There is a simple memorial plaque to the crew of a B24 Bomber in the Holyhead Breakwater Country Park.
This memorial acts as a local remembrance of the tragic air accident that occurred at North Stack by on December 22 1944.
The B24 bomber from the American USAAF 36th Bomber Squadron crashed into the sea close to North Stack. Divers report that it still lies there at a depth of 10 to 20 metres (depending on the state of the tide).
The loss of the B24 J Bomber resulted in the death of 8 American airmen. There were only two survivors of this Second World War bomber that was seeking to land at RAF Valley, Anglesey.
The cause of the accident was a lack of fuel that insisted on a diversion to the Anglesey Wartime Air Base. It is reported that the B24 bomber was flying in fog and the crew did not know that they were over the sea.
The pilot ordered his crew to bail out believing they were flying over land. Only he, Lt H.Boehm, and his co-pilot, D.Burch, survived.
Eight airmen were lost to the sea. Their bodies were never recovered. On the plaque the names of the eight American airmen are recorded as MISSING.
Above the memorial plaque is a portion of the B 24 J Bomber’s propeller that was recovered by local divers.
For your information and reflection I list below the names of those American airmen lost:
2nd Lt W.H.Lehner [navigator]
Stf/Sgt J.Fonseca [air gunner]
Stf/Sgt A.Zapotcky[air gunner]
Sgt R.F.Gagne[air gunner]
Sgt C.H.Dautel[air gunner]
As I write above, the airmen are listed on the plaque as STILL MISSING. They are also recorded thus at the American Military Cemetery at Madingley.
The Second World War did not end in the European Theatre until May 1945, though the Allied Forces had complete Air Superiority over Europe including Germany.
Following the D-Day Landings in Normandy on June 6th 1944, the losses of aircrew were far fewer than during the Battle of Britain and the Bomber Command 1000 bomber raids on German industry between late 1941 and May 1942.
Like many bomber aircrews during the war they were desperately young and the sense of loss to their families was immense. Though, in the grander scheme of wartime activities this would only have been recorded as a minor loss.
Wikipedia statistics record over 12,000 Bomber Command aircraft were shot down during World War II, and 55,500 aircrew were killed. This was the highest attrition rate of any British unit during the Second World War.
During one night’s activities by Bomber Command’s over 90 aircraft were shot down over Germany and more than 900 airmen were lost.
Nonetheless, there is always a sense of loss in wartime that is beyond that of the family, friends and flying colleagues. There is that sense of tragedy felt in communities like Holyhead over the sad loss in what was an air accident.
During wartime communities become used to loss of men in combat but there is a cruelty attached to such a loss as that of Liberator 42-51232 'The Jigs Up'.
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