The Arrowhead Club

How Far Can You Throw That Bucket?

I’m presenting more detail on turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels to follow-up my previous posts, Gremlins, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3, Part 2 of 3, and Part 3 of 3

During my research into gremlins, and particularly the gremlins infesting the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 known as Lazy Daisy, I had to delve into a subject with which I am very unfamiliar, the mechanics of the B-17.

I am not at all mechanically-inclined, and in reading about Lazy Daisy’s gremlins (i.e., mechanical issues) some terms were more familiar ( like “broken piston heads,” “dropping oil pressure,” and “runaway props”) than others (like “lagging superchargers” and “throwing a bucket”).

So, to learn more, I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of reading. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Turbosuperchargers

In Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3, the 384th Bomb Group’s Fred Preller and John Edwards helped me explain these terms, and since then, John and the 384th’s Keith Ellefson provided me with new information that I think deserves further review.

Remember the comment by pilot David Rucker after he used Lazy Daisy on the 29 May 1944 mission (in Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3)? Rucker suggested,

A/C (Aircraft) 222 (Lazy Daisy) be taken out of combat because of oil regulator supercharger.  You cannot stay in formation with the electronic type.

John Edwards shed some more light on superchargers with,

When we say supercharger, that was a common name for the component as a whole. The actual name is turbosupercharger. There were two types of superchargers used, frequently called stages. You have a first stage which is used at lower altitudes and the one commonly referenced for higher (combat) altitude… The supercharger intake is a scoop on the bottom of the engine nacelle [the outer casing/housing of an aircraft engine]. This scoop feeds air into the charger which is the conventional way a supercharger worked back then.

The comment from the pilot is important because the GE [electronic type like Rucker mentioned] charger is a very widely used supercharger. It’s function operated in two stages as Fred indicated… [see Part 2 of 3].  I can’t determine other known vendors for the superchargers so for now I can only say that the tech data … clearly states the supercharger must be connected to an oil pump. These instructions apply to the B-17F and G model aircraft and Lazy Daisy is a G so this tech info applies. Therefore I can’t explain why the pilot mentioned the ‘oil one’.

Note: John is referencing a section named Removal of Turbosupercharger from B-17 Airplane of the book World War II – General Electric Turbosuperchargers.

With John’s new information, I’m not sure why Rucker phrased the reference to both the “oil regulator” and “electronic type” superchargers as he did either.

Apparently, the different models of B-17’s used different supercharger types and the transition from the (older) oil regulator to the (newer) electronic type came between the F and G models. I had determined that on all of David Rucker’s missions, up to the point of piloting Lazy Daisy on 29 May 1944, he had been assigned only G model B-17’s.

Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson told me that it was still possible that some of the G models Rucker had flown might still be of the older oil regulator type. Keith said,

I don’t know if all the G models were equipped with electronically controlled superchargers. I suspect that some of the early Gs were built with the oil control system until the inventory of oil control systems was used up and then the electronic system was phased in to replace the oil control system.

And even if Rucker had only flown the electronic type, Keith added,

Pilots would have to be briefed/trained on the difference between oil regulated and electronic regulated superchargers as the new ships came into the inventory. The controls for each system are different and it would be immediately apparent to the pilot when he got into the ship for a mission. In reality, I am sure that each pilot in the squadron knew which ships still had the oil regulator system and which ships had the electronic regulated system. From what I have read, the electronic system was a big improvement over the old, oil regulated system.

Keith also shared some information written by Wellwood E. Beall, who was Vice-President in charge of Engineering at Boeing Aircraft Company, that indicates that the electronic system was a “significant improvement” over the oil regulated system. The link to Beall’s document is below in the Further Reading section, and Beall’s more comprehensive text with illustrations in PDF format follows in the list.

Wellwood Edmetson Beall, who died in 1978, was an aerospace pioneer – an airplane designer and engineer – who had major roles in developing the B‐17 Flying Fortress, the B‐29 Superfortress, and the Boeing 707. In particular, for the B-17, Beall ordered continuous modification in the B‐17 Flying Fortress to meet changing battle conditions over Europe in World War II.

The History of

Turbosuperchargers

The information from Fred, John, and Keith led me to search the internet to learn more and I found a most interesting article in Google Books about the history of turbosuperchargers in B-17’s. Since it looks to be from a publication that is now in the public domain (a compilation of the 1945 issues of Air Force – The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces), I want to share part of it here.

In early March, 1939, Lt. P. H. Robey took a YB-17A up to 25,000 feet in a test run and clocked its speed at 311 mph. This was 100 mph faster than a B-17 had ever flown, even faster than any of our fighter aircraft had flown at that altitude. The test flight was an astounding performance for those days, but no one thought of it as milestone in the development of jet propulsion in this country. Yet, indirectly, that’s just what it was.

If that test flight had been unsuccessful, all orders for turbo-superchargers on B-17s would have been cancelled, for it was the turbo that produced the 100 mph margin in speed – and in early 1939 the turbo-supercharger definitely was on the spot. At the time of the flight, orders for turbos on B-17s had already been technically cancelled. The paper work had been initiated and forwarded to Washington. Boeing Aircraft and the AAF [US Army Air Forces] had lost faith in the turbo. For 20 years, the AAF had struggled with the gadget only to have one disappointing flight test after another. The Robey test used a turbo that was equipped with a new regulator, the final hope for assuring reliable performance.

As soon as the B-17 rolled to a stop after the record-breaking flight, the telegraph wires to Washington began to sizzle. Headquarters read the test results, threw the cancellation papers in the waste basket and issued a directive that all AAF high altitude bombers should be equipped with turbo-superchargers from that date on.

~ “Growing Pains of Jets” by Major Robert V. Guelich, Air Force Staff, June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces)

For more information about turbosuperchargers, including the entire article “Growing Pains of Jets,” refer to the Further Reading list below.

Bucket Wheels

(And what it means to “throw a bucket”)

The 384th Bomb Group’s Historian, John Edwards, shed a little light on the bucket wheel that the pilots’ referred to “throwing,”

The wheel on the bottom of the [super]charger, which looks like the carousel of an old slide projector, is called ‘the bucket wheel’ as I found in [Roger] Freeman’s “The B-17 Flying Fortress Story on page 55.

The article, “Growing Pains of Jets” also explained the pilots’ phrasing of “throwing a bucket.”

The search for high temperature alloys [which could withstand the stresses of hot turbine wheels] was stimulated primarily by the AAF development program to the turbo-supercharger. This program was kept alive by a handful of men who refused to lose faith when time after time the turbo-supercharger would overheat and throw its buckets out of the turbo wheel.

~ “Growing Pains of Jets” by Major Robert V. Guelich, Air Force Staff, June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces)

But the Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress B-17 presented by the Aviation in World War II website explains turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels in short order in a section on Turbo-superchargers (links in Further Reading below).

Each engine on the B-17 has a turbo-supercharger which boosts manifold pressure for takeoff and provides sea-level air pressure at high altitudes.

To operate the turbo-superchargers, engine exhaust gas passes through the collector ring and tailstack to the nozzle box, expands to atmosphere through the turbine nozzle, and drives the bucket wheel at high speed…

…The amount of turbo boost is determined by the speed of the turbo bucket wheel.

As for the gremlins who liked to antagonize the pilots of Lazy Daisy and other AAF aircraft in WWII, I think disrupting turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels were probably a favorite pastime, and seeing which gremlin could throw a bucket the furthest must have been a competition for bragging rights. How far can you throw a bucket?

Please browse through the Further Reading links below for further (and quite interesting) reading about turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels and some excellent illustrations of the B-17’s mechanical parts.

* * * * *

Further Reading

Design Analysis of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress by Wellwood E. Beall (webpage)

Design Analysis of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress by Wellwood E. Beall (PDF document)

Aviation of World War II: Turbo-superchargers

Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress B-17, Published for Headquarters AAF, Office of Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Training

Supercharge Me: How Boeing Helped GE Reinvent Jet Travel (GE Reports)

The Turbosupercharger and the Airplane Power Plant – General Electric, January 1943

Turbosupercharger Field Service Manual – General Electric

“Growing Pains of Jets” which begins on page 24 of the June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces), and starting on page 441 of the 1433-page downloadable PDF document. To download the entire 1433-page PDF document, click the sprocket in the upper right corner of the page, then select “Download PDF.” Note: Air Force is a book in the public domain that Google has made available in digital format. Terms of Service available through a link on the landing page.

Sources

Wellwood Beall’s Obituary from the New York Times

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Fall 1944

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1944 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1944

Late 1944

Oskar Schindler saved 1200 Jews by moving them from the Plaszow labor camp in the southern suburb of Kraków, Poland to his hometown of Brunnlitz, Czechoslovakia.

October 2 – 5, 1944

The Polish Home Army surrendered to the Nazis ending the Warsaw Uprising.

October 7, 1944

After learning that they were going to be killed, the Sonderkommando (special work units who were made up of Nazi death camp prisoners, usually Jews, and were forced to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims) revolted at Auschwitz-Birkenau resulting in the complete destruction of Crematory IV.

October 10-29

Soviet troops captured Riga, the capital of Latvia on the Baltic Sea.

October 11, 1944

The U.S. began air raids against Okinawa.

October 14, 1944

German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel committed forced suicide by cyanide poisoning after being implicated in the July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. His death was announced to be due to battle wounds suffered on July 17, 1944.

The Allies liberated Athens, Greece.

October 15, 1944

As the Hungarian government was pursuing negotiations for surrendering to the Soviets, the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross movement, with German support, carried out a coup d’état (a revolt performed through violence), allowing the Nazis to seize control of the Hungarian puppet government. The deportation of Jews, which had been temporarily halted due to international political pressure, resumed.

October 17, 1944

SS leader Adolf Eichmann arrived in Hungary.

October 18, 1944

Fourteen American B-29 Superfortress aircraft based on the Mariana Islands attacked the Japanese base at Truk.

October 20, 1944

The U.S. Sixth Army invaded Leyte in the Philippines.

Soviet forces captured Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia, from the Germans.

October 21, 1944

The Germans surrendered at Aachen, Germany in the Battle of Aachen. It was the first German city to fall to the Allies.

October 23-26, 1944

The three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history, resulted in a decisive U.S. Naval victory over Japan.

George Edwin Farrar’s younger brother Robert (my Uncle Bob) Burnham Farrar served aboard the USS Intrepid, which was involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

October 25, 1944

In World War II, a Japanese aircraft loaded with explosives and making a deliberate suicidal crash on an enemy target was known as a Kamikaze (meaning “Divine Wind”) attack. Fleet Admiral William Halsey called it the “only weapon I feared in the war.” The first recorded Kamikaze attack occurred against U.S. warships during the three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf.

October 28, 1944

Two thousand Jews in the last transport from Theresienstadt (a hybrid concentration camp and ghetto in the town of  Terezín, located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia), arrived at Auschwitz.

October 29, 1944

A Japanese Kamikaze hit Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, on one of her port side gun positions. Damage to the ship was minimal, but ten men were killed and six were wounded. 

October 30, 1944

The last transport of Jews from Theresienstadt arrived at Auschwitz and the gas chambers there were used for the last time.

November 8, 1944

The Nazis forced 25,000 Jews to walk over 100 miles in rain and snow from Budapest to the Austrian border. A second forced march of 50,000 persons followed, ending at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.

For the first time since 1933, Adolf Hitler failed to appear in Munich on the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.

November 7, 1944

Franklin Roosevelt won his fourth consecutive term as U.S. President.

November 11, 1944

The U.S. navy bombed Iwo Jima.

November 18, 1944

The U.S. Third Army crossed the German frontier.

November 20, 1944

French troops drove through the ‘Beffort Gap’ in southwestern France to reach the Rhine.

November 23, 1944

American troops liberated the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, located in the Vosges Mountains close to the Alsatian village of Natzwiller in France.

November 24, 1944

The French captured Strasbourg, France.

Twenty-four B-29 Superfortresses bombed the Nakajima aircraft factory near Tokyo.

November 25, 1944

SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordered the destruction of the crematories at Auschwitz. Crematory IV had already been destroyed by inmates during a revolt on October 7, 1944.

Shortly after noon, two Japanese Kamikazes crashed into Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, killing sixty-six men and causing a serious fire. Bob Farrar was injured in the attack, mainly due to smoke inhalation. The ship remained on station, however, and the fires were extinguished within two hours. She was detached for repairs the following day.

December 4, 1944

Athens, Greece was placed under martial law during a Civil War.

December 11, 1944

At Hartheim Castle, near Linz Austria, German authorities carried out the last gassing of inmates, and under SS guard, Mauthausen (Austria) concentration camp prisoners dismantled the killing facility. Hartheim was one of six gassing installations for adults, the majority of them mentally and physically disabled patients, established as part of the Nazi’s “euthanasia” program.

December 15, 1944

U.S. Troops invaded Mindoro in the Philippines.

In the summer of 1944, bandleader Glenn Miller (a member of the U.S. Army since late 1942 and later Army Air Forces) formed a fifty-piece USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) band and departed for England where he gave hundreds of performances to Allied troops over the next six months. On this date, he left England to entertain American troops in France in a UC-64 Norseman (a Canadian single-engine bush plane), traveling over the English Channel, but never arrived. The wreckage of his plane was never found and his official military status remains Missing in Action.

December 16, 1944

The Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg’s Ardennes Forest began as the Germans launched a final offensive in the west known as Operation Wacht am Rhein. The objectives were to re-conquer Belgium, split the allied forces along the German border, and capture the strategic port of Antwerp. Three German Armies conducted a surprise attack along a 70-miles front and quickly overtook the American line.

December 17, 1944

On the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, the Nazi Waffen-SS (the military branch of the Nazi Party’s SS organization) murdered eighty-one American POW’s in the Malmedy Massacre.

A regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division of the Leibstandarte-SS, commanded by SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper, intercepted a truck convoy of the U.S. 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion’s Battery B southeast of Malmedy. Peiper’s troops, called the Blowtorch Battalion, had burned their way across Russia and had slaughtered civilians in two separate villages.

The Panzer tanks fired upon and destroyed the lead vehicles in the truck convoy. The convoy halted while the tank fire continued. The Americans were forced to abandon their vehicles and surrendered.

The captured American Battery B soldiers were herded into a nearby field where an SS tank commander ordered an SS private to shoot into the prisoners. The SS opened fire on the unarmed Americans with machine guns.

When the machine gunfire ceased, an English speaking SS man walked among the victims on the ground asking if anyone was injured or needed help. Those survivors who responded were killed by a pistol shot to the head. In what was the single worst atrocity against American troops during World War II in Europe, a total of eighty-one Americans were killed.

Three American survivors reported the massacre to a U.S. Army Colonel stationed at Malmedy. Because the news spread quickly that Germans were shooting POW’s, the American troops became determined to hold the lines against the German advance.

The same day, in the Pacific Theater of Operations, the U.S. Army Air Forces established the 509th Composite Group to operate the B-29 Superfortresses that would drop the atomic bombs.

December 20, 1944

Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, reached San Francisco for repairs.

December 21, 1944

The Germans besieged U.S. paratroopers in Bastogne, Belgium. Units of Germany’s 5th Panzer Army captured St. Vith, Belgium.

December 22, 1944

Surrounded in the Battle of the Bulge, American Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne Division received a surrender ultimatum from the Germans. His immortal reply: NUTS! [Use the link in Sources below to read the fascinating story.]

December 26, 1944

The 4th Armored Division, leading the attack by General George S. Patton’s Third Army, attacked the Germans at Bastogne and was the first unit to break through to relieve the besieged 101st Airborne Division of paratroopers. While American troops held the town, refugees were able to evacuate.

December 27, 1944

Soviet troops besieged Budapest.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Oskar Schindler

The Forced Suicide of Erwin Rommel

USS Intrepid

Last Gassing at Hartheim

The Malmedy Massacre

The Story of Anthony McAuliffe’s NUTS! Reply

Most recent post from the series:

Summer 1944

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3

Continuation of my previous posts, Gremlins, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3 and Part 2 of 3

In this post, I’m picking back up with the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17G 42-31222’s (Lazy Daisy’s) missions after her six week break following the April 18, 1944 mission. For information on her December 1943 through April 1944 missions, follow the link above for prior posts about Lazy Daisy’s gremlins in Part 2.

In reviewing Lazy Daisy’s missions, note that she was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group’s 546th Squadron and was assigned to 546th crews exclusively until early June 1944. After that point she was assigned as a spare aircraft on many occasions, something that had been done for this aircraft only once previously, in February 1944. And she was also assigned to other squadrons.

In this continuation of the list of Lazy Daisy’s missions, the missions were flown by crews of the 546th Bomb Squadron unless I note otherwise. ALL of her missions aren’t listed. I’ve listed the ones with the most serious problems and if no problems were reported on a mission (although only a few missions had no technical or equipment failures of any kind), that mission wasn’t included either.

On Lazy Daisy’s first mission back in action on 28 MAY 1944, the James Gibson crew reported the bomb doors motor burned out and the pilot’s oxygen system ran out twenty minutes after the target. The pilot was forced to use a “walk around” oxygen bottle on the return to base. The 384th Bomb Group webmaster’s – Fred Preller’s – father, Robert Henry “Bob” Preller, was Gibson’s co-pilot aboard Lazy Daisy this date, his second mission.

On the 29 MAY 1944 mission, the David Rucker crew reported the ship received battle damage – a 20 mm hole in the left wing and minor flak holes in the rudder. The ball turret was also reported as being inoperative and kept burning out fuses. The pilot also suggested that,

A/C (Aircraft) 222 (Lazy Daisy) be taken out of combat because of oil regulator supercharger.  You cannot stay in formation with the electronic type.

The ship was held as a spare for the 4 JUN 1944 mission, but returned to the formation on 6 JUN 1944.

On 6 JUN 1944, she was assigned to the Robert Menke crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron. The only failure he reported that mission was that the elevation clutch slipped out in the upper turret. More serious mechanical problems reappeared after that.

  • 8 JUN 1944 The Edward Thoma crew reported #3 Turbo Supercharger went ‘out’ at altitude.

On 21 JUN 1944, Lazy Daisy was not flown at all by the 384th, but instead was assigned to the Willis Matter crew of the 379th Bomb Group. I did not find any comments from Matter about any failures of the aircraft in the mission reports.

  • 20 JUL 1944 The Daniel Young crew of the 384th’s 545th Bomb Squadron reported, Engines: #2, #3, #4 lag bad. Major battle damage to right wing.
  • 21 JUL 1944 The Joseph Patella crew of the 384th’s 544th Bomb Squadron reported exhaust stack on #1 engine broke, cut spark plug lead and all manifold pressure lost through hole in exhaust stack. #2 engine ran away on and off. #3 oil pressure gauge gave readings from 5 (typed report says 35, but pilot’s hand-written narrative looks like 5) – 75 lbs.

On 25 JUL 1944, Lazy Daisy was assigned to the Ned Sweeney crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron. Sweeney did not report any aircraft failures after the mission, but sadly he was killed four days later on the 29 JUL 1944 mission aboard 43-37870.

  • 29 JUL 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported a bad oil break in #2 engine.
  • 31 JUL 1944 The Ralph Hicks crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported manifold pressure on #1 (or #2?) engine reading inconsistently (handwritten report reads ‘incorrectly’ rather than ‘inconsistently’).

The 547th Bomb Squadron continued to man Lazy Daisy on 1 AUG 1944 (no failures reported) and again on 3 AUG.

  • 3 AUG 1944 The John Mock crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported #2 supercharger lags.

The 545th Bomb Squadron manned Lazy Daisy on 4 AUG 1944 and did not report any failures, but did report 10 flak holes throughout the aircraft.

On 5 AUG 1944, the 546th took back their ship, and didn’t report any failures, but did report battle damage of flak holes in the left and right wings and the #3 nacelle (outer casing/housing of an aircraft engine).

  • 7 AUG 1944 The Donald Duesler crew reported No. #4 engine ran away. Oil temperature went up so it had to be feathered. Worked O.K. until target area was reached. They also reported battle damage of a few flak holes in the vertical stabilizer.
  • 13 AUG 1944 The James Brookshire crew reported #3 engine out. Returned with #3 prop windmilling because the shaft broke. They also reported battle damage of flak holes in the right flap.

After the 13 AUG mission came another gap, this time for a month, in combat missions for Lazy Daisy. She was assigned as a spare on 11 SEP, but was unused. But she did return the next day.

  • 12 SEP 1944 The John Mohler crew reported #3 cylinder head gauge out. #4 prop governor ran away. They also reported some flak damage.
  • 17 SEP 1944 The Ralph Hicks crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported #4 leaking oil. It’s unclear if it was due to battle damage or technical failure.
  • 19 SEP 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported #4 Engine throwing oil badly.
  • 25 SEP 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported #2 and #3 sluggish at altitude. OK till 15,000 ft. They also reported moderate flak damage over the target and that the co-pilot was unable to transmit over the interphone. And, Mead, the pilot, wrote in his narrative, “Brief B-24s to quit flying collision courses with us.” A forewarning?

In Lazy Daisy’s entire combat mission history, in addition to her engine and/or supercharger defects, pilots reported 5 malfunctions with the bomb bay, 20 problems with the radio and interphone system, 5 issues with the oxygen system, and a variety of other issues with the vertical stabilizer, ball turret, flight indicator, hydraulic lines, gyro compass, fluxgate compass, upper turret, chin turret, and most alarming, on Lazy Daisy’s next-to-last mission, the steering wheel aileron.

On that next-to-last mission on 27 SEP 1944, the 348th’s 547th Bomb Squadron used Lazy Daisy and the pilot, Rueben Farnsworth, reported that the steering wheel aileron control had too much vertical play. Also, the same issue that was reported two days earlier on 25 SEP, a problem with the interphone was reported as “Interphone needs checking – co-pilot’s system wouldn’t work,” along with a newly reported problem that there was a spark in the motor of the top turret which caused it to smoke. Battle damage was recorded as one minor hole, location unreported, due to flak at the target.

What sounded pretty significant to me was the report of a steering issue, a problem with the steering wheel aileron. Not being particularly well versed in the parts of or functions of the parts of a B-17 aircraft, I looked up the term “aileron.” I learned,

Ailerons help a pilot maintain control of an aircraft. On the outer rear edge of each wing, the two ailerons move in opposite directions, up and down, decreasing lift on one wing while increasing it on the other. This causes the airplane to roll to the left or right. To turn the airplane, the pilot uses the ailerons to tilt the wings in the desired direction.

Becoming more concerned with this news, I asked the 384th’s group of volunteer researchers for more information about the effects of a B-17’s aileron with too much vertical play in close formation flying during a combat mission.

Marc Poole, Founder of the 384th Bomb Group website, aviation artist, college art instructor, and a licensed pilot, provided this insight regarding the aircraft’s aileron and steering,

I would think any play in the control yoke would be similar to having too much slop or slack in your steering like on an old pickup truck…One of the 172’s I trained in last summer had a lot of slack in the control yoke…you could turn the wheel left or right about 1/8 turn either way with zero response…pretty unnerving. I didn’t fly that one much!

On 28 SEP 1944 the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron used Lazy Daisy on the mission to Magdeburg, Germany. The John (Jay) Buslee crew was nearby in the formation aboard 43-37822. It would be the last mission for both crews. Official reports show,

Lazy Daisy collided with 43‑37822 over the target. Both ships went down on fire and out of control; no chutes observed; crashed near Erxleben, Germany; (Missing Air Crew Report) MACR9366.

A witness, Wallace Storey, co-pilot on 43-38548 with the Kenneth Gross crew on 28 SEP, later described the mid-air collision and the moments before it,

We found ourselves on a crossing course with another Group and just after “bombs away” the lead ship made a sharp descending right turn. Our high element, being on the inside of this steep turn, had to move quickly by reducing power while climbing slightly. Glancing to my right, I saw that “Lazy Daisy” was sliding toward me. I pulled back on the control column to climb out of her path while keeping my eye on the #2 ship of the lead element, Lt. Buslee in 43-37822, on whose wing our element was flying. I yelled to Gross [the pilot] to watch for him to come out on the other side and, sure enough, he slid under us and right into Buslee in the lead element.

Note: The other group on the crossing course on this date was a B-17 Group, not a B-24 Group as it was three days earlier.

Speculation now in overdrive, I wondered, was Lazy Daisy’s steering wheel aileron issue addressed before the 28 September mission? Overnight from the return of the formation the afternoon of 27 September when Lazy Daisy was used by the 547th Bomb Squadron, to take-off of the formation on the morning of 28 September, was a pretty narrow window for maintenance to take place for,

  • A steering wheel aileron control which had too much vertical play
  • The co-pilot’s interphone system which wouldn’t work (and hadn’t worked the prior mission of 25 SEP)
  • A spark in the motor of the top turret which caused it to smoke
  • Battle damage of one minor hole, location unreported, due to flak at the target

The 546th Bomb Squadron’s ground crew also had a lot of work to do on Lazy Daisy earlier that week. After the 25 September mission, they had to address the #2 and #3 engines, which had been reported sluggish at altitude, repair moderate flak damage, and fix the problem with the co-pilot’s interphone system (which apparently didn’t get fixed by 27 September).

IF on 28 September, Lazy Daisy’s engines were being sluggish (as they were often reported) AND the steering wheel aileron still had too much play, how would Lazy Daisy have reacted to Lt. Brodie’s attempts to quickly reduce power, climb, and change direction with the formation when they found themselves on a crossing course with another Group as Wallace Storey described?

The mid-air collision between Lazy Daisy and 43-37822 on 28 September 1944 likely did not happen because of one single issue – the flak, the crossing course with the other group, the quick maneuvering, the prop wash, or the gremlins – but a compounding of these and perhaps other issues I’m not aware of.

I have been struggling to make sense of all the information I discovered about Lazy Daisy’s mechanical issues, or gremlins, from all of her mission reports. I still think there may be something there that I’m missing or not considering. But it’s more likely that the answer I search for is written nowhere in history.

I now know more about Lazy Daisy, her gremlins, and about how they may have contributed to her collision with my dad’s B-17, but I will never know exactly why it happened. I could look forever, review thousands of more documents, create hundreds of more theories, and spend many more sleepless nights pondering all the conditions. But the reality is that the answer I search for died with Lazy Daisy’s pilots when she fell to earth. And there it shall remain.

Sources

Ailerons – NASA

Flight Control Failures – AOPA

Aileron – Wikipedia

Thank you Marc Poole for your help on this post.

Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for a post about the mechanics of a B-17, in particular, turbosuperchargers, and “throwing a bucket…”

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Summer 1944

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1944 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1944

Summer 1944

The highest-ever daily number of those gassed and cremated at Auschwitz-Birkenau was recorded at just over 9,000. This overwhelmed the capacity of the crematories and required six huge pits to burn the bodies.

July 1944

The Swedish Foreign Ministry sent diplomat Raoul Wallenberg to Budapest, Hungary with the support of the World Jewish Congress and American War Refugee Board to aid the 200,000 Jews left in the Hungarian capital. He saved nearly 33,000 Jews by securing their release from deportation trains, death march convoys, and labor service brigades, and by issuing diplomatic papers (protective documents) and establishing a network of thirty-one safe, or protected, houses in Budapest, called the International Ghetto. On January 17, 1945, Wallenberg was detained by Soviet agents and was never heard from again. 

July 3, 1944

The Battle of the Hedgerows began in Normandy, named so because the Allies were hindered by the agricultural hedges in Western France which intelligence had not properly evaluated. The US First Army VIII Corps advanced only seven miles in twelve days.

The Soviets captured Minsk.

July 4, 1944

Less than one month since D-Day on June 6, the Allies had landed 920,000 troops, and lost 62,000 men, the count including those killed, wounded, and missing.

July 8, 1944

The Japanese withdrew from Imphal, the capital city of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. They had invaded Imphal in a bid to capture British Colonies, but were defeated.

July 9, 1944

British and Canadian troops captured Caen, France.

Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest as first secretary to the Swedish legation in Hungary and with financing from the US War Refugee Board.

July 11, 1944

The Czech family camp at Auschwitz was liquidated.

July 17, 1944

German General Erwin Rommel was seriously injured in Normandy when a British Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter plane strafed his staff car, injuring the driver, which caused it to crash into trees. Rommel was thrown from the car, suffering cuts to his face from glass shards and three fractures to his skull. He was taken to a hospital with major head injuries and then to his home in Germany to convalesce.

July 18, 1944

British General Bernard Montgomery, the commander of all the Allied ground forces in Normandy, launched Operation Goodwood 40 miles east of Caen.

U.S. troops reached and captured St. Lô, France.

July 20, 1944

German Army officers who were part of the German resistance attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler, but failed when a heavy conference table deflected the blast from a bomb placed under it. Hitler was only slightly wounded.

July 21, 1944

U.S. Marines invaded Guam in the Mariana Islands. In Operation Stevedore, Task Force 53, commanded by Rear Admiral Richard L. Connolly of the U.S. Navy, the Third Marine Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, along with the U.S. Army 77th Infantry Division, landed on Guam.

July 24, 1944

Soviet troops liberated the first concentration camp at Majdanek where over 360,000 had been murdered.

U.S. Marines invaded Tinian, an Island in the Northern Mariana Islands.

July 25, 1944

The U.S. Army began Operation Cobra in Normandy.

The II Canadian Corps began Operation Spring, an offensive south of Caen.

July 27, 1944

American troops completed the liberation of Guam.

July 28, 1944

Soviet troops took Brest-Litovsk, Belarus.

U.S. troops took Coutances, France.

August 1, 1944 – October 5, 1944

The non-communist underground Home Army in Poland, the dominant Polish resistance movement when Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II, rose up against the Nazis in an attempt to liberate Warsaw before the arrival of Soviet troops. The Soviet advance stopped on the east bank of the Vistula River. On October 5, the remnants of the Polish Home Army fighting in Warsaw surrendered to the Nazis.

August 1, 1944

Patton’s U.S. Third Army was activated in Normandy, France.

U.S. troops reached Avranches, France.

August 2, 1944

The SS liquidated the Gypsy family camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

August 3, 1944

U.S. And Chinese troops took Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State in Myanmar (Burma), after a two month siege.

August 4, 1944

Anne Frank and her family were arrested by the Gestapo in Amsterdam, Holland. They were first sent to the Westerbork Transit Camp and then on to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot were later sent to Bergen-Belsen where Anne died of typhus on March 15, 1945.

August 6, 1944

Lodz, the last Jewish ghetto in Poland, was liquidated with 60,000 Jews sent to Auschwitz.

August 7, 1944

The Germans began a major counter-attack toward Avranches, France.

August 8, 1944

American troops completed the capture of the Mariana Islands.

The Canadians launched Operation Totalize south of Caen, France with 600 tanks and 720 guns.

August 15, 1944

In Operation Dragoon, Allied forces landed in southern France near Nice and advanced rapidly towards the Rhine River to the northeast.

August 19, 1944

The French Resistance caused an uprising in Paris against the Germans.

August 19/20, 1944

A Soviet offensive in the Balkans (an area comprising Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia) began with an attack on Romania.

August 20 – 25, 1944

Allied troops reached Paris. On August 25, Free French forces, supported by Allied troops, entered the French capital. By September, the Allies reach the German border; by December, virtually all of France, most of Belgium, and part of the southern Netherlands were liberated.

August 20, 1944

The Falaise Pocket or Battle of the Falaise Pocket was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy in WWII. The Western Allies encircled the German Army Group B, 7th Army, and Fifth Panzer Army, in the Falaise Pocket, a pocket formed around Falaise, Calvados, in the Normandy region of France.

August 23, 1944

The appearance of Soviet troops on the Prut River induced the Romanian opposition to overthrow the Antonescu regime. The new government concluded an armistice and immediately switched sides in the war. The Romanian turnaround compelled Bulgaria to surrender on September 8, and the Germans to evacuate Greece, Albania, and southern Yugoslavia in October.

August 25, 1944

Paris was liberated when Germany surrendered Paris to the Allied forces, ending four years of occupation.

August 29, 1944 – October 28, 1944

The underground Slovak resistance uprising began under the leadership of the Slovak National Council, consisting of both Communists and non-Communists, against the Germans and the indigenous fascist Slovak regime. In late October, the Germans captured the headquarters of the uprising at Banská Bystrica in central Slovakia and ended the organized resistance.

August 31, 1944

Soviet troops took Bucharest, the largest and capital city in Romania.

September 1944

As the British and American Air Forces destroyed most of the V-1 launch sites, by September of 1944, the Nazis introduced the V-2 rocket. The V-2 was much more sophisticated, a liquid-fueled rocket that traveled at supersonic speeds as high as 50 miles. It would plunge toward its target at a speed of nearly 4,000 miles per hour, smashing its 2,000 pound high explosive warhead into the ground without warning. Unlike the V-1, the V-2 rockets could not be intercepted. Over a thousand were fired at London.

September 1-4

The cities of Verdun, Dieppe, Artois, Rouen, and Abbeville in France, and Antwerp and Brussels in Belgium, were liberated by Allies.

September 3, 1944

The British Second Army liberated Brussels, Belgium.

Field Marshal Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt assumed command of the German armies in the West.

September 4, 1944

Finland and the Soviet Union agreed to a cease-fire.

September 13, 1944

U.S. troops reached the Siegfried Line in western Germany.

September 15, 1944

U.S. Troops invaded Morotai Island in Indonesia.

September 17 – 25, 1944

The Allied assault known as “Operation Market-Garden” was an attempt by combined Allied airborne and ground assault troops to capture bridges over Dutch waterways in order to open a rapid northern route for the Allied advance into Germany.

The First Allied Airborne Army dropped at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem to secure bridgeheads and the British Second Army pushed north into Holland from Belgium, to link up.

It was the largest Allied airborne operation of the war and the most costly. The third of the three airborne landings, at Arnhem, proved to be a complete failure as British troops landed too far from the Arnhem bridges and the Germans quickly recovered from the surprise of the aerial assault. Of 10,000 British troops at Arnhem, 1,400 were killed while over 6,000 were taken prisoner.

September 19, 1944

The Moscow Armistice ended the Continuation War when it was signed by Finland on one side and the Soviet Union and United Kingdom on the other side. Finland had participated in the Continuation War in an Axis partnership with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1944.

September 25, 1944

The British evacuated the remaining paratroopers from Arnhem in the Netherlands, but only 2,163 men out of nearly 10,000 returned.

Adolf Hitler ordered the formation of the Volkssturm (the “people’s storm”), the German home guard or national militia. It was created not by the formal German Armed Forces, but rather by the Nazi Party on Hitler’s order. Members were conscripted from those between sixteen and sixty years of age who were not already serving in a military unit. It was not officially announced until October 16, 1944.

September 26, 1944

Soviet troops occupied Estonia.

September 28, 1944

Frogmen from the German Marine Einsatzkommando demolished the Nijmegen, Holland railway bridge, which had been a key objective for the Allies to hold in Operation Market Garden.

The two B-17’s of the John Oliver Buslee crew and the James Jospeh Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force collided after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Four of the eighteen airmen aboard the two ships survived: George Edwin Farrar (my father), Harry Allen Liniger, Wilfred Frank Miller, and George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Raoul Wallenberg

Hedgerow Warfare During the Battle of Normandy

Battle of the Hedgerows

Erwin Rommel

Volkssturm

Operation Market Garden

Nijmegen Railway Bridge

Most recent post from the series:

Spring 1944

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3

Continuation of my previous posts, Gremlins and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3

Why would I think the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17G 42-31222, nicknamed Lazy Daisy, was infested with gremlins? After reviewing the aircraft’s failures in the post-mission documents from her first mission in December 1943 to her next-to-last in September 1944, I was overwhelmed by the number and kinds of problems the aircraft experienced.

Lazy Daisy, a B-17G of the 384th Bombardment Group’s 546th Bombardment Squadron, experienced serious engine problems from the start and was taken out of commission for long periods, presumably for major repairs. Later in her career, she was assigned often as a spare aircraft and unused. At one point, it seems the 546th was trying to avoid using her (my opinion), so she was assigned to other bombardment squadrons of the 384th, and even once to another bombardment group because, (also only my theory) the men of the 546th Squadron didn’t want to fly in her.

When my dad, George Edwin Farrar, told me the story of surviving a mid-air collision between two B-17’s in WWII, he told me the reason the other ship (Lazy Daisy) collided with his ship (B-17G 43-37822), was that Lazy Daisy had been hit by ground fire (flak) which caused it to be knocked off course and into his ship.

I long believed flak was the sole reason for the collision until,

  1. A 384th Bomb Group B-17 pilot, Wallace Storey, who witnessed the collision, told me he didn’t think Lazy Daisy was hit by flak and,
  2. Many of the reports from the day of the collision do not attribute flak as the cause (although some do), and speculated on other causes, such as (1) the group was forced to pull up to avoid collision with another group, (2) pilot error during evasive action, and (3) the formation was broken up by very sharp turns and prop wash.

But, in the case of what seemed to some like pilot error, what if a mechanical problem with the aircraft caused the aircraft to not respond correctly to properly executed maneuvering by the pilot, James Brodie? And what if this mechanical problem compounded the scenario of flak damage?

Only the aircraft’s pilot, James Brodie, and co-pilot, Lloyd Vevle, would have been able to answer that question and neither one lived to do so. I can’t pretend to know the extent of what they were facing that day, that moment, that Lazy Daisy collided with my dad’s B-17, but I can look at what kinds of issues Lazy Daisy experienced in the missions leading up to that fateful one on September 28, 1944, and venture a guess.

I reviewed the mission reports of all 64 missions to which Lazy Daisy was assigned, looking for mechanical issues or anything else that stood out, to try to build a greater understanding of the aircraft’s history. Before I get into the mission details, here’s a little background info on the ship.

Lazy Daisy was,

  • Built by the Boeing Airplane Company
  • A new replacement aircraft assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group, 546th Bombardment Squadron (H)
  • Formally identified as B-17G 42-31222, with the ’42’ prefix meaning built in 1942, a newer ‘G’ series B-17
  • Identified with Aircraft ID Code BK*D, BK being the squadron code of the 384th’s 546th Bomb Squadron
  • Assigned to Ground Crew Chief James F. Flynn for maintenance

Lazy Daisy’s start date with the 384th Bomb Group was 23 November 1943 and her first assigned mission was 5 December 1943. Of course, Lazy Daisy’s End Date was 28 September 1944, failing to return from a combat operation due to the mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany.

Of Lazy Daisy’s assigned 64 missions, she received combat credit for 49.

Lazy Daisy’s entry in Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log is,

42-31222 Del Denver 4/10/43; Gr Island 17/10/43; Memphis 24/10/43; Ass 545BS/384BG [JD-D] Grafton Underwood 546 [BK-D] 23/11/43; MIA Magdeburg (Berlin) 28/9/44 w/Jim Brodie, Lloyd Vevle, Byron Atkins, Bob Crumpton, Don Dooley, Gordon Hetu (6KIA); George Hawkins, Harry Liniger, Wilf Miller (3POW); flak, cr Erxleben, Ger; MACR 9366. LAZY DAISY.

I introduced you to Lazy Daisy’s first “date” (first official combat mission’s pilot), Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, in Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3.

Following Taylor’s previous very rough mission of November 29, 1943 in Silver Dollar, he was probably looking forward to a less eventful round trip in his new ship to a Luftwaffe Fighter Airfield in Saint-Jean-d’Angély, France on December 5, 1943. It was less eventful in that Lazy Daisy had to return to base with a broken piston head soon after takeoff.

Not a great start for Lazy Daisy, and in the missions that followed, the ship was plagued by aircraft technical failure after technical failure. Over the course of her life, the crews of Lazy Daisy reported engine problems on 27 missions, including 21 engine/prop malfunctions and 9 supercharger problems (3 missions included both).

It wasn’t hard to notice the many engine and supercharger issues once I had them all in a list. Next question, what the heck is a supercharger?

Fred Preller, the 384th Bomb Group website’s Webmaster, helped me out with this one, noting,

A supercharger is an air compressor. On the B-17 it is a turbo-supercharger, meaning it is driven by a turbine in the engine exhaust line. The supercharger compresses air being fed into the engine.

Side note: as you go up in altitude the air pressure lessens, and there is consequently less air pressure to force air into the engine.

So the supercharger offsets that loss in air pressure to provide sufficient air to the engine for proper combustion. In fact, it “supercharges” the air pressure several times the normal atmospheric pressure. I seem to recall that the B-17 turbos would provide up to 45 psi air to the engine (normal atmospheric pressure at sea level is about 15 psi).

So, how does this all work? The engine exhaust gases are routed to the turbine which spins the compressor. There is a “waste gate” in the exhaust line which will route more or less exhaust gas to the turbine, and is the means of controlling the “boost” in air pressure that the compressor provides.

So what about all the “lagging” of the superchargers that I read in the pilot narratives of the mission reports? Fred added,

I am not sure of this but I imagine it has to do with the supercharger response to the waste gate setting – in fact, there is quite a linkage between the cockpit and each engine for controlling the waste gate, so it is easy to see that different kinds of problems could occur.

John Edwards, 384th Bomb Group Historian, helped me out when I pointedly asked what would happen to a B-17 during all those supercharger failures? Would it make the aircraft seem sluggish, or lazy? John noted,

A supercharger failure at altitude would certainly make it hard for the aircraft to hold position especially if still carrying the full bomb load and the higher amount of fuel before the target. If the charger is not performing appropriately at lower altitudes, the impact can be slow to climb which puts the aircraft behind schedule and makes the pilot push the engines harder when it finally reaches altitude.

And much more to come about the fascinating subject of superchargers at a later date, following this series…

I can’t help but speculate that once her first pilot, Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, got to know her “personality”, why wouldn’t he name his new B-17 Lazy Daisy?

So here comes the mission list, and in the list of Lazy Daisy’s missions I present here, December 1943 through April 1944, all the missions were flown by crews of the 546th Bomb Squadron. ALL of her missions aren’t listed. I’ve listed the ones with the most serious problems and if no problems were reported on a mission (although only a few missions had no technical or equipment failures of any kind), that mission wasn’t included either. [May through September 1944 missions coming up in Part 3.]

Specific engine/supercharger problems and other serious issues on different missions included,

  • 5 DEC 1943 Broken piston head in the No. 2 engine. The pilot, Lt. Taylor, wrote in his narrative statement, “On take-off the manifold pressure dropped to 31” & 1800 RPM. The engine was feathered when we attained an altitude of 200’. It was impossible to climb. The engine was feathered, but created such a drag that it was necessary to re-feather it. We drew 46” & 2500 RPM on the three remaining engines in order to maintain altitude & speed. When these settings were reduced, it was not possible to maintain altitude & flying speed. As soon as the group completed take-off we landed. We landed with full bomb load.”

It would take 8 days of tinkering before Lazy Daisy was assigned to another mission after having problems with the No. 2 engine. So what happened on 13 DEC 1943 with the Taylor crew assigned to the ship for her second mission?

  • 13 DEC 1943 No. 2 engine oil pressure dropped to 37 lbs. Taylor wrote, “On the trip over, the manifold pressure repeatedly dropped to about 20lbs. for no apparent cause. The pressure could be brought back up by manipulation of the supercharger control. Eventually the oil pressure dropped to 40 lbs. We continued for about 15 minutes, then the oil pressure began to drop further, so I attempted to feather the engine. It would not feather. I turned back and bombed a Target of Opportunity. At low altitude the engine performed alright.”

The Taylor crew would not man Lazy Daisy again until Christmas Eve, so on her next mission, Lazy Daisy’s gremlins were able to antagonize a different crew.

  • 16 DEC 1943 The Clifford Moore crew reported a problem with the fuel pressure on #3 engine. Prop on #2 over sped. They also reported flak damage and that the heated gloves on the ship were faulty, too.

The Taylor crew was back on board on 24 DEC 1943, Christmas Eve, but reported no aircraft failures, only an equipment failure that the co-pilot’s microphone was out. Over the next few months, the Taylor crew and other crews reported a slew of problems.

  • 30 DEC 1943 The Austin Rinne crew reported #3 supercharger drew only 22 inches at 22,000 ft. They also reported that the antenna brace on the vertical stabilizer was broken off, the bomb bay doors wouldn’t close, and flak had pierced the left outboard Tokyo fuel tank.
  • 5 JAN 1944 The Ralph Courtemanche crew reported #1 and #3 superchargers lagged on climb. #2 engine was shooting oil at altitude. It ran all right at lower altitudes.
  • 7 JAN 1944 The Sidney Taylor crew reported that the flight indicator was completely out and must be replaced. They became separated from formation in dense clouds after group assembly, failed to make wing rendezvous, and were forced to abort.
  • 30 JAN 1944 The Merlin Reed crew reported a runaway prop on #2 engine. A separate report alternately reported the problem as – Returned to station early due to runaway No. 3 propeller. Inspection revealed a broken shaft.
  • 3 FEB 1944 The Sidney Taylor crew reported #1 supercharger threw a bucket, but it was not noticed until the ship had landed.
  • 20 FEB 1944 Today was pilot Sidney Taylor’s 25th mission, completing his tour. He reported Lazy Daisy threw a bucket from #1 supercharger, #2 prop over traveled, and #1 supercharger regulator out. I guess Lazy Daisy’s gremlins couldn’t let Taylor have an easy final mission.
  • 21 FEB 1944 The James Miller crew reported #3 supercharger lags. Apparently Lazy Daisy’s gremlins didn’t leave Grafton Underwood with Sidney Taylor.
  • 25 FEB 1944 The Ralph Courtemanche crew reported fuel had to be siphoned out of #4 wing tank when fuel pressure went up to 19.5 lbs, and #3 engine began throwing oil.
  • 2 MAR 1944 The Charles Bishop crew reported #4 fuel pressure was extremely high. Had to run engines between 20” and 25” to keep it down.
  • 3 MAR 1944 The Charles Decker crew reported #1 engine was running roughly and vibrated excessively. Alternately reported – #2 engine failed and couldn’t be feathered. Pilot believes it was ignition trouble. #3 supercharger lagged at altitude.
  • 8 MAR 1944 The Charles Bishop crew reported No. 1 engine was running roughly and vibrated excessively. Returned early with feathered No. 1 engine. On ground check excessive blow-by of the valves was noted. Inspection revealed No. 7 exhaust valve broken. Further inspection showed No. 6 exhaust valve broken off.
  • 22 MAR 1944 The James Miller crew reported #2 Engine knocked out by flak and had general flak damages. Miller wrote, “Hit by flak. Lost #2 engine. Oil pressure dropped. Evidently oil line hit by flak. Unable to feather prop. Dropped off at enemy coast.”
  • 13 APR 1944 The Anthony Gekakis crew reported No. 1 Engine running rough and smoking continuously at altitude.
  • 18 APR 1944 The James Miller crew reported #1 Engine went out over target.

After the April 18, 1944 mission, Lazy Daisy was out of service for almost six weeks (40 days). I turned to my fellow research volunteers of the 384th Bomb Group to help me analyze this and other breaks in Lazy Daisy’s inclusion in combat missions.

384th Bomb Group’s Historian John Edwards’ thoughts on the gap of missions were that,

  1. In Fall 1944, there are typically more aircraft on station than crews so the group could afford a tail to sit a while as maintenance worked the gremlins.
  2. The USAAF maintenance system was designed to move aircraft with problems to the next level of maintenance if the required amount of time to complete the repair exceeded certain time requirements.

The SD (Sub-depot) would work the aircraft since it stayed on station. We would see an annotation had the aircraft been sent to a SAD (Strategic Air Depot) or BAD (Base Air Depot).

Keith Ellefson, the 384th Bomb Group’s Combat Data Specialist, found that indeed,

42-31222 was at 2SAD (the 2nd Strategic Air Depot), Station 547 (aka Abbots Ripton at Alconbury, England) on 6 May 1944 and back at Station 106 (Grafton Underwood) on 6 June 1944.

A few photos from the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery of Lazy Daisy undergoing various repairs…

Dispersal 24
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Apparently 42-31222 BK*D “LAZY DAISY”
Note bent or sheered propeller shaft and damaged cowling sections in foreground.
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Lazy Daisy
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Thank you Fred Preller, John Edwards, and Keith Ellefson for you help on this post.

Stay tuned for Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3 and her return from maintenance…

Sources

Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log (Fortlog)

2nd Strategic Air Depot, Station 547

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Spring 1944

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1944 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1944

April 5, 1944

Siegfried Lederer, a Jewish inmate of Auschwitz-Birkenau, escaped to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in Terezin, Czechoslovakia where he warned the Elders of the Council about Auschwitz.

April 6, 1944

The Lyon (France) Gestapo, headed by Klaus Barbie, raided the Jewish children’s home at Izieu. The home was a refuge for children who had come to France to escape Nazi persecution. Fifty-one people were arrested during the raid and forty-four of them were children. They were all first sent to Drancy, and then were one of the last transports from France to Auschwitz. Only one survived.

April 7, 1944

Two days after Siegfried Lederer’s escape from Auschwitz-Birkenau, two more Jewish inmates, Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, escaped and made it safely to Czechoslovakia. Vrba submitted a report to the Papal Nuncio in Slovakia which was forwarded to the Vatican, and received there in mid-June.

Paul Joseph Goebbels, German Nazi politician and Reich Minister of Propaganda, took overall control of Berlin.

April 8, 1944

Soviet troops began an offensive to liberate Crimea.

April 14, 1944

A total of 5,200 Greek Jews were moved in the first transports of Jews from Athens, Greece to Auschwitz.

April 17, 1944

The Japanese began their last offensive in China, attacking U.S. air bases in eastern China.

April 22, 1944

In the Japanese theater, the Allies invaded Aitape and Hollandia in New Guinea.

April 28, 1944

German E-boats (the western Allies name for the fast German attack craft or fast boat, Schnellboot) attacked Allied forces training for D-Day at Slapton Sands, in Southwest England, killing more than 600 US Army and Navy personnel (1/3 the number killed on D-Day on Utah Beach).

May 1944

Nazi SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler’s agents secretly proposed to trade Jews for trucks, other commodities, or money to the western Allies.

May 8, 1944

Rudolf Höss of the Nazi SS returned to Auschwitz to oversee the extermination of Hungarian Jews on the order of Heinrich Himmler.

May 9, 1944

Soviet troops recaptured Sevastopol.

May 11, 1944

The Allies attacked the Gustav Line south of Rome.

May 12, 1944

The Germans surrendered to the Soviets in the Crimea.

May 15, 1944

The Germans withdrew to the Adolf Hitler Line in central Italy.

The Nazis began the deportation of Jews from Hungary to Auschwitz. Eventually, 440,000 Hungarian Jews would be deported with two-thirds of those murdered in the gas chambers of Auschwitz-Birkenau.

May 16, 1944

Hungarian Jews arrived at Auschwitz. German-Austrian SS-Obersturmbannführer Adolf Eichmann, one of the major organizers of the Holocaust, arrived to personally oversee and hasten the extermination process. An estimated 100,000 Jews were gassed in the following eight days, by May 24. By the end of the month, May 31, the SS reported collecting 88 pounds of gold and white metal from the teeth of those gassed. By the end of June, half the Jews in Hungary (381,661 persons) had arrived at Auschwitz.

May 18, 1944

The Allies captured the town of Monte Cassino in the province of Frosinone, Italy after four months of battle and the cost of 20,000 lives.

May 19, 1944

Around fifty of the Stalag Luft III Allied POW underground tunnel escapees were executed. Almost all of those who escaped were recaptured, with about twenty returned to the camp to serve as a warning to other prisoners.

May 25, 1944

The Germans retreated from Anzio, on the coast of Italy, south of Rome.

May 26, 1944

Charles de Gaulle proclaimed his Free French movement to be the “Provisional Government of the French Republic.” The new government was recognized by Czechoslovakia, Poland, Belgium, Luxembourg, Yugoslavia, and Norway, but an infuriated Roosevelt and Churchill refused to recognize it and retaliated by excluding de Gaulle from the final planning for Operation Overlord (codename for the Battle of Normandy, which was launched on June 6, 1944 with the Normandy landings).

May 27, 1944

The Allies invaded Biak Island, New Guinea.

June 1944

The Nazis carefully prepared and “beautified” the Theresienstadt Ghetto (in Terezín located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) and its Jewish inmates for a Red Cross delegation visit which resulted in a favorable report.

June 4, 1944

Allied troops liberated Rome, the first Axis capital to be liberated.

June 5, 1944

The first B-29 Superfortress combat mission was flown as seventy-seven planes bombed the Japanese Makasan railway yards in Bangkok, Thailand.

June 6, 1944

D-Day (Operation Overlord), the long-awaited Allied (Allied Expeditionary Force of British, American, Canadian, Polish, and Free French troops) invasion of Normandy, on the northern coast of France, began before dawn with naval and aerial bombardments. The British 6th Airborne Division landed near Caen, and 12,000 U.S. 82nd and 101st Airborne Division troops were dropped on the Cotentin peninsula overnight June 5/6.

The first wave followed when five divisions (156,115 men) landed at the Normandy beaches code-named Sword, Juno, Gold, Omaha and Utah.

Naval support for D-Day included 1,213 warships (including seven battleships and 23 cruisers), 1,600 auxiliary ships, and 4,126 landing craft. The British and American Air Forces flew 14,674 sorties that day.

Opposition included five German infantry divisions with about 50,000 men, 100 tanks, and assault guns in bunkers and on the beaches.

The Americans on Omaha Beach suffered especially heavy casualties, but the surprised Germans were overwhelmed and most of the allied objectives were reached and secured by nightfall. The German Air Force (Luftwaffe) and Navy Kriegsmarine provided very little opposition.

June 7, 1944

British troops liberated Bayeux, five miles inland from the Normandy coast. All beachheads were reported established.

June 9, 1944

The Soviet offensive against the Finnish front began.

June 10, 1944

The Nazis massacred the town of Oradour-sur-Glane, population 652, in France. A Nazi SS Division (Das Reich) surrounded the village and ordered everyone to gather in the town square. The Nazi commandant accused them of hiding explosives and announced a search and check of identity papers.

The men were locked in barns and the women and children were locked in the church. The men were executed with machine guns. The Nazis then set fire to the entire village, including the barns and church, to cover up the massacre, burning the few male survivors in the barn, and the women and children in the church, alive. A total of 642 townspeople – 245 women, 207 children, and 190 men – were slaughtered. A few men in the barn and a few townspeople who were not in the town at the time of the massacre survived.

The village of Oradour-sur-Glane was never rebuilt, and still stands as a silent monument to Nazi atrocities.

June 12, 1944

Alfred Rosenberg, Reich Minister for the Eastern Occupied Territories, ordered the kidnapping of 40,000 Polish children aged ten to fourteen during the “Heuaktion” (Hay Action). They were first imprisoned in a camp in Poland and then transferred to Germany to be used as slave laborers in the Reich.

June 13, 1944

One week after the D-Day invasion of Normandy, the first German V-1 rocket (“buzz bomb”) raid on Great Britain was launched against London. The ‘V’ stood for the German word Vergeltungswaffen, meaning weapons of reprisal. The British nicknamed them “buzz bombs” due to the distinct buzzing sound made by the pulse-jet engines powering the bombs.

Wernher von Braun and Walter Dornberger directed the development of the V-1, which resembled a small aircraft, by German scientists at the Peenemünde research facility on the Baltic Sea.

After launch from a short-length catapult, the bomb then climbed to about 3,000 feet at speeds up to 350 miles per hour. As it approached its target, the buzzing of the V-1 could be heard on the ground. Then the engine would cut out and in a moment of silence, the bomb plunged toward the ground, ending with the explosion of the 1,870 pound warhead.

During this first V-1 bombing campaign, up to 100 V-1’s fell every hour on London. Over the next eighty days, more than 6,000 people were killed, over 17,000 injured, and a million buildings destroyed or damaged.

V-1 bombing raids occurred constantly at all times of day and night, and in all types of weather, terrorizing the populations of London and parts of Kent and Sussex.

According to German records, of the 8,564 V-1’s launched against England and the port of Antwerp, Belgium, about 57 percent hit their targets. Anti-aircraft guns, barrage balloons, and fighter planes intercepted the remainder.

Using mainly slave labor at the huge underground V-1 factory near Nordhausen, the Germans built over 29,000 V-1 bombs. In Operation Crossbow, nearly 2,000 Allied airmen were killed in bombing raids against V-1 launch sites and factories.

June 15, 1944

The U.S. Marines invaded Saipan in the Mariana Islands.

June 15/16, 1944

The first bombing raid on Japan since the Doolittle raid of April 1942 was carried out with forty-seven B-29’s based in Bengel, India, targeting the steel works at Yawata, Japan.

June 18 – 22, 1944

The “Auschwitz Report,” written by Rudolf Vrba and Alfred Wetzler, the two Slovak Jewish prisoners who escaped from Auschwitz on April 7, 1944, went public worldwide through media channels in Switzerland.

June 19 – 20, 1944

American aircraft carrier-based fighters shot down 220 Japanese planes in the Battle of the Philippine Sea, nicknamed the “Great Marianas Turkey Shoot” by American aviators. Only twenty American planes were lost.

June 22, 1944

The Soviets launched a massive offensive in eastern Byelorussia (Belarus). They destroyed the German Army Group Center and by August 1, drove westward to the Vistula River across from Warsaw in central Poland.

Operation Bagration (the Soviet summer offensive) began.

June 27, 1944

U.S. troops liberated Cherbourg, France.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Escape from Auschwitz

German E-boat

Hitler Line

Theresienstadt Ghetto

Oradour-sur-Glane

Most recent post from the series:

Winter 1944

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

 

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 1 of 3

Continuation of my post from two weeks ago, Gremlins.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner on a B-17 crew in WWII. He was a member of the John Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England. On their sixteenth mission, their ship, 43‑37822, was knocked down by the ship of the James Brodie crew, 42‑31222, nicknamed Lazy Daisy, in a mid-air collision. Three men survived on Lazy Daisy, but my dad was the sole survivor of 43-37822.

Although Dad always recounted that Lazy Daisy had been hit by flak before the collision, I am not certain that is the only reason she veered out of formation and into his ship. I decided to research the complete mission record of Lazy Daisy to determine if something in her maintenance history pointed to any specific problems (aka gremlins) with the ship.

I found plenty of issues and developed lots of theories about Lazy Daisy and her gremlins, but before I delve into the depths of the 384th Bomb Group’s mission reports and the failures that plagued Lazy Daisy, I want to back up for a bit and review something I found late in my research.

A pilot of the 546th Bomb Squadron named Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor began his career with the 384th Bomb Group as a co-pilot. His first mission commanding his own ship as pilot was his sixteenth credited mission. On his seventeenth, he was given Lazy Daisy as “his ship,” so I assume he was the one who named her. Taylor piloted Lazy Daisy on her very first mission on December 5, 1943, which by the way he aborted due to engine problems – but I’ll get to that in due course.

In this photo, Sidney Taylor is standing second from left. The aircraft is ID’d as likely being Lazy Daisy.

Back L-R: Lt. James Miller (CP), Lt. Sidney Taylor (P), Lt. Albert Rymer (B), Lt. Robert Chapin (N)
Front L-R: Murray Stamm (RO)?, unidentified 1, unidentified 2, unidentified 3, unidentified 4, unidentified 5
To Be Identified: Virgil Wallace (TT), George Stropek (BT), Lorin Schekel (TG), Sidney Ukrain (FG), Robert Drennan (FG)
Aircraft: Probably B-17G 546th BS 42-31222 BK*D Lazy Daisy; James Flynn crew chief
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

As I said, late in my research I stumbled across something I found very interesting. It was a very in-depth pilot narrative that Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor wrote following his first mission as pilot on November 29, 1943. He and his crew were aboard B-17G 42-37781 Silver Dollar. It was Silver Dollar’s first mission, so maybe she was supposed to be Taylor’s ship, but after the mission, she was out of commission for three weeks, so on his next mission, he was assigned Lazy Daisy.

Taylor only had nine missions left to complete his tour of twenty-five and he completed six of those, including his twenty-fifth and last mission, piloting Lazy Daisy. By the time he left Grafton Underwood for home, he knew Lazy Daisy’s gremlins well.

The reason I want to share Taylor’s narrative of the November 29, 1943 mission is that it points out so well two of the most dangerous “enemies” that airmen of WWII had to go up against. When you think of the men going into battle in the air, you likely think of the barrage of flak they had aimed at them or the enemy fighter jets who tried to bring them down, and the damage to the aircraft caused by these enemy actions.

But there were three other things that the crews had to contend with that could be just as deadly. Two of those things were the bitter cold and the lack of oxygen at high altitude. I’ll get to number three later. Sidney Taylor and his new crew had to contend with both cold and oxygen issues on their first mission together.

Like you, I understand the problems, but I never really comprehended the seriousness of these challenges until I read Taylor’s narrative. So I want to include Taylor’s words and the words of others from that November 29, 1943 mission to Bremen, Germany to bring the point home.

The mission was the 384th Bomb Group’s Number 38, the 8th Air Force’s Number 143. The target was the sea port and submarine building base at Bremen, Germany. The mission was led by Col. Dale O. Smith, the thirty-two year old commanding officer of the 384th. In post-mission summary reports, I read their descriptions of what that mission was like,

  • The new enemy to contend with was the intense cold, which they all agreed bothered them much more than the flak or the enemy fighter opposition.
  • Co-pilot Lt. Francis J. Witt, Jr:  “I won’t thaw out for six months. It was cold, bitter cold – about 55 below. I’ve never been so cold in my life.”
  • Pilot Darwin G. Nelson: “The flak and fighters didn’t annoy us half as much as that penetrating cold. They used to say it was cold back home in Minnesota, but that was mid-July weather compared to what we went through today on that long ride to Bremen.”
  • Several of the fliers were overcome due to a combination of the cold and frozen oxygen system. However, they were all revived and were none the worse for their experience. [Lt. Taylor had landed away at Coltishall, so his crew’s experience was not recorded in Grafton Underwood at the time of the post-mission briefing.]
  • Vernon Herman Kaufman, ball turret gunner of the Earl Allison crew, was overcome, but rescued by the crew’s top turret gunner and placed in the radio room where he was revived.

Lt. Taylor, as you’ll read below, didn’t make it back to Grafton Underwood that day with the formation on his first mission as pilot, so the summary report didn’t include his comments or experience. He did, however, pen a very detailed account of what happened aboard his ship. Please consider this an educational opportunity into what B-17 air crews experienced during WWII and what we can learn about the man who first took Lazy Daisy into combat as his ship.

* * * * *

Narrative by Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, pilot, A/C 7781, mission to Breman, Germany, 29 NOVEMBER, 1943.

We were flying as briefed with the formation until we crossed the English coast on the return journey. We flew at 1,500 feet from assembly until we crossed the English coast going out, at which point we began our climb. The rate of climb was as briefed to 27,800 feet, which was 800 feet higher than the altitude for which we were originally briefed, but which was necessary because of the clouds. Before reaching the enemy coast we began to have slight difficulty with certain members of the crew because of the extreme cold. The Left Waist Gunner’s eyes froze and he thawed them out on several occasions. After each thawing they froze immediately again.

As we approached the I.P. we saw several wide concentrations of flak ahead of us and around the wing that preceded us. We flew over what we presumed to be the target. The target was obscured by clouds so it was impossible for us to be sure where we were, and in that area we were subjected to moderate flak, which was fairly accurate; not extremely accurate, but not wild. Our ship suffered minor damage from flak at that point. The damage consisted of a hole in the bomb-bay doors; the door covering the camera well was blown open and up into the radio compartment, and the magento harness on No. 3 engine was torn by a piece of flak. The ship operated all right after that damage. It was not affected at all. We then circled what we presumed to be the target area and on passing over the area again all of our bombs were released along with the rest of our Group. Because of the clouds bombing results were unobserved.

About the time that bombs were away our left aileron control cables were shot away, and we did not see the plane that attacked us. It came from the rear and I do not think that it attacked our ship specifically. I think it attacked ships behind us, but one bullet hit us and cut our control cables on the left aileron. That resulted in our being thrown out of the formation, because we could not control the ship. While out of the formation we were not subjected to any attacks. We regained control of the ship and brought it back into formation in the position which we had formerly occupied. We then had a head-on attack, and, chronologically, it was just after we got into formation, by FW 190, the color of which was brown, and I think it had a white spinner with a ring around it, but I am not sure. That ship made a pass at us from 12 o’clock, level, and broke away below our ship. As it broke away it attacked our low Group.

About the time we had reached the I.P. the Pilot [Taylor, referring to himself] was informed by the Right Waist Gunner that the Ball Turret Gunner’s oxygen supply was at 100 lbs. pressure. The pressure in the Ball Turret dropped rather rapidly, and we were unable to refill it. The refiller nipple on the Ball Turret oxygen supply was broken. The Pilot then instructed the Right Waist Gunner to assist the Ball Turret Gunner in getting out of the Ball Turret. The Ball Turret Gunner personally informed the Pilot that he would get out. About 15 minutes later the Co-Pilot checked to be sure that the Ball Turret Gunner was all right and had gotten out. At that time we were informed by the Right Waist Gunner that the Ball Turret Gunner was in extreme difficulty and that they were unable to get him out of the Ball Turret. After repeated efforts by both Waist Gunners and the Radio Gunner to get the man out of the Ball Turret, the Pilot was informed that it was impossible to get him out and that they believed that he was dead. During this time the Left Waist Gunner was suffering from seriously frozen hands and face and feet, and also was irrational probably as a result of anoxia. The Pilot instructed the Right Waist Gunner to administer artificial respiration to the Ball Turret Gunner. This was done intermittently, and all together for not over five (5) minutes. About the time that we crossed the enemy coast on the way out the Pilot was informed that it was reasonably certain that the Ball Turret Gunner was dead. At this time both the Pilot’s and Co-Pilot’s oxygen system registered only 100 lbs. each.

As soon as I felt sure that we were clear of the Frisian Islands we left the formation and descended through breaks in heavy cumulus clouds to 800 feet.

From the time we reached an altitude of approximately 26,000 feet until we descended to about 12,000 feet, the Navigator was in a semi-conscious condition and unable to use either arm. By the time that we had reached an altitude of 800 feet on the return journey, the Navigator had completely recovered, and by means of radio fixes we determined our approximate position. At this point, even though I had every reason to believe that we would safely make England, I instructed the Radio Operator to send an S.O.S. on the MF/DF frequency, which he did. Also the emergency IFF was turned on. Having determined our approximate position, a course was plotted by the Navigator, and we took up a Mag. heading of 281°, which we held until we hit the English coast. As we flew over the North Sea we passed immediately over one 50-foot Air/Sea Rescue Launch, which flashed something on the Aldis Lamp. We were unable to read the message on the Aldis Lamp due to the fact that we were passing over him so rapidly and were so low. However, we presumed that he challenged us with the challenge of the day. We made no reply to his challenge because we were out of range so fast.

As we flew at an altitude of 800 to 1,000 feet we came upon another B-17 flying at approximately the same altitude and on approximately the same course. That B-17 apparently followed us in, for it was obvious that he began flying on us.

We reached the coast four or five miles east of Cromer. By that time it was about 5:15 [PM English time], and a combination of darkness and extremely poor visibility made navigation difficult. Our gasoline supply was low, but not dangerously low. About two or three minutes after we crossed the coast a searchlight was turned on almost directly beneath us and directed us to a field which was about 10 miles away. The name of the field was Coltishall, an R.A.F Interceptor Station. When we reached the field we contacted the Tower on command set 6440. The field lights were turned on and we landed safely.

After we had landed we discovered that Colonel Smith and Captain Algar [both aboard A/C 42-30026 Battlewagon], who had been leading the Group, had landed immediately before us.

We examined the dead man and his equipment and found that he had vomited in the Ball Turret, in his oxygen mask, and on the floor of the ship as he was being removed from the Turret. The vomit was filled with blood. Both Waist Gunners suffered from frostbite and nervous shock and were removed to a U.S. Hospital at Wynondham. The body of the Ball Turret Gunner was kept for two (2) days at Coltishall. The following day the Assistant Engineering Officer of the 546th Squadron arrived with a crew of workmen and began repairing Captain Algar’s ship and my ship. The second day after we landed Captain Algar’s ship was in condition to fly and he flew home. The following afternoon our ship was ready, and we flew home.

The two Waist Gunners are still in the hospital at Wynondham, and the body of the Ball Turret Gunner was removed from Coltishall by Captain Foley.

S.P. Taylor,
1st Lt., AC,
Pilot,
A/C 7781

* * * * *

Author’s Notes

Taylor’s crew members on the 29 NOV 1943 mission to Bremen were,

  • Robert J. Conn, waist gunner. This was Conn’s only mission with the 384th Bomb Group. He did not return to duty with the 384th after his hospitalization following the 29 NOV 1943 mission.
  • Sidney Charles Ukrain, waist gunner. This was Ukrain’s first mission with the 384th Bomb Group. He went on to complete his tour with the group after 31 missions.
  • Joseph Albert Kuspa, ball turret gunner. Kuspa was born Jan 27, 1921 and was from New Carlisle, Indiana. He died on this mission, November 29, 1943. This was his first and only mission with the 384th Bomb Group. He is buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England, Plot F Row 2 Grave 50.

The Taylor crew endured both flak and German fighters on the 29 NOV 1943 mission, but it was the cold and (likely cold-induced) problems with the oxygen system that proved deadly.

And for that third problem I mentioned earlier that air crews had to contend with, by now I imagine you know I’ll soon be showing you how these mighty aircraft and their crews could be brought down out of the sky by mechanical failures, the dreaded gremlins.

Sources

Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, 384th Bomb Group Personnel Record

Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

American Air Museum in Britain: Sidney Taylor

Stay tuned for Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor’s and other pilots’ of the 384th Bomb Group’s trouble with Lazy Daisy’s gremlins…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Winter 1944

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at January – March 1944 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Winter 1944

January 6, 1944

Soviet troops reached the Polish border and advanced into Poland.

January 9, 1944

British and Indian troops recaptured Maungdaw in Burma.

January 17, 1944

The Allies launched their first attack against the Nazis at Cassino, Italy.

January 22, 1944

The U.S. Fifth Army successfully landed two divisions at Anzio in Italy, 30 miles south of Rome.

January 24, 1944

American president Franklin D. Roosevelt created the War Refugee Board to help Jews under Nazi control. His action was due to political pressure.

January 25, 1944

German politician and lawyer, Hans Frank, who served as Gauleiter (a regional party leader or Governor General) of Poland, recorded on this day in his diary,

At the present time we still have in the General Government perhaps 100,000 Jews.

Frank, who at one time was personal legal adviser to Adolf Hitler, was referencing the fate of the 2.5 million Jews originally under his jurisdiction. After the war, Frank was found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity and sentenced to death. He was executed on October 16, 1946.

January 27, 1944

The German siege of Leningrad ended after nearly 900 days, since July 8, 1941. Soviet soldiers broke through the German line of defense and recaptured hundreds of towns and villages in the region of Leningrad. Estimates of hundreds of thousands to more than one million civilians are thought to have starved to death in the city during that time.

January 31, 1944

American troops invaded Kwajalein in the Marshall Islands.

February 1944

Nazi SS leader Adolf Eichmann visited Auschwitz.

February 1-7, 1944

American troops captured Kwajalein and Majura Atolls in the Marshall Islands.

February 15, 1944

Due to an error in translation, the Allies bombed and destroyed the Benedictine monastery at Monte Cassino, Italy.

February 16, 1944

On orders of German Field Marshal Albert Kesselring, the Nazis carried out a counterattack against the Allied beachhead at Anzio, Italy.

February 17/18, 1944

American aircraft carrier-based planes destroyed the Japanese naval base at Truk in the Caroline Islands.

February 20, 1944

American aircraft carrier-based and land-based planes destroyed the Japanese base at Rabaul.

February 20-25, 1944

During “Big Week,” the United States Army Air Forces (USAAF) and British Royal Air Force (RAF) Bomber Command carried out a joint bombing campaign in a sequence of raids against Nazi Germany. The 384th Bomb Group of the 8th AF participated daily in missions against,

  • Aircraft Industry in Leipzig, Germany
  • Junkers Aircraft Plant & Airfield, Aircraft Industry in Bernburg, Germany
  • Fighter Field & Aircraft Storage Depot, German Air Force (Luftwaffe) in Werl, Germany
  • Aircraft Factory, Aircraft Industry in Halberstadt, Germany
  • Aircraft Factory, Aircraft Industry in Aschersleben, Germany
  • Ball-Bearing Plant, Bearings Industry in Schweinfurt, Germany
  • Aircraft Assembly Plant, Aircraft Industry in Augsburg, Germany
  • Ball Bearing Plant, Bearings Industry in Stuttgart, Germany

February 23, 1944

American aircraft carrier-based planes attacked the Mariana Islands.

February 24, 1944

Merrill’s “Marauders” (U.S. 5307th Composite Unit, also known as Unit Galahad) began their ground campaign into northern Burma. The unit was named for US Army General Frank Merrill. 

March 4, 1944

The Allies bombed Berlin in the first major daylight bombing raid of WWII on Berlin. The mission was originally scheduled for the day before, March 3, but the 8th Air Force recalled it after entering enemy airspace, due to a fuel shortage caused by unexpected maneuvering necessitated by the weather.

Soviet troops began a major offensive along the Belorussian front.

Merrill’s “Marauders” fought their first major action in Burma.

March 5, 1944

British army officer General Orde Wingate’s groups began operations behind the Japanese lines in Burma.

March 15, 1944

The second Allied attempt to capture Monte Cassino, Italy began.

The Japanese began an offensive toward Imphal and Kohima in northeast India.

March 18, 1944

In an air raid, the British dropped 3000 tons of bombs on Hamburg, Germany.

March 19, 1944

Believing Hungary, with its Jewish population of 725,000, intended to leave the Axis, Adolf Eichmann arrived with his Gestapo “Special Section Commandos.” The Nazis occupied Hungary and forced Admiral Miklos Horthy, the regent, to appoint a pro-German minister president, General Dome Sztojay.

March 24, 1944

British army officer General Orde Wingate flew to assess the situations in three Chindit-held bases in Burma and on the return flight the USAAF B-25 Mitchell bomber on which he was flying crashed in India. He and nine others died.

Overnight March 24/25, seventy-six Allied airmen escaped German POW camp Stalag Luft III through an underground tunnel.

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt issued a statement condemning both German and Japanese ongoing “crimes against humanity.”

The United Nations are fighting to make a world in which tyranny and aggression cannot exist; a world based upon freedom, equality, and justice; a world in which all persons regardless of race, color, or creed may live in peace, honor, and dignity.

In the meantime in most of Europe and in parts of Asia the systematic torture and murder of civilians — men, women, and children — by the Nazis and the Japanese continue unabated. In areas subjugated by the aggressors, innocent Poles, Czechs, Norwegians, Dutch, Danes, French, Greeks, Russians, Chinese, Filipinos — and many others — are being starved or frozen to death or murdered in cold blood in a campaign of savagery.

The slaughters of Warsaw, Lidice, Kharkov, and Nanking — the brutal torture and murder by the Japanese, not only of civilians but of our own gallant American soldiers and fliers — these are startling examples of what goes on day by day, year in and year out, wherever the Nazis and the Japs are in military control — free to follow their barbaric purpose.

In one of the blackest crimes of all history — begun by the Nazis in the day of peace and multiplied by them a hundred times in time of war — the wholesale systematic murder of the Jews of Europe goes on unabated every hour. As a result of the events of the last few days hundreds of thousands of Jews, who while living under persecution have at least found a haven from death in Hungary and the Balkans, are now threatened with annihilation as Hitler’s forces descend more heavily upon these lands. That these innocent people, who have already survived a decade of Hitler’s fury, should perish on the very eve of triumph over the barbarism which their persecution symbolizes would be a major tragedy.

It is therefore fitting that we should again proclaim our determination that none who participate in these acts of savagery shall go unpunished. The United Nations have made it clear that they will pursue the guilty and deliver them up in order that justice be done. That warning applies not only to the leaders but also to their functionaries and subordinates in Germany and in the satellite countries. All who knowingly take part in the deportation of Jews to their death in Poland or Norwegians and French to their death in Germany are equally guilty with the executioner. All who share the guilt shall share the punishment.

Hitler is committing these crimes against humanity in the name of the German people. I ask every German and every man everywhere under Nazi domination to show the world by his action that in his heart he does not share these insane criminal desires. Let him hide these pursued victims, help them to get over their borders, and do what he can to save them from the Nazi hangman. I ask him also to keep watch, and to record the evidence that will one day be used to convict the guilty.

In the meantime, and until the victory that is now assured is won, the United States will persevere in its efforts to rescue the victims of brutality of the Nazis and the Japs. Insofar as the necessity of military operations permit, this government will use all means at its command to aid the escape of all intended victims of the Nazi and Jap executioner — regardless of race or religion or color. We call upon the free peoples of Europe and Asia temporarily to open their frontiers to all victims of oppression. We shall find havens of refuge for them, and we shall find the means for their maintenance and support until the tyrant is driven from their homelands and they may return.

In the name of justice and humanity let all freedom-loving people rally to this righteous undertaking.

~Franklin D. Roosevelt – March 24, 1944

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Hans Frank

The 900-day Siege of Leningrad

The Bombing of Monte Cassino

8th AF Mission of March 3, 1944

384th Bomb Group Mission List, 1944

Stalag Luft III

Most recent post from the series:

Fall 1943

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Gremlins

Thousands of feet above the earth, in the deep cold of high altitude and the silence of nothingness, save for the rush of the wind against man’s warbirds with their thundering engines, the childhood monsters emerged from the closet and the beasts arose from under the bed.

Sounds like the start of a horror movie, doesn’t it? In a way it was.

Long ago, in times of war, at high altitude, the creatures who evolved from these closet-monsters and under-bed-beasts became legend and were called gremlins.

Gremlins were maniacal creatures who were masters of technology and machinery with a propensity to create all manner of aircraft malfunctions.

I was familiar with the name “gremlin” from a young age from my father’s WWII tales of his B-17 nicknamed Tremblin’ Gremlin, but I never really considered the significance of the little creatures and how they were viewed by pilots until I ran across an entry about “The Mythical ‘Gremlins’” in my World War II Chronicle book. It read,

Faced with unexpected and seemingly inexplicable mechanical problems during WWII, RAF pilots added a supernatural, gnome-like creature to world folklore: the “gremlin.” Perhaps more than semi-seriously, pilots discussed gremlins, their mischievous expertise, and methods of placating and controlling them. Gremlins were nothing but a myth. But … they were said to often ride on wings, sometimes manipulating ailerons to tip the plane.

Riding on wings? Manipulating ailersons to tip the plane? That really struck a note with me because I had been immersed in researching the mechanical problems of the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 Lazy Daisy, the B-17 that collided with my dad’s on September 28, 1944.

While reviewing mechanical issue after mechanical issue in the mission reports of that aircraft, I was leaning toward the thought that had B-17’s been covered by the lemon law in 1944, the 8th Air Force would have been due a refund for that ship.

But now, here was a better explanation than that the aircraft was a little too prone to mechanical problems. Lazy Daisy must have had a massive infestation of gremlins. And those gremlins may have boarded the plane in America, before she made her hop across the pond to England, because she experienced engine problems from her very first mission.

I’ll get to the Lazy Daisy’s specific problems in a follow-up post in a couple of weeks, but my research into gremlins made for such interesting reading, I wanted to learn more about them.

I learned that, contrary to the information in my World War II Chronicle book, it seems gremlins existed long before WWII. The British newspaper The Spectator reported,

The old Royal Naval Air Service in 1917 and the newly constituted Royal Air Force in 1918 appear to have detected the existence of a horde of mysterious and malicious sprites whose whole purpose in life was…to bring about as many as possible of the inexplicable mishaps which, in those days as now, trouble an airman’s life.

In 1923, a British pilot who crashed his plane into the sea blamed gremlins who followed him aboard, sabotaged the engine, and messed with the controls, causing the crash.

The story spread over the years among pilots, many of whom had their own gremlin encounters. Still pre-WWII, author and aviator Pauline Gover in her 1938 novel The ATA: Women with Wings, declared Scotland to be “gremlin country,” where the creatures liked to create havoc by cutting the wires of aircraft.

With the high-altitude flying of WWII came more reports of gremlins when something unexplainable went wrong, but most of these reports were written off as stress of combat, products of the imagination, or hallucinations of pilots flying at high altitude due to lack of adequate pressurization.

During WWII, the British Royal Air Force’s high-altitude Photographic Reconnaissance Units (PRU) flew perilous photographic missions in the bitter cold over enemy territory. These pilots regularly saw and blamed gremlins for all sorts of mechanical problems. Somehow, the mechanical issues would be gone as soon as the aircraft landed and the gremlins departed.

During the Battle of Britain in the summer and fall of 1940, so many pilots reported gremlin activity that the British Air Ministry acknowledged the problem and attempted to investigate. The Ministry tasked “Gremlorist” Percy Prune, a pilot officer, to write an official document. Prune’s resulting service manual listed the creature’s various known exploits, instructed airmen how to placate and distract them, and offered ways to avoid accidents by suggesting the airmen take care not to display behaviors of bravado, arrogance, or over-confidence, which were thought attractive to the creatures.

Posters and bulletins were also created which often included the following poem,

This is the tale of the Gremlins
As told by the PRU
At Benson and Wick and St Eval-
And believe me, you slobs, it’s true.
When you’re seven miles up in the heavens,
(That’s a hell of a lonely spot)
And it’s fifty degrees below zero,
Which isn’t exactly hot.
When you’re frozen blue like your Spitfire,
And you’re scared a Mosquito pink.
When you’re thousands of miles from nowhere,
And there’s nothing below but the drink.
It’s then that you’ll see the Gremlins,
Green and gamboge and gold,
Male and female and neuter,
Gremlins both young and old.
It’s no good trying to dodge them,
The lessons you learnt on the Link
Won’t help you evade a Gremlin,
Though you boost and you dive and you jink.
White one’s will wiggle your wing tips,
Male one’s will muddle your maps,
Green one’s will guzzle your glycol,
Females will flutter your flaps.
Pink one’s will perch on your perspex,
And dance pirouettes on your prop,
There’s a spherical middle-aged Gremlin,
Who’ll spin on your stick like a top.
They’ll freeze up your camera shutters,
They’ll bite through your aileron wires,
They’ll bend and they’ll break and they’ll batter,
They’ll insert toasting forks into your tyres.
And that is the tale of the Gremlins,
As told by the PRU,
(P)retty (R)uddy (U)nlikely to many,
But a fact, none the less, to the few.
~Author unknown

Gremlins became even more well known when Roald Dahl, an airman in the 80 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force, who years earlier experienced an accidental crash landing in North Africa, published his first children’s novel, The Gremlins,  in 1943.

The gremlins plagued not only the British. They were reported by Axis as well as Allied airmen. Dad’s B-17, Tremblin’ Gremlin was not the only B-17 in WWII named after the mischievous creatures.

According to Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log (Fortlog), the names of twenty-five B-17’s in WWII included “Gremlin” in their nickname. See for yourself by following the link to the Fortlog in the Sources section below. And if you want to read more and see illustrations and various descriptions of gremlins, sources for doing so are also included below.

The airmen who claim to have seen or been the victims of gremlins insist they were very real, they were no figment of the imagination. After reading the pilot narratives of the mechanical failings of Lazy Daisy, from her first mission all the way through to her next-to-last, even though no gremlins were mentioned in those reports, I believe that the ship was infested with them. I believe gremlins took every opportunity to bring down that ship. And I believe that on September 28, 1944, they finally succeeded.

Stay tuned and in a couple of weeks, perhaps you’ll believe in gremlins, too.

Sources

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

The Vintage News

Wikipedia

Mysterious Universe

National D-Day Memorial

Shoe: Untied blog

Historynet

Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log (Fortlog)

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Fall 1943

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1943 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1943

October 1943

The Danish Underground movement transported over 7,200 Danish Jews to safety in Sweden by sea.

October 1, 1943

The Allies entered Naples, Italy.

October 4, 1943

Heinrich Himmler, who was appointed chief of the German Police (SS) in 1936, delivered a speech about the “Final Solution” to SS Group leaders at Posen, saying in part,

…It is one of those things which is easy to say. ‘The Jewish race is to be exterminated,’ says every party member. ‘That’s clear, it’s part of our program, elimination of the Jews, extermination, right, we’ll do it.’ And then they all come along, the eighty million good Germans, and each one has his decent Jew. Of course the others are swine, but this one is a first-class Jew. Of all those who talk like this, not one has watched, not one has stood up to it. Most of you know what it means to see a hundred corpses lying together, five hundred, or a thousand. To have gone through this and yet – apart from a few exceptions, examples of human weakness – to have remained decent fellows, this is what has made us hard.

We have taken from them what wealth they had. I have issued a strict order, which SS-Obergruppenführer Pohl has carried out, that this wealth should, as a matter of course, be handed over to the Reich without reserve.

We had the moral right, we had the duty to our people, to destroy this people which wanted to destroy us. Altogether, however, we can say that we have fulfilled this most difficult duty for the love of our people. And our spirit, our soul, our character has not suffered injury from it.

October 7, 1943

The Japanese executed approximately one hundred American POW’s on Wake Island.

October 13, 1943

Italy declared war on Germany.

October 14, 1943

Jews and Soviet POW’s broke out of the Sobibor extermination camp. At the time, three hundred made it into the woods, but only fifty of those would survive. Afterwards, exterminations at Sobibor ceased, but over 250,000 had already been murdered. All traces of the camp were removed and trees were planted.

The second American air raid on Schweinfurt was carried out at the culmination of seven days of intense Allied bombing. More than 3,000 Airmen took part in 8th AF Mission 115/384th Bomb Group Mission 32. The mission, also known as Black Thursday, was to destroy Schweinfurt’s ball bearings factory.

According to the Mission Comments on 384thBombGroup.com,

The 384th Bombardment Group (H) put up three squadrons on today’s mission. However, six aircraft aborted, reducing the number that bombed the primary target. A further six aircraft were knocked out by enemy action. An all-too-familiar situation faced the returning crews – bad weather over East Anglia. Three Aircraft were lost when the crews, unable to locate a suitable place to land in England, bailed out and abandoned them, while most of the remainder landed at other airfields.

October 16, 1943

Jews were rounded up in Rome, Italy, with over one thousand sent to Auschwitz.

October 25, 1943

The Japanese opened the Burma-Siam railway, also known as the Death Railway. It was 258 miles (415 km) long and ran between Ban Pong, Thailand and Thanbyuzayat, Burma. It was built to support the Japanese Empire forces in the Burma Campaign of WWII. The railroad was built with Southeast Asian civilian laborers and about 61,000 forced Allied POW laborers. It was called the Death Railway because about 90,000 civilian and 12,000 Allied prisoner laborers died during the construction.

October 26, 1943

Japanese Emperor Hirohito stated that the United States was “rising from its defeat” at the beginning of the war and that Japan’s military situation was now “truly grave.”

November 1943

The Riga, Latvia Ghetto was liquidated.

The U.S. Congress held hearings regarding the U.S. State Department’s inaction regarding European Jews despite the many reports of mass extermination.

November 1, 1943

U.S. Marines invaded Bougainville in the Solomon Islands.

November 1-2, 1943

A naval battle (which was a result of Allied landings on Bougainville), called the Battle of Empress Augusta Bay, also known as Operation Cherry Blossom, was fought near the island of Bougainville in Empress Augusta Bay in the Soloman Islands.

November 3-4, 1943

The Nazis (the SS, the Order Police battalions, and the Ukrainian Sonderdienst) murdered 42,000 to 43,000 Jews at the Majdanek, Poniatowa and Trawniki concentration camps in occupied Poland during Operation Harvest Festival.

November 4, 1943

The Nazi newspaper, Der Stürmer, published by Julius Streicher, reported,

It is actually true that the Jews have, so to speak, disappeared from Europe and that the Jewish ‘Reservoir of the East’ from which the Jewish pestilence has for centuries beset the peoples of Europe has ceased to exist. But the Führer of the German people at the beginning of the war prophesied what has now come to pass.

The U.S. began to manufacture plutonium at a reactor facility in Oak Ridge, Tennessee.

November 6, 1943

Soviet troops recaptured Kiev in the Ukraine.

November 11, 1943

Auschwitz Kommandant Rudolf Höss was promoted to chief inspector of concentration camps. The new Kommandant, Arthur Liebehenschel, divided up the Auschwitz complex of over 30 sub-camps into three main sections.

November 15, 1943

Nazi SS Chief Heinrich Himmler ordered all Roma people (often referred to as Gypsies) in Germany to be deported to concentration or death camps.

November 18/19, 1943

The first British Bomber Command air raid in the Battle of Berlin was carried out overnight. The RAF attacked Berlin with 440 Avro Lancaster heavy bombers and four de Havilland Mosquitos. Due to heavy cloud cover the damage was not severe.

November 20, 1943

U.S. troops invaded Makin and Tarawa in the Gilbert Islands.

November 22 – 26, 1943

American President Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Churchill, and Chinese leader Chiang Kai-shek met in Eqypt for the Cairo Conference to discuss strategy for the Burma front. They outlined the Allied position against Japan and announced that all areas seized by Japan since 1894 would be returned to the former owners.

November 23, 1943

Japanese resistance ended on Makin and Tarawa.

November 28 – December 1, 1943

The Big Three – U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Union leader Josef Stalin – met at the Tehran Conference in Tehran, Iran.  Topics during the four-day conference included:

  • Confirmation of the decision for the U.S. and Britain to invade Western Europe (a “Second Front”) in the Spring of 1944
  • Plans for the invasion of Southern France
  • A promise by Stalin to join in the war against Japan when Germany was defeated

December 2, 1943

The first transport of Jews from Vienna arrived at Auschwitz.

December 12, 1943

Adolf Hitler sent Nazi General Erwin Rommel (the “Desert Fox”) to mobilize forces along the French coast at Normandy to defend against the anticipated Allied invasion.

December 15, 1943

American troops landed on the Arawe Peninsula of New Britain in the Solomon Islands.

December 16, 1943

The chief surgeon at Auschwitz reported the completion of 106 castration operations.

December 17, 1943

President Roosevelt signed the Magnuson Act in gratitude for Chinese assistance in the Pacific Theater. The Magnuson Act repealed the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act and allowed for limited Chinese immigration to the United States.

December 24, 1943

Allied commanders of the “Second Front” were announced: American General Dwight D. Eisenhower as Supreme Commander of the Allied Expeditionary Force and British General Sir Bernard Montgomery as the Commander-in-Chief of the 21st Army Group.

December 24-26, 1943

The Soviets launched offensives on the Ukrainian front.

December 26, 1943

1st Division Marines invaded Cape Gloucester in a full Allied assault on New Britain in the Solomon Islands.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Heinrich Himmler’s Speech at Posen

384th Bomb Group: Second Schweinfurt Raid/Black Thursday

Wikipedia: Magnuson Act

Most recent post from the series:

Summer 1943

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

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