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Gordon Eugene Hetu, Update

Gordon Eugene Hetu
Photo courtesy of Anne Fisher via Ancestry.com

A new search has provided me with a photo of and some new information regarding Gordon Eugene Hetu, ball turret gunner of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was on board Brodie’s B-17 on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. 

To view my original post and other information about Gordon Eugene Hetu, please see the links at the end of this post.

During my search for new information on Gordon Hetu, I ran across a Hetu family tree on Ancestry.com. I messaged the owner of the tree, Anne Fisher, and learned that she was not a relative, but many years ago, Gordon Hetu was her father’s best friend. Anne provided me with this new photo of Gordon, which allows me to positively identify him in the Brodie enlisted crew photos (see the new descriptions below).

Anne also told me that as Gordon was an only child, his parents took his loss in the war very hard. He was killed in the mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews’ B-17’s over Magdeburg, Germany on 28 September 1944.

Anne’s father, Howard William Fisher, was not only Gordon Eugene Hetu’s best friend, he was a close neighbor according to the 1940 census. At the time, the Fisher and Hetu families both lived on Webb Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, the Fisher’s at house number 3839 and the Hetu’s at number 3821.

Howard Fisher was a veteran of WWII, serving in New Guinea and the Philippines. He and his brother, Harry Anson Fisher, were only eighteen months apart in age, both drafted just a month after their high school graduations, and both survived the war.

With the pain of Gordon’s death too deep, Gordon’s parents, Raymond and Esther Hetu, could not bring themselves to see their son’s best friend for several years after the war, but Anne’s father persisted and Gordon’s parents were eventually able to visit with Howard and his family.

After the war, Howard Fisher married Marjorie Joyce Mathews and they had three children – Anne, Peggy, and John. Marjorie’s family lived in Hessel, Michigan. On visits to Marjorie’s family, the Fishers would stop in St. Ignace, where Raymond and Esther Hetu owned and operated a motel.

Anne built the Hetu family tree on Ancestry.com to try to find out if Gordon Eugene Hetu has any living relatives. If you are related to the Raymond and Esther (Johnson) Hetu family of Detroit, Michigan, please contact me and I will forward your information to Anne Fisher.

I do not have any additional biographical information for Gordon Hetu except that I can add the year of his mother’s, Esther Johnson Hetu’s, death of 1989.

On July 26, 1944, Cpl. Gordon Eugene Hetu was assigned as ball turret gunner to the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bombardment Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces, per AAF Station 106 (Grafton Underwood, England) Special Orders #148. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bombardment group. According to his Sortie record, his combat pay was $140.40 per month. His home address is listed as Mrs. Esther Hetu (his mother), 3821 Webb St., Detroit, Michigan.

Gordon Eugene Hetu was promoted from Corporal to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155 dated 2 August 1944.

On his nineteenth mission on September 28, 1944, two days after his nineteenth birthday, Gordon Eugene Hetu was killed when his crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart (posthumously). He is buried at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens in Oakland County, Michigan.

The wartime photos below include the enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew. These photos were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., son of 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, of the Brodie crew. Identifications were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., Patrick Miller, son of 384th Tail Gunner Wilfred Miller, and Anne Fisher, family friend of Gordon Eugene Hetu’s family.

Gordon Eugene Hetu is the man kneeling on the far right:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Gordon Hetu is the man standing second from right:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Gordon Hetu is the man standing second from left:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Thank you to Anne Fisher for providing me with the photo of and information about Gordon Eugene Hetu.

Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The B-17 Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist/flexible gunner with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. On 28 September 1944, the Buslee crew and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the same group became forever connected when the B-17’s they were aboard on a combat mission over Germany suffered a mid-air collision.

I am currently updating the biographical information of the men of these two crews, and I thought it would be a good time to explain the duties involved in each position of the airmen aboard the aircraft, the B-17. I have recently updated the information of the two 384th Bomb Group Engineers/Top Turret Gunners who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Clarence Burdell Seeley, assigned Buslee crew engineer

Robert Doyle Crumpton, assigned Brodie crew engineer

Although Lenard Leroy Bryant served as Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the Buslee crew after Clarence Seeley was seriously wounded, he was originally assigned as one of the Buslee crew’s Flexible/Waist Gunners and I will include him in my future post regarding that position in the B-17.

For a list of all of the airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews, see permanent page The Buslee and Brodie Crews, which is maintained with new information/posts.

Duties and Responsibilities of the B-17 Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website,

Training in the various phases of the heavy bomber program is designed to fit each member of the crew for the handling of his jobs. The engineer/top turret gunner:

  • Has been trained in the Air Forces’ highly specialized technical schools.
  • Works closely with the pilot and co-pilot, checking engine operation, fuel consumption, and the operation of all equipment.
  • Must be able to work with the bombardier, and know how to cock, lock, and load the bomb racks.
  • Must be thoroughly familiar with the armament equipment, especially the Browning aircraft machine gun. He should know how to strip, clean, and re-assemble the guns, how to maintain the guns, how to clear jams and stoppages, and how to harmonize the sights with the guns.
  • Should have a general knowledge of radio equipment, and be able to assist in tuning transmitters and receivers.
  • Should be an expert in aircraft identification.
  • Should know more about the airplane than any other member of the crew, including the pilot and co-pilot. He must know his engines and his armament equipment thoroughly. This is a big responsibility: the lives of the entire crew, the safety of the equipment, the success of the mission depend upon it.

Location of the Top Turret in a B-17

The top turret of a B-17 sits behind the pilot and co-pilot, who are seated in the cockpit. Should the top turret gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the bomb bay doors.

In the following diagram, Lenard Bryant is noted in the top turret of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944
Diagram courtesy of 91st Bomb Group and modified by Cindy Farrar Bryan in 2014

B-17 Top Turret Photo

I took the following photo of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.

Top turret view of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Engineers/Top Turret Gunners

I thought it might also be interesting to read stories, diaries, and journals written by or view video interviews of some of the 384th’s own engineers/top turret gunners. You’ll find a chart of several engineers/top turret gunners of the 384th Bomb Group below with links to their personnel records and their written and oral histories as are provided on the Stories page of 384thBombGroup.com.

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Bardue, Theodore Roosevelt⇗ A Rough Mission to Munich⇓ (0.120 MB)
Clemis, Joseph Bernard⇗ Joseph Clemis Mission Diary⇓ (2.525 MB)
Stahlhut, Robert Fred⇗ The Way I Remember It⇓ (1.945 MB)
Turlington, Howard Joe⇗ My Experience⇓ (0.312 MB)
Wick, Harvey Arthur⇗ A Tribute to Harvey Arthur Wick⇓ (9.481 MB)
Wilkens, William John, “Bill”⇗ Bill Wilkens’ Combat Diary⇓ (3.842 MB)
Barber, Raymond Clifford⇗ 2004 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Furrey, Thomas Edwin, Jr⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Oglesby, Howard Jasper⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Wilkens, William John, “Bill”⇗ 2020 Video Interview of Bill Wilkens⇗

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Engineer and the Gunners

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

The Military Yearbook Project – Army Air Force WWII Codes

The Army Air Forces in World War II: VI, Men and Planes, Edited by W.F. Craven and J.L. Cate, Chapter 19: Training of Ground Technicians and Service Personnel

Training to Fly:  Military Flight Training 1907 – 1945 by Rebecca Hancock Cameron

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission in 2014 to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

WWII Combat Chronology – 5 September 1944

I am continuing my series of articles based on the entries from Kit C. Carter and Robert Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces. Both combat chronologies are excellent sources of information regarding combat missions in World War II and I thank the authors for sharing them online.

These articles are concentrated on the operations of the 8th Army Air Forces on the missions on which the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group participated. The statistics of other dates and missions and of other branches of the American Air Forces and theaters of operation of World War II are available through the links provided in this article to these two sources for those interested.

Today’s installment is the 5 September 1944 mission in which the Buslee crew and Brodie crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Tuesday, 5 September1944

384th BG Mission 188/8th AF Mission 605 to Ludwigshafen, Germany.

Target: Industry, the I. G. Farben Chemical Works.

The John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.

Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 entry:

Over 650 HBs attack Stuttgart aero engine plant, Ludwigshafen synthetic oil plant, Karlsruhe M/Y, and various T/Os. 9 ftr gps fly spt and several gps strafe A/Fs. Ftrs claim 19 aerial combat victories. Nearly 150 B-17’s supported by a P-51 gp bomb 5 gun emplacements in Brest area. 5 ftr gps in sweeps over Frankfurt/Main, Stuttgart and Rotterdam areas strafe A/Fs and rail, road, and river traffic and claim 9 air victories and 62 aircraft destroyed on ground. In Germany 2 FB gps bomb 3 A/Fs and strafe 2, claiming destruction of 66 parked aircraft. Nearly 90 B-24’s fly supplies to France.

Note: I do not find an entry in Carter and Mueller’s Combat Chronology for 9/5/44, but do find two entries for 9/4/44. I believe this entry is for 9/5/44 and mislabeled.

Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces entry:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): 3 missions are flown:

  1. Mission 605 to southeast Germany, a Ludwigshafen synthetic oil plant, and the Karlsruhe marshalling yard. The Buslee crew and Brodie crew participated in this mission.
  2. Mission 606, a visual attack on enemy positions in the Brest, France area.
  3. Mission 608, a leaflet drop in Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany during the night.

Also, B-24’s and C-47’s fly CARPETBAGGER missions during the night.

And VIII Fighter Command fighter-bomber missions included:

  1. P-38’s and P-47’s attack transportation targets in west Germany.
  2. P-38’s and P-47’s attack 3 airfields in the Hanau/Giessen, Germany area.

Mission 605: 739 bombers and 315 fighters are dispatched to SE Germany; 6 bombers are lost; during the missions, a P-51 shoots down a Swiss Bf 109 near Dubendorf.

  1. 203 of 218 B-17s attack a Stuttgart aero engine plant and targets of opportunity (4); 2 B-17s are lost and 109 damaged; 1 airman is KIA, 5 WIA and 18 MIA. Escort is provided by 147 of 160 P-51s; they claim 19-0-0 aircraft in the air and 14-0-27 on the ground; 2 P-51s are lost, 1 damaged beyond repair and 4 damaged; 2 pilots are MIA.
  2. 277 of 303 B-17s hit a Ludwigshafen synthetic oil plant and target of opportunity (1); 2 B-17s are lost and 163 damaged; 2 airmen are KIA, 11 WIA and 18 MIA. Escort is provided by 155 P-51s; 1 P-51 is lost (pilot MIA) and 2 damaged.
  3. 183 of 218 B-24s hit Karlsruhe marshalling yard and targets of opportunity (2); 2 B-24s are lost, 4 damaged beyond repair and 78 damaged; 22 airmen are MIA.

Links/Sources

Except for entries from Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and McKillop’s Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Clarence Burdell Seeley, Update

A new search has provided me with some new and updated information regarding my father’s (George Edwin Farrar’s) WWII crewmate Clarence Burdell Seeley, engineer/top turret gunner of the  original John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. 

To view my original post and other information about Clarence Burdell Seeley, please see the links at the end of this post.

Clarence Burdell Seeley
Photo courtesy of Jess Seeley via Ancestry.com

Clarence Burdell Seeley was the original engineer/top turret gunner on the John Oliver “Jay” Buslee crew. He was known as Burdell to family.

On 22 JULY 1944, Seeley was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) of the 384th Bombardment Group based in Grafton Underwood, England, per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144.

Clarence Burdell Seeley’s 384th Bomb Group Sortie Record indicates he was assigned with the rank of Sgt. (Sergeant), his duty was Engineer, and his pay was $140.40 per month. He listed his Home Address as Mrs. Esther Seeley, Gen. Del. (General Delivery), Halsey, Nebraska.

On 5 AUGUST 1944, on his second combat mission to Langenhagen, Germany, Seeley was seriously wounded during a flak attack on the Buslee crew’s B-17. A newspaper report notes that,

The engineer and top turret gunner, Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, 22, of Halsey, Neb., was … hit.  A jagged piece of steel ripped through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. …

Only the bombardier and top turret gunner were in need of immediate first aid treatment during the return trip  ….  Sgt. Seeley attended to his own leg wound.

Seeley 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.

Following his flak injury, Seeley did not fly another mission for almost two months.

On a report dated 6 AUGUST 1944, Clarence Burdell Seeley was placed on sick leave and assigned to be hospitalized at the 65th General Hospital.

On 13 AUGUST 1944, Seeley was moved from absent sick (LD) 65th Gen Hosp to absent sick (LD) 4209 U.S. Army Hospital Plant, APO 587.

On 9 SEPTEMBER 1944, Seeley was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #180.

On 11 SEPTEMBER 1944, Seeley went from absent sick (LD) 65th General Hospital to duty.

On 2 OCTOBER 1944, Clarence Burdell Seeley returned to flight duty for Mission 203, just four days after his original crew went MIA on the 28 SEPTEMBER 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany.

On 22 OCTOBER 1944, Seeley was promoted to Technical Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #209.

On 1 JANUARY 1945, Clarence Burdell Seeley was involved in an aircraft accident. Flying with the Robert Jeremy Fisher crew, shortly after takeoff,

Aircraft brushed tree tops when pilot maneuvered to prevent collision with what he believed was another aircraft….

As his (the pilot’s) aircraft was making this maneuver, his left wing and nose collided with a small group of trees, tearing the wing tip loose and smashing the left wing and plexiglass nose.

As the flight’s engineer, Clarence Burdell Seeley made the following statement,

At take-off for an operational mission I was watching the instruments and calling off air speeds. When I called off 130 the pilot made a normal take-off. On the climb I was watching the altimeter and after it reached a reading of fifty (50) feet it started to drop and I immediately looked out the window and saw what I thought to be the ground. I immediately yelled to the pilot to pull up, after which the plane came in contact with some object which later proved to be trees. The pilot made a very good recovery and after gaining altitude we contacted Flying Control on the R/T and notified them of the incident after which they instructed us to jettison our bombs in the channel and return to base. Upon returning to base a normal landing was made.

Excerpt from Accident Report AR45-01-01-524:

Accident report statement made by Clarence Burdell Seeley regarding 1 January 1945 aircraft accident

I see no indication that any of the crew members aboard the aircraft were injured in the accident.

On 16 JANUARY 1945, Seeley went from duty to furlough for seven days. It was reported on the 17 January 1945 morning report for the 544th Bomb Squadron.

On the 23 JANUARY 1945 morning report, Seeley went from furlough to duty. HOWEVER, he is listed on the Sortie Report of the Earle Allen Van Popering crew as having completed the mission of 20 JANUARY 1945. I cannot explain how he could have completed a mission while on furlough.

On 5 FEBRUARY 1945, Clarence Burdell Seeley went from duty to TD Palace Hotel, Southport, AAF Station 524 (a flak house) for seven days temporary duty to carry out instructions of the Commanding General per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #26.

On 12 FEBRUARY 1945, Seeley went from TD Palace Hotel, Southport, AAF Station 524 to duty.

On 10 MARCH 1945, Clarence Burdell Seeley completed his tour of 34 missions.

Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021