Wilmington, MA. – May 23, 1946

Wilmington, Massachusetts – May 23, 1946


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

     On the morning of May 23, 1946, two U. S. Navy F6F-5N Hellcat aircraft took off from the Squantum Naval Air Station for a tactical training flight.  One of the aircraft, (Bu. No. 70927), was piloted by Ensign Stephen J. Pilcher, (22).  The other was piloted by his long-time friend, Ensign J. Thomas Holmes, (22).  Both men were from Wilmington, Massachusetts.  On this particular morning Ensign Pilcher hadn’t been scheduled to fly, and was filling in for another pilot. 

     The pilots proceeded to the area of their home town of Wilmington where they engaged in mock combat flight tactics over the town.  While doing so, hundreds of town residents stopped what they were doing to watch the aircraft go through their maneuvers.  

     At about noon, according to the U. S. Navy accident report, Ensign Pilcher’s aircraft was seen to enter a dive from approximately 1,800 feet and pull out while near the ground.  He then attempted to regain altitude and the plane went into a slow roll to the right before it nosed over and dove to the ground.  The aircraft exploded on impact killing Ensign Pilcher instantly. 

     Ensign Pilcher’s plane came down in a wooded area in Wilmington’s Nee Park section, between Cedar and Harris Streets. 

     Ensign Pilcher is buried in Wildwood Cemetery in Wilmington.  To see a photo of his grave go to www.findagrave.com and see memorial #174623672.   

     There had been no mid-air collision between the two aircraft.   

     After the accident Ensign Holmes returned to Squantum.    

     The F6F Hellcat piloted by Ensign Pilcher (Bu. No. 70927) had been involved in another accident on September 6, 1944.  To learn more, click here:  Quonset Point, R. I. – September 6, 1944


     U. S. Navy accident report dated May 23, 1946

     The Boston Globe, “2d Wilmington Man Companion Of crash Victim”, May 24, 1946

     Town Crier, (Wilmington, Mass.), “An American Patriot And Our Local Heroes”, November 14, 2001.   

     www.findagrave.com, memorial #174623672


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