The Arrowhead Club

American Military Overseas Burials

Last week I introduced you to Teresa (Terry) Hirsch, WWII Genealogist. During her immersion into World War II history, Terry has taken two Battle of the Bulge tours (both in December to get a real feel for the December 16, 1944 to January 25, 1945 campaign) and two D-Day (June 6, 1944) anniversary (the 60th and 65th) tours. I haven’t asked her, but I imagine Terry sometimes feels like a time traveler, as do I, transporting mentally and emotionally back and forth between the WWII 1940’s and current day on a regular basis.

In my research of the war and of those killed in action (or non-combat causes) while serving their country, I was aware that many of our service members remain to this day buried on foreign soil, but I was not knowledgeable as to why. Terry, who does some public speaking, created a “Why are They Buried There?” presentation to share her knowledge, obtained through six years of research and interviews, to answer this question and cover the American military cemeteries in Europe. The answer is not as simple as it seems, and certainly not because relatives could not afford to or care enough to bring them home.

As Terry informed me, the bottom line is that every soldier is buried just where the Next-of-kin asked for him to be buried, either directly or indirectly.

The Next-of-kin of the deceased service member was given four choices for their final resting place. Between the “Disposition of World War II Armed Forces Dead” booklet published by the War Department in 1946 and provided to a service member’s family, along with Terry’s help in understanding these choices, here are the four options given to Next-of-kin. The options fall into two main groupings, with two options in each group.

U.S. Choices – Repatriated to the U.S.

  • A National Cemetery in the U.S. The remains be returned to the United States for final interment in a national cemetery. The U.S. government was responsible for all planning and bore all expenses. The only thing the family had to do was attend the funeral, and that was optional. Teresa notes that although the service member would be buried in America and at no cost whatsoever to the family, the cemetery, which was chosen by the government, might not be convenient to the family for visiting the gravesite, and the timing of everything was all up to the government, which did not ask for input or rearrange timing due to a family scheduling conflict. [The booklet notes that the national cemetery would be selected by the Next-of-kin, however, if the selected cemetery was no longer open for burials at the time the request was received back at the War Department, another selection would be required].
  • A Family/Home Cemetery in the U.S. The remains be returned to the United States, or any possession or territory there-of, for interment by next of kin in a private cemetery. Like the choice of a national cemetery in the U.S., the U.S. government was responsible for all planning and bore all expenses up to and including transportation of the casket/remains to the railroad station closest to where the funeral was to be held. At that point the family took over planning and could have it as minimalist or with as much pomp as they want. The government provided a flat stipend to offset costs. If more than the stipend, the family paid that amount out of their pocket. Teresa notes the example: the grave marker is provided by the U.S. government, the standard plaque, which is never included in determining the stipend. If the family wants bible passages, personal inscriptions (brother, dad, son), or to have his name engraved on the family obelisk, and the cost is over the stipend, the family paid.

Overseas Choices – Buried in Europe

  • American Military Cemetery Overseas. The remains be interred in a permanent American military cemetery overseas. There were two basic reasons for the overseas burials, by design or by default.
    • By Design, because the family requested it, and there were several reasons for the request.
      • The service member requested it. Teresa notes as an example, the service member told his brother, dad, wife, etc., that if he doesn’t make it home, to bury him with his buddies, men, or country he fought in. Thus they are honoring his final request.
      • For the sake of the family. Teresa notes the difficulty for the service member’s children, younger siblings, and elderly parents not being able to go through or restart the mourning process. In Europe, American service members were dying as early as 1942. The earliest the U.S. government was able to return remains home for burial was late 1946 and continued until late 1950. Many families had already had memorial services as soon as they learned of the son’s death. Teresa has had children of soldiers tell her this.
      • Unfounded rumors. Teresa notes that families heard rumors that rocks, German soldiers, or a different U.S. serviceman was in the casket sent home. They believed the Graves Registration team didn’t care or were bad at their job. Teresa adds, know that the Graves Registration team did their job as well as all the other airmen, soldiers, and sailors did theirs and this belief was not deserved. Teresa also notes that one source tells that the team had to be one hundred percent sure it was the family’s service member or else that service member was not identified.  Not ninety or ninety-five percent, one hundred percent sure. Once a Next-of-kin believed this type of rumor, it was next to impossible to dislodge. [Note: the booklet does include an extended discussion regarding the identity of the deceased.]
    • By Default, because the Next-of-kin never replied despite many attempts to reach them. Teresa mentions the War Department tried many times to directly contact the Next-of-kin, and they also used the ‘social media’ of the day. There were articles placed in newspapers around the country that asked about the service member in question. They provided his name, his Next-of-kin and the last address they had. They then asked readers for their help in contacting the family.
  • Family Country. The remains be shipped within, or returned to a foreign country, the homeland of the deceased or next of kin, for interment by next of kin in a private cemetery. If the service member or one of his parents were native to a country in Europe, the family could request he be buried there, either in one of the large American military cemeteries or the family could plan a burial in their family village. Teresa notes that six families requested their service member be buried in Poland, but  Poland’s new government never gave their approval nor their disapproval, thus the six were buried at one of the two American cemeteries in Belgium.

Aside from the above four options, the War Department provided for an,

Alternate Choice. The Next-of-kin was also given the option of an Alternate Choice, which meant that if none of the above options provided for their wish, they could submit their specific desire to the Office of the Quartermaster General for final decision by the War Department.

Thanks to Teresa Hirsch, I have a much better understanding of the Next-of-kin’s choices and reasons why WWII deceased service members were buried where they were.

This leads me to my next task of reviewing where the airmen serving with the Buslee and Brodie crews of the 384th Bomb Group are buried. Stay tuned for a look at that information in a couple of weeks.

Sources

Teresa Hirsch, WWII Genealogist

Pamphlet: Disposition of World War II Armed Forces Dead

Website: American Battle Monuments Commission

Previous post in this series

American Cemetery Grave Adopters

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

American Cemetery Grave Adopters

Memorial Day is an American holiday we observe every year on the last Monday of May. On this day we honor the men and women who died while serving in the U.S. military. Memorial Day 2021 was observed earlier this week, on Monday, May 31.

Memorial Day originated following the American Civil War and was originally known as Decoration Day. It did not become an official federal holiday until 1971. Today, Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting military cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and attending patriotic concerts and parades.

With the recent observance of Memorial Day, it seemed like an appropriate time to explore the topic of American military service members buried on foreign soil.

In this and two future posts, I’ll explore the American Cemetery in Margraten grave adoption program, look into why some of our military dead are still buried overseas, and review which members of the Buslee and Brodie crews of the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision are buried there and in which cemeteries.


WWII Genealogist Teresa (Terry) Hirsch recently asked for my assistance. Terry informed me that the adopter of Lt. James Joseph Brodie’s grave at the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten wanted to connect with a Brodie family member. (James Brodie, who was killed in the mid-air collision in which my father was involved, is buried in Plot J, Row 13, Grave 4 of the cemetery).

In her research to assist the adopter, Terry ran across one of my posts about James Brodie with a mention of his great-nephew, Larry Miller, and asked if I’d facilitate the connection. I was able to contact Larry and hand off Terry’s contact information. Larry agreed to be connected with the adopter, and by now, I imagine Brodie’s grave adopter has successfully connected with Brodie’s family.

Another happy ending for Terry. Another happy ending for me. We both feel satisfied with a job well done when we can assist in a request regarding a WWII service member.

One thing always seems to lead to another in the world of WWII research, so it got me thinking about all the service members buried overseas. The next-of-kin had the option to bring their deceased family member home at the government’s expense, so why would they leave them buried on foreign soil? Seems I had connected with exactly the right person to answer my question and Terry educated me on the subject.

I’ll get to an in-depth look at the overseas burials in my next post, but first let’s look at the grave adoption program itself. Terry tells me that, at the American Cemetery at Margraten in the Netherlands, “Not only has every grave been adopted since 1945 but there is now a waiting list of 1000 [folks wanting to be adopters]!  The Adoption Foundation closed the list about a year ago as it will take years to get to all of them.”

The adopter of James Brodie’s grave was a new adopter and had only recently received Brodie’s name. Terry said, “each time I encounter a person or story, my faith in humanity is renewed,” and “hearing of this person finally getting a soldier to honor just does my heart good.” I can relate to Terry’s emotional connection to our WWII war dead and the current day adopters who honor them.

Terry also shared an online video the Adoption Foundation produced in 2018 that tells their story from a past, present and future perspective.

Watch on Vimeo here:

* * * * *

Of course, the Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten is not the only overseas military cemetery dedicated to the war dead. The website of the American Battle Monuments Commission lists many memorials and cemeteries both here and overseas. The site notes,

ABMC administers, operates and maintains 26 permanent American military cemeteries and 32 federal memorials, monuments and markers, which are located in 17 foreign countries, the U.S. Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the British Dependency of Gibraltar; four of the memorials are located within the United States. These cemeteries and memorials, most of which commemorate the service and sacrifice of Americans who served in World War I and World War II, are among the most beautiful and meticulously maintained shrines in the world.

Not all of the cemeteries have grave adoption programs, but several do. However, Terry notes, “The ones that do exist are not run by one common organization so they differ in signup, ‘responsibilities’, and support.  What the common denominator is they all are with the intention of remembering the soldier buried so far from home.”

Some of the other cemeteries with grave adoption programs are, in France, Lorraine American Cemetery, Epinal American Cemetery, Normandy American Cemetery, and Brittany American Cemetery, and in Belgium, Ardennes American Cemetery, and Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery.

According to Terry, the two things that make Margraten’s grave adoption unique are (1) how early it started, in February 1945, months before the war in Europe ended, and (2) the percentage of those buried and memorialized whose graves are currently adopted, at 100% adopted with 1000 adopters on the waiting list.

More about Teresa Hirsch

Terry’s dad served in WWII with the 11th Army Air Forces in Alaska.  Terry describes him as “the guy who would draw the maps of how/what route to take for their flights. As they didn’t use formations like in Europe it must have been more basic routing.” She adds, “He went up there in the Summer of ’42 and out in Spring ’45.”

Terry has no connection with individual adopters. She helps organizations and individuals find requested information about American service members buried overseas.

Terry takes advantage of the databases and photos provided by the individual WWII bombardment groups on their websites, like those of the 384th and 100th. By the way, the 100th Bomb Group (aka the “Bloody Hundredth”) is the subject of the Tom Hanks/Steven Spielberg film currently in production based on the Donald Miller book, Masters of the Air.

The group websites are great for sources of photos requested by the cemeteries and adopters. For example, when the Cambridge cemetery staff commemorated the 75th anniversary of the Friendly Invasion in 2017, Terry helped find photos to place at gravesites.

Terry also finds a lot of help from information services of public libraries that were local to the service members’ homes during wartime.

In a March 2018 article, Library Finds Photo for Dutch Gravesite, written by Patricia Ann Speelman and published in the Sidney Daily News (of Sidney, Shelby County, Ohio), I learned that,

The adopters don’t refer to the fallen as soldiers, airmen, sailors or servicemen. The call them liberators. Those 10,000 men and women gave their lives to liberate the Netherlands and the rest of Europe from the Nazis. The Dutch have never taken that sacrifice for granted.

The Sidney Daily News article was triggered by Teresa’s search for Oscar C. Drees, one of three Shelby County soldiers buried at Margraten. The article tells of the successful find of Drees’ photo and gives a lot of insight into the history of and current day activities surrounding the Margraten grave adoptions such as the Faces of Margraten project.

A December 2020 article, Grave Markers of WWII Soldiers from City Now Complete in Netherlands, written by Lori Szepelak and published in The Westfield News (of Westfield, Massachusetts), tells of another successful find of the photograph of Staff Sgt. Arthur E. Wilson of Westfield thanks to Teresa Hirsch.

Note: Don’t ever forget how helpful librarians can be. At Florida’s info.askalibrarian.org, the motto is “We are librarians. And we know the answers to questions you didn’t even know to ask.” Thank you Florida Librarians and Librarians everywhere!

And about that title, WWII Genealogist. Terry adopted the title because of her genealogy-type work and the fact that she performs this work only for WWII service members. I think the title fits her perfectly and, in part, fits me pretty well, too. Don’t be surprised to find it added to my next business card – Researcher/Writer/WWII Genealogist. It has a nice ring to it.

Teresa Hirsch, I thank you for your service to our American service members who gave their lives for our freedom during WWII.

And to our grave adopters and others who watch over and care for our American liberators resting at Margraten and elsewhere, thank you from the bottom of my heart.

Website Links

American Battle Monuments Commission

Netherlands American Cemetery at Margraten

James J. Brodie Burial Information

On Vimeo: Stichting Adoptie Graven Amerikaanse begraafplaats Margraten

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

WWII Combat Chronology – 9 August 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 9 August 1944 mission in which the Buslee crew and Brodie crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Wednesday, 9 August 1944

384th BG Mission 176/8th AF Mission 533 to Erding, Germany.

Target: German Air Force (Luftwaffe), the Erding Airdrome & Airfield.

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:

More than 500 HBs attack aircraft engine plant at Sindelfingen and several T/Os, including M/Ys at Saarbrucken, Luxembourg, and Saint-Vith. 18 HBs are lost, mostly to AA fire. 15 ftr gps fly 570 sorties in spt, claiming 33 aircraft destroyed in air and 30 on ground, plus numerous ground tgts in strafing attacks. 15 FB gps bomb and strafe rail tgts, including 12 M/Ys, in France. 325th Photographic Wg (Rcn) is activated to replace 8th Rcn Wg (Prov).

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

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force):  3 missions are flown:

  1. Mission 533 to strategic targets in southeast Germany, in which the Buslee and Brodie crews participated
  2. Mission 535, a Micro H test mission against an airstrip in France
  3. Mission 536 to drop leaflets in France and the Netherlands during the night.

Also:

  • 116 P-47s, escorted by 40 P-51s, are dispatched on fighter-bomber missions against communications in France without loss.
  • In England, HQ 325th Photographic Wing (Reconnaissance) is activated at High Wycombe; and HQ 25th Bombardment Group (Reconnaissance) and 652d Bombardment Squadron (Heavy, Weather Reconnaissance) with B-24s, the 653d Bombardment Squadron (Light, Weather Reconnaissance) with B-24s and Mosquito XVIs and 654th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy, Reconnaissance, Special) with B-24s, B-26s and Mosquito XVIs are activated at Watton.

Mission 533: 824 bombers and 675 fighters are dispatched to strategic targets (aircraft and tank factories, airfields and fuel depots) in SE Germany; weather deteriorated enroute and many bombers were recalled when confronted with a front rising to 28,000-feet (8,534 m) and most units attacked targets of opportunity; only 25 bombers hit their primary (Sindelfingen); 18 bombers and 3 fighters are lost; targets were (numbers in parenthesis indicate number of bombers bombing):

  1. Of 359 B-17s, 103 hit Pirmasens; 56 hit Elsenborn, 41 hit Karlsruhe, 30 hit Ulm, 8 hit Spreicher and marshalling yards at Saarbrucken (34) and Luxembourg (29); they claim 1-1-1 Luftwaffe aircraft; 11 B-17s are lost, 1 is damaged beyond repair and 157 damaged; 1 airman is KIA, 5 WIA and 96 MIA. Escort is provided by 243 P-47s and P-52s; they claim 33-0-10 aircraft in the air and 24-0-15 on the ground; 1 P-47 and 1 P-51 are lost (pilots are MIA); 2 P-47s and 5 P-51s are damaged beyond repair.

  2. Of 218 B-17s, 16 hit Aacen, 12 hit Eindhoven, 12 hit St Vith marshalling yard and 7 hit targets of opportunity; 3 B-17s are lost, 1 is damaged beyond repair and 94 are damaged; 5 airman are WIA and 18 MIA. Escort is provided by 162 P-47s and P-51s without loss.

  3. Of 247 B-24s, 147 hit Saarbrucken marshalling yard and 25 hit an aircraft engine plant at Sindelfingen; 4 B-24s are lost, 2 are damaged beyond repair and 126 damaged; 1 airman is KIA, 10 WIA and 39 MIA. Escort is provided by 165 P-38s, P-47s and P-51s; they claim 6-0-4 aircraft; 1 P-38 is lost (pilot is MIA).

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, 2021

John DeFrancesco, Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor

384th Bomb Group WWII pilot John DeFrancesco with his French Legion on Honour medal

John DeFrancesco was awarded the French Legion of Honour medal this week. John, a WWII B-17 pilot of the 384th Bomb Group of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, was appointed Chevalier (Knight) of the French Legion of Honour, having served during the 1944 campaigns to liberate France. The Legion of Honour is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. Congratulations, John!

Previous posts with John

John DeFrancesco

Missing in Action, 1945 (See the January 8, 1945 entry)

Paul Bureau and the Marion County Florida Veterans Memorial Park

A Wing Panel Signing

Rendezvous in Savannah

2017 8th Air Force Reunion in New Orleans

An Italian-American Airman in WWII

An Italian-American Airman on Television

2017 Collings Foundation Tour Stop in Leesburg, Florida

2018 384th Bomb Group Reunion in Dayton

For more information about the French Legion of Honour Award

French Consulate in Miami website, Legion of Honor for US Veterans

French Consulate in Miami Facebook page

Wikipedia: Legion of Honour

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The Month Leading up to Victory in Europe in WWII

Just a few days ago, May 8, 2021, marked the 76th anniversary of V-E Day, or Victory in Europe Day, in WWII. In today’s world, we anticipate a liberation and freedom from the Covid-19 pandemic, but seventy-six years ago, Americans, the British, and our other Allies were marking the end of and freedom from Naziism under Adolf Hitler.

In the Spring of 1945, the end of the war in the Pacific was still many months away, but WWII in Europe was winding down. Concentration camps and POW camps in Germany were being liberated and the last of the bombing missions over Germany were being flown.

Here’s a look at what was happening in Europe during the last month leading up to Victory over Europe and VE Day.

On April 6, 1945, “Operation Grapeshot,” the Spring 1945 Allied offensive in Italy, began. It was the final Allied attack during the Italian Campaign. This attack into the Lombardy Plain in Northern Italy by the 15th Allied Army Group ended on May 2 with the formal surrender of German forces in Italy.

On this date, the 8th AAF flew Mission #903 and the 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #305. The target was the railroad marshalling yards at Leipzig, Germany. Sadly, three 384th Bomb Group crews were lost on this mission. The entire MacKellar crew was killed when they crashed near Broughton after takeoff, and shortly after Bombs Away the B-17’s of the Fred Gray crew and David Hastings crew collided, killing twelve of the sixteen crewmembers aboard the two ships.

On April 7, the 8th AAF flew Mission #931 and the 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #306. The targets were oil and munition depots and explosive plants. The 384th’s specific target was the underground oil storage plant at Hitzacker, Germany.

On April 8, the 8th AAF flew two bombing missions. One was Mission #932 with targets of the Derben oil depot, the Schafstadt Airfield, the Stendal marshalling yard workshops, the marshalling yard at Halbertstadt, the marshalling yard at Plauen, Hof, and Eger, an ordnance depot at Grafenwohr, the munitions depot at Bayreuth, the Blumenthal jet aircraft factory at Furth, and the Unterschlauersbach and Roth Airfields. The second was Mission #934 with the target of the Travemunde port area. The 384th Bomb Group did not participate in either of these missions.

On April 9, the 8th AAF flew two bombing missions. One, in which the 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #307, was Mission #935. The targets were underground oil storage, an ammunition plant, and ten jet airfields. The 384th’s specific target was the airfield at Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany. The second was Mission #937 with the target of the Stade Airfield.

On April 10, the 8th AAF flew two bombing missions. One, in which the 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #308, was Mission #938. The targets were airfields known or suspected to be used by jet aircraft. The 384th’s specific target was the ordnance depot workshop area at Oranienburg, Germany. The second was Mission #940 with the target of the Dessau rail depot.

On April 11, U.S. troops from the 6th Armored Division of the Third Army liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp shortly after the prisoners stormed the watchtowers and seized control of the camp. Also on this date, U.S. forces liberated the Dora-Mittelbau concentration camp, a sub-camp of Buchenwald.

On this date, the 8th AAF flew Mission #941 to a variety of targets in Germany, including airfields, oil depots, munitions plants and depots, and marshalling yards. The 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #309, target the underground oil storage depot at Freiham, Germany.

On April 12, President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his Warm Springs, Georgia vacation home. Vice President Harry Truman, who had held the office for eighty-three days and had had little contact with Roosevelt, was summoned to the White House.

Truman was unaware that Roosevelt had died. After being sworn in as President, one of Truman’s first acts was to meet with Roosevelt’s advisers to learn of matters of national security, including the existence of the atomic bomb.

Also on this date, Canadian forces liberated prisoners at the Westerbork transit camp in the Netherlands.

On April 13, the Soviets captured Vienna, Austria.

On this date, the 8th AAF flew two bombing missions, Mission #945 to the marshalling yard at Neumunster and Mission #946 to the Beizenburg rail junction. The 384th Bomb Group did not participate in either of these missions.

On April 14, the 8th AAF flew bombing Mission #948 to enemy pockets on the French Gironde estuary. The 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #310 with the specific target of the gun battery in Royan (Bordeaux), France. The 8th also flew an experimental and unsuccessful bombing operation with Mission #950 against the Neuruppin Airfield in Germany.

On April 15, British troops liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anne Frank and her sister Margot died of typhus at this camp a month earlier.

On this date, the 8th AAF flew bombing Mission #951, in which the 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #311, to strongpoints on the French Atlantic coast – German ground installations of pillboxes, gunpits, tank trenches, and heavy gun emplacements. The 384th’s specific target was the flak guns at Pointe de Suzac at Royan, Frnace.

On April 16, the Soviets launched their final offensive and encircled Berlin.

On this date, the 8th AAF flew two bombing missions. The first was Mission #954, in which the 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #312, to rail targets in Germany. The 384th’s specific target was the railroad marshalling yards at Regensburg, Germany. The 8th’s second bombing mission of the day was Mission #955 to bomb the tank ditch defense line at Pointe de Grave in France.

On April 17, the 8th AAF flew bombing Mission #957, in which the 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #313, to rail targets in Germany and Czechoslovakia. The 384th’s specific target was the railroad marshalling yards in Dresden, Germany.

On April 18, German forces in the Ruhr surrendered.

On this date, the 8th AAF flew Mission #959 to bomb rail targets in Czechoslovakia and Bavaria. The 384th Bomb Group did not participate in this mission.

On April 19, the 8th AAF flew Mission #961 to attack rail targets in Germany and Czechoslovakia. The 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #314 to the railroad station and marshalling yards at Elsterwerda, Germany.

On April 20, the 8th AAF flew Mission #962 to attack rail targets NNW to SSW of Berlin, Bavaria, and  Czechoslovakia. The 384th Bomb Group participated with their Mission #315 to the railroad marshalling yards in Seddin, Germany.

On April 21, the 8th AAF flew Mission #963 to attack jet fighter airfields and rail targets in southeast Germany. The 384th Bomb Group did not participate in this mission.

On April 23, Soviets troops reached Berlin. Also, the 358th and 359th U.S. Infantry Regiments (90th US Infantry Division) liberated the Flossenbürg concentration camp.

On April 25, the last bombing mission of the Eighth Air Force (8th AAF) in WWII was flown.

In his volume, Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces, Jack McKillop wrote of this mission,

European Theater of Operations (ETO), Strategic Operations (Eighth Air Force), Mission 968:

589 bombers and 486 fighters fly the final heavy bomber mission against an industrial target, airfields and rail targets in SE Germany and Czechoslovakia; they claim 1-1-0 Luftwaffe aircraft (including an Ar 234 jet); 6 bombers and 1 fighter are lost:

  1. 307 B-17s are sent to hit the airfield (78) and Skokda armament works at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia; 6 B-17s are lost, 4 damaged beyond repair and 180 damaged; 8 airmen are WIA and 42 MIA. Escorting are 188 of 206 P-51s.

  2. 282 B-24s are sent to hit marshalling yards at Salzburg (109), Bad Reichenhall (56) and Hallein (57) and electrical transformers at Traunstein (56); 20 B-24s are damaged; 1 airman is WIA. The escort is 203 of 216 P-51s; they claim 1-0-0 aircraft in the air.

  3. 17 of 19 P-51s fly a sweep of the Prague-Linz area claiming 0-1-0 aircraft in the air; 1 P-51 is lost.

  4. 17 of 19 P-51s fly a screening mission.

  5. 4 P-51s escort 2 OA-10s on an air-sea-rescue mission.

  6. 22 P-51s escort 5 F-5s on photo reconnaissance missions over Germany and Czechoslovakia.

  7. 88 of 98 P-51s escort RAF bombers.

For the 384th Bomb Group, this Eighth Air Force Mission #968 was their Mission #316 and their target the Skoda Armament Works at Pilsen, Czechoslovakia. The 384th Bomb Group website notes this mission as “THE LAST ONE!”

The 384th Bombardment Group (H) flew as the 41st Combat Bombardment Wing C Group in Air Task Force 1 on today’s mission, the last strategic bombing mission of the war in Europe. Under strict orders to bomb by visual means only, the Lead and Low Squadrons made two bomb runs, and the High Squadron made three. Results appeared to be good, and the delay resulted in the 384th dropping the final bombs of the war on Axis targets in Europe.

It was not known that this would be the last strategic bombing mission of WWII in the ETO until well after this mission ended.

Only one of the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17’s did not return from this final mission. The Andrew Gordon Lovett crew’s B-17 43-38501, Sweet Chariot, was disabled when three engines were knocked out by flak only ten minutes away from allied territory and crashed near the German-Czech border.

Of the crew of eight (no waist gunners were assigned to the crews by April 1945), three evaded capture (the pilot, co-pilot, and tail gunner), and five were taken prisoner (navigator, togglier, radio operator, top turret gunner/engineer, and ball turret gunner).

On April 28, the Allies took Venice. Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, captured as they attempted to flee to Switzerland, were executed by Italian partisans.

On April 29, the U.S. 7th Army liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp. Also, Adolf Hitler married his longtime mistress, Eva Braun.

On April 30, holed up in a bunker under his headquarters in Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. He and Eva Braun poisoned themselves and their dogs with cyanide capsules and Hitler shot himself in the head with his service pistol.

On May 1, Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Reich Minister of Propaganda, and his wife Magda committed suicide after murdering their six children.

On May 2, German troops in Italy surrendered. Also, the Theresienstadt Ghetto/Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic was taken over by the Red Cross.

The BBC History website reported about this date,

…After one of the most intense battles in human history, the guns at last stopped firing amongst the ruins of Berlin. According to Soviet veterans, the silence that followed the fighting was literally deafening. Less than four years after his attack on the Soviet Union, Hitler’s self-proclaimed thousand-year Reich had ceased to exist.

Also on this date, my father George Edwin Farrar, his Stalag Luft IV roommate Lawrence Newbold, and other POW’s of Stalag Luft IV were liberated on the road near Gudow, Germany by the British Royal Dragoons.

On May 5, the Mauthausen Concentration Camp was liberated. The camp was known for its “Todesstiege” (Stairs of Death) in the rock quarry at Mauthausen. The Nazis forced prisoners to repeatedly carry heavy granite blocks up 186 stairs until they died or were murdered if they failed.

On May 7, Germany surrendered to the western Allies at General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Headquarters in Reims, France. German Chief-of-Staff, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender, to take effect the following day.

On May 8, 1945, V-E (Victory in Europe) Day was declared as German troops continued to surrender to the Allies throughout Europe.

On May 9, Germany surrendered to Russia at Soviet headquarters in Berlin. The Soviets had insisted that a second ceremonial signing take place in Soviet-occupied Berlin. Also on this date, Hermann Göring was captured by members of the U.S. 7th Army.

Naziism had been defeated and the war in Europe was over.

Sources

8th AF Mission 968/384th Bomb Group Mission 316

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

Missing Air Crew Report MACR 14317

The Battle for Berlin

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

WWII Combat Chronology – 8 August 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 8 August 1944 mission in which the Brodie crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Tuesday, 8 August 1944

384th BG Mission 175/8th AF Mission 530 to Bretteville-sur-Laize, France.

Target: Military and Tactical, Enemy Strong Points.

The James Joseph Brodie of the 545th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission. The Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron did not participate.

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

Shuttle mission continues as B-17’s with P-51 escort, leave bases in USSR. While 36 hit Buzau A/F others hit A/F at Zilistea. No ftrs are encountered during mission. 359 B-24’s from UK bomb 10 Vweapon sites and 4 A/Fs in NE France. 6 P-51 gps provide escort. 2 gps bomb and 3 gps strafe rail facilities and rail and motor transportation with good results. 497 B-17’s bomb troop concentrations and strongpoints and T/Os S of Caen. 2 P-51 gps give spt, 1 later strafing traffic in Rouen area. 10 HBs and 4 P-51’s are lost, mostly to AA fire. 4 gps of FBs (163 planes) strafe and bomb M/Ys, a bridge, and T/Os N and W of Dijon and in Paris-miens-Saint-Quentin area. Eighth AF during the day and RAF during 7/8 Aug drop over 5,200 tons of bombs, mainly in spt of Canadian First Army (accompanied by a Polish armd div) offensive toward Falaise.

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

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): Shuttle missions continue as 78 B-17s with 55 P-51s escort, leave bases in the USSR to hit airfields in Rumania; 38 hit Bizau and 35 hit Zlistea; no Luftwaffe fighters are encountered during the mission and the force flies to Italy.

Three missions are flown:

  1. Mission 530 to airfields and V-weapons sites in France
  2. Mission 531 to bomb enemy troop concentrations and strongpoints south of Caen
  3. Mission 532 to drop leaflets in France during the night

Mission 531: 681 B-17s and 100 P-51s are dispatched to bomb enemy troop concentrations and strongpoints south of Caen.

  • 25 Canadian soldiers are killed and 131 wounded by short bombing
  • 231 B-17s hit Cauvincourt, 99 hit Bretteville-sur-Laise strongpoint, 99 hit St Sylvain strong point, 67 hit targets of opportunity and 1 hits Gouvix strongpoint
  • The B-17s claim 1-0-0 Luftwaffe aircraft
  • 7 B-17s are lost, 4 damaged beyond repair and 294 damaged
  • 8 airmen are KIA, 15 WIA and 35 MIA
  • Escort is provided by 91 of 100 P-51s
  • The P-51s claim 4-1-6 aircraft
  • 3 P-51s are lost (pilots are MIA)
  • 41 of 50 P-51s escort RAF Coastal Command Beaufighters on a convoy strike in Norway
  • 3 P-51s are lost and 3 damaged
  • 1 P-51 pilot is WIA and 3 MIA
  • 175 P-38s, P-47s and P-51s fly a fighter-bomber mission against the railroad N and W of Dijon
  • 2 P-47s and 2 P-51s are lost
  • 1 P-38, 1 P-47 and 1 P-51 are lost
  • 5 (fighter) airmen are MIA

Note

384th Bomb Group records state that their Mission 175 was 8th Air Force Mission 530, however, Jack McKillop’s volume records 8th Air Force Mission 531 as the mission of the day flown by the B-17 heavy bombers, not Mission 530. Therefore, I have included McKillop’s information for Mission 531 here rather than 530.

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, 2021

A Liberation Day Souvenir

I have previously written about my dad’s time as a POW during WWII, both during his confinement in Stalag Luft IV and during his 86-day march across Poland and Germany to his liberation. The 500-plus mile march started on February 6, 1945, and for my dad, George Edwin Farrar, ended on May 2, 1945.

On the morning of May 2, 1945, Day 86 of the march, the prisoners’ morning started as usual, awakening early, with some prisoners searching the farm for food, eggs that could be eaten raw, or potatoes that could be carried to the next stop. On this day, the Germans distributed canned sardines and commanded the prisoners to pack up and walk to the end of the farm lane to the main road where they would be liberated by the British 8th Army, the Royal Dragoons, shortly before noon.

The 76th anniversary of Dad’s liberation day will be this coming Sunday and this year I have a piece of history to hold in my hand as I reflect on this day and what his liberation and freedom meant to my father those many years ago.

WWII German Air Force (Luftwaffe) Officer’s Peak Cap

Dad kept this WWII German Air Force (Luftwaffe) officer’s peak cap as a souvenir of his experience as a POW during the war. I don’t recall him ever showing it to me or telling me about it.

It wasn’t until my sister and I were cleaning out my mother’s attic after her death in 2004 (Dad had died in 1982) that we found it in a footlocker with a few other items from his military service. My sister kept those things when we divided up the family heirlooms and I forgot about them over the years.

My sister recently reminded me she had these things of dad’s from the war and offered them to me to add to my collection of his WWII memorabilia. I am sure I know how my dad came to be in possession of this Nazi military cap. Once the prisoners were liberated and realized they would soon be going home, they all collected some souvenirs to bring home with them.

In the Shoe Leather Express, author and former POW Joseph O’Donnell wrote, that his first souvenirs were a “military map of Germany and a German canteen and kit.” He noted that “other G.I.’s were gathering souvenirs such as swords, bayonets, and guns.”

A Luftwaffe officer’s cap must have seemed a fitting symbol, a victory prize, for an enlisted serviceman of the American Army Air Forces in the Allies’ defeat over Nazi Germany on the day of his liberation. But it was never something he showed off with pride or even shared the existence of when he told his stories of the mid-air collision, of being a POW, or enduring the forced march. Like many of his memories of that tragic time in his life and our country’s history, it remained buried and not spoken of until long after his death.

Notes

Previous Post: Liberation Gudow

All previous posts about Stalag Luft IV

All previous posts about The Black March

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

USAAF – US Army Air Forces of WWII

I mentioned a couple of weeks ago that I wanted to write more about the multiple air force divisions of the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) during WWII, and I’m doing so today.

A very good source of information is available in PDF format on the internet, a 520-page volume called Air Force Combat Units of World War II, edited by Maurer Maurer and published by the Office of Air Force History in Washington, D.C., in 1983.

This work describes US air force combat units, divided by and described by Groups, Wings, Divisions, Commands, and Air Forces. I have included a link at the bottom of this article in the Sources section to this volume for those interested in learning more, but today I’m noting only information at the highest level, the different air forces themselves.

All descriptive information below is taken directly from and is credited to this volume.

The various numbered air forces which operated during World War II by theater of operation were:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

Eighth Air Force (Strategic Operations)

Constituted as VIII Bomber Command on 19 Jan 1942. Activated in the US on 1 Feb 1942. An advanced detachment was established in England on 23 Feb and units began arriving from the US during the spring of 1942. The command conducted the heavy bombardment operations of Eighth AF (see US Strategic Air Forces in Europe) from 17 Aug 1942 until early in 1944. Redesignated Eighth AF on 22 Feb 1944. Afterward, engaged primarily in bombardment of strategic targets in Europe. Transferred, without personnel, equipment, and combat elements, to Okinawa on 16 Jul 1945. Although some personnel and combat units were assigned before V-J Day, the Eighth did not participate in combat against Japan. Transferred, without personnel and equipment, to the US on 7 Jun 1946. Remanned and re-equipped as part of Strategic Air Command.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, served in the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force.

Ninth Air Force (Tactical Operations)

Constituted as V Air Support Command on 21 Aug 1941. Activated on 1 Sep 1941. Redesignated Ninth AF in Apr 1942. Moved to Egypt and began operations on 12 Nov 1942, participating in the Allied drive across Egypt and Libya, the campaign in Tunisia, and the invasions of Sicily and Italy. Moved to England in Oct 1943 to become the tactical air force for the invasion of the Continent. Helped prepare for the assault on Normandy, supported operations on the beach in Jun 1944, and took part in the drive that carried the Allies across France and culminated in victory over Germany in May 1945. Inactivated in Germany on 2 Dec 1945.

US Strategic Air Forces in Europe (originally Eighth Air Force)

Constituted as Eighth AF on 19 Jan 1942 and activated on 28 Jan. Moved to England, May – Jun 1942, and engaged primarily in bombardment of targets in Europe. Redesignated US Strategic Air Forces in Europe on 22 Feb 1944. Afterward, coordinated AAF activities in the EAME Theater, exercising some operational control over both Eighth AF (originally VIII Bomber Command) and Fifteenth, and some administrative control over Eighth AF and Ninth. Served with the occupation forces in Europe after World War II. Redesignated United States Air Forces in Europe in Aug 1945. Directed USAF operations in the Berlin airlift, Jun 1948 – Sep 1949.

MEDITERRANEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (MTO)

Twelfth Air Force (Tactical Operations)

Constituted as Twelfth AF on 20 Aug 1942 and activated the same day. Moved to England, Aug-Sep 1942, and then on to North Africa for the invasion of Algeria and French Morocco in Nov 1942. Operated in the Mediterranean theater until the end of the war, serving with Northwest African Air Forces from Feb to Dec 1943, and afterward with Mediterranean Allied Air Forces. Inactivated in Italy on 31 Aug 1945.

Fifteenth Air Force (Strategic Operations)

Constituted as Fifteenth AF on 30 Oct 1943. Activated in the Mediterranean theater on 1 Nov 1943. Began operations on 2 Nov and engaged primarily in strategic bombardment of targets in Italy, France, Germany, Poland, Czechoslovakia, Austria, Hungary, and the Balkans until the end of the war. Inactivated in Italy on 15 Sep 1945.

CHINA-BURMA-INDIA (CBI) THEATER OF OPERATIONS

Tenth Air Force (Burma-India)

Constituted as Tenth AF on 4 Feb 1942 and activated on 12 Feb. Moved to India, Mar-May 1942. Served in India, Burma, and China until Mar 1943 when Fourteenth AF was activated in China. Then the Tenth operated in India and Burma until it moved to China late in Jul 1945. Returned to the US, Dec 1945 – Jan 1946. Inactivated on 6 Jan 1946.

My father’s brother, my uncle Carroll Johnson Farrar, Jr., served in the 315th Service Squadron of the 10th Air Force.

Fourteenth Air Force (China)

Constituted as Fourteenth AF on 5 Mar 1943 and activated in China on 10 Mar. Served in combat against the Japanese, operating primarily in China, until the end of the war. Moved to the US, Dec 1945 – Jan 1946. Inactivated on 6 Jan 1946.

Twentieth Air Force (Strategic Operations)

Constituted as Twentieth AF on 4 Apr 1944 and activated the same day. Some combat elements moved in the summer of 1944 from the US to India where they carried out very heavy bombardment operations against targets in Japan, Formosa, Thailand, and Burma. Other combat elements began moving late in 1944 from the US to the Marianas, being joined there early in 1945 by the elements that had been in India. Headquarters, which had remained in the US, was transferred to Guam in Jul 1945. From the Marianas the Twentieth conducted a strategic air offensive that was climaxed by the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan. After the war the Twentieth remained in the theater and eventually became part of Far East Air Forces. Served in combat for a short time at the beginning of the Korean War but later was concerned primarily with logistic support for the operations of other organizations and with air defense for the Ryukyus. Inaczivated on Okinawa on 1 Mar 1955.

PACIFIC OCEAN AREA (POA)

Fifth Air Force (Southwest Pacific Area – SWPA, Far East Air Force – FEAF)

Constituted as Philippine Department AF on 16 Aug 1941. Activated in the Philippines on 20 Sep 1941. Redesignated Far East AF in Oct 1941, and Fifth AF in Feb 1942. This air force lost most of its men and equipment in the defense of the Philippines after 7 Dec 1941. Later in Dec 1941 headquarters and some crews and planes moved to Australia, and in Jan 1942 they were sent to Java to help delay Japanese advances in the Netherlands Indies. The Fifth did not function as an air force for some time after Feb 1942 (the AAF organizations in the Southwest Pacific being under the control of American-British-Dutch-Australian Command and later Allied Air Forces). Headquarters was remanned in Sep 1942 and assumed control of AAF organizations in Australia and New Guinea. The Fifth participated in operations that stopped the Japanese drive in Papua, recovered New Guinea, neutralized islands in the Bismarck Archipelago and the Netherlands East Indies, and liberated the Philippines. When the war ended in Aug 1945 elements of the Fifth were moving to the Ryukyus for the invasion of Japan. After the war the Fifth, a component of Far East Air Forces, remained in the theater, and from Jun 1950 to Jul 1953 it was engaged in the Korean War.

Seventh Air Force (AAFPOA)

Constituted as Hawaiian AF on 19 Oct 1940. Activated in Hawaii on 1 Nov 1940. Redesignated Seventh AF in Feb 1942. Provided air defense for the Hawaiian Islands and, after mid-1943, served in combat in the central and western Pacific areas. Transferred back to Hawaii in Jan 1946. Redesignated Pacific Air Command in Dec 1947. Discontinued on 1 Jun 1949.

Thirteenth Air Force (Air Forces Pacific)

Constituted as Thirteenth AF on 14 Dec 1942. Activated in New Caledonia on 13 Jan 1943. Served in the South Pacific and, later, Southwest Pacific, participating in the Allied drive north and west from the Solomons to the Philippines. Remained in the Philippines, as part of Far East Air Forces, after the war. Transferred, without personnel and equipment, to Okinawa in Dec 1948 and back to the Philippines in May 1949.

AMERICAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS

First Air Force

Constituted as Northeast Air District on 19 Oct 1940. Activated on 18 Dec 1940. Redesignated First AF early in 1941. Trained new organizations and, later, replacements for combat units. Also provided air defense for the eastern US until 1943. Assigned to Air Defense Command in Mar 1946 and to Continental Air Command in Dec 1948, being concerned primarily with air defense until 1949 and with reserve and national guard activities thereafter.

Second Air Force

Constituted as Northwest Air District on 19 Oct 1940. Activated on 18 Dec 1940. Redesignated Second AF early in 1941. Served as both an air defense and a training organization in 1941. Afterward, was engaged chiefly in training units and replacements for heavy and, later, very heavy bombardment operations. Inactivated on 30 Mar 1946.

Third Air Force (Antisubmarine)

Constituted as Southeast Air District on 19 Oct 1940. Activated on 18 Dec 1940. Redesignated Third AF early in 1941. Trained units, crews, and individuals for bombardment, fighter, and reconnaissance operations. Also had some air defense responsibilities during 1940 – 1941 and engaged in antisubmarine activities from Dec 1941 to Oct 1942. Assigned in Mar 1946 to Tactical Air Command to serve as a troop carrier organization. Inactivated on 1 Nov 1946.

Fourth Air Force

Constituted as Southwest Air District on 19 Oct 1940. Activated on 18 Dec 1940. Redesignated Fourth AF early in 1941. Provided air defense for the western US until 1943, and at the same time trained new organizations. Later, was engaged primarily in training replacements for combat units. Assigned to Air Defense Command in Mar 1946 and to Continental Air Command in Dec 1948, being concerned chiefly with air defense until 1949 and with reserve and national guard activities thereafter.

Sixth Air Force (Antisubmarine)

Constituted as Panama Canal AF on 19 Oct 1940. Activated in the Canal Zone on 20 Nov 1940. Redesignated Caribbean AF in Aug 1941, and Sixth AF in Feb 1942. Served primarily in defense of the Panama Canal; also engaged in antisubmarine operations. Redesignated Caribbean Air Command on 31 Jul 1946.

Eleventh Air Force (Alaska)

Constituted as Alaskan AF on 28 Dec 1941. Activated in Alaska on 15 Jan 1942. Redesignated Eleventh AF in Feb 1942. Participated in the offensive that drove the Japanese from the Aleutians, attacked the enemy in the Kuril Islands, and, both during and after the war, served as part of the defense force for Alaska. Redesignated Alaskan Air Command in Dec 1945.


Sources

The Office of Air Force History’s Air Force Combat Units of World War II

To review combat missions of the various air forces of the USAAF, please refer to:

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

or

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

Except for entries from Air Force Combat Units of World War II, edited by Maurer Maurer and published by the Office of Air Force History in Washington, D.C., 1983, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

WWII Combat Chronology – 7 August 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 7 August 1944 mission in which the Brodie crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Monday, 7 August 1944

384th BG Mission 174/8th AF Mission 527 to Dugny (Paris), France.

Target: German Air Force (Luftwaffe), an Aircraft Fuel Depot.

The James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission. The Buslee crew did not participate.

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

Shuttle mission continues from USSR. In accordance with Soviet request, tgt is oil refinery in Poland. 57 B-17’s and 37 P-51’s are dispatched. 55 HBs (2 return to base early) bomb refinery at Trzebinia. P-51’s engage 6 to 8 enemy ftrs over tgt and claim destruction of 3 of them. The airplanes return to FRANTIC bases in USSR. In UK 902 HBs, supported by 10 ftr gps, are dispatched to bomb oil dumps and bridges in France. Cloud conditions cause multiple aborts, but 483 HBs bomb 11 oil dumps, 5 bridges, 3 A/Fs, and an M/Y. 3 HBs are lost. 8 gps of FBs attack M/Ys and rail transportation N and E of Paris.

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

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): 4 missions are flown:

  1. Mission 527 to fuel dumps and bridges in France, in which the Brodie crew participated
  2. Mission 528, a Micro H (radar system which combined the Gee-H and H2X radar functionality for use by pathfinders ) test mission
  3. Mission 529 to marshalling yards and railroads north and east of Paris
  4. Unnumbered leaflet mission over France during the night

Also, in the USSR, a shuttle mission is flown in accordance with a Soviet request; 55 B-17s and 29 P-51s attack an oil refinery at Trzebina, Poland without loss; the aircraft return to Operation FRANTIC bases in the USSR.

Mission 527: 905 bombers and 471 fighters are dispatched to hit fuel dumps and bridges in France but heavy cloud cover forces many aircraft to return with bombs and other formations to be recalled; 1 bomber and 5 fighters are lost; targets hit (number in parenthesis indicates bombers bombing) are:

  • Of 112 B-17s, 71 hit Montbartier and 34 hit St Loubes; 1 B-17 is damaged beyond repair and 26 are damaged; 2 airmen are WIA. Escort is provided by 123 of 139 P-51s; they claim 1-0-3 Luftwaffe aircraft in the air and 0-0-1 on the ground.

  • The primary targets of 224 B-17s are Nanteuil Bridge (36), Sens (26), St Florentin (25), Dueny (24), Bourron Marlotte (23) and Paris-St Quen (12); other targets hit are Chartres Airfield (23), Maintenon Bridge (23), Houden marshalling yard (14), Chateaudun Airfield (11) and Rouglaf (1); 1 B-17 is damaged beyond repair and 80 damaged. Escort is provided by 96 of 97 P-51s.

  • 1 of 182 B-17s hits Montdidier Airfield; 35 B-17s are damaged; 1 airman is WIA. Escort is provided by 90 P-38s and P-51s.

  • Of 51 B-24s, 10 hit Andenne Bridge, 8 hit Semuse and 8 hit targets of opportunity; 1 B-24 is lost and 19 damaged; 11 airmen are MIA. Escort is provided by 34 of 35 P-47s.

  • The primary targets of 333 B-24s are Doullens Bridge (37), Saleux (24), Recques-sur-Course (23), Frevent Bridge (15), Rieme/Ertveld (11) and Langerbrugge (9); 12 also hit a factory near Wendelghem and 1 hits a target of opportunity; 1 B-24 is damaged beyond repair and 45 damaged; 8 airmen are KIA and 1 WIA. Escort is provided by 94 of 100 P-51s.

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, 2021

“Sparks” Artist John Graham Forster

Last week, in a post about 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, I included a drawing of Harry titled “Sparks Liniger” that was drawn by J. G. Forster. I believe Forster was John Graham Forster, a fellow radio student of Harry’s at radio school at Scott Field, Illinois.

Harry “Sparks” Liniger at Radio School training at Scott Field. Drawing by John Graham Forster, fellow radio student.

I believe “Sparks” was derived at radio school as a nickname for Liniger from the obsolete (today) type of radio equipment called a “spark-gap” transmitter which generated radio waves by means of an electric spark.

Liniger’s fellow radio student, John Graham Forster, did not serve in combat in the same bombardment group as Harry. While in training in the states, servicemen (and servicewomen) were transferred to various stations around the country for different phases of their training and most likely lost track of others they trained with over time.

Regardless of whether they stayed in touch or lost track of each other, Liniger thought enough of the drawing to save it and his son still has it almost eighty years after it was drawn.

It is easier to learn more about men who served in combat together if those historical records have been gathered and presented for future generations by a historical association. But finding someone who served with a relative in a training setting can be quite difficult. Generally, those types of records or lists don’t exist.

So since I have been able to identify the artist who drew Liniger as “Sparks,” I’m going to take the opportunity to look into where Forster came from and a little of his WWII history as it serves to illustrate the differences in the backgrounds of those who were brought together to fight a world war and the enormous movement of those personnel as part of the American war machine to various points across the globe.

I usually research and write about those who served in the Eighth Air Force in WWII, and mostly about the specific B-17 heavy bombardment group in which my father served, the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy). But there were many other divisions of the United States Air Forces serving in different parts of the world during WWII, and this is a good opportunity to introduce the subject, which I will write more about at a later date.

John Forster was a third generation American. He was named after his grandfather, John Graham Forster of St. Louis Parish, Kent County, New Brunswick, Canada. Grandfather John immigrated to America at eighteen years old, settled in Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and married and raised a family there. Grandson John was born there in 1922.

John Graham Forster, Senior Year photo from Waltham High School Yearbook

In the 1940 Waltham High School Yearbook, John’s Senior year, he noted his first ambition was to,

Go round the world and see our 48 states

He liked nice girls and baseball, planned to enter an art career, and was Art Manager of the Senior Play.

In 1942, John enlisted in the United States Air Corps. After his training, including his and Harry’s time at radio school, John was assigned to the 764th Bomb Squadron of the 461st Bomb Group.

But the 461st was stationed nowhere near Harry’s 8th Air Force base with the 384th in Grafton Underwood, England. In fact, the 461st was not even part of the 8th Air Force, but was instead part of the 49th Bombardment Wing of the Fifteenth Air Force. The 461st flew B-24 Liberators and the group was known as the “Liberaiders.”

The Fifteenth Air Force operated in the WWII Mediterranean Theater of Operations and mainly operated out of bases in southern Italy. The 461st was based at Torretto Field, about 12 km (about 7 1/2 miles) south of the town of Cerignola, Italy.

John Forster was assigned to the Carl J. Schultz crew as radio operator/gunner. The Schultz (#3-1) crew consisted of:

  • Carl J. Schultz, Pilot
  • William R. Baird, Co-Pilot
  • James R. Merkel, Navigator
  • Joshua Loring, Jr., Bombardier
  • John G. Forster, Radio Operator/Gunner
  • John W. Rice, Engineer/Gunner
  • William F. Sanders, Gunner
  • Glenn A. Sligar, Engineer/Gunner
  • Don R. Trail, Gunner
  • William R. Vaitkunas, Gunner

On 23 March 1945, John Forster participated in the 461st’s Mission 200 to bomb a high priority target, the Kagran Oil Refinery in Vienna, Austria. Thirteen of the 461st’s thirty aircraft were hit by flak over the target and the lead bombardier, Lt. Rosulek, was wounded just before bombs away.

On this mission, William Baird was pilot of the unnamed B-24J 44-41091 with Dwight B. Olson serving as his co-pilot. Other original crew members included John Rice, Glenn Sligar, William Sanders, William Vaitkunas, and of course, John Forster. Substitutes, besides Olson, included Edward T. Wenslik as Bombardier, Richard C. Davis as Navigator, and Marlin R. Smith as Gunner.

At about the time of bombs away, the Number 2 engine of 44-41091 was hit by flak and knocked completely off the ship. They dropped back in the formation with a fire in the wing. Following an unsuccessful attempt to put out the fire, they lost altitude and dropped about 5,000 feet. Five chutes were seen to emerge before the plane went into a dive and exploded.

Davis, the Navigator of the crew, reported that he was reunited in the next few days with all of the crew except for Lt. Baird, the pilot. A German guard reported that Baird was found dead with an unopened chute some distance from the wreckage of the aircraft.

One of the crew wrote in his Individual Casualty Questionaire that,

Lt. Baird … went beyond the “call of duty” that day in fighting the ship to keep it from going into a spin, and then momentarily leveling it out with the trim tabs giving us all, the nine of us, time to jump.

With the exception of Baird, the entire crew was held prisoner of war at Moosburg, Stalag VIIA. All were liberated from Moosburg on 29 April 1945 and were taken to Camp Lucky Strike in La Harve, France to begin their journey back to America.

Forster did become an artist after the war. In the 1952 Waltham Massachusetts City Directory, he listed his occupation as artist. He married a nice girl and had seven children.

John Graham Forster died on 24 June 1982 at the age of 59 in Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Maynard, Middlesex County, Massachusetts in Section 23-N, Lot 48-A.

I don’t know if he ever saw all of our “48 states” (or additionally Alaska and Hawaii), but he did see quite a bit of the world, including Italy, France, Austria, and Germany, and saw things he couldn’t imagine during high school from the radio room of a B-24.

Thank you to Chuck Parsonon, Admin of the 461st Bombardment Group’s Facebook group for providing me with information for this post.

Thank you to the folks running the 461st Bombardment Group website for the excellent information on the group and its service members you provide.

Sources

Last week’s post, Harry Liniger’s Letters and Guardian Angel

461st Bombardment Group on Facebook

461st Bombardment Group

15th Air Force

March 1945 Missions

23 March 1945 Mission

Missing Air Crew Report, MACR13190

Wikipedia: Spark-gap Transmitter

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

Browse Categories