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Douglas C-47 Skytrain, 43-30719, The Reeks, Kerry, 1943

On December 16th 1943, five airmen of the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) took off from Port Lyautey, Morocco, bound for St Mawgan in the United Kingdom. They were the first of 12 aircraft from the flight to depart. Over nine and a half hours later, 11 aircraft had reached England. One aircraft, was however missing.

The end of one page of an official USAAF report, dated 10 January 1944, ends with the following statement:
7. As there were no contacts made after take-off, and the route to be flown was entirely over water, it is assumed #0719 went down in the water somewhere between Port Lyautey and St. Mawgan. A search of the route would have been futile because of the distance to be covered, and hazardous because of danger of encountering enemy patrols during day-light. Search for the aircraft in question was officially abandoned on 29 December 1943.

The five members of the crew were thus posted missing. They were:

2/Lt John L. SCHARF O-681710, aged 25, Pilot, Husband of Dorothy E Scharf and father of Robert C Scharf, San Ardo, California

2/Lt Lawrence E. GOODIN O-687126, aged 24, Co-Pilot, Husband of Mirian E Goodin, Springfield, Ohio

2/Lt Frederick Vincent BROSSARD O-814018, aged 27, Navigator, Husband of Lucy W Brossard, Phoenix, Arizona

S/Sgt Wesley T. HOLSTLAW 39111879, aged 31, Engineer, Son of Mary and Ernest Holstlaw, Illinois.

Sgt Arthur A SCHWARTZ 33289542, aged 24, Radio Operator, Husband of Ruth A Schwartz, Pittsburgh, Pennslyvania. He was the son of Sadie and Isadore Swartz of Pittsburgh and later North Carolina.

In the case of Wesley Holstlaw, contact with relatives is sought.

And so things remained until 3rd February 1944, when a local farmer from the Meallis area of Kerry reported to Gardai, the Irish police force, that he had found human remains on the mountains. A search was immediately mounted and a team of military drawn from the 15th Infantry Battalion went up the mountain and found the sad remains of an aircraft and five men. From papers found on the bodies and among the wreckage, five names were identified and these were reported back to the Army superiors. These in turn then were reported to the US legation in Dublin who immediately wired the information to the USAAF. The remains had been found on the towering heights above Lough Cummeenapeasta on the slopes of Knocknapeasta Mouintain. The men's remains were first recovered from the mountain by men from the 15th battalion. The men were coffined in a outhouse belonging to a Mr. Cronin from Meallis. They were buried with Catholic and Protestant rites on February 5th, 1944 in the new Cemetery in Killarney.

On the following 9th of June, 1944, when the five men would probably have been involved with Operation Overlord, the Allied invasion of Mainland Europe, their bodies were instead being disinterred from the cemetery in Killarney and taken instead to Lisnabreeney Cemetery outside Belfast. Subsequent to this burial, in the years following the war, their loved ones were given the opportunity to decide the men's final resting place. In the end, the decisions made saw that the three officers from 43-30719 would remain in Europe. Second Lieutenants Scharf, Goodin and Brossard were moved one final time to permanent burial in the Cambridge American War Cemetery in England. A 2011 business trip to Cambridge gave me the opportunity to visit the cemetery and I was able to get the following photos of their graves.




Sergeants Holstlaw and Schwartz were returned to their families for burial in 1948. Wesley Holstlaw is buried with his parents, Ernest and Mary, in Luka cemetery, Marion County, Illinois.

John L Scharf was born in December 1918 in Minnesota, the son of Ethel and Carl Scharf of Minneapolis. By the time of the 1930 census, the family were living in Glendale, California. He enlisted in California in April 1942, joining the Army Air Corps. He married Dorothy H Wittmann in January 1942 and their son was born in early 1943. Both were contacted by the WRGI in 1984 at the time of the raising of the memorial. His grand daughter was able to supply the photo of him above.

Lawrence E Goodin was the son of Viola and Thomas Goodin from Madison County, Ohio. The following images of Lawrence Goodin were sent to me by M Theodore, Lawrence's niece. Her mother Donna had traveled to Ireland in 1984 for the commemoration ceremony. Lawrence's wife Miriam had traveled to Ireland in 1947 to visit his then burial place, flying home out of Shannon airport where the crew may have been aiming for on that fateful night.

Frederick V Brossard was a Utah born man, son of Theresa and Fred Brossard. A service history held by the State of Utah records that he was born in 1916 and moved with his family to Washington D.C. in 1924. He enlisted in the Army in February 1943 and received his navigator wings in October of the same year at the Pan Am school at Coral Gables, Florida. His great niece was kind enough to supply a great number of photos of Frederick from more peaceful times. Also, a copy of his memorial service from 17 February 1944.

Wesley T. HOLSTLAW was born in 1912 in Illinois. He is buried with his parents in Illinois. Wesley enlisted in California in October 1942 where he and his brother had moved to for work. In the 1940 census, he is enumerated at his aunts house, with the occupation of Label applier in a cannery. His brother Arthur and sister Blanche were contacted in the 1980 by the War Plane research Group of Ireland and were able to provide to that group copies of letters sent to his father by a local woman from Killarney. His grave can be seen on the website.

Arthur A Schwartz was born in Toronto in 1919 to Sadie and Isadore Schwartz, both immigrants from Russia. The family moved to Pittsburgh and in the 1940 census, Arthur can be found living with his parents and siblings, working as a salesman in his fathers Auto parts business. He married during the war and at the time of his death, his wife Ruth lived in Pittsburgh. his family had by this time moved to South Carolina. It was to Wilmington, North Carolina that his remains were returned in 1948 and he was buried there on August 11th. His parents inscribed their sons headstone with the words: "Here lies buried Our beloved son and husband The soldier Reb Aharon Avraham Who was killed in the Second World War On the Dec 17, 1943 And was buried here with great honor On the Aug 11, 1948." The inscription is carved in Hebrew.

In the image below, extracted from GOOGLE MAPS, the rough terrain of the area, not far from the town of Killarney, is shown. The letter J marks the spot at Cronins Yard where a memorial raised by the Warplane Research Group of Ireland (WRGI) stands.

Damian Smyth, an photographer and researcher who published articles on crashes in the 1970's and 1980's. Damian was kind enough to share some of the photos he took in 1984 during visits to the area as well as the recollections he had of his visits.

Damian recorded the following during 1983 and passed it to me in 2011:The Crash Site of C-47 43-30719 Macgillycuddy's Reeks, Co.Kerry 1983

Today little significant wreckage of the C-47 remains at the crash site, some of the wreckage was sold to itinerants at the time. I also understand that a scrap dealer obtained some of the wreckage. This wreckage would have been recovered using mules via the Waterworks road, which leads from the foot of the Devilís ladder out of the Hagís Glen.

A large portion of one wing of the C-47 remained in Cumeennapeasta Lake, below the ridge where the crash occurred. When the lake is low the wing can be clearly seen. This wing still has some of its original colourings. One of the two rear freight doors has been recovered from the lake. This was restored back in 1983 and put on display in the Climber's Inn, Glencar but it was later sold in the UK. In July 1984 the second rear Cargo door was seen in the water from the ridge. It is thought that the wing and the doors were either blown from the ridge into the Lake, or that they may have come down from the ridge in heavy snow. The pilotís seat has also been examined and is in private ownership. Two identification tags foe one of the crew members are also known to exist.

On the ridge at the crash site large undercarriage sections have been identified, together with seat frames, radio components, and some badly burned parachute material. One label from a main fuel tank and one from an auxiliary fuel tank have also been found. At the crash site a United States Army Air Force wings found in 1982. There was also one very sad find Ė part of a ladyís green shoe, bought as a present by one of the crew members in Natal (Brazil) for his wife while en route to French Morocco. Detailed examination of the crash area also recovered a label stating 'Radio Call 719' which was of course the serial number of the aircraft.

One of the Pratt & Whitney engines has been found about half a mile from the crash site. In this general area was found a portion of the centre wing section skin, the two front wheel struts, and the remains of the aircraft fire extinguisher was also found back in 1983. The crash was commemorated by the Warplane Research Group of Ireland which I was a member at the time in a ceremony on 25th August 1984 at the car park at the base of the Macgillcuddy's Reeks next to the Glencar road.

Click on the numbers below to view Damians images from 1983

  • Damian Smyth 1983
  • Damian Smyth 1983
  • Damian Smyth 1983
  • Damian Smyth 1983
  • Damian Smyth 1983

The 1984 ceremoney was recorded in the Southern Star newspaper in Cork in the following newspaper article.

The WRGI published a booklet in 1984 and this can be read on the site linked to the Killorglin Archives.
ISSUU website

The Douglas C-47 Skytrain is one of the world best known aircraft. It formed the back bone of the Allied transport fleet during the war, serving as a cargo hauler as well as a paratroop transport. It would be found in all theaters of war and on all fronts. After the war, countless war surplus aircraft formed the new equipment for airlines the world over. The aircraft which crashed in Ireland, was referred to as a C-47A-60-DL by the USAAF. This indicated that it was a C-47, A model, part of the large batch of aircraft built at Douglas's factory at Long Beach, California.

Video's of the remaining wreckage in the lake can be seen in the following videos on youtube

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2012, Dublin and Sligo. With thanks to the Damian Smyth for photos and recollections.