Flying Fortress Athenry 1943

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Planting an oak tree at the site of the crash, Christy Caulfield, College Gardener, His Excellency the Ambassador of the United States of America in Ireland Mr James C. KennyGer Shortle, Minister Noel Treacy, Paul Browne Author ‘Eagles over Ireland’, Finbarr O’Regan Project Co-ordinator, Eddie Somers

Our year got off to a marvellous start, on the 15th of January 2003 the day which coincided exactly with the 60th anniversary of the crash-landing of the B17 named ‘STlNKY’ in the grounds of the Athenry Agricultural College on the 15th January 1943. The committee launched the project in the ‘Old Railway Hotel’. This was the venue to which the plane’s crew and distinguished passengers who happened as it turned out to be the ‘Top Brass’ of the U.S. Army at the time were brought.

Among the guests were Mr. Noel Treacy, T.D., Col. Patrick Cloran C. O. Renmore Barracks Galway, Col. John O‘Sullivan Attache to the American Embassy in Ireland and many other guests who were either eyewitnesses or those who were representing community groups and organisations from the Athenry community. We outlined our aims and what we expected to achieve to a packed house. The media were well represented by RTE’s Nation Wide team and most of the national and local newspaper groups covered the event.

The project had three main objectives; create an exhibition for display, publish the history promote tourism. We are proud to say with a great deal of help, we have two thirds of the task completed. The third outstanding task is one, which we hope will gather a momentum of its own in the coming seasons.

The highlight of the year came a little later than planned, but we can proudly say it was well wort waiting for. The date was the 6th of December 2003 and the venue was the Teagasc Conference Centre in the grounds of Mellows Agricultural College, Athenry.

This time the venue was on the actual crash site. The conference room is on the actual spot where the B17 would have first hit the ground before coming to rest 300 yards away, narrowly missing total disaster by not entering the fast approaching ‘Maloney’s Wood’.

A guard of honour and colour party from Renmore Barracks Galway welcomed His Excellency the Ambassador of the United States of America in Ireland Mr. James C. Kenny to the occasion of the project presentation, to unveil a commemorative plaque. He was accompanied by Minister of State at the Department of Agriculture and Food, Mr. Noel Treacy T.D. who addressed the gathering on behalf of the Irish Government and formerly launched the book ‘Eagles Over Ireland’, a record of the historic incident and the role the personnel on board had in the winning of WWII for the Allied forces against Nazism and Fascism. It also contains an account of the role they played in the evolution and formation of the European Union we enjoy as citizens of both Ireland and Europe today. To endorse this Mr. Seán Ó’Neachtain M.E.P. was amongst the distinguished guest list. Other presentations and addresses were made by Mr. Peter Feeney, Local Councillor and Chairman of the Athenry Community Council, Mr. Gerry Doherty, President of Athenry Credit Union, Mr. J.J. Higgins, Galway Rural Development and Professor Etienne Rynne on behalf of the Athenry Arts and Heritage Centre.

Mr. Finbarr O’Regan, Flying Fortress Committee Chairperson and project co-ordinator, acted as Master of Ceremonies for the event. He welcomed all the distinguished guests to include members of Major James Timoney’s family… Noreen, Gearoid and Fr. Pearse. Major Timoney was the C.O. of Renmore Barracks who took charge of the scene in 1943. Finbarr O’Regan in his address detailed the work undertaken and the objectives achieved.

Mr. Ger Shortle, Manager Mellows Agricultural College, welcomed all to the event on behalf of Mellows College.

Mr. Paul Browne, author of the book ‘Eagles Over Ireland’, gave an audiovisual presentation including slides and archive film footage about the relevant history and spoke about the facts contained in his book. Mr. Gerry Ahern, project facilitator, presented the exhibit and artefacts into the custodianship of the Arts and Heritage Centre.

After a memorable morning, which made history in its own way, the Ambassador made his way out to the crash site accompanied by committee members, guests and eyewitnesses. He observed the wall, which had probably saved the lives of the 16 onboard. The plane struck the wall at over 70 mph and lost its undercarriage and wheels in the process, enabling the plane to skid to a halt 100 yards further on. The final resting place of the plane was denoted by a magnificent ‘Stars and Stripes’ flag flying distinctively in front of the ominous and formidable presence of ’Maloney’s Wood‘ at the end of the Nursery field.

At the crash site in the Nursery Field, Mellows College on the 6th December 2003: Minister Noel Treacy TD, Paul Browne, Gilbert McCarthey, Redmond Carr, Ambassador Kenny, Pauline McCarthy, Finbarr O’Regan, Eddie Somers, Ger Shortle, Dana OSullivan US Embassy, Greg Rabbitte.

Before leaving for a special luncheon in the New Park Hotel in Athenry the Ambassador Mr. James C. Kenny planted a Red Oak in the grounds of Mellows College. The plane on its final approach had struck and damaged the trees at the entrance to the College. Jokingly, it was stated that this was a token, which would compensate for the damage caused.

The Ambassador was overwhelmed by the hospitality, and commented that the U.S. personnel all those years ago could not have landed amongst nicer people. He was thrilled and exhilarated by the enthusiasm he found in Athenry and said like his other famous U.S. colleague …“I’ll be Back”.

See also: The Plane Crash by Nuala King and A Flying Visit by Paul Browne

“Eagles over Ireland” 2003 by Paul Browne

Editor’s note: The Flying Fortress Athenry 1943 committee would like to extend a big thank you to all the local partners who assisted us throughout the past year to achieve our objectives of being able to present our finished exhibit for permanent display in the Arts and Heritage Centre Athenry and to publish the book ‘Eagles Over Ireland’. The generosity of the Generals’ families in America put the icing on the cake, the artefacts donated are wonderful.

The late Christy Flynn formerly of Cross St., Athenry donated the only physical artefact that could in any way be connected with the B17 ‘STINKY’ namely a .50 calibre shell which was part of the ammunition on board to be used if necessary, in self-defence.

If you know of any other surviving artefacts, no matter how damaged or how small we would ask that you might consider donating them to the local heritage of Athenry. Whilst such things are nice to own, they serve no real purpose in a shed at the bottom of a garden.

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About this record

Written by Paul Browne

Published here 19 Aug 2023 and originally published Spring 2004

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