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WWII Timeline – Fall 1939

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1939 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1939

October 1939

In October of 1939 in Germany, Adolf Hitler ordered widespread “mercy killings” by gassings of the sick and disabled. Code named “Aktion T4,” an estimated 200,000 to 250,000 Germans were murdered under this action during the next two years. It was a euthanasia program with the goal to eliminate “life unworthy of life.” The first focus was on newborn babies and very young children.

The Reich Health Ministry required midwives and doctors to fill out a questionnaire and register children up to the age of three who were deemed to be mentally retarded or physically deformed. Three medical experts reviewed the questionnaires, and without examining the children or any of their other medical records, decided whether each child would be allowed to live.

All three experts had to agree for a child to be transferred to the “Children’s Specialty Department” where those deemed mentally retarded or physically deformed would be euthanized by injection or allowed to gradually starve to death. If the decision was not unanimous, the child would be observed until a unanimous decision could be reached.

The program soon expanded to include older disabled children and adults. A decree directly from Hitler, back dated to September 1, increased

the authority of certain physicians to be designated by name in such manner that persons who, according to human judgment, are incurable can, upon a most careful diagnosis of their condition of sickness, be accorded a mercy death.

The euthanasia program was expanded further with the questionnaires used in mental institutions, hospitals, and other institutions for the chronically ill. Patients suffering from a host of diseases and conditions, and those who had been housed in institutions continuously for five or more years, or were judged criminally insane fell under the program’s guidelines. Also those who were not German citizens or were not of German or related blood, including Jews, Negroes, and Gypsies were included.

Eventually the program was headed by SS man Christian Wirth and six killing centers were established, including a well known psychiatric clinic at Hadamar and a former prison at Brandenburg, where the first Nazi experimental gassings took place. These served as training centers for the SS, and the technical knowledge and experience was used to create the extermination camps at Auschwitz, Treblinka and other concentration camps in Hitler’s goal to wipe out the entire Jewish population of Europe.

October 5, 1939

In September, more than 500,000 Polish troops fought the Nazis. Most were taken prisoner, but 100,000 died fighting or fled Poland. On this date, the remainder of the Polish army surrendered to Nazi Germany.

October 6, 1939

Hitler declared victory over Poland and accused Poland of initiating hostilities.

Hitler called for peace with Britain and France and insisted he had no ambitions towards them or Belgium, Holland, and several others.

Hitler issued a proclamation on the isolation of Jews.

October 9, 1939

Hitler issued orders for the creation of an invasion plan of France and the Low Countries, after calling for peace only three days earlier.

The German battleship Deutschland captured the American cargo ship City of Flint, which was carrying farming supplies to England.

October 12, 1939

The Nazis began the consolidation of Jews in Germany’s occupied territory. Jews were evacuated from Vienna. Austrian and Czechoslovakian Jews were sent to Poland.

October 14, 1939

A German U-boat (submarine) torpedoed and sank Britain’s HMS Royal Oak battleship while it was anchored in Scapa Flow (a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland), killing 883.

October 21, 1939

The United States budgeted $6,000 for atomic experiments.

October 26, 1939

Hans Frank was appointed Nazi Gauleiter (Governor General) of Poland.

A forced labor decree was issued for all Polish Jews from age fourteen to sixty.

October 28, 1939

An amendment to the US Neutrality Act allowing the sale of arms to besieged allies passed the US Senate.

November 1, 1939

Western Poland officially became part of the German Reich. (Date alternately reported as October 19, 1939).

November 3, 1939

Eastern Poland officially became part of the Soviet Union.

November 4, 1939

The amendment to the US Neutrality Act, passed by the US Senate on October 28, cleared the US House of Representatives and was signed by President Roosevelt. It required that arms were not transported by American ships.

Jews in Warsaw were all moved into a ghetto.

November 8, 1939

In a Munich beer hall, at the annual meeting of the veterans of the 1923 Nazi Putsch, a concealed bomb exploded, killing nine. It was an assassination attempt against Hitler, but he had left the beer hall twenty minutes earlier.

November 23, 1939

All Jews over age ten living in Nazi-occupied Poland were ordered to wear yellow stars symbolizing the Star of David.

November 28, 1939

The Australian government agreed to send troops to Europe.

November 30, 1939

The Soviet Union invaded Finland, initiating the “Winter War.”

December 1939

Adolf Eichmann took over Section IV B4 of the Gestapo, dealing solely with Jewish affairs and evacuations. (See link below to Eichmann biography).

December 14, 1939

The League of Nations expelled the Soviet Union following its aggression against Finland.

December 17, 1939

The British Royal Navy engaged the German warship Graf Spee off the coast of Uruguay. After a particularly long battle, the captain of the damaged Graf Spee scuttled her near Montevideo.

December 18, 1939

Canada sent more than 7,000 troops to Britain to assist the Allies and the first of them arrived in Britain on this date.

December 24, 1939

Pope Pius XII made a Christmas appeal for peace.

Sources:

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

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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

The History Place Biography of Adolf Eichmann

Most recent post from the series:

Summer 1939

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

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The Next Generation Meets

On Sunday, June 2, 2019, the children of the waist gunners of both ships involved in the 384th Bomb Group’s mid-air collision of September 28, 1944 over Magdeburg, Germany met for the first time.

L to R: George Edwin Farrar, Cindy Farrar Bryan, Harry Allen Liniger, Jr., and Harry Allen Liniger, Sr.

That’s me, Cindy Farrar Bryan, daughter of George Edwin Farrar of the Buslee crew, on the left and Harry Liniger, Jr., son of Harry Allen Liniger, Sr. of the Brodie crew, on the right. Harry is pointing to his dad’s name on a plaque in the garden of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA. The plaque is dedicated to the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group.

On September 28, 1944, the 384th Bomb Group flew their Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, two B-17’s collided, the Buslee crew’s 43-37822 and the Brodie crew’s 42-31222 (also known as “Lazy Daisy.”)

The only survivors of the Brodie crew were navigator George Hawkins, tail gunner Wilfred Miller, and waist gunner Harry Liniger.

The front section of the nose of the Brodie crew’s “Lazy Daisy” was carried away, and with it, the togglier. Hawkins managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun. Waist gunner Harry Liniger was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. The explosion also severed the tail of the ship and tail gunner Wilfred Miller rode the tail assembly down and later chuted from the tail section.

The only survivor of the Buslee crew was waist gunner George Edwin Farrar, my dad.  He believed that the other ship must have hit right in the center of their ship, as they were knocked half in-to.  At the time they were struck, Dad was knocked unconscious and fell about 25,000 feet, before he knew he was even out of the ship.

Both Liniger and Farrar (and also Miller) were confined as POWs in Stalag Luft IV and survived the 500-mile, 86-day Black March across Germany to their liberation in May 1945. Hawkins was so severely injured in the collision that he was confined to the hospital during the whole of his time as a prisoner of war.

Now that Harry and I have finally met, we’d like one day to meet the children of George Hawkins and Wilfred Miller, the only other survivors of the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision over Magdeburg. To those children, if you feel the same, please contact me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

WWII Timeline – Summer 1939

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1939 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1939

July 4, 1939

German Jews were denied the right to hold government jobs.

July 9, 1939

British Parliament member Winston Churchill called for a British-Russian alliance when he realized that Britain could not defend Poland against Nazi aggression on their own. Stalin declined.

July 21, 1939

Adolf Eichmann was appointed director of the Prague Office of Jewish Emigration.

July 26, 1939

US Secretary of State Cordell Hull informed the ambassador of Japan that the US would not extend the 1911 commercial treaty between them.

August 1939

The Nazi SS dressed one hundred fifty (150) concentration camp prisoners in Polish army uniforms and then shot them. They planted the bodies as evidence of Polish aggression at the German border. Hitler used the ruse as a pretext for war.

August 1, 1939
The President of the German Lottery forbid the sale of lottery tickets to Jews.

August 2, 1939

Physicist Albert Einstein, a German Jew who had emigrated to the United States in 1932, sent a letter to President Franklin D. Roosevelt explaining that scientists had discovered how to create a nuclear chain reaction and warning that Germany might develop a nuclear weapon.

August 4, 1939

General Francisco Franco established authoritarian rule in Spain, calling himself El Caudillo (The Leader). He would answer only “to God and to history.”

August 12, 1939

Military representatives from France and Britain met with those of the Soviet Union in Moscow to discuss an alliance. However, Russia preferred an agreement with Germany.

Italian foreign minister Galeazzo Ciano informed Hitler that it would take two years before the Italian military could be rebuilt in order to fight alongside Germany.

August 20 – 31, 1939

The Soviets attacked the Japanese army along Mongolia’s Khalka River. Seventeen thousand (17,000) Soviets were killed, but forty-five thousand (45,000) Japanese soldiers died.

August 22, 1939

In a speech to his military leadership at Obersalzberg, Adolf Hitler said he intended to,

Kill without pity or mercy all men, women, and children of the Polish race or language.

August 23, 1939

Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union signed a nonaggression agreement known as the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact, and a secret codicil dividing eastern Europe into “spheres of influence.” This facilitated Germany invading Poland from the west and the Soviet Union invading from the east.

August 25, 1939

Britain and Poland signed a Mutual Assistance Treaty.

August 31, 1939

Britain mobilized their fleet and civilian evacuations began from London.

In another of Hitler’s ruses as a pretext to war, German operatives broadcast a message to Poles from a seized radio station in Gleiwitz, Germany. They were urged to attack Germans and the operation worked, which gave the impression that insurgents were attacking Germans.

September 1939

Julius Streicher published this quotation in the Nazi newspaper Der Stürmer,

The Jewish people ought to be exterminated root and branch. Then the plague of pests would have disappeared in Poland at one stroke.

September 1, 1939

The Nazis invaded Poland, which had the largest Jewish population in Europe, 3.35 million, initiating World War II in Europe.

General mobilization was declared in Britain and France.

Jews in Germany were forbidden to be outdoors after 8 p.m. in winter and 9 p.m. in summer.

September 2, 1939

Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Germany to withdraw their troops from Poland within 12 hours or find themselves at war with Britain and France.  The German Luftwaffe (air force) raided Warsaw, Poland.

September 3, 1939

Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand declared war on Germany.

British Parliament member Winston Churchill is named First Lord of the Admiralty.

A German U-boat submarine torpedoed a British passenger ship named the Athenia traveling from England to Canada. One hundred eighteen (118) of the fourteen hundred (1400) civilians aboard were killed.

George Edwin Farrar turned eighteen years old on this day.

September 4, 1939

The British RAF (Royal Air Force) attacked German Navy vessels for the first time. Only eight of the twenty-nine bombers hit German naval bases. Ten of the RAF bombers got lost, seven were shot down, one attacked neutral Denmark, and three attacked one of Britain’s own ships.

The land connection between East Prussia and the Reich that had been severed with the 1919 Treaty of Versailles was reestablished by the German army and Warsaw was cut off.

General Francisco Franco publicly declared neutrality, but offered his support to the Axis powers.

September 5, 1939

The United States proclaimed its neutrality.

German troops crossed the Vistula River in Poland and occupied the city of Kraków.

September 7, 1939

The BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) began daily radio broadcasts in Polish.

September 9, 1939

Advance elements of the British Expeditionary Force (the BEF, or British Army in western Europe during WWII) arrived in France.

British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s cabinet planned for a three year war with Nazi Germany.

September 10, 1939

Canada declared war on Germany.

The Battle of the Atlantic began. It was the longest running battle of WWII and did not end until Germany surrendered to the Allies in May 1945.

September 14, 1939

British destroyers sank a German U-boat submarine through the use of depth charges. It was the first German ship lost in the war.

September 17, 1939

Soviets troops invaded eastern Poland, supposedly to protect Poland’s Byelorussian and Ukrainian populations.

The British navy lost its first ship of the war, the Courageous, when it was sunk by a U-boat off the coast of Ireland. Five hundred died.

The war in Europe split Americans. Non-interventionists did not want to get involved in the war. Interventionists, concerned about German invasion, did. Non-interventionists included former President Herbert Hoover, Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., Henry Ford, and many U.S. senators and congressmen. American aviation hero Charles A. Lindbergh was another non-interventionist and on this date, Lindbergh made his first anti-intervention radio speech.

September 18, 1939

The Wehrmacht army of Nazi Germany and Soviet Red Army staged a joint parade in Brest-Litovsk, Poland.

Members of the Polish Cipher Bureau escaped from Poland with two German Enigma code machines. They arrived in Paris on October 1.

September 19, 1939

The first British casualty list of the war was published.

September 20, 1939

The first air battle of the war between the German Luftwaffe and British RAF occurred over the border between Germany and France. The RAF lost two aircraft and the Luftwaffe lost one.

September 21, 1939

SS leader Reinhard Heydrich issued orders to special SS action squads (Einsatzgruppen) in Poland that Jews were to be gathered into ghettos near railroads for the future “final goal.”

September 22, 1939

Germany and Russia agreed on the division of Poland.

Two hundred seventeen thousand (217,000) Polish troops surrendered to the Soviet Red Army at Lvov (L’viv) in southeastern Poland. There were 200,000 Jews in Lvov at the time, 100,000 of which were refuges from German-occupied Poland.

Britain began gas rationing due to war shortages.

September 23, 1939

German Jews were forbidden to own wireless radios.

September 24, 1939

German Special Task Force troops executed eight hundred (800) Polish intellectuals.

Small scale food rationing, bread and flour, was introduced in Germany.

September 25, 1939

The German Luftwaffe bombed Warsaw with four hundred (420) aircraft. Civilian deaths in Warsaw reached forty thousand (40,000).

September 27, 1939

Warsaw surrendered to the Nazis and the exiled Polish government set up in Paris.

Himmler’s second in command of the SS, Reinhard Heydrich, was put in charge of the new Reich Main Security Office (RSHA). The RSHA combined the SS Security Service (SD), the Secret State Police (Gestapo), the Criminal Police (Kripo), and the foreign intelligence service into one huge centralized organization. In WWII, it was the RSHA that terrorized all of Europe and performed mass murder on a scale unprecedented in human history.

September 29, 1939

The Nazis and Soviets divided Poland between them. Over two million Jews resided in Nazi controlled areas, and 1.3 million in the Soviet controlled areas.

Sources:

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

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

Antisemitic Legislation 1933 – 1939

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

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

Albert Einstein History

Most recent post from the series:

Spring 1939

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

What Happened in the Skies Over Magdeburg? Part 2

The continuation of “What Happened in the Skies Over Magdeburg? Part 1” published on May 22, 2019.

Recap:

On September 28, 1944, the 384th Bomb Group flew their Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, two B-17’s collided, 43-37822 and 42-31222 (also known as Lazy Daisy.) The Buslee crew, with my dad George Edwin Farrar as waist gunner, was aboard 43-37822. The Brodie crew was aboard Lazy Daisy. Dad told me the story of the mid-air collision many times when I was a child and he always said the reason for the collision was that the “other ship” was hit by ground fire, which caused it to veer off course and into his ship.

In the high-level group narrative documents for the mission, I discovered,

  • Bombs couldn’t be dropped on the first bomb run when another wing flew under them at the release point
  • A second bomb run had to be made on the target
  • The group was behind schedule 20 minutes
  • CPF (possibly means Continuous Predictive Flak or Continuously Pointed Fire) and barrage type flak at the target was moderate to intense and accurate
  • The Wing leader was hit by flak and the deputy had to take over the lead, causing the Lead section to break up
  • The Low and High Sections became separated from the Lead Section
  • Coming off the target, the Wing was on a collision course with another unidentified Wing
  • As reported by a 351st Bomb Group crew member, a Triangle “P” ship seemed deliberately to weave in front of the formation, creating much prop wash

Quite a bit of information was gleaned from the high-level post-mission documents, but there was much more detail about the collision in the Visual Observation section of the Tactical Interrogation Forms that each pilot filled out in the post-mission briefing, which I will add to what I have already reported.

B-17 formation flying was tricky in itself, but it became even more difficult and dangerous when things out of the ordinary happened as they did on September 28, 1944. Not that there were many “ordinary” missions, but mid-air collisions were just one of the ways a B-17 could be brought down in addition to flak from ground fire, rockets, and enemy fighter attacks.

384th Bomb Group in Formation
Courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

The 384th Bomb Group’s formation on September 28, 1944 was made up thirty-six (36) crews and aircraft, twelve (12) each in three groups, Lead, High, and Low. Both the Buslee and Brodie crews were part of the High Group.

Below are each of the Lead, High, and Low Groups’ formation charts, a list of each crew and aircraft, and narratives I found recorded in various sections, but mainly the Flak and Visual Observations sections, of each pilot’s Tactical Interrogation Form, along with several comments from crew members pertinent to the Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision found on the Technical Failure report.

LEAD GROUP

September 28, 1944 Lead Group Formation Chart
Courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

Frink, Horace Everett, Commander, and Davis, L K, Pilot, of 44-8007

Wing Leader and PFF ship was hit by flak just after bombs away. Forced to land away in Brussels due to flak damage and therefore not available for post-mission briefing reporting.

Rummel, Brian D, Pilot of 44-6476

Just after bombs away the lead ship had direct hit in #4 supercharger & the formation scattered because of his slow air speed. Two B17’s collided & both went down. No chutes seen.

Henderson, William V, Pilot of 43-38616

No observations regarding the collision, but he did note,

ME109 went down, attacked by 2 P51’s

Tracy, Edward H, Pilot of 42-97251

Saw one B17 break in half at Target. No chutes.

Salley, Thomas R, Pilot of 42-97510

2 B-17’s collided. No chutes were seen. One man came out but no chute. High Gp, High Sq.

Cepits, Francis F, Pilot of 42-107121

2 planes go down.

Duesler, Donald B, Pilot of 42-102500

2 B17’s from high group went down. One ship was hit by a direct flak burst & broke at the waist & fell on the second a/c. Both went down in flames.

Duesler also noted on the second page of the form in the “Facts concerning our a/c destroyed” section, the reasons,

flak & collision

Hassing, Eugene Theron, Pilot of 42-102501

2 A/C from high sqdn high group collided. 1A/C lost right wing, the other broke in half. No chutes seen. All parts burning when A/C fell into undercast.

Mead, Frank Willard, Pilot of 42-102620

No observations regarding the collision, but one of Mead’s crew reported on the Technical Failures report,

Two bomb runs made on 3 of the last 4 missions. Circled right through the flak today.

McDaniel, Clifford F, Pilot of 42-107125

Saw 2 ships collide – go down.

Green, Loren L, Pilot of 42-31484

No observations regarding the collision

Doran, William Elmer, Pilot of 43-37971

No observations regarding the collision

Hale, Kenneth Oliver, Pilot Flying Spare 43-38501

Filled in for Rice in the High Group – see next grouping

HIGH GROUP

September 28, 1944 High Group Formation Chart
Courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

Johnson, William T, Commander and Toler, Harold M Pilot, of 43-38016

Reported at the time of 1217, at the location of Helmsledt (approximately 30 miles west of Magdeburg), and at an altitude of 28,000 feet,

2 17s. One crashed into each other. Both went down.

Groff, Richard Hubert, Pilot of 43-38615

Ball turret gunner Robert Mitchell was aboard this ship flying just to the left of the Buslee ship.

2 B-17’s fr our Gp in sharp climbing bank to right #2 in Ld Sq High Gp collided with #2 High Sq High Gp. Lt. Brodies left wing hit Lt. Buslees tail and cut part of wing off & Lt. Buslee’s A/C broke off at waist.

Buslee, John Oliver, Pilot of 43-37822

Collided with 42-31222 aka Lazy Daisy

Combs, William Felix, Pilot of 42-102661

This CBW [combat wing] was pretty well scattered & 2 B17’s collided. One was OD (olive drab) color. They are thought to be from High Sqdn., High Group. No chutes seen, both planes went to pieces.

Blankenmeyer, William J, Pilot of 42-39888

Chester Rybarczyk (original Buslee crew navigator) was aboard this ship.

Group was forced to pull up to avoid collision with another group (Red diagonal strip & letter J in white triangle). Ball turret of one ship hit tail of the other, tearing off both tail and ball turret. Both ships went down. 4 chutes seen.

The group with the tail symbol Triangle J was the 351st Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the Eighth United States Army Air Force, based at Polebrook, Northamptonshire, England, during World War II.

Gabel, Raymond J, Pilot of 43-38062

James Davis (Buslee crew bombardier who replaced original crew bombardier Marvin Fryden) was aboard this ship.

2 B-17’s (384th) seen to collide rt after bombs away & fell about 50 feet & wings came off & started turning. The other spun down to 10,000 feet on fire. 3 chutes observed out of plane with wings off. None out of other.

Carlson, Walter E, Pilot of 42-97320

No observations regarding the collision, but one of Carlons’s crew reported on the Technical Failures report,

Collision of B-17s due to pilot error in evasive action after bombs away.

Rice, Robert E, Pilot of 43-37703/Hale, Kenneth Oliver, Pilot Flying Spare 43-38501

Rice turned back due to personnel illness and was replaced by Hale, Kenneth Oliver, Pilot Flying Spare 43-38501

No observations regarding the collision.

Patella, Joseph David, Pilot of 44-6141

Right after bombing, diving off target, ran into another group, lot of prop wash, formation broken up by very sharp turns & prop wash. 2 A/C – 1 from high squadron, the other unknown, collided. Both A/C broke up. No chutes seen.

Johnstone, William A, Pilot of 42-97941

A/C 222 & 822 mid air collision. No chutes seen. Both ships broke up.

Johnstone reported the observation of the collision at 1218 at the target area. He also reported barrage and CPF flak “after bombs away” at the same time of 1218.

Gross, Kenneth Eugene, Pilot of 43-38548

Co-pilot Wallace Storey, who after the war reported Brodie’s plane almost hitting him and seeing it hit Buslee’s plane, was aboard this ship.

No observations regarding the collision reported, but Gross did report tracking black flak at the target area.

Brodie, James Joseph, Pilot of 42-31222

Collided with 43-37822

LOW GROUP

September 28, 1944 Low Group Formation Chart
Courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

Booska, Maurice Arthur, Commander and Bean, Donald W, Pilot of 43-38542

2 B17s from High group collided & both fell apart & went down in flames. No chutes.

Reported accurate CPF flak, black gray, big brown bursts at the same time as the observation of the collision at 1211.

Sine, George H, Pilot of 42-38013

2 A/C from high group in collision. 1 broke in half at radio room. A/C clipped wings went down in spin, then hit again. One broke up. Possibly one chute seen.

Hicks, Ralph B, Pilot of 42-102449

2 A/C in our Hi Group collided and blew up. No chutes seen.

One of Hick’s crew reported on the Technical Failures report,

It is thought that 2 A/C in high group collided because lead group formation scattered when lead A/C left formation at target area.

Goodrick, Gene Robert, Pilot of 44-6135

No observations regarding the collision reported.

Majeske, Charles P, Pilot of 42-37788

No observations regarding the collision reported, but he did record accurate tracking black white flak all around A/C [aircraft] at the target.

Brown, Bert Oliver, Pilot of 42-38208

No observations regarding the collision reported, but one of Hick’s crew asked on the Technical Failures report,

Why were two wings making run at target at same time?

Rowe, George B, Pilot of 44-6105

2 Gp A/C crashed. Silver A/C cut in half at radio room & wings folded off. OD (olive drab) just went straight down & disappeared in overcast. 1 chute seen from silver A/C.

Keller, Marion W, Pilot of 43-37990

Saw 2 B-17 collided. One came from 7 o’clock, other from 4 o’clock & appeared to collide sideways. Both went down. No chutes seen. No additional info. No markings seen on tails. Too far away.

Owens, Robert Clare, Pilot of 43-37843

No observations regarding the collision reported, but he reported,

2 E/A (enemy aircraft) shot down by escort and P-51 blown up by flak over target.

Farra, Robert L, Pilot of 44-6294

Below barrage. 2 planes collided above us.

Wismer, Richard Glen, Pilot of 42-32106

Was not in the formation at the target. Returned early. Aircraft suffered mechanical failure; bombs dropped at 50°45’N,9°25’E, Germany, in enemy territory with unknown effect. Returned to base.

Fahr, John, Pilot of 42-107148

2 B-17 collided High Gp. High Sq. Both A/C went straight down. No chutes were seen.

Summary

In addition to the information I learned from the high-level post-mission documents, I also learned,

Reported Causes of the Mid-air Collision

  • The Wing Leader was hit by flak and his air speed slowed, causing the formation to scatter (Rummel)
  • Lead group formation scattered when lead aircraft left formation at target area (Hicks crew)
  • One ship was hit by a direct flak burst (Duesler). [There were many reports of flak at the target and the Wing Lead was undoubtedly hit by flak. Duesler’s is the only reported visual observation of Brodie’s ship being hit by flak.]
  • Group forced to pull up to avoid collision with another group (351st Bomb Group) (Blankenmeyer)
  • Right after bombing, ran into another group, a lot of prop wash, formation broken up by very sharp turns and prop wash (Patella)
  • Pilot error in evasive action after bombs away (Carlson crew)

Reported Collision and Damage

  • 2 B-17’s collided
  • Both went down
  • One B-17 broke in half
  • Ship hit by flak broke at the waist and fell on the second aircraft (Duesler)
  • 1 aircraft lost right wing, the other broke in half (Hassing)
  • Lt. Brodie’s left wing hit Lt. Buslee’s tail and cut part of wing off; Lt. Buslee’s aircraft broke off at waist (Groff)
  • Ball turret of one ship hit tail of the other, tearing off both tail and ball turret (Blankenmeyer)
  • 1 broke in half at the radio room (Sine)
  • Silver aircraft (Buslee’s) cut in half at radio room and wings folded off. Olive Drab aircraft (Brodie’s) went straight down and disappeared in overcast (Rowe)
  • Wings came off and started turning; other spun down on fire (Gabel)
  • Burning when fell into undercast

Chutes Seen

  • None
  • One man came out, but no chute (Salley), [likely Brodie crew togglier Byron Atkins]
  • 3 out of plane with wings off (Brodie’s); none out of other (Buslee’s) (Gabel)
  • 1 from silver aircraft (Buslee’s) (Rowe)

Why did the Brodie crew’s B-17 collide with the Buslee crew’s B-17? Many factors led to the disaster including a need for a second bomb run due to another wing flying underneath at the target on the first run, slightly being off schedule, the wing lead being hit by flak on the second run, slowing air speed, the deputy taking over and the formation breaking up, very sharp turns and prop wash, finding themselves on a collision course with another group coming off the target, a possible direct flak hit on Brodie’s aircraft, flak at the target, or just plain pilot error in a critical situation.

What happened to the two B-17’s of Buslee and Brodie? After the collison, at least one broke in half at the waist or near the radio room. The tail of Brodie’s was cut off as was Buslee’s ball turret. One or both lost one or both wings. They were both burning as they spun or fell into the undercast.

Was there any hope of survivors? Most witnesses did not see any chutes, but three were reported out of Brodie’s aircraft and one out of Buslee’s. One man was seen coming out of Brodie’s aircraft with no chute. The three survivors on the Brodie crew were waist gunner Harry Liniger, tail gunner Wilfred Miller, and navigator George Hawkins. Togglier Byron Atkins was likely the man seen coming from Brodie’s aircraft without a chute when he was knocked out of the nose. My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was the one chute coming from Buslee’s aircraft.

Do I know much more now than I did before I saw the mission reports? Yes and no. The story, causes, and result of the mid-air collision mostly remains the same for me. But Donald B. Duesler, pilot of 42-102500, has provided me with the possibility that Brodie’s ship was hit by flak like my dad always said before it ran into his ship. (Although Duesler’s report seems unclear as to which ship was hit by flak as it was Buslee’s ship, not Brodie’s, that broke at the waist).

The families of the fourteen men who died on the two ships never really understood what happened to their boys, and I’m still not sure I really do either. Was it pilot error, was it flak, or could Lazy Daisy have suffered some sort of malfunction at a very inopportune moment? My next research will be into Lazy Daisy’s mechanical failures history and I’ll report what I find in a future post.

Thank you to Keith Ellefson and Marc Poole for helping me decipher the handwriting of the pilots on their Tactical Interrogation Forms!

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019