Robert Arthur Ferris
second lieutenant, U.S. Army Air Corps
Feb. 1, 1923-Nov. 25, 1944
Robert Ferris was from the Utah branch of the Jeffrey Ferris lineage. He was an eighth great-grandson of Jeffrey through his son, Joseph. Born to Arthur Oliver Ferris and Mary Iona Snyder, who both died before he was 10.
He enlisted in the U.S. Army and was sent to the Air Corps. In November, 1944, he was a pilot with the 78th Fighter Squadron, 15th Fighter Group, assigned to protect the Hawaiian Islands. The unit was training on a new aircraft, the P-51D, and would later be deployed into the Western Pacific to support attacks on the Japanese home islands.
Here is an eyewitness account of Ferris’s death found on the Air Group 1 site, as told by Jerry Yellin:
We continued to fly both fighters regularly at Bellows Field. One bright, breezy Hawaiian day I was watching a flight of 16 Mustangs led by Captain Bob Downs enter into a dive above the field. Downs had just started to pull up into a loop when a young Navy man tapped me on the shoulder, “Excuse me, sir, do you know Lieutenant Robert Ferris?” “I do,” I replied. “Do you know where he is? “He is the last airplane doing a loop over the field,” I said and pointed upward.
As I pointed upward Bob’s airplane exploded! Little pieces of aluminum reflected the sunlight as they tumbled toward the ground. The sailor fell over sobbing uncontrollably. I tried to console him but couldn’t. A search of the Island near the field found the engine and Ferris’s helmet, nothing else was found.
After the Memorial service the pilots of our squadron gathered in the officers’ club to discuss what had happened. Bob Down’s was distraught, all of us were saddened by our loss. We were equally concerned about why this had happened. We speculated that Bob had put too much pressure on his rudder and that the ball was either on the high or low side, not centered. That the pressure generated at 450 MPH had pulled the wings off. It was a painful lesson about the frailty of our P-51 at high speed and the necessity of flying this plane carefully, by the seat of your pants. That could not have happened in the P-47.
The accident report number and details can be found at this link.
Ferris was not married. He was survived by his younger sister, Lillian. He is buried at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu, Hawaii.