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Congress Honors Jack Coleman Cook

The Washington Monument framed by cherry blossoms

On Thursday, April 12, 2018, 384th Bomb Group navigator Edward Field and I were on hand as Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman and New York Congressman Jerrold Nadler honored 384th ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook of Hot Springs, Arkansas.

Both Westerman and Nadler made speeches on the floor of the House of Representatives in Washington DC to honor Jack Cook for saving Edward Field’s life on February 3, 1945.  In an act of bravery and heroism, Jack gave Edward his place in the life raft after their B-17 was forced to ditch in the frigid North Sea.

Unlike that bitterly cold day in February 1945, it was a beautiful warm day in Washington, with the sun shining brightly and the cherry blossoms in full bloom. Joining us were my husband Bill; Edward’s long-time close friend, David Perrotta, who is Program Specialist for the Library of Congress’ National Library Service for the Blind and Physically Handicapped; and David Olive, Principal of Catalyst Partners in Washington DC.

David Olive is a former Chief of Staff to U.S. Rep. (and now Governor of Arkansas) Asa Hutchinson, and many years ago David hired Congressman Westerman’s Chief of Staff, Vivian Moeglein. When David reached out to Congressman Westerman’s office for help in honoring Jack Coleman Cook, they quickly set things in motion to honor Jack and make it a truly spectacular day for all of us.

Congressman Bruce Westerman’s speech on the floor of the house

Congressman Westerman was the first speaker of the day to honor Jack. Click here to watch the video of Congressman Westerman’s speech.

Congressman Westerman’s speech, as delivered:

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the life of Sergeant Jack Coleman Cook of Hot Springs, Arkansas, for his heroic actions in World War II.

Sergeant Cook was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, named the “Challenger.”

On February 3, 1945, the 384th Bomb Group participated in a mission over Berlin.

During the mission, the Challenger was hit by flak, damaging multiple engines, gas tanks, and the fuselage, but left the crew unharmed.

On the return journey home, the plane began losing altitude and crash-landed in the frigid North Sea. The crewmembers abandoned the aircraft and boarded two life rafts, but became separated.

Navigator Edward Field, a crew member who stayed in the water, began to push his raft toward the other raft, but became numb, and said that he could no longer hold on.

Sergeant Cook got into the water so the crew’s navigator could get out of the cold sea and take his spot in the raft. The sergeant then swam for forty-five minutes until they reached the second raft.

Shortly afterward, Air-Sea rescue located the crew, but Sergeant Cook had little life left in him, and he passed away on the boat.

It is with great gratitude and respect that I honor Jack Coleman Cook. Sergeant Cook is a true American hero. He selflessly gave his life for his fellow man, and for this, we remember him more than seventy years later.

Mr. Speaker, I yield back.

Next, Congressman Nadler rose to honor Jack. Congressman Nadler’s speech, as delivered:

Mr. Speaker, like Mr. Westerman, I rise today to recognize the heroic actions taken by 384th Bomb Group ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook of Hot Springs, Arkansas, during a World War II mission.

Selflessly, Sergeant Cook gave his life to save the life of his fellow airmen, including my constituent, First Lieutenant Edward Field, a veteran and poet from Brooklyn, New York. On February 3, 1945, in a bombing mission over Berlin, Sergeant Cook showed us what true heroism looks like.

After their B-17 bomber crashed into the North Sea, the crewmembers were forced to inflate two life rafts. Unfortunately, only one raft was able to fully inflate, leaving two men, Lieutenant Field and another crewmember, in the frigid water.

After they had spent about 30 minutes in the water, Sergeant Cook gave up his spot in the raft for Lieutenant Field, who had become numb. Sergeant Cook then swam in the freezing water to the other raft, which was only partially inflated. Unfortunately, he died before a British vessel could come and rescue them.

In his poem, “World War II,” Lieutenant Field honored the incredible sacrifice made by Sergeant Cook, recognizing that his survival is entwined with the spirit born from another hero’s sacrifice.

It is my distinct honor today to commemorate the American heroes who bravely served our country, in this case, Sergeant Jack Coleman Cook and First Lieutenant Edward Field.

Afterward, Congressman Westerman, Edward Field, and I were interviewed by the media and Congressman Westerman treated us to a view of Washington DC from the balcony of the House of Representatives. Press Secretary Ryan Saylor made sure everything was running smoothly.

Ryan Saylor on the left overseeing the Interviews

Congressman Westerman presented Edward Field with a copy of the proclamation to honor Jack Coleman Cook and we all took the opportunity to take a few photos (correction, many photos).

R to L: Edward Field and Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman

David Olive with Edward Field and Congressman Bruce Westerman.

L to R: David Olive, Edward Field, and Congressman Bruce Westerman

David Perrotta with Edward Field

R to L: Edward Field and David Perrotta

Me with Edward Field and Congressman Bruce Westerman

R to L: Edward Field, Cindy Bryan, and Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman

My husband Bill and I received the red carpet treatment from Congressman Westerman’s staff during our visit to Washington. We arrived in the Congressman’s office earlier that morning and Legislative Correspondent Nicholas Lisowski guided us on a personal tour of the Capitol.

Chief of Staff Vivian Moeglein accompanied us on a tour to the top of the Capitol dome in the afternoon. And Congressman Westerman spent time with us chatting about my favorite subject, 8th Air Force World War II history, and shared the story of his childhood Sunday School teacher, Conley Culpepper, who was a Technical Sergeant and top turret gunner on a B-17 crew with the 100th Bomb Group, better known as the “Bloody Hundredth.”

Nicholas Lisowski and Vivian Moeglein with Edward Field

R to L: Nicholas Lisowski, Edward Field, and Vivian Moeglein

The story ran on national television news all over the country. View the televised report here. And the story also made the newspaper. View the printed report here.

Our stay in Washington was all too short and we hope to return to visit our nation’s capitol again. We did get a chance to visit the World War II memorial and Library of Congress, but there is so much else to see and do that we must return for a longer visit.

World War II memorial

World War II memorial, Washington DC

Bill and I taking in the view of Washington from the outdoor viewing platform at the top of the Capitol dome

Bill and Cindy Bryan at the top of the Capitol Dome

We have already been in contact with Jack’s wife’s family due entirely to the media coverage of Congressman Westerman’s speech. In a couple of weeks, I will share new information and hopefully photos of Jack Coleman Cook. But until then, I’ll “Keep the show on the road” to honor our 384th Bomb Group heroes!

To read Edward Field’s poem “World War II,” click here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

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World War II by Edward Field

Dedicated to the Memory of Sgt. Jack Coleman Cook for his Heroism

World War II

by Edward Field

It was over Target Berlin the flak shot up our plane
just as we were dumping bombs on the already smoking city
on signal from the lead bomber in the squadron.
The plane jumped again and again as the shells burst under us
sending jagged pieces of steel rattling through our fuselage.
It was pure chance that none of us got ripped by those fragments.

Then, being hit, we had to drop out of formation right away,
losing speed and altitude,
and when I figured out our course with trembling hands on the
instruments (I was navigator),
we set out on the long trip home to England
alone, with two of our four engines gone
and gas streaming out of holes in the wing tanks.

That morning at briefing
we had been warned not to go to nearby Poland
partly liberated then by the Russians,
although later we learned that another crew in trouble
had landed there anyway,
and patching up their plane somehow,
returned gradually to England
roundabout by way of Turkey and North Africa.
But we chose England, and luckily
the Germans had no fighters to send up after us then
for this was just before they developed their jet.
To lighten our load we threw out
guns and ammunition, my navigation books, all the junk
and made it over Holland
with a few goodbye fireworks from the shore guns.

Over the North Sea the third engine gave out
and we dropped low over the water.
The gas gauge read empty but by keeping the nose down
a little gas at the bottom of the tank sloshed forward
and kept our single engine going.

High overhead, the squadrons were flying home in formation —
the raids had gone on for hours after us.
Did they see us down there in our trouble?
We radioed our final position for help to come
but had no idea if anyone
happened to be tuned in and heard us,
and we crouched together on the floor
knees drawn up and head down
in regulation position for ditching,
listened as the working engine stopped —
a terrible silence —
and we went down into the sea with a crash,
just like hitting a brick wall,
jarring bones, teeth, eyeballs panicky.
Who would ever think water could be so hard?
You black out, and then come to
with water rushing in like a sinking‑ ship movie.

All ten of us started getting out of there fast:
There was a convenient door in the roof to climb out by,
one at a time. We stood in line,
water up to our thighs and rising.
The plane was supposed to float for twenty minutes
but with all those flak holes
who could say how long it really would?
The two life rafts popped out of the sides into the water
but one of them only half inflated
and the other couldn’t hold everyone
although they all piled into it, except the pilot,
who got into the limp raft that just floated semi-submerged.

The radio operator and I, out last,
(Did that mean we were least aggressive, least likely to survive?)
the two of us stood on the wing watching the two rafts
being swept off by waves in different directions.
We had to swim for it.
Later they said the cords holding rafts to plane
broke by themselves, but I wouldn’t have blamed them
for cutting them loose, for fear that by waiting for us
the plane would go down and drag them with it.

I headed for the overcrowded good raft
and after a clumsy swim in soaked heavy flying clothes
got there and hung onto the side.
The radio operator went for the half–inflated raft
where the pilot lay with water sloshing over him,
but he couldn’t swim, even with his life vest on.
Being from the Great Plains,
his strong farmer’s body didn’t know
how to wallow through the water properly
and a wild current seemed to sweep him farther off.
One minute we saw him on top of a swell
and perhaps we glanced away for a minute
but when we looked again he was gone —
just as the plane went down sometime around then
when nobody was looking.

It was midwinter and the waves were mountains,
and the water ice water.
You could live in it twenty-five minutes
the Ditching Survival Manual said.
Since most of the crew were crowded onto my raft
I had to stay in the water, hanging on.
My raft? It was their raft, they got there first so they would live.
Twenty-five minutes I had.
Live, live, I said to myself. You’ve got to live.
There looked like plenty of room on the raft
from where I was and I said so –
couldn’t they squeeze together more? —
but they said no.

When I figured the twenty-five minutes were about up
and anyway I was getting numb,
I said I couldn’t hold on anymore,
and a skinny kid from Arkansas, the ball turret gunner,
got out of the raft into the icy water in my place,
and I got on the raft in his.
But first he insisted on taking off his flying clothes
which was probably his downfall because even wet clothes are
protection,
and then worked hard, pulling the raft,
kicking with his legs, and we all paddled,
to get to the other raft,
and we tied them together.
The gunner got into the flooded raft with the pilot
and lay in the wet, where shortly after,
the pilot started gurgling green foam from his mouth —
maybe he was injured in the crash against the instruments —
and by the time we were rescued,
he and the little gunner were both dead.

That boy who took my place in the water
who died instead of me
I don’t remember his name even.
It was like those who survived the death camps
by letting others go into the ovens in their place.
It was him or me, and I made up my mind to live.
I’m a good swimmer,
but I didn’t swim off in that scary sea
looking for the radio operator when he was washed away.
I suppose, then, once and for all,
I chose to live rather than be a hero, as I still do today,
although at that time I believed in being heroic, in saving the world,
even if, when the opportunity came
I instinctively chose survival.

As evening fell the waves calmed down
and we spotted a boat, far off, and signaled with a flare gun,
hoping it was English not German.
The only two who cried on being found
were me and a boy from Boston, another gunner.
The rest of the crew kept straight faces.

It was a British air-sea rescue boat.
They hoisted us up on deck,
dried off the living and gave us whisky and put us to bed,
and rolled the dead up in blankets,
and delivered us all to a hospital on shore
for treatment or disposal.

This was a minor accident of war.
Two weeks in a rest camp at Southport on the Irish Sea
and we were back at Grafton-Underwood, our base,
ready for combat again,
the dead crewmen replaced by living ones,
and went on hauling bombs over the continent of Europe,
destroying the Germans and their cities.

© Edward Field, 1967, 1987

Published with the author’s permission.

February 3, 1945 Mission to Berlin

On February 3, 1945, 384th Bomb Group ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook saved the life of navigator Edward Field in the cold North Sea when their B-17, The Challenger, was forced to ditch on the return trip to England after their mission to Berlin.

The Challenger was one of a group of forty-two B-17’s and three hundred fifty-six combat personnel of the 384th Bomb Group assigned to the Group’s Mission #264 (the 8th Air Force’s Mission #817) that day. The 384th flew this mission as the 41st B Combat Wing of the 1st Air Division.

Of the assigned forty-two B-17’s, three did not go. One was an unused ground spare aircraft, one was scrubbed, and one was a weather aircraft that returned to base.

Of the remaining thirty-nine B-17’s, thirty-six completed the mission, returning safely to England at the end of the day.

Three did not make it back with the bomber stream. One, Stardust, crash landed in Russian territory, even after being warned not to do so during the morning briefing, and after repairs eventually made it back to England. All aboard were uninjured.

One, unnamed 42-97960, the lead squadron hot camera ship, was hit by flak which knocked out the #2 and #4 engines. The pilot reported they were on fire, losing altitude and had two wounded on board. All nine crewmembers bailed out and the ship crashed near Fuerstenwerder, Germany. All survived, but became POWs for the remainder of the war.

And then there was The Challenger, the ship of the Robert Long crew that successfully dropped their bombs on Berlin that day, but were forced to ditch in the North Sea on the return trip to England. The Challenger lost three men, pilot Robert Long, radio operator Fred Maki, and ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook. The remaining six men of the crew, including Edward Field whose life was spared due to the bravery and heroism of Jack Cook, lived to fight another day. [I previously related the story of the Long crew in this post.]

These are the statistics of only one heavy bomber group of the 8th Air Force on only one mission, though not an unimportant one. This was the February 3, 1945 raid on Berlin.

Almost 1,000 B-17 heavy bombers of the 8th Air Force made up the bomber stream to Berlin on February 3, 1945. The bombers were supported and protected by 575 P-51 Mustang fighters.

Officially, the target for the mission was the Tempelhof Marshalling Yards in Berlin, but Commander of Strategic Air Forces in Europe General Carl Spaatz and Allied Commander General Dwight D. Eisenhower had more in mind. The raid would be a massive attack on the city center of Berlin, a terror bombing designed to lower the morale of the German people. Eighth Air Force Commander Lt. General Jimmy Doolittle objected to such tactics and appealed to Spaatz to stick to America’s strategic principle of precision bombing of targets of military significance.

Doolittle was not successful in changing Spaatz’s mind. The raid was planned for the morning of February 2, but the mission was cancelled due to heavy cloud cover. It was rescheduled for the next day, February 3, a day with unusually clear weather which permitted accurate visual bombing. What started out for the bomb and fighter groups as a cold, wet English Saturday morning, over Berlin the day would become CAVU, with “ceiling and visibility unlimited.”

For Doolittle’s 8th Air Force, February 3 was to be one of the biggest missions of WWII. The bomber stream was to consist of forty-two bombardment groups in the three air divisions, 1,003 B-17 Flying Fortresses heading to Berlin and 434 B-24 Liberators heading to Magdeburg, with 15,000 airmen manning the bombers and accompanying fighters.

In Berlin, the fire caused by the bombing lasted four days and burned everything combustible to ash. It was only stopped by waterways, thoroughfares, and parks that it could not jump. Berlin was reduced to a city of debris and rubble, buildings destroyed or badly damaged, crater-filled streets, without water and electricity.

Statistics vary regarding the loss of life on the ground in Berlin on February 3, 1945. At the time, there were perhaps three million refuges in Berlin, what Donald Miller called “part of one of the greatest human migrations in history” in his book, Masters of the Air. Thousands were instantly cremated where they stood when the bombs began to fall and explode around them and the city began to burn.

Early estimates by the 8th Air Force put the dead at 25,000, but German historians estimate a much lower total around 3,000. Even at the doubtful estimate of 3,000, it was the most Berliners killed in a single raid in all of WWII. Regardless of an accurate number of deaths, historians do agree that 120,000 Berliners were made homeless by the bombing mission of February 3.

The next day, a report from London noted that “The powerful United States Eighth Air Force attacked the heart of Berlin yesterday noon with about 3,000 tons of high explosives and incendiaries in the most concentrated bombing ever carried out on the Reich capital.” The New York Times carried the story with the headlines “3,000-Ton Blow Hits Berlin In Steady Bombing of Reich and 3,000-TON BOMBING IN BERLIN’S CENTER.”

The 8th Air Force planned to return to Berlin three days later, but bad weather caused the mission to be cancelled. The 384th, with a dozen less airmen, did not participate in another mission for nearly a week.

Sources:

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

An Honor for Jack Coleman Cook in the Congressional Record

On February 3, 1945, 384th Bomb Group ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook saved the life of navigator Edward Field in the cold North Sea when their B-17, The Challenger, was forced to ditch on the return trip to England after their mission to Berlin.

Jack Coleman Cook is finally receiving the honor he deserves for his bravery and heroism that day. He has now received and is still receiving several honors and today I want to share with you Jack’s honor that was entered into the Congressional Record of March 21, 2018 by Arkansas Congressman Bruce Westerman.

The text of the honor reads:

HONORING SERGEANT JACK COLEMAN COOK OF HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS
(Extensions of Remarks – March 21, 2018)

[Congressional Record Volume 164, Number 49 (Wednesday, March 21, 2018)]

HONORING SERGEANT JACK COLEMAN COOK OF HOT SPRINGS, ARKANSAS

______

HON. BRUCE WESTERMAN

of arkansas

in the house of representatives

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

  Mr. WESTERMAN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to recognize Sergeant Jack Coleman Cook of Hot Springs, Arkansas, for his heroic actions in World War II when he selflessly sacrificed his own life to save his fellow airmen.

Sergeant Cook was a ball turret gunner on a B-17 Flying Fortress, the “Challenger,” with the 384th Bomb Group. On February 3, 1945, the 384th Bomb Group participated in a mission to bomb the Tempelhof Railroad Marshalling Yards in Berlin. During the mission, the Challenger was hit by flak, damaging multiple engines, gas tanks, and the fuselage, but left the crew unharmed.

As they made their way back to base in England, their plane began losing altitude and crash landed in the frigid North Sea. As soon as the plane hit the water, the crew members proceeded to abandon the aircraft and pull out the two life rafts, but only one fully inflated. The pilot and radio operator swam for the partially inflated raft, but the pilot succumbed to the cold and passed away, and the radio operator was dragged into the sea where he was lost.

The rest of the crew swam for the closer, fully inflated raft. Sergeant Cook, the first to make it, helped four other crewmembers into the overcrowded raft, while two men stayed in the water. Edward Field, the navigator who stayed in the water, began to push their raft towards the second raft. After thirty minutes in the water, Edward Field became numb, and said that he could no longer hold on.

Jack Coleman Cook got into the water so Edward Field could take his spot in the raft, where he continuously swam for forty-five minutes until they reached the second raft. Shortly after, Air-Sea rescue reached their position, but Sergeant Cook had little life left in him, and he passed away on the boat.

Sergeant Cook selflessly sacrificed his own life so Edward Field and his fellow crewmembers could live. Those men returned to duty only four weeks after the crash, where they bravely fought through the rest of the war.

Jack Coleman Cook is a true American hero who showed bravery and courage in a time of great circumstance. He gave his life for his fellow man, and for this, we remember him over seventy years later. It is with great pride that I honor Jack Coleman Cook.

______

Thank you Congressman Westerman and staff for recognizing Jack Coleman Cook with this honor.

The honor in the Congressional Record can also be viewed directly here.

I’ll be sharing more honors for Jack Coleman Cook in coming articles…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Hitler’s Enabling Act

A couple of weeks ago, I wrote about events leading up to WWII in the Winter of 1933. One of the most significant events of that time was the passage of Hitler’s Enabling Act.

On March 23 of that year, the newly elected members of the Reichstag (German Parliament) met in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider the Act, which was officially called the “Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.” They were meeting in the opera house because on February 27, the Nazis had burned the Reichstag building and blamed the fire on the Communists. The fire caused the “distress” and an atmosphere of crisis in Germany as the German people were led to believe an uprising was coming.

The next day, March 24, the vote to pass Hitler’s Enabling Act was held. Nazi Storm Troopers intimidated those who might oppose Hitler, glaring menacingly and chanting “Full powers – or else! We want the bill – or fire and murder!” They had gathered around the opera house, in the hallways, and lined the aisles.

Just before the vote, Hitler addressed the group. He said,

The government will make use of these powers only insofar as they are essential for carrying out vitally necessary measures…

The number of cases in which an internal necessity exists for having recourse to such a law is in itself a limited one.

Hitler made other promises he did not intend to keep, to end unemployment and to promote peace with France, Great Britain and the Soviet Union. But he said in order to do these things, he needed the Enabling Act.

To pass his Act, Hitler needed a two thirds majority as the law would change the German Constitution. He had the Nazi vote, but he needed thirty-one non-Nazi votes, which he would get that day from the Center Party by making a false promise to restore some basic rights that had been taken away.

Before the vote, Otto Wells, leader of the Social Democrat party, bravely spoke before the group, addressing Hitler.

We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice, of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructible.

An enraged Hitler responded,

You are no longer needed! – The star of Germany will rise and yours will sink! Your death knell has sounded!

When the vote was taken, four hundred forty-one voted for the Enabling Act. Only eighty-four, the Social Democrats, voted against it. With well over two thirds of the vote, the Nazis achieved what Adolf Hitler had wanted to do for years, legally end democracy in Germany and claim dictatorial powers. The passage of Adolf Hitler’s Enabling Act paved the way for the Nazi takeover of Germany.

These events happened eighty-five years ago this week. It seems like a very long time ago, and then again, it doesn’t.

For many of us, our parents were school children during this time in history. Merely a decade later, our fathers, who were in their late teens or early twenties, and should have been chasing girls, were chasing Nazis instead.

Sources:

The History Place

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Dachau Opens Near Munich

In March 1933, as the Police President of Munich, SS leader Heinrich Himmler, and the Nazis open the Dachau concentration camp near Munich for political enemies of the Third Reich. It was constructed at an unused munitions factory located twelve miles northwest of Munich on the Amper River. Himmler chose Theodor Eicke to organize Dachau, which became the model for all future SS concentration camps. Eicke became known as the “Father of the Concentration Camp System.”

Before the formal concentration camp system began, conventional prisons were becoming overwhelmed with political prisoners of the Nazis and early crude camps known as “wild” concentration camps were quickly constructed. They were often simply stockades surrounded by barbed wire. Prisoners were subjected to military-style drills, beatings, and torture. Often, prisoners were held for ransom and were released upon payment.

At Dachau, each prisoner passed through an iron gate, arriving under the Nazi slogan, “Arbeit Macht Frei.” Work sets you free. The prisoners were presented with another slogan painted inside the camp. “There is one way to freedom. Its milestones are: obedience, zeal, honesty, order, cleanliness, temperance, truth, sense of sacrifice and love for the Fatherland.”

In the early days of Dachau, most were political prisoners who were not told how long they would be imprisoned. For most, it was the first time they had ever been in trouble with the police or arrested. Upon being detained, they were told, “Based on Article One of the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of People and State of 28 February 1933, you are taken into protective custody in the interest of public security and order. Reason: suspicion of activities inimical to the State.”

The prisoners worked twelve-hour days in a camp workshop or outside along the camp grounds. Their health declined quickly due to the long work hours, poor nutrition, and inadequate sanitation.

The harsh forced labor system became the model for all subsequent concentration camps as Himmler and the SS took advantage of a ready supply of slave labor.

Under Theodor Eicke, SS guards at Dachau underwent rigorous military training in addition to their camp guard duty. Eicke convinced them to treat all inmates as dangerous enemies of the state and to not harbor any sympathy for the prisoners. The guards had to witness or participate in acts of cruelty against the prisoners, who were treated as numbers, not persons, stripped of everything human.

The existence of Dachau and other early concentration camps instilled fear in all Germans and effectively suppressed any political opposition to Hitler and the Nazi regime.

 Source:

The History Place World War II in Europe

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

WWII Timeline – Winter 1933

I’m continuing my WWII Timeline series with a look at January – March 1933 in this post.

A Timeline of WWII, Winter 1933

 

1933

In 1933, Germany’s Jewish population is estimated to be more than 500,000, but less than 600,000, or about three-quarters of one percent of the total German population.

January 30, 1933

German President von Hindenburg names Adolph Hitler Chancellor of Germany.

February 22, 1933

In Germany, forty thousand SA (Sturmabteilung) and SS men are sworn in as auxiliary police.  (The SA was eventually replaced by Himmler’s SS).

February 27, 1933

The Nazis set the Reichstag building, the seat of the German government, on fire and it burns. This creates a crisis atmosphere which enables Adolf Hitler to seize power under the pretext of protecting the nation from threats to its security.

February 28, 1933

The Nazis’ plan works and as a result of the Reichstag fire, emergency powers are granted to Hitler.

March 12, 1933

The Oranienburg Concentration Camp opens as one of the first detention facilities established by the Nazis. The camp was located in the state of Prussia and held political opponents of the Nazis, mostly members of the Communist Party of Germany and social-democrats, as well as homosexual men and other so-called “undesirables.”

March 21 or 22, 1933

The Nazis open the Dachau concentration camp near Munich for political enemies of the Third Reich. The opening of other camps follows in later years:  Sachsenhausen (July 1936) in northern Germany near Berlin, Buchenwald (July 1937) near Weimar in central Germany, and Ravensbrück (1939) for women in northern Germany north of Berlin.

March 23, 1933

The newly elected members of the Reichstag (German Parliament) meet in the Kroll Opera House in Berlin to consider passing Hitler’s Enabling Act. The Act was officially called the “Law for Removing the Distress of the People and the Reich.” Passage of the Act would effectively mean the end of democracy in Germany and would establish the legal dictatorship of Adolf Hitler.

March 24, 1933

The Reichstag passes the Enabling Act giving Hitler dictatorial powers.

March 27, 1933

Japan withdraws from the League of Nations.

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

And other information from Wikipedia

Most recent post from the series:

The Early 1930’s

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Farrar Family in 1941

It was 1941. On December 7, the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. On December 8, the US declared war on Japan, entering WWII. On December 11, Hitler declared war on the United States. President Roosevelt then asked Congress for a declaration of war on Germany saying, “Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty and civilization.”

This was the year that life for this generation of Americans would change forever. This was the year that the Farrar’s took this family photo.

The Farrar family in 1941

Standing, back row, L to R: George Edwin (Ed, my dad), Bob Hunt (Janet’s husband), Janet Mae, Ozzie Couch (close family friend), Carroll Johnson Jr.
Standing, middle row, L to R: Martha Ann, Dorothy Gertrude (Dot) holding daughter Phyllis, Raleigh May, Carroll Johnson Sr.
Kneeling front row: Robert Burnham (Bob), Harold Eugene (Gene), Beverly Marie, Hugh Cobb (Dot’s husband), Denny (Dot’s son)
Not pictured: Nell Geraldine (Gerry)
Photo contributed by Joan Stephenson (Dot’s daughter)

My grandparents, Raleigh May and Carroll Johnson Farrar, Sr., had nine children twenty-seven years apart. The oldest was born in 1910 and the youngest in 1937. Of the nine children, four would be directly involved in the war effort, three sons and one daughter.

Nell Geraldine, the oldest child and first daughter, was born in 1910. Gerry married Wallace Mass in 1932 and moved to California. She was the only Farrar child to permanently move out of the state of Georgia and away from the closeness of the Farrar family.

Janet Mae was born in 1912. She married Bob Hunt (pictured) in 1936. During WWII, Janet joined the Georgia division of Bell Aircraft (known as Bell Bomber) in Marietta, Georgia, contributing at home to the war effort. She was hired as their very first policewoman in March 1943. Bell Bomber supplied the U.S. Army Air Forces with Boeing-designed B-29’s.

Carroll Johnson, Jr. was the first son, born in 1916. Carroll, Jr. enlisted in the US Army Air Corps on August 13, 1941. He served in Army Air Force Service Squadron 315 in the Pacific.

Dorothy Gertrude was born in 1919. She married Hugh Cobb in late 1936 or early 1937. Dot and Hugh followed in her parents’ footsteps and had nine children of their own. Included in the photo are the couples two oldest children, Denny and Phyllis.

George Edwin (my dad) was born in 1921. Ed enlisted June 4, 1942. He served in the Mighty Eighth Air Force in the 384th Bomb Group as a waist gunner of a B-17 crew stationed in England. He was knocked down on his sixteenth mission and became a prisoner of war.

Robert Burnham was born in 1925. Bob enlisted in the Navy on May 8, 1943. He served in the Pacific on the USS Intrepid and was injured when it was attacked by two Japanese kamikaze pilots on November 25, 1944.

Martha Ann was born in 1927.

Harold Eugene (Gene) was born in 1931.

Beverly Marie was born in 1937.

During WWII, Gerry, Janet, and Dot were married and living away from home. Carroll, Ed, and Bob were still living at home at the start of the war, but would all be far from home during their WWII service. Martha, Gene, and Beverly were the only children left to grow up in the family home during the war years.

The only person in the picture who has not yet been mentioned is a friend of the family named Ozzie Couch (I’m unsure of the spelling of his name). Ozzie and Carroll Jr. both worked at Rich’s Department Store in Atlanta. Ozzie’s inclusion in the family photo says something about his closeness to the Farrar family. Youngest daughter Beverly remembered that Ozzie brought many gifts to the family including a variety of plants, Beverly’s first Persian cat, and a retired circus horse named Danny Boy that lived for a time in the garage. Ozzie’s family was from North Carolina. Ozzie, too, served in WWII. I am curious about Ozzie and would like to find out more about him. If anyone reading this can tell me more about Ozzie Couch (sp.), please contact me.

Did the Farrar family, sensing the war moving right into their living room, take this photo in 1941 wondering if it might be the last photo of them all (except for Gerry) together? Many families lost sons to WWII, but the Farrar family was fortunate to see all three of their sons – Carroll, Ed, and Bob – and even family friend Ozzie return from the war. A family intact.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Dad’s Escape and Evasion Photos

George Edwin Farrar Escape and Evasion Photo

In WWII, airmen were equipped with an escape and evasion kit to help them in the event that they had to bail out of a crippled plane. Once on the ground, if they were not immediately captured, they would have a few tools to help them evade capture.

George Edwin Farrar Escape and Evasion Photo

For those airmen in the European theater, the kit may have contained banknotes from several countries, multilingual language cards, silk maps, a knife, a small amount of rations, first aid supplies, and photos in civilian clothing for false papers.

George Edwin Farrar Escape and Evasion Photo

An airman forced to bail out over France or Belgium had a better chance of evasion than an airman forced to bail out over Germany. One who bailed out over Germany was much more likely to be found quickly by German soldiers and much less likely to be found by someone sympathetic to his predicament.

When my father, George Edwin Farrar, landed on German soil, he was severely injured. He was unable to walk and never had a chance to attempt to evade capture.

I found these photos in my dad’s wartime things along with two silk maps which he never had the chance to use.

Edouard Renière has written a nice piece on the items the airmen may have been given before their missions which you can read here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Lingering Shadows of an Aluminum Overcast

When  I look at written World War II history, I see names, dates, places of great battles, and statistics. I rarely see mention of family, but families are what’s at the core of such a great struggle. One man was not fighting this great war against his enemy, another man. Their families were right there beside them fighting, too. When one man went down, many more at home who shared his blood went down with him. The loss of one man became a great emotional loss at home and the loss of many future generations of his family.

Two B-17 flying fortresses collided above Germany on September 28, 1944. Of the eighteen men aboard the two forts, four survived. None of the four live on today, but their children and grandchildren carry on their legacy. At least three of the men who died that day had children or knew that they were to become fathers in the months to come. That makes seven families, not quite half, who share a common history dating back to WWII.

Of the eleven men who would have no descendants, most of them had siblings who had children and there are nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and -nephews who also share their history and cherish their memories.

We are known collectively as the Buslee and Brodie crews’ NexGens, the Next Generation of the men of these two crews of the 384th Bomb Group of the Mighty Eighth Air Force who bravely defended our country in WWII.

I began my search for Buslee/Brodie NexGens, who I consider extended family, in 2011 after I met Wallace Storey. I remember so clearly now my astonishment when Wallace told me that he had been in touch with other family members of the two crews. It was that light-headed feeling of shattered disbelief that almost knocked me off my feet, the thought of something I had never considered possible. There were others out there who knew my father’s story of the mid-air collision. It was no longer my family’s private history.

I had never before considered that my sister and I were not the only ones. From my dad’s stories, I knew he was the only survivor of the Buslee crew. At the time, I did not know that children were born to two of the men after the mid-air collision. And I never suspected that any of the men of the Brodie crew had survived the horrific accident, but three of them had. One of their sons had contacted Wallace Storey before me. So had a newphew and great-nephew of Buslee crew members.

I began contacting the relatives for whom Wallace provided information and I started researching each man who had been on those two planes, looking for their families, and finding some of them. During this process, I realized there was a lot we didn’t know about September 28, 1944, and that the other NexGens wanted to know as badly as I what happened in the skies above Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944.

Top secret reports from WWII were public now, and I discovered details bit by bit and started putting them together, like pieces of a puzzle. I shared what I found with the other Buslee/Brodie NexGens and they shared knowledge, photos, and letters. These men who were our fathers and grandfathers, and uncles and great-uncles had an incredibly close bond. And now we NexGens were forming our own bond as we learned details about that late September day, details that in the 1940’s our families struggled so very hard to discover, but of which they were left uniformed.

With the power of knowledge of what happened to the boys that day, we are able to feel them again, hold them close, grieve for them, and look at them with a new sense of awe and respect. I have new family now, these descendants of the great airmen of WWII. We live in the lingering shadows of an aluminum overcast that will never fade away as long as we remember.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018