The Arrowhead Club

The 384th Bomb Group’s Mission #201 was the 8th AAF’s Mission #652.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, participated as waist gunner in his sixteenth and final mission with the 384th Bomb Group on 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, flying with the 544th Bomb Squadron’s John Oliver Buslee crew.

The 384th Bomb Group was part of the 1st Bombardment Division, 41st Combat Wing, of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, and today they flew as the “C” Wing.

The 384th Bomb Group website’s Mission Summary describes the mission as,

Two Bomb Runs – Primary Target Attacked
The 384th Bombardment Group (H) flew as the 41st CBW C Wing on today’s mission. Near the target, another formation of bombers flew below this wing, forcing them to hold their bombs. The wing made a second bomb run and released their bombs on the primary target.

Mission documents, specifically the Pre-Briefing Target Study, identified the target as Krupp Steel Works at Magdeburg, Germany, 35,000 workers.

Briefing Notes further detailed,

P.T. [Primary Target]. Is the most important Krupp Steel Works in Germany. Located Magdeburg. Its the main producer of the 25 ton Mark IV Tank and also makes flak guns, armor plating and heavy sheels [perhaps “shells”], it is a One Plus priority, and employs 35,000 workers, there is a smoke screen N. of the city.

P.F.F. target is the Mar. [Marshalling] Yards, in the city of Magdeburg, and adjacent to your P.T. [Primary Target].

Last Resorts. A/F [i.e., German Airforce/Luftwaffe targets] at Gardelegen, Quedlinburg, and Giessen. Every effort should be made to attack one of these targets. If not possible, then any Mil. Obj Pos. Iden. [military objective positively identifed] as East of the current strategic bomb line, which can be bombed without disrupting the fighter support.

Stay on the alert for E/A [Enemy Aircraft]. Yesterday E/A jumped the 2nd Div [Division] on 9 Degrees East and shot down 33 A/C [aircraft]. The E/A came in at 6 O’Clock high in waves of 15 – 20 [abreast] breaking away in all directions and then coming up from below while next wave attack at 6 O’Clock high.

Forty aircraft of the 384th Bomb Group were assigned to the mission. Of the 40,

  • 31 completed the mission (not including spares)
  • 1 flying spare completed the mission
  • 1 aircraft aborted due to personnel illness
  • 2 aircraft were scrubbed
  • 1 ground spare aircraft was unused
  • 1 aircraft returned early, the aircraft of Lt. Richard Glen Wismer, due to a mechanical failure
  • 1 aircraft landed in Allied Territory. The Wing Lead, with Commander Horace Everett Frink aboard, landed away in Brussels due to flak damage
  • 2 aircraft failed to return, the aircraft of the Buslee and Brodie crews, with my dad aboard Buslee’s ship

On Mission 201, the Buslee crew was part of the High Group of the 41st “C” Combat Wing led by Capt. William T. Johnson.

The Buslee crew flew under these leaders on this date,

  • 41st “C” Group and Senior Air Commander Major Horace Everett “Ev” Frink, serving his second tour with the 384th Bomb Group, previous and soon-to-be again 547th Bomb Squadron Commanding Officer
  • Capt. William T. Johnson, 41st “C” Wing High Group Lead
  • Col. Dale Orville Smith (not a mission participant), 384th Bomb Group Commander 23 November 1943 to 24 October 1944
  • Major Gerald Busby Sammons, (not a mission participant), 544th Bomb Squadron Commanding Officer 14 September 1944 to 6 November 1944.

The Buslee Crew Loading List for Mission #201, with several crew substitutions, was:

  • 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)

The Buslee crew for #201 was essentially the same as the previous day’s Mission #200, with the only difference being the airman in the ball turret.

William Henson replaced Chester Rybarczyk as navigator, Robert Stearns replaced James Davis as bombardier, George McMann replaced Erwin Foster in the ball turret and Gerald Lee Andersen replaced Eugene Daniel Lucynski in the tail.

The Buslee crew was aboard the unnamed B-17 43-37822 on this mission. Mission reports show their “Time took off” as 0731.

The James Brodie crew – James Brodie, Lloyd Vevle, navigator George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., replacement togglier Byron Atkins, replacement radio operator Donald Dooley, Robert Crumpton, Gordon Hetu, Wilfred Miller, and Harry Liniger – of the 545th Bomb Squadron flew on this mission in the High Group of the 41st “C” Combat Wing aboard B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy. Mission reports show their “Time took off” as 0742.

The High Group formation with the Buslee and Brodie crews looked like this,

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

The Brodie crew’s favorite ship, A/C 42-97309 Kathleen Lady of Victory, had not been repaired in time for the 28 September 1944 Mission #201 from the damage and technical failures reported by the Farra crew, which had flown her on the previous day’s Mission #200. Kathleen would not go back into combat service until Mission #202 on 30 September 1944.

Mission data in group reports included,

From the Navigators Narrative for the High Group,

  • High Group takeoff began at 0730 hours.
  • Completed climb to bombing altitude at 1110, altitude 27,500.
  • No enemy fighter attack.
  • Flak accurate and moderate at the target at 1210.
  • Bomb run began at 1154 at altitude of 27,700.
  • Bombs away at 1211 at altitude of 27,700.
  • Number of Runs: 2.

From other reports, including the post-mission “Narrative for Lead, High, and Low Sections, 41st ‘C’ Combat Bombardment Wing on Mission Flown 28 September, 1944,”

  • No fighters encountered.
  • Behind schedule 20 minutes.
  • Flak at the target was moderate to intense and accurate. CPF and Barrage type fire employed. Black, gray bursts being noted.
  • Battle damage was recorded post-mission for twenty-three of the 384th’s B-17’s. Damage varied from “minor damage” to major damage such as “hydraulic system shot out,” “right and left Tokyo tanks hit,” “bombardier’s compartment, pilot’s compartment, exhaust stack on #3 engine, waist, and tail vertical stabilizer hit,” “#1 engine hit, 3-inch flak hole,” and “5 flak holes and 1 engine shot out,” among others. The aircraft of the Wing Lead, with Commander Horace Everett Frink aboard, was so badly damaged by flak that it had to drop out of formation and land away in Brussels.
  • The extent of battle damage can best be visualized using the mission’s formation chart. Aircraft circled in red sustained major flak damage. Aircraft circled in yellow sustained minor flak damage. The two aircraft outlined in blue are the ships of the Buslee and Brodie crews involved in the mid-air collision. Considering their positions, it is likely that one or both of them also sustained flak damage.

Battle Damage noted in 384th Bomb Group Formation Chart for 28 September 1944 Mission 201

  • Fighter escort was excellent on the entire mission and close support was given at all times.
  • In a “Flash Telephone Report on A.A. Gunfire,” flak was reported as, (a) On first run on target, CPF fire [Continuously Pointed Fire] encountered with inacc. Barr [inaccurate Barrage flak]/ over target, and (b) Sec. [Second] run CPF encountered almost exclusively. Also noted was, 2 A/C lost in collision over target.
  • Lead Bombardier, Lt. George K. Smith reported reason for “other than primary attacked” to be, “Another Wing flew under us over release point.” In a narrative, Smith reported more details,

Turned short of the I.P. [Initial Point of the bomb run] because of cloud coverage. Opened bomb bay doors at the I.P to encounter complete coverage on the bomb run. Ships flew under us so we couldn’t release our bombs. We flew out and made a 180 degrees turn to put us on a heading of 260 degrees heading back over the target. There was a little opening in the clouds over a part in a river, which I believe the Lead Bombardier [Joe Baggs aboard Major Frink’s lead aircraft] killed his course. We dropped the bombs PFF and shortly after the lead aircraft was hit by flak. Then we took over from our deputy lead position to reform the Wing and start home. No flak was encountered on the way home.

28 September 1944 Mission #201 to Magdeburg, Germany, Target Photo

  • Regarding the Wing Leader’s, Major Frink’s, aircraft, which happened to be the 384th Commanding Officer Dale’s Smith’s personal favorite B-17 44-8007 Screaming Eagle,

After we dropped our bombs, and swung off the target, the Wing Leader informed the Deputy to take over as the former had been hit by flak. At this point, the entire Lead Section started to break up. We were on a collision course at the same time with another unidentified Wing and the Low and High Sections became separated from the Lead Section.

The High and Low reassembled and flew alone until we finally picked up the Lead Section ten (10) miles ahead of us. I called the Deputy Leader to slow down, which he did, and we assembled back into Combat Wing formation.

  • Regarding Lt. Buslee’s and Lt. Brodie’s aircraft,

Two (2) of our aircraft are known missing.

Two (2) aircraft of the High Section, A/C 337-822 (Lt. Buslee, pilot) and A/C 1222 (Lt. Brodie, pilot) collided over the target and both ships were observed going down on fire and out of control. No chutes were observed.

  • Observer Ronald H. Froebel wrote,

Two ships in the high group, Brodie & Buslee, which were involved in the collision appeared to have been caught in prop wash on a turn to the left.  It appeared that Brodie was thrown down and into Buslee one plane, immediately disintegrated and the [other] broke into at the ball turret and finally caught fire and broke up.  I observed one chute.

  • Co-pilot Wallace Storey flying with the Gross crew in the High Group on Brodie’s left wing provided this firsthand account of the 28 September 1944 Mission #201 to Magdeburg,

MAGDEBURG
September 28, 1944

On this day the 384th Bomb Group was dispatched to bomb the Krupps Steel Manufacturing Plant at Magdeburg, Germany. This was a heavily defended target and a long flight of almost ten hours. On this mission there was a tragic occurrence illustrative of some of the little discussed risks of combat flying that sometimes happened but, fortunately, was never repeated on any of my missions.

After being awakened at 0310 we had breakfast and briefing and were in our planes at 0610 as the “start engine” flares arched from the 384thBG control tower—or “Cherub” as was its call sign. Of course, the radio was not used for aircraft control as the group departed so as to avoid alerting the German defenses any earlier than necessary. Once we were airborne the fact that the 8th was assembling was soon evident to the enemy but any delay increased the chances of deception.

On this mission, I was to follow ship #222, [42-31222]“Lazy Daisy”, flown by Lt. Brodie, on to the taxiway leading to the runway. He was to fly #2 position of the high element of our squadron and I was to fly position #3 (i.e. right and left wing respectively off of the lead plane,#941, [42-97941, “Marion”] of the element). Take off went well as we began our roll at 0720. The Group assembled without incident and we fell into line as briefed for the Wing Order of Battle.

Our 41st Combat Wing was made up that day of the 303rdBG in lead, followed by the 379th, with the 384th last. This order, which varied from mission to mission, was to prove fateful on that day. Just a few weeks earlier the Luftwaffe had begun a new tactic which they called “company front attacks”. They added extra armor and guns to three or four dozen Focke Wolfe FW-190 single engine fighters. They approached the 8th Air Force Groups head on in wedges of eight to sixteen planes so as to saturate the bombers’ defensive fire and sometimes disrupt their formation. Although we did not know it at the time, they had used this tactic against the 446th Group of the Second Division the previous day and inflicted the greatest loss ever suffered by a single group of the 8th Air Force in World War II—-25 B-24’s.

The German fighters used this tactic against the 303rd Group, the lead group in our Combat Wing, on the mission to Magdeburg on the 28th. The 303rd lost eleven B-17’s in this frontal assault. One of the lead pilots of the 303rd is quoted as saying “When we turned on our bomb run we were attacked by about 50 Nazi fighters en masse, coming at us as a solid bunch. Those guys were like mad men–with one idea–to knock us down in a suicidal attack”. There was a total of fifteen B-17’s that were lost that day from our Combat Wing. This amounted to a 13.9% loss of the 108 planes–the highest loss in the Wing of any of my missions.

Being the 3rd Group in the Wing we were fortunate not to be as heavily attacked as the other two Groups, but what happened led to confusion as we bombed the target. Flak was extremely heavy that day and the Wing had been somewhat disrupted by the heavy opposition. 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 #337 [43-37822], on whose wing our element was flying. I yelled to Gross 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.

I watched the two planes as they collided. It cut #337 [43-37822] in half and the wings on #222 [42-31222] folded up and both planes fell in a fireball. They were 18 men lost in those two ships. We didn’t see any chutes as we continued our turn to the right.

Some of the formations were broken up, both because of this and because of the fighter attack, but we did not have any further problem as we headed back home. Even though the 1st Division lost 23 planes, the Germans did not come out unscathed. There were 10 confirmed fighters destroyed, 7 probables, and 5 damaged by the B-17 gunners. Our crew was extremely lucky that day as “Lazy Daisy”, by all normal odds, should have collided with us and must have crossed under with less than five foot clearance as I pulled up. And for Buslee, flying on the last of his 35 missions [correction: Buslee was on his 16th mission], and for Brodie, and their crews it was the unluckiest of all days.

We were all happy to be safely back at Grafton Underwood as we touched down on the soil of England. Upon inspecting our plane we found two sizable Flak holes but, fortunately, they missed our fuel tanks and other vital points. Fighters and Flak were not the only dangers of combat flying. Taking off, assembling, and landing in extremely bad English weather (such as grounded the 8th frequently in 1943 but not later) formation flying in weather where only the adjoining plane could be seen and maneuvering large formations required great competency in the flight crews and, often, great luck as described in this mission.

Copyright (C) 2002—Lt/Col. Wallace A. Storey

Many more details of the 28 September 1944 Mission #201 have previously been published in my posts,

Contrary to the lack of chutes observed coming from the two ships of the Buslee and Brodie crews, there were a handful of survivors. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the lone survivor of the Buslee crew’s B-17. Three survived on the Brodie crew’s B-17 – Harry Liniger, Wilfred Miller, and George Hawkins. Four men out of eighteen survived. Fourteen did not and perished on September 28, 1944.

Notes

The James Brodie crew left crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time as the Buslee crew on their way to the ETO, European Theatre of Operations. Both crews were assigned to the 384th Bomb Group within days of each other after reaching England although the Buslee crew was assigned to the 544th Bomb Squadron while the Brodie crew was assigned to the 545th.

The two crews participated in many of the same missions, although it is unlikely that the men of the two crews interacted in any other way as they were members of different crews and different squadrons at Grafton Underwood, although they may have recognized each other from their time at Ardmore together.

  • Previous post on Mission 201. Note: at the time of my previous post about Mission 201, the Buslee crew’s aircraft was misidentified in the 384th Bomb Group database and photo gallery. At the time, the photo and name attached to B-17 43-37822 were actually those of B-17 42-37822. A/C 43-37822 was unnamed or the name never recorded or nose art, if it existed, never photographed.
  • Previous posts of details about Mission 201 in “What Happened in the Skies Over Magdeburg?”, Part 1 and Part 2
  • Previous post Propwash?
  • Previous post, Wallace Storey
  • Thank you to the 384th’s Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for obtaining and sharing WWII reports and mission documents from the National Archives for the 384th Bomb Group.
  • Mission documents and other mission information may be found, viewed, and saved or printed courtesy of Fred Preller’s 384th Bomb Group website.

With the exception of material in this post copyrighted by Wallace A. Storey, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021


2 Comments

  1. Florine Hensarling says:

    Hello, I am trying to find out what happened to a friend of my family. His rank was PFC and his number was 3224355. He was with the 545th squadron and 384th Bomb Group. I have a letter he wrote to my sister on 7/10/45. I just found this letter and wanted to see if you could tell me how I could find out what happened to this gentleman. Thank you in advance for however you can help me. Sincerely, Flo

    • Hi Florine, I was able to find a little information about Joseph F. Ulmer before and during WWII, but I did not find any information for him after the war. I can’t attach items here in a comment, but I will e-mail you the following: Enlistment Record, Draft Registration Card, Hospital Admission Card, and Social Security Death Index. Joseph died in 1983. I suppose you found his personnel record on the 384th Bomb Group Website? It is here: https://384thbombgroup.com/_content/_pages/person.php?PersonKey=4056. It shows that he joined the group in March 1945 and was part of the 544th Bomb Squadron. I do not know how he spent his military career between the time of enlistment in 1942 and March 1945. He was born in 1908 in New York, so he would have been one of the older servicemen on the base. Apparently his job with the group was as a clerk typist, but I don’t know what job he would have had before that. Are there any clues in the letter as to how he spent his military career? Feel free to scan and e-mail it to me if you want me to look it over. You may be able to get his service record through the NPRC at https://www.archives.gov/personnel-records-center/ompf-access. He did make it home from the war and looks like he died shortly before his 75th birthday.

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