Atlantic Ocean – July 23, 1942

Atlantic Ocean – July 23, 1942

Approximate Location: Lat. 40-40 N, long. 70-25 W.  

Updated January 16, 2023

OS2U Kingfisher U.S. Navy Photo

OS2U Kingfisher
U.S. Navy Photo

     On July 23, 1942, a flight of U.S. Navy Kingfisher aircraft were on a training flight over the Atlantic off the coast of Rhode Island when they encountered what the navy termed “extremely bad weather”.   As the planes continued on visibility dropped to near zero. 

     One of the planes was piloted by Ensign Harold W. Gray, 25, from Long Eddy, New York.  With him was an observer, Lieutenant (jg) William Boddie Bartels, of Memphis, Tenn.  Upon entering the weather system, the flight leader signaled to Gray close in tighter which he did, taking a position to the leader’s right.  The leader wanted Gray to be able to keep him n sight as visibility dropped.  The flight leader went on instrument flight shortly afterwards, and at this time the planes were only 500 feet above the water. 

     The leader began a shallow turn to the right, and as he did so, Gray elected to slide his aircraft up and over the tail of the leader to take a new position on the leader’s left.  Gray’s aircraft disappeared into the scud and was never seen again. 

     According to the naval investigation report, it was the opinion of naval investigators that Gray, “lost sight of the leader and being in an unusual position and finding himself with no reference point, due to vertigo, he was unable to orient himself on instruments in time to avoid crashing into the water.” 

    The aircraft was an OS2U-3 Kingfisher, Bu. No. 09404, assigned to Quonset Point Naval Air Station, VB-9. 

     To see more info about Lt. (jg) Bartels and Ens. Gray, click on the links below.


U.S. Navy Accident Investigation Brief #43-4537

Woonsocket Call, “Navy Airmen Lost On Patrol Flight”, July 24, 1942, Pg. 1

The Waterbury Democrat, (Ct.) “Navy Plane Lost With Two Aboard”, July 24, 1942, pg. 4     

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