- Morrisfield, West Palm Beach, Florida, was the starting point for
many overseas ferrying operations, using the South Atlantic route in
order to avoid harsh winter conditions experienced in the north. One
such operation in January 1945, would involve the delivery of a brand
new B-26G Martin Marauder seven seat medium bomber, to the Base Air
Depot at Burtonwood, Lancashire, England. Its occupants, 5 replacement
airmen to be allocated to their unit on arrival in the UK.
- Designed to a 1939 requirement for a fast medium bomber, the
Marauder first flew on November 25th, 1940 in the capable hands of chief
engineer and test pilot for the Martin Company, William K. Ebel. It
performed exceptionally well, almost to perfection! And along with its 2
Pratt & Whitney R-2800-43 radial piston engines, the fuselage was
aerodynamically sound. With an overall length of 56ft and span of 71 ft,
the B-26 could be heavily armed carrying up to eleven 0.5-in Colt
Browning machine guns, and could reach a max speed of over 280 mph (455
kph) at 5,000ft.
- Leaving Morrisfield in late January 1945, Marauder 44-68072, took to
the skies on a southerly route via Trinidad, Brazil, Dakar, Marrakech
and St. Mawgan in Cornwall, England. The crew for that long and tiresome
journey were the pilot 2/Lt. Kenneth W. Carty from Pasadena, California,
Co-Pilot, 2/Lt. William H. Cardwell of Riverton, Utah, Navigator 1/Lt.
Nolen B. Sowell, San Angelo, Texas, and two Corporals, Radio Op, Jack D.
Arnold of Fargo, Dakota, and Engineer Rudolph M. Aguirre from New
Mexico. All except 1/Lt. Sowell had trained together at Barksdale Field,
LA the previous year.
- The journey south all went according to plan and all the designated
stops for nourishment and fuel were made. For Lt. Carty and crew it had
been an uneventful and tiring trip as 44-68072 took off from RAF St.
Mawgan for its final leg to Burtonwood at 12.38 GMT (Greenwich Mean
Time). The route from here frequently taken by ferry crews to the Air
Depot, was north via St. David’s Head in West Wales, and then a
northeasterly course would be plotted to Burtonwood. Estimated flight
duration of 90 minutes was expected, however, winds much stronger than
forecast were being experienced and blew the Marauder off track and to
the west by several degrees. This in turn put the B-26; flying at a
precariously dangerous altitude of 3,000ft, directly above a treacherous
mountain range know as the Glyders, Snowdonia. As the aircraft was some
2,000ft below the designated safety height, it can only be thought that
the pilot must have begun a descent on dead reckoning, no doubt
believing he was clear of the Welsh mountains! A fatal assumption if
this was the case, for the B-26 and crew of five, ran smack into the
rocky summit of Y-Garn, a 3,104ft mountain above the Nant Ffrancon Pass,
Near Llanberis. There were no survivors.
- At 14.45 hours the following day, Friday February 2nd, the RAF
Mountain Rescue Team from Llandwrog, near Caernarvon was notified by
flying control, that a B-26 Marauder had gone missing the previous day,
and that it was believed to have gone down in the North Wales area. It
was noted that a local man, a bus driver from the village of Crosville,
had reported the previous day hearing a low flying aircraft that
appeared to be circling in cloud, followed by what appeared to be a
deafening crash in the mountains above the Llanberis Pass (This is the
name for the A4086 Capel Curig to Caernarvon road). So it was based on
this witness report that the rescue team set out in appalling weather
conditions to search for the crashed aircraft. Then…Sure enough, by
18.45 and in the darkness of Winter nights, wreckage, 0.5-in Colt
Browning machine guns from the crumpled bomber was found, close to the
summit of Y-Garn, and just above and to the west of Llyn Clyd (Lake)
However, because of the bad weather and prevailing darkness, in the
interest of safety, it was decided to abandon any further search until
first light the following day.
- On the morning of February 3rd, the team set out again. Amongst them
Team Leader and Doctor, Flt/Lt. Tom Scudamore, F/Sgt. Gregory (Mick)
McTigue, Cpl. Ernie Jackson and LAC John (Campy) Barrows. A grueling
sight met the team as they neared the mountain summit, It was discovered
that the main plane had broken in two, one section lay close to the
summit on the Llanberis side, along with the body of one of the crew,
whilst the other part had fallen over the rugged scree on the Llyn Clyd
side with the remaining 4 airmen amidst the carnage.
- As `Campy` recalled: “The weather was treacherous and hauling the
stretchers over frozen screes called for caution. The tiny Llyn Clyd set
in its frame of snow-crested ridges looked so desolate, as we struggled
down the valley. It was imperative that we got the stretcher parties of
the mountain before nightfall, and we finally made it down to the track
at Maes Caradoc , Ogwen, and we knew our work was over”.
The teams thoughts after this dreadful and arduous task, soon turned to
food, but not without reflections on the tragic turn of events. Had it
not been for a cruel twist of fate, those poor young American airmen
would also be enjoying the fine British hospitality. `Campy` also
recalled that “Amongst all that carnage were bundles of razor blades,
and brand new copies of the holy bible, and bundles of clothes etc
littered the mountainside”.
- Wreckage from the B-26 lay abundant for many years after the war,
and hill walkers and climbers often questioned its presence. Then, in
the 1960s and early 70s aviation historical groups began to operate
throughout the country, and one such group, the Snowdonia Aviation
Historical Society, began its own investigations into the Marauder
incident. Once the circumstances were established, various booklets were
published describing the appalling accident that befell those five young
Americans. And in the mid-eighties, one man belonging to the aviation
group, Arthur Evans, arranged to have a memorial erected in their honor,
in the form of a stone tablet in a wall adjutant to a lay-by on the
Llanberis Pass. This stone tablet reads:
- ‘IN MEMORY OF THE US AIR FORCE CREW
- KILLED ON THE GARN, FEBRUARY 1ST 1945’
- And list the names of the five young aviators.
- Very little background has been found on these airmen, but it is
known that the Pilot, Lt. Kenneth Carty, was born June 22nd 1924, he
attended Jefferson Elementary, Marshall Junior High & Pasadena Junior
College where he was graduated from lower division. On leaving college
he was employed at the Douglas Aircraft plant in Long Beach, before
entering service in the Army on Feb 15th, 1943. He did his pre-flight
training at San Antonio, Texas, Primary training at Coleman, Tex. Basic
flight instruction at Winfield, Kansas, and won his wings and commission
at Lubbock, Texas, Army Air Field. His brother Richard remembers with
affection that he enjoyed fishing, camping and hiking Kenneth is
interred in Mountain View Cemetery, Pasadena, California.
- Of the crash site on Y-Garn, very little remains of this once robust
airframe, the two Pratt & Whitney’s were removed for restoration by an
aviation group in the early 1980s, and much of the other bits & pieces
found their way into homes of locals, or the scrap merchant. The
undercarriage legs do remain though, along with a few pieces of armor
plate, and scattered fragments of alloy, littered across the scree above
Llyn Clyd. A sad sobering reminder of troubled times.
- Of the other four crew involved in the accident, only one is
interred in the UK, Cpl. Rudolph M. Aguirre is buried in Cambridge
American Military Cemetery at Madingly, Cambridge.
- Epitaph: "To live in the hearts of those we leave behind, is not
to die! Lest we forget"