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Chaplain Herbert Francis Butterbach

Herbert Francis Butterbach was the second Catholic chaplain of the 384th Bomb Group. Before he replaced Father Billy Method, Butterbach served with the 92nd Bomb Group, “Fames Favoured Few.” A wartime photo of Herbert Butterbach cannot be found in the records of the 92nd or 384th Bomb Group, but we would like to add one to our records if anyone has one to share.

Herbert Butterbach was born April 27, 1910 in the West End neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Marcus “Mark” George Butterbach and Josephine Mary Steedle Butterbach. In early census records, Herbert Butterbach’s middle initial was noted as “G”, like his father’s, so perhaps when he entered the priesthood, he took Francis as his middle name at that time.

His early education included St. Martin’s School and SS Peter and Paul’s School in East Liberty. He studied for the priesthood at St. Fidelis’ Seminary, Herman, and St. Vincent’s Latrobe.

Herbert Butterbach was ordained into the priesthood at the age of twenty-four in 1934. His uncle, Rev. O.P. (Otto) Butterbach, was the pastor of St. Anthony’s Church in Weiner, Arkansas and may have influenced his nephew’s interest in joining the clergy.

Newspaper articles from the late 1930’s and early 1940’s map out Herbert Butterbach’s career as a priest.

  • June 1934. Herbert Butterbach was ordained at St. Vincent’s on June 17, 1934 and for the next year was in charge of St. Mary’s Church on 57th Street in Pittsburgh and the Sacred Heart Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.  (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below).
  • August 1935 to December 1938. Herbert Butterbach served as a C.C.C. chaplain at various camps in Pennsylvania from August 16, 1935 to December 15, 1938. C.C.C. stood for Civilian Conservation Corps and Wikipedia explains that C.C.C. was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal. (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below).
  • November 1937. The November 3, 1937 Gazette Bulletin of Williamsport, Pennsylvania reported that Lt. Herbert Butterbach “assumed duties in this district as chaplain.”
  • January 1938. In January of 1938, the Daily News Standard and the Uniontown Morning Herald of Uniontown, Pennsylvania described Herbert Butterbach in articles as “a chaplain of the C.C.C. camps (who) has traveled extensively through the northern part of the United States” and “the chief Catholic chaplain of the C.C.C. camps of the northern district of Pennsylvania.”
  • June 1939. The New Castle News newspaper of New Castle, Pennsylvania places Herbert Butterbach in New Castle on June 6, 1939, perhaps still at the St. Vitus Church.
  • November 1939. Herbert Butterbach again entered the service as a C.C.C. chaplain on November 3, 1939. (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below).
  • June 1940. Herbert Butterbach transferred to Army Chaplain on June 28, 1940. (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below).
  • July 1940. On July 6, 1940, Butterbach is mentioned in the New Castle News as being “of Idaho.”
  • December 1940 – May 1941. The December 22, 1940 and May 10, 1941 Detroit Free Press places Captain Herbert Butterbach at Selfridge Field in Michigan.
  • November 1941. On November 18, 1941, the New Castle News reported:

Former Assistant Pastor Stationed at Boise, Idaho

Word has been received here that Captain Herbert Butterbach, former assistant pastor of St. Vitus Church, stationed at Selfridge Field, Detroit, Mich., has been transferred to Boise, Idaho.

Captain Butterbach is now stationed with the 42nd Medium Bomber Group, Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho.

Previous to his appointment at Selfridge Field, Captain Butterbach was a chaplain for the C.C.C. camps at Boise, Idaho.

  • January 1942. On January 14, 1942, a bomber from Gowen Field crashed thirteen miles southeast of Boise, Idaho, claiming nine lives. The Salt Lake Tribune reported a few days later that services for the victims were conducted by Chaplain F. Butterbach of Gowen Field. The article also reported a related death, that of the father of one of the pilots, Elmer Munn, Jr. His father’s, Elmer Munn Sr.’s, death was attributed to shock caused by news of the death of his son, his only child.
  • February 1943. The Drew Field Echoes was a publication at Drew Field in Tampa, Florida. It had a column called “The Chaplains Speak.” In the February 26, 1943 issue, it suggested…

There is a man you ought to get acquainted with here at Drew Field. He is the chaplain – one officer whom you can see without having to get permission. He is here to help you. He is here to listen to your troubles. He is here to go to bat for you if you need him. He is in the Army to be your friend, your advisor, your pastor. He would like to see you, not only in his office during the week but also in the Chapel services on Sunday. You need him, but he also needs your help if he is to be a good chaplain.

Where can you see him? There are chaplains in all five Chapels, and there are chaplains of all faiths here at Drew. There is a chaplain on duty in the Chapels until 9 o’clock every evening. Let me introduce you to our Chaplains.

There were two Catholic chaplains listed and Butterbach was listed first in Chapel No. 2. The list continued with the names of twelve Protestant chaplains, one Jewish chaplain, and one Christian Science Wartime Minister.

  • Spring 1943. From Herbert Butterbach’s obituary in the August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, the official organ of the diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, I calculate that Herbert Butterbach began his overseas service with the Army Air Forces around the Spring of 1943, serving for about two years with the 8th Air Force in England. (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below). The first record of his service with the 8th Air Force that I can find is with the 92nd Bomb Group.
  • March 1944. On March 16, 1944, the Pittsburg Catholic publication pictured Butterbach with the caption “Major Herbert Butterbach, St. Martin’s, West End.” The photo gallery was titled “Priests from the Diocese Who Are Serving the Nation as Chaplains with the Armed Forces.”

Major Herbert Francis Butterbach

  • August 1944. Herbert Butterbach was granted six days leave of absence from the 92nd Bomb Group on August 27, 1944.
  • September 1944. Herbert Butterbach was granted twelve days leave of absence from the 92nd Bomb Group this month, September 10 – 15 and September 24 – 29, 1944.
  • October 1944. Herbert Butterbach transferred from the 92nd Bomb Group to the 384th Bomb Group in early October 1944. Chaplain Billy Method of the 384th Bomb Group replaced him at that time.
  • January – April 1945. Herbert Butterbach’s sparse record with the 384th Bomb Group shows only that during his service there he was detailed for one day of temporary duty to London on January 10, 1945 for chaplain activities and was granted a five-day leave of absence effective April 23, 1945.
  • June 1945. Herbert Butterbach was transferred to the 398th Bomb Group at Nuthampstead, Station 131 and attached or assigned to the HQ & Base Service Squadron, 426th ASG for shipment to the USA. On June 29, 1945, Herbert F. Butterbach returned to the US after the war, arriving in New York City aboard the Queen Elizabeth.

Herbert Butterbach died of a heart attack on August 16, 1945 at Drew Field in Tampa, Florida.  He had been stateside and stationed at Drew Field only about six weeks. He was only thirty-five years old at the time of his death. He is buried in St. Martin Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Herbert Francis Butterbach’s obituary from the August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, the official organ of the diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas:

Pittsburgh – Preceded by the chanting of the Office of the Dead, Solemn Requiem Mass was offered Wednesday morning, August 22, in St. Martin’s Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the Rev. Herbert F. Butterbach, nephew of the Rev. O.P. Butterbach, pastor of St. Anthony’s Church, Weiner, Arkansas.

Father Herbert Butterbach, a major in the chaplain corps, U.S. Army, was stricken with a heart attack at Drew Field, Tampa, Florida, where he had been stationed for the past six weeks after serving nearly two years in England with the Eighth Air Force. Most of his priestly life, since he was ordained in 1934, had been spent as a chaplain, first with the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C. Camps) and then with the Army Air Forces.

Father Otto Butterbach was celebrant of his nephew’s Funeral Mass…

Burial was in St. Martin’s Cemetery, Elliott, with a military escort present.

Born in the West End on April 27, 1910, the only child of his parents (Mark G. and Josephine Steedle Butterbach), Father Butterbach attended St. Martin’s School and SS Peter and Paul’s School, East Liberty, and made his studies for the priesthood at St. Fidelis’ Seminary, Herman, and St. Vincent’s Latrobe. He was ordained at St. Vincent’s on June 17, 1934, by Bishop (Hugh C.) Boyle, and for the ensuing year was in charge, pro tem, of St. Mary’s Church, 57th St., and Sacred Heart Church, McKeesport.

From Aug. 16, 1935, to Dec. 15, 1938, he served as a CCC chaplain at various camps in Pennsylvania, and for the next year was assistant at St. Vitus’ Church, New Castle. On Nov. 3, 1939, he again entered the service as CCC chaplain, transferring to Army Chaplain on June 28, 1940.

To read the original article in The Guardian, click here.

Thank you to Candy Kyler Brown and Group Historian Rob Hutchings with the 92nd Bomb Group for information on the transfers of Billy Method and Herbert Butterbach.

Thank you, also, to Keith Ellefson, Combat Data Specialist and Researcher with the 384th Bomb Group for his assistance with this article.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Chaplain Method Cyril Billy

Chaplain Method Billy at Grafton Underwood

Chaplain Method Cyril Billy was the first Catholic chaplain of the 384th Bomb Group. He was known by the men of the 384th as Father Billy or Brother Billy.

Father Method Billy was born as Michael Billy on December 12, 1910 to Joseph and Elizabeth Billy who had immigrated to America from Slovakia in 1897. Joseph earned a living as a coal miner in the Midvale section of Plains Township, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth was a housewife and mother. Michael was their fifth of nine children.

They were a religious family and Michael was not the only Billy child to be called into religious service. All three Billy sons became priests: Joseph (Monsignor Florian), John (Reverend Anthony), and Michael (Monsignor Method). Four of the six Billy daughters became nuns and served as teachers: Anna (Sister Ulphia), Elizabeth (Sister Emiliana), Margaret (Sister Gemma), and Cecelia (Sister Elise). Only two daughters, Mary (the oldest daughter) and Emily (the youngest daughter), married and had children.

In 1929, Michael Billy graduated from St. Francis Seminary in Staten Island, New York. He entered the Novitiate of the Conventual Franciscan Friar in Syracuse, New York where he received the religious name, Method Cyril Billy, and professed his religious vows in 1930. He likely took his religious name from the Saints Cyril and Method Friary.

Billy also studied theology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Method Billy was ordained a priest on July 26, 1935. In 1936, he was assigned as a professor at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, New York, where he remained until at least 1940, according to the 1940 census.

Method Billy enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and served as a Chaplain for four years. He was assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group Headquarters Complement per Headquarters Detachment 384th Bomb Group Morning Report dated 23 August 1943, effective 22 August 1943.

Father Billy saying Mass at Grafton Underwood

In early October 1944, the same month 384th Bomb Group Commander Dale Smith transferred out of the 384th on the 24th, Billy Method was transferred to the 92nd Bomb Group based in Poddington, England. In return, the 92nd Bomb Group sent their Catholic chaplain, Herbert Butterbach, to the 384th.

Regardless of the fact that Brother Billy had left the Group, he was at the 384th in spirit until the end of the war. Eugene Spearman, a radio operator who didn’t arrive at Grafton Underwood until February of 1945, wrote about the 384th’s chaplain and identified him as Brother Billy. To me, this shows the high esteem the men of the 384th had for Method Billy. Billy’s name and reputation lived on even after he had left Grafton Underwood.

We then taxied out to the end of the runway and awaited our signal for take-off. Standing just outside the plane during most of my missions even in rain or snow stood a man, Bro. Billy, holding a Bible. His being there was such a blessing for me. Just knowing that someone was praying for me made me feel better.

Father Method Billy at Grafton Underwood

After the war, Method Billy was Guardian at St. Bonaventure Friary in Washington, D.C. There he pursued advanced studies and received the Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of America, after which he became a Professor of Theology. In 1957, he was appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Endicott, New York, and later served as Professor of Religious Studies at Maria Regina College in Syracuse, New York. He later was assigned to Saints Cyril and Method Friary in Binghamton, New York.

Portrait of Method Cyril Billy

Monsignor Method Billy died Nov 9, 1995. He is buried in the Saint Cyril Slovak Catholic Cemetery in Binghamton, Broome County, New York.

Thank you to Candy Kyler Brown with the 92nd Bomb Group for information on the transfers of Billy Method and Herbert Butterbach.

Series to be continued with Chaplain Herbert Butterbach…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

384th Bomb Group Chaplains

In WWII, clergy could not be drafted for military service. However, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many felt patriotic and enlisted. Although there were a few exceptions, the requirements for a military chaplain at the time of initial examination included:

  • Male citizen of the USA
  • 23 to 34 years old
  • 4-year college degree
  • 3 years of theological seminary education
  • Ordained, accredited by, and in good standing with a religious denomination or organization
  • Primary occupation in the ministry with 3 years of experience

There were Christian-faith (Catholic and Protestant) and Jewish-faith chaplains in the Chaplains Corps. But there were very limited numbers of chaplains, so often one chaplain would minister to all faiths.

As far as I can tell, the 384th Bomb Group had three chaplains during its stay in Grafton Underwood. Two of those chaplains were Catholic, Method Billy and Herbert Francis Butterbach. The other chaplain was Protestant, Dayle R. Schnelle. I cannot find record of a Jewish chaplain, or Rabbi, but I am still searching.

The importance of the group chaplain to the men of the 384th cannot be underestimated. Eugene Spearman, a radio operator with the group, wrote about the importance of the presence of this religious figure to him before missions.

One thing that I was thankful for was that a minister or priest stood holding a Bible beside the runway just before we released the brakes and raced down the runway on every mission, rain or shine. Standing just beside the end of the runway, where we made that final check of instruments before releasing the brakes, stood a minister. I don’t know what denomination he represented, but it was an inspiration to me to see him there. And then we were on our way.

The first Catholic chaplain was Method C. Billy. Brother Billy or Father Billy, as he was known, served under the first group commander, Budd Peaslee, and the second, interim commander, Julius Lacey. In the Fall of 1943, Dale Smith took command of the 384th. Smith wrote in his book “Screaming Eagle” that his service with the 384th was the “most challenging and terrifying year of my life.”

Smith found that the men of the 384th had such respect for original commander Budd Peaslee that any replacement could not measure up to the great man. Ask anyone familiar with 384th Bomb Group history today who the commander of the 384th was and the answer will be Budd Peaslee. There was a succession of commanders, six of them in fact, but the only name you will likely hear in answer to that question is Peaslee’s.

Smith felt like an outsider at Grafton Underwood and felt the continued allegiance of the men to Peaslee to such an extent that he replaced many of the group’s leaders. Perhaps Brother Billy was one of those or who did not fit into Smith’s plans for the group. In the Fall of 1944, Smith transferred Brother Billy and replaced him with Herbert Francis Butterbach.

At the end of WWII, when the 384th Bomb Group moved to Istres, France, they had at least one chaplain with them with the last name Duvall. He could have been James T. Duvall, who served during the war as chaplain of the 398th Bomb Group, according to the American Air Museum in Britain.

For more information about the Chaplain Corps, click here.

Thank you to 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist and Researcher Keith Ellefson for contributions to this article.

I will continue this series with separate posts about and photos of Chaplains Method Billy, Herbert Francis Butterbach, Dayle R. Schnelle, and James T. Duvall…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Robert Jeremy Fisher

Several years ago, as I was researching the 384th Bomb Group’s mission of September 28, 1944 – the mission on which my dad’s B-17 and another B-17 of his Group collided over Magdeburg, Germany – I wrote about original Buslee crew navigator Chester Rybarczyk. The original post is here.

Chester Rybarczyk was flying with the William J. Blankenmeyer crew that day aboard Hot Nuts. The Blankenmeyer crew’s Sortie Report for that mission stated that they “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.” With Rybarczyk on board, I imagined that the reason they left formation was to try to determine the fate of Rybarczyk’s Buslee crewmates as he watched the two planes fall to earth.

I have learned that was not the case. The 384th Bomb Group’s Facebook Group is a wealth of information and that is where I found that my reasoning about why the Blankenmeyer crew left formation was not correct.

Through the Facebook group, I have made many connections with 384th Bomb Group Veterans and their children, nieces, nephews, grandchildren, and great-nieces and nephews. Sometimes one of them provides me with a missing piece of the puzzle of my father’s WWII service and this was one of those times.

Robert Jeremy “Bob” Fisher was the co-pilot of the Blankenmeyer crew and was aboard Hot Nuts on September 28, 1944. Bob and his son and daughter are all members of the Facebook group. When Bob’s children chimed in on one of the threads on Facebook and mentioned their dad, I looked him up in the 384th Bomb Group’s database and found that he was on that mission and on the B-17 with Chester Rybarczyk.

Formation chart of the High Group, September 28, 1944. Buslee and Brodie collide after coming off the target. The Blankenmeyer crew, including co-pilot Bob Fisher and Buslee crew navigator Chester Rybarczyk, witness the collision.

After I requested Bob’s children to ask their dad if he remembered that mission, his daughter did so and told me of a small notebook in which her dad wrote notes about each mission. On September 28, 1944, Bob Fisher wrote:

Made reciprocal run on target due to group under us when we were to drop the first time. On turn one we almost hit our squadron leader due to an exceedingly sharp turn. On turn off target 2 planes hit together and both went down. Seven chutes reported. Let down more slowly then formation due to the fact that Bill’s ears would not clear. Had some trouble with mine – ambulance met us at dispersal and took Bill to get his ears cleared. Bill grounded-as is Reed and Obermeyer.

The reason the Blankenmeyer crew left formation was because the pilot, William J. “Bill” Blankenmeyer was having trouble clearing his ears.

But there is another interesting clue in Bob Fisher’s notebook. Obermeyer was not the crew’s navigator on September 28, 1944 as he had previously been grounded. Because of his grounding, Chester Rybarczyk filled in for him, keeping him off the Buslee crew’s plane that day. Had he flown with the Buslee crew, he would have been one of the men to perish aboard Lead Banana that day after the mid-air collision. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the only survivor.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

The 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

I help out the 384th Bomb Group as one of the administrators of their magnificent photo gallery. It is one of the best collections of WWII photos from a single bomb group on the internet. Our group also hosts a Facebook page and members regularly post wonderful photos of family members that were in the 384th. But the photos posted to our Facebook group are not of the best quality and highest resolution, are not easily downloadable, and are not searchable by names like the ones in the photo gallery.

I love seeing all the photos members share in the Facebook group, but every time I see a new one, I wish the photo would also be posted in the 384th’s photo gallery so it would become a part of the permanent collection. The gallery is a permanent, stable, organized, and most importantly (to me, anyway) searchable repository of photos and documents of the 384th Bomb Group.

In an effort to get more of those photos into the gallery, I have written a set of instructions for creating a gallery account (which is free) and uploading photos (also free). Downloading any of the photos to your personal computer is also free.


384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Registration and Photo Upload Instructions

Welcome to the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery.  All content on the gallery is visible to all visitors. Those wishing to enter a comment or contribute images will need to register and log in (links on left side of Home page). Please register for an account when you need access beyond viewing gallery content.

To open the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery Home page:

You may also access the gallery from the PHOTO GALLERY menu selection “Photo Gallery – Top” at


Account Registration and Login

  1. To register for an account, click Register in the Identification section on the left side of the Home page.

  1. Create a Username and Password on the Home/Registration page and enter your Email address.

 Note:  The Username you enter here will become your Community album name.

You must fill out all fields on the Home/Registration page to register for an account.  Optionally check the box to “Send my connection settings by email” to receive a record of your Username and Password.  Click the Register button to complete registration.

  1. Upon registration, you will be logged into the photo gallery and will optionally receive an email record of your registration.

  1. If you log out, or the system logs you out on exiting the photo gallery, you must enter your Username and Password to log back in.


You may click Login or you may enter your Username and Password in the Quick connect section.  Check the Auto login box to stay logged into the photo gallery so that you will not have to log in each time.  DO NOT check the Auto login box on a public or shared computer.

  1. You may now enter comments on photos within the gallery and upload your own images. You now have your own Community album in which to upload photos, but note that you will not see your album in the gallery’s Community albums until you add at least one photo.


Upload Photos to the Gallery

  1. To upload photos, click Upload photos in the Menu section on the left side of the page.

  1. The Home/Upload photos page will open with your Community album already selected for you. You may upload photos only to your album.

  1. To use the default Browser uploader, click Choose File to select photos to upload. The maximum size limit for individual photos is 6MB.

IMPORTANT!  Click Set Photo Properties to add a photo Title (short and descriptive), Author (your name), and Description (long description including identifications).  You must add these items NOW as you upload your photos.  You will not be able to add or edit these fields later.  The Description is very important and should include as much information as you have about the photo, especially identification of people in the photo.  But you must upload only one photo at a time to enter a unique Title and Description for each one.

  1. You may upload more than one photo at a time by selecting + Add an upload box as long as you stay within the 64MB maximum size limit. If you exceed the file size limit, your photos will not upload properly.  If your photos have different descriptions, do not upload them together.  Upload only one photo at a time and use Set Photo Properties to add separate titles and descriptions to each.
  1. After selecting a photo to upload, click the Start upload button.
  1. Once your photo(s) upload, you will see a message that they have uploaded into your Community album and you will see a thumbnail of the photos. You may click on the thumbnails to see photos in your Community album or you may click Add another set of photos to upload more photos.
  1. You may choose to upload your photos with the Flash uploader instead of the Browser uploader. In “You are using the Browser uploader.  Try the Flash uploader instead,” click on Flash uploader.  Click Select files and select the photos you wish to upload.

NOTE:  You must have Flash Player installed to use the Flash uploader.

IMPORTANT!  Click Set Photo Properties to add a photo Title (short and descriptive), Author (your name), and Description (long description including identifications).  You must add these items NOW as you upload your photos.  You will not be able to add or edit these fields later.  The Description is very important and should include as much information as you have about the photo, especially identification of people in the photo.  But you must upload only one photo at a time to enter a unique Title and Description for each one.

  1. After selecting photos to upload, click the Start upload button.

View My Photo Album

To view photos in your Community album, click Community in the Albums section on the left side of the screen or click the Community album on the Home page.  As long as there are photos in your Community album, your album name will display in the list.  Your album name will be the Username you registered with.  You can select your album by clicking on the name of your album (your Username) in the list.


Where Are My Photos?

At times, gallery administrators move photos from the Community albums into the appropriate albums in the gallery.  For example, crew photos will be moved into the individual squadron crew albums.  If you have uploaded photos and can no longer find them in your Community album, or cannot find your Community album, your photos have been moved.  You may search for your photos by Author (your Username) using the gallery’s search feature.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017