George Edwin Farrar’s twelfth mission was on September 13, 1944 aboard the B-17 named Lorraine to an oil target in Merseburg, Germany. The crew that manned the ship was not the usual Buslee crew. In fact, only John Oliver Buslee (pilot), Lenard Leroy Bryant (engineer/top turret gunner), and George Edwin Farrar (waist gunner) were the only Buslee crew members on Lorraine. The remainder of the crew were:
- Commander – William A. Fairfield, Jr.
- Navigator – Kenneth S. Lord
- Bombardier – Donald L. Ward
- Radio Operator/Gunner – Albert K. Sherriff
- Ball Turret Gunner – Irving L. Miller
- Tail Gunner – Lloyd E. La Chine
William A. Fairfield was a pilot assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #85 dated May 6, 1944. His first mission was on June 4, 1944. He completed his tour of thirty missions as a commander on this September 13 mission and returned to the states.
Kenneth S. Lord was a navigator assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #81 dated May 1, 1944, Edward W. Lane Crew. His first mission was on May 12, 1944. Lord transferred to the 544th Bomb Squad on SO #92 dated May 17, 1944. He completed his tour of twenty-eight missions on February 24, 1945 and returned to the states.
Donald L. Ward was a bombardier assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #107 dated June 8, 1944, Frank L. Allred Crew. (Robert Mitchell was the ball turret gunner of the Allred crew). Ward’s first mission was on June 15, 1944. His last of twenty-nine missions with the 384th was on December 6, 1944 and last duty date was December 11, but his record does not show that he completed his tour and returned to the states.
Albert K. Sherriff was a radio operator assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #80 dated April 29, 1944, Clifford Lee Johnson Crew. His first mission was on May 11, 1944. He completed his tour of thirty-six missions on January 7, 1945 and returned to the states.
Irving L. Miller was a ball turret gunner assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #150 dated July 28, 1944, Gilbert R. Lindberg Crew. His first mission was on August 9, 1944. He served five missions, including this one, with George Edwin Farrar. He completed his tour of thirty-four missions on March 19, 1945 and returned to the states.
Lloyd E. La Chine started as a bombardier, but changed to tail gunner after his eleventh mission. He was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #116 dated June 19, 1944, William F. Combs Crew. His first mission was on July 8, 1944. He completed his tour of thirty-one missions on November 2, 1944 and returned to the states.
Thank you to www.384thbombgroup.com for kindly sharing these wonderful pictures from their photo gallery.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015
I recently had the pleasure of talking with Robert “Bob” Mitchell on the phone. Bob served on two missions in WWII with my dad, George Edwin Farrar of the Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group, and I hoped Bob remembered my dad. Bob did not remember my dad specifically, but he did tell me an interesting story involving the Buslee crew, which I’ll get to in a minute. Until then, I’d like to share with you what I have learned about – and from – Bob Mitchell.
Robert “Bob” McKinley Mitchell, Jr. was born November 21, 1921 to Robert McKinley and Vadie Olivia Stewart Mitchell of Sheffield, Colbert County, Alabama. Sheffield is a small town in northern Alabama between Muscle Shoals and the Tennessee River.
In 1930, the Mitchell family lived at 1209 Atlanta Avenue in Sheffield. Robert’s father was a clerk at the post office, while Robert’s mother was busy raising four children. Robert was the oldest at eight, followed by Muriel at five, Opal at four, and Ruth at two.
In 1940, the Mitchell family still resided at 1209 Atlanta Avenue. Robert’s father was still with the post office, and his mother was now employed as a florist. The family had grown by three more children, and the brood now consisted two boys and five girls: Robert (18), Muriel (15), Opal (14), Ruth (12), Shirley (9), Elizabeth (5), and Thomas (1).
Bob and his high school sweetheart, Joyce Willette Lowe, were married March 21, 1942 in Colbert County, Alabama. Willette was named for her father, William. Bob and Willette knew Bob would be going off to war and decided that they wanted to be married before he left. For a time, Willette worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
Bob enlisted in the Army Air Forces on September 8, 1942 at Fort McClellan, Alabama. His enlistment record listed his civilian occupation as a “semiskilled inter-industry metal working occupation.”
Bob’s Army Air Forces training included aircraft maintenance training on T38 and T40 turboprop engines at Craig Field, Alabama, instructing aircraft maintenance in Texas, gunnery school at Kendall Field in Florida, and final B-17 bomber crew training in Louisiana.
Bob was assigned to the Frank L. Allred crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #107 dated June 8, 1944. The 384th Bomb Group was stationed in Grafton Underwood, England. Bob’s MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 748 – Army Airplane Mechanic/Gunner, Flight Engineer. During crew training, one of the enlisted crew needed to be assigned to the ball turret and Bob volunteered to man what is considered the most dangerous position in a B-17.
The Allred crew and Bob’s first mission was the 384th Bomb Group’s Mission 136 on June 15, 1944. The target was a railroad viaduct in La Possonnièrre, France. The objective of the mission was to cut one of the enemy troop’s main supply routes. The mission was successful, and the Allred crew aboard Hotnuts returned safely to Grafton Underwood.
In all, Bob Mitchell completed 35 missions over France and Germany, but the 384th’s Mission 170 on August 3, 1944 was the closest call for the Allred crew. The 384th’s targets were NOBALL V-1 launch sites in Fleury, Flers, and Fiefs, France. NOBALL was the allied code name given to the manufacturing, storage and launching facilities of the German V-1 Flying Bomb and the V-2 Rocket.
There were three formations that mission – “H”, “I”, and “J” groups. The “H” group hit their target at Fleury and the “I” group hit theirs at Flers. The “J” group, of which the Allred crew was part, was unable to bomb their target at Fiefs due to the weather.
As a result, the Allred crew aboard Devil’s Brat had to return to base with battle damage and a full load of bombs. According to Bob Mitchell, not only did they still have their bombs on board, but the plane caught fire. They crash landed at RAF Chailey, East Sussex just after they crossed the English Channel, still 140 miles from Grafton Underwood.
All of the crew got out of the plane before the bombs exploded and all were uninjured except for the engineer/top turret gunner, Raymon L. Noble, who cut his arm on one of the props. Noble didn’t fly another mission for over a month.
Bob Mitchell’s thirty-fifth and final mission with the 384th Bomb Group was Mission 201 on September 28, 1944 to a steel manufacturing plant in Magdeburg, Germany. He was scheduled to fly with the Buslee crew that day. He had just filled in for the Buslee crew’s ball turret gunner the day before, September 27, on Mission 200.
Bob had requested to fly with friends from the Allred crew, Raymon L. Noble and Carl H. Redcay, for his last mission, but it didn’t look like his request was going to be honored. September 28 was also Redcay’s thirty-fifth and last mission, but Noble still had one more mission to go.
Bob was aboard Lead Banana ready to go with the Buslee crew when a jeep pulled up to the plane. The driver let one man out of the jeep and told Bob to get in. At the last minute, his request had been granted and he was driven over to Lorraine to fly with his Allred crewmates on his final flight. The September 28 mission to Magdeburg was the mission where the Brodie crew in Lazy Daisy collided with the Buslee crew in Lead Banana.
My interest in Mission 201 stems from the fact that my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was the only survivor aboard Lead Banana. Only three men aboard Lazy Daisy survived. I continue to look for information and theories about the mid-air collision. New information from Bob gave me another perspective on the accident.
Lorraine was to the left of Lead Banana in the formation. Coming off the target at Magdeburg, Bob was still in position in the ball turret of Lorraine, looking out the ball turret’s window, thinking about the fellow in the other ball turret. As he watched the fellow in the ball turret of Lead Banana, he saw the collision occur. He saw the ball turret of Lead Banana knocked off the plane and watched as it fell away.
After witnessing the horrific event, Bob understood the significance of his reassignment from Lead Banana to Lorraine that day. With Bob’s thirty-fifth and last mission with the 384th Bomb Group complete, he was able to return home to his wife, Willette.
When he returned to the states, even though he had completed thirty-five missions with the 384th, his WWII service was not complete. He went back into training to fly missions in the Japanese theater. Fortunately, before it was time for him to ship out, WWII ended and so did his military service. Bob’s WWII decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the European Theater Medal with Five Bronze Stars.
One of Bob’s favorite post-war memories was meeting aviator Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh was the speaker at an event Willette was involved with. Bob introduced himself and told Lindbergh that as a child in Sheffield, Alabama, Bob had been the recipient of some candy thrown by Lindbergh out of an airplane. Lindbergh remembered the flight, and he and Bob enjoyed several hours of conversation at the event.
Robert McKinley “Bob” Mitchell, Jr. died last week, May 12, 2015. He was 93 years old. When I talked to him in April, I could hear the pride he had in his service with the 384th and the love he had for Willette, his wife of seventy-three years. For Bob, the war is over. Rest in peace Robert Mitchell.
Robert McKinley Mitchell, Jr. is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in his native Sheffield, Alabama.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015
Donald William Dooley was born July 26, 1919 in Indiana. Donald’s parents were Guy T. (1893 to 1992) and Dora Laverne McWilliams (1893 to 1988) Dooley. Donald had an older sister, Dorothy, who was about 2 1/2 years older than Donald.
In 1920, the Dooley family lived in Walker, Jasper County, Indiana where Donald’s father, Guy, was a farmer. By 1930, the family had moved to Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana where Guy Dooley worked as a foreman at a furniture factory. Between 1938 and 1940, Donald attended Indiana University in Bloomington.
On September 10, 1941, at the age of 22, Donald enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. His enlistment record notes that he resided in Marion County, Indiana at the time of enlistment. Marion County encompasses the greater Indianapolis area. His enlistment record also notes that he was working as a salesperson at the time and was single.
In WWII, Donald served with the 482nd Bombardment Group (P). The “P” stood for Pathfinder. The 482nd was activated on August 20, 1943 at AAF Station 102 in Alconbury, Huntingdonshire, England for the purpose of providing pathfinder (PFF) lead aircraft for other bomb groups, specifically through the winter of 1943 to 1944. The 482nd had the distinction of being the only 8th Air Force bomb group to be formed outside of the United States during WWII.
Before the Pathfinders, in 1942 and 1943, the Norden bombsight was used for visual precision bombing in the ETO (European Theater of Operations). However, poor weather conditions often caused problems when the target could not be clearly seen. The 482nd worked to prove a new radar bombing technique to resolve the issue. These new top secret radar platforms were called BTO – Bomb Through Overcast and were used against Nazi Germany.
The 482nd Bomb Group’s last radar-led combat mission was March 22, 1944 to Berlin. On March 23, the 482nd ceased combat operations and became a radar training center and research and development operation. It did, however, undertake special operations, particulary on D-Day when eighteen 482nd crews were provided to lead bomb groups. With the change, 482nd personnel were dispersed to other bomb groups.
Donald William Dooley was transferred to the 384th Bomb Group. He was assigned to the 384th BG Hq Det on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #147 dated July 25,1944. He was then reclassified from MOS 867 (radar mechanic, bombardment) to MOS 757 (radio operator/gunner) and transferred from Hq Det to the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th on SO #179 dated September 8, 1944.
Donald’s first, and only, mission with the 384th Bomb Group was with the James Joseph Brodie crew on September 28, 1944. He replaced William Edson Taylor on that mission as the crew’s radio operator/gunner. The change put him on Lazy Daisy that day, where he was killed in the mid-air collision with the John Oliver Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana coming off the target at Magdeburg.
Donald lost his life at the young age of twenty-five. He is buried at the Valhalla Memory Gardens in Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana.
- Information on the 482nd Bombardment Group was obtained from http://www.482nd.org/.
- MOS means Military Occupational Specialty.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015
William Edson Taylor was a member of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII. He came from Ironwood, Gogebic County, Michigan. Ironwood is the westernmost city in Michigan and is separated from Hurley, Wisconsin by the Montreal River. Ironwood is about eighteen miles south of Lake Superior. These days, Ironwood is known for its downhill ski resorts, but back in the 1940’s, it was a mining town.
William was born in Ishpeming, Michigan on on April 21, 1923 to Carroll Cushing (1895 to 1993) and Ruth Edna Parmelee (1895 to unk.) Taylor. By 1930, the Taylor family had moved to Ironwood where Carroll worked as an engineer for an iron mine. William’s sister, Carol Jane, was born about 1925.
On April 26, 1943, at the age of twenty, William enlisted in the Army Air Forces in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He trained to be a radio operator and during combat training, William was selected to serve on the James Joseph Brodie crew. He was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squadron on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944.
William flew his first seventeen missions as radio operator/gunner with the Brodie crew. But, on the crew’s next mission, on September 28, 1944, William was not called on to fly with the Brodie crew. On that mission, a radio operator new to the 384th, Donald William Dooley, was assigned to fly with the Brodie crew. Dooley had recently transferred in from the 482nd Bomb Group.
It was William’s good luck to sit out the September 28th mission, as the Brodie crew, aboard Lazy Daisy, went down after a mid-air collision coming off the target at Magdeburg. When the formation came back to Grafton Underwood, William learned that his crew was gone. Two days later, he was assigned to fly with the Loren Green crew, and after that continued to fill in with other crews on his next two missions.
On October 5, he flew with the Robert Birckhead crew on a mission to Cologne aboard unnamed flying fortress 43-38579. The Birckhead crew’s fort was damaged by flak and left the formation under control prior to the target. But the damage was too great to make it back to Grafton Underwood and the fort crashed near Munchen-Gladbach. Four of the crew were killed, including pilot Robert Birckhead. Five became POWs, including radio operator William Edson Taylor.
In a report he filled out after the war, William provided the following details:
This was the first time I had ever flown with this crew – in fact, it wasn’t a regular crew. As a consequence I was not familiar with any one of them, except Adams, the tail gunner, who I knew slightly.
The plane was hit by flak and immediately dropped out of formation. It was on fire. Crew members in the nose bailed out first and the others from the waist back after the plane exploded. So we didn’t land together and I had no chance to observe what happened to the others.
The aircraft struck the ground near Gelsinkirchen. Several of the surviving crew noted in the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9754) that Birckhead survived the crash, but died the next day in the hospital from head injuries and/or internal injuries. One of the crew members noted that this mission was Birckhead’s first mission of his second tour. In fact, it was the third mission of Birckhead’s second tour, but the first as pilot of his own crew. On his first two missions of his second tour, he flew as co-pilot.
William Taylor was confined to Stalag Luft IV, the same prison camp two others from the Brodie crew – Wilfred Frank Miller and Harry Allen Liniger – had been taken to the week before after surviving the mid-air collison on September 28.
William Edson Taylor survived Stalag Luft IV and he survived the eighty-six day, five hundred mile forced march out of the prison camp westward across Germany. In 1967, he married Barbara Elizabeth Magill (1925 – 2010) in Cook County, Illinois. William died January 29, 2002 in New Hope, Bucks County, Pennsylvania at the age of 78.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015