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In Memory of Queen Elizabeth II

© Getty
Photo courtesy of english-heritage.org.uk

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.

and,

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.

Notes

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 Ancestry.com 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.”

Notes

Many thanks to fellow Ancestry.com 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.


Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The B-17 Tail Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist/flexible 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 three 384th Bomb Group Tail 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.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, assigned Buslee crew tail gunner

Gerald Lee Andersen, Carnes crew tail gunner, but tail gunner of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

Wilfred Frank Miller, assigned Brodie crew tail gunner

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 Tail 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 tail 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 shoot down enemy planes.
  • As the only constantly rear facing crewmember, he was responsible for passing along anything he saw behind the aircraft, including fighters, to the rest of the crew.
  • Would relay information to the bombardier and navigator concerning bombing results as the formations left the target.
  • Aided the navigator and radio operator by counting chutes from B-17s that were going down and the condition of stragglers that were lagging behind the formation.
  • Was normally an enlisted man, but sometimes in the lead aircraft when the squadron commander was in the cockpit, the tail position would be flown by a co-pilot who was an officer. In this case, the co-pilot occupied the tail gunner position to allow him to relay information on the condition of the formation to the pilots to help to co-ordinate the formation and keep it as tight as possible.

Location of the Tail Position in a B-17

The tail gunner position of a B-17 is at the very back of the aircraft, a confined and cramped position in which the gunner must kneel on a modified bicycle-type seat with a view to the rear of the formation. Should the tail gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the emergency exit door in the tail of the aircraft.

In the following diagram, Gerald Lee Andersen is noted in the tail of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944
Diagram courtesy of 91st Bomb Group and modified by Cindy Farrar Bryan in 2014

B-17 Tail Position Photos

I took the following photos of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.

The 384th Bomb Group’s pilot John DeFrancesco stands beside the tail of the Collings Foundation’s aircraft. First, a view directly from behind the B-17…

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

And in a side view…

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Tail 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 tail gunners. You’ll find a chart of several tail 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.

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Beesley, Delmar James⇗ Beesley’s 9 September 1944 Debrief⇓ (4.554 MB)
Borgeson, Wesley Clifton, “Wes”⇗ Wesley Borgeson, B-17 Tail Gunner, POW⇗
Lavoie, Ralph Edmund⇗ Near-Escape From Infamous Stalag 17⇓ (0.971 MB)
Lentz, Kenneth Melvin⇗ Former POW Recalls His Day of Liberation⇓ (0.111 MB)
Matican, Sigmund Sidney⇗ Matican Diary⇓ (1.381 MB)
Montz, Nemours Albert, “Nem”⇗ Army Air Corps Vet Remembers His Luck⇓ (3.905 MB)
Schimenek, John Francis⇗ John Francis Schimenek WWII Diary⇓ (10.380 MB)
Westlake, Albert F⇗ Westlake’s Story⇓ (1.754 MB)
Blevins, Donald Hillman⇗ 2002 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2014 Interview Transcript⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2017 – A Tail Gunner’s Story⇗
Britton, Joseph Rodman⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Jaworski, Frank (NMI)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Kushner, Jack (NMI), “Kush”⇗ 2011 Oral History Interview⇗
Martin, J D (IO)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

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, Tail 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, 2022

Morton Coleman Weinrib and Bruce Taylor Smith

I have one more story to tell about the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin on her last mission, the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany. According to mission reports and personal accounts, all of the airmen aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin bailed out of the doomed aircraft over Binche, Belgium, leaving no one on board when Tremblin’ Gremlin crashed to the ground, reportedly in the vicinity of Binche-Charleroi.

Witnesses on the ground, however, thought differently and believed there were airmen aboard to rescue.

The Regimental HQ of the 389th Engineer General Service Regiment was located in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. At the time, the Regiment was reinstalling the railway between Maubeuge – Mons – Charleroi, Belgium.

On 19 September 1944, Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib, a dentist, and Major Bruce Taylor Smith, a doctor, who were with the U.S. Army Medical Corps and served in the U.S. Army’s 389th Engineer General Service Regiment, were working in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque when Tremblin’ Gremlin crashed to the ground.

Both Weinrib and Smith approached the downed aircraft to evacuate any wounded aboard when it exploded. In their attempt to save any souls on board, both men were killed in the explosion.

Reports of their deaths note that the two were evacuating wounded from the aircraft, however, we know that the crew had all bailed out before the plane crashed.

NY Daily News Article from page 32 of the 7 October 1944 edition
Courtesy of Newspapers.com

Sadly, not only did the U.S. Army Medical Corps and the U.S. Army’s 389th Engineer General Service Regiment lose two brave members, two families at home lost their sons, husbands, and fathers.

Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib was born 12 June 1916 in New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York.

Possibly Morton Weinrib from Syracuse University 1942 yearbook, NY
Courtesy of Ancestry.com

Note:  The above photo may or may not be Capt. Morton Coleman Weinrib. He is identified only as “M. Weinrib” in the Syracuse University 1942 yearbook and I find no corroboration that he attended that University.

Morton was the son of Samuel Weinrib and Bessie Coleman Weinrib and the brother of Leonard Weinrib. He married Therese (Terry) Marie Goldstein Weinrib (and later, Tapman) on 13 May 1939. Geni.com notes his descendants as one child, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.

Morton C. Weinrib attended and graduated from Columbia School of Dental and Oral Surgery, Columbia University, New York, New York.

Morton’s hometown was New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York when he entered the service. His service number was #O1690082.

Morton Weinrib died on 19 September 1944 at 28 years old in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. He was first buried at US Temporary American Military Cemetery of Fosse, Belgium. His permanent resting place is at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombières, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium, Plot G, Row 6, Grave 3.

Major Bruce Taylor Smith was born 14 July 1902 in Quebec, Canada. He lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada before immigrating to America in 1926.

Bruce Taylor Smith
Yearbook photo courtesy of Ancestry.com

Bruce was the son of Luther Lewis Smith and Mary Helen Macfie Smith and the brother of Robert Macfie Smith and Lewis Douglas Smith. He married Elin Karlsson McCartney Smith on Christmas Day 1929 and had three sons, Robert, Bruce, Jr., and Douglas.

Maj. Bruce T. Smith was a physician and surgeon before he enlisted. He had his own practice.

Bruce’s hometown when he entered the service was Fort Covington, Franklin County, New York. His service number was #O-490076.

Bruce Smith died on 19 September 1944 at 42 years old in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. He was first buried at Temporary American Military Cemetery of Fosse, Belgium. His permanent resting place is at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombières, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium, Plot G, Row 4, Grave 26.

The Demise of Tremblin’ Gremlin

While we are fortunate and thankful that all of the 384th Bomb Group airmen aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin survived on the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany, let us not forget the sacrifice of Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib and Major Bruce Taylor Smith on that day. As we are so familiar these days with the actions of first responders rushing toward a scene of death and destruction, these two men put others first and risked their lives, only to become casualties of the day themselves.

Captain Weinrib and Major Smith, “thank you for your service to our country” does not begin to express the gratitude and honor you deserve for your actions. May you rest in peace and know that we are grateful that men like you served your country in World War II and defended our freedom.

Notes

Morton C Weinrib on Geni.com

Find a Grave memorial for Capt. Morton Coleman Weinrib

Fields of Honor database entry for Morton C. Weinrib

Find a Grave memorial for Maj. Bruce Taylor Smith

Fields of Honor database entry for Bruce T. Smith

B-17 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website

Previous post, The Fate of Tremblin’ Gremlin and Her Crew on Mission 196

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

In the Dark of the Night

Alfred David Benjamin, 384th Bomb Group navigator
Photo courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Alfred David Benjamin was the navigator of the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group in World War II. He was aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin with the Carnes crew on 19 September 1944 on the mission to Hamm, Germany in which the Buslee crew’s tailgunner, Eugene Lucynski, was injured. Eugene was filling in for the Carnes crew’s tail gunner Gerald Lee Andersen, who was on sick leave.

The 384th Bomb Group website provides a concise summary of the events of the mission in regards to the Carnes crew aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin as,

Lead Squadron flying spare; joined formation; aircraft struck by flak just before the IP; after dropping bombs on target, left formation, apparently under control; crew bailed out over Binche, Bel.; all crew returned to duty except ball turret gunner and tail gunner who were seriously injured.

Alfred Benjamin completed his combat duty with thirty-one combat missions and this one particularly stuck with him as he wrote a play that included the experience seventy-three years later, in 2017. His play is named In the Dark of the Night, a name he resurrected from a poem he wrote with the same name, although the subject of the poem is not of the Hamm mission. The subject of the poem seems to be Alfred’s 6th mission as mentioned in the play, a poem the play notes that he sent into Time Magazine for publication in their 50th anniversary issue.

The play is set many years after the war, in the year 1995 with the airmen in their seventies. They reminisce about the war, their bomb group, and the mission. Alfred includes a list of the play’s characters on the second page and calls the tail gunner of the crew “Vinnie.” I believe “Vinnie” is a blending of Gerald Lee Andersen, the original tail gunner of the crew, and Eugene Daniel Lucynski, the Buslee crew tail gunner who participated with the Carnes crew on the 19 September 1944 mission.

Early in the play, each character introduces himself and the character “Vinnie” describes himself as,

My moniker is Vincent Adams, former tail gunner. I am 72 now and glad I reached this age. After service I was very ill and went to the VA for medical services. I have a service connected disability and have lived on my government pension since.

Clearly, the character is fictional with a dose, or several doses, of fact. Gerald Andersen died in the Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision on 28 September 1944 at the age of twenty-one and Eugene Lucynski died on 14 April 1981 at the age of sixty-one.

The airmen go on to describe their personal histories and what led them into the US Army Air Forces in World War II. It’s clear that WWII bomber crew members came from all parts of the country and all walks of life. But they learned to depend on each other for their survival. Where a crew mate was from and how he previously earned his living was not important in the brutal existence of war.

Alfred Benjamin walks us through several missions and clues us into what it was like to serve in World War II back in the 1940’s and the entire play is well worth the read.

The story of the 19 September 1944 mission begins on page 23 of the play and continues to page 29. Alfred Benjamin expertly, and in detail, describes the mission through his characters. At this point in the play, I believe “Vinnie” is a portrayal of Eugene Lucynski, as Eugene is the tail gunner who flew this mission with the Carnes crew.

I urge you to read Alfred’s play in its entirety, and especially these pages to hear the story from one who lived it, but I will include here information I learned about his and Eugene Lucynski’s and the other airmen’s experience aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin on 19 September 1944. I’m paraphrasing here rather than quoting Alfred’s poem verbatim, so read the play to hear Alfred’s story in his own words.


The crew was flying spare and joined up with the 303rd Bomb Group, a sister group in their Wing. They were in the tail end position of the formation.

Being at the tail end, the tail gunner had to watch for enemy attack from the rear. He test fired his guns and one jammed, requiring him to work to fix the jam for half of the mission.

They ran into flak crossing the coast from England and again as they crossed the Rhine River in Germany.

Flak was also very heavy approaching the target and was decimating the formation during the eight-minute bomb run.

At bombs away, the plane jumped with a tremendous explosion on the left side of the plane resulting in a fire in Engine 3. The pilot feathered the prop and they fell away from the group. Engine 2 was leaking oil and also had to be feathered. At this point they were about a thousand feet below the group, falling back, and struggling to maintain altitude.

The pilot asked the navigator to find a route to the nearest known American battle line.

It was time to lighten the load by throwing everything possible overboard including machine guns, ammunition, flak suits, and even the ball turret.

Armed with information from the pilot, the navigator (Alfred Benjamin) calculated how much time they had until the ship would crash – 77 minutes – and how far they could travel – about 200 miles – if everything stayed the same. He plotted a zig-zag course to miss known flak fields and passed an initial course to the pilot.

The pilot noted one of the two remaining engines running rough and the temperature rising to the danger point. Engine failure at this point would doom them. Dropping to 15,000 feet and below, the pilot ordered the crew to remove their oxygen masks for more freedom of movement.

The engineer knew of a trick to make the balky engine clean itself up and explained it to the pilot – cut way back on the throttle and after the engine slowed, apply full throttle. This worked, just like it would on a Model T, with the engine backfiring and then roaring to full power by cleaning the spark plugs.

As the ship was losing altitude, the crew attempted to avoid the flak fields by flying a zig-zag pattern, but four flak blasts blew out their Plexiglas nose and the navigator was hit by a jagged piece of flak in the left hand.

The bombardier grabbed the navigation maps and he and the bloodied navigator headed for the waist of the aircraft. They kept up with their progress by watching out the waist portal for landmarks.

The flak burst that had shattered the nose also hit the prop of Engine 1 causing the plane to wobble and shake. The pilot had to feather that engine and realized they would not be able to land the plane and would have to prepare to bail out.

The navigator felt they needed only a few more minutes of flying to be over allied territory. He was Jewish and concerned for his survival if he bailed out over German-controlled territory. He asked the pilot to attempt to activate Engine 2 and reverse the feather, which the pilot did, and it came back to life.

The act saved not only the Jewish navigator, but the whole crew, as Germans were still in the area as the Allies advanced. At the time they finally jumped from the plane, there were in territory controlled mostly by Belgian Freedom Fighters, but the Nazi’s were still around.

At an altitude of about 10,000 feet, Engine 2 was running out of oil. One of the cylinders blew off through the cowling and it burst into flame. The pilot rang the bailout bell and the airmen jumped.

The navigator was in pain from the landing and was surrounded by men with machine guns pointed at him.

The ball turret gunner injured his ankle upon landing and was also in pain. But he announced they were American and their “rescuers” took them to a farmhouse to hide out as the Nazis were still in the area and would be looking for the flyers.

After nightfall, they were driven to the town hospital for treatment, where they were also fed and housed.

In the night, the tail gunner was brought into the hospital, too. He had been hit by shrapnel in the tail and needed medical attention. That would make three of the crew back together in the Belgian hospital.

The three were the first Americans the townspeople had seen since the Nazi occupation started and they were lining up outside the hospital to visit and thank them – with little gifts, tears, and joy.

The pilot learned the three were in the hospital and came to see them, then reported to the Army that the three were there and needed to be evacuated. They were moved by ambulance to a Paris hospital and then returned to their base at Grafton Underwood, England.


Alfred Benjamin ends his play on this note…

(Joe, the pilot) I hope that the Time article and this play will help to remind people of the sacrifice of our flying crewmembers.

Everybody gets up and they shake hands all around. One by one they exit through the doorway. Benny’s last in line to leave. He reaches the doorway, pauses, turns and walks to the front of the stage.

(Benny, the navigator, addressing the audience)
We leave one by one and soon we will all be gone. None of these men, they are men now but they were really just boys, they came from all corners of the country and all walks of life. They left behind homes and families and loved ones. Many went to serve and many never returned. They fought for America and the world. Their mission was to win a war. Our mission is to never forget.

Benny turns and slowly walks through the door. The stage is empty.

After bailing out over Belgium on the 19 September 1944 mission, Alfred returned to combat duty on 17 October 1944. He completed his combat tour of thirty-one missions on 20 January 1945.

Alfred Benjamin served on two missions with Eugene Lucynski and served on one mission each with two other Buslee crew members, ball turret gunner Erwin Foster in January 1945 and bombardier James Davis in September 1944.

Navigator Alfred David Benjamin of the 384th Bomb Group signed the Association’s commemorative wing panel in 2015.

Alfred Benjamin signs the Association’s Commemorative Wing Panel

Notes

Alfred David Benjamin’s Personnel Record with the 384th Bomb Group

In the Dark of the Night, a poem by Alfred David Benjamin

In the Dark of the Night, a play by Alfred David Benjamin

Previous post, The Fate of Tremblin’ Gremlin and Her Crew on Mission 196

The Coastal Star article: South Palm Beach: WWII plane wing noses its way around nation for autographs

Except for excerpts and paraphrasing from Alfred Benjamin’s play, In the Dark of the Night ©2017 Alfred D. Benjamin, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, Update

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, photo courtesy of Keith Ellefson and the 384th Bomb Group

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding the original tail gunner, Eugene Daniel Lucynski, 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 Eugene Daniel Lucynski, please see the links at the end of this post.

Lucynski Family

Combining information from several sources including the Federal censuses of  1920, 1930, 1940, and 1950, and Eugene Lucynski’s Person page from an Ancestry family tree, I find that the Lucynski family consisted of parents,

  • Father – Gustave K. (Kanstantaius or Konstantiane) Lucynski (or possible alternate spelling of Luczynski), born 1 October 1890 in Oscoda, Michigan, died 21 February 1948 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan
  • Mother – Dominica C. Bruzewski, born 13 February 1896 in Beaver Township, Bay County, Michigan, died 23 February 1941 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan

and their four children (one boy and three girls),

  1. Daughter – Gertrude Constance Lucynski Hogue, born 8 March 1917, died 7 August 1990
  2. Daughter – Virginia Josephine Lucynski Plunkey, born 1 June 1918, died 27 September 1988
  3. Son – Eugene Daniel Lucynski, born 22 December 1919, died 14 April 1981
  4. Daughter – LaWretha Marie Lucynski, born 27 July 1924, died 23 April 1925, at almost nine months old, of meningitis and influenza

In various census records, Gus Lucynski reported that his parents were born in Prussia or Poland and spoke German as their native language. Eugene Lucynski’s grandparents, Gus Lucynski’s parents, Joseph Lucynski and Catherine Rakowski, immigrated to the United States in 1884.

Their European residence was in Bromberg, Posen, and they boarded the German ship the Wieland (a “dampfschiff”, steamship, with accommodations in “zwischendeck”, steerage) and departed Hamburg, Germany on 3 February 1884 for their journey to America, arriving in New York. Joseph’s occupation was listed as “stellmacher” which translates to “wheelwright.”

Dominica Lucynski’s parents were Stanley Bruzewski and Josephine Reeder. On census records, Dominic reported that her father was born in Germany and spoke German and her mother was born in New York.

The ancestry of Eugene Lucynski clearly shows that he was fighting a war in which two generations prior, grandparents on both sides were from current day Poland and Germany. This likely made World War II very personal for him, considering two possibilities, that Eugene was fighting against some German relatives and fighting for Polish relatives still living in those areas. Read more about the history of Bromberg and Bloody Sunday of 1939 here.

Eugene’s sister Gertrude was married to Charles M. Hogue and they had at least two children, sons Gerald and Ronald.

Eugene’s sister Virginia was married to John (alternately referred to as Steve) Plunkey and they had at least three children, daughters Judy Marie and Virginia, and son John.

In the recently-released 1950 census, Eugene Lucynski is listed as a Lodger living in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. He reported his age as 26 and his marital status as divorced. He worked 40 hours a week as a mechanic for a retail electrical company. With his age listed as 26, this would indicate his birth year as 1924 rather than 1919, as stated elsewhere.

While I cannot find a burial record for Eugene Daniel Lucynski, I have noted that his parents Gustave and Dominica and sister LaWretha are buried in the All Saints Church Cemetery of Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. Dominica‘s Find a Grave memorial does not specify a gravesite and Gustave‘s and LaWretha‘s memorials note that they are buried in unmarked graves. I believe it is possible that Eugene is also buried in the same cemetery, possibly in a Lucynski family plot, but without any record of such or memorial.

Entry into World War II

A few months after the death of his mother, Eugene Daniel Lucynski registered for the World War II draft on 1 July 1941 at Local Board No. 3 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan and recorded the following information on his draft form.

His place of residence at the time of registration was 1484 Oregon Ave, Flint, Genesee, Michigan. His date and place of birth was 22 December 1919 in Bay City, Michigan, and he was twenty-one years old at the time of registration.

The name and address of the person who would always know his address was his father, Gustave Lucynski. His employer’s name and address was A.C. Manufacturer of Flint, Michigan.

Eugene was 5’ 6 1/2″ tall, 130 pounds, with hazel eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion, and had no other obvious physical characteristics.

Although I do not find an enlistment record for Eugene Lucynski, the US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File notes his WWII enlistment date of 23 June 1942.

Morning Reports and other military documents of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Eugene Daniel Lucynski:

  • On 22 JULY 1944, Eugene Daniel Lucynski was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 612), for the John Oliver Buslee crew. His pay per month was $172.80. His rank when assigned was Staff Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mr. Gustave Lucynski, 7307 N. Dort Highway, Mt. Morris, Michigan.
  • On 19 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany (Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards), Eugene Lucynski, flying as Tail Gunner with the Joe Carnes crew, went (MIA) Missing in Action when he was forced to bail out over Allied Territory. Seven of the crew returned to duty. The ball turret gunner was injured by flak and transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 4178 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. Lucynski was injured by flak and hospitalized from 19 September 1944 until 10 November 1944. Lucynski had replaced the Carnes crew Tail Gunner Gerald Andersen, who was on sick quarters.
  • As noted in my recent update regarding Gerald Lee Andersen, on 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Eugene Lucynski had not returned to duty since he went MIA on 19 SEPTEMBER. With Gerald Andersen more than a week off sick leave, he replaced Lucynski as tail gunner with the Buslee crew on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks. On this mission the James Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming off the target. The Buslee crew, as well as the Brodie crew, were declared MIA. Subsequently, all airmen on board the Buslee crew’s B-17, including Eugene Lucynski’s replacement, Gerald Lee Andersen, were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Edwin Farrar who was declared POW (Prisoner of War). By the time Eugene returned to Grafton Underwood, the only members of his original crew still serving there were navigator Chester Rybarczyk, engineer/top turret gunner Clarence Seeley, and ball turret gunner Erwin Foster. Eugene never returned to combat duty, and it is unclear what duty he did perform following his return.
  • On 4 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski was recommended for the DFC (Distinguished Flying Crosss) for Ex. Achiev.
  • On 12 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski was placed on DS for an indefinite period at Y-17, Marseilles/Istres, France, effective o/a (on or about) 13 June 45 and will report to COL SAULT upon arrival at Y-17.
  • On 22 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski went from DS, Y-17 Marseilles/Istres, France to duty, effective 22 June 1945.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski was credited with 14 combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Hospitalization Record

A Hospital Admission Card for Eugene was included in his personnel record at the NPRC and noted his battle injury from the 19 September 1944 mission as “Wound(s), Penetrating” location “Hand, generally.” The disposition date was October 1944 and disposition was “not death nor transfer to the Zone of Interior.” In other words, he was wounded, but not wounded seriously enough to be sent home. The hospital was identified as the 53rd General Hospital.

Tremblin’ Gremlin

The 19 September 1944 mission was Eugene’s second mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin. His first mission aboard that ship was his second mission of the war on 5 August 1944. On that mission, he was one of a very few airmen aboard who were not struck and injured by flak. The gremlins were not to forget their oversight of 5 August when on 19 September, they finished their business with Buslee crew member Eugene Lucynski.

Medals and Decorations

Eugene Lucynski was awarded the Purple Heart on 7 December 1944 for wounds received on the 19 September 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin. In the medal recommendation paperwork, the circumstances surrounding the receipt of wounds were,

S/Sgt. Lucynski was WIA by flak while serving as Tail Gunner in a B-17 aircraft on an operational mission over enemy territory.

The wounds consisted of multiple lacerations of right hand and left wrist. Hospitalized from 19 Sept. to 10 Nov., 1944.

Eugene was previously awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Eugene’s Individual Sortie Record also notes he was recommended for a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) on 4 June 1945 for “Ex. Achiev.” (extra achievement).

However, I find no record of Eugene receiving the award except on his Final Payment Worksheet completed at his military discharge of 30 October 1945 at Separation Center #32, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. This record was in Eugene’s file at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. Very little else was included in Eugene’s file, leading me to believe his was one of the files burned in the 1973 fire.

On this document is listed a $4.00 (yes, a four dollar) “Pay for Awards” specified as “D.F.C.” Underneath that entry is an unspecified entry of FR 235.04 and TO 103.30, with a net of $131.74. I do not know if this additional entry refers to his “Pay for Awards” or not.

Return Home

Eugene D. Lucynski arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary on 16 October 1945. He was included in a list of personnel for Separation Center No. 32, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. The US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File notes his discharge date of 30 October 1945.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski died on 14 April 1981 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan at the age of 61.

Name Change

Eugene Daniel Lucynski is listed in the Michigan Death Index under the name Eugene D. Lucyn. This record lists his birth date as 22 December 1919 and his death date as 14 April 1981, residence and place of death as Flint, Genesee, Michigan.

He was listed in the US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File also under the name Eugene D. Lucyn. This record confirmed his same birth and death dates as the Michigan Death Index and added his WWII enlistment date of 23 June 1942 and discharge date of 30 October 1945.

I find two Social Security records for Eugene in the National Archives. Both list the same Social Security Number and date of birth, but the different names of Eugene Daniel Lucynski and Eugene Dan Lucyn.

Family Connections

I would love to connect with relatives of Eugene Lucynski. I have been unable to find much information about Eugene Daniel Lucynski (aka Eugene, Gene, or Dan Lucyn) after the end of the war. Please e-mail me if you have more information to share about Eugene’s life after World War II.

Notes

Previous post, Eugene D. Lucynski

Eugene Daniel Lucynski’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Press release from 5 August 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin

Previous post, The Fate of “Tremblin’ Gremlin” and Her Crew on Mission 196

Wikipedia: Bloody Sunday (1939)

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, 2022

Gerald Lee Andersen, Update

Gerald Lee Andersen

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding the tail gunner, Gerald Lee Andersen, who was onboard my father’s (George Edwin Farrar’s) B-17 the day of the Buslee crew’s mid-air collision with the Brodie crew’s B-17, 28 September 1944.

Gerald Andersen was the tail gunner of the Joe Carnes crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII and filled in for Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski on that date.

To view my original post and other information about Gerald Lee Andersen, please see the links at the end of this post.

Andersen Family

Combining information from several sources including the Federal censuses of 1930, 1940, and 1950, Gerald Andersen’s Person page from an Ancestry family tree, Gerald’s memorial on Find A Grave, and the obituaries of two of Gerald’s brothers (Dale and Jimmie), I find that the Andersen family consisted of parents,

  • Father – Ernest William Andersen, 1899 – 1982
  • Mother – Verna Esther Yost, 1900 – 1950

and their fifteen children (ten boys and five girls),

  1. Daughter – Betty Joyce Andersen, 1921 – 2005
  2. Son – Gerald Lee Andersen, 1923 – 1944
  3. Daughter – Lila Mae Andersen McLaughlin, 1925 – 2002
  4. Son – Dale E. Andersen, 1927 – 2013
  5. Son – Billie LeRoy Andersen, 1928 – 2019
  6. Son – Don DeVern Andersen, 1929–1991
  7. Son – Lon Wesley Andersen, born 1931
  8. Daughter – Verna Elagene Andersen, 1932–1941
  9. Son – Edwin Ernest Andersen, 1934–2013
  10. Daughter – Charlene Andersen Taylor, born approx. 1938
  11. Son – Jimmie Ray Andersen, 1939–2016
  12. Son – Jack Wayne Andersen, 1940–1990
  13. Daughter – Althea Kay Andersen Wolfenden, born approx. 1941
  14. Son – Larry D. Andersen (alternately reported as having the surname Yost), possibly 1944 – 1991
  15. Son – Dennis L. Andersen (alternately reported as having the surname Yost), possibly 1947 – 2012

Marriage of Gerald Andersen and Esther Coolen

According to marriage records on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen (born 20 June 1923) and Esther Elaine Coolen (born 16 June 1916 – seven years older than Gerald), both of Seneca, Nebraska, married on 24 May 1942.

Entry into World War II

A little over a month after he and Esther married, Gerald Lee Andersen registered for the World War II draft on 30 June 1942 at the Thomas County Court House in Thedford, Nebraska and recorded the following information on his draft form.

His place of residence at the time of registration was Seneca, Thomas County, Nebraska. His date and place of birth was 20 June 1923 in Dunning, Nebraska, and he was nineteen years old at the time of registration.

The name and address of the person who would always know his address was his wife, Esther Andersen of Seneca, Nebraska. His employer’s name and address was E.W. Andersen (his father) of Seneca, Nebraska.

Gerald was 5’8″ tall, 135 pounds, with blue eyes and black hair, with a dark complexion, and had no other obvious physical characteristics.

WWII Induction and Active Duty

According to a US National Cemetery Interment Control Form entry found on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen was inducted into the US Army Air Forces on 6 May 1943 and began active duty on 13 May 1943. The form specifically notes the 6 May date as an “induction” date rather than an “enlistment” date.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Gerald Lee Andersen:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Gerald Lee Andersen was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 612), for the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew. His pay per month was $140.40. His rank when assigned was Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mrs. Esther E. Andersen, Box 282, Stromsberg, Neb.
  • On 1 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #175.
  • On 6 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from sick quarters (LD) to absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston.
  • On 11 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston to duty.
  • On 16 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from duty to sick quarters (LD).
  • On 19 SEPTEMBER 1944, with Gerald Andersen on sick leave, Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski flew in Gerald’s place with the Joe Carnes crew on Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards. Aboard B-17G 42‑37982, Tremblin’ Gremlin, the crew went MIA (Missing in Action). Lucynski was forced to bail out over Allied Territory. Seven of the crew returned to duty. The ball turret gunner, James Bernard King, Jr., was injured by flak and transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 4178 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. Eugene Lucynski was injured by flak and hospitalized from 19 September 1944 until 10 November 1944.
  • On 20 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from sick quarters (LD) to duty.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Eugene Lucynski had not returned to duty since he went MIA on 19 SEPTEMBER. With Gerald Andersen more than a week off sick leave, he replaced Lucynski as tail gunner with the Buslee crew on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks. On this mission the James Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming off the target. The Buslee crew, as well as the Brodie crew, were declared MIA. Subsequently, all airmen on board the Buslee crew’s B-17, including Gerald Lee Andersen, were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Edwin Farrar who was declared POW (Prisoner of War).

Gerald Lee Andersen was credited with 12 combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Gerald Andersen’s WWII service as remembered by fellow crew mate Alfred Benjamin, the Carnes crew Navigator

In 2016, I connected with 384th Bomb Group navigator Alfred Benjamin. He and Gerald were crew mates on the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron. As Alfred stated at the time, “Although I am 92, I can still remember most things about the War.” He admitted, though that after seventy-two years, he “could not remember a great deal about Gerald,” but he did recall that,

I believe that Gerald joined the Carnes crew in Sioux City AAF Base in early 1944. I was the last person to join the crew and they had been training there for some period. We completed our training in early June and picked up a B-17 in Kearney, Neb. And proceeded across the USA to New Hampshire, Maine and then to Labrador, Iceland and England. We eventually were assigned to the 384th BG 544th SQ. and started our familiarization phase. As I remember, Gerald was a serious young man intent on being a positive asset to our crew of 9.

Like me he had certain trepidations about the mission we were on.  At this time in the War the 8th [AF] was still undergoing heavy casualties and this certainly affected our thinking.

Gerald flew with us on 9 missions but as things go I believe that he went on sick call and did not fly with our crew again until September 9th. [Correction: September 13th].  The Carnes Crew ran into Heavy Flak and we were forced to Bail out over Binche Belgium on Sept 19th and Gerald did not fly with us on that mission.  I personally was injured and did not return to Grafton Underwood for 29 days and then learned that Gerald was shot down during my absence.

These were the Missions we flew together.

  • 7 Aug 1944—Aircraft Fuel Depot, Dugny France
  • 8 Aug 1944—Tactical Mission, Bretteville-sur-Laize, France
  • 9 Aug 1944—Erding  Luftwaffe Base, Erding Germany
  • 11 Aug 1944—Coastal Artillery Emplacements, Brest France
  • 16 Aug 1944—Delitzsch Luftwaffe Depot, Delizsch, Germany
  • 18 Aug 1944—Bridge, Vise, Belgium
  • 24 Aug 1944—Synthetic oil plant, Merseburg, Germany
  • 25 Aug 1944—Luftwaffe Airfield, Anklam, Germany
  • 13 Sept 1944—Synthetic Oil Refinery, Merseburg, Germany

Returned Home

According to a US National Cemetery Interment Control Form entry found on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen’s Date of Interment on American soil is noted as 23 August 1949. The form also notes that Gerald earned the Purple Heart and an Air Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster.

The airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews who had been killed in the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision were initially buried in the cemetery at Ost Ingersleben, Germany, a village near the crash site of the two B-17’s.

Their bodies were later reinterred in the United States Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland, and Gerald was buried in Plot R, Row 3, Grave 51.

In 1953, Gerald Andersen was brought home and on 23 August 1953, was reinterred in the Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell (Lincoln County), Nebraska, Section F, Site 1229.

Connections with Andersen family members

Since initially writing about Gerald in 2015, I have heard from several family members who found my original article about Gerald.

Gerald’s youngest sister, Kay Andersen Wolfenden, wrote to me in 2016. At the time, the most current Federal census available was the 1940 census, which was taken before the youngest four Andersen children were born, including Kay. Kay informed me that,

There were fifteen children altogether, 10 boys and 5 girls.  I am number 13 and lost my mother to cancer when I was 8 years old.  The rest of the family always said that mother never got over losing Gerald.

Kay’s son Cyrus is researching her brother Gerald.

The son of Gerald’s brother Dale, Myron Andersen, also contacted me in 2016 and noted that Dale often spoke of Gerald. Dale’s obituary (he died in 2013) provided some interesting family information. It mentioned that,

Dale learned many fine things from his dad, not the least of which was the value of hard work…a great deal of hard work.

and,

Early in his working career, Dale worked with his dad in his tank wagon business.

Remember, Gerald worked for his dad at the time of his draft registration, and I assume it was also in the “tank wagon business.”

Also, Janelle Sommer Davis connected with me just after the Fourth of July in 2018. While not related to Gerald, Janelle is the daughter of Esther Coolen, Gerald’s widow. Janelle told me that Esther remarried and had a daughter, but Esther’s second husband died when their daughter was still a newborn. She married again in 1953 and had a second daughter, Janelle, and a son, Rob.

Janelle wrote,

In honor of July 4th, I get out the flag and the purple heart and medal of honors my mom kept in an attic. As a little girl, I would ask about the medals and she was silently mysterious about them.

They stayed in the attic when she passed in 2002.

I got them out again, and since I was off this week from work, I decided to look at the medals closer. Who was this man of mystery that married my mom, and was so tragically KIA over France [correction: Germany]?

I looked closer and noted that the name on the purple heart had his name on the back. I started to research his name. Wondering when he died, wondering how he looked and wondering what he did. 4 hours later today, I found he was a part of the 384th bomb squad [Group]. He ran 12 missions and was missing Sept 28, 1944. He was a part of the arrowhead club. He was the tail gunner and his name was Gerald L Andersen.

I am writing to you because I found the Andersen letters written by my mom, Esther Coolen Andersen. It was with joy, to see her writings of concern and sadness at the same time. It was an honor to know she was once married to a man of courage and of valor.

Esther’s life post-World War II

Esther married Benjamin Carl Bilhorn, who was twenty years her senior and a veteran of World War I, on 2 June 1946. Their daughter was born 15 July 1948. Benjamin Bilhorn’s obituary states that he died 27 August 1948 in the hospital after a two weeks’ illness.

Esther Elaine Coolen remarried 16 January 1953 to William A. Sommer, who was three years older than Esther. William died 29 October 1992 and Esther died 6 March 2002 at age 85.

Remember

I love connecting with family and friends of the men who served with my dad, George Edwin Farrar, in the 384th Bomb Group during World War II. It warms my heart to know that the men who never made it home are not forgotten, even more than seventy years after we lost them in the war.

Esther Elaine Coolen, who married Gerald Lee Andersen on 24 May 1942, became a war widow on 28 September 1944. Even though she was married to Gerald only a little over two years, and remarried twice after losing Gerald, she kept his burial flag and war medals for the rest of her life, through marriages to two other men.

The letters Esther wrote to my grandmother after the mid-air collision tell how deeply she loved Gerald and it is easy to see how she could never forget him. Now that Esther is gone, it is up to us to remember him and keep his memory alive so future generations know what Gerald and others who lost their lives fighting World War II and their families sacrificed for our freedom.

Esther Andersen’s letters to my grandmother,

Notes

Previous post, Gerald Lee Andersen

Gerald Lee Andersen’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Missing Air Crew Report 9753 for the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Missing Air Crew Report 9366 for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Gerald Lee Andersen on Find a Grave

Esther Elaine Coolen (Andersen Bilhorn) Sommer on Find a Grave

Dale Andersen Obituary

Jimmie R Andersen Obituary

Alfred Benjamin’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Lawrence Newbold’s and the Miller Crew’s Mission to Frankfurt

Continued from previous post, RAF and USAAF, Allies in the World War II Air War, and previous post, The RAF Heavy Bomber Crew in World War II


Recap:  During my father’s (George Edwin Farrar, waist gunner of the 384th Bomb Group during WWII) confinement as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft IV, he had a British roommate in the POW camp named Lawrence Newbold. Dad and Lawrence were also companions on the 86-day, 500-mile march of POW’s across Germany from 6 February 1945 to their liberation on 2 May 1945.

Lawrence Newbold, an enlistee in the British Royal Air Force (RAF), served as a wireless operator on an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber with the 50 Squadron based at Skelllingthorpe, England in the East Midlands.

Because of this personal connection my father had to a member of the RAF, I will, in a series of posts, take a look at an overview of the RAF in World War II, the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber that Lawrence Newbold flew in, and the mission on which he became a prisoner of war.


While serving in the 50 Squadron, Lawrence Edgar Newbold participated in his sixth mission over Germany overnight on the night of 18/19 March 1944, with the RAF crew of,

  • P/O. W.J.K. Miller, Pilot
  • Sgt. C.W.T. Case, Flight Engineer
  • F/S. H.J. Rouse, Navigator
  • Sgt. J.R. Ellis, Bomb Aimer
  • Sgt. L.E. Newbold, Wireless Operator
  • Sgt. G.T. Howe, Air Gunner
  • Sgt. E.C. Lehman, Air Gunner

According to “The U.K. National Archives Operations Record Book for the No. 50 Squadron for the month of March 1944,” (c) crown copyright, Catalogue Reference: AIR/27/488, Image Reference: 6, the entry for Place: Skellingthorpe, Date: 18.3.44 [March 18, 1944], notes this “Summary of Events: Bombing Attack on Frankfurt [Germany]”:

Eighteen aircraft were detailed to attack FRANKFURT. Unfortunately of this number, one (P/O. Miller) failed to return, and yet another (F/O. Botha) returned early, owing to the failure of starboard outer engine. The remainder proceeded to attack the target. 4/10th cloud at 6-8,000′ prevailed. Target identified by red T.I’s. Markers appeared scattered resulting in a lack of concentration in bombing. A large explosion was seen at 22.17 hours. The effort was considered poor. (18 x 4000 lb., 1614 x 30 lb inc., 22,950 x 4 lb inc., 1142 x 4 lb XIB inc).

The 50 Squadron participated in three previous bombing attacks that month,

  • 1.3.44 [1 March 1944] to Stuttgart, Germany
  • 9.3.44 [9 March 1944] to Marseilles/Marignane, France
  • 15.3.44 [15 March 1944] on a return visit to Stuttgart, Germany

and five more that month following the mission on which the Miller crew was declared missing,

  • 22.3.44 [22 March 1944] on a return visit to Frankfurt, Germany
  • 24.3.44 [24 March 1944] to Berlin, Germany
  • 25.3.44 [25 March 1944] to Aulnoye, France
  • 26.3.44 [26 March 1944] to Essen, Germany
  • 30.3.44 [30 March 1944] to Nurnberg, Germany

On the 19.3.44 [March 19, 1944] mission to Frankfurt, the W.J.K. Miller crew was noted as “to War Cas. [Casualty] Depot. (N.E. Missing).”

The Miller crew’s Bomb Aimer, Sgt. J.R. Ellis (A.B.), was John Robert Ellis. Ellis attended The King’s (The Cathedral) School in Peterborough, UK as a boy. In 1949, the school dedicated a memorial to all of the former students of the school who lost their lives during World War II and Ellis was memorialized on it.

The King’s (The Cathedral) School in Peterborough WWII Memorial
Photo courtesy of the Imperial War Museum

Many years later, in November 2015, The King’s (The Cathedral) School in Peterborough, United Kingdom published a booklet called “The King’s (The Cathedral) School Peterborough War Memorials” © 2014 Jane King.

In the forward, Jane King writes,

The memorials that hang in the school’s library and within St Sprite’s Chapel at Peterborough Cathedral record the names of former pupils and staff of The King’s School, Peterborough known to have died in the service of their country in the course of the First and Second World Wars. This booklet has been written in honour of every Old Petriburgian, known or unknown, who made that ultimate sacrifice. The details have been compiled from a variety of sources, including records held by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, the General Register Office and The National Archives. Some information has also been extracted from contemporary local newspapers held by the relevant Library and Archives Sections, and from other publications. Many details are from The King’s School’s own archives, including photographs and information kindly given to the school by relatives of those who died.

The school’s memorial booklet, which includes memorials and biographies from their losses in both WWI and WWII, includes the story of the 18/19 March 1944 mission on which Ellis lost his life and crewmate Lawrence Newbold became a prisoner of war.

The section of World War II memorials begins on page 39. It notes that the WWII memorial, a wooden plaque crafted from English oak, to “The King’s School old boys who died in World War 2 was unveiled in the school library in a ceremony which took place on the evening of Thursday 14th July 1949.”

The inscription of the memorial in the school library read “SCHOLA REGIA PETRIBURGENSIS To the Glory of God and in remembrance of the old boys of the King’s School Peterborough who gave their lives for their country in the Second World War,” and included the names of the school’s WWII twenty-nine dead, including J.R. ELLIS.

The King’s School memorial that hangs in Peterborough Cathedral was unveiled a year later, on 10th October 1950, includes one additional name, for a total of thirty boys from the same school lost in WWII.

The biography of former student John Robert Ellis of the Miller crew begins on page 50.

John Robert Ellis was born in Peterborough on 28/2/1922 [February 28, 1922], the eldest son of Frank Joe and Lillian Mantle Ellis. He graduated from The King’s School in 1939 and became a journalist, but later worked for the Income Tax Collection Department. He married Betty May Jellings in 1942, in the Battersea District and their son was born later that year.

On the same page, the document relates the events of the 18/19 March 1944 mission on which Ellis lost his life and crewmate Lawrence Newbold became a prisoner of war.

(On the evening of 18th March 1944, 846 aircraft from Bomber Command, comprising 620 Lancasters, 209 Halifaxes and 17 Mosquitoes, took off for their target of Frankfurt. Twenty two of those aircraft were lost during the operation. (The Bomber Command War Diaries, An Operational reference Book 1939-1945, by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt, has more details). Avro Lancaster I serial number ED308 VN-J was one of the aircraft which took part in that operation).

Lancaster serial number ED308 VN-J took off from Skellingthorpe at 19:15 hours on 18/3/1944 [March 18, 1944]. The crew comprised Pilot Officer W.J.K Miller, Sergeant C.W.T. Case, Flight Sergeant H.J. Rouse, Sergeant J.R. Ellis, Sergeant L.E. Newbold, Sergeant G.T. Howe and Sergeant E.C. Lehman RCAF. According to the research of Hans L. Grimminger, it was shot down by a night-fighter and crashed at 22:20 hours (German time) at Gross Gerau, NW-Darmstadt, Hessen in Germany.

John Robert Ellis, George Tennant Howe and Edgar Clarence Lehman all died on 19/3/1944 [March 19, 1944]. They were originally buried at Gross Gerau. After the War they were reinterred in Durnbach War Cemetery in Germany, where they now rest in adjoining graves. The remaining members of the crew survived the crash and became Prisoners of War. Pilot Officer W.J.K. Miller (service number 54175), Flight Sergeant C.W.T Case (service number 1819583), and Flight Sergeant H.J. Rouse (service number 1317908) were all held at Stalag Luft 1 West in Barth Vogelsang in Germany. Flight Sergeant L.E. Newbold (service number 157628) was held at Stalag Luft 4 in Sagan and Polaria, Poland.

John is buried in grave 1.H.16 at the Durnbach War Cemetery. (Edgar Lehman is in grave I.H.14. George Howe is in grave I.H.15). On 7/4/1944 [April 7, 1944] the Peterborough Standard reported him as missing. He is named in the Book of Remembrance at Peterborough Cathedral and on the Wentworth Street Methodist Church War Memorial (which was removed to Westgate Chapel and rededicated in November 1984).

According to Lawrence Newbold’s story as passed down to family, when the Miller crew’s bomber was shot down, Lawrence bailed out. He landed in a tree, and once he had freed himself from his parachute and the tree, he walked a while to a farm and gave himself up to the Germans.

Recalling his time as a prisoner of war, Lawrence talked of being crammed into railway wagons. His story was once in a book (either he kept a diary during his POW time or wrote about it later), but unfortunately his book of wartime memories cannot be located.

I do hope to hear more of Lawrence Newbold’s stories of the war from Newbold family members and plan to write more about them and Lawrence’s pre- and post-war life in a future article.

Sources

Thank you to Lawrence Newbold’s son Stephen Newbold, Stephen’s wife Margaret, and Stephen’s son Paul for providing information regarding Lawrence Newbold’s service in WWII.

Previous post, Laurie Newbold

“The King’s (The Cathedral) School Peterborough War Memorials” © 2014 Jane King November 2015

The King’s (The Cathedral) School, Peterborough at Park Rd, Peterborough PE1 2UE, United Kingdom

Royal Air Force Acronyms/Abbreviations

“The Bomber Command War Diaries, An Operational reference Book 1939-1945” by Martin Middlebrook and Chris Everitt can be found on multiple used book sites

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The RAF Heavy Bomber Crew in World War II

Continued from previous post, RAF and USAAF, Allies in the World War II Air War


Recap:  During my father’s (George Edwin Farrar, waist gunner of the 384th Bomb Group during WWII) confinement as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft IV, he had a British roommate in the POW camp named Lawrence Newbold. Dad and Lawrence were also companions on the 86-day, 500-mile march of POW’s across Germany from 6 February 1945 to their liberation on 2 May 1945.

Lawrence Newbold, an enlistee in the British Royal Air Force (RAF), served as a wireless operator on an Avro Lancaster heavy bomber with the 50 Squadron based at Skelllingthorpe, England in the East Midlands.

Because of this personal connection my father had to a member of the RAF, I will, in a series of posts, take a look at an overview of the RAF in World War II, the Avro Lancaster heavy bomber that Lawrence Newbold flew in, and the mission on which he became a prisoner of war.


The British Imperial War Museum’s website helped me learn about the differences between an RAF Avro Lancaster heavy bomber crew and a USAAF B-17 heavy bomber crew.

From the Imperial War Museum – Who’s Who In An RAF Bomber Crew

The typical RAF Avro Lancaster heavy bomber operated with seven crew members where a USAAF B-17 heavy bomber crew typically had nine or ten.

  1. Pilot. On the RAF Avro Lancaster, the Pilot flew the aircraft and was the captain who coordinated the actions of the entire crew. In case of emergency bailout of the crew, he stayed at the controls as the last of the crew to leave the aircraft. The Lancaster did not have a co-pilot. The USAAF B-17 crew had both pilot and co-pilot, two trained pilots in the cockpit.
  2. Navigator. On the Lancaster, the Navigator was responsible for keeping the aircraft on course both to the target and on the return flight to base. Until 1942, the Navigator also aimed and released the bombs. The B-17 similarly had a navigator.
  3. Bomb-Aimer. The Lancaster Bomb-Aimer was a new position in 1942. The Bomb-Aimer controlled the aircraft on the bomb run, lying flat in the nose of the plane. He directed the pilot until bomb release and the bombing photograph was taken. A mission was credited to the airmen based on the photo as proof that the operation was completed. The Bomb-Aimer also had some pilot training and could fill in as a reserve pilot if needed. Where the B-17 had two pilots, both a pilot and co-pilot, the Lancaster had only a pilot with his backup being the Bomb-Aimer. The B-17 similarly had a bombardier, although the B-17 bombardier could not act as a reserve pilot.
  4. Flight Engineer. The Lancaster Flight Engineer position was also a new position in 1942. He controlled the mechanical, hydraulic, electrical, and fuel systems, assisted the pilot with take-offs and landings, and provided fuel calculations in an emergency. He was also the reserve Bomb-Aimer, the lookout for enemy fighters, and the coordinator with the ground crew. The B-17 similarly had an engineer who was also the top turret gunner.
  5. Wireless Operator. The Lancaster Wireless Operator was responsible for transmitting messages to and from the crew’s base and position signals. He also served as a reserve gunner and addressed minor emergencies aboard the aircraft. He also was required to remain at his post, sending out distress signals, in the event of a ditching into the sea. The B-17 similarly had a radio operator.
  6. Mid-Upper Turret Gunner. The Lancaster Mid-Upper Turret Gunner was confined to his turret for the entire mission and was separated from the other crew members. His primary duty other than as a gunner was to advise the pilot of enemy aircraft. The B-17 similarly had a crew member who was a top turret gunner, but he was also the engineer. On the B-17, his turret was directly behind the pilot and co-pilot in the cockpit.
  7. Rear Turret Gunner. The Lancaster Rear Turret Gunner was confined to his turret for the entire mission and was separated from the other crew members. His primary duty other than as a gunner was to advise the pilot of enemy aircraft. The B-17 similarly had a tail gunner, although he could come forward into the fuselage if necessary.

The RAF Avro Lancaster did not have a ball turret, and therefore, no ball turret gunner on the crew. The Lancaster also had no waist gunners, where the B-17 had two – one at each waist window – early in the war, but reduced to one gunner who manned the waist guns on both sides of the B-17 later in the war.

So, in comparison,

Crew Position RAF Lancaster USAAF B-17 Notes
Pilot 1 2 B-17 – pilot and co-pilot
Navigator 1 1
Bomb Aimer/Bombardier 1 1 Lancaster – also reserve pilot
Flight Engineer 1 1
Wireless/Radio Operator 1 1
Mid-Upper/Top Turret Gunner 1 0 B-17 – flight engineer was top turret gunner
Rear Turret/Tail Gunner 1 1
Ball Turret Gunner 0 1 No ball turret on the Lancaster
Waist Gunners 0 1 or 2 No waist gunners on the Lancaster
Total Crew 7 9 or 10

To learn more about what it was like for the young airmen who served on a British Lancaster heavy bomber during World War II and to see inside the aircraft, visit the Lancaster Experience at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford in Cambridgeshire, England. Or from the comfort of your home, watch this fourteen-minute video, Lancaster Bomber: The Incredible Ability of the Dambuster’s Heavy Bomber.

To be continued…

Sources

Previous post, Laurie Newbold

Previous post, RAF and USAAF, Allies in the World War II Air War

Imperial War Museum – Who’s Who In An RAF Bomber Crew

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022