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James Joseph Brodie

James Joseph Brodie

James Joseph Brodie

James Joseph Brodie, the pilot of Lazy Daisy, which was involved in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision with Lead Banana, piloted by John Oliver (Jay) Buslee of Park Ridge, Illinois, was also a Chicago boy.  James was born on November 14, 1917 to Michael and Mary Golden Brodie.  Both parents, Michael and Mary, were born in Ireland.  James was the youngest in the family and had a brother, Francis, and two sisters, Veronica and Mary.  While Veronica was only three years older than James, Mary was ten years older, and Francis twelve years older.  All the Brodie children were born in Illinois.

In the early days, the Brodie family lived in Antioch, Illinois, where the children attended Antioch High school.  In the late 1930’s, the family moved to Chicago when their father was offered a job in a large electrical company. They lived in the two flat on North Kostner Avenue in Chicago until 1963.  James continued his education at University of Illinois, completing four years of college.

As a young man, James planned to be a priest and enter the seminary.  He shocked the entire family when one day he announced he was joining the military.

James Joseph Brodie

James Joseph Brodie

James entered the service from Illinois, enlisting in the Army Air Corps on July 11, 1941.  His path was probably very similar to Jay Buslee’s through the pilot training program.  James probably earned his wings about the same time as Buslee, on January 7, 1944.  Jay had a short furlough after earning his wings, and Brodie probably did, too, taking this time to marry Miss Mary Elizabeth Clarke on January 10, 1944 before heading to transition pilot training.

Both Brodie and Buslee were assigned to serve with the 384th Bombardment Group of the Eighth Air Force at Grafton Underwood , but while Jay Buslee was assigned to the 544th Squadron, James Brodie was assigned to the 545th.  Both James and Jay flew their first combat missions on August 4, 1944, and both flew only two training missions as co-pilot before piloting their own forts with their own crews.

I don’t know if Jay Buslee and James Brodie ever crossed paths in their similar military careers before – anywhere from training in the states to on base at Grafton Underwood, or in any of the local pubs in town – but their lives both ended within moments of each other as their two flying fortresses, Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, collided over the skies of Magdeburg, Germany at ten minutes past noon on September 28, 1944.

Not long before James lost his life in the mid-air collision, his wife, Mary, gave birth to a son.  Soon after the family was notified of James’s death, which wasn’t until July 1945, his wife and son vanished and stopped communicating with the Brodie family.

Mary Elizabeth Clarke was born on January 20, 1923 in Chicago, Illinois.  She attended Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

Mary Elizabeth Clarke, Northwestern Illinois yearbook "Syllabus", 1943, Education School, Alpha Chi Omega

Mary Elizabeth Clarke, Northwestern Illinois yearbook “Syllabus”, 1943, Education School, Alpha Chi Omega

Mary died at the age of 82 on December 18, 2005 in Rochester, Minnesota.  According to her obituary, she had gotten married again the year after James was declared killed in action on October 27, 1946.  Her married name at the time of her death was Mary Elizabeth Wagner.  Her obituary also indicates that James and Mary’s son, who was born around the time of the mid-air collision had died in infancy.

James Joseph Brodie is buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands in Plot J, Row 13, Grave 4.  He was awarded the Air Medal with 2 Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart.

Thank you to Larry Miller, great-nephew of James Joseph Brodie, for providing photos and information for this post.  Also thank you to Buslee crew NexGen, Derral Bryant, an ace researcher, for finding and providing dates and other details for this post.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

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John Oliver Buslee

John Oliver Buslee

John Oliver Buslee

John Oliver Buslee, known to family as “John Oliver”, “J Oliver”, or “Jay” was born June 24, 1923 in Maine Township, Cook County, Illinois to parents John and Olga Gruenfeld Buslee.  In this post, I’ll refer to John (the father) as “John”, and John Oliver (the son and WWII pilot) as “Jay” in an attempt to avoid confusion between father and son.

Jay’s father, John Buslee, was the “Buslee” in Neumann, Buslee & Wolfe, Inc., self-described as “Merchants, Importers, and Manufacturers” of essential oils, based in the Bauer Building on West Huron Street in Chicago, Illinois.  Neumann, Buslee & Wolfe occupied half of the Bauer Building while the Shure Brothers microphone company occupied the other half.  The 1930 census describes John’s profession as a chemical salesman, and by the 1940 census he was labeled a salesman of essential oils.

While both John and Olga were born in Illinois, John’s parents were both born in Norway, and Olga’s father was born in Germany.  Olga’s mother was Jay’s only grandparent born in Illinois.  One of the Buslee family stories is that John’s parents’ last name was originally Andersen or Anderson.  Fearing difficulties in America with so many named Anderson, John’s father decided to take a new name based on the place he was from in Norway, possibly the county of Buskerud, and came up with Buslee as his and his wife’s new last name.  John’s father’s death certificate lists his full name as John Anderson Buslee, lending some truth to the story.

Jay was the youngest of John and Olga’s two children.  His sister, Janice Elizabeth, came along first, about three and a half years before Jay.  Janice was married to Gene D. Kielhofer on September 25, 1943.  Gene was a pilot in the Navy, serving his country in the South Pacific flying NATS, Naval Air Transport Services.  Janice had both a brother and husband to worry about in the war.

In his youth, Jay attended Maine Township High School (now called Maine Township High School East) in Park Ridge, Illinois, where he was president of the German Club, vice-president of the Rose Cassidy Chemistry Club, a member of the M Club, and played baseball and football.  He graduated in 1941.  He then attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison for two years before enlisting in the Army Air Corps.

John Oliver Buslee, second row, second from left at the University of Wisconsin

John Oliver Buslee, second row, second from left at the University of Wisconsin

Jay enlisted in the Army Air Corps in mid-April 1943 (sources note conflicting dates of April 9, 17 and 19).  He enjoyed a last dinner out with his father before heading to Union Station for the train ride to Nashville.  Union Station was a busy place during WWII.  As many as 300 trains and 100,000 passengers, many of them soldiers, passed through Union Station every day during the war.

The Classification Center in Nashville, Tennessee was the first stop in the training program in which Jay would earn his wings.  This was the stage where Jay would be classified to train as a navigator, bombardier, or pilot, and lasted about a week.  By the end of the week, Jay was selected for pilot training.

From his classification in Nashville as an Aviation Cadet Pilot, Jay was sent to pre-flight training in Santa Ana, California.  Pre-flight training for pilots, navigators, and bombardiers lasted ten weeks and was divided into two parts.  The first six weeks was a short version of boot camp, dealing mostly with physical conditioning and military training.  The next four weeks covered academics, including everything from the mechanics and physics of flight to refresher courses in mathematics and physics, which the cadets were required to pass.  Practical applications of their knowledge came next through the instruction of aeronautics, deflection shooting, and thinking in three dimensions.  Evaluations were performed through flight simulators and ride-alongs with a pilot-instructor.  The lucky ones that passed were given Cadet Wings and were promoted to pilot school.

Pilot school was rigorous and not every cadet made it all the way through the pilot training program.  Washing out was not uncommon.  Aviation cadets who washed out of pilot training were sent to navigator school or bombardier school.  Navigator and bombardier schools were no walk in the park either.  Washing out of those schools usually meant heading for gunnery school.

Anxious to see their son and help him celebrate his twentieth birthday, Jay’s parents headed to Santa Ana for a visit.  It was near the end of Jay’s pre-flight pilot training and Jay was selected as one of three boys promoted to primary pilot training at Sequoia Field in Visalia, California.  Mr. and Mrs. Buslee arrived in Santa Ana only a few hours before Jay was to be transferred to Sequoia Field for his primary pilot training.  Luckily, the transfer was put on hold, allowing Jay to spend the night with his parents at their hotel.

Used to enduring the cold winters in the Chicago area, Jay loved the warmer climate and being close to the desert at Sequoia Field.  Here Jay learned to fly in a two-seater training aircraft.  His quarters were nice, too, and air conditioned.  Meals were a treat, with the boys dining at tables of eight with white table cloths.  He was happy to find he was not required to do any guard duty or K.P., as those tasks were performed by civilian guard.  The boys in primary pilot training at  Sequoia Field only had to concentrate on one thing – learning to fly.  Three weeks after his twentieth birthday, on July 15, 1943, Jay made his first solo flight.

Next stop was Jay’s basic pilot training at Minter Field in Bakersfield, California.   At Minter Field, Jay learned to fly in formation, fly by instruments or aerial navigation, fly at night, and fly for long distances, all required training for a future B-17 bomber pilot.

After finishing his basic pilot training, Jay went on to advanced pilot training at the Army Pilot Training School in Douglas, Arizona, where he earned his wings and commission as a Second Lieutenant on January 7, 1944.  Only cadets who graduated at the top of their class were graded as second lieutenants.

Classified as a multi-engine pilot, Jay continued his transition pilot training in multiple-motored bombers in Roswell, New Mexico after taking a short furlough.  Transition pilot training normally lasted for two months.

Jay finished the final phase of his pilot training in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where the original Buslee crew was formed, and all the boys bonded as brothers as they prepared for combat duty.

Training alongside Lt. John Oliver (Jay) Bulsee in Ardmore were the other members of his original crew, which included:

  • Co-pilot Lt. David Franklin Albrecht from Chico, California
  • Navigator Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk from Toledo, Ohio
  • Bombardier Lt. Marvin Fryden, also from Cook County, Illinois
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley from Halsey, Nebraska
  • Radio Operator/Gunner Sgt. Sebastiano Joseph Peluso from Brooklyn, New York
  • Tail Gunner Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski from Detroit, Michigan
  • Ball Turret Gunner Sgt. Erwin V. Foster from Elmira, New York
  • Waist Gunner Sgt. Lenard Leroy Bryant from Littlefield, Texas
  • Waist Gunner Sgt. George Edwin Farrar from Atlanta, Georgia, (my dad)

At one point, the boys thought that they would not be going to England, which eased their minds, as they knew flying bomber missions from England was very risky and posed the greatest threat of running into flak.  By the time they were ready for combat, they found that they were going to England after all.

The Buslee crew was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 384th Bombardment Group, 544th Bomb Squadron, and were soon on their way to the Grafton Underwood Air Station in England.  They would fly together as a crew in what they thought of as their own plane, a B-17.  When my dad described it to his mother, he wrote that “it only has twelve hours on it and guns all over
it.”  The boys were not allowed to divulge where they were heading, but were allowed to write home once they reached England.

On their second mission on August 5, 1944, with Jay still in training but handling the controls of the famous flying fortress known as the Tremblin’ Gremlin, the Buslee crew was hit by flak during their bomb run over an airfield in Langenhagen, Germany, north of Hanover.  All but two of the crew were injured.  Luckily, Jay’s injuries were minor.   The most major injuries were to engineer and top turret gunner, Clarence B. Seeley, whose lower right leg was pierced by a jagged piece of steel, and to bombardier, Marvin Fryden, who was hit in the chest below the left shoulder.  Fryden was able to release his bombs on the target before collapsing.

Jay was later quoted as saying, “It was popping all over the place during the few minutes we were on the bomb run.  By the time we made our turn away from the target, more than half the crew had been hit and suffered injuries of varying degrees.”

The pilot who was training Jay, Lt. Arthur J. Shwery of Janesville, Wisconsin, was hit above the eye, leaving Jay in charge for the return trip to England, a return trip that was harrowing considering the condition of the ship.  The right inboard motor was hit and was lost.  The radio compartment was riddled with holes and the radio equipment destroyed.  The only thing that saved the radioman, Sebastiano Peluso, was the fact that he was bending over when the flak hit his radio compartment.  The trim tabs that control the plane’s balance were shredded.  The hydraulic brake system was shot out.  Part of the oxygen system was lost and the men up front had to use emergency supplies or tap other lines.  The left inboard engine went out as Tremblin’ Gremlin reached the English coast.  With no brakes, Jay thought he was heading for a rough landing, but he managed to bring the plane in on the concrete landing strip and slide it off into the grass to reduce the speed of the uncontrollable wheels.  Ground crews counted more than 100 flak holes in the fort.

Back in England, Marvin Fryden died in an Army hospital in the arms of his friend, the navigator, Chester Rybarczyk.  Everyone else on the Buslee crew had a few days off to decompress before their next mission on August 9 except for Clarence Seeley, who took until October 2 to heal from his leg wound.  Arthur “James” Shwery, who had trained Jay on Jay’s first two missions, also flew again on August 9, and only had four missions to go until he completed his tour and returned to the states.  He must have felt lucky to escape with only a cut above the eye so close to the end of his service.

After the harrowing mission of August 5, Jay was ready to take over as pilot and completed a total of sixteen missions with his last mission being mission 201 on September 28, 1944 to Magdeburg.  It was this mission that Jay and his crew in Lead Banana were involved in a mid-air collision with the James Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.  Jay and seven of his crew mates on the Banana lost their lives in the collision and subsequent crash.  Six lives were lost aboard the Daisy.

Like the other boys that lost their lives that day, Jay was originally buried in the Ostingersleben Cemetery near the crash site.  He was later interred in the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten.  More than four years after his death, he was brought home and re-interred February 3, 1949 at the Saint Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, Cook County, Illinois.  Today Jay is interred in Building 1, Tier C, Crypt 2, alongside his parents and sister, Janice, and Janice’s husband, Gene.

Thank you to Craig and John Dale Kielhofer, sons of Gene and Janice Buslee Kielhofer and nephews of John Oliver (Jay) Buslee, for sharing family stories and photographs.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Not a Happy New Year for Everyone

After receiving the New Year’s Eve telegram from the War Department telling her that her son was alive and a prisoner of war, Raleigh Mae Farrar sent a telegram to the Buslee family the next morning, New Year’s Day 1945, to share her good news.  Mr. Buslee quickly wrote a letter in response to Mrs. Farrar.

January 1, 1945
411 Wisner Ave.
Park Ridge, Ill.

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

Your letter of the 27th and news clipping were received on Saturday and it was so nice of you to keep us informed.  The news in this item was naturally that which we would have liked to receive about Lt. Henson and to think that a daughter was born to his wife recently makes for increased worries for her and I trust that the sad news is not too great a strain on her.

The copilot as you may know is also a Daddy to a girl born about a month ago.  We met he and his wife at Ardmore in June and like all of the boys in the crew we have been awaiting such word.  Mrs. Albrecht is at the home of her parents at Chico, California.  She reports that both she and the baby are doing well.

The telegram that we received from you this morning was indeed a piece of good news for the New Year.  To learn of your son’s safety is indeed wonderful and I hope means such good news may come regarding all of the other boys and more that this terrible struggle will soon end and that all may return and lets hope that the peoples of the World will realize that there is but one way to get along and that is in a peaceful harmonious manner forgetting all greed and selfishness and faith in the Lord.

My wife and my daughter and myself are overjoyed in learning that your son has been reported.  You can imagine our feelings since Saturday after hearing about Lt. Henson.  Then too there is cause for worry as our son in law is due to leave California any day.  He is also a pilot but in the Navy and is scheduled for the South Pacific.

To learn that your younger son is now scheduled to go to school after the harrowing experiences in the Navy on a carrier was more good news so I trust that the favorable word that has come to you of late is a fore runner to the still greater news that the war is over.

Thanks again Mrs. Farrar for your thoughtfullness in keeping us so closely advised and we will in turn write to you when we get word.  My wife and daughter join me in this appreciation,

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

Notes:

  • I don’t know what information my grandmother’s letter of December 27 or news clipping contained.
  • Lt. Henson was William Alvin Henson II, the navigator on Lead Banana when it collided with Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944.
  • The co-pilot was David Franklin Albrecht.
  • Mrs. Farrar’s son mentioned in the letter is George Edwin Farrar’s younger brother, Robert Burnham (Bob) Farrar, who was injured in a kamikaze attack on the USS Intrepid on November 25, 1944.
  • Mr. Buslee’s daughter and son-in-law were Janice and Gene Kielhofer.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Lt. William Henson Killed in Action

William Alvin Henson II

William Alvin Henson II

My grandmother, Raleigh Mae Farrar, communicated regularly with most of the families on the Next-of-Kin list she received from the War Department.  I believe she wrote to every single family, and she saved letters from all of the families except for the McMann family and the Henson family.  As a future post will discuss George McMann, I’ll concentrate on William Alvin Henson II, the navigator serving with the Buslee crew on the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944, in this one.

William Alvin Henson II was the original bombardier on the Gerald B. Sammons crew.

Left to right:  Gerald B. Sammons, William Alvin Henson, and unidentified

England, Summer 1944.  Left to right: Gerald B. Sammons, William Alvin Henson, and unidentified

Henson’s first mission was mission 109 on May 19, 1944 to Berlin, Germany.  Henson flew his first four missions with the Sammons crew.  On their second mission, Group B, including the Sammons crew, did not locate the formation and had to return to base with their bomb load, resulting in no credit for this mission.  Henson flew eleven total missions as a bombardier, earning ten mission credits.  His last mission as a bombardier was mission 142 on June 21, 1944, again to Berlin, Germany.

At this point, Henson retrained as a navigator and flew his first mission as navigator on the Alfred H. Cole crew on mission 162, July 20, 1944 to an aircraft industry target in Dessau, Germany.  Just like his second mission as a bombardier, his second mission serving as navigator on the Cole crew on mission 163, July 21, 1944 to Schwabisch Hall, Germany, the crew could not locate the formation after taking off late and turned back while still over England.  Again, no mission credit for this one.  Henson flew seventeen total missions as a navigator, earning sixteen mission credits.

On his twenty-sixth credited mission, William Alvin Henson was flying as navigator aboard the Lead Banana with the John Oliver Buslee crew on September 28, 1944.  It was the third time he had flown with the Buslee crew.  He had replaced Chester Rybarczyk as navigator just the day before on September 27 and a few weeks earlier on September 3.  He had most recently been flying with the Harold M. Toler crew.  The Toler crew didn’t fly on September 3 or 27, and then Toler flew as pilot under Commander William T. Johnson as the high group lead on September 28.

Henson spent his last hours in the nose of Lead Banana with bombardier Robert Sumner Stearns, who was serving with the Buslee crew for only the second time.  Henson and Stearns both flew the prior day, September 27, with the Buslee crew.  They had released their bombs on Magdeburg and had turned for home when their wing found themselves on a crossing course with another group.  Their group had to move quickly and in the confusion Lazy Daisy veered out of formation, just narrowly missing Wallace Storey and the Kenneth Gross crew, due to Storey’s quick reaction and move to get out of the Daisy’s way, and collided with Lead Banana.  A handful of men were able to exit the two planes, but most were trapped inside, including William Alvin Henson II, without a chance to escape as the planes plummeted to earth.

William Henson was married to the former Harriet Whisnant of Summerville, Georgia.  Harriet was listed as next-of-kin on the War Department’s Next-of-Kin document.  Henson’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Henson lived in Atlanta, Georgia at 2398 Ponce de Leon Avenue, N.E. back in 1944.  My grandparents, Raleigh Mae and Carroll J. Farrar, lived fairly close to the Hensons, only about seven miles away at 79 East Lake Terrace in the Kirkwood neighborhood of Atlanta.  I can only assume that my grandmother gleaned this information from Henson’s obituary in the Atlanta Constitution newspaper, which listed their address.  I also believe that my grandmother and the Hensons communicated by telephone as they lived only seven miles apart and would not have to pay the very high long distance telephone rates that they would have incurred had they been in different parts of the country.  Perhaps they even visited with each other, although I don’t have any record of it.  I believe this explains the lack of letters from the Hensons.

My grandmother saved three newspaper clippings of the announcement of William Henson’s death and funeral service.  The first clipping announced:

First Lieutenant William A. Henson II, 21, of the Air Corps, reported missing in action over Germany since September 28, was killed in action on that date, the War Department has informed his family here.

None of the clippings were dated, but a compilation of information from the clippings, probably published in late December 1944, includes:

  • Henson graduated from Conyers High School in 1940.
  • He completed two years at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina before he enlisted in the Air Corps in October 1942.
  • He received his wings at Vitorville, California, December 4, 1943.
  • He went overseas with the Eighth Air Force in April of 1944 and had completed 26 missions.
  • He won the Air Medal with three (another clipping states four) oak leaf clusters for “meritorious achievement.”  He also was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
  • He was flying as lead navigator on a B-17 when his plane was shot down.

The clippings also note:

He is survived by his wife, the former Miss Harriett Whisnant, of Summerville, and a two-week-old daughter; his parents, Mr. and Mrs. W. A. Henson, of 2398 Ponce de Leon Avenue, N.E., and Conyers, Ga.; two sisters, Miss Jeanne Henson, of Shorter College, and Mrs. C.R. Vaughn, Jr., of Conyers; an uncle, C.W. Hall, of Valdosta; two aunts, Miss Lillian Henson, of Valdosta, and Mrs. L.E. Harold, of Crystal Springs, Miss.

Assuming the clippings were printed shortly after notification of his death, his daughter was probably born around December 10, 1944, just a couple of days after Lead Banana co-pilot David Albrecht’s daughter was born on December 8 in California.  Neither Henson nor Albrecht would ever have the chance to meet their daughters, and their daughters would never have the chance to know their fathers.

William Alvin Henson II was born June 8, 1923.  He was 21 years old when he lost his life on September 28, 1944 in the mid-air collision of Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.  He is buried in the East View Cemetery in Conyers, Georgia.  A memorial to Henson and others who lost their lives in WWII is located near the flag pole at American Legion Post 77 on Legion Rd. in Conyers, Georgia.

William Alvin Henson II Memorial, Conyers, Georgia

William Alvin Henson II Memorial, Conyers, Georgia

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Our Bomber Crew

The parents of Buslee crew bombardier, Robert Sumner Stearns, wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar, on January 1, 1945.  The Stearns sent the same information to all of the families of the Buslee crew included on the Next-of-Kin list they had just received.  The Stearns had learned on December 23, 1944 that their son had been killed on September 28.

Had other families also learned on December 23, 1944 that their sons had been killed that day?  The September 30, 1944 Telegram Form that became a part of MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 9753 identified four men that had been killed in the mid-air collision of Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944.  It would make sense that all four families were notified on the same date.  Eight men had been reported dead, but only these four were identified:

  • William A. Henson II, navigator on Lead Banana
  • Robert S. Stearns, bombardier on Lead Banana
  • Gordon Hetu, ball turret gunner on Lazy Daisy
  • Robert D. Crumpton, engineer/top turret gunner on Lazy Daisy

I believe William Henson’s next-of-kin had been notified at the same time as the Stearns, which indicates that Hetu and Crumpton’s relatives also received the bad news around December 23.  All had been buried on September 30 at the Ostingersleben Cemetery near the crash site.

January 1, 1945
LaPine, Oregon

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

In today’s mail we received a letter from the War Department giving the names of the crew members of the bomber in which our son lost his life on September 28.  We are writing this letter to each of you who were listed as next of kin to give you all of the information we have received to date about our son.  Will you compare this information with what you have received and if there is anything you have which would add to the very meager reports which we have so far received we would greatly appreciated it if you would send it to us.  We hope to keep in close touch with all of you until every possible bit of information that would, in any way, help answer the many questions as to the fate of “Our Bomber Crew” which are in our minds today.  We all, definitely, have a lot in common; you may rest assured that Mrs. Stearns and I will forward any information we may receive that we think will be of interest to any of you.

Following is the information we have received to date:  The first word, of course, was the telegram stating that our son was listed as missing in action over Germany on Sept. 28th.

Following this wire was the letter from Headquarters of the Army Air Forces, Washington, which stated:  “Further information has been received indicating that Lieut. Stearns was a crew member of a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber which departed from England on a combat mission to Magdeburg, Germany, on Sept. 28th.  The report indicates that during this mission at 12:10 P.M., in the vicinity of the target your sons bomber sustained damage from enemy anti-aircraft fire.  Shortly afterwards the disabled craft was observed to fall to earth, and, inasmuch as the crew members of the accompanying planes were unable to obtain any further details regarding its loss, the above facts constitute all the information presently available.”

Our next word was a short note from a close friend of our son, who was a pilot on another bomber, which stated:  although I wasn’t on the same mission I have talked with others who were on the same mission with Bob and we have reasons to believe he is safe.”  None of the reasons were stated but naturally this short note boosted our morale to the skies.

We then, on Dec. 23rd., received the telegram which stated:  “The German Government reporting through the International Red Cross states that your son, 1st. Lieut. Robert S. Stearns, previously reported as missing in action was killed on Sept. 28th.  Letter follows.”

This letter was the one giving the names of the crew members and the next of kin.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If any of you have not received a wire similar to the one we got on Dec. 23rd, you should be encouraged for it could mean that you could hear shortly that he is still living.  We have only the dim hope that the German Government is wrong, as it has been wrong in every thing it ever did do, and that we too may have good news of our son.

Our deepest sympathy is with you.  We would be very happy to have a letter from you soon.

Sincerely yours,
Carey & Betty Stearns,
LaPine, Oregon.

The friend of Bob Stearns to which his parents referred in the letter was Lt. Larkin C. Durdin, the pilot of the crew with which Stearns normally flew.  More information is provided in a second letter from Durdin to the Stearns, information which the Stearns passed along to the Farrars in a letter dated January 10, 1945.  The January 10th letter will be published in a future post.

The Stearns, who had been in a state of not knowing the fate of their son since September 28, 1944, were now in a state of not believing it.  On the day they received the telegram with the bad news, December 23, 1944, their son Bob had been missing for eighty-seven days.  They couldn’t yet let themselves believe that their son wouldn’t be coming back.  At this point they weren’t even aware that the War Department’s news of how Bob’s plane had gone down was not correct.  They would soon learn the truth.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Information Circular No. 10

I believe this letter was the one that followed the New Year’s Eve telegram to the Farrar family that brought the news of their son George Edwin Farrar’s imprisonment by the German government.

A sample of Information Circular No. 10:

Headquarters Army Service Forces
Office of the Provost Marshal General
Washington 25, D. C.

Information Circular No. 10
Germany, Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria

The Prisoner of War Information Bureau, Office of the Provost Marshal General, receives and records the names of American prisoners of war and civilians reported interned by the Enemy Powers.  It answers inquiries and furnishes available information concerning American prisoners of war and civilian internees to those interested.

The following information, subject to change, is substantially all that is available at this time.

TREATMENT AND CONDITION OF PRISONERS OF WAR – Reports received from neutral sources indicate that American prisoners of war interned by Germany, Hungary, Rumania, and Bulgaria are receiving fair treatment and these Governments are complying substantially with the terms of the Geneva Convention considering all the circumstances which accompany war.  This convention requires each interment camp to have a properly equipped infirmary with adequate medical personnel in attendance.  Prisoners of war must be medically examined at least once a month, and any who are ill must be given treatment.  It requires also that notification concerning capture indicate fact of wounds or serious illness.  The letter accompanying this circular gives all information in possession of the Bureau at this time.  If no mention is made of health, wounds, or hospitalization, such matters were not mentioned in the cable received.  If information of that nature is received, the emergency addressee and other interested persons will be notified promptly.

INSPECTION OF CAMPS – The Geneva Convention provides for the inspection of prisoner of war camps by representatives of the Protecting Power and delegates of the International Red Cross.  If the representative or delegate finds grounds for complaint that cannot be settled at the time inspection is being made, he submits such complaints formally to the Detaining Power concerned.  Since the Protecting Power and the International Red Cross act independently, there is double scrutiny of conditions in the camps.  Reports of these inspections are forwarded periodically to this Bureau.

The document in its entirety:

Page 1 of Information Circular No. 10

Page 1 of Information Circular No. 10

Page 2 of Information Circular No. 10

Page 2 of Information Circular No. 10

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

New Year’s Eve Telegram

On New Year’s Eve, December 31, 1944, a telegram arrived at the Farrar household in Atlanta, Georgia.  The news that George Edwin Farrar’s family had been waiting for had finally arrived.  Their son was alive.  He was a prisoner of war, but he was alive.

It had been ninety-five days, more than three months, since the September 28 mid-air collision between the Lead Banana, on which he was the waist gunner, and the Lazy Daisy.  It was the first word any of the families of the boys in the crew had heard that one of their own was safe.  As telegrams tended to be, it was short, but this one was oh so sweet.

1944-12-31-AdjutantGeneral-001

The telegram reads:

Report just received through the International Red Cross states that your son Staff Sergeant George E Farrar is a Prisoner of War of the German Government.  Letter of information follows from Provost Marshal General=

It was signed

Dunlop Acting the Adjutant General.

Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar, did not waste any time contacting the families of the other boys on the Busee crew to share the good news.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

First Letter from Mrs. Andersen

Gerald Lee Andersen

Gerald Lee Andersen

The same day she received the US Army Air Corps’ December 26, 1944 letter about her missing husband – the tail gunner on Lead Banana – and accompanying list of crew members and their next of kin, Gerald Lee Andersen’s wife, Esther, penned a letter to Raleigh Mae Farrar, George Edwin Farrar’s mother.  Mrs. Andersen dated her letter December 26, 1944, which was the same date of the letter that included the next of kin list from the Army Air Forces.  Perhaps the Army Air Forces pre-dated their letter or Mrs. Andersen wrote the wrong date on hers.  Her letter is as follows:

December 26, 1944
Stromsburg, Nebraska

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace Northeast
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

Today I received from the War Department the names of the crew on the B-17 (Flying Fortress) on which my husband, S/Sgt. Gerald Lee Andersen, was reported missing in action since September 28 and also the names of the next of kin.

I received the information that the plane was damaged by antiaircraft fire and forced down near their target over Germany.  I would like to know if you have received any information concerning your son, S/Sgt. George E. Farrar, safety.

I wish to keep in contact with all next of kin in case any of us receive any information that we may exchange.

My anxiety as I know yours has been great and we hold on to every hope of their safety.  My sympathy is with you.  May I hear from you soon.

Sincerely,

Mrs. Esther E. Coolen Andersen
Box 282
Stromsburg, Nebraska

Teaching address:
Mrs. Esther E. Andersen
Box 38
Scotia, Nebraska

Esther’s husband, Gerald Lee Andersen, was the tail gunner on the Joe Carnes crew in the 544th squadron of the 384th bomb group.  Andersen’s first mission with the 384th was the August 7, 1944 mission 174 to an oil depot in Dungy, France.  Andersen flew nine total missions with the Carnes crew, the last being September 13, 1944.

Eugene D. Lucynski was the tail gunner on the John Buslee crew, also in the 544th squadron of the 384th bomb group.  Lucynski’s first mission with the 384th was the August 4, 1944 mission 171 to a rocket R&D facility – CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) – in Peenemunde, Germany.  Lucynski flew twelve total missions with the Buslee crew, the last being September 11, 1944.

For reasons unknown, Lucynski flew his next two missions with the Carnes crew, replacing Gerald Lee Andersen as tail gunner.  Mission 195 on September 17, was a tactical mission to s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands.  Mission 196 on September 19, was to the railroad marshalling yards in Hamm, Germany.

On the September 19 mission, the Carnes crew was aboard the Tremblin’ Gremlin.  The Gremlin was struck by flak, and after bombs away, left formation under control.  The crew, including Eugene Lucynski, who had replaced Gerald Lee Andersen as tail gunner, bailed out over Binche, Belgium.  Landing in allied territory, the crew eventually returned to duty, with the exception of seriously injured ball turret gunner, James B. King, Jr.  The temporary absence of the Carnes crew left Andersen to fill in with other crews.

Andersen’s next mission was mission 198 on September 25 to the railroad marshalling yards at Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.  He flew as tail gunner on the John Buslee crew replacing Eugene Lucynski, who had taken his place on the Carnes crew.  The Bulsee crew didn’t fly on September 26, so on that date on mission 199, Andersen flew with the Joseph D. Patella crew.  Andersen’s next two missions on September 27 and September 28, however, would be back on the Buslee crew again, replacing Eugene Lucynski.

This series of crew changes resulted in Gerald Lee Andersen flying as the tail gunner aboard the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944 when it collided with Lazy Daisy coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany.  Whatever the reason behind the switch in tail gunners for the two crews, it saved Lucynski from being on the Lead Banana on September 28, and put Andersen on that ill-fated flight, where he lost his life.

Gerald Lee Andersen was born on June 20, 1923.  He was only 21 years old when he lost his life on September 28, 1944 in the mid-air collision between Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.  He is buried in Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell (Lincoln County), Nebraska in Section F, Site 1229.

The photo of Andersen was sent to Raleigh Mae Farrar (George Edwin Farrar’s mother) on April 7, 1945 by Andersen’s wife, Esther.  On the back of the photo she described her husband as 5-feet 7-inches tall, weighing 140 pounds, with dark wavy hair, green eyes, and a fair complexion.  She noted his age as 22, which he would have been, had he lived, in June of that year.

Esther Andersen’s letter of April 7, 1945 will be published in a future post.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Next of Kin List Released

The day after Christmas 1944, at ninety days missing in action, the US Army Air Forces wrote to the Buslee crew’s next of kin and enclosed a list of the names of the crew members on the Lead Banana on September 28 and also included the names and addresses of next of kin in case the families wanted to communicate with each other.

December 26, 1944
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Attention:  AFPPA-8
(9753) Farrar, George E.
14119873

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar,
79 EastLake Terrace Northeast,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

For reasons of military security it has been necessary to withhold the names of the air crew members who were serving with your son at the time he was reported missing.

Since it is now permissible to release this information, we are inclosing a complete list of names of the crew members.

The names and addresses of the next of kin of the men are also given in the belief that you may desire to correspond with them.

Sincerely,

Clyde V. Finter
Colonel, Air Corps
Chief, Personal Affairs Division
Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Personnel

1 Incl
List of crew members & names
& addresses of next of kin
5-2032, AF

1st. Lt. John O. Buslee
Mr. John Buslee, (Father)
411 North Wisner Avenue,
Park Ridge, Illinois.

1st. Lt. William A. Henson, II
Mrs. Harriet W. Henson, (Wife)
Summerville, Georgia.

1st. Lt. Robert S. Stearns
Mr. Carey S. Stearns, (Father)
Post Office Box 113,
Lapine, Oregon.

2nd. Lt. David F. Albrecht
Reverand Louis M. Albrecht, (Father)
Scribner, Nebraska.

S/Sgt. Sebastiano J. Peluso
Mrs. Antonetta Peluso, (Mother)
2963 West 24th Street,
Brooklyn, New York.

S/Sgt. Lenard L. Bryant
Mrs. Ruby M. Bryant, (Wife)
Route Number Two,
Littlefield, Texas.

S/Sgt. Gerald L. Andersen
Mrs. Esther E. Coolen Andersen, (Wife)
Box Number 282,
Stromburg, Nebraska.

S/Sgt. George E. Farrar
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar, (Mother)
79 East Lake Terrace Northeast,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Sgt. George F. McMann
Mr. George F. McMann, (Father)
354 West Avenue,
Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The above list is also a part of MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 9753.  For a diagram and list of each man’s position on the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944, click here.

The Brodie crew’s next of kin must have gotten the same letter and a list of those on the Lazy Daisy.  The following list is attached to MACR9366.  For a diagram and list of each man’s position on the Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944, click here.

1st Lt. James J. Brodie
Mrs. Mary E. Brodie, (Wife)
4436 North Kostner Avenue
Chicago, Illinois.

2nd Lt. Lloyd O. Vevle
Mr. Oliver E. Vevle, (Father)
240 Sixth Avenue, North
Fort Dodge, Iowa.

2nd Lt. George M. Hawkins, Jr.
Mr. George M. Hawkins, Sr., (Father)
52 Marchard Street
Fords, New Jersey

T/Sgt. Donald W. Dooley
Mr. Guy T. Dooley, (Father)
711 South Rogers Street
Bloomington, Indiana.

S/Sgt. Byron L. Atkins
Mr. Verne Atkins, (Father)
Route Number Two
Lebanon, Indiana.

Sgt. Robert D. Crumpton
Mrs. Stella M. Parks, (Mother)
Route Number One
Ennis, Texas

Sgt. Gordon E. Hetu
Mr. Raymond J. Hetu, (Father)
3821 Webb Street
Detroit, Michigan.

S/Sgt. Wilfred F. Miller
Mrs. Mary Miller, (Mother)
Rural Free Delivery Number One
Newton, Wisconsin.

S/Sgt. Harry A. Liniger
Mrs. Estelle P. Liniger, (Mother)
Box Number 251
Gatesville, North Carolina

If the US Army Air Forces had told the families of the two crews what actually happened to their sons’ aircraft and provided the lists of both crews to the families, the families of the two pilots, Buslee and Brodie, would have discovered that they lived only seven and a half miles apart in Chicago, Illinois.  These families would most likely have been very interested in communicating if they had been made aware of each other.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Merry Christmas…

On Christmas day, George Edwin Farrar was allowed to write home again to his family.  He was a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft IV, and now out of the hospital and in a regular barracks in the prison camp.  His family still did not know if he were dead or alive following the mid-air collision of September 28, 1944.  He had previously written two letters home from prison camp – on October 24 and November 9 – but neither one had been received by his parents at the time he wrote this third letter.

He wrote:

December 25, 1944

Kriegsgefangenenlager

Dearest Mother:  Hope everyone had a nice Christmas.  We had as good as can be expected here.  I am sorry I can’t send you a birthday card but do hope that you have a nice one.  If you get a chance I wish you would send me some cigars, as I still don’t smoke cigarettes.  Love to all, George.

His mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar’s, fifty-fifth birthday was a month away on January 25, 1945.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014