Martha’s Vineyard, MA. – February 19, 1946

Martha’s Vineyard – February 19, 1946

Cape Poge – Chappaquiddick


SB2C Helldiver
U.S. Navy Photo

     At 10:48 a.m. on the morning of February 19, 1946, Ensign Cecil M. Richards, 21, and his gunner, Arm2c William Robert Garrett, 20, were in a U. S. Navy  SB2C-4E Helldiver, (Bu. No. 21083), participating in an aerial bombing exercise over Cape Poge, Chappaquiddick Island, at Martha’s Vineyard.  Ensign Richards began his dive at 6,750 feet.   After releasing the training bombs on a designated target area, the aircraft was seen to continue in its dive, then roll over and crash into the water at high speed.  Both Richards and Garret were killed instantly.  

     The cause of the accident is unknown.

     Both men were assigned to Fighter Bomber Squadron 18, (VB-18), at Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island.  

     In 2016, the U. S. Army Corps of Engineers began removing potentially dangerous ordinance from the Cape Poge area and discovered the propeller, one machinegun, and other pieces from Ensign Richards’ aircraft. 


     U. S. Navy accident report dated February 19, 1946.

     (Martha’s) Vineyard Gazette, “Two Fliers Lost – First Fatality Since War, Off Cape Pogue”, February 22, 1946.

     Vineyard Gazette, “World War II Bomber Found Buried At Cape Pogue”, by Noah Asimov, May 2, 2019  

Martha’s Vineyard – March 25, 1944

Martha’s Vineyard – March 25, 1944 


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On the night of March 25, 1944, a navy TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 05880), was returning to the Martha’s Vineyard Naval Auxiliary Air Field after a night familiarization flight.   As the pilot was making his landing approach, he was waved off due to another aircraft which had just landed still being on the runway.  The Avenger circled around and came in for a second approach.  As it touched down it made a wheels up landing, and skidded on its belly for 900 feet before coming to rest.  The propeller, the bomb bay doors, and the starboard wing were heavily damaged, but there were no injuries.  

     The aircraft was assigned to VT-81.


     U. S. Navy accident report #44-12653, dated March 25, 1944.  

Martha’s Vineyard – September 18, 1992

Martha’s Vineyard – September 18, 1992

     On the evening of September 18, 1992, a single-engine Cessna 182 with a male pilot and two female passengers aboard left New Haven, Connecticut, bound for Martha’s Vineyard Airport in Edgartown.   When the flight arrived at Martha’s Vineyard it encountered poor weather and low visibility conditions and a 100 foot cloud ceiling.  At 8:17 p.m., as the aircraft was making its landing approach to Runway 24, it clipped some tree tops and then crashed and exploded in a wooded area about a half-mile from the airport.  All aboard perished. 


     Vineyard Gazette, “Plane Crash Kills Three In Airport Woods; FAA Investigates Cause Of Fiery Accident”, September 22, 1992, page 1.

     Martha’s Vineyard Times, “Plane Crashes, Burns; 3 Die In State Forest”, September 24, 1992, page 1.

     Cape Cod Times, “Plane Crash Kills Three On Vineyard”, September 19, 1992, page A2

     Cape Cod Times, “Investigators Seek Cause Of Accident”, September 20, 1992, (with photo of crash site.)  

Martha’s Vineyard – October 9, 1943

Martha’s Vineyard – October 9, 1943


North American Texan Military Trainer
Author Photo

     On October 9, 1943, an navy SNJ-4 Texan trainer aircraft, (Bu. No. 27178), crashed while landing in a strong cross wind at Martha’s Vineyard Naval Auxiliary Air Field and flipped over onto its back.  The aircraft was damaged beyond repair and the two-man crew suffered non-life-threatening injuries. 

     Source: U. S. Navy accident report #44-9008, dated October 9, 1943.

Martha’s Vineyard, – January 2, 1945

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – January 2, 1945


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On January 2, 1945, a TBF-1C Avenger, (Bu. No. 24395), was landing at the Martha’s Vineyard Naval Air Station when the aircraft was hit with a strong crosswind while five feet from the ground.  The right wing fell and struck the runway causing the aircraft to crash-land.  The aircraft suffered significant damage, but the crew was not injured.

     Source: U. S. Navy accident report dated January 2, 1945 

Martha’s Vineyard – September 10, 1943

Martha’s Vineyard – September 10,1943


U.S. Navy SBD Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo.

     On September 10, 1943, a pilot was practicing take-offs and landings  in a Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless, (Bu. No. 28216),  at the Martha’s Vineyard Navy Auxiliary Air Field.  While making an approach in cross winds, the aircraft crash-landed.  The aircraft was badly damaged but the pilot was not injured.

     The pilot was assigned to VC-43.


     U. S. Navy report #44-8549, dated September 10, 1943.   

Martha’s Vineyard, MA. – December 22, 1943

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – December 22, 1943


TBF-1 Avenger
U. S. Navy Photo

     On the afternoon of December 22, 1943, a TBF-1 Avenger, (Bu. No. 06209), was attempting to make an emergency landing due to engine trouble at Martha’s Vineyard Naval Air Station when the aircraft lost power and went into a wooded area near the end of Runway 24 and flipped on its back.  The pilot and one crew member received non-life-threatening injuries, but the aircraft was a total loss. 

     The cause of the accident was determined to be due to a missing bolt to the throttle control rod of the carburetor.     


     U. S. Navy accident report #44-10433

Martha’s Vineyard – November 13, 1983

Martha’s Vineyard – November 13, 1983

    On November 13, 1983, a 59-year-old pilot left Martha’s Vineyard Airport bound for Rhode Island in a 31-year-old Beechcraft Bonanza.  Shortly after takeoff, while the aircraft was at about 850 feet, the engine suddenly quit.  Attempts to restart it were unsuccessful, and the pilot made an emergency landing in the water of the Vinyard’s Lagoon Pond about 100 yards from shore.  The pilot escaped without injury and was rescued shortly afterwards by a man fishing nearby in his boat.  The aircraft was later removed from the water.


     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Barrington Pilot Escapes Injury”, November 15, 1983    

Edgartown, MA. – June 8, 1975

Edgartown, Massachusetts – June 8, 1975


P-51 Mustang – U.S. Air Force Photo

     On June 8, 1975, ten members of the North American Flyers club arrived at Katama Airport in Edgartown, on Martha’s Vineyard, to practice stunt flying.  There were five aircraft among the group, all former military fighter planes converted for civilian use. 

     Shortly before 1:00 p.m., a 43-year-old pilot from Southbury, Connecticut, was making some low altitude aerobatic maneuvers over the airfield in a P-51D Mustang, (Military Serial #44-74008), (Civilian registration #N76AF).   While the plane was at an altitude of about 1,000 feet it suddenly went into a spin and dove into the ground about twenty feet from the airport’s main administration building.  There was no fire or explosion, but the pilot was killed instantly.

     One witness to the accident was Edgartown’s chief of police who was standing near the adminsitration building at the time.  He later told reporters that he began to run when he saw the plane falling, and that the impact occurred about thirty feet away from where he’d been standing.  


     Providence Journal, “Two Pilots Killed In Crashes”, June 9, 1975.  (The other accident referred to in the article occurred in Coventry, Rhode Island.)   

     Hartford Courant, “Southbury Pilot Dies IN Aerial Acrobatics Act”, June 9, 1975

     Unknown Newspaper, “Stunt Pilot Killed On Vineyard”, June 9, 1975.

     Evening Bulletin, “Two Pilots Are Killed- One In R.I., 2nd In Mass.”, June 9, 1975

     Aviation Safety Network, Wikibase #10557

Vineyard Haven, MA. – July 31, 1926

Vineyard Haven, Massachusetts – July 31, 1926

     At 2:15 p.m. on Friday, July 30, 1926, a U.S. Navy, Loeing OL-4,  (Bu. No. A7061), a three seat amphibian bi-plane, left Washington, D.C., bound for Chatham, Massachusetts.  There were three men aboard: The pilot, Lieutenant H. F. Councell, of Hickory, North Carolina, the mechanic, C. T. Gibbens, of Norman Park, Georgia, and Captain E. S. Land, who was to make a survey of some vacant buildings at the naval base in Chatham.

     The plane landed twice on Friday.  The second time was at far Rockaway, New York, to make repairs to the radiator.  There the men spent the night, and after the repairs were made, resumed their trip on Saturday, July 31st, at about 1 p.m.   As they neared the New England coast they encountered fog, and were forced to land near an island called Noman’s Land, which is off the southwest coast of Martha’s Vineyard.  After conferring with each other, it was decided to head for Vineyard Haven; a village in the town of Tisbury on Martha’s Vineyard.  After landing safely at Vineyard Haven, the men went to the Havenside Inn. 

     After a meal, it was decided that Lieutenant Councell and Mechanic Gibbens should fly to Newport, Rhode Island, and obtain more fuel.  Meanwhile, Captain Land would remain behind and be picked up the following morning.

     The plane took off about 4:30 that afternoon with the two men aboard, and began to circle while at the same time climbing steeply.  Those watching on the ground stated that as it entered a cloud the engine suddenly stopped, and the airplane came diving out of the sky and crashed into the harbor with such force that the tail snapped off.  Both men were killed instantly.

     The aircraft was recovered and brought to shore, but it was well beyond any repair.

     The bodies of Lieutenant Councell and Mechanic Gibbens were placed aboard the navy tug, Triton to be taken to Newport, Rhode Island, but the tug developed engine trouble in-route so the destroyer Preston was sent to continue with the task.   

     Source: Vineyard Gazette, “Two Dive To death At Vineyard Haven”, August 6, 1926, page 1.  (photo of aircraft.)

Martha’s Vineyard – October 14, 1929

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – October 14, 1929

     On October 14, 1929, a student pilot from Brookline, Massachusetts, was piloting a Curtiss Robin practicing take offs and landings on Martha’s Vineyard.  As he was gliding in for a landing, the tail skid of the aircraft struck the windshield of Ford roadster that was parked at the field.  The lone occupant of the vehicle was badly cut by the flying glass.  (Automobiles of this era did not have safety glass.) After being given first aid by some at the airfield, he was taken to see Doctor Roswell H. Smith of Edgartown for treatment of his wounds.

     The student pilot later stated he hadn’t seen the parked Ford, and didn’t realize he’d hit anything until he felt a bump in the rear of the aircraft while landing.    

     This was reported to be the first case of an automobile being struck by an airplane on Martha’s Vineyard.

     Source: Vineyard Gazette, “Airplane Crashes Into Amidon Car”, October 18, 1929, page 1.

Martha’s Vineyard – October 22, 1943

Martha’s Vineyard Naval Auxiliary Air Field – October 22, 1943 


Douglas SBD-6 Dauntless
U.S. Navy Photo

     On October 22, 1943, an SBD-5 Dauntless aircraft, (Bu. No. 28700), crashed on takeoff from the Martha’s Vineyard NAAF.  The aircraft was demolished, but the pilot, Ensign Robert S. Rice, and the gunner, ARM3c Ronald Q. Hoffman, escaped with non-life-threatening injuries.   The men were assigned to VC-33. 

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report #44-9238, dated October 22, 1943  

Martha’s Vineyard, MA. – May 8, 1945

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – May 8, 1945


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     At 2:00 a.m. on the morning of May 8, 1945, an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70543), was approaching the runway of the Martha’s Vineyard Naval Air Station when one of the wings clipped an unlighted obstruction which caused the aircraft to crash.  The plane suffered considerable damage, but the pilot was not seriously injured.    

     Source: U. S. Navy crash report 4-45


Martha’s Vineyard, MA – July 10, 1973

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – July 10, 1973


    On the evening of July 10, 1973, a Piper Cherokee 180 left North Central State Airport in Smithfield, Rhode Island, bound for Martha’s Vineyard Airport.  There were two men aboard.  The pilot, a Providence doctor who held a commercial pilot’s license, and a passenger, an instructor for North Central Airways.  The purpose of the flight was to practice instrument landings in foggy conditions so the doctor could gain his instrument certification rating. 

    At about 8:05 p.m., as the aircraft was approaching Martha’s Vineyard Airport in low lying clouds, it suddenly went down in a wooded area of state forest land about 1800 feet short of the runway.  The plane did not burn.  The doctor was killed instantly, and the instructor was transported to the hospital in critical condition.  


     Providence Journal, “Plane Crash Kills Providence Man”, July 11, 1973, page 1.

     Providence Evening Bulletin, “Plane Crash Kills Providence Dentist”, July 11, 1973

Martha’s Vineyard, MA – February 7, 1945

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – February 7, 1945


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On February 7, 1945, a navy pilot took off from Martha’s Vineyard Auxiliary Naval Air Station in an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 70333), for a routine training flight.  About 45 minutes later, the pilot reported that he had engine trouble and was given clearance to return to the naval station.  By the time the pilot returned to the field, a coating of snow and ice covered the runways.  The plane touched down and began to skid.  It then proceeded to crash through a stone wall and was wrecked.  The pilot was injured because the shear pin on his harness broke loose, but the extend of his injuries were not specified.     

     Source: U.S. Navy Accident Report, dated February 7, 1945

Martha’s Vineyard – May 8, 1945

Martha’s Vineyard, Massachusetts – May 8, 1945 

Updated January 12, 2018


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On the morning of May 8, 1945, Lieutenant Joseph F. Koll, Jr., 29, of Boise, Idaho, was taking off from Martha’s Vineyard Naval Auxiliary Air Field in an F6F-5N Hellcat, (Ser. No. 70448), for a scheduled training flight.  When the aircraft had reached an altitude of about 50 feet it suddenly rolled over and dove into the ground and exploded, killing Lt. Koll.   The cause of the accident was undetermined.

     Lieutenant Koll’s body was brought to the Quonset Point Naval Air Station in North Kingstown, Rhode Island, before being transported to Idaho for burial.  He’s buried in Morris Hill Cemetery in Boise, Section N 68-2.  To see a photo of Lt. Koll, see Memorial #53030333.


     U.S. Navy crash investigation report

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records.


Mystery WWII Aircraft – Martha’s Vineyard – 1958

Mystery WWII Aircraft – Martha’s Vineyard – 1958

Updated July 13, 2017


U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat U.S. Navy photo

U.S. Navy F6F Hellcat
U.S. Navy photo

     On July 8, 1958, a fishing boat out of New Bedford, Mass. was dragging its nets off the western coast of Martha’s Vineyard when the nets snagged the wreckage of a WWII era navy aircraft.  The boat dragged the wreck to shallow waters about a quarter mile off an area locally known as Menemsha Bight, then placed a marker buoy on it, before proceeding to port at the Vineyard.

     There the captain of the boat encountered three divers at the dock, and asked one of them to check the condition of his boat propeller because he felt the snarled nets may have damaged it.  Afterwards, the divers, Percy Kingsley, of Cranston, R. I., James Cahill, of Danvers, Mass., and Bradford W. Luther Jr., of Fairhaven, Mass., went to explore the wreck.  

     The wreck was in about 15 feet of water, and heavily encrusted with marine life, which obscured any identification numbers, but the paint colors established it as a navy plane.  In the cockpit they found human bones, some of which they collected, along with an oxygen mask, a flying boot, and what may have been a life raft, and turned them over to the Coast Guard.     

     A navy salvage vessel out of Quonset Point, Rhode Island, was dispatched to the scene to attempt to raise the wreck.  Divers from the salvage boat identified the wreck as a Grumman Hellcat of World War II vintage.  However, it was not specifically stated in the newspaper articles whether or not the plane was actually recovered.  If the marine life could be removed, the identification numbers from the tail would identify the aircraft, and who had been flying it. 

     However, recovery of the wreck may have been possible, and it may have been photographed instead, because it was reported that photographs of the plane’s instrument panel had been forwarded to Washington for further identification.  

     The bones recovered from the cockpit were sent to Quonset Point Naval Air Station where it was reported that the senior medical officer, Captain M. H. Goodwin, planned to seek instructions from the Navy Bureau of Medicine.   (This was in a time long before DNA testing was available.)

     The Quonset public information officer told reporters that there had been only one inquiry about the remains found, and it came firm a man whom the navy did not identify, but said a member of his family had been lost during the war on a flight from his air craft carrier to Quonset Point. 

      As of this writing, the name of the pilot is unknown.  


     Providence Journal, “Remains Of Unknown Plane, Pilot Found”, July 9, 1958, Pg. 14

     Providence Journal, “Identification Of Pilot Sought”, July 12, 1958, Pg. 2      

     Vineyard Gazette, “Final Chapter In One Or More Plane Crashes Near”, July 14, 1958



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