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
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