The Disappearance Of Lieutenant Jg. Arthur J. Cassidy Jr. – March 30, 1943

The Disappearance of

Lieutenant (Jg.) Arthur J. Cassidy Jr. – March 30, 1943


U.S.S. Ranger (CV-4)  U.S. Navy Photo

U.S.S. Ranger (CV-4)
U.S. Navy Photo

     On March 30, 1943, a late winter storm blew into New England from across New York.  It was nothing significant in relation to its duration, or the amount of snowfall, but it was underestimated, and left behind a mystery that to this day has never been solved.   

     On that day the USS Ranger (CV-4) was steaming off the coast of Massachusetts heading towards the Boston Navy Yard for some refitting.  As a precaution, the ship’s aircraft were to be sent inland.  Below decks the pilots joked in the ready room as the planes were fueled for takeoff.  Their final destination was to be Quonset Point Naval Air Station in Rhode Island, but first they were to stop at Squantum Naval Air Station in Quincy, Massachusetts, and obtain an updated weather forecast.  If it was favorable, they were to proceed to Quonset.  If not, they were to wait at Squantum.

     Unfortunately, this information was not relayed properly to the pilots, and as a result, all aircraft headed directly for Quonset and flew head-on into the storm.  There were thirty aircraft in total; twenty-five F4F Wildcat fighters, four SBD Dauntless dive bombers, and one TBF Avenger torpedo bomber.      

Lt. Jg. Arthur J. Cassidy (left) aboard the USS Ranger with "Red Ripper's" insignia on jacket.  National Archived Photo

Lt. Jg. Arthur J. Cassidy (left) aboard the USS Ranger with “Red Ripper’s” insignia on jacket.
National Archived Photo

     As bad weather closed in visibility dropped to zero.  The cloud cover began at 200 feet and extended all the way up to 7000 with icing conditions.  It wasn’t long before the aircraft got separated, and in some cases lost. Radio communications became garbled with intermittent static, leaving each pilot to his own devices.  

     The first aircraft to run into trouble was an SBD Dauntless, (Bu. No. 06826) piloted by Lt. Lukes M. Boykin.  His aircraft developed carburetor icing and was forced down in the water off Swampscott, Massachusetts.  Fortunately he and his radioman H. H. Reed were rescued by the Coast Guard.      

     Meanwhile, Wildcat #12196 piloted by Lt. Theodore A. Grell went down over Fall River, Massachusetts, most likely due to ice buildup.  Fortunately, Grell was able to bail out safely from an altitude of barely 200 feet!     



Red Rippers squadron insignia

Red Rippers squadron insignia

     Other members of the Ranger’s aircraft contingent were also in trouble.  Three Wildcat aircraft, #12143, #12186, and # 12179), got lost and wound up low on fuel over the small town of New Paltz in upstate New York.  After circling for several minutes they made an emergency landing in an open field. 

     Despite the accidents, by the end of the day all of the Ranger’s airmen had been accounted for except for Lieutenant (Jg.) Arthur Cassidy.  A check of all New England airfields revealed that he had not landed at any of them, nor had any municipalities reported any downed aircraft that the military wasn’t aware of. 

     The last possible sighting of Cassidy and his aircraft came from a woman in Attleboro, Massachusetts, who reported that she had seen a navy plane in distress over the North Attleboro area about 4:00 p.m. the day of the storm. It should be noted that there was no proof that the plane the woman saw was actually Cassidy’s aircraft, but with nothing else to go on, the navy took it as such, and began an intensive search.      

U.S. Navy Wildcat like the one Lt. Jg. Cassidy vanished in March 30, 1943. U.S. Navy Photo

U.S. Navy Wildcat like the one Lt. Jg. Cassidy vanished in March 30, 1943.
U.S. Navy Photo

     Media outlets were notified, and others came forward claiming to have seen a plane in trouble, but despite their eagerness to help, none of the witnesses were able to provide any useful information.  

     A massive air and ground search was conducted involving hundreds of military men, police, fire, and civilian volunteers. The search was widened to include several nearby towns in the Attleboro region as well as northern Rhode Island, but no trace of the plane or Lt. Cassidy was ever found. Some thought the Wildcat might have gone down in a large pond or reservoir, but according to one news account, the Navy discounted this idea with no explanation as to why.  

     On April 2, while the search for Cassidy was continuing, the Ranger left Boston for Argentina.  World War II went on.  Servicemen were transferred.  The military prepared for the invasion of Europe, and new headlines replaced the old.  The storm of March 30th and its aftermath were soon forgotten, and the mystery of what happened to Lt. Cassidy faded from memory.             

     So, what happened to Lt. Cassidy and his Wildcat?  There are several possibilities.

     One is that the plane went down in a remote area and disintegrated on impact.  Most New England towns were fairly rural in 1943.  Any explosion could have been muffled by the weather, and snow cover would have limited the spread of fire.     

Did Lt. Jg. Cassidy crash in western Massachusetts or some other remote area of New England?

Did Lt. Jg. Cassidy crash in western Massachusetts or some other remote area of New England?

     If Cassidy got disoriented like the three pilots who wound up in upstate New York, he might have flown to western Massachusetts where he could have gone down in the remote Berkshire Hills, or New York, or points north, such as Vermont and New Hampshire. 

     Another theory is that Cassidy unknowingly overshot Rhode Island due to the zero-visibility, and flew out over the ocean, not realizing his mistake until it was too late.      

     And despite what the navy said, it’s also possible he crashed in a large body of water such as a lake or a reservoir.  Maps of the search area, including northern Rhode Island, show several bodies of deep water large enough to swallow a Wildcat.  Since few reservoirs allow swimming or boating, it’s unlikely that a plane at the bottom would be discovered.  

     And perhaps the wreckage of Cassidy’s Wildcat has been found, only those who found it, didn’t know what it was, for WWII aviation wreck sites can be hard to distinguish to the untrained eye. Is there a hunter of hiker somewhere who has seen twisted portions of metal lying in the woods and never thought about it because it has always been there?  Maybe some fisherman knows of an aircraft related shape lying at the bottom of a body of water. Reporting such a find could lead to the answer of what happened to Lt. Cassidy.

     The serial number of Lt. Cassidy’s Wildcat is 11740, and his military service ID number is 0-098451.  This information is provided should anything be found.        

Navy Report on  Lt. Jg. Cassidy's disappearance. #43-6393 CLICK TO ENLARGE

Navy Report on
Lt. Jg. Cassidy’s disappearance.

Cassidy report continuation. CLICK TO ENLARGE

Cassidy report continuation.













     Arthur J. Cassidy Jr. was born in New York City, July 5, 1919, to Arthur and Marion (Meehan) Cassidy.    

     He graduated from Fordham University, Rose Hill Campus, Bronx, N.Y. in 1940, and entered the United States Naval reserve as a pilot cadet. 

     He served with Fighting Squadron 41 (VF-41) aboard the USS Ranger, and took part in Operation Torch, flying air support in the invasion of North Africa.

     Cassidy had survived two previous plane accidents. On May 8, 1942, he made a forced landing on Cape Cod, Massachusetts.  The second accident occurred May 21, 1942, while landing aboard the USS Charger, an escort carrier anchored in Chesapeake Bay.

     On February 26, 1943, he applied for a marriage license at the Cranston, (R. I.) City Hall, and was married to Marie Magdelaine Marchesseault on March 1st.   Their address was 99 Muran Street, Cranston.

     On March 31, 1944, Lt. Cassidy was officially declared dead by the navy. (Book 13, Pg. 213)


U.S. Navy Report of Cassidy disappearance 43-6393

Attleboro Sun, “Plane Reported Missing In North Attleboro”, April 1, 1943, Pg. 1

Attleboro Sun, “Blimp In Search For Lost Plane”, April, 1943, Pg. 1

Attleboro Sun, “No Word Of Missing Plane”, April 3, 1943, Pg. 1

Providence Journal, “Plane Reported Missing By Navy”, April 1, 1943, Pg. 27

Pawtucket Times, “Navy Plane Sought In North Attleboro”, April 1, 1943, Pg. 1

Fall River Herald News, “Navy Plane Feared Lost”, April 1, 1943, Pg.1

Cranston Herald, “Cranston Flier Reported Missing”, April 8, 1943, Pg. 6

Woonsocket Call, “Navy Plane Lost In Bay State Area”, April 1, 1943

City of Cranston, Rhode Island, vital records


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