Thanks to the stories and diaries of 384th Bomb Group Bombardier-Navigator Frank Furiga, I have a little more detail about the journey of a group of airmen, including Furiga of the Bert Brown crew, and my dad, George Edwin Farrar of the John Oliver Buslee crew, as they ferried a formation of B-17’s into the European Theater of Operations in the summer of 1944.
I have written previously about the journey, but Frank’s stories add new details to the crews’ experience.
In the latter part of June 1944 (likely sometime between June 23 and 25) , both the Brown and Buslee crews, along with several other air crews who had completed their combat training at Ardmore, Oklahoma, traveled by train from Ardmore to Kearney, Nebraska, on the first leg of their journey to their air bases in England.
Frank Furiga described Kearney as,
…where we were assigned a brand new B-17 G FLYING FORTRESS bomber to fly to Europe. It was so new that the plane had fresh paint odor. Here we assembled our flight clothes plus a few pieces of equipment. At 3 A.M. on June 29th, we took off [departing Kearney, Nebraska] headed to Europe.
Our first overnight stop was Grenier Field in Manchester, New Hampshire [arriving June 29]. On the next day [departing June 30] we flew to Goose Bay Labrador [arriving the evening of June 30]. We were held up by bad weather for a day.
On our next flight we left early in the morning [departing the evening of July 1] and flew to Meeks Field at Keflavik, Iceland [arriving the morning of July 2].
We flew above clouds and witnessed a very interesting phenomenon. The shadow of our plane on the clouds was encircled by a beautiful multi-colored rainbow. Some of the fellows saw small icebergs on the way. Because of bad weather over the Atlantic we rested here a few days. Here again we experienced something else new — the length of the sunny day.
Early in the morning [departing the morning of July 4], we left for Nutts Corner, Northern Ireland. Approaching the airfield [arriving July 4], we saw the control tower firing a variety of colored flares which was most puzzling to our pilots as there were no alarms over the radio. Upon landing, we found out the control tower boys were having a jolly good time saluting us with various colored flares as they were celebrating our July Fourth national holiday!
Within a few days we departed for Bovingdon near London where we had combat lectures and procedures with our planes. We had left the new Fort [B-17 Flying Fortress] at Nutts Corner since it had to be combat-outfitted with armor plating and other items. Here we were assigned Bomb Groups. For us on July 23rd, we arrived at the 384th Bomb Group at Kettering, England, in Northamptonshire County. Our airfield was known as GRAFTON-UNDERWOOD.
Special Orders #144 indicate the Buslee crew was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England effective July 21, 1944. Special Orders #148 indicate the Brown crew was assigned to the group effective July 25.
Frank Furiga brings up Buslee crew bombardier Marvin Fryden again, reflecting on Fryden’s August 5 death on his second mission, while also remembering the loss of his brother, John, while they were in Ardmore, Oklahoma during combat crew training.
Lt. Fryden, on an early combat mission with the Buslee-Albrecht crew, was hit by flak in the chest during their bomb run over the target. When they landed, he was rushed to the hospital, but died on the operating table. In two events [the deaths of his brother, John, and friend, Marvin Fryden], combat had produced a profound effect on me. Especially since just a scant few weeks before we had been in London. The brevity of combat life was aging me, indeed.
While stationed at Grafton Underwood, Frank Furiga had the opportunity to see his older brothers Stephen and Michael, who were both also stationed in England at the time. Frank wrote,
Stephen, just a few years older than I, had been in the service the longest. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne paratroops and was somewhere in England. I happened to run into a few of his men and was surprised to find out that he was stationed at Cottesmore Aerodrome, just a twenty minute trip by train. I managed to spend an afternoon with him. Later on, I visited brother Michael at Thatcham near Reading where he was with the Medical corps.
Frank Furiga, George Farrar, and their respective crews were very quickly immersed in the dangers of aerial combat with mission after mission over the European continent, assisting in the liberation of France, and destroying the Nazi war machine in Germany. The war wasn’t “over there” anymore. The war was in them and they were in the war.
Each time they climbed aboard the B-17 for a mission, they knew might be their last. They knew it was best not to think about it, to just do their jobs. But before the end of the year, for both Furiga and Farrar, the war was over as both would become prisoners of war until the Spring of 1945.
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© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021