North Kingstown, R. I. – August 21, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island – August 21, 1944

Updated March 8, 2019


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of August 21, 1944, two TBF-1 Avengers, (Bu. No. 23967), and (Bu. No. 06104), left Quonset Point Naval Air Station as part of a flight of several planes that were to take part in a routine training mission.   The two Avengers were flying in a two-plane formation over Narragansett Bay along the western side of Jamestown Island while they waited for other aircraft in the flight to join up with them.  Bu. No. 23967, piloted by Ensign Walter L. Miller, Jr., 21, of Texas, was in the lead position.  The other aircraft, Bu. No. 06104 was piloted by another Ensign, and was flying in the number two position. 

    While both aircraft were about two miles southwest of the Jamestown Bridge, and at an altitude of 1,500 feet, they began to make a ten degree bank to the left.  The air was turbulent, and while the bank was being executed, the right wing of the number two aircraft collided with the elevator of the lead plane.  Immediately after the collision, Ensign Miller’s aircraft went down and crashed into a vacant house in the Saunderstown section of North Kingstown and came to rest in the side yard where it exploded killing all aboard.  The vacant cottage was destroyed by the fire.

     There was an 8-year-old boy playing in the front yard of his home 100 yards away who suffered non-life-threatening burns from the flaming gasoline sprayed by the explosion.   

     A second house in which an elderly invalid woman was residing was also set ablaze.  She was rescued by two Coast Guardsmen, Meredith E. Dobry, of Bensonville, Ill. and Daniel Caruso, of Meriden, Ct., who both happened to be in the area at the time of the crash.     

     The other Avenger was able to make it safely back to Quonset Point without injury to the crew.

     Both aircraft were assigned to CASU-22 at Quonset Point.

     The dead were identified as:

     Pilot: Ensign Walter Lee Miller, Jr., 21, of Morton, Texas.  To see a photograph of Ensign Miller, go to, see memorial #38854830.   

     ARM3c Jacob C. Beam, 20, of Pottstown, Pa. He’s buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery in North Coventry, Pa.  See www.findagrave memorial #130440147.

    AMM3c Donald J. Finkler. 19, of East Cleveland, Ohio.


     U. S. Navy accident report dated August 21, 1944 

     Providence Journal, “Three Quonset Airmen Die As Plane Falls, Fires House”, August 22, 1944, Pg. 1

     New York Times, “Plane Hits House; 3 Die”, August 22, 1944

     Newport Mercury, “Navy Men Identified In Bomber Crash”, date either Aug. 22, or 23rd, 1944

     Town of North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.


Off Jamestown, R.I. – December 5, 1943

Off Jamestown, R. I. – December 5, 1943


Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     At about 12:30 p.m. on December 5, 1943, APlc O. W. Putner, was piloting an SBD-4 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 10543), 1000 feet over Narragansett Bay when a fire suddenly erupted in the engine necessitating an immediate emergency landing.  The aircraft came down in the water about 500 yards south of Beavertail Point on Jamestown Island.  Both the pilot and the gunner, AM2c A. A. Bartczak, escaped form the plane before it sank and were rescued.  Both men were assigned to CASU-22 at Quonset Point.      

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident report #44-10109, dated December 5, 1943

Bozrah, CT – March 30, 1943

Bozrah, Connecticut – March 30, 1943


North American Texan Military Trainer
Author Photo

     On the morning of March 30, 1943, a flight of four SNJ-4 navy trainer aircraft from Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island, were on a cross-country training flight over the Norwich, Connecticut, area.  The cloud ceiling was at 4,000 feet, and the planes were flying under it.  

     The SNJ-4 was the navy version of the army AT-6 Texan.  It was a single-engine, two-seat, aircraft manufactured By North American.    

     The aircraft were on loan to British pilots assigned to Carrier Aircraft Service Unit – 22, (CASU-22) based at Quonset Point.  One of the aircraft, (#26816), was piloted by Midshipman Raymond Clarke, 19, of Nottingham, England, and his instructor, Sub-Lieutenant Donald Frederick Dillon, 21, of Aesterfield, New Zealand.   

    At about 10:25  a.m., while the formation was passing over the town of Bozrah, just west of Norwich, Clarke’s aircraft began to experience engine trouble, and had to drop out of formation.  The plane was over a semi-populated area and neither man attempted to bail out.  They crashed in a wooded area in the village of Gilman, which is located in the northern part of Bozrah.   

     The aircraft was seen by two contractors doing work on the Gilman Mill to be trailing black smoke with its engine skipping just before it crashed and exploded.   

     Midshipman Clarke was a member of the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  He was the son of Herbert and Constance Hilda Clarke of Lenton Sands, Nottingham, England.  He’s buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to and see memorial #15037563.  His date of birth is July 4, 1923.

     Sub-Lieutenant Dillon was a member of the Royal New Zealand Naval Volunteer reserve.  He was the son of Henry Charles Julian and Frances E. Dillon, of Ashburton, Canterbury, New Zealand.   He’s buried in Island Cemetery in Newport, Rhode Island.  To see a photo of his grave go to and see memorial #15037560.  His date of birth is October 3, 1921.


     U.S. Navy crash brief, #43-6396

     Norwich Bulletin, “Two Fliers Lose Lives In Crash Of Plane At Gilman”, March 31, 1943.

     Pawtucket Times, “Dead Navy Fliers Are Identified”, March 31, 1943, page 1

     Providence Journal, “Fliers Identified”, April 1, 1943, page 22.

     Town of Bozrah death records. – Dillon, Clarke


Return to Top ▲Return to Top ▲