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WWII Timeline – Fall 1944

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1944 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1944

Late 1944

Oskar Schindler saved 1200 Jews by moving them from the Plaszow labor camp in the southern suburb of Kraków, Poland to his hometown of Brunnlitz, Czechoslovakia.

October 2 – 5, 1944

The Polish Home Army surrendered to the Nazis ending the Warsaw Uprising.

October 7, 1944

After learning that they were going to be killed, the Sonderkommando (special work units who were made up of Nazi death camp prisoners, usually Jews, and were forced to aid with the disposal of gas chamber victims) revolted at Auschwitz-Birkenau resulting in the complete destruction of Crematory IV.

October 10-29

Soviet troops captured Riga, the capital of Latvia on the Baltic Sea.

October 11, 1944

The U.S. began air raids against Okinawa.

October 14, 1944

German Field Marshall Erwin Rommel committed forced suicide by cyanide poisoning after being implicated in the July 20, 1944 attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. His death was announced to be due to battle wounds suffered on July 17, 1944.

The Allies liberated Athens, Greece.

October 15, 1944

As the Hungarian government was pursuing negotiations for surrendering to the Soviets, the Hungarian fascist Arrow Cross movement, with German support, carried out a coup d’état (a revolt performed through violence), allowing the Nazis to seize control of the Hungarian puppet government. The deportation of Jews, which had been temporarily halted due to international political pressure, resumed.

October 17, 1944

SS leader Adolf Eichmann arrived in Hungary.

October 18, 1944

Fourteen American B-29 Superfortress aircraft based on the Mariana Islands attacked the Japanese base at Truk.

October 20, 1944

The U.S. Sixth Army invaded Leyte in the Philippines.

Soviet forces captured Belgrade, the capital of Yugoslavia, from the Germans.

October 21, 1944

The Germans surrendered at Aachen, Germany in the Battle of Aachen. It was the first German city to fall to the Allies.

October 23-26, 1944

The three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf, one of the largest naval battles in history, resulted in a decisive U.S. Naval victory over Japan.

George Edwin Farrar’s younger brother Robert (my Uncle Bob) Burnham Farrar served aboard the USS Intrepid, which was involved in the Battle of Leyte Gulf.

October 25, 1944

In World War II, a Japanese aircraft loaded with explosives and making a deliberate suicidal crash on an enemy target was known as a Kamikaze (meaning “Divine Wind”) attack. Fleet Admiral William Halsey called it the “only weapon I feared in the war.” The first recorded Kamikaze attack occurred against U.S. warships during the three-day Battle of Leyte Gulf.

October 28, 1944

Two thousand Jews in the last transport from Theresienstadt (a hybrid concentration camp and ghetto in the town of  Terezín, located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia), arrived at Auschwitz.

October 29, 1944

A Japanese Kamikaze hit Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, on one of her port side gun positions. Damage to the ship was minimal, but ten men were killed and six were wounded. 

October 30, 1944

The last transport of Jews from Theresienstadt arrived at Auschwitz and the gas chambers there were used for the last time.

November 8, 1944

The Nazis forced 25,000 Jews to walk over 100 miles in rain and snow from Budapest to the Austrian border. A second forced march of 50,000 persons followed, ending at the Mauthausen Concentration Camp.

For the first time since 1933, Adolf Hitler failed to appear in Munich on the anniversary of the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch.

November 7, 1944

Franklin Roosevelt won his fourth consecutive term as U.S. President.

November 11, 1944

The U.S. navy bombed Iwo Jima.

November 18, 1944

The U.S. Third Army crossed the German frontier.

November 20, 1944

French troops drove through the ‘Beffort Gap’ in southwestern France to reach the Rhine.

November 23, 1944

American troops liberated the Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp, located in the Vosges Mountains close to the Alsatian village of Natzwiller in France.

November 24, 1944

The French captured Strasbourg, France.

Twenty-four B-29 Superfortresses bombed the Nakajima aircraft factory near Tokyo.

November 25, 1944

SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordered the destruction of the crematories at Auschwitz. Crematory IV had already been destroyed by inmates during a revolt on October 7, 1944.

Shortly after noon, two Japanese Kamikazes crashed into Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, killing sixty-six men and causing a serious fire. Bob Farrar was injured in the attack, mainly due to smoke inhalation. The ship remained on station, however, and the fires were extinguished within two hours. She was detached for repairs the following day.

December 4, 1944

Athens, Greece was placed under martial law during a Civil War.

December 11, 1944

At Hartheim Castle, near Linz Austria, German authorities carried out the last gassing of inmates, and under SS guard, Mauthausen (Austria) concentration camp prisoners dismantled the killing facility. Hartheim was one of six gassing installations for adults, the majority of them mentally and physically disabled patients, established as part of the Nazi’s “euthanasia” program.

December 15, 1944

U.S. Troops invaded Mindoro in the Philippines.

In the summer of 1944, bandleader Glenn Miller (a member of the U.S. Army since late 1942 and later Army Air Forces) formed a fifty-piece USAAF (United States Army Air Forces) band and departed for England where he gave hundreds of performances to Allied troops over the next six months. On this date, he left England to entertain American troops in France in a UC-64 Norseman (a Canadian single-engine bush plane), traveling over the English Channel, but never arrived. The wreckage of his plane was never found and his official military status remains Missing in Action.

December 16, 1944

The Battle of the Bulge in Luxembourg’s Ardennes Forest began as the Germans launched a final offensive in the west known as Operation Wacht am Rhein. The objectives were to re-conquer Belgium, split the allied forces along the German border, and capture the strategic port of Antwerp. Three German Armies conducted a surprise attack along a 70-miles front and quickly overtook the American line.

December 17, 1944

On the second day of the Battle of the Bulge, the Nazi Waffen-SS (the military branch of the Nazi Party’s SS organization) murdered eighty-one American POW’s in the Malmedy Massacre.

A regiment of the 1st SS Panzer Division of the Leibstandarte-SS, commanded by SS Lt. Col. Jochen Peiper, intercepted a truck convoy of the U.S. 285th Field Artillery Observation Battalion’s Battery B southeast of Malmedy. Peiper’s troops, called the Blowtorch Battalion, had burned their way across Russia and had slaughtered civilians in two separate villages.

The Panzer tanks fired upon and destroyed the lead vehicles in the truck convoy. The convoy halted while the tank fire continued. The Americans were forced to abandon their vehicles and surrendered.

The captured American Battery B soldiers were herded into a nearby field where an SS tank commander ordered an SS private to shoot into the prisoners. The SS opened fire on the unarmed Americans with machine guns.

When the machine gunfire ceased, an English speaking SS man walked among the victims on the ground asking if anyone was injured or needed help. Those survivors who responded were killed by a pistol shot to the head. In what was the single worst atrocity against American troops during World War II in Europe, a total of eighty-one Americans were killed.

Three American survivors reported the massacre to a U.S. Army Colonel stationed at Malmedy. Because the news spread quickly that Germans were shooting POW’s, the American troops became determined to hold the lines against the German advance.

The same day, in the Pacific Theater of Operations, the U.S. Army Air Forces established the 509th Composite Group to operate the B-29 Superfortresses that would drop the atomic bombs.

December 20, 1944

Bob Farrar’s ship, the USS Intrepid, reached San Francisco for repairs.

December 21, 1944

The Germans besieged U.S. paratroopers in Bastogne, Belgium. Units of Germany’s 5th Panzer Army captured St. Vith, Belgium.

December 22, 1944

Surrounded in the Battle of the Bulge, American Brigadier General Anthony McAuliffe of the 101st Airborne Division received a surrender ultimatum from the Germans. His immortal reply: NUTS! [Use the link in Sources below to read the fascinating story.]

December 26, 1944

The 4th Armored Division, leading the attack by General George S. Patton’s Third Army, attacked the Germans at Bastogne and was the first unit to break through to relieve the besieged 101st Airborne Division of paratroopers. While American troops held the town, refugees were able to evacuate.

December 27, 1944

Soviet troops besieged Budapest.

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.

Oskar Schindler

The Forced Suicide of Erwin Rommel

USS Intrepid

Last Gassing at Hartheim

The Malmedy Massacre

The Story of Anthony McAuliffe’s NUTS! Reply

Most recent post from the series:

Summer 1944

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3

Continuation of my previous posts, Gremlins, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3 and Part 2 of 3

In this post, I’m picking back up with the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17G 42-31222’s (Lazy Daisy’s) missions after her six week break following the April 18, 1944 mission. For information on her December 1943 through April 1944 missions, follow the link above for prior posts about Lazy Daisy’s gremlins in Part 2.

In reviewing Lazy Daisy’s missions, note that she was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group’s 546th Squadron and was assigned to 546th crews exclusively until early June 1944. After that point she was assigned as a spare aircraft on many occasions, something that had been done for this aircraft only once previously, in February 1944. And she was also assigned to other squadrons.

In this continuation of the list of Lazy Daisy’s missions, the missions were flown by crews of the 546th Bomb Squadron unless I note otherwise. ALL of her missions aren’t listed. I’ve listed the ones with the most serious problems and if no problems were reported on a mission (although only a few missions had no technical or equipment failures of any kind), that mission wasn’t included either.

On Lazy Daisy’s first mission back in action on 28 MAY 1944, the James Gibson crew reported the bomb doors motor burned out and the pilot’s oxygen system ran out twenty minutes after the target. The pilot was forced to use a “walk around” oxygen bottle on the return to base. The 384th Bomb Group webmaster’s – Fred Preller’s – father, Robert Henry “Bob” Preller, was Gibson’s co-pilot aboard Lazy Daisy this date, his second mission.

On the 29 MAY 1944 mission, the David Rucker crew reported the ship received battle damage – a 20 mm hole in the left wing and minor flak holes in the rudder. The ball turret was also reported as being inoperative and kept burning out fuses. The pilot also suggested that,

A/C (Aircraft) 222 (Lazy Daisy) be taken out of combat because of oil regulator supercharger.  You cannot stay in formation with the electronic type.

The ship was held as a spare for the 4 JUN 1944 mission, but returned to the formation on 6 JUN 1944.

On 6 JUN 1944, she was assigned to the Robert Menke crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron. The only failure he reported that mission was that the elevation clutch slipped out in the upper turret. More serious mechanical problems reappeared after that.

  • 8 JUN 1944 The Edward Thoma crew reported #3 Turbo Supercharger went ‘out’ at altitude.

On 21 JUN 1944, Lazy Daisy was not flown at all by the 384th, but instead was assigned to the Willis Matter crew of the 379th Bomb Group. I did not find any comments from Matter about any failures of the aircraft in the mission reports.

  • 20 JUL 1944 The Daniel Young crew of the 384th’s 545th Bomb Squadron reported, Engines: #2, #3, #4 lag bad. Major battle damage to right wing.
  • 21 JUL 1944 The Joseph Patella crew of the 384th’s 544th Bomb Squadron reported exhaust stack on #1 engine broke, cut spark plug lead and all manifold pressure lost through hole in exhaust stack. #2 engine ran away on and off. #3 oil pressure gauge gave readings from 5 (typed report says 35, but pilot’s hand-written narrative looks like 5) – 75 lbs.

On 25 JUL 1944, Lazy Daisy was assigned to the Ned Sweeney crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron. Sweeney did not report any aircraft failures after the mission, but sadly he was killed four days later on the 29 JUL 1944 mission aboard 43-37870.

  • 29 JUL 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported a bad oil break in #2 engine.
  • 31 JUL 1944 The Ralph Hicks crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported manifold pressure on #1 (or #2?) engine reading inconsistently (handwritten report reads ‘incorrectly’ rather than ‘inconsistently’).

The 547th Bomb Squadron continued to man Lazy Daisy on 1 AUG 1944 (no failures reported) and again on 3 AUG.

  • 3 AUG 1944 The John Mock crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported #2 supercharger lags.

The 545th Bomb Squadron manned Lazy Daisy on 4 AUG 1944 and did not report any failures, but did report 10 flak holes throughout the aircraft.

On 5 AUG 1944, the 546th took back their ship, and didn’t report any failures, but did report battle damage of flak holes in the left and right wings and the #3 nacelle (outer casing/housing of an aircraft engine).

  • 7 AUG 1944 The Donald Duesler crew reported No. #4 engine ran away. Oil temperature went up so it had to be feathered. Worked O.K. until target area was reached. They also reported battle damage of a few flak holes in the vertical stabilizer.
  • 13 AUG 1944 The James Brookshire crew reported #3 engine out. Returned with #3 prop windmilling because the shaft broke. They also reported battle damage of flak holes in the right flap.

After the 13 AUG mission came another gap, this time for a month, in combat missions for Lazy Daisy. She was assigned as a spare on 11 SEP, but was unused. But she did return the next day.

  • 12 SEP 1944 The John Mohler crew reported #3 cylinder head gauge out. #4 prop governor ran away. They also reported some flak damage.
  • 17 SEP 1944 The Ralph Hicks crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported #4 leaking oil. It’s unclear if it was due to battle damage or technical failure.
  • 19 SEP 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported #4 Engine throwing oil badly.
  • 25 SEP 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported #2 and #3 sluggish at altitude. OK till 15,000 ft. They also reported moderate flak damage over the target and that the co-pilot was unable to transmit over the interphone. And, Mead, the pilot, wrote in his narrative, “Brief B-24s to quit flying collision courses with us.” A forewarning?

In Lazy Daisy’s entire combat mission history, in addition to her engine and/or supercharger defects, pilots reported 5 malfunctions with the bomb bay, 20 problems with the radio and interphone system, 5 issues with the oxygen system, and a variety of other issues with the vertical stabilizer, ball turret, flight indicator, hydraulic lines, gyro compass, fluxgate compass, upper turret, chin turret, and most alarming, on Lazy Daisy’s next-to-last mission, the steering wheel aileron.

On that next-to-last mission on 27 SEP 1944, the 348th’s 547th Bomb Squadron used Lazy Daisy and the pilot, Rueben Farnsworth, reported that the steering wheel aileron control had too much vertical play. Also, the same issue that was reported two days earlier on 25 SEP, a problem with the interphone was reported as “Interphone needs checking – co-pilot’s system wouldn’t work,” along with a newly reported problem that there was a spark in the motor of the top turret which caused it to smoke. Battle damage was recorded as one minor hole, location unreported, due to flak at the target.

What sounded pretty significant to me was the report of a steering issue, a problem with the steering wheel aileron. Not being particularly well versed in the parts of or functions of the parts of a B-17 aircraft, I looked up the term “aileron.” I learned,

Ailerons help a pilot maintain control of an aircraft. On the outer rear edge of each wing, the two ailerons move in opposite directions, up and down, decreasing lift on one wing while increasing it on the other. This causes the airplane to roll to the left or right. To turn the airplane, the pilot uses the ailerons to tilt the wings in the desired direction.

Becoming more concerned with this news, I asked the 384th’s group of volunteer researchers for more information about the effects of a B-17’s aileron with too much vertical play in close formation flying during a combat mission.

Marc Poole, Founder of the 384th Bomb Group website, aviation artist, college art instructor, and a licensed pilot, provided this insight regarding the aircraft’s aileron and steering,

I would think any play in the control yoke would be similar to having too much slop or slack in your steering like on an old pickup truck…One of the 172’s I trained in last summer had a lot of slack in the control yoke…you could turn the wheel left or right about 1/8 turn either way with zero response…pretty unnerving. I didn’t fly that one much!

On 28 SEP 1944 the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron used Lazy Daisy on the mission to Magdeburg, Germany. The John (Jay) Buslee crew was nearby in the formation aboard 43-37822. It would be the last mission for both crews. Official reports show,

Lazy Daisy collided with 43‑37822 over the target. Both ships went down on fire and out of control; no chutes observed; crashed near Erxleben, Germany; (Missing Air Crew Report) MACR9366.

A witness, Wallace Storey, co-pilot on 43-38548 with the Kenneth Gross crew on 28 SEP, later described the mid-air collision and the moments before it,

We found ourselves on a crossing course with another Group and just after “bombs away” the lead ship made a sharp descending right turn. Our high element, being on the inside of this steep turn, had to move quickly by reducing power while climbing slightly. Glancing to my right, I saw that “Lazy Daisy” was sliding toward me. I pulled back on the control column to climb out of her path while keeping my eye on the #2 ship of the lead element, Lt. Buslee in 43-37822, on whose wing our element was flying. I yelled to Gross [the pilot] to watch for him to come out on the other side and, sure enough, he slid under us and right into Buslee in the lead element.

Note: The other group on the crossing course on this date was a B-17 Group, not a B-24 Group as it was three days earlier.

Speculation now in overdrive, I wondered, was Lazy Daisy’s steering wheel aileron issue addressed before the 28 September mission? Overnight from the return of the formation the afternoon of 27 September when Lazy Daisy was used by the 547th Bomb Squadron, to take-off of the formation on the morning of 28 September, was a pretty narrow window for maintenance to take place for,

  • A steering wheel aileron control which had too much vertical play
  • The co-pilot’s interphone system which wouldn’t work (and hadn’t worked the prior mission of 25 SEP)
  • A spark in the motor of the top turret which caused it to smoke
  • Battle damage of one minor hole, location unreported, due to flak at the target

The 546th Bomb Squadron’s ground crew also had a lot of work to do on Lazy Daisy earlier that week. After the 25 September mission, they had to address the #2 and #3 engines, which had been reported sluggish at altitude, repair moderate flak damage, and fix the problem with the co-pilot’s interphone system (which apparently didn’t get fixed by 27 September).

IF on 28 September, Lazy Daisy’s engines were being sluggish (as they were often reported) AND the steering wheel aileron still had too much play, how would Lazy Daisy have reacted to Lt. Brodie’s attempts to quickly reduce power, climb, and change direction with the formation when they found themselves on a crossing course with another Group as Wallace Storey described?

The mid-air collision between Lazy Daisy and 43-37822 on 28 September 1944 likely did not happen because of one single issue – the flak, the crossing course with the other group, the quick maneuvering, the prop wash, or the gremlins – but a compounding of these and perhaps other issues I’m not aware of.

I have been struggling to make sense of all the information I discovered about Lazy Daisy’s mechanical issues, or gremlins, from all of her mission reports. I still think there may be something there that I’m missing or not considering. But it’s more likely that the answer I search for is written nowhere in history.

I now know more about Lazy Daisy, her gremlins, and about how they may have contributed to her collision with my dad’s B-17, but I will never know exactly why it happened. I could look forever, review thousands of more documents, create hundreds of more theories, and spend many more sleepless nights pondering all the conditions. But the reality is that the answer I search for died with Lazy Daisy’s pilots when she fell to earth. And there it shall remain.

Sources

Ailerons – NASA

Flight Control Failures – AOPA

Aileron – Wikipedia

Thank you Marc Poole for your help on this post.

Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for a post about the mechanics of a B-17, in particular, turbosuperchargers, and “throwing a bucket…”

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Summer 1944

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1944 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1944

Summer 1944

The highest-ever daily number of those gassed and cremated at Auschwitz-Birkenau was recorded at just over 9,000. This overwhelmed the capacity of the crematories and required six huge pits to burn the bodies.

July 1944

The Swedish Foreign Ministry sent diplomat Raoul Wallenberg to Budapest, Hungary with the support of the World Jewish Congress and American War Refugee Board to aid the 200,000 Jews left in the Hungarian capital. He saved nearly 33,000 Jews by securing their release from deportation trains, death march convoys, and labor service brigades, and by issuing diplomatic papers (protective documents) and establishing a network of thirty-one safe, or protected, houses in Budapest, called the International Ghetto. On January 17, 1945, Wallenberg was detained by Soviet agents and was never heard from again. 

July 3, 1944

The Battle of the Hedgerows began in Normandy, named so because the Allies were hindered by the agricultural hedges in Western France which intelligence had not properly evaluated. The US First Army VIII Corps advanced only seven miles in twelve days.

The Soviets captured Minsk.

July 4, 1944

Less than one month since D-Day on June 6, the Allies had landed 920,000 troops, and lost 62,000 men, the count including those killed, wounded, and missing.

July 8, 1944

The Japanese withdrew from Imphal, the capital city of the northeastern Indian state of Manipur. They had invaded Imphal in a bid to capture British Colonies, but were defeated.

July 9, 1944

British and Canadian troops captured Caen, France.

Raoul Wallenberg arrived in Budapest as first secretary to the Swedish legation in Hungary and with financing from the US War Refugee Board.

July 11, 1944

The Czech family camp at Auschwitz was liquidated.

July 17, 1944

German General Erwin Rommel was seriously injured in Normandy when a British Royal Air Force (RAF) fighter plane strafed his staff car, injuring the driver, which caused it to crash into trees. Rommel was thrown from the car, suffering cuts to his face from glass shards and three fractures to his skull. He was taken to a hospital with major head injuries and then to his home in Germany to convalesce.

July 18, 1944

British General Bernard Montgomery, the commander of all the Allied ground forces in Normandy, launched Operation Goodwood 40 miles east of Caen.

U.S. troops reached and captured St. Lô, France.

July 20, 1944

German Army officers who were part of the German resistance attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler, but failed when a heavy conference table deflected the blast from a bomb placed under it. Hitler was only slightly wounded.

July 21, 1944

U.S. Marines invaded Guam in the Mariana Islands. In Operation Stevedore, Task Force 53, commanded by Rear Admiral Richard L. Connolly of the U.S. Navy, the Third Marine Division and the 1st Provisional Marine Brigade, along with the U.S. Army 77th Infantry Division, landed on Guam.

July 24, 1944

Soviet troops liberated the first concentration camp at Majdanek where over 360,000 had been murdered.

U.S. Marines invaded Tinian, an Island in the Northern Mariana Islands.

July 25, 1944

The U.S. Army began Operation Cobra in Normandy.

The II Canadian Corps began Operation Spring, an offensive south of Caen.

July 27, 1944

American troops completed the liberation of Guam.

July 28, 1944

Soviet troops took Brest-Litovsk, Belarus.

U.S. troops took Coutances, France.

August 1, 1944 – October 5, 1944

The non-communist underground Home Army in Poland, the dominant Polish resistance movement when Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union during World War II, rose up against the Nazis in an attempt to liberate Warsaw before the arrival of Soviet troops. The Soviet advance stopped on the east bank of the Vistula River. On October 5, the remnants of the Polish Home Army fighting in Warsaw surrendered to the Nazis.

August 1, 1944

Patton’s U.S. Third Army was activated in Normandy, France.

U.S. troops reached Avranches, France.

August 2, 1944

The SS liquidated the Gypsy family camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau.

August 3, 1944

U.S. And Chinese troops took Myitkyina, the capital city of Kachin State in Myanmar (Burma), after a two month siege.

August 4, 1944

Anne Frank and her family were arrested by the Gestapo in Amsterdam, Holland. They were first sent to the Westerbork Transit Camp and then on to Auschwitz. Anne and her sister Margot were later sent to Bergen-Belsen where Anne died of typhus on March 15, 1945.

August 6, 1944

Lodz, the last Jewish ghetto in Poland, was liquidated with 60,000 Jews sent to Auschwitz.

August 7, 1944

The Germans began a major counter-attack toward Avranches, France.

August 8, 1944

American troops completed the capture of the Mariana Islands.

The Canadians launched Operation Totalize south of Caen, France with 600 tanks and 720 guns.

August 15, 1944

In Operation Dragoon, Allied forces landed in southern France near Nice and advanced rapidly towards the Rhine River to the northeast.

August 19, 1944

The French Resistance caused an uprising in Paris against the Germans.

August 19/20, 1944

A Soviet offensive in the Balkans (an area comprising Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia) began with an attack on Romania.

August 20 – 25, 1944

Allied troops reached Paris. On August 25, Free French forces, supported by Allied troops, entered the French capital. By September, the Allies reach the German border; by December, virtually all of France, most of Belgium, and part of the southern Netherlands were liberated.

August 20, 1944

The Falaise Pocket or Battle of the Falaise Pocket was the decisive engagement of the Battle of Normandy in WWII. The Western Allies encircled the German Army Group B, 7th Army, and Fifth Panzer Army, in the Falaise Pocket, a pocket formed around Falaise, Calvados, in the Normandy region of France.

August 23, 1944

The appearance of Soviet troops on the Prut River induced the Romanian opposition to overthrow the Antonescu regime. The new government concluded an armistice and immediately switched sides in the war. The Romanian turnaround compelled Bulgaria to surrender on September 8, and the Germans to evacuate Greece, Albania, and southern Yugoslavia in October.

August 25, 1944

Paris was liberated when Germany surrendered Paris to the Allied forces, ending four years of occupation.

August 29, 1944 – October 28, 1944

The underground Slovak resistance uprising began under the leadership of the Slovak National Council, consisting of both Communists and non-Communists, against the Germans and the indigenous fascist Slovak regime. In late October, the Germans captured the headquarters of the uprising at Banská Bystrica in central Slovakia and ended the organized resistance.

August 31, 1944

Soviet troops took Bucharest, the largest and capital city in Romania.

September 1944

As the British and American Air Forces destroyed most of the V-1 launch sites, by September of 1944, the Nazis introduced the V-2 rocket. The V-2 was much more sophisticated, a liquid-fueled rocket that traveled at supersonic speeds as high as 50 miles. It would plunge toward its target at a speed of nearly 4,000 miles per hour, smashing its 2,000 pound high explosive warhead into the ground without warning. Unlike the V-1, the V-2 rockets could not be intercepted. Over a thousand were fired at London.

September 1-4

The cities of Verdun, Dieppe, Artois, Rouen, and Abbeville in France, and Antwerp and Brussels in Belgium, were liberated by Allies.

September 3, 1944

The British Second Army liberated Brussels, Belgium.

Field Marshal Karl Rudolf Gerd von Rundstedt assumed command of the German armies in the West.

September 4, 1944

Finland and the Soviet Union agreed to a cease-fire.

September 13, 1944

U.S. troops reached the Siegfried Line in western Germany.

September 15, 1944

U.S. Troops invaded Morotai Island in Indonesia.

September 17 – 25, 1944

The Allied assault known as “Operation Market-Garden” was an attempt by combined Allied airborne and ground assault troops to capture bridges over Dutch waterways in order to open a rapid northern route for the Allied advance into Germany.

The First Allied Airborne Army dropped at Eindhoven, Nijmegen and Arnhem to secure bridgeheads and the British Second Army pushed north into Holland from Belgium, to link up.

It was the largest Allied airborne operation of the war and the most costly. The third of the three airborne landings, at Arnhem, proved to be a complete failure as British troops landed too far from the Arnhem bridges and the Germans quickly recovered from the surprise of the aerial assault. Of 10,000 British troops at Arnhem, 1,400 were killed while over 6,000 were taken prisoner.

September 19, 1944

The Moscow Armistice ended the Continuation War when it was signed by Finland on one side and the Soviet Union and United Kingdom on the other side. Finland had participated in the Continuation War in an Axis partnership with Nazi Germany against the Soviet Union from 1941 to 1944.

September 25, 1944

The British evacuated the remaining paratroopers from Arnhem in the Netherlands, but only 2,163 men out of nearly 10,000 returned.

Adolf Hitler ordered the formation of the Volkssturm (the “people’s storm”), the German home guard or national militia. It was created not by the formal German Armed Forces, but rather by the Nazi Party on Hitler’s order. Members were conscripted from those between sixteen and sixty years of age who were not already serving in a military unit. It was not officially announced until October 16, 1944.

September 26, 1944

Soviet troops occupied Estonia.

September 28, 1944

Frogmen from the German Marine Einsatzkommando demolished the Nijmegen, Holland railway bridge, which had been a key objective for the Allies to hold in Operation Market Garden.

The two B-17’s of the John Oliver Buslee crew and the James Jospeh Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force collided after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Four of the eighteen airmen aboard the two ships survived: George Edwin Farrar (my father), Harry Allen Liniger, Wilfred Frank Miller, and George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.

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.

Raoul Wallenberg

Hedgerow Warfare During the Battle of Normandy

Battle of the Hedgerows

Erwin Rommel

Volkssturm

Operation Market Garden

Nijmegen Railway Bridge

Most recent post from the series:

Spring 1944

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3

Continuation of my previous posts, Gremlins and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3

Why would I think the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17G 42-31222, nicknamed Lazy Daisy, was infested with gremlins? After reviewing the aircraft’s failures in the post-mission documents from her first mission in December 1943 to her next-to-last in September 1944, I was overwhelmed by the number and kinds of problems the aircraft experienced.

Lazy Daisy, a B-17G of the 384th Bombardment Group’s 546th Bombardment Squadron, experienced serious engine problems from the start and was taken out of commission for long periods, presumably for major repairs. Later in her career, she was assigned often as a spare aircraft and unused. At one point, it seems the 546th was trying to avoid using her (my opinion), so she was assigned to other bombardment squadrons of the 384th, and even once to another bombardment group because, (also only my theory) the men of the 546th Squadron didn’t want to fly in her.

When my dad, George Edwin Farrar, told me the story of surviving a mid-air collision between two B-17’s in WWII, he told me the reason the other ship (Lazy Daisy) collided with his ship (B-17G 43-37822), was that Lazy Daisy had been hit by ground fire (flak) which caused it to be knocked off course and into his ship.

I long believed flak was the sole reason for the collision until,

  1. A 384th Bomb Group B-17 pilot, Wallace Storey, who witnessed the collision, told me he didn’t think Lazy Daisy was hit by flak and,
  2. Many of the reports from the day of the collision do not attribute flak as the cause (although some do), and speculated on other causes, such as (1) the group was forced to pull up to avoid collision with another group, (2) pilot error during evasive action, and (3) the formation was broken up by very sharp turns and prop wash.

But, in the case of what seemed to some like pilot error, what if a mechanical problem with the aircraft caused the aircraft to not respond correctly to properly executed maneuvering by the pilot, James Brodie? And what if this mechanical problem compounded the scenario of flak damage?

Only the aircraft’s pilot, James Brodie, and co-pilot, Lloyd Vevle, would have been able to answer that question and neither one lived to do so. I can’t pretend to know the extent of what they were facing that day, that moment, that Lazy Daisy collided with my dad’s B-17, but I can look at what kinds of issues Lazy Daisy experienced in the missions leading up to that fateful one on September 28, 1944, and venture a guess.

I reviewed the mission reports of all 64 missions to which Lazy Daisy was assigned, looking for mechanical issues or anything else that stood out, to try to build a greater understanding of the aircraft’s history. Before I get into the mission details, here’s a little background info on the ship.

Lazy Daisy was,

  • Built by the Boeing Airplane Company
  • A new replacement aircraft assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group, 546th Bombardment Squadron (H)
  • Formally identified as B-17G 42-31222, with the ’42’ prefix meaning built in 1942, a newer ‘G’ series B-17
  • Identified with Aircraft ID Code BK*D, BK being the squadron code of the 384th’s 546th Bomb Squadron
  • Assigned to Ground Crew Chief James F. Flynn for maintenance

Lazy Daisy’s start date with the 384th Bomb Group was 23 November 1943 and her first assigned mission was 5 December 1943. Of course, Lazy Daisy’s End Date was 28 September 1944, failing to return from a combat operation due to the mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany.

Of Lazy Daisy’s assigned 64 missions, she received combat credit for 49.

Lazy Daisy’s entry in Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log is,

42-31222 Del Denver 4/10/43; Gr Island 17/10/43; Memphis 24/10/43; Ass 545BS/384BG [JD-D] Grafton Underwood 546 [BK-D] 23/11/43; MIA Magdeburg (Berlin) 28/9/44 w/Jim Brodie, Lloyd Vevle, Byron Atkins, Bob Crumpton, Don Dooley, Gordon Hetu (6KIA); George Hawkins, Harry Liniger, Wilf Miller (3POW); flak, cr Erxleben, Ger; MACR 9366. LAZY DAISY.

I introduced you to Lazy Daisy’s first “date” (first official combat mission’s pilot), Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, in Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3.

Following Taylor’s previous very rough mission of November 29, 1943 in Silver Dollar, he was probably looking forward to a less eventful round trip in his new ship to a Luftwaffe Fighter Airfield in Saint-Jean-d’Angély, France on December 5, 1943. It was less eventful in that Lazy Daisy had to return to base with a broken piston head soon after takeoff.

Not a great start for Lazy Daisy, and in the missions that followed, the ship was plagued by aircraft technical failure after technical failure. Over the course of her life, the crews of Lazy Daisy reported engine problems on 27 missions, including 21 engine/prop malfunctions and 9 supercharger problems (3 missions included both).

It wasn’t hard to notice the many engine and supercharger issues once I had them all in a list. Next question, what the heck is a supercharger?

Fred Preller, the 384th Bomb Group website’s Webmaster, helped me out with this one, noting,

A supercharger is an air compressor. On the B-17 it is a turbo-supercharger, meaning it is driven by a turbine in the engine exhaust line. The supercharger compresses air being fed into the engine.

Side note: as you go up in altitude the air pressure lessens, and there is consequently less air pressure to force air into the engine.

So the supercharger offsets that loss in air pressure to provide sufficient air to the engine for proper combustion. In fact, it “supercharges” the air pressure several times the normal atmospheric pressure. I seem to recall that the B-17 turbos would provide up to 45 psi air to the engine (normal atmospheric pressure at sea level is about 15 psi).

So, how does this all work? The engine exhaust gases are routed to the turbine which spins the compressor. There is a “waste gate” in the exhaust line which will route more or less exhaust gas to the turbine, and is the means of controlling the “boost” in air pressure that the compressor provides.

So what about all the “lagging” of the superchargers that I read in the pilot narratives of the mission reports? Fred added,

I am not sure of this but I imagine it has to do with the supercharger response to the waste gate setting – in fact, there is quite a linkage between the cockpit and each engine for controlling the waste gate, so it is easy to see that different kinds of problems could occur.

John Edwards, 384th Bomb Group Historian, helped me out when I pointedly asked what would happen to a B-17 during all those supercharger failures? Would it make the aircraft seem sluggish, or lazy? John noted,

A supercharger failure at altitude would certainly make it hard for the aircraft to hold position especially if still carrying the full bomb load and the higher amount of fuel before the target. If the charger is not performing appropriately at lower altitudes, the impact can be slow to climb which puts the aircraft behind schedule and makes the pilot push the engines harder when it finally reaches altitude.

And much more to come about the fascinating subject of superchargers at a later date, following this series…

I can’t help but speculate that once her first pilot, Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, got to know her “personality”, why wouldn’t he name his new B-17 Lazy Daisy?

So here comes the mission list, and in the list of Lazy Daisy’s missions I present here, December 1943 through April 1944, all the missions were flown by crews of the 546th Bomb Squadron. ALL of her missions aren’t listed. I’ve listed the ones with the most serious problems and if no problems were reported on a mission (although only a few missions had no technical or equipment failures of any kind), that mission wasn’t included either. [May through September 1944 missions coming up in Part 3.]

Specific engine/supercharger problems and other serious issues on different missions included,

  • 5 DEC 1943 Broken piston head in the No. 2 engine. The pilot, Lt. Taylor, wrote in his narrative statement, “On take-off the manifold pressure dropped to 31” & 1800 RPM. The engine was feathered when we attained an altitude of 200’. It was impossible to climb. The engine was feathered, but created such a drag that it was necessary to re-feather it. We drew 46” & 2500 RPM on the three remaining engines in order to maintain altitude & speed. When these settings were reduced, it was not possible to maintain altitude & flying speed. As soon as the group completed take-off we landed. We landed with full bomb load.”

It would take 8 days of tinkering before Lazy Daisy was assigned to another mission after having problems with the No. 2 engine. So what happened on 13 DEC 1943 with the Taylor crew assigned to the ship for her second mission?

  • 13 DEC 1943 No. 2 engine oil pressure dropped to 37 lbs. Taylor wrote, “On the trip over, the manifold pressure repeatedly dropped to about 20lbs. for no apparent cause. The pressure could be brought back up by manipulation of the supercharger control. Eventually the oil pressure dropped to 40 lbs. We continued for about 15 minutes, then the oil pressure began to drop further, so I attempted to feather the engine. It would not feather. I turned back and bombed a Target of Opportunity. At low altitude the engine performed alright.”

The Taylor crew would not man Lazy Daisy again until Christmas Eve, so on her next mission, Lazy Daisy’s gremlins were able to antagonize a different crew.

  • 16 DEC 1943 The Clifford Moore crew reported a problem with the fuel pressure on #3 engine. Prop on #2 over sped. They also reported flak damage and that the heated gloves on the ship were faulty, too.

The Taylor crew was back on board on 24 DEC 1943, Christmas Eve, but reported no aircraft failures, only an equipment failure that the co-pilot’s microphone was out. Over the next few months, the Taylor crew and other crews reported a slew of problems.

  • 30 DEC 1943 The Austin Rinne crew reported #3 supercharger drew only 22 inches at 22,000 ft. They also reported that the antenna brace on the vertical stabilizer was broken off, the bomb bay doors wouldn’t close, and flak had pierced the left outboard Tokyo fuel tank.
  • 5 JAN 1944 The Ralph Courtemanche crew reported #1 and #3 superchargers lagged on climb. #2 engine was shooting oil at altitude. It ran all right at lower altitudes.
  • 7 JAN 1944 The Sidney Taylor crew reported that the flight indicator was completely out and must be replaced. They became separated from formation in dense clouds after group assembly, failed to make wing rendezvous, and were forced to abort.
  • 30 JAN 1944 The Merlin Reed crew reported a runaway prop on #2 engine. A separate report alternately reported the problem as – Returned to station early due to runaway No. 3 propeller. Inspection revealed a broken shaft.
  • 3 FEB 1944 The Sidney Taylor crew reported #1 supercharger threw a bucket, but it was not noticed until the ship had landed.
  • 20 FEB 1944 Today was pilot Sidney Taylor’s 25th mission, completing his tour. He reported Lazy Daisy threw a bucket from #1 supercharger, #2 prop over traveled, and #1 supercharger regulator out. I guess Lazy Daisy’s gremlins couldn’t let Taylor have an easy final mission.
  • 21 FEB 1944 The James Miller crew reported #3 supercharger lags. Apparently Lazy Daisy’s gremlins didn’t leave Grafton Underwood with Sidney Taylor.
  • 25 FEB 1944 The Ralph Courtemanche crew reported fuel had to be siphoned out of #4 wing tank when fuel pressure went up to 19.5 lbs, and #3 engine began throwing oil.
  • 2 MAR 1944 The Charles Bishop crew reported #4 fuel pressure was extremely high. Had to run engines between 20” and 25” to keep it down.
  • 3 MAR 1944 The Charles Decker crew reported #1 engine was running roughly and vibrated excessively. Alternately reported – #2 engine failed and couldn’t be feathered. Pilot believes it was ignition trouble. #3 supercharger lagged at altitude.
  • 8 MAR 1944 The Charles Bishop crew reported No. 1 engine was running roughly and vibrated excessively. Returned early with feathered No. 1 engine. On ground check excessive blow-by of the valves was noted. Inspection revealed No. 7 exhaust valve broken. Further inspection showed No. 6 exhaust valve broken off.
  • 22 MAR 1944 The James Miller crew reported #2 Engine knocked out by flak and had general flak damages. Miller wrote, “Hit by flak. Lost #2 engine. Oil pressure dropped. Evidently oil line hit by flak. Unable to feather prop. Dropped off at enemy coast.”
  • 13 APR 1944 The Anthony Gekakis crew reported No. 1 Engine running rough and smoking continuously at altitude.
  • 18 APR 1944 The James Miller crew reported #1 Engine went out over target.

After the April 18, 1944 mission, Lazy Daisy was out of service for almost six weeks (40 days). I turned to my fellow research volunteers of the 384th Bomb Group to help me analyze this and other breaks in Lazy Daisy’s inclusion in combat missions.

384th Bomb Group’s Historian John Edwards’ thoughts on the gap of missions were that,

  1. In Fall 1944, there are typically more aircraft on station than crews so the group could afford a tail to sit a while as maintenance worked the gremlins.
  2. The USAAF maintenance system was designed to move aircraft with problems to the next level of maintenance if the required amount of time to complete the repair exceeded certain time requirements.

The SD (Sub-depot) would work the aircraft since it stayed on station. We would see an annotation had the aircraft been sent to a SAD (Strategic Air Depot) or BAD (Base Air Depot).

Keith Ellefson, the 384th Bomb Group’s Combat Data Specialist, found that indeed,

42-31222 was at 2SAD (the 2nd Strategic Air Depot), Station 547 (aka Abbots Ripton at Alconbury, England) on 6 May 1944 and back at Station 106 (Grafton Underwood) on 6 June 1944.

A few photos from the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery of Lazy Daisy undergoing various repairs…

Dispersal 24
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Apparently 42-31222 BK*D “LAZY DAISY”
Note bent or sheered propeller shaft and damaged cowling sections in foreground.
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Lazy Daisy
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Thank you Fred Preller, John Edwards, and Keith Ellefson for you help on this post.

Stay tuned for Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3 and her return from maintenance…

Sources

Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log (Fortlog)

2nd Strategic Air Depot, Station 547

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020