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The Loss of the Buslee Crew on 28 September 1944

Buslee crew at Ardmore Army Airfield in Ardmore, Oklahoma shortly before leaving the States for combat duty in Europe.
Standing left to right: John Buslee (P), David Albrecht (CP), Chester Rybarczyk (N), Marvin Fryden (B)
Kneeling left to right,: Sebastiano Peluso (RO), Erwin Foster (BT), Clarence Seeley (TT), Lenard Bryant (WG)
Missing from this original crew photo are Eugene Lucynski (TG) and George Farrar (WG)
Photo courtesy of Sebastiano Peluso’s nephew, David Mesite

Today is the seventy-eighth anniversary of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision between the Buslee crew’s and Brodie crew’s B-17’s over Magdeburg, Germany. Killed in Action on this day were original Buslee crewmembers John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Sebastiano Peluso (radio operator), and Lenard Bryant (top turret gunner). Original crewmember George Farrar (waist gunner) became a prisoner of war.

Four more airmen were also killed aboard the Buslee B-17, men who were from different crews, but were flying with Buslee that day. They were William Henson (navigator), Robert Stearns (bombardier), George McMann (ball turret gunner), and Gerald Andersen (tail gunner).

Original Buslee crew bombardier Marvin Fryden had been killed on the crew’s 5 August 1944 mission.

Other than my father, George Edwin Farrar, who became a POW on the 28 September 1944 mission, and liberated 2 May 1945, four other original Buslee crew members returned home after the end of the war. They were Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), Clarence Seeley (engineer), Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), and Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner).

Both Clarence Seeley and Eugene Lucynski were seriously wounded in action. Seeley was able to recover from his injuries enough to return to combat duty and complete his missions, but Lucynski was not able to return to combat after being injured on his fourteenth mission.

When you look at the statistics for this one B-17 crew of ten airmen from World War II, five (half) were killed in action, two were seriously wounded in action, one became a prisoner of war, and only two completed their tours without serious injury, death, or capture by the enemy. It’s a very grim statistic which highlights the dangers faced by the airmen of World War II.

The statistics for the original Buslee crew:

  • Killed in Action 50%
  • Wounded in Action 20%
  • Prisoner of War 10%
  • Returned home without major incident 20%

Now remember, these boys weren’t just “statistics.” They were sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. They were from all parts of the United States, some of whose ancestors arrived in Colonial times and some of whose families were recent immigrants. They came from all walks of life. They had varying educations.

But they all had one purpose for serving their country and serving on this crew. They were all needed to help fight a war, to defeat Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and to regain the freedom and safety of citizens in Europe and assure its continuation in America.

For every loss of an airman or any other serviceman or woman, family members at home suffered. One family who suffered immensely was the family of the Buslee crew’s radioman, Sebastiano Joseph Peluso.

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Waiting for word about the fate of their son after learning he was missing in action was pure torture for Sebastiano’s parents. Farrar’s parents learned he was alive and a prisoner of war on New Year’s Eve 1944, three months after the collision. Then, one by one, over the course of several months, the families of the other airmen aboard Buslee’s B-17 received the bad news that their sons and husbands had been killed on 28 September.

All except for Sebastiano Peluso’s parents. By the middle of July 1945, the Peluso’s still had no word regarding the fate of their son. I am not sure how long they did wait for the official word of his death, but the passage of time between that date and the notification that he had been declared missing on 28 September 1944 must have been excruciatingly slow for his father Giuseppe (Joseph), mother Antonetta, and two older sisters Sara and Gina.

Over the years of researching the men of both the Buslee and Brodie crews and their families, I have connected with many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews of most of these airmen. I was overjoyed recently to connect with several Peluso family members, descendants of both of Sebastiano’s sisters, Sara and Gina.

Right at the tail end of August, I received a Facebook message request and was delighted to find a message from David Mesite along with the Ardmore crew photo. David is the son of Sebastiano Peluso’s sister Gina.

David also sent me a close-up of the photo of the boys at Ardmore.

Buslee crew at Ardmore Army Airfield in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Photo courtesy of Sebastiano Peluso’s nephew, David Mesite

I had seen the Ardmore crew photo once before, as published in an old 8th Air Force Magazine from September 2005. The magazine arrived courtesy of 384th Bomb Group NexGen, Paul Furiga, son of 384th BG bombardier Frank Furiga. Frank had saved the magazine because his friend, Buslee crew bombardier Marvin Fryden, was pictured on the cover. This was the first time I had seen a copy of the Ardmore photo that was used in the magazine.

Not pictured in this photo were tail gunner Eugene Lucynski and waist gunner George Farrar. The photo opportunity may have happened before the two were named to the crew, or perhaps they were just not around for the photo. Lucynski and Farrar were issued combat orders at the same time, 8 June 1944. Farrar, my dad, was a gunnery instructor at Ardmore at the time, so perhaps Lucynski was an instructor there as well, with both leaving their duty at Ardmore to go into combat in the European theater.

In his Facebook message, David Mesite told me that his daughter, also named Gina, found my The Arrowhead Club stories about Sebastiano and the Peluso family while performing an internet search of her grandmother’s name. David made the initial contact with me, but over the next week or so, I received e-mails from many more Peluso family members. I am happy to report that I now have connections with many of Sebastiano Peluso’s nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews.

I am pleased that information I shared from my research provided Sebastiano’s family with details about his military service and sacrifice of which they were not previously aware. And I am equally pleased to learn Sebastiano’s memory is honored by them all even though he died before they were born and never had the chance to meet or know him.

The Peluso family’s messages to me are heart-warming. I have learned how proud they are of Sebastiano and how grateful they are for his and his generation’s sacrifices during World War II.

I also understand something that this future generation of the Peluso family may not have considered. After reading and rereading all of their messages to me, and appreciating how grateful, compassionate, and talented the nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews are, I know Sebastiano would be equally, if not more, proud of them.

I won’t share the many messages I received from Peluso family members, but I hope Sebastiano’s niece Marianne doesn’t mind if I share her moving thoughts and touching reflection.

It is such a tragic story for all of us, in all of the families—yet, I feel better knowing that my uncle had wonderful friends and fellow soldiers right until the end. Again, many thanks to you and yours and please know that your love and care have helped us to grow closer as a family, and to honor the memory of our beloved uncle.

Left to right: George Edwin Farrar, Lenard Leroy Bryant, Erwin Vernon Foster, and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso.


Thank you David, Marianne, Gina, Bill and Gina, Kirsten, and Christopher for connecting and conveying your heartfelt messages. I know you all will keep your Uncle Sebastiano’s memory alive for generations to come.

Sebastiano Peluso

Peluso Family Letters

Previous post, Marilyn Fryden’s Letter and Photos Sixty Years Later

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

In Memory of Queen Elizabeth II

© Getty
Photo courtesy of

On September 3, 1939, Great Britain, along with France, Australia, and New Zealand, declared war on Germany. On this day, a German U-boat submarine torpedoed a British passenger ship named the Athenia traveling from England to Canada. One hundred eighteen of the fourteen hundred civilians aboard were killed. And British Parliament member Winston Churchill was named First Lord of the Admiralty.

My father, George Edwin Farrar, turned eighteen years old on this day. Although the United States had not yet entered World War II, and would not for two more years, he, like many other American boys of a certain age, would be destined to join with Great Britain and the other Allies to fight the common Nazi enemy.

Heir to the British throne, Princess Elizabeth, born April 21, 1926, was a thirteen year old teenager when her country entered the war. She would spend all of her teenage years in the wartime of World War II.

But Elizabeth’s introduction to war and the Nazi’s started much earlier than her teenage years. She likely did not remember a time in her early youth when Great Britain and the world were not threatened by Nazi destruction.

Elizabeth’s Childhood Years

Five years before Elizabeth was even born, Adolf Hitler became the leader of the National Socialist (Nazi) Party, a party that later became the second largest political party in Germany when Elizabeth was only four years old.

I’m sure it was impossible for the young princess to have anything resembling a normal childhood considering she was born into the British Royal Family. But the timeframe in which she grew up was very volatile and her childhood was likely very different than if she had grown up in peacetime.

In January 1933, just a few months before Elizabeth turned seven, Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of Germany. In February, the Nazi SA and SS were sworn in as auxiliary police.

Later the same month, the Reichstag building, seat of the German government, burned after being set on fire by the Nazis. This created a crisis atmosphere and enabled Adolf Hitler to seize power under the pretext of protecting the nation from threats to its security. Emergency powers were granted to Hitler as a result of the Reichstag fire.

In March 1933, the Nazis began opening concentration camps for those they deemed political enemies of the Third Reich. The German Parliament passed the Enabling Act giving Hitler dictatorial powers.

Even though these events were happening in Germany, I’m sure the British Royal Family was attuned to the possible future threat to their own country.

In April 1933, the month of Elizabeth’s seventh birthday, Hitler ordered boycotts against Jewish owned shops and professions, and enacted laws against Jews who he decreed to be “non-Aryans.”

The Gestapo was also created this month by Hermann Göring, the Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe, in the German state of Prussia. Göring was also President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia, Plenipotentiary for the Implementation of the Four Year (economic) Plan, and designated successor to Hitler.

By July of Elizabeth’s seventh year, the Nazi Party was declared Germany’s only political party.  All other political parties were outlawed.

In 1934, when Elizabeth was eight, Adolf Hitler, Hermann Göring, and Heinrich Himmler conducted a purge of the SA leadership. The purge and shooting of the leadership began on June 30 and continued to the early morning hours of July 2, and came to be known as The Night of Long Knives.

To give the appearance that life was returning to normal, Hitler hosted a tea party on the evening of July 1 for cabinet members and their families in the garden of the Chancellery. An exact number of deaths is not known as all Gestapo reports were destroyed. Estimates range from 200 to over 1,000, less than half of which were SA officers. An unknown number were murdered by mistaken identity.

In August 1934, German President Hindenburg died and Adolf Hitler declared himself Führer. He announced the law that the office of Reich President would be combined with Reich Chancellor and dated it August 1 in order to seize total power in Germany.

Just before Elizabeth’s ninth birthday, in March 1935, Hitler violated the Treaty of Versailles by introducing military conscription. In September, Nuremberg Race Laws were enacted, stripping Jews of citizenship and most civil rights.

In February 1936, two months before Elizabeth’s tenth birthday, the Gestapo, under Heinrich Himmler, assumed absolute control over internal German security, placing it above the law.

In August, the Olympic Games (11th Olympiad) began in Berlin. The games had been awarded to Germany before Hitler came to power. During the Olympics, a three-week moratorium on anti-Jewish measures was put into effect to create a favorable impression upon foreign visitors.

Shortly after Elizabeth turned eleven years old in 1937, Neville Chamberlain succeeded Stanley Baldwin as prime minister of Great Britain. Later that year, on November 5, Adolf Hitler held a secret conference in the Reich Chancellery during which he revealed his plans for the acquisition of Lebensraum, or living space, for the German people at the expense of other nations in Europe.

By the time Elizabeth was twelve in 1938, the Nazis ordered Jews over age fifteen to apply for identity cards from the police, to be shown on demand to any police officer.

Later that year, British Prime Minister Chamberlain and Adolf Hitler signed the “Munich Agreement,” which ceded Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland (brings the western areas of Czechoslovakia with high German population) to Germany.  Chamberlain claimed the agreement brings “peace for our time.” German troops soon occupied Sudetenland and the Czech government resigned.

In October, Nazis arrested 17,000 Jews of Polish nationality living in Germany, then expelled them back to Poland which refused them entry, leaving them in ‘No-Man’s Land’ near the Polish border for several months.

In November, Ernst vom Rath, third secretary in the German Embassy in Paris, was shot and mortally wounded by Herschel Grynszpan, the 17-year-old son of one of the deported Polish Jews. Rath died on November 9, precipitating Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass.”

On November 9, mob violence broke out as the regular German police stood by and crowds of spectators watched. Nazi storm troopers along with members of the SS and Hitler Youth beat and murdered Jews, broke into and wrecked Jewish homes, and brutalized Jewish women and children.

All over Germany, Austria and other Nazi controlled areas, Jewish shops and department stores had their windows smashed and contents destroyed. Synagogues were especially targeted for vandalism, including desecration of sacred Torah scrolls. Hundreds of synagogues were systematically burned while local fire departments stood by or simply prevented the fire from spreading to surrounding buildings.

About 25,000 Jewish men were rounded up and later sent to concentration camps where they were often brutalized by SS guards and in some cases randomly chosen to be beaten to death.

Following Kristallnacht, Hermann Göring fined the Jews one billion marks for damages which the Nazis themselves had inflicted. He also warned of a “final reckoning with the Jews” if Germany should get involved in war, a sentiment also repeatedly expressed by Hitler.

With Elizabeth thirteen years old in 1939, on August 31, the British fleet mobilized and civilian evacuations began from London.

On September 1, the Nazis invaded Poland (with the largest Jewish population in Europe of 3.35 million), initiating World War II in Europe. In Britain and France, general mobilization was declared.

On September 2, Britain and France issued a joint ultimatum to Germany to withdraw her troops from Poland within twelve hours or find herself at war with Britain and France. Instead, the German Luftwaffe raided Warsaw.

And as I noted earlier, on September 3, 1939, Great Britain, along with France, Australia, and New Zealand, declared war on Germany. Thirteen-year-old Princess Elizabeth would spend almost her entire teenage years with her country at war, with the end of the war not coming until she was nineteen in 1945.

Wartime Princess

From the American Air Museum in Britain:  Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor

Princess Elizabeth spent most of the war years at Windsor Castle and, like many other British children, was often apart from her parents. In October 1940, 14-year-old Princess Elizabeth broadcast a message to evacuees on the radio programme Children’s Hour, urging them to have courage.

At the age of 19, Princess Elizabeth joined the Auxiliary Territorial Service (ATS). After joining, she trained as a driver and mechanic with the rank of Second Subaltern. Five months later she was promoted to Junior Commander, which was the equivalent of Captain. Her younger sister Princess Margaret was a Girl Guide and later joined the Sea Rangers.

As heir presumptive, Princess Elizabeth undertook public duties during the Second World War, which included visits to USAAF bases. B-17 serial number 42-102547 was nicknamed “Rose of York” for Princess Elizabeth (now Queen Elizabeth II), and she christened the aircraft on her Royal visit to the 306th Bomb Group at Thurleigh.

In 1952 she ascended to the throne, becoming Queen of the United Kingdom and 15 other Commonwealth Nations. She is the longest living and longest reigning monarch in British history.

Princess Elizabeth and Col Claude Putnam, C/O of the 306th Bomb Group, with a B-17 Flying Fortress (serial number 42-102547) nicknamed “Rose of York”, that has been named in her honour, 6 July 1944.
Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum via the American Air Museum in Britain website.

In the Liberty Lady Book Project, The B-17 Rose of York, author Pat DiGeorge provides more details of Princess Elizabeth’s christening of the aircraft:

In May of 1944, a B-17G, #42-102547, was assigned to the 367th Bombardment Squadron of the 306th Bombardment Group, housed at Thurleigh Airfield, just north of Bedford. Of all the planes assigned to the 306th, this aircraft became the most famous because of its association with Great Britain’s royal family!

After 367th Squadron crew chief M/Sgt. Ed Gregory named the A/C first “The Princess,” and then “Princess Elizabeth,” he came up with the idea that his plane should be christened by none other than Princess Elizabeth herself.

The royal family thought it was a grand idea with one caveat. They were afraid that if a plane by that name went down, it would be a bad omen indeed, so the name was changed to “Rose of York.”

On July 6, 1944, the royal group made their visit: King George VI, Queen Elizabeth, daughter 18-year-old Elizabeth plus others in the entourage. Lt. Gen. James H. Doolittle led the American delegation.

M/Sgt Gregory presented the princess with two dozen York roses at the start of the ceremony. When the young princess officially christened the “Rose of York” with a bottle of English cider, the bottle shattered and the onlookers cheered.


Sadly, the Rose of York was lost on February 3, 1945, en route to Berlin, the aircraft’s 63rd mission. In addition to the 9 crew members, war correspondent Guy Byam was on board making a recording for the BBC.

On its way back from the target and somewhere over the North Sea, the pilot, 1st Lt. Vernor F. Daley, Jr., radioed that he thought he could make it back to England.

The plane was never found.

A Lifetime of Service to her Country

Elizabeth was nineteen years old when World War II ended with the Allies’ victory. According to Wikipedia, she and her younger sister Margaret were even reported to have, on V-E Day, “mingled incognito with the celebrating crowds in the streets of London.” Elizabeth later said in a rare interview, “We asked my parents if we could go out and see for ourselves. I remember we were terrified of being recognised … I remember lines of unknown people linking arms and walking down Whitehall, all of us just swept along on a tide of happiness and relief.”

Upon the death of her father, King George VI, on February 6, 1952, at the age of twenty-five, Elizabeth became Queen of the United Kingdom and other Commonwealth realms (with her coronation on June 2, 1953). It was less than seven years after the end of World War II.

Queen Elizabeth II lived through the horrors of the Second World War as a child and as a young woman. She carried those memories with her for the rest of her life like I know the American and British and other veterans of that war did and still do.

Queen Elizabeth II died on September 8, 2022, with the longest recorded reign, seventy years and two-hundred fourteen days, of any female head of state in history, and the second-longest verified reign of any sovereign in history.

A Message of Condolences from the 384th Bomb Group, Inc.

Flowers laid at St James the Apostle Church, Grafton Underwood, with message of condolence from the 384th Bomb Group, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Neill Howarth,

The group of post-war 384th Bomb Group veterans, family, and friends, remembered Queen Elizabeth with flowers and a message of condolences. Local Kettering-area resident and head of the 384th Bomb Group Museum Project, Neill Howarth, laid the flowers at St. James the Apostle Church in Grafton Underwood and shared the message to the group via a video on the group’s Facebook page.

The 384th Bomb Group wishes to express our sincere condolences in the passing of Queen Elizabeth II. She was truly a stalwart leader of the free world and will always be remembered for her regal presence.

No words will ever do justice to the impact of her legacy.

Wishing her countrymen peace and comfort during this difficult time.


American Air Museum in Britain (link may not be working until completion of site upgrade):  Elizabeth Alexandra Mary Windsor

American Air Museum in Britain photo (link may not be working until completion of site upgrade): “Rose of York” Christening Photo

Liberty Lady Book Project, with links to purchase Pat DiGeorge’s book:  The B-17 Rose of York

Her Majesty the Queen, 1926 – 2022 – English Heritage

Wikipedia: Elizabeth II

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Eugene Lucynski in the News and his Polish Ancestry

Last month I published an update regarding Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Daniel Lucynski. Even after my latest search for information about Eugene, I still did not know if Eugene married and had children, and was not able to find where he might be buried.

Eugene Lucynski must have been married at one point in his life as he reported in the 1950 Federal Census that he was divorced. However, I can find no other record noting his wife’s name or if they had any children together. Past 1950, I cannot find any record that Eugene remarried or had any children after that date.

So, still wanting to learn more about Eugene, I turned to the owners of family trees on that included Eugene in their trees. One very helpful family tree owner, Frannie Lada, responded to my request. While Frannie was not able to provide me with the information for which I had been searching, she did share a newspaper article and some information about Polish emigration.

Frannie Lada is distantly related to Eugene Lucynski, but not by blood, the first cousin once removed of the husband of a third cousin. But Frannie kindly assisted me in my search.

Frannie shared this newspaper article published following the crash of the Tremblin’ Gremlin on 19 September 1944, although the article notes an incorrect date of the incident.

Sgt. Eugene Lucynski Wounded Over France
Source: 17 October 1944 Flint (Michigan) Journal
Article contributed by Frannie Lada

The article reads:

Sgt. Eugene Lucynski Wounded Over France

Mt. Morris – Staff Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, tail gunner aboard a Flying Fortress based with the Eighth Air Force in England, was wounded Sept. 27 according to word received by his father, Gus Lucynski, 7307 N. Dort Hwy.

Through a letter from a Red Cross worker in France, the father has learned that his son and fellow crew members bailed out of their plane over France while returning from a raid on German targets. The men left the plane only seconds before it exploded in mid-air. Sgt. Lucynski is under treatment for arm and leg injuries.

The airman, who holds the Air Medal, was inducted in June 1942 and received his gunner’s wings from Ardmore Field, Okla. He has been overseas seven months.

In addition to a correction for the date, which should have been the 19th of September rather than the 27th, the article also overstates Eugene’s length of overseas duty by several months as he and the Buslee crew did not arrive in the UK until early July 1944 and did not participate in their first mission until August.

Frannie Lada also educated me regarding the interpretation of terminology found on census and immigration records as far as location origins and language of Germany vs. Poland are concerned. Frannie said,

Although ship and census records may say “Germany,” the Luczynski’s and Bruzewski’s [Eugene’s mother’s side of the family] were from Poland. Poland ceased to exist as an independent nation from 1795-1918. (Google the “Partitions of  Poland”). The land was divided among Germany, Austria, and Russia. The Polish language and the culture was suppressed.

My grandma was baptized in the same Polish parish church where John Luczynski married Katherine Borowski [Gustave Lucynski’s (Eugene’s father’s) parents]. The village of Dobrcz (or Dobsch in German) is in the county of Bydgoszcz (Bromberg in German) in what is now the province of Kujawsko-Pomorskie.

By 1939, when Hitler invaded, Poland had been free from being part of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires for only a little over 20 years. (The Polish word for Germany is ”Niemcy” which is very close to the Polish phrase “niema nic” which means “there is nothing”).

The bottom line is that these families are from the Polish partition that was ruled by the German Empire.

Frannie also added “just a bit more for context,”

The Poles, even in this country, were fiercely nationalistic. During the first world war, as many as 20,000 Poles living in the US joined Haller’s Army. The memory of oppression was never far from their thoughts.

Read more about Haller’s Army in WWI here.

And Frannie shared that,

As a child, I recall standing with pride next to my grandma as we sang the Polish national anthem.  The anthem, written in 1797 a few years after the last partition, is a military march but my favorite version is this one.

The version Frannie shared is lovely and performed by the Warsaw Philharmonia Orchestra. Today, in honor of Eugene Daniel Lucynski and all the Polish ancestors who came before him, I will conclude with this version, sung in Polish, with an onscreen English translation.

As Frannie pointed out to me, the opening line says it all:  “Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła, Kiedy my żyjemy.” “Poland has not yet perished so long as we still live.”


Many thanks to fellow member Frannie Lada for her assistance.

Previous post, Eugene Daniel Lucynski, Update

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Leonard Wood Opie, Update

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding Leonard Wood Opie, flexible/waist 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. 

To view my original post and other information about Leonard Wood Opie, please see the links at the end of this post.

Entry into World War II

Leonard Wood Opie registered for the WWII draft on 16 February 1942. He indicated that he lived in Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois at the time of registration. Leonard’s draft card also notes he was twenty years old and his birthdate was 14 September 1921.

His father, Chester A. Opie of Trivoli, Illinois is the person who would always know his address. Leonard was 5’8” tall, weighed 158 pounds, had brown eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion.

At the time of his draft registration, Leonard’s employer was Altorfer Bros. & Co. in East Peoria, Tazewell County, Illinois. For an interesting WWII side story, please see the story about Leonard’s employer, Altorfer Bros. & Co., below.

A month after his twenty-first birthday, on 17 October 1942, Leonard enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Peoria, Illinois. He resided in Peoria County, Illinois at the time of enlistment.

Combat/Overseas Duty

After his training in the States, Leonard Wood Opie served his combat duty with the 8th Army Air Forces and the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England.

Leonard’s 384th Bomb Group Sortie record notes that his initial rank was Corporal, his duty was Arm-Gunner, and his pay was $140.40 per month. His sortie record also notes his home address as Mrs. Annie Opie (Leonard’s mother), Trivoli, Ill.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Leonard Wood Opie:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Leonard Wood Opie was assigned to the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944.
  • On 2 August 1944, Leonard Opie was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155.
  • On 8 September 1944, Leonard Opie was transferred in grade to the Casual Pool, 8th AFRD, AAF Station 594.

According to “Army Air Forces Stations,” AAF Station 594 was “594 Stone Staffordshire 8, 14, 16, and 18, (Jefferson Hall) Replacement Control Ctrs.” “Army Air Forces Stations” was “A Guide to the Stations Where U.S. Army Air Forces Personnel Served in the United Kingdom During World War II.”

Being transferred to the casual pool likely meant that Leonard left Grafton Underwood and continued his WWII service elsewhere, although I have no information on where he served or what his new role in the war was. Leonard Opie served on only three missions with the 384th Bomb Group, all three in August 1944 and all three with the Brodie crew.

Return Home

Leonard Opie married and continued his military career after WWII.

On 13 May 1946, Leonard Opie married Ellen Hise in Pulaski County, Arkansas. Leonard was twenty-four years old and Ellen was twenty-three and lived in North Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas.

The 1950 Federal Census notes that Leonard W. Opie was twenty-eight years old, married to Ellen T. Opie, who was twenty-seven years old, and living in Riverside, Riverside County, California. The kind of work he was doing was listed as Armed Forces.

The 1951 city directory for Riverside California lists Leonard W. and Ellen T. Opie living at 2643 Lime in Riverside. Leonard’s occupation was United States Air Force. Ellen’s occupation was listed as waitress at The Owl Cafe.

Leonard’s occupation for most of his working life, as noted on his death certificate, was Barber – Tech Sgt. and Kind of Business was U.S. Air Force – Retired. Leonard retired from the US Air Force in 1964 with a discharge date of 29 February 1964 according to his Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File.

Leonard and Ellen Opie moved to Longview, Gregg County, Texas in 1966, two years after he retired from the Air Force.

Leonard Wood Opie died on 20 May 1974 at the age of 52 of prostate cancer. Other information included on his death certificate notes his residence at the time of his death as Longview, Gregg County, Texas. His father was listed as Arthur Opie, mother as Annie Depperman, and wife as Ellen Opie.

Leonard’s obituary published on 21 May 1974 in the Longview (TX) News-Journal states,

L.W. Opie, 52, of Longview died Monday in a Longview hospital and funeral services are pending at Welch Funeral Home.

Opie was a retired U.S. Air Force technical sergeant and he was a native of Illinois. He had been a resident of Longview since 1966 and was a member of the First Lutheran Church.

Surviving are his wife, Mrs. Ellen T. Opie; a son, Allen Hise of Tatum; and two daughters, Mrs. Sue Reeves of Longview and Mrs. Sue Hill of West Point, Iowa.

Also surviving are two sisters, Mrs. Marion Stewart of Pekin, Ill. and Mrs. Barbara Quick of Peoria, Ill.; the parents, Mr. and Mrs. Arthur Opie of Peoria, Ill.; and five grandchildren.

Welch Funeral Home is in charge.

Family Connections

I would love to connect with relatives of Leonard Wood Opie, especially to learn the nature of his WWII service after he left the 384th Bomb Group. Please e-mail me if you have more information to share about Leonard.

About Altorfer Bros. & Co.

When I performed an internet search to discover what type of employment Leonard was working in at the time of his draft registration, I discovered an interesting newspaper article from the Peoria Journal Star. To get all the details, please refer to the article, but I’ll summarize it here.

Before and at the beginning of World War II, Altorfer Bros. & Co. made appliances, including washing machines. This would have been their primary business at the time Leonard Wood Opie worked for the company.

However, due to shortages from war production, companies like Altorfer could no longer obtain steel to build their products. On 15 May 1943, Altorfer produced its last household appliances for the rest of the war. The company was forced to turn its production lines toward making armaments for the war effort.

At the time, one of the biggest challenges to the Allies military effort was the strength of the steel the Nazis had developed to use to build their tanks. The Allies’ shells would just bounce off the Nazi tanks. According to the article, “Gen. George Patton sent out a plea to the military to have a shell made that would pierce the Nazi tanks.”

Altorfer, and many of the country’s largest manufacturers like John Deere and General Motors, gathered for a brainstorming meeting in southern Indiana. They were tasked with the challenge to make an anti-tank shell, an armored piercing shell.

Clyde Ulrich, director of manufacturing of Altorfer Bros., took back a piece of German tank steel from that meeting to his plant and began work to produce a shell for our anti-tank guns that could pierce that steel.

It took him nine months, but Clyde Ulrich was successful in making a shell that could pierce the Nazi tanks. Altofer Bros. & Co., the company for which Leonard Wood Opie worked shortly before he enlisted in WWII, and Clyde Ulrich would go down in history for creating and producing the shell that could beat the German tanks.


© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022