76 Years After the Crash

  • Published
  • By Capt. Hans Decker
  • 501st Combat Support Wing

On August 4, 1943, an American B-17 bomber from RAF Molesworth, England took flight on a night training mission but tragically crashed into the slopes of the Arenig Fawr, a mountain in North Wales. All eight American crew members on the aircraft perished that night. In honor of the crew, the local community installed a memorial plaque after the war in 1945. However, it had degraded over time. Over the past few months Mr. Richard Evans, a local hiking enthusiast, Councilor Dilwyn Morgan, Chairman of Gwynedd County Council, and others in the local community raised funds to rededicate a new memorial in honor of those fallen Airmen.

On September 4, 2019, the day of the rededication ceremony, U.S. Air Force Chaplain Captain Hans Decker, assigned to the 501st Combat Support Wing, led a group of ten Airmen from RAF Croughton to the base of Arenig Fwar. Once there, the Airmen met with Royal Air Force personnel, hiking enthusiasts, civic leaders, and members of the local community at the trailhead to begin the 2,800 ft. climb to the peak.

The day began with brisk weather and lite cloud coverage, but it took a turn for the worse at the summit, where the group was blanketed in thick clouds, with sheets of rain, sleet, and gusts of cold wind. Chaplain Decker conducted the service as those in attendance formed a huddle against the weather.

Senior Airman Tristan Diaz, one of the Airmen in attendance stated, “Despite the harsh conditions it was well worth the hike. Being up at the top of the mountain and listening to individuals exchange words about these fallen Airmen piqued my interest in understanding more about this part of our history. These Airmen were going above and beyond back in 1943 and literally gave everything to focus on the mission.”

As the service concluded, the group pledged to remember the fallen as it is tradition. During the ceremony U.S. Air Force SSgt Jeremy Wortham, 501st Combat Support Wing NCOIC, Chapel Resources, played taps in a shroud of fog. He reflected afterwards, “It was an honor to be able to render these respects to our fallen Airmen. Even though the hike was challenging, it was that much more rewarding to be able to do that for them and remember the sacrifices they made for our country.”