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Monthly Archives: December 2017

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An Italian-American Airman on Television

In October, RAI (Italian television and radio) journalist Vittorio Argento traveled from Rome, Italy to Ocala, Florida to interview 384th Bomb Group pilot John DeFrancesco. I previously posted this article about Vittorio’s visit here.

The TV show has aired in Italy and I thought I would share it here.  It is available now through this link. This is a direct link to the episode of November 26, 2017, episode 26.11.17 of TG2 Storie.

Before you watch, I must let you know that the program is for Italian viewers and everyone, including John, is speaking Italian, but I think with the wonderful job of editing that Vittorio did with the photos and WWII footage he used, you’ll be able to follow the story just fine.

Multiple stories are presented in the program. John’s story starts at 28:58 in the video and goes through 34:45. Notice the photo on the wall of John’s kitchen.  That’s me and my Stalag Luft IV daughter friends with John. Standing left to right are Laura Edge and I. Seated left to right are Ellen Weaver Hartman, John DeFrancesco, and Candy Kyler Brown.

The story includes a photo of my dad and some of his crewmates at 33:52. They are left to right, George Edwin Farrar (my dad), Lenard Leroy Bryant, Erwin V. Foster, and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso (also an Italian-American). Vittorio also included several other photos of 384th Bomb Group airmen and ground crew.

Thank you, Vittorio Argento, for helping the 384th Bomb Group “Keep the Show on the Road.” You did an exceptional job telling 384th Bomb Group pilot John’s DeFrancesco’s story!

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

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Budd Peaslee – Part 9

Budd Peaslee – Part 8 was published December 13, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 9 concludes my series of posts on the first commander of the 384th Bomb Group, Budd Peaslee.

In the final pages of the final chapter of Heritage of Valor, Budd Peaslee recounted the statistics of the 384th Bomb Group’s “enviable” combat record in WWII. The 384th Bomb Group:

  • Flew 316 missions
  • Dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs on enemy targets
  • Lost 159 B-17’s
  • Lost 1,625 men
  • Were credited with the destruction of 165 enemy fighters in combat, plus 34 probably destroyed and 116 damaged

At the end of hostilities in Europe, the 384th moved to Istres, France where they participated in the evacuation. The airfield at Grafton Underwood was returned to its original tenants for the use of grazing cattle and sheep.

Peaslee wrote that the designation of the group was “no longer a proud identity in the armed forces” but for a select and honorable group of men for whom 384 will always have a special meaning. He would probably be pleased to find that the special meaning of 384 has been passed down to children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews of those men. He would probably be pleased to know the pride we have in the group and of the men of that group, who were represented by that number – 384.

Budd Peaslee died before the 384th Bomb Group website was developed, before the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery became filled with priceless photos, and before the 384th Bomber Group Facebook group started its first discussion. I think Budd Peaslee would be very proud that we have no intention of letting the number 384 become simply “a number preceded by 383 and followed by 385.” We will remember the acts of valor by the men of the 384th and we will make sure future generations learn what these men did for us.

During his military service, Budd Peaslee was awarded the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Croix de Guerre, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals, service and campaign medals, and a Presidential Citation.

After WWII, Colonel Budd Peaslee served in Formosa as head of the Far East Air Force Section. He retired from the military in 1953 because of physical disabilities. In civilian life, he was the director of the Salinas, California airport and enjoyed flying his Cessna 195.

Budd Peaslee’s wife, Evelyn, died May 8, 1980, and three years later, Budd died on April 3, 1983 in Salinas, California. They are buried in the Garden of Memories in Salinas, Monterey County, California.

I want to close this series on Budd Peaslee with the closing words of his book, Heritage of Valor. Of all the stories written about WWII – the battles, the personal accounts, the self-published, and the best sellers – Budd Peaslee’s final words of Heritage of Valor affect me more deeply than any other.

The tumult and the shouting have died away. The B-17’s and B-24’s will never again assemble into strike formation in the bitter cold of embattled skies. Never again will the musical thunder of their passage cause the very earth to tremble, the source of sound lost in infinity and seeming to emanate from all things, visible and invisible. The great deep-throated engines are forever silent, replaced by the flat, toneless roar of the jets and the rockets. But, on bleak and lonely winter nights in the English Midlands, ghost squadrons take off silently in the swirling mist of the North Sea from the ancient week-choked runways, and wing away toward the east, never to return. On other nights the deserted woodlands ring with unheard laughter and gay voices of young men and young women who once passed that way. Recollections of all these fade a little with each passing year until at last there will finally remain only the indelible records of the all-seeing Master of the Universe to recall the deeds of valor excelled by no other nation, arm, or service. These sacred scrolls will forever remain the heritage of the free and untrampled people of this earth.

Budd Peaslee, courtesy of Quentin Bland via the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 6 was published November 29, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 7 was published December 6, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 8 was published December 13, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

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

Budd Peaslee – Part 8

Budd Peaslee – Part 7 was published December 6, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee thought that WWII was a different type of war. He believed historians have left unsaid “a million words” in the telling of the impact the air war had on the outcome of WWII. He also believed that

Due to the nature of the conflict, no airman could reach the stature to be remembered a hundred years hence.

I doubt that Budd Peaslee would have believed that almost seventy-five years after he lead a heavy bomber group in WWII that he would be remembered so well and so fondly by men who served under him, 384th veterans who only heard of this legend from those who went before them, and by us NexGens, the next generation, who never tire of hearing about this great man who was the first Commander of the bomb group in which our fathers served.

After Budd Peaslee left the command of the 384th, he lead the First Scouting Force, of which he was the primary founder. Peaslee suggested the Scouting Force to 8th Air Force Commander Jimmie Doolittle as a way to gather real-time intelligence in advance of bombing missions by the Eighth Air Force. Peaslee described his idea as:

The First Scouting Force was born in the tormented mind of a bomber commander when his formations were broken up by unpredictable weather conditions along the target route.

Peaslee went on to describe the mission of the Scouting Force:

The mission of the Combat Air Scouts was to range out in front of the penetrating bombers, reporting back by radio any facts of weather, opposition in the form of enemy fighter gaggles, or smoke screens in the target area. On the return flight to England, their mission became that of escort to crippled bombers forced to abandon the cover of defensive formations for one reason or another. They were also to observe and report on any other unusual enemy activity noted along the routes and to search for and report clear areas where the bombers might descend to their bases without the long tedious process of descent on instruments, in cases where conditions of poor flying weather prevailed over the British Isles. Not the least of the Scout function was to prevent the bombers from being forced into conditions of weather by the mass of their formations and the momentum of their flight. The Air Scouts, led by former bomber commanders, investigated all weather hazards and kept the bomber leader informed by radio.

Peaslee explained that the Scouts were not in the air to become aces, but to save bombers, which he notes they succeeded in beyond expectation. He quotes an official evaluation in a citation which states the Scouts were of “inestimable value to the prosecution of heavy bombardment operations.”

Plaque in the Road to Berlin exhibit in the WWII Museum in New Orleans

Regardless of his founding of and continued role in the Scouting Force, Peaslee’s heart was still with the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton Underwood.

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 6 was published November 29, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 7 was published December 6, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

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

Budd Peaslee – Part 7

Budd Peaslee – Part 6 was published November 29, 2017 here. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to the entire series).

In Heritage of Valor, Budd Peaslee describes air battles, including the brutal first Schweinfurt mission, from the Summer of 1943 into the Fall. He quotes statistics, including numbers of bombers lost and number of men lost. But the most memorable words of his book to me are not the statistics, but his understanding of the brutalities of war and his empathy for the men who served under him. He wrote:

The men who flew the missions were numb with fatigue and the mental strain of facing death in one form or another – from hundreds of thousands of shrapnel fragments, cannon projectiles, bursting bombs, bullets, fire, oxygen starvation, or a fall from five miles up to sudden and total destruction on the ground. This kind of war had no foxholes or dugouts, no hedgerows or earthworks, no place to hide, no place to run; it was a far different kind of conflict than man had before faced.

He continued with this excerpt that answers the endless “what was it like over there” question to a veteran who was there long ago…

In the absolute darkness of the blacked-out metal huts of the combat crews there was silence except for the regular heavy breathing of those who slept and the creaking of the restless bedsprings of those who couldn’t. Always, day and night, day after day and night after night, there was the distant rumble of engines, as much a part of the air as oxygen. The engines were never still, but had to be listened for with effort except when some crewman revved up a nearby bomber engine to test the replaced spark plugs or the power output of a new turbo-supercharger. In this lonely darkness a man was alone with himself and his thoughts, from which there was no escape. It was in this hour of truth that those with the keenest sensibilities suffered the most. To some the thought of what they and their comrades must face on the morrow took possession of their minds and with it came a vague sadness for those they had seen falter in the vast expanses of sky and then start the long fall toward oblivion.

He continued with the answer to another question – why didn’t our fathers talk about the war?

To some came the nameless dread of the future for themselves, and the restlessness of suspense while waiting for the inevitable. To others, the more sensitive, there was thought of the guilt they bore for their acts and contributions. They saw the masses of the innocent, the aged infirm and helpless, the young, the uncomprehending and the pitiful – all shocked and torn by the devastation of fire and blast that was of their making. These were the things that besieged the mind, that could not be changed or buried by conversation with a companion, or a new romance with a willing British maid, or the ordering of another drink from the club bartender. This was man living with himself in the darkness of his thoughts, but hoping for the blessed oblivion of sleep, dreading to hear the approaching footsteps of a runner summoning him to the duties of war.

Budd Peaslee was a commander to whom the airmen and ground crews of the 384th could relate. He left the 384th on September 8, 1943, but he would forever be THE commander of the 384th, “the Boss.”

Col. Budd J. Peaslee
Photo Courtesy of Marc Poole, 2014, via the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 6 was published November 29, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

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