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WWII Combat Chronology – 28 September 1944

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

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

Today’s installment is the 28 September 1944 mission in which the Buslee crew and Brodie crew participated and were both lost in a mid-air collision.


WWII Combat Chronology – Thursday, 28 September 1944

384th BG Mission 201/8th AF Mission 652 to Magdeburg, Germany.

Target: Industry, Steelworks.

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

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

Nearly 1,000 HBs attack 2 synthetic oil plants, a motor plant, and city area—all in or near Magdeburg, Kassel, and Merseburg plus T/Os in C Germany including Eschwege A/F. 15 supporting ftr gps claim 26 aircraft destroyed. Over 30 HBs fail to return. Nearly 200 B-24’s carry fuel to France.

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

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

STRATEGIC OPERATIONS (Eighth Air Force):  Two missions were flown.

  1. Mission 652 to oil and military vehicle factories in C Germany. The Buslee and Brodie crews participated in this mission and both were lost in a mid-air collision.
  2. Mission 653, a leaflet drop in France, the Netherlands, and Germany during the night.

Also, B-24s fly a TRUCKIN’ mission to France with fuel. The 374th, 375th and 376th Fighter Squadrons, 361st Fighter Group, move from Bottisham to Little Walden, England with P-51s.

Mission 652: 1,049 bombers and 724 fighters are dispatched to hit oil and military vehicle factories in C Germany using PFF means; they claim 37-8-18 Luftwaffe aircraft; 34 bombers and 7 fighters are lost:

  1. 445 B-17s are dispatched to hit the Magdeburg/Rothensee oil refinery (23); 359 hit the secondary at Magdeburg and 35 hit targets of opportunity; they claim 10-7-5 aircraft; 23 B-17s are lost, 2 damaged beyond repair and 126 damaged; 8 airmen are WIA and 208 MIA. Escort is provided by 263 P-38s and P-51s; they claim 24-0-13 aircraft in the air and 1-0-0 on the ground; 5 P-51s are lost, 1 damaged beyond repair and 4 damaged; 5 pilots are MIA.

  2. 342 B-17s are dispatched to hit the Merseburg/Leuna oil refinery (301); 10 others hit targets of opportunity; 10 B-17s are lost, 4 damaged beyond repair and 251 damaged; 4 airmen are KIA, 15 WIA and 92 MIA. Escort is provided by 212 of 231 P-51s; they claim 2-1-0 aircraft in the air; 1 P-51 is lost (pilot MIA).

  3. 262 B-24s are dispatched to hit the Kassel/Henschel motor transport plant (243); 1 hits a target of opportunity; 1 B-24 is lost and 86 damaged; 10 airmen are MIA. Escort is provided by 171 of 195 P-47s; 1 P-47s is lost and 3 damaged; 1 pilot is MIA.

Note

This is the final post in this series. Although some of the Buslee crew members (Chester Rybarczyk, James Davis, Clarence Seeley, Erwin Foster, and Eugene Lucynski) and Brodie crew members (William Barnes and William Taylor)  served in the 384th Bomb Group past this mission, I have limited combat chronology coverage here to only those missions leading up to and including the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944.

Links/Sources

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

The Evacuation of Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I (Barth)

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

My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the only survivor of the Buslee ship. George Hawkins (navigator), Harry Liniger (waist gunner), and Wilfred Miller (tail gunner) were the only survivors of the Brodie ship. As an officer, Hawkins would have been sent to an officers’ POW camp in Germany, but he was seriously injured and was held in a hospital setting for prisoners instead.

Farrar, Liniger, and Miller – all enlisted men of the USAAF – were sent to a POW camp for enlisted men only, Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland). With the Russian Army advancing toward the camp in January 1945, the Germans made the decision to evacuate the camp. The majority of the prisoners in the camp were marched out the gates of the camp on February 6, 1945 and were herded at gunpoint across Pomerania and Germany for the next 86 days, covering over 500 miles on foot and by boxcar.

However, not all of the POW’s of Stalag Luft IV made this march. Many were too sick or injured to undertake the trek and other prisoners who were able-bodied enough to do so were selected to be moved, mostly by train, to another POW camp, Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany.

George Farrar and Harry Liniger were both part of the group of POW marchers. Wilfred Miller was part of the POW group sent to Barth. I have written previously about the march and will write more about it in the future, but today I want to share recent information I have learned about the evacuation to Barth by train.

The POW camp of origin of Farrar, Liniger, and Miller was Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now known as Tychowo, Poland). It was about 25 miles or 40 km south of the Baltic Sea coastline.

Stalag Luft I was located two miles northwest of the village of Barth, Germany, on the Baltic Sea. The direct distance, “as the crow flies”, between Luft I and Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow is approximately 144 miles or 232 km, with Luft I being northwest of Luft IV.

Map of 28 September 1944 Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision and crash sites, Stalag Luft IV POW camp, and Stalag Luft I (Barth) POW camp
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

Train Ride to Barth

However, the prisoners were not marched to Barth. Rather they were moved by rail in boxcars. According to former Stalag Luft IV prisoner Joseph P. O’Donnell’s book, The Shoe Leather Express – The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany on pages 34,

Stalag Luft I was located on the Baltic Sea at Barth at 13° Longitude and 54° Latitude and approximately 175 miles from Grosstychow by the 40 and 8 via Stettin.

The prisoners were moved from Luft IV to Luft I by train, and more specifically in “40 and 8” boxcars. A Forty-and-Eight boxcar is of a size that should hold 40 men or 8 horses. Stettin refers to today’s Szczecin, Poland.

Today the trip from Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I would be about four hours by automobile or about fifteen to seventeen hours by train (from Tychowo, Poland to Barth, Germany).

On January 29 or 30, 1945 (or perhaps over multiple days in multiple groups considering the large number of POW’s being transferred), the prisoners selected to be moved to Barth were moved out of Stalag Luft IV. Wilfred Frank Miller of the Brodie crew was one of them.

In Chapter 31, “Train Ride to Barth,”  of her book, “What I Never Told You – A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father,” Candy Kyler Brown describes the transfer of POW’s, including her father, John Kyler, from Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I. Candy writes,

On page 279:

…between two to three thousand inmates of Stalag Luft IV, approximately one-third of the camp population…were marched out in polar weather for the two-mile trek to the Kiefheide train station on January 29, 1945 [to evacuate] the camp. Many among the selected group were ill or injured, but prisoners who were fairly healthy were included in the draw.

On page 281:

On February 8, 1945, [the] train arrived in Barth, Germany, where [the Stalag IV P.O.W.’s] would next take up residence in Stalag Luft I, a POW camp for Allied officers, located on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

In Chapter 32, “The Walk to Stalag Luft I,” on pages 283 and 284 of her book, Candy describes the walk of the Stalag Luft IV prisoners from the Barth railroad station at the end of the “eleven grueling days of boxcar travel,” to the new POW camp at Barth. The POW’s were marched through “a quaint storybook village in a seaside setting,” on “a cobblestone road past open fields and farmland,” and past “an anti-aircraft artillery (flak) school.”

In Joe O’Donnell’s first Shoe Leather Express book, The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany, pages 34 – 35, POW Paul B. Brady, Sr. of the 15th Air Corp, 465th Bomb Group, 781st Bomb Squadron, recalled he was moved to Barth, Stalag Luft I, on January 30, 1945. Brady stated that fifty-two POW’s were loaded into his boxcar for the evacuation from Grosstychow to Barth.

Brady also said,

It took us eight days to reach Stalag Luft I, we were seldom let out of the boxcars and only had two buckets for relief purposes, we had to bribe the guards with a few cigarettes when we stopped on the sidings to push some snow through the crack of the door so we could let it melt for drinking water. Of course this was the same opening all of us had been using to urinate through for days to try to conserve the two buckets for the P.O.W.’s with dysentery that most of us had.

Another Stalag Luft IV transferee, Godfrey E. “Jeff” Boehm, added that before the arrival of the POW’s from Stalag Luft IV, Stalag Luft I was only for Air Force officers (multi-national, mostly American, British, and French) and their orderlies. Yes, it seems in Stalag Luft I, American POW officers had American G.I. (soldiers, ground forces rather than airmen) POW’s as orderlies.

Life at Stalag Luft I, Barth

I am providing a summary of information about the prison camp at Barth, Stalag Luft I, in this article. For an in-depth look at life in Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany, please check out the extensive information on B24.net and Merkki.com.

The following information was prepared by the Military Intelligence Service War Department on 1 November 1945 and was compiled and presented by Greg Hatton on the 392 Bomb Group’s B24.net website. Follow the link for Greg’s full report.

Reproduced from the introduction (general) of camps:

Source material for this report consisted of interrogations of former prisoners of war made by CPM Branch, Military Intelligence Service and Reports of the Protecting Power and International Red Cross received by the State Department (Special War Problems Division).

The first prisoners of Stalag Luft I, which was for Air Force officers, were French and British POW’s who arrived at the camp on 10 July 1940, before the entry of the Americans into World War II.

Housing

By early 1944 the camp consisted of 2 compounds, the South & West compounds, with a total of 7 barracks, housing American officers, and British officers and enlisted men. A new compound (North 1) opened the last of February 1944 to which an increasing number of American officers were housed. North 2 opened on 9 September 1944 and North 3 opened on 9 December 1944. The North compounds completed the camp and this is how the camp remained until liberation of the prisoners in May 1945.

As far as “amenities” in the separate compounds went,

  • The South compound lacked adequate cooking, washing, and toilet facilities.
  • The West compound had latrines and running water in the barracks.
  • The North 1 compound was considered the best compound with a communal mess hall, inside latrines, and running water.
  • The North 2 and 3 compounds were constructed the same as the South compound and also lacked adequate cooking, washing, and toilet facilities.

The completion of North 2 and 3 gave the camp an L-shape appearance. Guard towers were placed at strategic intervals.

As for housing, the barracks in each compound had,

  • Triple-tiered wooden (bunk) beds with wood chip-filled mattresses
  • (Or at least almost every barracks had) a communal day room but without much equipment
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Insufficient ventilation due to the requirement that the barracks’ shutters remain closed from 2100 (9pm) to 0600 (6am)
  • Inadequate stoves for heating and cooking
  • Poor weather-proofing for the bitterly cold northern Germany climate so close to the Baltic Sea

In addition to barracks for housing, the West and North 1 compounds each had the following facilities which were used by all compounds,

  • One kitchen barrack
  • One theater room
  • One church room
  • One library
  • One study room

Food

Before the arrival of the Stalag Luft IV prisoners, the POW’s of Stalag Luft I were fed with Red Cross parcels plus German food prepared in separate kitchens in each compound.

Up until 1 October 1944, the German food ration provided 1200 to 1800 calories per day per man. However, by September through November 1944, the German food ration had been cut to 800 calories and Red Cross supplies became so low, they were also cut, except for the month of December 1944 when the supply returned to the normal amount. In January 1945, the Red Cross supplies were cut again.

In March 1945, no Red Cross parcels were distributed, and German rations were also severely cut. Per the information provided by Greg Hatton, during this “starvation period”, “…Men became so weak that many would fall down while attempting to get from their beds. American ‘MPs’ were placed around garbage cans to prevent the starving PW from eating out of the cans and becoming sick.”

From around the beginning of April 1945, a sufficient supply of Red Cross parcels was received and the POW’s were better fed until the time of the evacuation of the camp.

Health

The medical staff of the camp consisted of two British doctors and six orderlies until 1 March 1945 when an American doctor, Capt. Wilbur E. McKee, arrived. Keeping the POW’s healthy was difficult because of a lack of medical supplies and facilities to handle a large number of patients.

Even before the arrival of the Stalag Luft IV POW’s, the biggest challenge was the poor sanitation in the camp. The camp had only one bathhouse with ten shower heads. Early in 1945, though, another bathhouse with ten shower heads was added.

Still insufficient for the number of POW’s in the camp, there was also an insufficient quantity of wash basins and soap, which not only challenged personal cleanliness, but also the ability to launder clothing and bed linens. Disposal of garbage was also a challenge and the poorly working latrine and wash drains often caused flooding around the barracks.

The number of stoves and amount of fuel was not sufficient to battle the extreme cold of the climate in the area, resulting in upper respiratory illnesses. The requirement that barracks shutters remain closed at night also did not allow for sufficient ventilation in overcrowded conditions inside the barracks.

Liberation

Stalag Luft IV transferee, Godfrey E. “Jeff” Boehm said that on May 1, 1945, Russian guerrillas overran the camp. Paul Brady, Jeff Boehme, John Kyler, Wilfred Miller, and the other POW’s at Stalag Luft I were liberated by the Russians.

The German Commandant of the camp had been ordered to move the camp to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Russians, but the POW’s were determined not to move unless they were forced to do so. On the night of April 30, to avoid bloodshed, the Commandant and guards of the camp turned out the lights and left the camp, leaving the gate unlocked.

The POW’s took over the camp, taking over the guard stations to keep the POW’s orderly and from leaving the camp and to keep other Germans from coming into the camp. On May 1, contact was made with Russian advance troops and Russian scouting parties visited the camp. After two or three days, the Russian commander made arrangements to feed the Stalag Luft I prisoners.

Evacuation

Jeff Boehm reported,

The Russians had the airfield cleared in three days so we could be evacuated but it was thirteen days before the sky was crowded with B-17’s for our mass move to Camp Lucky Strike in LeHarve, France. We had a couple of guys who spoke Russian so we spent quite a lot of time visiting with the Russians.

Although the actual liberation was performed by the Russians, they did not attempt to evacuate the POW’s from the camp other than clearing the airfield. On 6 May 1945, American POW Colonel Jean R. Byerly left camp with two British officers and flew to England the following day. They reported to 8th Air Force headquarters regarding the conditions at the camp, and arrangements were made to evacuate the liberated POWs.

In Chapter 24, “Liberation,” of her book, “What I Never Told You – A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father,” Candy Kyler Brown notes that at the time of liberation of the camp, the sick and injured left Barth on May 12 and everyone else starting on May 13, 1945. Candy’s dad flew out from the POW camp at Barth on May 13. This is the same date Wilfred Miller notes on his POW application as the date he was released as a POW. He must have been in the same group to be liberated as John Kyler.

In “Operation Revival,” the 8th Air Force evacuated nearly 8,500 Allied POW’s between May 13 and 15, 1945 using mainly stripped-down B-17’s, with some C-46’s and C-47’s. This article on the website of the National WWII Museum provides a great deal of detail about the operation to evacuate the prisoners of Stalag Luft I at Barth. For more information about the liberation, the National WWII Museum provides this article.

Notes

Kriegsgefangenen Lagers: Home of the “Kriegie” Airmen, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

STALAG LUFT I – Barth Germany (Air Force Officers), courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft 1 Images, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft 1 Stories, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft I Online – World War II – Prisoners of War – Stalag Luft I

What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father” by Candy Kyler Brown

A selection from The Shoe Leather Express Book 1, courtesy of Gregory Hatton’s Stalag Luft IV website

Operation Revival: Rescue from Stalag Luft I, courtesy of the National WWII Museum

The Liberation of Stalag Luft I, courtesy of the National WWII Museum

Previous post, Wilfred Frank Miller, Update

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The Bombardier in the Buslee Crew Photo

Five years ago, in February 2017, I posed a question to my readers. Do you think the bombardier in the John Buslee crew photo is Marvin Fryden or James Davis? I am referring to the airman standing in the back row on the far right.

The Buslee Crew

The Buslee Crew

Marvin Fryden was the John Buslee crew’s original bombardier. Fryden was killed on his second mission on 5 August 1944 aboard the B-17 Tremblin’ Gremlin by a burst of flak. James Buford Davis replaced Fryden as the Buslee crew’s bombardier on 9 August 1944.

On the back of the Buslee crew photo that I have, the man standing on the far right is identified as James Davis. I have always questioned the accuracy of that identification. I have always believed that the bombardier in the photo is Fryden.

I have positive identifications of the remaining members of the crew in the photo. These are the identifications provided on the back of the photo in my mother’s handwriting.

Back row, left to right:
• 2Lt. John Oliver Buslee, Pilot, from Park Ridge, Illinois
• 2Lt. David Franklin Albrecht, Co-Pilot, from Chico, California
• 2Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk, Navigator, from Toledo, Ohio
• 2Lt. James B. Davis, Bombardier, from New Castle, Indiana

Front row, left to right:
• Sgt. Erwin V. Foster, Ball Turret Gunner, from Elmira, New York
• Sgt. Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner, from Brooklyn, New York
• Cpl. Lenard Leroy Bryant, Waist Gunner, from Lubbock, Texas
• Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, from Halsey, Nebraska
• S/Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, Tail Gunner, from Detroit, Michigan
• Sgt. George Edwin Farrar, Waist Gunner, from Atlanta, Georgia, (my dad)

I have been able to verify through other photographs of these men that those identifications are accurate. I only questioned the identification of Davis as the bombardier and hoped I could eventually determine if that identification is accurate as well.

Unfortunately, at the time I was attempting to analyze the faces in the photo, I only had a photo of James Davis, no photo of Marvin Fryden. On my visit to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in October 2016, I found this photo of James Buford Davis in uniform in his Army Air Forces personnel file.

James Buford Davis, second bombardier of the John Buslee crew

James Buford Davis, second bombardier of the John Buslee crew

To my eye, when comparing the photo of Davis to the bombardier in the crew photo, I could not determine that the airman in the crew photo was Davis, and so concluded that it was Fryden. But I still felt a great deal of uncertainty without a photo of Fryden to use for the comparison.

James Davis on the left. Davis or Marvin Fryden on the right?

James Davis on the left. Davis or Marvin Fryden on the right?

I had another reason to believe Fryden was in the photo. I believed that James Davis would not have appeared in a Buslee crew photo that also included Clarence Burdell Seeley.

James Davis did not join the Buslee crew until the 9 August 1944 mission and would not have appeared in a crew photo until, at least, he had been named as the bombardier replacement for their crew. So James Davis would not be in a Buslee crew photo on or before 5 August, when Marvin Fryden was killed. Add to that, Clarence Burdell Seeley looks very healthy in the crew photo, not what I would expect after 5 August 1944.

On the 5 August 1944 mission in which Marvin Fryden was killed, the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Clarence Burdell Seeley was hit by flak and seriously injured. A jagged piece of steel ripped through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. He was taken to the 65th General Hospital for treatment and was hospitalized there for 35 days.

The 65th General Hospital was at Redgrave Park in Suffolk County, England. Redgrave Park is about 85 miles/137 km from Grafton Underwood, home of the 384th Bomb Group. During his period of hospitalization, Seeley would not have been in the Grafton Underwood area for a crew photograph.

Back in 2017, I enlisted 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson in my research and he speculated that,

I suspect the 65th General Hospital was the general hospital closest to the field (Halesworth, Station 365) that they [the Buslee crew] landed at upon return from the [5 August 1944] mission. Once he [Seeley] was ambulatory and it was determined that he would possibly recover well enough to go back on flight status, I imagine he would be returned to GU [the 384th’s base at Grafton Underwood] for convalescence and evaluation by the squadron flight surgeon.

If I recall correctly, five years ago Keith believed the bombardier in the photo to be Davis and believed the photo was taken at Grafton Underwood. At the time, I was under the assumption that the photo was a photo of the original crew taken at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the end of their crew training before they left the States for England.

In the past few years, I have found more information in the records of the 384th Bomb Group which provides more detail about the timeline of Seeley’s hospitalization and recovery period.

According to military records, on 13 August 1944, Seeley was moved from the 65th General Hospital to the 4209 U.S. Army Hospital Plant, APO 587. APO (Army Post Office) 587 was located at Knettishall, England, which was about 5.5 miles/8.8 km from the 65th General Hospital at Redgrave Park, still far from Grafton Underwood.

But on 11 September 1944, Seeley went from absent sick (LD) 65th General Hospital to duty. Even though he would not return to flight duty until Mission 203 on 2 October 1944 (four days after the Buslee crew went MIA on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany), Seeley was likely back at Grafton Underwood on or shortly after 11 September.

Now I see a window of opportunity for the Buslee crew photo to include both James Davis and Clarence Seeley that I did not previously see. The crew photo could have been taken sometime during this period between 11 and 28 September. That is the only way I can see both James Davis and a healthy Clarence Burdell Seeley appearing in the same photo.

Sounds like the issue of all the parties being available at the same time for a photo op between 11 and 28 September 1944 works out fine, right? Not so fast. I also discovered that ball turret gunner Erwin Foster was out on sick leave at the 303rd Station Hospital at Thrapston between 10 and 26 September. And tail gunner Eugene Lucynski went MIA with another crew on 19 September, bailing out of Tremblin’ Gremlin over Belgium. He was injured and hospitalized at an unknown location reportedly until 10 November.

Thrapston was only about 5.5 miles/9 km from Grafton Underwood. So I see a possibility that Foster was still close by, maybe even still at Grafton Underwood and being treated on an outpatient basis. If he was on base or able to travel to the base long enough for a photo, perhaps the crew photo was taken during a narrower window of between 11 and 18 September 1944. By 19 September, Lucynski would not have been in the photo.

And recently my other issue – that I had no photo of Marvin Fryden for comparison purposes – was also resolved. Ash Samet, Marvin Fryden’s widow’s grandson (of Marilyn’s second marriage to Jerome Samet), contacted me just a few weeks ago and sent me a portrait of Marilyn and Marvin Fryden. The grandson’s name is Ash Samet. Ash is a computer graphics artist.

Marvin Fryden, bombardier of the John Buslee crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron
Photo courtesy of Ash Samet

I ran the question by him of who he thinks the bombardier in the Buslee crew photo is – Fryden or Davis – and he created this very elaborate comparison of the facial features of both Davis and Fryden to the bombardier in the crew photo.

Photo analysis of Buslee crew photo with comparison to photos of Marvin Fryden and James Davis
Created by Ash Samet, Marilyn Fryden’s grandson and computer graphics artist

If you click the comparison graphic, then click again to enlarge, you can review the detailed comparison that Ash performed. I am going to note Ash’s findings here, too, but please keep in mind, this is Ash Samet’s work and Ash’s words, and I credit Ash Samet fully with this expert analysis.

Ears

One of the first things I notice between the pictures are their ear-shapes! The greyscale photo has an almost angular feel to it, matching James, where Marvin’s ears (for lack of a better word) are almost bean-shaped. Silhouette aside, the greyscale image has an attached earlobe, like James, where Marvin’s earlobes are detached.

Eyes

It’s hard to see since it’s in shadow, but I thought it was interesting how James’s eyelid falls so low that it’s almost giving the appearance of a monolid, where Marvin has a definitively double eyelid. The greyscale image is squinting, but since the brows are lower/not raised, the skin above the eye isn’t being stretched. If he had a double eyelid as defined as Marvin’s, it would be more exaggerated as the folds compress with a squint!

Lips

Another landmark I notice between these pictures is the lips- Marvin has very full lips, and while they could pull to be thinner in a smile/squint, I’d estimate the corners of his mouth would have to reach more towards aligning with the outsides of his eyes. The middle photo’s mouth is pulled slightly wider, but still close enough to a neutral position that I’d say the lip thickness matches James more!

Mouth

James’ mouth also has more of a natural curl at the corners, which is accentuated by the expression in the middle photo.

Smile-lines

A more subtle detail in the photo is the “smile-lines” look very angular- even seeming to make a diamond-shape! Though the left picture of James is a neutral expression, you can see a natural indent that looks similar.

Based on the fat distribution on Marvin’s face, I’d imagine if his mouth pulled wider he’d show dimples.

Nose

The picture of James has a nose with noticeably round features matching the greyscale photo more closely than the picture of Marv, but aside from that, it looks like the eye-to-nose proportions of Marv’s nose is longer than the other images.

Eyebrows

Also a minor detail that’s harder to see- but the eyebrows of the greyscale image seem to reach much closer to the middle of the face than Marv’s- it could possibly be shadow, but they’re dark enough that I’d wager the actual hair itself is darker than Marvin’s!

Well, that kind of does it for me. Ash Samet has me convinced. I’m going with identification of the bombardier in the Buslee crew photo being James Buford Davis.

Keith Ellefson was trying to lead me down that road, but I resisted. I was so convinced that the Buslee crew photo was taken in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where the crew performed their final training. But Keith said, no, the background looks more like England than Oklahoma. To me, if the location was Ardmore, it had to be Fryden in the picture. I wanted to believe it was Oklahoma and I wanted to believe it was Fryden.

And Keith thought the bombardier looked like Davis, too. I should have listened. I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that the crew photo may not have been taken before the crew’s first mission with all ten original crew members. I took the wrong road. I took the scenic route instead, leading me about five years in the wrong direction. Sorry for not listening to you five years ago, Keith. And thank you Ash Samet for taking me by the hand and showing me the proper path step by step to the correct identification of James Buford Davis, the airman, the bombardier, in the photo.

Sources/Notes

Previous post, Davis or Fryden?

Previous post, A Photo of Marvin Fryden, Bombardier of the Buslee Crew

Previous post, August 5, 1944 Mission 173 Press Release – Transcription

Numerical Listing of APO’s January 1942 to November 1947

65th General Hospital

Notes about the 65th General Hospital link: the American Air Museum in Britain website will be down from 30 June 2022 until September 2022 for reconstruction. A notice on their site reads:

The American Air Museum archive is temporarily closing for reconstruction. We are working on a site-wide upgrade which will be completed in September  2022. To allow the American Air Museum team time to process the database, we will be stopping crowdsourced contributions from 30 June 2022. This means that from 30 June 2022 you will not be able to search, add or edit information in the American Air Museum archive. You can find out more about our plans here.

Thank you to the 384th’s Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for obtaining and sharing WWII reports from the National Archives for the 384th Bomb Group. Thanks to Keith, also, for his superb research, analysis, and advice, and thank you to Ash Samet for providing me with the photo of Marvin Fryden and his photo analysis.

Except for the work – image, graphics, and text – of Ash Samet, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

WWII Combat Chronology – 27 September 1944

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

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

Today’s installment is the 27 September 1944 mission in which the Buslee crew participated.


WWII Combat Chronology – Wednesday, 27 September 1944

384th BG Mission 200/8th AF Mission 650 to Cologne (Köln), Germany.

Target: Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards (PFF Aiming Points).

The John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron participated in this mission.

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

Nearly 1,100 HBs bomb 2 M/Ys, 2 synthetic oil plants, 2 motor works, and a tank and armored vehicle plant, at Cologne, Ludwigshafen, Mainz, and Kassel, and T/Os in W Germany. 15 escorting ftr gps claim 31 aircraft destroyed. Over 160 B-24’s carry gasoline to France.

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

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

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

  1. Mission 650 to industrial and transportation targets in W Germany. The Buslee crew participated in this mission.
  2. Mission 651, a leaflet drop in France, the Netherlands, and Germany during the night.

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

Mission 650: 1,192 bombers and 678 fighters are dispatched to hit industrial and transportation targets in W Germany and use PFF methods for all targets; 28 bombers and 2 fighters are lost:

  1. 421 of 462 B-17s hit a secondary target (Cologne) and 10 others hit Blatzheim; 1 B-17 is damaged beyond repair and 165 damaged; 3 airmen are KIA; 7 WIA and 1 MIA. Escort is provided by 221 P-47s and P-51s; they claim 5-0-0 aircraft in the air; 3 P-47s are damaged.

  2. 415 B-17s are dispatched to hit Ludwigshafen/Opau oil refinery (214) and Mainz (171); 4 others hit targets of opportunity; 2 B-17s are lost and 142 damaged; 3 airmen are KIA, 9 WIA and 19 MIA. Escort is provided by 212 P-47s and P-51s; they claim 1-0-0 aircraft in the air; 1 P-47 is damaged.

  3. 315 B-24s are dispatched to hit Kassel/Henschel aircraft plant (248); 35 also hit Gottingen; they claim 5-3-0 aircraft; 26 B-24s are lost, 6 damaged beyond repair and 41 damaged; 20 airmen are KIA, 2 WIA and 245 MIA. Escort is provided by 207 P-38s, P-47s and P-51s; they claim 25-0-6 aircraft in the air and 5-0-1 on the ground; 2 P-51s are lost (pilots MIA), 1 P-51 damaged beyond repair, and 2 P-38s and 2 P-47s damaged.

Links/Sources

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

A Photo of Marvin Fryden, Bombardier of the Buslee Crew

Marvin Fryden, bombardier of the John Buslee crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron
Photo courtesy of Ash Samet

Memorial Day 2022 was on Monday, earlier this week, but I must take this opportunity a couple of days past the holiday to remember Marvin Fryden today. He was the John Oliver Buslee crew’s original bombardier. Marvin was killed on his second B-17 combat mission of WWII on 5 August 1944.

The mission was my dad’s first. Dad, George Edwin Farrar, served as the Buslee crew’s waist gunner that day and it was the most memorable and tragic mission of his combat career until the mid-air collision in which he was involved on 28 September 1944.

You see, the only B-17 Dad ever mentioned by name when I was growing up was Tremblin’ Gremlin. That was the ship that Dad, Marvin Fryden, and the rest of the Buslee crew manned on that 5 August 1944 mission to a German Air Force (Luftwaffe) target in Langenhagen, Germany.

On that mission, a flak shell exploded just outside the nose of Tremblin’ Gremlin where Marvin Fryden sat in position ready to drop his bombs. A piece of flak hit Marvin in the chest, but he was able to release his bombs on the target. He collapsed and survived the return trip to England, but died in the arms of his friend, navigator Chester Rybarczyk, in the hospital.

The grave of Marvin Fryden, 384th Bomb Group
Buried at Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England, Plot E, Row 2, Grave 4

Marvin Fryden is buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England, Plot E, Row 2, Grave 4.

There were other less severe injuries among the crew and the ship was severely damaged, including 106 flak holes. Tremblin’ Gremlin barely made it back to England, but not as far as Grafton Underwood, landing at AAF Station 365 at Halesworth, about eight miles (13 km) inland from the English coastline of the North Sea.

The Buslee crew lost their bombardier on 5 August 1944, but Marvin was a married man, and Marilyn Ash Fryden lost her husband that day, too. Marilyn saw her future with the man she loved disappear in an instant.

The couple had this portrait made on 13 June 1944 in Ardmore, Oklahoma where Marvin was completing his crew training shortly before he and the Buslee crew left the States for England and combat duty.

Marilyn and Marvin Fryden
Marilyn was the former Marilyn Ash and later Marilyn Samet
Marvin Fryden was the original bombardier of the John Buslee crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron
Photo courtesy of Ash Samet

On the back of the photo, Marilyn noted,

Marv left for combat 6-26-1944, is buried in Cambridge, England. By 8-5-44 was dead! Less than 2 mo before “gone” forever!

Finding herself a widow at the young age of eighteen, Marilyn found love again, and a few days before Christmas 1945 Marilyn married Jerome Samet. Jerome was a member of the US Army Air Forces stationed at Marana Air Base in Arizona. Jerome was discharged from the AAF in February 1946 and the Samets began a family.

Recently, Marilyn and Jerome’s grandson, Ash Samet, found my stories of Marvin and Marilyn and shared the portrait with me. Ash said about the photo,

Marilyn had it hanging in her room for as long as I could remember, and always spoke so lovingly of Marv, even 69 years after his death.

Marilyn died on November 7, 2013 at the age of 88. Ash said that after her death he kept the photo, even though Marvin wasn’t his grandfather, because it meant so much to his grandmother.

Even though Marilyn lost Marvin almost seventy years earlier, shortly before her death she recorded this message in the 384th Bomb Group’s online log book.

I am 88, still loving my first love. Ready to leave this world and reunite with my love in England.

Her grandson, Ash, remembers,

She said the “next time around” she’d be born in England, since that was where her heart would always be.

Notes

Thank you Ash Samet for sharing the portrait of Marilyn and Marvin Fryden.

Marvin Fryden’s Personnel Record, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Previous post, August 5, 1944 Mission 173 Press Release – Transcription

Previous post, The Family of Marvin Fryden

Previous post, Never Forgotten

Previous post, Marilyn Fryden’s Letter and Photos Sixty Years Later

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Wilfred Frank Miller, Update

Wilfred Frank Miller at Grafton Underwood
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Last year, the youngest son of Wilfred Frank Miller, Patrick Miller, and I connected after he found my articles online about his father and his father’s B-17 crew of World War II. Patrick has shared a lot of information about his dad and his family and has made some new discoveries regarding his father’s POW experience.

Wilfred Frank Miller was the tail gunner of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was aboard B-17 42‑31222 Lazy Daisy when it collided with the John Oliver Buslee crew’s B-17 43‑37822, with my father aboard, coming off the target at Magdeburg on 28 September 1944.

Today I want to share the new information I’ve learned about Wilfred Frank Miller, thanks to his son Patrick. To view my original post and other information about Wilfred Frank Miller, please see the links at the end of this post.

Wilfred Miller, Growing Up

Wilfred Frank Miller was born February 15, 1925, at Pigeon Lake, Wisconsin, son of Fred and Mary Sadkowski Miller. Wilfred had an older brother by two years named Leo Anton Miller. Leo was born on February 8, 1923.

The family farmed first in the township of Rhine, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, then later moved to Osman, an unincorporated community in the township of Meeme, Manitowoc CountyWisconsin. Both Miller boys would grow up to serve in World War II, Wilfred in the Army Air Forces and Leo in the Marines.

Left to right, brothers Wilfred Frank Miller and Leo Anton Miller
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Miller on Ancestry.com

The boys’ father, Fred Miller, died of a heart attack on April 6, 1943, two days short of his fifty-first birthday. Leo had registered for the draft in 1942, but then delayed his enlistment until June 30, 1944. Wilfred entered the service in October of 1943. The war years must have been especially difficult for Wilfred’s mother, Mary Miller, as a widow worrying about her two sons serving in a world war.

Entry into World War II Military Service

Although I cannot find an enlistment record for Wilfred Miller, I believe that he likely did enlist in order to get into the Army Air Forces. I did find a copy of his draft registration, however.

Wilfred Miller registered for the WWII draft on February 15, 1943, his eighteenth birthday. On his draft registration, he listed his father, Mr. Fred Miller of R #1, Newton, Wisconsin, as the person who would always know his address. But Fred Miller would die on April 6, 1943, less than two months after Wilfred registered for the draft.

On his draft registration form, Wilfred Miller noted he was eighteen years old, born on February 15, 1925 in Liberty Township, Wisconsin. His employer was Matthias Cheese Factory, also known as Matthias Dairy or Cleveland Cheese Factory, located in the village of Cleveland in the township of Centerville, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

He described himself as 6’1″ in height, 164 pounds, with brown eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion. Topping six feet made him pretty tall for a B-17 airman and I imagine sitting on the bicycle-style seat in his position in the tail of a B-17 was a tight fit for him.

Wilfred Miller’s induction into the Army Air Forces was 28 September 1943, exactly one year before the Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision. I believe his induction date could represent his enlistment date. He entered into active service almost a month later on 23 October 1943 at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.

Wilfred Miller completed two months of basic training (MOS 521) at Jefferson Barracks. He then attended six weeks of Aerial Gunnery School at Las Vegas, Nevada, where he received his wings.

Wilfred Miller completed his crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he became a member of the James Joseph Brodie B-17 crew, and departed the U.S. for combat duty in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) on 1 July 1944, arriving in England on 5 July 1944, according to his honorable discharge record. However, he actually left Ardmore somewhere between 23 and 25 June, and was in transit at Goose Bay, Labrador on 1 July.

World War II Military Service at Grafton Underwood, England

Wilfred Frank Miller’s 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record indicates that his duty was tail gunner, one month’s pay was $140.40, and his home address was Mrs. Mary Miller, Newton, RFD #1, Wisconsin.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Wilfred Frank Miller:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Corporal Wilfred Frank Miller was assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group, 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 611).
  • On 2 AUGUST 1944, Corporal Wilfred Frank Miller was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany (Target was Industry, Steelworks), Wilfred Frank Miller, flying with the James Joseph Brodie crew, went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared POW (Prisoner of War).

Prisoner of War

On April 14, 1988, Wilfred Miller filled out an application for a POW medal. On this form he noted (with corrections) that:

  • I was captured on September 28, 1944 at Magdeburg, Germany.
  • I was at Stalag Luft No 3 [correction: should read Stalag Luft IV; Luft IV was a sub-camp of Luft III] Baltic Sea Bay, (East Side) September 28, 1944 to Jan. 1945.
  • Then at Stalag Luft No 4 [correction: should read Stalag Luft I] Baltic Sea Bay (West Side) Jan 1945 to May 13, 1945.
  • I was released [as a POW] on May 13, 1945 at France.
  • Date of discharge [from WWII military service], November 4, 1945.

Wilfred’s son Patrick requested his father’s POW Records from the Red Cross in January this year and received a reply in March. The ICRC sent the following information: A capture card dated 13 October 1944 noted Wilfred Miller was a POW in German hands detained in Stalag Luft IV. His prisoner of war number at Stalag Luft IV (Gross Tychow) was 3916. He arrived at Stalag Luft I (Barth) on 7 February 1945 according to a list sent 1 March 1945.

Wilfred Miller was listed in a Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster on page 44. He is the second W.F. Miller listed on the page, POW 3916, ASN 36834864.

Wilfred Frank Miller on Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster

Note that Miller W.F. (POW 3916, ASN 36834864) on page 44 of the roster has a circle beside his name. At the top of page 8 of the same list is an asterisk with a notation, “Men moved to Barth 1-30-45.” I believe that an asterisk, or circle in Miller’s case, signifies that the POW was moved to Stalag Luft I (Barth) on Jan 30, 1945 before the general population of the camp was to begin the march.

I believe in his POW medal application, Wilfred Miller just confused the stalag numbers after forty-three years had gone by. Stalag Luft IV was a satellite camp of Stalag Luft III, so I can see the confusion in the camp numbers.

In the past, I believed that only sick and injured POWs who were unable to walk were selected to be transported to Stalag Luft I at Barth ahead of the march. However, now I understand that is not the case, thanks to Candy Kyler Brown, daughter of Stalag Luft IV POW John R. Kyler of the 92nd Bombardment Group of the 8th Army Air Forces.

Candy is author of the book “What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father.” John Kyler was also one of the POWs who was moved to Stalag Luft I at Barth.

In her book, Candy writes in Chapter 31 (Train Ride to Barth),

Many of the selected group were ill or injured, but prisoners who were fairly healthy were included in the draw.

The train ride to Barth and the subsequent imprisonment in a different POW camp was not as simple as it may appear on the surface. In fact, it was just a different slice of the same living hell the prisoners had endured in their previous captivity. I will share more information about their experience from the train ride to their liberation in a future post.

In Chapter 34 (Liberation) of her book, Candy notes that at the time of liberation of the camp, the sick and injured left Barth on May 12 and everyone else on May 13, 1945. Candy’s dad flew out from the POW camp at Barth on May 13. This is the same date Wilfred Miller notes on his POW application as the date he was released as a POW. He must have been in the same group to be liberated as John Kyler.

Candy Kyler Brown stands next to a display at the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force of a vest her father, John Kyler, knitted during his time as a POW in WWII

Wilfred Miller’s POW record in the online National Archives notes his Last Report Date as 4 June 1945. This possibly could have been the date he departed Europe on his return to the US as no departure date was recorded on his honorable discharge separation document, but his date of arrival in the USA was noted as 21 June 1945. He likely returned on a slow moving service members’ transit ship.

Release from World War II Military Service

Wilfred Miller was honorably discharged from military service on 4 November 1945 (his Date of Separation). His Place of Separation was the Lincoln Army Air Field at Lincoln, Nebraska. Documents list his civilian occupation as farmer.

Separation documents note he received no wounds in action and he was not awarded a Purple Heart. These facts lead me to believe that he was not physically injured in the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944.

Wilfred’s Separation Qualification Record notes his Summary of Military Occupations as,

Aerial Gunner (611). Flew on a B-17 as tail gunner in the E.T.O. for 19 missions. Was shot down and bailed out over Germany. Was taken prisoner of war and interned for 7 months. Was returned to U.S. control 13 May 1945.

Also noted in separation documents, Miller’s continental (U.S.) service was reported as 1 year, 22 days. His foreign service was reported as 11 months, 20 days as an Aerial Gunner (MOS 611).

A departure date for his return from Europe was not recorded, but his date of arrival in the USA was noted as 21 June 1945. He returned home to his mother Mrs. Mary Miller of Route 1, Newton, Wisconsin, where he would run their 80 acre dairy farm.

During his World War II military service, Wilfred Miller earned the Air Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal, American Theater EAME Theater Ribbon with 3 battle stars, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, one Overseas Bar, and the Prisoner of War medal.

Post-World War II

On October 25, 1947, Wilfred Frank Miller married June Holfeltz at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Osman, Wisconsin.

Wilfred and June Miller Wedding
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

In the wedding photo are Wilfred’s brother, Leo Miller, and June’s brother, Edsel Holfeltz.

Son Patrick Miller notes that after the war, his parents farmed in the town of Osman, Wisconsin, a small town with a population of around 75. Wilfred was also a carpenter. Wilfred and June had six children, five sons and one daughter.

Wilfred and June Miller enjoyed traveling together and traveling with friends and neighbors, visiting relatives, and seeing sights in the US. But for the rest of his life, Wilfred kept his feet, or tires, on the ground. He never again flew in a plane after the war.

In the early 1960’s, Wilfred and June sold the cows and Wilfred went into carpentry as a profession. He worked with a few builders in Manitowoc and Sheboygan.

In the 1960’s, Wilfred purchased a nearby abandoned schoolhouse in Osman. He and his oldest sons tore it down, and built a new house on the site. Patrick Miller mostly grew up in this house. Wilfred and June lived in that house until the early 1990’s when they sold the house to build another.

They purchased land in Cleveland, Wisconsin to build the new house. Wilfred was now retired as a carpenter, but was going to do the finish work in the house himself. While temporarily living in Cleveland, and in the process of building the new house, Wilfred died in his sleep of a heart attack on June 29, 1991 at the age of 66. June had the house finished and lived there for several years before selling it. Wilfred’s brother Leo died less than three months after Wilfred, on September 10, 1991, at the age of 68.

Patrick Miller said that his dad never talked about the war, not to his kids, and not even to his wife, June. The only things Wilfred’s family were aware of were that he was shot down and became a POW in Germany. They were unaware of the mid-air collision and Wilfred Miller’s terrifying freefall toward earth in the severed tail of his B-17 until he was able to bail out and save his life with his parachute.

Brodie crew navigator George Hawkins calmly described the scene following the mid-air collision in a post-war narrative as,

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

A terrifying experience for all three, I’m sure, regardless of how matter-of-factly Hawkins described the events of the explosion and how the tail simply “left the ship” with Wilfred Miller still in it plummeting toward the ground.

Wilfred’s wife June still lives in Wisconsin. Her first airplane trip was not until after Wilfred had passed away. Wilfred and June’s children Frederick, Nancy, John, Joseph, and Patrick all currently reside in Wisconsin, and Ronald resides in Florida.

In the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, Wilfred and June Miller took a trip to visit two of Wilfred’s Brodie crewmates, both also World War II prisoners of war, George Hawkins (navigator) and Bill (William) Taylor (radio operator). Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor were both held in D Lager of Stalag Luft IV. While Wilfred Miller was taken to Stalag Luft I (Barth) in late January of 1945, I believe Bill Taylor participated in the same march out of Stalag Luft IV on February 6, 1945 as my father, George Edwin Farrar, and Brodie crew waist gunner Harry Liniger.

George Hawkins was seriously wounded in the mid-air collision and was held POW in a hospital until his own liberation at the end of the war. I’ll be sharing more information about George Hawkins and his POW experience at a later date, too, thanks to 384th Bomb Group NexGen member Paul Furiga, son of bombardier Frank Furiga, who was held POW in the same hospital as Hawkins.

Photo: Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor, date unknown

Left to right, likely Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Brodie crew mates Wilfred Miller (tail gunner) and Bill Taylor (radio operator)
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: Wilfred and June Miller, and Barbara and Bill Taylor, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Wilfred and June Miller, and Barbara and Bill Taylor.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: George Hawkins and Wilfred Miller, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Brodie crew mates George Marshall Hawkins, Jr (navigator) and Wilfred Frank Miller (tail gunner)
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Thank you to Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son, for sharing so many wonderful stories and photographs of his father.

Notes

Previous post, Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Wilfred Miller’s POW record in the online National Archives

Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster – see page 44

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

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

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

Previous post, ICRC POW Records Request

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

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

Wilfred Frank Miller on Find a Grave

What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father” by Candy Kyler Brown

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

WWII Combat Chronology – 26 September 1944

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

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

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


WWII Combat Chronology – Tuesday, 26 September 1944

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

Target: Industry, Steelworks.

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

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

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

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

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Links/Sources

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

What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 2

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


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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

Dad’s United States Air Force Ring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George E. Farrar

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Buslee crew’s B-17 43-37822

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Diagram of BUSLEE CREW aboard 43-37822

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

Diagram of BRODIE CREW aboard 42-31222

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

Circled in PURPLE in the Diagrams

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

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

Circled in BLUE in the Diagrams

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

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

Circled in GREEN in the Diagrams

Four airmen captured by the Germans were identified.

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

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

Circled in RED in the 42-31222 Diagram

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

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

Circled in ORANGE in the Diagrams

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

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

Circled in YELLOW in the 42-31222 Diagram

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

Circled in BLACK in the 43-37822 Diagram

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

Identification Difficulties

Several factors led to difficulties in identification of the casualties.

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

The Worst Place to Be in the Mid-air Collision

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

What Did Happen to the Boys

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

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

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

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

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

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

Previous post, Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben

Previous post, On Forced Labor

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

Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 1

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

BY COMMAND OF GENERAL ARNOLD:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George E. Farrar

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

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

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

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

June 14, 1946
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

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

Dear Mr. Farrar:

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

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

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

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

September 11, 1946
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Dear Sir:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He also added:

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

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

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

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

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

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

Previous post, Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben

Previous post, On Forced Labor

Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

WWII Combat Chronology – 25 September 1944

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

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

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


WWII Combat Chronology – Monday, 25 September 1944

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

Target: Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.

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

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

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

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

EUROPEAN THEATER OF OPERATIONS (ETO)

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

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

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

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

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

Links/Sources

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