NEW WINDSOR—William Breunig turned 22 the same day Stewart Field was dedicated—Aug. 28, 1942. Three days later he died in a crash when his training aircraft developed engine trouble.
Members of the American Legion and the Orange County Veterans Coalition dedicated a marker at the corner of International Avenue and Breunig Road on Nov. 21 so people would not forget the young airman.
Breunig was one of the youngest aviation instructors at Stewart Field when he completed basic and advanced aviation training in Texas.
Glenn Marshall, New Windsor historian, says this was not unusual for someone so young to be an aviation instructor. “He had experience because he went to college, he was an aviation buff, and he ended up getting an aviation license. He had flight time at 19.”
Marshall says the planes used for training were well-used. “In the very beginning, they had older aircraft that had a lot of time on them, and the touch and go puts a lot of stress on the planes.”
Three days after the dedication of the airfield, his plane crashed during a training flight. Marshall tells what happened. “On the morning of Aug. 28, 1942 Lt. Breunig was assigned USMA Cadet Richard H. Huser of the second flying class. They took off from Stewart Field shortly before 10 AM on a routine training flight when the BT-13A Vultee trainer began to develop engine trouble. Lt. Breunig was able to maintain flight while he had Cade Hauser bail out.
“About four miles west of the field near Walden he lost control of the plane, and it crashed near Meadow View farm. Cadet Hauser was taken to Stewart Hospital where he remained with minor injuries for several days. Lt. Breunig would become the first fatal casualty at Stewart.”
Today the main gate and road leading to the Stewart airport’s terminal is named after the young airman.”Apparently he must have made an impression on people,” Marshall says. The marker is easily seen from both International Boulevard and Breunig Road.
The marker, which cost about $1200, was made by Catskill Castings, official maker of historic markers for New York State.
Walt Schneider, president of the Orange County Veterans Coalition, says the marker is long overdue. “We are working now to get one at the other end of this road.”
Stewart airfield will be 75 in 2017. Marshall says the Stewart family were all involved in aviation and gave the land to New Windsor for the sum of one dollar.
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