Christopher Warner recalls the loss of five soliders when a C-47 plane crashed just below a mountain peak called Cnoc na Péiste in Christmas, 1943.
Although this time of year is typically characterised by joy and holiday cheer, December also marks a tragic event involving an American military plane in Ireland during World War Two.
A week before Christmas Eve in 1943, a C-47 en route to England crashed in bad weather just below a mountain peak in the MacGillycuddy Reeks called Cnoc na Péiste (Irish for ‘Hill of the Serpent’). All five men aboard were killed.
Most likely, the aircraft and crew would have taken part in D-Day, the decisive turning point of World War Two.
But more than seven decades later, the exact cause of the horrific accident remains a mystery.
The C-47 ‘Skytrain’ (and its renamed British version ‘Dakota’) played a vital role throughout the war as a workhorse plane.
The cargo transporter provided a wide range of duties such as carrying paratroopers, towing combat gliders, and delivering medical supplies — often behind enemy lines.
The ill-fated journey of C-47A 43-30719 began with its delivery on October 10th, 1943, at Baer Army Air Base in Fort Wayne, Indiana. The facility served as a central training and processing hub, where troop carrier squadrons were assembled prior to deployment overseas. Coincidentally, the field was named for WWI ace, Paul Baer, who died in an airplane accident in 1931. A foreboding omen indeed.
The flight crew comprised of 2nd Lt. John L. Schwarf (Pilot), 2nd Lt. Laurence E. Goodin (Co-pilot), 2nd Lt. Frederick Brossard (Navigator), Staff Sgt. Arthur A. Schwartz (Radio Operator), and Staff Sgt. Thomas L. Holstlaw (Engineer).
All of the airmen were married, and all in their 20s with the exception of the 31-year-old Holstlaw.
As reinforcement soldiers, they would be going to war for the first time, part of the Allies build-up for Normandy Invasion — the largest operation in history that would involve 1.2 million troops.