Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area
In my last post, I mapped out the location of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision of the Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) and Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy) as it was recorded in wartime documents.
The coordinates of the collision, in the area of Magdeburg, Germany, were noted as 52°06’00.0″N 11°39’00.0″E on post-briefing reports, (52.100000, 11.650000 for Google maps), at an approximate altitude of 27,000 feet.
After the collision, the two fortresses traveled quite a distance, about 22 miles (approx. 36 km), before crashing to the ground north of the village of Ost Ingersleben, Germany (today, part of the municipality of Ingersleben in the Börde district in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany).
Click on the map to enlarge the image. Ignore the roadways and driving directions and look at the straight line diagonally crossing the map and representing the flight path between the two points. The survivors who were able to leave the aircraft and parachute to the ground likely landed in the vicinity of this path.
The crash site of 43-37822 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Buslee crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753) as “33 km west of Magdeburg and 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.” Measuring the distance on a Google map between the Magdeburg city center and Ost Ingersleben city center is 33 km according to Google maps, but the distance between the collision point and an approximated crash point 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben calculates to approximately 36 km or about 22 miles.
The only survivor of the Buslee ship, my dad George Edwin Farrar, was not able to provide any location information in his Casualty Questionnaire Narrative and noted that when he hit the ground, “I was unable to tell where I was.” I previously imagined that he landed in his parachute close to the site of the crash 2km north of Ost Ingersleben, but that assumption is probably not correct.
Dad, the waist gunner aboard the Buslee crew’s B-17, was likely one of the first out, thrown out when “the other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to. He added that “at the time we were struck I was knocked unconscious, and fell about 25,000 feet, before I knew I was even out of the ship.”
It was uncommon for B-17 crew members to wear their parachutes in combat, preferring instead to keep them nearby for easy access if needed. Wearing his parachute during the mission that day saved my dad’s life as he would not have been able to retrieve it in his state of unconsciousness.
Dad must have landed in his parachute further east along the flight path and closer to Magdeburg and the site of the mid-air collision than I previously thought, as he was knocked out of the plane at the moment of the collision.
This leads to the question of where the other survivors of the mid-air collision landed after bailing out of the Brodie crew’s B-17.
The crash site of 42-31222 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Brodie crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9366) as “north edge of Ost Ingersleben, 33 km west of Magdeburg.” The two B-17’s likely crashed very close to the same location.
Brodie crew navigator George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the only officer of the two crews to survive the mid-air collision noted as part of his Casualty Questionnaire in MACR9366 that they were “near Erxleben, Germany” when their aircraft left the formation. Brodie crew tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller noted it to be “about 4 minutes out of flak area.”
Did Hawkins’ wording “left the formation” indicate the moment of the collision? If so, the coordinates of the collision as noted in post-mission briefing documents are too far east. I believe it is possible that the collision occurred further west than the noted coordinates due to Hawkins’ and Miller’s statements, and will keep that in mind while retaining the documented coordinates for this research.
Hawkins also noted that their aircraft struck the ground “near Erxleben, Germany.” Erxleben is 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben according to Google Maps, the same location as noted in the German Report on Captured Aircraft, but without using the name “Erxleben” as where the aircraft crashed.
Hawkins described his bailout and the Brodie ship’s crash location by noting, “Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me. It was then in a flat spin, burning. It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below. When I next saw the ship it was on the ground… I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg. The plane landed within two or three miles of me. Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.”
I do not know which direction from the town of Erxleben Hawkins landed, but from his wording “from the town” instead of “before the town”, I believe he landed west of the town, around mile marker 20.0 on the flight path map. That would put the plane landing right at the crash site coordinate at mile marker 22, which would be about two miles from where Hawkins landed in his parachute and where the German reports note the crash, about 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.
I believe Hawkins must have been the first to bail out of the Brodie crew’s B-17. He wrote that “I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.”
In his Casualty Questionnaire Narrative, Hawkins also noted that “Sgt. Liniger [waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger] said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller [tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller] said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.”
All three likely left the ship at nearly the same time, but I believe Hawkins left the ship before the explosion as he didn’t mention it in his recounting of his own bailout. Hawkins, Liniger, and Miller likely landed in the same vicinity near Erxleben, but did not meet up again until the next night in captivity.
To be continued in a future post with an attempt to narrow down the crash site with an eye-witness report from a Czechoslovakian man in the forced labor of the Nazis.
Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up
Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022
When in Magdeburg, Look Up
On 28 September 1944 on a B-17 bombing mission to Magdeburg, Germany during World War II, just after Bombs Away, the Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 over Magdebug, Germany. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the waist gunner on the Buslee crew’s B-17 and was the only survivor of the nine men on that ship. Both crews were part of the 384th Bombardment Group of the 8th Army Air Forces.
From the excellent collection of wartime records of the 384th Bomb Group, I know the exact date and time of the collision, the exact location of the collision, and the altitude at which the two planes collided.
- The date, 28 September 1944, and time, 12:11 P.M., British time (1:11 P.M. German time)
- The mid-air collision location, 52°06’00.0″N 11°39’00.0″E, (52.100000, 11.650000), Germany
- The altitude, 27,700 feet, (and noting the elevation of Magdeburg is 141 feet above sea level, about 27,559 feet above the ground)
Date, Time, and Location, as reported on the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753)
Time and Altitude, as reported on the Navigator’s Narrative
It occurred to me that if I were able to plot the coordinates on a map, that someday I might be able to stand in the exact location below the spot that the two B-17’s collided so many years ago, look up, and imagine seeing and hearing the impact.
Of course, the collision happened more than five miles above the earth, so I doubt the horrific incident was visible from the ground. A Google search resulted in an answer from Quora that “depending on the size of the aircraft, without … contrails to reveal its presence, you can probably see an airliner up to 7,500 to 10,000 feet,” less than half as far as the bombers’ formation was traveling above the earth on 28 September 1944.
Both aircraft continued to fly several miles before they crashed to the ground west of Magdeburg. But do you suppose at least some small parts fell directly to earth in the location of the collision itself? I can believe that they would and perhaps something is still buried in the ground in the area today.
So, of course, my next thought was to wonder what exists in the location today? Google Maps makes it pretty easy to find out, so I plugged in the coordinates to find the location not too far from the Elbe River in southeast Magdeburg (marked by the red pin).
If you view the Google Maps Satellite view or plug the coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the area in much more detail, but just simply zooming in reveals what exists today.
I see that the location (again, marked by the red pin) is just northeast of a Lidl discount grocery store, and,
from the northern-most corner of the Lidl grocery store to the collision coordinates measures a total distance of 68.43 feet or 20.86 meters according to Google Map’s distance calculation feature.
One day, I hope to travel to Magdeburg, Germany, find this exact location, and do exactly what I imagine doing now, look up.
I don’t expect to see the aluminum overcast of a B-17 formation, or hear the grinding and tearing of metal as B-17 meets B-17 far above the earth, probably about the same moment as the bombs dropped from the bellies of the same aircraft and others in the formation strike the ground, exploding, destroying, engulfing the area in flames and dense black smoke, wiping out both good and bad creations of man, erasing life, changing families’ futures forever, changing the path of history as it happens.
It all happened in this space in another life, another time. Is it best remembered or imagined or forgotten?
- View on Google Maps
- World War II wartime records courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.
Except for Map data ©2022 Google, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022
WWII Combat Chronology – 19 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 19 September 1944 mission in which George Farrar and Eugene Lucynski of the Buslee crew and the Brodie crew participated.
WWII Combat Chronology – Tuesday, 19 September 1944
384th BG Mission 196/8th AF Mission 642 to Hamm, Germany.
Target: Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.
George Farrar and Eugene Lucynski of 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:
Nearly 800 B-17’s are dispatched against tgts in NW Germany. Weather prevents about half from bombing primary tgts but most manage to bomb secondaries or T/Os. Over 650 B-17’s bomb 10 M/Ys and several bridges, railroads, factories, barges, storage areas, city areas and numerous scattered T/Os in NW Germany. 6 ftr gps furnish spt. 4 P-51 gps supporting First Allied Airborne Army in the Netherlands engage well over 100 ftrs, downing 23. 9 P-51’s are lost. As UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle mission continues, over 90 B-17’s and their ftr gp take off from USSR, bomb M/Y at Szolnok, and fly to Fifteenth AF bases in Italy.
Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces entry:
EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)
STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): Mission 642: 796 B-17s are dispatched against marshalling yards in W Germany; weather prevents about half from bombing primary targets but most manage to bomb targets of opportunity; 7 bombers and 1 fighter are lost. The Buslee and Brodie crews participated in this mission.
Of 380 B-17s dispatched, all hit targets of opportunity, i.e., marshalling yards at Koblenz (87), Dillenburg (39), Limburg (37) and Darmstadt (24); bridges at Limburg (35), Koblenz (25) and a bridge over the Rhine River at Koblenz (13); and Wiesbaden (38), Wetzlar (14), the railroad line at Koblenz (13) and Wiesbaden Airfield (12); 4 B-17s are lost and 159 damaged; 3 airmen are WIA and 37 WIA. Escort is provided by 131 P-47s and P-51s; they claim 3-0-1 aircraft in the air; 1 P-47 is lost (pilot MIA).
416 B-17s are dispatched to hit marshalling yards at Hamm (186) and Soest (32) and depot at Dortmund/Unna (64); other targets hit are marshalling yards at Raesfeld (11), Wesel (9), Rheine (6) and Munster (3); Dillenburg (11), Emmerich (7), Hamm (5), Osnaburck (2) and others (6); 3 B-17s are lost, 2 damaged beyond repair and 120 damaged; 3 airmen are WIA and 18 MIA. Escort is provided by 109 P-47s and P-51s without loss.
Also, B-17s and P-51s takeoff from bases in the USSR and bomb the marshalling yard at Szolnok, Hungary and continue to bases in Italy.
And P-51s supporting the First Allied Airborne Army in the Netherlands engage fighters.
- The Buslee crew’s and Brodie crew’s participation in 384th Bomb Group Mission 196/8th AF Mission 642
- Kit C. Carter and Robert Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945
- Jack McKillop’s Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces
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, 2022
The 222nd Combat Crew Crew Training School in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Last week I wrote about 384th Bomb Group tail gunner John James Bregant of the Frigham Young crew and my new acquaintance with his granddaughter, Kathryn Bregant Smith. Kathryn has her grandfather’s collection of photos and other memorabilia from World War II and shared photos and images of items from his collection.
I learned through Kathryn that John Bregant had attended the 222nd Combat Crew Training School in Ardmore, Oklahoma before starting his combat duty. My dad taught at the same school and joined a combat crew there in June 1944.
My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a gunnery instructor in the Army Air Forces in WWII for thirteen months before entering combat. His first station as an instructor was for seven months as a flexible gunnery instructor at Kingman, Arizona.
Following his service at Kingman, he was an instructor for six months at the 222nd Combat Crew Training School at the Army Airfield at Ardmore, Oklahoma. His duties were detailed as “administered phase checks, organized students and instructors for training in aerial gunnery.” This duty started sometime in December 1943 and continued to early June 1944.
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France.
June 6, 1944 was D-Day. Two days later, on June 8, 1944, Dad received his written orders “as a combat crew member requiring regular and frequent participation in aerial flights.”
I suppose since he had been an aerial gunnery instructor, he didn’t require much more training himself and he was quickly assigned to combat duty in the European theater with the B-17 crew of John Oliver Buslee.
Dad wrote a letter to his mother on June 22 and found himself on his way out of Ardmore somewhere between June 23 and 25, beginning his journey to an 8th Army Air Forces air base of the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England.
Dad’s combat orders included the names of three other men. I was familiar with the name Eugene D. Lucynski. He was the tail gunner on the Buslee crew. But the other two, Harold E. Beam and Arthur Pearlstein, did not find their way into the 384th Bomb Group and I have wondered who these men were that served in WWII with my dad at Ardmore.
Kathryn has her grandfather’s yearbook from the 222nd Combat Crew Training School.
John Bregant’s photo along with the other men of his B-17 crew, the Paul E. Norton crew, are identified as Crew No. 2728 in Combat Crews Section B in the yearbook. The other two crews included on the same page, the Quentin Wilson crew (Crew No. 2729) and the Robert B. Koch crew (Crew No. 2730), also served in the 384th Bomb Group in World War II.
While Kathryn hasn’t located photos of my dad or Eugene Lucynski within the pages of the yearbook, she did find others of interest to me. On a page of Flying Instructors,
Kathryn found photos of the other two men listed on my dad’s combat orders, Harold Beam in Flying Training Section B and Arthur Pearlstein in Flying Training Section C.
Now that I had photos of these men, I decided to dig a little deeper into how they served in combat. While I couldn’t find any more definitive information about Arthur Pearlstein’s (SN 12075325) WWII combat service, I did find out more about Harold Beam (SN 36377873).
Harold E. Beam was a resident of Vermilion County, Illinois when he enlisted on 29 September 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. He was born in Illinois in 1921.
I also found by searching POW records in the National Archives that Harold Beam served his combat duty in the Infantry rather than the Army Air Forces and became a prisoner of war of Germany on 10 March 1945.
Beam’s POW record shows that he was returned to military control, liberated or repatriated, but his Latest Report Date was 24 January 1946. No POW camp is listed in his record. I can’t explain why his Latest Report Date was not until 1946, as the war with Germany ended the previous May. I also can’t explain why a serviceman in WWII with so much experience in aerial gunnery was sent into combat with the Infantry instead of the Army Air Forces.
Regardless of whether my father’s photo can be found or not in the 222nd Combat Crew Training School yearbook, I do have several photos, including these, from his time there as an instructor.
and pointing out Ardmore on the map,
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022
John Bregant, Tail Gunner of the “Frigham Young” Crew
Almost four years ago I wrote about a crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group whose enlisted men appeared in photos in my father’s, George Edwin Farrar’s, collection from World War II.
The crew called themselves the Frigham Young crew. The name was not taken from one of the B-17’s they used in combat, but was rather their own personal crew name which was a play on words on the name of Mormon leader Brigham Young. The crew’s commander, pilot Paul Norton, was reportedly a Mormon.
The men of the crew painted the name on the backs of their flight jackets, like this,
I recently became acquainted with the granddaughter of the crew’s tail gunner, John James Bregant. He’s the one with the pipe in the photo above.
John’s granddaughter, Kathryn Bregant Smith, aptly described her grandfather as having “movie star hair and crystal blue sparkling eyes to go along with it,” a man who “usually was playfully smiling.” Kathryn shared this photo of John Bregant earlier in his military career,
The enlisted men of the Frigham Young crew appeared in many of my dad’s photos, especially John Bregant and Carl Guinn. I think it’s possible their enlisted crew and my dad’s enlisted crew shared living quarters during their time at Grafton Underwood. At least I think that could be the reason my dad had so many photos of their crew. Like this one of Carl and John,
Kathryn shared this photo of the back of John Bregant’s flight jacket. It looks to me like the crew name was painted onto both Bigley’s and Bregant’s jackets by the same person. But instead of painting a bomb for each completed mission on the back of his like Clarence Bigley had done, John Bregant chose to paint a set of wings and a scroll with the year of his missions (1944) and a list of mission locations.
John Bregant served in WWII as an airman of the 384th Bomb Group from 13 June 1944 to 5 October 1944. He completed his tour with a total of thirty-four missions shortly after my dad’s crew, the John Oliver Buslee crew, went missing on the mission to Magdeburg, Germany on 28 September 1944.
Kathryn has several items her grandfather John Bregant saved from the war. He completed his crew training and aerial gunnery training at Ardmore, Oklahoma where my father was an instructor.
Next week, I’ll share some things I learned from the 222nd Combat Crew Training School yearbook John Bregant saved from his training in Ardmore.
John James Bregant 384th Bomb Group Personnel Record
Previous post, Frigham Young
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022