Look Back: Oddities make way into news

Historical newspaper excerpts from the Wood County Historical Society

Photo Provided The Grumman F11F shown above is the same type of plane that “shot itself down,” as described in the story below.

Shower of salt-water crabs fell in Hartford City, Indiana

A drenching rain, accompanied by a downfall of salt-water crabs, was experienced in this city this morning. One crab, weighing a quarter of a pound, was picked up in the back yard of Charles Reed. Several smaller ones were found in an adjoining field. It is believed the crabs were carried inland by the clouds as the result of a storm at sea.

An excerpt from the Parkersburg Daily State Journal

April 21, 1905


Plane shoots self down; catches up with its own bullets

Washington, Oct. 25. — The Navy said today this actually happened — a jet fighter plane flew so fast it caught up with its own speeding bullets and shot itself down.

The stranger-than-fiction accident was a “million-to-one shot,” a spokesman said, and may never happen again. But as a precaution the Navy has warned test pilots to turn aside or pull up after test firing their guns. The plane which lost the dog-fight with itself was an F11F supersonic fighter flown by test pilot Tom Attridge, who made a crash landing in which he suffered a fractured leg and three broken vertebrae.

Attridge never knew what hit him — he thought it was a bird that shattered his bullet-proof canopy — until later.

The Navy said three shell holes were found in the crashed plane and a cannon slug of the type Attridge was firing was lodged in the jet engine.

This, it said, was proof that Attridge qualifies as a rival to the legendary man who turned around so fast that he met himself coming back.

The accident occurred Sept. 21 when the 33-year-old test pilot, a former Navy flier, was testing the plane’s 20-millimeter cannon over the Atlantic Ocean near Long Island, N.Y.

From an altitude of about 13,000 feet, Attridge put the plane into a shallow dive at a speed of about 880 miles an hour and fired two four-second blasts. As he continued in the dive the canopy over the cockpit suddenly shattered and Attridge headed for an airstrip near Calverton, LI. But then the engine conked out and he had to make a crash landing in a wooded area a half-mile short of the field.

A Navy spokesman said the experts have surmised that this is probably what happened:

When the cannon shells left the barrels, they were traveling at least 1,500 feet per second faster than the airplane. The bullets, however, began to slow down because of air resistance and the drag of gravity caused then to follow a curved trajectory toward the water.

The jet plane, meanwhile, maintained or even picked up speed as it went into a slightly steeper dive. About two or three miles from the point where the guns were fired the paths of the shells and the plane crossed. Attridge thus scored a direct hit on himself.

The F11F is a new fighter now undergoing tests before being placed into use by the fleet. It is armed with four 20 millimeter cannon which fire at the rate of 1,000 rounds per minute.

The Parkersburg News

Oct. 26, 1956


Bob Enoch is the president of the Wood County Historical Society. The group meets at 7p.m. on the last Monday of each month in the Summers Auditorium at the Wood County Public Library on Emerson Avenue. They do not meet in December. For more information, contact P.O. Box 565, Parkersburg, WV 26102.