Poland, ME. – September 22, 1978

Poland, Maine – September 22, 1978   

U. S. Navy Photo

     On September 22, 1978, a U. S. Navy P-3 Orion, (Bu. No. 152757), left Brunswick NAS, bound for Trenton, Ontario, Canada, to take part in an air show as a display aircraft.  The aircraft was assigned to Patrol Squadron 8. 

     About ten minutes into the flight, the No. 1. engine broke free and struck the port horizontal stabilizer sheering it off.  Witnesses described the event as an “explosion”.  Debris fell over a wide area in the town of Poland, in some cases narrowly missing some private homes.  

     One witness to the accident told a reporter, “When the plane blew up, there was a big mess of debris and pieces flying all different directions.  It was just an incredible big boom and a huge ball of fire, and then there was fire flying around everywhere.”  

     Another witness who was piloting a private plane about fifteen miles away told reporters, “All of a sudden I saw a big flash in the sky.”

     The Navy later reported that over 75 witnesses were eventually interviewed. 

     Initial reports were that the Orion had been involved in a mid-air collision with another aircraft, and some reported seeing parachutes in the air shortly after the explosion, but these reports turned out to be in error.  There were no survivors.

     The cause was later determined to be “whirl mode” of the #1 engine.  “Whirl mode” is a low frequency vibration in the engine mounts that can cause the engine to separate from the air frame.  In this case, the #1 engine separated taking 11 feet of wing with it, which sheared off a portion of the rear stabilizer.   

      The crew were identified as:

     Lt. Cmdr. Francis William Dupont, Jr., 36, a veteran of the Vietnam War.  He’s buried in St. Peter’s Catholic Cemetery in Rome, New York. (www.findagrave.com, Memorial #16581045) https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/16581045/francis-william-dupont

     Lt. (Jg.) Donald Edward Merz, 27.  He’s buried in St. Teresa Cemetery in Summit, New Jersey.  (www.findagrave.com, Memorial #92979679) https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/92979679/donald-edward-merz

     Lt. (Jg.) George D. Nuttelman 

     Lt. (Jg.) Ernest A. Smith

     AW2 James Allen Piepkorn, 21.  He’s buried in McCall Cemetery in McCall, Idaho. (www.findagrave.com, Memorial #58839202.) https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/58839202/james-allen-piepkorn

     AWAN Paul G. Schulz, (possibly Schultz), of Santa Rosa, California.

     AD3 Robert Lewis Phillips, Jr., 25.  He’s buried in Sylvania Hills Memorial Park, in Rochester, Penn. (www.findagrave.com, memorial #126103090)  https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/126103090/robert-lewis-phillips

     ADC Larry Miller https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/243551578/larry-raymond-miller


     Bangor Daily News, “Missing Plane Debris Found”, April 28, 1978

     Spokane Daily Chronicle, “U.S. Navy Plane Down With 7”, April 27, 1978

     The Eugene Register-Guard, “7 Crewmen Lost In Navy Plane Crash”, April 27, 1978

     Portland Press Herald, “Fiery Crash Of Navy P-3 Takes 8 Lives”, unknown date.

     Portland Press Herald, “Witnesses Saw Huge Fireball In Sky”, unknown date

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Navy Plane Crashes; 4 Bodies Found, 4 In crew Are Missing”, September 23, 1978, page A-3 

     (Lexington, N.C.) The Dispatch, “No Second Plane In Fatal Crash”, September 23, 1978

     Providence Journal Bulletin, “Second Plane Sought After Crash In Maine”, September 24, 1978, page B-14

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Eight Die In Crash Of Navy Plane”, September 24, 1978

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Mid-Air Crash Evidence Sought”, September 25, 1978

     Lewiston Daily Sun, “Navy Begins Search For Cause Of Crash”, September 28, 1978

     Lawrence Journal-World, “Navy Fliers Sense Jinx”, September 29, 1978, Pg. 13

     (Utah) The Deseret News, “Navy Fliers Fear Maine Base Jinx”, September 29, 1978

     Westerly Sun, (RI), “Puzzling Crashes Have Navy Pilots Wondering”, September 29, 1978, page 21

     (Penn.) The Gettysburg Times, “The Jinx In Brunswick, Maine”, October 5, 1978, Pg. 24.


     The Bridgton News, Plane Crashes East Of Casco, Kills Eight”, September 28, 1978.  


Caswell, ME. – June 18, 1952

Caswell, Maine – June 18, 1952   

F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     Shortly after midnight on the morning of June 18, 1952, Air Force Captain Paul H. Wilkins was piloting an F-86 Sabre jet (Ser. No. 49-1310) on a routine training flight over northern Maine when the engine lost all power and he was forced to bail out.  The jet reportedly crashed in a “thickly-wooded boggy area” in the town of Caswell, while Capt. Wilkins came down in the neighboring town of Hamlin, near Van Buren Road.  The area was covered with thick fog at the time of the crash.  Wilkins made his way to a nearby home and telephoned Limestone Air Force Base to notify them of the incident.        

     Capt. Wilkins was assigned to the 4711 Defense Wing.  He was a Korean War veteran with 129 combat missions to his credit.  

     Source: Fort Fairfield Review, “Pilot Bails Out Before Jet Crashes At Hamlin”, June 18, 1952

Searsport, ME. – October 20, 1947

Searsport, Maine – October 20, 1947   

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

     On October 20, 1947, Major Kenneth G. Smith, (33), of Boise, Idaho, took off from Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, Maine, for a routine training flight.  He was piloting a P-47N Thunderbolt, (Ser. No. 44-89030).

     While ten to twelve thousand feet over the area of the coastal village of Searsport, Major Smith’s aircraft was seen to enter a flat spin and go out of control.  He could have bailed out, but witnesses said he stayed with the plane and watched as he successfully diverted it from crashing into some private homes.  The plane crashed in Mill Brook near Water Street in Searsport, and immediately exploded. 

     The cause of the accident was undetermined. 

     Major Smith was an experienced pilot and WWII veteran.  During the war he achieved Ace status and was credited with downing six enemy planes, and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross.  At the time of his death he was the Commander  of the 37th Fighter Squadron. 

     To see a photo of Major Smith click on the link below. 



     The Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “Ace Rides Plane To death To Avoid Ramming Homes”, October 21, 1947, pg. A-8

     The Nome Nugget, (Alaska), “Sacrifices Self To Save Many Lives”, October 22, 1947. 

     The Daily Alaska Empire, no headline, October 20, 1947, pg. 2.


Dow Air Force Base, ME. – August 23, 1952


F-80C Shooting Star
U.S. Air Force Photo

     In the early morning hours of August 23, 1952, a Maine Air National Guard F-80C Shooting Star, (Ser. No. 48-865), was taking off from Dow Air Force Base when it lost power and crashed and burned.   Although the aircraft was destroyed, the pilot escaped with only minor injuries. 


     The Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “Jet Crashes, Pilot Escapes”, August 23, 1952

     Maine Wreck Chasers website 

Bangor, ME. – May 29, 1948

Bangor, Maine – May 29, 1948


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

     On May 29, 1948, Lt. Col. Dana E. Noel was piloting a P-47N fighter plane, (Ser. No. 44-89373), approaching Dow Air Force Base in Bangor when his aircraft suddenly experienced engine trouble.  Knowing he couldn’t make the runway, Colonel Noel aimed the plane towards an open field on a farm to make an emergency landing.  The plane crash landed but there was no fire.  Colonel Noel received serious injuries from which he later recovered.  

     Colonel Noel was the commanding officer of the 14th Airborne Group.  


     The Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), “Airdrome Group Chief Badly Hurt In Crash”. Mau 30, 1948.  


Auburn, ME. – September 21, 1946

Auburn, Maine – September 21, 1946   

Lockheed P-80 “Shooting Star”
U. S. Air Force Photo

     On September 21, 1946, an Army Air Forces – Civil Air Patrol airshow was taking place at the Lewiston-Auburn Airport.  One of the aircraft participating in the show was a Lockheed P-80A, (Ser. No. 44-85228), piloted by an Air Force captain from California.  The aircraft had the name “Minimum Goose” painted on it. 

     As the pilot was circling over the area, the aircraft developed engine trouble, and the pilot was forced to make a crash landing in an open field about a mile north of the airport.  The accident took place out of sight of the 5,000 spectators at the airport. 

     State police responded to guard the scene. 

     The pilot was not injured.    


     The Evening Star, (Washington, D. C.), “Pilot Escapes Injury In Crash Of Jet Plane”, September 22, 1946.  

Wells, ME. – August 5, 1948

Wells, Maine – August 5, 1948


P-51 Mustang – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 5, 1948, a flight of four F-51 Mustang fighter planes took off from Grenier Field in Manchester, New Hampshire, for a formation training flight.  All were part of the 82nd Fighter Group stationed at Grenier.

     While passing over Wells, Maine, one of the aircraft fell out of formation and crashed in a wooded area near Berwick Road.  The pilot, First Lieutenant Charles J. Murry, (26), was killed.   

     The cause of the accident wasn’t stated in the press. 

     Lieutenant Murry had served as a fighter pilot in the Pacific Theater during WWII and flew 73 combat missions. He was survived by his wife and 1-year-old son.  He’s buried in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Saint Mary’s, Kansas. 

     To view a photo of his grave click here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/148033267/charles-joseph-murry     

     The F-51 Mustang was formerly known as the P-51.  The designation was changed in 1947. 


     The Nashua Telegraph, “Lt. Murry Dies As Fighter Plane Goes Into Dive”, August 6, 1948, page 1. 


Near Stacyville, ME. – March 10, 1952

Near Stacyville, Maine – March 10, 1952


F-86 Sabre – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On March 10, 1952, Captain George C. Thomas, (31), of Hummelstown, Penn., was on a training mission piloting an F-86 Sabre fighter jet, (Ser. No. 49-1148),  near Stacyville, Maine, when the aircraft crashed in a remote wooded area.   The area was covered with heavy snow, and it was difficult for ground crews to reach the scene.  Several hours after the crash two men parachuted from a search plane and found Captain Thomas’ body.   The aircraft was completely destroyed.     

     Captain Thomas was assigned to the 74th Fighter Interceptor Squadron. 


      Sanford Tribune and Advocate, (no headline), March 18, 1952, page 19. 

     Aviation Safety Network, Wikibase #59451

Loring Air Force Base – November 22, 1958

Loring Air Force Base – November 22, 1958


RB-47E Stratojet
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 22, 1958, a U. S. Air Force B-47 Stratojet, (Ser. No. 51-2199), crashed and burned during takeoff from Loring Air Force Base, killing all four crewmen aboard.  The aircraft was assigned to the 321st Bomb Wing stationed at McCory AFB in Florida.  The aircraft and its crew had been at Loring for a few days as part of a training exercise.   

     As the B-47 appeared to be making a normal takeoff, but when it reached an altitude of about 40-50 feet it was seen to veer to the right and go down in a swamp area about 1,000 feet off the end of the runway and explode on impact. 

     The crew was identified as:

     (Pilot) Captain Robert L. Shaffer, (37)

     (Co-Pilot) 1st Lt. Melvin H. Shira

     (Navigator) Captain Bernard McDermott, Jr. (34)

     (Crew Chief) T/Sgt. Samuel A. Harwell          


     Fort Fairfield Review, (Me.), “4 Died In This Loring B-47 Explosion Sat.”, November 25, 1958, page 1.  (Three photos with article.)

     Aviation Safety Network

Mapleton, ME. – July 3, 1943

Mapleton, Maine – July 3, 1943


B-26G Bomber
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At about 5 p.m. on July 3, 1943, a U. S. Army B-26C bomber aircraft, (Ser. # 41-35181), took off from the Presque Isle, Maine, Air Base, for a routine training flight when it lost an engine shortly after take off and went down and exploded in a wooded area of Mapleton, about five miles west of the airfield.    

     There were five men aboard at the time, three of whom perished. 

     The dead were identified as:

     The pilot: 1st Lt. Walter M. Cochran of Wilmington, Del.

     The co-pilot: 1st Lt. Walter H. Peoples of Wilmington, Del.

     Flight Engineer: Corporal Albert O. Williams of Central, New Mexico.  

     The injured survivors were identified as:

     Corporal Richard P. Hamilton of Pasadena, Cal.

     1st Lt. Norman F. Smith, of Sandena, Cal.

     Both were brought to Presque Isle Air Base Hospital. 


     Evening Star, (Wash. D.C.), “Three Army Fliers Die In Maine Plane Crash”, July 4, 1943m, page C-7 

     Aviation Safety Network








Brunswick, ME. – March 10, 1943

Brunswick, Maine – March 10, 1943 


U.S. Navy PV-1 Ventura
U. S. Navy Photo

     On March 10, 1943, a U. S. Navy PV-3 Ventura aircraft, (Bu. No. 33949), ground-looped upon landing at the Brunswick Naval Air Station.  The aircraft required a major overhaul but the crew was not injured. 


     U. S. Navy accident report #43-6197, dated March 10, 1943.    

Sanford, ME. – May 16, 1944

Sanford, Maine – May 16, 1944 


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On May 16, 1944, a TBM-1C, (Bu. No. 17085), made a normal landing on Runway 14 at the Sanford Maine Navy Auxiliary Air Field.  As the aircraft was rolling down the runway the left landing gear collapsed.  The aircraft skidded to a stop and the three-man crew was not hurt. 

     Source: U. S. Navy accident report #44-14211, dated May 16, 1944.


4.5 Miles West of Amherst, ME – April 22, 1948

4.5 miles West Of Amherst, ME – April 22, 1948 



F-84 Thunderjet - U.S. Air Force Photo

F-84 Thunderjet – U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 1:55 p.m. on April 22, 1948, a USAF P-84B Thunderjet, (#45-59580), piloted by 1st Lt. Herbert F. Hawes, Jr., 27, departed from Dow Air Force Base for what was to be a local transition flight.  At some point during the high altitude flight, Lt. Hawes was blown off course.  The reason, according to the Air Force investigation report, may have been due to strong high-altitude winds, for the report stated in part: “Winds aloft for the general area, at altitudes the mission was flown, were reported as being from a westerly direction and varying from 39 to 62 miles per hour.”   

     At approximately 2:45 p.m., Lt. Hawes contacted Dow tower and requested a homer bearing.  He was advised to switch to “F” channel for further instructions. 

     At 3:00 p.m., he was given a heading of 273 degrees.  Eight minutes later he asked the tower for a recheck as he was still uncertain of his position, and advised he was beginning to run low on fuel.  Successive headings were given at three to five minute intervals.

     At 3:20 p.m., Lt. Hawes reported his altitude to be 26,000 feet with 60 gallons of fuel remaining, and asked Dow tower how far he was from the base.  Dow tower replied that by their estimate he was fifty miles out. 

     At 3:36 p.m. Lt. Hawes advised that he was still unable to orient himself to his location.  At that time he was given a course correction to 276 degrees. 

    Ten minutes later Lt. Hawes had descended to 16,000 feet and found himself over Deblois airstrip in Deblois, Maine, with 25 gallons of fuel remaining.   At about that time Hawes was in contact with a captain who was piloting another P-84 in the vicinity. Hawes asked him for advice, and the captain advised to “throttle back to idling fuel pressure and establish a glide of 170 mph.”

     Lt. Hawes also contacted Dow tower and asked for instructions, and was advised to attempt to make it back to Dow AFB, which is about 40 miles distant from Deblois. 

    Another captain piloting a P-84 in the area contacted Hawes and advised him to attempt to land at Deblois, but Lt. Hawes elected to head for Dow AFB instead. 

     At 3:58 p.m., while still about 19 miles east of Dow AFB, Lt. Hawes reported he was now out of fuel and was going down.  Instead of bailing out, he elected to remain with the aircraft and aimed towards a small open field amidst hilly and wooded terrain.  With no engine with which to guide the aircraft, he crashed about one mile short of the field and was killed.    

     The crash was witnessed by the P-84 pilot who had advised Lt. Hawes to attempt an emergency  landing at Deblois airstrip. 

     The “P” in the P-84 aircraft designation stood for “pursuit”.  The designation was later changed to “F” as in F-84, which stands for “fighter”.  The P-84 and the F-84, were essentially the same aircraft.    

     At the time of this accident Lt. Hawes was assigned to the 14th Fighter Group, 49th Fighter Squadron, then based at Dow AFB in Bangor, Maine.  This was the first fatal accident for the 49th FS since its activation on December 21, 1946. 

     Lt. Hawes is buried at the U.S. Military Academy Cemetery at West Point.


     Report Of Special Investigation Of Aircraft Accident Involving P-84B, No. 45-59580. 

     The Hangman’s News, (The Official Publication Of The 49th Fighter Squadron Association), “From Props To Jets Part 4 – 1 Apr. 1948 To 30 June 1948”, by Paul Scoskie, September 2008, Vol. 6, Issue 3.    

     www.findagrave.com, memorial #41509101.          



Charleston, ME – May 16, 1949

Charleston, Maine – May 16, 1949 


F-84 Thunderjet - U.S. Air Force Photo

F-84 Thunderjet – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the morning of May 16, 1949, a flight of four U.S. Air Force F-84 jets was scheduled to take off from Dow Air Force Base in Bangor, for a routine training mission.  Shortly before take off, the pilot of one aircraft advised the flight leader that the tail pipe temperature gauge on his F-84 wasn’t working.  He was advised to change aircraft, and while he was doing so, the other three F-84’s took off. 

      After being assigned another F-84, (#45-59538A), the pilot took off and was going to rejoin the other three F-84’s, but was advised against doing so, and ordered to fly solo around the Bangor area.  After flying for about an hour, the pilot noticed another flight of three F-84’s from his squadron and according to the air force investigation report, “in accordance with an unwritten squadron SOP. joined the formation.”  

     The pilot moved into the number four position of the three ship formation, however he never radioed the flight leader, and the flight leader didn’t ask for identification.  What followed next was a case of follow the leader, and after the flight went through a series of aerobatic maneuvers, it was noticed that the fourth plane was no longer with them.   The missing aircraft wasn’t immediately reported as the flight leader assumed the fourth plane had run out of fuel and returned to base.  In reality, the missing F-84 had crashed and exploded in the town of Charleston.  The other three F-84’s returned to base without incident.

     Exactly what occurred to the fourth plane is unclear.  The last thing the pilot remembered was beginning a series of rolls, and then waking up on the ground with a civilian doctor administering to his injuries which had evidently been obtained when he bailed out of the aircraft.   

     Investigators discovered that the entire left wing, the right wing outboard panel, empennage, and canopy, were not at the crash site.  These were later found in a heavily wooded swampy area, indicating they may have broken free while the aircraft was in flight or while it was falling.

     Source: Air Force Crash Investigation Report, #49-5-16-1       

Loring Air Force Base – November 25, 1958

Loring Air Force Base – November 25, 1958 

Limestone, Maine

     On November 25, 1958, a U. S. Air Force KC-135 stratojet tanker crashed and burned on approach to Loring Air Force Base.  Two crewmen, Captain Herman J. Dosenbach, and T/Sgt. Charles A. Holsclaw, managed to escape the flaming wreck with non-life threatening injuries.  The other five members of the crew perished.

     The dead were identified as:

     (Pilot) Captain John P. Eifolla, 41.

     (C0-pilot) Major John B. Brown, 39, of San Benito, Texas.

     Captain Bernard Morgan, 40, of Hope, Kansas.  He was survived by his wife Maxine and four children.

     1st Lt. Donald R. Gladdings, 29, of Shreveport, La. He was survived by his wife Patricia, and a daughter.

     (Boom Operator) T/Sgt. Ronald L. Champion, 26.  He was survived by his wife Joan, and a son.   

     The KC-135 happened to crash 100 yards from the wreck of a B-47 bomber that had crashed three days earlier on November 22.  The men guarding the wreck dove for cover as the plane approached.

     All four men aboard the B-47 had been killed in the crash.


     New York Times, “5 Die At Maine Base In Air Tanker Crash”, November 26, 1958  

     Rome (N.Y.) Daily Sentinel, “Jet Tanker Crash Kills Five Airmen”, November 26, 1958



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