Charlestown, R. I. – April 22, 1946

Charlestown, Rhode Island – April 22, 1946


SB2C Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On the evening of April 22, 1946, a flight of six navy SB2C Helldiver aircraft were returning to the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field after a training flight.  There was considerable fog and haze hanging over the area at the time.

     The flight was in three sections of two planes each.  As the aircraft came over the field at 800 feet, they made a normal breakup in preparation for landing.   After all aircraft were down, it was discovered that one was missing.  That aircraft was, (Bu. No. 83625), piloted by Ensign Coy A Stephenson, Jr., (23), accompanied by his gunner, ARM2/c Walter J. Edwards.  A search was instituted, but low visibility made it difficult.  The missing plane was found to have crashed in the water not far off shore, and both men aboard had perished in the accident.

     The men had been assigned to VB-20.

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

     Source:  U. S. Navy accident report dated April 22, 1946.


Charlestown, R. I. – December 30, 1948

Charlestown, R. I. – December 30, 1948


Douglas Skyraider
U. S. Navy Photo

     On December 30, 1948, an AD-2 Skyraider, (Bu. No. 122309), was making a normal takeoff from the Charlestown Navy Auxiliary Air Field.  Near the end of the runway, while the aircraft was at an altitude of about 150 feet, the engine suddenly stopped.  The aircraft went down in the water of Ninigrit Pond which was covered by about an inch of ice.  The aircraft struck the ice at about 80 knots, skipped once, and came back down in five feet of water.  The pilot was rescued without injury but the aircraft was damaged beyond repair. 

     The accident was blamed on faulty maintenance of the carburetor.    

     The aircraft was assigned to VA-94. 


     U.S. Navy accident report dated December 30, 1948     

Charlestown, R. I. – October 15, 1943

Charlestown, Rhode Island – October 15, 1943


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On October 15, 1943, a lone pilot flying a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 47438), was practicing take offs and landings at Charlestown Navy Auxiliary Air Field when he crashed due to insufficient air speed. The aircraft was a total loss but the pilot was not injured.

     The aircraft was assigned to VT-14


     U. S. Navy accident report #44-5161  

Charlestown, R.I. – November 7, 1943

Charlestown, R. I. – November 7, 1943


Douglas SBD Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     At 9:20 a.m. on the morning of November 7, 1943, Lieutenant George F. Connolly was returning to the Charlestown Naval Auxiliary Air Field in an SBD-5 Dauntless aircraft, (Bu. No. 28818), after a dive-bombing training flight.  He lowered the landing gear and made his approach, but upon touchdown with the runway, the right side landing gear collapsed causing the plane to be thrown sharply to one side, which tore away the left side landing gear before the plane skidded to a stop.  The aircraft was damaged beyond repair, but Lt. Connolly and the gunner, ARM3c  J. C. Burkhart, were not injured.  Both men were assigned to VC-52.

     The cause of the accident was found to be metal fatigue of the landing gear strut.      

     Source: U. S. Navy Accident Report – #44-9546, dated November 7, 1943

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.

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. – April 17, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – April 17, 1944

Great Swamp

Updated July 8, 2017 


Hellcat Fighters
U.S. Navy Photo

     On April 17, 1944, a flight of four F6F-3 Hellcats left Quonset Point Naval Air Station for a familiarization training flight.   During the flight the aircraft flew in a line of four, in a “follow the leader” type of pattern.  It was during a phase of the exercise when the aircraft were changing positions in the formation that a mid-air collision between two of the aircraft occurred.  Both aircraft, (Bu. No. 40345), piloted by Ensign Stephen L. Smith, 21, and (Bu. No. 66034), piloted by Lieutenant Robert C. Stimson, 27, crashed and exploded in a wooded portion of the “Great Swamp” area of Charlestown.  Neither pilot survived.

     Ensign Stephen Luther Smith was from of St. Andrews, Florida. He’s buried in Greenwood Cemetery in Panama City, Florida.  (See, memorial #32844142)

     Lieutenant Robert Charles Stimson was from of Shelby, Ohio, and was survived by his wife. He’s buried in Oakland Cemetery in Shelby.  To read more about Lt. Stimson, and to see photographs of him, go to, memorial 73196817.


     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records       

     U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-12263

Charlestown, R. I. – March 8, 1946

Charlestown, Rhode Island – March 8, 1946


Early U.S. Navy Helldiver U.S. Navy Photo

Early U.S. Navy Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     On March 8, 1946, Ensign Clinton Graham Thornton was piloting an SB2C-5 Helldiver, (Bu. No. 89304) on a training flight with five other aircraft.  The aircraft were practicing dive-bombing techniques, and Thornton’s aircraft was in the number 2 position in a line of six. 

     The flight leader was executing a series of maneuvers with the other five planes following behind.  At one point Thornton’s Helldiver spun out of control and crashed about 2,000 feet north-east of a church belonging to the Narragansett Indian Tribe.  Ensign Thornton was unable to bail out and was killed.

     Ensign Thornton was based at Quonset Point, assigned to VT-74.

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

     Source: Larry Webster, Aviation Historian and Archeologist      

Charlestown, R.I. – May 14, 1944

Charlestown, Rhode Island – May 14, 1944


F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy Photo

F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy Photo

     On May 14, 1944, Ensign James Patrick Gannon, 22, of Jersey City, N.J., was flying an F6F-3N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42389)  practicing dive bombing at Worden’s Pond in Charlestown, R.I., when according to a witness, “something white” fell away from his plane.  The Hellcat then went into a roll and dove into the ground.  Gannon was killed instantly. 

     The cause of the crash was never determined. 

     Ensign Gannon is buried in Holy Cross Cemetery in North Arlington, New Jersey.  To see a photo of him click on the link below.


Hudson Dispatch, “Two Jersey City Fliers Killed In Plane Crashes”, May 16, 1944

North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records

This water-filled crater in the woods of Charlestown, R.I., is where a navy Hellcat fighter crashed on May 14, 1944.




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

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