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WWII Timeline – Spring 1945

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1945 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1945

Spring 1945

The Nazis continued marches of concentration camp and prisoner of war camp inmates. Some were marched westward away from advancing Soviet troops and some were marched eastward away from advancing American and British troops. At the same time, German civilians fleeing the advancing Russians often shared the road with the inmates marching. 

April 1945

The Allies discovered stolen Nazi art and wealth hidden in German salt mines.

Yugoslav Communist leader Josip Tito’s Partisan units captured Zagreb and toppled the Ustasa regime. Top Ustasa leaders fled to Italy and Austria.

Early April 1945

The Soviets drove the Germans and their Hungarian collaborators out of Hungary.

April 1, 1945

American troops encircled German forces in the Ruhr.

In the Pacific Theater, the Battle of Okinawa began with the final amphibious landing of the war when the U.S. Tenth Army invaded Okinawa.

April 4, 1945

The Soviets forced the surrender of Slovakia with the capture of Bratislava.

The Ohrdruf camp, a subcamp of the Buchenwald Concentration Camp, was liberated. It was the first Nazi camp liberated by U.S. troops. It was later visited by General Dwight D. Eisenhower (on April 12).

April 6, 1945

Codename “Operation Grapeshot” began. It was the Spring 1945 Allied offensive in Italy, the final Allied attack during the Italian Campaign near the end of WWII. This attack into the Lombardy Plain in Northern Italy by the 15th Allied Army Group ended on May 2 with the formal surrender of German forces in Italy.

April 7, 1945

American fighter pilots based on Iwo Jima escorted Boeing B-29 Superfortress bombers in their first P-51 Mustang fighter-escorted mission against Japan.

U.S. Aircraft Carrier-based fighters sank the Japanese super-battleship Yamato and several Japanese escort vessels which planned to attack U.S. Forces at Okinawa.

April 11, 1945

U.S. troops from the 6th Armored Division of the Third Army liberated the Buchenwald concentration camp shortly after the prisoners stormed the watchtowers and seized control of the camp.

U.S. forces liberated the Dora-Mittelbau camp.

April 12, 1945

President Franklin D. Roosevelt died of a cerebral hemorrhage at his Warm Springs, Georgia vacation home. Vice President Harry Truman, who had held the office for eighty-three days and had had little contact with Roosevelt, was summoned to the White House. Truman was unaware that Roosevelt had died. After being sworn in as President, one of Truman’s first acts was to meet with Roosevelt’s advisers to learn of matters of national security, including the existence of the atomic bomb.

Canadian forces liberated prisoners at the Westerbork camp in the Netherlands.

April 13, 1945

The Soviets captured Vienna, Austria.

April 15, 1945

British troops liberated the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. Anne Frank and her sister Margot died of typhus at this camp a month earlier.

April 16, 1945

The Soviets launched their final offensive and encircled Berlin.

April 18, 1945

German forces in the Ruhr surrendered.

Pulitizer prize winner Ernie Pyle was killed by a Japanese sniper’s bullet while reporting on the Battle of Okinawa.

April 23, 1945

Soviets troops reached Berlin.

The 358th and 359th U.S. Infantry Regiments (90th US Infantry Division) liberated Flossenbürg.

April 28, 1945

The Allies took Venice.

Benito Mussolini and his mistress, Clara Petacci, captured as they attempted to flee to Switzerland, were executed by Italian partisans.

April 29, 1945

The U.S. 7th Army liberated the Dachau Concentration Camp.

Adolf Hitler married longtime mistress, Eva Braun.

April 30, 1945

Holed up in a bunker under his headquarters in Berlin, Adolf Hitler committed suicide. He and Eva Braun poisoned themselves and their dogs with cyanide capsules and Hitler shot himself in the head with his service pistol.

May 1945

Allied troops conquered Okinawa, the last island stop before the Japanese islands.

May 1, 1945

Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Reich Minister of Propaganda, and his wife Magda committed suicide after murdering their six children.

May 2, 1945

German troops in Italy surrendered.

The Theresienstadt Ghetto/Concentration Camp in the Czech Republic was taken over by the Red Cross.

The BBC History website reported about this date,

…After one of the most intense battles in human history, the guns at last stopped firing amongst the ruins of Berlin. According to Soviet veterans, the silence that followed the fighting was literally deafening. Less than four years after his attack on the Soviet Union, Hitler’s self-proclaimed thousand-year Reich had ceased to exist.

George Edwin Farrar, Lawrence Newbold, and other POW’s of Stalag Luft IV were liberated on the road near Gudow, Germany by the British Royal Dragoons.

May 5, 1945

The Mauthausen Concentration Camp was liberated. The camp was known for its “Todesstiege” (Stairs of Death) in the rock quarry at Mauthausen. The Nazis forced prisoners to repeatedly carry heavy granite blocks up 186 stairs until they died or were murdered if they failed.

May 7, 1945

Germany surrendered to the western Allies at General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Headquarters in Reims, France. German Chief-of-Staff, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender, to take effect the following day.

May 8, 1945

V-E (Victory in Europe) Day was declared as German troops continued to surrender to the Allies throughout Europe.

May 9, 1945

Germany surrendered to Russia at Soviet headquarters in Berlin. The Soviets had insisted that a second ceremonial signing take place in Soviet-occupied Berlin.

Hermann Göring was captured by members of the U.S. 7th Army.

May 14, 1945

The Austrian Republic was re-established.

May 20, 1945

The Japanese began withdrawal from China.

May 23, 1945

The German High Command and Provisional Government were imprisoned.

SS-Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler committed suicide while in British custody.

May 25, 1945

The U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff approved “Operation Olympic,” the invasion of Japan, scheduled for November 1, 1945.

June 5, 1945

The Allies divided up Germany into four Zones of Occupation and took over the government.

June 9, 1945

Japanese Premier Suzuki announced Japan would fight to the very end rather than unconditionally surrender.

June 18, 1945

Japanese resistance ended on Mindanao in the Philippines.

American President Harry Truman authorized “Operation Olympic.”

June 22, 1945

In the Battle of Okinawa, which had begun on April 1, Japanese resistance ended as the U.S. Tenth Army completed its capture of Okinawa.

June 26, 1945

The United Nations charter was signed by fifty nations in San Francisco, California, USA.

June 28, 1945

General Douglas MacArthur’s headquarters announced the end of all Japanese resistance in the Philippines.

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.

Spring 1945 Offensive in Italy

Battle of Okinawa

Ohrdruf Camp

Adolf Hitler Suicide

The Battle for Berlin

Mauthausen Concentration Camp

Joseph Goebbels

Most recent post from the series:

Winter 1945

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Clarence Burdell Seeley

Clarence Burdell Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner of the John Oliver Buslee Crew
Photo courtesy of grandson Jess Seeley

Clarence Burdell Seeley was born in Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska on December 12, 1921, and grew up in Halsey, Thomas County, Nebraska. His parent were Ferris and Esther M. Rasmussen Seeley. Rather than Clarence, he preferred to go by his middle name, Burdell.

Burdell’s father, Ferris Seeley, was born in Nebraska in 1894. Ferris’s parents, John and Clara Seeley, were born in Iowa (John) and Illinois (Clara).

Burdell’s mother, Esther M. Rasmussen Seeley, was born in Christiansand, Norway in 1898. Her parents, George August and Gunnild Gurine Rasmussen, were both born in Norway. The Rasmussen’s immigrated to the United States in 1903 when Esther was five years old.

Ferris and Esther married on June 18, 1918 in Omaha, Nebraska shortly before Ferris enlisted for WWI service. He enlisted on July 25, 1918 and served in the Balloon Corps during the war. He was released from his military service on January 15, 1919.

I cannot locate a census record for Ferris and Esther Seeley for 1920, but their first son Donald Ferris Seeley was born that year in Omaha.

In 1930, according to the Federal census, the Seeley family lived at 2786 E. Street, Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska, where Ferris Seeley worked as a delivery man in the construction industry. Ferris and Esther had four children – ten year old son Donald Ferris, eight year old son Clarence Burdell, six year old son Harold Floyd, and two months shy of four year old daughter Margaret Gwendolyn. All of the Seeley children were born in Nebraska.

In 1940, according to the Federal census and family records, the Seeley family lived in the village of Halsey in the Natick Precinct of Thomas County, Nebraska. The census record reported that on April 1, 1935, the family still lived in Lincoln, so the move to Halsey occurred after that point. Ferris worked as a “Care of Stock Rancher” on a ranch. Donald was no longer listed as living at home, but Burdell, Harold, and Margaret Gwendolyn were still at home with their parents. Burdell also worked as a “Care of Stock Rancher.”

In 1942, at twenty years old, Burdell was living in San Diego, California and working for Consolidated Air Craft when he registered for the draft on February 15. He listed his mother, Mrs. Esther Seeley of Halsey, Nebraska as the “person who will always know your address.” He listed his height at 5 feet 11 1/2 inches, weight at 167 pounds, and with brown hair, brown eyes, and a ruddy complexion.

Although I cannot find an enlistment record for Burdell in the National Archives under the Serial Number recorded for him in his 384th Bomb Group website’s personnel record (39270874), according to his U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, he enlisted in the Army on December 22, 1942.

Of course, at the time, the Air Force was part of the Army, so he either signed up for the Army Air Forces or he was designated so because of his aviation employment at Consolidated Air Craft. [Even without finding an actual enlistment record, I believe the December 22 date to be accurate because Burdell’s Social Security Number as indicated on the BIRLS file matches the SSN for him in the Social Security Death Index (both records found on Ancestry.com).]

Burdell’s two brothers also served in WWII. Older brother Donald Ferris Seeley (1920 – 1974) served in the Navy aboard the ammunition ship USS Rainier, and younger brother Harold Floyd Seeley served in the Army in a clerical position.

Clarence B. Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Buslee Crew

At the completion of his military training in the states, Clarence Burdell Seeley became the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew.  After final crew training in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the Buslee crew was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated July 22, 1944. The crew flew heavy bomber missions in B-17s over Germany.  The ten-man crew included:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – Chester A. Rybarczyk
  • Bombardier – Marvin B. Fryden
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Clarence B. Seeley
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Erwin V. Foster
  • Tail Gunner – Eugene D. Lucynski
  • Waist Gunner/Flexible Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Waist Gunner/Flexible Gunner – George Edwin Farrar

Once the Buslee crew of ten reached Grafton Underwood, flight crews had been reduced to only nine men per aircraft and included only one waist gunner rather than two. On the crew’s first mission on August 4, 1944 to Rocket R&D, Crossbow (V-Weapons), Peenemunde, Germany, Jay Buslee co-piloted alongside pilot Arthur Shwery, giving Buslee some combat training. This resulted in co-pilot David Franklin Albrecht flying with the Paul E. Norton crew, and George Edwin Farrar sitting out the mission as Lenard Leroy Bryant had been selected to fly as sole waist gunner on the Buslee crew’s first mission. Clarence Burdell Seeley completed his first mission as Engineer/Top Turret Gunner.

On the crew’s next mission, Shwery again provided combat training for Buslee, and Albrecht flew with the Norton crew. Farrar was rotated in as waist gunner and Bryant sat out this mission. This August 5 mission was to a military airfield in Langenhagen, Germany with the Buslee crew aboard aircraft 42-37982, The Tremblin’ Gremlin. At the beginning of the bomb run over the target, they were met with anti-aircraft fire. A shell exploded to the side of the Tremblin’ Gremlin’s nose and a shell fragment pierced the flying fortress and struck bombardier Marvin Fryden in the chest. Fryden managed to maintain his position and released Tremblin’ Gremlin’s bombs on the target before collapsing.

The engineer and top turret gunner, Clarence Burdell Seeley, sustained the second most serious injury. A piece of flak tore through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. Also incurring minor injuries on the mission were navigator Chester A. Rybarczyk, pilot Arthur J. Shwery, co-pilot John Oliver Buslee, and waist gunner George E. Farrar.

The fort had sustained heavy battle damage. The right inboard engine was out. The radio compartment was riddled with flak holes and the radio equipment was destroyed. The trim tabs that control the plane’s balance were shredded. The hydraulic brake system was shot out. Part of the oxygen system was also out, causing the men up forward to use emergency supplies or tap other lines.

Only Fryden and Seeley needed immediate first aid treatment during the return trip. Navigator Chester Rybarczyk assisted Fryden, who remained conscious during the entire mission. Seeley attended to his own leg wound.

The left inboard engine went out as they reached the English coast and Buslee headed for the nearest airfield. Even with his brakes gone, Buslee managed to bring the plane in on the concrete landing strip and slide it off onto the grass to reduce the speed before finally coming to a halt.

Bombardier Marvin B. Fryden died later in an Army hospital with his friend Chester Rybarczyk at his side.

Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Clarence Burdell Seeley was seriously wounded and was taken to the 65th General Hospital for treatment. In the report written up regarding his qualification for the Purple Heart, the circumstances surrounding the receipt of wounds were reported as:

S/Sgt. Seeley was WIA by flak while serving as Top Turret Gunner on a B-17 aircraft on a bombardment mission over enemy occupied territory.

The report continued, describing that the wound consisted of:

Wound, penetrating, right, lower leg due to flak, 5 Aug., 1944. Hospitalized at 65th General Hospital, 35 days.

The 65th General Hospital during World War II was a reserve unit made up of staff from Duke University Medical Center of Durham, North Carolina, and was located in England on the grounds of Redgrave Park in Suffolk County. It was mainly Nissen Hut construction supplemented by ward tents. The hospital had 1456 beds and served from February 1944 to August 1945 as the major hospital center for the surrounding U.S. 8th Army Air Force.

Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson speculated that,

I suspect the 65th General Hospital was the general hospital closest to the field (Halesworth, Station 365) that they landed at upon return from the mission. Once he [Seeley] was ambulatory and it was determined that he would possibly recover well enough to go back on flight status, I imagine he would be returned to GU [the 384th’s base at Grafton Underwood] for convalescence and evaluation by the squadron flight surgeon.

Following his flak injury, Burdell Seeley was not able to fly again for almost two months.  As a result, he was grounded until October 1944.

With Seeley out as the Buslee crew’s engineer/top turret gunner, and the fact that flight crews had been reduced to only one waist gunner, Lenard Leroy Bryant was moved into the engineer/top turret gunner position on the crew. This left George Edwin Farrar as the sole waist gunner for the Buslee crew.

On September 28, just days before Seeley would return to flight duty, Lazy Daisy carrying the Brodie crew collided with 43-37822 carrying the Buslee crew after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Of the Buslee crew, only waist gunner George Edwin Farrar survived. The other eight members of the crew (see note below) were killed in the mid-air collision.

Burdell Seeley returned to flight duty for Mission 203 on October 2, 1944. He safely completed his tour with 34 missions, the last being Mission 285 on March 10, 1945, and was able to return home.

Clarence Burdell Seeley was released from military service on June 12, 1945. He and Patricia Louise Johnson of Merna, Nebraska were married that year.

Burdell returned to cattle ranching after the war and he and Patricia had two children. Burdell died on March 18, 1980 at 58 years old of a heart attack while working cattle in the corral with a neighbor. He is buried at the Kilfoil Cemetery in Merna, Custer County, Nebraska.

Note

On the September 28, 1944 mission the Buslee crew was made up of:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

Note of Apology

In an earlier post, I incorrectly identified Clarence B. Seeley, engineer/top turret gunner of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group, as Clarence Benjamin Seeley, born on February 26, 1921 to Clarence A. and Marie A. Seeley, died August 17, 2007 in Portland, Clackamas County, Oregon. Interestingly, both Seeley families had roots in both Iowa and Nebraska, so I think it’s possible there could be a family relationship somewhere between them. Regardless, I apologize to both Seeley families for the mis-identification and thank Clarence Burdell Seeley’s grandson, Jess Seeley, for correcting me and providing me with biographical information on his grandfather, Burdell.

Sources

Press Release of the Buslee Crew’s August 5, 1944 Mission as reported in the Park Ridge, Illinois Advocate

65th General Hospital

Clarence Burdell Seeley and family memorial infomation on FindaGrave.com

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Winter 1945

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at January – March 1945 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Winter 1945

1945

As Allied troops advanced, the Nazis conducted marches of concentration camp and prisoner of war camp inmates away from outlying areas. Some were marched westward away from advancing Soviet troops and some were marched eastward away from advancing American and British troops. Prisoners received little aid from people in towns they passed through, and in some cases were harassed and assaulted. At the same time, German civilians fleeing the advancing Russians often shared the road with the marching camp inmates. 

January 1945

By January of 1945, the combined efforts of the Allied armies drove the Germans back to their original starting positions in the Battle of the Bulge. American troops reached the sight of the Malmedy Massacre of December 17, 1944 (see Fall 1944 post), now buried under two feet of winter snow.

The bodies of the eighty-one American POW’s lay frozen in the same spot they were murdered the previous month. They were located through the use of mine detectors and were numbered as each was uncovered. Forty-one of the POW’s had been shot in the head.

Columns of German POW’s were led by the site by their American captors during the U.S. medical team’s identification and recovery process, but no act of vengeance was perpetuated on the enemy soldiers.

January 1-17, 1945

German forces withdrew from the Ardennes.

January 3, 1945

In preparation for planned assaults against Iwo Jima, Okinawa, and mainland Japan, American General Douglas MacArthur was placed in command of all U.S. ground forces and American Admiral Chester Nimitz in command of all U.S. naval forces.

January 4, 1945

The British occupied Akyab in Burma.

January 6, 1945

The Russians liberated Budapest, Hungary, and in doing so, freed over 80,000 Jews.

January 9, 1945

The U.S. Sixth Army invaded Lingayen Gulf and landed on the island of Luzon in the Philippines.

January 11, 1945

U.S. Aircraft Carrier-based planes carried out an air raid against Japanese bases in Indochina.

January 12, 1945

In the Vistula–Oder Offensive, the Soviet Red Army made a major advance into German-held territory in Poland.

January 14, 1945

Russian troops invaded eastern Germany.

January 16, 1945

The U.S. 1st and 3rd Armies reconnected after a month-long separation during the Battle of the Bulge.

January 17, 1945

As part of the Vistula–Oder Offensive, Soviet troops captured and liberated Warsaw, Poland.

Swedish Foreign Ministry diplomat Raoul Wallenberg, who in 1944 had saved nearly 33,000 Jews, was detained by Soviet agents and was never heard from again. (See post for July 1944 in Summer 1944 timeline series).

January 18, 1945

The Nazis evacuated 66,000 prisoners from Auschwitz.

January 19, 1945

As part of the Vistula–Oder Offensive, Soviet troops captured and liberated Krakow, Poland.

January 20, 1945

Crematory II at Auschwitz-Birkenau was destroyed by the SS using explosives, along with Crematory III, just seven days before the death camp was liberated by the Soviets.

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn in for his fourth and final term in office.

January 26, 1945

Crematory V at Auschwitz-Birkenau was blown up by the SS as the Soviets were approaching.

January 27, 1945

Soviet troops liberated the remaining prisoners at the Auschwitz death camp in Poland. By this time, an estimated 2,000,000 persons, including 1,500,000 Jews, had been murdered there.

January 28, 1945

The Allies finally eradicated the Ardennes salient (the Bulge).

The Burma road was reopened.

January 30, 1945

Adolf Hitler delivered his final radio address.

A Soviet submarine sank the MV Wilhelm Gustloff, a German armed military transport ship, in the Baltic Sea while evacuating German civilian refugees from East Prussia, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland, and Estonia and military personnel from Gotenhafen as the Red Army advanced. An estimated seven thousand to more than nine thousand died.

February 1945

Peru, Lebanon, Turkey, Uruguay, Paraguay, Venezuela, Saudi Arabia, Syria, and Egypt joined the Allies and declared war on Nazi Germany and Japan.

Iran declared war against Japan.

February 3, 1945

The U.S. Sixth Army attacked the Japanese in Manila.

February 4, 1945

The U.S. First Army took the first of seven Ruhr Valley dams in Germany.

February 4 – 11, 1945

American President Franklin D. Roosevelt, British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, and Soviet Union Premier Joseph Stalin attended the conference at Yalta on the Crimean Peninsula to discuss post-war spheres of influence.

February 6, 1945

The march of prisoners of war of Stalag Luft IV, of which my father George Edwin Farrar was one, began.

Tens of thousands of German civilians fled Breslau (now Wrocław), Poland before the westward advance of the Soviet Red Army.

February 12, 1945

All German women between the ages of 16 and 60 were called to service in the Volkssturm, the German people’s army.

February 13, 1945

The Soviets captured Budapest, Hungary after a two-month siege.

The 70th motorized infantry brigade of the Soviet Red Army liberated the Gross-Rosen concentration camp.

February 13 – 15, 1945

The German city of Dresden was destroyed by firestorm after Allied (British Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces) aircraft conducted bombing raids. Between 20,000 and 45,000 civilians were killed.

February 16, 1945

U.S. troops recaptured Bataan, a province on the Philippine island of Luzon, in the Philippines.

February 19, 1945

U.S. Marines invaded Iwo Jima with an amphibious assault.

February 23, 1945

U.S. Marines raised the flag atop Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima.

March 1, 1945

A U.S. submarine sank a Japanese merchant ship loaded with supplies for Allied POWs. The act resulted in a court martial for the captain of the submarine since the ship had been granted safe passage by the U.S. Government.

March 2, 1945

U.S. airborne troops recaptured Corregidor, an island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in southwestern part of Luzon Island in the Philippines.

March 3, 1945

U.S. And Filipino troops took Manila.

March 6, 1945

The last German offensive of the war began in an effort to defend the oil fields in Hungary.

March 7, 1945

The Allies took Cologne.

U.S. troops of the US 9th Armored Division captured the Ludendorff Railroad Bridge at Remagen, between Koblenz and Bonn, Germany, and crossed the Rhine River .

March 9/10, 1945

U.S. B-29 aircraft firebombing raids on Tokyo destroyed sixteen square miles of the city and killed an estimated 100,000 people.

March 10, 1945

The U.S. Eighth Army invaded the Zamboanga Peninsula on Mindanao in the Philippines.

March 15, 1945

Anne Frank died of typhus at the Bergen-Belsen Nazi Concentration Camp.

March 20, 1945

British troops liberated Mandalay, Burma.

March 26, 1945

The Battle for Iwo Jima ended with the Allied capture of the island from the Imperial Japanese Army (IJA).

March 27, 1945

The last German V-2 rocket struck Great Britain. The V-2 campaign killed nearly three thousand Britains.

B-29 aircraft laid mines in Japan’s Shimonoseki Strait to interrupt shipping.

March 30, 1945

Soviet troops captured Danzig, a port city on the Baltic Sea.

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.

Most recent post from the series:

Fall 1944

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

How Far Can You Throw That Bucket?

I’m presenting more detail on turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels to follow-up my previous posts, Gremlins, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3, Part 2 of 3, and Part 3 of 3

During my research into gremlins, and particularly the gremlins infesting the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 known as Lazy Daisy, I had to delve into a subject with which I am very unfamiliar, the mechanics of the B-17.

I am not at all mechanically-inclined, and in reading about Lazy Daisy’s gremlins (i.e., mechanical issues) some terms were more familiar ( like “broken piston heads,” “dropping oil pressure,” and “runaway props”) than others (like “lagging superchargers” and “throwing a bucket”).

So, to learn more, I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of reading. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Turbosuperchargers

In Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3, the 384th Bomb Group’s Fred Preller and John Edwards helped me explain these terms, and since then, John and the 384th’s Keith Ellefson provided me with new information that I think deserves further review.

Remember the comment by pilot David Rucker after he used Lazy Daisy on the 29 May 1944 mission (in Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3)? Rucker suggested,

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.

John Edwards shed some more light on superchargers with,

When we say supercharger, that was a common name for the component as a whole. The actual name is turbosupercharger. There were two types of superchargers used, frequently called stages. You have a first stage which is used at lower altitudes and the one commonly referenced for higher (combat) altitude… The supercharger intake is a scoop on the bottom of the engine nacelle [the outer casing/housing of an aircraft engine]. This scoop feeds air into the charger which is the conventional way a supercharger worked back then.

The comment from the pilot is important because the GE [electronic type like Rucker mentioned] charger is a very widely used supercharger. It’s function operated in two stages as Fred indicated… [see Part 2 of 3].  I can’t determine other known vendors for the superchargers so for now I can only say that the tech data … clearly states the supercharger must be connected to an oil pump. These instructions apply to the B-17F and G model aircraft and Lazy Daisy is a G so this tech info applies. Therefore I can’t explain why the pilot mentioned the ‘oil one’.

Note: John is referencing a section named Removal of Turbosupercharger from B-17 Airplane of the book World War II – General Electric Turbosuperchargers.

With John’s new information, I’m not sure why Rucker phrased the reference to both the “oil regulator” and “electronic type” superchargers as he did either.

Apparently, the different models of B-17’s used different supercharger types and the transition from the (older) oil regulator to the (newer) electronic type came between the F and G models. I had determined that on all of David Rucker’s missions, up to the point of piloting Lazy Daisy on 29 May 1944, he had been assigned only G model B-17’s.

Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson told me that it was still possible that some of the G models Rucker had flown might still be of the older oil regulator type. Keith said,

I don’t know if all the G models were equipped with electronically controlled superchargers. I suspect that some of the early Gs were built with the oil control system until the inventory of oil control systems was used up and then the electronic system was phased in to replace the oil control system.

And even if Rucker had only flown the electronic type, Keith added,

Pilots would have to be briefed/trained on the difference between oil regulated and electronic regulated superchargers as the new ships came into the inventory. The controls for each system are different and it would be immediately apparent to the pilot when he got into the ship for a mission. In reality, I am sure that each pilot in the squadron knew which ships still had the oil regulator system and which ships had the electronic regulated system. From what I have read, the electronic system was a big improvement over the old, oil regulated system.

Keith also shared some information written by Wellwood E. Beall, who was Vice-President in charge of Engineering at Boeing Aircraft Company, that indicates that the electronic system was a “significant improvement” over the oil regulated system. The link to Beall’s document is below in the Further Reading section, and Beall’s more comprehensive text with illustrations in PDF format follows in the list.

Wellwood Edmetson Beall, who died in 1978, was an aerospace pioneer – an airplane designer and engineer – who had major roles in developing the B‐17 Flying Fortress, the B‐29 Superfortress, and the Boeing 707. In particular, for the B-17, Beall ordered continuous modification in the B‐17 Flying Fortress to meet changing battle conditions over Europe in World War II.

The History of

Turbosuperchargers

The information from Fred, John, and Keith led me to search the internet to learn more and I found a most interesting article in Google Books about the history of turbosuperchargers in B-17’s. Since it looks to be from a publication that is now in the public domain (a compilation of the 1945 issues of Air Force – The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces), I want to share part of it here.

In early March, 1939, Lt. P. H. Robey took a YB-17A up to 25,000 feet in a test run and clocked its speed at 311 mph. This was 100 mph faster than a B-17 had ever flown, even faster than any of our fighter aircraft had flown at that altitude. The test flight was an astounding performance for those days, but no one thought of it as milestone in the development of jet propulsion in this country. Yet, indirectly, that’s just what it was.

If that test flight had been unsuccessful, all orders for turbo-superchargers on B-17s would have been cancelled, for it was the turbo that produced the 100 mph margin in speed – and in early 1939 the turbo-supercharger definitely was on the spot. At the time of the flight, orders for turbos on B-17s had already been technically cancelled. The paper work had been initiated and forwarded to Washington. Boeing Aircraft and the AAF [US Army Air Forces] had lost faith in the turbo. For 20 years, the AAF had struggled with the gadget only to have one disappointing flight test after another. The Robey test used a turbo that was equipped with a new regulator, the final hope for assuring reliable performance.

As soon as the B-17 rolled to a stop after the record-breaking flight, the telegraph wires to Washington began to sizzle. Headquarters read the test results, threw the cancellation papers in the waste basket and issued a directive that all AAF high altitude bombers should be equipped with turbo-superchargers from that date on.

~ “Growing Pains of Jets” by Major Robert V. Guelich, Air Force Staff, June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces)

For more information about turbosuperchargers, including the entire article “Growing Pains of Jets,” refer to the Further Reading list below.

Bucket Wheels

(And what it means to “throw a bucket”)

The 384th Bomb Group’s Historian, John Edwards, shed a little light on the bucket wheel that the pilots’ referred to “throwing,”

The wheel on the bottom of the [super]charger, which looks like the carousel of an old slide projector, is called ‘the bucket wheel’ as I found in [Roger] Freeman’s “The B-17 Flying Fortress Story on page 55.

The article, “Growing Pains of Jets” also explained the pilots’ phrasing of “throwing a bucket.”

The search for high temperature alloys [which could withstand the stresses of hot turbine wheels] was stimulated primarily by the AAF development program to the turbo-supercharger. This program was kept alive by a handful of men who refused to lose faith when time after time the turbo-supercharger would overheat and throw its buckets out of the turbo wheel.

~ “Growing Pains of Jets” by Major Robert V. Guelich, Air Force Staff, June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces)

But the Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress B-17 presented by the Aviation in World War II website explains turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels in short order in a section on Turbo-superchargers (links in Further Reading below).

Each engine on the B-17 has a turbo-supercharger which boosts manifold pressure for takeoff and provides sea-level air pressure at high altitudes.

To operate the turbo-superchargers, engine exhaust gas passes through the collector ring and tailstack to the nozzle box, expands to atmosphere through the turbine nozzle, and drives the bucket wheel at high speed…

…The amount of turbo boost is determined by the speed of the turbo bucket wheel.

As for the gremlins who liked to antagonize the pilots of Lazy Daisy and other AAF aircraft in WWII, I think disrupting turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels were probably a favorite pastime, and seeing which gremlin could throw a bucket the furthest must have been a competition for bragging rights. How far can you throw a bucket?

Please browse through the Further Reading links below for further (and quite interesting) reading about turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels and some excellent illustrations of the B-17’s mechanical parts.

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Further Reading

Design Analysis of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress by Wellwood E. Beall (webpage)

Design Analysis of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress by Wellwood E. Beall (PDF document)

Aviation of World War II: Turbo-superchargers

Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress B-17, Published for Headquarters AAF, Office of Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Training

Supercharge Me: How Boeing Helped GE Reinvent Jet Travel (GE Reports)

The Turbosupercharger and the Airplane Power Plant – General Electric, January 1943

Turbosupercharger Field Service Manual – General Electric

“Growing Pains of Jets” which begins on page 24 of the June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces), and starting on page 441 of the 1433-page downloadable PDF document. To download the entire 1433-page PDF document, click the sprocket in the upper right corner of the page, then select “Download PDF.” Note: Air Force is a book in the public domain that Google has made available in digital format. Terms of Service available through a link on the landing page.

Sources

Wellwood Beall’s Obituary from the New York Times

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020