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…
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…
“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017
Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963