Rum-Loving Monkey Who Crash-Landed in a B-17

B-17 Flying Fortress

B-17 Over Ireland

Back in April 1943, an American B-17 Flying Fortress was spotted circling the skies above Clonakilty, Ireland. Residents came out to see the aircraft, they had probably never seen an airplane that big in their lives. Some were concerned that it would crash into the town’s church.

Luckily the B-17 crash landed in a nearby marsh. When the Irish civilians went to check on the crew, they were surprised to find that along with the ten crewmen; a monkey was also on board. No doubt someone must’ve thought that the monkey was the pilot, considering a U.S. bomber somehow ended up in Ireland, a neutral country during WWII.

B-17 Flying Fortress
B-17 crew of T’aint a Bird

Bound for England

The B-17, which went by the name of “T’ain’t a Bird,” took off from Morocco and was heading towards England. Unfortunately, they received incorrect directions on the radio and ran out of fuel mid-flight. The crew members and the monkey named Tojo found themselves crashing at Emerald Isle instead of landing safely in Blighty. They didn’t know where they were, and they assumed the worst and thought that they had crashed in Norway, which was under German occupation at the time.

They were so convinced that they were in enemy territory that they considered taking cyanide pills to ensure the enemy wouldn’t take them alive. It is unknown whether Tojo also wanted to take the suicide capsule or if he wanted to fight the Germans until the very end!

B-17 Flying Fortress
B-17E Flying Fortress. Photo from USAF

When the locals approached, they assured the crew members that they were in friendly territory and that no harm would come their way. And would even throw a party for them in a local hotel, which lasted for three days, all while they were under police custody.

The crew members happily contributed to the celebration by sharing their bottles of rum with the Irish rescuers. Tojo was apparently a big fan of rum and would drink heavily while partying. Days later, the crew was taken to Cork, then up to Northern Ireland, where they were handed over to the RAF.

B-17 Flying Fortress
Credit: Mark McShane

Not all of them made it

Unfortunately, not all of them made it. Whether it was all the alcohol or maybe the unfamiliar Irish weather, Tojo was beset with an attack of pneumonia and sadly died. The local doctors and vets tried their best, but nothing could be done to save the poor monkey. According to witnesses, Tojo’s death was a local tragedy. He was laid out in the hotel, and locals lined up to pay their respects.

A funeral was held with full military honors to lay Tojo to rest. Seventy years after the primate’s unexpected visit, a statue in his honor was unveiled at Clonakilty in April 2013.