Local history: B-17 bomber crash landed in north Mayo in 1944
By Tom Gillespie
Seventy-nine years ago, on Saturday January 24, 1944, the calm of the Belmullet coast was disturbed by the arrival of an American B-17 Flying Fortress bomber.
The aircraft was in the final stages of a very difficult delivery flight from Goose Bay in Labrador to Nutts Corner outside Belfast.
Mid-Atlantic weather initially forced them to climb to nearly 30,000 feet to avoid cloud and heavy icing.
Their radios were unable to assist them in the inclement weather, so on arrival at Donegal Bay the pilot was forced, for safety reasons, to turn back towards the Atlantic to avoid a possible hill impact.
Eventually, with fuel running low and all attempts to reach a base in Northern Ireland exhausted, the captain decided to land the aircraft on land outside Belmullet.
The crew survived the crash landing and avoided a possible repeat of the previous B-17 crash on 9 December at Mount Truskmore, Sligo, in poor weather.
The crew would survive to fight another day but there would be one fatality in the incident, the death of a member of the salvage crew sent from Northern Ireland to recover the aircraft.
The following details have been compiled from contemporary reports by the Irish authorities. The latter are now in the Military Archives of the Irish Armed Forces in Dublin.
The B-17 was first reported to the Irish authorities on 24 January 1944 at approximately 1pm (local time) from the Annagh Head Look-out Post (LOP) in Co. Mayo. Later, between 1.30pm and 2.30pm, it circled near Annagh Head and Erris Head before moving inland.
The crew forced the wheeled B-17s into a field adjacent to Termoncarragh Lake, three to four miles northwest of Belmullet at about 2:50 p.m. (or about 2:30 p.m., actual landing time is uncertain).
The site where the landing took place was a public property owned by the Land Commission. Damage to the aircraft was relatively minor and the crew was uninjured.
The Gardaí arrived about 35 minutes after landing. Five crew members were taken to a hotel in Belmullet at 4:15 p.m. and the rest around 7:00 p.m. All were accommodated at this hotel for the night.
An army guard from the 1st Infantry Battalion arrived at the scene at around 8pm, although at least one officer was there at 6pm. Civilians and members of the local defense forces were probably first on the scene.
The reasons given by the crew to the authorities for the emergency landing were bad weather conditions, that she was lost and that she ran out of fuel soon after.
The pilot and one of the crew officers were allowed to return to the B-17 later that evening to “make some adjustments.” What those were is unclear.
The American Legation in Dublin contacted the crew that night.
The next day the crew were taken back to the plane to collect their luggage etc.
Royal Air Force liaison officer Flight Lieutenant Rory Moore accompanied them. After a meal at Belmullet at 8pm that evening, they were taken north to the Northern Ireland border, where they arrived at 1.30am on 26 January.
The aircraft itself was dismantled on site. Work began on January 25, 1944 and initially involved members of the Irish Air Corps.
Later, RAF personnel in Northern Ireland came south on flatbed trailers to recover the B-17s in sections.
Three American technicians also helped. These were probably all civilian employees of the Lockheed Overseas Corporation based at Langford Lodge in Northern Ireland; it definitely was one.
However, tragedy struck on February 18 when one of the three died in a drowning accident. George Kroushrop was washed into the sea while photographing the nearby coast.
The last loads of aircraft parts finally left the area for Northern Ireland on March 3, 1944.
The removal of the large Boeing bomber from the ground at Belmullet required the involvement of Irish Army technicians as well as specialized salvage personnel from American bases in Northern Ireland.
Among the personnel sent to the salvage site was a team of civilian technicians from Lockheed Overseas Corporation. This was a subsidiary organization that performed certain maintenance and repair services for the US government abroad. They were notably based at Langford Lodge airfield outside of Belfast.
Among the team was 34-year-old George Marshall Krouskop of Kittitas, Washington. George was mentioned in two of his local newspapers in 1943-44 about his role during the war.
The Irish Army’s report on the records of the salvage operation says only that an American technician named George “Kroushop” swept rocks near the crash site in his spare time. He had been taking pictures and was with a member of the Irish Army.
Records indicate his body was never recovered from the sea, however he has a death certificate issued by Ireland’s General Registrar’s Office. This followed an investigation conducted on September 27, 1944.
George was the son of Ernest and Blanch Krouskop. He was born on June 29, 1909 in Loveland, Colorado.
The crew of 42-97743 listed in the crash report and Irish records were:
2/lt. Donald G. Karr, pilot from Illinois.
2/lt. John E. Haight, co-pilot from Illinois.
2/lt. Joel H. Apel, Navigator.
2/lt. Richard M. Condon, Connecticut bombardier.
S/Sgt. Kenneth M.Krises, engineer from Pennsylvania.
Sergeant Phillip Finkelstein, hip gunner from the Bronx, New York.
S/Sgt. Morris J. Woodell 14188230, radio operator from North Carolina.
Sergeant Paul M. Rogers, hip rifleman from Washington State.
Sergeant Charles L. Edwards, ball turret gunner from Illinois.
Sergeant Eugene H. Paprota, tail gunner from Erie, New York.