GILBERT C. CARPENTER, LCDR, USN
Gilbert Carpenter '30
Date of birth: September 15, 1909
Date of death: May 18, 1942
From the 1930 Lucky Bag:
From The Daily News, Iron Mountain, Dickinson, Michigan on Monday, April 27, 1942:
Iron Mountain’s [Michigan] highest ranking naval officer, Lieutenant Commander Gilbert Crowell Carpenter, U.S. Navy. Aviation branch was stationed at a land air base at San Juan, Puerto Rico, for over 2 years. This is the same island on which his late father & Iron Mountain hero of World War I, Capt. Gilbert V. Carpenter.
Lt. Commander Carpenter’s naval career started upon his graduation from high school, with enrollment in the Annapolis officer’s training academy, graduating in 1930.
He visited his mother in April 1942, a month before his death. It was his 1st visit to Iron Mountain since 1936. His wife, Constance was with him along with their year old son, who was born in Puerto Rico.
Lieutenant Commander Gilbert was killed when the Navy plane he was piloting crashed at Norfolk, Virginia. He is buried at sea with a Memorial Marker at this cemetery.
From the Iron Mountain Press newspaper, Dickinson, Michigan on June 11, 1942:
OFFICER TELLS HOW CARPENTER LOST HIS LIFE
Although he met his death when he was pinned, under water, beneath his ship (plane), the late Lieutenant Commander Gilbert Crowell Carpenter, United States Navy & formerly of this city, "did exactly what any good pilot would have done under the circumstances," in attempting an emergency landing last May 18 at the Norfolk, Virginia air station.
Death came to the popular Iron Mountain young man shortly after he, with his wife & young son, had visited here with his mother, Mrs. Leonora Carpenter. Robert L. C. Barnard, U.S. aviation radioman 1st class, San Antonio, Texas, who was flying with LCDR Carpenter, was also killed in the crash.
"I will attempt," the officer wrote, "to describe the situation as simply as possible. LCDR Carpenter was the leading the squadron to land at the field here at Norfolk. He was the be the 1st to land. The plane was down to about 50 feet from the runway & he was almost ready to perform the actual landing.
"Just at this moment the control tower called him by radio saying that the wind had shifted & requested that he not land on that runway, but continue on across the field & circle, coming in on another runway.
"Carpenter increased the throttle & started to climb, to clear the obstacles on the far side of the field. For some reason, the engine did not respond properly & after a few seconds he realized that he was not getting enough power to clear the obstructions about 600 yards ahead.
"Between where he was at this point & the obstacles ahead, is an area which had recently been filled in by dredging operations & still contains a certain amount of water. The area looks perfectly hard & safe from the air.
"Therefore when LCDR Carpenter saw that he was failing to gain altitude, he nosed over & made an excellent landing.
"However due to the actual condition of the area, the wheels sank in immediately & caused the plane to rollover on its back. This resulted in LCDR Carpenter being pinned under the plane & drowning.
"LCDR Carpenter did exactly what any good pilot would have done under the circumstances. His death was caused by forces definitely beyond his control."
Gilbert commissioned as an Ensign June 5, 1930 and served on the USS Tennessee before attending flight school at Pensacola in 1932. Gilbert was promoted to Lieutenant Junior Grade on June 5, 1933. He served with V.S. Squad 1-B before returning to Pensacola in 1935-1936. On September 1, 1937 he was promoted to Lieutenant. According to the Navy Registries he was connected with or aboard the Enterprise for three years before his assignment to the Puerto Rico Naval Station in 1940.
Gilbert's father died in 1918 soon after leaving Puerto Rico when the ship he was aboard was swamped — he was able to help others, but was lost (age 44). Gilbert's son died at age 31 after serving as a doctor in Vietnam.