The Arrowhead Club

Home » My Dad - Ed Farrar » WWII » Eighth Air Force » 384th Bomb Group

Category Archives: 384th Bomb Group

The Little Girl in the Photo

For the longest time I wondered why my dad, George Edwin Farrar, had this photo of two airmen and three children is his small collections of photographs from WWII. There were no names or any other identifying marks on the back.

544th Bomb Squad area with Air Raid Shelter in the background. The children in the picture are the Denney children, left to right: Bert, Roy, and June.

I assumed the photo was taken on the airbase where he served in WWII, the home of the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton Underwood, England. I wondered who the airmen were, why there were children on the base, and what was in the background.

After many years of puzzling over the photo, I posted a copy of it on the 384th Bomb Group’s Facebook page. I learned that an air raid shelter was in the background of the photo. The airmen still remain to be identified, but to my surprise, a member of the Facebook group, area resident Richard Denney recognized the children.

The boy standing on the left is Richard’s father, Bert Denney. The other two children are Bert’s siblings, brother Roy and sister June. Roy had passed away, but Bert and June still lived nearby. Richard showed the photo to his dad. Bert remembered being on the base that day, but didn’t realize the photo was taken.

During WWII, the Denney family lived in the Keeper’s Lodge, which was on the base, although separated by a gate, very near the 544th Bomb Squadron living area where my dad and the rest of his crew, the John Oliver “Jay” Buslee crew was quartered.

Grafton Underwood Airfield with 544th Squadron Living Area circled – note the proximity to the Keeper’s Lodge/Denney family home

Now I knew what the structure was in the background of the photo and I knew the identities of the children. But I still didn’t know why my dad had the photo in his collection. I didn’t believe my father would have owned a camera at the time. A portion of his military service pay was being sent to his mother to help support the family as his dad was bedridden due to illness and couldn’t work. A camera would have been a luxury my dad wouldn’t have owned. So the photo was still somewhat of a puzzle.

The 384th Bomb Group Historical Association decided it was time for another junket to England and a visit to the 384th’s airbase at Grafton Underwood. As soon as the plans were completed, I signed up to go. I would have a chance to see the airbase where my dad served and maybe I could learn a little bit more about the mysterious photo.

In the time since I posted the photo to Facebook, sadly Richard’s dad Bert Denney also passed away. But the little girl in the photo, June, still lived nearby and would be in Grafton Underwood on the day of our group’s visit.

Meeting Richard Denney and his Aunt June was one of the highlights not only of the day in Grafton Underwood, but of my entire trip to the UK. It felt surreal to meet the woman who was the little girl in the mystery photograph.

Richard Denney, Cindy Bryan, and June Denney Moatt

But I still didn’t know why my dad had the photo. While visiting with Richard and June, I pulled out some photos I had brought with me of my dad and his crew. I showed June a photo of my dad and some of his enlisted crew mates and she didn’t recognize Dad or his crew mates. (Dad’s the one on the left in the photo below).

Left to right: George Edwin Farrar, Lenard Leroy Bryant, Erwin V. Foster, and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso.

Then I showed June the Buslee crew photo.

The Buslee Crew

She pointed to John Oliver “Jay” Buslee and thought she recognized him. (He’s standing on the far left in the photo). I told her his name was John Buslee and the name didn’t ring a bell, but when I told her he went by the name “Jay,” she said, “Yes, the pilot Jay. He used to come to our house for tea or a nip of wine.”

Their house. The Keeper’s Lodge. The Denney home of more than fifty years which was so close to the 544th Bomb Squadron living area. It was becoming clear. Jay Buslee took the photo of the Denney children because he knew them from visiting their home.

Bert Denney at the Keeper’s Lodge in Grafton Park Woods, home of the Denney family for nearly 50 years. Photo courtesy of Richard Denney.

June and I spent as much time as possible together on my visit to Grafton Underwood, but of course time was too short that day with a tour of the airbase planned and other people to meet. But she did share a few wartime memories with me. The window on the second floor at the end of the house (on the right in the above photo) was her bedroom window. And she remembers the day a 384th Bomb Group airman from a B-17 crashed through the then thatched roof of the shed (on the left in the photo) and survived with only a broken leg.

Now the mystery of the photo was clearing even more. I believe the 1944 photo was taken by pilot John (Jay) Buslee and given to my father, George Edwin Farrar, who was the waist gunner on Buslee’s crew, by Jay’s father. Jay was killed in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision in which my father, the only survivor, became a POW. My father lived with Jay’s family for almost 4 years after the war. Jay’s father must have wanted my dad to have some of the photos Jay had taken at Grafton Underwood and this was one of them.

I didn’t have this photo of Jay Buslee with me in England, but I’m sending June a copy so she can have a photo of the man who was a friend to her family.

John Oliver “Jay” Buslee. Photo courtesy of John Dale Kielhofer, nephew of Jay Buslee

In undoubtedly one of the highlights of my year, I was delighted to meet the little girl in the photo and learn its story while I was in the same village it was taken, where my dad was stationed seventy-five years before.

In fact, our meeting occurred on September 21, 2019, just one week short of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the day Jay Buslee lost his life in the mid-air collision, the day he left Grafton Underwood at the controls of a B-17, never to return. Though he’s been gone seventy-five years, that little girl from 1944, June Denney, still fondly remembers him.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

384th Bomb Group Junket XI Cambridge England (2019)

The 384th Bomb Group’s Junket XI to England came to a close just over a month ago. I posted a little information and a few photos in a teaser post in early October. Today I’m adding a few more pictures, links to more photos in the 384th Bomb Group’s photo gallery, and more details about the itinerary.

The tour was planned by Frank and Carol Alfter (Frank’s dad was a waist and tail gunner with the 384th) and Arena Travel of England.

Most of the group arrived prior to the start of the junket, some touring London for a few days, and some coming much earlier and doing some extensive touring of Ireland and Scotland. My husband, Bill, and I arrived just the day before and toured Scotland on our own after the end of the junket.

Many of us gathered at the Doubletree by Hilton London Heathrow Airport on Wednesday, September 18. Bill and I needed the time to recover from the jet lag, catch up with old friends, meet our tour manager, Rick Hobson, and others attending the junket, and get acclimated to the UK.

Day 1 – Arrival in Cambridge

On Thursday, September 19, we boarded a coach to Cambridge, where we were based at the Doubletree by Hilton Cambridge Belfry for the duration of the junket. Some of the junkateers arrived in Cambridge on their own, and we all gathered that evening for a welcome dinner.

As we were getting to know one another, we took advantage of the first of many photo opportunities, snapping one of the daughters of the 384th and one of the sons (and other relatives – the group included sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, and grandchildren of the men who served in the 384th Bomb Group).

Arrival Day – Daughters of the 384th Bomb Group

Surprisingly, the group included more female relatives than male. When I first started attending the 384th Bomb Group reunions in 2014, I felt far outnumbered by male relatives of the 384th. I am happy to see that somewhere through the years, the women have gained more interest in their fathers’, grandfathers’, and uncles’ WWII service.

Arrival Day – Sons of the 384th Bomb Group

I was delighted to reconnect with 384th British friends I had met in the States at prior year reunions and to meet several in person that I had only corresponded with through Facebook and e-mail.

I met Neill and Bridget Howarth at last year’s 384th Bomb Group reunion in Dayton, Ohio. Neill, along with Matt Smith, was instrumental in coordinating the group’s upcoming visit to Grafton Underwood and they both joined the group for most of our visit. Neill is also the driving force behind the difficult work, i.e., physical labor, of uncovering the remains of the 384th’s airbase at Grafton Underwood, and is leading the effort to create a museum and visitor center at the site.

L to R: Kevin Flecknor, Jason Mann, Matt Smith, Neill Howarth, and Bridget Howarth. (Photo courtesy of Fred Preller)

I also caught up with the 384th’s British friend Rob Long, who I met at the 2017 8th Air Force Historical Society reunion in New Orleans. Rob and his son Daniel joined the group for the majority of the group’s visit to England.

Rob Long and son Daniel (Photo courtesy of Rob Long)

And I finally had the chance to meet 384th British friends Matt Smith and Jason Mann in person for the first time and reconnect with Kevin Flecknor, who I had also previously met at the New Orleans reunion.

The visit to Grafton Underwood also led to first-time face-to-face meetings of other 384th friends – Richard Denney, John “Snowy” Ellson, Tony Plowright, Graham Butlin, and Alan Dickens (who discovered we’re also related by marriage).

More Arrival Photos in the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Day 2 – Thorpe Abbotts Airfield and Lavenham

On Friday, September 20, we departed the hotel at 0900 by motor coach. The junkateers first traveled to the Thorpe Abbotts Airfield where the 100th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force was based during WWII. The group was well known as the Bloody Hundredth and was the main subject of Donald Miller’s book, Masters of the Air. The control tower and a few other buildings house an informative museum on the site.

Greeted by Glenn Miller and Neill Howarth atop Thorpe Abbott’s airfield museum control tower upon arriving at the home of the 100th Bomb Group (aka the Bloody Hundredth)

Home of the 100th Bomb Group (aka the Bloody Hundredth), Thorpe Abbott’s airfield museum seen from the top of the control tower

Neill Howarth, my favorite commanding officer, leader of the cleanup process and creation of a museum at the 384th Bomb Group’s Station 106 airbase in Grafton Underwood

The next stop was the charming market town of Lavenham, best known for its half-timbered medieval cottages and houses. The group enjoyed a traditional English afternoon tea at the Swan Hotel located in one of the town’s 15th century buildings.

The charming market town of Lavenham

The historic Swan at Lavenham

Dinner was served at the hotel restaurant.

More Day 2 Photos in the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Day 3 – Grafton Underwood and the Geddington Star

On Saturday, September 21, we departed the hotel at 0845 by motor coach. We traveled to the village of Grafton Underwood in Northamptonshire, home of the 384th Bomb Group’s airbase, Station 106. We were welcomed by area residents who treated us to a delightful homemade lunch in the village hall after a moving memorial service at the 384th Bomb Group Memorial Monument. We also had time to visit the parish church of St. James the Apostle and view the memorial stained glass window depicting one of the group’s B-17’s.

384th veterans, L to R, Henry Kolinek, Henry Sienkiewicz, and Len Estrin at the Grafton Underwood memorial

After lunch, everyone in the group was assigned to a WWII vehicle for a tour of the base. Bill and I rode in the back of a WWII Willys jeep for a trip back in time to see the remains of where my father served in WWII, his housing area of the 544th Bomb Squadron, common areas, and the airfield hardstands and runways.

Military vehicles being loaded with junkateers for the airbase tour

Today was the day I was able to meet in person the son and grandson of my father’s POW roommate, and the little girl, now in her 80’s, who was one of three children in a mystery photo in my dad’s WWII memorabilia. There will be more to come about these meetings, the highlight of my day at Grafton Underwood, soon.

Until I write more, you can see previously posted photos here.

Some of the junkateers took an optional tour of Boughton House, which is one of Britain’s grandest and best-preserved stately homes, and described in our Arena Travel itinerary as “renowned for its outstanding collection of fine arts, furniture, tapestries, porcelain and carpets. It is beautifully set in a country park with wide sculpted lawns, serene lakes, waterways, woods and avenues of trees.”

With the choice of touring Boughton House or spending more time touring the air base, I knew I had to see as much of the base as possible on our short visit.

Steps leading up to the base of Nissen hut (living quarters) at Grafton Underwood

Dinner for the evening was served at the Star Inn, a traditional English pub in the nearby village of Geddington, close enough to the air base at Grafton Underwood that we all imagined our fathers must have visited at least once.

The Star Inn pub in Geddington – Bill Bryan and Rick Hobson in the foreground with their attention on the Eleanor Cross

And I had another reason, a very personal one, to be excited about this stop before returning to the hotel for the night. Outside the Star Pub in Geddington stands one of the crosses that King Edward I had erected for his Queen Eleanor of Castile after her death.

The Geddington cross is the best-preserved of the original dozen crosses erected between 1291 and about 1295 in memory of Eleanor, who died in November 1290. The crosses marked the nightly resting places along the route followed when her body was transported to London for burial. The funeral bier was thought to stop in Geddington on December 6 or 7, 1290. Only three of the crosses remain today.

The Eleanor Cross in Geddington at dusk

Earlier this year, I discovered that Edward I and Eleanor were my 23rd-great-grandparents. That would have made them my father’s 22nd-great-grandparents. If my father did visit the Geddington Star pub while he served in the 384th, he couldn’t have helped but notice the Eleanor Cross standing outside. Did he realize that he was looking at a memorial for one of his English ancestors? My father’s parents named him Edwin, perhaps a version of a name carried forward through the generations.

Cindy Farrar Bryan practices her royal wave at the base of the Eleanor Cross in Geddington, erected to honor her 23rd great grandmother Queen Eleanor of Castile by her 23rd ggf King Edward I of England

More Day 3 Photos in the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Current Photos from Jason Mann of Station 106

Day 4 – Imperial War Museum and Battle of Britain Air Show

On Sunday, September 22, we departed the hotel at 0800 by motor coach. We traveled to the Imperial War Museum at the historic Duxford RAF airfield to see the largest aviation museum in Britain and attend the Battle of Britain Air Show. We enjoyed a full day at the show with Gold Experience tickets including seating in a covered enclosed area, an air show program, lunch, and access to the flight line.

Imperial War Museum at Duxford

Our group also enjoyed seeing Britain’s B-17 Sally B with a quick tour inside and excellent viewing to see her fly in the air show.

The UK’s B-17 Sally B

Battle of Britain air show at Duxford

After a long day, we retreated to the group hotel for dinner.

More Day 4 Photos in the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Day 5 – American Cemetery at Madingley and Cambridge

On Monday, September 23, we departed the hotel at 0915 by motor coach. We traveled a short distance to the American Cemetery at Madingley, the only American WWII burial site in England, where we attended a private Service of Remembrance to honor and pay our respects to the fallen US service men and women who died in the war and are buried there or inscribed on the Wall of the Missing. The cemetery contains 3,800 white crosses and the stone wall is inscribed with 5,000 names.

A view down the reflecting pool toward the chapel at American Cemetery at Madingley, Wall of the Missing on the right and graveyard on the left

American Cemetery at Madingley

The group laid a wreath at the Wall of the Missing and laid flowers at the graves of all of the men of the 384th Bomb Group buried there. I decorated the grave of Marvin Fryden, the original bombardier of my dad’s crew who was killed on his second mission on August 5, 1944, and read him messages I found that his wife, Marilyn, wrote before her death.

Cindy Farrar Bryan decorated the grave of Buslee crew bombardier Marvin Fryden at the American Cemetery at Madingley

Marvin Fryden and Marilyn Ash were married on October 8, 1942 in Albuquerque, New Mexico.  At the time, he was a bombardier instructor at the Albuquerque Air Base.

On November 18, 2007, almost sixty-three years after Marvin died, Marilyn Ash Fryden, now Marilyn Samet, posted a request on the 384th Bomb Group’s web site Log Book.  It is still there today in the Log Book archives.  It reads, in part:

My husband, 1st Lt. Marvin Fryden was on his second mission as bombardier aboard the Tremblin Gremlin when he was fatally wounded, remaining conscious only to drop his bombs over Langenhagen..(544th) He had been commissioned and assigned as an instructor in the states. We had almost 2 years together as he constantly said he was not doing his part, He finally requested combat duty and was assigned to the Gremlin with John Buslee, Dick Albrecht and other crew members. He was gone from me less than six weeks when he was killed.

Another six years went by and on October 17, 2013, Marilyn again posted to the 384th’s Log Book.  Marilyn must have had some difficulty typing her message, and I have edited it only to be easier to read.  This original message, too, is still in the 384th’s Log Book archives .

My husband, 1st Lt Marvin Fryden, left his Bombardier Training in Deming, NM because he felt needed in combat.  Left me to fly the Tremblin’ Gremlin over the pond at the end of July 1944.  Fatally wounded on second mission. Buried in Maddingly in Cambridge.  I am 88, still loving my first love. Ready to leave this world and reunite with my love in England.

Three days later, on October 20, 2013, Marilyn posted her final message to the 384th Log Book (again, I have edited). It reads, in part:

I am inspired by so many still remembering.  My husband Lt Marvin Fryden was a Bombardier Trainer in Deming NM, but on D-Day he woke up and said, “I should be over there.” He requested combat duty, trained with crew on a B-17, and left me on June 23rd.  I went home.  He flew his first mission on 8/4/44.  Next day he was fatally wounded and is buried at Maddingly.

Two and a half weeks later, on November 7, 2013 Marilyn Ash Fryden Samet passed away after a long illness. She was 88 years old.  Marilyn willed her remains to the Duke Medical School and asked that no service be held, feeling that “good memories make enough of a memorial.”

I did not discover Marilyn’s posts until November 17, 2013.  Not knowing that she had died ten days previously, I e-mailed her, but of course, I was too late.  I was not to discover until early in 2014 that Marilyn had left this world.

On this day on the 384th’s visit to the American Cemetery at Maddingley, I was able to stand at Marvin Fryden’s grave and read the messages to him that Marilyn left in the 384th logbook. I could feel her enduring love for Marvin through her words, and felt that the most love and respect I could show for the two of them would be to read her words at Marvin’s final resting place.

After leaving the cemetery, we traveled by coach into Cambridge for lunch, shopping, and sightseeing. The highlight of the Cambridge visit was the Eagle Pub which is inscribed with the names of WWII servicemen on the ceiling. Our three 384th veterans added their names to the walls of the pub.

Some of the 384th Junkateers at the Eagle Pub in Cambridge

Corpus Christi College Cambridge

The group returned to the hotel for a Farewell dinner and goodbyes before heading back to London and flights back home, or to further travels.

More Day 5 Photos in the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Farewell Photos in the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Post-Junket

My husband, Bill, and I traveled by taxi to the Cambridge train station the next morning and armed with BritRail passes, took the cross country train to Edinburgh, Scotland. We spent several days seeing Edinburgh, Glasgow, and Stirling Castle, amazed at the ancient architecture all around us, and marveled at the beauty of the cathedrals, castles, and palaces, and, of course, enjoyed the food and drink of the local pubs.

View of Edinburgh and Edinburgh Castle from The Tower, the rooftop restaurant of the National Museum of Scotland

(Click on the above photo to enlarge and view Edinburgh Castle in the background looming over the city).

After another cross country train back to London, we flew back home with memories to last a lifetime, and thoughts of plans for a return.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

2019 384th Bomb Group Junket to England – A Teaser

A group of thirty-nine folks recently traveled to England for the 384th Bomb Group’s Junket XI. Three of the group’s veterans – navigator Henry Sienkiewicz, ball turret gunner Len Estrin, and tail gunner Henry Kolinek – attended along with wives, children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, and friends of the group.

The group was accompanied by Arena Travel tour manager Rick Hobson and toured the Thorpe Abbotts airfield, home of the Bloody Hundredth; the market town of Lavenham; the village and air base of Grafton Underwood, where the 384th was based during WWII; the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show and Imperial War Museum; the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial at Madingley; and the town of Cambridge.

I will share more photos and stories of the trip very soon, but for now, as I’m pouring through the 1,000+ photos that I took during the junket and during a subsequent trip to Scotland, I’ll just share these few.

The entire group gathered on the steps at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial at Madingley, including our three attending veterans on the front row, left to right, Len Estrin (with Len’s wife Helen), Henry Sienkiewicz, and Henry Kolinek. Our group of thirty-nine from the States was joined by many of our 384th friends in Britain and Arena Travel tour director Rick Hobson.

384th Junkateers at Madingley American Cemetery in Cambridge, England

I previously met a few folks from the UK, like Neill and Bridget Howarth, Kevin Flecknor, and Rob Long, during their travels to the States for 384th Bomb Group and 8th Air Force reunions, but prior to our junket have only known many of the UK folks through the 384th’s Facebook Group. What a treat to finally meet so many of them in person!

I caught up with old friends Neill and Bridget Howarth and met Facebook friend Jason Mann, all of whom orchestrated much of our visit to England, especially our visit to and tour of Grafton Underwood.

Neill Howarth, Cindy Bryan, Bridget Howarth, and Jason Mann

I also met in person for the first time British Facebook friends and friends of the 384th Graham Butlin, Snowy Ellson, Alan Dickens, and Tony Plowright, and the one thing I did learn was that my visit to the UK was far too short.

I met my dad’s Stalag Luft IV POW roomate Lawrence Newbold’s son Steve and grandson Paul.

Paul Newbold, Cindy Bryan, and Steve Newbold

I met Richard Denney and his aunt June.

Richard Denney, Cindy Bryan, and June Denney

The stories of my connections to the Newbold’s and Denney’s will be coming soon. These were the most anticipated and emotional of meetings for me.

Of course, the highlight of the trip to England was our day at Grafton Underwood, meeting the Newbold’s and the Denney’s, and our tour of the airbase from the back of a WWII Willys jeep.

Cindy and Bill Bryan in a WWII Willys Jeep in Grafton Underwood, England

At the Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show, we climbed inside the UK’s B-17 Sally B and took a photo of some of our group in front of her.

384th Junketeers at the 2019 Duxford Battle of Britain Air Show

We walked down the road in Grafton Underwood from the Village Hall to see the stained glass window in St. James the Apostle Church.

Bill and Cindy Bryan in front of the 384th Memorial Window at St. James the Apostle Church in Grafton Underwood, England

That’s all I have for now, but I’ll be writing more and posting more photos in the next “post-mission briefing”…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

The 75th Anniversary of Dad’s Last Week at Grafton Underwood

George Edwin Farrar

The last seven days my dad, George Edwin Farrar, spent at the 384th Bomb Group’s Grafton Underwood air base were pretty busy, although the previous week, he only flew one mission (number 196), targeting the railroad marshalling yards in Hamm Germany.

He spent the weekend of September 23 and 24, 1944 enjoying the 384th Bomb Group’s 200th Mission Celebration.

Saturday, September 23 events included an award banquet in the Officers’ Mess with guest speaker Brigadier General Robert F. Travis, dancing in Hangar #1 for the enlisted men with music by George Elrick & his BBC Orchestra and other entertainers, dancing in the Officers’ Club for the officers with music by the Flying Yanks Orchestra, and dancing in the Zebra Club for Zebra Club members with music by the Stratton-Audley G.I. Band.

Transportation to the party was provided from several locations (Northampon, Kettering, Woodford, Corby, Brigstock, Lilford, Newport Pagnell, Finedon, and Geddington) for civilian guests.

Sunday, September 24 was a day of “novelty events,” including a sack race, a three-legged race, a relay race, a piggy-back race, a wheelbarrow race, and a slow bike race. Also on the schedule were a bicycle derby, a baseball game – Station 106 vs. 8th AF All Stars, Scotch bagpipe band & Highland dancers, and a U-S-O stage show at the Station Theater featuring an all-American cast including MC & comedian Artie Conray, comedy act Drohan & Dupree, and accordionist Ferne Downes.

The 200th Mission Celebration weekend was in advance of the actual 200th mission date, and in fact, occurred between Mission 197 to the railroad marshalling yards in Mainz, Germany on September 21 and Mission 198 to the railroad marshalling yards in Frankfurt am Main, Germany on September 25. Daddy flew Mission 198, but then missed Mission 199 on September 26 to a steelworks factory in Osnabrück, Germany.

Mission 200 finally arrived on September 27, targeting the railroad marshalling yards in Köln (Cologne), Germany. Dad flew that one and that was the last mission on which he returned to Grafton Underwood.

The next day, on September 28, 1944, Mission 201, targeting a steelworks factory in Magdeburg, Germany, would be his last, cut short by a mid-air collision between his and another of the groups B-17’s. His next stop, after interrogation and a hospital stay, would be the Stalag Luft IV POW camp in Gross-Tychow (now Tychowo), Poland, and then the long walk home, a five-hundred mile, eighty-six day march across Germany to liberation.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

Grafton Underwood Maps and Site Plans Booklet

Note:  This post is a duplicate of a permanent page I added a few weeks ago, but I am repeating it today as a blog post in honor of the 384th Bomb Group Junket XI visit to England, of which I am a part.

We will be visiting Station 106 on Saturday, September 21 and touring the remains of the air base. I know I will be referring to the maps as I see, for the first time, the air base on which my dad served in WWII. I will be walking on the same ground Dad once did, seeing the remains of a piece of his history from seventy-five years ago.

The WWII-era site plan for Grafton Underwood (Station 106) was mapped out in 1944 into fourteen separate sites, with Site No. 1 sub-divided further into seven areas. Our 384th Bomb Group NexGen Archivist, Mark Meehl, extracted individual maps with numbered keys from the site plan and kindly shared them with me. The individual sites are:

  • Site No. 1 – Airfield and Hardstands
  • Site No. 1 – Group Headquarters (HQ Area)
  • Site No. 1 – Technical Site
  • Site No. 1 – Southeast Area
  • Site No. 1 – 547th BS & Maintenance Technical Site
  • Site No. 1 – Warkton Common Bomb Stores
  • Site No. 1 – Old Head Wood Bomb Stores
  • Site No. 2 – Communal
  • Site No. 3 – Communal
  • Site No. 4 – Group Staff Quarters
  • Site No. 5 – Ground Echelon Quarters
  • Site No. 6 – Ground Echelon Quarters
  • Site No. 7 – W.A.A.F.
  • Site No. 8 – 544th Bomb Squadron Area
  • Site No. 9 – 547th Bomb Squadron Area
  • Site No. 10 – 545th Bomb Squadron Area
  • Site No. 11 – 546th Bomb Squadron Area
  • Site No. 12 – Sick Quarters
  • Site No. 13 – Sewage
  • Site No. 14 – Sewage

On my upcoming visit to Grafton Underwood, I wanted to have a handy map guide to take with me during my tour of the air base, so I have combined Mark’s individual maps into a PDF document that I could print into a small booklet.

Thinking others, especially those visiting Grafton Underwood for the first time, might like their own copy, I am including a download here. To download a copy of the 384th Bombardment Group, Station 106, Grafton Underwood, England, Maps and Site Plans, click this thumbnail of the cover page:

The download is in PDF file format and may be viewed as a digital image on a computer, tablet, or phone with a PDF reader, or may be printed in any format desired, however, the document prints best as a 5 ½-inch by 8 ½-inch booklet.  Note: download before printing to print the booklet format!

In the booklet format, the location keys appear on the page opposite the corresponding map, in most cases.

To print a 5 ½-inch by 8 ½-inch booklet on letter-size paper in Adobe Acrobat Reader, set the following printing preferences:

  • Page Sizing & Handling to Booklet.
  • Booklet subset to Both sides for duplex printers (see note below for non-duplex printers).
  • Sheets from 1 to 13.
  • Binding to Left.
  • Orientation to Portrait.
  • Optionally, check Print in grayscale (black and white)

After printing, fold pages in half (one at a time is easier), maintaining page order.  Staple along the left side about 1/8-inch from the left edge in three places:  one inch from top, in the middle, and one inch from bottom.  Optionally, cover staples with one-inch wide masking or other tape.

Note:  If printer is not a duplex printer capable of automatically printing on both sides of the page, choose Front side only to print the front sides of the pages, then reload those pages (check your printer manual for proper paper orientation for reloading) and choose Back side only to print the back sides of the pages.

Acknowledgements and Final Notes

Cover artwork courtesy of Marc Poole.

Maps and site plans courtesy of Quentin Bland, Ken Decker, Robin Dodson, John Edwards, Kevin Flecknor, Mark Meehl, Fred Preller, Matt Smith, the 384TH Bomb Group Photo Gallery, and the RAF Hendon Archives.  Hardstand identification and key transcription courtesy of Mark Meehl.

All maps are oriented North up.

To see the complete Station 106 site plan in detail, download the high resolution digital map images to a computer or tablet and zoom in as the print size in the map booklet is not conducive to viewing the complete large format site maps and they were not included. Maps and site plans may be found on and downloaded from Photos.384thBombGroup.com in the 384TH During WWII album, Station 106 Maps sub-album.  The Station 106 Airfield Area map and Station 106 Domestic Area map are particularly detailed drawings with keys.

Keep the show on the road…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

544th Bomb Squadron Living Area at Grafton Underwood

The map of the living area of the 384th Bomb Group’s 544th Bomb Squadron shows the air raid shelter, living quarters, latrines and ablutions (showers). I have highlighted the air raid shelters, latrines, and shower buildings (or at least which ones I think they are) to try to identify the locations of the following photos.

Click on the map to view full screen and click again to enlarge. Use your browser back button to return to this post.

Key to Numbered Locations

  • ARS Air Raid Shelter
  • 356-358 Officers’ Quarters
  • 359-360 Officers’ Latrines
  • 361 Picket Post
  • 362 Officers’ Ablutions & Latrines
  • 363-367 Sergeants’ Quarters
  • 368-370 Sergeants’ Latrines
  • 371-375 Airmen’s Barracks
  • 376-377 Airmen’s Latrines
  • 378-380 Airmen’s Barracks
  • 381-383 Sergeants’ & Airmen’s Ablutions
  • 384 M & E Plinth

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, saved several photos that I believe must have been taken in this area. A few show an air raid shelter with what looks like barracks to the left a tent to the right.

This photo shows the air raid shelter in the background with a tent to the right. The children in the photo are the local Grafton Underwood children of the Denney family, Bert, Roy, and June.

544th Bomb Squad area with Air Raid Shelter in the background. The children in the picture are the Denney children, left to right: Bert, Roy, and June.

This photo was taken from a different angle and shows barracks to the left and shows a walkway leading to a tent to the right. That’s Bert Denney climbing the air raid shelter in the background.

L to R: (I believe) David Albrecht and Carl Guinn
Courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s WWII photo collection

In the next photo, Lenard Bryant and Carl Guinn stand in the same area with Bert and June Denney standing at the top of the air raid shelter in the background.

L to R: Lenard Bryant and Carl Guinn
Courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s WWII photo collection

A couple of other photos, which I believe were also taken in the 544th Bomb Squad living area have different backgrounds. In this first one, my dad and three other members of the John Buslee crew look to be standing in front of a latrine or shower (ablutions) building with tents in the left of the background. This also leads me to believe Dad’s enlisted crew was housed in a tent rather than a Nissen hut.

Left to right: George Edwin Farrar, Lenard Leroy Bryant, Erwin V. Foster, and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso. In the background (left) are tents, and (right) a latrine.

This photo looks to have the same tents in the background.

L to R: Carl Guinn and (I believe) John Bregant
Courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s WWII photo collection

The buildings in the first photos are not Nissen huts, so I could be wrong about where on the base the photos were taken. I’d like to be able to find the location of these photos on the base. I’ll have that opportunity later this month when I visit the UK and hope to have some current day views of these locations to post when I return.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

Airmen’s Living Quarters at Grafton Underwood

Airmen of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII who were based in Grafton Underwood, England were divided into four Bombardment Squadrons – the 544th, 545th, 546th, and 547th. Each squadron had a separate area of living quarters, primarily Nissen huts and tents. At least one crew occupied each dwelling, and often multiple crews. The officers and enlisted men had separate dwellings.

This area map of the base shows that the living quarters of the 545th, 546th, and 547th Bomb Squadrons were fairly close to each other with the living quarters of the 544th Bomb Squadron some distance southwest of the other three squadrons.

Click on the map to view full screen and click again to enlarge. Use your browser back button to return to this post.

The above map was obtained from the RAF (Royal Air Force) Hendon Archives and this and other Grafton Underwood Station 106 Air Base maps I publish come courtesy of many folks including Quentin Bland, Ken Decker, Robin Dodson, John Edwards, Kevin Flecknor, Mark Meehl, Fred Preller, and Matt Smith. Hardstand identifications and other keys and identifications are courtesy of Mark Meehl. The original maps may be viewed and downloaded from Fred Preller’s 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery.

For a closer view into the separate living quarters area for each bombardment squadron, I am including a detailed map followed by the key to the numbered locations.

544th Bombardment Squadron (Site No. 8)

Living Quarters area for 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron

Click on the map to view full screen and click again to enlarge. Use your browser back button to return to this post.

Key to Numbered Locations

  • ARS Air Raid Shelter
  • 356-358 Officers’ Quarters
  • 359-360 Officers’ Latrines
  • 361 Picket Post
  • 362 Officers’ Ablutions & Latrines
  • 363-367 Sergeants’ Quarters
  • 368-370 Sergeants’ Latrines
  • 371-375 Airmen’s Barracks
  • 376-377 Airmen’s Latrines
  • 378-380 Airmen’s Barracks
  • 381-383 Sergeants’ & Airmen’s Ablutions
  • 384 M & E Plinth

545th Bombardment Squadron (Site No. 10)

Living Quarters area for 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squadron

Click on the map to view full screen and click again to enlarge. Use your browser back button to return to this post.

Key to Numbered Locations

  • ARS Air Raid Shelter
  • 436 Picket Post
  • 437-440 Officers’ Quarters
  • 441 Officers’ Ablution & Latrines
  • 442-447 Sergeants’ Quarters
  • 448-450 Sergeants’ Latrines
  • 451 M & E Plinth
  • 452 Sergeants & Airmen’s Ablution & Drying Room
  • 453-472 Airmen’s Barracks
  • 473-476 Airmen’s Latrines

546th Bomb Squadron (Site No. 11)

Living Quarters area for 384th Bomb Group, 546th Bomb Squadron

Click on the map to view full screen and click again to enlarge. Use your browser back button to return to this post.

Key to Numbered Locations

  • ARS Air Raid Shelter
  • 482 Picket Post
  • 483-485 Officers’ Quarters)
  • 486 Officers’ Ablutions & Latrines
  • 487-491, 493 Sergeants’ Quarters
  • 494-496 Sergeants’ Latrines
  • 497 Sergeants & Airmen’s Ablution & Drying
  • 498-518 Airmen’s Barracks
  • 519-522 Airmen’s Latrines

547th Bombardment Squadron (Site No. 9)

Living Quarters area for 384th Bomb Group, 547th Bomb Squadron

Click on the map to view full screen and click again to enlarge. Use your browser back button to return to this post.

Key to Numbered Locations

  • ARS Air Raid Shelter
  • 389-390 Officers’ Quarters
  • 391 Officers’ Ablutions & Latrine
  • 392 Fuel Compound
  • 393 Picket Post
  • 394-400 Sergeants’ Quarters
  • 401-403 Sergeants’ Latrines
  • 404 M & E Plinth
  • 405-425 Airmen’s Barracks
  • 426 Sergeants’ & Airmen’s Ablution & Drying Room
  • 427-430 Airmen’s Latrines

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

The Grafton Underwood Airfield – Runways and Hardstands

In WWII, the 384th Bomb Group was based in the UK village of Grafton Underwood’s back yard. Seventy-plus years later, most of the war-era buildings are long gone, but their foundations lie sleeping, waiting to be uncovered and made visible again by the hands and aching backs of many who seek to commemorate this important place and the lives who passed through here during the long-ago war.

As the earth attempts to reclaim her once-peaceful space and erase the existence of the use of her land for war, efforts are ongoing to save what time has not yet destroyed or man has not yet demolished so that the history of this place will be remembered by future generations, generations of sons and daughters, nieces and nephews, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren of those who served here.

We must not forget what happened here and why the people came to use this land for this purpose. We must remember their great deeds of valor, the lives lost, the lives saved, and learn a lesson about sacrifice and freedom.

The main reason for the 384th Bomb Group’s existence at Grafton Underwood revolved around the airfield’s runways, the point of take-off for mission targets and the point of return for the B-17’s and the weary crews that came home.

Take-off was normally early morning. Very early or the previous overnight, the ground crews readied the B-17’s with final repairs, filling fuel tanks, and loading bombs and ammunition.

After breakfast and briefing, the airmen arrived at their designated aircraft and performed final preparations for the day’s missions. The pilots ran through their checklists, the gunners checked the guns, and the navigators and bombardiers studied the route and coordinates for the bomb drop. Pilots started the engines and watched for the flare signalling departure.

The 384th Bomb Group’s first commander, Budd Peaslee, shared his memories of these mornings in the closing words of his 1963 book, Heritage of Valor. Commander Peaslee described not the look of the airfield, but the sound and feel of it when the 384th war machine was in full force and preparing for battle.

Commander Peaslee likened the sound of the B-17 engines to “musical thunder” and described the taxi and take-off of the flying fortresses as causing the “very earth to tremble.” He pronounced the source of the sound as “seeming to emanate from all things, visible and invisible,” and he compared the B-17’s “great deep-throated engines” to their later jet replacements’ “flat, toneless roar.”

Eighteen years after the 384th left Grafton Underwood at the end of the war, Peaslee described the runways as “ancient” and “weed-choked.” But those runways have not disappeared to this day. Fifty-six years past the publication of his book, and seventy-four years past the end of the war, the runways just north of the village can still be seen in satellite images.

After all of the B-17’s departed for the day’s mission and the business of waiting for their return began, the runway, though now silent, was the center of the group’s universe, the ultimate determiner of the mission’s success or failure.

On paper, the success of the mission was determined by how close the bombs had come to their targets and what kind of destruction the formation had brought to the enemy’s door. In reality, if one B-17 or one man had been lost and not returned to touch down on the runway or sleep in his bunk that night, the loss would be felt exponentially throughout the base, from crew mates, to cooks, to the Commander.

As soon as the last of the B-17’s wheels left the morning mist-covered ground, thoughts would turn to wonder how many would not return today. What familiar faces around the base would be no more? Eating, sleeping, socializing, and any other function of human life was secondary to the take-off and return of the B-17’s and their crews. The runway symbolized why the airmen were there, why the ground crews were there, and why the people of Grafton Underwood had to share the backyard of their pleasant village with this instrument of war.

This year’s 384th Bomb Group reunion will be the group’s eleventh junket to Grafton Underwood and other nearby WWII sites and will be my first. I will be able to see and stand upon the runways of which I have only imagined, have read about, and have seen in photos and on maps.

This map of the runways and hardstands was obtained from the archives at RAF Hendon and donated by Kevin Flecknor and Robin Dodson.

Site No. 1 Airfield – Runways and Hardstands

The runways and the fifty hardstands, where the aircraft stood ready, are detailed on the map as Site No. 1 Airfield.

The 384th Bomb Group was made up of four bombardment squadrons – 544, 545, 546, and 547. Each had a separate area of hardstands for their designated ships.

  • The 544th Bomb Squad was assigned Hardstands 1 – 9, 49, and 50.
  • The 545th Bomb Squad was assigned Hardstands 10 – 23.
  • The 546th Bomb Squad was assigned Hardstands 24 – 35, and 41.
  • The 547th Bomb Squad was assigned Hardstands 36 – 40, and 42 – 48.

Though the numbering system of division looks a little disjointed in a list, a review of where the hardstands are placed on the map will show why the division was made as it was. What’s not clear is why the number of hardstands was not more equally divided between squadrons. The 544th Bomb Squadron had the least amount, eleven, and the 545th Bomb Squad had the most, fourteen.

Thanks to Google Earth, we can see what the airfield map looks like superimposed on a map of the area today.

Image © 2018 Google

Note: Click on the images to open to full screen. (Then use your browser Back button to return to this post). 

Special Thanks to 384th Bomb Group Volunteers

The map of the runways and hardstands was obtained from the archives at RAF Hendon and donated by Kevin Flecknor and Robin Dodson. Hardstand identifications provided by Mark Meehl.

Note: The boxed numbers indicate the runway identifiers (magnetic compass heading to nearest 10 degrees).

Friends of the 384th

To view the progress of the Grafton Underwood Airfield building preservation and site cleanup and maintenance, please join the Friends of the 384th on Facebook.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

Follow Up: How Many Airmen Made Up a B-17 Crew in WWII

Some new information about the change in structure to B-17 crews during WWII has come to my attention from two 384th Bomb Group Association volunteers, Researcher and Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson and Historian John Edwards.

My original post, How Many Airmen Made Up a B-17 Crew in WWII, was published July 3, 2019.

Keith found a document that was simply titled “Administration” and marked SECRET that offered an interesting theory, one I had never considered. He identified the document as one from the 447th Bomb Group based in Rattlesden, Suffolk, England from the inclusion of a second topic on the same page titled Beautification Program, which mentioned the Ground Executive of the station, Lt. Col. Wilfred Beaver.

The topic regarding crew makeup was titled Nine Man Crew. It read (with a few minor typographical corrections and some format changes for readability),

On 20 July 1944, a program was instituted to reduce the weight of combat aircraft. With a decrease in weight, the operational efficiency of our planes would increase. As a part of the weight reduction program one waist gunner was removed from each plane.

The obvious result was a plethora of surplus gunners assigned to the Group. Measures were established to eliminate all excess gunner personnel. In order to best utilize the services of surplus gunners who were not permanent members of combat crews and not required as gunners for operations, it was necessary to accomplish one of the following:

  1. Release surplus gunners to the Zone of the Interior, if they had already completed 25 or more missions.
  2. Reclassify surplus gunners to other ground military occupational specialties in which they were skilled. (Absorption of these men in vacancies afforded in the various Tables of Organization of units on the Station was mainly the problem here encountered.)
  3. Transfer to other commands in this Theater where gunners were needed.

At the present time, a surplus still exists on this Station, but the process of depletion has been inaugurated.

I had not considered that the weight of one gunner, probably in the range of 130 to 150 pounds or more, plus the weight of his flying gear, could have made that much difference to the amount of fuel a B-17 would use over the course of a mission.

According to The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft by David Donald, as noted in Wikipedia, the empty weight of a B-17G is 36,135 pounds. Gross weight, and I’m not quite sure what that entails, is noted at 54,000 pounds. Maximum takeoff weight is 65,500 pounds.

The inclusion of one extra 150-pound gunner seems pretty insignificant to me, but perhaps being able to carry another 150 pounds of ammo or bombs, or being just a little lighter to increase air speed, was more important than an additional gunner to defend the ship, especially since the improvement of American fighter planes reduced the incidence of enemy fighters attacking the formation at that point in the war.

The amount of fuel that could be placed in the tank of a B-17 was limited and that fuel limit in combination with the weight of the ship would directly affect the distance the formation could travel into enemy territory. By reducing the weight of the aircraft, the formation could reach further targets. Well, maybe that does make more sense than I initially considered.

The 384th Bomb Group had instituted the change in crew makeup from ten to nine by reducing the number of waist gunners from two to one several months before the 477th, in the middle of May 1944. Keith noted that,

I am certain that reduction in crew size would have been a directive from 8th AF level with maybe some wiggle room for implementation at the lower echelons.

At Keith’s suggestion, I also asked John Edwards to weigh in on the subject and he added his insight, first on crew requirements,

Crew requirements were levied on the training air forces in the ZOI [Zone of the Interior] by the GHQ AAF [Army Air Forces Group Headquarters] as received from the combatant numbered air forces. This would be a request for crews. AAF would approve the requested strength based on the air war plan and the numbered air force’s mission.

After deciding how much of the pie each AF could have, the AAF issued broad goals for the number of pilots by type and navigators and bombardiers in proportion. The personnel allocations would be to fill the pipeline to each AF and how best to reach the manpower allocation for each.

and then regarding crew composition,

Crew composition was a different issue. When the B-29 training program kicked off in April 1944, AAF realized that a dedicated crew and a certain composition was required compared with the other four engine types. This impacted B-17 and B-24 crews.

Procurement policies were changed as the war went on to either increase or decrease the flow of personnel in the pipeline in specific specialties. When the first big change in crew number occurred, it was based on the bombardier vs. the togglier. A change in tactics by 8AF [the 8th Air Force] revised crew composition.

Now when 10 guys become 9, that was further based on a tactical change in that the effective box formations negated the need for two waist gunners. That would mean the crew composition in summer 44 was an average 9 guys which meant a gunner would be the TOG [togglier] so you had a net loss of one guy.

Early on, each B-17 in the mission formation had a specially trained bombardier who would take over flying the aircraft from the pilot at the IP, the Initial Point of the bomb run, and continue to do so until he spotted the target and dropped his bombs, at which point he would return control of the aircraft to the pilot.

Later in the war, only the lead aircraft in the formation had to carry a qualified bombardier and the remaining aircraft were manned by either trained bombardiers or toggliers, who would watch for the lead bombardier to drop his bombs and follow suit by toggling the switch to drop theirs.

Toggliers and non-lead bombardiers did not take control of the aircraft from the pilot during the bomb run and most often toggliers were not officers, but were enlisted men, likely surplus waist gunners, who sat in the bombardier seat and released the bombs with the formation.

This change also led to many officers who were originally trained as bombardiers, but didn’t qualify as lead bombardiers, to retrain to become navigators rather than waste their talents as button-pushers.

John continued,

Now in theater the CCRC [Combat Crew Replacement Center] or later RCD [Replacement or Reinforcement Control Depot] would make the assignments for crews based on personnel allocations according to TO&E [Table of Orgainization and Equipment] strengths.

From there, the AF would allocate crews by division then on down the line to the group. At this point, the big change occurs – each group HQ would create the operational crew composition based on it’s needs (like the other levels and assuming all these ideas agreed and 8AF correctly stated the requirement AND the ZOI filled it that way).

As a rough rule, each group could do as they pleased within the manning construct of the TO&E. The group started getting 9 man crews in late February just at or about other groups did, but remember, the personnel pipeline was filled with 1943 trained guys (whole crews) and groups still being trained up in the states.

In the end of all this, you still have the mission change requirement increase [from 25 to 30 to 35 missions required to finish a tour] so there are more ‘bodies’ on hand to fill up crews, rebuild them or create spares pools.

Note

In researching this subject, I became curious about the Combatant Numbered Air Forces. I happened to find a document online in PDF format named Air Force Combat Units of WWII edited by Maurer Maurer, originally published in 1961, and reprinted by the Office of Air Force History in Washington, D.C. in 1983.

Starting on this 520-page document’s page 457 (page 471 of the PDF file) is a description of each of the numbered Air Forces 1 – 15 and 20. Check the index at the end for the un-numbered Air Forces, as well. This comprehensive document covers not only the Air Forces, but the Commands, Divisions, Wings, and Groups – see the Table of Contents on the document’s page xiii (PDF file page 13).

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

How Many Airmen Made Up a B-17 Crew in WWII

Ask anyone how many airmen made up a B-17 crew in WWII, and you’ll likely get a response of ‘ten.’ The ten airmen on the crew would be,

  1. Pilot
  2. Co-pilot
  3. Navigator
  4. Bombardier
  5. Top turret gunner/Engineer
  6. Radio operator
  7. Ball turret gunner
  8. Tail gunner
  9. Right Waist/flexible gunner
  10. Left Waist/flexible gunner

When my dad was completing his crew training at the Ardmore Army Air Field in Ardmore, Oklahoma in the Spring of 1944, his crew – the John Oliver Buslee crew – trained as a crew of ten. They flew to England, delivering a new B-17 to the 8th Air Force, as a crew of ten. They were assigned to the 384th Bomb Group as a crew of ten.

But on the date of their first mission on August 4, 1944, the Buslee crew flew as a crew of nine. With a more experienced pilot lending a hand to pilot John Buslee, David Albrecht was bumped out of his co-pilot seat onto another crew, another B-17.

And, following a change in the makeup of B-17 air crews on combat missions out of England, only one waist gunner manned the waist guns of the plane. Buslee crew waist gunner Lenard Bryant was selected to fly that first mission, leaving my dad as the only member of his crew behind on the ground that day.

If Dad didn’t awaken when the rest of the enlisted men on his crew got that tap on the shoulder rousing them from sleep that morning, he probably awoke to find himself alone in his barracks.

What a letdown that must have been for my father that day, and a blow to his morale, to be the only man on his crew left out of the action. He got his chance the next day, August 5, 1944, and probably wished he had been grounded for that one, too. His ship, The Tremblin’ Gremlin, returned from Langenhagen, Germany with 106 flak holes, and the bombardier lost his life on that mission.

At that point in the war, American fighter planes were providing more protection to the formation from the German fighter planes, and waist gunners were deemed to be needed less to defend the formation. The radio operator was expected to man the left waist gun in time of need.

So, wondering at what point the group began flying missions with only one waist gunner, I looked it up in the 384th Bomb Group website’s mission database. On May 15, 1944, Mission 108, target NOBALL (V-1 Launch Site) of CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) in Mimoyecques, France, two waist gunners manned the waist, defending the ship. On the 384th’s next mission four days later on May 19, 1944, Mission 109, to an industrial target in Berlin, the waist held only one waist gunner on most of the ships.

When my dad and his crew of ten were training in Ardmore, the 384th had already changed their crew makeup on missions to be a crew of nine, with only one waist gunner. Of course, at the time Dad and his crewmates were in training on the B-17, they didn’t know if they would be assigned to the European theater or the Pacific theater. I don’t know if the number of B-17 crew members differed between the theaters, but to me, that’s one possible explanation as to why the military would keep training crews of ten and then reduce them to crews of nine before entering combat.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019