60th anniversary of bomber's safe landing in fields of Athenry

The plane was called "Stinky", and its passengers and crew have very fond memories of the fields of Athenry

The plane was called "Stinky", and its passengers and crew have very fond memories of the fields of Athenry. In fact, they owed their lives to the soft soil of south Galway when their second World War B17 bomber fell out of the sky.

The 60th anniversary of that forced landing was marked by the US Ambassador to Ireland, Mr James C Kenny, at Athenry's Mellows College on Saturday when he recalled the local response to the emergency.

On board the plane, which was returning to England from a reconnaissance trip to North Africa, were three of the most senior US Army officers during the second World War.

The plane veered off course and ran out of fuel before landing in a field where the agricultural college, run by Teagasc, now stands. Miraculously, nobody was injured and some of the survivors went on to play a major role in the war effort, including Lieut Gen Jacob Louks Devers who was later a four-star general and became commander-in-chief of all US army ground forces and Major Gen Edward Hale Brooks who led the "hell on wheels" second armoured division through the breakout at St Lo in France, to the signing of the surrender of German forces in Austria.


Some of those who had witnessed the event attended the weekend ceremony, including Mr Greg Rabbitte, who was bringing lunch to his father in a field near Athenry when the plane began its rapid descent. He recalled climbing onto a wall and his father shouting at him to get down as the plane flew low overhead.

Rather than intern the passengers in a camp until hostilities ceased, the government made every effort to repatriate the men to their commands, according to Mr Finbarr O'Regan of the Flying Fortress Athenry 1943 committee.

The Minister of State for Science and Technology, Mr Noel Treacy, said that the US authorities had repeatedly spoken of the debt owed to the Irish people, and the people of Athenry, for their part in ensuring the safe return of the military on board.