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Monthly Archives: November 2015

Thanksgiving for the 384th

Rabbi Marc Gellman writes a weekly newspaper column entitled “The God Squad.” It appears in my local newspaper every Saturday. I had finished writing this post, but after reading Rabbi Gellman’s latest column, I decided to include some of his thoughts. He wrote:

One of my annual traditions over the years here at God Squad Central is to offer up for inclusion with your turkey, stuffing and pie, a list of overlooked blessings. The point of this annual list is that none of us really needs prodding to give thanks for family and food, for friends and food, or for liberty and … food. I encourage you, dear readers, to add to my list your own list of things and people we too often take for granted. I hope you can squeeze into your Thanksgiving prayer people and things that will not be on any big and obvious list but ought to be in our hearts every day.

This is, of course, a hard Thanksgiving for my list of overlooked blessings. This year I am feeling more anger and sorrow than thanks in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks in Paris. I even thought of ditching the column and just writing about Paris, but the more I thought and prayed about this horror the more I realized that it was the little things that give me hope in the face of the big things that give me such despair. So here it goes:

I am thankful this Thanksgiving Day for the people who run toward the sounds of gunshots and not away from them. These police and soldiers and EMTs are the first barrier to terror and the first responders to brutality. The fact that this is their job does not lessen my awe at their deep instinctive courage. They keep the dike of civilization from bursting by sticking their lives into the breaches of our broken world.

Tomorrow all over America, we will celebrate Thanksgiving Day. Most of us will sit down to share a Thanksgiving meal with family or friends. Before that first bite, we will bow our heads and give thanks for many things, and at the top of my list of things I am thankful for are the men of the 384th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force in WWII for the sacrifices they made to secure our freedom.

Seventy-plus years ago, this is what Thanksgiving Day looked like at the Grafton Underwood Air Base for the enlisted men of the 384th Bomb Group.

From cooking…

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men's Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day 1945

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men’s Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

…to serving…

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men's Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day 1945

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men’s Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

…to the feast itself…

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men's Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day 1945

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Enlisted Men’s Mess Hall, Thanksgiving Day

…and then, of course, there’s always the cleanup…

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Mess Kitchen Wash Tubs

384th Bomb Group, Grafton Underwood, Mess Kitchen Wash Tubs

These photos are part of the Robert Bletscher Acquisitions collection on the 384th Bomb Group’s photo gallery. Thank you to Rob Bletscher for sharing his grandfather’s (William Marvin Page) photos with the group.

William Marvin Page was assigned as a flexible gunner to the 384th Bomb Group, 546th Bomb Squad, Austin Dean Rinne crew on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #146 dated November 17, 1943.

These photos are most likely from Thanksgiving 1943 or 1944, although they were marked Thanksgiving 1945. Thanksgiving was observed on November 25 in 1943 and November 23 in 1944. It was November of 1943 that William Marvin Page was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group. By Thanksgiving 1944, Page was a guest of the Germans in Stalag Luft IV (more on that later). I asked my fellow 384th volunteers for help determining what year the photos were from and received some good information, but am still uncertain which year these may have been taken.

  • I don’t believe it could be Thanksgiving 1945 as the last 384th mission out of Grafton Underwood was April 25, 1945. Shortly thereafter, 384th operations moved to Istres, France. Anthony Plowright reminded us that the base then transferred back to the RAF.
  • Fred Preller believes it must be 1943 or 1944 judging from the presumed blackout curtains behind the seated diners.
  • John Edwards leans to 1944 as there was a world wide effort to have a Thanksgiving dinner for each service member.  The dinner was supposed to be the traditional American meal featuring real whole turkeys.
  • Phil Hettel believes that from the date Mr. Page was assigned to the 384th (11/17/43) and the date of his last mission (2/28/44) and his internment as a POW, he would say that the picture is Thanksgiving 1943.
  • The 384th Bomb Group did not fly a mission on Thanksgiving 1943 (11/25/43), but they did fly a mission to a synthetic oil plant in Gelsenkirchen, Germany on Thanksgiving 1944 (11/23/44).
  • Considering all this, I think the pictures were more likely taken Thanksgiving of 1943, but they could have been taken Thanksgiving of 1944. I do not believe they could have been taken Thanksgiving of 1945.

On William Marvin Page’s tenth mission to a NOBALL (V-1 Launch Site) for CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) in Preuseville, France on February 28, 1944, his plane went down presumably due to a technical or mechanical failure. All ten men aboard bailed out. The tail gunner, Charles Thomas Regan, was killed due to a malfunctioning parachute, which didn’t open. One flexible gunner, Robert Henry Cooper, was able to successfully evade capture.

The other flexible gunner, William Marvin Page, was able to evade capture for a time. Page was in the French Underground for 17 days before he was picked up by the German Gestapo. He was held in jail for almost two months before being placed in a prison camp. He was placed permanently in Stalag Luft IV and endured the eighty-six day Black March, where he was taken ill with pneumonia. After being nursed back to health, he was returned to the states. The remaining crew were also taken POW. The officers were held in Stalag Luft I while the enlisted men were all held with Page in Stalag Luft IV.

On May 1, 1945, Soviet troops liberated the prisoners of Stalag Luft I. As for the men of Stalag Luft IV on the Black March, some were liberated in late April, but all were liberated by May 2 by the British. Americans were sent to Camp Lucky Strike in France as the first stop on their return to the United States.

Families at Thanksgiving dinner tables seventy-plus years ago undoubtedly asked God to bless their sons and husbands who were so far from home fighting a war on foreign soil. They prayed for their safe return. Some of those prayers were answered and some were not. Tomorrow, on this Thanksgiving Day as you give thanks, include the men of the 384th – those who are still with us and those who are gone. They are the men who risked their lives to mend our broken world seventy years ago. And also give thanks for those who fight to mend our broken world today.

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

The Family of Marvin Fryden

Marvin Fryden was the original bombardier of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force. On August 5, 1944, on his second mission as bombardier with the Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group, Marvin was mortally wounded. To read more about that mission, click here.

A little research into turned up some information on his family, but not anything new about Marvin himself.

Marvin’s parents were Harry and Sylvia Kaplan Frydyn. The Frydyn’s were Jewish. They were originally from Radom which was considered part of Poland or Russia, depending on the year. Radom is located about sixty miles south of Warsaw. Both Harry and Sylvia’s parents were also from the same area. (See note below).

Harry Frydyn was born on February 15, 1889 in Radom. According to US Naturalization Records, he immigrated to the United States from Russia on November 13, 1907 around the age of 18.

The 1910 census recorded Harry as “Harry Freiden,” from Russia Pol, with both parents from Russia Pol. It confirms that Harry immigrated in 1907. His native tongue was Polish. He was a presser in a tailor shop. At the time, he would have been twenty-one years old and was a boarder living with Jake and Eva Dekalsky. His age and residential status as a border leads me to believe that he immigrated to America without his parents, but I find no documentation to support the theory. [The 1910 census instructed: if foreign born, give country.]

On March 5, 1914, according to Harry’s immigration and naturalization record, he became a naturalized citizen.

Sylvia Kaplan Frydyn was born in 1898 in Bialastok, Poland. She immigrated to the United States in either 1910 (according to the 1920 census) or 1914 (according to the 1930 census).

On June 5, 1917, Harry registered for the WWI draft. He would have been twenty-eight years old. His draft registration card shows he lived at 2343 W. Iowa St., Chicago. He was a naturalized citizen from Radom, Russia. He was a presser for S. Shapiro at 1315 Milwaukee Avenue. He was Jewish and single. He noted that he had no previous military service. He claimed an exemption from the draft due to defective eyes. He described himself as 5’8″, of slender build, brown eyes, brown hair, and slightly bald. I see no record of Harry having served in WWI.

Harry and Sylvia were married on December 8, 1919 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

The 1920 census recorded Harry and Sylvia “Frydyn” living at 3238 Augusta Street, Chicago, Ward 15 as borders of David and Rose Rosenberg and their son Jerome. Although the record states that the Rosenbergs immigrated in 1907, it states that Harry and Sylvia both immigrated in 1910, Harry was naturalized in 1916, and Sylvia in 1919. It shows both Harry and Sylvia’s birthplace as Russia and native tongue as Yiddish, and the same for both sets of their parents. Harry was a tailor in a tailor shop. David Rosenberg was also a tailor. [The 1920 census instructed: if foreign born, give the place of birth and, in addition, the mother tongue.]

Harry and Sylvia had three children in the 1920’s. Their first child, Marvin, was born on January 8, 1921 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. On May 20 or 21, 1925, they were blessed with a second son, Marshall. But sadly Marshall only lived to the age of five and a half months, dying on November 4, 1925. The next year, the Frydyn’s third child came along. Florence was born on October 16, 1926.

The 1930 census recorded Harry (39), Sylvia (31), Marvin (9) and Florence (3) renting a home at 2652 W. Potomac Avenue, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Living with them was Sylvia’s sister Lilly (25). The census noted that both Harry and Sylvia were from Poland and both sets of their parents were from Poland. Their native language was Jewish. It states Harry immigrated in 1910 and Sylvia immigrated in 1914. Harry was a tailor in a clothing factory. Lilly was an operator in a clothing factory. Lilly had immigrated to the U.S. in 1927. Sylvia did not work outside the home. [The 1930 census instructed: if foreign born, give country in which birthplace is now situated.]

The 1940 census recorded the Frydyn family still residing at 2652 W. Potomac Avenue in Chicago. Harry (50) worked as a dress presser for a dress company. Sylvia (42) did not work outside the home. Marvin (19) worked as a salesman at Hyraces Silk Manufacturers and had had one year of college. Florence (13) was a student. The 1940 census record also states that Harry and Sylvia were both born in Poland. [The 1940 census instructed: if foreign born, give country in which birthplace was situated on January 1, 1937.]

On January 13, 1942, Marvin enlisted in the Army Air Corps. An aviation cadet, his enlistment record shows that he had completed two years of college, was 5’9″ tall, weighed 126 pounds, worked as a laboratory technician or assistant, and was single with no dependents. His enlistment record spells his name “Fryden,” although only two years earlier, he was listed on the 1940 census as “Frydyn.”

In 1942, Harry also had to register for the WWII draft. His registration card shows he was born in Radom, Poland and lived at 6719 Lakewood, Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. He worked for Johara, Inc. at 325 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

Sometime in 1942, Marvin married Marilyn Ash. Marilyn was born on October 26, 1925. Their marriage license states that Marilyn was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and that she and Marvin married in Bernalillo, New Mexico. Marvin would have been twenty-one years old, but Marilyn would have only been about sixteen or seventeen when they married. Although she stated that she was born in Albuquerque, records on lead me to believe that it’s possible that Marilyn was born and raised in the Chicago area, which would indicate that Marvin and Marilyn knew each other before he entered the service. Marvin and Marilyn had had only two years of married life together when Marvin died on August 5, 1944. At the time of Marvin’s death, Marilyn was only eighteen years old. You can read more about Marilyn and her love for Marvin here.

Marvin Fryden is buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in Cambridge, England, Plot E, Row 2, Grave 4. He earned a purple heart, American Campaign Medal, and WWII Victory Medal.

Marvin’s mother, Sylvia, died on July 8, 1952, and his father, Harry, died in January 1967. Marvin’s wife, Marilyn – who had remarried and whose last name had become Samet – died on November 7, 2013 in Cary, North Carolina.

Correction:  Marvin Fryden did not have a middle name/initial. I originally thought he had a middle initial of “B” and have recorded his name improperly in the past. I am correcting the error here, but may not be able to make the change in all places, for example in his Category Name.

Note:  I hope to delve a little deeper into the history of Radom with some more research and make it the subject of next week’s post.  Update:  I will cover Radom the week after Thanksgiving. Update 2: Researching the history of Radom is more complicated than I anticipated. I’ll have to put off that post until I have more time to cover the subject properly.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

Veterans Day and Remembrance Day

Today is Veterans Day. Here in the United States, we observe it annually on November 11, honoring those who have served in all branches of the U.S. Armed Forces. Originally known as Armistice Day, it marked the anniversary of the end of World War I, which formally ended at the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of 1918 when the armistice with Germany went into effect. Armistice Day was eventually expanded to include all veterans, not just those of WWI, and later evolved into the current Veterans Day in 1954.

Other parts of the world observe Remembrance Day. In the United Kingdom, the main observance is on the Sunday closest to November 11 with ceremonies at local war memorials. Every year, such a ceremony is held at the Grafton Underwood memorial. Remembrance Sunday was observed there this past Sunday, November 8.

A local videographer, Graham Butlin, recorded the Grafton Underwood Remembrance Day ceremony and shared it on YouTube. For those of us who have never been to Grafton Underwood and witnessed one of the ceremonies, I thank Graham for sharing the opportunity to witness it with us through his video.

Graham hosts a YouTube channel that includes videos of English air fields, air shows, etc., and has some wonderful aerial videography using a drone.

To view the 2015 Remembrance Day ceremony at Grafton Underwood, click here.

To view other videos on Graham Butlin’s YouTube channel, click here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

A Tribute to the 384th Bomb Group in WWII

For quite some time I have played around with the idea of creating a tribute video to the 384th Bomb Group in WWII. The 384th’s photo gallery is overflowing with photos of the men who served with the group at Grafton Underwood from 1943 to 1945. All I needed was the right music to bring the photos to life. What with the complex copyright laws in the music field, I was perplexed as how to proceed, and put the project on hold.

A few months ago, a music CD arrived in my mail from fellow 384th Bomb Group Nex-Gen Todd Touton. Todd is the son of 384th pilot William Touton. The CD contained a dozen songs that Todd and his friend Evan Wallach, a bronze star Vietnam veteran, created. Evan wrote the lyrics and Todd put them to music and performed the songs.

One song in particular caught my attention – the one Todd dedicated to his father. “Damn Yankee” does not describe any particular mission. Todd and Evan chose the title “Damn Yankee” as it was the plane William Touton flew on his first mission as pilot of his own crew. Bill Touton began his 384th tour as co-pilot of the John Hunt crew, but November 29, 1944 found him in the pilot seat on a mission to Misburg, Germany to destroy an oil target.

For those not familiar with 384th Bomb Group aircraft history, there were several aircraft named Damn Yankee assigned to the group at different times.

The first was a B-17F with tail number 41-24557. 41-24557 had a relatively short life in the 384th – only thirteen missions before being shot down on December 1, 1943. Five of the crew were killed, four were taken POW, and the pilot, Bruce Sundlun (who would become Rhode Island’s 71st governor in 1991), was able to evade capture. For more information on Bruce Sundlun, click here.

Then there was B-17F tail number 42-29809, aka Queen Jeanie or Damn Yankee II. 42-29809 completed twenty-one missions with the 384th from September 26, 1943 to March 27, 1944. She was returned to the states in June of ’44.

And then finally, there was tail number 42-102518, the Damn Yankee that Bill Touton flew on his first mission as pilot. 42-102518 completed 135 combat missions with the 384th. She was a B-17G and her first mission was on April 20, 1944. She suffered damage on October 23 when she crashed after her landing gear collapsed upon returning from a training mission. There were no crew injuries. She was out for about three and a half weeks for repairs and then back on duty for almost two weeks before Bill Touton took the helm for his first flight in the pilot seat.

She continued to perform admirably through the end of the war and was then moved to Istres, France with the group to serve her last purpose, mapping duties. Sadly, after the war the last Damn Yankee was, like other B-17’s, destined for the scrap yard. Her last duty date was December 10, 1945. Like the song says, she was not much more than a metal tube, but she came alive with some oil and gas and lube.  But that metal tube had one of the most important jobs of the war – to transport the young men of the 384th and their bombs through hostile skies into enemy territory and to bring them safely home, again and again.  One hundred and thirty-five times.

As for the tribute video, it’s finished now and available on YouTube for viewing here.

I would like to thank the 384th Bomb Group site for permission to use photos from the photo gallery.

And I would especially like to thank Todd Touton and Evan Wallach for permission to use their song. “Damn Yankee” is a hauntingly beautiful song that evokes the emotions of a war where so many sons and husbands and fathers lost their lives in their fight for freedom.

Many were lost, but many survived to return home and get married and raise children. Bill Touton was one of the fortunate ones who completed his thirty-five missions and made it back. And like Bill’s son, Todd, those of us of the next generation that know of the sacrifice of the young men of WWII’s 384th Bomb Group firsthand want to share their stories with others. We do our best to honor them and it is our responsibility to remind future generations what their lives, and deaths, mean for all of us.

Some of the men of the 384th had only twenty years on this earth, others ninety, but they all leave their legacy – the ones that returned and the ones that didn’t. They embraced a responsibility to defend our country. They fought for our freedom and they won it. We will be forever grateful.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015