Sons visit Port au Choix crash site 77 years later
It was a cloudy afternoon in 1945 at the end of World War II.
The crew of a B-24 Liberator aircraft named Bad Penny was flying high over Newfoundland and Labrador and was out of fuel. She was on her way home to the United States.
Here, over the Atlantic Ocean, things went horribly wrong.
The crew were en route to Happy Valley-Goose Bay to refuel when they went off course.
“We have to do something,” shouted Capt. Thomas C. Anderson as the fuel gauge lit dangerously low.
Panic grew among the plane’s 10 crew members and 10 passengers, most of them unsung heroes like chefs and bakers.
But not everyone was concerned. 18-year-old radio operator Emidio Galie reportedly showed no sign of fear.
The former captain of his high school football team has had several combat missions under his belt. Galie, barely old enough to drive a car, looked for a safe place to land the plane and yelled to the crew, “Calm down, we’ll get you out of there.”
Hearing a glimmer of hope through the static silence, he looked over at Anderson and said, “I have a stable signal, Skipper. Moments later, the pilot landed the combat-built aircraft belly-up on a wild and remote piece of land known as the Barrens, just outside Port-au-Choix in the Northern Peninsula. All survived.
77 years later, it’s an autumn afternoon in the seaside community. Compared to back then in 1945, things look very different. But for Joseph and Kevin Galie, who have just arrived from Philadelphia and Munich, it is exactly as their father described, welcoming and incredibly beautiful.
After the war, Emidio Galie was a physical therapist for handicapped children in Philadelphia. He had three sons: Joseph, Kevin and Tim. Galie died in his 60s but dreamed of returning to the city where his crew crashed their plane. The brothers came to fulfill their father’s wish. “My father talked about that crash landing as much, if not more, than he did about his bombing raids in Germany,” Kevin Galie recalls.
“Today is a dream come true,” beams 80-year-old Stella Mailman, who greeted the brothers with a depiction of what happened that day in 1945, with a traditional meal and the kind of hospitality rural Newfoundland and Newfoundland is known for Labrador is known.
Like many children, Mailman ran for cover in 1945. Back then, Port-au-Choix was a quiet village. There was no electricity, but root cellars, wood stoves, and horses. Several people thought their small town was under attack.
In the years that followed, Mailman researched and gathered facts about the wartime crash landing. But it was local journalist Sylvia Gould who got in touch with Galie’s youngest son Kevin via Facebook to help bring the two sides of the story together.
“It’s wonderful,” says Kevin Galie. “Coming to Port-au-Choix is the final chapter in celebrating my father’s life,” he said, gazing out at the brilliant blue ocean.
After the crash, the Army ordered the Bad Penny to be burned, a formality put in place to prevent future searchers from mistaking this crash for any other. Miraculously, parts of the plane have defied the decades and are scattered across the wasteland. Now there are plans to build a museum to honor the occupation and its history in a city known for its rich history.
“It’s pretty amazing because not too many people remember the story. It’s almost lost in history, so it’s good to be restored,” says resident Hunter Spence. The teenager has dug up parts of the wreckage and found its turbocharger and plans to put it on display in a museum.
Eldest son Joseph Galie, standing on a quay overlooking the ocean, says embracing his father’s bravery is an emotional journey he will never forget.
“I think he was the kind of guy who would have gone around thanking people. That was the kind of guy he was.”
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