Atlantic Ocean – October 19, 1943

Atlantic Ocean – October 19, 1943

Off Block Island


Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     In the late afternoon of October 19, 1943, a flight of five SBD-5 Dauntless aircraft took off from Martha’s Vineyard Naval Air Station for a low visibility training flight.  The flight consisted of two groups; the leading group with three planes, and the other, following the first, with two aircraft. 

     Of the two aircraft in the second group, one was piloted by Lt. (Jg.) Herbert Feuer, of Brooklyn, N.Y., with his gunner, ARM2c C. H. Kennedy, Jr., of Richmond, Va.  The other aircraft was piloted by Ensign Bartholomew Salerno, of Bayonne, N.J., with his gunner ARM3c Vernon W. Geishirt, of Madison, Wi.  One of these aircraft bore the Bureau No. of 28593.   The other Bu. No. is unknown.

     The weather consisted of low intermittent clouds with a ceiling of 4,000 feet, and ten miles of visibility at 2,000 feet.  As the night came on there was no moon.

     The flight was proceeding at an altitude of 2,000 feet when the flight leader signaled for Feuer and Salerno to climb to 2,300 feet and get above the other three airplanes.  This was the last visual contact with both aircraft.  A short time later the flight leader called for all aircraft to join up again, but Feuer and Salerno failed to make the rendezvous. 

     At the pre-flight briefing earlier that day, it was directed that if the planes should become separated they were all to head back to the air field.  When Feuer and Salerno failed to return a search was instituted.  A radar search indicated the two planes were still airborne and in the vicinity of Block Island, which is three miles off the coast of Rhode Island, and Coast Guard and Navy boats, as well as search aircraft were dispatched to the area.  Unfortunately neither aircraft was ever seen or heard from again.  

     One of the aircraft sent to participate in the search operation was an SBD-5 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 28131), piloted by Lieutenant Allen H. Thurwachter, with his gunner, ARM1c Bradley Edward Hunter, of East Boston, Ma.  This aircraft also disappeared and was never seen again. 

     Investigators could only speculate as to what had happened to each of the missing aircraft.  As to Feuer and Salerno, it was theorized they may have had a mid-air collision, or attempted unsuccessful emergency water landings, or suffered vertigo due to disorientation, or possibly inadvertently flew out to sea.   Some of these same theories were applied to the case of Lt. Thurwachter. 

     All three aircraft belonged to VC-43. 


     U.S. Navy Accident Reports, #44-9173, #44-9174, #44-9175  

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