Tag Archives: USAAF

Holyhead Christmas Tragedy

28 Jan

On 22 December 1944, 7 US air force B-24 Liberators were returning from a mission to ‘jam’ enemy communications using their special on-board radio transmitters.  They were destined for RAF Cheddington in Buckinghamshire but on reaching the airfield found it had been closed due to adverse weather.  A contingency plan was in place and four of the aircraft landed at RAF Atcham near Shrewsbury while three were diverted to Anglesey; and RAF Valley.

The three planes were placed into a holding formation while they awaited final landing instructions from RAF Valley. Shortly after 5-30 in the evening the pilot of B24 42-51232 (known as Marker Jig because of its call sign) reported that two of his engines had cut out and that he had given the order for the crew to evacuate.  All ten crew successfully parachuted out of the aircraft and a few minutes later the Coastguard reported that a plane had ditched into the sea off the North Stack of Holyhead Mountain.

A huge search commenced with military personnel and local police from across Anglesey joining in.  Soldiers from Ty Croes artillery range joined RAF and American ground crew in the search on land while boats under the command of HMS Bee searched the dark waters.  The pilot, Harold Boehm, was found in Holyhead and his co-pilot was picked up in Trearddur Bay but there was no sign of the other 8 crew members and to this day they are still listed as missing presumed drowned.

An American air force investigation concluded that the engine failure was due to the aircraft running out of fuel and that the crew had bailed out of the plane without flotation equipment.  The remains of this aircraft are designated as a Protected Place under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986.  In 1993 a memorial was erected in the Breakwater Country Park near Holyhead.

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Bachelor’s Baby – Penmaenmawr

7 Jan

On a windswept plateau in the hills above Penmaenmawr is a memorial stone dedicated to five American airmen and their mascot, a terrier called Booster.  They were killed when their B-24 Liberator bomber crashed here in low cloud exactly 70 years ago today – the 7th January 1944.  The aircraft, named ‘Bachelor’s Baby’ by its crew, had left their base in Palm Beach, Florida a month earlier and had taken the “southern” route to Britain, via Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Brazil then across the Atlantic to Dakar, Marrakech and onto RAF Valley on Anglesey.  The plane was then due to fly from RAF Valley to RAF Watton in Norfolk where the American Air Force had a base.

On that fateful afternoon the Liberator took off from the R.A.F. station on Anglesey with orders to follow a B17 ‘Flying Fortress’ which was to act as their escort to their new base in eastern England.  Heavy cloud and drizzle meant that they lost sight of the B17 and to make matters worse the magnetic compass was malfunctioning.  The clouds broke for an instant and they realised that they were too low and despite the best efforts of the pilot, Adrian Shultz, the plane struck a ridge, crashed and burst into flames.  The plane was carrying a huge cargo of ammunition and on impact it started to explode.  The surviving airmen struggled valiantly to help their comrades who were trapped in the burning airframe but sadly for some it was too late.

The bomb aimer, 2nd Lieutenant Norman Boyer managed to make his way down to a local farmhouse near Rowen and raised the alarm.  However local men working at the quarry and PC Hughes-Parry of Llanfairfechan had arrived at the crash site after seeing and hearing the plane in difficulty overhead and on arrival administered first aid before carrying the injured all the way down the mountain to Graiglwyd Hall in Penmaenmawr.  They were treated here by a local doctor before being taken by ambulance to hospital in Bangor.  Before being transferred to hospital Sergeant Harold Alexander, a gunner on the aircraft, pleaded with one of the quarrymen, Ellis Lewis, if he would go back to the crash site and bury their mascot – Booster.  Mr Lewis did as he was asked and buried the little black and white fox terrier on the windswept plateau next to the burnt out aircraft.

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One of the survivors was the plane’s navigator 2nd Lieutenant Julian Ertz.  Before the war he played American football for his high school and later for Temple University in Pennsylvania. He was known to his fellow crew members as the “singing fullback”.  However after treatment at hospital in Bangor and then at American military hospitals he returned to America in a full body cast after breaking his back in the crash but recovered enough to finish studying law and become an attorney.

In 1980 a memorial was dedicated to the crew and today virtually nothing remains of the aircraft, just a scar of exposed rock and soil on which the commemorative plaque stands and where no vegetation grows.  Today, 70 years since the crash, as gale force winds howled across the hillside and the incessant rain beat down we laid a simple cross in memory of co-pilot, 2nd Lieutenant Arthur Davis; engineer, Staff Sergeant Samuel Offutt; gunner, Sergeant William Lorenz; gunner, Sergeant William Nichols; Technical Sergeant Nicholas Cennemo and Booster the fox terrier. Lest We Forget.

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Bachelor’s Baby

30 Apr

On a windswept plateau in the hills above Penmaenmawr is a memorial stone dedicated to five American airmen and their mascot, a terrier called Booster, killed when their B-24 Liberator bomber crashed here in low cloud on the 7th of January 1944.  The aircraft, named ‘Bachelor’s Baby’ by its crew, had left their base in Palm Beach, Florida a month earlier and had taken the “southern” route to Britain, via Puerto Rico, Trinidad, Brazil then across the Atlantic to Dakar, Marrakech and onto RAF Valley on Anglesey.  The plane was then due to fly from RAF Valley to RAF Watton in Norfolk where the American Air Force had a base.

On that fateful afternoon the Liberator took off from the R.A.F. station in Anglesey with orders to follow a B17 ‘Flying Fortress’ which was to act as their escort to their new base in eastern England.  Heavy cloud and drizzle meant that they lost sight of the B17 and to make matters worse the magnetic compass was malfunctioning.  The clouds broke for an instant and they realised that they were too low and despite the best efforts of the pilot Adrian J. Shultz the plane struck a ridge, crashed and burst into flames.  The plane was carrying a huge cargo of ammunition and on impact it started to explode.  The surviving airmen struggled valiantly to help their comrades who were trapped in the burning airframe but sadly for some it was too late.

The bomb aimer, 2nd Lieutenant Norman Boyer managed to make his way down to a local farmhouse near Rowen and raised the alarm.  However local men working at the quarry and PC Hughes-Parry of Llanfairfechan had arrived at the crash site after seeing and hearing the plane in difficulty overhead and on arrival administered first aid before carrying the injured all the way down the mountain to Graiglwyd Hall in Penmaenmawr.  They were treated here by a local doctor before being taken by ambulance to hospital in Bangor.  Before being transferred to hospital Sergeant Harold Alexander, a gunner on the aircraft, pleaded with one of the quarrymen, Ellis Lewis, if he would go back to the crash site and bury their mascot – Booster.  Mr Lewis did as he was asked and buried the little black and white fox terrier on the windswept plateau next to the burnt out aircraft.

In 1980 a memorial was dedicated to the crew, and their dog, and today virtually nothing remains of the aircraft just a scar of exposed rock and soil on which the commemorative plaque stands.

One of the survivors was the plane’s navigator 2nd Lieutenant Julian Ertz.  Before the war he played American football for his high school and later for Temple University in Pennsylvania. He was known to his fellow crew members as the “singing fullback”.  However after treatment at hospital in Bangor and then at American military hospitals he returned to America in a full body cast after breaking his back in the crash but recovered enough to finish studying law and become an attorney.

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(Memorial to the crew and their dog Booster)