Hartford, CT. – October 17, 1918

Hartford, Connecticut – October 17, 1918

Also Cromwell, Connecticut.

    On the morning of October 17, 1918, six army aircraft took off from Mineola Field on Long Island, New York, bound for Hartford, Connecticut, and points east, as part of a Liberty Loan Campaign to aid the war effort overseas.  The aircraft carried leaflets which would be dropped over certain cities and towns hoping to inspire the populace to purchase war bonds.  The towns of Danielson and Putnam, Connecticut, located in the state’s northeast corner near the Rhode Island line, had made elaborate plans to welcome the pilots and their aircraft at a reception to be held at Alexander’s Lake. 

     There was a layer of low level clouds across Long Island Sound, and the six planes climbed above the scud.  Shortly afterwards, one of the aircraft signaled that it was turning back and returned to Mineola.  The remaining five planes pressed on.

     The clouds got thicker as the flight progressed.   Upon arriving in the Hartford area, the aircraft began to drop below the layer of clouds, only to discover that thick fog obscured the ground. Lieutenant Harold Merritt, the flight leader, attempted a landing at Goodwin Park, and in doing so glanced off the top of a tall tree and then crashed into a nearby house.  The house was only slightly damaged and there were no injuries to its occupants.  Both Merritt and his mechanic were thrown from the aircraft on impact, but only received minor injuries.   

     The next aircraft to crash was that flown by Lieutenant James A. Tong.  He attempted to land at Cromwell, Connecticut, south of Hartford, and crashed int0 some tree tops on the farm of William Delaney, not far from the Berlin Train Station.  Both Tong and his mechanic, Sergeant John Y. Morse, were uninjured, but the plane was wrecked. 

     Lieutenant Tong later related to a reporter, “We came along brushing the (unreadable) off the tops of the trees because the fog was so dense.  We were so low that we almost lifted the hat off a young man we passed along the road.” 

     A second plane also crashed in Cromwell.  Lieutenant Edward Elliott and his mechanic, Sergeant Brown, hit a tree on Stein’s Hill while attempting to land, and were thrown from the aircraft.  Neither was injured, but the aircraft was heavily damaged.       

     It was surmised that the men’s survival, as well as lack of injuries, was nothing short of a miracle. 

     A third aircraft, piloted by Lieutenant Kenneth Reed, with his mechanic Sergeant Charles Craig, landed safely at the Jarvis Farm near the Berlin Turnpike, in Cromwell.   

     The fifth aircraft, Piloted by Lieutenant Rawick, was reported to be missing.  As of this writing, research has not revealed what became of him.  


     New Britain Herald, “Airplanes Wrecked In Cromwell Fog”, October 17, 1918, page 1 & 9.

     New Britain Herald, “Wrecked At Hartford Park”, October 17, 1918, page 9. 

     The Bridgeport Times & Evening Farmer, “Aviators Fall 100 Feet; Not Injured At All”, pg. 2.

     Putnam Patriot, “Battle Airships Failed To Come”, October 18, 1918.  



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