I have previously written about Frank Dominic Furiga, 384th Bomb Group Bombardier-Navigator and father of my fellow 384th NexGen member Paul Furiga. Frank and my dad, George Edwin Farrar, completed their combat crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time and traveled to the European Theater of Operations at the same time, with both of their crews ferrying brand new B-17’s into the war zone.
Frank recorded many of his memories from World War II, and his son, Paul, kindly shared them with me. As the stories Frank wrote also reflect my father’s WWII history, they are, of course, very interesting to me.
There are several different subjects in which I’ve been able to learn more about the actions of my dad and his crew through Frank’s stories, so expect to see several future posts which rely on information from Frank Furiga.
I’d like to start with a little about Frank himself, and then my next post will add to some information I’ve already written about, their crossing into the ETO (European Theater of Operations).
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Frank Furiga was fascinated with airplanes at least as early as the age of five when the sound of a low-flying bi-plane caught his attention. By then he knew all about American aviator “Charlie Lindbergh” from an older brother. Growing up, Frank immersed himself in aviation from every source possible, from books and movies, and in making his own aircraft from orange crate wood and model plane kits.
Frank had three older brothers and all four of the Furiga boys became involved in the war effort in WWII. The oldest, John, served in a Special Forces group, the next, Michael, was in the Medical Corps, the third, Stephen, was an early member of the 82nd Airborne paratroopers, and Frank was a B-17 bombardier and navigator.
Frank was part of a large Catholic family from Avella, Washington County, Pennsylvania. His parents Andrew Furiga and Anna Pankovic Furiga also had three girls, Mary, Helen, and Pauline.
Frank Furiga was born on February 9, 1925. At the age of seventeen, Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps with his enlistment delayed until he reached his eighteenth birthday. On his eighteenth birthday in February 1943, Frank was ready to begin his service to his country and was classified for Bombardier training at the Nashville Classification Center. He began his service on April 12, 1943 and attended basic cadet training in Santa Ana, California.
Following basic training, Frank attended gunnery training in Kingman, Arizona, where my dad was a flexible gunnery instructor for seven months in 1943. Although I see no mention of it in Frank’s writings, perhaps they crossed paths in Kingman at that time.
Frank would follow gunnery training with bombardier training in Deming, New Mexico, arriving there in the last week of October 1943 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on February 26, 1944. While training at Deming, Marvin Fryden – future Buslee crew bombardier and one of my dad’s crew mates – was one of Furiga’s instructors. They later became friends on their shared path into combat.
Furiga next reported to Salt Lake City, Utah in March for crew assembly and spent about three weeks there. His crew, number #338, consisted of Bert Oliver Brown (Pilot), William Davis Bayne (Co-pilot), Raymond Julius Scherer (Navigator), Frank Dominic Furiga (Bombardier), Richard George Regan (Top turret gunner / Engineer), Marvin John Ondrusek (Radio operator), Joseph William Chalkus (Left waist gunner), Walter Dewitt Franklin (Right waist gunner), William Jesse Jones (Ball turret gunner), and Raymond George Palmer (Tail gunner).
Following crew assembly, the Bert Brown crew attended combat training in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where my dad was an aerial gunnery instructor for six months before joining a combat crew himself, the John Oliver Buslee crew. The RTU, or combat, training at Ardmore lasted about one and a half months.
Furiga wrote about this experience,
We simulated all sorts of combat conditions and near the end flew quite a few combat formation missions. It was a great experience flying in the big B-17ʼs. I dropped a number of bombs and liked the way the big ship responded to the Norden Bomb-sight compared to the AT-11 trainers in Bombardierʼs School.
In one of his recorded stories, Frank Furiga related a heartbreaking incident that happened in his last week of combat training at Ardmore,
I received a telegram from my oldest sister Mary in Pittsburgh that my parents had received a telegram from the U.S. Government that our oldest brother John had been killed at Anzio, Italy on May 23rd. I was quite shocked as I always looked up to him.
At this time, Lt. Marvin Fryden, the bombardier on Lt. Busleeʼs crew expressed great sympathy for me. He had been one of our Bombardier instructors at Deming, New Mexico, and signed up for combat when we graduated. He took it upon himself to see if I could get emergency leave of a few days to go home to Pennsylvania. He went so far as to contact the base commander at a country club.
My request was denied.
More about Frank Furiga, his World War II experiences, and connections with my father’s crew to come…
RTU is an abbreviation for Replacement Training Units
Thank you, Paul Furiga, for sharing your dad’s stories and diaries!
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021