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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, between 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 Defnese 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.

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 sea the enormous propellers and the two engines on the low loader trailer.
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 mens combat tour.

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 Seeley 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 understands that he flew with the same crew of Wilson, Saunders, Prichard and Mancuso for over 50 missions with the 323rd Bomb Group. 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 served throughout the war with the 323nd Bomb Group. 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 XXX 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. At the time of writing he is 96 years old and enjoying life.

Frank E Saunders 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 1943 in Delaware. He may have passed away in 1984 in Randolph, North Carolina.

Billy Prichard 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. He 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.
His daughter Jan was able to advise of his awards of an Air Medal, 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.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2020, 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