On May 3rd, 1943, a B-24 Liberator bomber in the US Air Force, Hot Stuff, crashed into the mountain Fagradalsfjall on the Reykjanes Peninsula in Iceland. It is the same mountain that erupted in 2021. The crash was one of many aircraft accidents in Iceland during WWII but an exceptionally tragic one. Here you can read about the crash at an Icelandic website Stríðsminjar, World War II Crash Sites in Iceland, for more details and the exact location. All members of the plane were killed in the crash except one, the tail gunner, Staff Sergeant George A. Eisel of Columbus, Ohio, who survived.
The story of Hot Stuff is remarkable as the crew had completed 31 successful missions during the war and was the first to complete 25 missions. As a reward, Hot Stuff was chosen to tour the US to sell bonds to continue to finance the war. The flight plan took a slide change as they were preparing to leave England when General Frank Maxwell Andrews (February 3, 1884 – May 2, 1943) joined the crew. General Andrews was the Commander of the European Theater of Operations at the time. On the other hand, his mission was to participate in critical strategic high-ranking meetings and prepare for the invasion of Normandy. He had been selected to command the entire Allied Forces.
The crash was a major event at the time in Iceland. It was even a major blow for the Allied Forces. It was the worst crash in Iceland's history, and it took time to find the plane and the crash site. Fourteen crew members died in the crash, and one survived.
The rescue was difficult as the weather was harsh and the plane spread at the mountain slope. The days after the crash were days of mourning and sadness as the men were buried. But the war was at its peak, and Hot Stuff was replaced for the mission in the US, and General Eisenhower replaced general Andrews. And in the turmoil of events, they were all soon forgotten.
Fallen but not forgotten
In recent years Jim Lux from Texas made it his mission to restore the reputation of Hot Stuff and General Andrews. After working intensely for seven years with Icelandic brothers, Þorsteinn Marteinsson and Ólafur Marteinsson, owners and creators of the website stridsminjar.is, a monument was built and dedicated to honoring those on the B-24 when it crashed. The monument opened on May 3rd, 2018, 75 years after the accident. The monument it is located close to the intersection of road nr. 41 and road nr. 43 at Reykjanes Peninsula. The mountain can easily be seen from that point.
How to find the monument
For those who are interested in history and WWII history, it is a great place to visit and relatively easy to find. From Reykjavík, you drive to road Nr.41 the same road you drive when going to the international airport in Keflavík. But on the intersection to road nr. 43 to Grindavík, the same intersection you take when driving to the Blue Lagoon, you stop at a parking lot and walk a few steps up to the monument. From the intersection, the monument is visible on your left side if you are coming from the international airport and on your right side if you are coming from Reykjavík.
Joint Base Andrews, located a few miles southeast of Washington, D.C. and the home base of Air Force One, is named in honor of Andrews.
Location of the monument