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B-24 Liberator, Lahinch, Co. Clare, July 1943

The small west of Ireland town of Lahinch, Co. Clare awoke on the morning of 10th July 1943 to the sight of an American bomber sitting on the strand north of the town. 

Lahinch Bomber on
          beachA large four engine bomber was resting on the beach about a half mile north of the town center.  Locals recorded the time of landing approximate 7.35 am.  The aircraft had been tracked by various Coast Watching and Gardai stations amongst others.  It had been noticed first, about an hour before the landing, passing over the town of Kilkee in Co , Clare.  It then flew up the Shannon river estuary as far as Lorrha in County Tipperary.  The crew, then it seems thinking they were near the beacon at Derrynacross in County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland, turned back towards the coast and found themselves over Lahinch.  They were witnessed by some locals making a low pass, south easterly, past the village.  Turning inland, in poor visibility, 2/Lt Van Benthuysen brought the aircraft back around to approach the beach from the north west and touched down just south of the mouth of the Inagh River around 7.35 am.  The tide being out at the time, the aircraft careened along the sand until the port wingtip contacted the sand and caused the aircraft to swing nose first towards the sand dunes, and there coming to a rest.  A propeller had been torn off and in hitting the fuselage near the pilots side of the cockpit, mercifully not injuring anyone on board.

Having witnessed the aircraft disappear from view behind the sand dunes, locals made their way up the beach and finally informed the lost crew where they were.  They were soon joined by the local Gardai, the Irish police force, and soon again by Irish Army and Local Defense Force (LDF)

Lt. Col. James L Hathaway, the US Military Attache in Dublin, sent a signal to Washington the same morning advising of the landing and that they crew would be taken to Northern Ireland later that night.

The USAAF accident Form 14 contains the usual 'Description of Accident', which was taken to be a brief narrative of what happened and to include statement of responsibility and recommendations for future action:  B-24D #42—40784 took off from Gander at 2016 GMT and encountered metro conditions approximately as briefed until arrival in zone 2. In latter part of zone 2 a high solid overcast was encountered. All radio contact including radio compass was lost from this time.  Altitude was gained to 16,000 ft remaining-out of clouds, and attempt made to gain radio contact but without success. Plotting position by DR from last celestial fix, position was estimated to be some where near Derrynacross, Let down was made to 4,000 ft still without radio contact. Since plane was still in overcast at 4,000 ft, the pilot flew Westerly out over the water to finish let down as highest mountains were from 2,000—3,000 ft. A slight break in overcast permitted pilot a glimpse of coast line so he then let down below overcast.  Pilot kept coastline in sight and circled in a small area while attempting to gain radio contact, but with no success.  The ceiling was very low and visibility less than one mile with steady rain.  Navigator was unable to recognize coast line from maps due to low visibility.  Pilot circled for approximately one hour attempting to locate position by maps and by trying to gain radio contact. When one half hour of fuel was remaining the pilot landed wheels up on a beach with no injury to crew

It is believed that this crews’ becoming lost is due to the following:

a. Lack of study on part of navigator and pilot as to radio facilities
available in British Isles and procedure to obtain use of these facilities.

b. Inability on part of radio operator to obtain maximum use of his radio equipment.
It is recommended that pilot, navigator and radio operator be tested before such flights to insure their having adequate knowledge of British radio facilities available and procedure to obtain use of such facilities

Damage was described as:  Nose section 60% damaged -- left side of fuselage (Sta #3) some of ribs and alclad surfaces to be replaced -- fuselage OK except for underside starting from bulkhead 3 to 6.1.-- left side of fuselage bulged from sta 4 to sta 6--lower ball turret forced up by impact--lower portion of left wing tip panel slightly damaged--right wing twisted slightly-further damages is indicated due to salt water and sand.

The above summary by USAAF officers was based upon reports filed by the aircraft Pilot and Navigator.   Max E Van Benthuysen filed the following pilots report.

Pilot, Copilot, Navigator and Radio Operator were briefed at Gander Lake,
Newfoundland at 1015 to 1100 on 9 July 1943 and were given necessary information regarding the radio facilities and landing fields which might be of use during the flight.  The-pilot and navigator were also briefed the same day at 1500 regarding weather and flight conditions throughout the flight area.

Our briefing at Gander was complete and under the conditions as forecast our flight would have been successful.

The flight was made in accordance with the flight plan which was to fly at
5000 to 7000 feet the entire route, however, when we were 330 miles from Derrynacross, Ireland we encountered a high solid undercast and lost radio contact in it. We then attempted to stay on top of the undercast and maintain radio contact but it was too high and at 16000 feet we decided to let down and at 13000 feet we were in the overcast, at which time our estimated position was near the Northern Ireland coast. After letting down to 4000 feet we assumed we were near Derrynacross but could not gain radio contact and since the fuel was running low, I, the pilot, decided to fly out to where it would be safe to let down over the water and attempt to gain radio contact under the overcast.  In slight break in the clouds we caught a glimpse of the shore line and with our altimeter set to the forecast barometric pressure, we let down along the coast and sighted the coast line again at approximately 500 feet over the water with an indicated 800 feet on the altimeter. The coast was in sight and we circled in a small area over the coast line and attempted to gain radio contact but were unsuccessful.  The ceiling varied from 100 to 200 feet and the visibility was less than l mile with a steady rain. We did not know our exact position and were unable to identify our position by maps of the area. At the time, we first started, circling our fuel supply was l 1/2 hours and at the end of 1 hour I decided to put the plane down on a strip of beach which seemed to be the best available landing strip. A landing was made wheels up and none of the crew injured.

Our throttle settings for the trip were:        IAS
First 1/3 of flight    31 ˝ inches    2100 RPM    170
Second 1/3 of flight    31 inches    2050 RPM    170
Third 1/3 of flight    30 inches    2000 RPM    170

Our fuel consumption was in excess because of attempting to stay on top of the solid undercast over the Island.

Radio contact was attempted with Prestwick on 6500 on the laison.  Also the range at Prestwick was tried on command but was not successful.  The Belleek Range was tried but was also unsuccessful, as was Nutts Corner Ranges, Symington Range, Stornoway Range, Valley radio range.  The radio operator ask for QTE’s and QDM from Prestwick on 6500 and 3105 by laison and calls were made to Darky stations on 6440.

Landing was made because of lack of fuel and wheels were up because the beach appeared soft.  Landing was made at 0645 GMT 7/10/43 on Western Coast of Ireland near Lahinch.

The various ranges named correspond to Royal Air Force signals stations or airfields.  The codes QTE and QDM were coded signals requesting magnetic heading and true bearing respectively from the base at Prestwick.  The Darky radio calls was a short range navigation system in use in the UK, a means by which a lost aircraft get directions.  In addition to the above report, Manuel Protos, the navigator, was also required to file a flight report which contained the following details:

In the briefing at Gander Lake the following flight plan was given me (approximate winds)

Zone    Altitude        Winds            Weather
9        5000 ft.          320* 25K        CAVU [Ceiling and Visibility Unlimited]
5000 ft.          310* 25K        Stratus Clouds 4000 ft
7        7000 ft.          240* 30K        Stratus Clouds 4000 ft
7000 ft.        240* 30K        8000 Stratus solid overcast / 5000 Stratus undercast
7000 ft.          250* 35K     8000 Stratus solid overcast / 5000 Stratus undercast
        7000 ft           260* 38K       Low scattered clouds 5000 ft.
        7000 ft           260* 35K       Low scattered clouds 5000 ft.      
        7000 ft           270* 35K       Low scattered clouds 5000 ft.       
        5000 ft           270* 25K       Low scattered clouds 5000 ft.       
        ?000 ft           280* 25K       Low scattered clouds 5000 ft.      

Departed 2016 GMT
In actual flight Metro conditions held almost true up to Zone 4.  In Zone 2, judging by a celetial fix, we altered course to Derrynacross.

The later part of Zone 2 we ran into a solid layer of stratus which was gradually rising in altitude.  Our radio compass was haphazard in indicating the ranges of Derrynacross, Beleek and Prestwick until we hit the overcast.  Then our radio contact was out completely.  We climbed up to 1600 (?) staying out of the clouds, trying to regain radio contact, but in vain.  The sun didn't rise from the horizon yet to take a landfall.  Estimating by the celestial fix and DR we passed over Derrynacross and flew about 20 minutes beyond it.

We couldn't let down below 3000 ft. for fear of running into high terrain.  The visibility and ceiling at that at that altitude was zero.  The pilot requested of me to clear the nose.

We turned on a reciprocal course flying west for about 30 minutes letting down until we sighted the ocean.  We then turned south and sighted a shore line in 25 minutes.  We turned into the shore to try to recognize the terrain but our visibility was very restricted to decide any definite contours.  Not knowing exactly where we were, and having no radio contact and running low on fuel, the pilot decided to land the ship on the only beach that we sighted on the coast line.  0645 was the time of the landing.

Indicated air speed averaged between 170 and 175.

In the summer of 1993, a plaque was unveiled in Lahinch remembering the landing on the beach.  On that occasion, as recorded on the plaque, three crew members attended, Albert Leighton, Charles H Miller and Manuel Protos.  The pilot Max Van Benthuysen, Engineer Lester D Walton, R/O Henry J Crawford, Gunner, James C Bean and Benjamin Ziev were already deceased at that time.  The plaque is photographed below in 2018.

Travellin Trollop Plaque

At that time in 1993, the Warplane Research Group of Ireland published a booklet to go along with the memorial service.  The group had been fortunate enough to have made contact with at least three crew members and, it seems, also John Busch and Chester "Chet' Miller.

They had been assigned to the 389th Bombardment Group (Heavy) in 1948 and were on their deployment flight at the time of the accident at Lahinch.

The crew of ten men and one passenger were revealed to be:
2/Lt. Max E Van Benthuysen O-383260, Pilot
2/Lt. Albert H Leighton O-675084, Co-pilot
2/Lt. Manuel A Protos O-738886, Navigator
2/Lt. William E Fowler O-2043684, Bombardier

T/Sgt. Lester D Walton 15102605, Engineer
T/Sgt. Henry J Crawford 33314817, Radio Operator
S/Sgt. Chester V Miller 11089630, 
S/Sgt. John L Busch 06998037, Gunner
S/Sgt. James C Bean 18108329 , Gunner
S/Sgt. Charles H Miller 33199009
W/O Benjamin Ziev W-2116388, Passenger

The veterans themselves provided this photo in the 1990's of the aircraft's crew, taken in the USA prior to their departure to Europe.
Crew of Travellin Trollop
The crew are labeled in the 1993 WRGI booklet as:
Back Row: Protos, Fowler, Leighton, Van Benthuysen
Front Row: Busch, Bean, Chester V Miller, Walton, Crawford
Ziev is not present in this photo as he was a passenger on the aircraft.  Neither Charles H Miller or the man he replaced, S/Sgt Johnny P Lechmann are in the photo.

The crew had completed their crew training before moving to Lincoln Field, Nebraska where they were assigned the new aircraft, 42-40784 around the 10th June 1943.  They took the aircraft on a check flight two days later and another planned for the following day to Presque Isle, Maine but the aircraft developed a fuel leak, forcing the crew to land at Syracuse in New York.  They made it to Dow Field, Maine on June 14th but were forced to remain there for over three weeks while the aircraft was repaired.  It was at this point that a crew member, S/Sgt Johnny P Lechmann 17086346 was transferred to a different crew and S.Sgt Charles H Miller joined the Van Benthuysen crew.  It is noted that the early reports sent back to the US reported Lechmann as still being on the crew and also a passenger named Major Adelbert D Cross.

Max E Van
          Benthuysen2/Lt. Max E Van Benthuysen O-383260, the pilot of the Travelin' Trollop, was the son of Herman and Pearl Van Benthuysen and was born to that couple in Ankeny, Polk County, Iowa in February 1916.  He enlisted in the Army in January 1935, and, while serving as a Private and then NCO in the Iowa National Guard, becoming a Quartermaster Corp officer in the summer of 1939.  he had studied in the University of Iowa prior to entering the Army.  The 1940 census finds him working as a Clerk in a seed company in Des Moines, Iowa.  He transferred to the Army Air Corps during 1942 and trained to be a pilot in Texas.  During this time training, he met and married a local girl, Nadine Ingleman, in July 1942.  The Des Moines Tribune reported in march of 1944 that he had been promoted to the rank of Captain.  He had reached the rank of Major in August 1944, returning to a 2/Lt rank after the war.  The Des Moines Tribune in January 1952 reported on his career:  Named this week to attend Armed Forces Staff college at Norfolk, Va., was Air Force Lt. Col. Max E. Van Benthuysen, husband of the former Nadine Ingle-man who is the daughter of the late Mr. and Mrs. Ralph Ingleman of Des Moines. Van Benthuysen was one of the small group of men the Military Air Transport Service (MATS) assigned to Mc Chord air force base, Tacoma, Wash., in August, 1950, to operate the North Pacific airlift to Japan and Korea.

Max passed away in East Machias, Maine on 27 Jan 1979.

Albert H
          Leighton2/Lt. Albert H Leighton O-675084, The Co-pilot, was a 1939 Army Air Corps pilot and extracts from his obituary tell his story.  He was born May 6, 1919 in Berlin, New Hampshire and raised in Pawtucket, Rhode Island.  On his 18th birthday (May 6, 1937), he watched the Hindenberg fly over Pawtucket twice (going north, then south) before it crashed in New Jersey.  In June 1939 he enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. In 1940, while attending Photo School at Lowry Field in Denver, Colorado, he met his future wife, Emma (Pat) Manning.

He was appointed aviation cadet in June 1942, graduating as a pilot and commissioned second lieutenant in March 1943. He was stationed in Norwich, England, and flew bombing missions over Germany. Before returning stateside, he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross (with three oak leaf clusters); the European African Middle-Eastern Campaign Medal; two Bronze Stars' and other WWII campaign ribbons.

One of his memorable experiences while overseas was the forced landing of his crew's B-24 on the beach at Lahinch, County Clare, Ireland on July 10, 1943. Fifty years later, on July 10, 1993, he attended the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at O'Looney's Pub in Lahinch, and was asked to give an impromptu speech at the festivities.

Albert also visited Lahinch in July 1975 with his wife Pat, the Clare Champion of the time carrying an article and photo of the couple, having found a peice of the aircraft on the beach. Albert Leighton passed away on 29 December 2010 in Denver, Colorado.

Manuel A Protos2/Lt. Manuel A Protos O-738886, Navigator on the bomber was born in May 1919 in North Vandergrift, Pennsylvania to  

The Town Talk from Alexandria, Louisiana recorded of Manuel upon his return:  Manuel A. Protos of Alexandria completed five years of army service September 27 when he was released from active duty by the army air corps in time to enroll as a freshman. He was promoted to the rank of captain, fought in the Sicily and Normandy campaigns and the air offensive of Europe to earn the Air Medal with three Oak Leaf Clusters, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Presidential Unit Citation, His major subject is agriculture.

His local newspaper in 1964, in recalling old stories printed in war, that in July 1944, they reported on: An award of the Distinguished Flying Cross has been made to Capt. Manuel A. Protos of Monessen, navigator on the Liberator "Travelin' Tramp"

He and his family lived in Alexandria, Louisiana after the war where he attended the State University.

Manuel passed away in July 2001 in Texas and is buried there in Fort Sam Houstan with a veterans headstone listing WW2, Korea and Vietnam as period of service.

2/Lt. William E Fowler O-2043684, The crew's Bombardier, it appears was born 23 March 1921, in Rimersburg, Pennsylvania. 

Upon his return from Europe, he married a teacher from Bangor, Maine where the aircraft, 42-40784, had suffered technical problems and been delayed on its way to Europe.
BANGOR BRIDE— Miss Jean C O’Connor and Captain William E Fowler were married Monday in a simple service in the rectory of St John’s Catholic church

Jean C O’Connor Becomes Bride of Capt W E Fowler
 Miss Jean Charlotte O’Connor daughter of Mr and Mrs J Carl O’Connor of Bangor and Captain William E Fowler son of Mr and Mrs William A Fowler of Youngstown Ohio were married Monday In the rectory of St John’s Catholic church Rev Joseph H Butler officiated The couple was attended by James J McAloon and Miss Rosaline H McAloon The bride wore a green gabardine suit with a corsage of yellow roses Miss McAloon wore a gray suit with a corsage of red roses Mrs Fowler was graduated from Bangor High school In the class of 1942 and for the past' two years has attended Farmington Teachers’ college Captain Fowler attended the Youngstown Ohio schools and the University of Ohio before entering the Army Air Forces He has Just returned from overseas duty where he was awarded the DFC Air Medal and also the Silver Star. They will spend this week in Youngstown, Ohio and then will be In Miami Fla where Captain Fowler has been assigned

William's obituary from 2013 again tells his story very well, with the only item of note being the mention of the Dow airfield stopover being in 1942 instead of 1943:  William E. Fowler, 92, major, U.S. Air Force, retired, of Bar Harbor, passed away Aug.11. Bill was born March 23, 1921, in Rimersburg, Pa., to Melvin Ray Fowler and Edna Joy (Mortimer) Fowler.
Bill grew up in Youngstown, Ohio, and enlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1940 at the age of 19. He served on active duty in three wars -- World War II, Korea,and Vietnam -- and earned the Bronze Star and National Defense Service Medal. In 1942, Bill was headed to England to serve with the Eight Air Force when his B-24 developed engine trouble resulting in a two-week delay at Dow Field in Bangor for repairs. There he met the love of his life, Jean O'Connor. They corresponded for two years and married when he returned from England. After several years, Bill decided to make the Air Force his career and he and Jean travelled extensively with their three children (including tours in Germany and Japan). During his 25-year military career, Bill earned a degree in horticulture at the University of Maine and a business degree at Indiana University. Bill retired in 1967, they moved to Augusta, and he worked for 20 years as an assistant state horticulturist.

T/Sgt. Lester D Walton 15102605, The aircraft's Engineer, was an Indiana native  born in Feb 1922.

Newspapers carried news in November 1942 of his graduation from airplane mechanic school at Keesler Field, Mississippi.  His award of a Distinguished Flying Cross was published in state newspapers in August 1944.

He passed away in Feb 1993 in Indiana.

T/Sgt. Henry J Crawford 33314817, Radio Operator hailed from Pennsylvania, born in December 1912, to Susan and James Crawford in East Norwegian Township, Pennsylvania.  His local newspaper the Potsville Republican reported on his service in June 1944, noting that he had been awarded a distinguished flying cross

He passed away in Chester, Pennsylvania on 14 April 1948.  Newspaper recorded he collapsed while out walking in the town of Chester.  The Pottsville Republican printed an obituary at the time reading:  HENRY J. CRAWFORD Henry J. Crawford, son of Mrs. Susan and the late James Crawford. E. Norwegian Township, died 1 suddenly on his way home from work at Chester. A veteran of World War II, he served in the Air Force. He was the organizer of the Veterans of Foreign Wars Post No. 4845, at Essington, and served as its commander. To survive besides his mother, he leaves these brothers and sisters: Mrs. Catherine Emplit, John and Thomas Crawford, Mrs. Jos Krupla, Mrs. Fred G. Davison, Mrs. Lillian Dean, and a number ; of nieces and nephews. The funeral took place Saturday in Chester, with burial in Rural Cemetery.

S/Sgt. Chester V Miller 11089630, came from Revere, Massachusetts and was born in 1922.  His parents were Lilian and Edward and his draft card in 1940 shows him as employed at the Naval Yard in Boston.

Chester, or Chet, as he was known, visited Lahinch in September 2000, but also made a short visit in 1983.  He was unable to make the 1993 unveiling.

Chester passed away in Aug 2019 in Danvers, Massachusetts.

John L BuschS/Sgt. John L Busch 06998037, an Air Gunner, born in Ashley Penne, Pennsylvania, to Clementine and Stanley Busch on 22 June 1921.  He had joined the forces in December 1939, lying about his age, being only 16 years old.

His tour of duty was completed in the Autumn of 1944 and he returned to the United States in October of 1944.  He reenlisted in the Army Air Forces in 1946 for a year and lived in Utah for the remainder of his life.

John passed away on 27 April 2021 in Salt Lake City, Utah.  He had featured in his local city media in 2021 in relation to his having survived the COVID pandemic as well as the second world war.

S/Sgt. James C Bean 18108329 , Gunner.  James was born on the 16 Mar 1917 in Stilwell, Oklahoma to Pearl and Mack Bean. 
The 1940 census find him with his first wife in Lompoc, California, working as a Mill Labourer in a diatomaceous mine.  Registering for the draft back in Oklahoma, he was reported in a local newspaper, the Westville Record, as qualifying as an aerial gunner in August 1942 from the gunnery school at Harlingen, Texas.

He gave an address in Tulsa, Oklahoma to the Irish Army.  Various newspaper from Oklahoma in the summer of 1944 reported on his award of three Oak Leaf Clusters to the Air Medal and his completion of 23 missions.  He remained in the services until 1963 though in the 1950 Federal census he is enumerated as being unemployed.  His headstone lists both WW2 and Korea as wars served during.

James lost a brother, Dale E Bean, a paratrooper with the 504th Parachute Infantry Regiment during the Battle of the Bulge on 20 December 1944.

James passed away on 6 September 1979 in Topeka, Kansas.

S/Sgt. Charles H Miller 33199009

Charles H MillerCharles was born in May 1916 to Benjamin H and Elva R Miller in Hampstead, Maryland.
Charles married in June 1942, The Morning Herald of Hagerstown reported on the happy couple and that Sergeant Miller was then stationed in Miami, Florida with the 563rd Squadron, USAAC.

On the 7 Jun 1943 the The Daily Mail from the city reported that he had returned to the Army Air Base at Lowry Field, Denver, Colorado after spending a weeks leave with his wife and with his parents in Hampstead.

The Daily Mail newspaper from Hagerstown, Maryland on 21 Aug 1943 carried the following letter:  Staff Sergeant Charles H Miller has arrived safely overseas, according to a recent letter received by his wife, Mrs Helen Artz Miller, of this city.  he would like to hear from his friends at the following address:  ASN 33199009, 389th Bomb Group 565th Bomb Squadron, APO 634, c-o Postmaster, New York City, N.Y.

A long article on Chester's wartime experiences and the Lahinch landing was recorded in the Baltimore Sun, newspaper.
He passed away on 19 October 1994, the year following the festivities in Lahinch.  His Beneficiary Identification Records Locator Subsystem (BIRLS) entry indicates an enlistment in 1935 through to 1939, while his grave marker in Hampstead records both US Army Air Corps and US Marine Corps service.

Benjamin ZievWarrant Officer Benjamin Ziev W-2116388 was flying on board the aircraft as a passenger only.  It was not unusual for a person deploying overseas to be placed on a bomber going overseas.   Benjamin was the son of Sarah and Harry Ziev from Easton, Philadelphia and was born in Montpelier, Vermont on 26 July 1915.  He also had enlisted before the start of the war at Langley Field in Virginia.  The Daily Press newspaper from Newport News, Virginia published a number of his postings prior to 1940, including being a Apprentice Clerk in the Headquarters and Headquarters Squadron of 2nd Wing in August 1937.  He was reported a year later returning to the 96th Bomb Squadron after several months training at the Chanute Field technical training school.  He received a grade promotion a year later and in April 1940, was recorded in the paper as having reenlisted, being then an Air Mechanic First Class.  The Morning Call from Allentown, Pennsylvania on 31 July 1943 printed a short article about the three Ziev brothers and their whereabouts. 
Chief Warrant Officer Benjamin Ziev, son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Ziev, of 764 Washington St., Easton, is serving his second enlistment in the Army and is at some unknown location with a unit of the Army Air Forces. Donald Ziev, a brother, stationed at Camp Blanding, Fla., entered the service March 30, and is with the field artillery. As a civilian, he was employed by the State Highway department. A third brother. Sergeant Israel Ziev is stationed with a bombardment squadron at Gulfport, Miss.

He returned back to America at the end of November 1943 and was discharged in June the following year.  He was still required to register for the draft, doing so in June 1944, with the registration card noting that he had been in the services during 1940 when most men registered for the draft. His name remains listed in Army registers on the retired lists as late as 1972.  His photo on this page comes from the year book of Temple University, Philadelphia in 1948.

Benjamin passed away on the 4th April 1993, the year of the memorial in Lahinch.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2022.  Thanks to Martin Gleeson for assistance with this page.