Just five days before a very sad Christmas without their son, Bobby Stearns’ mother wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother. Their son was the bombardier aboard Lead Banana who was killed in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision with Lazy Daisy. They hoped Farrar, the only survivor aboard Lead Banana, could furnish some details of the loss of their son that the Army Air Forces had apparently not provided them.
December 20, 1945
My dear Mrs. Farrar:
Last evening we had a letter from the Quarter Master General stating that Bobby is buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland in Plot “L” Row 12, Grave 299 – this is the same location as Lt. Henson’s grave – his is 297. While we hoped for a far different ending to this final chapter, it’s a relief to know he had a decent burial by his own people.
We hope your son is recovered from his ordeal in the prison camp. I know he wants to forget it all as quickly as he can but there are just a few questions I’d like to ask and maybe some time when he feels like it he could write. 1 – Just how did the accident happen? We’ve heard several different versions but would like to know which is true. 2 – Were any of the boys killed by the collision or did they all get out? 3 – Did they go down over the city or country? 4 – Anything else that would help us have it straight in our minds.
Like all the rest of the country we are having a severe winter which began in early November. We have been feeding the cattle since then so this will be a long winter for us. Had 16 in. of snow at the deepest and 17° below the coldest. Today’s paper says it has even reached as far south as Georgia.
Our son Jim is discharged now and he and his wife June are home with us now. We are so glad to have them home.
I hope your family is all together and that you are all well. That’s the best thing I can think of to wish you for the new year.
With best wishes,
Mrs. Carey Stearns
As for answers, I don’t know if the Army Air Forces divulged any of the details during my dad’s lifetime. He died in 1982. The reports are no longer confidential and reflect that:
- Lazy Daisy collided with Lead Banana due to confusing and quick maneuvering to avoid colliding with another group head on. There was no flak and no ground fire that hit either fort.
- None of the boys on Lead Banana except my dad made it out of the aircraft before it crashed. They all died either from the collision itself or the ensuing fire and crash.
- I don’t know the exact location of where each fort went down, but I do know that the collision was said to happen near Magdeburg, Germany at 52°06′N 11°39′E. Both planes crashed approximately 20 miles northwest of this location. Lazy Daisy crashed near Erxleben and Lead Banana crashed approximately one and one-quarter miles north of Ostingersleben. Today, Google Earth shows this to be mostly farm land, or countryside, rather than a large city. (Note: Google maps do not show Erxleben in the correct location. If you want to locate Erxleben on the map, search on Ostingersleben and you will see Erxleben nearby, about 5km to the northeast).
Robert Sumner Stearns has since been reburied at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno (San Mateo County), California, Section B, plot 302. He also has a memorial marker at the Juniper Haven Cemetery in Prineville (Crook County), Oregon.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014