The heroism of local people and the loss of five lives at sea were commemorated last week in a moving ceremony in Aillebrack.
U.S. Ambassador Edward F. Crawford rededicated a plaque to mark the 75th anniversary of the crash landing of a U.S. Navy bomber during WWII. He also visited the cottage where the plane’s crew received help, meeting with descendents of Michael Conneely, who first took them in.
Carrying 10 crew, the Damnyankee crashed into the Atlantic off Ballyconneely after hitting a storm on September 14, 1944, en route to Reykjavik, Iceland. Four men were killed outright, and the six survivors climbed onto a raft and used their shoes to paddle to shore.
Only two men were still conscious when they finally reached land 33 hours later, and went to a local cottage to seek help.
There, Michael Conneely took them in and ran to Dunhill, where Martin O’Malley called the Gardaí and the Army Barracks in Galway.
A search party of local men discovered another crew member had died on the journey, and carried the three survivors back to Michael’s cottage. Neighbours tended to them until they were taken to Clifden Hospital, where they recovered until they were well enough to travel home via Northern Ireland and England.
The plane’s pilot, Captain Jim Trudeau, returned to Aillebrack in 1994 to unveil a bronze plaque commemorating the accident on the 50th anniversary.
After the ceremony, the ambassador was presented with the freedom of Connemara by president of the Connemara Chamber of Commerce, Lisa King, in Abbeyglen Castle Hotel.
Ambassador Crawford was also granted honorary life membership of the Connemara Golf Club.