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Raleigh May and the Liberty Bell

My dad was George Edwin (Ed) Farrar, who served in WWII in the 8th Air Force, 384th Bomb Group (Heavy), 544th Bomb Squadron. During the time he served, he wasn’t married and he didn’t have a girlfriend waiting at home for him. Like many unattached young men in the service, his number one girl was his mother.

My dad’s mother was the former Raleigh May George of Atlanta, Georgia. She was born in 1890, grew up in the Grant Park area, and lost her father, Raleigh David George, not long after her first birthday.

The George family after Raleigh David’s death. Pictured are (and this is my guess based on ages): Standing back L: James England George Standing back R: Hayden Edger George Standing front L: Julia Cleo George Standing front R: Eunice “Ennis” George Seated: Mary Willie Hollingsworth George, holding Raleigh May George

The George family after Raleigh David’s death. Pictured are (and this is my guess based on ages):
Standing back L: James England George
Standing back R: Hayden Edger George
Standing front L: Julia Cleo George
Standing front R: Eunice “Ennis” George
Seated: Mary Willie Hollingsworth George, holding Raleigh May George

Raleigh May grew up to be a very patriotic woman who during WWII had three sons in the military. Sons Carroll and Ed were in the Air Force and son Bob was in the Navy.

Raleigh May’s feeling of intense patriotism did not start in WWI or WWII. It started much earlier, in 1895, when she was five years old. In that year, the Cotton States and International Exposition was held in Atlanta, Georgia from September 18 to December 31 on the grounds of what today is Piedmont Park.

A few weeks after the start of the Exposition, the Liberty Bell came to Atlanta as a prime attraction of the fair. After the Civil War, the Bell had become a symbol of unity and the idea was to bring the Bell to the people to proclaim liberty and to inspire the cause of freedom.

The Liberty Bell had already traveled to New Orleans in 1885 for a World Industrial and Cotton Exposition, and to Chicago in 1893 for the World’s Fair. A crowd greeted the Bell in Atlanta. A two-mile parade from the train station took the Bell to the Exposition, where tens of thousands of people lined up to see it pass.

Liberty Bell Parade, October 8, 1895

Liberty Bell Parade in Atlanta, Georgia

Liberty Bell Day was proclaimed on October 9 when the Liberty Bell was installed in the Pennsylvania Building at the Exposition.

installation-of-liberty-bell-in-pa-building

A book written about the Cotton States and International Exposition (see sources below), describes events of Liberty Bell Day in Atlanta.

The pupils in the public schools were given a special holiday, and it was further directed that every teacher in the Gate City [a historic nickname of Atlanta] should previously relate to her pupils the story of the Bell and bring home to them its patriotic significance. Railroads and traction companies volunteered to carry children free to the Exposition, that none might be debarred from some share in the celebration.

A grand civic and military parade escorted the Bell to the grounds in Piedmont Park, where, at noon, upon the broad steps of the Pennsylvania Building, in the presence of 30,000 people, it was solemnly given over to the care of the City of Atlanta.

At the Liberty Bell Day ceremony, Mayor Charles F. Warwick of Philadelphia spoke to the people of Atlanta.

We leave it in the hands of its and our friends. We know you will watch it with the same solicitude and tenderness that we bestow upon it. Though its lips be mute, though its tongue be silent, it is more eloquent that ten thousand human voices. Its echoes still thrill the world. The words inscribed upon its surface, taken from Holy Writ, are prophetic. It seems as if they must have been written by inspiration, and may they go ringing down the ages, giving hope and encouragement to nations yet unborn, to peoples not yet free.

The inscription on the Liberty Bell is a Bible verse taken from the book of Leviticus 25:10. It reads, “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all inhabitants thereof.”

Four officers (Robert Mofflit, James A. Robinson, Frank F. Westphal, and Harry Hetteroth) from the Philadelphia Police Department were specially detailed to guard the Bell during its stay in Atlanta until the end of the Exposition on December 31, 1895. During its travels outside Philadelphia, the Liberty Bell’s guards have been blamed for the worsening of the crack in the Bell. They were accused of chipping off pieces of the Bell and selling them as souvenirs.

I don’t know the validity of that claim, but I do know of one of the wonderful, kind things one of the guards did that impressed patriotism upon my grandmother, Raleigh May George, at a very early age. She was one of the school children, then only fives years old and a kindergartener, brought to see the Bell. One of the guards picked Raleigh out of the crowd of children, lifted her up, and told her to put her hands on the bell. As her tiny hands touched the Bell, the guard told her she would remember the moment for the rest of her life. He instructed her to tell the story to her own children one day.

Children surround Liberty Bell at Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia

Children surround Liberty Bell at Cotton States Exposition in Atlanta, Georgia

The simple act of the Bell’s guard impressed my grandmother’s young mind so deeply that she did remember that special moment years later and told the story to her children. She told the story to her daughter, Beverly, and Aunt Beverly told it to me. Aunt Beverly turns eighty today, January 25, 2017 – Happy Birthday, Beverly! She shares her birth date with her mother, Raleigh May George Farrar, who gave birth to Beverly at forty-seven years old.

Beverly is the last one of Raleigh May’s nine children now that are left. I am thankful that Beverly shared this story with me. My grandmother didn’t get the chance to tell it to me herself, not that I remember anyway. She died shortly after my first birthday. Patriotism runs deep in our family and it has its roots in the Liberty Bell.

My Grandmother, Raleigh May George Farrar

My Grandmother, Raleigh May George Farrar

Sources:

http://www.todayingeorgiahistory.org/content/liberty-bell-atlanta

http://www.ushistory.org/libertybell/timeline.html

“Pennsylvania at the Cotton States and International Exposition, Atlanta, Georgia : September 18th to December 31st, 1895” by Clarence M. Busch

Photos:

http://album.atlantahistorycenter.com/cdm/ref/collection/howexpo/id/0

http://atlrailcorridorarchive.org/items/show/187

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

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Eighteen Families’ Lives on a Roller Coaster

1944-10-14-AdjutantGeneral-001

On October 14, 1944, a Western Union telegram messenger delivered the same message to eighteen families across America. Only the names of the son or the husband were different. The families of the eighteen boys that were on two B-17s of the 384th Bomb Group, Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, would learn that their loved ones were lost sixteen days earlier on September 28. The families would not know for months if missing meant imprisoned or dead.

Hearts sank. Tears flowed. The importance of any aspect of their lives disappeared except for this one thing. The wait for word that their boy was safe, that their boy would return home to them one day. Those eighteen families were on a roller coaster ride of hope and desperation. All because of one day, one telegram. News that no mother or father, brother or sister, or wife wanted to hear. How many times was this one telegram read and re-read?

The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son Staff Sergeant George E Farrar has been reported missing in action since Twenty Eight September over Germany If further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified

Ulio the Adjutant General

My grandmother, Raleigh May Farrar, received this particular telegram in October 1944. It was such an important piece of paper to her that she saved it all her life. After she was gone, my dad saved it. After my dad died, my mother saved it. I now have it and when I’m gone, since I don’t have any children to pass it on to, hopefully my nephew will save it and then someday pass it on to his children. One piece of paper with quite a story behind it. And it is this one piece of paper that signifies the start of the roller coaster my family and seventeen other families rode because back in the 1940’s a madman on another continent wanted to take over the world and young American men went to war to fight for our freedom.

Freedom is not free. It comes at a very high price. For these eighteen families, only four received word that their sons were prisoners of war. Fourteen received the worst kind of news, that their sons had died fighting for their country. Freedom cost fourteen souls in a matter of moments, in a collision of B-17s in the skies above a foreign land.

For the four families, the roller coaster stopped and they got off. The wait began for the war to be over and their boys to be free.

The roller coaster did not stop for the fourteen families to disembark at the bottom of the hill, but instead continued its descent and carried them straight into Hell. Their sons and their husbands were never coming back to them. Fourteen lives cut short and fourteen families destroyed, their lives changed forever. A mere drop in the bucket of the price of our freedom in WWII.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

The Vevle Twins

The co-pilot of the James Brodie crew was Lloyd Vevle. He lost his life in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision between his B-17, Lazy Daisy, and the Buslee crew’s B-17, Lead Banana. I have written about Lloyd previously here.

Lloyd had a twin brother named Floyd in the 390th Bomb Group.  Floyd lost his life early the next year on January 14, 1945. I have also previously written about Floyd here.

The reason I am returning to the story of the Vevle twins at this time is that 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson has informed me that the American Air Museum in Britain website has found and added photos of the Vevle boys.

Since the AAM so kindly shares their photos, I am pleased to have the opportunity to share them here.

Lloyd Oliver Vevle, 384th Bomb Group

Lloyd Oliver Vevle, 384th Bomb Group

 

Floyd Martin Vevle, 390th Bomb Group

Floyd Martin Vevle, 390th Bomb Group

As I’m digging into research again on the Buslee and Brodie crews, I need to revisit sources like the American Air Museum in Britain for updated information on all of the boys of both crews. I also will be digging into the research records that I obtained from the National Personnel Research Center during my visit last October.

The picture of these two crews and their families becomes clearer to me with every bit of information I find. Thank you to all of them for the sacrifices they made in WWII.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Budd J. Peaslee – Part 1

I have previously written about all of the commanders of the 384th Bomb Group except one. If you ask anyone who commanded the Group, the first – and sometimes only – answer will be Budd Peaslee. Budd was the most beloved of those in charge of leading this group of heavy bomber boys into war. I think he mattered most to them because they knew that they mattered most to him.

Why did I wait to write about the first commander last? Because I found him the most interesting and realized that I could not cover the story of Budd Peaslee in one blog post. I don’t know how many posts it will take to share everything I want to share about this man, but my plan is to write about him once a month in this weekly blog until I’ve said all I want to say.

Otherwise, I plan to return primarily to writing about my dad and his crew and their families during WWII. There are many, many wonderful stories that came out of all the boys of the 384th’s experiences, but I do not have time to write about them all. So I have decided to return my focus to the Buslee and Brodie crews of the 544th and 545th Bomb Squads of the 384th.

I constantly discover new relatives, NexGens, of these boys and want to share the story of their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and great uncles with them, and with anyone else who will listen. We all need to be reminded of their sacrifice in their fight for our freedom. When we are reminded of that cost, it makes our sense of freedom all the sweeter. Know it. Feel it. And share it with the next generation.

And now I turn my attention to that first commander…

COL. BUDD J. PEASLEE

Budd John Peaslee was born May 26, 1902 in Napoli, Cattaragus County, New York, to Geoffrey J. and Zella Ida Glover Peaslee. Budd’s father was a native of New York and his mother was from Michigan. While Budd was still a young boy, the family moved across the country and by 1910, Geoff, Zella, and Budd were living in Monterey in Monterey County, California.  The 1910 census lists Geoff as a helper at an oil pumping station.

Ten years later, according to the 1920 census, the family was living in Toro in Monterey County. Today the area is known as Toro Park. Geoff was the Chief Stationary Engineer for the oil pumping station. Geoff and Zella’s family had grown from one to four children. Budd, now 17, had been joined by a sister and two brothers, Julia J. 7, Everett C. 5, and Richard T. 3 years old.

In 1922, Budd graduated from Salinas High School. A later publication of the Salinas High School Yearbook reported that in 1923, Budd worked for Associated Oil Co.

On July 2, 1927, at twenty-five years old, Budd enlisted in the military.

In 1930, Budd was twenty-eight years old and was a married man. His wife was Nettie Caroline Phelps, who was nineteen years old (born June 29, 1911 in New Berlin, Chenango County, New York). Some records show they married in 1933, but the census records show them as married and living together in 1930. Budd was a lieutenant in the United States Army and the Peaslees were stationed in Wahiawa, Honolulu, Hawaii Territory.

By 1935, Budd and Nettie had returned to the mainland and were living in Monroe, Amherst County, Virginia. That year Nettie gave birth to their son, Richard John.

On January 31, 1940, Budd’s wife Nettie died in Riverside, Riverside County, California. He remarried Evelyn Davis (born September 13, 1914 in Alabama) in 1941.

The attack on Pearl Harbor came on December 7, 1941. Just short of a year later, the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated on December 1, 1942 at Gowen Field, Idaho. Budd Peaslee was named commander of the group on December 18. By now Budd was a veteran pilot with extensive flying experience, including the B-17.

Budd Peaslee could tell you best about the start of the 384th Bomb Group’s training phase at Wendover Army Air Base in Utah on January 1, 1943 in this excerpt from Budd’s book, “Heritage of Valor.”

The 384th, destined to be a combat group of the Eighth Air Force, European Theater of Operations, came into official existence on January 1, 1943, with two officers present. The writer as the commanding officer, and one Captain “Pop” Dolan, intelligence officer extraordinaire. The station of organization was located 125 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah, and about 500 miles to the east of San Francisco, Calif., on as barren a piece of desert as any in the United States. This Wendover Army Air Base stood about a hundred yards east of the Nevada-Utah border. The first official act of the group came when Capt. Dolan, his face whipped to a cherry red by the icy wind, presented himself smartly to the colonel, “Reporting for duty.”

A month later, on February 4, 1943, Budd lost his father, Geoffrey J. Peaslee, who died in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County, California. Budd didn’t have much time to mourn his father’s passing while he was preparing a B-17 heavy bomber group for war.

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963