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Martin B-26 Marauder, 41-34718, Termonfeckin, Louth

The town of Termonfeckin, County Louth had an unexpected visitor on the afternoon of 4th June 1943 with the appearance of a bomber aircraft over head. It shortly after made an emergency belly landing on the beach outside of the town.

Termonfeckin lies on the east coast of Ireland, b13:30etween Dublin and Northern Ireland. The location of the landing is recorded as being 'Beltrae Strand' by the Irish Army at the time.  The area of Seapoint, directly across from Termonfeckin on the coast is associated with this crash nowadays. The townland of Beltray is shown on maps too be south of Termonfeckin and there is a town of the same name. The area is now, as it was during the war, a holiday resort with golf courses on the shore. There is not much detail as too the exact location of the crash in the Irish Army report.

The Irish authorities were at the scene quickly after the landing in the form of Local Defense Force (LDF) and the Irish military. They found that there were four crew men on the aircraft and no injuries had been suffered among them. The crew reported that they were flying a the aircraft on a ferry mission from the United States via Port Lyautey in Africa and were on the final leg of the journey to Pembroke in England. They said they had experienced high head winds and these blew them off course. Having become lost and low on fuel they elected to make a forced landing. The Army report recorded that the aircraft was a B-26C model with serial number '34718'. The report makes little comment on the dealings with the crew after the crash but it would be normal that after a short rest in the area they were probably brought to the border with Northern Ireland that same day.

The crew names were recorded as 1st Lt G A Seeley, 1st Lt W J Wilson, S.Sgt F E Sandora and S/Sgt W Prichard with crew positions as Pilot, Bombardier, Radio Officer and Engineer respectively. Post war research and access to the US Army Air Forces records show that the aircraft was a B-26 Marauder medium bomber of the US Army Air Forces. The crash report for this incident is fairly extensive in that it contains seven pages of testimony from three members of the crew as well as the following summary from an Army Air Forces:

B-26C #41-34718 piloted by 1st Lt. G. A. Seeley with a crew consisting of a bombardier-navigator, engineer, and radio operator, while enroute from Port Lyautey, French Morocco to St. Eval, U.K. on June 4 1943 became lost form his formation while flying on instruments in an overcast and made a deferred forced landing at 1600 hrs, 4 June 1943, in Eire.  No injuries to personnel were sustained.  Only damage to A/C was underside of fuselage due to wheels up landing and two blades bent on each prop, however location of plane on beach is such that tide rapidly causing deterioration.

The pilot's becoming lost is attributed to a combination of factors.  First of all, his artificial horizon went out soon after take of and his gyro compass not long after.  This lack of flight instruments hindered his accuracy of instrument flying.  Secondly, the pilot became lost from his element leader while flying in the overcast.  The element leaders plane carried a competent celestial navigator.  Thirdly, atmospheric conditions prevented successful use of radio aids.  Fourthly, an uncharted tailwind caused the A/C to reach the Southern Eire coast 15 minutes before ETA at 50 Deg N. latitude for turn on to easterly course for St. Eval.  This resulted in confusion on part of crew.  At first the pilot and navigator thought they might be over France.  The pilot eliminated this possibility after flying est for a while, then North until a coast line was again reached with water on his right.

No aerodromes were marked on the navigator's map of Eire and N.I.

The pilot had not managed to orientate himself with respect to Ireland or England until his fuel had become low and he was on his approach leg for a forced landing on the beach.

Just before the pilot landed he saw a sign or rather the letters spelling EIRE but he did not have sufficient fuel left to try to orientate his location in Eire.  he had not spotted any aerodromes or suitable landing fields while flying over Eire.

Pilot was briefed to maintain radio silence until 50 Deg parallel was reached except in an emergency.  Pilot did not consider losing sight of element leader in overcast as constituting an emergency, and consequently did not try to contact leader while in the overcast.

The aircraft, a B-26C-5-MO Marauder, built in the Martin factory at Omaha, Nebraska was a brand new bomber on a delivery flight from the United States to Europe. It was flying on the long southern Atlantic route involving flying south out of Florida to Puerto Rico, Brazil, Ascension Island, Monrovia in Liberia, Morocco and then to Port Lyautey. They had taken off in a formation of eight aircraft from Port Lyautey but after about six hours into the flight, they ran into cloud and this resulted in them loosing site of their formation. They were on radio silence at the time and maintained that silence after loosing the formation. They sighted land but could not identify it and realized they were off course. They determined that they had reached Ireland or England but none of their radio aids could get signal enough to assist them. The navigator on this flight was the bombardier who recorded in unit histories that he had been given a crash course in navigation before departure. It was common for medium bombers and transports to fly these missions without a trained navigator, Air Transport Command would assign one to the lead aircraft in a formation to provide navigation for the whole group of aircraft. Having taken off at 07:25 GMT, at 15:30 GMT Lt Seeley found himself running low on fuel over unfamiliar territory. Having failed to find any suitable landing ground he flew east too the coast and chose a long stretch of beach to put the aircraft down on.

The aircraft was brought to a firm halt on the beach with no injuries to the crew. The engines had been cut prior to landing and the only obvious damage was too the underbelly of the bomber and bending of the propeller tips on each side. However, as recounted also in the Irish Army report, the aircraft had been put down below the high water mark and in the ensuing hours the salt water engulfed the aircraft rendering it beyond repair. In the following days, members of the Irish Air Corps, with the assistance of American military and civilian contractors from the Lockheed Overseas Airways Corporation, moved the ruined bomber up from the beach onto more solid ground. There the landing gear was dropped to place the aircraft on a more solid footing and the crews set about dismantling the aircraft.

Finally, on June 30th, the dismantled remains of 'Ridge Runner' were taken by truck to the border and taken to an American base within Northern Ireland.

Local Louth man Brendan McLeer was kind enough to provide these family photos of the dismantled aircraft being trucked through the town of Clougherhead.  The vehicles are shown parked on the main street between the Star of the sea guest house and the then butchers, now Corrs pharmacy.  One can see the enormous propellers, both of which are damaged, the two engines and the horizontal tails on the low loader trailer.  The truck facing the camera is a Bedford OX model, and was used to tow the Queen Mary trailer seen carrying the aircraft components.
B-26 Ridge Runner in

In this photo then the truck across the road is now parked next to the trailer and the first two digits of the aircraft serial number can be seen on the tail fin stacked in the trailer.   It was USAAF policy to leave off the first digit of the year of the aircraft's serial number, hence this aircraft, 41-34718 carried the serial 134718 on its tail.

B-26 Ridge Runner in

Ridge Runner was the name of the aircraft, painted on the sides of the aircraft nose. It can be seen in the photo above. The left hand side of the aircraft also carried some interesting nose art in the form of a man, A 'Ridge Runner' chasing a scantily clad young maiden! Crew members Seeley and Wilson both recalled many years after that the first people to meet them on the beach after the landing were a group of nuns!

The photos below were supplied by the Seeley family in 2008. The first image shows the crew taken in County Louth with some Irish people. The remaining two photos were crew photos taken probably in England during the men's combat tour.

41-34718 Ridge Runner crew

This blurred image above seems to show, standing from left to right, Frank Saunders, Walter Wilson with his trade mark grin, Grant Seeley and Billy Prichard.

The caption identifies the men as: Standing: Left to right: Mancuso, Seeley, Saunders, Sitting, left to right: Prichard and Wilson.

Marked on the back of the image above, the men were identified as:
Standing: Left to Right: Saunders, Mancuso, Prichard
Front Left: Seeley, Right Wilson

Frank E Mancuso was a new member of the crew, added after arriving in England. He was the top turret gunner. He passed away in 2010. His obituary states: In February he went overseas with the 323rd Bomb Group, 454th Bomb Squadron, and was stationed primarily at Earls Colne, England. He flew 67 missions as a top turret gunner on the B-26 and was credited with shooting down an FW-190 on his 4th mission over Amiens, France. Frank was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross with one cluster and the Air Medal with 10 clusters.

Grant A SeeleyGrant A Seeley O-727784 completed his tour of duty with the 323nd Bomb Group. He then transferred to flying fighter aircraft and served another tour with the 355th Fighter Group. His son understood that he flew with the same crew of Wilson, Saunders, Prichard and Mancuso for over 50 missions with the 323rd Bomb Group. 

He had another scary landing on 3rd January 1944 when he force landed P-51 Mustang, 44-14564, a photo of which can be found on the Imperial War Museum website here and here.

Newspapers in Salt Lake City published articles about him in October 1943 when word was received if his award of a Distinguished Flying Cross.
Army Awards S. L. Pilot Flying Cross
First Lieutenant Grant A. Seeley, pilot with Eighth air force operating out of England, has been awarded the distinguished flying cross, according to word received by his parents. Mr. and Mrs. Dean W. Seeley, 977 Ninth East street. He also holds the oak leaf cluster for missions completed over enemy territory.
Following a bombing raid over enemy-occupied France, Lieutenant Seeley and his crew delivered their load of bombs and returned to their base, although their B-26 Marauder plane had been damaged on the raid and was operating only on the power of one motor.
Entering the service in 1941, Lieutenant Seeley was sent overseas last March after receiving basic training at Thunderbird Field, Ariz.: McDi11 Field, Fla., and Myrtle Beach, S. C. He was attending Utah State Agricultural college at Logan when he entered the service.

Grant was born in July 1920 in Mount Pleasent, Utah, to Dean and Margaret Seeley.  Upon his return from wartime service, he married in Las Vegas in 1945 while he was still serving with the USAAF.  His death occured on 18 August 1999.  His obituary recorded of his lifes interests:
He coached Little League and Cops League Baseball for several years. Was a lifelong model airplane builder, an avid reader, dedicated golfer, and enthusiastic gardener. In his younger years, he enjoyed hunting, fishing, and camping.
He was employed by the Salt Lake City Police Department for thirty-two years, where he served a term as president of the Police Mutual Air Association and was a qualified marksman.

His obituary in August 1999 reads:
Grant Allen Seeley, Sr., 79, died at LDS Hospital on August 18, l999 after a lingering illness.
Born July 8, 1920 to Dean Winters Seeley and Margaret Abegglen Seeley at Mt. Pleasant, Utah. He married Salome Walch in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 25, 1945. He was educated in Uinta Basin schools, Wasatch Academy and Utah State University. He was a veteran of World War II and served in the Army Air Corps, European Theater. He flew 60 missions in B-26 Marauder Bombers and 37 missions in P-51 Mustang Fighters. His military decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross with two oak leaf clusters, Air Medal with eighteen oak leaf clusters and the Purple Heart.He was employed by the Salt Lake City Police Department for 32 years where he served a term as president of the Police Mutual Air Association and was a qualified marksman. He coached Little League and Cops League Baseball for several years. Was a lifelong model airplane builder, an avid reader, dedicated golfer and enthusiastic gardener. In his younger years he enjoyed hunting, fishing and camping. (Deseret News, Utah, Friday 20 Aug 1999)

Walter Wilson O-661057 was born in August 1916 in Glen Cove, New York to Etta and William Wilson.  served throughout the war with the 323rd Bomb Group and later with A-20 and A-26 units of the 98th Combat Wing. Shortly after their arrival in England, Walter was promoted to be the lead Bombardier in the the Bomb Group. In this role he flew with any number of the groups crews and wasn't assigned to one single crew. He provided his memories of the taxing transatlantic journey to the unit historian for the 1990's publication on the history of the 323nd Bomb Group. Walter served in the USAF after the war and served with Strategic bomber Command during the Cold War, rising to the rank of Colonel.

In 2013 he passed on these comments regarding his memory of the events of 1943:  Recall that Seeley's aircraft was named "Road Runner" after a native Utah bird.  Seeley was from Utah.  The art, I believe, depicted the bird not the bear and naked woman.  The two planes (attachments) are not the same -- one has "Ridge Runner" on the nose and the other does not. These planes both appear to have normal props - when we landed wheels-up, the props dug into the sand and at least one of the four blades on each engine were badly bent.  The Sisters arrived immediately to determine if anyone was hurt - No - were there any Catholics aboard -No- passed out St Christopher medals to each of us and asked if we would like some tea and then scurried off to get some.
Meanwhile a little man with a rusty rifle arrived and declared we were his prisoners (despite the fact that Seeley and I had .45 caliber automatics on our hips and the enlisted men had Tommy Guns). he didn't ask for them and we didn't give them to him).  At about this time a couple, strolling on the beach, came upon us and invited us to their cottage for some Irish whiskey which we accepted.  The little man with the rusty rifle said we could go if he could come with us and get some whiskey, too.  We all enjoyed the whiskey and later returned to the plane to find the Sisters had left the tea in cups and saucers and teapots in the aircraft.  Unfortunately, we never saw them again as the Irish military came and took us away and helped arrange our crossing the border to Northern Ireland that night.
After spending a couple of weeks living in that aircraft since leaving the States, I confess I never saw any trace of condoms, lipstick or nylons -- must have been some other aircraft.  After some 65 years, I guess things can get a little tangled up among the Irish, English and American story tellers.

it should be noted that Walter later agreed that the photos were correct and that they showed it to be Ridge Runner.
Walter passed away on the 1st of August 2013 aged 97 in Ashland, Oregon.

Frank E Saunders 39091300 came from Bigfork, Minnesota, born in 1909 to Thomas and Ingaborg Saunders. US National Archives records don't seem to contain a early war enlistment record for him but they do have a record for him re-enlisting in 1946 in Delaware, but that term of service ended in March 1947.  The 1950 census finds him living in Portland, Oregon with his wife Margaret and daughter Jean.  Margaret is recorded as being born in France, with Jean born in England.  The couple ran a printing company at the time.  The couple were living in Hanford, California in April 1060 when Margaret passed away.

He  passed away on 26 November 1984 in Randolph, North Carolina.

Billy Prichard 14092411 was born in 1923 per his enlistment records in the US national Archives. His parents were Irene and Richey Prichard. He enlisted in the Army in February 1942 in Fort Oglethorpe, Georgia, his place of residence being Shelby, Tennessee at the time.  His local Memphis newspaper reported on his promotion of Staff Sergeant in August 1943, and that his mother lived 17 East Fernwood in Memphis.  In November that year, the same newspaper reported on his being a crew member on a medium bomber named U.S.O that had flown 14 missions from England.  By December 1943 and February 1944, they were reporting on his completion of 32 missions and the receipt of the three awards mentioned below.  His mother at that time lived at 406 Outlet.  The 19 Jun 1944 would find a long article published about Billy while on a short furlough from England and back with his parents at 405 Haynes, Memphis.

He had completed his service by December 1944, and the newspapers then were reporting on his impending wedding to Miss Darline Sorce, since he was now returned from France after 65 missions.  They married on Christmas Day 1945 and immediately traveled to Miami, Florida where he was being posted.

His daughter Jan was able to advise of his awards of an Air Medal, on 9 September 1943, an Oak Leaf Cluster to the existing Air Medal on 25 November 1943 and a Distinguished Flying Cross on 16 January 1944. He later flew with Strategic Air Command after the war.

Roy Bozych, historian of the 323rd Bomb Group was able too supply this wonderful image of Grant Seeley's crew which was published in the Martin company magazine during the war. Martin Aircraft was the company which built the B-26 Marauder.

Billy passed away in 1972, having left the Air force only in 1964. His headstone in Cordova Community Cemetery in Shelby, Tennessee records his service in World war II and also the Korean War.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2023, Dublin and Sligo. With thanks too the Seeley, Prichard and Wilson families. Also to Roy Bozych, the 323rd BG historian and to A Flanagan and Brendan McLeer