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2017 8th AF Reunion in New Orleans

On September 27, WWII veterans of the 8th Army Air Forces, family and friends gathered in New Orleans for the 2017 reunion of the 8th Air Force. It was a joyous occasion filled with the rekindling of old friendships and the making of new ones. Many of us met in person for the first time friends we had only known through the 384th’s Facebook group.

L to R: New friends Robin Long, John DeFrancesco, and Bill Wilkens
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

One of those I met for the first time was Kevin Flecknor of the UK. Kevin maintains the 384th’s memorial and grounds in Grafton Underwood. I had previously only know Kevin through the 384th’s Facebook group.
Photo courtesy of Keith Ellefson.

It was also great to see old friends like Henry Sienkiewicz and Katie Cahill at the reunion
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

Members of the 384th Volunteer team, left to right: Keith Ellefson, John Edwards, Marc Poole, and Fred Preller. We were all excited to meet Marc, the originator of, for the first time.
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan.

The 384th Bomb Group turned out in full force at the reunion with the highest attendance of any individual group with fifty-nine total registrants. Eight of our 384th veterans were on hand. These eight represented all four bomb squadrons of the 384th and represented all three years the 384th called Grafton Underwood home during WWII, from the first crews to arrive in Grafton Underwood to the last to depart after the final mission, Number 316.

384th Bomb Group Veterans attending the 2017 8th AF Reunion.
Left to Right: Hank Sienkiewicz, Don Hilliard, John DeFrancesco, Burnia Martin, Len Estrin, Dave Lustig, Bill Wilkens, and Peter Bielskis
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

The first of these veterans to arrive in Grafton Underwood was…

Burnia Martin, a tail gunner on the Johnny Butler crew representing the 547th Bomb Squadron. Burnia flew fourteen missions, #1 through #24 from June 22, 1943 to September 16, 1943. On his fourteenth mission, Burnia’s B-17 was shot down by enemy aircraft. Burnia spent the remainder of the war as a POW.

Burnia Martin
Photo courtesy of the Quentin Bland Collection via the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Two of these veterans arrived in 1944…

Henry Sienkiewicz, a bombardier representing the 545th Bomb Squadron. Hank flew thirty-five missions, #150 through #256 from July 4, 1944 to January 17, 1945. (No wartime photo available).

John DeFrancesco, a pilot representing the 544th Bomb Squadron. John flew thirty-five missions, #208 through #253 from October 9, 1944 to January 8, 1945. John’s B-17 developed mechanical problems on his thirty-fifth mission and the crew was forced to bail out. John spent the remainder of the war as a POW.

John DeFrancesco
Photo courtesy of John DeFrancesco

Five of these veterans arrived at Grafton in early 1945…

Donald Hilliard, a radio operator representing the 545th Bomb Squadron. Don flew sixteen missions, #266 through #315 from February 14, 1945 to April 20, 1945.

Don Hilliard
Photo courtesy of Penny Probasco via Facebook

David Lustig, a radio operator representing the 547th Bomb Squadron. Dave flew twenty-two missions, #268 through #316 from February 19, 1945 to April 25, 1945.

David Lustig
Photo courtesy of Carl Lustig via Facebook

William Wilkens, an engineer/top turret gunner representing the 547th Bomb Squadron. Bill flew thirty missions, #273 through #316 from February 24, 1945 to April 25, 1945.

Bill Wilkens
Photo courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Peter Bielskis, a ball turret gunner representing the 546th Bomb Squadron. Peter flew twenty-seven missions, #274 through #315 from February 25, 1945 to April 20, 1945.

Peter Bielskis, 1944
Photo courtesy of Patricia Haidys-Bielskis via Facebook

Leonard Estrin, a ball turret gunner representing the 546th Bomb Squadron. Len flew seventeen missions, #279 through #314 from March 2, 1945 to April 19, 1945.

Len Estrin
Photo courtesy of Len Estrin via the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

With the addition of a co-pilot, navigator and waist gunner, we would have had a full crew!

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

There were a few early arrivals in New Orleans, but today was a travel day for most of us. My husband, Bill, and I, and veteran John DeFrancesco drove in from central Florida today. The 384th’s webmaster, Fred Preller, his brother-in-law, Sal Scalia, and Christopher Wilkinson had the 384th’s hospitality suite nicely set up for us and stocked with provisions. Our hospitality suite was a little off the beaten path and hard to find for visitors, but with our large group in attendance, we needed this bigger space, the Ponchatrain Room.

Keith Ellefson escorted Wingy to the reunion in New Orleans. Fred Preller (on left) and Sal Scalia (on right) lend a hand moving Wingy from her chariot to her place of honor in the 384th Bomb Group’s hospitality suite.
Photo courtesy of Keith Ellefson.

Everyone gathered in the Hilton’s ballroom at 6pm for the Welcome Reception. Afterwards, everyone dispersed into the individual hospitality suites to see who had arrived and who was still MIA.

L to R: Mark Meehl, Christopher Wilkinson, and Mariola Wilkinson
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

Thursday, September 28, 2017

The reunion got off to a great start with the first of a two-day tour of the National WWII Museum in downtown New Orleans. Our first day included a viewing of the incredible 4D film “Beyond All Boundaries” narrated by Tom Hanks. We toured as many of the museum’s exhibits as we could cover, but were glad we would have a second day to be able to see everything.

384th BG veteran John DeFrancesco in front of one of the museum’s exhibits, American Invasion of Italy.
Photo courtesy of Keith Ellefson.

We spent a lot of time in the US Freedom Pavilion with the B-17E “My Gal Sal” and other WWII aircraft, and it would definitely require a second look on Friday. With several catwalks at different levels, we were able to have great views of the Flying Fortress from all angles. Touring the museum in the company of the men who flew those magnificent machines and fought in WWII made the experience even more special.

B-17 in the WWII Museum
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

Aircraft suspended from the ceiling of the US Freedom Pavilion at the National WWII Museum in New Orleans
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

On Thursday night, everyone gathered in the Hilton’s ballroom for a buffet dinner and program with two speakers from the National WWII Museum, President and CEO Stephen Watson, and Senior Director of Research and History Keith Huxen.

Four daughters of Stalag Luft IV POWs and 384th Bomb Group veteran John DeFrancesco gather for a photo at Thursday night’s dinner
Standing L to R: Laura Edge and Cindy Bryan
Seater L to R: Ellen Hartman, John DeFrancesco, and Candy Brown
Photo courtesy of Craig Dubishar, 8thAFHS Official Photographer

Friday, September 29, 2017

On Friday we returned to the museum for the opportunity to see all the exhibits we missed the first day. After covering all of the museum’s presentations of WWII history, we were drawn again to the Freedom Pavilion and the B-17.

Whenever I see a B-17, I picture my dad manning his machine gun in the waist window, and today was no different. To think that he was part of the great air war over Europe is sometimes hard for me to grasp.

Waist gunner at the ready in his B-17
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

This man who taught me how to ride a bike and build a sand castle on the beach had to go to war when he was a young man. He had to risk his life and fight for what today I take for granted, my freedom. Visiting a museum dedicated to this war from long ago really makes me stop and think about the sacrifices my dad and the other veterans of this war and their families made for us. And it makes me wish my dad was still around to attend this reunion with me.

Dad (George Edwin Farrar) at Grafton Underwood, 1944
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

On Friday night, each bomb group gathered in their separate hospitality suites for the Rendezvous Dinner. Frank Alfter, the group’s very first NexGen member, emceed. Christopher Wilkinson and Fred Preller made presentations. And all of us enjoyed the dinner and camaraderie of the evening.

Frank Alfter
Photo courtesy of Keith Ellefson

L to R: Don and Donna Hilliard, and Bill Wilkens
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

L to R: Hedwig Lustig, Bill Wilkens, and Dave Lustig
Photo courtesy of Cindy Farrar Bryan

Saturday, September 30, 2017

On Saturday, reunion attendees were given the option of taking a New Orleans City Tour or touring the Oak Alley Plantation. John, Bill, and I opted for a more casual day starting with breakfast at Café du Monde, New Orleans’ original French Market coffee stand since 1862. Black coffee with chicory washed down a plate of Beignets covered with a mountain of powdered sugar.

By the time we returned to the hotel, the 384th’s hospitality suite was in full swing. We joined in until lunchtime when John, Bill, John Edwards, and I took a break to check out the Kenner Seafood Market for some good local seafood. Back to the hospitality suite for the afternoon and then a break before the veterans’ group photos and dinner.

WWII 8th AF Veterans Group Photo
Photo courtesy of Craig Dubishar

8th Air Force Veterans attending the 2017 Reunion who were POWs during WWII
Photo courtesy of Michael Carr

The reunion’s gala dinner banquet was held at the National WWII Museum in the US Freedom Pavilion right underneath the B-17 suspended from the ceiling. What better venue for veterans of the 8th Air Force than dining under a WWII Flying Fortress! Over five hundred attended the banquet and we were entertained by the New Orleans singing group, the “Vintage Vocals.”

Gala Banquet at the WWII Museum
Photo courtesy of Bill Bryan

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Most folks, including Bill, John, and I, headed home Sunday morning. I think whether driving or flying, all were thinking about the announcement of the 8th Air Force Historical Society’s reunion plans for next year on their return trip home. It is scheduled for October 10 – 14, 2018 in Dayton, Ohio. The National Museum of the USAF is located at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and will be one of the reunion’s star attractions, second only to the main attraction, the group’s WWII veterans. Hope to see you there!

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017 (with the exception of the photos of others)


2017 8th Air Force Reunion Photos

As I still haven’t had enough time to sit at my desk and write about the 8th Air Force Reunion in New Orleans, today I’ll share a few photos. The story will just have to wait…

The 384th Bomb Group’s Hospitality Suite

The 384th Bomb Group’s hospitality suite
Photo by Cindy Farrar Bryan


Keeping the Show on the Road for the 384th Bomb Group
L to R: Keith Ellefson (combat data specialist and researcher), John Edwards (group historian), Marc Poole (384th web site originator, researcher, and aviation artist), and Fred Preller (384th Bomb Group webmaster)
Photo by Cindy Farrar Bryan


John DeFrancesco in his original A2 jacket.
Photo by Cindy Farrar Bryan

Friends reunited, 8th Air Force Veteran and NexGens

Four daughters of Stalag Luft IV POWs with 384th Bomb Group veteran John DeFrancesco
Standing L to R: Laura Edge and Cindy Bryan
Seated L to R: Ellen Hartman, John DeFrancesco, and Candy Brown
Photo courtesy of Craig Dubishar, 8thAFHS Official Photographer

The National WWII Museum

B-17 at the WWII Museum
Photo by Cindy Farrar Bryan


B-17 in the WWII Museum
Photo by Cindy Farrar Bryan

Gala Dinner and Program

WWII 8th AF Veterans Group Photo
Photo courtesy of Craig Dubishar, 8thAFHS Official Photographer


Gala Banquet at the WWII Museum
Photo by Bill Bryan

Next week…

…the story and more photos!

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

2017 8th Air Force Reunion – A Teaser

I had hoped to be able to tell you all about the 8th Air Force Reunion that I attended last week, but I have barely had time to unpack and rest up from my excellent adventure in New Orleans with veterans, family, and friends of the 384th Bomb Group and other groups of the 8th. It will just have to wait until next week! For now, I’ll just leave you with this teaser…

Over five hundred folks attended the reunion, including seventy-five WWII veterans and eight former POW’s, two of which represented the 384th Bomb Group.

Eight 384th Bomb Group Veterans attended the reunion…

384th Bomb Group Veterans attending the 2017 8th AF Reunion.
Left to Right: Hank Sienkiewicz, Don Hilliard, John DeFrancesco, Burnia Martin, Len Estrin, Dave Lustig, Bill Wilkens, and Peter Bielskis

Seventy-five 8th AF Veterans attended (I don’t think they all made it into this photo)…

8th Air Force Veterans attending the 2017 Reunion.

And eight of the veterans attending were former POWs including the 384th’s John DeFrancesco and Burnia Martin…

8th Air Force Veterans attending the 2017 Reunion who were POWs during WWII (Burnia Martin sits third from left and John DeFrancesco sits fifth from left).

Check back next week for more details about the reunion.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Road Trip to the Big Easy

Today I am on the road. John DeFrancesco, WWII Veteran of the 8th Air Force and 384th Bomb Group, my husband Bill, and I are heading to New Orleans. By this evening, we will be in the company of many other WWII Veterans of the 8th Air Force, and their families and friends. I’m looking forward to reuniting with old friends and making new ones.

It is the first day of our 2017 Reunion, which opens tonight with a Welcome Reception. We have three more days to look forward to with tours of the National World War II Museum, New Orleans City Tour, and Plantation Tour. We also have special dinners to anticipate – an 8th Air Force dinner buffet and speaker, an intimate Rendezvous Dinner with everyone dining with their individual bomb group, and the Gala Dinner and Program at the World War II Museum at the end of the week.

This year will probably be one of the largest turnouts for an 8th Air Force Reunion as we all gather in New Orleans. The Veterans, their spouses, NexGen (Next Generation) family, and friends who will meet this week to remember the Mighty Eighth represent 8th AF HQ (Headquarters), the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force in Savannah, Georgia, and over thirty bombardment and fighter groups of the 8th Air Force which were based in England during WWII.

B-17 Heavy Bombardment Groups

  • 91st Bomb Group, based in Bassingbourn
  • 92nd Bomb Group, based in Podington
  • 95th Bomb Group, based in Horham
  • 96th Bomb Group, based in Snetterton Heath
  • 100th Bomb Group, based in Thorpe Abbotts
  • 303rd Bomb Group, based in Molesworth
  • 305th Bomb Group, based in Chelveston
  • 306th Bomb Group, based in Thurleigh
  • 351st Bomb Group, based in Polebrook
  • 379th Bomb Group, based in Kimbolton
  • 381st Bomb Group, based in Ridgewell
  • 384th Bomb Group, based in Grafton Underwood
  • 385th Bomb Group, based in Great Ashfield
  • 401st Bomb Group, based in Deenethorpe
  • 447th Bomb Group, based in Rattlesden
  • 452nd Bomb Group, based in Deopham Green

B-24 Heavy Bombardment Groups

  • 34th Bomb Group, based in Mendlesham
  • 44th Bomb Group, based in Shipdham
  • 389th Bomb Group, based in Hethel
  • 392nd Bomb Group, based in Wendling
  • 445th Bomb Group, based in Tibenham
  • 446th Bomb Group, based in Bungay
  • 448th Bomb Group, based in Seething
  • 453rd Bomb Group, based in Old Buckenham
  • 458th Bomb Group, based in Horsham St. Faith
  • 466th Bomb Group, based in Attlebridge
  • 487th Bomb Group, based in Lavenham
  • 489th Bomb Group, based in Halesworth
  • 491st Bomb Group, based in Metfield
  • 493rd Bomb Group, based in Debach

B-26 Marauders Medium Bombardment Group

  • 386th Bomb Group, based in Snetterton Heath, Boxted, and Great Dunmow

Fighter Groups

  • 352nd Fighter Group, based in Bodney, Norfolk
  • 479th Fighter Group, based in Wattisham

We will mix and mingle in the hospitality suites and listen to many stories of courage and determination in the face of a long ago enemy.

From previous reunions, I know I will marvel at these men, now in their nineties, who in their teens and early twenties, fought for us in WWII and won our freedom. When I look these ninety-something-year-old Veterans in the eye, their wrinkles disappear, their backs straighten, and I can see directly into their past, see the boys from long ago who were warriors, patriots, and heroes.

It is as though time travel were possible and I am ducking flak and dodging German fighter bullets as I listen to the recollection of a particularly rough mission. I am not standing in an air-conditioned New Orleans hotel hospitality suite. I am in the skies over Germany and I am afraid. I am there because they are there. They will tell me what they experienced all those years ago as if it were yesterday. I don’t want to miss a word.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017


In researching WWII chaplains for previous articles, I wondered how a man of the cloth viewed war and his own involvement in it, how he reconciled the brutality of war within his own faith. How could these men of God, who volunteered to stand beside the officers and enlisted men of the various branches of service, rationalize and justify the killing of his enemies and destruction of his enemy’s homeland?

I wondered especially about the chaplains of the 384th Bomb Group and how they felt at the end of the day when many of the men that they had blessed that morning before the day’s mission didn’t return with the group that afternoon. Did they feel helpless knowing that they couldn’t protect or save every one? Did they wonder, when they looked into the faces before them on the morning of the next mission, which of these faces they were looking into for the last time?

It would not be surprising for the men who flew and returned from mission after mission to suffer from “shell shock,” or what we call today PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). They had flown through flak fields, faced enemy fighter attacks, watched other crews go down, and seen their own bombs’ destruction below on the enemy’s soil. But I would expect a military chaplain who had to witness the hell of war through the eyes of those he was shepherding could be as consumed with the guilt, terror, and grief as his flock.

When I read that the 384th’s Catholic chaplain Herbert Butterbach died of a heart attack at the age of thirty-five, shortly after returning to the States after the war, I wonder if his heart had been broken so severely from the many losses of his Group that he could no longer go on.

I began by looking at the rules and regulations the military set forth for these men, their guidelines of service. The US War Department’s AR (Army Regulations) 60-5 Chaplains General Provisions, spelled out the duties of a military chaplain, which included their duties to:

  • Hold religious services
  • Serve as friends, counselors, and guides, without discrimination, to all members of the command to which they are assigned, regardless of creed or sect
  • Strive to promote morality, religion, and good order
  • Conduct ceremonies including burial services, marriages, baptisms, etc.
  • Interview or address new recruits in matters pertaining to morals and character
  • Advise enlisted men under arrest or in confinement
  • Make regular visits to the sick in the hospital
  • Encourage correspondence between enlisted men and their relatives and friends

The 384th’s Protestant Chaplain, Dayle Schnelle, who was with the Group from the beginning, wrote an article for the Group’s very first WWII edition of their news publication, The Plane News, on April 17, 1943. This issue was published while the Group was still in the States, in Sioux City, Iowa. (Transcription below).

Published in the April 17, 1943 issue of “The Plane News”

The Chaplain Says… by Chaplain Dayle R. Schnelle

Some time ago a very famous American was giving an address in the interest of public morale. In this speech he made this remark, “We are fighting God’s war for Him.” The two following questions may help us clarify our thinking.

First, what kind of war is God waging? This is no difficult question. His is a war against Sin and all the forces of Evil. Surely, we say, this describes Hitler. But God’s war is not against a man or men. His war is for them. He would destroy the evil that makes men like Hitler possible.

Second, who can fight God’s war? Naturally, the only soldier who can fight for the United States are soldiers of the United States. In like manner, God’s war is fought by His soldiers. Just any man cannot claim that honor. God has laid down certain requirements to which we must conform if we are to be in His army.

From this we may draw our conclusions. We must not blame God for our failures and our weaknesses. We cannot force God to join “our side” and exclude another. Our only hope for a final victory and a lasting peace is not in getting God on our side but for us to join “God’s side.”

The Christmas 1943 edition of The Plane News included a photo of Protestant chaplain Dayle Schnelle (on the left) and Catholic chaplain Method Billy (on the right) standing in front of the Group’s chapel at their base in Grafton Underwood, UK with Major Roy Dier, who supervised the church’s construction.

Published in the Christmas 1943 issue of “The Plane News”

During my research, I ran across a paper written by a History Department Undergraduate at the University of Colorado in Colorado Springs, Jeremiah Snyder. The title of Jeremiah’s paper, which was published in the Undergraduate Research Journal at UCCS in the Spring of 2009, is Let Us Die Bravely: United States Chaplains in World War II. (I’ve included a link at the bottom of this article).

Jeremiah looks at the role of military chaplains in WWII and how they fit into “America’s War Machine.” For those interested in more information on the role of military chaplains, I urge you to read Jeremiah’s entire paper. I will include only an excerpt here:

World War II chaplains served in the military for a number of reasons. One staunch pacifist clergyman turned military officer, Russell Cartwright Stroup, eloquently articulated the Christian justifications for the war. In a letter home to his brother and mother, Chaplain Stroup wrote:

I have asked myself so many times, “What am I doing here?”…I love peace so passionately and hate war so utterly. More than a hatred: I am convinced that war is utterly futile and senseless…yet here I am in the midst of it, feeling that it is right for me to be here and that, indeed, I could be nowhere else—even though this might cost me my life…

There is the challenge of the work. Here are men who need me…I feel that the church has never faced a greater opportunity, a heaven-sent chance to touch tomorrow’s manhood and to save America for Christ…

…I may be mistaken, but I doubt that there can be effective leadership in the church of tomorrow by men who, able to serve in the war, chose not to do so. Too many of our church men will be veterans…

…I must follow the Master: He would be found where mankind is suffering, and He would be sharing that suffering.

There is also the motive of “patriotism.” I have always loved America deeply…I cannot be indifferent to the call of my country, even though I may hate what we are called upon to do…

We are compelled to halt the aggression of an evil movement in the world. I do not think war will make a better world…But if we had stood by and allowed the Nazi, the Fascist, and the militarist to run wild in our world, the darkness would become deeper and the night longer…

…I want to be found on the side of the dignity and worth of human personality, of liberty, of the rights of man. I want to be found opposing tyranny, oppression, bigotry, and the exultation of materialism. I do not think that God blesses war, but I do hope that He blesses those who, in good conscience, are willing to sacrifice, in peace or war, for what they believe are principles in accord with His Holy Will.”

Jeremiah quoted Chaplain Stroup’s letter from Letters from the Pacific: A Combat Chaplain in World War II (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2000).

I also wondered about the faith of the men who served in WWII in other capacities. The faith of some, it seems, strengthened. They believed God brought them through their ordeal. But some lost their faith in God. My grandmother, my father’s mother, was a Sunday School teacher in the Presbyterian church. I’m sure she believed that God brought her son home from the war. God guided him through his missions, watched over him in the prison camp, and held his hand on the Black March through Germany. But after WWII, I don’t believe my dad had the same relationship with God that he did before he fought in it. I think he may have felt abandoned by God and wondered how his God could leave him as the only survivor of his ship while taking the lives of all the others, how God could let him nearly starve to death, and why his God would let the memories visit him every day and every night for the rest of his life.

At the end of my dad’s military training, just before he was shipped overseas to his air base, he wrote his mother…

I’ll write you as often as I can, and I want you to know that I haven’t waited this long to start asking God to help me.  That is one thing I have never been too proud to do, and I think it helps a lot, too.

But after the war, I think he lost his faith. I never knew my dad to step foot in church when I was growing up except for a handful of weddings and funerals. He and my mother were married by a Justice of the Peace in the county courthouse, not by a Minister in a church. We blessed God and thanked him for the food on our table every night before dinner, but other than that, God was not invited into our home. I was sent to Sunday School in the Presbyterian Church, the church of Dad’s mother, only sporadically, and never taken to a church service, although I went once by myself. I chose not to go back after the preacher’s sermon taught me that I was surely going to Hell and that my God was a vengeful God, not the kind and loving and caring God that I had imagined him to be. Upon announcing one day when I was in my teens that I didn’t believe in God, Dad told me, “Don’t you ever say that again.” End of discussion. Apparently his belief in God was still strong, the relationship just strained.

I found God later on my own. I consider myself spiritual, though not religious, meaning that I do have my belief in a kind and loving God, but do not care for organized religion and the structure of the church. I feel God outside in the fresh air among the flowers and trees. I hear God in the gentle breeze and see Him in the sunrise, in the sunset, and in the faces of friends. I feel His presence in the roar of the ocean and the first cry of a newborn. I feel my closest connection to God when I walk alone on a beach, not sitting in the pew of a church. I don’t talk to God often, but when I do, I thank Him for another beautiful day in this world. I do believe in God. I have Faith in God. But then, I’ve never been to war.


To read the entire AR 60-5 Chaplains General Provisions document, click here.

The Plane News was brought out of retirement from WWI, where it originated aboard the warship, The Baltic. To read the entire story or more of this issue and others on the 384th Bomb Group’s web site, click here.

To read Jeremiah Snyder’s Undergraduate Research Journal at UCCS paper, Let Us Die Bravely: United States Chaplains in World War II, click here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017 (with the exception of Jeremiah Snyder’s excerpt)

Chaplain Julius Garst Appleton

In my original post about 384th Bomb Group chaplains, I included James T. Duvall as one of the Group’s chaplains. I believed that Duvall was with the Group at Istres, France after the end of the war. Keith Ellefson has since discovered that Duvall was not assigned or attached to the 384th Bomb Group. Keith notes that “He was assigned to the 415th Air Service Group as the 415th Air Service Group Chaplain.” Keith also added “However, he was assigned to the main unit that supported the 384th, so I imagine that the 384th Chaplain and the 415th Chaplain worked together to support the mission at Istres.”

Keith did find one more chaplain associated with the 384th, though. He was Julius Garst Appleton.

Julius Garst Appleton was born July 12, 1902 to Henry and Edith Garst Appleton in Ohio. His father Henry was a draftsman. Julius grew up in the Cincinnati area and at seventeen years old was reported on the 1920 Federal census to be in engineering for a railroad and was a student.

Between 1920 and 1924, Julius attended the College of Engineering and Commerce at the University of Cincinnati. Before college, Julius attended Woodward High School in Cincinnati.

University of Cincinnati 1924 Yearbook “The Cincinnatian”

“Braune Civils” is an abbreviation for the Braune Civil Engineering Society, which was the Student Chapter of the American Society of Civil Engineers at the University of Cincinnati .

On the morning of his college graduation, June 14, 1924, he married Julia Lucinda Earl. She was born July 10, 1900 or 1901.

On June 21, 1924, the “Cincinnati Enquirer” reported that “Cincinnati is to provide two more young people for the missionary field in China. Julius Garst Appleton, graduate civil engineer of the University of Cincinnati, who married Miss Julia Earl on the morning of his graduation, is the latest member of the Varsity Student Volunteers to make good his pledge.”

I’m not sure what the missionary position in China entailed, but apparently Julius and Julia were back in the states by 1927. In the Hartford, Connecticut city directory, Julius and Julia Appleton are listed as an assistant engineer and stenographer. Julius and Julia were still living in Hartford in 1930 according to the Federal census. Julius was a civil engineer for the city and Julia was a stenographer for an insurance company. They had no children.

According to the Hartford city directory of 1931, Julius and Julia had moved to Bridgeport, Connecticut. In the Bridgeport city directory for the years 1932 to 1934, Reverend Julius G. Appleton was listed as the pastor of the Bethany Congregational Church in Bridgeport. There is no record of how Julius transitioned from civil engineer to pastor.

By 1936, Julius and Julia had moved to Cleveland, Ohio. The city directory for Cleveland lists Julius G. Appleton as a Clergyman (having churches).

On May 20, 1941, Julius enlisted in the army. I do not have detail of his record in the service, but apparently he served in the Army Air Forces in England. He returned to the US aboard the Queen Elizabeth on June 29, 1945 and was released from the service on May 2, 1946.

While I am curious about how Julius Appleton transitioned from civil engineer to pastor, I am also curious about what role he played in the 8th Air Force. I do know that in 1941, he was stationed at the Headquarters of the 37th Engineer Regiment, Chaplain’s Office, at Camp Bowie, Texas. And I do know that he was concerned with the needs of Jewish soldiers. On October 24, 1941, he wrote a letter to the Director of the National Jewish Welfare Board in New York City. He wrote:

Just a week ago today Chaplain Julius A. Leibert, Jewish Chaplain for Camp Bowie, dedicated our Chapel (Chapel No. 8 – 37th Engrs Area) here at the Camp for use in Jewish Services for the Jewish Soldiers and the Jewish Congregation of Brownwood. Today he has gone – transferred to Camp Beauregard, Louisiana! We regret losing such a fine worker.

Feeling that these services, so auspiciously begun last week, should not be allowed to die out I have offered to be of what assistance I can as a Chaplain of the Christian Faith. As Chapel No. 8 is central to the majority of the Units here in the camp where Jewish Soldiers are located, I feel it is wise to continue the Friday Evening Services here, if the others so desire, and am willing to do all in my power to help hold the group together.

The Ark in our Chapel has been especially lined and last week Chaplain Leibert installed in it The Torah (his own however) for use. With him gone, taking his Torah with him, the Ark looks quite bare. I am wondering if you have some way of providing for our use another Torah which could be placed in our Ark for these Jewish Services. I am sure our Jewish Soldiers and the Jewish Congregation from Brownwood would greatly appreciate the gift or loan of a Torah from you for use in this Chapel. It could well be the point of focus that would help hold together our fine group of Jewish Soldiers and Civilains. Anything you could do to help in this regard will be appreciated by me personally and by our Jewish folk as well.

If you can suggest any way that I may be of assistance to our group here, I’ll be glad to hear from you.

He signed the letter “Julius G. Appleton, Chaplain 37th Engrs.” Chaplain Appleton received a reply from Benjamin Rabinowitz, thanking him for offering his services in connection with the religious needs of the Jewish soldiers stationed at the post. Rabinowitz worked to procure a Sefer Torah for use at the post.

Julius and Julia may have had children, but I can find no record of any. I also cannot find a 1940 census record for them, so am not sure where they lived at the time.

Julius Garst Appleton died February 27, 1985 in Phoenix, Maricopa County, Arizona. He was buried in the Greenwood Memory Lawn Mortuary and Cemetery in Phoenix.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Chaplain Dayle R. Schnelle

Chaplain Dayle Schnelle, Protestant Chaplain
Source: Robert Bletscher, 2011

Robert Dayle Schnelle was born July 30, 1916 to Robert Wesley and Wava Ann Davis Schnelle in Sharon, Barber County, Kansas. He preferred to be called by his middle name and even alternately reported his name to be Dayle Robert Schnelle. Dayle’s father Robert was born March 17, 1884 in Lemons, Missouri. Dayle’s mother Wava was born August 9, 1884 in Kansas.

In the 1920 Federal census record, the Schnelle family lived on a farm in Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas. The family consisted of father Robert (33), who was a farmer, mother Wava (33), sister Dorene (8), sister Florence (7), Dayle (3), and brother Floyd (2). On October 5, 1920, Dayle’s mother Wava gave birth to twins, Fred and Phillip Davis Schnelle. Four days later, on October 9, Wava and baby Fred died.

In the 1930 Federal census record, the Schnelle family lived in Sharon, Barber County, Kansas. The family consisted of Dayle’s father Robert (45), who was a farmer, step-mother Emma (36), sister Dorene L. (18), sister Florence M. (16), Dayle, listed as Robert D. Jr. (13), and brother Floyd R. (12). Although records indicate that Dayle’s younger brother, surviving twin Phillip, lived until 2003, Phillip is not listed on the 1930 census. Sometime between 1920 and 1930, Robert remarried. (Note the discrepancy in Robert’s age: if he was 33 in 1920, he should have been 43 in 1930).

Chaplain Dayle Schnelle, Protestant Chaplain
Source: Robert Bletscher, 2011

From at least 1935 to 1938 Dayle was a student at Phillips University in Enid, Oklahoma. He likely also attended Phillips in 1934 or 1939, but I do not see a record for those years.

In 1940, Dayle lived in Pratt, Pratt County, Kansas and was minister of the Christian Church.

Sometime between 1940 and 1942, Dayle married Mildred J. “Suzy” Riley. Suzy was born April 3, 1920 in Fowler, Meade, Kansas.

In 1942, Suzy gave birth to her and Dayle’s son, Robert Dayle Schnelle, Jr. That same year, Dayle Sr. enlisted in the Army on September 27, 1942. He would serve as a Protestant Chaplain of the Army Air Forces.

According to 384th Bomb Group records, Dayle Schnelle was Presbyterian and came from the 33rd SCS, which was under the sub-depot.  He was an original chaplain to the group and served with them until the end of the war. He was released from the service on November 24, 1945.

During Dayle’s tenure with the 384th, he had occasion to write an MIA (Missing in Action) letter to my grandmother.

MIA letter to Ed Farrar’s mother

The text of the letter reads:

October 9, 1944

384th Bombardment Group
APO 557  c/o P.M., N.Y.

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace, N.E.,
Atlanta Georgia

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

May I, as Chaplain of the 384th Bombardment Group, personally, and pursuant to the request of the Commanding General, Eighth Air Force, and in behalf of the Group Commander, express to you our deepest and heartfelt concern regarding your son, S/Sgt. George E. Farrar, 14119873, who is reported as missing in action.

I am well aware of the worry and anxiety which is yours.  May I assure you that you will be notified immediately should any further word concerning your son be received.  May I urge you to remember that you should in no wise consider your son as dead.  It is highly possible that he may yet escape or is being held a prisoner of war.  In either case it will be some time before any word will be received concerning him.  May I add that your concern is our concern, not only of this group, but also of the entire Air Force as well.

There is no other information that I can give other than you have already received from the War Department, except, that all mail and packages will be returned to the sender.  May I assure you that I believe that our God still answers prayers.  I promise that I shall remember him continuely before God as I know that you are also doing.  I firmly believe that the hand of God still guides the destiny of His children.  May your faith in the ultimate triumph of God’s will give you courage, strength, and grace to meet the burden of this hour of uncertainty.


Dayle R. Schnelle,

Because of a world war, Dayle was not able to watch his young son grow up in the first three years of his life. Then two years after the end of Dayle’s service, his son Robert Dayle, Jr. died on November 8, 1947. Dayle Jr. is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Pratt, Pratt County, Kansas.

From at least 1949 to 1954, Dayle and Suzy lived in Arkansas City, Kansas. He was minister of the Central Christian Church. On April 2, 1951, Dayle and Suzy were blessed with a second son, David Michael Schnelle.

Over the next forty years, Dayle and Suzy lived in other parts of the country including Great Bend, Kansas and Colorado. Dayle lost his father, Robert Wesley Schnelle, on July 6, 1970 in Medicine Lodge, Barber County, Kansas.

Chaplain Dayle Schnelle, Protestant Chaplain
Source: Robert Bletscher, 2011

In the 1990’s Dayle and Suzy lived in Alvin, Texas. Their son David was also living in Alvin, Texas when he died on March 3, 1993. Dayle had outlived both of his sons.

A year and a half later, Dayle Schnelle died on September 10, 1994 in Alvin, Brazoria County, Texas. He is buried in Greenlawn Cemetery in Pratt, Pratt County, Kansas.

Suzy died on December 6, 2014 in Alvin, Texas.

Thank you to Keith Ellefson, 384th Bomb Group Researcher and Combat Data Specialist, for contributing to this story.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Chaplain Herbert Francis Butterbach

Herbert Francis Butterbach was the second Catholic chaplain of the 384th Bomb Group. Before he replaced Father Billy Method, Butterbach served with the 92nd Bomb Group, “Fames Favoured Few.” A wartime photo of Herbert Butterbach cannot be found in the records of the 92nd or 384th Bomb Group, but we would like to add one to our records if anyone has one to share.

Herbert Butterbach was born April 27, 1910 in the West End neighborhood of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to Marcus “Mark” George Butterbach and Josephine Mary Steedle Butterbach. In early census records, Herbert Butterbach’s middle initial was noted as “G”, like his father’s, so perhaps when he entered the priesthood, he took Francis as his middle name at that time.

His early education included St. Martin’s School and SS Peter and Paul’s School in East Liberty. He studied for the priesthood at St. Fidelis’ Seminary, Herman, and St. Vincent’s Latrobe.

Herbert Butterbach was ordained into the priesthood at the age of twenty-four in 1934. His uncle, Rev. O.P. (Otto) Butterbach, was the pastor of St. Anthony’s Church in Weiner, Arkansas and may have influenced his nephew’s interest in joining the clergy.

Newspaper articles from the late 1930’s and early 1940’s map out Herbert Butterbach’s career as a priest.

  • June 1934. Herbert Butterbach was ordained at St. Vincent’s on June 17, 1934 and for the next year was in charge of St. Mary’s Church on 57th Street in Pittsburgh and the Sacred Heart Church in McKeesport, Pennsylvania.  (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below).
  • August 1935 to December 1938. Herbert Butterbach served as a C.C.C. chaplain at various camps in Pennsylvania from August 16, 1935 to December 15, 1938. C.C.C. stood for Civilian Conservation Corps and Wikipedia explains that C.C.C. was a public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 in the United States for unemployed, unmarried men from relief families as part of the New Deal. (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below).
  • November 1937. The November 3, 1937 Gazette Bulletin of Williamsport, Pennsylvania reported that Lt. Herbert Butterbach “assumed duties in this district as chaplain.”
  • January 1938. In January of 1938, the Daily News Standard and the Uniontown Morning Herald of Uniontown, Pennsylvania described Herbert Butterbach in articles as “a chaplain of the C.C.C. camps (who) has traveled extensively through the northern part of the United States” and “the chief Catholic chaplain of the C.C.C. camps of the northern district of Pennsylvania.”
  • June 1939. The New Castle News newspaper of New Castle, Pennsylvania places Herbert Butterbach in New Castle on June 6, 1939, perhaps still at the St. Vitus Church.
  • November 1939. Herbert Butterbach again entered the service as a C.C.C. chaplain on November 3, 1939. (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below).
  • June 1940. Herbert Butterbach transferred to Army Chaplain on June 28, 1940. (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below).
  • July 1940. On July 6, 1940, Butterbach is mentioned in the New Castle News as being “of Idaho.”
  • December 1940 – May 1941. The December 22, 1940 and May 10, 1941 Detroit Free Press places Captain Herbert Butterbach at Selfridge Field in Michigan.
  • November 1941. On November 18, 1941, the New Castle News reported:

Former Assistant Pastor Stationed at Boise, Idaho

Word has been received here that Captain Herbert Butterbach, former assistant pastor of St. Vitus Church, stationed at Selfridge Field, Detroit, Mich., has been transferred to Boise, Idaho.

Captain Butterbach is now stationed with the 42nd Medium Bomber Group, Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho.

Previous to his appointment at Selfridge Field, Captain Butterbach was a chaplain for the C.C.C. camps at Boise, Idaho.

  • January 1942. On January 14, 1942, a bomber from Gowen Field crashed thirteen miles southeast of Boise, Idaho, claiming nine lives. The Salt Lake Tribune reported a few days later that services for the victims were conducted by Chaplain F. Butterbach of Gowen Field. The article also reported a related death, that of the father of one of the pilots, Elmer Munn, Jr. His father’s, Elmer Munn Sr.’s, death was attributed to shock caused by news of the death of his son, his only child.
  • February 1943. The Drew Field Echoes was a publication at Drew Field in Tampa, Florida. It had a column called “The Chaplains Speak.” In the February 26, 1943 issue, it suggested…

There is a man you ought to get acquainted with here at Drew Field. He is the chaplain – one officer whom you can see without having to get permission. He is here to help you. He is here to listen to your troubles. He is here to go to bat for you if you need him. He is in the Army to be your friend, your advisor, your pastor. He would like to see you, not only in his office during the week but also in the Chapel services on Sunday. You need him, but he also needs your help if he is to be a good chaplain.

Where can you see him? There are chaplains in all five Chapels, and there are chaplains of all faiths here at Drew. There is a chaplain on duty in the Chapels until 9 o’clock every evening. Let me introduce you to our Chaplains.

There were two Catholic chaplains listed and Butterbach was listed first in Chapel No. 2. The list continued with the names of twelve Protestant chaplains, one Jewish chaplain, and one Christian Science Wartime Minister.

  • Spring 1943. From Herbert Butterbach’s obituary in the August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, the official organ of the diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas, I calculate that Herbert Butterbach began his overseas service with the Army Air Forces around the Spring of 1943, serving for about two years with the 8th Air Force in England. (Source:  August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, see below). The first record of his service with the 8th Air Force that I can find is with the 92nd Bomb Group.
  • March 1944. On March 16, 1944, the Pittsburg Catholic publication pictured Butterbach with the caption “Major Herbert Butterbach, St. Martin’s, West End.” The photo gallery was titled “Priests from the Diocese Who Are Serving the Nation as Chaplains with the Armed Forces.”

Major Herbert Francis Butterbach

  • August 1944. Herbert Butterbach was granted six days leave of absence from the 92nd Bomb Group on August 27, 1944.
  • September 1944. Herbert Butterbach was granted twelve days leave of absence from the 92nd Bomb Group this month, September 10 – 15 and September 24 – 29, 1944.
  • October 1944. Herbert Butterbach transferred from the 92nd Bomb Group to the 384th Bomb Group in early October 1944. Chaplain Billy Method of the 384th Bomb Group replaced him at that time.
  • January – April 1945. Herbert Butterbach’s sparse record with the 384th Bomb Group shows only that during his service there he was detailed for one day of temporary duty to London on January 10, 1945 for chaplain activities and was granted a five-day leave of absence effective April 23, 1945.
  • June 1945. Herbert Butterbach was transferred to the 398th Bomb Group at Nuthampstead, Station 131 and attached or assigned to the HQ & Base Service Squadron, 426th ASG for shipment to the USA. On June 29, 1945, Herbert F. Butterbach returned to the US after the war, arriving in New York City aboard the Queen Elizabeth.

Herbert Butterbach died of a heart attack on August 16, 1945 at Drew Field in Tampa, Florida.  He had been stateside and stationed at Drew Field only about six weeks. He was only thirty-five years old at the time of his death. He is buried in St. Martin Cemetery in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Herbert Francis Butterbach’s obituary from the August 31, 1945 issue of The Guardian, the official organ of the diocese of Little Rock, Arkansas:

Pittsburgh – Preceded by the chanting of the Office of the Dead, Solemn Requiem Mass was offered Wednesday morning, August 22, in St. Martin’s Church, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania for the Rev. Herbert F. Butterbach, nephew of the Rev. O.P. Butterbach, pastor of St. Anthony’s Church, Weiner, Arkansas.

Father Herbert Butterbach, a major in the chaplain corps, U.S. Army, was stricken with a heart attack at Drew Field, Tampa, Florida, where he had been stationed for the past six weeks after serving nearly two years in England with the Eighth Air Force. Most of his priestly life, since he was ordained in 1934, had been spent as a chaplain, first with the Civilian Conservation Corps (C.C.C. Camps) and then with the Army Air Forces.

Father Otto Butterbach was celebrant of his nephew’s Funeral Mass…

Burial was in St. Martin’s Cemetery, Elliott, with a military escort present.

Born in the West End on April 27, 1910, the only child of his parents (Mark G. and Josephine Steedle Butterbach), Father Butterbach attended St. Martin’s School and SS Peter and Paul’s School, East Liberty, and made his studies for the priesthood at St. Fidelis’ Seminary, Herman, and St. Vincent’s Latrobe. He was ordained at St. Vincent’s on June 17, 1934, by Bishop (Hugh C.) Boyle, and for the ensuing year was in charge, pro tem, of St. Mary’s Church, 57th St., and Sacred Heart Church, McKeesport.

From Aug. 16, 1935, to Dec. 15, 1938, he served as a CCC chaplain at various camps in Pennsylvania, and for the next year was assistant at St. Vitus’ Church, New Castle. On Nov. 3, 1939, he again entered the service as CCC chaplain, transferring to Army Chaplain on June 28, 1940.

To read the original article in The Guardian, click here.

Thank you to Candy Kyler Brown and Group Historian Rob Hutchings with the 92nd Bomb Group for information on the transfers of Billy Method and Herbert Butterbach.

Thank you, also, to Keith Ellefson, Combat Data Specialist and Researcher with the 384th Bomb Group for his assistance with this article.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Chaplain Method Cyril Billy

Chaplain Method Billy at Grafton Underwood

Chaplain Method Cyril Billy was the first Catholic chaplain of the 384th Bomb Group. He was known by the men of the 384th as Father Billy or Brother Billy.

Father Method Billy was born as Michael Billy on December 12, 1910 to Joseph and Elizabeth Billy who had immigrated to America from Slovakia in 1897. Joseph earned a living as a coal miner in the Midvale section of Plains Township, Pennsylvania. Elizabeth was a housewife and mother. Michael was their fifth of nine children.

They were a religious family and Michael was not the only Billy child to be called into religious service. All three Billy sons became priests: Joseph (Monsignor Florian), John (Reverend Anthony), and Michael (Monsignor Method). Four of the six Billy daughters became nuns and served as teachers: Anna (Sister Ulphia), Elizabeth (Sister Emiliana), Margaret (Sister Gemma), and Cecelia (Sister Elise). Only two daughters, Mary (the oldest daughter) and Emily (the youngest daughter), married and had children.

In 1929, Michael Billy graduated from St. Francis Seminary in Staten Island, New York. He entered the Novitiate of the Conventual Franciscan Friar in Syracuse, New York where he received the religious name, Method Cyril Billy, and professed his religious vows in 1930. He likely took his religious name from the Saints Cyril and Method Friary.

Billy also studied theology at the University of Innsbruck in Austria. Method Billy was ordained a priest on July 26, 1935. In 1936, he was assigned as a professor at St. Anthony-on-Hudson Seminary in Rensselaer, New York, where he remained until at least 1940, according to the 1940 census.

Method Billy enlisted in the Army Air Corps in 1942 and served as a Chaplain for four years. He was assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group Headquarters Complement per Headquarters Detachment 384th Bomb Group Morning Report dated 23 August 1943, effective 22 August 1943.

Father Billy saying Mass at Grafton Underwood

In early October 1944, the same month 384th Bomb Group Commander Dale Smith transferred out of the 384th on the 24th, Billy Method was transferred to the 92nd Bomb Group based in Poddington, England. In return, the 92nd Bomb Group sent their Catholic chaplain, Herbert Butterbach, to the 384th.

Regardless of the fact that Brother Billy had left the Group, he was at the 384th in spirit until the end of the war. Eugene Spearman, a radio operator who didn’t arrive at Grafton Underwood until February of 1945, wrote about the 384th’s chaplain and identified him as Brother Billy. To me, this shows the high esteem the men of the 384th had for Method Billy. Billy’s name and reputation lived on even after he had left Grafton Underwood.

We then taxied out to the end of the runway and awaited our signal for take-off. Standing just outside the plane during most of my missions even in rain or snow stood a man, Bro. Billy, holding a Bible. His being there was such a blessing for me. Just knowing that someone was praying for me made me feel better.

Father Method Billy at Grafton Underwood

After the war, Method Billy was Guardian at St. Bonaventure Friary in Washington, D.C. There he pursued advanced studies and received the Doctorate in Sacred Theology from the Catholic University of America, after which he became a Professor of Theology. In 1957, he was appointed Pastor of St. Joseph Parish in Endicott, New York, and later served as Professor of Religious Studies at Maria Regina College in Syracuse, New York. He later was assigned to Saints Cyril and Method Friary in Binghamton, New York.

Portrait of Method Cyril Billy

Monsignor Method Billy died Nov 9, 1995. He is buried in the Saint Cyril Slovak Catholic Cemetery in Binghamton, Broome County, New York.

Thank you to Candy Kyler Brown with the 92nd Bomb Group for information on the transfers of Billy Method and Herbert Butterbach.

Series to be continued with Chaplain Herbert Butterbach…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

384th Bomb Group Chaplains

In WWII, clergy could not be drafted for military service. However, after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, many felt patriotic and enlisted. Although there were a few exceptions, the requirements for a military chaplain at the time of initial examination included:

  • Male citizen of the USA
  • 23 to 34 years old
  • 4-year college degree
  • 3 years of theological seminary education
  • Ordained, accredited by, and in good standing with a religious denomination or organization
  • Primary occupation in the ministry with 3 years of experience

There were Christian-faith (Catholic and Protestant) and Jewish-faith chaplains in the Chaplains Corps. But there were very limited numbers of chaplains, so often one chaplain would minister to all faiths.

As far as I can tell, the 384th Bomb Group had three chaplains during its stay in Grafton Underwood. Two of those chaplains were Catholic, Method Billy and Herbert Francis Butterbach. The other chaplain was Protestant, Dayle R. Schnelle. I cannot find record of a Jewish chaplain, or Rabbi, but I am still searching.

The importance of the group chaplain to the men of the 384th cannot be underestimated. Eugene Spearman, a radio operator with the group, wrote about the importance of the presence of this religious figure to him before missions.

One thing that I was thankful for was that a minister or priest stood holding a Bible beside the runway just before we released the brakes and raced down the runway on every mission, rain or shine. Standing just beside the end of the runway, where we made that final check of instruments before releasing the brakes, stood a minister. I don’t know what denomination he represented, but it was an inspiration to me to see him there. And then we were on our way.

The first Catholic chaplain was Method C. Billy. Brother Billy or Father Billy, as he was known, served under the first group commander, Budd Peaslee, and the second, interim commander, Julius Lacey. In the Fall of 1943, Dale Smith took command of the 384th. Smith wrote in his book “Screaming Eagle” that his service with the 384th was the “most challenging and terrifying year of my life.”

Smith found that the men of the 384th had such respect for original commander Budd Peaslee that any replacement could not measure up to the great man. Ask anyone familiar with 384th Bomb Group history today who the commander of the 384th was and the answer will be Budd Peaslee. There was a succession of commanders, six of them in fact, but the only name you will likely hear in answer to that question is Peaslee’s.

Smith felt like an outsider at Grafton Underwood and felt the continued allegiance of the men to Peaslee to such an extent that he replaced many of the group’s leaders. Perhaps Brother Billy was one of those or who did not fit into Smith’s plans for the group. In the Fall of 1944, Smith transferred Brother Billy and replaced him with Herbert Francis Butterbach.

At the end of WWII, when the 384th Bomb Group moved to Istres, France, they had at least one chaplain with them with the last name Duvall. He could have been James T. Duvall, who served during the war as chaplain of the 398th Bomb Group, according to the American Air Museum in Britain.

For more information about the Chaplain Corps, click here.

Thank you to 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist and Researcher Keith Ellefson for contributions to this article.

I will continue this series with separate posts about and photos of Chaplains Billy Method, Herbert Francis Butterbach, Dayle R. Schnelle, and James T. Duvall…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017