Long Island, NY Plane Crashes at Tennis Tournament, Sept 1920

Birth, Marriage & Death Records

LONG ISLAND, NEW YORK, Sept. 6, 1920 -
Ten thousand persons watching the
finals of the national tennis singles
championship on the West Side courts
in Forest Hills, L. I., yesterday afternoon,
had their attention snatched from
the spectacle of sport to a spectacle of
death when an airplane plunged to
earth and ended the careers of two service
aviators.
The airplane shot to the ground with
terrific speed and struck a scant 200
feet from one of the stands. The impact
of the blow — driving the motor three feet
into the soil and shrouding the two
mangled forms in sagging wreckage —
came with staccato sharpness to the
thousands and sent a shudder through
them.
The men who died were veterans of
the war and of the air. They had accepted
many risks in war and sky and
until yesterday they had been lucky.
Lieutenant James Murray Grier, U.S.N.,
member of a prominent Philadelphia
family, fought for months with the
Lafayette Escadrille. He was decorated
for flights over the Mediterranean when,
in our service, he was an Ensign attached
to the navy air base at Porto
Corsini, Italy.
Saxe Photographed Yacht Races.
The second victim was First Class
Sergeant Joseph Peter Saxe, one of the
army's most expert photographers, a
typical "regular," twenty-three years in
the service, fighter in the Philippines,
China and Cuba, and in the World
War a daring photographer of German
trenches and cities. His latest achievement
had been the taking of airplane
pictures of the America's Cup races for
THE NEW YORK TIMES. On one of the
yacht race days he dropped 1,000 feet
into the bay, but escaped unhurt.
Few of the thousands of tennis enthusiasts,
watching William T. Tilden
2d of Philadelphia preparing to serve
tne opening of the third set to William
M. Johnston, the champion, saw the
faint speck of the airplane come into
the sky high over the courts shortly
after 3 o'clock. They were more
interested in watching the slightest
move of the tall, lank Phlladelphian's
efforts to rush his play beforo the spatters
of rain became showers when they
were in the approach of an air machine,
frequent travelers over Forest
Hills from Mitchel Field, Garden City,
L. I.
With Grier as pilot and Sergeant Saxe
as camera man, the plane
had climbed up from the big army field
15 minutes before and shot toward the
tournamont at, high speed. The plane,
a JN-Curtiss, had an old type motor.
It was asserted last night that when
Grier and Saxe were dressing for their
flight they were warned that the motor
might cause trouble, but laughed at the
warning.
Skim Low Over Courts.
The plan of the aviators was to get
photographs of the tennis play—to get
them from a3 near as possible—for use
in connection with army recruiting.
With this idea evidently in mind Grier
when high and south of the courts
began a swift circle down to the West
Side Club's, inclosure.
As the machine swooped nearer' and
nearer the roar of the motor came to
the ears of the spectators and they
looked up in time to see the airplane
whiz directly over the court at a
height of about 500 feet. The passage
of the plane was close enough for
the spectators to distinguish Saxe
bending over the side of the cockpit
snapping pictures of the players and
the crowd.
With a louder roar the plane ascended
to about 1,000 feet and, bending back in
a great half-circle, 6hot down again
over the courts. This time the plane,
according, to spectators, cleared the
courts at a height not greater than 300
feet.
Once more the plane repeated this
course of flight and then came the
fourth trip. This time, witnesses de-
clared, Grier drove his craft down to
within 200 feet of the courts. The
whizzing flight of the airplane, its startling
nearness - "on tiptoe one might almost
touch it " - started a flurry among
the watching throng. There were half-checked
cries from all parts of the two
stands. As the plane passed over, spectators
saw Grier crouched in its seat,
while farther back and almost out of
the fuselage, the photographer was
getting his pictures.
Engine Stops, Machine Crashes.
While the stands were buzzing with
angry comment on the aviators' tactics
the plane bore up from the field to an
altitude of perhaps 500 feet. Directly
over the far stand, where thousands of
upturned faces watched it, the plane
appeared to hang, before dropping from the sky.
Sept. 7, 1920 issue of The New York Times