Holbrook, MA. – October 4, 1967

Holbrook, Massachusetts – October 4, 1957


A-4 Skyhawk
U.S. Navy Photo

     On October 4, 1957, a U. S. Navy A-4 Skyhawk fighter jet, (Bu. No. 142202), took off from the South Weymouth Naval Air Station for a routine training flight.  The lone pilot was Naval Reserve Lieutenant Walter R. Heins, 31, of Burlington, Vermont.  Eight minutes into the flight the aircraft developed mechanical trouble and began to violently shake.   

     Lt. Heins radioed a distress call and advised the plane was going down.   Looking out from the cockpit he saw he was over a populated residential and business area, as well as the John F. Kennedy Elementary School, and made a decision to stay with the aircraft and guide it to a wooded area he saw in the distance just beyond a trailer park.  He didn’t eject until the aircraft was at 500 feet, but at that low altitude his parachute didn’t have time to fully deploy and he was killed.  The Skyhawk crashed and exploded in the woods beyond the trailer park not far from the intersection of Pine and Weymouth Streets.   The actions of Lt. Heins no doubt saved many lives on the ground.    

     In November of 2017, fifty years after the crash, the town of Holbrook honored Lieutenant Heins for his sacrifice by placing a permanent memorial at Pine and Weymouth Streets. 

     Lt. Heins was assigned to Navy Air Reserve Attack Squadron 912, (VA-912), stationed at South Weymouth NAS. In November of 1968 he was posthumously awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Medal of Heroism.  He was survived by his wife and his son. 


     Wicked Local, “Holbrook To Mark Spot Where ’67 Pilot Sacrificed His Life To Save Hundreds Of Students”, By Jeanne M. Rideout, September 3, 2017.

     The Patriot Ledger, “Hero Pilot Recognized For His 1967 Sacrifice In Holbrook”, By Sara Cline, (The Enterprise), November 12, 2017.   


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