

     Source:  Army Air Corps Technical report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-11-8    

Norwood, MA – June 16, 1942

Norwood, Massachusetts – June 16, 1942

Curtis P-40 Aircraft
U. S. Army Air Corps Photo

     On June 16, 1942, 2nd Lt. Herbert C. Chamberlain, (23), was piloting a Curtiss P-40E (Ser. No. 41-25161) over Norwood, Mass., when the aircraft experienced engine trouble.  Lt. Chamberlain attempted an emergency landing at Norwood Airport, but went down in a swampy area near the edge of the field.  The plane was damaged but Lt. Chamberlain was unhurt.     

     Lt. Chamberlain was killed a few days later in another P-40 crash at Hillsgrove Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island, on June 24, 1942.  For more information, see Hillsgrove, June 24, 1942

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident, #42-6-16-37  

Bradley Field, CT – May 25, 1942

Bradley Field, Windsor Locks, Connecticut – May 25, 1942 


P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 4:30 p.m., on May 25, 1942, 2nd Lt. Thomas J. Beasley had just taken off  from Bradley Field in a P-40E,  (Ser. No. 40-392), when he discovered a problem with the aircraft’s oil pressure system and attempted to return to base for an emergency landing.  After receiving instructions from Bradley tower, he was attempting to land when he suddenly saw another aircraft making for the same runway.  At that time he made a skidding turn to the left in attempt to get into the wind, but his left wing dropped in a stall.  Lt. Beasley was able to regain control of the plane, but due to his now diminished air speed the aircraft dropped flat onto the runway from an altitude of 30 feet and proceeded to skid for 75 yards before coming to rest and catching fire.   Although the aircraft was a total loss, Lt Beasley escaped with minor injuries. 

     The aircraft was assigned to the 66th Fighter Squadron, 57th Fighter Group. 

     Source: U. S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-5-25-9    

Off North Kingstown, R.I. – June 28, 1942

Off North Kingstown, Rhode Island – June 28, 1942


P-40 Warhawk  U.S. Air Force Photo

P-40 Warhawk
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 10:30 a.m. on June 28, 1942, army aviator (rank unknown) Robert M. Flanders, 24, was killed when the airplane he was piloting crashed at the water at the east end of Hope Island, which is located in Narragansett Bay, just off shore from the former Quonset Naval Air Station in North Kingstown.   The type of aircraft and details of the accident are unknown.

     Source: North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #42-23  

    Update September 15, 2015:  Robert Flanders was a 2nd Lieutenant, and was from Cambridge, Massachusetts.  The aircraft he was piloting was a P-40E (#40-440)


     New York Times, “4 Army Fliers Die In Ohio”, June 29, 1942.  (The article covered more than one plane crash.)

     Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archaeologist.

     Update March 2, 2016:   This accident occurred while Lt. Flanders, and 2nd Lt. David H. Brown were engaged in a mock aerial dogfight at 15,000 feet in their P-40 airplanes.  At one point, Lt. Flanders’ P-40 began to dive at high speed, reaching the speed of 400 mph.  At 8,000 feet he began to pull out of the dive at which point his plane exploded in mid-air. 

     A statement filed by Lt. Brown to Army investigators reads as follows:

     “Lt. Flanders and I were on a combat mission when his plane exploded and he met his death.

     We were on oxygen and fighting at 15,000 feet at this time.  Lt. Flanders rolled over on his back and started down in a split-S.  I immediately rolled over and followed him down.  As he started to pull out at about 8,000 feet, and traveling at approximately 400 mph, there was a terrific explosion and his plane went to pieces.”    

      The accident was also witnessed by at least three observers on Hope Island, all of whom basically stated that after the explosion the plane fell nose first into the water.

     It was the opinion of the accident investigation committee that the explosion originated in the reserve fuel tank, possibly caused by a portion of engine cowling being ripped loose from the force of the dive and cutting into the tank.  

     Both pilots were attached to the 66th Fighter Squadron then based at Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island. 

     Lt. Flanders had obtained his pilots rating on May 29, 1942.

     Lt. Flanders was born June 23, 1917, and died just five days after his 24th birthday. He’s buried in Bellevue Cemetery in Lawrence, Massachusetts.


     United States Army Crash Investigation Report#42-6-28-8

     Updated March 9, 2016

     On June 12, 1942, sixteen days before his fatal accident, Lt. Flanders had a close call while flying another P-40 aircraft, (Ser. No. 41-36514).  On that date, he was returning to Hillsgrove Air Field in Warwick, Rhode Island, after a routine training flight.  Just as he was landing, a strong gust of wind lifted the left wing, causing the right wing to touch the ground and send the plane into a 270 degree “ground loop”.  The aircraft suffered some damage, but Lt. Flanders was unhurt.

     Source: U.S. Army Air Corps Technical Report Of Aircraft Accident #42-6-12-32, dated June 26, 1942.



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