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The B-17 Tail 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 three 384th Bomb Group Tail 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.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, assigned Buslee crew tail gunner

Gerald Lee Andersen, Carnes crew tail gunner, but tail gunner of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

Wilfred Frank Miller, assigned Brodie crew tail gunner

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 Tail Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group and the B-17 Queen of the Sky websites,

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 tail gunner:

  • Must have a fine sense of timing and be familiar with the rudiments of exterior ballistics.
  • Should be familiar with the coverage area of all gun positions, and be prepared to bring the proper gun to bear as the conditions may warrant.
  • Should be experts in aircraft identification.
  • Must be thoroughly familiar with the Browning aircraft machine gun. They should know how to maintain the guns, how to clear jams and stoppages, and how to harmonize the sights with the guns.
  • Should fire the guns at each station to familiarize himself with the other man’s position and to insure knowledge of operation in the event of an emergency.
  • Had the primary duty to shoot down enemy planes.
  • As the only constantly rear facing crewmember, he was responsible for passing along anything he saw behind the aircraft, including fighters, to the rest of the crew.
  • Would relay information to the bombardier and navigator concerning bombing results as the formations left the target.
  • Aided the navigator and radio operator by counting chutes from B-17s that were going down and the condition of stragglers that were lagging behind the formation.
  • Was normally an enlisted man, but sometimes in the lead aircraft when the squadron commander was in the cockpit, the tail position would be flown by a co-pilot who was an officer. In this case, the co-pilot occupied the tail gunner position to allow him to relay information on the condition of the formation to the pilots to help to co-ordinate the formation and keep it as tight as possible.

Location of the Tail Position in a B-17

The tail gunner position of a B-17 is at the very back of the aircraft, a confined and cramped position in which the gunner must kneel on a modified bicycle-type seat with a view to the rear of the formation. Should the tail gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the emergency exit door in the tail of the aircraft.

In the following diagram, Gerald Lee Andersen is noted in the tail 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 Tail Position Photos

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

The 384th Bomb Group’s pilot John DeFrancesco stands beside the tail of the Collings Foundation’s aircraft. First, a view directly from behind the B-17…

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

And in a side view…

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Tail 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 tail gunners. You’ll find a chart of several tail 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
Beesley, Delmar James⇗ Beesley’s 9 September 1944 Debrief⇓ (4.554 MB)
Borgeson, Wesley Clifton, “Wes”⇗ Wesley Borgeson, B-17 Tail Gunner, POW⇗
Lavoie, Ralph Edmund⇗ Near-Escape From Infamous Stalag 17⇓ (0.971 MB)
Lentz, Kenneth Melvin⇗ Former POW Recalls His Day of Liberation⇓ (0.111 MB)
Matican, Sigmund Sidney⇗ Matican Diary⇓ (1.381 MB)
Montz, Nemours Albert, “Nem”⇗ Army Air Corps Vet Remembers His Luck⇓ (3.905 MB)
Schimenek, John Francis⇗ John Francis Schimenek WWII Diary⇓ (10.380 MB)
Westlake, Albert F⇗ Westlake’s Story⇓ (1.754 MB)
Blevins, Donald Hillman⇗ 2002 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2014 Interview Transcript⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2017 – A Tail Gunner’s Story⇗
Britton, Joseph Rodman⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Jaworski, Frank (NMI)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Kushner, Jack (NMI), “Kush”⇗ 2011 Oral History Interview⇗
Martin, J D (IO)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

Sources and Further Reading

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

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

B-17 Flying Fortress Queen of the Skies, Crew Positions, Tail Gunner 

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, 2022

Morton Coleman Weinrib and Bruce Taylor Smith

I have one more story to tell about the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin on her last mission, the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany. According to mission reports and personal accounts, all of the airmen aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin bailed out of the doomed aircraft over Binche, Belgium, leaving no one on board when Tremblin’ Gremlin crashed to the ground, reportedly in the vicinity of Binche-Charleroi.

Witnesses on the ground, however, thought differently and believed there were airmen aboard to rescue.

The Regimental HQ of the 389th Engineer General Service Regiment was located in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. At the time, the Regiment was reinstalling the railway between Maubeuge – Mons – Charleroi, Belgium.

On 19 September 1944, Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib, a dentist, and Major Bruce Taylor Smith, a doctor, who were with the U.S. Army Medical Corps and served in the U.S. Army’s 389th Engineer General Service Regiment, were working in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque when Tremblin’ Gremlin crashed to the ground.

Both Weinrib and Smith approached the downed aircraft to evacuate any wounded aboard when it exploded. In their attempt to save any souls on board, both men were killed in the explosion.

Reports of their deaths note that the two were evacuating wounded from the aircraft, however, we know that the crew had all bailed out before the plane crashed.

NY Daily News Article from page 32 of the 7 October 1944 edition
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

Sadly, not only did the U.S. Army Medical Corps and the U.S. Army’s 389th Engineer General Service Regiment lose two brave members, two families at home lost their sons, husbands, and fathers.

Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib was born 12 June 1916 in New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York.

Possibly Morton Weinrib from Syracuse University 1942 yearbook, NY
Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Note:  The above photo may or may not be Capt. Morton Coleman Weinrib. He is identified only as “M. Weinrib” in the Syracuse University 1942 yearbook and I find no corroboration that he attended that University.

Morton was the son of Samuel Weinrib and Bessie Coleman Weinrib and the brother of Leonard Weinrib. He married Therese (Terry) Marie Goldstein Weinrib (and later, Tapman) on 13 May 1939. Geni.com notes his descendants as one child, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Morton C. Weinrib attended and graduated from Columbia School of Dental and Oral Surgery, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Morton’s hometown was New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York when he entered the service. His service number was #O1690082.

Morton Weinrib died on 19 September 1944 at 28 years old in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. He was first buried at US Temporary American Military Cemetery of Fosse, Belgium. His permanent resting place is at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombières, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium, Plot G, Row 6, Grave 3.

Major Bruce Taylor Smith was born 14 July 1902 in Quebec, Canada. He lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada before immigrating to America in 1926.

Bruce Taylor Smith
Yearbook photo courtesy of Ancestry.com

Bruce was the son of Luther Lewis Smith and Mary Helen Macfie Smith and the brother of Robert Macfie Smith and Lewis Douglas Smith. He married Elin Karlsson McCartney Smith on Christmas Day 1929 and had three sons, Robert, Bruce, Jr., and Douglas.

Maj. Bruce T. Smith was a physician and surgeon before he enlisted. He had his own practice.

Bruce’s hometown when he entered the service was Fort Covington, Franklin County, New York. His service number was #O-490076.

Bruce Smith died on 19 September 1944 at 42 years old in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. He was first buried at Temporary American Military Cemetery of Fosse, Belgium. His permanent resting place is at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombières, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium, Plot G, Row 4, Grave 26.

The Demise of Tremblin’ Gremlin

While we are fortunate and thankful that all of the 384th Bomb Group airmen aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin survived on the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany, let us not forget the sacrifice of Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib and Major Bruce Taylor Smith on that day. As we are so familiar these days with the actions of first responders rushing toward a scene of death and destruction, these two men put others first and risked their lives, only to become casualties of the day themselves.

Captain Weinrib and Major Smith, “thank you for your service to our country” does not begin to express the gratitude and honor you deserve for your actions. May you rest in peace and know that we are grateful that men like you served your country in World War II and defended our freedom.

Notes

Morton C Weinrib on Geni.com

Find a Grave memorial for Capt. Morton Coleman Weinrib

Fields of Honor database entry for Morton C. Weinrib

Find a Grave memorial for Maj. Bruce Taylor Smith

Fields of Honor database entry for Bruce T. Smith

B-17 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website

Previous post, The Fate of Tremblin’ Gremlin and Her Crew on Mission 196

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

In the Dark of the Night

Alfred David Benjamin, 384th Bomb Group navigator
Photo courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Alfred David Benjamin was the navigator of the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group in World War II. He was aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin with the Carnes crew on 19 September 1944 on the mission to Hamm, Germany in which the Buslee crew’s tailgunner, Eugene Lucynski, was injured. Eugene was filling in for the Carnes crew’s tail gunner Gerald Lee Andersen, who was on sick leave.

The 384th Bomb Group website provides a concise summary of the events of the mission in regards to the Carnes crew aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin as,

Lead Squadron flying spare; joined formation; aircraft struck by flak just before the IP; after dropping bombs on target, left formation, apparently under control; crew bailed out over Binche, Bel.; all crew returned to duty except ball turret gunner and tail gunner who were seriously injured.

Alfred Benjamin completed his combat duty with thirty-one combat missions and this one particularly stuck with him as he wrote a play that included the experience seventy-three years later, in 2017. His play is named In the Dark of the Night, a name he resurrected from a poem he wrote with the same name, although the subject of the poem is not of the Hamm mission. The subject of the poem seems to be Alfred’s 6th mission as mentioned in the play, a poem the play notes that he sent into Time Magazine for publication in their 50th anniversary issue.

The play is set many years after the war, in the year 1995 with the airmen in their seventies. They reminisce about the war, their bomb group, and the mission. Alfred includes a list of the play’s characters on the second page and calls the tail gunner of the crew “Vinnie.” I believe “Vinnie” is a blending of Gerald Lee Andersen, the original tail gunner of the crew, and Eugene Daniel Lucynski, the Buslee crew tail gunner who participated with the Carnes crew on the 19 September 1944 mission.

Early in the play, each character introduces himself and the character “Vinnie” describes himself as,

My moniker is Vincent Adams, former tail gunner. I am 72 now and glad I reached this age. After service I was very ill and went to the VA for medical services. I have a service connected disability and have lived on my government pension since.

Clearly, the character is fictional with a dose, or several doses, of fact. Gerald Andersen died in the Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision on 28 September 1944 at the age of twenty-one and Eugene Lucynski died on 14 April 1981 at the age of sixty-one.

The airmen go on to describe their personal histories and what led them into the US Army Air Forces in World War II. It’s clear that WWII bomber crew members came from all parts of the country and all walks of life. But they learned to depend on each other for their survival. Where a crew mate was from and how he previously earned his living was not important in the brutal existence of war.

Alfred Benjamin walks us through several missions and clues us into what it was like to serve in World War II back in the 1940’s and the entire play is well worth the read.

The story of the 19 September 1944 mission begins on page 23 of the play and continues to page 29. Alfred Benjamin expertly, and in detail, describes the mission through his characters. At this point in the play, I believe “Vinnie” is a portrayal of Eugene Lucynski, as Eugene is the tail gunner who flew this mission with the Carnes crew.

I urge you to read Alfred’s play in its entirety, and especially these pages to hear the story from one who lived it, but I will include here information I learned about his and Eugene Lucynski’s and the other airmen’s experience aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin on 19 September 1944. I’m paraphrasing here rather than quoting Alfred’s poem verbatim, so read the play to hear Alfred’s story in his own words.


The crew was flying spare and joined up with the 303rd Bomb Group, a sister group in their Wing. They were in the tail end position of the formation.

Being at the tail end, the tail gunner had to watch for enemy attack from the rear. He test fired his guns and one jammed, requiring him to work to fix the jam for half of the mission.

They ran into flak crossing the coast from England and again as they crossed the Rhine River in Germany.

Flak was also very heavy approaching the target and was decimating the formation during the eight-minute bomb run.

At bombs away, the plane jumped with a tremendous explosion on the left side of the plane resulting in a fire in Engine 3. The pilot feathered the prop and they fell away from the group. Engine 2 was leaking oil and also had to be feathered. At this point they were about a thousand feet below the group, falling back, and struggling to maintain altitude.

The pilot asked the navigator to find a route to the nearest known American battle line.

It was time to lighten the load by throwing everything possible overboard including machine guns, ammunition, flak suits, and even the ball turret.

Armed with information from the pilot, the navigator (Alfred Benjamin) calculated how much time they had until the ship would crash – 77 minutes – and how far they could travel – about 200 miles – if everything stayed the same. He plotted a zig-zag course to miss known flak fields and passed an initial course to the pilot.

The pilot noted one of the two remaining engines running rough and the temperature rising to the danger point. Engine failure at this point would doom them. Dropping to 15,000 feet and below, the pilot ordered the crew to remove their oxygen masks for more freedom of movement.

The engineer knew of a trick to make the balky engine clean itself up and explained it to the pilot – cut way back on the throttle and after the engine slowed, apply full throttle. This worked, just like it would on a Model T, with the engine backfiring and then roaring to full power by cleaning the spark plugs.

As the ship was losing altitude, the crew attempted to avoid the flak fields by flying a zig-zag pattern, but four flak blasts blew out their Plexiglas nose and the navigator was hit by a jagged piece of flak in the left hand.

The bombardier grabbed the navigation maps and he and the bloodied navigator headed for the waist of the aircraft. They kept up with their progress by watching out the waist portal for landmarks.

The flak burst that had shattered the nose also hit the prop of Engine 1 causing the plane to wobble and shake. The pilot had to feather that engine and realized they would not be able to land the plane and would have to prepare to bail out.

The navigator felt they needed only a few more minutes of flying to be over allied territory. He was Jewish and concerned for his survival if he bailed out over German-controlled territory. He asked the pilot to attempt to activate Engine 2 and reverse the feather, which the pilot did, and it came back to life.

The act saved not only the Jewish navigator, but the whole crew, as Germans were still in the area as the Allies advanced. At the time they finally jumped from the plane, there were in territory controlled mostly by Belgian Freedom Fighters, but the Nazi’s were still around.

At an altitude of about 10,000 feet, Engine 2 was running out of oil. One of the cylinders blew off through the cowling and it burst into flame. The pilot rang the bailout bell and the airmen jumped.

The navigator was in pain from the landing and was surrounded by men with machine guns pointed at him.

The ball turret gunner injured his ankle upon landing and was also in pain. But he announced they were American and their “rescuers” took them to a farmhouse to hide out as the Nazis were still in the area and would be looking for the flyers.

After nightfall, they were driven to the town hospital for treatment, where they were also fed and housed.

In the night, the tail gunner was brought into the hospital, too. He had been hit by shrapnel in the tail and needed medical attention. That would make three of the crew back together in the Belgian hospital.

The three were the first Americans the townspeople had seen since the Nazi occupation started and they were lining up outside the hospital to visit and thank them – with little gifts, tears, and joy.

The pilot learned the three were in the hospital and came to see them, then reported to the Army that the three were there and needed to be evacuated. They were moved by ambulance to a Paris hospital and then returned to their base at Grafton Underwood, England.


Alfred Benjamin ends his play on this note…

(Joe, the pilot) I hope that the Time article and this play will help to remind people of the sacrifice of our flying crewmembers.

Everybody gets up and they shake hands all around. One by one they exit through the doorway. Benny’s last in line to leave. He reaches the doorway, pauses, turns and walks to the front of the stage.

(Benny, the navigator, addressing the audience)
We leave one by one and soon we will all be gone. None of these men, they are men now but they were really just boys, they came from all corners of the country and all walks of life. They left behind homes and families and loved ones. Many went to serve and many never returned. They fought for America and the world. Their mission was to win a war. Our mission is to never forget.

Benny turns and slowly walks through the door. The stage is empty.

After bailing out over Belgium on the 19 September 1944 mission, Alfred returned to combat duty on 17 October 1944. He completed his combat tour of thirty-one missions on 20 January 1945.

Alfred Benjamin served on two missions with Eugene Lucynski and served on one mission each with two other Buslee crew members, ball turret gunner Erwin Foster in January 1945 and bombardier James Davis in September 1944.

Navigator Alfred David Benjamin of the 384th Bomb Group signed the Association’s commemorative wing panel in 2015.

Alfred Benjamin signs the Association’s Commemorative Wing Panel

Notes

Alfred David Benjamin’s Personnel Record with the 384th Bomb Group

In the Dark of the Night, a poem by Alfred David Benjamin

In the Dark of the Night, a play by Alfred David Benjamin

Previous post, The Fate of Tremblin’ Gremlin and Her Crew on Mission 196

The Coastal Star article: South Palm Beach: WWII plane wing noses its way around nation for autographs

Except for excerpts and paraphrasing from Alfred Benjamin’s play, In the Dark of the Night ©2017 Alfred D. Benjamin, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, Update

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, photo courtesy of Keith Ellefson and the 384th Bomb Group

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding the original tail gunner, Eugene Daniel Lucynski, of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group in World War II.

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

Lucynski Family

Combining information from several sources including the Federal censuses of  1920, 1930, 1940, and 1950, and Eugene Lucynski’s Person page from an Ancestry family tree, I find that the Lucynski family consisted of parents,

  • Father – Gustave K. (Kanstantaius or Konstantiane) Lucynski (or possible alternate spelling of Luczynski), born 1 October 1890 in Oscoda, Michigan, died 21 February 1948 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan
  • Mother – Dominica C. Bruzewski, born 13 February 1896 in Beaver Township, Bay County, Michigan, died 23 February 1941 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan

and their four children (one boy and three girls),

  1. Daughter – Gertrude Constance Lucynski Hogue, born 8 March 1917, died 7 August 1990
  2. Daughter – Virginia Josephine Lucynski Plunkey, born 1 June 1918, died 27 September 1988
  3. Son – Eugene Daniel Lucynski, born 22 December 1919, died 14 April 1981
  4. Daughter – LaWretha Marie Lucynski, born 27 July 1924, died 23 April 1925, at almost nine months old, of meningitis and influenza

In various census records, Gus Lucynski reported that his parents were born in Prussia or Poland and spoke German as their native language. Eugene Lucynski’s grandparents, Gus Lucynski’s parents, Joseph Lucynski and Catherine Rakowski, immigrated to the United States in 1884.

Their European residence was in Bromberg, Posen, and they boarded the German ship the Wieland (a “dampfschiff”, steamship, with accommodations in “zwischendeck”, steerage) and departed Hamburg, Germany on 3 February 1884 for their journey to America, arriving in New York. Joseph’s occupation was listed as “stellmacher” which translates to “wheelwright.”

Dominica Lucynski’s parents were Stanley Bruzewski and Josephine Reeder. On census records, Dominic reported that her father was born in Germany and spoke German and her mother was born in New York.

The ancestry of Eugene Lucynski clearly shows that he was fighting a war in which two generations prior, grandparents on both sides were from current day Poland and Germany. This likely made World War II very personal for him, considering two possibilities, that Eugene was fighting against some German relatives and fighting for Polish relatives still living in those areas. Read more about the history of Bromberg and Bloody Sunday of 1939 here.

Eugene’s sister Gertrude was married to Charles M. Hogue and they had at least two children, sons Gerald and Ronald.

Eugene’s sister Virginia was married to John (alternately referred to as Steve) Plunkey and they had at least three children, daughters Judy Marie and Virginia, and son John.

In the recently-released 1950 census, Eugene Lucynski is listed as a Lodger living in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. He reported his age as 26 and his marital status as divorced. He worked 40 hours a week as a mechanic for a retail electrical company. With his age listed as 26, this would indicate his birth year as 1924 rather than 1919, as stated elsewhere.

While I cannot find a burial record for Eugene Daniel Lucynski, I have noted that his parents Gustave and Dominica and sister LaWretha are buried in the All Saints Church Cemetery of Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. Dominica‘s Find a Grave memorial does not specify a gravesite and Gustave‘s and LaWretha‘s memorials note that they are buried in unmarked graves. I believe it is possible that Eugene is also buried in the same cemetery, possibly in a Lucynski family plot, but without any record of such or memorial.

Entry into World War II

A few months after the death of his mother, Eugene Daniel Lucynski registered for the World War II draft on 1 July 1941 at Local Board No. 3 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan and recorded the following information on his draft form.

His place of residence at the time of registration was 1484 Oregon Ave, Flint, Genesee, Michigan. His date and place of birth was 22 December 1919 in Bay City, Michigan, and he was twenty-one years old at the time of registration.

The name and address of the person who would always know his address was his father, Gustave Lucynski. His employer’s name and address was A.C. Manufacturer of Flint, Michigan.

Eugene was 5’ 6 1/2″ tall, 130 pounds, with hazel eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion, and had no other obvious physical characteristics.

Although I do not find an enlistment record for Eugene Lucynski, the US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File notes his WWII enlistment date of 23 June 1942.

Morning Reports and other military documents of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Eugene Daniel Lucynski:

  • On 22 JULY 1944, Eugene Daniel Lucynski was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 612), for the John Oliver Buslee crew. His pay per month was $172.80. His rank when assigned was Staff Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mr. Gustave Lucynski, 7307 N. Dort Highway, Mt. Morris, Michigan.
  • On 19 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany (Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards), Eugene Lucynski, flying as Tail Gunner with the Joe Carnes crew, went (MIA) Missing in Action when he was forced to bail out over Allied Territory. Seven of the crew returned to duty. The ball turret gunner was injured by flak and transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 4178 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. Lucynski was injured by flak and hospitalized from 19 September 1944 until 10 November 1944. Lucynski had replaced the Carnes crew Tail Gunner Gerald Andersen, who was on sick quarters.
  • As noted in my recent update regarding Gerald Lee Andersen, on 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Eugene Lucynski had not returned to duty since he went MIA on 19 SEPTEMBER. With Gerald Andersen more than a week off sick leave, he replaced Lucynski as tail gunner with the Buslee crew on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks. On this mission the James Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming off the target. The Buslee crew, as well as the Brodie crew, were declared MIA. Subsequently, all airmen on board the Buslee crew’s B-17, including Eugene Lucynski’s replacement, Gerald Lee Andersen, were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Edwin Farrar who was declared POW (Prisoner of War). By the time Eugene returned to Grafton Underwood, the only members of his original crew still serving there were navigator Chester Rybarczyk, engineer/top turret gunner Clarence Seeley, and ball turret gunner Erwin Foster. Eugene never returned to combat duty, and it is unclear what duty he did perform following his return.
  • On 4 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski was recommended for the DFC (Distinguished Flying Crosss) for Ex. Achiev.
  • On 12 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski was placed on DS for an indefinite period at Y-17, Marseilles/Istres, France, effective o/a (on or about) 13 June 45 and will report to COL SAULT upon arrival at Y-17.
  • On 22 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski went from DS, Y-17 Marseilles/Istres, France to duty, effective 22 June 1945.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski was credited with 14 combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Hospitalization Record

A Hospital Admission Card for Eugene was included in his personnel record at the NPRC and noted his battle injury from the 19 September 1944 mission as “Wound(s), Penetrating” location “Hand, generally.” The disposition date was October 1944 and disposition was “not death nor transfer to the Zone of Interior.” In other words, he was wounded, but not wounded seriously enough to be sent home. The hospital was identified as the 53rd General Hospital.

Tremblin’ Gremlin

The 19 September 1944 mission was Eugene’s second mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin. His first mission aboard that ship was his second mission of the war on 5 August 1944. On that mission, he was one of a very few airmen aboard who were not struck and injured by flak. The gremlins were not to forget their oversight of 5 August when on 19 September, they finished their business with Buslee crew member Eugene Lucynski.

Medals and Decorations

Eugene Lucynski was awarded the Purple Heart on 7 December 1944 for wounds received on the 19 September 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin. In the medal recommendation paperwork, the circumstances surrounding the receipt of wounds were,

S/Sgt. Lucynski was WIA by flak while serving as Tail Gunner in a B-17 aircraft on an operational mission over enemy territory.

The wounds consisted of multiple lacerations of right hand and left wrist. Hospitalized from 19 Sept. to 10 Nov., 1944.

Eugene was previously awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Eugene’s Individual Sortie Record also notes he was recommended for a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) on 4 June 1945 for “Ex. Achiev.” (extra achievement).

However, I find no record of Eugene receiving the award except on his Final Payment Worksheet completed at his military discharge of 30 October 1945 at Separation Center #32, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. This record was in Eugene’s file at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. Very little else was included in Eugene’s file, leading me to believe his was one of the files burned in the 1973 fire.

On this document is listed a $4.00 (yes, a four dollar) “Pay for Awards” specified as “D.F.C.” Underneath that entry is an unspecified entry of FR 235.04 and TO 103.30, with a net of $131.74. I do not know if this additional entry refers to his “Pay for Awards” or not.

Return Home

Eugene D. Lucynski arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary on 16 October 1945. He was included in a list of personnel for Separation Center No. 32, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. The US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File notes his discharge date of 30 October 1945.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski died on 14 April 1981 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan at the age of 61.

Name Change

Eugene Daniel Lucynski is listed in the Michigan Death Index under the name Eugene D. Lucyn. This record lists his birth date as 22 December 1919 and his death date as 14 April 1981, residence and place of death as Flint, Genesee, Michigan.

He was listed in the US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File also under the name Eugene D. Lucyn. This record confirmed his same birth and death dates as the Michigan Death Index and added his WWII enlistment date of 23 June 1942 and discharge date of 30 October 1945.

I find two Social Security records for Eugene in the National Archives. Both list the same Social Security Number and date of birth, but the different names of Eugene Daniel Lucynski and Eugene Dan Lucyn.

Family Connections

I would love to connect with relatives of Eugene Lucynski. I have been unable to find much information about Eugene Daniel Lucynski (aka Eugene, Gene, or Dan Lucyn) after the end of the war. Please e-mail me if you have more information to share about Eugene’s life after World War II.

Notes

Previous post, Eugene D. Lucynski

Eugene Daniel Lucynski’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Press release from 5 August 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin

Previous post, The Fate of “Tremblin’ Gremlin” and Her Crew on Mission 196

Wikipedia: Bloody Sunday (1939)

Thank you to the 384th Bomb Group and especially Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for their research and obtaining and presenting records of the servicemen of the Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Gerald Lee Andersen, Update

Gerald Lee Andersen

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding the tail gunner, Gerald Lee Andersen, who was onboard my father’s (George Edwin Farrar’s) B-17 the day of the Buslee crew’s mid-air collision with the Brodie crew’s B-17, 28 September 1944.

Gerald Andersen was the tail gunner of the Joe Carnes crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII and filled in for Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski on that date.

To view my original post and other information about Gerald Lee Andersen, please see the links at the end of this post.

Andersen Family

Combining information from several sources including the Federal censuses of 1930, 1940, and 1950, Gerald Andersen’s Person page from an Ancestry family tree, Gerald’s memorial on Find A Grave, and the obituaries of two of Gerald’s brothers (Dale and Jimmie), I find that the Andersen family consisted of parents,

  • Father – Ernest William Andersen, 1899 – 1982
  • Mother – Verna Esther Yost, 1900 – 1950

and their fifteen children (ten boys and five girls),

  1. Daughter – Betty Joyce Andersen, 1921 – 2005
  2. Son – Gerald Lee Andersen, 1923 – 1944
  3. Daughter – Lila Mae Andersen McLaughlin, 1925 – 2002
  4. Son – Dale E. Andersen, 1927 – 2013
  5. Son – Billie LeRoy Andersen, 1928 – 2019
  6. Son – Don DeVern Andersen, 1929–1991
  7. Son – Lon Wesley Andersen, born 1931
  8. Daughter – Verna Elagene Andersen, 1932–1941
  9. Son – Edwin Ernest Andersen, 1934–2013
  10. Daughter – Charlene Andersen Taylor, born approx. 1938
  11. Son – Jimmie Ray Andersen, 1939–2016
  12. Son – Jack Wayne Andersen, 1940–1990
  13. Daughter – Althea Kay Andersen Wolfenden, born approx. 1941
  14. Son – Larry D. Andersen (alternately reported as having the surname Yost), possibly 1944 – 1991
  15. Son – Dennis L. Andersen (alternately reported as having the surname Yost), possibly 1947 – 2012

Marriage of Gerald Andersen and Esther Coolen

According to marriage records on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen (born 20 June 1923) and Esther Elaine Coolen (born 16 June 1916 – seven years older than Gerald), both of Seneca, Nebraska, married on 24 May 1942.

Entry into World War II

A little over a month after he and Esther married, Gerald Lee Andersen registered for the World War II draft on 30 June 1942 at the Thomas County Court House in Thedford, Nebraska and recorded the following information on his draft form.

His place of residence at the time of registration was Seneca, Thomas County, Nebraska. His date and place of birth was 20 June 1923 in Dunning, Nebraska, and he was nineteen years old at the time of registration.

The name and address of the person who would always know his address was his wife, Esther Andersen of Seneca, Nebraska. His employer’s name and address was E.W. Andersen (his father) of Seneca, Nebraska.

Gerald was 5’8″ tall, 135 pounds, with blue eyes and black hair, with a dark complexion, and had no other obvious physical characteristics.

WWII Induction and Active Duty

According to a US National Cemetery Interment Control Form entry found on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen was inducted into the US Army Air Forces on 6 May 1943 and began active duty on 13 May 1943. The form specifically notes the 6 May date as an “induction” date rather than an “enlistment” date.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Gerald Lee Andersen:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Gerald Lee Andersen was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 612), for the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew. His pay per month was $140.40. His rank when assigned was Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mrs. Esther E. Andersen, Box 282, Stromsberg, Neb.
  • On 1 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #175.
  • On 6 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from sick quarters (LD) to absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston.
  • On 11 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston to duty.
  • On 16 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from duty to sick quarters (LD).
  • On 19 SEPTEMBER 1944, with Gerald Andersen on sick leave, Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski flew in Gerald’s place with the Joe Carnes crew on Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards. Aboard B-17G 42‑37982, Tremblin’ Gremlin, the crew went MIA (Missing in Action). Lucynski was forced to bail out over Allied Territory. Seven of the crew returned to duty. The ball turret gunner, James Bernard King, Jr., was injured by flak and transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 4178 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. Eugene Lucynski was injured by flak and hospitalized from 19 September 1944 until 10 November 1944.
  • On 20 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from sick quarters (LD) to duty.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Eugene Lucynski had not returned to duty since he went MIA on 19 SEPTEMBER. With Gerald Andersen more than a week off sick leave, he replaced Lucynski as tail gunner with the Buslee crew on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks. On this mission the James Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming off the target. The Buslee crew, as well as the Brodie crew, were declared MIA. Subsequently, all airmen on board the Buslee crew’s B-17, including Gerald Lee Andersen, were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Edwin Farrar who was declared POW (Prisoner of War).

Gerald Lee Andersen was credited with 12 combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Gerald Andersen’s WWII service as remembered by fellow crew mate Alfred Benjamin, the Carnes crew Navigator

In 2016, I connected with 384th Bomb Group navigator Alfred Benjamin. He and Gerald were crew mates on the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron. As Alfred stated at the time, “Although I am 92, I can still remember most things about the War.” He admitted, though that after seventy-two years, he “could not remember a great deal about Gerald,” but he did recall that,

I believe that Gerald joined the Carnes crew in Sioux City AAF Base in early 1944. I was the last person to join the crew and they had been training there for some period. We completed our training in early June and picked up a B-17 in Kearney, Neb. And proceeded across the USA to New Hampshire, Maine and then to Labrador, Iceland and England. We eventually were assigned to the 384th BG 544th SQ. and started our familiarization phase. As I remember, Gerald was a serious young man intent on being a positive asset to our crew of 9.

Like me he had certain trepidations about the mission we were on.  At this time in the War the 8th [AF] was still undergoing heavy casualties and this certainly affected our thinking.

Gerald flew with us on 9 missions but as things go I believe that he went on sick call and did not fly with our crew again until September 9th. [Correction: September 13th].  The Carnes Crew ran into Heavy Flak and we were forced to Bail out over Binche Belgium on Sept 19th and Gerald did not fly with us on that mission.  I personally was injured and did not return to Grafton Underwood for 29 days and then learned that Gerald was shot down during my absence.

These were the Missions we flew together.

  • 7 Aug 1944—Aircraft Fuel Depot, Dugny France
  • 8 Aug 1944—Tactical Mission, Bretteville-sur-Laize, France
  • 9 Aug 1944—Erding  Luftwaffe Base, Erding Germany
  • 11 Aug 1944—Coastal Artillery Emplacements, Brest France
  • 16 Aug 1944—Delitzsch Luftwaffe Depot, Delizsch, Germany
  • 18 Aug 1944—Bridge, Vise, Belgium
  • 24 Aug 1944—Synthetic oil plant, Merseburg, Germany
  • 25 Aug 1944—Luftwaffe Airfield, Anklam, Germany
  • 13 Sept 1944—Synthetic Oil Refinery, Merseburg, Germany

Returned Home

According to a US National Cemetery Interment Control Form entry found on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen’s Date of Interment on American soil is noted as 23 August 1949. The form also notes that Gerald earned the Purple Heart and an Air Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster.

The airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews who had been killed in the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision were initially buried in the cemetery at Ost Ingersleben, Germany, a village near the crash site of the two B-17’s.

Their bodies were later reinterred in the United States Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland, and Gerald was buried in Plot R, Row 3, Grave 51.

In 1953, Gerald Andersen was brought home and on 23 August 1953, was reinterred in the Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell (Lincoln County), Nebraska, Section F, Site 1229.

Connections with Andersen family members

Since initially writing about Gerald in 2015, I have heard from several family members who found my original article about Gerald.

Gerald’s youngest sister, Kay Andersen Wolfenden, wrote to me in 2016. At the time, the most current Federal census available was the 1940 census, which was taken before the youngest four Andersen children were born, including Kay. Kay informed me that,

There were fifteen children altogether, 10 boys and 5 girls.  I am number 13 and lost my mother to cancer when I was 8 years old.  The rest of the family always said that mother never got over losing Gerald.

Kay’s son Cyrus is researching her brother Gerald.

The son of Gerald’s brother Dale, Myron Andersen, also contacted me in 2016 and noted that Dale often spoke of Gerald. Dale’s obituary (he died in 2013) provided some interesting family information. It mentioned that,

Dale learned many fine things from his dad, not the least of which was the value of hard work…a great deal of hard work.

and,

Early in his working career, Dale worked with his dad in his tank wagon business.

Remember, Gerald worked for his dad at the time of his draft registration, and I assume it was also in the “tank wagon business.”

Also, Janelle Sommer Davis connected with me just after the Fourth of July in 2018. While not related to Gerald, Janelle is the daughter of Esther Coolen, Gerald’s widow. Janelle told me that Esther remarried and had a daughter, but Esther’s second husband died when their daughter was still a newborn. She married again in 1953 and had a second daughter, Janelle, and a son, Rob.

Janelle wrote,

In honor of July 4th, I get out the flag and the purple heart and medal of honors my mom kept in an attic. As a little girl, I would ask about the medals and she was silently mysterious about them.

They stayed in the attic when she passed in 2002.

I got them out again, and since I was off this week from work, I decided to look at the medals closer. Who was this man of mystery that married my mom, and was so tragically KIA over France [correction: Germany]?

I looked closer and noted that the name on the purple heart had his name on the back. I started to research his name. Wondering when he died, wondering how he looked and wondering what he did. 4 hours later today, I found he was a part of the 384th bomb squad [Group]. He ran 12 missions and was missing Sept 28, 1944. He was a part of the arrowhead club. He was the tail gunner and his name was Gerald L Andersen.

I am writing to you because I found the Andersen letters written by my mom, Esther Coolen Andersen. It was with joy, to see her writings of concern and sadness at the same time. It was an honor to know she was once married to a man of courage and of valor.

Esther’s life post-World War II

Esther married Benjamin Carl Bilhorn, who was twenty years her senior and a veteran of World War I, on 2 June 1946. Their daughter was born 15 July 1948. Benjamin Bilhorn’s obituary states that he died 27 August 1948 in the hospital after a two weeks’ illness.

Esther Elaine Coolen remarried 16 January 1953 to William A. Sommer, who was three years older than Esther. William died 29 October 1992 and Esther died 6 March 2002 at age 85.

Remember

I love connecting with family and friends of the men who served with my dad, George Edwin Farrar, in the 384th Bomb Group during World War II. It warms my heart to know that the men who never made it home are not forgotten, even more than seventy years after we lost them in the war.

Esther Elaine Coolen, who married Gerald Lee Andersen on 24 May 1942, became a war widow on 28 September 1944. Even though she was married to Gerald only a little over two years, and remarried twice after losing Gerald, she kept his burial flag and war medals for the rest of her life, through marriages to two other men.

The letters Esther wrote to my grandmother after the mid-air collision tell how deeply she loved Gerald and it is easy to see how she could never forget him. Now that Esther is gone, it is up to us to remember him and keep his memory alive so future generations know what Gerald and others who lost their lives fighting World War II and their families sacrificed for our freedom.

Esther Andersen’s letters to my grandmother,

Notes

Previous post, Gerald Lee Andersen

Gerald Lee Andersen’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Missing Air Crew Report 9753 for the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Missing Air Crew Report 9366 for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Gerald Lee Andersen on Find a Grave

Esther Elaine Coolen (Andersen Bilhorn) Sommer on Find a Grave

Dale Andersen Obituary

Jimmie R Andersen Obituary

Alfred Benjamin’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022