How Otis Air Force Base Was Named

     Otis Air Field was named for 2nd Lieutenant Frank Jessie Otis, Jr. who was a flight surgeon with the 101st Observation Squadron of the Massachusetts National Guard.  To see a photo of him click on the link below.

     On January 11, 1937, Lt. Otis and an observer, Sgt. John Gibbons, were flying in a National Guard, Douglas O-46 observation plane, from Boston to Moline, Illinois, when the plane crashed Hennepin, Illinois.  Both men were killed.   The cause of the crash is unknown. 

    Although Lt. Otis perished in 1937, Otis Air Field wasn’t officially named for him until December 14, 1940.   It later became known as Otis Air Force Base.

Falmouth Enterprise, (Ma.)
December 20, 1940

     The forgotten man in this situation is the observer who was flying with Lt. Otis on his cross-country flight.  His name is Sergeant John F. Gibbons, (26), of Natick, Massachusetts.  To see a photo of him click on the link below.

     The article below appeared in The Waterbury Democrat, (Ct.) on January 12, 1937.  

The article below appeared in The Evening Star, (Washington, D.C.), on January 12, 1937.  

Otis Air Force Base – June 12, 1947

Otis Air Force Base – June 12, 1947


F8F Bearcat
U. S. Navy Photo

    On June 12, 1947, an F8F-1 Bearcat, (Bu. No. 95125), left Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island bound for Otis AFB in Falmouth, Massachusetts. Upon landing at Otis, the right wing dropped and struck the runway causing the aircraft to flip onto its back and skid for approximately 500 feet before it came to rest.  The aircraft was badly damaged, but the pilot was not seriously injured.  

     The aircraft was assigned to VF-17A at Quonset.


     U. S. Navy accident report dated June 12, 1947

Otis Air Force Base – June 27, 1947

Otis Air Force Base – June 27, 1947


F8F Bearcat
U. S. Navy Photo

     On June 27, 1947, a flight of F8F Bearcats left the Quonset Naval Air Station bound for Otis Air Force base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to conduct practice carrier landings and takeoffs The aircraft were assigned to VF-8A at Quonset.

     Once at Otis the aircraft commenced the takeoff and landing exercise.  As one aircraft, (Bu. No. 95227), was making its approach for its sixth landing, in came in too close behind the aircraft ahead of it.  After landing, the pilot applied the brakes to avoid a rear-end collision with the plane ahead, but at that moment the left brake failed which caused the aircraft to swerve off the runway and onto a grassy area.  On the grassy area was a parked truck, which the pilot would have struck had he not intentionally ground-looped the aircraft.  After missing the truck, the aircraft went into a small ravine and nosed over onto its back.  The aircraft was substantially damaged, but the pilot was not seriously hurt.   


     U. S. Navy accident report dated June 27, 1947

Otis Air Force Base – October 17, 1947

Otis Air Force Base – October 17, 1947


F8F Bearcat
U. S. Navy Photo

     On October 17, 1947, an F8F-1 Bearcat, (Bu. No. 95331), left the Quonset Naval Air Station in Rhode Island bound for Otis AFB in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  As the pilot was coming into to land at Otis, the engine suddenly lost all power.  Realizing he couldn’t make it to the service runway, the pilot decided to make an emergency wheels-up landing in the grass nearby.  The aircraft received considerable damage as it skidded for about 600 feet before coming to rest.  The pilot was not injured.


     U. S. Navy accident report dated October 17, 1947 

Atlantic Ocean – November 11, 1966

Atlantic Ocean – November 11, 1966


EC-121 Super Constellation
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On November 11, 1966, a U.S. Air Force EC-121-H “Warning Star” radar picket Constellation, (Ser. No. 55-5262), was on a mission about 125 miles east of Nantucket, Massachusetts, when it suffered a catastrophic event and crashed into the ocean.  The aircraft contained a crew of 19 men, all assigned to the 551st Airborne Early Warning & Control Wing stationed at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

     The aircraft had departed from Otis at 12:35 a.m., and the last radio contact was made at 1:22 a.m.  The weather was said to be clear with ten miles of visibility.  At 1:30 a.m. the captain of a New Bedford fishing vessel reported seeing a large aircraft with a stream trailing behind it pass over his 70-foot boat, roll onto its back, and crash into the ocean where it exploded on impact.  He couldn’t be certain if the stream was due to an onboard fire or from a jet trail.   The New Bedford vessel as well as several others raced to the scene to look for survivors. 

     No distress call had been received from the aircraft. 

     A large scale search was conducted over the next few days during which debris from the aircraft was recovered, however there were no survivors.

     Wreckage of the aircraft was later recovered off the ocean floor in December of 1966, and serial numbers confirmed it to be the missing airplane.

     The only crew member identified in the press was the aircraft commander, Major Robert A. Baird.  To see a photograph of Major Baird, go to, Memorial #101715135.

     The names of the other 18 crewmen are unknown. 


     Cape Cod Standard Times, “Otis Base Radar Picket Plane Crashes, Explodes; 19 Crewmen Believed Dead”, November 12, 1966

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “Otis Sure Debris From Lost Plane”, November 13, 1966

     Boston Sunday Advertiser, “Piece Of Baggage From Radar Plane Identified”, November 13, 1966

     New London Day, “AF Abandons Search For Radar Plane”, November 14, 1966

     New London Day, “Missing Plane Found In Ocean”, December 22, 1966



Sandwich, MA – July 12, 1951

Sandwich, Massachusetts – July 12, 1951 


F-94 Starfire U.S. Air Force Photo

F-94 Starfire
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 3:30 p.m. on July 12, 1951, an Air Force F-94B fighter jet (50-873A) was in flight over Cape Cod when the engine flamed out.  The plane crashed near Peters Pond in Sandwich, about a mile south of the Mid-Cape Highway, (Route 6).  Another source put the crash site near Spectacle Pond, “about 1 mile from Quaker Meeting House Road in the direction of West Barnstable, and near Mill Road, between Spectacle Pond and the Mid-Cape Highway.”

    The pilot, 1st Lt. Victor Clapp, 28, of Beverly, Massachusetts, was killed when he ejected but his chute failed to open.   He was survived by his wife, Dorothy, and two children.   

     The radar observer, 2nd Lt. Aaron M. Jones Jr., 27, of Newtonville, MA, ejected safely.  Jones landed in a wooded area south of the Mid-Cape Highway and made his way to the Rof-Mar Lodge.

     The crash ignited several large brush fires.  

     The jet belonged to the 33rd Fighter-Interceptor wing at Otis AFB. 


     Falmouth Enterprise, “Jet Pilot Is Killed As Plane Crashes Near Peters Pond”, July 13, 1951  

     Cape Cod Standard Times, “Otis Base Jet Pilot Is Killed, Companion Safe In Crash”, July 13, 1951, Pg. 1

     Updated March 21, 2016

     On the afternoon of July 12, 1951, Lieutenant’s Clapp and  Aaron took off from Otis Air Force Base for a training flight to practice “ground controlled approach” (GCA) landing procedures.  Their F-94 (#50-873A) carried a full load of fuel, but was not equipped with external wing tanks.

     After making two successful landings, the pilot attempted a third.  As the F-94 approached Otis AFB intending to land on runway 23, it “flamed out” and crashed in a wooded area about 150 yards to the east of Mill Road, and south of Route 6.  This location is gleaned from the official air force crash investigation report, and contradicts the vague locations given to the press, which was likely done for security reasons and to prevent souvenir hunters from converging on the site.  

     Lt. Clapp was a veteran of WWII and earned his pilot’s wings March 2, 1944.  At the time of his death he had recently been re-activated for active duty due to the Korean War.  He’s buried in Woodlawn Cemetery in Acton, Massachusetts.


     Air Force Crash Investigation Report #51-7-12-1, Memorial #114039950



Otis Air Force Base – May 14, 1950

Otis Air Force Base – May 14, 1950 


U.S.A.F. F-86 Fighter Jet

      On Sunday morning, May 14, 1950, Major William C. Routt had just completed a training flight in a F-86 Sabre jet, (#49-1104), and was approaching runway five at Otis AFB in Falmouth, Massachusetts, when his plane suddenly dove into the ground and exploded near the end of the runway.  The crash occurred close to the southeast gate leading to Sandwich Road. 

     Major Routt was the operations officer of the 60th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron.  He began his Air Force career in 1941, and served in Alaska and England during World War II earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Croix de Guerre, and the Air Force Medal with eight oak leaf clusters. 


     Woonsocket Call, (R.I.), “Squadron Officer Killed In Jet’s Bay State Crash”, May 15, 1950  

     Falmouth Enterprise, “Major Routt Dies In Crash Of F-86”, May 19, 1950    

     Aviation Safety Network

Otis Field, MA. – June 14, 1944

Otis Field, Falmouth, Massachusetts – June 14, 1944


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

     In the early morning hours of June 14, 1944, a flight of navy aircraft were returning from a night training flight.  As one of the aircraft, an F6F-5 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 58145), was coming in to land, the pilot forgot to lower the landing gear, and belly landed on the runway before skidding to a stop.  The aircraft was badly damaged, but the pilot was uninjured.

     The aircraft was assigned to Fighter Squadron 81, (VF-81) 

     Source:  U.S. Navy Crash Investigation Report, dated June 14, 1944 

Atlantic Ocean – October 10, 1958

Atlantic Ocean – October 10, 1958


C-123K Cargo Plane U. S. Air Force Photo

C-123K Cargo Plane
U. S. Air Force Photo

     On October 10, 1958, a C-123 cargo plane based out of Otis Air Force  Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, was returning to Otis from Miami, Florida, when a fire erupted on board while the plane was off the coast of Virginia.  There was a crew of three aboard: the pilot, Captain Frederick W. Meyer, 29, the co-pilot, Captain Warren W. Swenson, 37, and Staff Sergeant Paul F. D’Entremont. 

     Captain Meyer gave the order to bail out, and the three men parachuted into the ocean.  Meyer and Swenson were rescued by a navy helicopter, and D’Entremont was pulled from the water by the crew of a Coast Guard boat.

     D’Entremont had suffered unspecified injuries, and was transported to the Portsmouth, Virginia, Naval Hospital, where he passed away.  He had been assigned to the 551st Periodic Maintenance Squadron.


     Falmouth Enterprise, “Sergeant Dies After Plane Crash”, October 14, 1958      

Cape Cod Bay – March 25, 1954

Cape Cod Bay – March 25, 1954


F-94 Starfire U.S. Air Force Photo

F-94 Starfire
U.S. Air Force Photo

     At 12:45 p.m., on March 25, 1954, 2nd Lt. Boyd L. Erickson, 24, was killed when the F-94 Starfire jet he was piloting crashed in Cape Cod Bay near Orient during a routine training flight.

     The newspaper account mentioned that there was a radar observer aboard who was “missing”.  He was not identified.  

     Lieutenant Erickson was from Grand Forks, North Dakota, and he’s buried there in Memorial Park Cemetery.  He was survived by his wife Dona Mae Erickson.

     Lieutenant Erickson entered the U.S. Air Force in early 1951, and began his pilot training in August of 1952.  He received his wings and officer’s commission August 1, 1953, and had been assigned to Otis Air Force Base at the time of the accident.


     Falmouth Enterprise, “Pocasset Pilot Dies In Crash Of Aircraft”, March 26, 1954       Memorial # 24523991

North Smithfield, R. I. – May 19, 1959

North Smithfield, Rhode Island – May 19, 1959


F-89 Scorpion U. S. Air Force Photo

F-89 Scorpion
U. S. Air Force Photo

     On May 19, 1959, two U. S. Air Force F-89 Scorpion jets attached to the 58th Fighter Interceptor Squadron were dispatched from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, to intercept an unidentified aircraft that appeared on air defense radar.  The flight was actually an unannounced drill.  Such drills were common, one air command would send a plane into another air command’s air space to test readiness and proficiency.

     The crew of one F-89 consisted of the pilot, Captain Arthur Cannella, 29, and his radar observer, Lieutenant Robert J. Scearce Jr., 26.  Once airborne, Cannella’s F-89 was designated the radio call sign, “Kilo November Nine”, and the other “Kilo November Ten”.  Even though they were scrambled out of Massachusetts, they were put in radio contact with the New York Air Defense Sector which was using the call sign “Occasion”. 

      Ironically, Lieutenant Scearce wasn’t scheduled to be on this particular flight.  He was supposed to be relieved at the end of his shift by another radar observer, but when the man showed up he asked Scearce to cover for him for an hour or so until he could register his car.  Scearce agreed, and thirty minutes later the scramble horn sounded.

      As the Scorpions sped through the upper atmosphere at 30,000 feet on an interception course, both jets found themselves flying in thick clouds, or “popeye” in Air Force jargon, and were forced to fly in IFR (Instrument Flight Rules).  Cannella and Scearce, (Kilo November Nine) began closing in on the “target” using their on-board radar, while Kilo November Ten was positioned a few miles away serving as the surveillance aircraft per instructions from Occasion.  The following dialogue leading up to the accident is taken from a radio transcript submitted with the official Air Force Crash Investigation Report.  (59-5-19-2) 

OCCASION: “Kilo November Nine, your heading is two eight zero, your target, thirty five port now twelve miles.  Do you have a contact?”  

NINE: “Rog, we have a contact.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, Contact.” 

After a few moments of radio traffic between Occasion and the other aircraft: 

NINE: “Zero Nine has a Judy.” 

OCCASION: “Judy for zero nine.  Investigate, full I.D. please.” 

NINE: “Zero nine.” 

A few moments later: 

OCCASION: “Ten, nine is now a mile and a half behind the target, you hold them both the port side twenty five degrees at fourteen to thirteen miles.” 

TEN: “Roger, ten” 

OCCASION: “Ten, they’re in ten miles.  Do you have a contact?”  (Occasion was informing ten that nine and the target were now within ten miles of his aircraft and asking if he had them on radar.)  

TEN: “Negative, ten seems to be bent here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger ten, let’s come port two eight zero degrees that’ll place them fifteen to twenty your port side at seven to eight miles.” 

TEN: “Roger two eight.” 

OCCASION: “Nine, are you Victor Fox now?” (Asking if Nine was now above the cloud cover and flying on Visual Flight, (Victor Fox), Rules.) 

TEN: “Roger, we’re on top at thirty seven.” (The report lists ten as answering, but nine was asked the question.  This could be a typo.) 

OCCASION: “Ten, your heading two seven zero, the target will be your two thirty position twelve miles.” 

TEN: “Roger, understand, two thirty at twelve.  Do you have a stranger passing about twelve o’clock at four or five miles?”  (Apparently the aircraft’s radar was picking up another plane and was asking if Occasion had it on their radar.)  

OCCASION: “Ten, that’s negative, you have a stranger off your starboard side at one thirty at fourteen.  I have no stranger that neck of your position.”  

OCCASION: “Ten, I now have a stranger in your heading of two seven zero in your ten o’clock position at six.” 

After some course correction instructions between Occasion and Ten, Occasion checks on Nine. 

OCCASION: “Nine, are you still popeye?” 

NINE: “That’s affirm, I think we are going to get him soon here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine.” 

OCCASION: “Ten, what state fuel?” 

TEN: “Roger, ten has ten thousand pounds, oxygen sweet.” (10,000 lbs. of fuel and plenty of oxygen to breathe due to the altitude.) 

OCCASION: “Roger, ten continue at gate your pigeons home plate zero seven zero degrees at forty five.” (“gate your pigeons” – Air Force slang for use afterburner for maximum power.) 

TEN: “Roger.  Forty-five starboard twenty four.” 

NINE: “It’s a B-47 type aircraft, I’ll pull in and get numbers.”  (The pilot was required to get the serial number on the tail of the target aircraft as proof they had identified it.) 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine, we’re standing by.” 

OCCASION: “Kilo November Ten, starboard three-three zero.” 

TEN: “Roger three-three.” 

NINE: “Zero nine is breaking it off.  I’ll give you the numbers here.” 

OCCASION: “Roger, nine, nine break port – port one eight zero degrees the hard way.  I’ll join ten up with you.”  

NINE: “I’ve already broken starboard, I’d had to break into the aircraft to break                               port.” 

     This was the last radio transmission received from Kilo November Nine.      

     Cannella and Scearce had broken to starboard, and unknowingly began heading almost straight down due to the lack of visual reference points.  The aircraft began picking up speed, and then broke the sound barrier, something it was not designed to do.  When it finally broke free of the clouds the situation became apparent, and the crew was forced to eject.  

     The Plexiglas canopy flew off as explosive charges under the crews’ seats blew them free of the cockpit.  For the two men, hitting the slipstream at 700 mph was like being slammed into a brick wall. Both injured their shoulders in the bail out leaving them incapable of controlling their parachutes as they descended.   

     Meanwhile, those at Air Defense Command began to realize something was wrong.  Both Occasion and Kilo November Ten tried to radio Nine, but got no response.  Occasion reported to Ten that they had lost Nine on radar.  

OCCASION: “Kilo November Ten, your Nine should now have gone off  your starboard side.  His last position that I had him was about fifteen your port side seven miles.”   

TEN: “Roger, you still have no paint on him?” 

OCCASION: “Negative, I’m not painting his parrot, (not on radar) I lost him, you heard the last transmission that he made to us as he turned starboard.” 

TEN: “Roger, you want to clear me down through this stuff, (the clouds) I’ll drop on down here a little bit lower.” 

OCCASION:  “Ten that negative, be advised we’re over land and if anything did                             happen to Nine, no sense taking you down there too.”  (Kilo November Ten was the given instructions to return back to Otis AFB.) 

     The men bailed out over the city of Woonsocket, Rhode Island.  Many on the ground who witnessed the parachutes deploy first thought it was all part of a stunt connected to the upcoming Madi Gras celebration.       

Former U. S. Rubber Company, aka Alice Mill,  at 85 Fairmont Street, Woonsocket, R. I.   The mill burned to the ground in June of 2011

Former U. S. Rubber Company, aka Alice Mill,
at 85 Fairmont Street, Woonsocket, R. I.
The mill burned to the ground in June of 2011

     Lieutenant Scearce landed hard on the roof of the U.S. Rubber Company at 85 Fairmont Street,   suffering from multiple serious injuries connected to the bailout.  

      Employees of the plant climbed to the roof using a fire escape.  Dorothy Kane, the industrial nurse for the company, began administering first aid while police and firemen converged on the area.  Scearce was transported to Woonsocket Hospital where he stayed for the next eleven days.        

      Meanwhile, Captain Cannella landed in Harris Pond next to the Precious Blood Cemetery in northern Woonsocket.  Looking down during his descent he saw 17-year-old Roland Ruge working in the cemetery and began calling for help. The wind carried him across the cemetery and straight into Harris Pond where he became tangled in the cords of his parachute.   Acting quickly, Roland dove into the chilly water and swam 200 feet from shore to reach Canella.  Roland struggled to pull the injured flyer to shore while keeping his head above water.  As he neared shore someone threw him a rope. 

     Both Cannella and Ruge were transported to Woonsocket Hospital for treatment.  While the captain was admitted for his injuries, Roland was treated for hypothermia and released.   

    While the crew of the F-89 came down in Woonsocket, the aircraft continued down into the neighboring town of North Smithfield, about 200 yards west of Greenville Road, (Rt. 104), at a point about three-tenths of a mile south of where Providence Street intersects with Smithfield Road.  The plane exploded in a massive fireball. 

     The wreckage at the crash site was scattered in a swath a half-mile long and roughly 300 feet wide.  Both engines were found intact approximately 300 feet past where the initial impact occurred.  The fires burned hot enough to melt the aluminum from the plane.  In one area, it was reported that the melted aluminum remained liquid until the firemen cooled it with water from their hoses. 

     The ejection seat belonging Lt. Scearce was later recovered by on Wright’s Farm on Woonsocket Hill Road, in North Smithfield, which is several miles away from where the air-crew parachuted to earth. 

     The Scorpion involved in this crash was an F-89 J, serial number 53-2621A.   

     While the aircrew lay recuperating at Woonsocket Hospital, Roland Ruge was hailed a hero by the Air Force for saving Captain Cannella’s life.  Roland later received an official award from the Air Force and was given a tour of Otis Air Force Base.  While being given the tour, he was able to view the remains of the wrecked F-89, and was presented with the cockpit compass as a keepsake.     


United States Air Force Crash Investigation Report #59-5-19-2

Woonsocket Call, “Two Bail Out Safely As AF Jet Crashes In North Smithfield”, May 19, 1959.

Providence Journal, “2 Airmen Hurt Parachuting”, May 20, 1959, Pg. 1

Woonsocket Call, “Crash Pilot Blames Going Too Fast”, May 20, 1959

Cape Cod Standard Times, “Plane Crashes In Rhode Island”, May 20, 1959   Cape Cod Standard Times, “Explosion Of Otis jet Being Probed”, May 20, 1959

Cape Cod Standard Times, “Investigation Is Continuing”, May 21, 1959

Woonsocket Call, “AF, Pilot’s Wife Pour Thanks On Hero Ruge”, May 21, 1959

Providence Journal, “Gathering Up Of Fighter Pieces Begins”, May 21, 1959, Pg. 19







Sandwich, MA – August 29, 1961

Sandwich, Massachusetts – August 29, 1961 


RB-57F.  The U.S. Version of the English Electric Canberra.  U.S. Air Force Photo.

RB-57F. The U.S. Version of the English Electric Canberra. U.S. Air Force Photo.

     On August 29, 1961, Major Harold D. LaRoche, 27, took off from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, in a Martin B-57 Canberra en-route to Andrews Air Force base in Virginia.  (He was the only person aboard.)

     Shortly after take off  LaRoche radioed Otis tower that he had an emergency and turned back towards the base.  On his approach he crashed in the Forestdale section in the town of Sandwich, Massachusetts.  The plane exploded and the major was killed. 

     Major LaRoche was assigned to Ent Air Force base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and had been on a cross-country flight.     



Falmouth Enterprise, (Photo) “Wreckage Of Bomber Which Crashed In Forrestdale”, September 1, 1961

Off Nantucket – April 25, 1967

Off Nantucket – April 25, 1967

     At 6:30 p.m. on April 25, 1967, a “radar picket plane” with sixteen men aboard took off from Otis Air Force Base for patrol duty over the Atlantic.  “A half hour later,” it was reported, “eye witnesses heard the plane roaring over their homes at Madaket on the western end of Nantucket.”   

     The plane crashed into the sea off the western end of the island.  A commercial pilot flying in the area saw the plane go down, and said the Air Force pilot had made a deliberate effort to avoid crashing in the center of town.      

     The plane was piloted by Col. James P. Lyle Jr., 47, commander of the 551st Airborne Early Warning and Control Wing based at Otis.

     Of the sixteen men aboard, there was only one survivor: the navigator, Lieut. Joseph H. Guenet, 29, of Montreal.

     To learn more about this accident click here:

     This was the second radar plane out of Otis to be lost within two years.  The other went down in July, 1965, with sixteen lives lost.   


New York Times, “Plane with 16 Crashes Off Coast”, April 26, 1967

New York Times, “Air Force Seeks Survivors Of Crash Off Nantucket”, April 27, 1967

New York Times, “Hope Gone For 13 On Plane”, April 28, 1967

Missing Aircraft – April 27, 1966

Missing Aircraft – April 27, 1966


B-57 Reconnaissance Bomber U.S. Air Force Photo

B-57 Reconnaissance Bomber
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On April 27, 1966, an Air Force B-57 reconnaissance bomber was on a training flight from Newburgh, New York, to Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, when it disappeared after radioing a distress signal, presumably  somewhere near the Falmouth area. 

     There were two men aboard the aircraft: (Pilot) Major Malcolm T. Kalser, 42, of Biggs, California, and (Navigator) Major Frank N. Guzzetta, 40, of Darby, Penn.    

     After a widespread search nothing was found, and the Air Force called off the search after eight days.

     Then, on Sunday, May 9, 1966, two fishermen from Cuttyhunk Island reported finding what they though might be pieces of the missing aircraft on a nearby beach.  “The wreckage”, it was reported, “included one part about five feet long and a rubber de-icing boot.” 

     The pieces were turned over to the Air Force.


    Woonsocket Call, “Plane Search May Resume; Parts Found”, May 9, 1966, Pg. 6       

Atlantic Ocean – July 12, 1965

Atlantic Ocean – July 12, 1965

Approx. 100 miles northeast of Nantucket, Massachusetts


EC-121 Super Constellation U.S. Air Force Photo

EC-121 Super Constellation
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the night of July 12, 1965, an Air Force EC-121H Super Constellation radar aircraft with a crew of 19 aboard, was flying over the Atlantic when a fire in one engine forced the pilot to ditch in the water. 

     The last radio transmission received from the pilot was , “Altitude 200 feet, I am ditching.”   

     The Constellation broke up when it hit the water. 

     The aircraft carrier U.S.S. Wasp and several other ships were in the area on naval exercises, and immediately launched a search and rescue operation.  Of the 19 men aboard, only three were rescued.  Nine bodies were recovered.  The other seven were listed as “missing, presumed dead”.

     Those rescued were :

     1st Lt. Bruce E. Witcher, navigator, of Redding, CA.

     Airman 1c John N. Puopolo, of Roslindale, Mass.

     Airman 2c David A. Surles, of Raleigh, N.C.

     The dead and missing were identified as:

     Capt. Murray J. Brody, pilot, of New York City. 

     2nd Lt. Fred Ambrosio, pilot, of Otis AFB.

     1st Lt. Thomas Fiedler, pilot, of Davenport, Iowa.

     2nd Lt. Ira J. Husik, navigator, of Philadelphia.

     Capt. Edward N. Anaka of Akron, N.Y.

     Capt. Michael R. Barbolla, of the Bronx, N.Y.

     T. Sgt. Gilbert T. Armstrong, flight engineer, of Newport, VT.

     T. Sgt. Eugene J. Schreivogel, of Springfield, Colorado.

     S. Sgt. Raymond M. Washam, of Wilmington, Del.

     S. Sgt. Francis J. Griffin, of Toronto, Canada.

     S. Sgt. John L. Howard, of Sanford, PA.

     Airman 1c George R. West, of Wyoming, Mich.

     Airman 1c Charles K. Sawyer, of Anderson, S.C.

     Airman 2c William E. Howe Jr., of North Augusta, S.C.

     Airman 2c Charles H. Williams, of Worcester, Mass.

     Airman 3c Charles J. Podjaski, of Evergreen Park, Ill.

     The aircraft was assigned to Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts.

     There is much more information available relating to this accident.  To find out more, go to  to read numerous articles from the Cape Cod Standard Times about this incident.    


New York Times, “9 Airmen Perish In Plane Ditching”, July 13, 1965

New York Times, “Crash Survivors Describe Ordeal”, July 14, 1965

Chicago Tribune, “Buddies Tell How Airmen Died In Crash”, July 14, 1965, Pg. 2

New York Times, “Coast Guard Halts Search For Airmen In Plane Crash”, July 18, 1965



Otis Air Force Base – May 8, 1957

Otis Air Force Base – May 8, 1957

Falmouth, Massachusetts

     On May 8, 1957, Lieutenant Donald J. Flower Jr., 26, of Yonkers, New York, was killed when the fighter jet he was piloting crashed and burned upon landing at Otis AFB.  He had flown to Otis from Shaw AFB in South Carolina. 

     The exact type of aircraft wasn’t stated.  

     Flower joined the Air Force in 1953 after graduating from Iona College in New Rochelle, New York.  He was survived by his parents and four siblings.

     Source: New York Times, “Yonkers Pilot Killed”, May 10, 1957

Off Sandwich, MA – June 24, 1956

Off Sandwich, Massachusetts – June 24, 1956


F-94 Fighter Jet U.S. Air Force Photo

F-94 Fighter Jet
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the evening of June 24, 1956, a flight of three F-94 Starifre jets left Langley Air Force Base in Virginia, en-route to Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts.  When they arrived at Otis they encountered poor weather conditions, and Otis tower held off their landing.  As the F-94’s circled in a three-jet formation, two of the jets ran out of fuel and crashed into the sea. 

     The pilot and radar observer of one jet were rescued after they bailed out over the ocean.  The pilot of the second plane was not recovered.  (His aircraft did not have a radar observer aboard.)      

     A Coast Guard helicopter out of Boston taking part in the search and rescue operations crashed in Boston Harbor where it encountered thick fog upon its return.  Two crewmen were rescued, a third was lost.

     No names were listed in the source article.

     Source: New York Times, “Two Jet Planes Crash”, June 25, 1956  

Vineyard Sound – August 10, 1952

Vineyard Sound – August 10, 1952

Between Martha’s Vineyard and Falmouth, Massachusetts


F-94 Fighter Jet U.S. Air Force Photo

F-94 Fighter Jet
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On August 10, 1952, a U. S. Air Force F-94 fighter jet piloted by Captain Hobart R. Gay, 28, took off from Otis Air Force base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, for a training flight.  As he was returning to base, Gay radioed for landing instructions.  Just afterwards, a Coast Guard watchman reported seeing his aircraft suddenly plunge into the water of Vineyard Sound and disappear. 

     The crash was also witnessed by a Falmouth auxiliary policeman who reported he saw a “streak of light” drop from the sky.

     A search and rescue mission was immediately launched, but all that was found was an oil slick, and fragments of Captain Gay’s aircraft.  His body was never recovered.  

     Captain Gay was a 1946 graduate of West Point.  He flew 105 combat missions in Korea, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross, and Air Medal with three oak leaf clusters.

     He was survived by his wife Jane, and his son, Hobart R. Gay III. 


     New York Times, “Jet Crash Victim Found To be Hero”, August 12, 1952

     Falmouth Enterprise, “Auxiliary Policeman Sees Jet Plane Fall”, August 15, 1952






Mashpee – Falmouth, MA – October 9, 1951

Mashpee-Falmouth Area

 Massachusetts – October 9, 1951 


F-94 Starfire U.S. Air Force Photo

F-94 Starfire
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On October 9, 1951, a U. S. Air Force F-94 Starfire jet was coming in for a landing at Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts, when a wingtip fuel tank, reported to be, “probably empty”, unexpectedly fell away and came down in a wooded area somewhere to the west of a traffic rotary on Route 28 in the nearby town of Mashpee, Massachusetts.  The pilot estimated that the tank might have landed far enough to the west of the traffic rotary that it came down in Falmouth.  

     A search for the missing tank was instituted, but as of October 12th it hadn’t been found.  The tank was described as being about five feet long, cigar-shaped, and made of aluminum.  Citicens with any information as to its whereabouts were asked to notify Falmouth police or Otis base.    



Source: Falmouth Enterprise, “Wingtip Gas Tank Falls From Otis Jet”, October 12, 1951

Otis Air Force Base – April 14, 1958

Otis Air Force Base – April 14, 1958 

Falmouth, Massachusetts


F-94 Fighter Jet U.S. Air Force Photo

F-94 Fighter Jet
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On April 14, 1958, an F-94 Starfire jet was returning to Otis Air Force Base after a training flight when it was discovered that the landing gear wouldn’t come down.  The pilot, 2nd Lt. Ragner Erickson,and his radar observer, 1st Lt. Francis DePipi, circled the area for 45 minutes using up the fuel supply as base fire crews coated the runway with foam.    

     When it was time, Lt. Erickson brought the aircraft in for a wheels-up belly landing.  The foam did its job and there was no fire.  The crew was uninjured.

     Source: Falmouth Enterprise, (no headline) (two photos) (short narrative)    

Otis Air Force Base – November 6, 1958

Otis Air Force Base – November 6, 1958

Falmouth, Massachusetts


F-94 Starfire U.S. Air Force Photo

F-94 Starfire
U.S. Air Force Photo

      On November 6, 1958, an F-94 Starfire jet was taking off from Otis Air Force Base when both auxiliary fuel tanks unexpectedly fell from the wings, struck the runway, and exploded.  The F-94, piloted by 1st Lt. Raymond Nishibayashi, managed to get airborne, and circled the base while ground crews put out the fires.

     Nishibayashi and his radar observer, 1st Lt. Allen E. Freiberg landed safely.

     Both men were assigned to the 60th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Otis.


     Falmouth Enterprise, “Fire On Runway”, November 7, 1958   

Otis Air Force Base – July 9, 1954

Otis Air Force Base – July 9, 1954

Falmouth, Massachusetts

     On the afternoon of July 9, 1954, air force captain Robert J. Fox was scheduled to fly a single-engine L-20 airplane on a routine training flight from Otis Air Force Base in Falmouth, Massachusetts.   As he was lifting off the runway at 4:05 p.m., the aircraft suddenly lost altitude dipping its wing which caught the ground causing the plane to crash.  Despite heavy damage to the plane, was no fire, and Captain Fox escaped without injury. 

     Fox was assigned to the 4707th Air defense Wing as a communications electronics officer.         


     Falmouth Enterprise, “Capt. Robert Fox Unhurt In Crash”, July 9, 1954

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