Westover Field, MA. – June 20, 1943

Westover Field, MA. – June 20, 1943


P-47 Thunderbolt – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 20, 1943, a flight of P-47 aircraft were returning to Westover Filed from a training flight.  One plane, (Ser. No. 42-22358), piloted by 2nd Lt. Richard M Burdick, (19), made a normal landing and coasted to a normal taxi speed.  A second P-47, (Ser. No. 41-5953), piloted by another second lieutenant, came in “hot” and bounced along the runway before crashing into Lieutenant Burdick’s aircraft.  Both pilots received serious injuries, and Lieutenant Burdick passed away the following day.    

     Both pilots were assigned to the 321st Fighter Squadron. 

     Lieutenant Burdick is buried in Forest Lawn Memorial Park Cemetery in Boardman Township, Ohio. 


     Book: “Fatal Army Air Forces Aviation Accidents In The United States, 1941-1945”, by Anthony J. Mireles, C. 2006.


Westover Air Force Base – February 12, 1976

Westover Air Force Base – February 12, 1976

     On February 12, 1976, a rented Piper Aztec was attempting to make an emergency landing at Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts, after both engines had failed.  As the plane came in, a wing was sheared off when it struck a tree and the plane crashed.  Both the pilot and co-pilot, the only two people aboard, were seriously injured and transported to medical facilities.


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “FAA Probes Inspectors’ Crash”, February 13, 1976, page A-2 

Chicopee, MA. – June 27, 1958

Chicopee, Massachusetts – June 27, 1958

     Shortly after midnight on June 27, 1958, four U.S. Air Force KC-135 jet tankers were scheduled to make a transatlantic flight from Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee to London, England.  The purpose of the flight was to try to establish a new overseas speed record for the aircraft.   

     The first two aircraft took off without incident however, the third aircraft, (Ser. No. 56-3599), stalled just after takeoff and crashed about 1.25 miles off the end of the runway.  The tanker came down across the Massachusetts Turnpike and impacted on a farm located on Fuller Road where it exploded in a massive fireball that was seen for miles.  All fifteen men aboard were killed instantly. 

     The fourth aircraft was then ordered not to take off.

    The Turnpike was covered with debris and had to be closed to all traffic.  Electrical power was knocked out throughout the area as the aircraft had struck some power lines prior to impact.

     Of the fifteen men aboard, eight were civilian journalists.

     The dead were identified as:

     Brig. Gen. Donald W. Saunders, 45, of Athens, New York.  He was Commander of the 57th Air Division at Westover AFB.  To see a photo of Gen. Saunders, go to www.findagrave.com.   

     Lt. Col. George Broutsas, 39, of Brattleboro, Vermont.  He was the aircraft commander. He’s buried in Meeting House Hill Cemetery in Brattleboro.

     Captain James Shipman, 34, of Kansas City, Kansas.  He was the aircraft’s navigator. He’s buried in Arlington National Cemetery.  

     Captain John B. Gordon, 29, of Raleigh, North Carolina.  He’s buried in Mountain Memorial Park in Raleigh.  

     Lieutenant Joseph C. Sweet, 26, of Chandler, Arizona.  He’s buried in Resthaven Park East Cemetery in Phoenix, Arizona.  

     Master Sergeant Donald H. Gabbard, 37, of Los Gatos, California.  He’s buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.

     Technical Sergeant Joseph G. Hutter, 26, of Miami, Florida.  He’s buried in Arlington, National Cemetery.

     Civilians aboard included:

     Daniel J. Coughlin, 31, of Boston – Associated Press 

     Norman Montellier, 37, of New York City – United Press International

     Glenn A. Williams, 41, of Bethesda, Maryland – U.S. News & World Report

     Robert A. Ginsburgh, (Also spelled Ginsburg in some accounts), 63, of the U.S. News & World Report. He was also a retired brigadier general from the U.S. Air Force.

     James L. McConaughy, Jr., Time and Life Magazine.

     Robert Sibley, 57, of Belmont, Massachusetts – Aviation editor of the Boston Traveler.

     William Cochran – National Aeronautical Association

     William Enyart – National Aeronautical Association

     The aircraft involved in this accident was part of the 99th Air refueling Squadron based at Westover.   

     This was the second accident for a Westover aerial tanker since aerial tankers had been assigned to the base in the spring of 1955.  The first accident occurred on January 22, 1957, when a KC-97 tanker crashed in Rome, New York, killing all seven crewmen aboard.     


     Unknown newspaper, “KC135 Falls In Flames Near Base At Start Of London Record Flight”, June 27, 1958

     Springfield Union, “Residents Terrified As Disaster Strikes”, June 27, 1958

     Fitchburg Sentinel, “Air Force Jet Plane Explodes After Westover Takeoff”, June 27, 1958



Chicopee, MA. – June 11, 1943

Chicopee, MA. – June 11, 1943


P-47B Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the morning of June 11, 1943, 2nd Lt. Bruce Cowan, 19, took off from Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, in a P-47-B Thunderbolt, (Ser. No. 41-5956), for a routine training flight.   

     At about 10:45 a.m., his aircraft was observed high over the field by a security guard for the Chicopee Water Supply.   The guard later related how the aircraft appeared to “side-slip” and rapidly loose altitude, before it crashed in a wooded area about 200 feet off Burrett Road, about a quarter-of-a-mile from Westover Field.  Lt. Cowan was killed instantly.

     Lt. Cowan died four months shy of his 20th birthday.  He was assigned to the 321st Fighter Squadron of the 326th Fighter Group.  He’s buried in Forest Hill Cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama.


     Unknown Newspaper, “Westover Pilot Killed In Crash”, June 12, 1943

     Unknown Newspaper, “Pilot Killed As Westover Plane falls In Chicopee”, June 12, 1943  

     Springfield Union & Republican, “Pilot Crash Victim Came from Alabama”, June 13, 1943




Westover Field, MA. – August 17, 1943

Westover Army Air Field, Chicopee, Massachusetts – August 17, 1943    

P-47B Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the evening of August 17, 1943, 2nd Lt. William E. Neudorfer was killed when the P-47B, (Ser. No. 41-6019), that he was piloting, crashed and burned as he was attempting to land at Westover Field.

     Lt. Neuforder was assigned to the 320th Fighter Squadron.

     He’s buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno, California.  To see a photo of his grave see www.findagrave.com, memorial #3614500. 


     Larry Webster – Aviation Historian, Charlestown, R.I.


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