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The Ring – January 28, 1948

To review:  a man whom I will call “Mr. B” was an immigrant to the United States from Czechoslovakia.  In 1948, he was living in Richmond, Texas.  He had received a letter from a friend of a friend still living in Czechoslovakia.  The friend had a special favor to ask Mr. B – to please help him find the next of kin of the owner of a ring he had found in Germany in September 1944.

With the information he had been given, on January 5, 1948 Mr. B wrote to the Veteran’s Service Office in Richmond requesting the name and home address of the family of John Oliver (Jay) Buslee.  He received a letter in reply on January 21, stating that if he transmitted any communications to the next of kin to their office, they would forward it to the family.

A week later, Mr. B wrote back, giving the details of his request.

Richmond, Texas, Jan. 28, 1948

The Adjutant General’s Office,
Records Administration Center,
St. Louis, Missouri.
Charles D. Carle, Colonel, AGD Commanding.

AGRS-DC-8 301 Buslee, John O.

Dear Colonel:

Mr. William F. Doggett, Veteran Service Officer for Fort Bend County, Texas, send to my hand your letter, concerning John O. Buslee, serial number O 764 209. Let me explain first, why I would be so happy to get in touch with the next of kin, above mentioned flyer.

On 22/12, 1947, I received a letter from one unknown in Czechoslovakia, who got my address from one friend of mine. Here is the translation of said letter:

Dear Mr. B,

I am begging you for a favor and I do hope you will be so kind and help us. On Sept. 22, 1944, American plane came down in flames alone, about 40 kilometers from Magdeburg. I have been working in the fields, there the Germans put me on forced labor. I came to the plane before the Gestapo and SS did and all the flyers have been dead and I pick up a ring which belonged to one of the flyers. It is a ring with a big jewel and around the jewel there are 13 stars engraved, and on one side of the jewel is a USA emblem and on the other side a USA flyer emblem with the wording: War of survival, and the name John O. Buslee, O-764209. Please, Mr. B, if it would be possible for you to find out the family of the dead flyer, so I would be able to send them the ring. But I will not give it to nobody, unless I am sure the right people will get it.

I hope you will fulfill my wish and I remain yours,

Z
Czechoslovakia

I would be very happy, dear Colonel, if the ring would be send to the family of the flyer and I am sure, they would be happy to get it too. I am sending a letter to Z too and I am informing him, that if he would send the ring to me, I would send the ring to you and I am sure, the ring would reach the right people. Please, kindly advise me on this matter.

Respectfully yours,
Mr. B
Richmond, Texas

A young man from Czechoslovakia witnessed the Lead Banana crash after its mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy.  He was working in the fields, as forced labor of the Nazis during WWII.  He was the first person to arrive at the plane and discover that there were no survivors of the crash.

In this letter, Z identifies the date of the crash as September 22, 1944, a Friday.  The mission, and crash, actually occurred the next Thursday, September 28, 1944.

This transcription is a careful reproduction of the original except for occasional spelling and punctuation corrections. Some names have been masked to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families.  In some circumstances, based on relevancy or a desire to mask locations, some material may not have been transcribed.

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s nephew, for sharing these letters with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

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The Ring – January 21, 1948

A man whom I will call “Mr. B” was an immigrant to the United States from Czechoslovakia.  In 1948, he was living in Richmond, Texas.  He had received a letter from a friend of a friend still living in Czechoslovakia.  The friend had a special favor to ask Mr. B – to please help him find the next of kin of the owner of a ring he had found in Germany in September 1944.

With the information he had been given, on January 5, 1948 Mr. B wrote to the Veteran’s Service Office in Richmond requesting the name and home address of the family of John Oliver (Jay) Buslee.  He received the following letter in reply:

21 January 1948

AGRS-DC-8 301 Buslee, John O.
(5 Jan 48)

Veterans Service Officer
Richmond, Texas

Dear Sir:

Reference is made to your letter in which you request the name and home address of the next of kin of John O. Buslee, serial number 0 764 209.

It is a long established policy of the Department of the Army to protect the privacy of the next of kin of former military personnel. However any communication intended for the next of kin will be forwarded to the last known address if transmitted to this office.

Sincerely yours,
Charles D. Carle
Colonel, AGD,
Commanding

This communication between Mr. B and the Veterans Service Office began the quest to return John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s ring to his parents.  In subsequent letters, we will learn how the man in Czechoslovakia, whom I will call “Z”, came to possess the ring.  We will also learn that this was the second time Z attempted to reunite Jay Buslee’s ring with his parents, something he had tried to do three years before – in 1945 – but was unable to accomplish.

The letters show the dedication and persistence of a man on one side of the world to bring some peace to another family far away, the family of a man he had never met, but who he felt a bond with through the tragedy of war.  The letters also open a window to what another part of the world was like during and after WWII.

This transcription is a careful reproduction of the original except for occasional spelling and punctuation corrections. Some names have been masked to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families.  In some circumstances, based on relevancy or a desire to mask locations, some material may not have been transcribed.

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s nephew, for sharing these letters with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The Ring

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee died September 28, 1944 when the B-17 he was piloting, Lead Banana, crashed after a mid-air collision with B-17 Lazy Daisy.  His parents were notified shortly thereafter that he was missing in action, but it would be another four months before they received news that he had died in the collision.

Mr. and Mrs. Buslee eventually received Jay’s possessions, only to find that the Air Force ring they had given him as a gift was not among the items returned to them.  He must have been wearing the ring on his last mission, but it was not recovered with his body as far as they knew.

Several years later, in 1948, Jay’s ring surfaced.  At the time, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, the waist gunner and sole survivor on Buslee’s aircraft, was working for Mr. Buslee and living in the Buslee home.  I believe in that situation, he would have been aware of the ring’s discovery, but it’s not anything he ever mentioned to me.  He was a traveling salesman and it was the same year he met and courted my mother, and it probably wasn’t as important of a discovery to him as it was to Mr. and Mrs. Buslee.

The surfacing of the ring was one thing.  Getting the ring back was another.  Distance and politics and the state of the world in the 1940’s made this a very difficult task.

Over the next several weeks I will publish a collection of letters shared with me by John Dale Kielhofer, Jay Buslee’s nephew, and share with you The Story of the Ring.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

 

Propwash?

I recently found a handwritten report from the September 28, 1944 Mission 201 that I had not seen before.  It was written by co-pilot Ronald H. Froebel.  He was on the crew flying lead that day, which put him in the tail gunner position, presumably for observation purposes.  I am told that this was a common practice – placing a co-pilot in the tail gunner position – on lead crews.  The crew that day was made up of Commander Horace E. Frink, pilot L.K. Davis, Jr., three navigators, a bombardier, a radio operator, an engineer/top turret gunner, a waist gunner, and Froebel.

In the tail, Froebel would have a birds-eye view of the mid-air collision between the Brodie crew in Lazy Daisy and the Buslee crew in Lead Banana.  After returning from the mission Froebel wrote:

No. 3 ship in the High Element (Green) was almost constantly lagging behind his respective position in the formation.  No. 4 in Low Element flew a good lead most of the time but flew his position lower than he should have.

Two ships in the high group, Brodie & Buslee, which were involved in the collision appeared to have been caught in prop wash on a turn to the left.  It appeared that Brodie was thrown down and into Buslee one plane, immediately disintegrated and the [other] broke into at the ball turret and finally caught fire and broke up.  I observed one chute.  On the whole the formation looked fairly decent throughout the trip until we were hit and had to leave the formation.

Lt. Ronald H. Froebel, Tail Gunner, Lead Ship

Screaming Eagle, with Ronald H. Froebel and the Frink crew on board, was hit by flak.  The ship was damaged seriously enough to necessitate landing away in Brussels.

Froebel’s report is the only explanation I have read that points to prop wash as a factor in the mid-air collision.  Lead Banana is the plane that broke in half at the ball turret.  My father, George Edwin Farrar was just behind the ball turret in the waist gunner position.  He was knocked unconscious and must have fallen through the break in the fuselage.  He was fortunate to come to at 5,000 feet, in time to pull the D-ring on his chute before losing consciousness again.

Below is a document from September 28, 1944 showing the 41st “C” Combat Wing.  The document illustrates where  all the crews should have been in the formation.  The Buslee and Brodie crews are in the High Group.

DSCN4649
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014