Byron Leverne “Bud” Atkins, Update
New information from family, a new search on Ancestry.com, and new information from military records have provided me with some new and updated/corrected information regarding Byron Leverne (or Laverne) “Bud” Atkins, togglier on the 28 September 1944 mission 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 Byron Atkins, please see the links at the end of this post.
Since I last wrote about Byron Atkins, I heard from his great-niece, Betsy Hawkins. Betsy sent me a family photo that includes Byron Leverne “Bud” Atkins (standing on the right) along with, left to right, his father Verne Atkins, sister Dorothy Atkins Swinford, and nieces (Dorothy’s daughters) Charlotte Ann Swinford (now Richardson), and Phyllis Louise Swinford (now Perkins).
Betsy, who is the daughter of Phyllis Louise Swinford, had been working with her Aunt Charlotte Swinford to locate any pictures and letters of Bud’s. She also noted that Charlotte was born before Bud shipped out, and provided Byron’s nickname of “Bud.”
Note on the spelling of Byron Atkins middle name
The spelling of Byron Atkins middle name was LaVerne on his birth certificate, with an “a” rather than an “e,” and the “V” captialized. However, by the time Byron filled out his draft registration card, he noted the spelling of his middle name as LeVerne with an “e,” typed into the Name section of the card, and signed as Le Verne.
His 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record uses the spelling Leverne. And his Find a Grave memorial uses LeVerne, although the stone inscription only includes his middle initial “L” rather than his full middle name.
Without intentionally spelling it one way or another, I have used both Laverne and Leverne spellings throughout articles in which I refer to him. His personnel record with the 384th uses the Leverne spelling. I consider all the different spellings “correct” as in those days, people spelled their names differently at different times without thinking much about it, as did my grandfather, Lewis or Louis Chase, spelling it either way as if he assigned no importance to which was “correct” or preferred.
Byron was the son of Verne Atkins (1894 – 1945) and Goldie Myrtle Jones (1902 – 1994). His older sister was Dorothy Evelyn Atkins Swinford (1920 – 2004).
Verne Atkins served in WWI with Company “L,” 51st Infantry, 6th Division as noted in the US Transport passenger list for the ship “Ceramic” out of the Port of New York.
Verne departed New York on 6 July 1918 and following his WWI service with the 51st Infantry, departed Brest France on 5 June 1919, arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey on 12 June 1919 on the WWI troop transport ship “Leviathan.” The arrival passenger list noted his rank as Private.
Much more family information is available in my original article, Byron L. Atkins.
Entry in to WWII Service
On 29 December 1942, Byron Atkins registered for the WWII draft at Local Board No. 1 at the Boone County Armory Building in Lebanon, Indiana. He listed his place of residence as Lebanon, Boone County, Indiana. Byron’s Employer’s Name was Vern Atkins (his father) and place of employment was R. R. 2 (probably an abbreviation for Rural Route 2, the family farm) in Lebanon. He was 18 years old and born on 10 November 1924 in Gadsden, Indiana.
Vern Atkins (Byron’s father) of R. R. 2 of Lebanon, Indiana was the person who would always know his address.
Byron described himself as 5′ 10″ tall, 168 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. He noted no “other obvious physical characteristic that will aid in identification.”
On 17 June 1943, Byron enlisted in WWII at Indianapolis, Indiana and was inducted into military service as of this date. Byron’s enlistment record notes his residence as Boone County, Indiana, and that he was born in Indiana in 1924. According to his enlistment record, his civilian occupation was “sales clerk.”
WWII Combat Duty at Grafton Underwood, England
Byron Atkin’s 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record indicates that his duty was Ball Turret, one month’s pay was $140.40, and his home address was Mr. Verne Atkins, RR #2, Lebanon, Indiana.
Byron was credited with six combat missions, for which he earned an Air Medal, with the 384th Bomb Group, from his first on 9 September 1944 to his last on 28 September 1944.
Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Byron Atkins:
- On 5 AUGUST 1944, Corporal Byron Leverne “Bud” Atkins was assigned to the 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #157 dated 5 August 1944 as Flexible/Waist Gunner of the James Woodrow Chadwick crew.
- I am not certain of his initial classification, but by the end of his service his MOS, military operational specialty, was 612 – Airplane Armorer/Gunner.
- On 17 AUGUST 1944, Byron Atkins was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #165.
- On 20 September 1944, Byron Atkins was promoted to Staff Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #186 dated 20 September 1944.
- On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany (Target was Industry, Steelworks), Byron Leverne Atkins, flying with the James Joseph Brodie crew, went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared KIA (Killed in Action).
Byron’s mission record indicates he performed three different duties aboard the B-17, with three turns in the ball turret (9, 10, and 13 September 1944), one turn as waist gunner (25 September), and twice as togglier (21 and 28 September) with both of those occasions with the James Joseph Brodie crew.
Byron never flew with his original crew, the James Woodrow Chadwick crew. With two waist gunners assigned to the Chadwick crew, Louis Merfeld retained the position of lone waist gunner with the crew as the 384th did not place two waist gunners on the B-17 on combat missions at that time in the war.
Byron flew with the Donald Hulcher crew those three times as ball turret gunner, and flew as waist gunner with the Hulcher crew under Commander James Wesley Hines on one mission as the low group lead. George Marshall Hawkins of the Brodie crew was one of the navigators on that crew along with Fred Rubin, whom I witnessed sign the 384th Bomb Group’s wing panel many years ago. And of course, Byron’s other two missions were as togglier with the Brodie crew.
Byron lost his life at the young age of nineteen. He is buried next to his father, who died eleven months after his son of a broken neck and fractured skull in an automobile accident, at Oak Hill Cemetery in Lebanon, Boone County, Indiana, in Plot 151-30.
Previous post, Byron L. Atkins
Byron “Bud” Atkin’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group
Byron Atkin’s Enlistment Record in the online National Archives
MOS means Military Occupational Specialty
Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews
Previous post, Timeline for Brodie Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron
Missing Air Crew Report 9366 for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group
Missing Air Crew Report 9753 for the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group
Byron Atkins’ Find a Grave memorial
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023
The B-17 Flexible (Waist) Gunner
My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a flexible/waist 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 four 384th Bomb Group Flexible (Waist) 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.
Lenard Leroy Bryant, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner, reassigned to top turret gunner after 5 August 1944 mission
- Born 7 March 1919
- Died 28 September 1944, age 25
- Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot G, Row 7, Grave 22
- 384th BG Personnel Record
- Lenard Leroy Bryant, Top Turret Gunner for the Buslee Crew
- Lenard Leroy Bryant, Update
George Edwin Farrar, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner
- Born 3 September 1921
- Died 5 November 1982, age 61
- Buried Floral Hills Memory Gardens, Tucker, DeKalb County, Georgia, USA
- 384th BG Personnel Record
- George Edwin Farrar, Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia
- George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, and Part 5
Leonard Wood Opie, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner
- Born 14 September 1921
- Died 20 May 1974, age 52
- Buried Lakeview Memorial Gardens, Longview, Gregg County, Texas, USA
- 384th BG Personnel Record
- Leonard Opie
- Leonard Wood Opie, Update
Harry Allen Liniger, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner
- Born 9 August 1924
- Died 8 October 1947, age 23
- Buried Powells Point Christian Church Cemetery, Harbinger, Currituck County, North Carolina, USA
- 384th BG Personnel Record
- Harry Liniger, Waist Gunner for the Brodie Crew
- Harry Liniger After the War
- Harry Liniger’s Letters and Guardian Angel
- Harry Allen Liniger, Update – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
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 Flexible (Waist) 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 flexible/waist 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 look for and shoot down enemy fighters.
- Would call out fighter positions (for the benefit of the other gunners and for the navigator to record in his log).
- Would call out enemy aircraft he deemed to be damaged or destroyed (also for the benefit of the navigator’s log record).
- Would call out B-17’s that he saw go down and the number of chutes deployed (for the benefit of the navigator and radio operator so that they could report these losses at the debriefing).
- Would report damage to the aircraft to the pilot.
The waist gun position of the B-17 presented several difficulties, but mostly remedied with the introduction of the “G” model.
- In models previous to the G model, the waist gunners were placed directly opposite each other, resulting in difficult maneuvering during engagement with fighters. Their placement also led to accidental disconnection of the other’s oxygen system, and if such disconnection went unnoticed, would result in the stages of anoxia – dizziness, loss of consciousness, and death.
- Also in models previous to the G model, the waist windows were open to 200 mph winds at altitude, which resulted in minus 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit temperature in the slipstream of air racing past the Fortress. Problem: frostbite. Anoxia and frostbite were the two biggest enemies of the B-17 waist gunner past the enemy fighters and flak. The waist gunners battled the freezing temperatures by wearing layers of heavy clothing and electrically heated suits. The G model added Plexiglas windows with an opening for the guns in the waist windows.
- The waist gunners’ 50 caliber machine guns did not use a power assisted mount until the G model and the sights were aimed with a ball and ring sight until the sights were upgraded in the G with computing sights like those in the top turret and ball.
- Originally, B-17’s carried two waist gunners, but late in the war, most bombardment groups reduced the number of waist gunners in a B-17 from two to one. The improvement of the distance the Allied fighters could accompany the bomber stream reduced the incidence and number of enemy fighters attacking the Fortresses, thus reducing the need for two waist gunners.
Location of the Waist Position in a B-17
The waist gunner positions of a B-17 are at the mid-point of the aircraft, just past the radio room and ball turret. Should the waist gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the waist door of the aircraft, just past the waist positions on the starboard (right-hand) side of the aircraft and forward of the tail.
In the following diagram, George Edwin Farrar is noted in the waist position of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.
B-17 Waist Position Photos
I took the following photos of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.
View of waist door and right waist gunner window.
Note, step ladder is for post-war tour guests only and was not used in combat!
View of waist from rear of aircraft…
Note, seats also for post-war tour guests only and not used in combat!
View of waist from front of aircraft.
View of waist, waist windows, waist door, and entry into tail area from just behind the ball turret.
Again, post-war tourist seats were not original equipment!
Stories of 384th Bomb Group Waist 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 waist gunners. You’ll find a chart of several waist 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.
Note: I was unable to open the links to the last three entries in the list, the oral history interviews of Britton, Furrey, and Meyer. I will leave the links in place in the hope that the problem is temporary.
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, Waist 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, 2023
Commanding Officers and Chaplains of the 384th Bomb Group
I have written several posts in the past few years following extensive research into the military and religious leaders, the Commanding Officers and Chaplains, who served with the 384th Bomb Group in World War II. Those posts are not easy to find within the blog format of my website, so this past weekend I created Pages for quicker and easier access to the links to those separate posts.
While this particular organizational post does not contain a lot of reading material, you will find plenty to read and learn by following the links on the newly created pages. You may view those pages and their supporting links to more detailed information on each of the individuals at,
For future reference, you can find links to those pages in the left-hand column of the Home Page of this site under the heading START HERE.
Note: on a mobile phone or tablet, you may have to view the home page as a “desktop site” to see the left-hand START HERE column with the links to the pages.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023
George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 5
A new search has provided me with some new information regarding my dad, George Edwin Farrar, one of the original waist gunners 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 George Edwin Farrar, please see the links at the end of this post.
Continued from George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
This part will cover George Edwin Farrar’s post-WWII life.
Post-World War II
Following George Edwin Farrar’s honorable discharge and release from military service in San Antonio, Texas on 29 October 1945, he began a new career in a new part of the country as a civilian.
Ed’s father, Carroll Johnson Farrar, Sr., was in ill health and bedridden by time Ed returned to States in July 1945. Ed’s sister, Beverly, who was eight years old at the time, remembered a special visit to the Farrar home from the parents of the pilot, John Oliver “Jay” Buslee, of Ed’s B-17 crew.
The Buslee’s may have visited after Ed was discharged in October or at an earlier date while he was home on furlough soon after his return to the States. Regardless of the time frame, the Buslee’s traveled from Chicago to meet with Ed (whom they knew as George), the only survivor on their son’s B-17 in the mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany on 28 September 1944.
Ed had written to the Buslee’s from France and they in turn, wrote to Ed’s mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar, on 4 June 1944 about wanting to visit when he returned home.
The Buslee’s wrote again on 15 July 1945, mentioning a visit in the “near future.” The July 15th letter was the last letter from the Buslee’s that was in the war letters Ed’s mother saved, making it likely that the visit was in the summer of 1945 shortly after Ed’s return, but the visit could have been later, in the Fall, after his military discharge.
Jay Buslee’s parents were eager to learn everything they could about the mid-air collision that killed their son. John and Olga Buslee traveled to Atlanta to hear the news in person. Ed’s sister Beverly remembered Mr. and Mrs. Buslee, Ed, and her mother Raleigh Mae talking in the living room during their visit. Ed’s father Carroll was too ill to join the group.
John Buslee offered Ed a job as a salesman for his business. John Buslee was the “Buslee” in Neumann, Buslee & Wolfe, Inc., self-described as “Merchants, Importers, and Manufacturers” of essential oils, based in the Bauer Building on West Huron Street in Chicago, Illinois.
Ed did not want to leave home so soon, but he accepted the offer and the opportunity to restart his life. Ed moved to Chicago and into the Buslee home as Jay’s parents would not hear of him living anywhere else. John Buslee taught Ed sales skills and gave him the chance to make a good living in post-war America.
George Edwin Farrar became a traveling salesman of essential oils for Neumann, Buslee & Wolfe, traveling his territory by train and bus. The extent of the area his sales territory covered is unknown, but letters reveal he worked in Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. He wrote a letter home on 29 March 1946 from Oklahoma City in which he mentioned revisiting Ardmore, where he was a gunnery instructor in the war.
Ed missed his family and home in Atlanta, but the Buslee’s provided him with a good home, a good job, and a good life in Chicago.
In July 1946, the Henson’s traveled to Chicago to visit with Ed Farrar and the Buslee’s. Bill and Minnie Henson were the parents of William Alvin Henson II, the Sammons crew navigator who was on board the Buslee crew B-17 on 28 September 1944. Jeanne was their daughter. They, along with Ed and the Buslee’s, visited Barney’s Market Club on 10 July.
and earlier, on 6 July, visited The College Inn.
Ed Farrar worked for Mr. Buslee and lived in Mr. and Mrs. Buslee’s home from late-1945 to mid-1949. In mid-1948, Ed’s brother Carroll Jr., and his brother’s wife Millie, formerly of Enid, Oklahoma, introduced Ed to Millie’s friend, Bernice Jane Chase of Enid. Bernice, known as Bernie, was a native of the farming community of Meno, Oklahoma, about twenty miles from Enid.
Bernice Chase was the middle daughter of Louis Albert Chase and Mary Selina Allen Chase, born on 2 June 1920. She had two sisters, an older one named Bethel, and a younger one named Beatrice. Mary called her three girls her “three little B’s.” Bernie’s father Louis and grandfather Cornelius Judson Allen both homesteaded on land in Meno acquired during the Oklahoma Land Rush. Their land in Meno was used to raise wheat crops, and later, oil wells and oil pumps marked the landscape.
Bernice Chase and her sisters lost their mother in 1928 to pneumonia and their father was left to raise them alone in a farm house with no electricity on the wheat farm. Bernice was eight years when her mother died. Her father never remarried. Electricity finally came to the Chase farm when Bernice was in high school. After high school and some college, Bernice moved into Enid to live and work.
I will write more about Bernice Chase Farrar, my mother, in future posts.
Bernie and Ed met in June 1948. Their courtship was mainly through letters as Ed was a traveling salesman who could visit only on occasions when he was working in the area.
Their letters and courtship photos would have to do between visits,
George Edwin Farrar married Bernice Jane Chase a year after they met, on 30 June 1949 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a small ceremony with just Ed and Bernie standing in front of the Justice of the Peace. No family. No photos. Even though I don’t have a wedding photo, I do have a photo from early in their marriage.
After his marriage to Bernice Chase in June 1949, Ed left Chicago and they both moved to his parents’ Atlanta home until Ed took a job with Oakite Products, Inc. on 26 September 1949. That day, Ed was in New York City for his final interview and was hired and began his training with the company that same day.
With his training complete, on November 14, 1949, he was assigned to the Columbia-Spartanburg, South Carolina territory as an Oakite Products salesman. Little did he know that a witness to his 28 September 1944 mid-air collision over Magdeburg, the late Wallace Storey, lived in Spartanburg after the war.
Ed and Bernie moved to Greenville, South Carolina and rented an apartment in a beautiful large stone home at 20 Arden Street. Bernie took a job doing office work with an insurance company as Ed began his Oakite career.
The recently-released 1950 Federal Census records George E and Bernice J Farrar residing in the Arden Street home in that year. George/Ed was 28 years old and Bernice was 29.
The 1950 census record incorrectly identifies my parents’ states of birth as South Carolina. His correct place of birth was Georgia and hers was Oklahoma. Just a reminder that not all information recorded in the census is correct information.
- Ed worked 45 hours the previous week as a salesman for a cleaning products plant
- Bernice worked 40 hours the previous week as an accountant and office clerk for a life insurance company.
Notes recorded on their page of the census indicate that the census taker had stopped by previously, but found no one at home. The note did provide some interesting information about the house, however.
House unit 416, upstairs apartment, in large house, did not find any one home on first call and thought house had only 3 apartments. Return call, found 1 more.
Ed and Bernie photographed their Greenville home,
and I photographed it sixty years later when I visited Greenville.
George Edwin Farrar never forgot his lost crewmates of the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. He wore a memorial to them in the form of an Air Force ring for the rest of his life.
Ed Farrar became a top salesman for Oakite Products and late in his Oakite career, won the top corporate honor for Oakite Products, the D.C. Ball Award for Distinguished Oakite Service.
In the sales year of 1979, he was in the #4 sales spot nationally in the company. In March 1982, he set a new one month sales record for Oakite, the “highest sales volume ever recorded in one month by an Oakiter.”
Ed and Bernie’s first home was on Conway Road in Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia. In 1957, they moved to Arrowhead Trail in Atlanta, also in DeKalb County.
Ed and Bernie wanted to start a family upon their return to Atlanta, but it took longer than expected. I was born in the late 1950’s and my sister in the early 1960’s. We were born ten to fifteen years behind the children of most WWII veterans, in the later years of the baby boom.
Ed Farrar continued to work for Oakite Products until his death at the age of 61 on 5 November 1982 from cardiac arrest. Bernie continued to live in the Arrowhead Trail home until her death at the age of 83 on 12 March 2004. They are buried side by side at Floral Hills Memory Gardens in Tucker, DeKalb County, Georgia.
I will write more about both my dad’s and mother’s lives in future posts, but for now I conclude this update.
Previous post, George Edwin Farrar, Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia
Previous posts, George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4
Previous post, letter, The Buslees Want to Visit
Previous post, letter, Faithful Correspondent
Previous post, Mr. and Mrs. Buslee Visit
Previous post, Revisiting Ardmore
Previous post, Ed Meets Bernie
Previous post, Ed and Bernie Marry
Previous post, Ed and Bernie Start Their New Life Together
Previous post, Wallace A. Storey
Previous post, September 28, 1944 – Wallace Storey
Short story and previous post, The Replacements
George Edwin Farrar’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group
Find a Grave, George Edwin Farrar
Find a Grave, Bernice Jane Farrar
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, 2023