Connecticut town honors WWII Navy pilots

In this 1942 photo released by the U.S. Coast Guard, Lt. John A. Pritchard, Jr., and Petty Officer 1st Class Benjamin Bottoms prepare for a flight over the Greenland icebergs where they had successfully rescued two U.S. Army fliers. Pritchard and Bottoms died in an attempt to rescue a third man left stranded by the crash of a B-17 on an ice cap in 1942 when their single-engine plane went down in whiteout conditions. The U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London, Conn, will formally honor Pritchard, a 1938 graduate, on Friday, Nov. 7, 2014, when he will be inducted into its Hall of Heroes. (AP Photo/U.S. Coast Guard)

PRESTON, Conn. (AP) — A Connecticut town has dedicated a memorial bench to two Navy Reserve pilots who died in a midair crash while practicing aerial combat over the community during World War II.

The granite bench unveiled outside the Preston Public Library on Sunday honors George Kraus and Merle Longnecker, who died Oct. 19, 1944.

John Waggoner, of the Norwich Area Veterans Council, tells The Day of New London that Kraus, of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and Longnecker, of New Rockford, North Dakota, were using only the radar in their Grumman F6F-5N Hellcats to chase each other around the pitch black night sky when they collided.

They were based in Rhode Island.

Some wreckage remains in a remote wooded area.

The council launched a fundraiser about a year go to raise $3,500 for the bench.


Information from: The Day,

Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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