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 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 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