Warwick, R. I. – April 12, 1943

Warwick, Rhode Island – April 12, 1943


P-47C Thunderbolt
U.S. Air Force Photo

     On the morning of April 12, 1943, four army P-47C  Thunderbolts took off from Hillsgrove Army Air Field in Warwick for a formation training flight.  The flight leader was 2nd Lt. Eldred G. Howard, with 2nd Lt. Gordon M. Kimpel in the number two position, followed by 2nd Lt. John H. Schrik, and 2nd Lt. Clifton D. Wheeler Jr.

     While flying an extended string formation at 8,000 feet, Lt. Howard pulled upwards expecting the other three planes to follow.  Lt. Kimpel followed, but the sun temporarily blinded him causing him to loose sight of Howard.  Kimpel’s aircraft (41-6634) then crashed into the rear of Howard’s (41-6174). 

     Howard’s plane went straight down into Narragansett Bay off an area known as “Sally Rocks” killing him.  An employee of the Harris & Parson Shipyard saw the plane crash into the water and immediately set out in a boat but couldn’t locate the pilot.  He marked the approximate location with a buoy. 

     Meanwhile Kimpel’s P-47 crashed in a swampy area off Cowesett Avenue in the Cowesett section of Warwick and started a raging forest fire.  Kimpel managed to bail out, but was struck by the rear stabilizer of his plane and killed.  His body came down in a small pond near Meunier’s Shell Fish Company at Arnold’s Neck.    

     Exploding ammunition and numerous spectators hampered fire fighting efforts.   

      In his witness statement given later to army investigators, Lt. Schrik stated: “On April 12th, I was flying in a formation consisting of Lts. Howard, Wheeler, Kimpel, and myself.  The time was approximately 0845. I saw Lt. Howard’s and Lt. Kimpel’s planes collide and Lt. Howard’s plane went almost straight down.  I saw the plane hit the water and disappear.  As I was watching the plane during its entire descent, I know that Lt. Howard did not bail out or jump from the plane.”    

     Lt. Wheeler related the following in his statement.  “On April 12th, at approximately 0845, I was flying in a formation consisting of Lts. Howard, Kimpel, Schrik and myself.  I saw Lt. Howard’s and Lt. Kimpel’s planes collide.  Lt. Howard’s plane went straight down at an angle of about 35 degrees in a south easterly direction.  I saw the plane hit the water and know that Lt. Howard did not bail out or get out of the plane, as I watched it during the entire descent.  The plane disappeared immediately upon hitting the water.” 

     As a footnote to this incident, Lt. John H. Schrik did not survive the war.  He was killed in action in New Guinea on August 15, 1943, and is buried in Mount Emblem Cemetery, Elmhurst, Illinois. https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/14637040/john-h-schrik

     To see a photo of Lt. Gordon Kimpel click here: https://www.findagrave.com/memorial/168830355/gordon-kimpel

     Lieutenant Howard was from Detroit, Michigan.  


Pawtucket Times, “Pilot Is Killed In Plane Crash”, April 12, 1943, Pg. 1 

The Rhode Island Pendulum, “Pursuit Plane Crash Sets Off Forest Blaze In Cowesett Area”, April 15, 1943, page 8.

U.S.  Army Crash Investigation Report # 43-4-12-7

Website: Find-A-Grave – John H. Schrik 

The North Adams Transcript, (Mass.) “Fear 2 Pilots Dead In Crash Of Planes”, April 13, 1943, pg. 1


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