The Arrowhead Club

Erwin Vernon Foster, Update

A new search has provided me with some new and updated information regarding my father’s (George Edwin Farrar’s) WWII crewmate Erwin Vernon Foster, ball 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 Erwin Vernon Foster, please see the links at the end of this post.

Erwin Vernon Foster’s mother was the former Mary Caroline Carpenter. She was born about 1896 in New York and married Erwin’s father, Erwin Sr., on August 12, 1917 in Cheming County, New York. Ruth Carpenter (see census record references in previous posts) was her sister.

Erwin Vernon Foster’s draft registration card notes that he registered for the WWII draft at the age of 21 on July 1, 1942 while living in Elmira, Chemung County, New York. His date of birth was February 12, 1920 in Horseheads, New York. His occupation was as “steel chaser.” His employer was American Bridge Co. of Elmira Heights, New York.

At the time of his draft registration, Erwin was 5’7″ tall and weighed 140 pounds. He had blue eyes, black hair, and a ruddy complexion.

The name of the person who would always know his address was Mrs. Kenneth B. Smith, who I believe was his mother, who apparently had remarried, date unknown.

On 22 JULY 1944, Erwin Foster 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.

He was assigned to the John Oliver Buslee crew as a Corporal, and as an AG (aerial gunner) with MOS (Military Operational Specialty) of 611 (Aerial Gunner/Waist, Ball & Tail). His pay per month was $140.40. He listed his home address as Mrs. Mary C. Smith (his mother), 356 W. Water St., Elmira, New York.

On 6 AUGUST 1944, Erwin Foster was promoted to Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #158.

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

On 10 SEPTEMBER 1944, Erwin Foster went from duty to absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston. The possible reason for his sick leave was, as noted in his records at the National Personnel Records Center, jaundice, which he suffered in 1944. (See More About… post link below).

On 26 SEPTEMBER 1944, Erwin Foster went from absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital, Thrapston, to duty.

On 27 SEPTEMBER 1944, Erwin Foster’s original crew, the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron, participated in the mission to Cologne, Germany, but Erwin Foster did not participate. Perhaps he was still en route from the Thrapston hospital back to Grafton Underwood, or perhaps a substitute ball turret gunner, Robert McKinley Mitchell, had already been assigned to take his place.

On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, the Buslee crew participated in the mission to Magdeburg, Germany, but again, Erwin Foster was not assigned to the crew as the ball turret gunner. Robert McKinley Mitchell was first assigned to take Foster’s place in the ball turret, but it was Mitchell’s final mission and his request to fly his last one with his original crew was granted, so he was replaced by George Francis McMann, Jr. at the last minute. The substitutions proved fortunate for both Foster and Mitchell, and it would be McMann’s fate to die in the mid-air collision over Magdeburg between the B-17s of the Buslee and James Joseph Brodie crews just after bombs away.

On 30 SEPTEMBER 1944, Erwin Foster flew his first mission after he returned to duty from his sick leave. He flew his first of twenty-one missions with the Stanley Milton Gilbert crew. Foster replaced the original ball turret gunner of the Gilbert crew, George Francis McMann, Jr., who had just two days before been lost with the Buslee crew on the mission to Magdeburg, replacing Erwin Foster in Buslee’s ball turret on 28 SEPTEMBER.

The Gilbert crew is pictured with Erwin Foster kneeling on the far right with the notation of the mission of 2 OCTOBER 1944, which would have been Foster’s second mission with the Gilbert crew. On that mission, it had been five days since Foster’s original Buslee crew with the Gilbert crew’s George McMann went missing over Magdeburg following the mid-air collision with the Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Crew of 42-98000 “Fightin’ Hebe” on 2 OCTOBER 1944 mission to Ford Motor Works at Cologne, Germany
Back row, left to right: Lyle Orin McKnight (waist gunner), Emmett Patrick Culhane (co-pilot), Stanley Milton Gilbert (pilot), and Noah Clarence Hickman (radio operator)
Front row, left to right: Marion Butler Chase (engineer/top turret gunner), Jack Vito Carella (tail gunner), and Erwin Vernon Foster (ball turret gunner)

On 18 DECEMBER 1944, Erwin Foster went from duty to TD (temporary duty) to Ebrington Manor (a flak house), AAF Station 498 for seven days to carry out the instructions of the Commanding General per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #248 dated 17 December 1944.

On 25 DECEMBER 1944, Erwin Foster went from TD (temporary duty) at Ebrington Manor AAF Station 498 to duty.

On 5 JANUARY 1945, Erwin Foster, Berton Robert Finstad (waist gunner), and Eddia Kenneth Cook (ground crew Airplane and Engine Mechanic), were reduced to Private for misconduct (for unknown reasons) per 1 SO 4 HQ AAF Station 106. Subsequently, on the same date/morning report, Foster and Finstad were appointed Sergeant per 2 SO 4 HQ AAF Station 106.

On 1 FEBRUARY 1945, Erwin Foster was reclassified from MOS (Military Occupation Specialty) 611 to MOS 612 (Armorer Gunner/Togglier) per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #25.

On 3 FEBRUARY 1945, Erwin Foster was promoted to Staff Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #27.

On 28 FEBRUARY 1945, Erwin Foster completed his tour of 35 missions.

On 22 APRIL 1945, Erwin Foster left the 384th BG and was transferred to the Casual Pool, 70th Replacement Depot, Station 569, per 1 SO 105 Hq 1st Air Div departed (EDCMR 22 Apr 45).

After the war, Erwin Vernon Foster married Virginia Stone in Elmira, New York on November 28, 1946. Together they had a daughter named Sharon.

Virginia Stone Foster was born February 8, 1925. She had been married previously, and her Social Security index showed her with the last name of Williams as of May 1943. By January 1960, she was known with the last name of Bolton, so she and Erwin had divorced at some point prior. By June 1975, her last name was Eisenhart. She died January 11, 1985 and is buried in Section M of Maple Grove Cemetery in Horseheads, Chemung County, New York. It is the same cemetery in which both Erwin Foster Sr. and Jr. are buried.

Erwin V. Foster married Bessie A. Sheddon on July 1, 1962. Bessie’s maiden name was Bessie Irene Allen (born August 20, 1920, died October 12, 1994), and she was previously married to Duane Sheddon, and widowed from him in December of 1960.

I very recently connected with Erwin Foster’s daughter Sharon and hope to soon learn more about his life and family.


Although I found reference to Erwin Foster regarding the 306th Bomb Group, 368th Bomb Squadron in his records at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri (see More About… post), I find no record of his name on the 306th Bomb Group website rosters or anywhere else on the site. (See link below to the 306th).


© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

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