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Martin B-26 Maurauder, 44-68079, Gorey, Wexford

The townland of Killenagh, near Gorey in County Wexford in the south west of Ireland, would have the honour of being the location of the last aircraft landing involving an United Sates Army Air Forces (USAAF) aircraft before the end of the war in Europe. Reports were received by the military and police authorities during the 15th of February, 1945 that an aircraft had come down in "Killenagh" or "Rahenmore" townlands, a few miles south of the town of Gorey.

A party of officers and men from the 3rd Battalion, Irish Army, was dispatched from the Army post at Bawnjames in New Ross to the South West. Upon reaching the location the officers began to record the details of the landing. The aircraft was found to be a twin engine bomber type with the serial number 468079 on the tail. The wings, fuselage and propellers were all badly damaged from the landing. All guns on the aircraft were recorded as being covered in canvas and paper. This item would have been noted in an attempt to determine if the aircraft was engaged in active combat duties. While at this stage of the war in early 1945, there was very little chance that an Allied crew would find themselves interned, the military still made the effort to make the Irish governments policy on internment stand up. This covering on the aircraft's weapons also points towards the aircraft being on a Ferry flight. On the transatlantic ferry flights one would expect to find the aircraft guns covered in this manner fresh from the factory.

The crew of the aircraft was only two men. The two, members of the USAAF based in England gave their names to the Irish officers as 1st/Lt Kenneth D MACE, serial number O-745434, address: BAD2, Station 582, APO 635, England and Corporal James D Busser, serial number 13030699.

Lt. Mace told the officers that he had left Liverpool for Scotland and lost radio contact, resulting in him becoming lost. One of his engines then gave up and shut down and he was forced to make the emergency landing with only 15 gallons of fuel left. The Irish Army report however does go on to say that Lt Mace was dazed from the crashed landing and later changed his statement to say that he was flying from St Mawgan in South Wales to BAD Liverpool. The BAD mentioned here and above in the address indicates the USAAF, Base Air Depot Number 2, located at Warton, in Lancashire. It was to this base and others that newly delivered aircraft from America were directed after arrival in Europe. Here they were prepared for combat duties by receiving certain modifications to equipment that had been developed in Europe after combat experience was gained on the various aircraft types.

The two American's were taken from the crash site to Gorey town and allowed to spend the night of 15th and 16th, February in the Hotel Gorey. The Irish Army report indicates they were taken to Baldonnel aerodrome on the 16th and may have stayed there that night also. They would have been brought to the border with Northern Ireland shortly after and handed over to the British and American forces in Northern Ireland.

The return of the sadly battered aircraft, serial number 468079 would take a little longer. The report does not mention the aircraft type in much detail but the Irish officers, particularly those from the Irish Air Corps who were sent to Wexford would have been somewhat familiar with the type having helped in the salvage of two similar aircraft during the previous two years. The aircraft was a Martin B-26 Maurauder, medium bomber. The type was used extensively over Europe by the USAAF's Ninth Air Force in attacks on targets in the occupied countries, striking at bridges and rail targets for example. At this stage in the war, many of the B-26 units had transferred with their aircraft to the newly liberated France from their old bases in England to continue their campaign.

B-26 44-68079 found itself stuck on the land of John Earle of Killenagh. Four trees were broken by the aircraft sliding to a halt. It took sixteen days for the military, including a salvage team from the RAF in Northern Ireland. The fields were in such bad condition, it being winter, that the were forced to raise the aircraft up onto its landing gear so that it could be towed to a somewhat drier piece of ground. A Bren Gun Carrier had to be brought to the site to assist the recovery effort. In the end, the remains of the aircraft were taken away on a number of low loaders. The report concludes that a hundred weight of aluminum was left by the side of road 'for anyone who wanted it' and it was gone by the time the military had finished at the scene.

The operations record book of the Royal Air Force's 226 Maintenance Unit based at Mallusk, Northern Ireland, recorded the following statement in February 1945:  In addition, two special parties salvaged Marauder (American) 468079, collected propeller, guns and instruments from Liberator KK295, under the direction of F/Lt H S Moore HQ RAFNI

          recognitionThe Irish Army salvage report does contain one example of the very dry language used in these reports by Irish Army officers. In describing the removal of an altimeter from the aircraft by either a local or a member of the armed guard, he describes that the 'genius' who removed it had dissembled it in such a manner that "neither he nor the makers would ever be able to put it back together".

The serial number on the aircraft indicates it was a Martin B-26G-20-MA Marauder. The G model Marauder was introduced in March 1944 and this aircraft was among the very last Marauders built. The aircraft was built in the Martin factory in Baltimore, Maryland. The aircraft serial number was 44-68079, but was painted as 468079 on the tail in common with all USAAF procedures at the time.  The image shows a 1944 aircraft recognition report from the February 3rd, 1944 edition of Flight magazine published in the UK. Videos about the B-26 can be viewed on the website.

And so what of the two crew members from this stricken bomber?

1/Lt Kenneth D MACE O-745434 Cpl. James D Busser 13030699

Kenneth Dean Mace was born in Idaho in 1921. He enlisted in the USAAF in April 1942 in Seattle, Washington gaining the enlistment number 19094957. During his training he suffered a landing mishap in a Vultee BT-13 trainer at Toyah Field in Texas. He served overseas from 17th October 1943 to the 8th December 1945. His statement of service at the wars end summaries his wartime service as: "PILOT, FOUR ENGINED -- Served in the European Theatre of Operations with the 8th Army Air Forces. Was a member of a ferrying Squadron with the Air Service Command. Flew first line aircraft from supply bases to combat using units. Operated out of bases in England and Ireland, delivered aircraft to and from France, Scotland, German, Africa and Italy. Has 1160 hours of flying time.". In April 1945 he had a taxing accident in a B-17G Flying Fortress bomber on a Ferry mission at Stansted airfield in England. His last recorded flight was on the 3rd of December 1945 when he was co-pilot on a C-47B Skytrain. Kenneth's return from Europe was onboard the Queen Elizabeth liner in December 1945. He appears on that vessels manifest sailing with officers and men on a roster of the 36th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) RCM. The RCM in this case signifying that this unit was involved in Radio Counter Measures, or early electronic warfare. It may be that Kenneth was rostered in for administrative purposes during the demobilization process after the war. His family including daughter Gloria were kind enough to share their memories of his wartime duties. It is their understanding that he mainly flew aircraft like B-26 44-68079, those that were after being delivered from the United States and those being ferried to and from maintenance visits. These stories, including that of the Irish landing were known to the Mace family after the war.

This photos below of Kenneth show him, at right standing on the wing of a P-51 Mustang with the earlier, non bubble canopy. The middle photo show him standing in front of a Republic P-47 Thunderbolt with nose art bearing the name 'Lillput'. This artwork was carried by aircraft flown with the 334th Fighter Squadron of the 4th Fighter Group out of Debden airfield in England. One of the units pilots, William B Morgan carried these markings on at least two Thunderbolts, serials 42-7919 and 42-8644.

His post war life brought him to Spokane, Washington and his obituary printed in the Spokane Review is presented above. Kenneth passed away on the 12th of January 1990.

James Busser was born in October 1918 in York, Pennslyvania. His enlistment details indicate that he joined the Army Air Forces in August 1941, prior to the war beginning. His occupation at that time was in the area of machine shop activities which seems to fit in with him being a maintenance technician during the war. On the 1940 US census, he is recorded living at home with his parents Cecila and James Sr. and working with his father in the dental supplies industry. His daughter Sandra related how he didn't speak much of his wartime career and she felt that he had thrown away most of his wartime memorabilia upon his return home. She did know however that he had been on an aircraft that landed in Ireland. She most remembers him speaking about B-17 bombers and that he used to work on them and sometimes fly in them. He left behind a small note book in which he recorded his flights including the one that brought him to Ireland. James had enlisted prior to the attack on Pearl Harbour and served overseas in the UK from August 1942 to September 1945. James finally attended a reunion in Blackpool, England in the early 1980's. James moved to Arizona after the war and died there in 1990, only 12 days after Kenneth Mace, his pilot on that day back in 1945.

Compiled by Dennis Burke, 2017, Dublin and Sligo. With thanks too the Mace and Busser families for their kind help.