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
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace Northeast
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.
Mrs. Esther E. Coolen Andersen
Mrs. Esther E. Andersen
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