USAAF WORLD WAR II
Passenger M/Sgt. Edward Z. M. Gelman Lost
Squadron: 532nd 381st Bomb Group
Awards: Bronze Star
Pilot Captain Charles E. Ackerman Lost
Target: Ferry Mission
Date Lost: 23-Apr-45
Serial Number: #43-38856
Aircraft Model B-17G
Location: The southern side of North Barrule, Isle of Man
Cause: Pilot error, 31 service men lost.
Reports from the time of this crash stated that no combat operations over Germany were planned, so servicemen from nine different units were billeted for a week's leave to Northern Ireland. The men chosen were the support servicemen, the ground crews, armourers, mechanics and fitters – people who kept the aircraft flying, combat-ready and safe. Some of those men had been on duty since June 1943 and for most this was their first real break. This ferry flight from Ridgewell in Esssex to Nutts Corner in Northern Ireland with a normal crew and a large number of passengers was on course flying in low cloud when it crossed the coast of the Isle of Man. The flight, piloted by Captain Charles E. Ackerman was never to reach its destination. Shortly after the aircraft passed over Glen Mona and Corrany before flying into the steep southern slope of North Barrule about 200ft short of the summit of the hill. The aircraft disintegrated with most of the airframe being consumed by fire. The crash killed all 31 crew and passengers on the aircraft.
The sadness of this tragedy was compounded by the fact that it happened just two weeks before the end of the war and in an extraordinary twist of fate it followed another tragedy just nine months earlier when six died in a separate crash into the same hill. In the first accident Lt. Dorrington Co Pilot of a B-24 Liberator which was being flown from Langford Lodge in Northern Ireland to Warton in Lancashire, on what was known as a ‘ferry flight', had ploughed into the cloud-covered southern slopes of North Barrule, killing him and all five men on board. Perhaps it was coincidence, but there exists a probable relationship between two pilots, namely Ronald B. Dorrington of Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and Captain Charles E. Ackerman. Both men had worked as pilots in the 534th Bombardment Squadron of the United States 8th Air Force for a couple of years, and had flown together on 10 missions over enemy territory. Although it is not known for certain that these men flew in the same aircraft on these missions it is highly likely that they would have been acquainted and it's possible they may have been friends. Whatever the terms of their relationship together, within a year both men would be in their graves. Ackerman crashed close to where Dorrington had died nine months before. He would have known about Dorrington's death on North Barrule and, taking advantage of a flight path which took him close to the Isle of Man, he may have flown low to have a look at the place where Dorrington died and himself fell victim to the hills. The two crashes on North Barrule claimed the lives of 37 people within nine months of what turned out to be the last year of the war.
The 31 men were buried on April 27, 1945, at the American Military Cemetery at Madingley, near Cambridge. Most however were later reinterred to states side cemeteries.
In 1995 Maughold Commissioners and the Manx Aviation Preservation Society erected a memorial plaque and flagpole at the crash site. Every year since, Mike Corlett of Laxey, leads fellow members of the Manx Aviation Preservation Society up North Barrule where they fly an American flag over the spot for a week to commemorate the tragedy.
Mike Corlett visited the crash site as a boy soon after it happened in 1945 and remembers the scene of devastation on the hillside with broken and burnt parts of the aircraft spread over a wide area. However, by 2010 the society's American flag was becoming severely weather-beaten due to the high winds which scour the hillside. Upon hearing of this predicament Kelly McCarthy, second vice president of North American Manx Association and one of the island's worldwide network of honorary representatives, arranged with her US senator to acquire a special flag.
The North American Manx Association provided not just any flag, but one that had been flown over the Capitol in Washington DC. When not flying, it is on display at the museum (next to Ronaldsway Airport) along with artifacts from the crash. Exhibits, personal effects and more information about the worst crash in Manx aviation history can be found at The Manx Aviation and Military Museum located at the edge of Ronaldsway airfield on the main Douglas to Castletown road.
Captain Ackerman had completed his tour of missions on June 10, 1944 but, after going home to the USA for a time, he returned to his squadron on September 21. As an experienced pilot Ackerman was appointed to lead his squadron and in recognition of this he was promoted to Captain on November 14, 1944. Ackerman led the 534th BS on 27 missions, with his last mission being to Brandenburg on April 20, 1945.
Crew of #43-38856
Captain Charles E. Ackerman Pilot Lost
Fl/Of. Edwin A. Hutcheson Jr. Co Pilot Lost
1st/Lt. Martin M. Matyas Navigator Lost
1st/Lt. John P. Fedak Bombardier Lost
1st/Lt. Wayne W. Hart Lost Air Observer
T/Sgt. David H. Lindon Flight Engineer Lost
T/Sgt. Wesley M. Hagen Radio Operator Lost
1st/Lt. James M. Hinkle Lost
1st/Lt. Lawrence E. McGhehey Lost
M/Sgt. Edward Z. M. Gelman Lost
T/Sgt. Joseph L. Gray Lost
T/Sgt. William E. Geist Lost
T/Sgt. Joseph W. Sullivan Lost
S/Sgt. Ralph L. Gibbs Lost
S/Sgt. Wayne K. Manes Lost
S/Sgt. Alfred M. Mata Lost
Sgt. Irwin R. Hargraves Lost
Sgt. Michael J. Kakos Jr. Lost
Sgt. Jose M. Martinez Lost
Tech 5. Walter A. McCullough Lost
Tech 4. Andrew Piter Jr. Lost
Cpl. Earl G. Ammerman Lost
Cpl. Edward G. Bailey Lost
Cpl. Thomas P. Flaherty Lost
Cpl. Herbert C. Gupton Lost
Cpl. Leslie H. Maxwell Jr. Lost
Cpl. Merle L. Ramsowr Lost
Pvt. Andrew R. Barbour Lost
Pvt. Angelo Quagliariello Lost
Gravesite Details Entered the service from Massachusetts.