I recently started researching my collection of 100+ images from a Marine SBD Dive Bomber unit and came across an awesome database that helped clear up a lot of questions regarding identification of some of the pilots who posed for the camera. Luckily, the men were wearing leather name tags which allowed for a partial identification. Recently I discovered the Marine Corps Muster Role section of ancestry.com. This allowed for a full identification of all the men that served with Lt. Walter Huff, the original owner of the collection. With this in hand I was able to track down the names of a few pilots who served with Walter.
I always knew that the last name of the man in the slide was Watrous, but had nothing else to work from. Having discovered the muster role of the 332nd, I easily scrolled to the last section of the Lieutenants and found Mr. Francis A. Watrous listed.
From there I did a quick google search and found an obituary with a reference to Mr. Watrous. The obituary was for his wife, who passed away in 2010, but referred to her first husband:
“……….. was predeceased by two husbands, Francis Allen Watrous, who was a U.S. Marine dive bomber pilot in World War II and was killed in a plane crash in 1947″
After a search through 1947 newspapers I was able to come up with an article explaining the sad death of Mr. Watrous.
Francis and his brother Arthur worked for Fleetwing Air Cargo Co. as deliverymen of baby chicks. The brothers crashed on an overcast morning in July of 1947 while delivering 7,000 baby chicks from Wallingford, CT to Newmarket, VA.
And a recent addition to the post from the relative of Mr. Watrous (Thanks to Chris S.):
8 thoughts on “WWII Marine SBD Dive Bomber Pilot Color Photo Identified – Lt. Francis. A Watrous”
Great research! I am always amazed with what you can find. A sad end to a Marine flier.
Fran was my mother’s first husband. Sorry you have to speak ill of the dead here. He was a wonderful man. The juicy info is from my mother’s obituary. It is always good to remember that there are real people behind what you find. I have the photos as well. I am an author and a professional researcher and there is a different between an objective inquiry and speculation about motives. Fran had one of the first commercial air cargo businesses after the war and the tragedy is that he died, and with his brother. If you are really interested in him or our family, you may contact me. I have many photos. I have his full service jacket. Christina Kassabian Schaefer, daughter of Lareine Watrous Kassabian.
I never intended to speak ill of the dead, but it was the only tangible information I was able to obtain with the limited resources of the internet. I never meant any disrespect but was merely attempting to tie a story to an image that I was able to identify. Sorry if I offended you, it was never my intent.
If you would like to craft a follow up paragraph with a photo of his service jacket, I would be more than happy to post it along with a more sensitive revision to the original text.
I was just so surprised to find this, he has been dead for so many decades. I have been to the place where the plane went down and re-lived his life and death over and over again with my mother. This was the first time I ever heard anyone speak ill of him and it caught me off guard. Can you send me a message through FB (i used my account to log in here) and I will be happy to exchange emails with you. Your story probably has half the truth. I know he had a premonition of his death about four months prior to the final accident, which would have been after the March incident. His war record indicates no reckless behavior. I look forward to hearing from you. Chris
Like I said, my only way of knowing about the crash was though a series of news articles that followed the story after the incident. I’m sure you’ve found them. It’s always tough identifying people who’ve been passed away for many years, but it’s also incredibly rewarding to connect a family with a photo of a relative.
Was this the first time you’ve seen him in color? I have other shots of him in color as well. Will certainly share with you.
Again, sorry to offend.
I have a few others in the series, but have never seen the one you posted. I would like to exchange the ones I have with you as well. Please don’t worry about it, as I said, I was caught off guard. I am happy to exchange emails with you. If you write about veterans besides flyers I have two people (deceased friends) you may find interesting. One is a Bataan Death March survivor, the other is a Marine combat photographer and I have many of his original photos.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
If you check out my more current posts you will see that my posts are varied and include WW1,WW2 and Korean War material. I would love to include your veteran friends if you have a little write up and some photos to post.
Thanks for contacting me – sounds like we both have an interest in history and the stories of our predecessors.
All for now,
Francis (Francie) was my uncle–my mom’s brother (she was the only girl out of the 5 siblings-the brothers all served in the military). Delighted to find his photo on this site. Contact me, please. I have loads of ephemera, documents, pics, information, and organized binders of the entire Watrous family, direct descendants of William Brewster, the Mayflower–and revolutionary war fighters. I met you once ages ago at a wedding with our moms. My mom and her 2 other brothers remembered and discussed Francis & Harrill all their lives. My mom shared in depth about her 2 brave brothers she lost and her parents renowned Watrous family farm. Will be sending some interesting items to post on the site–and a touching editorial tribute. Best wishes. Alice B