I have created this web site for two reasons. First of all to remember the five crew members of B26 41-18150 who lost their lives on Chimney Rock in 1944, secondly to provide information on the circumstances of the crash and the men who died.
10th April 1944
USAAF training activities in Northern Ireland were under the control of the 8th Air Force Composite Command, based at Kirassosck House, Magherlin, Co. Down. The organization created specifically for training purposes was known as a Combat Crew Replacement Centre group, four of which were activated here. No. 3 CCRC was based at Toome.
On the 10th April 1944 at 1445hrs three B26 Marauders took off from Toome on a Gunnery Training Mission. 2nd Lt Richard A. Newman flew the lead plane No. 025. The right wingman flying aircraft No. 054 (41-18054 "Jezabelle") was 2nd Lt Eugene G. Wegman and the left wingman flying aircraft No. 41-18150 a B26b-4 was 2nd Lt Howell C. Osborne Jr.
Weather on that day was described as visibility four miles, Stratus clouds at one thousand feet, overcast with breaks, reported haze.
At approximately 1530 hrs the flight was circling over the Irish sea, approximately two to three miles east of Kilkeel in an attempt to get over a cloud bank building up on the Mourne Mountains. 2nd Lt Osborne's plane was out of position and approximately 1200 and 1500 feet behind and four hundred feet below the other two aircraft when it disappeared into a cloud bank never to be seen again.
Lt Newman made two attempts to contact Lt Osborne passing on his altitude and course (280 degrees) but found that radio contact had been lost. Lt Wegman stated that previously to this all aircraft had had good interplane contact by radio.
James Cousins of Glasdrumman was working in the quarries near the head of Bloody Bridge river valley that day. Low cloud and mist enveloped the Mournes on this occasion. He recalled years later to Ernie Cromie of the Ulster Aviation Society in an article in the publication "12 Miles of Mourne" how he heard the engines of a plane approach his location from the direction of the sea. The sound got louder and louder until he thought the plane was going to crash on top of him then suddenly the engines revved up the plane seemed to turn away to the south and the noise died away. He was unaware that the plane had crashed into Chimney Rock Mountain because thick mist and an intervening ridge blocked the sound of the impact.
This was the first fatal accident involving a plane from No. 3 CCRC. The crew was listed as missing until members of the American 5th Infantry Division on a routine hike in the Mournes discovered the wreckage. Official confirmation of the accident reached the 364th Service Squadron on the 15th April 1944.
A report on the accident dated 21/4/44 by Major George Commenator concluded that 2nd Lt Osborne "Made an error in technique by permitting himself to get too far out of position in formation and that the pilot made an error in judgement by flying into clouds in a known mountainous area." No reason was offered to explain why Howell Osborne's plane had had difficulty keeping up with the formation. The fact that the plane he was flying had been retired from frontline service because it was "War Weary" may have been a contributing factor.
The crew were as follows:
· 2nd Lt Howell C. Osborne Jr(Pilot)
ID: 0-685276 (Fort Smith, Arkansas)
· 2nd Lt Chester M. Turner(Co Pilot)
ID: 0-753462 (Cowley County, Kansas)
· Staff Sgt Roy R. Cappe Jr (Aerial Engineer)
ID: 13041696 (Allegheny County, Pennsylvania)
· Staff Sgt William J. Devenney(Radio Gunner)
ID: 33367015 (Carbon County, Pennsylvania)
· Sgt Jimmie Gyovai(Engineer Gunner)
ID: 15337609(Boone County, West Virginia)
After all five casualties remains were recovered by the US Army Graves Registration they would have been taken to Wilton's Funeral Home, 255 Crumlin Road, Belfast.
After preparation for burial a service would have been held at Wilton's Funeral Chapel. They were then buried with full military honours at Lisnabreeny American Military Cemetery, Rocky Road, Castlereagh, Belfast.
They remained there until the cemetery was decommissioned in 1947. Then they were exhumed and either repatriated to the Unitied States or reburied in the American War Cemetery, Madingley, Cambridge, England.
Toome Airfield was opened by the RAF on the 1st January 1943 and transferred to the US 8th Airforce on the 26th July 1943. On the 23rd August 1943 the Combat Crew Replacement Centre was activated and the first trainees arrived on the 21st August. 2nd Lt Osborne's crew would have spent 15 days, 8 hours per day training on Navigation, Bombardment, Airmanship, Tactics, Ditching procedures, Air to Air Gunnery and Formation and Evasive Action flying. Evenings would have been spent at local towns like Magherafelt.
During March and April 1944 the school was operating at full capacity with 100 crews completing the course. Gunnery Practice and Bombing runs took place at Scady Island, Lough Neagh, 4 miles South East of the Airfield.
The CCRC was deactivated and closed down early in November 1944 and handed back to the RAF on the 24th November 1944. Combat Crew Replacement training was then transferred to airfields in England.
(Information on Toome Airfield came from "Toome's Wartime Airfield" by local author John Hughes.)
No3 Combat Crew Replacement Centre Headquarters Toome.
Engine and remains of rear gunners position
from B26B 41-18150
Spences Valley, Mourne Mountains
Spring 2013 sees the completion of the memorial garden on the former site of Lisnabreeny American Military Cemetery
Plaque in memory of the crew of 41-18150 placed on the summit of Chimney Rock by fellow researcher Robin Ruddock.
Memorial Cross placed to mark the 66th anniversary of the accident.
Dedicated to B26 Marauder Men who fought and died in World War 2.
Extensive research into locations connected to World War 2 in Northern Ireland.
Home Front Exhibition
"Telling stories that capture the heart and mind"
This website belongs to John Gyovai a very talented photographer and film maker