The Arrowhead Club

Clarence B. Seeley

Clarence B. Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Buslee Crew

Clarence B. Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Buslee Crew

Clarence Benjamin “Ben” Seeley was born on February 26, 1921 to Clarence A. and Marie A. Seeley. Ben’s father was originally from Nebraska and his mother was originally from Missouri.

In 1920, the family lived at 1006 N. Cherry Street in Jefferson (Ward 1), Greene County, Iowa. Son Ben was yet to be born, but Clarence Sr. and Marie already had three children:  Ida A. (age 8), Nora L. (age 5), and Gordon L. (age 3). Ida and Nora had been born in Nebraska, and Gordon was born in Iowa. Clarence Sr. worked as a laborer and Marie was a nurse for a private family.

By 1930, the Seeley family had moved to 600 F Street, North Platte, Lincoln County, Nebraska. The family had grown to five children with the addition of son Ben on February 26, 1921 and daughter Ruth in 1927. Ben was born in Iowa, and Ruth was born in Nebraska. At the time, Clarence Benjamin went by the nickname Bennie. Clarence Sr. was a laborer in the railroad industry and Marie was not employed. At the time of the 1930 census, Ida was 19, Nora was 18, Gordon was 14, Ben was 9, and Ruth was 3.

In 1940, the Seeley’s were living at 1021 East 8 Street, East Hinman, Lincoln County, Nebraska. Clarence Sr. was a carpenter and Marie was a dressmaker. According to the 1940 census, Ida and Nora were not living at home with their parents, but Gordon and Ben were. Ben was now 19 years old and was employed as a deliveryman. Also living with the Seeley’s were granddaughter Myrtle L. Seeley, who was 10, and grandson C. Robert Rodman, who was 8. Ruth, who would have been 13 years old, was also not listed as living in the Seeley home.

During WWII, Ben enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He became the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew.  After final crew training in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the Buslee crew was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated July 22, 1944. On the back of the crew photo, Seeley was identified as hailing from Halsey, Blaine County, Nebraska. The crew flew heavy bomber missions in B-17s over Germany.  The ten-man crew included:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – Chester A. Rybarczyk
  • Bombardier – Marvin B. Fryden
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Clarence B. Seeley
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Erwin V. Foster
  • Tail Gunner – Eugene D. Lucynski
  • Waist Gunner/Flexible Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Waist Gunner/Flexible Gunner – George Edwin Farrar

Once the Buslee crew of ten reached Grafton Underwood, flight crews had been reduced to only nine men per aircraft and included only one waist gunner rather than two. On the crew’s first mission on August 4, 1944 to Rocket R&D, Crossbow (V-Weapons), Peenemunde, Germany, Jay Buslee co-piloted alongside pilot Arthur Shwery, giving Buslee some combat training. This resulted in co-pilot David Franklin Albrecht flying with the Paul E. Norton crew, and George Edwin Farrar sitting out the mission as Lenard Leroy Bryant had been selected to fly as sole waist gunner on the Buslee crew’s first mission. Ben Seeley completed his first mission as Engineer/Top Turret Gunner.

On the crew’s next mission, Shwery again provided combat training for Buslee, and Albrecht flew with the Norton crew. Farrar was rotated in as waist gunner and Bryant sat out this mission. This August 5 mission was to a military airfield in Langenhagen, Germany with the Buslee crew aboard aircraft 42-37982, The Tremblin’ Gremlin. At the beginning of the bomb run over the target, they were met with anti-aircraft fire. A shell exploded to the side of the Tremblin’ Gremlin’s nose and a shell fragment pierced the flying fortress and struck bombardier Marvin Fryden in the chest. Fryden managed to maintain his position and released Tremblin’ Gremlin’s bombs on the target before collapsing.

The engineer and top turret gunner, Ben Seeley, sustained the second most serious injury. A piece of flak tore through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. Also incurring minor injuries on the mission were navigator Chester A. Rybarczyk, pilot Arthur J. Shwery, co-pilot John Oliver Buslee, and waist gunner George E. Farrar.

The fort had sustained heavy battle damage. The right inboard engine was out. The radio compartment was riddled with flak holes and the radio equipment was destroyed. The trim tabs that control the plane’s balance were shredded. The hydraulic brake system was shot out. Part of the oxygen system was also out, causing the men up forward to use emergency supplies or tap other lines.

Only Fryden and Seeley needed immediate first aid treatment during the return trip. Navigator Chester Rybarczyk assisted Fryden, who remained conscious during the entire mission. Seeley attended to his own leg wound.

The left inboard engine went out as they reached the English coast and Buslee headed for the nearest airfield. Even with his brakes gone, Buslee managed to bring the plane in on the concrete landing strip and slide it off onto the grass to reduce the speed before finally coming to a halt.

Bombardier Marvin B. Fryden died later in an Army hospital with his friend Chester Rybarczyk at his side.

Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Clarence Benjamin Seeley was seriously wounded and was not able to fly again for almost two months.  As a result, he was grounded until October.

With Seeley out as the Buslee crew’s engineer/top turret gunner, and the fact that flight crews had been reduced to only one waist gunner, Lenard Leroy Bryant was moved into the engineer/top turret gunner position. This left George Edwin Farrar as the sole waist gunner for the Buslee crew.

On September 28, just days before Seeley would return to flight duty, Lazy Daisy carrying the Brodie crew collided with Lead Banana carrying the Buslee crew after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Of the Buslee crew, only waist gunner George Edwin Farrar survived.  The other eight members of the crew (see note below) were killed in the mid-air collision.

Ben Seeley returned to flight duty for Mission 203 on October 2, 1944.  He safely completed his tour with 34 missions, the last being Mission 285 on March 10, 1945, and was able to return home.

Clarence B. Seeley died August 17, 2007 in Portland, Clackamas County, Oregon at the age of 86. He is buried in Mountain View Cemetery in Oregon City, Clackamas County, Oregon, Plot: Section L,Block 3,Lot 21,Grave A.

Note – On the September 28, 1944 mission the Buslee crew was made up of:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

 

 

 

 

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