There are many odd things that could happen during the war: a man carrying a medieval weapon during modern warfare, sure. A soldier outrunning his enemies on the snow while dangerously meth-high? Okay. How about a monkey crash landing on a B-17 Flying Fortress with other soldiers, partying hard, and getting drunk? It actually happened. This was the story of Tojo the monkey and how he ended up in that situation.
Sometimes, the smallest of creatures can leave the biggest impact. For example, the mosquito is probably the most deadly creature on Earth to humans because of the diseases it carries. That proved to be true again when in April 1943, as World War II raged on, a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress had to make a forced landing on White’s Marsh in Garrnagoleen, near the town of Clonakilty on the south coast of Ireland. The American crew had departed Morocco and was flying to England when they ran out of gas due to an faulty radio beacon that had them heading in the wrong direction.
At that point, both parties were unsure of each other. Outside were Irish locals who were both astonished by the size of the aircraft circling above them. At the same time, they were worried that it might crash into one of their church spires. Inside were the ten crewmen who were confused that they might be landing in German-occupied Norway.
None of their worries came true, as the Flying Fortress crashlanded in a nearby marsh while the locals approaching them were among friends and were just curious about what was happening. They were more than happy to receive their American guests. Moreover, the Irish residents were delighted to find out that the American pilots came with an adorable companion: a small monkey called Tojo, who was taken from Morocco.
According to a local businessman Thomas Tupper who had grown up with the story of Tojo and how the Americans landed in Clonakilty, the visitors were initially taken into police custody, but that “…consisted of them being in a local hotel where a party ensued for three days.” Not only did the Americans become quite local celebrities, but everyone wanted to see Tojo, too, as most locals had never seen a monkey in person.
Dean O’Donovan, whose family ran the hotel where the unplanned visitors were staying, said,
“When we discovered they were Americans, there was great excitement in the town…There was a sort of carnival atmosphere for days. People took time off work to go to see this massive plane and the soldiers were like celebrities. But none were as famous as Tojo. No one had ever seen a monkey, so he was treated very well indeed.”
Some 36 bottles of rum were consumed along with the townfolk and it was found Tojo, seemed to develop a liking for the alcohol.
After several days, the party was interrupted. The American airmen were taken to Cork and then to Northern Ireland, where the Royal Air Force met them. Unfortunately, the team lost one important crew: Tojo. Perhaps it was the rum, the unfamiliar diet, the harsh cold of the Irish climate, the fact that he was taken away from home, or maybe all of them. Tojo suffered from pneumonia, and despite the efforts of the local vets, doctors, and pharmacists, they could not save poor little Tojo.
It was a tragedy. The monkey was laid out in a hotel as the townspeople paid their respects and Tojo was given a proper funeral with full military honors.
Gone But Not Forgotten
Sometimes, the littlest of creatures could leave the biggest impact. Tojo was one. Ms. Donovan further said,
“People were genuinely devastated when he died. Some say his little body couldn’t handle the cold in Ireland, others say it was the food. Monkeys have not been known to eat black pudding. But others have said he was given quite a bit to drink.”
Despite the primate’s brief stay in the small Irish town, he made a lasting impression that a statue was erected in Clonakilty in April 2013 to honor Tojo. Moreover, there’s a local American Pale Ale named after him, Clonakilty Tojo, after his booze exploits. Truly, Tojo was long gone but definitely not forgotten. As late as 2011, the little town still remembers the little drunken monkey who fell from the skies, dedicating a statue in his memory.