Granby, MA. – December 20, 1944

Granby, Massachusetts – December 20, 1944 


B-24 Liberator
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the evening of December 20, 1944, a B-24J Liberator, (Ser. No. 42-109868), with nine men aboard, took off from Mitchell Field,  on Long Island, New York, bound for Westover Field in Chicopee, Massachusetts, for a cross-country navigational flight.  As they were approaching Westover Field the aircraft encountered poor visibility conditions.  As the plane circled the field at 2,000 feet two of the four engines began to “run away”.  As the pilot tried to reduce the RPMs, cockpit instruments indicated a fire in one of the engines.  Then the remaining two engines began to lose power and the pilot ordered the crew to bail out, and five did so.  The pilot, co-pilot, navigator and a gunner remained with the aircraft.    

     The aircraft came down on a farm in Granby about two miles from Westover Field.  After skidding on snow, crashing through some trees, it went into a farmhouse, but none of the home’s occupants were injured.   The pilot, 2nd Lt. James E. Webster, 25,  and the co-pilot, Flight Officer George H. Slack, 20, received serious injuries, but the navigator and the gunner were killed.  Additionally,  one of the men who bailed out also perished.   

     The dead were identified as:


      Navigator: 2nd Lt. George E. Bennett, 19, of Brockport, New York.  He’s buried in Lakeview Cemetery in Brockport, New York. 


      Bombardier: 2nd. Lt. Julian Berger, 19, of Baltimore, Maryland.  He perished as a result of injuries received when he bailed out of the aircraft.  He’s buried in Oheb Shalom Cemetery in Baltimore. 

     Gunner: Cpl. Stanley Saffer, 19, of New York City. He’s buried in Mt. Zion Cemetery in Maspeth, New York.  To see a photo of him, click here:

     As to the other four members of the crew, all received injuries, two required hospitalization.  

     The rest of the crew were identified as: Cpl. Kenneth A. McPhail, Cpl. Robert H. Risdon, Pfc. Fred Lopez,  and Pfc Walter E. Oparowski


     The Waterbury Democrat, “Two Army Fliers Killed In Crash”, December 21, 1944, page 2.

     The Brockport Republic & Brockport Democrat, Obituary for Lt. George E. Bennett, December 28, 1944, page 4. 

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

Granby, MA. – January 23, 1956

Granby, Massachusetts – January 23, 1956

Updated June 14, 2018


F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 2:25 p.m. on the afternoon of January 23, 1956, an F-86D Sabre jet took off from Runway 05 at Westover Air Force Base for what was to be a routine training mission.  However, just after take-off, the jet crashed in the neighboring town of Granby.  It came down in an open pasture on the east side of Taylor Street not far from where it intersects with Brook and Carver Streets.  The aircraft created a four-foot deep crater where it struck the ground and exploded. 

     The pilot, 2nd Lt. John D. Ritchie, 20, of Lowell, Massachusetts, was killed instantly.  He’d been assigned to the 337th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Westover AFB.    


     Springfield Union, “Pilot Dies In Granby Crash”, January 24, 1956, page 1

     Springfield Union, “Lowell Pilot Crash Victim”, January 25, 1956

Granby, MA. – February 1, 1965

Granby, Massachusetts – February 1, 1965


F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On February 1, 1965, a flight of three Massachusetts Air National Guard F-86 Sabre jets left Tampa, Florida, to return to Barnes Airport  in Westfield, Massachusetts, after completing aerial gunnery training.  As the aircraft entered the New England area they encountered a snowstorm and were diverted to Westover Air Force Base in Chicopee, Massachusetts.  There, the three planes circled the Westover Field area for about fifteen minutes, according to a husband and wife who lived Granby, Massachusetts, a town to the northeast of Chicopee.  As they watched the planes, one was seen to crash and explode in a gravel pit located in a wooded area, about 1,000 feet from the nearest home.  The witnesses said it was still snowing heavily at the time of the accident.  

     The downed aircraft, (Ser. No. 0-22019), had been piloted by Major James Romanowicz, age 45, of the 104th Tactical Fighter Group of the Massachusetts Air National Guard.   

     Major Romanowicz was a veteran aviator, having served as an army pilot during World War II with the 10th Tactical Fighter Group.  He’d been serving with the Massachusetts Air National Guard since 1948, and had been rated a command pilot since 1959.   He’s buried in Gethsemane Cemetery in Athol, Massachusetts.  He left behind a wife and six children.

     The other two aircraft landed safely.


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Pilot Killed By Jet Crash In Mass. Town”, Date unknown., memorial #89990193

     Springfield Union, “Athol Pilot Loses Life In F-86 Crash In Granby”, February 2, 1965

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