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From the US to the UK and Beyond

One of the maps in my dad’s World Atlas showed his route from the US to the UK and then on into Germany. I believe the starting point in the US was Kearney, Nebraska, where he and the Buslee crew picked up their B-17 to ferry across the Atlantic.

On his way out of Ardmore, Oklahoma, he wrote about his expected stay in Nebraska in a letter to his mother dated June 22, 1944.

We will be at the next place just long enough to get our plane. It should take from three to seven days.

Dad must have made a few stops between Kearney and the East Coast of the US. On June 25, he wrote to his mother again.

Just a line to let you know that everything is fine.  There is no use in you writing me here, as we will only be here four days.  We have our own plane, and will fly over.  We should be there next week this time.

In describing their new B-17, he also wrote that

It only has twelve hours on it and guns all over it.  They are giving each of us a cal. – 45 pistol and a large knife.  You would think we were going to look for a fight.

Daddy was ready to head to combat. He wrote

Please don’t worry about me as I know what I am doing, and love it.

Daddy wrote to his mother again the next day, June 26.

One more day in this place, and we will be going.

Two days later on June 28, I’m not sure where he was, but he wrote to his mother,

In just a little while and we will be on our way.  I wish I could tell you where to, but it just isn’t being done this season.  I can tell you we will stay once more in the States, and I will try to drop you a line from there.  I am in the ship now.  We have everything packed, and we are taking time about watching it until take-off time.

This is one of the best places I have been in some time, and I hate to leave it without going to town once more.

According to his separation documents, my dad departed the US on July 1, 1944 and arrived in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) on July 3.

There were three air bases in the Northeast involved in ferrying aircraft to the ETO – Grenier Army Air Base in New Hampshire, Presque Isle Army Airfield in Maine, and Dow Army Airfield, also in Maine.  From the spot marked on his map, I believe Daddy’s last stop in the US was Grenier Army Air Base in Manchester, New Hampshire.

From there, most ferried aircraft next went to RCAF Station Gander, Newfoundland until mid-1942, when a change was made to Goose Bay Labrador. Sure enough, Dad marked the location of Goose Bay on his map.

There were three aircraft ferrying stops in the North Atlantic Route in Greenland, Bluie West 1, Bluie West 8, and Bluie East 2, but Daddy didn’t note a stop in Greenland.

The next stop Dad noted on his map was on the East coast of Iceland. There were three airfields in Iceland used on the North Atlantic Ferrying route: Meeks Field, Patterson Field (originally Svidningar Field), and Reykjavik Airport. Reykjavik Airport and Meeks Field appear on the map on the West coast of Iceland. I can’t locate Patterson Field on the map. He must have stopped in Iceland, but I am not certain of the exact location.

Next stop must have been the RAF Valley in Wales in the UK, judging from the location Dad marked on his map. Sixty to seventy ferried aircraft arrived there each day, then were forwarded to the operational bases in England of the 8th and 9th Air Forces.

From there, Dad marked a route across England to his home base in Grafton Underwood, and then continued the route deep into Germany. I know the location of his final mark. It would be Magdeburg, where high in the skies above Germany, another B-17 of his own Bomb Group would collide with his B-17 on September 28, 1944.

Another map included in the Atlas showed some various routes to the ETO.

Dad marked one spot on his Atlas map of Great Britain and Ireland, his home base in Grafton Underwood. (I added the arrow and red outline). Station 106 at Grafton Underwood was the home of the 384th Bomb Group, from which my dad flew his missions in WWII.

To be continued…

…with Magdeburg and Belgard.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Home Bases

While trying to piece together my dad’s timeline during his WWII service, I decided to dig through his box of WWII letters and memorabilia again. I ran across this treasure, “World Atlas of Today – War Edition.” I know I have thumbed through it before, but I did not remember my dad’s annotations I found on its cover and within it.

The inside cover calls it “Hammond’s World Atlas” and it was copyrighted 1943 by C.S. Hammond & Co., New York. It was printed specifically for WWII and includes a description of this volume which starts with…

With the whole of the globe the scene of the greatest upheaval since the birth of man – Maps – clear and accurate maps are absolutely indispensable to enable one to grasp the vast scope of the present world shaking conflict, and to form an appreciation of the tremendous distances involved.

Remember, this was a time before jet airliners and cell phones. Travel to distant places took much longer and news from those faraway places took longer, too. But my dad went to those faraway places and in the pages of this volume of maps, he recorded his travels, and in doing so recorded his history.

Dad wrote his name and station on the cover, George E. Farrar, 328th Hd. Sq., Kingman, Ariz. I know he was stationed with the 328 Hd. Sq in May 1943, so that’s probably about the time he received this atlas.

Inside the atlas on a map of the United States, Dad circled his home bases while he served stateside and drew some lines that I’m working to decipher. The bases he circled were:

  • Kingman, Arizona
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Kearney, Nebraska
  • Grenier Army Air Base, New Hampshire (three miles south of Manchester, New Hampshire)

Other than Kingman, I know Dad was in Albuquerque sometime between October 12 and December 18, 1942 as those were the dates a movie crew was in Albuquerque filming the movie “Bombardier.” Dad was there as part of the 383rd Student Squadron at Kirtland Army Air Base. I know this only from his notes, as his separation documents don’t list Albuquerque as a place he was either a student or instructor.

As for Kearney and Grenier, he and the Buslee crew picked up their B-17 in Kearney and I believe Grenier Army Air Base was their final destination in the states on their way to ferry their B-17 across the Atlantic.

Surprisingly, he did not circle Ardmore, Oklahoma, where for six months he administered phase checks and organized students and instructors, and completed his combat crew training, but he does have it marked on the map. Other points around the country that he connected with red and black lines were:

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Sacramento, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Long Beach, California
  • Reno, Nevada
  • Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Yuma, Arizona
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Amarillo, Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Thomasville, Georgia
  • Waycross, Georgia
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Fort Myers, Florida

I don’t know the significance of these cities other than his hometown was Atlanta, Georgia, and he attended AC Instructors School in Fort Myers, Florida for six weeks. I also don’t understand the significance of the red lines vs. the black lines. Perhaps the lines were routes he traveled, possibly red by train and black by plane. The lines emanating from Kingman and Albuquerque could have been training flight paths. As I discover more information, perhaps one day I will better understand Dad’s annotations on his maps.

To be continued…

…with a map showing his route to the ETO in more detail.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Ardmore Army Air Field

My dad’s (George Edwin “Ed” Farrar’s) WWII Separation Qualification record indicates that he was an Army Air Forces (AAF) Gunnery instructor for thirteen months. For seven months he was a flexible gunnery instructor in Kingman, Arizona, conducting and administering training classes and gunnery tests. For six months he administered phase checks, organized students and instructors for training in aerial gunnery at Ardmore OTU, Oklahoma.

George Edwin “Ed” Farrar pointing to Ardmore, Oklahoma on the map

He spent six weeks at an Aircraft Instructor’s School in Ft. Myers, Florida. The course included instruction and practical training in teaching methods and student psychology as well as fundamentals of advanced aerial gunnery. I’m not sure whether he attended the AC Instructor’s School before he was a flexible gunnery instructor in Kingman or if the Instructor’s School came later, before his stint as an instructor in Ardmore.

Ardmore Army Air Field opened in Ardmore, Oklahoma in 1942 as a glider training facility. By July 12, 1943, it became a Martin Marauder B-26 crew training base of the 394th Bombardment Group, but the 394th transferred out five weeks later on August 19, 1943.

On August 20, 1943, Ardmore Army Air Field passed from the Third Air Force to the Second Air Force and on September 16, the 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing of the 20th Bomber Command moved to Ardmore. Soon after, the 395th Bombardment Group arrived with their B-17’s.

On November 24, 1943, the 395th Bombardment Group was transformed into the 395th Combat Crew Training School, which provided instructional personnel for the training of new combat crews for the B-17s. Perhaps it was at this time that my dad was assigned to Ardmore as an instructor.

George Edwin “Ed” Farrar in Ardmore, Oklahoma

According to their web site, during this time period in WWII, Ardmore Army Air Field was a receiving facility for new pilots, navigators, gunners, bombardiers, radio operators and flight engineers after they had completed their individual specialty training at other bases around the country.

While at Ardmore, the individuals were brought together for their final combat training to become B-17 combat crews ready to ship overseas and into the action. The training program included both classroom and flying instruction. As a combat crew in training, the men would be at the Ardmore base from three to five months before shipping overseas.

On March 25, 1944, the 395th Combat Crew Training School was changed to the 222nd Combat Crew Training School by Second Air Force General Order Number 35.

My dad transitioned from instructor at Ardmore to a gunner on one of the B-17 crews, where he completed his combat crew training as a flexible gunner (waist gunner) on the the John Oliver Buslee crew.

The Buslee Crew.  My dad is on the far right in the front row.

On June 8, 1944, he received his written orders “as a combat crew member requiring regular and frequent participation in aerial flights.” The order was issued by Major Milton S. Angier, Air Corps Commandant of the Combat Crew Detachment, 222nd Combat Crew Training School, AAF, Ardmore, Oklahoma.

My dad wrote his mother on June 22, 1944 on his way out of Ardmore and the beginning of his journey to Grafton Underwood with the Buslee crew. At the time, most of the B-17 crews traveled by train from the Ardmore base to Grand Island, Nebraska, where they were assigned the B-17’s that they flew to England, and I can only assume that Grand Island was his next destination.

He wrote, “We will be at the next place just long enough to get our plane. It should take from three to seven days.” He also said that he wanted his mother to know that “I haven’t waited this long to start asking God to help me.”

George Edwin “Ed” Farrar

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

The 8th Air Force and Savannah, Georgia

Marker in front of the old Chatham Armory

At the Old Chatham Armory on Bull Street in Savannah a marker is erected to the 8th Air Force of the Army Air Forces in WWII. It reads:

On 28 January 1942, the Eighth Air Force was activated in the adjacent building, a National Guard Armory at the time.

Having moved to England, the Eighth was ready on 17 August to test the theory that daylight bombing raids could be made with profitable results. Twelve B-17’s participated in this mission, striking the railway marshalling yards at Rouen, France, and returning safely to their home base. This highly successful mission established the pattern for the strategic bombardment of Nazi Germany — the Eighth Air Force by day and the RAF by night.

Under the leaderships of Generals Carl A. Spaatz, Ira C. Eaker and James H. Doolittle, it flew over 600,000 sorties delivering over 700,000 tons of bombs and destroying over 15,000 German aircraft. On one single mission, December 24, 1944, it was able to send 2,000 B-17 Flying Fortresses and B-24 Liberators and nearly 1,000 fighters in the Battle of Germany.

The renowned winged-eight, the emblem of the Eighth Air Force, was designed by former Air Force Major Ed Winter, a native of Savannah.

The building now houses American Legion Post 135 at 1108 Bull Street.

Savannah, Georgia is also home to the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. The museum is located at 175 Bourne Avenue, Pooler, Georgia 31322, phone number (912) 748-8888. The museum is open seven days a week from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. It houses many WWII exhibits and the B-17 City of Savannah, which is undergoing complete restoration. The City of Savannah is currently on display in the museum’s Combat Gallery.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Budd Peaslee – Part 5

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to the entire series).

Almost a year before the 384th Bomb Group arrived at their home base, the initial air strike of the 8th Air Force was launched from the Grafton Underwood airdrome on July 4, 1942, American Independence Day. It was carried out by a light bombardment squadron, the 15th, using aircraft borrowed from the RAF. Six American crews were led by six British crews and they attacked airdromes in Holland.

The next year, the B-17’s of the 384th Bomb Group moved in. This new home of the 384th, Grafton Underwood, was in rolling wooded hills in the English Midlands. The airdrome site was previously a treeless meadow in a game preserve with private herds of deer and owned by an English nobleman. His family castle, which dated back to the days of Robin Hood, stood a short distance away.

The base was originally built by British Bomber Command and had been operated by the RAF. The formal transfer from the RAF to American ownership was scheduled to take place on the one year anniversary of the July 4 mission.

The airdrome was made up of two crossing runways and the end of each was connected by a circular taxi strip. From the taxis strips, about fifty short strips led to the concrete hard stands, or parking areas, for the Group’s B-17’s. There were several buildings: a small two-story control tower, operations and intelligence buildings, and a hangar and shop area. Other buildings, such as administrative headquarters, the bomb and fuel dumps, and squadron living quarters were scattered in the surrounding woodlands.

Two narrow paved roads led from the airfield to the living areas, but the remainder of the roads were gravel or dirt which would turn to mud for the majority of the time. Grafton Underwood was nicknamed “Grafton Undermud” due to the usual condition of the roads. The base had three exit roads which led to neighboring villages. The closest cities were Kettering, about three miles from GU, and Northampton, about six miles from the base.

Once the 384th moved in to GU, they were given only two weeks to get organized and establish their routines. The flyers also took flights over the English Midlands to familiarize themselves with the countryside and learn how to find their way back to base. There were many airdromes that looked similar from the air.

The 384th waited for their moment, their debut, through a week of poor weather conditions after being declared combat-ready. Finally, on June 21, the message came across the teletype machine: ATTENTION, ATTENTION ALL BOMBER GROUPS: ALL GROUPS ASSUME A CONDITION OF ALERT FOR PROBABLE FIELD ORDER FOR JUNE 22, 1943.

With the receipt of this message, all passes were canceled and the gates were closed to all but specially authorized outbound traffic. The bar in the Officers Club was closed. The waiting began for the call that the field order was in. The 384th’s Mission #1 would be the 8th Air Force’s Mission #65. Take-off, or H hour, was set at 0700 hours, briefing at 0500, and breakfast at 0400. The crews were called at 0330.

At the combat briefing, Intelligence Officer Major William Edward “Pop” Dolan told the crews that the main force would strike the synthetic rubber industry at Huls. But the 384th’s part in the mission would be to confuse the German fighters by making themselves obvious while the main force climbed in altitude in secrecy over the North Sea before turning inland toward the Ruhr Valley. The 384th’s target would be the Ford and General Motors factories at Antwerp, surrounded by flak guns. The 384th was selected to lead the attack with the 381st Bomb Group trailing them. Their attack on Antwerp would divert the German fighters from the main force heading to Huls. They were told to expect an air battle. Other speakers at the briefing covered the various phases and data for the mission.

The last speaker of the briefing was Group Commander Budd Peaslee. Peaslee reminded the air crews of their responsibilities, the importance of holding their close defensive formations, and warned them about the tactics of the enemy fighters and that they should remain calm when shooting at the enemy, holding fire until the target was within range. He said they were “each their brothers’ keeper aloft in a hostile sky” and that he would lead them to success on this mission.

22 June 1943, Antwerp Belgium (Industry)
Back, L-to-R: MAJ. SELDON L MCMILLIN (OBS/LWG), GORDON HANKINSON (CP), JAMES H FOISTER (N), DAVID WILMOT (N), CHARLES D BONNETT (B), COL. BUDD J PEASLEE (P).
Front, L-to-R: WILLIAM SHELTON (RWG), WILLIAM RALSTON (TT), CLYDE SAVAGE (BT), ROY GRIFFITH (RO), JULIUS MCNUTT (TG).
Aircraft: B-17F 547th BS 42-30043 SO*V Ruthless
Source: The Quentin Bland Collection.

The 384th Bomb Group’s web site records the following information for this first mission of the Group:

Col. Budd J. Peaslee led the 384th Bombardment Group (H) on this mission aboard 42-30043, Ruthless.

Combat Chronology: VIII Bomber Command Mission Number 65: In the first large-scale daylight raid on the Ruhr, 235 B-17’s are dispatched to hit the chemical works and synthetic rubber plant at Huls in the main attack; 183 bomb the target; we claim 46-21-35 Luftwaffe aircraft; we lose 16 and 75 others are damaged; casualties are 2 KIA, 16 WIA and 151 MIA; this plant, representing a large percentage of the country’s producing capacity, is severely damaged. 11 YB-40’s accompany the Huls raid; 1 is lost.

In a second raid, 42 B-17’s are dispatched to bomb the former Ford and General Motors plants at Antwerp; 39 hit the target; they claim 1-2-9 Luftwaffe aircraft; we lose 4, 1 is damaged beyond repair and 17 others are damaged; casualties are 1 KIA, 3 WIA and 40 MIA. An additional 21 B-17’s fly an uneventful diversion.

Two of the 384th’s B-17’s failed to return from this mission. The Frederick Disney crew aboard 42-5853, Salvage Queen, was damaged by enemy aircraft and ditched in the English Channel. The Robert Oblinski crew aboard 42-30076 was shot down by enemy aircraft and crashed near Wilhelminadoorp, the Netherlands.

The 384th Bomb Group had officially entered the war.

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

To be continued…

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Joseph Donald Weaver

Joseph Donald Weaver, 9th AF, 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squad

I don’t know how many of you are members of the Eighth Air Force Historical Society, but I am a member and receive their 8th AF News magazine. I was intrigued by the cover of the March 2017 issue I received in the mail. The cover photo was a woman named Ellen Weaver Hartman holding dog tags and surrounded by photos and other items. The item that caught my eye was a small piece of wood inscribed with “Stalag Luft IV 1944.” Stalag Luft IV was the prison camp in which my dad was held POW in 1944 and 1945.

I quickly turned to the article, “Band of Daughters.” It was a reprint of an article by Josh Green for the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper. You can read the entire article here.

I went on to read the story of Ellen Weaver Hartman and Laura Witt Edge. Ellen’s dad was Joseph (Joe) Donald Weaver, who was a Radio Operator/Mechanic Gunner with the 9th Air Force, 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squad.

According to the American Air Museum in Britain, the 386th Bomb Group flew B-26 Marauders for the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. While assigned to the Eighth Air Force, the 386th developed the formation release procedure for the B-26, a medium bomber, on missions from Great Dunmow, England in the winter of 1943 – 1944 to aerodromes, marshalling yards and V-weapon sites along the coast of France. In October 1944, the 386th moved to Beaumont-sur-Oise, north of Paris, and on to St. Trond, Belgium in support of the push eastward by ground forces.

Laura’s dad was Lawrence (Larry) Lee Witt, who was an Engineer/Waist Gunner with the 8th Air Force, 96th Bomb Group, 338th Bomb Squad.

According the the American Air Museum in Britain, the 96th Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses to targets across occupied Europe from May 1943 to April 1945. They were awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations, the first for bombing an aircraft factory at Regensburg on August 17, 1943 under intense pressure from enemy fighters. The second was for leading the 45th Bomb Wing through difficult weather conditions and anti-aircraft fire on a mission to an aircraft components factories at Poznan on April 9, 1944.

Laura Edge knows a great deal about her father’s service in WWII. When her father was in his eighties, Laura sat down with him and one of his old crewmates and they told her their stories of WWII, Stalag Luft IV, and the Black March they endured while prisoners of war. Laura wrote a book, On the Wings of Dawn, a well-written and excellent record of the experiences of the American airmen who shared those experiences. I consider it a must-read for anyone whose father was confined in Stalag Luft IV during WWII and I will write more about it in a future post.

While Laura Edge knows a great deal about her father’s service in WWII, Ellen Weaver Hartman does not have as much information about her father’s service, but she would like to learn more. Who were the members of Joe Weaver’s originally assigned crew? How can she find a photo of that crew? If you have found your way to this article through an internet search on one of the names I’ve mentioned here, or if you recognize any of the faces in the included photos, and you have any information to share, I urge you to comment on this post or e-mail Ellen directly.

Joseph Donald Weaver on the right

Joseph (Joe) Donald Weaver was born on August 28, 1923 in Ackerman, Mississippi. On October 8, 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. At the time, he was living in Choctaw County. He was assigned service number 14150971. Joe served in the 8th AF, 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squad as a radio operator/gunner on a B-26 Maurader. The 386th Bomb Group started out with the 8th AF, but transferred to the 9th AF in 1944.

Jospeh Donald Weaver (on the right) with friends in Ireland

Early in his overseas service, Joe was in a training accident in Ireland with pilot Robert G. Fry. The American Air Museum in Britain describes Fry as an Instructor (Pilot) with the 3rd Combat Crew Replacement Center. On December 27, 1943, B-26 #41-17961 was involved in a landing accident at Froome Airfield (Station 236) near Antrim, Northern Ireland after a local training flight. The aircraft landed in a small field. Joe Weaver and four others returned.

The four others mentioned were:

John Latiloasis was from Louisiana and remained friends with Joe Weaver after the war.

The American Air Museum in Britain web site notes that after flying fifty-one missions with the Lt. Fry crew, Joe Weaver was assigned to the 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squadron of the 9th Air Force. Joe was a Radio Operator/Mechanical Gunner. On the August 6, 1944 mission to bomb fuel dumps near the Forêt d’Andainnein, east of the Domfront region of Calvados, France, Joe was flying with pilot Walter Edward Payne in B-26 #42-96184. This was Joe’s fifty-second mission, but his and the other gunners’ first mission with Captain Payne. Joe replaced Payne’s regular radio operator who had just completed his tour. Hit by flak, the plane crashed in the English Channel, one mile off the coast at Trouville-sur-Mer.  Joe Weaver was made prisoner (POW) and was interned at Stalag Luft IV in Gross Tychow/Tychowo, Poland. Four others, including Captain Payne, were also made prisoners of war. Gunner Franklin E. Swanson was killed.

Aboard B-26 42-96184 that day were officers…

Payne, Altvater, and Roggenkamp were all on their 63rd mission. All three were made prisoner.

And enlisted men…

The three enlisted men on board were all experienced gunners who had flown on earlier missions and were replacing the Payne crew’s regular gunners who had flown more than the sixty-five required missions (some with other crews) and had completed their tours.

The AAM (American Air Museum) reports that B-26 42-96184 was on its second mission of the day when it was hit by an 88mm flak shell above Le Havre, causing a fire in the right engine. Included in the missing air crew report, MACR7875, is this eyewitness statement from S/Sgt. Leonard J. Zuckerman:

I was flying as tail gunner in lead aircraft of formation in which Captain Payne was flying deputy lead.

Capt. Payne’s aircraft was hit by flak, causing fire in the right engine, which didn’t seem too large and was apparently unnoticed because ship was equipped with engine fire extinguishers. The flames subsided for a moment then flared up brightly and I saw three chutes from the tail end of the ship.

The pilot held the ship in formation for a time but was losing altitude slowly and the engine was burning brightly.

Two more chutes which evidently came from the front end of the ship, blossomed out as the ship began to lose altitude more rapidly. When about one mile off shore the right engine and wing came away from the ship and the ship itself spiraled into the channel.

I did not see a sixth chute from this aircraft. My vision was blurred after the first few minutes by hydraulic fluid which was smearing my plexiglass windshield.

This map, included in the missing air crew report was likely drawn by S/Sgt. Zuckerman to indicate the path of the aircraft, flying through the flak area and over the English Channel until it crashed in the Channel. Zuckerman also includes lattitude and longitude markings on his drawing. Zuckerman has drawn an outline around the flak area. Note the zig-zagging pattern of the aircraft through the flak area, attempting to evade the flak guns. The crew bailed out somewhere along the line indicating the aircraft’s path and probably landed somewhere between the flak area and the coastline at Trouville-sur-Mer, except for the co-pilot who actually landed in the channel about fifty feet offshore on a sandbar.

Map included in MACR7875, likely hand-drawn by witness Leonard J. Zuckerman

More information is provided in the Missing Air Crew Report, MACR7875, and in a narrative of “Mission 63” written by co-pilot H. Mark Altvater. Among the details are these:

  • According to Lt. Altvater, bombardier/navigator Lt. Roggenkamp commented on the return trip from the target that they were getting too close to Le Havre, which was heavily defended by flak guns. He did not understand why the formation did not turn to avoid Le Havre, but they had no choice but to follow the lead aircraft.
  • Lt. Altvater reported an ear-splitting explosion and realized that they had taken a direct hit from the 88mm flak guns in Le Havre. The windshield was hit and the pilot compartment was littered with dust, debris, Plexiglass splinters, and shell fragments. The fuel tanks in the right wing were punctured and spewing aviation fuel. Shortly after, they were on fire.
  • About four minutes before the crew bailed out, Sgt. Swanson announced by interphone that he had been hit by flak, but that he would not leave his guns.
  • They left formation approximately three minutes south of Trouville-sur-Mer.
  • Lt. Roggenkamp, then Lt. Altvater bailed out of the aircraft through the bomb bay slightly west of Trouville, France. Cpl. Salyer, then Sgt. Weaver, then Sgt. Swanson left the aircraft through the waist window over Trouville. The last to bail out, Payne followed Altvater and Roggenkamp out the bomb bay.
  • Captain Payne reported that his aircraft struck the ground in the English Channel approximately 10 miles west of Trouville and that none of the crew were in the aircraft at that time. (Although the witness, Zuckerman, noted the crash as one mile off shore, Payne noted ten miles off shore).
  • The other gunners reported seeing blood on Swanson’s clothing near his groin, but they did not believe he was badly wounded before he bailed out. They saw his chute come out of its pack, but it did not canopy. It merely trailed behind, apparently caused by cut shrouds.
  • After bailing out, Joe Weaver watched Franklin Swanson pass him on the way down. Swanson was trying to get his chute open as he passed Weaver. Weaver reported that Swanson’s chute was “one long streamer” and that he watched Swanson almost to the ground.
  • Payne’s supposition was that at the time that Swanson was injured, his parachute was also hit by flak causing it to fail to function properly.
  • The Germans provided Swanson’s dog tags and reported him found dead in a nearby woods. The Germans also said they buried him. He was likely buried in a local French cemetery, probably near Trouville-sur-Mer.
  • The exact locations of where all of the crew landed are not noted other than Swanson’s body was found “in a nearby woods” and Altvater reported landing in the Channel, having to wade ashore.

After enduring six months in Stalag Luft IV and three more months on the road in the Black March, Joseph Donald Weaver was liberated and returned to the US. His formal date of separation from the Army Air Forces was October, 15 1945.

Ellen Weaver Hartman would like to find relatives her dad’s crew mates, and especially relatives of Franklin Swanson, the only crew member killed aboard 42-96184 that day. When Ellen’s dad, Joe Weaver, was picking up his gear for the August 6 mission, he didn’t pick up the parachute that he was supposed to get. Instead, he picked up the previous one in the gear line. Franklin Swanson picked up the parachute that was intended for Joe, the chute that didn’t open properly and didn’t deliver him safely to the ground. Joe Weaver was so upset over this that when he was liberated and returned home after the war, he and his parents drove from Mississippi to New York to visit Franklin’s parents. But, probably not considered by Joe was the possibility that the parachute Swanson picked up from the gear line was damaged by flak rather than defective.

Sgt. Franklin Swanson was born in 1923. His parents were Charles and Margaret Swanson and he had a younger brother named Carl. They were from Buffalo, Erie County, New York. Franklin enlisted in the Army Air Corps on August 28, 1942 in Buffalo and his service number was 12139321. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment, as being employed in the building of aircraft and also as single, without dependents. He served as an Ap. (airplane) Armorer Gunner with the 386th Bomb Group (Medium), 554th Bomb Squadron in WWII.

Franklin Swanson died August 6, 1944. He was awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart. He was re-interred in the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, Plot B Row 9 Grave 6. Ellen plans to visit Franklin Swanson’s grave this summer.

Ellen Weaver Hartman would like to find the names of the men on which her father, Joseph Donald Weaver, served as an original crew and would also like to find a photo of the crew. Was the pilot of his original crew Robert Fry? Or did Weaver only fly with Fry on training missions?

She’d also like to find the exact location where the crew bailed out of the aircraft before it crashed into the channel, and also the places they landed and where Franklin Swanson’s body was found. In sixty seconds after bail out, the plane would have been over the sea, so it must have been very near the coastline, probably within a mile of Trouville-sur-Mer.

Ellen would also like to know what happened next. Her dad mentioned going to Chalon, France, and her mother told of a packed train ride to Dusseldorf, Germany.

Ellen would like to find more information about Franklin Swanson, pilot instructor Robert G. Fry, and the other men with which her father served in WWII. If any relatives of any of the men mentioned in this article stumble across it, Ellen Weaver Hartman would love to hear from you to learn more about the men her father flew with under pilot Robert Fry (Robert G. Fry, Pierre S. Buckner, Vernon R. Hodges, and John G. Latiloasis), and the men he flew with under pilot Walter Payne (Walter E. Payne, Hubert M. Altvater, Edward William Roggenkamp, William L. Salyer, and Franklin E. Swanson).

If you are related to any of these men or have any information for Joe Weaver’s daughter Ellen, please contact her through e-mail using this link:  contact Ellen Weaver Hartman.

Notes

To learn more about the B-26 Marauder, click here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

The Boys, Part II

Today’s post is a continuation of last week’s post, “The Boys.” Last week, I took a look at the Buslee and Brodie crews as they were composed on the September 28, 1944 mission to Magdeburg. This week, I want to look at the two crews as they were originally formed, with one exception. I am including two bombardiers for the Buslee crew. The original bombardier was killed on the crew’s second mission, so I am also including the crew’s replacement bombardier.

Both crews were originally made up of ten members. The crews each trained with two flexible, or waist, gunners. At their base at Grafton Underwood, England, by the Fall of 1944, a B-17 crew flew missions with only one flexible/waist gunner, meaning only nine members of the crew flew at one time. I imagine that this was one of the first stressful situations faced by the crews, knowing that the close connection the ten had made with each other in training was jeopardized. One man, one waist gunner, was going to have to fly with a different crew. I’ll look into how that played out for the Buslee and Brodie crews.

These are the two crews as they were originally assigned to the 384th Bomb Group:

The Buslee Crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron

PILOT John Oliver Buslee, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

John Oliver Buslee

CO-PILOT David Franklin Albrecht, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

David Franklin Albrecht

NAVIGATOR Chester Anthony Rybarczyk, original Buslee crew member, completed tour

BOMBARDIER Marvin Fryden, original Buslee crew member, KIA 8/5/1944 on the crew’s second mission

Possibly Marvin Fryden (if not, James Davis)

BOMBARDIER James Buford Davis, replacement for Marvin Fryden, completed tour

James Buford Davis

RADIO OPERATOR Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Clarence Benjamin “Ben” Seeley, original Buslee crew member, completed tour

Clarence Benjamin “Ben” Seeley

BALL TURRET GUNNER Erwin Vernon Foster, original Buslee crew member, completed tour

Erwin Vernon Foster

TAIL GUNNER Eugene Daniel Lucynski, original Buslee crew member, WIA (wounded in action) 9/19/1944

Eugene Daniel Lucynski

FLEXIBLE/WAIST GUNNER Lenard Leroy Bryant, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Bryant was originally assigned as a flexible/waist gunner with the Buslee crew and flew on the crew’s first mission. He alternated with the crew’s other waist gunner, George Edwin Farrar, who flew the crew’s second mission. When Clarence “Ben” Seeley was seriously wounded on the crew’s second mission, Bryant took his place in the top turret for the remainder of the Buslee crew’s missions.

Lenard Leroy Bryant

FLEXIBLE GUNNER George Edwin Farrar, original Buslee crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV 9/28/1944

George Edwin Farrar

The Brodie Crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron

PILOT James Joseph Brodie, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

James Joseph Brodie

CO-PILOT Lloyd Oliver Vevle, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Lloyd Oliver Vevlve

NAVIGATOR George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., original Brodie crew member, POW Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (served Stalag 9-C)

No photo available

BOMBARDIER William Douglas Barnes, Jr., original Brodie crew member, completed tour

William Douglas Barnes, Jr.

RADIO OPERATOR William Edson Taylor, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV 10/5/1944

No photo available

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Robert Doyle Crumpton, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Robert Doyle Crumpton

BALL TURRET GUNNER Gordon Eugene Hetu, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

TAIL GUNNER Wilfred Frank Miller, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

No photo available

FLEXIBLE/WAIST GUNNER Leonard Wesley Opie, original Brodie crew member, TBD (to be determined)

Opie and the other Brodie crew waist gunner, Harry Liniger, alternated flying waist with the Brodie crew in the month of August 1944. Opie flew only three missions with the crew and his record with the 384th ends there. The remainder of his WWII service remains unknown.

No photo available

FLEXIBLE/WAIST GUNNER Harry Allen Liniger, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

Harry Allen Liniger

Five of the enlisted men of the Brodie crew

Far left: Harry Allen Liniger, Waist/Flexible Gunner on the James J. Brodie Crew

I have connected with many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews of these boys. If I have not connected with you yet, and you are related to any of them, please comment or e-mail me. If anyone can provide pictures of those I don’t have yet, that would be greatly appreciated. They all deserve to be honored for their service and their fight for our freedom.

Original crew lists provided by the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

The Boys

On September 28, 1944, the Lead Banana, manned by the Buslee crew, and the Lazy Daisy, manned by the Brodie crew collided after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Neither crew of the 384th Bomb Group was the original crew as assigned.

That day, the Buslee crew was made up of five original crew members and four fill-ins. The Brodie crew was made up of seven original members and two fill-ins.

These are the two crews as they were that day:

The Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana, 544th Bomb Squad

PILOT John Oliver Buslee, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

John Oliver Buslee

CO-PILOT David Franklin Albrecht, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

David Franklin Albrecht

NAVIGATOR William Alvin Henson II, Gerald Sammons crew, KIA 9/28/1944

William Alvin Henson II

BOMBARDIER Robert Sumner Stearns, Larkin Durden crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

RADIO OPERATOR Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Lenard Leroy Bryant, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Lenard Leroy Bryant

BALL TURRET GUNNER George Francis McMann, Jr., Stanley Gilbert crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

TAIL GUNNER Gerald Lee Andersen, Joe Ross Carnes crew, KIA 9/28/1944

Gerald Lee Andersen

FLEXIBLE GUNNER George Edwin Farrar, original Buslee crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

George Edwin Farrar

 

The Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy, 545th Bomb Squad

PILOT James Joseph Brodie, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

James Joseph Brodie

CO-PILOT Lloyd Oliver Vevle, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Lloyd Oliver Vevlve

NAVIGATOR George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., original Brodie crew member, POW Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (served Stalag 9-C)

No photo available

TOGGLIER Byron Leverne Atkins, James Chadwick crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

RADIO OPERATOR Donald William Dooley, from Group Headquarters, KIA 9/28/1944

Donald William Dooley

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Robert Doyle Crumpton, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Robert Doyle Crumpton

BALL TURRET GUNNER Gordon Eugene Hetu, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

TAIL GUNNER Wilfred Frank Miller, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

No photo available

FLEXIBLE GUNNER Harry Allen Liniger, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

Harry Allen Liniger

Fourteen out of the eighteen boys aboard the two B-17’s were lost that day. Not only did they leave behind grieving parents and siblings, but they also left behind at least five wives and three children.

I have connected with many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews of these boys. If I have not connected with you yet, and you are related to any of them, please comment or e-mail me. If anyone can provide pictures of those I don’t have yet, that would be greatly appreciated. They all deserve to be honored for their service and their fight for our freedom.

Sortie reports provided by the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

George Edwin Farrar, Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was born September 3, 1921. He was the fifth child and second son of Carroll Johnson and Raleigh May George Farrar. Carroll was born December 17, 1888 in Charlotte Court House, Virginia. Raleigh was a native Atlantan, growing up in the Grant Park area of Atlanta. She was born January 25, 1890. Carroll and Raleigh were married in Atlanta on June 25, 1909. Over the next twenty-eight years, they would have nine children.

According to the 1920 census (the year before my dad was born), the Farrar family rented a home at 125 W. Boulevard Drive in Atlanta, DeKalb County, Georgia. This area of Atlanta is commonly known as Kirkwood. Carroll Sr. was 31 and was employed as a printer for a printing company. Raleigh was 29. Four of the Farrar children were born by 1920: Geraldine (age 9), Janet (age 7), Carroll, Jr. (age 3), and Dorothy (a month shy of 1). The family had been living in the house at 125 W. Boulevard since 1919 according to city directories.

Backing up briefly into the previous decade, the family lived at a number of different addresses.  In 1913, the family lived at 1 Edwin Place in Atlanta and Carroll Sr. was employed as a printer for the Atlanta Journal newspaper. Carroll and Raleigh must have liked the name “Edwin.” By then they had two daughters (Geraldine and Janet). The first boy came along in 1916, and they named him after his father. They had to wait several more years before having another boy and named him George Edwin, George after his mother’s maiden name, and perhaps Edwin from Edwin Place as his middle name. Although he was known as George in his military service and later in his professional life to his customers, he was always known as Ed to family.

The family continued to move around quite a bit in the 1920’s, always choosing to stay in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood. From 1921 to 1925, the Farrar family lived at 31 Clay St., SE. Annual city directories list the address as 31 Clay K. I don’t know what the “K” stood for, but perhaps it was an apartment number. Carroll Sr.’s occupation was continually listed as “printer,” but from 1924 to 1926, his place of employment was reported as Farrar Printing Co. By 1926, their residence had changed to 107 W. Boulevard Drive.

Carroll Johnson Farrar, Sr.’s print shop. I’m not sure, but I think he is the one on the left, standing the furthest back.

In 1927, the Atlanta city directory reported the Farrar family living at 1732 (107) Boulevard Dr., NE. Perhaps because of a move in 1927, both street numbers were included. In any case in the 1927 to 1929 city directories, Carroll, Sr. was reported to be working for Ben Franklin Press in Atlanta. He was listed as a printer for the company in 1927 and 1928, and listed as a superintendent in 1929.

According to the 1930 census, the Farrar family continued to reside in the rented home at 1732 Boulevard Drive, NE in Atlanta, DeKalb County, Georgia. At the time, Carroll Farrar, Sr. was listed as a printer for a publishing company. Carroll Sr. was 41 years old and Raleigh was 40. By now the family had grown to seven children and all seven lived at home: Geraldine (19), Janet (17), Carroll Jr. (13), Dorothy (11), my dad, Edwin (8), Robert (5), and Martha (2). The only child working was Geraldine, who was a saleswoman for a dry goods store. (Note: part of Boulevard Drive has since been renamed, so this address may now be 1732 Hosea L. Williams Drive).

The Farrar family continued to reside at the 1732 Boulevard Dr., NE home into the first half of the 1930’s. City directories place them there in 1934 and 1935. Carroll, Sr. is listed as a printer in both years, but his place of employment is noted as the Darby Printing Co. in 1935.

I have not found a city directory listing for 1936, but by 1937, Carroll Farrar, Sr. was a compositor for Lyon-Young Printing. The family lived at 79 East Lake Terrace, SE. The new home was one mile from the 1732 Boulevard Dr. home. The youngest child of the Farrar family, Beverly, was the only one born in the East Lake Terrace home.

Beverly remembers that the family rented the home first and then Raleigh decided they should buy it. Carroll, Sr., objected to the purchase, but Raleigh succeeded in talking him into buying the home. I don’t know what year they made the purchase, but they had done so by 1940. They are also listed at the same address in the 1938 city directory and Carroll, Sr. is listed as a printer, with no indication of employer.

According to the 1940 census, the Farrar family owned their home at 79 East Lake Terrace, SE in Atlanta, DeKalb County, Georgia. Two more children had been born in the 1930’s, Gene and Beverly, and the family now had nine children.

The three oldest girls – Geraldine, Janet, and Dorothy – were no longer living at home, but six of the Farrar children were. Living in the home in 1940 were Carroll Sr. (51), Raleigh (50), Carroll Jr. (24), Edwin (18), Robert (15), Martha (12), Gene (9), and Beverly (3). Carroll Sr. worked as a printer in a printing shop, Carroll Jr. worked as a floor salesman in a department store (Atlanta’s downtown Rich’s store), and Edwin was a soda clerk in a drug store.

Standing, back row, L to R: Ed, Bob Hunt (Janet’s first husband), Janet, Ozzie Couch (family friend), Carroll Jr.
Standing, middle, L to R: Martha, Dorothy (Dot) holding her daughter Phyllis, Raleigh, Carroll Sr.
Kneeling front: Bob, Gene, Beverly, Hugh Cobb (Dot’s husband), Denny (Dot’s son)

My dad lived in quite a few different homes growing up in the Kirkwood section of Atlanta and considered himself one of the “Kirkwood Boys.” One of his earliest memories that he shared with me was that when he was five or six years old, the family moved right across the street from the home they had been living in. He remembered sitting on the front steps of the new house, crying that he wanted to go home.

Another of my dad’s favorite memories of growing up in Kirkwood was that when he was a teenager of driving age, he and his fellow friends, the Kirkwood Boys, liked to drive their cars to the top of Stone Mountain. At the time, Stone Mountain was not a park. Picture in the 1930’s a carload of teenage boys, probably some beer, and a giant piece of granite to be conquered.

My dad left high school after the 10th grade. He was a good math student and won many math competitions, but with so many brothers and sisters at home to feed, the family needed an extra paycheck and his education was over. After his stint as a soda jerk, he worked as a vending machine maintenance man and made extra money as a Golden Gloves boxer. He continued to live in Kirkwood with his family at the 79 East Lake Terrace home until he enlisted in the Army Air Corps on June 4, 1942.

Kirkwood area of Atlanta, Georgia in the 1930’s.
Photo credit: The Sarrett family of Kirkwood.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Rest in Peace, Delbert Storm

I am sad to share the news that the 384th Bomb Group ball turret gunner who became a social media sensation a couple of years ago has passed away just a few months after his ninety-fifth birthday. Delbert Storm’s daughter posted a photo of him on Facebook and asked folks to please share his plea to find other survivors of his group. Delbert was able to connect with his group, but I imagine his photo is still circulating on Facebook.

Delbert was born January 15, 1922 in Blackwell, Oklahoma to George Franklin Storm and Mary Amanda (Armstrong) Storm. In WWII, he served as ball turret gunner on a B-17 on the Edward Sienkiewicz crew.

BACK L-R: LT Edwin Frederick, LT Edward Sienkiewicz, LT William Stockman
FRONT L-R: SSGT Gene Foster, TSGT Alvin Orth, TSGT John Ballenger, SSGT Delbert Storm, TSGT Hollis Crowell.

The website of the American Air Museum in Britain includes a quote from Delbert describing his position in the plane. “Ball Turret Gunners did the job that no one else wanted. A special breed. Flew my last mission in the waist and really felt exposed.”

SSGT Delbert Storm, ball turret gunner of the Edward A. Sienkiewicz crew of the 547th Bomb Squad, on completion of his last mission.

Soon after he completed his service in WWII, Delbert married Betty Dean on January 23, 1945. As a civilian, he worked for the National Cooperative Refinery Association, and held offices in the Oil, Chemical and Atomic Workers Union. Delbert retired after thirty-two years of service with the Association. He was a member of the V.F.W., Moose Lodge and Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, Georgia.

Betty and Delbert Storm

Delbert’s granddaughter, Sara, shared a memory about her grandfather’s love of the time he was a ball turret gunner in WWII with me. “The Army Air Corp was the time in his life he talked about most. There was ALWAYS a story about it. He loved airplanes and loved to show people his pictures from the war. He was also super smart, super talented (he could literally build or fix ANYTHING) and funny.”

Delbert Storm, trying on his Air Force uniform 71 years later.

Delbert Storm died April 2, 2017. Thank you, Delbert, for sharing your stories and pictures from your time in WWII with your grandchildren. You have enriched their lives and have helped, as the 384th motto goes, to “Keep the Show on the Road.”

Delbert Storm

My previous post about Delbert Storm is here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017