ENSIGN WILLIAM O. SEYMOUR, JR.
The Boston Post
Monday, July 17, 1944
In a valiant effort to save the lives of hundreds of bathers at Malibu Beach, Savin Hill, yesterday, Ensign William Oren Seymour, Jr., of Monroe, N.C., a navy pilot in a crippled plane shunned an emergency landing on the beach and went to his death offshore.
The plane, which had been towing a target sleeve for gunnery practice, was returning from a target area and when it approached the Squantum naval air base showed signs of being in distress
The beach was crowded with thousands of Sunday bathers, and the plane, a single seat pursuit ship of the latest type, swung in toward the level strand to make an emergency landing. But, as the plane came close to the beach and reached an altitude of less than 100 feet, the pilot saw the crowd and yanked the plane around in a sharp turn to head back over the water and away from a small boat anchorage offshore.
About 200 yards offshore the wingtip of the crippled plane touched the water and the plane spun over and dove into 15 feet of water. Scores of women screamed as the tragedy took place and a half dozen fainted.
Several bathers swam out to t he spot where the plane sank and began diving in an effort to release the pilot, but a crash boat arrived almost immediately from the Squantum base and took charge of the rescue work. The pilot was removed from the cockpit within a few minutes, but he had been killed in the crash.
Engine Missing Badly
When the plane was first seen it was on the course usually followed by planes from the Squantum base cruising in a landing circle, waiting to be ordered into the field from the control tower.
The motor was missing badly, according to witnesses of the tragedy, and the pilot swung across Savin Hill, swept over the automobile parking area, and it was evident that he was going to attempt an emergency landing on the beach. But the bathers, hidden from view by the sea wall, suddenly appeared in his field of vision, the eyewitnesses declared, and he valiantly made every effort to take his plane down clear of the beach area and the small boat anchorage.
"It hit first on the left wing," one of the lifeguards at the beach declared, "because he swung away from the beach sharply to avoid striking the crowd. It snapped over so fast that it went end over end, and then the fuselage seemed to crumple up and the plane sank."
A navy salvage boat from Squantum hooked onto the wreckage and the plane was raised within an hour of the tragedy. Authorities at Squantum air base and at the first naval district in Boston witheld identification of the hero pilot until relatives were notified.
A second navy plane, which was flying in the landing circle, swung over the spot where the hero pilot sank and circled for several minutes seeking signs of life.
Coast guardsmen cleared small boats from the area and aided in the search for the flier's body.
Boston and Metropolitan district police were rushed to the beach, and assisted the navy and coast guard in the search. Thousands of automobiles stopped on Old Colony boulevard, and traffic was tied up for over an hour while the plane was being raised.
Ensign William O. Seymour, Jr. , son of W. O. aand Mrs. Ethel Snyder Seymour and grandson of Rev. and Mrs. E. C. Snyder, was born in Monroe, N.C. on May 4th.1921. He received his education at the Monroe schools, graduating from high school on May 31st.1938, as Valedictorian of his class. Following his school days, he was employed as city carrier, at the local post office. He held this position until he entered service.
Bill volunteered for service in the United States Navy and on July 29th.1942 he entered service and was sent to Chapel Hill, North Carolina, where he received his pre-flight training.
On October 9th.1943 Bill received his wings and his appointment as Ensign in the
U. S. Naval Reserve at Corpus Christi, Texas. He was then ordered to Naval Air Station at Miami, Florida for temporary flying instructions. On January 2nd. 1944 he was detached from Naval Air Station at Miami and sent to Naval Auxiliary Air Station at Green Cove Springs, Florida for further flying duty. On February 18th 1944 he was sent to Glenview, Ill. for carrier training, and on February 25th. he was ordered to Air Force, Atlantic Fleet for further flying instructions. On March 20th. he was sent to Carrier Air Craft Service Unit for duty involving flying in connection with fitting out a fighter squadron, and on April 1st. 1944 he was detached from Carrier Air Service Unit and ordered to the Fighting Squadron for duty involving flying in that squadron.
On July 16th.1944 while trying to land his crippled plane inorder to save the lives of bathers on Malibu Beach, his plane crashed into the water and he was killed. His body was returned to Monroe, accompanied by Rev. Percy B. Upchurch, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Monroe, and Bills pastor. Mr. Upchurch conducted the funeral services on July 21st. 1944 and Bill was buried in the Monroe Cemetery. He is servived by his parents and one sister, Mrs. Joy S. Stewart.
Ensign Seymour was warded the Presidential Citation and the Navy and Marine Corp medal for bravery, posthumously.
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