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Gordon Eugene Hetu, Update

Gordon Eugene Hetu
Photo courtesy of Anne Fisher via Ancestry.com

A new search has provided me with a photo of and some new information regarding Gordon Eugene Hetu, ball turret gunner of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was on board Brodie’s B-17 on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. 

To view my original post and other information about Gordon Eugene Hetu, please see the links at the end of this post.

During my search for new information on Gordon Hetu, I ran across a Hetu family tree on Ancestry.com. I messaged the owner of the tree, Anne Fisher, and learned that she was not a relative, but many years ago, Gordon Hetu was her father’s best friend. Anne provided me with this new photo of Gordon, which allows me to positively identify him in the Brodie enlisted crew photos (see the new descriptions below).

Anne also told me that as Gordon was an only child, his parents took his loss in the war very hard. He was killed in the mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews’ B-17’s over Magdeburg, Germany on 28 September 1944.

Anne’s father, Howard William Fisher, was not only Gordon Eugene Hetu’s best friend, he was a close neighbor according to the 1940 census. At the time, the Fisher and Hetu families both lived on Webb Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, the Fisher’s at house number 3839 and the Hetu’s at number 3821.

Howard Fisher was a veteran of WWII, serving in New Guinea and the Philippines. He and his brother, Harry Anson Fisher, were only eighteen months apart in age, both drafted just a month after their high school graduations, and both survived the war.

With the pain of Gordon’s death too deep, Gordon’s parents, Raymond and Esther Hetu, could not bring themselves to see their son’s best friend for several years after the war, but Anne’s father persisted and Gordon’s parents were eventually able to visit with Howard and his family.

After the war, Howard Fisher married Marjorie Joyce Mathews and they had three children – Anne, Peggy, and John. Marjorie’s family lived in Hessel, Michigan. On visits to Marjorie’s family, the Fishers would stop in St. Ignace, where Raymond and Esther Hetu owned and operated a motel.

Anne built the Hetu family tree on Ancestry.com to try to find out if Gordon Eugene Hetu has any living relatives. If you are related to the Raymond and Esther (Johnson) Hetu family of Detroit, Michigan, please contact me and I will forward your information to Anne Fisher.

I do not have any additional biographical information for Gordon Hetu except that I can add the year of his mother’s, Esther Johnson Hetu’s, death of 1989.

On July 26, 1944, Cpl. Gordon Eugene Hetu was assigned as ball turret gunner to the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bombardment Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces, per AAF Station 106 (Grafton Underwood, England) Special Orders #148. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bombardment group. According to his Sortie record, his combat pay was $140.40 per month. His home address is listed as Mrs. Esther Hetu (his mother), 3821 Webb St., Detroit, Michigan.

Gordon Eugene Hetu was promoted from Corporal to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155 dated 2 August 1944.

On his nineteenth mission on September 28, 1944, two days after his nineteenth birthday, Gordon Eugene Hetu was killed when his crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart (posthumously). He is buried at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens in Oakland County, Michigan.

The wartime photos below include the enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew. These photos were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., son of 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, of the Brodie crew. Identifications were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., Patrick Miller, son of 384th Tail Gunner Wilfred Miller, and Anne Fisher, family friend of Gordon Eugene Hetu’s family.

Gordon Eugene Hetu is the man kneeling on the far right:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Gordon Hetu is the man standing second from right:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Gordon Hetu is the man standing second from left:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Thank you to Anne Fisher for providing me with the photo of and information about Gordon Eugene Hetu.

Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The B-17 Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist/flexible gunner with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. On 28 September 1944, the Buslee crew and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the same group became forever connected when the B-17’s they were aboard on a combat mission over Germany suffered a mid-air collision.

I am currently updating the biographical information of the men of these two crews, and I thought it would be a good time to explain the duties involved in each position of the airmen aboard the aircraft, the B-17. I have recently updated the information of the two 384th Bomb Group Engineers/Top Turret Gunners who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Clarence Burdell Seeley, assigned Buslee crew engineer

Robert Doyle Crumpton, assigned Brodie crew engineer

Although Lenard Leroy Bryant served as Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the Buslee crew after Clarence Seeley was seriously wounded, he was originally assigned as one of the Buslee crew’s Flexible/Waist Gunners and I will include him in my future post regarding that position in the B-17.

For a list of all of the airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews, see permanent page The Buslee and Brodie Crews, which is maintained with new information/posts.

Duties and Responsibilities of the B-17 Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website,

Training in the various phases of the heavy bomber program is designed to fit each member of the crew for the handling of his jobs. The engineer/top turret gunner:

  • Has been trained in the Air Forces’ highly specialized technical schools.
  • Works closely with the pilot and co-pilot, checking engine operation, fuel consumption, and the operation of all equipment.
  • Must be able to work with the bombardier, and know how to cock, lock, and load the bomb racks.
  • Must be thoroughly familiar with the armament equipment, especially the Browning aircraft machine gun. He should know how to strip, clean, and re-assemble the guns, how to maintain the guns, how to clear jams and stoppages, and how to harmonize the sights with the guns.
  • Should have a general knowledge of radio equipment, and be able to assist in tuning transmitters and receivers.
  • Should be an expert in aircraft identification.
  • Should know more about the airplane than any other member of the crew, including the pilot and co-pilot. He must know his engines and his armament equipment thoroughly. This is a big responsibility: the lives of the entire crew, the safety of the equipment, the success of the mission depend upon it.

Location of the Top Turret in a B-17

The top turret of a B-17 sits behind the pilot and co-pilot, who are seated in the cockpit. Should the top turret gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the bomb bay doors.

In the following diagram, Lenard Bryant is noted in the top turret of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944
Diagram courtesy of 91st Bomb Group and modified by Cindy Farrar Bryan in 2014

B-17 Top Turret Photo

I took the following photo of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.

Top turret view of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Engineers/Top Turret Gunners

I thought it might also be interesting to read stories, diaries, and journals written by or view video interviews of some of the 384th’s own engineers/top turret gunners. You’ll find a chart of several engineers/top turret gunners of the 384th Bomb Group below with links to their personnel records and their written and oral histories as are provided on the Stories page of 384thBombGroup.com.

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Bardue, Theodore Roosevelt⇗ A Rough Mission to Munich⇓ (0.120 MB)
Clemis, Joseph Bernard⇗ Joseph Clemis Mission Diary⇓ (2.525 MB)
Stahlhut, Robert Fred⇗ The Way I Remember It⇓ (1.945 MB)
Turlington, Howard Joe⇗ My Experience⇓ (0.312 MB)
Wick, Harvey Arthur⇗ A Tribute to Harvey Arthur Wick⇓ (9.481 MB)
Wilkens, William John, “Bill”⇗ Bill Wilkens’ Combat Diary⇓ (3.842 MB)
Barber, Raymond Clifford⇗ 2004 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Furrey, Thomas Edwin, Jr⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Oglesby, Howard Jasper⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Wilkens, William John, “Bill”⇗ 2020 Video Interview of Bill Wilkens⇗

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Engineer and the Gunners

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

The Military Yearbook Project – Army Air Force WWII Codes

The Army Air Forces in World War II: VI, Men and Planes, Edited by W.F. Craven and J.L. Cate, Chapter 19: Training of Ground Technicians and Service Personnel

Training to Fly:  Military Flight Training 1907 – 1945 by Rebecca Hancock Cameron

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission in 2014 to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Clarence Burdell Seeley, Update

A new search has provided me with some new and updated information regarding my father’s (George Edwin Farrar’s) WWII crewmate Clarence Burdell Seeley, engineer/top turret gunner of the  original John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. 

To view my original post and other information about Clarence Burdell Seeley, please see the links at the end of this post.

Clarence Burdell Seeley
Photo courtesy of Jess Seeley via Ancestry.com

Clarence Burdell Seeley was the original engineer/top turret gunner on the John Oliver “Jay” Buslee crew. He was known as Burdell to family.

On 22 JULY 1944, Seeley was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) of the 384th Bombardment Group based in Grafton Underwood, England, per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144.

Clarence Burdell Seeley’s 384th Bomb Group Sortie Record indicates he was assigned with the rank of Sgt. (Sergeant), his duty was Engineer, and his pay was $140.40 per month. He listed his Home Address as Mrs. Esther Seeley, Gen. Del. (General Delivery), Halsey, Nebraska.

On 5 AUGUST 1944, on his second combat mission to Langenhagen, Germany, Seeley was seriously wounded during a flak attack on the Buslee crew’s B-17. A newspaper report notes that,

The engineer and top turret gunner, Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, 22, of Halsey, Neb., was … hit.  A jagged piece of steel ripped through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. …

Only the bombardier and top turret gunner were in need of immediate first aid treatment during the return trip  ….  Sgt. Seeley attended to his own leg wound.

Seeley was taken to the 65th General Hospital for treatment. In the report written up regarding his qualification for the Purple Heart, the circumstances surrounding the receipt of wounds were reported as:

S/Sgt. Seeley was WIA by flak while serving as Top Turret Gunner on a B-17 aircraft on a bombardment mission over enemy occupied territory.

The report continued, describing that the wound consisted of:

Wound, penetrating, right, lower leg due to flak, 5 Aug., 1944. Hospitalized at 65th General Hospital, 35 days.

Following his flak injury, Seeley did not fly another mission for almost two months.

On a report dated 6 AUGUST 1944, Clarence Burdell Seeley was placed on sick leave and assigned to be hospitalized at the 65th General Hospital.

On 13 AUGUST 1944, Seeley was moved from absent sick (LD) 65th Gen Hosp to absent sick (LD) 4209 U.S. Army Hospital Plant, APO 587.

On 9 SEPTEMBER 1944, Seeley was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #180.

On 11 SEPTEMBER 1944, Seeley went from absent sick (LD) 65th General Hospital to duty.

On 2 OCTOBER 1944, Clarence Burdell Seeley returned to flight duty for Mission 203, just four days after his original crew went MIA on the 28 SEPTEMBER 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany.

On 22 OCTOBER 1944, Seeley was promoted to Technical Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #209.

On 1 JANUARY 1945, Clarence Burdell Seeley was involved in an aircraft accident. Flying with the Robert Jeremy Fisher crew, shortly after takeoff,

Aircraft brushed tree tops when pilot maneuvered to prevent collision with what he believed was another aircraft….

As his (the pilot’s) aircraft was making this maneuver, his left wing and nose collided with a small group of trees, tearing the wing tip loose and smashing the left wing and plexiglass nose.

As the flight’s engineer, Clarence Burdell Seeley made the following statement,

At take-off for an operational mission I was watching the instruments and calling off air speeds. When I called off 130 the pilot made a normal take-off. On the climb I was watching the altimeter and after it reached a reading of fifty (50) feet it started to drop and I immediately looked out the window and saw what I thought to be the ground. I immediately yelled to the pilot to pull up, after which the plane came in contact with some object which later proved to be trees. The pilot made a very good recovery and after gaining altitude we contacted Flying Control on the R/T and notified them of the incident after which they instructed us to jettison our bombs in the channel and return to base. Upon returning to base a normal landing was made.

Excerpt from Accident Report AR45-01-01-524:

Accident report statement made by Clarence Burdell Seeley regarding 1 January 1945 aircraft accident

I see no indication that any of the crew members aboard the aircraft were injured in the accident.

On 16 JANUARY 1945, Seeley went from duty to furlough for seven days. It was reported on the 17 January 1945 morning report for the 544th Bomb Squadron.

On the 23 JANUARY 1945 morning report, Seeley went from furlough to duty. HOWEVER, he is listed on the Sortie Report of the Earle Allen Van Popering crew as having completed the mission of 20 JANUARY 1945. I cannot explain how he could have completed a mission while on furlough.

On 5 FEBRUARY 1945, Clarence Burdell Seeley went from duty to TD Palace Hotel, Southport, AAF Station 524 (a flak house) for seven days temporary duty to carry out instructions of the Commanding General per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #26.

On 12 FEBRUARY 1945, Seeley went from TD Palace Hotel, Southport, AAF Station 524 to duty.

On 10 MARCH 1945, Clarence Burdell Seeley completed his tour of 34 missions.

Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Robert Doyle Crumpton, Update

A new search has provided me with some new and updated/corrected information regarding Robert Doyle Crumpton, top turret gunner/engineer of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was on board Brodie’s B-17 on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. Corrected information is bolded.

To view my original post and other information about Robert Doyle Crumpton, please see the links at the end of this post.

Robert Doyle Crumpton, Jr. was born July 27, 1920 (according to his birth certificate, one day after other records note it as July 26, 1920) in Ennis, Ellis County, Texas to Robert Doyle Crumpton, Sr. (born April 7, 1892) and Stella M. Brown Crumpton (born November 16, 1896).

Robert Doyle Crumpton’s great-grandfather Edmond “Ed” Allen Crumpton, a farmer living in Shelby County Alabama in the 1860’s, fought in the American Civil War (Apr 12, 1861 – Apr 9, 1865). He enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1862. He is listed on the Muster Roll of Captain James Cobb’s Company G of the 31st Regiment, Alabama Volunteers, in the service of the Confederate States.

Robert Doyle Crumpton’s father Robert Crumpton Sr. was a veteran of WWI. On April 24, 1921, Robert Sr. died at the age of twenty-nine when Robert Jr. was only nine months old.

Five years after Robert Sr.’s death, Stella married Claude Parks on April 5, 1926. Stella and Claude had a son, Claude Edward Parks, born August 6, 1930, Robert Jr.’s half-brother.

Robert served in WWII as the top turret gunner/engineer for the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in Grafton Underwood, England.

On July 26, 1944, Sgt. Robert Doyle Crumpton was assigned as top turret gunner/engineer to the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bombardment Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces, per AAF Station 106 (Grafton Underwood, England) Special Orders #148. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bombardment group. According to his Sortie record, his combat pay was $140.40 per month.

These wartime photos include Robert Doyle Crumpton and other enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew. These photos were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., son of 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, of the Brodie crew. Identifications were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., and Patrick Miller, son of 384th Tail Gunner Wilfred Miller.

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator), Unidentified.
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

 

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), Unidentified, William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

 

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Unidentified, Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

On his nineteenth mission on September 28, 1944, Robert Crumpton was killed when his crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. He probably saw the near miss with the Gross crew right above his head from his viewpoint in the top turret (see Wallace Storey’s account of the near-miss), and probably saw the collision with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming, but was helpless to do anything about it.

Robert Crumpton was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group as a Staff Sergeant according to Special Orders.

S/Sgt Robert D. Crumpton earned the Purple Heart and Air Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters. He was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot E, Row 19, Grave 22.

Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

London Leave

Postcard of sights of London
Image courtesy of Paul Furiga

I can’t say why, but every time I think of the possibility that my dad, George Edwin Farrar, visited London while he was serving with the 8th AAF during WWII in England, I think of this poem, first published in London during 1805 in the book “Songs for the Nursery.”

Pussycat pussycat, where have you been?
I’ve been up to London to visit the Queen.
Pussycat pussycat, what did you there?
I frightened a little mouse under her chair.

According to my mother, I had memorized a great deal of nursery rhymes by the age of two, so maybe this was one of them. Still to this day, I associate this rhyme when I think of London.

Anyway, pussycats aside, the question in my mind really is, did Dad see London? I don’t recall him ever telling me he did, but another one of Frank Furiga’s (fellow 384th Bomb Group NexGen member Paul Furiga’s dad’s) stories has me believing he did.

Postcard of West Towers, Westminster Abbey, London
Image courtesy of Paul Furiga

Frank Furiga recorded the story twice. One version was a short summary, but the second had much more detail. His summary version was,

On August 13th, our whole crew departed for a hotel in London with the good graces of our 384th entertainment fathers. Upon arriving we ran into the John Buslee & David Albrecht crew from the 544th Squadron. We stayed at a nice hotel for the weekend. We had a most memorable dinner at a place called the Hungaria Club in Piccadilly.

There was a great Hungarian gypsy orchestra that serenaded us with a few songs. Then there was an opera star seated at a table dining and she was persuaded to sing some operatic numbers. It was a most enjoyable evening and we rode the train back to Kettering refreshed and looking ahead to more combat.

Postcard of London, Piccadilly Circus
Image courtesy of Paul Furiga

The version with a lot of interesting detail went like this,

One sunny afternoon I entered the officers’ quarters to see our pilot, Lieutenant Bert Brown and the copilot Lieutenant William Bayne, dancing around the coal stove and shouting excitedly. When I inquired as to what had brought this about, they showed me the leave passes for a three day leave. And better than that, the whole crew would be taking a nice trip to the big city, London, England.

The very next morning, our entire crew, officers and enlisted men, departed from Kettering by train for the great trip. When we arrived in London, we were very fortunate to have found lodgings at the Regent Palace, traveling in somewhat of a grand style.

Having properly registered and having stowed our luggage, we then started to look about for a nice pub where we could quaff some good British beer. At the very first one we went into, we encountered Lieutenant John Buslee and Lieutenant David Albrecht of the 546 [correction, Buslee crew was in the 544th] Squadron and their crew.

So as we sat and drank, we talked about getting involved in some group activity that evening, and a decision was finally made to perhaps attend some good play, and then have a fine dinner somewhere. And Lieutenants Buslee and Albrecht handled the details.

So that afternoon, we attended a matinee performance of the famous Noel Coward production “Blithe Spirits” at the Haymarket Theatre. The actors did a very superb job, and we certainly enjoyed it immensely. After this activity, we traveled to a very fine nightclub restaurant, the Hungaria Club.

When we arrived here, we were greeted by the host, who told us that our table was not yet ready and we could partake of cocktails while we waited. We were then led to a rather intimate room downstairs where Gypsy or Castro was playing. As we enjoyed our drinks, the enticement of a few pound notes brought the orchestra ever closer, and they outdid themselves in entertaining us.

Sometime later, we were taken to our table upstairs. Another type orchestra was playing there for entertainment of the guests and one of the patrons of the restaurant happened to be an operatic singer and she was persuaded to sing several arias. And one of the selections was from Puccini’s “La Bohème.” “Musetta’s Waltz”, I believe. While she sang, the entire room of diners was held spellbound, and many of the people stopped eating.

And as she finished her selections, the audience applauded very warmly and long. This was something that we had not expected to see and left us with a very nice and warm feeling. It was something that we would always remember the wonderful evening we spent at the Hungaria Club. And so the evening ended there.

And the very next day, we went on a tour of London, visiting all of the standard tourist attractions such as the Tower Bridge, the Westminster Cathedral and other points of interest, which we found to be very enjoyable. That being over, we headed back for Grafton Underwood and war.

Our very last thing was to stop at the Hollywood Lounge in Kettering for some brew and a hearty dish of fish and chips as we got off the train in Kettering.

Instead of ending the story here, master storyteller Frank Furiga included a little foreshadowing by saying,

But this story does not end here, however.

Frank went on to describe an awful thing he saw happen to his friends on the Buslee crew when he was a tail observer on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. You can read his story here.

So, there are a few things about Frank’s story of the three-day pass to London that makes me believe my dad was in London with the Buslee crew for those three days in August 1944, the thirteenth to the fifteenth. One, Frank specifically mentions Buslee and Albrecht by name. Two, Frank says that his entire crew was there, officers and enlisted men, and says Buslee’s crew was there, too. Three, the entire Buslee crew “were all off ops” as 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson puts it, i.e., they were not part of operations (did not fly any missions) between August 12 and August 24, with a few exceptions.

If any of them had been left behind at Grafton Underwood and not included in the London visit, they likely would have been assigned to fly as substitutes with other crews during that time.

When I checked the dates that the men of the Buslee crew were off ops during this time, I see that John Oliver Buslee (Pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (Navigator), James Davis (Replacement Bombardier), Sebastiano Peluso (Radio Operator), Erwin Foster (Ball Turret Gunner), Eugene Lucynski (Tail Gunner), Lenard Bryant (Waist/Top Turret Gunner), and George Edwin Farrar did not fly any missions between August 12 and August 24.

I also believe most of the Buslee crew (the ones who didn’t fly another mission until August 24) may have also been sent to a flak house, probably Southport, after they returned from London. With eleven days without flying a mission, that would give them a whole week to rest up at the flak house on top of three days in London.

David Albrecht (Co-pilot) did not fly any missions between August 12 and August 18. Perhaps most of the Buslee crew were sent to a flak house because of their experience on the 5 August 1944 mission on which original bombardier Marvin Fryden was killed and Clarence Seeley was seriously injured. Albrecht did not fly with the Buslee crew that day and perhaps was not included in the trip to the flak house. Seeley did not fly another mission until 5 September 1944 and was hospitalized during most of this time, so likely did not go on the trip to London or possible trip to the flak house.

Of course, my theory that most of the Buslee crew visited a flak house after visiting London is purely speculation on my part. I can find no documentation to support my theory. Unfortunately, images of the squadron’s morning reports during the August 12 to 24 time period are unreadable and cannot be used to confirm either the London leave or flak house visit. However, I cannot imagine what else would have kept the Buslee crew from participating in combat missions for that lengthy of a period of time.

One thing does perplex me, however, and it may indicate the possibility that my dad did not go to London with the Buslee crew. He wrote a letter home to his mother dated 14 August 1944, which would have been right in the middle of the August 13 to 15 London visit. In the letter, he does not mention London at all. The stationery he used was plain and had no markings, no hotel name or anything else. The envelope was postmarked 546 17 AUG 1944 (two days after the end of the London visit), U.S. ARMY POSTAL SERVICE and also stamped with U.S. POSTAGE VIA AIR MAIL in the amount of 6¢.

Even more interesting, it was the only letter he kept that he mailed home during his entire stay at Grafton Underwood. I’m sure Dad and his mother corresponded quite frequently while he was at Grafton Underwood, but no other letters from either one of them during this time exist in his memorabilia from the war.

I also want to note a terminology discrepancy that Keith Ellefson pointed out to me. Keith has poured through mountains of wartime records and reports in his research and does not recall ever seeing any documentation in the unit morning reports placing anyone on “Pass.”  The usual terminology in the morning reports is “Leave” for Officers and “Furlough” for Enlisted men, but no “Passes.” I assume that the airmen just used the terminology of “Pass” loosely to mean the paperwork for being granted a leave or a furlough.

Frank Furiga made a very thorough list of all the sights he saw in London in 1944 while he was in the service with the 384th Bomb Group. It’s possible that Frank visited London more than once as he was in England two months longer than the men of the Buslee crew, so his list may not have all been accomplished in this one visit from 13 to 15 August 1944. If my dad did visit London at the same time as Frank Furiga, John Buslee, and David Albrecht, I imagine he saw at least some of these sights.

Places Frank Furiga visited in England in 1944
Image courtesy of Paul Furiga

A transcription of Frank Furiga’s “Places I Visited in England (1944)”,

  1. London Times Building
  2. London Bridge
  3. Tower of London
  4. London Mint
  5. St. James Palace
  6. St. James Park
  7. Buckingham Palace
  8. Guards Barracks
  9. Westminster Abbey
  10. House of Commons
  11. House of Lords
  12. Big Ben
  13. Scotland Yard
  14. The Cenotaph [the United Kingdom’s official national war memorial]
  15. Lord Nelson’s Statue – Trafalgar Square
  16. British Admiralty House
  17. Thames River
  18. Cleopatra’s Needle – Imported from Egypt
  19. Old Hallows Church – A.D. 675
  20. Roman Wall Ruins
  21. Bank of England
  22. Mansion House – Residence of Lord Mayor
  23. St. Paul’s Cathedral
  24. Sir Christopher Wren’s Tomb
    1. Whispering Galley
    2. Duke of Wellington’s Tomb
    3. Duke of Wellington’s Funeral Cart
    4. Florence Nightingale’s Monument
    5. Lord Nelson’s Tomb
    6. Sir George William’s Tomb (Y.M.C.A.)
    7. Lord Kitchener Monument and Chapel
  25. Fleet Street
  26. Courts of Justice
  27. Charles Dickens’ Curiosity Shop
  28. Victoria Theater
  29. Drury Lane [The Theatre Royal, Drury Lane, commonly known as Drury Lane, is a West End theatre and Grade I listed building in Covent Garden, London, England.]
  30. Leicester Square
  31. London Subway
  32. St. Pancras Station [Railway Station]

Thank you to Paul Furiga for sharing new detail through his dad’s stories and to Frank Furiga for recording them.

Further reading

The Cenotaph

St. Pancras Station

Drury Lane

Hungaria Restaurant – described as,

A Hungarian restaurant on Lower Regent Street. It was called the Hungaria and had the attraction in wartime London of a very deep basement fitted with gas and waterproof doors.

The waiters, some of whom slept on the premises, were trained as air raid precaution (ARP) wardens and first-aid workers … Their advertising during the war read “Bomb-Proof and Boredom Proof – we care for your safety as well as your Pleasure.”

Except for the stories of Frank Furiga, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Frank Furiga, Mid-Air Collision Witness

On September 28, 1944, on the 384th Bomb Group’s mission to Magdeburg, Germany, the B-17’s of the Buslee and Brodie crews collided coming off the target. I have written extensively about that day – my father, George Edwin Farrar, was the sole survivor of the Buslee crew.

I have reported eye witness accounts of the collision as told by 384th Bomb Group pilot Wallace Storey and ball turret gunner Robert Mitchell. Today, just a day past the seventy-seventh anniversary of the collision, I have a new eye witness account to report, this one from fellow 384th NexGen member Paul Furiga, as recorded by his father, 384th bombardier Frank Furiga.

First, let me explain how Frank Furiga had such a bird’s eye view of the collision. Frank was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group at the same time as my father. Frank was a bombardier on the Bert Brown crew and my dad was a waist gunner on the John Buslee crew.

At the time they entered combat duty, only the bombardiers aboard the lead aircraft in the formation actually determined the point at which the group would drop their bombs on the target. The remainder of the bombardiers didn’t do much else besides toggle or flip a switch to send their bombs away as soon as they saw the bombardier in the lead aircraft release his.

Considering the duration and intensity of their stateside training prior to entering combat and their status as officers, this practice was not very fulfilling for the group’s trained bombardiers. In fact, many bombardiers were replaced with an enlisted man, a gunner, who was called a togglier. Many of the trained bombardiers were reassigned from their original crews upon entering combat and many of these trained bombardiers retrained to become navigators.

Frank Furiga was one of these men. He flew his first ten missions as bombardier, first with the pilot of his original crew, Bert Brown, until Brown was wounded on September 5, 1944, then a couple of missions with pilot Russell Cornair.

Following those missions, Frank Furiga and the entire Brown crew had a break from combat with a week’s flak leave to the city of Southport on the west coast of England sometime between September 10 to 21, 1944. Frank reported in his diaries and stories that they were lodged in a lovely large hotel run by the Red Cross for about seven days.

A page from Frank Furiga’s scrapbook, the Bert Brown crew at Southport, photos taken during flak leave.
Photo courtesy of Paul Furiga.

After returning to duty from flak leave, Frank Furiga wrote,

When we got back to the 547th Squadron, I was contacted by Captain [Maurice Arthur] Booska, one of the staff officers. He told me that there was a need for a Flight Control Officer [FCO]. This position necessitated the crew member to ride in the Tail Gun position of the Lead Plane. A clip board was supplied with all of the planes diagramed on sheets. The job was to act as a “seeing eye dog” for the Lead Pilot and report anything important and unusual happening with the planes flying behind.

In view of the fact that I was just tripping switches on my missions now, I accepted. My very first mission as FCO was to Mainz (Sept 21), followed by Frankurt (Sept 25), and then Osnabruck (Sept 26). This [Sept 26] was my thirteenth mission. Yes, there was flak about and enemy planes especially the German jet fighters.

On the mission on which the Buslee crew’s and Brodie crew’s B-17’s collided, Frank wrote,

On September 28th, we went to Magdeburg, Germany, an industrial city. Coming off the target after bomb drop, I was horrified to see the plane of our very good friends, John Buslee and David Albrecht collide with the Brodie-Vevle plane and they immediately went into death spirals and I could see no parachutes.

It was a bad evening for the Bert Brown crew. I still lived in the same barracks even though I was no longer on the Brown crew.

Frank also recounted the incident in an audio recording which his son Paul transcribed. It began,

On the 28th of September, we were bombing an antiaircraft factory at Magdeburg, Germany. I had been released from my original crew now and was flying as a mission tail observer, with the lead plane of the 547th Squadron. The 546th Squadron was flying higher and behind us and to the right. [Correction: the High Group consisted of crews of the 544th Squadron, like the Buslee crew, and 545th Squadron, like the Brodie crew, rather than crews of the 546th Squadron].

As diagramed In the formation chart, Frank Furiga was an observer in the tail of Capt. Booska’s B-17 43-38542 leading the Low Group.

September 28, 1944 Low Group Formation Chart
Courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

The Buslee (B-17 43‑37822) and Brodie (B-17 42‑31222) crews were positioned in the High Group and as reported by Frank Furiga, “flying higher and behind us and to the right.”

September 28, 1944 High Group Formation Chart
Courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

Frank Furiga continued,

The flak was accurate and heavy. I narrowly missed getting hit myself when a flak burst disintegrated the entire windscreen in my tail position, and a floor around me was littered with fragments.

As we dropped our bombs and made a tight right turn off the target, I saw a Fortress suddenly slacking its speed and then drop like a rock and smash into the plane of Lieutenant Buslee. The entwined fortresses went into a dance of death.

And as they plummeted downward, separated turrets, engines and shared wings were tossed aside. There are no signs of opening parachutes. Our hearts were saddened when we landed at Grafton Underwood.

The group debriefing showed that no one had observed chutes opening. This hurt for a long, long time. And the barracks were really quiet that night.

Frank Furiga flew nine missions as a tail observer and then retrained as a navigator. He served the remainder of his missions as a navigator and I’ll be telling you more about his service and interactions with both Buslee and Brodie crew members in future posts.

Seventy-seven years after the mid-air collision of September 28, 1944, over fifty years since I listened to my dad first tell the story, and ten years after I started researching the accident, I am still finding new information about that day. On this day, I thank Paul Furiga for sharing new detail through his dad’s stories and Frank Furiga for recording them.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The Crossing

Thanks to the stories and diaries of 384th Bomb Group Bombardier-Navigator Frank Furiga, I have a little more detail about the journey of a group of airmen, including Furiga of the Bert Brown crew, and my dad, George Edwin Farrar of the John Oliver Buslee crew, as they ferried a formation of B-17’s into the European Theater of Operations in the summer of 1944.

I have written previously about the journey, but Frank’s stories add new details to the crews’ experience.

In the latter part of June 1944 (likely sometime between June 23 and 25) , both the Brown and Buslee crews, along with several other air crews who had completed their combat training at Ardmore, Oklahoma, traveled by train from Ardmore to Kearney, Nebraska, on the first leg of their journey to their air bases in England.

Frank Furiga described Kearney as,

…where we were assigned a brand new B-17 G FLYING FORTRESS bomber to fly to Europe. It was so new that the plane had fresh paint odor. Here we assembled our flight clothes plus a few pieces of equipment. At 3 A.M. on June 29th, we took off [departing Kearney, Nebraska] headed to Europe.

Our first overnight stop was Grenier Field in Manchester, New Hampshire [arriving June 29]. On the next day [departing June 30] we flew to Goose Bay Labrador [arriving the evening of June 30]. We were held up by bad weather for a day.

On our next flight we left early in the morning [departing the evening of July 1] and flew to Meeks Field at Keflavik, Iceland [arriving the morning of July 2].

We flew above clouds and witnessed a very interesting phenomenon. The shadow of our plane on the clouds was encircled by a beautiful multi-colored rainbow. Some of the fellows saw small icebergs on the way. Because of bad weather over the Atlantic we rested here a few days. Here again we experienced something else new — the length of the sunny day.

Early in the morning [departing the morning of July 4], we left for Nutts Corner, Northern Ireland. Approaching the airfield [arriving July 4], we saw the control tower firing a variety of colored flares which was most puzzling to our pilots as there were no alarms over the radio. Upon landing, we found out the control tower boys were having a jolly good time saluting us with various colored flares as they were celebrating our July Fourth national holiday!

Within a few days we departed for Bovingdon near London where we had combat lectures and procedures with our planes. We had left the new Fort [B-17 Flying Fortress] at Nutts Corner since it had to be combat-outfitted with armor plating and other items. Here we were assigned Bomb Groups. For us on July 23rd, we arrived at the 384th Bomb Group at Kettering, England, in Northamptonshire County. Our airfield was known as GRAFTON-UNDERWOOD.

Special Orders #144 indicate the Buslee crew was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England effective July 21, 1944. Special Orders #148 indicate the Brown crew was assigned to the group effective July 25.

Frank Furiga brings up Buslee crew bombardier Marvin Fryden again, reflecting on Fryden’s August 5 death on his second mission, while also remembering the loss of his brother, John, while they were in Ardmore, Oklahoma during combat crew training.

Lt. Fryden, on an early combat mission with the Buslee-Albrecht crew, was hit by flak in the chest during their bomb run over the target. When they landed, he was rushed to the hospital, but died on the operating table. In two events [the deaths of his brother, John, and friend, Marvin Fryden], combat had produced a profound effect on me. Especially since just a scant few weeks before we had been in London. The brevity of combat life was aging me, indeed.

While stationed at Grafton Underwood, Frank Furiga had the opportunity to see his older brothers Stephen and Michael, who were both also stationed in England at the time. Frank wrote,

Stephen, just a few years older than I, had been in the service the longest. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne paratroops and was somewhere in England. I happened to run into a few of his men and was surprised to find out that he was stationed at Cottesmore Aerodrome, just a twenty minute trip by train. I managed to spend an afternoon with him. Later on, I visited brother Michael at Thatcham near Reading where he was with the Medical corps.

Frank Furiga, George Farrar, and their respective crews were very quickly immersed in the dangers of aerial combat with mission after mission over the European continent, assisting in the liberation of France, and destroying the Nazi war machine in Germany. The war wasn’t “over there” anymore. The war was in them and they were in the war.

Each time they climbed aboard the B-17 for a mission, they knew might be their last. They knew it was best not to think about it, to just do their jobs. But before the end of the year, for both Furiga and Farrar, the war was over as both would become prisoners of war until the Spring of 1945.

Notes

Previous post, Frank Furiga

Previous post, Frank Furiga Diary Entries Trace the Crossing to the ETO

Previous post, From the US to the UK and Beyond

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Frank Furiga

2nd Lt. Frank D. Furiga, bombardier/navigator, 384th Bomb Group, 547th Bomb Squadron. Photo courtesy of son Paul Furiga.

I have previously written about Frank Dominic Furiga, 384th Bomb Group Bombardier-Navigator and father of my fellow 384th NexGen member Paul Furiga. Frank and my dad, George Edwin Farrar, completed their combat crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time and traveled to the European Theater of Operations at the same time, with both of their crews ferrying brand new B-17’s into the war zone.

Frank recorded many of his memories from World War II, and his son, Paul, kindly shared them with me. As the stories Frank wrote also reflect my father’s WWII history, they are, of course, very interesting to me.

There are several different subjects in which I’ve been able to learn more about the actions of my dad and his crew through Frank’s stories, so expect to see several future posts which rely on information from Frank Furiga.

I’d like to start with a little about Frank himself, and then my next post will add to some information I’ve already written about, their crossing into the ETO (European Theater of Operations).

* * * * *

Frank Furiga was fascinated with airplanes at least as early as the age of five when the sound of a low-flying bi-plane caught his attention. By then he knew all about American aviator “Charlie Lindbergh” from an older brother. Growing up, Frank immersed himself in aviation from every source possible, from books and movies, and in making his own aircraft from orange crate wood and model plane kits.

Frank had three older brothers and all four of the Furiga boys became involved in the war effort in WWII. The oldest, John, served in a Special Forces group, the next, Michael, was in the Medical Corps, the third, Stephen, was an early member of the 82nd Airborne paratroopers, and Frank was a B-17 bombardier and navigator.

Frank was part of a large Catholic family from Avella, Washington County, Pennsylvania. His parents Andrew Furiga and Anna Pankovic Furiga also had three girls, Mary, Helen, and Pauline.

Frank Furiga was born on February 9, 1925. At the age of seventeen, Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps with his enlistment delayed until he reached his eighteenth birthday. On his eighteenth birthday in February 1943, Frank was ready to begin his service to his country and was classified for Bombardier training at the Nashville Classification Center. He began his service on April 12, 1943 and attended basic cadet training in Santa Ana, California.

Following basic training, Frank attended gunnery training in Kingman, Arizona, where my dad was a flexible gunnery instructor for seven months in 1943. Although I see no mention of it in Frank’s writings, perhaps they crossed paths in Kingman at that time.

Frank would follow gunnery training with bombardier training in Deming, New Mexico, arriving there in the last week of October 1943 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on February 26, 1944. While training at Deming, Marvin Fryden – future Buslee crew bombardier and one of my dad’s crew mates – was one of Furiga’s instructors. They later became friends on their shared path into combat.

Furiga next reported to Salt Lake City, Utah in March for crew assembly and spent about three weeks there. His crew, number #338, consisted of Bert Oliver Brown (Pilot), William Davis Bayne (Co-pilot), Raymond Julius Scherer (Navigator), Frank Dominic Furiga (Bombardier), Richard George Regan (Top turret gunner / Engineer), Marvin John Ondrusek (Radio operator), Joseph William Chalkus (Left waist gunner), Walter Dewitt Franklin (Right waist gunner), William Jesse Jones (Ball turret gunner), and Raymond George Palmer (Tail gunner).

Following crew assembly, the Bert Brown crew attended combat training in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where my dad was an aerial gunnery instructor for six months before joining a combat crew himself, the John Oliver Buslee crew. The RTU, or combat, training at Ardmore lasted about one and a half months.

Furiga wrote about this experience,

We simulated all sorts of combat conditions and near the end flew quite a few combat formation missions. It was a great experience flying in the big B-17ʼs. I dropped a number of bombs and liked the way the big ship responded to the Norden Bomb-sight compared to the AT-11 trainers in Bombardierʼs School.

In one of his recorded stories, Frank Furiga related a heartbreaking incident that happened in his last week of combat training at Ardmore,

I received a telegram from my oldest sister Mary in Pittsburgh that my parents had received a telegram from the U.S. Government that our oldest brother John had been killed at Anzio, Italy on May 23rd. I was quite shocked as I always looked up to him.

At this time, Lt. Marvin Fryden, the bombardier on Lt. Busleeʼs crew expressed great sympathy for me. He had been one of our Bombardier instructors at Deming, New Mexico, and signed up for combat when we graduated. He took it upon himself to see if I could get emergency leave of a few days to go home to Pennsylvania. He went so far as to contact the base commander at a country club.

My request was denied.

More about Frank Furiga, his World War II experiences, and connections with my father’s crew to come…

Links

Frank Dominic Furiga, 384th Bomb Group Personnel Record

American Air Museum in Britain, Frank Dominic Furiga

Veterans History Project, Interview with Frank Furiga (Transcript)

Veterans History Project, Interview with Frank Furiga (Audio)

Imperial War Museum, Frank D Furiga (Oral History)

Obituary, Frank D. Furiga

Find-a-Grave, Frank Dominic Furiga

Notes

RTU is an abbreviation for Replacement Training Units

Thank you, Paul Furiga, for sharing your dad’s stories and diaries!

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The B-17 Radio Operator/Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist/flexible gunner with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. On 28 September 1944, the Buslee crew and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the same group became forever connected when the B-17’s they were aboard on a combat mission over Germany suffered a mid-air collision.

I am currently updating the biographical information of the men of these two crews, and I thought it would be a good time to explain the duties involved in each position of the airmen aboard the aircraft, the B-17. I have recently updated the information of the three 384th Bomb Group Radio Operators/Gunners who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, assigned Buslee crew radio operator

William Edson Taylor, assigned Brodie crew radio operator

Donald William Dooley, Headquarters, but radio operator of the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944

For a list of all of the airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews, see permanent page The Buslee and Brodie Crews, which is maintained with new information/posts.

Duties and Responsibilities of the B-17 Radio Operator/Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website,

Training in the various phases of the heavy bomber program is designed to fit each member of the crew for the handling of his jobs. The radio operator will be required to:

  1. Render position reports every 30 minutes.
  2. Assist the navigator in taking fixes.
  3. Keep the liaison and command sets properly tuned and in good operating order.
  4. Understand from an operational point of view Instrument landing, IFF, VHF, and other navigational aids equipment in the airplane.
  5. Maintain a log.

In addition to being a radio operator, the radio man is also a gunner. During periods of combat he will be required to leave his watch at the radio and take up his guns. He is often required to learn photography. Some of the best pictures taken in the Southwest Pacific were taken by radio operators.

Aside from these duties noted by the 303rd, I have read that when B-17 crews were reduced from ten airmen to nine, losing one of the waist gunners, the radio operator was tasked with manning the left waist gun if needed while the lone waist gunner manned the right waist gun. That may have been true in some B-17 groups and may have been true for some crews in the 384th Bomb Group, but one of the group’s veterans once told me that was not the case.

The 384th veteran told me that the lone waist gunner would man both waist guns and the side he manned – left or right – depended on where his B-17 was in the formation, and which side of the aircraft was more vulnerable to enemy attack. He said that the radio operator, aside from his radio duties, was also tasked with distributing chaff, the aluminum strips dropped from aircraft in the formation to confuse enemy radar.

Radio communications during the war needed to be precise and understandable and the phonetic alphabet helped in the effort. The 384th Bomb Group’s website includes this chart and explanation.

Combined Phonetic Alphabet

This phonetic code was adopted for 8th AF use in 1942. The purpose of the code is to improve the accuracy of radio voice communications by providing an unambiguous key word for each letter that would improve recognition of the intended letter through static, intermittent transmissions, and jamming.

Letter Phonetic Letter Phonetic Letter Phonetic
A Able J Jig S Sugar
B Baker K King T Tare
C Charlie L Love U Uncle
D Dog M Mike V Victor
E Easy N Nan W William
F Fox O Oboe X X-ray
G George P Peter Y Yoke
H How Q Queen Z Zebra
I Item R Roger

Phonetic Alphabet Chart courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

Location of the Radio Room in a B-17

The radio room of a B-17 sits between the bomb bay and the ball turret. Should the radio operator have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the bomb bay doors.

In the following diagram, Sebastiano Peluso is noted in the radio room of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944
Diagram courtesy of 91st Bomb Group and modified by Cindy Farrar Bryan in 2014

B-17 Radio Room Photos

I took the following photos of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.

Entry of the radio room from the bomb bay catwalk of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

 

Radio operator’s desk of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

 

Radio room of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

 

Radio room of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Radio Operators

I thought it might also be interesting to read stories, diaries, and journals written by or view video interviews of some of the 384th’s own radio operators. You’ll find a chart of several radio operators of the 384th Bomb Group below with links to their personnel records and their written and oral histories as are provided on the Stories page of 384thBombGroup.com.

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Grosbier, Gordon Joseph⇗ Grosbier, Combat Mission Diary⇓ (8.508 MB)
Grosbier, Gordon Joseph⇗ Grosbier, Daily Journal⇓ (6.235 MB)
Levison, Jules Sidney, “Julie”⇗ Jules Levison Diary⇓ (3.622 MB)
Misch, Henry Conrad⇗ Henry C Misch WWII Diary⇓ (7.671 MB)
Pratt, John Butler⇗ Diary of John Butler Pratt⇓ (7.246 MB)
Spearman, Eugene (NMI)⇗ The Eighth Air Force in World War II⇓ (3.588 MB)
Williamson, Albert (NMI)⇗ The Trip of a Lifetime⇓ (3.296 MB)
Kovach, Joseph William⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Lustig, David Carl, “Dave”, Jr⇗ 2003 Oral History Interview⇗
Lustig, David Carl, “Dave”, Jr⇗ Book:  “Initial Point: Reminiscences of a World War II B-17 Bomber Crewman” (out of print, but occasionally available on used book sites)
Wininger, Dexter Gene⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Radio Operator

384th Bomb Group:  Combined Phonetic Alphabet

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

The Military Yearbook Project – Army Air Force WWII Codes

The Army Air Forces in World War II: VI, Men and Planes, Edited by W.F. Craven and J.L. Cate, Chapter 19: Training of Ground Technicians and Service Personnel

Training to Fly:  Military Flight Training 1907 – 1945 by Rebecca Hancock Cameron

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission in 2014 to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Buslee and Brodie Crew Buried at Margraten

On Memorial Day this year (May 31, 2021), I posted a memorial on my Facebook page honoring the eight men of my father’s B-17 crew who lost their lives on September 28, 1944 in a mid-air collision over Germany. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the only survivor on the ship.

The eight lost were Pilot John Oliver Buslee, Co-pilot David Franklin Albrecht, Navigator William Alvin Henson II, Bombardier Robert Sumner Stearns, Radio Operator/Gunner Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Lenard Leroy Bryant, Ball Turret Gunner George Francis McMann, Jr., and Tail Gunner Gerald Lee Andersen.

My Facebook friend, Arjan van Prooijen, who lives in Holland, saw the post and responded,

Margraten cemetery has been opened recently after COVID 19 lockdown restrictions had been in order since December 2020. I will make a visit this summer and if you are interested I will make pictures of their graves.

I gladly accepted Arjan’s generous offer and gave him the names of the men of both the Buslee and Brodie crews who lost their lives in the mid-air collision and are buried at Margraten.

Three of the men of the Buslee crew – Co-pilot David Franklin Albrecht, Engineer Lenard Leroy Bryant, and Ball Turret Gunner George Francis McMann, Jr. – are buried at Margraten. Two men of the Brodie crew, whose B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17, are also buried at Margraten – Pilot James Joseph Brodie and Engineer Robert Doyle Crumpton.

Following up on his Memorial Day promise to take pictures, Arjan visited Margraten on Saturday, August 14. Arjan said,

A clear blue sky and temperatures around 25C (77F) and the cemetery immaculate as usual all combined to make it a beautiful and impressive visit.

Arjan was also at Margraten to visit his adopted grave, that of Eugene L. Longley, a private in the 261st Infantry, 65th Division. Longley was from Iowa and died April 7, 1945, sadly so close to the end of the war.

After his visit, Arjan shared these beautiful photos with me of Margraten, including the memorial and photos of all of the graves of the Buslee and Brodie crew members who lost their lives on September 28, 1944.

Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial at Margraten

Memorial and reflecting pool at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

* * * * *

Memorial at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

* * * * *

David Franklin Albrecht

Buslee Crew

Grave marker of David F. Albrecht at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

 

David Franklin Albrecht

  • Born 1 March 1922 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot C, Row 2, Grave 11

* * * * *

Lenard Leroy Bryant

Buslee Crew

Grave marker of Lenard L. Bryant at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

 

Lenard Leroy Bryant

  • Born 7 March 1919 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot G, Row 7, Grave 22

* * * * *

George Francis McMann, Jr.

Gilbert Crew

Flew with Buslee Crew 28 September 1944

Grave marker of George F. McMann, Jr. at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

  • Born 26 September 1924 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot N, Row 22, Grave 4

* * * * *

James Joseph Brodie

Grave marker of James J. Brodie at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

 

James Joseph Brodie

  • Born 14 November 1917 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot J, Row 13, Grave 4

* * * * *

Robert Doyle Crumpton

Brodie Crew

Grave marker of Robert D. Crumpton at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

 

Robert Doyle Crumpton

  • Born 26 July 1920 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot E, Row 19, Grave 22

* * * * *

American flag and graves at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

* * * * *

Earlier this year, World War II Genealogist Teresa (Terry) Hirsch educated me about American Military Overseas Burials and American Overseas Military Grave Adopters. I also compiled a list of the Buslee and Brodie Crew Burial Locations for all the men of these 384th Bomb Group crews.

Thank you, Arjan van Prooijen, for performing this greatly appreciated kindness and helping me honor these World War II heroes who gave their lives for our freedom.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021