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Boeing B-17 42-97443, Belmullet, Mayo

On the afternoon of January 24th, 1944, the quite of the Belmullet coastline was disturbed by the arrival of an American B-17 Flying Fortress bomber. The aircraft was on the final stages of a very trying delivery flight from Goose Bay in Labrador to Nutts Corner outside of Belfast. The weather encountered from the mid Atlantic forced them first to climb to almost 30,000 feet to avoid cloud and severe icing. Their radio aids were unable to assist them in the poor weather with the result that upon arrival in Donegal Bay the pilot way forced to turn back out towards the Atlantic as a safety measure to avoid a possible crash into high ground. Finally, running low on fuel and having exhausted their attempts to get to a base in Northern Ireland, the captain elected to force land the aircraft in the countryside outside Belmullet, Mayo. The crew survived the crash landing and avoided a possible repeat of the previous December 9th crash of a B-17 on Mount Truskmore, Sligo in poor weather. The crew would live to fight another day but there would be one fatality from this incident, the death of a member of the salvage crew sent from Northern Ireland to recover the aircraft.

The crash of this aircraft is perhaps best told from the official US Army Air Forces crash narrative, presented on the official Air Forces crash report. One can sense the rising danger that the crew found themselves over Ireland. This is brought home by the fact that only one month earlier a similar ferry flight of a Boeing B-17 had ended up crashing on the slopes of Tievebaun, Mount Truskmore in Sligo. The story of that crew is told here, No. 8 - Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress, 42-31420, Sligo. The investigation report for 42-97743 is presented below, although it is noted that this is not a signed narrative of events from Lt. Karr, but the results of other officer's investigation.

Belmullet crash report 42-97743

The immediate aftermath of the crash is taken up in Irish Army archive files. Martin Gleeson typed the following report for Morris Woodell from the aircrat's crew during the 1980's: Martin has given permission for this to be recorded on this page:

USAAF B-17 force-landing near Belmullet, Co. Mayo on 24 January 1944.
The following details have been compiled from the contemporary reports made out by the Irish Authorities. The latter are now held in the Irish Defence Forces Military Archives in Dublin.
The B-17 was first reported to the Irish Authorities at c.13.00 hours (local time) on 24 January 1944 by the Annagh Head Look-out Post (LOP) in County Mayo on the west coast of Ireland. Later between 13.30 and 14.30 hours it was seen circling near Annagh Head and Erris Head, before moving inland.
The crew force-landed the B-17 wheels-up in a field beside Termoncarragh Lake, 3 to 4 miles N.W. of Belmullet, Co. Mayo at c.14.50 hours (or c.14.30 hours, actual landing time is uncertain). The place where the landing occurred was commonage, owned by the Land Commission (an agency of the government). Damage to the aircraft was relatively light and the crew were uninjured.
The Gardai (police) arrived about 35 minutes after the landing. Five of the crew were taken to Healions Hotel in Belmullet at 16.15 hours and the rest at about 19.00 hours. All were accommodated in that hotel for the night. An army guard from the 1st Infantry Battalion arrived on the scene at c.20.00 hours, although at least one officer was there at 18.00 hours. Civilians and members of the Local Defence Force (the Army Reserve) were probably first on the scene.
The crew gave as the reasons for the force-landing to our Authorities bad weather conditions, that they were lost and would have run out of fuel soon afterwards. The pilot and one of the officers from the crew were allowed return to the B-17 later that evening to "make some adjustments". What these were are unclear: The American Legation in Dublin contacted the crew that night.
The following day the crew were taken back to the aircraft to retrieve their luggage, etc. The Royal Air Force liaison officer, Flight Lieutenant Rory Moore, went with them. After a meal in Belmullet that evening at 20.00 hours they were taken northwards to the border with Northern Ireland, arriving there at 01.30 hours on the 26th.
The aircraft itself was dismantled on site. Work began on 25 January 1944 and involved at first members of the Irish Air Corps. Later personnel from the RAF in Northern Ireland came south with low-loaders to retrieve the B-17 in sections. Three American technicians also assisted. These were probably all civilian employees of the Lockheed Overseas Corporation based at Langford Lodge in Northern Ireland, one certainly was. However a tragedy occurred on February 18th when one of the three died in a drowning accident. George Kroushrop was washed out to sea while photographing the nearby coast.
The final loads of aircraft parts finally left the area on 3 March 1944 for Northern Ireland.

The history of the 457th BG written by Ken Blakebrough records the departure to Europe as follows: The planes took off on 20 January for the last leg of the flight to the British Isles from runways with six foot high snowbanks on either side of them. The flight across the Atlantic was by means of Dead reckoning. Crews had been warned that radio beam navigation was unreliable due to the possibility of "jamming" by German submarines. A cloud cover extended the entire length of the crossing, ten hours in time. Reaching the British Isles, some planes put down at Nutts Corners, Northern Ireland. Others landed at Valley, Wales and Prestwick, Scotland. Lts. Karr and Geiger both crashed in landing at Nutts Corners, but without serious injury to anyone, and during their unscheduled stopover in Ireland were introduced to Irish Potato Whiskey which all of them agreed had an excellent taste."

The crew of 42-97743, listed on the crash report and in Irish records was:

The crew was flying as part of the 749th Bombardment Squadron, 457th Bombardment Group (Heavy) on their deployment from the US. The subsequent wartime career of the crew with the 457th Bomb Group is told best on the website of the 457th BG Website , where there are photos of Donald Karr and his crew.
Their crew listings are presented here:
The Donald Karr Crew (On 457th BG website)
The Donald Karr Crew (On 457th BG website).

The Donald Karr Crew, photo taken 19 May 1944 (On the website, free database of USAAF photos). The 457th crew lists for this date show that the co-pilot was Lt Harry E Cameron. John Haight had been injured in April and had arrived in New York only two days before this picture was taken. There is an additional officer standing in this photo, center with the cigar.

The 457th BG flew formed in the US in July 1943. In January and February 1944, they were deploying as a Group to Europe to join the 8th Air Force. After their crash in Ireland, the first mission listed for this crew shows them flying to Augsburg, Germany on February 25th, 1944. On the 9th of April, 1944, Lt Carr's crew was forced to crash land their aircraft, a B-17 at the RAF base at Woodbridge. They had received a direct hit from flak in the cockpit area just after leaving the target, serverely injuring the Co-pilot Haight and temporarily blinding Lt Karr. The bombardier crawled from his position in the nose and with the aid of the upper gunner, took the place of Lt Haight at the controls and helped to steady the aircraft. As this was happening the aircraft had fallen well out of the main formation and had become a target for German fighters. After an undoubtedly long return flight, during which Lt Karr's vision returned, the two officers, with the determined efforts of the gunners, managed to get the aircraft back to the RAF station at Woodbridge. For his brave efforts on that day, 2/Lt Joel H Apel was awarded the Silver Star. The story is told on page 24 of the unit history on the 457th Website. John E Haight, as might be expected, does not appear on the mission rosters after this date. John's name is found on shipping records arriving at La Guardia Field, New York on a US Army Air Forces C-54 transport on the 17 May 1944. After this time, when the crew returned to combat, other members of the crew were replaced or moved to other crews, but they continued flying into 1945.

The removal of the large Boeing bomber from the ground in Belmullet required the involvement of Irish Army technicians as well as specialist recovery personnel from American bases in Northern Ireland. Among the personnel sent to the recovery site was a team of civilian technicians from the Lockheed Overseas Corporation. This was a subsidiary organisation which performed certain maintenance and repair services for the US Government overseas. They were based in particular at Langford Lodge airfield outside Belfast. Among the team was 34 year old George Marshall Krouskop from Kittitas, Washington. George received mention in two of his local newspapers in 1943/44 about his wartime roles.

The Irish Army report on the salvage operation records simply that an American technician named George 'Kroushop' was swept off rocks near the crash site while on free time. He had been taking photos and was in the company of a member of the Irish army. Records suggest that his body was never recovered from the sea, however he does have a death certificate issued by the Irish General Register Office. George was the son of Ernest and Blanch Krouskop. He was born in Colorado. The US Army hold a file on George Krouskop among their Individual Deceased Person Files (IDPF). This is a rather functional collection of papers which deals with the authorities efforts to return his personal effects to his mother. In one letter to the Army asking about her sons effects, Blanche wrote "He was with Lockheed Overseas Corps. as crew chief, and was drowned on the day of Feb. 18, 1944, and your office sent us a notice of his death'. The letters from his mother mention that an Irish Soldier and another LOAC mechanic were in George's company at the time of his death. That other American is named as Leander R Krebs, a Minnesota born man who died in Alaska in 1979.
She wrote later that Mr. Weaver had cabled George twice to ask him to come home, that he needed him badly at Boeing Air Plant, of which Mr. Weaver is Vice President. Those cables were held up in Ireland and George never saw them and knew nothing about it until Mr. Weaver wrote him to know why he did not answer.
George was just about ready to come home, was in Belmullet Co. Mayo, Eire, Ireland and had just finished superintending the repair work on a bomber which was being delivered to Lockheed and had crashed in Eire. George was to leave for home the next week.

An article from the Ellensburg Daily Record telling the story of George's wartime career. An article from The Spokesman Review newspaper reporting the sad news of George's death.

In 2007 I contacted the local community in Kittitas, Washington and some weeks later received emails and letters from George's nephew, John E Krouskop. Some very kind people from Kittitas remembered the Krouskop family and made contact with John in California. John sent on two photos containing George Krouskop in his days presumably with Lockheed Overseas Corporation. Sadly, John Krouskop died in 2009 before I could get confirmation of which of the men was George in the photo. These photos are presented below. In 2014 however, the newphew of George was able to confirm who George M Krouskop was in the photos.

John Krouskop said that both photos were annotated as 'mobile aircraft repair unit England 1943'. George Krouskop's nephew identified him as the man on the right hand side of the the first photo. He appears to also be the man behind the front row, at the right of the lower photo

And what of the crew of 42-97743, where did they end up after the events described above?