Wickford Harbor, R.I. – June 25, 1953

Wickford Harbor, North Kingstown, Rhode Island – June 25, 1953

     On the morning of June 25, 1953, an AD Skyraider took off from Quonset Point Naval Air Station to take part in search and rescue operations taking place in Exeter and West Greenwich, Rhode Island.  The night before, two F2H Banshee fighter jets out of Quonset had collided in mid-air, and one pilot, Lt. Jg. Jack Oliver Snipes, was still missing.

     (For more information about the mid-air collision, see “Exeter/West Greenwich – June 24, 1953” under “Rhode Island Military Aviation Accidents” on this website.)

     Just after take off the Skyraider developed engine trouble and crashed in Wickford Harbor.  The pilot, Lt. Comdr. Michael J. Baring, and the two-man crew, Joseph K. Keeple Jr., 21, of Pinehurst, Mass., and Donald F. Hart, 20, of Albany, N.Y., all escaped without injury.   

     Commander Baring related to the press that this was the 18th plane crash he’d survived during his career. 

     His commanding officer, Commander Robert M. Miner credited Baring with a perfect crash-landing and for keeping the aircraft away from populated areas.

Source: Providence Journal, “Searchers Fail To Find Trace Of Missing Banshee Jet Pilot”, June 26, 1953.  (200 men comb West Greenwich Crash Area In Vain; Three fliers unhurt in Wickford harbor plunge.)   


Douglas, MA – September 12, 1944

Douglas, Massachusetts – September 12, 1944 

Updated February 15, 2018


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

      At 1:50 p.m. on the afternoon of September, 12, 1944, a flight of F6F Hellcat aircraft took off from the naval auxiliary air field at Westerly, Rhode Island, for a high-altitude oxygen training flight.   One of those assigned to the flight was Ensign Arthur Joseph Stockus, 23, piloting an F6F-3 Hellcat, (Bu. No. 42800).

     When the planes had reached an altitude of about 13,000 feet, the flight leader lead the squadron in a northerly direction towards Massachusetts, all the while continuing to gain altitude.  The goal was to reach 30,000 feet.      

     At approximately 2:50 p.m. while the flight was at 28,000 feet, Ensign Stockus’s aircraft was seen to suddenly break away from formation, go into a slow roll, and then disappear into an alto cumulus cloud.  Efforts to contact him via radio were unsuccessful.

     Ensign Stockus was killed when his Hellcat crashed and exploded in a wooded area about two miles west of the center of Douglas, Massachusetts.    

     Navy investigators later speculated that his oxygen system had failed, which could lead to disorientation or unconsciousness.  

     Ensign Stockus was from Monessen, Penn., and had been assigned to CASU-27.  He entered the navy on October 15, 1942, at Washington, D.C.  He died just two days after his 23rd birthday.

     Ensign Stockus had a brother Robert who was also serving as a naval officer.

     To see a photo of Ensign Stockus’s grave, click here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/237847778/arthur-joseph-stockus


     U.S. Navy Investigation Report

     North Kingstown, Rhode Island, death records #44-72   

     The Daily Republican, (Penn.), “Plane Crash Kills Monessen Ensign”, September 18, 1944

     Newport Mercury, (R.I.), “Dead Flyer Identified”, September 22, 1944, page 6.

     Copy – Application for World War II Compensation Form – Commonwealth of Pennsylvania

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