Charlestown, R.I. – August 9, 1948

Charlestown, Rhode Island – August 9, 1948


F8F Bearcat
U. S. Navy Photo

     On August 9, 1948, an F8F-1 Bearcat, (Bu. No. 94782), was taking off from the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Station when the engine lost power just after the plane had become airborne and the wheels had been retracted.  The aircraft came back down on the runway crushing its fully loaded belly tank which exploded and enveloped the aircraft in flames.  The aircraft skidded for 1,500 feet before coming to rest.  The pilot was able to extricate himself, but the aircraft was consumed by fire. 

     The aircraft was assigned to Fighter Squadron 10A, (VF-10A).


     U. S. Navy accident report dated August 9, 1948         

Charlestown, R. I. – June 15, 1949

Charlestown, Rhode Island – June 15, 1949


Douglas Skyraider
U. S. Navy Photo

     On June 15, 1949, an AD-1 Skyraider, (Bu. No. 123322), was making a normal takeoff from the Charlestown Navy Auxiliary Airfield when the engine lost all power just after the aircraft became airborne.  The aircraft went down in the water of Ninigret Pond beyond the runway.  The pilot escaped without injury, but the aircraft was significantly damaged.   


     U. S. Navy accident report dated June 15, 1949

Charlestown, R. I. – May 27, 1947

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 27, 1947


F8F Bearcat
U. S. Navy Photo

     On May 27, 1947, an U. S. Navy F8F-1 Bearcat, (Bu. No. 95341), made a normal landing on Runway 30 at the Charlestown Navy Auxiliary Airfield.  Upon touching down, there was a problem with the brakes, and the aircraft nosed over and flipped on its back before sliding to a stop.  The aircraft sustained significant damage and the pilot received non-life-threatening injuries. 


     U. S. Navy accident report dated May 27, 1947  

Charlestown, R. I. – September 20, 1943

Charlestown, Rhode Island – September 20, 1943


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On September 20, 1943, a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 00652), with a lone pilot aboard, was taking off in strong crosswinds  at the Charlestown Navy Auxiliary Air Field when the aircraft went into some trees at the end of the runway and nosed up violently.  The pilot wasn’t seriously hurt, but the aircraft was destroyed.

     The aircraft was assigned to VT-14.


     U. S. Navy accident report #44-5720 

Atlantic Airport, Charlestown, R.I.

Atlantic Airport, Charlestown, Rhode Island

Click on image to enlarge.

Atlantic Airport, unknown date.
Photo courtesy of Louis McGowan
Johnston, R.I. Historical Society

Off Charlestown, R.I. – October 21, 1945

Off Charlestown, Rhode Island – October 21, 1945


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

     On October 21, 1945, Lt. (Jg.) T. R. Delehunt was piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70915), taking part of a training exercise off Block Island when he noticed grey smoke streaming from one side of his engine.  After declaring an emergency, he set a course for Quonset Point Naval Air Station.  Despite the smoke, all instruments were reading normal, until he came within the area of Point Judith.  At that time his oil pressure began dropping, so he was re-directed to the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field.  The oil pressure continued to fall, and as he neared Charlestown Beach the engine suddenly stopped.  Lt. Delehunt was forced to make an emergency landing in the water, coming down about a 1/2 mile from shore.  The aircraft was a total loss, but Delehunt was not injured.

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report, dated October 21, 1945


Charlestown, R.I. – May 31, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 31, 1945


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

     Shortly before 10:00 p.m. on the night of May 31, 1945, Ensign George Robertson Miller was returning to the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field after a night operations flight.  The wind was gusting strongly that evening as he approached runway 35 in his F6F-5N Hellcat fighter aircraft, (Bu. No. 78136).  As he was coming in to land, a strong cross wind struck the aircraft causing it to crash. Ensign Miller was killed when the plane hit the ground.  

     To see a photo of Ensign Miller’s grave click on the link below.

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident report dated may 31, 1945 

Charlestown, R.I. – July 20, 1974

Charlestown, Rhode Island – July 20, 1974

     On July 20, 1974, a pair of one-man Gyrocopters were flying together over the area of Qonochontaug Beach when one aircraft suddenly lost all power and crashed into the water about 150 feet from shore.  The machine sank, but the pilot was able to fee himself, and was rescued by two college students who happened to be passing by in a small sailboat.  He was shaken, but apparently uninjured. Meanwhile, the other gyrocopter left the area and landed at Westerly Airport. 

     The depth of the water where the gyrocopter had crashed is about 20 feet.  Once the students had deposited the downed pilot on shore, they returned to the wreck site with masks and fins, and dove under the water and tied a strong rope to the machine.  By now a crowd had gathered on the beach, and with everyone’s help the aircraft was successfully dragged to shore.    

     Meanwhile, the pilot of the other gyrocopter had returned to the beach with a trailer.  He and the other pilot disassembled the damaged gyrocopter, and after putting it in the trailer said they were going to Westerly Airport. 

     After a few days a report of the crash reached the Westerly Sun newspaper, but when a reporter inquired about details, it was learned that the accident had never been reported to the police, Westerly Airport officials, or to state aeronautics officials.  The identities of the pilots was unknown.  It was further reported that gyrocopters didn’t have to be registered, nor did one need a license to fly one, which was going to make it difficult for officials to question the pilots.


     Westerly Sun, “Rescue At Sea Went Unreported”, August 1, 1974, page 10.   


Charlestown, R.I. – April 5, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – April 5, 1945


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

     On the night of April 5, 1945, a navy ensign was practicing “touch and go landings” in an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71109), at Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, R.I.   His first five attempts were successful.  As he was approaching the runway “low and slow” for his sixth landing, the Runway Duty Officer noticed that the plane’s landing gear was still in the “up” position.  The duty officer fired a red flair to warn the pilot not to land, but the flair was released at about the same time the plane was about to touch down.  The aircraft hit the runway and the belly fuel tank was torn open as the plane skidded to a stop.  Fire engulfed the aircraft, but the pilot escaped with relatively minor injuries.  The aircraft was a total loss.

     Source: National Archives TD450405RI, via Larry Webster, Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.

Off Charlestown, R.I. – January 4, 1945

Off Charlestown, Rhode Island – January 4, 1945


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

     On the night of January 4, 1945, a flight of U.S. Navy Hellcat aircraft took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station for a night gunnery practice flight.  Once sufficiently off shore, two float lights were dropped into the water, only one of which ignited. 

     After the aircraft had made a few runs at strafing the “target”, Ensign Bruce S. Little, piloting an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71411), was advised by the flight leader to drop his float light.  Ensign Little acknowledged and said he would drop it at the end of his run.  Ensign Little was seen turning his aircraft and start his run at a diving angle.    When he reached the area of the target-float-light his aircraft hit the water and disappeared. 

     The accident occurred at 40 degrees, 55′ N, 71 degrees, 01′ W.

     Lt. (jg.) Little was assigned to VF(N)-91

     To see a photo of Ensign Little click on image below.

     Source:  U.S. Navy Accident Report dated January 4, 1945



Charlestown, R. I. – May 16, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 16, 1944 

Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station


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

    On May 16, 1944, Ensign Marion F. DeMasters took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42550), for a rocket gunnery practice flight over Matunuck  Beach, about five miles from the airfield.  This training consisted of diving from an altitude of 6,000 feet towards a simulated target on the beach while maintaining a constant 40 degree glide angle. 

     While making his seventh training dive for the day, a large portion of the rear stabilizer suddenly tore away.  Ensign DeMasters was able to bring his aircraft in for an emergency landing at the air station, but just as he was about to touch down a gust of wind forced the right wing to strike the runway.  The aircraft suffered severe damage, but the pilot was not hurt.

     Ensign DeMasters was assigned to VF-74.  


     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-14219

Charlestown, R.I. – September 29. 1952

Charlestown, Rhode Island – September 29, 1952


U.S. Navy
Grumman F9F Panther
U.S. Navy Photo – National Archives

     On September 29, 1952, a flight of Grumman F9F Panther fighter jets took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a training flight.  The purpose of the flight was to practice carrier landings, or “bounce drills” at the Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station. 

     At one point during the exercise, one aircraft, (Bu. No. 125308), crashed on Quonochontaug Beach in Charlestown.  The aircraft was approaching the beach from the west before it suddenly dropped to the sand about one mile east of the ocean end of East Beach Road, and bounced “two or three times”, before cart-wheeling into the water on the Atlantic side. 

     The accident was witnessed by a man operating a bulldozer nearby who was in the process of pushing up sand dunes along the beach.  The man ran to the scene of the crash, but when he got there the unidentified navy pilot was wading ashore on his own in no need of rescue.  The aircraft was completely wrecked, but the pilot only received minor injuries.    


     Providence Journal, “Quonset Pilot Escapes Crash In Surf With Minor Injuries”, September 30, 1952


Charlestown, R.I. – February 16, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – February 16, 1944


F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On February 16, 1944, Ensign James G. Canning, 23, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in Charlestown, Rhode Island, for a training flight in an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 41235).  The purpose of the flight was to practice take-offs and landings. 

     At approximately 3:40 p.m., as Ensign Canning was making a runway approach, his aircraft suddenly lost power and fell into a lagoon to the south-west of the field.  The aircraft hit the water and flipped over, trapping Canning inside, and then sank to the bottom in five feet of water.  By the time help arrived, Ensign Canning had drowned.  

     At the time of his death Ensign Canning had been assigned to VF(n)-78.  He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  (see, Memorial #49163354)


     U.S. Navy Crash Report #44-11788


Charlestown, R.I. – March 2, 1945

Charlestown, Rhode Island – March 2, 1945 

Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Field

     Updated July 13, 2017

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

     At 11:15 p.m. on March 2, 1945, Lt. (jg.) Kenneth B. McQuady, age 21, took off from Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Air Station in an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 71418,) for a night training flight.  Just after he became airborne, his aircraft was seen to lose altitude and crash on the ice covered water of Charlestown Pond at the end of Runway 22.  Upon impact the belly tank ruptured and caught fire.  The plane bounced another 100 yards before coming to rest.   Lt. McQuady received fatal injuries.

     Lt. McQuady is buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Bartow, Florida.

     The propeller from Lieutenant McQuady’s Hellcat was recovered years after his accident and presented to the Quonset Air Museum and made into a memorial.     

Quonset Air Museum Memorial to Lt. Jg. Kenneth Bruce McQuady

Description of accident that killed Lt. McQuady

     Unfortunately, since this original posting, the Quonset Air Museum has closed.


     Quonset Air Museum 

     U.S. Navy Accident Report dated March 2, 1945

Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Airfield Memorial

Charlestown Auxiliary Naval Airfield Memorial

Charlestown, Rhode Island

    Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Field began operations in September of 1943.  Ensign George H. W. Bush trained there in 1944.  The field was decommissioned January 30, 1974, and is today known as Ninigret Park.   

     During its years of operation, 62 airmen connected to the field lost their lives.  At the bottom of this page are some links relating to the names on the memorial.      

     Click on images to enlarge.

Memorial to the 62 men who lost their lives at Charlestown Auxiliary Field, Charlestown, R.I.

Memorial to the 62 men who lost their lives at Charlestown Auxiliary Field, Charlestown, R.I.

Names of those on the memorial.

Sign for Charlestown Auxiliary Landing Field
Charlestown, R.I.

     Links to most of the names on the memorial that tell their story: 

  1.      Ensign William Haley Brown – September 14, 1943    
  2.      Ensign Thomas James Schmidt – September 27, 1943
  3.      Ensign Curtis Leroy Johnson – December 23, 1943
  4.      Ensign James G. Canning – February 16, 1944
  5.      Ensign Herbert Leslie Woods – March 16, 1944
  6.      Ensign Edward R. Sladek – April 1, 1944
  7.      Ensign Stephen Luther Smith – April 17, 1944
  8.      Lieut. Robert Charles Stimson – April 17, 1944
  9.      Ensign James L. Adams – April 22, 1944
  10.      Ensign James P. Gannon – May 14, 1944
  11.      Lt. (Jg.) James E. Corroon – May 18, 1944
  12.      Ensign Gerald Vivian Brosteaux – July 13, 1944
  13.      Ensign Robert Sherman Kirk – August 12, 1944 
  14.      Ensign James C. Graham – August 23, 1944
  15.      Ensign Charles R. Davis – September 4, 1944
  16.      Ensign Arthur Joseph Stockus – September 12, 1944
  17.      Ensign Robert L. Skinner – September 22, 1944
  18.      Ensign Frank Thomas Roman – September 22, 1944
  19.      Ensign George Kenneth Kraus – October 19, 1944
  20.      Ensign Merle H. Longnecker – October 19, 1944
  21.      AMM/3C Robert C. Horvath – 1944
  22.      Ensign Norman F. Day – October 26, 1944
  23.      Ensign Maynard F. Lednum – December 3, 1944
  24.      Ensign John S. Ketchum – December 5, 1944
  25.      Ensign Robert I. Lane – December 18, 1944
  26.      Lt. (Jg.) Bruce S. Little – January 4, 1945
  27.      Ensign William J. Monagle – 1945
  28.      Ensign Robert E. Swenson – January 20, 1945
  29.      Ensign John Malcolm Roe – February 1, 1945
  30.      Ensign Robert L. Herren – February 1, 1945
  31.      Ensign Jack R. Gross – February 3, 1945
  32.      Ensign Pierce H. Beach – February 10, 1945
  33.      Ensign Thomas William McSteen – February 25, 1945
  34.      Lt. (Jg.) William E. Stakely – March 9, 1945
  35.      Lt. (Jg.) Howard G. Boren – March 9, 1945
  36.      Lt. (Jg.) Kenneth B. McQuady – March 2, 1945
  37.      Ensign Vincent A. Frankwitz – April 3, 1945
  38.      Ensign Robert M. Kirk – April 7, 1945
  39.      Ensign Joseph F. Koll – May 8, 1945
  40.      Ensign James Fitzgerald – possibly May 15, 1945
  41.      Lieutenant David W. Allen – May 29, 1945
  42.      Ensign George R. Miller – May 31, 1945
  43.      Ensign John J. Zayak – June 3, 1945
  44.      Lt. (Jg.) George A. MacBride – June 29, 1945
  45.      Lieutenant J. A. Guice – October 11, 1945
  46.      Ensign Shannon R. Caulk – November 3, 1945
  47.      Ensign James F. Wagner – November 3, 1945
  48.      Ensign Kenneth W. Barnes – December 13, 1945
  49.      AOM3/C Charles O. Henninger – December 13, 1945
  50.      Ensign Clinton G. Thornton – March 8, 1946
  51.      Ensign Coy A. Stephenson, Jr. – April 22, 1946
  52.      ARM2/c Walter J. Edwards – April 22, 1946
  53.      Lt. (Jg.) John E. Rodgers – April 29, 1946
  54.      Arm2/C Albert E. Theriault – April 29, 1946
  55.      Commander Joseph W. Runyan – August 11, 1946
  56.      Lieutenant Alfred G. Elpern – September 4, 1947
  57.      Lieut. Cmdr. Minuard F. Jennings – November 18, 1947
  58.      Lieut. Commander Marshall J. Lyttle – November 18, 1947
  59.      ET1/C John J. Young – December 27, 1957
  60.      Lt. (Jg.) Paul John Marback – May 27, 1958
  61.      Airman Everett Bradbury – 1959
  62.      Lt. (jg.) Alexander D. Harry, Jr., – July 28, 1965
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