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The Loss of the Brodie Crew on 28 September 1944

Last week I wrote about The Loss of the Buslee Crew on 28 September 1944. This week I want to explore the Brodie crew’s losses on that day.

We are just past 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 Brodie crewmembers James Brodie (pilot), Lloyd Vevle (co-pilot), Robert Crumpton (engineer/top turret gunner), and Gordon Hetu (ball turret gunner). Original crew members George Hawkins (navigator), Wilfred Miller (tail gunner), and Harry Liniger (waist gunner) became prisoners of war.

Two more airmen were also killed aboard the Brodie B-17, men who were from different crews, but were flying with Brodie that day. They were Byron Atkins (togglier) and Donald Dooley (radio operator).

Original Brodie crew waist gunner Leonard Opie had been transferred after his third mission with the group. The crew’s original radio operator, William Taylor, became a POW on his twenty-first mission one week later, on 5 October 1944 (seventy-eight years ago today). The crew’s bombardier, William Barnes, was the only one of the original Brodie crew to complete his tour of thirty-five missions and return home without serious injury, death, or capture by the enemy.

When you look at the statistics for this one original B-17 crew of ten airmen from World War II, four were killed in action, four became prisoners of war, one transferred, and only one completed his tour without serious injury, death, or capture.

The statistics for the original Brodie crew:

  • Killed in Action 40%
  • Prisoner of War 40%
  • Transferred 10%
  • Returned home without major incident (or transfer) 10%

As I mentioned last week, remember, these boys weren’t just “statistics.” They were sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. They were from all over the United States, some from farming communities, some from big cities, and everywhere in between. But regardless of their differences, ten young men came together to create one cohesive air crew, and they would fight, even to their deaths, to protect their families and country.

To learn more about each of these airmen of World War II, visit my permanent page, The Buslee and Brodie Crews, which is continuously updated with new information.

At this point, I want to note a few more grim statistics for these twenty airmen, ten from the original Buslee crew and ten from the original Brodie crew.

Nine of the twenty airmen were killed in combat, eight young men only in their twenties, and one at only nineteen years of age.

Adding in those who survived the war,

  • One died in his teens 5%
  • Nine died in their twenties (including one post-war) 45%
  • One died in his forties 5%
  • Two died in their fifties 10%
  • Four died in their sixties 20%
  • Three died in their seventies 15%

None of the survivors lived to see eighty years old. The last surviving airman of the original Brodie crew, radio operator William Taylor died in 2002, the only one of both crews to live into the 2000’s.

None of the Buslee crew survivors lived past sixty-one years old. All of the enlisted men of the Buslee crew who had not died on 28 September 1944 died between 1980 and 1982, Clarence Seeley in 1980, Erwin Foster and Eugene Lucynski in 1981, and my dad, George Farrar, in 1982.

Not only was Dad the sole survivor on his B-17 on 28 September 1944, he was the last survivor of the original Buslee crew. I wonder if he knew.


Previous post, The Loss of the Buslee Crew on 28 September 1944

Permanent page, The Buslee and Brodie Crews

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022


  1. The ‘statistics’ for the air war are just horrendous, and when you think of them as sons, brothers, fathers etc, it really makes you think that little bit deeper. I wonder if the air war itself had any impact on their early deaths.

    Liked by 1 person

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