CLARENCE R. PLANK, ENS, USN
Clarence Plank '48
Date of birth: November 9, 1924
Date of death: June 1, 1950
From the 1948 Lucky Bag:
One of the worst military aviation accidents to occur in Rhode Island in terms of loss of life occurred on June 1, 1950, at the Quonset Point Naval Air Station. On that day, a P2V-2 Neptune aircraft, (Bu. No. 122454), left Jacksonville, Florida, and landed at Quonset to refuel before proceeding on to Newfoundland. After the brief stop-over, the Neptune resumed its journey.
Shortly after leaving Quonset, a fire developed in one of the engines forcing the pilot to declare an emergency and turn back. As the aircraft was making its final approach on runway 34, a strong gusty cross-wind suddenly caught the wing and flipped it over while still in the air. The plane crashed down on the runway and the fully loaded fuel tanks exploded. The pilot and co-pilot managed to escape through emergency hatches, but the other nine men aboard were killed.
The dead were identified as:
- Lt. (Jg.) Clarence R. Plank, 25. He’s buried in Evergreen Home Cemetery in Beatrice, Nebraska.
- Ensign David M. Arter, 23. He’s buried in Lisbon Cemetery in Lisbon, Ohio.
- Midshipman Clarence A. Payne. (No further info.)
- Chief Aviation Machinist Mate Francis J. Mc Swiggan, 34. He’s buried in Beverly national Cemetery in Beverly, New Jersey.
- Chief Aviation Electrician’s Mate Huilette E. Fountain, 29. He’s buried in Elmwood cemetery in Birmingham, Alabama.
- Chief Aviation Structural Mechanic Clarence A. Thorson Sr., 27. He’s buried in Cypress Grove Cemetery in New Orleans, Louisiana. For more information and a photograph of Clarence, see www.findagrave.com, Memorial #5660419.
- Chief Aviation Electricians Mate Harvey D. Thomas. He’s buried in Oakland Cemetery in Dallas, Texas.
- Chief Aviation Machinist Mate John A. Seger, 27. He’s buried in Garden of Memories Cemetery in Salinas, California.
- Aviation Ordinance Mate 1st Class Peter Rapnick. (No further info.)
The aircraft was assigned to VP-3 based in Jacksonville and was piloted by the squadron commander.
He was survived by, at least, his brother Robert Plank '53, who passed away in 2016.
An article in the Beatrice Daily Sun on October 11, 1948 mentioned that Clarence had recently returned to visit family after deploying to the Mediterranean Sea as Training Officer of USS Kearsarge (CV-33); he was leaving shortly for duty at NAS Pensacola.