BuNo 36175's accident report card indicates that the aircraft's pilot, Lt. Charles L. Ford III, survived the ditching, suffering two deep gashes to his forehead. The team here is working actively to collect more information on the pilot and we welcome any help! The card, shared below, depicts the specifics of the accident which occurred during an attempted landing aboard the carrier USS Wolverine.
In the process of preparing the Dauntless for display, Fighter Factory Mechanic Jon Brawner made several interesting discoveries! Pictured at left is what we believe to be the pilot’s seat belt buckle, frozen in the open position after Lt. Ford made his escape.
We wish to extend a big Thank You to Karen and Brad DeBow, who unleashed their exceptional genealogical skills to solve the mystery! From South Carolina, Lt.Ford initially served as an Ensign aboard the destroyer USS Thornton (DD-270) during 1941 and 1942 before beginning his training as a Naval Aviator.
Marriage records indicate that Lt. Charles L. Ford, III married Margaret Eleanor Coleman of Norfolk, VA in June of 1943, just a few months before his accident in Dauntless BuNo 36175. Ford was a graduate of the University of South Carolina and a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity. He died in 1984.
With much of Lt. Ford's family still living in South Carolina, we were fortunate that the timing worked out to allow his sons to visit the Museum and view their father's Dauntless before we had to pack the airplane for shipment to New Zealand. Charles Ford, IV is seen here at right, standing in the cockpit last occupied by his late father 77 years earlier.
Visiting with members of our Dauntless Pilot’s family was a special treat for everyone here at the Museum. We had the opportunity to hear more about Ford’s experiences during the war. He was stationed aboard a destroyer during the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, and had to scramble from shore leave to help defend the ship. Although we have yet to discover exactly what his path from Destroyer crewman into aviation involved, we do know that Ford's January 1944 Dauntless accident resulted from his carrier's deck being fouled when an airplane landing ahead of him suffered a prop strike on the deck!