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North American P-51D Mustang 44-14295

On the 14th of September 1944, an aircraft was heard by the Irish Army Look Out Post (LOP) at Ballagan, County Louth, away to the north, moving south at 14:30 hours. It was later heard by the LOP's at Dunany Point and Clogherhead moving south. It then turned and was last heard by LOP Clogher Head, to the south moving north.

At around 14:50 hours an aircraft crashed on the land of Joseph Byrne, in Dawestown in the Cooley Mountains in County Louth. The location was not far from Tippings Hill, marked as Trumpet Hill on modern maps. Local man, Tommy McArdle was first on the scene and he described afterwards how he had to take cover due to the noise of exploding ammunition. Acting Captain J. Walsh of the Irish Army, 3rd Cyclist Squadron included in his report dated 16th September to the Eastern Command Intelligence Officer; “At approx. 14.45 hours in 14/8/44 a report was received by telephone from Ravensdale Garda Barracks stating that a plane had crashed in the vicinity of Dawestown. I proceeded to the scene of the crash with a party to act as guard. On arrival there, the plane was burning fiercely and .50 ammunition was exploding incessantly. The plane was completely wrecked and broken into pieces”. He also reported that “No means of identification could be located except a small disc bearing the words I.A.ERVIN and on the reverse side LOVE MURPH 19103013”. What remained of the aircraft was removed by the Irish Army and the crater was filled in.

Map of Mustang crash

THe map at right shows the main points mentioned in the Army report and the general location of the crash.

Major Sprague of the US Military Attaches Office attended the scene with Irish Army officers. 2/Lt. Ervin's remains were recovered despite terrible injuries and were handed over the border to Northern Ireland on the 16th of September at Carrickarnon customs post. A Guard of Honour was provided by men of the Irish Army and the US Military Attache praised these Irish troops from the local garrison. A letter from the US Military Attache to Capt. J D Walsh, Dundalk Military Barracks reads: Dear Captain Walsh, Major Sprague, my Assistant Military Attache for Air, has described in most glowing terms the splendid ceremony which you accorded to the remains of Lieutenant I. A. Ervine. He was particularly impressed with the smartness and efficiency of your troops acting as Guard of Honor under Lieutenant Roche. Please accept my most sincere thanks for the honor which you have shown my countryman and for the many courtesies to Major Sprague. It will be my pleasure to convey the above to General McKenna and to the United States War Department. J. L. Hathaway

At 13:22 hours on September 14th, 1944, a flight of North American P-51 Mustangs took off on a training flight from Wattisham airfield in Suffolk, England. This was the base of the US Army Air Force’s (USAAF) 479th Fighter Group (FG). The Group consisted of three Fighter Squadrons, the 434th, 435th and 436th. At this time the 479th FG was converting from the P-38 Lightning to the P-51 Mustang fighter. The men and aircraft from the 435th Fighter Squadron were tasked to fly from Wattisham to Edinburgh, then Belfast and back to Wattisham. As the flight neared Ireland they flew into dense overcast cloud and contact was lost with two of the pilots, 2/Lt. Ivan A. Ervin and 1/Lt. Chester W. Granville.

The above image was very kindly produced by Filip Servit and is an impression of what 2/Lt Ervin's aircraft may have looked like and shows what the 'R bar' referred to in the aircraft markings. Photos show that the unit tended to paint over the aircraft serial numbers with the squadron colours.

Ivan Ervin was flying Mustang serial number, 44-14295 with squadron codes J2-R while Chester Granville flew 44-14437, J2-C. Both aircraft, P-51-D-10-NA models, were built at the North American plant at Inglewood. Call signs for the pilots were Lakeside 74 and 90 respectively. The US National Archives records show that Lt. Ervin enlisted on the 4th February 1943 in Santa Anna, California, and was assigned serial number 19103013. Chester Granville enlisted a day later in Camp Bastrop, Texas. Both were later assigned new serial numbers upon their receiving their commissions as officers.

Peter Blyberg whose wife is Chester's niece, was able to provide a copy of a touching letter from a a wartime comrade of Chester's, Howard C Smith, who flew with them on that fateful day. He wrote the following to Chester’s mother in 1948:

“Might I say here that I do not know if I am writing this letter to Chesters' mother or his wife. I even feel a little reluctant to send this letter because I do not know this Lt. Wynens, or whether it really is your desire to get this information.

I have no record of the exact date of the flight which claimed the lives of Chester and also one other squadron pilot. I do remember clearly the details of what facts were known.

This particular flight was not a combat mission over enemy territory, but rather was a training flight over the English Isles. We as a squadron were undergoing a transition from P-38 aircraft to the P-51 types.

None of us at that time were overly familiar with the P-51.

On that day our squadron commander ordered a training flight under the leadership of a captain flight leader. There were several flights forming a squadron formation. Chester was leading one flight of four ships. Shortly after take off, I flying on Chester's wing, noticed he was losing oil. I informed him of this fact and he radioed that he would return to and land. That left three remaining in our flight so Lt. Pigg took over the lead with Lt. Lt Detlefson on one wing and me on the other. (Both of these pilots were later killed in combat operations).

A few minutes later, Chester radioed that his oil trouble didn't seem serious and that he would rejoin our flight. When he did return he instructed us to remain as we were and that he would fly on my wing.

+ Pigg + Detlefson + Smith We remained in this position. + Granville

Everything went along smoothly for some time and then arose one of those hazards which were ever present in that part of the world. It had not been a particularly stormy day, however, almost without warning we hit into instrument weather. It has always been my regret that the squadron did not at that time turn 180 and leave the storm.

As suddenly as we had entered this instrument weather, we broke free of it for a moment. During this moment of clear vision, our flight crossed over another flight – very narrowly avoiding a mid-air collision. Seconds later another moment of vision was afforded us. During this very brief moment of clearance, a plane from another flight went past Chester and me at a very close distance, going straight up. Evidently that pilots instruments were not uncaged for use, as a result he was killed at that time by crashing on the coast of Ireland.

The rest of the squadron proceeded on instrument flying. Our hopes were of course that we would break into the clear soon for there had been no forecast of extreme bad weather. As we proceeded however it grew more dense, so that from then, until we landed we were flying entirely on instruments for well over an hour.

I began to notice that Chester was not flying close enough to me and I called him several times to stay in closer so we could keep visual contact between us. It was necessary to fly with wing tips no more than 3 – 4 feet apart to keep contact. He replied that he was finding it difficult to stay in close. This was because he had been leading flights for a long period of time and as such he did not get much practice in flying extremely close formation to another's wing. This made it doubly difficult, because he like rest of us had flown the P-51 only two, three or four times previously.

As best I could judge, Chester stayed in position for about ten minutes more, and then he faded from sight. I called him and received answers several times after this. He said he would have to proceed alone because he could not find the flight. I did not have many worries about him then because he was one of the most capable and competent pilots in the squadron, in fact I was wishing I were with him because he was that good.

Some time later, after I had been unable to contact him by radio I heard him for the last time call a station for a homing fix. There were many calls in the air about then because we all needed homing directions.

Everyone eventually returned to the home base except Chester and the other lt. No one knows exactly what happened to Chester, intelligence reported that his plane was never found. I made a careful map survey and judging by where the other Lt. crashed, I believed that Chester must have gone down in the Irish sea. He may have had engine trouble because of the previous oil leak, although the last time I inquired he said it was OK.

Well, that is about all there is to tell, It was a sorrowful occasion then and it is to me now. I felt his loss perhaps more keenly that did any other friend or relative war casualty”.

The USAAF reports put the loss of 2/Lt. Ervin down to bad weather, weather which had caused the remaining aircraft in the flight to fly on instruments for over an hour. Chester Granville and his aircraft were never found. The American authorities notified the Royal Air Force in Northern Ireland and a rescue boat was sent to an estimated position but the weather was such that no search aircraft could be launched. A three day search controlled by USAAF 65th Fighter Wing was mounted off the English coast but to no avail. 1/Lt. Granvilles name is entered on the Tablets of the Missing at the Cambridge American Cemetery in Cambridge, England.

Ivan was initially interred early on the morning of September 18th at the Lisnabreeny cemetery near Belfast in plot B-6-8. In 1948, 2/Lt. Ervin's parents arranged with the service authorities to have his remains returned to Idaho. They buried their son in his home town of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho in the autumn of that year. He now lies interred in the wooded surroundings of the Forest Cemetery in Coeur d'Alene.

During a visit to the Dawestown area in November 2009 I was lucky enough to meet Ray Byrne and his sister. He was able to confirm the spellings of areas which were misspelled in the Irish Army reports. Dawestown was referred to as 'Dawsonstown', while Tippings Hill was mentioned as Kippens Mount or Kippery Hill. His home is built in a corner of the field that he understands is where 2/Lt. Ervin crashed. During digging while planting trees near the house, fragments of metal were found. In the past, shell casings were found in the area. The family has one piece of the aircraft. It is a machine gun mounting, part number 106-61026, still carrying its part number tag and green factory primer. The photos below are of this gun mount.

Mustang
          Gun mount Mustang
          Gun mount

Ray has gathered the memories of local people from the community who lived there at the time of the crash. Over the years he has spoken to a number of people who heard the sound of the Mustang and the impact. The plane was flying very low in poor visibility and seemed to be circling for a while. Eventually it made an approach from the west from the vicinity of Tipping’s Wood and crashed into the field where later he was to build his home. Josie Byrne, an uncle of his and owner of the field, lived in a house overlooking the scene about 100 yards away. Tom McArdle, his next door neighbour, described to Ray how he hid behind a wall on hearing the sound of exploding shells fearing the long-awaited invasion was taking place.

Tom Murphy, who lived about 300 yards to the south of the site was a little more courageous. He set out on his bicycle on seeing the smoke after the impact. He met with ‘Lad’ Finnegan, a neighbour, who was behind a hay rick and reluctant to venture any further! When Tom reached the crash he was relieved that another had arrived before him. Unfortunately there was nothing they could do to help Ivan as he had obviously died immediately on impact. Later others in the locality visited the site as a number of aircraft fragments were collected as ‘mementoes’. This must have happened before the arrival of army personnel from the town of Dundalk about 6 miles away. The normal procedure would have been to cordon off the crash site. Some of the lore handed down was obviously inaccurate. For example, it was said that because of the force of the impact the plane buried itself so deep in the earth that it wasn’t possible to remove it or Ivan’s body. Another story said that a crop of barley in the field was destroyed even though Josie only reared sheep! A lot of the confusion may be explained by the fact that there were two other wartime crashes within sight of the Dawestown one. In August 1941, an RAF Hudson bomber, AE577, crashed killing three airmen while sixteen men died in March 1942 in the crash of Liberator AL577.

Chester W Granville was the son of Dorothea H and Maurice F Granville and husband of Dorothy J Granville. The family hailed from LaGrange, Fayette County, Texas. Chester grew up in rural Texas and attended the University of Texas in Austin where he was a star athlete, competing in both American football, basketball and baseball on intercollegiate teams. He married Dorothy Farmer not long after graduation and enlisted in the Army Air Corps where he was trained as a fighter pilot. Chester Granville is fondly remembered on a memorial in his family plot in La Grange, Texas. The photos below are a family portrait image of Chester from his family and a copy of a squadron photo supplied by the US Air Force Historical Support Office.

Granville in Helmet

Ivan was born in 1918 in Canada to Ellen and Richard C Ervin. The family moved from Canada in 1923 to the United States. Prior to enlisting in the Army Air Forces, Ivan was a school teacher. His wife, Evelyn was also a school teacher. He had studied in Eastern Washington College and had been an outstanding athlete. He had one sister and two brothers, both of whom also served in the military during the war. Ivan's wife, Evelyn remarried after the war and died in 2004. She continued to teach and played a full roll in her new community. The obituary in her local paper included a nickname, 'Murph', the same name found on the battered I.D. Tag on a County Louth hillside in 1944.

Ivan Ervin's photo from the Squadron history supplied by the US Air Force Historical Support Office and a photo of his headstone very kindly taken by Waneva Maymon a kind volunteer on findagrave.net.

Cooley Peninsula Map

The mountains in this area had already claimed the destruction of two aircraft prior to Lt Ervin's death. First, an RAF Hudson crash in September 1941 killed three men, followed by an RAF Liberator which crashed in April 1942 killing 16 men.

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