War time Crash

In September 1943, at the height of the Second World War, two American planes visited St. Kitts. They were Vought OS2N-1 “Kingfisher” from the Marine Scouting Squadron 3 (VMS-3) based in  St. Thomas, USVI.

The night before their departure there was a get-together at Shorty’s Bar in the Circus.  Those enjoying the party atmosphere included the visiting airmen.  On Sunday, the 19th of September the crews boarded their aircraft and prepared to leave.  Witnesses noticed that the two planes circled the airfield from different directions.  Apparently the pilots were trying to do aerobatics before departing but one of them dove down and caught fire.  The two men, Lt. H. Cordell  and A. T. Schickerling, were killed in the accident, their bodies burnt beyond recognition.  The plane was a total loss.  Witnesses said that the second plane kept going and it was assumed that it had gone to Antigua but it was possible that it had returned to base.

The fire brigade was called in to put out the fire and the Defence Force cordoned off the area from curious onlookers who showed up at the airfield.  The next morning a bigger plane arrived in St. Kitts and brought caskets for the remains of the dead pilots.  These were covered with the American flag and flown back to St. Thomas.

The local press did not report the tragic incident probably because of wartime censorship.  Much of the information in this article came from Basil Henderson who, at the time, was a member of Defence Force.  A number of other contemporaries confirmed parts of his information.  His evidence was the most complete.  Gerard Cassius provided the official details and donated the photograph.