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Monthly Archives: September 2016

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Eighth Air Force Heavy Bombardment Groups

In January 1942, about a month and a half after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the Eighth Air Force was formed in Savannah, Georgia at the Chatham Armory located at Hunter Field. The next month, Brigadier General Ira C. Eaker set up Eighth Air Force Bomber Command Headquarters at High Wycombe, England, about forty miles west of London. By May, Major General Carl A. “Tooey” Spaatz assumed command of the Eighth Air Force. On June 25, he established Eighth Air Force Headquarters at Bushy Park, fifteen miles southwest of London.

General James H. Doolittle assumed command of the Eighth Air Force on January 6, 1944, and by D-Day on June 6, the Eighth Air Force was composed of forty heavy bombardment groups. Twenty-one of these were B-17 groups and nineteen were B-24 groups.

There were three divisions of Eighth heavy bombardment air force bases in England. The First Air Division was comprised of twelve air bases, or stations. All but one of the First Air Division Stations were located in the English Midlands, with only one in East Anglia, the 381st Bomb Group at Ridgewell. All twelve First Division stations were B-17 bases.

The Second Air Division was comprised of fourteen air bases, all of which were located in East Anglia. All fourteen were B-24 bases. However, the 492nd Bomb Group started out as the 801st, a special operations group also known as the Carpetbaggers, and were originally based in the Midlands. They were re-designated as the 492nd in August 1944 and moved to East Anglia.

The Third Air Division was comprised of fourteen air bases, all of which were located in East Anglia. Nine were B-17 bases and five were B-24 bases.

The 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was part of the First Air Division and was located in the English Midlands near Grafton Underwood. On May 9, 1943, the 384th Bomb Group, under the command of Budd J. Peaslee, began their move to England, arriving the first week of June 1943.

The 384th’s first assignment in WWII within the Eighth Air Force was to VIII Bomber Command, 1st Bombardment Wing, 103rd Provisional Combat Bomb Wing. On September 13, 1943, the 384th’s assignment was designated as VIII Bomber Command, 1st Bomb Division, 41st Combat Bombardment Wing (Heavy). On January 8, 1944, their designation changed to 1st Bombardment Division, 41st Combat Bombardment Wing (Heavy). And on January 1, 1945, the 384th was designated as part of the 1st Air Division, 41st Combat Bombardment Wing (Heavy).

In addition to the Eighth Air Force’s forty bombardment groups, the Eighth also had fifteen fighter groups. According to Donald L. Miller in “Masters of the Air,” at peak strength, the Eighth had 2,800 heavy bombers, over 1,400 fighter planes, and approximately 200,000 personnel. The 200,000 number was at peak strength. More than 350,000 Americans served in the Eighth during the war.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

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Buslee Crew Photo – A Deeper Look, Continued II

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier) Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier)
Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

There’s one more Buslee crew member I want to address in this deeper look into their crew photo – Erwin Vernon Foster. As Keith Ellefson, combat data specialist and NexGen of the 384th Bomb Group, has pointed out, it looks like Foster had flown a previous combat tour before joining the Buslee crew.

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), and Lenard Bryant (waist gunner)

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), and Lenard Bryant (waist gunner)

Keith notes that “all of the men in the photo are wearing wings but only Foster has any kind of awards being displayed.” Keith also notes that on his assignment order, Foster was a Corporal. Since Foster had a previous tour, he normally should have been at least a Sergeant, and more likely a Staff Sergeant.  This led Keith to believe that Foster had been reduced to Corporal prior to being assigned to the Buslee crew.

However, Keith noticed the following decorations worn by Foster. He has his crew member wings on top. Foster’s ribbons represent an Air Medal with at least one Oak Leaf Cluster, a Good Conduct Medal, and European, African, and Middle Eastern Campaign ribbons with two Campaign Stars. He also wears an Armament Specialist Qualification Badge on his right sleeve.

Foster was one of only three of the original Buslee crew members to complete his missions without being killed, seriously wounded, or taken prisoner. He went on to fight in the Korean War as evidenced by his tombstone. Like my dad, Erwin Foster only lived to be sixty-one, dying in 1981.  A short life of sixty-one years doesn’t seem fair for a man who fought for his country in two tours in WWII and in Korea, does it?

headstone

Thank you again, Keith Ellefson, 384th Bomb Group NexGen and combat data specialist for you help in providing me this information.

WWII photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

Buslee Crew Photo – A Deeper Look, Continued

In a continuation of last week’s post, I’m taking a deeper look at the Buslee crew photo.

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier) Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier)
Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

Last week, I explored my dilemma with the identification of the bombardier in the photo, Marvin Fryden or James Davis. I won’t spend any more time on that matter, except that although I could not find a photo of Marvin Fryden, I did find one of his younger sister, Florence.

Florence Frydyn

Florence Frydyn

Five and a half years younger than Marvin, Florence was a member of Chicago’s Sullivan High School class of 1944. According to the caption on her yearbook photo, she loved French fried potatoes and nail polish and her future plans were to attend college. I don’t see any family resemblance to the bombardier in the Buslee crew photo, but of course that’s not a definitive reason to make an identification one way or the other.

Moving on to another member of the Buslee crew, I had always wondered about Eugene Lucynski, the crew’s tail gunner. Lucynski flew fourteen missions with the 384th Bomb Group. His first twelve missions were as tail gunner with the Buslee crew, the twelth being on September 11, 1944.

Two days later, on September 13, Buslee flew as pilot with Commander William A. Fairfield, Jr. as the high group lead. The only other Buslee crew members on that flight were Lenard Bryant as engineer/top turret gunner and George Farrar as waist gunner. After that, the Buslee crew did not fly together again until September 25.

In the meantime, Eugene Lucynski flew two missions with the Joe Carnes crew, the first on September 17 and the second on September 19. It was the September 19 mission where he ran into trouble. The target was the railroad marshalling yards at Hamm, Germany. The crew was flying the fort named The Tremblin’ Gremlin. They were flying spare, but joined the formation.

Just before the IP, the initial point of the bomb run, they were struck by flak. They continued to the target, dropped their bombs, and then left the formation, appearing under control. However, the crew had to bail out over Binche, Belgium, landing in allied territory. All of the crew returned to duty except for the ball turret gunner, James Bernard King, Jr., and tail gunner Eugene Lucynski, both of whom were seriously wounded.

Lucynski was wounded by flak, specifically with multiple lacerations of his right hand and left wrist. He was hospitalized from September 19 to November 10, 1944. I know these facts because again, 384th Bomb Group combat data specialist Keith Ellefson found the document for me. Thank you again, Keith.

Keith also alerted me to this picture of Lucynski receiving the Purple Heart for his wounds suffered on that September 19 mission. That’s him kneeling, far right, in the photo.

Back row left to right: SSGT John W. Gardiner, Lt. John W. Butler Jr., Capt. Kenneth D. Myrick, and MSgt Arnold Watterson. Front Row: SSGT Walter C. Ciejka, MSG George E. Guiles, SSGT Eugene C. Lucynski Three in back row and lower left hand awarded Distinguished Flying Cross, lower right hand awarded Purple Heart. The two MSgts awarded Bronze Star.

Back row left to right: SSGT John W. Gardiner, Lt. John W. Butler Jr., Capt. Kenneth D. Myrick, and MSgt Arnold Watterson.
Front Row: SSGT Walter C. Ciejka, MSG George E. Guiles, SSGT Eugene C. Lucynski
Three in back row and lower left hand awarded Distinguished Flying Cross, lower right hand awarded Purple Heart. The two MSgts awarded Bronze Star.

Lucynski’s wounds kept him off the Buslee crew on the September 28 mission in which their fort Lead Banana was involved in a mid-air collision with the Brodie crew’s Lazy Daisy. In the hospital until November 10, when did Lucynski discover the loss of his original crew? When he did return to Grafton Underwood, he did not fly again, but probably remained there until the end of the war as part of the ground crew. I can’t help but notice that a couple of the men in the above photo are smiling, but it doesn’t look like Lucynski had anything to smile about on that day. He and everyone else were still wondering about the fate of the Buslee crew.

Lucynski’s Individual Sortie Record shows that in addition to an air medal and oak leaf cluster, a penciled in date of June 4, 1945 for recommendation for the Distinguished Flying Cross for extra achievement. I have no record that it was ever awarded.

Note:  I have found some new information on Eugene Lucynski since I first wrote about him on March 25, 2015.  (You can read that post here).

Eugene was born on December 22, 1919. His middle name was Daniel. He enlisted in WWII on June 23, 1942. He was released from the service on October 30, 1945. He died in Flint, Michigan on April 14, 1981. It seems that after the service, he shortened his last name to Lucyn.

Thank you again, Keith Ellefson, for your help.

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

Buslee Crew Photo – A Deeper Look

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier) Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier)
Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso (radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

This photo of my dad’s (George Edwin Farrar) crew in WWII still confuses me.  Is the navigator in the photo really James Davis, or is it Marvin Fryden? If it is Fryden, does the photo look like it was taken in the states before the crew shipped overseas? If it is Davis, it must be Grafton Underwood.

I sent the photo to Keith Ellefson, a researcher and combat data specialist with the 384th Bomb Group. Keith pointed out several things in the photo to me that I did not see.

Look at the far background on the right side of the picture. It looks like a tree line to me.  Than would be consistent with GU.  Most of the stateside crew training bases were on large airfields with nary a tree or fence in sight.   Looking at the background over Foster’s head, it looks to me like a fence line with some sort of grass or vines on it.  Again, GU and probably not stateside.  Also, on the far left side over the tire I think I see the slope of a squad tent roof.  If it is a tent, it is probably the crew chief’s lair next to the hardstand. I understand nearly every crew had some sort of shelter near the hardstand for warming, storage, naps, etc.

Keith annotated the photo pointing out a couple of items.

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), and Lenard Bryant (waist gunner)

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), and Lenard Bryant (waist gunner)

  • Looks like SGT Foster must have had a combat tour previous to this photo being taken.
  • Those are training qualification badges on the sleeves of two of the enlisted men.
  • All of the men in the photo are wearing wings but only Foster has any kind of awards being displayed.
  • I see two different unit patches.  Davis (or Fryden) and Lucynski are wearing the 8th AF patch.  Your dad (Farrar) and Seeley have the generic AF patch.
  • Two of the officers, Buslee and Rybarczyk also seem to have the generic AF patch.
  • Three of the enlisted guys appear to have no unit patch.
  • Then we get to the enlisted ranks, or lack of rank, on their uniforms. On the assignment orders, Lucynski  was a SSG. Your dad, Seeley and Peluso were SGTs.  Foster and Bryant were Corporals.
  • Peluso, Foster and Seeley are ’slicksleeves’  (Old army slang for no rank displayed).  I don’t know what to make of this.  Usually the guys would be immensely proud of their ranks and wouldn’t be caught without them.  If it was just one of them, I could think that the guy had been reduced in rank.  That was not uncommon back in the day.  I don’t recall seeing any of these names being reduced in rank on any special orders.
  • [I commented that perhaps some of the jackets were borrowed. Keith replied that it was a possibility.] Every soldier was issued a ‘Class A’ uniform but ….   Five of them (Bryant, Foster, Seeley, Farrar, and Peluso) were promoted to Staff Sergeant on 9 September 1944, SO #180, 9 SEP 44.  Maybe the three ‘slicksleeves’ had their jackets out for rank change and borrowed the jackets for the picture.
  • Also, talking about ranks, Foster, who had a previous tour, would normally be at least a Sergeant and more likely a Staff Sergeant.  I suspect he had been reduced to Corporal prior to being assigned to this crew.
  • Fryden is a 1st LT in the assignment orders.  The other three officers are 2nd LTs.  Fryden may have had several months or more service in the states, maybe as an instructor, prior to being assigned to this crew. I think there was something like a 6 month to one year time between 2nd LT and 1st LT. He wouldn’t have been promoted before the pilot would be promoted if they both had the same length of time in service.
  • Foster and Bryant were promoted to SGT on SO #158, 6 August 1944.  Since Bryant is wearing SGT stripes in the photo, I think this dates the photo to sometime after 6 August 1944, putting Davis in the picture.

Marilyn Fryden, Marvin’s wife, wrote about Marvin in a post to the 384th Bomb Group’s web site in 2007. Her comments support that he had been an instructor in the states for some time before being assigned to the Buslee crew. Marilyn wrote:

He had been commissioned and assigned as an instructor in the states. We had almost 2 years together. As he constantly said he was not doing his part, he finally requested combat duty and was assigned to the Gremlin with John Buslee, Dick Albrecht and other crew members.

Marvin and Marilyn had married October 8, 1942 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In a wedding announcement, her parents noted that:

Lieutenant Fryden was appointed instructor at the Albuquerque Air Base and will continue to re-side there with his bride.

After Keith’s analysis, I still question whether the photo includes Davis or Fryden. The back of the photo identifies the navigator as Davis and I believe the identification was provided by the pilot’s father. In a letter to my grandmother dated November 27, 1944, Mr. Buslee wrote:

Early in September we received a snapshot showing the crew members and the plane.  The boys all looked fine and seemed to be in the same high spirit that they enjoyed when we met them in Ardmore.

This comment indicates that Mr. Buslee would have been able to recognize the bombardier since he had met the entire crew. Mr. Buslee offered to send a copy of the photo to my grandmother if she did not have one. My grandmother, Raleigh May Farrar, must have responded to Mr. Buslee that she did indeed have a copy of the picture. He wrote back on December 16, 1944.

I note that you have a crew picture and thinking that you may not know who they are I am sending a list of names in the event that this will interest you.  To look at that group one can well understand what I mean when I say the youth are wonderful.  To my mind that is as fine an assortment of manhood as one could find anywhere and I count it a privilege that my son is among so fine a crew.  Yes I had the good fortune to meet all of them in Ardmore last June and I trust it will be my pleasure to again meet all of them and more that this may be real soon.

Mr. Buslee’s list of names:

WWII-106

Mr. Buslee would not have met James Davis in Ardmore, Oklahoma. At that time, he was not part of the Buslee crew. Marvin Fryden trained with the crew in Ardmore.

Mr. Buslee would also have already known of Marvin Fryden’s death on August 5, 1944. The Buslees and the Frydens both lived in the Chicago area, the Buslees in the Park Ridge area. The Park Ridge Advocate published an article on September 1, 1944 about the crew’s August 5 mission in which Fryden died. Mr. Buslee must have read the article by the time he wrote my grandmother.

Although mortally wounded, the bombardier of a B17 Flying Fortress calmly reported his injury to his pilot and then released his bombs on the target in a remarkable exhibition of sheer courage and presence of mind during a recent American heavy bomber attack over Germany.

The bombardier, 1st Lt. Marvin Fryden, 23, 6719 North Lakewood, Chicago, died later in an army hospital after his bomber, the “Tremblin’ Gremlin,” had reached England with only two of its four engines functioning, its fuselage riddled with more than 100 flak holes and with more than half of its crew wounded.

If the photo includes Fryden, it must have been taken before the August 5, 1944 mission on which Fryden was killed. On that same mission, Seeley was seriously wounded. Davis started flying with the crew on August 9, 1944. Since Seeley was seriously wounded on the August 5 mission, would he have been able to appear in a crew photo after that mission? He wasn’t able to fly again until October 2, 1944, four days after the Buslee crew was lost on the mission to Magdeburg on September 28.

I have not been able to locate any other photos of Marvin Fryden, but I did find a school yearbook photo of James Davis. Putting the photo in question and the photo of Davis side by side, I’m still not certain of the identification. What do you think? Is the man on the left Fryden or Davis?

Photo on left: Marvin Fryden or James Davis? Photo on right: School yearbook photo of James Davis.

Photo on left: Marvin Fryden or James Davis?
Photo on right: School yearbook photo of James Davis.

Enough for today. I have a little more info to add on a couple of the other Buslee crew members, but will hold off for next week. I think this is enough to digest today.

If anyone has a photo of Marvin Fryden (the family spelled the name Frydyn, but Marvin enlisted as Fryden), please contact me. Either comment on this post or e-mail me. Also, if anyone is good at photo analysis, please help me decide – Fryden or Davis?

Thank you, Keith Ellefson, for taking an in-depth look at this photo and providing me with so much information.

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016