The accident report card from BuNo 36175 indicates that the pilot, Lt. Charles L. Ford III, survived the crash, suffering two deep wounds 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 on board the USS Wolverine.
In the process of preparing the airplane for display, Fighter Factory Mechanic Jon Brawner made several interesting discoveries! Below is what we believe was the pilot’s seat belt buckle, frozen in the open position where it would have been left after Lt. Ford made his escape.
A big thank you to Karen and Brad DeBow who unleashed their amazing genealogy skills to solve the mystery! From South Carolina, Lt. Ford served at sea aboard the USS Thornton DD-270 as an Ensign in 1941 and 1942 before beginning training as a Naval Aviator.
Marriage records show that Lt. Charles L. Ford, III was married in June of 1943 to Margaret Eleanor Coleman of Norfolk, VA, just a few months before his accident while flying Dauntless BuNo 36175. Deceased since 1984, Ford was a graduate of the University of South Carolina and a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon Fraternity.
With much of the family still living in South Carolina, we were fortunate that the timing worked out for the sons of Dauntless Pilot Lt. Charles L. Ford, III to come and visit before the airplane goes off display. Charles Ford, IV is seen here in the cockpit last occupied by his father 77 years ago.
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 serving on board a destroyer during the attack on Pearl Harbor, and scrambled from shore leave back to help defend the ship, and although we don’t know exactly what his path was from the destroyer into aviation, we do know that the accident that fouled the deck was a prop strike from the airplane that was landing ahead of him!