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.
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.
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.
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.
Previous post, Marilyn Fryden’s Letter and Photos Sixty Years Later
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022