I recently took the opportunity of visiting Cambridge American Cemetery, England. The cemetery contains the remains of 3,812 American service personnel and remembers 5,127 others on the Wall of the Missing. It is the only Second World War American Cemetery in the United Kingdom. As I do with National Cemeteries in the United States, I took some time to look for Irish American graves, and to uncover something of their stories. Particularly as many of my readers have likely not had an opportunity to visit, I decided to make a slight departure from the normal content on the site, and share details on some of the men below.
While I was at the Cemetery (on a Sunday), the bells began to ring– some of the sounds and music are captured in this video
Technical Sergeant William C.Grady, Iowa
William was a Radio Operator and gunner aboard B-24 Liberator 42-64490 “Cee Gee II” serving with 735th Bomb Squadron, 453rd Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. He operated out of Old Buckenham, Norfolk. On 22nd April 1944 William’s Liberator was among a number sent to target marshalling yards in Hamm, part of Germany’s Ruhr Valley. On the return trip “Cee Gee II” was jumped by a JU-88 off the English coast and crashed just after making landfall. For more on the fate of William and his crewmen see Liberator Men of Old Buc. You can also see William’s entry at the American Air Museum in Britain.
Private Walter J. Nolan, Pennsylvania
Walter was a member of the crew of B-17 Flying Fortress “Battlin’ Betsey”, part of 563rd Bomb Squadron, 388th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force, based at Knetishall, Norfolk. On 13 October 1943 they were on a non-operational flight when their aircraft crashed just off the runway, killing four of the crew, including Walter. You can read Walter’s entry at the American Air Museum of Britain here.
Staff Sergeant Edward H. Monaghan, New York
Edward was born in Monroe, New York in 1916. He was a member of 394th Bomber Group (Medium), 587th Bomb Squadron, IX Bomber Command. On 6th June 1944 he was part of a B-26 Marauder crew assigned to targets in support of the Normandy Landings. Flying out of Boreham, Essex, the plane tragically collided with another Marauder over Gillingham, Kent, bringing down both planes and killing all aboard. Unfortunately a number of civilians also perished. You can read about more about the story of the fateful incident at the website dedicated to the The Gillingham & Battle B-26 Crashes of 1944.
Second Lieutenant Thomas C. Costello, New Jersey
Born in 1914, Thomas was a star college baseball player (you can see his profile at Baseball’s Greatest Sacrifice). He joined the Army Air Force in 1942 and was assigned to B-26 Marauders. A transportation officer with 533rd Bomb Squadron, 386th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. He had only recently arrived in Britain when he was killed in an accident at Snetterton Heath airfield in Norfolk on 7th June 1943. You can see Tom’s biography and an image of him at his American Air Museum entry here.
Private John J. Powers, New York
John, from New York City, was a member of the 130th Chemical Processing Company based in Sloane Court, Chelsea, London. Just before 8am on the morning John and his comrades were loading onto trucks to head out when a V-1 flying bomb descended on them. Though some were able to reach cover, many were caught in the open or on the trucks when the bomb detonated. John was one of them. At least 66 American service personnel lost their lives, the worst death-toll the United States military suffered in a V-1 blast. You can read a detailed account of the incident at the London Memorial website here.
Staff Sergeant Robert E. Welch, New Jersey
Robert served on P-51D -5-NA Mustang 44-13837, nicknamed “Miss Marilyn II”. He was attached to 785th Bomb Squadron, 466th Bomb Group which were based at Attlebridge, Norfolk, as part of the 8th Air Force. He and First Lieutenant Robert Vogel had just taken off on 28th July 1944 when the plane stalled, crashing at the end of the runway and detonating their two 1,000 pound bombs. Both men were killed. You can read Robert’s entry at the American Air Museum here.
First Lieutenant William P.O’Connell, California
William flew P-38J 5E-S 42-68025, part of 385th Fighter Squadron, 364th Fighter Group, part of VIII Fighter Command. He died in his Lightning on 28th April 1944.
Signalman Third Class James P. Ryan Junior, New York
James was a native of Syracuse and member of the United States Naval Reserve. He was a crewmember aboard Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 507. On 28th April 1944 they were taking part in Exercise Tiger, the large-scale training operation that was preparing the men for the D-Day Landings. While in Lyme Bay off the coasts of Devon they were attacked by German E-Boats and torpedoed just after 2 in the morning. A total of 424 men on board were killed, including James. In total 746 personnel died in the E-Boat assault, a disaster that had to remain secret lest it jeopardise the upcoming invasion.
Staff Sergeant John P. Burke, Georgia
John was a gunner aboard B-17 Flying Fortress 44-6133, part of 525th Bomb Squadron, 379th Bomb Group (Heavy), 8th Air Force. John and his comrades were based out of Kimbolton in Cambridgeshire. On 19th June 1944 the Fortress was assigned a mission to bomb suspected V-1 rocket sites in Europe. Flying high about the Kent countryside, they collided with another B-17, “Heavenly Body II”, at over 18,000 feet. Spinning out of control, 44-6133 went into the River Thames, with only one crew member getting out. John was among those killed. You can read a detailed account of the accident, including eye-witness reports, at canveyisland.org here.
Staff Sergeant John MacCallum, Connecticut
John was the right-waist gunner on B-17 Flying Fortress “Tenny Belle” which was part of the 525th Bomber Squadron, 379th Bomb Group (Heavy) out of Kimbolton. On the 11th April 1944 they were beginning a mission to target a Focke-Wulf production factory when they crashed at Fen Farm, Stow Bardolph, Suffolk. You can read John’s entry at the American Air Museum here.
Technical Sergeant John E. Mahoney, New Jersey
John was the top turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator of 579th Bomb Squadron, 392nd Bomb Group. Assigned to a bombing mission against Genshagen, Berlin on 6th March 1944, his plane crashed into a tree after take-off at Great Dunham, Norfolk. The bombs exploded, killing all ten crewmen aboard. You can read more about the incident and the raid at the b24.net site here.
Staff Sergeant John J. Conlin Junior, New York
John was the right-waist gunner on B-17 42-3268 “Carol Jane” of 413th Bomb Squadron, 96th Bomb Group out of Snetterton Heath, Norfolk. Shortly after taking off on 5th January 1944 the plane lost power and veered to the side, detonating the bomb load and the gasoline, and killing everyone aboard. You can see John’s entry at the American Air Museum here.
Captain William R. Fleming, New York
Born into a military family in New York in 1921, William flew a P-47 Thunderbolt fighter out of Lymington, Hampshire. He was part of the 10th Fighter Squadron, 50th Fighter Group, 9th Air Force. On 19th April 1944 he was involved in a mid-air collision near the base, which ended his life.
Private First Class Glenn S. Hayes, New York
Glenn, born in Chautauqua in 1921, served in the 359th Infantry Regiment of the 90th Infantry Division. Wounded during the Ardennes fighting he was repatriated to England, where he died of his wounds on 27th January 1945.
Technical Sergeant Joseph Francis Boyle, Pennsylvania
Joe was a member of Philadelphia’s Irish American community, where he married Margaret O’Donnell. A member of the 351st Bomb Squadron, 100th Bomb Group, 8th Air Force. A radio operator gunner on a B17 called “Nine Little Yanks and a Jerk”, he was on a mission over Gelsenkirchen on 5th November 1943 when they plane was struck by flak. A fragment penetrated the fuselage and penetrated the top of his flak jacket, piercing his heart. You can read a detailed account of Joe’s life and service at the 100th Bomb Group Foundation here.
Staff Sergeant Edward J. Minehan, New York
Edward was the left waist gunner on the B17 Flying Fortress “Shooting Star”, part of the 323rd Bomb Squadron, 91st Bomb Group (The Ragged Irregulars). When returning from a mission over Stuttgart on 6th September 1943 they ditched in the Channel, having apparently run out of fuel. The plane sank in seconds, drowning all on board, including Edward. You can read his entry at the American Air Museum here.
Sergeant Vincent P. Hyland, New Jersey
Vincent was the nose gunner aboard the B24 Liberator “Lassie Come Home.” She was a “Mother Ship” on the Aphrodite Project, which sought to use bombers packed with explosive as remote controlled missiles. They flew out of Horsham St. Faith in Norfolk as part of 458th Bomb Group. On 14th January 1945 they took damage while on operations over Europe, and lost their engines before they could make it to their landing strip, crashing just a mile away from the base. Eight of the crew died, including Vincent. Tragically, the Liberator came down in a residential area in Norwich, killing children Mary and Brian Kemp who were playing in their garden. You can read about the incident here and here. Vincent’s American Air Museum entry is here.
Boatswain’s Mate First Class Joseph M. Dinneen, South Carolina
A member of the U.S. Naval Reserve, Joseph was another who was aboard Landing Ship, Tank (LST) 507 during Exercise Tiger on 28th April 1944 when she was attacked by German E Boats (see James P. Ryan Junior, above), losing his life in the action.
Second Lieutenant Richard J. Collins, Michigan
Richard was the navigator aboard the B-24 Liberator “Jack the Ripper II”. It served as part of 791st Bomber Squadron, 467th Bomber Group (Heavy) out of Manston, Kent. Returning from a mission over Lille on 3rd August 1944–their third time out–they crashed, with four of the crew, including Richard, losing their lives. Richard’s American Air Museum entry is here.
Staff Sergeant Charles E. Gorman, New York
Charles was the ball turret gunner on the B17 “Heaven Can Wait”, which was part of 711th Bomb Squadron, 447th Bomb Group, based out of Rattlesden, Suffolk. On 27th March 1944 on a mission to Merignac, France, they took off in bad weather, but crashed near Bullswood Lane, Cockfield soon afterwards, with Charles losing his life. You can see his American Air Museum entry here.
Lieutenant Joseph Patrick Kennedy, Massachusetts
Joe Kennedy is best known as the older brother of future President John Fitzgerald Kennedy. A member of the U.S. Naval Reserve, he was sent to England in September 1943 and flew a PG4U-Liberator on anti-submarine missions, part of Bomber Squadron 110. On 12th August 1944 he was participating in an Operation Aphrodite mission when the explosive-laden Liberator he was piloting exploded prematurely (it had been intended to detonate into U-boat pens in Heligoland, killing both Kennedy and Lieutenant Wilford John Willy. As he had no remains, he is remembered on the Wall of the Missing. Among the others commemorated there are musician Glenn Miller, and Medal of Honor recipient Leon R. Vance Junior.
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