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The Boxcars

Seventy-five years ago in the month of March 1945, the POW’s of Stalag Luft IV continued their forced march across Germany which they had begun the previous month on February 6. Traveling on foot with very little food was so very difficult that when they saw an opportunity to travel by rail, it was seen to be a welcome relief. Instead, it turned out to be likely one of the most horrific parts of their journey.

For these men who completed the march and eventually gained their liberation and freedom, nightmares of this time in their lives would likely include these few days of the eighty-six day total when they were loaded into 40 x 8 boxcars for a short journey deep into hell.

Joseph P. O’Donnell, the Stalag Luft IV POW who recorded his experience and that of fellow POW’s in the Shoe Leather Express books, included many individual stories of the boxcars in both the first book in the series, The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany, and the second book, The Shoe Leather Express – Book II -Luftgangsters Marching Across Germany.

* * * * *

Joe O’Donnell wrote of his personal experience that on Day 51, March 28, 1945, his group arrived at the town of Ebstorf, a small town west of the Elbe River. At 3 PM, he was loaded onto a 40 x 8 boxcar with sixty-four other POW’s. A 40 x 8 boxcar is a train or rail car that is designed to carry forty men or 8 head of cattle.

They, and other groups of sixty or more POW’s, were jammed into the cars and the doors locked shut. Although the sick were allowed to lie down, and there were many sick, the remainder of the men had to take turns standing and sitting as there was not room for all to sit at the same time.

At first, the men were relieved that they would be able to ride rather than walk to their next destination, but relief soon turned to horror when they realized that the boxcars were more dangerous than the road. The boxcars did not move for more than ten hours except for occasional movements of 100 to 200 yards back and forth from their original position.

The boxcars had no markings on them, nothing that allied aircraft could see from the air, to indicate they were filled with allied POW’s. Aerial activity in the area was considerable and train movements were prime targets of allied aircraft. O’Donnell considered their confinement in the boxcars to be an intentional plan of the Germans to have the POW’s killed by the strafings and bombings from their own aircraft.

Aside from the fear of the POW’s inside the boxcars, the conditions inside were unbearable as the men had nowhere to urinate or defecate other than the boxcar floor, although some were able to break through holes in the floor for the purpose. On top of this, many were stricken with chronic dysentery.

After forty hours of confinement in the boxcars, the trains moved out toward Fallingbostel on March 30, 1945, for a thirty-mile journey. The men were not allowed out of the boxcars or provided with drinking water for the entire trip.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 22

* * * * *

Bob Richards, Jr. (8th AF, 392nd BG, 577th Bomb Squadron) from Hanover, Pennsylvania, and John Hargrove (445th BG, 702nd Bomb Squadron) from Delran, New Jersey, noted in their personal journals that they were loaded into the 40 x 8 boxcars also on March 28, but in Hohenbunftorf, and traveled to Uelsen. However, they reported that only fifty men were confined in each car in which they spent two days and nights.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 35

* * * * *

Walter V. Lawrence (8th AF, 44th BG, 506th Bomb Squadron) was on the March 28 train ride to Fallingbostel in the 40 x 8 boxcars.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, pages 39/40

* * * * *

Lawrence “Larry” S. Moses (8th AF, 452nd BG, 728th Bomb Squadron) reported in his log that he left Uelzen by 40 x 8 boxcars on March 28, 1945 and arrived at Altengrabow, Stalag IIA, on March 30. (Although his date chart indicates he left Hohenbonstorf on the 28th, arrived Uelzen the same day, left Uelzen on the 29th, and arrived Altengrabow on the 30th).

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, pages 43/44

* * * * *

Louis Wayne Dirickson (9th AF, 409th BG (Light), 643rd Bomb Squadron):

3/28/45 – Walked 7 kilometers to Ebstorf and 1 1/2 kilometers to the train station. Loaded into boxcars (60/car) at 1:30 P.M. we were given 3/8 loaf of bread and 1/5 of a 3/4 lb. of margarine for three days.

3/29/45 – Sat all night in the boxcars, all of today and part of the evening, without moving an inch. Jerries gave us 2 buckets of water for 60 men and nothing to eat. Started moving at 11 P.M.

3/30/45 – Arrived at Station at 12 o’clock – walked 2 kilometers to Stalag XIB located at Fallingbostel – got inside the camp at 3 P.M. (100 men to a tent). Got a carrot and barley soup at 6 P.M. Darn good.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 49

* * * * *

Dr. Leslie Caplan provided testimony to Lt. Col. William C. Hoffman of the War Crimes Office on December 31, 1947, stating:

At 1500 hours on 28 March 1945 a large number of our men were loaded on freight cars at Ebbsdorf, Germany. We were forced in at the rate of 60 men or more to a car. This was so crowded that there was not enough room for all men to sit at the same time. We remained in these jammed boxcars until 0030 hours March 30, 1945 when our train left Ebbsdorf. During this 33 hour period few men were allowed out of the cars for the cars were sealed shut most of the time. The suffering this caused was unnecessary for there was a pump with a good supply of water in the railroad yards a short distance from the train. At one time I was allowed to fetch some water for a few of our men who were suffering from dysentery. Many men had dysentery at the time and the hardship of being confined to the freight cars was aggravated by the filth and stench resulting from men who had to urinate and defecate inside the cars. We did not get off these freight cars until we reached Fallingbostel around noon of 30 March 1945 and then we marched to Stalag IIB. The freight cars we were transported in had no marking on them to indicate that they were occupied by helpless prisoners of war. There was considerable aerial activity in the area at the time and there was a good chance of being strafed.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 70

* * * * *

Joseph P. O’Donnell, in a section named “Kriegie Land,” related an undated summarized log entry which followed his March 30, 1945 entry. I am not certain if this was O’Donnell’s personal log or that of another prisoner.

We boarded boxcars at Ebstorf. We got on at 3 o’clock P.M. 60 men to a car. We stayed in the car all that night, next day, that night, another day and night. I arrived here [Stalag XIB, Fallingbustel] the next day at 12 NOON.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 86

* * * * *

Tom Farrow (8th AF, 384th BG, 547th Bomb Squadron), walking with fellow 384th-er Ray Jablonski, wrote,

On Tuesday, the 27th of March, our group, numbering about 400, was crowded into boxcars, about 100 to a car designed to hold 40. We were given a quarter loaf of bread and the doors were shut and locked. The train started immediately but only for that day. We were stopped all night, the next day and night. The car had very small windows at each end for ventilation but was not enough to overcome the stench of diarrhea and vomit that soon covered the floor. There was not enough room for everyone to sit down, so we sat with our knees drawn up with another P.O.W. leaning on our knees.

On Thursday evening we began moving slowly through the night, stopping on Good Friday morning. The doors were opened and everyone struggled out, gulping fresh air. I never knew completely about the casualties of the trip. Everyone in our car made it, but a least two in the next car had died. We were marched to a very large camp to a compound of Russian workers. Large tents had been erected but there were no beds or straw.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book II, page 32

* * * * *

James W. McCloskey of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, wrote in his log that he was loaded in a boxcar (48 in each) on March 17, 1945, rode all day on March 18 and 19, was in Hamburg Station on March 20 and received 1/2 bread, 1/3 margerine, and wurst, then arrived at Fallingbostel, Stalag 357, on March 21.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book II, page 86

* * * * *

Harry Liniger (8th AF, 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squadron) boarded a train to Fallingbostel on March 28, 1945. I wrote about Harry’s experience almost five years ago and you can read it in its entirety here. Harry used a cigarette paper to record this piece of his POW history,

51 day on the road.  Boarded train at 2PM March 28.  Recd [received] 3/8 of a loaf of bread per man.  60 men on a car.

* * * * *

I don’t know if all of the POW’s on the march from Stalag Luft IV had this same experience, but many of them were forced to endure a train ride through hell on the road to their liberation and freedom.

Upon capture, the Germans would tell their prisoners, “For you, the war is over.” I don’t think that statement was the least bit accurate. These men were living the war every single day, even in captivity. For these men, the war wasn’t over until their liberation and return to civilian life, and for some of them, the war would never end until the end of life itself.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Summer 1943

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at July – September 1943 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Summer 1943

July 5, 1943

The Germans launched a massive tank offensive called “Operation Citadel” near Kursk in the Soviet Union. It was the largest tank battle in history. The operation ended with a Soviet victory.

A U.S. B-17 bomber crew accidentally bombed Boise City, Oklahoma when the pilots performing target practice mistook the lights on the town square for their training target. Only practice bombs were used and the square was empty at the time (12:30 a.m). There were no fatalities.

July 8, 1943

B-24 Liberators flying from Midway Island bombed the Japanese on Wake Island.

July 9/10, 1943

The Allied invasion called “Operation Husky” began when US and British troops landed on the Italian island of Sicily.

July 19, 1943

The Allies bombed Rome.

July 22, 1943

The Americans, led by General George S. Patton and the U.S. 7th Army captured Palermo, Sicily.

July 24, 1943

The British carried out a bombing raid on Hamburg.

July 25, 1943 

Italian Marshal Pietro Badoglio formed a new government in Italy after the Fascist regime in Italy ended upon the deposition and arrest of Benito Mussolini.

July 27/28, 1943

An Allied air raid caused a firestorm in Hamburg.

August 1943

Exterminations ceased at the Treblinka extermination camp after an estimated 870,000 deaths.

August 1-2, 1944

A group of fifteen American PT boats attempted to block Japanese convoys south of Kolombangra Island in the Solomon Islands. PT-109, which was commanded by future American President, then Lieutenant, John F. Kennedy, was rammed and sunk by the Japanese Cruiser AMAGIRI, resulting in two killed and others badly injured. The remaining crew survived, including one badly injured man who Kennedy aided by towing him to a nearby atoll.

August 2, 1943

During an uprising at the Treblinka extermination camp, Jewish prisoners destroyed the camp’s gas chambers and two hundred Jews escaped. The Nazis hunted down the escapees one by one.

August 6, 1943

The Battle of Vella Lavella, an island in the Solomon Islands, between the Japanese and Allied forces from New Zealand and the United States began.

August 12-17, 1943

The Allies gained control of Sicily as the Germans evacuated.

August 16, 1943

The Bialystok, Poland Ghetto was liquidated. Remaining inhabitants were sent to the death camps at Majdanek and Treblinka.

August 17, 1943

In “Operation Husky,” the Allies reached Messina, Sicily.

The Americans held daylight air raids on Regensburg and Schweinfurt in Germany, known to the 8th Air Force as the “First Schweinfurt” mission. According to the Mission Comments on 384thBombGroup.com,

The 384th Bombardment Group (H) flew as the low group of the 202nd Provisional Combat Bomb Wing on today’s mission. The mission was planned as a ‘Double Strike’ against Schweinfurt-Regensburg industrial plants. [Note: contrary to the implication in naming the raid, Schweinfurt and Regensburg are not neighboring cities; they are, in fact, over 100 miles apart.] The first air strike task force was supplied by the 4th Bomb Wing, which took off late due to heavy fog: they could still reach Africa by dark, but just barely. The second task force – the 1st Bomb Wing, including the 384th BG – was scheduled to take off 90-minutes after the 4th BW, to ensure the enemy fighters had exhausted their fuel and would be limited in their ability to mount a defense. In the event, the 1st BW was repeatedly delayed, also by weather, for almost four hours, allowing the enemy pilots ample time to refuel, rearm (and have a meal, if they wished!). As a consequence, losses were heavy. Both forces, however, inflicted enormous damage on their assigned targets, but the cost was immense.

August 19, 1943

Klaus Fuchs, a Soviet spy, joined the Manhattan Project.

August 23, 1943

Soviet troops recaptured Kharkov.

August 25, 1943

The Allies completed the occupation of New Georgia.

August 28, 1943

Japanese resistance on New Guinea ended.

September 1943

The Vilna and Minsk Ghettos were liquidated.

September 4, 1943

The Allies recaptured Lae-Salamaua, New Guinea.

September 8, 1943 

German forces rushed to Italy as Italy’s Badoglio government unconditionally surrendered to the Allies.

September 9, 1943

The Allies landed on the beaches of Salerno, Italy near Naples, and at Taranto, Italy.

September 11, 1943

The Germans seized control of and occupied Rome, and central and northern Italy, which contained about 35,000 Jews.

Jewish family transports from Theresienstadt (a concentration camp/ghetto established by the SS in the fortress town of Terezín, located in the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia) to Auschwitz began.

September 12, 1943

German paratroopers/commandos freed Benito Mussolini from imprisonment.

September 13, 1943

The Chinese Parliament elected General Chiang Kai-shek president of the Chinese Republic.

September 20, 1943

From September 20 into October 1943, approximately 7,200 Danish Jews escaped to Sweden with the help of the Danish resistance movement.

September 23, 1943

The Germans established a puppet Fascist regime under Mussolini in Italy.

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.

384th Bomb Group: First Schweinfurt Raid

Most recent post from the series:

Spring 1943

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

USAAF 8th Air Force Bomber Bases (Heavy)

When I visited England in September 2019, our group of 384th Bomb Group veterans and next generation (NexGen) members visited the airfield museum of the 100th Bomb Group, also known as the Bloody Hundredth, at Thorpe Abbotts. While there, I picked up this list of the heavy bomber (B-17 and B-24) bases in England during WWII.

USAAF 8th Air Force Bomber Bases (Heavy) in England During WWII
Photo courtesy of the 100th Bomb Group Historical Association and Airfield Museum at Thorpe Abbotts

The graphics on the list, which is one of the nicest lists I’ve seen of all the groups, illustrate how the aircraft of different bomber groups were distinguished from one another by their tail fin and wing markings, using a symbol (traingle, circle, or square) combined with a group letter.

The aircraft of 1st Air Division B-17 groups were marked with a triangle. The aircraft of 2nd Air Division B-24 groups were marked with a circle. And the aircraft of 3rd Air Division B-17 groups were marked with a square or box.

The 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England, of which my dad was a waist gunner in the war, can be found in the far left column of the 1st Air Division and used the marking of the Triangle P. The painting below of the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 42-31740 by Ron Leigh shows a good example of the marking on the tail fin.

Painting by Ron Leigh. This 546th Squadron aircraft was shot down on 9 April 1944. Courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website and photo gallery.

Keeping the show on the road…

Triangle P tail symbol of the 384th Bomb Group
Photo courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group Website and Photo Gallery

Notes

  • The 482nd Bomb Group was a radar-equipped Pathfinder group.
  • The 34th, 490th, and 493rd Bomb Groups converted from B-24’s to B-17’s in the summer of 1944.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Spring 1943

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at April – June 1943 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Spring 1943

April 4, 1943

A newly built gas chamber and Crematoria V became operational at Auschwitz.

April 6/7, 1943

Axis forces in Tunisia began withdrawing toward Enfidaville, in northeastern Tunisia, from American and British forces.

April 9, 1943

Exterminations at the Chelmno termination camp temporarily ceased, although it would be reactivated in the spring of 1944.

April 18, 1943

Japanese Fleet Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was shot down and killed by American P-38’s over the Solomon Islands after U.S. code breakers were able to locate him flying in a Japanese bomber near Bougainville. (Yamamoto planned and executed the attack on Pearl Harbor).

April 19-30

Representatives from the United States and Britain met in Hamilton, Bermuda for the Bermuda Conference. They discussed Jewish refugees from Nazi-occupied countries, but declined any assistance to those liberated by the Allies or those who still remained under Nazi control.

April 19, 1943

In the spring of 1943, Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (SS), ordered the SS to conduct a “special action” against the Jews remaining in the Warsaw Ghetto to clear it out.

On April 19, the Waffen SS (the military rather than the domestic branch of the SS) launched a major attack against the Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto. It was a Monday and was the eve of Passover. Twelve hundred Jews armed with pistols, rifles, a few machine guns, grenades, and Molotov cocktails (which had been smuggled into the ghetto) were attacked by over two thousand of SS General Jürgen Stroop’s Waffen SS soldiers, heavily armed with tanks, artillery, and flame throwers.

The first attack left twelve Nazis dead and the Jewish fighters escaped capture by retreating through hidden passageways, cellars, and sewers. By the fifth day, SS General Stroop, on the orders of Himmler, decided to burn the entire ghetto. The Jews in Warsaw managed to resist for a total of twenty-eight days.

April 21, 1943

American President Franklin Roosevelt announced that the Japanese had executed several airmen from the Doolittle Raid (aka the Tokyo Raid, the air raid of April 18, 1942 by the United States on the Japanese capital of Tokyo, led by Lieutenant Colonel James Doolittle).

April 22, 1943

Japan announced that captured Allied pilots will be given “one way tickets to hell.”

April 30, 1943

The British launched Operation Mincemeat. In the operation, a corpse was dressed as a British military officer carrying fake war plans and released off the coast of Spain. He was given the identity of Major William Martin of Britain’s Royal Marines. The fake plans indicated that the Allies would attack Greece and Sardinia rather than Sicily as expected. The ruse successfully diverted Axis defenses.

May 1943

SS doctor Josef Mengele, who would perform deadly experiments on prisoners, arrived at Auschwitz Concentration Camp.

May 1, 1943

In May of 1943, known as “Black May,” the Allies sank thirty-eight German U-boats. It was considered a turning point in the Battle of the Atlantic.

May 7, 1943

The Allies took Tunisia.

May 10, 1943

U.S. Troops invaded the Japanese-held island of Attu in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands.

May 13, 1943

German and Italian troops of the Axis powers surrendered to the Allies in Tunisia, bringing an end to the North African campaign.

May 14, 1943

A Japanese submarine sank Australian hospital ship Centaur off the coast of Queensland, Australia. Of the 332 medical personnel and civilian crew aboard, 268 died (299 in another report), including 63 of the 65 army personnel aboard.

May 16, 1943

Jewish resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto ended. SS General Jürgen Stroop reported,

The former Jewish quarter of Warsaw is no longer in existence. The large scale action was terminated at 2015 hours by blowing up the Warsaw synagogue…Total number of Jews dealt with: 56,065, including both Jews caught and Jews whose extermination can be proved.

Polish sources estimated that in the uprising, three hundred Germans were killed and one thousand were wounded.

May 16/17, 1943

The British carried out an air raid on the Ruhr.

May 19, 1943

The Nazis declared Berlin to be Judenfrei (cleansed of Jews).

May 22, 1943

Supreme Command of the German Navy, Admiral Karl Dönitz, suspended U-boat operations in the North Atlantic.

May 31, 1943

The Japanese ended their occupation of Alaska’s Aleutian Islands when the U.S. completed the capture of Attu.

June 1, 1943

The United States began submarine warfare against Japanese shipping.

June 3, 1943

Actor Leslie Howard, who played Ashley Wilkes in the movie Gone with the Wind, was aboard a plane shot down by the German Luftwaffe over the Bay of Biscay and killed along with sixteen others aboard. The Times (British daily national newspaper based in London) reported the news of Howard’s death and the death of Major William Martin (the fake name given to the corpse in Operation Mincement) in the same issue.

June 10, 1943

Operation Pointblank (or the Pointblank Directive) was issued regarding Allied bombing strategy. It ordered the Eighth Air Force (of which my dad would become a member in the 384th Bomb Group) to destroy the German aviation industry and gain air superiority over the continent of Europe.

June 11, 1943

SS Reichsführer Heinrich Himmler ordered the liquidation, or destruction, of all Jewish ghettos in occupied Poland.

June 21, 1943

The Allies advanced to New Georgia in the Solomon Islands.

June 25, 1943

A newly built gas chamber and Crematory III became operational at Auschwitz. With its completion, the four new crematories at Auschwitz had a daily capacity of 4,756 bodies.

June 30, 1943

The U.S. launched Operation Cartwheel, a combined operation by Supreme Allied Commander in the South West Pacific Area (SWPA) General Douglas MacArthur, and United States Navy Admiral William F. Halsey, Jr., then in command of the South Pacific Area, to neutralize the Japanese base on Rabaul.

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.

Auschwitz Concentration Camp: The Gas Chambers and Crematoria

The Warsaw Ghetto

Operation Mincemeat

Most recent post from the series:

Winter 1943

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Crewmates, Part 2 of 2

Continued from Crewmates, Part 1 of 2…

Photos of my dad, George Edwin Farrar, and the 32 airmen he flew missions with on B-17’s in WWII

Albrecht, David Franklin

Co-Pilot
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

David Franklin Albrecht

Andersen, Gerald Lee

Tail Gunner
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

Gerald Lee Andersen

Bryant, Lenard Leroy

Top Turret Gunner
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

Lenard Leroy Bryant

Buslee, John Oliver

Pilot
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

John Oliver “Jay” Buslee

Davis, James Buford

Bombardier
Completed Tour

James Buford Davis, second bombardier of the John Buslee crew

Fairfield, William Adelbert

Commander
Completed Tour

William A. Fairfield

Farrar, George Edwin (my dad)

Waist Gunner
Prisoner of War – Stalag Luft IV, September 28, 1944

George Edwin Farrar

Foster, Erwin Vernon

Ball Turret Gunner
Completed Tour

Erwin Vernon Foster

Fryden, Marvin

Bombardier
Killed in Action, August 5, 1944

Possibly Marvin Fryden

Galloway, Leonard (NMI)

Navigator
Completed Tour

Leonard Galloway

Henson, William Alvin

Navigator
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

William Alvin Henson II

Jacobs, Edward Gregory

Navigator
Prisoner of War, November 16, 1944
Edward Gregory Jacobs was part of the Dale McKinney crew and is likely in this photo, but unidentified. Individual photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Dale M McKinney Crew. All unidentified except:
Albert Richard Macuch (flexible gunner): second row, second from left.
Donald George Springsted (co-pilot): first row second from left.

Jacobson, George John

Navigator
Completed Tour

George John Jacobson

La Chine, Lloyd Earl

Tail Gunner
Completed Tour

LLoyd E. La Chine

Leschak, Nickolas

Togglier
Completed Tour

Nickolas (or Nicholas) Leschak

Lord, Kenneth Smith

Navigator
Completed Tour

Kenneth S. Lord

Lucynski, Eugene Daniel

Tail Gunner
Wounded in Action, September 19, 1944

Eugene Daniel Lucynski

Macuch, Albert Richard

Tail Gunner
Wounded in Action, November 16, 1944

Albert Richard Macuch

McMann, George Francis

Ball Turret Gunner
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944
Photo unavailable.  If you have one to share, please contact me.

Meyer, Melvin J

Radio Operator
Completed Tour
Melvin J Meyer was part of the Dale McKinney crew and is likely in the crew photo above, but unidentified. Individual photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Miller, Irving L

Ball Turret Gunner
Completed Tour

Irving L. Miller

Mitchell, Robert McKinley

Ball Turret Gunner
Completed Tour

Robert McKinley Mitchell

Murphy, William C

Top Turret Gunner
Killed in Action, November 16, 1944
William C Murphy was part of the Dale McKinney crew and is likely in the crew photo above, but unidentified. Individual photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Peluso, Sebastiano Joseph

Radio Operator
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Reed, William M

Pilot
Completed Tour
Photo unavailable.  If you have one to share, please contact me.

Rybarczyk, Chester Anthony

Navigator
Completed Tour

Chester Anthony Rybarczyk

Seeley, Clarence Benjamin

Top Turret Gunner
Completed Tour

Clarence Benjamin “Ben” Seeley

Sherriff, Albert Keith

Radio Operator
Completed Tour

Albert K. Sherriff

Shwery, Arthur J

Pilot/Training Mission
Completed Tour

Arthur Shwery

Springsted, Donald George

Co-Pilot
Completed Tour
Donald George Springsted was part of the Dale McKinney crew and is identified in the crew photo above. Otherwise, individual photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Donald George Springstead

Stearns, Robert Sumner

Bombardier
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944
Military era photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

(Possibly) Robert Sumner Stearns

Ward, Donald L

Bombardier
Completed Tour

Donald L. Ward

Watson, Paul Leland

Ball Turret Gunner
Prisoner of War – Stalag Luft IV, November 16, 1944
Military era photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Paul Leland Watson Washington Iowa HS 1941 Yearbook Photo (Freshman)

Photos courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s personal collection and that of the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Crewmates, Part 1 of 2

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner on a B-17 crew based in England during WWII. I have written extensively about his bomb group, the 384th of the 8th Army Air Force, his base in Grafton Underwood, and his crew piloted by John Oliver “Jay” Buslee.

While many people are familiar with the makeup of a B-17 crew, many are unaware that by the time that Daddy was flying his missions, a B-17 crew was generally made up of nine airmen instead of ten. The crew positions were:

  1. Pilot
  2. Co-pilot
  3. Navigator
  4. Bombardier
  5. Radio Operator
  6. Engineer/Top Turret Gunner
  7. Ball Turret Gunner
  8. Tail Gunner
  9. Waist Gunner (originally two were assigned to each crew, but during Daddy’s time, the crews flew with only one)

And the crews on each mission were not always made up of the same original crew members that were trained together and assigned to the group together. In fact, on the sixteen missions my father completed before becoming a POW, he served with thirty-two different crewmates.

I have written about them before, so today will be a recap, a list only, of who they were. I’ll follow up next week with Part 2 which will include a photo of each man.

6 Crewmates who served in the cockpit of the B-17:  Commanders, Pilots, and Co-Pilots

  • Buslee, John Oliver, 15 missions
  • Albrecht, David Franklin, 13 missions
  • Fairfield, William Adelbert, 1 mission
  • Reed, William M, 1 mission
  • Shwery, Arthur J, 1 mission
  • Springsted, Donald George, 1 mission

11 Crewmates who served in the nose of the B-17:  Navigators, Bombardiers, and Toggliers

  • Davis, James Buford, 11 missions
  • Rybarczyk, Chester Anthony, 9 missions
  • Henson, William Alvin, 3 missions
  • Stearns, Robert Sumner, 2 missions
  • Fryden, Marvin, 1 mission
  • Galloway, Leonard (NMI), 1 mission
  • Jacobs, Edward Gregory, 1 mission
  • Jacobson, George John, 1 mission
  • Leschak, Nickolas, 1 mission
  • Lord, Kenneth Smith, 1 mission
  • Ward, Donald L, 1 mission

3 Crewmates who served in the radio room of the B-17: Radio Operators

  • Peluso, Sebastiano Joseph, 14 missions
  • Meyer, Melvin J, 1 mission
  • Sherriff, Albert Keith, 1 mission

3 Crewmates who served in the top turret just behind the pilots of the B-17:  Engineers/Top Turret Gunners

  • Bryant, Lenard Leroy, 14 missions
  • Murphy, William C, 1 mission
  • Seeley, Clarence Benjamin, 1 mission

5 Crewmates who served in the ball turret of the B-17: Ball Turret Gunners

  • Foster, Erwin Vernon, 6 missions
  • Miller, Irving L, 5 missions
  • Mitchell, Robert McKinley, 2 missions
  • Watson, Paul Leland, 2 missions
  • McMann, George Francis, 1 mission

4 Crewmates who served in the tail of the B-17: Tail Gunners

  • Lucynski, Eugene Daniel, 11 missions
  • Andersen, Gerald Lee, 3 missions
  • La Chine, Lloyd Earl, 1 mission
  • Macuch, Albert Richard, 1 mission

To be continued next week…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

WWII Timeline – Winter 1943

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at January – March 1943 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Winter 1943

1943

The Nazi SS Einsatzgruppen passed the one million mark in number of Jews murdered. Slave laborers were used to dig up the buried bodies and burn them to remove all traces of the crime.

January 2, 1943

The Allies took Buna in New Guinea in the War in the Pacific. 

January 2/3, 1943

The Germans began to withdraw from the Caucasus (also known as Caucasia), an area located between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, and mainly occupied by Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Russia.

January 10, 1943

The Soviets began an offensive against the Germans in Stalingrad, Russia.

January 14-24, 1943

Both US President Franklin D. Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill attended the Casablanca Conference at the Anfa Hotel in Casablanca, Morocco to plan the Allies’ European strategy for the next phase of World War II.

Roosevelt announced the war could only end with  the unconditional surrender of Germany, Italy, and Japan, which Churchill endorsed.

Generals Charles de Gaulle and Henri Giraud also attended, representing the Free French forces, but Soviet Premier Joseph Stalin declined due to the ongoing Battle of Stalingrad.

January 18, 1943

Jews in the Warsaw (Poland) Ghetto began their first resistance in an uprising after realizing that “resettlement” was a German ruse to lead them to their deaths.

January 22, 1943

The Allies defeated the Japanese at Sanananda on New Guinea.

January 23, 1943

General Bernard Montgomery’s British Eighth Army took Tripoli in North Africa.

January 27, 1943

The US Eighth Army Air Force conducted its first bombing raid from bases in England against Germany. The target was the port of Wilhelmshaven.

January 29, 1943

The Nazis ordered the arrest of all Gypsies and sent them to extermination camps.

January 30, 1943

Senior Nazi official Ernst Kaltenbrunner succeeded Reinhard Heydrich, who had been assassinated in June 1942, as head of the RSHA (Reichssicherheitshauptamt, the Reich Main Security Office).

February 1943

The Romanian government proposed the transfer of 70,000 Jews to Palestine to the Allies, but Britain and the US did not respond.

Greek Jews were ordered into ghettos.

February 1, 1943

Japan began the evacuation of Guadalcanal.

February 2, 1943

After the capture of German commanding officer Field Marshall Friedrich Paulus on January 31, the remainder of his 6th Army surrendered to the Soviets in Stalingrad. It was the first big defeat of Hitler’s armies.

February 8, 1943

In Burma, also known as Myanmar, in Southeast Asia, British-Indian forces began guerrilla operations against the Japanese.

February 9, 1943

The Japanese resistance on Guadalcanal ended.

February 14-25, 1943

The Battle of Kasserine Pass, between US 1st Armored Division and German Panzers, took place in Tunisia, North Africa. Kasserine Pass is a two-mile-wide gap in the Grand Dorsal chain of the Atlas Mountains.

February 16, 1943

The Soviets recaptured Kharkov.

February 18, 1943

The Nazis arrested the White Rose resistance leaders in Munich. The White Rose group was a non-violent, intellectual group of students who attended the University of Munich.

In Oak Ridge, Tennessee, construction began on a uranium enrichment facility.

A prototype of Boeing’s B-29 Superfortress bomber that took off from Boeing Field in Seattle crashed into the Frye Packing Plant. The crew of eleven and nineteen of the meat-processing factory workers perished. Although the event could not be concealed, the identity of the aircraft (which was the type to later drop the first atomic bombs on Japan, the Enola Gay) remained classified until the end of World War II.

February 22, 1943

White Rose anti-Nazi resistance leaders Christoph Probst and Hans and Sophie Scholl were tried and sentenced to death by guillotine. Their sentences were carried out that day at Stadelheim Prison in Munich.

February 251943

Twenty-four hour or “round-the-clock” bombing schedule started with USAAF planes bombing Germany in the daytime while the RAF bombed at night.

February 27, 1943

Jews working in the Berlin armaments industry were sent to Auschwitz.

March 1943

The deportation of Greek Jews to Auschwitz began and lasted until August, totaling 49,900 persons.

March 1, 1943

American Jews held a rally at Madison Square Garden in New York City with hopes of pressuring the U.S. government to help the Jews of Europe.

The U.S. began processed food rationing.

March 2, 1943

German forces began their withdrawal from Tunisia, Africa.

March 2-4, 1944

Aircraft of the US Fifth Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force attacked a Japanese convoy moving troops to Lae, New Guinea, defeating the Japanese in the Battle of the Bismarck Sea in the southwest Pacific.

March 13, 1943

An attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life failed when a bomb made of plastic explosives failed.

March 14, 1943

Between June 1942 and March 1943, the Jewish Krakow Ghetto was liquidated with inhabitants either killed in the streets, sent to the Płaszów slave-labor camp, Auschwitz concentration camp, or Belzec extermination camp.

March 15, 1943

German forces re-captured Kharkov, the second largest city in the Ukraine (also known as Kharkiv), from the Soviets.

March 16-20, 1943

At the climax of the Battle of the Atlantic, twenty-seven merchant ships were sunk by German U-boats, Unterseeboot (undersea boat/German submarines) in one week.

March 21, 1943

Another attempt on Adolf Hitler’s life, this time by suicide bomber, failed when Hitler left the area before the bomb could be detonated.

March 17, 1943

Bulgaria openly opposed deportation of its Jews.

March 20-28, 1943

General Bernard Montgomery’s British Eighth Army broke through the Mareth Line in Tunisia, Africa.

March 22, 1943

Gas chamber and Crematoria IV became operational at Auschwitz.

March 31, 1943

Gas chamber and Crematoria II became operational 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.

Wikipedia:  Krakow Ghetto

Auschwitz Concentration Camp: The Gas Chambers and Crematoria

B-29 Prototype Crash

Plots to Kill Hitler

Most recent post from the series:

Fall 1942

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

The Black March Begins

The March of the POWs, of which my father George Edwin Farrar was one, from Stalag Luft IV began 75 years ago on February 6, 1945. It continued for 86 days and covered 500 miles across Pomerania and Germany.

Joseph P. O’Donnell, one of the Stalag Luft IV POW’s and the author of the Shoe Leather Express books wrote in his first volume, The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany, about the evacuation of the prison camp and the 86-day 500-mile march of which my father, George Edwin Farrar, was a part.

When I was a child, Daddy told me that he had been in a POW camp and had to march across Germany, but the details were too horrific for a father to tell his young daughter. I did not learn the horrors of what he had endured until many years after he died. Those I learned from the books of Joseph O’Donnell, Candy Kyler Brown, Laura Edge, and David Dorfmeier, and from the memories, written and oral, of some of the participants.

Joseph O’Donnell wrote in the opening pages of his first volume that,

By February 3, 1945, the front line was 45 miles south of Luft IV and extended to the Oder River, 40 miles east of Berlin…

With the Russian Red Army moving so close to the POW camp, it was a time of uncertainty for the prisoners. Would they be liberated by the Russians? Would they all be executed before the Red Army’s arrival? Would they evacuate the camp ahead of the Russians? Most expected an evacuation, but it was not a certainty.

O’Donnell continued,

We knew our evacuation was imminent as the Russians were advancing from the east. We could look through the cracks in the shutters over the windows and see the flashes from the artillery; and if the wind was right, we could hear the artillery at the front. My estimation was that we were less than 30 miles from the front lines.

Early on the morning of February 5, 1945, seventy-five years ago today, an announcement was made that the POWs would not evacuate the camp. But at 10 a.m., another announcement was made that they would be moving out the next morning.

The prisoners were told that they would be walking for three days. They were each given 1/3 loaf of bread and were allowed to take as many Red Cross parcels as they wanted. With each parcel weighing eleven pounds, the prisoners were forced to discard what they couldn’t comfortably carry.

Joseph O’Donnell wrote that the first day’s march was uneventful, and that they walked eighteen kilometers, a little over eleven miles.

But for men who were already malnourished, injured, and otherwise in poor physical shape from their confinement, this was no easy task.

Knowing that my father was one of the men packing up and marching out of the camp exactly seventy-five years ago sends a chill down my spine. To this point, he had already survived a mid-air collision (the sole survivor of his crew), an attack by German civilians after he parachuted to the ground, injuries requiring a two-month hospital stay, and months in the prison camp with very little food.

At twenty-three years old, survival was his main goal in life. Marching through the gates of the prison camp must have seemed overwhelming, with a mix of a sense of freedom with the uncertainty of what lay ahead. A yearning to see his family again kept him placing one foot in front of the other for the next eighty-six days.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Minor Accident of War

Seventy-five years ago, on February 3, 1945, one of the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17’s, The Challenger, was badly damaged on a mission to Berlin, and during the return flight to England, went down in the North Sea. Only one of the crew survives today, Edward Field, the WWII Army Air Forces navigator turned poet.

Twenty years after the ditching, Edward Field wrote and published the poem, World War II, which describes the tragic events of the day. It first appeared in his second book, Variety Photoplays, in 1967 and was included in the 2003 Library of America anthology of World War II poems, Poets of World War II.

Last year, Edward’s niece, Diane Fredel-Weis, assembled a team to bring Edward’s poem, World War II, to life on the big screen. Diane is, among other things, a former creative Disney marketing executive and an Emmy award-winning writer and producer. As Executive Producer of the film, Minor Accident of War, Diane led a team of world-class artists to create an animated short film from Edward’s poem, which Edward narrates.

The film’s website presents a trailer of the film, introductions to the team, a list of upcoming screenings, information and photos about the making of the film, a biography – including photos and writing credits – of Edward Field, and the text of Edward’s poem, World War II.

Screenings at film festivals are regularly added to the web site, so check back often to find when it will be playing in your area.

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans is hosting a reception, screening of the film, and panel discussion with Edward Field and the filmmakers on the 75th anniversary of the ditching on February 3, 2020 from 5 to 7pm at the museum’s Solomon Victory Theater at 945 Magazine St, New Orleans, LA 70130. Tickets are complimentary, but registration is required.

As of this writing, the film has won many awards, notably…

  • Studio City Film Festival, Best Short Documentary, 2019
  • Los Angeles Animation Festival, Best Animated Documentary, 2019
  • Chicago International REEL Shorts Film Festival, Best Short Film, 2019
  • Big Apple Film Festival, Best Animated Film, 2019
  • Spotlight Documentary Film Awards, Atlanta, GA, Spotlight Gold Award, December 2019
  • Miami Jewish Film Festival, Best Short Film, 2020

…and I’m sure there will be many more.

Edward Field survived the ditching thanks to fellow crew mate Jack Coleman Cook, the ship’s ball turret gunner.

I have written extensively about Edward Field and Jack Coleman Cook and am delighted to attend the event in New Orleans and honored to participate in the panel discussion.

Jack Coleman Cook’s past still intrigues me and I continue to spend many hours attempting to find his family origins prior to his adoption. Recent research seems to be leading me in the right direction, but only time will tell.

Regardless of whether I am successful or not in my continued research of Jack, I’d like to recap my research history here as a refresher, maybe as much for me as you since I will likely need to answer questions about Jack’s history in New Orleans. It’s been a while since I’ve delved into the details of Jack’s short life.

In November 2016, the poet Edward Field became an airman again. Edward sent this e-mail to the webmaster and researchers (of which I am one) of the 384th Bomb Group (historical) website, 384thBombGroup.com,

I’m a veteran of WWII who was stationed at Grafton Underwood Airfield in England during WWII and flew 27 bombing missions over Europe in B17s as Navigator.  I’m writing about our ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook, to find out if there’s any way of getting him a posthumous award for bravery.  He saved my life on our third mission over Germany when we crashed in the North Sea. Attached is a poem I’ve written about the ditching that describes the circumstances of his death – the poem is included in the Library of America anthology of war poems and also has appeared in several of my own books.  I’m 92 now, and feel something should be done to credit Jack Cook’s incredible act of bravery.

Edward Field (2nd Lt., 0-2065887)
546th Bombardment Squadron
384th Bomb Group

Seven months earlier, I had published a series of articles about all of the 384th Bomb Group airmen who are still listed as Missing in Action. When I read the e-mail, the names Edward Field and Jack Coleman Cook registered immediately as part of my story about radio operator Fred Maki who was washed away in the North Sea after the ditching of February 3, 1945. Recalling the co-pilot’s narrative of the events, I remembered thinking exactly as Edward described, “something should be done to credit Jack Cook’s incredible act of bravery.”

But at the time I wrote the MIA articles, Jack Coleman Cook was not the focus of my research and I left the thought as unfinished business that perhaps someday I would follow up on. Edward’s e-mail renewed my interest in honoring Jack Cook and I realized it was something I had to do, especially when the man who benefited from Jack’s bravery asked for help to do so.

Not easily finding a solution to our quest, I eventually sought the advice and help of two friends who were also NexGen’s (next generation – children) of 384th Bomb Group airmen. Frank Alfter, son of waist and tail gunner Glen Edward Alfter, and Todd Touton, son of pilot William F. Touton.

Frank told me how he honored another airman of the 384th for saving his father’s life during a mission with a Proclamation on the Floor of the House of Representatives.

Todd, who wrote the music to and performed Damn Yankee, the music of my 384th Bomb Group tribute video), along with his Washington, D.C. friends Evan Wallach (who wrote the lyrics to Damn Yankee) and David Olive (who was originally from Arkansas, Jack Cook’s home state), put me in touch with Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman’s office.

In April 2018, Edward and I met in Washington, D.C., and were proud to watch Congressman Bruce Westerman and Congressman Jerry Nadler honor Jack Coleman Cook on the Floor of the House of Representatives with two proclamations.

I can’t tell the entire story again here, but if you follow the links below, you can learn more about the journey to honor Jack.

Links to previous posts and other information about Jack Coleman Cook and Edward Field

All of the Edward Field and Jack Coleman Cook blog posts compiled into one PDF document

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

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