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Cecil Carlton McWhorter, Part 2 of 3

Cecil Carlton McWhorter, continued…

Read Part 1 here.

On his final mission, Cecil McWhorter was left waist gunner on the Charles E. Cregar, Jr. crew of the 511th Bomb Squadron of the 351st Bomb Group on the October 3, 1944 Mission #213 to the Nuremburg Railroad Marshaling Yards. They were aboard B-17G 43-38518, which was a new ship assigned to the 511st Bomb Squad/351st Bomb Group less than two weeks before on September 21 according to Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log. Cecil was on his twelfth mission with the 351st.

On October 3, 1944 the Cregar crew consisted of:

  • Pilot, 1st Lt Charles E. Cregar, Jr., SN O-1043908
  • Co-pilot, 2nd Lt Sanford N. Groendyke, SN O-819086
  • Navigator, F/O James D. Timmie, SN T-124869
  • Bombardier, 1st Lt John F. Dwyer, SN O-1283565
  • Top Turret Gunner/Engineer, T/Sgt Edward L. Huth, SN 32447653
  • Radio Operator, S/Sgt  Elwood A. (Ziggy) Zigenfus, Jr., SN 13152369
  • Left Waist Gunner, S/Sgt Cecil C. McWhorter, SN 6285927
  • Ball Turret Gunner,  S/Sgt Charles E. Weller, SN 35263548
  • Tail Gunner, S/Sgt Thomas W. Richardson, SN 15195066

All on board were taken prisoner of war with the exception of bombardier John F. Dwyer, who lost his life on that mission.

The details of MIssing Air Crew Report 9358 (MACR9358) explain what happened on October 3, 1944 to the Cregar crew.

According to witnesses from other aircraft in the formation, the Cregar crew’s 43-38518 left the formation at 1150 hours under control for causes unknown. Pilot Donald Hadley noticed that Lt. Cregar’s plane failed to turn with the formation coming off the target. Hadley reported no visible signs of damage and all four engines turning. There were no fighters in the area, but there was moderate flak. Cregar never caught up with the formation and descended under control out of sight. Hadley saw no parachutes and heard no radio call from 43-38518.

Another witness, tail gunner Jack Tucker, reported much the same as Donald Hadley, adding that as the plane left the formation, it began to lose altitude and traveled in an easterly direction. He saw nothing to indicate that Cregar’s plane was damaged and the last he saw of them, they were flying at about 8500 feet (descending from their flying altitude of 25,500 feet).

Either Hadley or Tucker later added that thirty minutes after the aircraft left the formation, the pilot was heard to call for fighter support over VHF.

According to Individual Casualty Questionnaires included within the Missing Air Crew Report, just after Bombardier John Dwyer released the bombs and was observing the results, he was hit by flak and killed. One of the responders to the questionnaire (probably the navigator James Timmie, who would have been in the nose of the B-17 with Dwyer) reported,

The first shell burst about ten feet in front of the nose slightly to the right. A small fragment entered his head thru his steel helmet, earphone, and skull and started profuse bleeding. I administered firstaid to no avail and in a few minutes he was dead. His body was left with the plane, which did not burn, when last seen.

The pilot left formation in an attempt to fly the badly damaged ship to Switzerland.

The radio operator, Elwood Zigenfus, and tail gunner, Thomas Richardson, both reported that the pilot and co-pilot remained at the controls while the rest of the crew, with the exception of bombardier John Dwyer who was dead in the nose of the ship, assumed ditching positions in the radio room.

None of the men bailed out of the ship, but instead rode it down to a crash landing. The men reported that the ship struck the ground using various landmarks:

  • At Stellman (300 m west) 12 km west of Donauwoerth at 1230 hours
  • 10 miles south of Ulm
  • Near Dilligen, Germany
  • Near Elms, Germany
  • At the small village of Stattinham

Bombardier John F. Dwyer (born September 10, 1918) was found dead in the aircraft after the emergency landing. His date and place of death were listed as October 3, 1944 in Stillnau at Leipheim/Donau. His initial date and place of interment were October 7, 1944 at Leipheim/Donau town cemetery.

One of the crew said that the German guards reported that Dwyer was given a military funeral near where the ship went down, a small town named Dillingen. According to, Dwyer was later re-interred at Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial at Saint-Avold, Department de la Moselle, Lorraine, France.

The pilot, Charles Cregar, summarized with:

The target was RR Yards in Marsburg. They were at the target at 11:55 a.m. at an altitude of 26,000 feet. They left the formation at the first turn off the target. He didn’t bail out nor did any of the other members of the crew. He wrote:

All members of crew remained in the plane until we crash landed. One member was killed by the flak burst which knocked out our four engines. All other members uninjured then or in the crash landing that followed.

A German interrogator informed me voluntarily that Lt. Dwyer had been buried in Leipheim, “with full military honors just as if he had been a German officer.”

On pilot Charles Cregar’s page on the American Air Museum in Britain website, his son wrote about memories of his dad, in part,

Dad would never discuss the war, Mom said it brought up terrible memories. He regretted the death of his one crew member, and never discussed POW with anyone…Dad had fun, enjoyed friends including Ernie Kovacs (TV comedian), who was a childhood friend and Ziggy (from the flight crew). Never would eat potato soup or cabbage, apparently a POW thing.

Bombardier John Dwyer’s page includes a photo and notes,

John Dwyer, 351st Bomb Group

Killed in Action (KIA) Crashed near Stellnau in B-17 4338518.

Lt. Dwyer was a member of the International Guards before Pearl Harbor and first served with the Infantry, then being transferred to the air corps. He received his training at Santa Anna, Cal., Las Vegas, Nev., Carlsbad, NM, and Avon Park, Fla.

He was overseas from July 1944, and had completed twelve missions. Lt. Dwyer received the Presidential Group Citation and a posthumous Purple Heart.

Tail gunner Thomas Richardson’s page includes a photo,

Thomas Richardson, 351st Bomb Group

Pages for the remainder of the crew, including Cecil McWhorter, do not include any additional information or photos.

Thank you to 384th Bomb Group researcher Keith Ellefson for getting me a copy of Missing Air Crew Report 9358.

If you are a relative of 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil C. McWhorter, or others on the Charles Cregar crew, or RAF airman Laurie Newbold, please Contact Me.

To be continued…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

WWII Timeline – Summer 1934

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1934 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1934

July 1, 1934

The Night of Long Knives began on June 30 and continued to July 2 as Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler conducted a purge of the SA leadership.

The purge and shooting of the SA leadership continued into Sunday, July 1. To give the appearance that life was returning to normal, Hitler hosted a tea party on Sunday evening for cabinet members and their families in the garden of the Chancellery.

July 2, 1934

The purge ended by 4 a.m., early Monday morning, on July 2. An exact number of deaths is not known as all Gestapo reports were destroyed. Estimates range from 200 to over 1,000, less than half of which were SA officers. An unknown number were murdered by mistaken identity. That was the case for the music critic of a Munich newspaper, Dr. Willi Schmidt. Mistaken for another Willi Schmidt on the list, he was taken from his home by four SS men. His body was later returned to his wife and three young children in a sealed coffin by the Gestapo, who ordered that they were not to open it.

July 13, 1934

Hitler spoke before the Nazi controlled Reichstag (Parliament). He announced that seventy-four had been shot and justified the murders with:

If anyone reproaches me and asks why I did not resort to the regular courts of justice, then all I can say is this: In this hour I was responsible for the fate of the German people, and thereby I became the supreme judge of the German people.

It was no secret that this time the revolution would have to be bloody; when we spoke of it we called it ‘The Night of the Long Knives.’ Everyone must know for all future time that if he raises his hand to strike the State, then certain death is his lot.

With these words, Hitler proclaimed himself the supreme judge of the German people. He placed himself above the law, making his word the law, which instilled a permanent sense of fear in the German people.

The killing of the horrific Night of Long Knives was over, but the aftermath was just beginning. By condoning the events, the regular German Army generals effectively supported Hitler and his actions.

Remaining SA members were eventually inducted into the regular German Army when Hitler re-introduced military conscription (the draft, or compulsory enlistment for state service) in 1935.

July 20, 1934

Hitler rewarded the SS by granting it independent status as an organization. It was no longer part of the SA. Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, now answered only to Hitler, and Reinhard Heydrich was promoted to SS Gruppenführer (Lieutenant-General). With Himmler and Heydrich at the helm, the SS would bring mass murder and terror for the next eleven years to the third Reich. 

July 22, 1934

The Nazis prohibited Jews from getting legal qualifications.

July 25, 1934

In a coup attempt, Austrian Nazis murdered Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss. In early 1933, Dollfuss had shut down parliament, banned the Austrian Nazi party, and assumed dictatorial powers. Dollfuss was succeeded by Kurt von Schuschnigg.

August 2, 1934

German President Paul von Hindenburg died at 9 a.m. Within hours, Adolf Hitler and the Nazis announced the following law, dated August 1, before President Hindenburg’s death.

The Reich Government has enacted the following law which is hereby promulgated.

Section 1. The office of Reich President will be combined with that of Reich Chancellor. The existing authority of the Reich President will consequently be transferred to the Führer and Reich Chancellor, Adolf Hitler. He will select his deputy.

Section 2. This law is effective as of the time of the death of Reich President von Hindenburg.

Following the announcement, the German Officers’ Corps and every member of the German Army swore a personal oath of allegiance to Adolf Hitler, not to the Nazi party, but to Hitler himself. A nationwide vote was scheduled, but Adolf Hitler had already officially become Der Führer, or absolute leader, of Germany, and seized total power in Germany.

In the interim, President Hindenburg’s last will and testament came out. His last wishes, in a personal letter to Adolf Hitler, included a desire for a return to a constitutional monarchy. Hitler ignored President Hindenburg’s wishes and likely destroyed the letter, as it was never seen again. However, the Nazis published a likely forgery complimenting Hitler, which was used as part of the election campaign to get the vote for Hitler.

August 19, 1934, in Germany

About ninety-five percent of registered German voters voted in the August 19 election and ninety percent of them voted for Adolf Hitler with thirty-eight million votes. Hitler claimed himself Führer of Germany by the direct will of the people, wielding absolute power in Germany. Adolf Hitler had become the law of Germany.

August 19, 1934, in China

Lasting until September 1934, Chinese Nationalist troops began an aggressive campaign to eject Chinese Communists from their occupied territory south of the Yangtze River.

August 20, 1934

The day after Adolf Hitler was voted Führer of Germany, mandatory loyalty oaths were introduced throughout the Reich.

The oath of loyalty for Public Officials:

I swear: I shall be loyal and obedient to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, respect the laws, and fulfill my official duties conscientiously, so help me God.

The oath of loyalty for Soldiers of the Armed Forces:

I swear by God this sacred oath: I will render unconditional obedience to Adolf Hitler, the Führer of the German Reich and people, Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces, and will be ready as a brave soldier to risk my life at any time for this oath.

These oaths were pledged to Hitler personally, not the German State or German Constitution. The oaths were taken very seriously by members of the German Officers’ Corps, which now considered obedience to Hitler a sacred duty, and placed the German armed forces as the personal instrument of Hitler.

September 1934

At the annual Nuremberg Nazi Party rallies, a euphoric Hitler proclaimed,

The German form of life is definitely determined for the next thousand years. The Age of Nerves of the nineteenth century has found its close with us. There will be no revolution in Germany for the next thousand years.

September 18, 1934

The Soviets join the League of Nations.


This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

Wikipedia: Assassination of Austrian Chancellor Engelbert Dollfuss

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Most recent post from the series:

Spring 1934

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Cecil Carlton McWhorter, Part 1 of 3

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an aspect of the WWII Black March of prisoners of war of Stalag Luft IV, the Combine. My father, George Edwin Farrar, who was a waist gunner in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England, was one of the prisoners on the March. Dad’s B-17 went down on September 28, 1944 and after a lengthy hospital stay, he was placed in Stalag Luft IV around Thanksgiving.

I have found that when the prisoners of Stalag Luft IV were marched out of the prison camp on February 6, 1945, Dad, RAF airman Laurie Newbold, and 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil McWhorter likely made up a three-man combine. This is not information that my dad shared with me. He never mentioned these men when he told me stories of the POW camp and March. These things I had to find on my own, but as a place to start, he left a clue, a letter he had saved since 1946.

Most of the letters in the bundle my dad saved since the war were written by the families of my dad’s crew between the time the crew went missing and the end of the war. But this one was dated July 15, 1946 and it came from England. It was from Laurie Newbold, an airman with England’s RAF and it was clear that he had been close to my father when they were prisoners of war. In his letter, Laurie mentioned another airman, this one American.

Have you ever come across any more of Room 12. Old Mac Whorter lives down south at East Bernstadt, N London, Kentucky but I forgot that your states are as big as England.

This one letter my father saved added to the little detail I knew about his time as a POW:

  • My dad, Laurie Newbold, and a man Laurie called “Old Mac Whorter” roomed together at Stalag Luft IV and likely marched together in the Black March. Laurie also noted that this man lived in East Bernstadt, Kentucky.
  • Dad, Laurie, and “Old Mac Whorter” were assigned to Room 12, hut number unknown, compound unknown.

Gregory Hatton runs a memorial website on Stalag Luft IV. Among the interesting information Greg presents is a document that contains a “Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross Visit of Oct. 5 & 6, 1944 by Mr. Biner, Stalag Luft IV.” In a section describing the accommodations at the camp, the report notes that there are four camps or compounds within Luft IV: A, B, C, and D.

A, B, and C contained Americans only. Camp D contained American and British. I must assume that my father and “Old Mac Whorter” were in Camp D as they were housed with British RAF POW Laurie Newbold. I don’t know how many barracks or huts were built in Camp D and haven’t yet found a way to determine which one they were in, but apparently they were in Room 12 of their hut.

I wanted to know more about the two men my dad spent his darkest days with in the prison camp and on the March. Since “Old Mac Whorter” was an American, I thought I would research him first since I am more familiar with the American WWII airman websites and genealogical sites.

To discover the real name of “Old Mac Whorter,” I had to make a few guesses. First, the man’s last name was probably MacWhorter or McWhorter. Searching the National Archives database of WWII prisoners of war in Stalag Luft IV, I found him. Not easily, but I found him. For some reason, the database listed his last name as Mc Whorter, with a space after the “Mc.” But here was a good candidate, Cecil C. McWhorter, and his home was in Kentucky.

Cecil C. McWhorter’s Army Air Forces serial number was 6285927. He was a staff sergeant in the Air Corps, had become a POW on October 3, 1944, and served with the 351st Bomb Group. The 351st was a B-17 group based in Polebrook, England, not very far from my dad’s group, the 384th in Grafton Underwood, less than fifteen miles away. Cecil’s plane went down just five days after my dad’s.

Continuing my National Archives search, I found Cecil’s enlistment record. It revealed he was born in 1918 and he resided in Laurel County, Kentucky. The city Laurie Newbold mentioned in his letter, East Bernstadt, is a city in Laurel County.

Cecil enlisted in the Air Corps on December 19, 1941. I realized Cecil must have also served in another capacity or he would have finished his tour and returned home long before he became a POW in 1944. I did not discover how or where else he served at this point in my research.

Next in the search, I turned to the American Air Museum in Britain’s database. Here I found that Cecil served in the 511th Bomb Squadron of the 351st Bomb Group, based at Polebrook, England. His page confirmed how Cecil came to be in Stalag Luft IV,

Prisoner of War (POW) Crashed near Stellnau on 10/3/44 in B-17 #4338518

When I followed a link to the page for the aircraft (unnamed 43-38518), I learned even more details:  where the ship crashed, the names of the crew, and the Missing Air Crew Report number, 9358.

Now that I knew which bomb group of the 8th Air Force Cecil served in, I searched for more information for his group, the 351st. I found they have both a website and a Facebook group page. The 351st Bomb Group’s website contains detailed information about Cecil’s last mission, the crew he flew with, their target for October 3, 1944, the B-17 they were aboard, and the number for the missing air crew report, MACR9358.

If you are a relative of 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil C. McWhorter or RAF airman Laurie Newbold, please Contact Me.

To be continued…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

WWII Timeline – Spring 1934

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1934 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1934

April 1934

Nazi Storm Trooper or Sturmabteilung (SA) leader Ernst Röhm held a press conference in which he proclaimed,

The SA is the National Socialist Revolution!!

At the time, the Shutzstaffel (SS) was a part of the SA. The SS was formed in 1925 as Adolf Hitler’s personal body guards and were highly disciplined. Heinrich Himmler was the SS Chief and his second-in-command was Reinhard Heydrich. Himmler, Heydrich, and Hermann Göring (see Note) plotted to turn Hitler against Röhm.

May 5, 1934

The Soviet Union and Poland reaffirmed the Soviet-Polish Non-aggression Pact originally signed in 1932 in which both sides agreed to renounce violence in bilateral relations, to resolve their problems through negotiations, and to forgo armed conflict or alliances aimed at each other.

May 17, 1934

The Nazis disallowed Jews from receiving national health insurance.

June 4, 1934

Adolf Hitler met privately with SA leader Ernst Röhm for five hours. As a result, a few days later Röhm announced he was taking time off due to a ‘personal illness’ and that the SA would go on leave for the month of July. Röhm also announced a conference, which Hitler promised to attend, of top SA leaders on June 30 at a resort town near Munich.

June 14 – 15, 1934

Nazi leader Adolf Hitler and Italian dictator Benito Mussolini met in Venice in their first face-to-face meeting.

June 17, 1934

Franz von Papen, Vice-Chancellor under Adolf Hitler, made a speech in which he criticized the behavior of the SA and denounced Nazi excesses. Papen also spoke about the possibility of a revolution by Röhm and the SA and pushed Hitler to prevent it. Papen’s speech increased tensions between German Army leaders and SA leaders and jeopardized Hitler’s position. 

June 21, 1934

Adolf Hitler had been summoned to the East Prussia country estate of German President Paul von Hindenburg, who was in failing health and confined to a wheelchair. Hitler met with President Hindenburg and German Defense Defense Minister General Werner von Blomberg. Hitler was told to solve the SA problem or President Hindenburg would declare martial law and let the German Army run the country, which would mean the end of the Nazi regime.

At the time, Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich were spreading false rumors that Ernst Röhm and the SA were planning a putsch, a violent attempt to overthrow the government.

June 25, 1934

SS Chief Heinrich Himmler and the regular Army generals worked out a secret agreement of cooperation for a planned action against the SA. Leaves were canceled for the regular German Army troops and they were confined to their barracks where they would remain during the action. They would provide weapons and any requested support while the SS handled things.

June 28, 1934

Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Nazi Reich Minister of Propaganda Joseph Goebbels attended the wedding of Gauleiter (a political official governing a district under Nazi rule) Josef Terboven in Essen, Germany. Hitler received a phone call warning him of the possibility of a violent overthrow by Röhm’s SA and also the possibility of a revolt by non-Nazis who wanted President Hindenburg to declare martial law and remove Hitler and the Nazi government. Hitler sent Göring back to Berlin to make preparations against the SA and conservative government leaders there. The SS was put on full alert.

June 29, 1934

Adolf Hitler inspected a labor service camp and stayed in a hotel near Bonn, Germany for the night. That evening Heinrich Himmler informed Hitler by phone that SA troops in Munich knew of the coming action and had taken to the streets. Hitler decided to fly to Munich to put down the SA rebellion and to confront Röhm and the top SA leaders who had gathered near Munich at the resort town of Bad Wiessee.

June 30, 1934

The Night of Long Knives began as Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler conducted a purge of the SA leadership.

Adolf Hitler arrived in Munich near dawn on Saturday, June 30. First, he ordered the arrest of the SA men who were inside Munich Nazi headquarters. He then proceeded to the Ministry of the Interior building and confronted the top SA man in Munich after his arrest, where he tore off the man’s insignia in a fit of hysteria. Hitler next went after Röhm at the resort hotel in Bad Wiessee, accompanied by Rudolf Hess and others.

The SS likely secured the hotel before Hitler arrived, but legend says that Hitler arrived around 6:30 a.m and rushed inside with a pistol to arrest Röhm and other SA leaders. Hitler sent them to Stadelheim prison near Munich to be shot later by the SS.

In the raid, one SA leader, Edmund Heines, had been found in bed with a young man. Hitler ordered him executed immediately at the hotel. It seems that many of the SA leaders, including Ernst Röhm, were gay. In fact, Ernst Röhm, who today is called the highest-ranking gay Nazi, opposed his party’s stand on Paragraph 175 of the German penal code, which made male homosexual acts illegal. Hitler had been ignoring their behavior because of their usefulness to him during his rise to power. But their usefulness and Hitler’s tolerance to them had ended. Their homosexual conduct would become Hitler’s excuse for their murders.

At 10 a.m, Adolf Hitler placed a phone call to Hermann Göring in Berlin. Hitler spoke the prearranged code word ‘Kolibri’ (hummingbird), beginning a wave of murderous violence in Berlin and over twenty other cities. SS execution squads and Göring’s private police force hunted down SA leaders and anyone else on the Reich List of Unwanted Persons.

Included on the Reich List of Unwanted Persons were:

  • Gustav von Kahr, who was hacked to death in a swamp near Dachau. He had opposed Hitler during the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923.
  • Father Bernhard Stempfle, who was shot and killed.  He knew too much about Hitler since he had taken some of the dictation for Hitler’s book Mein Kampf.
  • Kurt von Schleicher, who, along with his wife, was shot and killed. He was a former Chancellor of Germany who had helped put Hitler in power.
  • Gregor Strasser, one of the original members of the Nazi Party.
  • Berlin SA leader Karl Ernst, who helped torch the Reichstag building in February 1933.
  • Vice-Chancellor Papen’s press secretary.
  • Catholic leader Dr. Erich Klausener.

On Saturday evening, Hitler flew back to Berlin. He was met at the airport by Heinrich Himmler and Hermann Göring. A Gestapo official who was present, Hans Gisevius, later described the scene: 

On his way to the fleet of cars, which stood several hundred yards away, Hitler stopped to converse with Göring and Himmler. Apparently he could not wait a few minutes until he reached the Chancellery…From one of his pockets Himmler took out a long, tattered list. Hitler read it through, while Göring and Himmler whispered incessantly into his ear. We could see Hitler’s finger moving slowly down the sheet of paper. Now and then it paused for a moment at one of the names. At such times the two conspirators whispered even more excitedly. Suddenly Hitler tossed his head. There was so much violent emotion, so much anger in the gesture, that everybody noticed it…Finally they moved on, Hitler in the lead, followed by Göring and Himmler. Hitler was still walking with the same sluggish tread. By contrast, the two blood drenched scoundrels at his side seemed all the more lively…

Reportedly, Hitler ordered a pistol with a single bullet be given to Ernst Röhm to commit suicide, but Röhm refused to do it, saying “If I am to be killed let Adolf do it himself.” Theodore Eicke, Commander of the Totenkopf (Death’s Head) guards at Dachau, and another SS officer waited fifteen minutes, then entered Röhm’s cell and shot him point blank. Reportedly, Röhm’s last words were “Mein Führer, mein Führer!”

The Night of the Long Knives continued until July 2.


Hermann Göring created the Gestapo, the secret state police, in the German state of Prussia. Göring was the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia, Plenipotentiary (a person having full power to take independent action on behalf of his government) for the Implementation of the Four Year (economic) Plan, and designated successor to Hitler.


This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

Wikipedia: Soviet-Polish Non-Aggression Pact


World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Most recent post from the series:

Winter 1934

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

A Black March Combine

I have previously written several articles about the WWII Black March, the march of prisoners of war of Stalag Luft IV across Germany in the winter of 1945. Today, I want to explain a very important aspect of that march, the Combine.

But first, as a refresher to the Black March itself, please refer to this previous post. It is the proclamation entered into the Congressional Record on May 8, 1995 by WWII veteran, Congressman John William Warner.

Congressman Warner was approached by three WWII veterans who were on the march and who brought this piece of WWII history to his attention – Cpl. Bob McVicker of Alexandria, Virginia; S. Sgt. Ralph Pippens of Alexandria, Louisiana; and Sgt. Arthur Duchesneau of Daytona Beach, Florida. Rep. Warner wanted to tell their story and raise awareness of what the Stalag Luft IV prisoners endured on this little-known march in pursuit of freedom.

The proclamation explains that McVicker, Pippens, and Duchesneau each survived, “mostly because of the efforts of the other two – American crewmates compassionately and selflessly helping buddies in need.” This statement is the definition of a Black March “Combine.”

In WWII, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England. His B-17 went down on September 28, 1944 and after a lengthy hospital stay, he was put in Stalag Luft IV. On February 6, 1945, he was one of the prisoners from Stalag Luft IV who were marched out of the camp in several columns accompanied by German guards armed with rifles, and guard dogs. For Dad, the Black March lasted the full eighty-six days, covering approximately five-hundred miles.

From an old letter, I determined that the two men closest to my dad in the prison camp and on the Black March were the author of the letter, British airman Laurie Newbold, and American airman Cecil McWhorter.

Newbold’s letter adds much to what I know about who shared my father’s WWII experiences, especially these two sentences.

Have you ever come across any more of Room 12. Old Mac Whorter lives down south at East Bernstadt, N London, Kentucky but I forgot that your states are as big as England.

In my research of my father during WWII, it is not enough to know who the members of my father’s air crew were. Although Dad’s WWII experience was shared with the other men of the John Buslee crew, 544th Bomb Squad, and the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, he had a connection that went beyond the usual military camaraderie of an air crew. He had a connection with two men with whom he had not served in the 384th, Laurie Newbold and Cecil McWhorter, on whom his life depended in that eighty-six day span of time he called “The March.”

Joseph O’Donnell, another Stalag Luft IV prisoner on the Black March, wrote a book about the march. In The Shoe Leather Express, O’Donnell explains how the prisoners joined forces in small groups in order to help each other survive. These small groups of two to four Kriegies (short for Kriegesgefangenen, which is the German word for prisoner of war) were created out of necessity, for survival. Joe wrote:

A combine usually consisted of three Kriegies, sometimes two, sometimes four, but the most logical number combination was three. Further explanation will confirm the logic of three men versus two or four men. Of all the reasons for a three man combine, there is no one reason to justify this combination, there are many reasons. As stated before, we each had two blankets, and with a combination of three Kriegies this gave us six blankets. After our arrival at a barn we would stake a claim to an area in the barn according to our arrival. First-in claimed the advantageous areas, usually near an exit.

Since we shared our food, it was imperative that we should stick together; but we usually marched in columns of fours and it always presented a problem at the end of a [day’s] march, when the guards would count off 150 or 200 Kriegies for one barn. This would usually split a combine. One hell of a lot of shuffling went on to get the combine together again. When trading, bartering or stealing detail; the other two would construct our bed of straw for the night. Our bed of straw was covered with the three German blankets, two lengthwise and one across the bottom and tucked in. The three GI blankets would cover us along with our GI overcoats.

The mention of trading, bartering, and stealing references the fact that the men had very little food and clean water on the road. They often attempted to supplement their meager rations by trading items like the watch my father traded for a loaf of bread, or stealing potatoes or chickens from the farmers in whose barns they slept.

The combines walked together, all day, every day, sometimes as far as twenty miles in one day. They shared food and ate together. They slept together and shared body heat in the unheated barns and under the stars in the sub-freezing temperatures of the winter of 1945. When one felt weak, the others helped him put one foot in front of the other, to take one more step, to keep up with the column. Falling behind the group meant the risk of being shot and left for dead beside the road as the group trudged forward. The combine gave the men someone to lean on in more ways than one.

How many men died on the march is not known. It is truly a miracle that any of them survived. They were covered in lice, were afflicted with dysentery and other diseases, and were close to the point of starvation. They have been described as walking skeletons. Thoughts of home and the support of each other must have kept them going.

But when it was all over, when Liberation Day came, the combines were split apart for good. Each man went his separate way, returning to his country and his family, to pick up with life as though his eighty-six day struggle for survival was all a bad dream. Laurie Newbold wrote:

I never saw you again after the day we were liberated. I understand that nearly all your boys stopped the first night at Boizenburg but most of the RAF went straight on to Luneburg & I got there that night. From there I went to Emsdetten near Holland & then flew to England in a Lanc [possible abbreviation for Lancaster bomber].

Well George I expect I could write all night about the past but most of that’s best forgotten, don’t you think.

Is the past and that piece of history best forgotten? When I read pages from Joe O’Donnell’s Shoe Leather Express and read Laurie Newbold’s letter, their words trouble me. They unsettle me. It disturbs me deeply to know these things that my father endured. Things that he himself could not or would not tell me. I understand, at least I think I do, why he wouldn’t divulge these things. I was too young. I was too innocent. He did not want to burden me or anyone else with this horrible knowledge.

My father was right in not telling me. I should not know these things because as I’ve learned, now that I know them, I cannot un-know them. They rattle around in my head and pop to the surface at unexpected moments. These things that were a part of him, they are now a part of me. Not to the extent they were for him, of course, because he actually lived them and I only learned them. I cannot imagine the way the horrific memories crashed upon his shore of existence every single moment of every single day of the remainder of his life.

These are things that no being should ever have to endure. But at that time in history there were people who looked much like the rest of us, who underneath that layer of human-like skin were not human at all, but monsters.

When I was young, monsters lived under my bed and in my closet. I had to take a long-jump into and out of bed so the monster wouldn’t grab my feet and pull me under into a certain horrible death. I had to jump back when I opened the closet door so the monster inside couldn’t grab me and drag me in.

My monsters vanished over time. They probably tired of not being able to catch me and moved on to the bed and closet of another child. But my father’s monsters never left. He died thirty-seven years after his time in the prison camp and Black March were over. Dying was the only way to end the war for him and banish his monsters.


Joe O’Donnell inadvertently used the word “concubine” to define the groups of marching prisoners in the text of The Shoe Leather Express rather than the word “combine.” I have published Joe’s passages substituting the word “combine,” which Joe points out in a correction at the top of the Table of Contents page. He states:  “CORRECTION. The word ‘concubine’ was misused, it should be ‘combine.’

The Preface and first two chapters of Joseph O’Donnell’s The Shoe Leather Express may be read courtesy of Joseph O’Donnell and Gregory Hatton here.

To be continued with more information about Cecil McWhorter and Laurie Newbold and my search for their relatives…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018