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Stalag Luft IV, January 1945

I recently wrote about my dad and his Stalag Luft IV roomate, George Farrar, Lawrence Newbold, and Christmas 1944. By early January 1945, after a dismal 1944 holiday season, the POWs believed they were in for a long stay in Stalag Luft IV.

Stalag Luft IV was located at Gross Tychow, Pomerania, (now Tychowo, Poland), 20 kilometers (about 12 1/2 miles) southeast of Belgard.

On January 12, 1945, the Soviets launched the first phase of their long-planned Winter Offensive, with the Russian Red Army invading eastern Germany. German forces were greatly outnumbered as German troops and equipment had earlier been transferred from the eastern front to support the operation in the Ardennes to the west. The Germans retreated ahead of the Red Army’s advance through Poland.

On January 16, Adolf Hitler moved his residence and base of operations to the underground air raid shelter/subterranean bunker complex at Berlin’s Reich Chancellery known as the Führerbunker. It would be the last of the various headquarters he used in WWII, until the last week of the war. (On April 29, Adolf Hitler would marry Eva Braun there, less than two days before they committed suicide).

On January 17, the Soviet Red Army liberated the Polish capital of Warsaw, less than 300 miles southeast of Stalag Luft IV.

The POW’s of Stalag Luft IV were aware of the Russian advance and some believed liberation by the Red Army and freedom might be possible. Others feared the results of the Soviets overrunning their camp.

Soon rumors of the evacuation of the camp of 10,000 Allied airmen began circulating. Beginning January 26, approximately 3,000 of Stalag Luft IV’s most disabled POW’s were evacuated by train to Stalag Luft I at Barth and Stalag VIIA at Moosburg. One of these men was the 384th Bomb Group’s Patrick Dennis Benker.

Following the evacuation of the most disabled prisoners, POW’s from Stalag XXA at Tourn and IIB at Hammerstein arrived at Stalag Luft IV as the Soviet Red Army moved into Pomerania.

Now expecting an imminent evacuation of Stalag Luft IV, the POW’s began preparing to leave the camp.

By January 30, the Red Army had advanced within 100 miles of Berlin and Adolf Hitler delivered his final radio address. By the next day, the last day of January, 1945, the Soviets had reached the Oder River.

Sources:

Wikipedia:  Führerbunker

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

C-Lager:  Stalag Luft IV & the 86-Day Hunger March by David Dorfmeier

Notes:

Chapter 13 of David Dorfmeier’s book, C-Lager, covers the month leading up to the evacuation of Stalag Luft IV in great detail. C-Lager offers excellent descriptions of camp life and the march. David’s father, Donald Dorfmeier, served as a waist gunner of the 398th Bomb Group, based at Nuthampstead, England, and was a POW at Stalag Luft IV. David’s book can be found on Amazon using the link above in the Sources section.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Fall 1942

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at October – December 1942 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Fall 1942

October 5, 1942

In the Ukraine, two employees of a German construction firm accidentally came across an execution squad killing Jews from the Ukraine’s small town of Dubno. One, an engineer named Hermann Graebe, gave an eyewitness account of the executions. (See link to The History Place article in Sources at the bottom of this page for Graebe’s account).

October 11/12, 1942

Cruisers and destroyers of the U.S. Navy were victorious over the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle of Cape Esperance, also known as the Second Battle (or Sea Battle) of Savo Island, off Guadalcanal.

October 12-14, 1942

On October 12 at the Mizocz Ghetto in the Ukraine, the Ukrainian Auxiliary Police and the German police prepared to liquidate the ghetto. The 1,700 Jews of Mizocz fought back and half of them were able to escape or hide during the two-day uprising. On October 14, those recaptured were taken to a ravine and shot.

October 13, 1942

The 164th Infantry Regiment, the first of the U.S. Army troops, landed on Guadalcanal.

October 14/15, 1942

Overnight, Japanese warships bombed Henderson Field on Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands. The next morning they sent troops ashore.

October 18, 1942

Hitler issued the Commando Order through the High Command of the German Armed Forces, an order to execute all captured British commandos.

October 22, 1942

The Nazi SS suppressed a Jewish revolt at Sachsenhausen (Oranienburg) of those about to be sent to Auschwitz.

October 23, 1942

The Second Battle of El Alamein began.

October 23–24, 1942

British troops were victorious over the Germans and Italians at El Alamein in Egypt. Axis forces retreated across Libya to the eastern border of Tunisia.

October 25, 1942

Deportations of Norway’s Jews to Auschwitz began.

October 26, 1942

The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Hornet was lost in the Battle of Santa Cruz off Guadalcanal between U.S. and Japanese warships.

The War Production Board gave the Manhattan Project its highest wartime priority rating.

October 28, 1942

The first SS transport from Theresienstadt Concentration/Transit Camp arrived at Auschwitz. It carried 1,866 people of which only 247, mostly men, were chosen as prisoners by the SS. The remainder (1,619) were executed in the gas chamber.

November 1942

One hundred seventy thousand Jews were killed in a mass execution near Bialystok, Poland.

November 1, 1942

The Allies broke through the Axis lines at El Alamein in “Operation Supercharge.”

November 4, 1942

Nazi troops began their retreat from El Alamein.

November 8, 1942

The U.S. invasion of North Africa known as Operation Torch began. Allied (U.S. and British) troops landed on Algerian and Moroccan beaches in French North Africa. Vichy French troops failed to defend their territory and the Allies advanced to the western border of Tunisia.

November 11, 1942

Axis (German and Italian) forces invaded unoccupied Vichy (southern) France.

November 14/15, 1942

The U.S. Navy cruiser USS Juneau was sunk by Imperial Japanese Navy warships off Guadalcanal. Five brothers, the sons of Thomas and Alleta Sullivan of Waterloo, Iowa, who served together on the Juneau, were all killed. The five Sullivan brothers were George Thomas (27), Francis Henry “Frank” (26), Joseph Eugene “Joe” (24), Madison Abel “Matt” (23), and Albert Leo “Al” (20).

November 16, 1942

Robert Oppenheimer was appointed the director of the Los Alamos, New Mexico atomic bomb facility.

November 19, 1942

Under General Zhukov, the Soviet Red Army began a counter-offensive against the Germans at Stalingrad in the USSR.

November 23/24, 1942

The Japanese attacked Darwin, Australia in an air raid.

November 23, 1942–February 2, 1943

In the Soviet counter-offensive against the Germans, Soviet troops broke through the Hungarian and Romanian lines northwest and southwest of Stalingrad. They trapped the German Sixth Army in the city. Adolf Hitler forbid the Sixth Army to retreat and they surrendered on January 30 and February 2, 1943.

November 30, 1942

The naval battle of Tassafaronga (also known as the Fourth Battle of Savo Island or the Battle of Lunga Point) took place off Guadalcanal between U.S. Navy and Imperial Japanese Navy warships. Five U.S. cruisers and four destroyers engaged eight Japanese destroyers. The U.S. sank one Japanese destroyer and the Japanese sank one U.S. cruiser and damaged three others. The rest of the Japanese ships escaped undamaged.

December 1942

After the exterminations of 600,000 Jews at the Belzec extermination camp, operations at the camp ceased and it was dismantled, plowed over, and planted.

December 2, 1942

Professor Enrico Fermi set up an atomic reactor at the University of Chicago and conducted the world’s first nuclear chain reaction test.

December 10, 1942

The first transport of Jews from Germany arrived at Auschwitz.

December 13, 1942

German General Erwin Rommel withdrew his forces from El Agheila in Libya in the Western Desert Campaign.

December 16, 1942

Soviets forces defeated Axis (Italian) troops on the River Don in the USSR.

December 17, 1942

British Foreign Secretary Anthony Eden reported the mass executions of Jews by the Nazis in the British House of Commons. He said the Nazis were,

now carrying into effect Hitler’s oft repeated intention to exterminate the Jewish people of Europe.

The United States then declared that the Nazi crimes would be avenged.

December 20-24, 1942

The Japanese attacked Calcutta, India in a series of air raids.

December 28, 1942

The Nazis began sterilization experiments on women at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp.

December 31, 1942

The German Navy and British Navy engaged in the Battle of the Barents Sea north of North Cape, Norway.

Emperor Hirohito of Japan gave his permission to Japanese troops to withdraw from Guadalcanal.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

German Eyewitness Account of Einsatz Executions/SS Mass Murder

Mizoch Ghetto

Theresienstadt Concentration and Transit Camp

Most recent post from the series:

Summer 1942

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Summer 1942

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1942 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1942

July 1-27, 1942

The First Battle of El Alamein began on July 1 and lasted through July 27. It was a battle fought in Egypt of the Western Desert Campaign between the Axis forces of Germany and Italy under Field Marshal Erwin Rommel and Allied forces of Britain, British India, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand of the Eighth Army.

July 2, 1942

Berlin Jews were sent to Theresienstadt, a hybrid concentration camp and ghetto established by the SS in the town of Terezín, which was located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.

July 3, 1942

Nazi forces took Sevastopol, a port in the Crimea which was the Soviet’s main naval base on the Black Sea.

July 5, 1942

Soviet resistance in the Crimea ended.

July 6, 1942

Jewish diarist Anne Frank and her family went into hiding the day after older sister Margot learned she would be deported to a Nazi work camp. The family was living in Nazi-occupied Holland, to which they had fled in 1933 to escape Nazi persecution in their native Germany. The Frank family went into hiding as the Nazis began to purge Amsterdam of its Jewish population.

July 7, 1942

Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler allowed sterilization experiments at Auschwitz.

July 9, 1942

Nazi forces began a drive toward Stalingrad in the Soviet Union.

July 14, 1942

The deportation of Dutch Jews to Auschwitz began.

July 16/17, 1942

Almost thirteen thousand Parisian Jews were sent to Drancy Internment Camp located outside Paris.

July 17/18, 1942

Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler inspected the construction and expansion of four large gas chambers and crematories at Auschwitz-Birkenau and observed the entire extermination process of two trainloads of Jews which had arrived from Holland.

July 19, 1942

Nazi leader Heinrich Himmler ordered “Operation Reinhard,” the secretive WWII German plan to exterminate German-occupied Poland’s Jews, with their mass deportation to extermination camps.

July 21, 1942

Japanese troops landed near Gona on New Guinea.

July 22, 1942

The deportation of the first Jews from the Warsaw Ghetto to concentration and extermination camps, including the extermination camp of Treblinka, began. The deportation of Belgian Jews to Auschwitz also began.

The Treblinka extermination camp opened in occupied Poland, east of Warsaw. The camp had two buildings and ten gas chambers, each chamber holding 200 persons. Initially, carbon monoxide gas was piped in from engines placed outside the chamber, but was later replaced with Zyklon-B gas. The dead were burned in open pits.

August 1942

The deportation of Croatian Jews to Auschwitz began. 

August–November 1942

American troops halted the Japanese advance towards Australia at Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.

August 1, 1942

As part of the U.S. effort to design an atomic bomb, the Army Corps of Engineers created the Manhattan Engineering District for the Manhattan Project. Temporary headquarters were established in the Manhattan area of New York. The project was initially named the “Development of Substitute Materials,” but the name was feared to draw attention.

Since Army Corps of Engineers districts often carried the name of the city where they were located, the project was officially named the “Manhattan District” on August 13 and informally known as the “Manhattan Engineer District” or MED. The official code name remained “Development of Substitute Materials.”

August 7, 1942

British General Bernard Montgomery took command of Eighth Army in North Africa.

The 1st Marine Division invaded Tulagi and Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands in the U.S.’s first amphibious landing of the Pacific War.

August 8, 1942

A day after landing, U.S. Marines took the unfinished airfield on Guadalcanal and named it Henderson Field after Midway hero Major Lofton Henderson.

General Dwight D. Eisenhower established his headquarters in the UK.

August 8/9, 1942

Overnight, eight Japanese warships sunk three U.S. Navy heavy cruisers and one destroyer and an Australian cruiser in under an hour. One more U.S. cruiser and two destroyers were damaged. Over 1,500 Allied crewmen were lost in the attack.

August 12, 1942

British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, arriving in a B-24 Liberator, met with General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union and Premier Joseph Stalin at the Moscow Conference of 1942. Churchill intended to prove to Stalin that Great Britain was committed to winning the war as an ally of the Soviet Union.

On the first day of the assembly, Churchill said,

…we will continue, hand in hand, whatever our sufferings, whatever our toils, we will continue hand in hand, like comrades and brothers until every vestige of the Nazi regime has been beaten into the ground, until the memory only of it remains as an example and a warning for a future time.

This secret mission to Moscow by Winston Churchill to meet for the first time with Joseph Stalin and establish a personal relationship made future conferences of the wartime coalition known as the “Big Three” (the UK, US, and USSR) not only possible, but productive and successful.

August 17, 1942

The US Army Air Forces made it first attack on occupied Europe. Twelve B-17E Heavy Bombers of the 97th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force were escorted by RAF (British Royal Air Force) Spitfires against the railroad marshalling yards at Rouen-Sotteville, France. Major Paul Tibbets piloted the lead aircraft with Brigadier General Ira Eaker aboard as an observer. Six other aircraft flew a diversion mission along the French coast. The mission was deemed a success with only minor damage to two aircraft.

One hundred twenty-two U.S. Marine raiders, transported by submarine, attacked Makin Atoll in the Gilbert Islands.

August 19, 1942

In “Operation Jubilee,” 6,100 British and Canadian troops raided the port of Dieppe on the Normandy coast of northern France. In almost ten hours, 1,380 troops were killed, 1,600 wounded, and 2,000 captured. The RAF (British Royal Air Force) lost 107 aircraft and the British Royal Navy lost one destroyer. German losses were considerable smaller with 345 dead or missing and 268 wounded. The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) lost only 40 aircraft. Civilian casualties were 48 dead and 100 wounded.

The 6th German Army began an attack on Stalingrad.

August 21, 1942

U.S. Marines repelled the first major Japanese ground attack on Guadalcanal as Japan attempts to retake the airfield on Guadalcanal.

August 23, 1942

Germany staged a massive air raid on Stalingrad.

August 24, 1942

The Japanese were defeated in the Battle of the Eastern Solomons between U.S. and Japanese aircraft carriers.

August 26-28, 1942

Seven thousand Jews were arrested in unoccupied France.

August 29, 1942

According to the Red Cross, Japan refused to allow safe passage of ships containing supplies for U.S. POWs.

August 30, 1942

U.S. Troops invaded Adak Island in the Aleutian Islands.

September 2, 1942

In the Battle of Alam el Halfa (August 30 – September 5) in Egypt, German General Erwin Rommel planned an attack on the British Eighth Army led by Lieutenant-General Bernard Montgomery. The British were victorious when Montgomery drove the Axis forces back and Rommel ordered a withdrawal.

September 9, 1942

At the Auschwitz concentration/extermination camp, open pit burning of bodies replaced burial.

September 9/10, 1942

In Oregon state, a Japanese floatplane bombed U.S. forests with the intent of starting a forest fire. The damage done by the “Lookout Air Raids” was minor.

September 12-14, 1942

The Allies were victorious in the Battle of Bloody Ridge on Guadalcanal (also known as the Battle of Edson’s Ridge), a land battle of the Pacific campaign between the Imperial Japanese Army and Allied ground forces, which started on September 12 and ended on September 14.

September 13, 1942

The Battle of Stalingrad began, in which the Axis powers of Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in Southern Russia.

September 15, 1942

The U.S. Navy’s aircraft carrier USS Wasp and destroyer USS O’Brien were sunk and the battleship USS North Carolina was damaged when they were torpedoed by a Japanese submarine near the Solomon Islands.

September 17, 1942

Colonel Leslie Groves, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers officer, was assigned the command of the Manhattan Project.

September 18, 1942

Food rations were reduced for Jews in Germany.

September 21, 1942

The Boeing B-29 Superfortress, a high-altitude long-range bomber, was manufactured in four main-assembly factories: two Boeing operated plants at Renton, Washington and Wichita, Kansas, a Bell Aircraft Corporation plant at Marietta, Georgia near Atlanta (“Bell-Atlanta”), and a Martin plant at Omaha, Nebraska. On September 21, the first prototype B-29 made its maiden flight from Boeing Field, Seattle.

[My Aunt Janet – my dad George Edwin Farrar’s sister – worked at Bell-Atlanta starting in March 1943.]

September 26, 1942

The Nazi SS began liquidating possessions and valuables confiscated from Jews who had been deported to the Auschwitz and Majdanek concentration and extermination camps. German currency was sent to the Reichs Bank. Foreign currency, gold, jewelry, and other valuables were sent to the SS Headquarters of the Economic Administration. Watches, clocks and pens were given to Nazi troops. Clothing was even distributed to the German public.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

The First Battle of El Alamein

Anne Frank

Manhattan Project

Moscow Conference of 1942

USAAF’s First Attack on Occupied Europe

Lookout Air Raids

Most recent post from the series:

Spring 1942

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

George Farrar, Lawrence Newbold, and Christmas 1944

During WWII, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner on a B-17 crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the United States Army Air Forces’ (USAAF) 8th Air Force. The 384th was based in Grafton Underwood, England. Dad was “Ed” to family, but in the Army Air Forces, he was known as “George.”

During the war, Lawrence Newbold was a wireless operator on an Avro Lancaster crew of the 50 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force (RAF). The 50 Squadron was based in Skellingthorpe, England. He was also known as “Lawrie” and signed a letter to my father as such (although I originally read it as “Laurie.”)

While the British Royal Air Force flew night bombing missions over Germany during WWII, the US Army Air Forces flew daytime missions. The result was constant, continuous bombardment against the Nazis in the European Theater.

On the night of March 18, 1944, Lawrence Newbold’s 50 Squadron took part in a mission to Frankfurt, Germany. In the course of the mission, his Lancaster was shot down and Lawrence bailed out over Germany. After interrogation, he was likely first confined to the Stalag Luft VI prison camp near the town of Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania), although I am not certain that was his original camp.

In July 1944, the POW’s of Stalag Luft VI were moved to the Stalag Luft IV prison camp in Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland), which had opened in May. Whether Lawrence was one of the prisoners who endured the dreadful transfer from Stalag Luft VI to IV, via crammed railroad boxcars, the dismal hold of a ship, and the torturous “run up the road” (also known as the “Heydekrug Run” – more on this subject at a later date), I do not know, but I do know at the time he was captured, Stalag Luft IV was not yet open and he was transferred there sometime on or after the opening in May 1944.

On the morning of September 28, 1944, George Farrar’s 384th Bomb Group took part in a mission to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, another of the group’s B-17’s collided with George’s. George, who was luckily wearing his parachute, was thrown from the aircraft which had split in two in the collision. After interrogation and a lengthy hospital stay, he was confined to Stalag Luft IV in late November, around Thanksgiving.

Lawrence and George were assigned to Room 12 of an unknown barracks and lager of Stalag Luft IV. Within weeks the newfound roommates would spend Christmas 1944 together. Lawrence undoubtedly would like to have been home to spend Christmas with his wife Marjorie and their son Michael, and George was likely dreaming of Christmas with his parents and eight siblings.

In a Christmas POW postcard to his mother, George wrote,

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas.  We had as good as can be expected here.

I often think of how alone and scared my dad must have been at Christmas 1944 in a prison camp with no family to comfort him. But this year I have a new perspective. This Christmas is the 75th anniversary of the Christmas Dad spent in Stalag Luft IV and I will think of it as the Christmas Dad spent with Lawrence Newbold and his POW family of “Room 12.”

This year is special because Stephen Newbold, the son of Lawrence Newbold, and I, the daughter of George Farrar, met for the first time. When I was in England for the 384th Bomb Group reunion in September, Steve and his son, Paul, and I met in the village of Grafton Underwood, where Dad’s 384th Bomb Group’s airbase was located.

Paul Newbold, Cindy Bryan, and Steve Newbold

Dad would never have believed that seventy-five years after he and Lawrence Newbold endured the horrors of imprisonment in Stalag Luft IV and the 86-day 500-mile march to liberation during WWII, their descendants would have the opportunity to meet. At our meeting, the connection was instantaneous. I predict our friendship will be long lasting and I look forward to a future visit to England which must include meeting more of Lawrence Newbold’s descendants.

Even though George and Lawrence are both gone now, our pride in the sacrifices they made for us seventy-five years ago will live on through their children, grandchildren, and many generations to come.

On this 75th anniversary of the Christmas George and Lawrence spent together in 1944, to my newfound friends, Steve and Paul Newbold, and the Newbold family members I have yet to meet, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

WWII Timeline – Spring 1942

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1942 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1942

April 1942

The first transports of Jews arrived at the Majdanek concentration and extermination camp, which was built and operated by the SS on the outskirts of the city of Lublin in German-occupied Poland.

April 1, 1942

The internment of Japanese Americans began. 

April 3, 1942

The Japanese attacked American and Filipino troops at Bataan.

April 6, 1942

The first U.S. troops arrived in Australia.

April 9, 1942

U.S. forces on Bataan surrendered unconditionally to the Japanese.

April 10, 1942

The Bataan Death March of 60,000 to 80,000 Allied POWs (American and Filipino) began. They were forced to walk sixty to seventy miles under intense heat, with no food or water, and subjected to harsh treatment by the Japanese, to prison camps. They were divided into groups of one hundred and the march took each group about five days to complete. Many thousands perished.

April 18, 1942

Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle (later General of the United States Army Air Forces) led the first U.S. bombing attack on Japan off the aircraft carrier USS Hornet. The air raid became known as the Doolittle’s Tokyo Raid.

April 20, 1942

German Jews were banned from using public transportation.

April 23, 1942

German air raids began against cathedral cities in Britain.

April 26, 1942

The Reichstag unanimously passed a decree proclaiming Hitler “Supreme Judge of the German People.” The decree officially allowed Hitler to act outside the laws of the Reich, to override the judiciary and administration in all matters, making him the final decision-maker, with the power of life and death over every German citizen.

April 29, 1942

The Japanese took central Burma.

May 1942

The Sobibor extermination camp in German-occupied Poland became operational. It had three gas chambers initially using carbon monoxide piped in from engines, but later was switched over to Zyklon-B gas.

May 1, 1942

The Japanese occupied Mandalay in Burma.

May 3, 1942

The Japanese took Tulagi in the Solomon Islands.

May 4 – 8, 1942

A major naval battle called the “Battle of the Coral Sea” was fought between the Imperial Japanese Navy and naval and air forces of the United States and Australia. Japan claimed a tactical victory since they sunk the American aircraft carrier USS Lexington, but the Japanese were not able to seize New Guinea and isolate Australia.

The Allies won a strategic victory in the Battle of the Coral Sea. It was the first time in history that two opposing aircraft carrier forces fought only using aircraft without the opposing ships ever sighting each other.

The final resting place of the USS Lexington was found March 4, 2018, more than five hundred miles off the coast of Australia seventy-six years after it was sunk in the battle.

May 5, 1942

The Japanese prepared to invade Midway and the Aleutian Islands.

May 6, 1942

The Japanese took Corregidor Island, an island located at the entrance of Manila Bay in the Philippines, as General Jonathan M. Wainwright unconditionally surrendered all U.S. and Filipino forces in the Philippines to the Empire of Japan.

May 8, 1942

The German summer offensive began in the Crimea.

May 12, 1942

The last U.S. troop holdouts in the Philippines surrendered on Mindanao.

May 15, 1942

Gasoline rationing began in the U.S.

May 18, 1942

An article included on an inside page of the New York Times reported that Nazis had exterminated over 100,000 Jews in the Baltic states, 100,000 in Poland and twice as many in western Russia by machine gun.

May 20, 1942

The Japanese completed the capture of Burma and reached India.

May 26, 1942

German General Erwin Rommel began an offensive against the Gazala Line (west of the port of Tobruk in Libya).

May 27, 1942

Czech resistance underground agents shot Reich Protector/SS Leader Reinhard Heydrich in Prague. In retaliation, all 152 members of a student group that had displayed anti-Nazi posters in Berlin on May 18, were shot.

May 30, 1942

The British RAF (Royal Air Force) launched a thousand-bomber air raid against Cologne (Köln), Germany.

June 1942 

Gas vans were used in Riga, Latvia’s capital on the Baltic Sea. Victims were sealed inside the vans and choked to death through carbon monoxide poisoning.

June 1, 1942

The Luftwaffe (German Air Force) inflicted heavy damage on Canterbury, England.

Jews in France, Holland, Belgium, Croatia, Slovakia, and Romania were ordered to wear the yellow Star of David badge.

The mass murder of Jews by gassing began at the Auschwitz extermination camp.

June 4, 1942

Reich Protector/SS Leader Reinhard Heydrich, shot May 27 by the Czech resistance in Prague, died of his wounds.

June 4-5, 1942

The British Navy and American Navy stopped the Japanese naval advance in the central Pacific at Midway. The Allied victory was the turning point in the war in the Pacific. Squadrons of U.S. torpedo planes and dive bombers from the USS Enterprise, USS Hornet, and USS Yorktown attacked and destroyed four Japanese aircraft carriers, a cruiser, and damaged another cruiser and two destroyers. The U.S. lost the Yorktown.

June 5, 1942

The Germans overwhelmed Sevastopol, a port in the Crimea on the Black Sea, in a campaign fought by the Axis powers of Germany and Romania against the Soviet Union for control of the port.

The Nazi SS reported 97,000 persons “processed” in mobile gas vans.

June 6-7, 1942

Japanese forces invaded the Aleutian Islands of Kiska and Attu.

June 9, 1942

The Japanese postponed further plans to take Midway.

June 10, 1942

The Nazis liquidated the Czech town of Lidice as a reprisal for Reinhard Heydrich’s killing in Prague. In addition to the Gestapo and SS killings of Czech agents, resistance members, and anyone suspected of being involved in Heydrich’s death (totaling over 1000 persons), the deportation of 3000 Jews from the ghetto at Theresienstadt for extermination, and the arrest in Berlin of 500 Jews, with 152 executed as a reprisal, Hitler ordered the small Czech mining village of Lidice to be liquidated on the fake charge that it had aided Heydrich’s assassins.

All 172 men and boys over age 16 in the village were shot. The women of Lidice were deported to Ravensbrück concentration camp where most died. Ninety young children were sent to the concentration camp at Gneisenau, although some deemed to be German-looking were later taken to Nazi orphanages.

The buildings in Lidice were destroyed by explosives until the village was completely leveled and not a trace remained. The soil was planted over and the village’s name removed from all German maps.

June 11, 1942

SS leader Adolf Eichmann met with representatives from France, Belgium and Holland to coordinate deportation plans for Jews.

June 21, 1942

German General Erwin Rommel captured Tobruk in Libya.

June 25, 1942

General Dwight D. Eisenhower arrived in London and took control of U.S. forces in Europe.

June 28, 1942–September 1942

German troops and Axis partners fought their way into Stalingrad (Volgograd) on the Volga River in the Soviet Union by mid-September. They secured the Crimean Peninsula and made their way deep into the Caucasus, an area situated between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea.

June 30, 1942

German General Erwin Rommel reached El Alamein near Cairo, Egypt.

The second gas chamber at Auschwitz known as Bunker II (the white farmhouse) was made operational at Birkenau due to the arrival of a large number of Jews.

June 30 (and July 2), 1942

The New York Times reported via the London Daily Telegraph that over 1,000,000 Jews had been killed by the Nazis. The story may have been the result of information passed to London and Washington in the Summer of 1942 by Swiss representatives of the World Jewish Congress regarding information they received from a German industrialist of the Nazi plan to exterminate the Jews.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

Bataan Death March

The Liquidation of Lidice

Nazi Germany Reichstag

USS Lexington Found

Most recent post from the series:

Winter 1942

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

The Little Girl in the Photo

For the longest time I wondered why my dad, George Edwin Farrar, had this photo of two airmen and three children is his small collections of photographs from WWII. There were no names or any other identifying marks on the back.

544th Bomb Squad area with Air Raid Shelter in the background. The children in the picture are the Denney children, left to right: Bert, Roy, and June.

I assumed the photo was taken on the airbase where he served in WWII, the home of the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton Underwood, England. I wondered who the airmen were, why there were children on the base, and what was in the background.

After many years of puzzling over the photo, I posted a copy of it on the 384th Bomb Group’s Facebook page. I learned that an air raid shelter was in the background of the photo. The airmen still remain to be identified, but to my surprise, a member of the Facebook group, area resident Richard Denney recognized the children.

The boy standing on the left is Richard’s father, Bert Denney. The other two children are Bert’s siblings, brother Roy and sister June. Roy had passed away, but Bert and June still lived nearby. Richard showed the photo to his dad. Bert remembered being on the base that day, but didn’t realize the photo was taken.

During WWII, the Denney family lived in the Keeper’s Lodge, which was on the base, although separated by a gate, very near the 544th Bomb Squadron living area where my dad and the rest of his crew, the John Oliver “Jay” Buslee crew was quartered.

Grafton Underwood Airfield with 544th Squadron Living Area circled – note the proximity to the Keeper’s Lodge/Denney family home

Now I knew what the structure was in the background of the photo and I knew the identities of the children. But I still didn’t know why my dad had the photo in his collection. I didn’t believe my father would have owned a camera at the time. A portion of his military service pay was being sent to his mother to help support the family as his dad was bedridden due to illness and couldn’t work. A camera would have been a luxury my dad wouldn’t have owned. So the photo was still somewhat of a puzzle.

The 384th Bomb Group Historical Association decided it was time for another junket to England and a visit to the 384th’s airbase at Grafton Underwood. As soon as the plans were completed, I signed up to go. I would have a chance to see the airbase where my dad served and maybe I could learn a little bit more about the mysterious photo.

In the time since I posted the photo to Facebook, sadly Richard’s dad Bert Denney also passed away. But the little girl in the photo, June, still lived nearby and would be in Grafton Underwood on the day of our group’s visit.

Meeting Richard Denney and his Aunt June was one of the highlights not only of the day in Grafton Underwood, but of my entire trip to the UK. It felt surreal to meet the woman who was the little girl in the mystery photograph.

Richard Denney, Cindy Bryan, and June Denney Moatt

But I still didn’t know why my dad had the photo. While visiting with Richard and June, I pulled out some photos I had brought with me of my dad and his crew. I showed June a photo of my dad and some of his enlisted crew mates and she didn’t recognize Dad or his crew mates. (Dad’s the one on the left in the photo below).

Left to right: George Edwin Farrar, Lenard Leroy Bryant, Erwin V. Foster, and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso.

Then I showed June the Buslee crew photo.

The Buslee Crew

She pointed to John Oliver “Jay” Buslee and thought she recognized him. (He’s standing on the far left in the photo). I told her his name was John Buslee and the name didn’t ring a bell, but when I told her he went by the name “Jay,” she said, “Yes, the pilot Jay. He used to come to our house for tea or a nip of wine.”

Their house. The Keeper’s Lodge. The Denney home of more than fifty years which was so close to the 544th Bomb Squadron living area. It was becoming clear. Jay Buslee took the photo of the Denney children because he knew them from visiting their home.

Bert Denney at the Keeper’s Lodge in Grafton Park Woods, home of the Denney family for nearly 50 years. Photo courtesy of Richard Denney.

June and I spent as much time as possible together on my visit to Grafton Underwood, but of course time was too short that day with a tour of the airbase planned and other people to meet. But she did share a few wartime memories with me. The window on the second floor at the end of the house (on the right in the above photo) was her bedroom window. And she remembers the day a 384th Bomb Group airman from a B-17 crashed through the then thatched roof of the shed (on the left in the photo) and survived with only a broken leg.

Now the mystery of the photo was clearing even more. I believe the 1944 photo was taken by pilot John (Jay) Buslee and given to my father, George Edwin Farrar, who was the waist gunner on Buslee’s crew, by Jay’s father. Jay was killed in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision in which my father, the only survivor, became a POW. My father lived with Jay’s family for almost 4 years after the war. Jay’s father must have wanted my dad to have some of the photos Jay had taken at Grafton Underwood and this was one of them.

I didn’t have this photo of Jay Buslee with me in England, but I’m sending June a copy so she can have a photo of the man who was a friend to her family.

John Oliver “Jay” Buslee. Photo courtesy of John Dale Kielhofer, nephew of Jay Buslee

In undoubtedly one of the highlights of my year, I was delighted to meet the little girl in the photo and learn its story while I was in the same village it was taken, where my dad was stationed seventy-five years before.

In fact, our meeting occurred on September 21, 2019, just one week short of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the day Jay Buslee lost his life in the mid-air collision, the day he left Grafton Underwood at the controls of a B-17, never to return. Though he’s been gone seventy-five years, that little girl from 1944, June Denney, still fondly remembers him.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

WWII Timeline – Winter 1942

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at January – March 1942 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Winter 1942

January 1942

At Auschwitz-Birkenau, mass killings of Jews by Zyklon-B pellets began in Bunker I (the red farmhouse).

Zyklon-B pellets, made of hydrocyanic acid, vaporized when exposed to air. The Nazis had discovered that the gas produced, which was originally intended for commercial use as a disinfectant and an insecticide, could be used to kill humans.

In their killing process, the Nazis forced the prisoners into air-tight chambers disguised to look like showers. They then dumped the Zyklon-B pellets into the room through special air shafts or openings in the ceiling. Upon being exposed to air, the pellets would vaporize and gave off a bitter almond odor. The prisoners would breathe the tainted air and the vapors would combine with their red blood cells, which deprived their bodies of oxygen, leading to unconsciousness and death through oxygen starvation.

The bodies were buried in mass graves in a nearby meadow.

January 1, 1942

Twenty-six allied nations signed the Declaration of the United Nations.

January 2, 1942

The Japanese captured Manila and the U.S. Naval base at Cavite.

January 5, 1942

Tire rationing began in the U.S.

January 7, 1942

The Japanese attacked Bataan in the Philippines.

January 11, 1942

The Japanese invaded the Dutch East Indies and Dutch Borneo.

January 13, 1942

The Germans began a U-boat offensive along the U.S. east coast.

January 16, 1942

The Japanese invaded and began an advance into Burma.

January 18, 1942

The German, Japanese, and Italian militaries signed an agreement in Berlin.

January 19, 1942

The Japanese took North Borneo.

January 20, 1942

Heinrich Himmler’s second in command of the SS, Reinhard Heydrich, convened the Nazis’ Wannsee Conference (Wannsee was a suburb of Berlin) to coordinate the “Final Solution.” Fifteen top Nazi bureaucrats and members of the SS met to determine how the Nazis would exterminate the eleven million Jews of Europe and the Soviet Union.

Heydrich declared,

Europe would be combed of Jews from east to west.

The minutes of the meeting (read the full minutes via a link at the bottom of this post) were taken by Adolf Eichmann, but Heydrich edited them and substituted the Nazis’ coded language in reference to lethal actions against the Jews. For example,

“…eliminated by natural causes,” meant death by hard labor and starvation.

“…transported to the east,” referred to mass deportations to ghettos in occupied Poland, then on to the gas chamber.

“…treated accordingly,” referred to execution by SS firing squad or death by gas, also sometimes referred to as “special treatment” or “special actions.”

January 21, 1942

Erwin Rommel began a counter-offensive from El Agheila.

January 23, 1942

The Japanese took Rabaul on New Britain in the Solomon Islands and invaded Bougainville, the largest island.

January 26, 1942

The first American forces arrived in Great Britain.

January 27, 1942

The first Japanese warship to be destroyed by the US Navy, I-73, was sunk by a U.S. submarine, the USS Gudgeon.

January 30/31, 1942

The British withdrew into Singapore, beginning the siege of Singapore.

January 31, 1942

SS Einsatzgruppe A (a paramilitary death squad) reported a total of 229,052 Jews killed.

February 1, 1942

Mass deportations of Jews from Western Europe to Poland’s extermination camps began.

The first U.S. aircraft carrier offensive of the war occurred as the USS Yorktown and USS Enterprise conducted air raids on Japanese bases in the Gilbert and Marshall Islands.

February 2, 1942

The Japanese invaded Java in the Dutch East Indies.

February 8/9, 1942

The Japanese invaded Singapore.

February 14, 1942

The Japanese invaded Sumatra in the Dutch East Indies.

February 15, 1942

The British surrendered to the Japanese at Singapore which had one million civilian inhabitants. Winston Churchill called it the “worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history” with nine thousand British, Australian, and other British Empire troops killed and 130,000 captured by the Japanese.

February 19, 1942

Japan staged their largest air raid since Pearl Harbor against Darwin, Australia.

The Japanese invaded Bali.

U.S. President Roosevelt issued Executive Order 9066, which authorized the internment of Japanese and Japanese Americans along the West Coast.

February 20, 1942

Lt. Edward Henry “Butch” O’Hare, for whom Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport was later named, became the Navy’s first flying ace when he single-handedly attacked a wave of nine Japanese heavy bombers approaching his aircraft carrier, the USS Lexington off Rabaul. He managed to shoot down five of the enemy bombers.

[Two months later, on April 21, 1942, O’Hare became the first naval recipient of WWII’s Medal of Honor. On November 26, 1943, O’Hare was killed defending the USS Enterprise. See more about Edward O’Hare via the link below].

U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt ordered General MacArthur out of the Philippines.

February 23, 1942

The first Japanese attack on the U.S. mainland occurred near Santa Barbara, California when a Japanese submarine shelled an oil refinery.

February 24, 1942

The U.S. aircraft carrier USS Enterprise attacked the Japanese on Wake Island.

February 26, 1942

The U.S.’s first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley, was sunk by Japanese bombers.

February 27 – March 1, 1942

Allied naval forces were heavily damaged by the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Battle of the Java Sea, including the sinking of America’s largest warship in the Far East, the USS Houston.

March 1942

The Belzec extermination camp became operational in occupied Poland. The permanent gas chambers first had engines placed outside the chamber and carbon monoxide was piped into the chambers. Later Zyklon-B gas was used in exterminations.

March 4, 1942

Two Japanese “flying boats” bombed Pearl Harbor.

The USS Enterprise attacked Marcus Island, only a thousand miles from Japan.

March 7, 1942

The British evacuated Rangoon in Burma.

The Japanese invaded Salamaua and Lae on New Guinea.

March 8, 1942

The Dutch on Java surrendered to the Japanese.

Japanese forces captured Rangoon, evacuated by the British just the day before.

March 9, 1942

The Dutch East Indies surrendered to the Japanese.

March 11, 1942

Under orders from U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt, U.S. General Douglas MacArthur left Corregidor in the Philippines. Left behind were 90,000 American and Filipino troops who would soon fall to the Japanese. MacArthur and his family were flown to Australia. General Jonathan Wainwright became the new U.S. senior field commander of all U.S. and Filipino forces in the Philippine Islands.

March 13, 1942

U.S. Army Air Force airmen arrived in Karachi, India as America entered the China-Burma-India theater. [George Edwin Farrar’s older brother Carroll was stationed in Burma during the war as part of the 315th Air Service Squadron].

March 17, 1942

Jews were deported from Lublin, Poland to the Belzec extermination camp. Twenty-thousand were murdered in the camp by the end of the month.

March 18, 1942

U.S. President Roosevelt appointed General Douglas MacArthur commander of the Southwest Pacific Theater.

The U.S. War Relocation Authority was established. The Authority led to nearly 120,000 Japanese-Americans and resident Japanese to be forcefully transported to ten barb-wired internment camps. Despite this, over 17,000 Japanese-Americans signed up to fight for the U.S. in World War II in Europe, including the 442nd Regimental Combat Team, which was the most decorated unit in U.S. history.

March 23, 1942

The Japanese invaded the Andaman Islands in the Bay of Bengal.

March 24, 1942

U.S. Navy Admiral Chester Nimitz was appointed Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific theater.

March 24, 1942

The deportation of Slovak Jews to Auschwitz began.

March 27, 1942

The deportation of French Jews to Auschwitz began.

March 28, 1942

German Nazi politician Ernst Friedrich Christoph “Fritz” Sauckel was named Chief of Manpower to expedite recruitment of slave labor.

March 30, 1942

The first trainloads of Jews from Paris arrived at Auschwitz.

Sources:

This series of posts is based on a compilation of timelines from:

The Holocaust Encyclopedia

The History Place:

The National WWII Museum Interactive Timeline

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

The History Place: Full meeting minutes of the Wannsee Conference

Wikipedia: Edward O’Hare

Wikipedia: 442nd Regimental Combat Team

Most recent post from the series:

Fall 1941

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

Military Research – Part 3 of 3

Military Research, continued from Part 1 and Part 2

Alternate Sources of Military Information

Ok, so let’s say you either couldn’t find a copy of your relative’s separation documents, or you could, but still want to learn more. You may be able to piece together information from other sources. Other places to look are:

Genealogy websites like Ancestry

Ancestry.com and other genealogical sites often return military records like,

  • Enlistment records (but will not include serial number)
  • Draft registration cards
  • Navy muster rolls
  • Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS death file record, which includes branch of service, enlistment date, and release date
  • Prisoner of War records

Fold3 military research website

Fold3.com is a paid site (on its own or with an Ancestry membership) for military information, but does offer a free basic membership so you can see what records are available before deciding whether to purchase a subscription or not. They also offer a 7-day free trial during which you can access everything. In my area, the local Mormon Church research library carries a subscription to Fold3, which I can use for free by visiting their location.

Fold3 does contain a lot of military records, even Missing Air Crew reports from the Army Air Forces, which you may not find on Ancestry.com.

The National Archives online search tool

The online electronic military records in the archival databases of NARA include,

  • World War II Army and Army Air Forces enlistment records (including serial number – see Note below)
  • World War II prisoner of war records
  • Korean War casualties, records of dead and wounded
  • Korean War prisoner of war records
  • Vietnam Conflict records of dead, missing in action, and prisoners of war
  • Vietnam Conflict records of awards and decorations of honor
  • Vietnam Conflict Army ground combat operations records, air sorties, and records about hostile fire against US and Australian warships
  • Civil War records
  • Cold War records

For detail on how to get started with your NARA online search, review the Getting Started Guide.

For information about what you can find in the National Archives’ online military records by era, visit

https://www.archives.gov/research/military/veterans/online

The NARA online search screen basic search, accessed through https://aad.archives.gov/aad/

Results screens

Selection list for enlistment records

If too many records are returned, you may “Search within a field” to narrow down the results. You may narrow results by ASN, Name, Residence State, Residence County, Place of Enlistment, Date of Enlistment Year, Source of Army Personnel, and Year of Birth.

Enlistment record

POW record

American Air Museum in Britain

This site describes itself as

The American Air Museum website records the stories of the men and women of the US Army Air Forces (USAAF) who served their country from the UK in the Second World War. It also records the memories of the British people who befriended them. Browse, edit and upload your own photographs and memories to help us build an online memorial to their lives.

Scroll down the home page to the Getting Started article or further down to search the Archives of People, Aircraft, Places, Missions, Units, and Media (photographs). In the People category, you do not have to fill in any search information other than the name in the Keyword field to begin your search.

If you know your relative served in the 8th Air Force in England in WWII, you may find much more information like group and squadron assignments, base location, names of crew mates, and mission detail.

Individual Unit/Group websites

Once you have discovered the exact unit or group of the military in which your relative served, use Google to see if any of the group’s records are shared online. For example, my father’s group, the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII, has a very detailed site dedicated to the group and the individuals who served in it. The site contains extensive records of personnel, missions, aircraft, etc., and a large photo gallery.

The 384th Bomb Group’s Web Site

My dad’s personnel record

The 384th Bomb Group’s Photo Gallery

Facebook groups

Many WWII groups of NexGens have Facebook groups to connect with others whose relatives served in the same group/unit. Group researchers will offer assistance with questions and help with research once you become a member of the group.

384th Bomber Group Facebook Group

Memorial websites

Headstones and obituaries sometimes include branch of service or even unit/group information.

  • Legacy.com may have an obituary that includes the group or unit of a deceased serviceman or veteran.
  • Findagrave.com may have a memorial or photo of the headstone that includes group or unit information.

Unit/Group Histories

If your military research takes you into researching unit histories, you may find information at:

National WWII Memorial Registry

The online registry may provide some information.

Uniform and Insignia/Decoration Clues in Photos

You may be able to determine your relative’s unit or group or at least branch, rank, and specialty through uniforms worn in wartime photos.

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner) with Armament patch, Sebastiano Peluso (radioman), and Lenard Bryant (top turret gunner/engineer) with Engineering patch. Patch identifications courtesy of Keith Ellefson.

Patches top left to bottom:  Communications, Armament, Photography, Engineering, and Weather from www.militaryspecialtiesinc.com:

 

Books and Articles

You can find old and new books with lots of military historical information. Of course, they likely won’t mention your relative specifically, but may fill you in on the history of the unit or group. Other than Amazon and eBay, search for used books on Abebooks and Alibris.

Military Times posted a good article on obtaining missing military records and awards here. And note the photo at the top of the article of a preservation technician restoring military personnel records damaged during the July 12, 1973 fire. More records are recovered every day.

Attend Military Historical Association Reunions, Connect with Veterans, and Connect with Other NexGens and Researchers

Many questions about a relative’s military history just can’t be answered through military records or information found online. Reach out to the historical association and attend one of their reunions. You will be able to talk face to face with veterans of the group. Their numbers are dwindling, so the sooner the better. By listening to the experiences of those who served in the same group as your relative, you will better understand the experiences of your relative.

You may even find yourself on the cover of the association’s magazine!

Start a Blog

If you can’t find enough information, let it find you. Start a blog – I suggest WordPress.com – and start writing about and posting all the information and names you have. Make sure to tag the information for which you think someone else might search. Include “Contact Me” information, specifically an e-mail address, and allow comments so it’s easy to be reached. I have had tremendous success connecting with relatives of airmen I write about in my blog. With every connection, my picture of my dad’s WWII service becomes a bit more complete.

Home page of TheArrowheadClub.com

Note

A note about the Army Serial Number (ASN). At the time of enlistment, an 8-digit ASN was assigned. However, if your relative became an officer, he/she would have been reassigned a new ASN beginning with O- and followed by 6 digits. The enlistment record will include only the original serial number, not the reassigned officer serial number.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

Military Research – Part 2 of 3

Military Research, continued from Part 1

Most of my military research experience is WWII-related, primarily Army Air Forces and secondarily Navy research, and therefore it will be the focus of my suggestions here. If you are researching a different timeframe or branch, hopefully you will be able to apply some of my methods to your own search.

Researching Military History – Where to Start

Who are you researching?

Gather copies of the information you have – documents, letters, and military photos – on the person you want to research. Write down the stories you remember hearing. Every bit of biographical data you can record – full name, parents’ names, birth date, birth place, state of residence when joining the service, military service/serial number (see note below regarding ASN), and branch and location of service, if known – will become helpful in finding out more.

What do you want to learn?

Are you looking for basic information like branch and dates of service, or do you want to dig deeper and learn about training and military occupations, the exact unit and location, battles, awards, and decorations?

What do you want to do with this knowledge?

Just something to think about, but your answer will probably determine just how much research you want to do…

  • It’s personal? Maybe you just wanted to know and that’s enough.
  • Do you want to record your family history for future generations?
  • Do you want to connect with other next generation members (NexGens), share your knowledge, and learn more about your common family history?

Resources – Where to Look

There are several places to start that will likely just scratch the surface of the information you can find. If you already have an interest in genealogical research, once you get going, you may find yourself digging deeper and deeper for more knowledge.

First things first

If you have separation papers, you are way ahead of the game. Known today as the DD 214, the separation document before 1950 was form WD AGO, so if you’re looking for WWII Army or Army Air Forces records, look for an Honorable Discharge certificate and Enlisted Record and Report of Separation WD AGO Form 53-55. Accompanying this form for the Army and Army Air Force branch should be the Army of the United States Separation Qualification Record, indicated as WD AGO Form 100. Here’s the information I found on each form:

Honorable Discharge certificate

  • Name
  • Army Serial Number (ASN)
  • Rank
  • Group
  • Branch of Service
  • Place and Date of discharge

Enlisted Record and Report of Separation includes above and adds

  • Home address
  • Date of birth
  • Identifying features
  • Civilian occupation (prior to service)
  • Military history including enlistment date and place
  • Military occupational specialty
  • Battles and campaigns
  • Decorations and citations
  • Wounds received in action (date)
  • Dates of service outside the United States
  • Service schools attended

The Separation Qualification Record offers more detail on

  • Military occupational assignments
  • Military education
  • Civilian education
  • Civilian occupation

I have never found these documents available online. If you don’t have this document for the relative you’re researching, it may be obtained two ways. Separation documents can be ordered through the National Archives or possibly through the county courthouse records of the home county of the veteran.

WWII Navy separation records were a bit different. A handwritten record may be found in the seaman’s Naval Reserve Service Record booklet. The Navy Notice of Separation from the U.S. Naval Service form is NAVPERS-553. WWII Navy separation papers listed rate and class, Navy service number, place and date of separation from active service, and length of foreign or sea service in WWII.

Keep in mind, though, if you are researching a relative killed in WWII, there won’t be a separation document, and all of its detailed information in one place, for that serviceman/woman.

What kind of information is available through the National Archives?

For an overview and answers to general questions regarding Research Using Military Records, visit https://www.archives.gov/veterans, or specifically,

Obtaining Military Service Records from the National Archives’ National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)

You can search for military personnel records stored at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Missouri by mail or in person. I have done both.

Alternately, you could hire an independent researcher at the NPRC. A list of researchers is available on the website.

You may or may not find the records you seek at the St. Louis NPRC. A fire in 1973 destroyed the majority of Army and Air Force personnel records, so no or very few documents could still be available for your search. Navy records were not affected by the fire.

If you opt to visit the NPRC in St. Louis, you can make your own copies by photographing available records for free. You must schedule an appointment and request records well in advance, though, so records can be made ready for your visit.

Camera stands are available for your use and the research staff at the center is very helpful. The quality of photographic images can be much better than copy machine copies if you have a good camera to use for the task. Even cell phone cameras can record high quality images, but I found the cell phone stands the NPRC had available at the time not to work very well. I would take a cell phone camera tripod mount attachment if I were to return to gather more records, although it may not be allowed in the records room.

Other than a personal visit to the NPRC in St. Louis, records may be requested online, by mail, or by fax. Available records are separation documents, personnel records, replacement medals, and medical/health records.

The online process of requesting records is accomplished using the eVetRecs process and is not completely digital. Once you request records through eVetRecs, you must either mail or fax your written signature. From

https://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records

begin by clicking “Start Form Online (then Print and Mail).” If you prefer to completely fill out a paper form by hand to mail or fax, click “Mail or Fax Form.” The link will direct you to a page to print out the SF-180 Form. Or you can order the form through the mail by sending a request to National Personnel Records Center, 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138.

Generally, archival records of military personnel are open to the public 62 years after the serviceperson has left the military, which includes most WWII veterans unless they pursued military careers after the war. But if the person you’re researching did have a long military career and/or separated from the military less than 62 years ago, their non-archival records are only open to the veteran and the veteran’s next-of-kin. See this further explanation from the NPRC.

While most requests from the NPRC are for only a copy of the separation documents, about ten percent request a copy of the entire file, as I did. Since the 1970’s the center’s standard procedure for requests for entire files has been to provide only copies of key documents and vital information. However, for files more than sixty-two years old – as are the archival files of WWII veterans – all documents are provided if requested.

Some of the information contained in a personnel file could include separation documents, military service dates, character of service, promotions and reductions, duty stations and assignments, foreign or sea service, military schooling and training, awards and letters of commendation, disciplinary actions, lost time, enlistment contract, entry and separation physical exams, immunizations, dental examinations, and clinical summaries.

I already had a copy of my dad’s separation documents. My interest in obtaining his entire file was mainly to see medical records and his physical condition after his liberation as a prisoner of war. I had read that the prisoners that were liberated on the Black March were not weighed or their deteriorated conditions recorded in their medical records. I had some unanswered questions and hoped to find some of those answers in his service record.

I started, like many others, with an online request through eVetRecs for my dad’s entire service file.

My Personal Experience Obtaining Military Records

I requested my dad’s records online through eVetRecs and mailed the signature verification on September 10, 2014. Maximum wait time was supposed to be ninety days, by December 9, 2014.

I received a letter on January 21, 2015 from an NPRC archives technician. Unfortunately,

The complete Official Military Personnel File for the veteran named above is not in our files. If the record were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in the area that suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed.

However, the letter stated that the NPRC had reconstructed some of my dad’s service record which I could obtain for $70. I only had thirty days to decide and opted to order the reconstructed records.

To read more detail about my personal experience obtaining military records, read this previous post.

Military Records Received

I received fifteen pages of copies from the NPRC shortly after they mailed them on February 18, 2015, in addition to a letter noting that “the copy quality is the best that can be obtained.”

The documents included copies of:

  • Informal Information Reply (a reply for information requested by my mother, dated October 31, 1994)
  • A copy of the envelope in which my mother mailed a request for records on September 28, 1994 (exactly 50 years after my dad’s mid-air collision).
  • Request Pertaining to Military Records (filled out by my mother, her request for my father’s “Military history, where trained and where sent overseas, also record of being a Prisoner of War in Germany, dates and camps, and what battles.” She noted her purpose for the request was “Since he is deceased, we would like to have the Military history to include in our Family history and for the benefit of me and our children. Also what medals issued.”)
  • Instructions
  • Two National Archives and Records Administration MPR Finding Aid Reports (one noted NOT Found and the other noted some unexplained codes regarding an SGO Hospital List)
  • Army of the United States Honorable Discharge certificate and Enlisted Record and Report of Separation, Honorable Discharge form (copies of Dad’s original separation documents provided by my mother)
  • Army of the United States Separation Qualification Record (copies of Dad’s original separation documents provided by my mother)
  • 2 Transmittal of and/or Entitlement to Awards forms (one noting approval of the Prisoner of War medal, the other unreadable)
  • Veteran Identification Screen printout
  • National Archives and Records Administration – National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records), dated 8/23/88 (the same information as on the National Archives and Records Administration MPR Finding Aid Report)
  • Prisoner of War (POW) Medal Application/Information form (my mother’s 1988 application for a posthumous POW medal for my dad)

To read more detail about the military records I received from the NPRC, read this previous post.

A Visit to the NPRC

In 2016, my husband and I attended the 8th Air Force Historical Society’s reunion in St. Louis. We arrived a couple of days early and I spent two days in the NPRC’s records room copying the service files of thirty-four WWII servicemen. In my dad’s file, I found a few documents that weren’t included in the records I received from my previous request by mail.

  • Final Payment Worksheet (when my dad received his final pay at discharge)
  • US Army SGO Hospitalization File Listing 1945
  • Information from Hospitalization Admission Cards Created 8/30/2016 … Information for the Year 1945.

The last form (according to the document’s date, apparently created after I had requested records by mail) was a good find and told me that after Dad’s liberation (which was May 2, 1945), he was treated in a field hospital, and then was admitted on May 14, 1945 to an unidentified hospital for ten days. His type of case was classified as “Disease” and his initial diagnosis was “Acute Tonsillitis.” I consider this an incredible diagnosis for a man who had been forced to march over 500 miles in 86 days with very little food. And no, there was no mention of his weight or further description of his condition.

I would have liked to have found much, much more information on my dad’s years of service in the Army Air Forces, but this is all that is left of his official military personnel record.

Finding Separation Documents at the County Courthouse

If you do not have your relative’s separation documents and it is unavailable through the NPRC because of the 1973 fire, the only alternate method of obtaining it that I know of is to check with the county courthouse of the county in which he/she returned from WWII.

My dad followed orders and had his separation documents recorded at the courthouse of his county upon his return home. This stamp appears at the bottom of his Honorable Discharge certificate.

Note

A note about the Army Serial Number (ASN). At the time of enlistment, an 8-digit ASN was assigned. However, if your relative became an officer, he/she would have been reassigned a new ASN beginning with O- and followed by 6 digits.

To be continued with Military Research Part 3…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

Military Research – Part 1 of 3

How did I get interested in military research?

When I was a child, my dad often told me a story at bedtime that I doubt many other kids growing up in America ever heard. Dad’s story was about a time when he was in the service in WWII that his plane was “knocked down.” He was a waist gunner aboard one of the Mighty Eighth Air Force’s B-17’s and on September 28, 1944, another B-17 in the formation collided with his over Germany.

My dad’s B-17 split in half. He was knocked unconscious and was thrown from the ship in the impact. There isn’t a lot of room on a B-17 and most of the airmen didn’t wear their chutes. They mostly used chest chutes rather than parachutes worn on the back and would generally wear only the harness, keeping the chute nearby so they could grab it quickly if they needed it. My dad was wearing his that day, but not completely hooked up to the harness.

Free-falling toward earth, he woke up when he heard his mother call his name, something he always included in his story, but never mentioned in official reports. He hooked up and opened his chute, and then passed out again. When he woke up again, he was on the ground and an old woman was beating him with a stick.

As I got older, the telling of the story stopped, but I would never forget it and the images it had burned into my mind.

In 2011, a cousin who had also heard the story growing up was living in the Netherlands and she and her husband were touring the American military cemeteries of Europe. She thought of my dad and his story and asked for the name of his unit and the date and location of his last mission.

I had a box of dad’s military documents and letters, and gave her the info. He was in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England and his last mission was to Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944.

My cousin, Terry, performed an internet search and found dad’s record on the 384th Bomb Group’s website. I hadn’t thought about my dad’s WWII service in years – he had died in 1982 at the age of 61 – and I wasn’t even aware of the website. Not only did I find a list of all of his missions, I found the Missing Air Crew Report for the mid-air collision. Scrolling through the pages, I found Dad’s official statement in his own handwriting.

Dad’s story. It was so familiar. He continued with a question, a request, that led me into my research of Dad and his crew mates and the airmen on the B-17 that collided with his. What happened to the boys, and something he didn’t ask, why.

While this was a great find and gave me much more detail of the information I had on my dad’s military career, it was not the find that almost knocked me out of my chair.

Terry found a narrative of Dad’s story on the internet, too. Only it wasn’t told by my dad. It was told by a man named Wallace Storey, a WWII pilot who witnessed it happen right in front of him. I read and re-read Wallace Storey’s account, not believing it possible to hear Dad’s story twenty-nine years after he died.

Wallace Storey was flying co-pilot in the right-hand cockpit seat in his crew’s B-17 that day and had the controls at the time of the collision. In an excerpt from his book, A Pair of Silver Wings and the Eighth Air Force, which I read online, he wrote:

Flak was extremely heavy that day and the Wing had been somewhat disrupted by the heavy opposition. We found ourselves on a crossing course with another Group and just after “bombs away” the lead ship made a sharp descending right turn. Our high element, being on the inside of this steep turn, had to move quickly by reducing power while climbing slightly.

Glancing to my right, I saw that “Lazy Daisy” was sliding toward me. I pulled back on the control column to climb out of her path while keeping my eye on the #2 ship of the lead element, Lt. Buslee [the pilot of the plane my dad was on] … on whose wing our element was flying.

I yelled to Gross [the pilot of Storey’s plane in the cockpit’s left seat] to watch for him to come out on the other side and, sure enough, he slid under us and right into Buslee in the lead element.

I watched the two planes as they collided. It cut [Buslee’s plane] in half and the wings on [“Lazy Daisy”] folded up and both planes fell in a fireball. They were 18 men lost in those two ships. We didn’t see any chutes as we continued our turn to the right.

Copyright (C) 2002—Lt/Col. Wallace A. Storey

After reading his account, I found Wallace Storey and spoke to him on the phone. Then I visited him at his home and sat next to him as he told me the story.

Cindy Farrar Bryan and Wallace A. Storey, June 2011

He gave me contact information for a few relatives of the two crews, and I have since discovered more through Facebook. I started the blog to share transcripts of the letters I had from the families of the boys missing in action on my father’s plane. Relatives found the letters online and contacted me.

My interest in military research has grown, but mainly centers around the two crews involved in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision, my dad’s bomb group, and other bomb groups of the Mighty Eighth Air Force based in England in WWII. I have been attending reunions in the US since 2014 and in September this year traveled to England to tour my dad’s base at Grafton Underwood.

I help other NexGens (next generation members) start their own research and have even had a hand in connecting British children and grandchildren to their American families. It seems some of the American airmen who served in England left more than their footprints behind.

For more information on Wallace Storey, see this December 11, 2013 post, this December 13, 2013 post and this December 16, 2013 post. Wallace Storey’s A Pair of Silver Wings and the Eighth Air Force may be downloaded from the 384th Bomb Group’s Stories page.

The excerpt from his book, A Pair of Silver Wings and the Eighth Air Force by Lt. Col. Wallace Storey, USAF (Ret.) and Mrs. Martha L. Storey, is provided for use on The Arrowhead Club website by the kind permission of the authors, who assert full ownership of copyright for the material. Use of this material is limited to the following provisions.  This excerpt is intended for unrestricted private use. Please copy and use as needed to support your WWII research. If you wish to incorporate this information in a commercial product of any kind, request authorization from Lt. Col. Wallace Storey, USAF (Ret.) in advance.

To be continued with Military Research parts 2 and 3…

With the exception of material in this post copyrighted by Wallace A. Storey, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019