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WWII Combat Chronology – 26 September 1944

I am continuing my series of articles based on the entries from Kit C. Carter and Robert Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces. Both combat chronologies are excellent sources of information regarding combat missions in World War II and I thank the authors for sharing them online.

These articles are concentrated on the operations of the 8th Army Air Forces on the missions on which the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group participated. The statistics of other dates and missions and of other branches of the American Air Forces and theaters of operation of World War II are available through the links provided in this article to these two sources for those interested.

Today’s installment is the 26 September 1944 mission in which the Brodie crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Tuesday, 26 September 1944

384th BG Mission 199/8th AF Mission 648 to Osnabrück, Germany.

Target: Industry, Steelworks.

The James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.

Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 entry:

400 B-17’s bomb 2 M/Ys, 2 aircraft plants, a steel works, and 2 A/Fs at Osnabruck, Hamm, Bremen, Rheine, and Hesepe, plus 3 T/Os in NW Germany. 9 P-51 gps fly escort. 8 ftr gps, including 2 attached from Ninth AF, spt First Allied Airborne Army, claiming 32 ftrs destroyed in combat. Over 160 B-24’s fly fuel to France.

Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces entry:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force):  Two missions are flown:

  1. Mission 648 to rail targets and armored vehicle factories in W Germany. The Brodie crew participated in this mission.
  2. Mission 649, a leaflet drop in France, the Netherlands, and Germany during the night.

Also, P-38s (from the Ninth AF), P-47s and P-51s support the First Allied Airborne Army in the Netherlands. B-24s fly a TRUCKIN’ mission carrying fuel to France. HQ 361st Fighter Group moves from Bottisham to Little Walden, England.

Mission 648: 1,159 bombers and 432 fighters are dispatched to hit rail targets and armored vehicle factories in W Germany; 9 bombers and 2 fighters are lost.

  1. 422 B-17s are dispatched to hit the marshalling yard and steel industry at Osnabruck (383); other targets hit are Rheine Airfield (10), Hesepe Airfield (3) and others (4): 2 B-17s are lost and 101 damaged; 2 airmen are KIA, 2 WIA and 18 MIA. Escort is provided by 134 of 144 P-51s; they claim 2-0-3 aircraft on the ground; 1 P-51 is damaged beyond repair.

  2. 274 of 317 hit the marshalling yard at Hamm and 1 hits Liesborn; 3 B-24s are lost and 53 damaged; 31 airmen are MIA. Escort is provided by 138 of 146 P-51s; 1 P-51 is lost (pilot MIA).

  3. 420 B-17s are dispatched to hit armored vehicle factories at Bremen (381); other targets hit are Bremerhaven (13) and other (1); 4 B-17s are lost and 208 damaged; 10 airmen are WIA and 21 MIA. Escort is provided by 133 of 142 P-51s; 1 P-51 is lost (pilot MIA) and 2 damaged beyond repair.

Links/Sources

Except for entries from Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and McKillop’s Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 2

A continuation of my previous post, What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 1


A recap of the mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews on 28 September 1944…

On 28 September 1944, the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was involved in a mid-air collision with the James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222Lazy Daisy) coming off the 384th Bomb Group’s target at Magdeburg, Germany.

The Missing Air Crew Report for the Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was MACR9753. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the waist gunner aboard this fortress. He was thrown from the plane following the collision and was the only survivor of his crew.

The Missing Air Crew Report for the Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy) was MACR9366. Three of the airmen aboard Lazy Daisy bailed out and survived.

In my father’s response to the Army Air Force’s request for information about the mid-air collision, which is included in MACR9753, he concluded his narrative with,

May you have luck on the mission of finding what did happen to the boys.


My father died on November 5, 1982, never knowing the details of what happened to his crewmates on board B-17 43-37822 in the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944. Nor would he know what happened to the airmen of B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy, the ship with which his B-17 collided.

Dad died of cardiac arrest at the age of 61, still wearing the Air Force ring he wore on his left ring finger beginning sometime after he returned home from World War II, but before marrying my mother in 1949. He did not replace the ring with a wedding band or move it to another finger upon his marriage.

Dad’s United States Air Force Ring

Dad’s Air Force ring was clearly his personal memorial to his lost crewmates, a symbol which could not easily be set aside even when he took the vows of marriage to my mother, a ring he only parted with upon his death.

On the day he died, Dad finally joined his crewmates as one of the men who, I believe, were all lost on that day. In the mid-air collision, I believe my father was fatally wounded in heart, mind, and spirit, even though he remained physically tethered to this earth and his family for another thirty-eight years.

I need to finish his unfinished business, to answer his question that remained unanswered and disturbed him so deeply, “what did happen to the boys?”

George Edwin Farrar’s complete narrative of the mid-air collision, included in MACR9753, is as follows:

Am very sorry I can’t give more information, but our ship was hit by another B-17 from our group. The other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to. At the time we were struck I was knocked unconscious, and fell about 25,000 feet, before I knew I was even out of the ship. Never saw any of the other boys. I received a little rough treatment from the Germans when I hit the ground, and was unable to tell where I was.

Any information you can find out about the boys I would appreciate hearing very much.

Please pardon this not being typed, but am out of my town, and have tried, with no luck to obtain one (typewriter), but can’t.

May you have luck on the mission of finding what did happen to the boys.

George E. Farrar

All of the documents of Missing Air Crew Report 9753 and 9366 are now declassified and available for perusal by anyone who cares to review them. And peruse I have, over and over, studying them as if some new secret may emerge upon repeated inspections. It’s not uncommon for me to notice something I hadn’t noticed before or maybe something that just hadn’t sunk in with past readings.

For example, this go-round, I noticed something in George Hawkins’ narrative of Missing Air Crew Report 9366 (the MACR for the Brodie crew involved in the collision) that previously slipped past me. Hawkins stated in the first paragraph of his narrative, “At the time of the accident [the collision], our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage. As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.”

George Hawkins, as navigator, was seated in the nose of Brodie’s B-17, so he would not be able to see from his seat the cockpit, top turret, radio room, ball turret, waist, or tail. He would not be able to know for certain from a visual standpoint the condition of the other areas of the aircraft or its occupants.

However, all of the airmen of the crew would have been in interphone radio contact with each other, and I believe if the aircraft had suffered a major flak hit or mechanical failure or if any of his crewmates had suffered an injury before the collision, he would have heard of it over the interphone. If there had been time.

Regardless of what he could see or hear or know otherwise of what was happening in his ship, I imagine from the nose of Lazy Daisy, George Hawkins had a front row seat to view their slide out of formation on the path to collision, to feel the quickly changing course of destruction in the pit of his stomach. And to quickly comprehend that he could do nothing about it.

I have researched in detail (see links below to previous posts, What Happened in the Skies over Magdeburg Parts 1 and 2, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins Parts 1, 2, and 3) what might have happened to B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy, to cause it to veer off course into B-17 43-37822.

I have considered that George Hawkins may have had the answer. If he did, he did not share the information in his Missing Air Crew Report narrative. If the ship had suffered major damage from flak as my father believed and I, therefore, have supposed, I don’t think Hawkins would have described it as “light flak damage.”

However, if what Hawkins believed to be light flak damage was more injurious to the pilots than it was destructive to the aircraft, Hawkins may not have been aware of it.

From eye-witness reports, here’s what I do know, or think I know, just from the two missing air crew reports, MACR9753 and MACR9366:

The Buslee crew’s B-17 43-37822

  • Broke in half near the center of the ship, either at the waist or at the radio room
  • The ball turret of this ship and the tail of the other ship hit, tearing off both
  • The wings folded up
  • Pieces of the tail and wings fell off. Plane was in flames from the engine.
  • Was going down in flames spinning into the clouds.

The Brodie crew’s B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy

  • The left wing of this ship hit the other ship’s tail and cut part of a wing off
  • The aircraft broke up near the tail assembly (in collision with ball turret of other ship) and went down in flames.
  • The aircraft was burning and slowly spiraling down until it disappeared into the clouds.
  • George Hawkins noted:  “The front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner S/Sgt. Byron L. Atkins. The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin. I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.”
  • George Hawkins added:  “Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute. Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later. However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.”

In the collision, six men left the two planes, possibly in this order, but only four survived to become prisoners of war. Two were knocked from their respective aircraft but were not able to save themselves with their parachutes.

  • Brodie crew nose gunner Byron Atkins was knocked from 42-31222, but his parachute failed, was not hooked up properly, or he was not conscious to properly deploy it
  • Buslee crew ball turret gunner George McMann, while still inside the ball turret, was knocked from 43-37822, likely without a parachute as was customary in those tight quarters, unable to save himself in his fall
  • Buslee crew waist gunner George Farrar was thrown from 43-37822 when it broke in half, parachuted to the ground, and was captured by the Germans
  • Brodie crew waist gunner Harry Liniger was thrown from 42-31222 in an explosion, parachuted to the ground, and was captured by the Germans
  • Brodie crew tail gunner Wilfred Miller, while still inside the tail of 42-31222, rode the tail down before bailing out after an explosion, parachuted to the ground, and was captured by the Germans
  • Brodie crew navigator George Hawkins, while still inside the nose of 42-31222, broke out behind the right nose gun to bail out, parachuted to the ground, and was captured by the Germans

Of the remaining twelve airmen who were still on board the two B-17’s when they crashed, they were likely severely injured, or killed in the collision or ensuing explosion and fire, or if uninjured, unable to exit the planes due to centrifugal force trapping them in the spinning planes as they plummeted to earth.

These diagrams are of the B-17’s of the two crews, with different colored notations to represent the groupings and order of identification. Each individual is circled upon identification, not recovery. See the descriptions following the diagrams for details.

Diagram of BUSLEE CREW aboard 43-37822

B-17 43-37822, Buslee crew, 28 September 1944

Diagram of BRODIE CREW aboard 42-31222

B-17 42-31222, aka Lazy Daisy, Brodie crew, 28 September 1944

Circled in PURPLE in the Diagrams

Of the first eight airmen recovered from the two crashed B-17’s, only two from each crew were identified.

  • William Henson (Navigator) and Robert Stearns (Bombardier) were in position in the nose of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822
  • Robert Crumpton (Engineer) in the top turret and Gordon Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner) in the ball turret were in position in Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222
  • Four unidentified, crew unknown, not circled at this time

Circled in BLUE in the Diagrams

Of the next five airmen recovered, two from the Buslee crew and one from the Brodie crew were identified.

  • Gerald Andersen (Tail Gunner, name misspelled Anderson on the diagram) was in position in the tail, and George McMann (Ball Turret Gunner) was in position in the ball turret of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822, when the ball turret was knocked from the ship during the collision.
  • Donald Dooley was in position in the radio room of Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222
  • Two unidentified, crew unknown, not circled at this time

Circled in GREEN in the Diagrams

Four airmen captured by the Germans were identified.

  • George Farrar (Waist Gunner) was thrown from his position in the waist of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822
  • Harry Liniger (Waist Gunner) was thrown from the waist door and Wilfred Miller (Tail Gunner) bailed out of the severed tail following an explosion in Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222, and George Hawkins (Navigator) bailed out of the nose.

At this point, seventeen of the eighteen airmen of the two crews of nine each had been found, with eleven identified and six unidentified. One was still missing. I think the Germans may have believed three airmen from the two crews were still missing, as I think they were assuming each crew had ten airmen rather than nine, for a total of twenty rather than eighteen.

Circled in RED in the 42-31222 Diagram

One more airman was recovered, identified as the nose gunner of the Brodie aircraft, Byron Atkins (Togglier), who was knocked out of the nose during the collision.

The total now stood at all 18 found, but only 12 had been identified, with 6 unidentified.

Circled in ORANGE in the Diagrams

Four airmen, who were originally unidentified, were later identified.

  • John Buslee (Pilot) and David Albrecht, in position in the cockpit, and Lenard Bryant (Engineer), in position in the top turret directly behind the cockpit of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822
  • Lloyd Vevle (Co-pilot) in position in the cockpit of Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222

Circled in YELLOW in the 42-31222 Diagram

The next airman, originally unidentified, to be identified later was James Brodie (Pilot), in position in the cockpit of his aircraft, 42-31222.

Circled in BLACK in the 43-37822 Diagram

Recovered, but never identified in documents associated with either Missing Air Crew Report of the Buslee or Brodie crew, was Sebastiano Peluso (Radio Operator), in position in the radio room of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822. Peluso was likely at ground zero of the collision and likely at the center of the most destruction of the two aircraft. I am not sure when Sebastiano was finally identified, but by July 1945, his parents were still left wondering what happened to their son.

Identification Difficulties

Several factors led to difficulties in identification of the casualties.

  • Mixed crews – the casualties of both crews of both B-17’s were mixed together in the aftermath of the collision.
  • False/fake identification – at least one of the airmen in the mid-air collision, probably one of the Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron, was carrying ID and ration cards from two other 545th Bomb Squadron airmen, Robert W. Wagner and James E. Flynn, who were not on board either aircraft on 28 September 1944. Wagner was a gunner who was active during the timeframe of the collision, but did not participate in the 28 September 1944 mission. James E. Flynn was a radio operator who had completed his tour in May of 1944.
  • Missing identification – a Czech man who was on forced labor in Germany and was first to the site of the crash of 43-37822 took souvenirs and some identification and money from the plane.
  • Burned beyond recognition – the most difficult reason that six casualties of the two B-17’s could not easily be identified was that they were completely burned in the fire. These were likely the airmen originally unidentified in the German records – John Buslee, David Albrecht, Lenard Bryant and Sebastiano Peluso of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822, and James Brodie and Lloyd Vevle of Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222.

The Worst Place to Be in the Mid-air Collision

The areas of the two B-17’s with the most destruction, as evidenced by the difficulty identifying the occupants of the different positions, were the cockpits of both aircraft and the top turret and radio room behind the cockpit on Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822, and past that, the ball turret of Buslee’s aircraft, which was knocked from the plane.

What Did Happen to the Boys

Dad was not the only one who wanted to learn details of the mid-air collision and what happened to his crewmates. Chester Rybarczyk, the Navigator of the original Buslee crew, who was not onboard the B-17 43-37822 on 28 September, wanted to know. The families of the the boys who lost their lives that day wanted to know. They were all very anxious for my father to return home from the war and answer the same question, what did happen to the boys?

I doubt in their lifetimes any of them ever found a satisfactory answer. Dad, the only survivor of the Buslee ship, was expected to know. But Dad knew almost as little as anyone did. He probably felt the pressure to answer their questions, but could not. He probably felt a responsibility to ease their pain, but could not. He probably felt a need to comfort them, but could not as there is no comfort from losing a child.

Dad wanted answers. Dad shared the families’ pain. Dad, too, needed comfort. And he alone felt the guilt of being the only survivor of his crew. He never understood, why did he live when the other boys died?

What did happen to the boys? Dad, I hope this research puts your question to rest, comforts your soul, and eases your pain. Please know, for you, I carry all of the boys lost on 28 September 1944 in a special place in my heart. I will always remember them. And I will make sure your grandchildren and future generations remember you and remember them.

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

Previous post, Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

Previous post, Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben

Previous post, On Forced Labor

Previous post, What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 1

Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters

Previous post, What Happened in the Skies Over Magdeburg? Part 1

Previous post, What Happened in the Skies Over Magdeburg? Part 2

Previous post, Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 1 of 3

Previous post, Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3

Previous post, Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 1

A recap of the mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews on 28 September 1944…

On 28 September 1944, the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was involved in a mid-air collision with the James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222Lazy Daisy) coming off the 384th Bomb Group’s target at Magdeburg, Germany.

The Missing Air Crew Report for the Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was MACR9753. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the waist gunner aboard this fortress. He was thrown from the plane following the collision and was the only survivor of his crew.

The Missing Air Crew Report for the Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy) was MACR9366. Three of the airmen aboard Lazy Daisy bailed out and survived.


While recently reviewing a missing air crew report (MACR4814) for a different air crew (not the Buslee or Brodie crew), I ran across a letter from HEADQUARTERS, ARMY AIR FORCES, that was contained in that missing air crew report file. The Subject of the letter was “Casualty Information of Crew Members” and noted “In reply, refer to AFPPA-8.”

This particular letter was not made a part of the Buslee or Brodie missing air crew reports (MACR9753 and MACR9366, respectively), but I do believe my dad and the other survivors of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision of those crews received this same letter.

The Buslee and Brodie MACR files contain what I believe are responses to this letter from Buslee crew waist gunner (my dad) George Edwin Farrar (questionnaire and narrative) and Brodie crew navigator George Marshall Hawkins (questionnaire and narrative) and tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller (questionnaire). I had been curious about how they received a request for the information and now I believe I have my answer.

The contents of the undated “Casualty Information of Crew Members” letter are as follows:

  1. You will be interested to know that there have been formed here in Washington and in the theaters overseas, Missing Aircrew Research and Investigation Offices to collect all information from our own and enemy sources, correlate this information and furnish it to search teams in the theaters who will go to the scene of the casualty incident and investigate. These teams will question those in the area who have knowledge of the incident and trace all leads down until they have the story. The German records we have translated are excellent. We have just received the Japanese records. By combining all this data with the story available in your memory, we can tell next of kin the things that mean so much to them.
  2. You may or may not have been questioned in this manner before concerning the mission on which you were shot down and the events that followed. Regardless of previous questionnaires, it is important that we have the information requested here to complete our records concerning combat crewmen remaining in a casualty status.
  3. If you have been sworn to secrecy as a result of your escape, evasion or internment, you may consider yourself released from all restrictions as to disclosure or publication of experiences except:
    1. Secret intelligence activities and methods developed for use, or actually used, in prison camps.
    2. Details of techniques employed by military intelligence organizations operating behind enemy lines to assist evasion and escape.
    3. Negotiations conducted on high government or military level to secure release from internment in a neutral country. (See AAF Reg 46-8 dated 30 October 1945)
  4. Please answer all the questions you can promptly and accurately. Request that, if possible, answers be typewritten; if not, printed. Mail the reply to Commanding General, Army Air Forces, Attention: AFPPA-8, Washington 25, D.C.

BY COMMAND OF GENERAL ARNOLD:

JOHN J. SMITH
Lt. Col., Air Corps
Chief, Notification Section
Personal Affairs Branch<
Personnel Services Division, AC/AS-1

Brodie crew navigator aboard B-17 42-31222 Lazy Daisy, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr’s, narrative, as follows, is included in MACR9366:

Following “Bombs away” at our target over Magdeburg, Germany, our B17-G and another ship in our formation collided. At the time of the accident our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage. As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.

At the time of the collision, the front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner, S/Sgt Byron L. Atkins. The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin. I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.

Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute. Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later. However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.

Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me. It was then in a flat spin, burning. It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below. When I next saw the ship it was on the ground. While floating downward, I saw one other chute below me.

I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg. The plane landed within two or three miles of me. Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller. Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.

To the best of my knowledge, All other five members of the crew were at their positions on the plane and failed to leave the ship. All were uninjured up till the time of the collision.

Buslee crew waist gunner aboard B-17 43-37822, George Edwin Farrar’s narrative, as follows, is included in MACR9753:

Am very sorry I can’t give more information, but our ship was hit by another B-17 from our group.  The other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to.  At the time we were struck I was knocked unconscious, and fell about 25,000 feet, before I knew I was even out of the ship.  Never saw any of the other boys.  I received a little rough treatment from the Germans when I hit the ground, and was unable to tell where I was.

Any information you can find out about the boys I would appreciate hearing very much.

Please pardon this not being typed, but am out of my town, and have tried, with no luck to obtain one (typewriter), but can’t.

May you have luck on the mission of finding what did happen to the boys.

George E. Farrar

George Edwin Farrar’s handwritten narrative, with apology for it not being typed as requested in the “Casualty Information of Crew Members” letter:

George Edwin Farrar’s response to Army Air Forces letter regarding Casualty Information of Crew Members (click/select image to enlarge)

I am unsure of the dates Dad and the other survivors of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision received the request for information or the dates they returned their responses, but in 1946, Dad received two responses to his completed casualty questionnaire and narrative.

First, on June 14, 1946, Dad received a letter from Lt. Colonel William H. Brandon, Air Corps. Dad did receive a reply, but he did not get any answers.

June 14, 1946
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Mr. George E. Farrar,
79 East Lake Terrace, Northeast
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mr. Farrar:

Your completed casualty questionnaire has been received in this Headquarters, and we are appreciative of the information you furnished us relative to the fate of your fellow crew members.

At present we have on hand a large back-log of inquiries from the next of kin of our personnel who were killed in action or who are otherwise unaccounted for. In accordance with the Air Force post war reduction in manpower, the staff of this office has been reduced to a point where all inquiries cannot be answered as promptly as we would desire. In view of this, I am certain you will agree with our policy of giving preference to the next of kin. It is not known when we will be able to answer your questions concerning the members of your crew; however, an attempt will be made to furnish you this information as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,
WILLIAM H. BRANDON
Lt. Colonel, Air Corps
Chief, Notification Section
Personal Affairs Branch
Personnel Services Division, AC/AS-1

On September 11, 1946, he received this letter from 1st Lt. John W. Bertschi:

September 11, 1946
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Dear Sir:

The casualty questionnaire you completed for Air Forces Headquarters came to my attention today. I noticed your own question in the back of the sheet, and knowing how anxious any crewmember is to know what happened to the rest of the fellows, I want to tell you what we have found.

German casualty records which we recently translated state that all your crewmembers were recovered dead. The only one not identified by name was S. J. Peluso. All the boys were buried in a cemetery at Ost Ingersleben where the plane crashed. This town is twenty miles northwest of Magdeburg. We do not have reburial on all of the fellows yet so this would indicate that the Quartermaster General is having trouble identifying the bodies.

That is really all there is to tell you. You might be interested to know that the German records also include your name and state that you were taken to Dulag Luft West.

You really lived through a close one. I hope you suffer no permanent ill effects, and are enjoying a normal life once again.

This personal letter is easier to get out than an official one.

Very sincerely,
John W. Bertschi
1ST LT. AC

In a handwritten note at the bottom of the typed letter, John Bertschi described himself as “Just one of the boys now working in AAF Hdqts personnel division.”

He also added:

P. S. When I checked your 201 file for your address, I found our “very sorry” letter to you.

John Bertschi hoped Dad had returned to a normal life. A “normal life?” How does one return to a normal life after such a catastrophic event as a mid-air collision between two B-17’s, confinement to a POW camp, and an 86-day 500-mile march to liberation and freedom, on top of the constant reminder that he was the only one on his ship who lived?

And yes, he did receive some information from this second letter, but I believe he still had more questions than answers.

To be continued with what I have learned did happen to the boys in What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 2

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

Previous post, Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

Previous post, Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben

Previous post, On Forced Labor

Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

WWII Combat Chronology – 25 September 1944

I am continuing my series of articles based on the entries from Kit C. Carter and Robert Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces. Both combat chronologies are excellent sources of information regarding combat missions in World War II and I thank the authors for sharing them online.

These articles are concentrated on the operations of the 8th Army Air Forces on the missions on which the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group participated. The statistics of other dates and missions and of other branches of the American Air Forces and theaters of operation of World War II are available through the links provided in this article to these two sources for those interested.

Today’s installment is the 25 September 1944 mission in which the Buslee crew and Brodie crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Monday, 25 September 1944

384th BG Mission 198/8th AF Mission 647 to Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

Target: Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.

The John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.

Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 entry:

About 100 HBs escorted by 14 ftr gps attack 3 M/Ys and a synthetic oil plant at Ludwigshafen and Koblenz, industrial area of Frankfurt/Main and several T/Os. About 175 B-24’s haul fuel to France.

Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces entry:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): Mission 647: 1,306 bombers and 622 fighters are dispatched to attack marshalling yards in W Germany and the synthetic oil plant at Ludwigshafen bombed by PFF; 5 bombers and 3 fighters are lost. The Buslee and Brodie crews participated in this mission.

  1. 534 B-17s are dispatched to hit the Ludwigshafen/Opau oil plant and the marshalling yard at Ludwigshafen (400); 46 others hit targets of opportunity; 3 B-17s are lost, 1 damaged beyond repair and 86 damaged; 9 airmen are WIA. Escort is provided by 200 of 216 P-51s without loss.

  2. 444 B-17s are dispatched to hit the Frankfurt industrial area (410); 2 others hit targets of opportunity; 2 B-17s are lost and 41 damaged; 18 airmen are MIA. Escort is provided by 210 P-38s and P-51s; 2 fighters are lost (pilots MIA) and 1 damaged.

  3. 257 of 328 B-24s hit the Koblenz/Mosel and Koblenz/Rhein marshalling yards; 14 B-24s are damaged. Escort is provided by 157 P-38s, P-47s and P-51s; they claim 0-0-2 aircraft on the ground; 1 P-51 is lost (pilot MIA) and 2 damaged.

Also, B-24s on a TRUCKIN’ mission fly fuel to France.

Links/Sources

Except for entries from Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and McKillop’s Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

On Forced Labor

A continuation of my post, Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben


A recap…

On 28 September 1944, the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was involved in a mid-air collision with the James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222Lazy Daisy) coming off the 384th Bomb Group’s target at Magdeburg, Germany.

On the afternoon of 28 September 1944, following the mid-air collision, the two B-17’s fell from the sky near Ost Ingersleben, Germany.

The crash site of 43-37822 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Buslee crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753) as “33 km west of Magdeburg and 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.” My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the waist gunner aboard this fortress. He was thrown from the plane following the collision and was the only survivor of his crew.

The crash site of 42-31222 Lazy Daisy was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Brodie crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9366) as “north edge of Ost Ingersleben, 33 km west of Magdeburg.” Three of the airmen aboard Lazy Daisy bailed out and survived.

At least one of the planes crash-landed in the general vicinity of Beendorf and Bartensleben, according to an eye-witness who came forward in 1948 and provided a sketch of the area.

Sketch of crash site

Notes:

  • Location name corrections of locations noted on the sketch,
    • Helmstadt should be Helmstedt
    • Bernsdorf should be Beendorf
    • Braunsweig (Braunschweig) is also known as Brunswick.
  • The locations of Beendorf and Bartensleben also seem to be swapped in the sketch. Beendorf is actually to the west of Bartensleben.

To make the location of the sketch more clear, I have plotted each location on a Google map,

Google map of crash area for comparison to hand-drawn map
Hand-drawn map points outlined in black
Military document crash area location names outlined in blue
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

Click images to enlarge…


The witness to the crash of B-17 43-37822, a Czechoslovakian man, described his reason for being at the crash site as, “I have been working in the fields, there the Germans put me on forced labor.” And his father described his son’s situation as “on forced labor in lager close to village Bernsdorf [Beendorf].”

I looked into the man’s circumstances and I learned that his “forced labor” may have been as a concentration camp prisoner of the Helmstedt-Beendorf sub-camp of the Neuengamme concentration camp, considering the area in which he described his forced labor.

Between 1933 and 1945, Nazi Germany and its allies established more than 44,000 camps and other incarceration sites (including ghettos). The perpetrators used these locations for a range of purposes, including forced labor, detention of people deemed to be “enemies of the state,” and mass murder. Millions of people suffered and died or were killed. Among these sites was the Neuengamme camp and its subcamps.

from The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust Encyclopedia

During World War II, the demand for prisoner labor in the German armaments industry led to the establishment of about eighty subcamps of the Neuengamme concentration camp at locations in northern and central Germany, beginning in 1942.

The Neuengamme camp, itself a subcamp of the Sachenhausen concentration camp, was located at an abandoned brickworks on the banks of the Dove-Elbe River, a tributary of the Elbe in the Neuengamme suburb of Hamburg in northern Germany.

The Helmstedt-Beendorf camp was a subcamp of the Neuengamme camp about 90 miles (about 145 km) to the south. The Helmstedt-Beendorf camp was located on the former site of a potash and rock salt mine, known as the Marie mine, and a potash chloride plant which produced fertilizers from the crude potash salts. Later the Bartensleben mine was constructed and connected to the Marie mine.

Between 1937 and 1944, the German Air Force used the former Marie mine as an ammunition plant at the surface and aircraft ammunition storage underground. Then beginning in 1944, the entire mine was used for armament production and became the Helmstedt-Beendorf subcamp for concentration camp prisoners from the Neuengamme concentration camp. The prisoners were the forced labor who produced armaments underground.

The first prisoners arrived in Beendorf on 17 March 1944. The men were used to excavate underground production halls in two neighbouring salt mines, “Marie” (Beendorf) and “Bartensleben” (Morsleben). Important equipment for manufacturing air force munitions was moved to the two tunnels, and the secret projects were given the code names “Bulldogge” [Bulldog] and “Iltis” [Polecat]. The hard physical labour and terrible working conditions in the shafts damaged the prisoners’ eyes and lungs in particular.

 from KZ-Gedenkstätte (Memorial) Neuengamme

At Beendorf, from March of 1944, the men’s camp of about 800 concentration camp prisoners were used for building works. From August of 1944, the women’s camp of up to 2,500 concentration camp prisoners were used for armament production.

The women prisoners worked for the Askania factory in the Bartensleben mine and Luftfahrtgerätewerk Hakenfelde in the Marie mine, and manufactured electro-mechanical components such as control units and steering gear for the V1 and fighter aircraft.

The number of prisoners eventually numbered 4,500, housed in an area designed for less than half that number. The work was very hard and their diet insufficient to sustain them, leading many to become weak and sick, and killing many.

Near the end of 1944, ten- to twelve-thousand prisoners were interned in the Neuengamme concentration camp with another thirty-seven- to thirty-nine-thousand in the subcamps. The death rate was staggering during the winter of 1944 to 1945 with thousands dying each month.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust Encyclopedia records the number of deaths of Neuengamme prisoners so close to the end of the war and the evacuation of the camp.

As British troops approached Neuengamme, the SS evacuated some 9,000 prisoners towards Lübeck on the Baltic Sea on April 19, 1945, and murdered most of the remaining 3,000 prisoners in the camp. Some 700 almost exclusively German prisoners remained behind to destroy the internal documents of the camp. Half of them were conscripted into an SS armed unit; the remainder evacuated the camp on April 30, leaving it empty.

British forces arrived on May 4, 1945. In early May 1945, the SS loaded some 9,000-10,000 prisoners—most of them evacuated from Neuengamme and its subcamps—onto three ships anchored in the Baltic Sea off the coast of Neustadt in Schleswig-Holstein. Some 7,000 lost their lives when the British attacked two of the ships in the course of a raid on the harbor on May 3. The Thielbek, carrying about 2,000 prisoners, sank quickly. The Cap Arcona, carrying more than 4,500 prisoners, burned and capsized during the attack. Only about 600 prisoners from both ships survived.

The death register at Neuengamme indicates that about 40,000 prisoners died in the camp by April 10, 1945. Perhaps as many as 15,000 more died in the camp in the following week and during the course of the evacuation. In all, more than 50,000 prisoners, almost half of all those imprisoned in the camp during its existence, died in Neuengamme concentration camp.

KZ-Gedenkstätte (Memorial) Neuengamme reports that at the Helmstedt-Beendorf subcamp on 10 April 1945, both camps (the one for the men and the one for the women) were evacuated. The women and men were loaded onto goods cars and taken via Magdeburg, Stendal und Wittenberge to the Wöbbelin “reception camp”, arriving 16 April.

The History of the Morsleben Repository notes that the male survivors were liberated there by American troops two weeks later. The female survivors were taken to the previously evacuated Hamburg sub-camps, from which they could be evacuated and saved by the Swedish Red Cross. This source adds that,

At the end of the war, the Marie and Bartensleben mines were located within the Soviet occupation zone and later on in the Border Area of the GDR. Commemoration of the victims was only possible to a limited extent. In the centre of Beendorf, a memorial stone and, on the cemetery, a mass grave remind of the victims. Only since 1989, have survivors had the option to visit this location as memorial site.

The Czechoslovakian witness’ simple description of his internment as “the Germans put me on forced labor” does not begin to describe the ordeal he survived during World War II. He was extremely fortunate to live through the war, to be able to return to his home and family in Czechoslovakia, and to survive to tell his story about the crash and the fate of those aboard the Buslee crew’s B-17, of which my father was the sole survivor.

I liken the Czechoslovakian witness’ simplified description of his wartime ordeal to my father’s simplified description of his own wartime P.O.W. experience, his 86-day 500-mile march to liberation from his and his fellow P.O.W.’s internment by the Nazis, with his own simple explanation, “We were marched across Germany.”

Suitable words do not exist for a survivor of this kind of atrocity to utter, to convey to those who did not share the experience of the true horrors they lived through and the unbelievable miracle of their survival. Simple words and simple explanations protect both parties of the story, the teller and the listener, from the unimaginable truth where words become images and images become nightmares. Simple words paint simple images, images one can live with on the shallow side of the truth.

Sources

History of the Morsleben Repository

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum ENCYCLOPEDIA OF CAMPS AND GHETTOS, 1933–1945

KZ-Gedenkstätte (Memorial) Neuengamme Satellite Camp HELMSTEDT-BEENDORF (MEN)

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Holocaust Encyclopedia, NEUENGAMME

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

Previous post, Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

Previous post, Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben

Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben

A continuation of my post regarding the location of the crash site of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision of the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) and James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy).


As I previously reported,

  • The crash site of 43-37822 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Buslee crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753) as “33 km west of Magdeburg and 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.”
  • The crash site of 42-31222 Lazy Daisy was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Brodie crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9366) as “north edge of Ost Ingersleben, 33 km west of Magdeburg.” The two B-17’s likely crashed very close to the same location.

On the afternoon of 28 September 1944, two B-17’s fell from the sky near Ost Ingersleben, Germany. Unclear is how close in proximity the two planes crashed to the ground, but they likely both landed in the same general vicinity.

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the navigator who bailed out of one of the fortresses said from his birds-eye view above the scene, floating down in his parachute, “Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.”

One of those “civilians” was a Czechoslovakian man who was interned by the Nazis as forced labor. He said he saw one plane crash land, but never mentions a second aircraft.

To hear and see such a terrifying sight, two spinning, burning planes speeding toward the ground, to feel the ground shake upon impact seems to me an image that would be etched in memory forever. But the reported recollection of the Czechoslovakian man, who claimed to be first on the scene, is somewhat inaccurate.

Of course, considering his situation, perhaps I expect too much of his recollection as a witness. I don’t disbelieve him. I can’t. He had indisputable proof that he was there and witnessed the crash. He had taken John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s ring as a souvenir.

Years after the collision and ensuing crash of the two B-17’s, the Czechoslovakian man, now freed from Nazi forced labor and back home, decided to return the ring to Jay Buslee’s family. He wrote a letter dated 28 January 1948 and in it explained,

On Sept. 22, 1944, American plane came down in flames alone, about 40 kilometers from Magdeburg. I have been working in the fields, there the Germans put me on forced labor. I came to the plane before the Gestapo and SS did and all the flyers have been dead and I pick up a ring which belonged to one of the flyers.

In his claim to having witnessed the crash of Buslee’s B-17, he noted the date of 22 September 1944 rather than the correct date of 28 September 1944. He also noted that the plane came down in flames “alone.” I can understand in his circumstances getting the date wrong. Not seeing the second B-17 come down makes me think the Brodie plane did not come down as close to Buslee’s plane as I thought.

The Czech man later left home for military service. Correspondence continued through the man’s father in a letter dated April 12, 1948, in which more, but slightly different, details were provided,

On Sept. 24, /Sunday/ about 14 hours, /That is 2 P.M./ came a swarm of bombing US planes and the direction was Magdeburg in Germany.  One plane was separated from the swarm and the way it looks, damaged.  Finaly after a while, the plane came down in flames near the village Bertensleben, about 9 kilometers from Helmstadt.  My son, who have been in Germany on forced labor in lager close to village Bernsdorf, went to the scene and came there sooner before the German authorities did.

… the place, where the plane came down, is out of populated places…

… I made a primitive sketch of the place where the plane came down.  The place is between the village Bartensleben and Bornsdorf

Sketch of crash site

Notes:

  • In this letter, the date of the crash was noted as 24 September, a Sunday, at about 14 hours/2 o’clock in the afternoon. The actual time, in German time, of the mid-air collision and crash would have been about 1 P.M, which was about noon in English time as noted in military documents.
  • In my previous post of this letter/information, I chose to omit the exact locations, but am including them now after further review and determination of what I believe to be the locations the writer intended. The names of some of the places were not noted correctly, but I believe I know the places the writer meant.
  • Location name corrections, including those noted on the sketch,
    • Helmstadt should be Helmstedt
    • Bernsdorf or Bornsdorf should be Beendorf
    • Bertensleben (although correct on sketch) should be Bartensleben
    • Braunsweig (Braunschweig), on the sketch, is also known as Brunswick.
  • The locations of Beendorf and Bartensleben also seem to be swapped in the sketch. Beendorf is actually to the west of Bartensleben.

To make the location of the sketch more clear, I have plotted each location on a Google map,

Google map of crash area for comparison to hand-drawn map
Hand-drawn map points outlined in black
Military document crash area location names outlined in blue
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

Click images to enlarge…

I also wanted to see exactly where 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben would be as noted in wartime documents.

2km from Ost Ingersleben to crash site
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

And zoomed out…

2km from Ost Ingersleben to crash site, noting locations of Beendorf and Bartensleben
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

And zoomed in…

2km from Ost Ingersleben to crash site, zoomed
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

Internet searches do not turn up any more information regarding the crash of the two B-17’s in this area. Next steps for me will be to attempt to connect with libraries or local government entities in the area in order to learn more about the crash of the Buslee and Brodie crew B-17’s.

To be continued with more information regarding the role this area of Germany played in World War II and the role of the people who were forced to play it…

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

Previous post, Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

WWII Combat Chronology – 21 September 1944

I am continuing my series of articles based on the entries from Kit C. Carter and Robert Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces. Both combat chronologies are excellent sources of information regarding combat missions in World War II and I thank the authors for sharing them online.

These articles are concentrated on the operations of the 8th Army Air Forces on the missions on which the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group participated. The statistics of other dates and missions and of other branches of the American Air Forces and theaters of operation of World War II are available through the links provided in this article to these two sources for those interested.

Today’s installment is the 21 September 1944 mission in which the Brodie crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Thursday, 21 September 1944

384th BG Mission 197/8th AF Mission 644 to Mainz, Germany.

Target: Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.

The James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.

Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 entry:

Nearly 450 HBs escorted by 3 P-51 gps attack synthetic oil plant at Ludwigshafen/Opau, M/Ys at Koblenz and Mainz, and T/Os in Rhineland. 3 ftr gps spt First Allied Airborne Army airplanes dropping supplies and paratroops of Polish 1st Brig near Driel. Bad weather forces recall of 1 gp near Dutch coast. Other gps encounter about 50 ftrs, claiming 20 destroyed against 4 aerial combat losses. Over 80 B-24’s carry gasoline to France.

Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces entry:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): Mission 644: 486 bombers are dispatched to hit targets in W Germany using PFF methods; 2 bombers are lost. The Brodie crew participated in this mission.

  1. 154 B-17s are dispatched to hit the synthetic oil plant at Ludwigshafen/Opau (147); 2 others hit targets of opportunity; 54 B-17s are damaged. Escort is provided by 39 P-38s and P-51s; 1 fighter is lost.

  2. 153 B-17s are dispatched to hit the marshalling yard at Mainz (141); 52 B-17s are damaged; 2 airmen are WIA. Escort is provided by 34 of 35 P-51s without loss.

  3. 179 B-24s are dispatched to hit the marshalling yard at Koblenz (144); 12 others hit targets of opportunity; 2 B-24s are lost, 3 damaged beyond repair and 83 damaged; 15 airmen are KIA, 3 WIA and 18 MIA. Escort is provided by 44 of 46 P-51s; 1 P-51 is lost (pilot MIA).

Also, P-47s and P-51s support the First Allied Airborne Army C-47s dropping supplies and paratroops of the Polish 1st Brigade near Driel, the Netherlands.

Links/Sources

Except for entries from Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and McKillop’s Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

In my last post, I mapped out the location of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision of the Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) and Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy) as it was recorded in wartime documents.

The coordinates of the collision, in the area of Magdeburg, Germany, were noted as 52°06’00.0″N 11°39’00.0″E on post-briefing reports, (52.100000, 11.650000 for Google maps), at an approximate altitude of 27,000 feet.

After the collision, the two fortresses traveled quite a distance, about 22 miles (approx. 36 km), before crashing to the ground north of the village of Ost Ingersleben, Germany (today, part of the municipality of Ingersleben in the Börde district in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany).

Distance between coordinates of collision (52.100000, 11.650000 – upper left corner of map) and 2km north of Ost Ingersleben (52.23022501900543, 11.169220977746475 – lower left corner of map)
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

Click on the map to enlarge the image. Ignore the roadways and driving directions and look at the straight line diagonally crossing the map and representing the flight path between the two points. The survivors who were able to leave the aircraft and parachute to the ground likely landed in the vicinity of this path.

The crash site of 43-37822 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Buslee crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753) as “33 km west of Magdeburg and 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.” Measuring the distance on a Google map between the Magdeburg city center and Ost Ingersleben city center is 33 km according to Google maps, but the distance between the collision point and an approximated crash point 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben calculates to approximately 36 km or about 22 miles.

The only survivor of the Buslee ship, my dad George Edwin Farrar, was not able to provide any location information in his Casualty Questionnaire Narrative and noted that when he hit the ground, “I was unable to tell where I was.” I previously imagined that he landed in his parachute close to the site of the crash 2km north of Ost Ingersleben, but that assumption is probably not correct.

Dad, the waist gunner aboard the Buslee crew’s B-17, was likely one of the first out, thrown out when “the other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to. He added that “at the time we were struck I was knocked unconscious, and fell about 25,000 feet, before I knew I was even out of the ship.”

It was uncommon for B-17 crew members to wear their parachutes in combat, preferring instead to keep them nearby for easy access if needed. Wearing his parachute during the mission that day saved my dad’s life as he would not have been able to retrieve it in his state of unconsciousness.

Dad must have landed in his parachute further east along the flight path and closer to Magdeburg and the site of the mid-air collision than I previously thought, as he was knocked out of the plane at the moment of the collision.

This leads to the question of where the other survivors of the mid-air collision landed after bailing out of the Brodie crew’s B-17.

The crash site of 42-31222 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Brodie crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9366) as “north edge of Ost Ingersleben, 33 km west of Magdeburg.” The two B-17’s likely crashed very close to the same location.

Brodie crew navigator George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the only officer of the two crews to survive the mid-air collision noted as part of his Casualty Questionnaire in MACR9366 that they were “near Erxleben, Germany” when their aircraft left the formation. Brodie crew tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller noted it to be “about 4 minutes out of flak area.”

Did Hawkins’ wording “left the formation” indicate the moment of the collision? If so, the coordinates of the collision as noted in post-mission briefing documents are too far east. I believe it is possible that the collision occurred further west than the noted coordinates due to Hawkins’ and Miller’s statements, and will keep that in mind while retaining the documented coordinates for this research.

Hawkins also noted that their aircraft struck the ground “near Erxleben, Germany.” Erxleben is 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben according to Google Maps, the same location as noted in the German Report on Captured Aircraft, but without using the name “Erxleben” as where the aircraft crashed.

Hawkins described his bailout and the Brodie ship’s crash location by noting, “Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me. It was then in a flat spin, burning. It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below. When I next saw the ship it was on the ground… I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg. The plane landed within two or three miles of me. Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.”

I do not know which direction from the town of Erxleben Hawkins landed, but from his wording “from the town” instead of “before the town”, I believe he landed west of the town, around mile marker 20.0 on the flight path map. That would put the plane landing right at the crash site coordinate at mile marker 22, which would be about two miles from where Hawkins landed in his parachute and where the German reports note the crash, about 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.

I believe Hawkins must have been the first to bail out of the Brodie crew’s B-17. He wrote that “I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.”

In his Casualty Questionnaire Narrative, Hawkins also noted that “Sgt. Liniger [waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger] said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller [tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller] said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.”

All three likely left the ship at nearly the same time, but I believe Hawkins left the ship before the explosion as he didn’t mention it in his recounting of his own bailout. Hawkins, Liniger, and Miller likely landed in the same vicinity near Erxleben, but did not meet up again until the next night in captivity.

To be continued in a future post with an attempt to narrow down the crash site with an eye-witness report from a Czechoslovakian man in the forced labor of the Nazis.

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

MACR9753

MACR9366

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

When in Magdeburg, Look Up

On 28 September 1944 on a B-17 bombing mission to Magdeburg, Germany during World War II, just after Bombs Away, the Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 over Magdebug, Germany. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the waist gunner on the Buslee crew’s B-17 and was the only survivor of the nine men on that ship. Both crews were part of the 384th Bombardment Group of the 8th Army Air Forces.

From the excellent collection of wartime records of the 384th Bomb Group, I know the exact date and time of the collision, the exact location of the collision, and the altitude at which the two planes collided.

  • The date, 28 September 1944, and time, 12:11 P.M., British time (1:11 P.M. German time)
  • The mid-air collision location, 52°06’00.0″N 11°39’00.0″E, (52.100000, 11.650000), Germany
  • The altitude, 27,700 feet, (and noting the elevation of Magdeburg is 141 feet above sea level, about 27,559 feet above the ground)

Date, Time, and Location, as reported on the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753)

MACR9753 (Missing Air Crew Report 9753) noting location of mid-air collision

Time and Altitude, as reported on the Navigator’s Narrative

28 September 1944 Mission to Magdeburg, Navigator’s Narrative, High Group, Page 1

28 September 1944 Mission to Magdeburg, Navigator’s Narrative, High Group, Page 2

It occurred to me that if I were able to plot the coordinates on a map, that someday I might be able to stand in the exact location below the spot that the two B-17’s collided so many years ago, look up, and imagine seeing and hearing the impact.

Of course, the collision happened more than five miles above the earth, so I doubt the horrific incident was visible from the ground. A Google search resulted in an answer from Quora that “depending on the size of the aircraft, without … contrails to reveal its presence, you can probably see an airliner up to 7,500 to 10,000 feet,” less than half as far as the bombers’ formation was traveling above the earth on 28 September 1944.

Both aircraft continued to fly several miles before they crashed to the ground west of Magdeburg. But do you suppose at least some small parts fell directly to earth in the location of the collision itself? I can believe that they would and perhaps something is still buried in the ground in the area today.

So, of course, my next thought was to wonder what exists in the location today? Google Maps makes it pretty easy to find out, so I plugged in the coordinates to find the location not too far from the Elbe River in southeast Magdeburg (marked by the red pin).

Site of 28 September 1944 mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews over Magdeburg, Germany, 52°06’00.0″N 11°39’00.0″E, (52.100000, 11.650000)
Map data ©2022 Google

If you view the Google Maps Satellite view or plug the coordinates into Google Earth, you can see the area in much more detail, but just simply zooming in reveals what exists today.

Site of 28 September 1944 mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews over Magdeburg, Germany, 52°06’00.0″N 11°39’00.0″E, (52.100000, 11.650000)
Map data ©2022 Google

I see that the location (again, marked by the red pin) is just northeast of a Lidl discount grocery store, and,

Distance from Lidl grocery store to coordinates of mid-air collision, 
Map data ©2022 Google

from the northern-most corner of the Lidl grocery store to the collision coordinates measures a total distance of 68.43 feet or 20.86 meters according to Google Map’s distance calculation feature. 

One day, I hope to travel to Magdeburg, Germany, find this exact location, and do exactly what I imagine doing now, look up.

I don’t expect to see the aluminum overcast of a B-17 formation, or hear the grinding and tearing of metal as B-17 meets B-17 far above the earth, probably about the same moment as the bombs dropped from the bellies of the same aircraft and others in the formation strike the ground, exploding, destroying, engulfing the area in flames and dense black smoke, wiping out both good and bad creations of man, erasing life, changing families’ futures forever, changing the path of history as it happens.

It all happened in this space in another life, another time. Is it best remembered or imagined or forgotten?

Notes/Credits

Except for Map data ©2022 Google, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

WWII Combat Chronology – 19 September 1944

I am continuing my series of articles based on the entries from Kit C. Carter and Robert Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces. Both combat chronologies are excellent sources of information regarding combat missions in World War II and I thank the authors for sharing them online.

These articles are concentrated on the operations of the 8th Army Air Forces on the missions on which the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group participated. The statistics of other dates and missions and of other branches of the American Air Forces and theaters of operation of World War II are available through the links provided in this article to these two sources for those interested.

Today’s installment is the 19 September 1944 mission in which George Farrar and Eugene Lucynski of the Buslee crew and the Brodie crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Tuesday, 19 September 1944

384th BG Mission 196/8th AF Mission 642 to Hamm, Germany.

Target: Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.

George Farrar and Eugene Lucynski of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.

Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 entry:

Nearly 800 B-17’s are dispatched against tgts in NW Germany. Weather prevents about half from bombing primary tgts but most manage to bomb secondaries or T/Os. Over 650 B-17’s bomb 10 M/Ys and several bridges, railroads, factories, barges, storage areas, city areas and numerous scattered T/Os in NW Germany. 6 ftr gps furnish spt. 4 P-51 gps supporting First Allied Airborne Army in the Netherlands engage well over 100 ftrs, downing 23. 9 P-51’s are lost. As UK-USSR-Italy-UK shuttle mission continues, over 90 B-17’s and their ftr gp take off from USSR, bomb M/Y at Szolnok, and fly to Fifteenth AF bases in Italy.

Jack McKillop’s USAAF Chronology: Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces entry:

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force): Mission 642: 796 B-17s are dispatched against marshalling yards in W Germany; weather prevents about half from bombing primary targets but most manage to bomb targets of opportunity; 7 bombers and 1 fighter are lost. The Buslee and Brodie crews participated in this mission.

  1. Of 380 B-17s dispatched, all hit targets of opportunity, i.e., marshalling yards at Koblenz (87), Dillenburg (39), Limburg (37) and Darmstadt (24); bridges at Limburg (35), Koblenz (25) and a bridge over the Rhine River at Koblenz (13); and Wiesbaden (38), Wetzlar (14), the railroad line at Koblenz (13) and Wiesbaden Airfield (12); 4 B-17s are lost and 159 damaged; 3 airmen are WIA and 37 WIA. Escort is provided by 131 P-47s and P-51s; they claim 3-0-1 aircraft in the air; 1 P-47 is lost (pilot MIA).

  2. 416 B-17s are dispatched to hit marshalling yards at Hamm (186) and Soest (32) and depot at Dortmund/Unna (64); other targets hit are marshalling yards at Raesfeld (11), Wesel (9), Rheine (6) and Munster (3); Dillenburg (11), Emmerich (7), Hamm (5), Osnaburck (2) and others (6); 3 B-17s are lost, 2 damaged beyond repair and 120 damaged; 3 airmen are WIA and 18 MIA. Escort is provided by 109 P-47s and P-51s without loss.

Also, B-17s and P-51s takeoff from bases in the USSR and bomb the marshalling yard at Szolnok, Hungary and continue to bases in Italy.

And P-51s supporting the First Allied Airborne Army in the Netherlands engage fighters.

Links/Sources

Except for entries from Carter and Mueller’s U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II Combat Chronology 1941 – 1945 and McKillop’s Combat Chronology of the US Army Air Forces © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022