The Arrowhead Club

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, Update

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, photo courtesy of Keith Ellefson and the 384th Bomb Group

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding the original tail gunner, Eugene Daniel Lucynski, of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group in World War II.

To view my original post and other information about Eugene Daniel Lucynski, please see the links at the end of this post.

Lucynski Family

Combining information from several sources including the Federal censuses of  1920, 1930, 1940, and 1950, and Eugene Lucynski’s Person page from an Ancestry family tree, I find that the Lucynski family consisted of parents,

  • Father – Gustave K. (Kanstantaius or Konstantiane) Lucynski (or possible alternate spelling of Luczynski), born 1 October 1890 in Oscoda, Michigan, died 21 February 1948 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan
  • Mother – Dominica C. Bruzewski, born 13 February 1896 in Beaver Township, Bay County, Michigan, died 23 February 1941 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan

and their four children (one boy and three girls),

  1. Daughter – Gertrude Constance Lucynski Hogue, born 8 March 1917, died 7 August 1990
  2. Daughter – Virginia Josephine Lucynski Plunkey, born 1 June 1918, died 27 September 1988
  3. Son – Eugene Daniel Lucynski, born 22 December 1919, died 14 April 1981
  4. Daughter – LaWretha Marie Lucynski, born 27 July 1924, died 23 April 1925, at almost nine months old, of meningitis and influenza

In various census records, Gus Lucynski reported that his parents were born in Prussia or Poland and spoke German as their native language. Eugene Lucynski’s grandparents, Gus Lucynski’s parents, Joseph Lucynski and Catherine Rakowski, immigrated to the United States in 1884.

Their European residence was in Bromberg, Posen, and they boarded the German ship the Wieland (a “dampfschiff”, steamship, with accommodations in “zwischendeck”, steerage) and departed Hamburg, Germany on 3 February 1884 for their journey to America, arriving in New York. Joseph’s occupation was listed as “stellmacher” which translates to “wheelwright.”

Dominica Lucynski’s parents were Stanley Bruzewski and Josephine Reeder. On census records, Dominic reported that her father was born in Germany and spoke German and her mother was born in New York.

The ancestry of Eugene Lucynski clearly shows that he was fighting a war in which two generations prior, grandparents on both sides were from current day Poland and Germany. This likely made World War II very personal for him, considering two possibilities, that Eugene was fighting against some German relatives and fighting for Polish relatives still living in those areas. Read more about the history of Bromberg and Bloody Sunday of 1939 here.

Eugene’s sister Gertrude was married to Charles M. Hogue and they had at least two children, sons Gerald and Ronald.

Eugene’s sister Virginia was married to John (alternately referred to as Steve) Plunkey and they had at least three children, daughters Judy Marie and Virginia, and son John.

In the recently-released 1950 census, Eugene Lucynski is listed as a Lodger living in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. He reported his age as 26 and his marital status as divorced. He worked 40 hours a week as a mechanic for a retail electrical company. With his age listed as 26, this would indicate his birth year as 1924 rather than 1919, as stated elsewhere.

While I cannot find a burial record for Eugene Daniel Lucynski, I have noted that his parents Gustave and Dominica and sister LaWretha are buried in the All Saints Church Cemetery of Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. Dominica‘s Find a Grave memorial does not specify a gravesite and Gustave‘s and LaWretha‘s memorials note that they are buried in unmarked graves. I believe it is possible that Eugene is also buried in the same cemetery, possibly in a Lucynski family plot, but without any record of such or memorial.

Entry into World War II

A few months after the death of his mother, Eugene Daniel Lucynski registered for the World War II draft on 1 July 1941 at Local Board No. 3 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan and recorded the following information on his draft form.

His place of residence at the time of registration was 1484 Oregon Ave, Flint, Genesee, Michigan. His date and place of birth was 22 December 1919 in Bay City, Michigan, and he was twenty-one years old at the time of registration.

The name and address of the person who would always know his address was his father, Gustave Lucynski. His employer’s name and address was A.C. Manufacturer of Flint, Michigan.

Eugene was 5’ 6 1/2″ tall, 130 pounds, with hazel eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion, and had no other obvious physical characteristics.

Although I do not find an enlistment record for Eugene Lucynski, the US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File notes his WWII enlistment date of 23 June 1942.

Morning Reports and other military documents of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Eugene Daniel Lucynski:

  • On 22 JULY 1944, Eugene Daniel Lucynski was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 612), for the John Oliver Buslee crew. His pay per month was $172.80. His rank when assigned was Staff Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mr. Gustave Lucynski, 7307 N. Dort Highway, Mt. Morris, Michigan.
  • On 19 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany (Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards), Eugene Lucynski, flying as Tail Gunner with the Joe Carnes crew, went (MIA) Missing in Action when he was forced to bail out over Allied Territory. Seven of the crew returned to duty. The ball turret gunner was injured by flak and transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 4178 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. Lucynski was injured by flak and hospitalized from 19 September 1944 until 10 November 1944. Lucynski had replaced the Carnes crew Tail Gunner Gerald Andersen, who was on sick quarters.
  • As noted in my recent update regarding Gerald Lee Andersen, on 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Eugene Lucynski had not returned to duty since he went MIA on 19 SEPTEMBER. With Gerald Andersen more than a week off sick leave, he replaced Lucynski as tail gunner with the Buslee crew on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks. On this mission the James Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming off the target. The Buslee crew, as well as the Brodie crew, were declared MIA. Subsequently, all airmen on board the Buslee crew’s B-17, including Eugene Lucynski’s replacement, Gerald Lee Andersen, were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Edwin Farrar who was declared POW (Prisoner of War). By the time Eugene returned to Grafton Underwood, the only members of his original crew still serving there were navigator Chester Rybarczyk, engineer/top turret gunner Clarence Seeley, and ball turret gunner Erwin Foster. Eugene never returned to combat duty, and it is unclear what duty he did perform following his return.
  • On 4 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski was recommended for the DFC (Distinguished Flying Crosss) for Ex. Achiev.
  • On 12 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski was placed on DS for an indefinite period at Y-17, Marseilles/Istres, France, effective o/a (on or about) 13 June 45 and will report to COL SAULT upon arrival at Y-17.
  • On 22 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski went from DS, Y-17 Marseilles/Istres, France to duty, effective 22 June 1945.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski was credited with 14 combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Hospitalization Record

A Hospital Admission Card for Eugene was included in his personnel record at the NPRC and noted his battle injury from the 19 September 1944 mission as “Wound(s), Penetrating” location “Hand, generally.” The disposition date was October 1944 and disposition was “not death nor transfer to the Zone of Interior.” In other words, he was wounded, but not wounded seriously enough to be sent home. The hospital was identified as the 53rd General Hospital.

Tremblin’ Gremlin

The 19 September 1944 mission was Eugene’s second mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin. His first mission aboard that ship was his second mission of the war on 5 August 1944. On that mission, he was one of a very few airmen aboard who were not struck and injured by flak. The gremlins were not to forget their oversight of 5 August when on 19 September, they finished their business with Buslee crew member Eugene Lucynski.

Medals and Decorations

Eugene Lucynski was awarded the Purple Heart on 7 December 1944 for wounds received on the 19 September 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin. In the medal recommendation paperwork, the circumstances surrounding the receipt of wounds were,

S/Sgt. Lucynski was WIA by flak while serving as Tail Gunner in a B-17 aircraft on an operational mission over enemy territory.

The wounds consisted of multiple lacerations of right hand and left wrist. Hospitalized from 19 Sept. to 10 Nov., 1944.

Eugene was previously awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Eugene’s Individual Sortie Record also notes he was recommended for a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) on 4 June 1945 for “Ex. Achiev.” (extra achievement).

However, I find no record of Eugene receiving the award except on his Final Payment Worksheet completed at his military discharge of 30 October 1945 at Separation Center #32, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. This record was in Eugene’s file at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. Very little else was included in Eugene’s file, leading me to believe his was one of the files burned in the 1973 fire.

On this document is listed a $4.00 (yes, a four dollar) “Pay for Awards” specified as “D.F.C.” Underneath that entry is an unspecified entry of FR 235.04 and TO 103.30, with a net of $131.74. I do not know if this additional entry refers to his “Pay for Awards” or not.

Return Home

Eugene D. Lucynski arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary on 16 October 1945. He was included in a list of personnel for Separation Center No. 32, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. The US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File notes his discharge date of 30 October 1945.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski died on 14 April 1981 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan at the age of 61.

Name Change

Eugene Daniel Lucynski is listed in the Michigan Death Index under the Name Eugene D. Lucyn. This record lists his birth date as 22 December 1919 and his death date as 14 April 1981, residence and place of death as Flint, Genesee, Michigan.

He was listed in the US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File also under the name Eugene D. Lucyn. This record confirmed his same birth and death dates as the Michigan Death Index and added his WWII enlistment date of 23 June 1942 and discharge date of 30 October 1945.

I find two Social Security records for Eugene in the National Archives. Both list the same Social Security Number and date of birth, but the different names of Eugene Daniel Lucynski and Eugene Dan Lucyn.

Family Connections

I would love to connect with relatives of Eugene Lucynski. I have been unable to find much information about Eugene Daniel Lucynski (aka Eugene, Gene, or Dan Lucyn) after the end of the war. Please e-mail me if you have more information to share about Eugene’s life after World War II.

Notes

Previous post, Eugene D. Lucynski

Eugene Daniel Lucynski’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Press release from 5 August 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin

Previous post, The Fate of “Tremblin’ Gremlin” and Her Crew on Mission 196

Wikipedia: Bloody Sunday (1939)

Thank you to the 384th Bomb Group and especially Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for their research and obtaining and presenting records of the servicemen of the Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Gerald Lee Andersen, Update

Gerald Lee Andersen

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding the tail gunner, Gerald Lee Andersen, who was onboard my father’s (George Edwin Farrar’s) B-17 the day of the Buslee crew’s mid-air collision with the Brodie crew’s B-17, 28 September 1944.

Gerald Andersen was the tail gunner of the Joe Carnes crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII and filled in for Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski on that date.

To view my original post and other information about Gerald Lee Andersen, please see the links at the end of this post.

Andersen Family

Combining information from several sources including the Federal censuses of 1930, 1940, and 1950, Gerald Andersen’s Person page from an Ancestry family tree, Gerald’s memorial on Find A Grave, and the obituaries of two of Gerald’s brothers (Dale and Jimmie), I find that the Andersen family consisted of parents,

  • Father – Ernest William Andersen, 1899 – 1982
  • Mother – Verna Esther Yost, 1900 – 1950

and their fifteen children (ten boys and five girls),

  1. Daughter – Betty Joyce Andersen, 1921 – 2005
  2. Son – Gerald Lee Andersen, 1923 – 1944
  3. Daughter – Lila Mae Andersen McLaughlin, 1925 – 2002
  4. Son – Dale E. Andersen, 1927 – 2013
  5. Son – Billie LeRoy Andersen, 1928 – 2019
  6. Son – Don DeVern Andersen, 1929–1991
  7. Son – Lon Wesley Andersen, born 1931
  8. Daughter – Verna Elagene Andersen, 1932–1941
  9. Son – Edwin Ernest Andersen, 1934–2013
  10. Daughter – Charlene Andersen Taylor, born approx. 1938
  11. Son – Jimmie Ray Andersen, 1939–2016
  12. Son – Jack Wayne Andersen, 1940–1990
  13. Daughter – Althea Kay Andersen Wolfenden, born approx. 1941
  14. Son – Larry D. Andersen (alternately reported as having the surname Yost), possibly 1944 – 1991
  15. Son – Dennis L. Andersen (alternately reported as having the surname Yost), possibly 1947 – 2012

Marriage of Gerald Andersen and Esther Coolen

According to marriage records on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen (born 20 June 1923) and Esther Elaine Coolen (born 16 June 1916 – seven years older than Gerald), both of Seneca, Nebraska, married on 24 May 1942.

Entry into World War II

A little over a month after he and Esther married, Gerald Lee Andersen registered for the World War II draft on 30 June 1942 at the Thomas County Court House in Thedford, Nebraska and recorded the following information on his draft form.

His place of residence at the time of registration was Seneca, Thomas County, Nebraska. His date and place of birth was 20 June 1923 in Dunning, Nebraska, and he was nineteen years old at the time of registration.

The name and address of the person who would always know his address was his wife, Esther Andersen of Seneca, Nebraska. His employer’s name and address was E.W. Andersen (his father) of Seneca, Nebraska.

Gerald was 5’8″ tall, 135 pounds, with blue eyes and black hair, with a dark complexion, and had no other obvious physical characteristics.

WWII Induction and Active Duty

According to a US National Cemetery Interment Control Form entry found on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen was inducted into the US Army Air Forces on 6 May 1943 and began active duty on 13 May 1943. The form specifically notes the 6 May date as an “induction” date rather than an “enlistment” date.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Gerald Lee Andersen:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Gerald Lee Andersen was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 612), for the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew. His pay per month was $140.40. His rank when assigned was Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mrs. Esther E. Andersen, Box 282, Stromsberg, Neb.
  • On 1 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #175.
  • On 6 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from sick quarters (LD) to absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston.
  • On 11 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston to duty.
  • On 16 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from duty to sick quarters (LD).
  • On 19 SEPTEMBER 1944, with Gerald Andersen on sick leave, Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski flew in Gerald’s place with the Joe Carnes crew on Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards. Aboard B-17G 42‑37982, Tremblin’ Gremlin, the crew went MIA (Missing in Action). Lucynski was forced to bail out over Allied Territory. Seven of the crew returned to duty. The ball turret gunner, James Bernard King, Jr., was injured by flak and transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 4178 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. Eugene Lucynski was injured by flak and hospitalized from 19 September 1944 until 10 November 1944.
  • On 20 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from sick quarters (LD) to duty.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Eugene Lucynski had not returned to duty since he went MIA on 19 SEPTEMBER. With Gerald Andersen more than a week off sick leave, he replaced Lucynski as tail gunner with the Buslee crew on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks. On this mission the James Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming off the target. The Buslee crew, as well as the Brodie crew, were declared MIA. Subsequently, all airmen on board the Buslee crew’s B-17, including Gerald Lee Andersen, were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Edwin Farrar who was declared POW (Prisoner of War).

Gerald Lee Andersen was credited with 12 combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Gerald Andersen’s WWII service as remembered by fellow crew mate Alfred Benjamin, the Carnes crew Navigator

In 2016, I connected with 384th Bomb Group navigator Alfred Benjamin. He and Gerald were crew mates on the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron. As Alfred stated at the time, “Although I am 92, I can still remember most things about the War.” He admitted, though that after seventy-two years, he “could not remember a great deal about Gerald,” but he did recall that,

I believe that Gerald joined the Carnes crew in Sioux City AAF Base in early 1944. I was the last person to join the crew and they had been training there for some period. We completed our training in early June and picked up a B-17 in Kearney, Neb. And proceeded across the USA to New Hampshire, Maine and then to Labrador, Iceland and England. We eventually were assigned to the 384th BG 544th SQ. and started our familiarization phase. As I remember, Gerald was a serious young man intent on being a positive asset to our crew of 9.

Like me he had certain trepidations about the mission we were on.  At this time in the War the 8th [AF] was still undergoing heavy casualties and this certainly affected our thinking.

Gerald flew with us on 9 missions but as things go I believe that he went on sick call and did not fly with our crew again until September 9th. [Correction: September 13th].  The Carnes Crew ran into Heavy Flak and we were forced to Bail out over Binche Belgium on Sept 19th and Gerald did not fly with us on that mission.  I personally was injured and did not return to Grafton Underwood for 29 days and then learned that Gerald was shot down during my absence.

These were the Missions we flew together.

  • 7 Aug 1944—Aircraft Fuel Depot, Dugny France
  • 8 Aug 1944—Tactical Mission, Bretteville-sur-Laize, France
  • 9 Aug 1944—Erding  Luftwaffe Base, Erding Germany
  • 11 Aug 1944—Coastal Artillery Emplacements, Brest France
  • 16 Aug 1944—Delitzsch Luftwaffe Depot, Delizsch, Germany
  • 18 Aug 1944—Bridge, Vise, Belgium
  • 24 Aug 1944—Synthetic oil plant, Merseburg, Germany
  • 25 Aug 1944—Luftwaffe Airfield, Anklam, Germany
  • 13 Sept 1944—Synthetic Oil Refinery, Merseburg, Germany

Returned Home

According to a US National Cemetery Interment Control Form entry found on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen’s Date of Interment on American soil is noted as 23 August 1949. The form also notes that Gerald earned the Purple Heart and an Air Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster.

The airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews who had been killed in the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision were initially buried in the cemetery at Ost Ingersleben, Germany, a village near the crash site of the two B-17’s.

Their bodies were later reinterred in the United States Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland, and Gerald was buried in Plot R, Row 3, Grave 51.

In 1953, Gerald Andersen was brought home and on 23 August 1953, was reinterred in the Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell (Lincoln County), Nebraska, Section F, Site 1229.

Connections with Andersen family members

Since initially writing about Gerald in 2015, I have heard from several family members who found my original article about Gerald.

Gerald’s youngest sister, Kay Andersen Wolfenden, wrote to me in 2016. At the time, the most current Federal census available was the 1940 census, which was taken before the youngest four Andersen children were born, including Kay. Kay informed me that,

There were fifteen children altogether, 10 boys and 5 girls.  I am number 13 and lost my mother to cancer when I was 8 years old.  The rest of the family always said that mother never got over losing Gerald.

Kay’s son Cyrus is researching her brother Gerald.

The son of Gerald’s brother Dale, Myron Andersen, also contacted me in 2016 and noted that Dale often spoke of Gerald. Dale’s obituary (he died in 2013) provided some interesting family information. It mentioned that,

Dale learned many fine things from his dad, not the least of which was the value of hard work…a great deal of hard work.

and,

Early in his working career, Dale worked with his dad in his tank wagon business.

Remember, Gerald worked for his dad at the time of his draft registration, and I assume it was also in the “tank wagon business.”

Also, Janelle Sommer Davis connected with me just after the Fourth of July in 2018. While not related to Gerald, Janelle is the daughter of Esther Coolen, Gerald’s widow. Janelle told me that Esther remarried and had a daughter, but Esther’s second husband died when their daughter was still a newborn. She married again in 1953 and had a second daughter, Janelle, and a son, Rob.

Janelle wrote,

In honor of July 4th, I get out the flag and the purple heart and medal of honors my mom kept in an attic. As a little girl, I would ask about the medals and she was silently mysterious about them.

They stayed in the attic when she passed in 2002.

I got them out again, and since I was off this week from work, I decided to look at the medals closer. Who was this man of mystery that married my mom, and was so tragically KIA over France [correction: Germany]?

I looked closer and noted that the name on the purple heart had his name on the back. I started to research his name. Wondering when he died, wondering how he looked and wondering what he did. 4 hours later today, I found he was a part of the 384th bomb squad [Group]. He ran 12 missions and was missing Sept 28, 1944. He was a part of the arrowhead club. He was the tail gunner and his name was Gerald L Andersen.

I am writing to you because I found the Andersen letters written by my mom, Esther Coolen Andersen. It was with joy, to see her writings of concern and sadness at the same time. It was an honor to know she was once married to a man of courage and of valor.

Esther’s life post-World War II

Esther married Benjamin Carl Bilhorn, who was twenty years her senior and a veteran of World War I, on 2 June 1946. Their daughter was born 15 July 1948. Benjamin Bilhorn’s obituary states that he died 27 August 1948 in the hospital after a two weeks’ illness.

Esther Elaine Coolen remarried 16 January 1953 to William A. Sommer, who was three years older than Esther. William died 29 October 1992 and Esther died 6 March 2002 at age 85.

Remember

I love connecting with family and friends of the men who served with my dad, George Edwin Farrar, in the 384th Bomb Group during World War II. It warms my heart to know that the men who never made it home are not forgotten, even more than seventy years after we lost them in the war.

Esther Elaine Coolen, who married Gerald Lee Andersen on 24 May 1942, became a war widow on 28 September 1944. Even though she was married to Gerald only a little over two years, and remarried twice after losing Gerald, she kept his burial flag and war medals for the rest of her life, through marriages to two other men.

The letters Esther wrote to my grandmother after the mid-air collision tell how deeply she loved Gerald and it is easy to see how she could never forget him. Now that Esther is gone, it is up to us to remember him and keep his memory alive so future generations know what Gerald and others who lost their lives fighting World War II and their families sacrificed for our freedom.

Esther Andersen’s letters to my grandmother,

Notes

Previous post, Gerald Lee Andersen

Gerald Lee Andersen’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Missing Air Crew Report 9753 for the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Missing Air Crew Report 9366 for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Gerald Lee Andersen on Find a Grave

Esther Elaine Coolen (Andersen Bilhorn) Sommer on Find a Grave

Dale Andersen Obituary

Jimmie R Andersen Obituary

Alfred Benjamin’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Lawrence Newbold’s and the Miller Crew’s Mission to Frankfurt

Continued from previous post, RAF and USAAF, Allies in the World War II Air War, and previous post, The RAF Heavy Bomber Crew in World War II


Recap:  During my father’s (George Edwin Farrar, waist gunner of the 384th Bomb Group during WWII) confinement as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft IV, he had a British roommate in the POW camp named Lawrence Newbold. Dad and Lawrence were also companions on the 86-day, 500-mile march of POW’s across Germany from 6 February 1945 to their liberation on 2 May 1945.

Lawrence Newbold, an enlistee in the British Royal Air Force (RAF), served as a wireless operator on an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber with the 50 Squadron based at Skelllingthorpe, England in the East Midlands.

Because of this personal connection my father had to a member of the RAF, I will, in a series of posts, take a look at an overview of the RAF in World War II, the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber that Lawrence Newbold flew in, and the mission on which he became a prisoner of war.


While serving in the 50 Squadron, Lawrence Edgar Newbold participated in his sixth mission over Germany overnight on the night of 18/19 March 1944, with the RAF crew of,

  • P/O. W.J.K. Miller, Pilot
  • Sgt. C.W.T. Case, Flight Engineer
  • F/S. H.J. Rouse, Navigator
  • Sgt. J.R. Ellis, Bomb Aimer
  • Sgt. L.E. Newbold, Wireless Operator
  • Sgt. G.T. Howe, Air Gunner
  • Sgt. E.C. Lehman, Air Gunner

According to “The U.K. National Archives Operations Record Book for the No. 50 Squadron for the month of March 1944,” (c) crown copyright, Catalogue Reference: AIR/27/488, Image Reference: 6, the entry for Place: Skellingthorpe, Date: 18.3.44 [March 18, 1944], notes this “Summary of Events: Bombing Attack on Frankfurt [Germany]”:

Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack FRANKFURT. Unfortunately of this number, one (P/O. Miller) failed to return, and yet another (F/O. Botha) returned early, owing to the failure of starboard outer engine. The remainder proceeded to attack the target. 4/10th cloud at 6-8,000′ prevailed. Target identified by red T.I’s. Markers appeared scattered resulting in a lack of concentration in bombing. A large explosion was seen at 22.17 hours. The effort was considered poor. (18 x 4000 lb., 1614 x 30 lb inc., 22,950 x 4 lb inc., 1142 x 4 lb XIB inc).

The 50 Squadron participated in three previous bombing attacks that month,

  • 1.3.44 [1 March 1944] to Stuttgart, Germany
  • 9.3.44 [9 March 1944] to Marseilles/Marignane, France
  • 15.3.44 [15 March 1944] on a return visit to Stuttgart, Germany

and five more that month following the mission on which the Miller crew was declared missing,

  • 22.3.44 [22 March 1944] on a return visit to Frankfurt, Germany
  • 24.3.44 [24 March 1944] to Berlin, Germany
  • 25.3.44 [25 March 1944] to Aulnoye, France
  • 26.3.44 [26 March 1944] to Essen, Germany
  • 30.3.44 [30 March 1944] to Nurnberg, Germany

On the 19.3.44 [March 19, 1944] mission to Frankfurt, the W.J.K. Miller crew was noted as “to War Cas. [Casualty] Depot. (N.E. Missing).”

The Miller crew’s Bomb Aimer, Sgt. J.R. Ellis (A.B.), was John Robert Ellis. Ellis attended The King’s (The Cathedral) School in Peterborough, UK as a boy. In 1949, the school dedicated a memorial to all of the former students of the school who lost their lives during World War II and Ellis was memorialized on it.

The King’s (The Cathedral) School in Peterborough WWII Memorial
Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Many years later, in November 2015, The King’s (The Cathedral) School in Peterborough, United Kingdom published a booklet called “The King’s (The Cathedral) School Peterborough War Memorials” © 2014 Jane King.

In the forward, Jane King writes,

The memorials that hang in the school’s library and within St Sprite’s Chapel at Peterborough Cathedral record the names of former pupils and staff of The King’s School, Peterborough known to have died in the service of their country in the course of the First and Second World Wars. This booklet has been written in honour of every Old Petriburgian, known or unknown, who made that ultimate sacrifice. The details have been compiled from a variety of sources, including records held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the General Register Office and The National Archives. Some information has also been extracted from contemporary local newspapers held by the relevant Library and Archives Sections, and from other publications. Many details are from The King’s School’s own archives, including photographs and information kindly given to the school by relatives of those who died.

The school’s memorial booklet, which includes memorials and biographies from their losses in both WWI and WWII, includes the story of the 18/19 March 1944 mission on which Ellis lost his life and crewmate Lawrence Newbold became a prisoner of war.

The section of World War II memorials begins on page 39. It notes that the WWII memorial, a wooden plaque crafted from English oak, to “The King’s School old boys who died in World War 2 was unveiled in the school library in a ceremony which took place on the evening of Thursday 14th July 1949.”

The inscription of the memorial in the school library read “SCHOLA REGIA PETRIBURGENSIS To the Glory of God and in remembrance of the old boys of the King’s School Peterborough who gave their lives for their country in the Second World War,” and included the names of the school’s WWII twenty-nine dead, including J.R. ELLIS.

The King’s School memorial that hangs in Peterborough Cathedral was unveiled a year later, on 10th October 1950, includes one additional name, for a total of thirty boys from the same school lost in WWII.

The biography of former student John Robert Ellis of the Miller crew begins on page 50.

John Robert Ellis was born in Peterborough on 28/2/1922 [February 28, 1922], the eldest son of Frank Joe and Lillian Mantle Ellis. He graduated from The King’s School in 1939 and became a journalist, but later worked for the Income Tax Collection Department. He married Betty May Jellings in 1942, in the Battersea District and their son was born later that year.

On the same page, the document relates the events of the 18/19 March 1944 mission on which Ellis lost his life and crewmate Lawrence Newbold became a prisoner of war.

(On the evening of 18th March 1944, 846 aircraft from Bomber Command, comprising 620 Lancasters, 209 Halifaxes and 17 Mosquitoes, took off for their target of Frankfurt. Twenty two of those aircraft were lost during the operation. (The Bomber Command War Diaries, An Operational reference Book 1939-1945, by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt, has more details). Avro Lancaster I serial number ED308 VN-J was one of the aircraft which took part in that operation).

Lancaster serial number ED308 VN-J took off from Skellingthorpe at 19:15 hours on 18/3/1944 [March 18, 1944]. The crew comprised Pilot Officer W.J.K Miller, Sergeant C.W.T. Case, Flight Sergeant H.J. Rouse, Sergeant J.R. Ellis, Sergeant L.E. Newbold, Sergeant G.T. Howe and Sergeant E.C. Lehman RCAF. According to the research of Hans L. Grimminger, it was shot down by a night-fighter and crashed at 22:20 hours (German time) at Gross Gerau, NW-Darmstadt, Hessen in Germany.

John Robert Ellis, George Tennant Howe and Edgar Clarence Lehman all died on 19/3/1944 [March 19, 1944]. They were originally buried at Gross Gerau. After the War they were reinterred in Durnbach War Cemetery in Germany, where they now rest in adjoining graves. The remaining members of the crew survived the crash and became Prisoners of War. Pilot Officer W.J.K. Miller (service number 54175), Flight Sergeant C.W.T Case (service number 1819583), and Flight Sergeant H.J. Rouse (service number 1317908) were all held at Stalag Luft 1 West in Barth Vogelsang in Germany. Flight Sergeant L.E. Newbold (service number 157628) was held at Stalag Luft 4 in Sagan and Polaria, Poland.

John is buried in grave 1.H.16 at the Durnbach War Cemetery. (Edgar Lehman is in grave I.H.14. George Howe is in grave I.H.15). On 7/4/1944 [April 7, 1944] the Peterborough Standard reported him as missing. He is named in the Book of Remembrance at Peterborough Cathedral and on the Wentworth Street Methodist Church War Memorial (which was removed to Westgate Chapel and rededicated in November 1984).

According to Lawrence Newbold’s story as passed down to family, when the Miller crew’s bomber was shot down, Lawrence bailed out. He landed in a tree, and once he had freed himself from his parachute and the tree, he walked a while to a farm and gave himself up to the Germans.

Recalling his time as a prisoner of war, Lawrence talked of being crammed into railway wagons. His story was once in a book (either he kept a diary during his POW time or wrote about it later), but unfortunately his book of wartime memories cannot be located.

I do hope to hear more of Lawrence Newbold’s stories of the war from Newbold family members and plan to write more about them and Lawrence’s pre- and post-war life in a future article.

Sources

Thank you to Lawrence Newbold’s son Stephen Newbold, Stephen’s wife Margaret, and Stephen’s son Paul for providing information regarding Lawrence Newbold’s service in WWII.

Previous post, Laurie Newbold

“The King’s (The Cathedral) School Peterborough War Memorials” © 2014 Jane King November 2015

The King’s (The Cathedral) School, Peterborough at Park Rd, Peterborough PE1 2UE, United Kingdom

Royal Air Force Acronyms/Abbreviations

“The Bomber Command War Diaries, An Operational reference Book 1939-1945” by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt can be found on multiple used book sites

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The RAF Heavy Bomber Crew in World War II

Continued from previous post, RAF and USAAF, Allies in the World War II Air War


Recap:  During my father’s (George Edwin Farrar, waist gunner of the 384th Bomb Group during WWII) confinement as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft IV, he had a British roommate in the POW camp named Lawrence Newbold. Dad and Lawrence were also companions on the 86-day, 500-mile march of POW’s across Germany from 6 February 1945 to their liberation on 2 May 1945.

Lawrence Newbold, an enlistee in the British Royal Air Force (RAF), served as a wireless operator on an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber with the 50 Squadron based at Skelllingthorpe, England in the East Midlands.

Because of this personal connection my father had to a member of the RAF, I will, in a series of posts, take a look at an overview of the RAF in World War II, the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber that Lawrence Newbold flew in, and the mission on which he became a prisoner of war.


The British Imperial War Museum’s website helped me learn about the differences between an RAF Avro Lancaster heavy bomber crew and a USAAF B-17 heavy bomber crew.

From the Imperial War Museum – Who’s Who In An RAF Bomber Crew

The typical RAF Avro Lancaster heavy bomber operated with seven crew members where a USAAF B-17 heavy bomber crew typically had nine or ten.

  1. Pilot. On the RAF Avro Lancaster, the Pilot flew the aircraft and was the captain who coordinated the actions of the entire crew. In case of emergency bailout of the crew, he stayed at the controls as the last of the crew to leave the aircraft. The Lancaster did not have a co-pilot. The USAAF B-17 crew had both pilot and co-pilot, two trained pilots in the cockpit.
  2. Navigator. On the Lancaster, the Navigator was responsible for keeping the aircraft on course both to the target and on the return flight to base. Until 1942, the Navigator also aimed and released the bombs. The B-17 similarly had a navigator.
  3. Bomb-Aimer. The Lancaster Bomb-Aimer was a new position in 1942. The Bomb-Aimer controlled the aircraft on the bomb run, lying flat in the nose of the plane. He directed the pilot until bomb release and the bombing photograph was taken. A mission was credited to the airmen based on the photo as proof that the operation was completed. The Bomb-Aimer also had some pilot training and could fill in as a reserve pilot if needed. Where the B-17 had two pilots, both a pilot and co-pilot, the Lancaster had only a pilot with his backup being the Bomb-Aimer. The B-17 similarly had a bombardier, although the B-17 bombardier could not act as a reserve pilot.
  4. Flight Engineer. The Lancaster Flight Engineer position was also a new position in 1942. He controlled the mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, and fuel systems, assisted the pilot with take-offs and landings, and provided fuel calculations in an emergency. He was also the reserve Bomb-Aimer, the lookout for enemy fighters, and the coordinator with the ground crew. The B-17 similarly had an engineer who was also the top turret gunner.
  5. Wireless Operator. The Lancaster Wireless Operator was responsible for transmitting messages to and from the crew’s base and position signals. He also served as a reserve gunner and addressed minor emergencies aboard the aircraft. He also was required to remain at his post, sending out distress signals, in the event of a ditching into the sea. The B-17 similarly had a radio operator.
  6. Mid-Upper Turret Gunner. The Lancaster Mid-Upper Turret Gunner was confined to his turret for the entire mission and was separated from the other crew members. His primary duty other than as a gunner was to advise the pilot of enemy aircraft. The B-17 similarly had a crew member who was a top turret gunner, but he was also the engineer. On the B-17, his turret was directly behind the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit.
  7. Rear Turret Gunner. The Lancaster Rear Turret Gunner was confined to his turret for the entire mission and was separated from the other crew members. His primary duty other than as a gunner was to advise the pilot of enemy aircraft. The B-17 similarly had a tail gunner, although he could come forward into the fuselage if necessary.

The RAF Avro Lancaster did not have a ball turret, and therefore, no ball turret gunner on the crew. The Lancaster also had no waist gunners, where the B-17 had two – one at each waist window – early in the war, but reduced to one gunner who manned the waist guns on both sides of the B-17 later in the war.

So, in comparison,

Crew Position RAF Lancaster USAAF B-17 Notes
Pilot 1 2 B-17 – pilot and co-pilot
Navigator 1 1
Bomb Aimer/Bombardier 1 1 Lancaster – also reserve pilot
Flight Engineer 1 1
Wireless/Radio Operator 1 1
Mid-Upper/Top Turret Gunner 1 0 B-17 – flight engineer was top turret gunner
Rear Turret/Tail Gunner 1 1
Ball Turret Gunner 0 1 No ball turret on the Lancaster
Waist Gunners 0 1 or 2 No waist gunners on the Lancaster
Total Crew 7 9 or 10

To learn more about what it was like for the young airmen who served on a British Lancaster heavy bomber during World War II and to see inside the aircraft, visit the Lancaster Experience at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford in Cambridgeshire, England. Or from the comfort of your home, watch this fourteen-minute video, Lancaster Bomber: The Incredible Ability of the Dambuster’s Heavy Bomber.

To be continued…

Sources

Previous post, Laurie Newbold

Previous post, RAF and USAAF, Allies in the World War II Air War

Imperial War Museum – Who’s Who In An RAF Bomber Crew

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

RAF and USAAF, Allies in the World War II Air War

During my father’s (George Edwin Farrar, waist gunner of the 384th Bomb Group during WWII) confinement as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft IV, he had a British roommate in the POW camp named Lawrence Newbold. Dad and Lawrence were also companions on the 86-day, 500-mile march of POW’s across Germany from 6 February 1945 to their liberation on 2 May 1945.

Lawrence Newbold, an enlistee in the British Royal Air Force (RAF), served as a wireless operator on an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber with the 50 Squadron based at Skelllingthorpe, England in the East Midlands.

Because of this personal connection my father had to a member of the RAF, I will, in a series of posts, take a look at an overview of the RAF in World War II, the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber that Lawrence Newbold flew in, and the mission on which he became a prisoner of war.


World War II began in Europe on 1 September 1939 when Germany invaded Poland. Two days later on 3 September, Great Britain along with France, Australia, and New Zealand, declared war on Germany.

The United States did not enter World War II for two more years, leaving Great Britain and the Allies to battle the Nazis on their own.

The British Royal Air Force’s (RAF) Bomber Command had been created a few years earlier, in 1936, and began with light and heavy bomber squadrons.

By 1939, RAF Bomber Command was comprised of twenty-three bomber squadrons with two hundred eighty aircraft. With this number of planes, the RAF was able to bomb military targets like warships and airfields, and they did so in daylight hours, making themselves easy targets, and resulting in heavy losses. In 1939, night missions were reserved for the purpose of dropping leaflets.

Night-time bombing missions started in 1940 after the Nazis invaded France. Targets were German industry and especially synthetic oil production targets. However, identification of specific targets was almost impossible in the dark and the nighttime bombing missions were not particularly effective.

In 1941, RAF Bomber Command grew in strength, but nighttime navigation was still a problem. With German fighters and anti-aircraft (flak) guns becoming more effective, RAF losses were heavy.

On 7 December 1941, Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. On 8 December, the United States and Great Britain declared war on Japan. On 11 December, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States.

Great Britain and the United States were now allies fighting common enemies, Germany and Japan.

In 1942, Air Chief Marshal Sir Arthur Harris became the new leader of RAF Bomber Command. Also, Bomber Command received the new Avro Lancaster heavy bomber and by June of that year, seven squadrons were using the Lancaster. In 1942, it was also determined that nighttime precision bombing was not working and the British War Cabinet made the decision to authorize ‘area bombing,’ in which entire cities were targeted to destroy both factories and workers.

The year 1942 was also the year that the the first American heavy bomber mission was launched from England. On 17 August 1942, the US Army Air Forces made it first attack on occupied Europe.

Twelve B-17E Heavy Bombers of the 97th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force were escorted by RAF (British Royal Air Force) Spitfires against the railroad marshalling yards at Rouen-Sotteville, France. Six other aircraft flew a diversion mission along the French coast.

The mission was deemed a success with only minor damage to two aircraft. These first American bombers left from the air base at Grafton Underwood, future home of the 384th Bomb Group.

Budd Peaslee, courtesy of Quentin Bland via the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Text of the above memorial plaque:  The first and last bombs dropped by the 8th Air Force were from aeroplanes flying from Grafton Underwood. With the plaque is Budd Peaslee, first commander of the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood.

By 1943, an ‘around the clock’ offensive against the Nazis was in place, with RAF Bomber Command continuing night missions and the USAAF Eighth Air Force flying daylight missions over Nazi-occupied territory. American bombers suffered substantial losses due to lack of fighter support over enemy territory. Also in 1943, the RAF Pathfinder Force introduced the use of colored marker flares to guide the bombers to their targets.

By 1944, the combined RAF and USAAF bomber forces began to overwhelm the Germans. By the spring of 1944, Allied escort fighters had been improved to be able to fly deeper into Germany, better protecting the Allied bombers from German fighter attack. RAF Bomber Command was able to begin operating in daylight again, but continued the ‘area bombing’ attacks on entire cities. The Allied fighters inflicted heavy damage on the Luftwaffe (German Air Force).

By 1945, the RAF had one hundred eight squadrons with over fifteen hundred aircraft. The Allied bombings robbed Germany of fuel for their military machine, and industrial city after city had been destroyed. Victory over Germany was declared on 8 May 1945, but once the war was over, RAF Bomber Command had lost over 55,000 aircrew members.

To be continued…

Sources

Previous post, Laurie Newbold

Imperial War Museum – RAF Bomber Command During The Second World War

American Battle Monuments Commision – Beginnings of the 8th Air Force in World War II

Wikipedia – 97th Operations Group

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Alan Purchase and His First Mission with the 8th AF in WWII

384th Bomb Group Navigator George Alan Purchase
Photo courtesy of Fred Terzian

I recently connected with family of 384th Bomb Group, 546th Bomb Squadron navigator George Alan Purchase. Scott Hahn and Fred Terzian shared a story of Alan Purchase’s wartime experiences with me, a story Alan had shared with them and that Fred had polished up as part of a WWII documentary that Alan was presenting to the residents of a senior living center in California.

George Alan Purchase was assigned to the 546th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #18 on 21 January 1945 as a Second Lieutenant. He was later promoted to First Lieutenant. Alan completed sixteen combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group from his first on 14 February 1945 to his last on 20 April 1945.

Alan’s story, “My First Mission with the 8th Air Force During World War II,” is an excellent story and provides a great deal of detail regarding the life of an airman in WWII. It is now a part of the 384th Bomb Group website’s Stories page.

Alan’s story covers his stateside training before entering combat, his journey to the European theater, acclimating to England, his pre-mission routine, details of his very first mission, which was a rough one, details about a few more difficult missions, and a post-war visit to Germany.

While I strongly advise you to take a few minutes and read Alan’s entire story, as it’s a great read and very well written, I am going to concentrate here on the detail Alan has provided regarding the accommodations at Grafton Underwood, the pre-mission routine an airman experienced getting ready for a combat mission, and what participating in a mission was like.

Keep in mind, this detail is from the perspective of an officer and the enlisted man’s routine would be slightly different.

Also, keep in mind the following quotations are from George Alan Purchase as he wrote them and then documented by Fred Terzian.

Alan described his living accommodations in a Nissen hut on his base at Station 106, Grafton Underwood in the English Midlands as,

Officer’s quarters were in prefab buildings with corrugated metal sides and roofs. Each housed 24-32 officers in double deck bunks, heated by a central coal fired potbellied stove. Because the midlands are very cold and damp in winter, I “requisitioned ” extra blankets, folding some double, so I had eight layers to crawl under. They were heavy but I was reasonably warm. Unfortunately, earlier residents had shot holes in the roof of our building, so rain and snow leaked in.

Nissen huts can be seen in this photo of 384th Bomb Group airplane armorer Paul Bureau at Grafton Underwood.

Paul Bureau, an airplane armorer of the 547th Bomb Squadron, with Nissen huts in the background.
Photo contributed by Shaye Bureau, Paul Bureau’s daughter.

Some enlisted quarters were similar, Nissen huts with bunk beds, with or without holes in the roof, but some of the enlisted men lived in large tents rather than corrugated metal buildings. One of those tents housed the enlisted crew of John Hunt. The crew decorated the doorway of their tent with their crew name, Hunt’s Henchmen.

The “Hunt’s Henchmen” tent, living quarters of the enlisted crew of pilot John Hardy Hunt, Jr., 545th Bomb Squadron.
Photo contributed by Todd Touton, son of William Touton, the crew’s co-pilot.

After arriving at Grafton Underwood, Alan Purchase learned to drink “warm, weak, and bitter” English pub beer, and also “had to learn to drink scotch since bourbon was in very short supply.” He explained that the base always had an ample supply of scotch from the regular B-17 “training missions” to Scotland.

After a week of flying around the area to get familiar with the terrain, base location, and weather conditions, his crew was ready for their first mission. By then, Alan could finally consider himself a “fly boy” and was,

…ready to go out and help save the world from the evil empire. At age nineteen the thought of injury or death was not a consideration. I felt fatalistic. What was going to happen would happen.

In his story, Alan goes on to describe what it was like to prepare for and participate in a B-17 combat mission.

Wake up and briefings

Wake up came at 3:30 in the morning, breakfast at 4:00, briefing at 4:30. The briefing room was a long building with folding chairs and a raised platform at the end. A map of northern Europe, hidden by a curtain, covered the wall. The briefing officer pulled the curtain back dramatically and a loud groan came from the audience. Our target was to be Nuremberg, about as far into Germany as we could go, with a route that zigzagged diagonally across the country to cause confusion about what would be our ultimate target. We would be flying over Germany for a long time. That was heady stuff for a wet behind the ears 19-year-old.

The separate navigator’s briefing was at 5:30 where I was issued maps before going to the flight line by 6:00 am. We picked up our flight gear, parachutes and escape packages and reported to our plane. Being the newest crew, we were assigned the oldest and coldest B-17 on the base, but we were excited to finally be flying a real mission.

Get dressed and outfitted for high-altitude flying

First, we put the flight suit over our uniform wool pants and shirt. It was followed by the electrical suit, the insulated flight jacket, pants, and boots, plus gloves with silk liners. It regularly gets to minus 30-50 degrees F at 25-30,000 feet, in an uninsulated cabin with undependable heat. The only thing between us and the outside was a thin aluminum skin. Next came the helmet with earphones, throat mike, the “Mae West” flotation vest and then the parachute harness. Finally, the oxygen mask was clipped to the helmet. The whole process took a while, and everything had to be done just so. It is hard to make corrections in the air.

Board the B-17 Flying Fortress

After pulling ourselves up through the front escape hatch, (something I could never do today), the pilot, copilot and engineer climbed up to the cockpit while the bombardier and I [the navigator] went into the nose compartment. The radio man, waist gunners, belly gunner and tail gunner had an easy entrance to the rear of the aircraft behind the bomb bay. It was time to get organized with maps and other items, and get plugged in. The electric suit went into one jack, the nose mike into another, the headset into a third and the oxygen mask hanging from my helmet will go into a fourth when we reach 10,000 feet. With three or four lines connected I am careful when moving about, but I was able to reach the “cheek” gun across from my navigator’s desk in case of fighter attack.

Taxi, take-off, and join the formation

At seven am we rolled onto the taxi strip with other members of our squadron. After takeoff climbing to higher altitudes, we circled our field numerous times as we formed our squadron and then group formations. Through the clouds we can see aircraft from neighboring fields and hope they are able to keep in their areas of the sky.

After forty minutes of circling, we headed for the rendezvous point to join our wing and other groups participating in the mission. With several hundred planes in the air precision timing is mandatory.

Leave the safety of England for the continent and enemy territory

The English Channel looked rough, France itself was quite pretty, and then, after another hour in the air, we enter Germany. During this time, we had been escorted by what we called “our little friends”, P 51 fighters based in France. But shortly after entering Germany we are on our own. Looking down, the German countryside was peaceful and pastoral with neat farms and small villages appearing from time to time. But we knew we’d meet with hostility if we were forced down.

Into combat

There are heavy concentrations of anti-aircraft guns in the region we entered Germany and “flak” (small pieces of steel) darkened the sky. Fortunately, we are high enough so most of the guns could not reach us. We then faced flying for more than two hours from the northwest to the south east of Germany, with the threat of fighters all the way.

Finally, we saw Nuremberg, surrounded with more anti-aircraft guns. We drop to 23,000 feet in altitude for better bombing accuracy, within range of the guns. Our target was the railroad marshaling yards on the edge of the city. The dangerous part is the long two- or three-minute bombing run [from the Initial Point of the run to the Target] when the plane is under the control of the bombardier. For accurate bombing it must be very steady, maintaining constant altitude, speed, and direction. That day everything worked as planned with a good bomb drop.

During the bomb run, the formation and each plane in the formation could not waver, could not attempt to evade enemy action. They had to maintain their steady course to the target in order to drop their bombs at the right moment in the right location to make the mission count. This action took bravery, courage, and nerves of steel of every airman to carry out his task.

Bombs away and head home 

As we turned away from the target, preparing for our flight home, things changed very rapidly. Our far-right engine failed, and we had to drop out of formation since we could no longer keep up with the other planes.

Here, I leave you with a cliff-hanger. To find out what happened to Alan Purchase and the rest of the Leif Robert Ostnes crew of the 546th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group, you may read the rest of Alan Purchase’s story on the 384th Bomb Group website.

And if you want to check out some of the other stories of the 384th Bomb Group, you will find many more presented on the website’s Stories page. You will find many personal stories, diaries, Veteran’s History Project interviews, videos, and more

This kind of information is always best presented by someone who lived it like 8th Air Force Navigator George Alan Purchase. Thank you, Alan, for recording your story to share with future generations. And thank you Scott Hahn and Fred Terzian for bringing it to my attention and sharing it with me. 

Sources

George Alan Purchase personnel record, courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

MY FIRST MISSION with the 8th Air Force During World War II by George Alan Purchase, courtesy of Fred Terzian, as published on 384BombGroup.com

384th Bomb Group Stories Page

With the exception of quotations from George Alan Purchase’s “MY FIRST MISSION with the 8th Air Force During World War II,” © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

WWII Combat Chronology – 28 September 1944

I am continuing my series of articles based on the entries from Kit C. Carter and Robert Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces. Both combat chronologies are excellent sources of information regarding combat missions in World War II and I thank the authors for sharing them online.

These articles are concentrated on the operations of the 8th Army Air Forces on the missions on which the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group participated. The statistics of other dates and missions and of other branches of the American Air Forces and theaters of operation of World War II are available through the links provided in this article to these two sources for those interested.

Today’s installment is the 28 September 1944 mission in which the Buslee crew and Brodie crew participated and were both lost in a mid-air collision.


WWII Combat Chronology – Thursday, 28 September 1944

384th BG Mission 201/8th AF Mission 652 to Magdeburg, Germany.

Target: Industry, Steelworks.

The John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.

Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 entry:

Nearly 1,000 HBs attack 2 synthetic oil plants, a motor plant, and city area—all in or near Magdeburg, Kassel, and Merseburg plus T/Os in C Germany including Eschwege A/F. 15 supporting ftr gps claim 26 aircraft destroyed. Over 30 HBs fail to return. Nearly 200 B-24’s carry fuel to France.

Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces entry:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force):  Two missions were flown.

  1. Mission 652 to oil and military vehicle factories in C Germany. The Buslee and Brodie crews participated in this mission and both were lost in a mid-air collision.
  2. Mission 653, a leaflet drop in France, the Netherlands, and Germany during the night.

Also, B-24s fly a TRUCKIN’ mission to France with fuel. The 374th, 375th and 376th Fighter Squadrons, 361st Fighter Group, move from Bottisham to Little Walden, England with P-51s.

Mission 652: 1,049 bombers and 724 fighters are dispatched to hit oil and military vehicle factories in C Germany using PFF means; they claim 37-8-18 Luftwaffe aircraft; 34 bombers and 7 fighters are lost:

  1. 445 B-17s are dispatched to hit the Magdeburg/Rothensee oil refinery (23); 359 hit the secondary at Magdeburg and 35 hit targets of opportunity; they claim 10-7-5 aircraft; 23 B-17s are lost, 2 damaged beyond repair and 126 damaged; 8 airmen are WIA and 208 MIA. Escort is provided by 263 P-38s and P-51s; they claim 24-0-13 aircraft in the air and 1-0-0 on the ground; 5 P-51s are lost, 1 damaged beyond repair and 4 damaged; 5 pilots are MIA.

  2. 342 B-17s are dispatched to hit the Merseburg/Leuna oil refinery (301); 10 others hit targets of opportunity; 10 B-17s are lost, 4 damaged beyond repair and 251 damaged; 4 airmen are KIA, 15 WIA and 92 MIA. Escort is provided by 212 of 231 P-51s; they claim 2-1-0 aircraft in the air; 1 P-51 is lost (pilot MIA).

  3. 262 B-24s are dispatched to hit the Kassel/Henschel motor transport plant (243); 1 hits a target of opportunity; 1 B-24 is lost and 86 damaged; 10 airmen are MIA. Escort is provided by 171 of 195 P-47s; 1 P-47s is lost and 3 damaged; 1 pilot is MIA.

Note

This is the final post in this series. Although some of the Buslee crew members (Chester Rybarczyk, James Davis, Clarence Seeley, Erwin Foster, and Eugene Lucynski) and Brodie crew members (William Barnes and William Taylor)  served in the 384th Bomb Group past this mission, I have limited combat chronology coverage here to only those missions leading up to and including the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944.

Links/Sources

Except for entries from Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and McKillop’s Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The Evacuation of Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I (Barth)

On 28 September 1944, the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was involved in a mid-air collision with the James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222Lazy Daisy) coming off the 384th Bomb Group’s target at Magdeburg, Germany.

My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the only survivor of the Buslee ship. George Hawkins (navigator), Harry Liniger (waist gunner), and Wilfred Miller (tail gunner) were the only survivors of the Brodie ship. As an officer, Hawkins would have been sent to an officers’ POW camp in Germany, but he was seriously injured and was held in a hospital setting for prisoners instead.

Farrar, Liniger, and Miller – all enlisted men of the USAAF – were sent to a POW camp for enlisted men only, Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland). With the Russian Army advancing toward the camp in January 1945, the Germans made the decision to evacuate the camp. The majority of the prisoners in the camp were marched out the gates of the camp on February 6, 1945 and were herded at gunpoint across Pomerania and Germany for the next 86 days, covering over 500 miles on foot and by boxcar.

However, not all of the POW’s of Stalag Luft IV made this march. Many were too sick or injured to undertake the trek and other prisoners who were able-bodied enough to do so were selected to be moved, mostly by train, to another POW camp, Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany.

George Farrar and Harry Liniger were both part of the group of POW marchers. Wilfred Miller was part of the POW group sent to Barth. I have written previously about the march and will write more about it in the future, but today I want to share recent information I have learned about the evacuation to Barth by train.

The POW camp of origin of Farrar, Liniger, and Miller was Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now known as Tychowo, Poland). It was about 25 miles or 40 km south of the Baltic Sea coastline.

Stalag Luft I was located two miles northwest of the village of Barth, Germany, on the Baltic Sea. The direct distance, “as the crow flies”, between Luft I and Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow is approximately 144 miles or 232 km, with Luft I being northwest of Luft IV.

Map of 28 September 1944 Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision and crash sites, Stalag Luft IV POW camp, and Stalag Luft I (Barth) POW camp
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

Train Ride to Barth

However, the prisoners were not marched to Barth. Rather they were moved by rail in boxcars. According to former Stalag Luft IV prisoner Joseph P. O’Donnell’s book, The Shoe Leather Express – The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany on pages 34,

Stalag Luft I was located on the Baltic Sea at Barth at 13° Longitude and 54° Latitude and approximately 175 miles from Grosstychow by the 40 and 8 via Stettin.

The prisoners were moved from Luft IV to Luft I by train, and more specifically in “40 and 8” boxcars. A Forty-and-Eight boxcar is of a size that should hold 40 men or 8 horses. Stettin refers to today’s Szczecin, Poland.

Today the trip from Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I would be about four hours by automobile or about fifteen to seventeen hours by train (from Tychowo, Poland to Barth, Germany).

On January 29 or 30, 1945 (or perhaps over multiple days in multiple groups considering the large number of POW’s being transferred), the prisoners selected to be moved to Barth were moved out of Stalag Luft IV. Wilfred Frank Miller of the Brodie crew was one of them.

In Chapter 31, “Train Ride to Barth,”  of her book, “What I Never Told You – A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father,” Candy Kyler Brown describes the transfer of POW’s, including her father, John Kyler, from Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I. Candy writes,

On page 279:

…between two to three thousand inmates of Stalag Luft IV, approximately one-third of the camp population…were marched out in polar weather for the two-mile trek to the Kiefheide train station on January 29, 1945 [to evacuate] the camp. Many among the selected group were ill or injured, but prisoners who were fairly healthy were included in the draw.

On page 281:

On February 8, 1945, [the] train arrived in Barth, Germany, where [the Stalag IV P.O.W.’s] would next take up residence in Stalag Luft I, a POW camp for Allied officers, located on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

In Chapter 32, “The Walk to Stalag Luft I,” on pages 283 and 284 of her book, Candy describes the walk of the Stalag Luft IV prisoners from the Barth railroad station at the end of the “eleven grueling days of boxcar travel,” to the new POW camp at Barth. The POW’s were marched through “a quaint storybook village in a seaside setting,” on “a cobblestone road past open fields and farmland,” and past “an anti-aircraft artillery (flak) school.”

In Joe O’Donnell’s first Shoe Leather Express book, The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany, pages 34 – 35, POW Paul B. Brady, Sr. of the 15th Air Corp, 465th Bomb Group, 781st Bomb Squadron, recalled he was moved to Barth, Stalag Luft I, on January 30, 1945. Brady stated that fifty-two POW’s were loaded into his boxcar for the evacuation from Grosstychow to Barth.

Brady also said,

It took us eight days to reach Stalag Luft I, we were seldom let out of the boxcars and only had two buckets for relief purposes, we had to bribe the guards with a few cigarettes when we stopped on the sidings to push some snow through the crack of the door so we could let it melt for drinking water. Of course this was the same opening all of us had been using to urinate through for days to try to conserve the two buckets for the P.O.W.’s with dysentery that most of us had.

Another Stalag Luft IV transferee, Godfrey E. “Jeff” Boehm, added that before the arrival of the POW’s from Stalag Luft IV, Stalag Luft I was only for Air Force officers (multi-national, mostly American, British, and French) and their orderlies. Yes, it seems in Stalag Luft I, American POW officers had American G.I. (soldiers, ground forces rather than airmen) POW’s as orderlies.

Life at Stalag Luft I, Barth

I am providing a summary of information about the prison camp at Barth, Stalag Luft I, in this article. For an in-depth look at life in Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany, please check out the extensive information on B24.net and Merkki.com.

The following information was prepared by the Military Intelligence Service War Department on 1 November 1945 and was compiled and presented by Greg Hatton on the 392 Bomb Group’s B24.net website. Follow the link for Greg’s full report.

Reproduced from the introduction (general) of camps:

Source material for this report consisted of interrogations of former prisoners of war made by CPM Branch, Military Intelligence Service and Reports of the Protecting Power and International Red Cross received by the State Department (Special War Problems Division).

The first prisoners of Stalag Luft I, which was for Air Force officers, were French and British POW’s who arrived at the camp on 10 July 1940, before the entry of the Americans into World War II.

Housing

By early 1944 the camp consisted of 2 compounds, the South & West compounds, with a total of 7 barracks, housing American officers, and British officers and enlisted men. A new compound (North 1) opened the last of February 1944 to which an increasing number of American officers were housed. North 2 opened on 9 September 1944 and North 3 opened on 9 December 1944. The North compounds completed the camp and this is how the camp remained until liberation of the prisoners in May 1945.

As far as “amenities” in the separate compounds went,

  • The South compound lacked adequate cooking, washing, and toilet facilities.
  • The West compound had latrines and running water in the barracks.
  • The North 1 compound was considered the best compound with a communal mess hall, inside latrines, and running water.
  • The North 2 and 3 compounds were constructed the same as the South compound and also lacked adequate cooking, washing, and toilet facilities.

The completion of North 2 and 3 gave the camp an L-shape appearance. Guard towers were placed at strategic intervals.

As for housing, the barracks in each compound had,

  • Triple-tiered wooden (bunk) beds with wood chip-filled mattresses
  • (Or at least almost every barracks had) a communal day room but without much equipment
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Insufficient ventilation due to the requirement that the barracks’ shutters remain closed from 2100 (9pm) to 0600 (6am)
  • Inadequate stoves for heating and cooking
  • Poor weather-proofing for the bitterly cold northern Germany climate so close to the Baltic Sea

In addition to barracks for housing, the West and North 1 compounds each had the following facilities which were used by all compounds,

  • One kitchen barrack
  • One theater room
  • One church room
  • One library
  • One study room

Food

Before the arrival of the Stalag Luft IV prisoners, the POW’s of Stalag Luft I were fed with Red Cross parcels plus German food prepared in separate kitchens in each compound.

Up until 1 October 1944, the German food ration provided 1200 to 1800 calories per day per man. However, by September through November 1944, the German food ration had been cut to 800 calories and Red Cross supplies became so low, they were also cut, except for the month of December 1944 when the supply returned to the normal amount. In January 1945, the Red Cross supplies were cut again.

In March 1945, no Red Cross parcels were distributed, and German rations were also severely cut. Per the information provided by Greg Hatton, during this “starvation period”, “…Men became so weak that many would fall down while attempting to get from their beds. American ‘MPs’ were placed around garbage cans to prevent the starving PW from eating out of the cans and becoming sick.”

From around the beginning of April 1945, a sufficient supply of Red Cross parcels was received and the POW’s were better fed until the time of the evacuation of the camp.

Health

The medical staff of the camp consisted of two British doctors and six orderlies until 1 March 1945 when an American doctor, Capt. Wilbur E. McKee, arrived. Keeping the POW’s healthy was difficult because of a lack of medical supplies and facilities to handle a large number of patients.

Even before the arrival of the Stalag Luft IV POW’s, the biggest challenge was the poor sanitation in the camp. The camp had only one bathhouse with ten shower heads. Early in 1945, though, another bathhouse with ten shower heads was added.

Still insufficient for the number of POW’s in the camp, there was also an insufficient quantity of wash basins and soap, which not only challenged personal cleanliness, but also the ability to launder clothing and bed linens. Disposal of garbage was also a challenge and the poorly working latrine and wash drains often caused flooding around the barracks.

The number of stoves and amount of fuel was not sufficient to battle the extreme cold of the climate in the area, resulting in upper respiratory illnesses. The requirement that barracks shutters remain closed at night also did not allow for sufficient ventilation in overcrowded conditions inside the barracks.

Liberation

Stalag Luft IV transferee, Godfrey E. “Jeff” Boehm said that on May 1, 1945, Russian guerrillas overran the camp. Paul Brady, Jeff Boehme, John Kyler, Wilfred Miller, and the other POW’s at Stalag Luft I were liberated by the Russians.

The German Commandant of the camp had been ordered to move the camp to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Russians, but the POW’s were determined not to move unless they were forced to do so. On the night of April 30, to avoid bloodshed, the Commandant and guards of the camp turned out the lights and left the camp, leaving the gate unlocked.

The POW’s took over the camp, taking over the guard stations to keep the POW’s orderly and from leaving the camp and to keep other Germans from coming into the camp. On May 1, contact was made with Russian advance troops and Russian scouting parties visited the camp. After two or three days, the Russian commander made arrangements to feed the Stalag Luft I prisoners.

Evacuation

Jeff Boehm reported,

The Russians had the airfield cleared in three days so we could be evacuated but it was thirteen days before the sky was crowded with B-17’s for our mass move to Camp Lucky Strike in LeHarve, France. We had a couple of guys who spoke Russian so we spent quite a lot of time visiting with the Russians.

Although the actual liberation was performed by the Russians, they did not attempt to evacuate the POW’s from the camp other than clearing the airfield. On 6 May 1945, American POW Colonel Jean R. Byerly left camp with two British officers and flew to England the following day. They reported to 8th Air Force headquarters regarding the conditions at the camp, and arrangements were made to evacuate the liberated POWs.

In Chapter 24, “Liberation,” of her book, “What I Never Told You – A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father,” Candy Kyler Brown notes that at the time of liberation of the camp, the sick and injured left Barth on May 12 and everyone else starting on May 13, 1945. Candy’s dad flew out from the POW camp at Barth on May 13. This is the same date Wilfred Miller notes on his POW application as the date he was released as a POW. He must have been in the same group to be liberated as John Kyler.

In “Operation Revival,” the 8th Air Force evacuated nearly 8,500 Allied POW’s between May 13 and 15, 1945 using mainly stripped-down B-17’s, with some C-46’s and C-47’s. This article on the website of the National WWII Museum provides a great deal of detail about the operation to evacuate the prisoners of Stalag Luft I at Barth. For more information about the liberation, the National WWII Museum provides this article.

Notes

Kriegsgefangenen Lagers: Home of the “Kriegie” Airmen, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

STALAG LUFT I – Barth Germany (Air Force Officers), courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft 1 Images, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft 1 Stories, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft I Online – World War II – Prisoners of War – Stalag Luft I

What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father” by Candy Kyler Brown

A selection from The Shoe Leather Express Book 1, courtesy of Gregory Hatton’s Stalag Luft IV website

Operation Revival: Rescue from Stalag Luft I, courtesy of the National WWII Museum

The Liberation of Stalag Luft I, courtesy of the National WWII Museum

Previous post, Wilfred Frank Miller, Update

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The Bombardier in the Buslee Crew Photo

Five years ago, in February 2017, I posed a question to my readers. Do you think the bombardier in the John Buslee crew photo is Marvin Fryden or James Davis? I am referring to the airman standing in the back row on the far right.

The Buslee Crew

The Buslee Crew

Marvin Fryden was the John Buslee crew’s original bombardier. Fryden was killed on his second mission on 5 August 1944 aboard the B-17 Tremblin’ Gremlin by a burst of flak. James Buford Davis replaced Fryden as the Buslee crew’s bombardier on 9 August 1944.

On the back of the Buslee crew photo that I have, the man standing on the far right is identified as James Davis. I have always questioned the accuracy of that identification. I have always believed that the bombardier in the photo is Fryden.

I have positive identifications of the remaining members of the crew in the photo. These are the identifications provided on the back of the photo in my mother’s handwriting.

Back row, left to right:
• 2Lt. John Oliver Buslee, Pilot, from Park Ridge, Illinois
• 2Lt. David Franklin Albrecht, Co-Pilot, from Chico, California
• 2Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk, Navigator, from Toledo, Ohio
• 2Lt. James B. Davis, Bombardier, from New Castle, Indiana

Front row, left to right:
• Sgt. Erwin V. Foster, Ball Turret Gunner, from Elmira, New York
• Sgt. Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner, from Brooklyn, New York
• Cpl. Lenard Leroy Bryant, Waist Gunner, from Lubbock, Texas
• Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, from Halsey, Nebraska
• S/Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, Tail Gunner, from Detroit, Michigan
• Sgt. George Edwin Farrar, Waist Gunner, from Atlanta, Georgia, (my dad)

I have been able to verify through other photographs of these men that those identifications are accurate. I only questioned the identification of Davis as the bombardier and hoped I could eventually determine if that identification is accurate as well.

Unfortunately, at the time I was attempting to analyze the faces in the photo, I only had a photo of James Davis, no photo of Marvin Fryden. On my visit to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in October 2016, I found this photo of James Buford Davis in uniform in his Army Air Forces personnel file.

James Buford Davis, second bombardier of the John Buslee crew

James Buford Davis, second bombardier of the John Buslee crew

To my eye, when comparing the photo of Davis to the bombardier in the crew photo, I could not determine that the airman in the crew photo was Davis, and so concluded that it was Fryden. But I still felt a great deal of uncertainty without a photo of Fryden to use for the comparison.

James Davis on the left. Davis or Marvin Fryden on the right?

James Davis on the left. Davis or Marvin Fryden on the right?

I had another reason to believe Fryden was in the photo. I believed that James Davis would not have appeared in a Buslee crew photo that also included Clarence Burdell Seeley.

James Davis did not join the Buslee crew until the 9 August 1944 mission and would not have appeared in a crew photo until, at least, he had been named as the bombardier replacement for their crew. So James Davis would not be in a Buslee crew photo on or before 5 August, when Marvin Fryden was killed. Add to that, Clarence Burdell Seeley looks very healthy in the crew photo, not what I would expect after 5 August 1944.

On the 5 August 1944 mission in which Marvin Fryden was killed, the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Clarence Burdell Seeley was hit by flak and seriously injured. A jagged piece of steel ripped through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. He was taken to the 65th General Hospital for treatment and was hospitalized there for 35 days.

The 65th General Hospital was at Redgrave Park in Suffolk County, England. Redgrave Park is about 85 miles/137 km from Grafton Underwood, home of the 384th Bomb Group. During his period of hospitalization, Seeley would not have been in the Grafton Underwood area for a crew photograph.

Back in 2017, I enlisted 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson in my research and he speculated that,

I suspect the 65th General Hospital was the general hospital closest to the field (Halesworth, Station 365) that they [the Buslee crew] landed at upon return from the [5 August 1944] mission. Once he [Seeley] was ambulatory and it was determined that he would possibly recover well enough to go back on flight status, I imagine he would be returned to GU [the 384th’s base at Grafton Underwood] for convalescence and evaluation by the squadron flight surgeon.

If I recall correctly, five years ago Keith believed the bombardier in the photo to be Davis and believed the photo was taken at Grafton Underwood. At the time, I was under the assumption that the photo was a photo of the original crew taken at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the end of their crew training before they left the States for England.

In the past few years, I have found more information in the records of the 384th Bomb Group which provides more detail about the timeline of Seeley’s hospitalization and recovery period.

According to military records, on 13 August 1944, Seeley was moved from the 65th General Hospital to the 4209 U.S. Army Hospital Plant, APO 587. APO (Army Post Office) 587 was located at Knettishall, England, which was about 5.5 miles/8.8 km from the 65th General Hospital at Redgrave Park, still far from Grafton Underwood.

But on 11 September 1944, Seeley went from absent sick (LD) 65th General Hospital to duty. Even though he would not return to flight duty until Mission 203 on 2 October 1944 (four days after the Buslee crew went MIA on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany), Seeley was likely back at Grafton Underwood on or shortly after 11 September.

Now I see a window of opportunity for the Buslee crew photo to include both James Davis and Clarence Seeley that I did not previously see. The crew photo could have been taken sometime during this period between 11 and 28 September. That is the only way I can see both James Davis and a healthy Clarence Burdell Seeley appearing in the same photo.

Sounds like the issue of all the parties being available at the same time for a photo op between 11 and 28 September 1944 works out fine, right? Not so fast. I also discovered that ball turret gunner Erwin Foster was out on sick leave at the 303rd Station Hospital at Thrapston between 10 and 26 September. And tail gunner Eugene Lucynski went MIA with another crew on 19 September, bailing out of Tremblin’ Gremlin over Belgium. He was injured and hospitalized at an unknown location reportedly until 10 November.

Thrapston was only about 5.5 miles/9 km from Grafton Underwood. So I see a possibility that Foster was still close by, maybe even still at Grafton Underwood and being treated on an outpatient basis. If he was on base or able to travel to the base long enough for a photo, perhaps the crew photo was taken during a narrower window of between 11 and 18 September 1944. By 19 September, Lucynski would not have been in the photo.

And recently my other issue – that I had no photo of Marvin Fryden for comparison purposes – was also resolved. Ash Samet, Marvin Fryden’s widow’s grandson (of Marilyn’s second marriage to Jerome Samet), contacted me just a few weeks ago and sent me a portrait of Marilyn and Marvin Fryden. The grandson’s name is Ash Samet. Ash is a computer graphics artist.

Marvin Fryden, bombardier of the John Buslee crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron
Photo courtesy of Ash Samet

I ran the question by him of who he thinks the bombardier in the Buslee crew photo is – Fryden or Davis – and he created this very elaborate comparison of the facial features of both Davis and Fryden to the bombardier in the crew photo.

Photo analysis of Buslee crew photo with comparison to photos of Marvin Fryden and James Davis
Created by Ash Samet, Marilyn Fryden’s grandson and computer graphics artist

If you click the comparison graphic, then click again to enlarge, you can review the detailed comparison that Ash performed. I am going to note Ash’s findings here, too, but please keep in mind, this is Ash Samet’s work and Ash’s words, and I credit Ash Samet fully with this expert analysis.

Ears

One of the first things I notice between the pictures are their ear-shapes! The greyscale photo has an almost angular feel to it, matching James, where Marvin’s ears (for lack of a better word) are almost bean-shaped. Silhouette aside, the greyscale image has an attached earlobe, like James, where Marvin’s earlobes are detached.

Eyes

It’s hard to see since it’s in shadow, but I thought it was interesting how James’s eyelid falls so low that it’s almost giving the appearance of a monolid, where Marvin has a definitively double eyelid. The greyscale image is squinting, but since the brows are lower/not raised, the skin above the eye isn’t being stretched. If he had a double eyelid as defined as Marvin’s, it would be more exaggerated as the folds compress with a squint!

Lips

Another landmark I notice between these pictures is the lips- Marvin has very full lips, and while they could pull to be thinner in a smile/squint, I’d estimate the corners of his mouth would have to reach more towards aligning with the outsides of his eyes. The middle photo’s mouth is pulled slightly wider, but still close enough to a neutral position that I’d say the lip thickness matches James more!

Mouth

James’ mouth also has more of a natural curl at the corners, which is accentuated by the expression in the middle photo.

Smile-lines

A more subtle detail in the photo is the “smile-lines” look very angular- even seeming to make a diamond-shape! Though the left picture of James is a neutral expression, you can see a natural indent that looks similar.

Based on the fat distribution on Marvin’s face, I’d imagine if his mouth pulled wider he’d show dimples.

Nose

The picture of James has a nose with noticeably round features matching the greyscale photo more closely than the picture of Marv, but aside from that, it looks like the eye-to-nose proportions of Marv’s nose is longer than the other images.

Eyebrows

Also a minor detail that’s harder to see- but the eyebrows of the greyscale image seem to reach much closer to the middle of the face than Marv’s- it could possibly be shadow, but they’re dark enough that I’d wager the actual hair itself is darker than Marvin’s!

Well, that kind of does it for me. Ash Samet has me convinced. I’m going with identification of the bombardier in the Buslee crew photo being James Buford Davis.

Keith Ellefson was trying to lead me down that road, but I resisted. I was so convinced that the Buslee crew photo was taken in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where the crew performed their final training. But Keith said, no, the background looks more like England than Oklahoma. To me, if the location was Ardmore, it had to be Fryden in the picture. I wanted to believe it was Oklahoma and I wanted to believe it was Fryden.

And Keith thought the bombardier looked like Davis, too. I should have listened. I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that the crew photo may not have been taken before the crew’s first mission with all ten original crew members. I took the wrong road. I took the scenic route instead, leading me about five years in the wrong direction. Sorry for not listening to you five years ago, Keith. And thank you Ash Samet for taking me by the hand and showing me the proper path step by step to the correct identification of James Buford Davis, the airman, the bombardier, in the photo.

Sources/Notes

Previous post, Davis or Fryden?

Previous post, A Photo of Marvin Fryden, Bombardier of the Buslee Crew

Previous post, August 5, 1944 Mission 173 Press Release – Transcription

Numerical Listing of APO’s January 1942 to November 1947

65th General Hospital

Notes about the 65th General Hospital link: the American Air Museum in Britain website will be down from 30 June 2022 until September 2022 for reconstruction. A notice on their site reads:

The American Air Museum archive is temporarily closing for reconstruction. We are working on a site-wide upgrade which will be completed in September  2022. To allow the American Air Museum team time to process the database, we will be stopping crowdsourced contributions from 30 June 2022. This means that from 30 June 2022 you will not be able to search, add or edit information in the American Air Museum archive. You can find out more about our plans here.

Thank you to the 384th’s Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for obtaining and sharing WWII reports from the National Archives for the 384th Bomb Group. Thanks to Keith, also, for his superb research, analysis, and advice, and thank you to Ash Samet for providing me with the photo of Marvin Fryden and his photo analysis.

Except for the work – image, graphics, and text – of Ash Samet, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

WWII Combat Chronology – 27 September 1944

I am continuing my series of articles based on the entries from Kit C. Carter and Robert Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces. Both combat chronologies are excellent sources of information regarding combat missions in World War II and I thank the authors for sharing them online.

These articles are concentrated on the operations of the 8th Army Air Forces on the missions on which the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group participated. The statistics of other dates and missions and of other branches of the American Air Forces and theaters of operation of World War II are available through the links provided in this article to these two sources for those interested.

Today’s installment is the 27 September 1944 mission in which the Buslee crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Wednesday, 27 September 1944

384th BG Mission 200/8th AF Mission 650 to Cologne (Köln), Germany.

Target: Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards (PFF Aiming Points).

The John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.

Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 entry:

Nearly 1,100 HBs bomb 2 M/Ys, 2 synthetic oil plants, 2 motor works, and a tank and armored vehicle plant, at Cologne, Ludwigshafen, Mainz, and Kassel, and T/Os in W Germany. 15 escorting ftr gps claim 31 aircraft destroyed. Over 160 B-24’s carry gasoline to France.

Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces entry:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): Two missions are flown.

  1. Mission 650 to industrial and transportation targets in W Germany. The Buslee crew participated in this mission.
  2. Mission 651, a leaflet drop in France, the Netherlands, and Germany during the night.

Also, B-24s on a TRUCKIN’ mission carry fuel to France.

Mission 650: 1,192 bombers and 678 fighters are dispatched to hit industrial and transportation targets in W Germany and use PFF methods for all targets; 28 bombers and 2 fighters are lost:

  1. 421 of 462 B-17s hit a secondary target (Cologne) and 10 others hit Blatzheim; 1 B-17 is damaged beyond repair and 165 damaged; 3 airmen are KIA; 7 WIA and 1 MIA. Escort is provided by 221 P-47s and P-51s; they claim 5-0-0 aircraft in the air; 3 P-47s are damaged.

  2. 415 B-17s are dispatched to hit Ludwigshafen/Opau oil refinery (214) and Mainz (171); 4 others hit targets of opportunity; 2 B-17s are lost and 142 damaged; 3 airmen are KIA, 9 WIA and 19 MIA. Escort is provided by 212 P-47s and P-51s; they claim 1-0-0 aircraft in the air; 1 P-47 is damaged.

  3. 315 B-24s are dispatched to hit Kassel/Henschel aircraft plant (248); 35 also hit Gottingen; they claim 5-3-0 aircraft; 26 B-24s are lost, 6 damaged beyond repair and 41 damaged; 20 airmen are KIA, 2 WIA and 245 MIA. Escort is provided by 207 P-38s, P-47s and P-51s; they claim 25-0-6 aircraft in the air and 5-0-1 on the ground; 2 P-51s are lost (pilots MIA), 1 P-51 damaged beyond repair, and 2 P-38s and 2 P-47s damaged.

Links/Sources

Except for entries from Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and McKillop’s Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

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