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John DeFrancesco, Chevalier of the French Legion of Honor

384th Bomb Group WWII pilot John DeFrancesco with his French Legion on Honour medal

John DeFrancesco was awarded the French Legion of Honour medal this week. John, a WWII B-17 pilot of the 384th Bomb Group of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, was appointed Chevalier (Knight) of the French Legion of Honour, having served during the 1944 campaigns to liberate France. The Legion of Honour is the highest French order of merit, both military and civil. Congratulations, John!

Previous posts with John

John DeFrancesco

Missing in Action, 1945 (See the January 8, 1945 entry)

Paul Bureau and the Marion County Florida Veterans Memorial Park

A Wing Panel Signing

Rendezvous in Savannah

2017 8th Air Force Reunion in New Orleans

An Italian-American Airman in WWII

An Italian-American Airman on Television

2017 Collings Foundation Tour Stop in Leesburg, Florida

2018 384th Bomb Group Reunion in Dayton

For more information about the French Legion of Honour Award

French Consulate in Miami website, Legion of Honor for US Veterans

French Consulate in Miami Facebook page

Wikipedia: Legion of Honour

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

“Sparks” Artist John Graham Forster

Last week, in a post about 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, I included a drawing of Harry titled “Sparks Liniger” that was drawn by J. G. Forster. I believe Forster was John Graham Forster, a fellow radio student of Harry’s at radio school at Scott Field, Illinois.

Harry “Sparks” Liniger at Radio School training at Scott Field. Drawing by John Graham Forster, fellow radio student.

I believe “Sparks” was derived at radio school as a nickname for Liniger from the obsolete (today) type of radio equipment called a “spark-gap” transmitter which generated radio waves by means of an electric spark.

Liniger’s fellow radio student, John Graham Forster, did not serve in combat in the same bombardment group as Harry. While in training in the states, servicemen (and servicewomen) were transferred to various stations around the country for different phases of their training and most likely lost track of others they trained with over time.

Regardless of whether they stayed in touch or lost track of each other, Liniger thought enough of the drawing to save it and his son still has it almost eighty years after it was drawn.

It is easier to learn more about men who served in combat together if those historical records have been gathered and presented for future generations by a historical association. But finding someone who served with a relative in a training setting can be quite difficult. Generally, those types of records or lists don’t exist.

So since I have been able to identify the artist who drew Liniger as “Sparks,” I’m going to take the opportunity to look into where Forster came from and a little of his WWII history as it serves to illustrate the differences in the backgrounds of those who were brought together to fight a world war and the enormous movement of those personnel as part of the American war machine to various points across the globe.

I usually research and write about those who served in the Eighth Air Force in WWII, and mostly about the specific B-17 heavy bombardment group in which my father served, the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy). But there were many other divisions of the United States Air Forces serving in different parts of the world during WWII, and this is a good opportunity to introduce the subject, which I will write more about at a later date.

John Forster was a third generation American. He was named after his grandfather, John Graham Forster of St. Louis Parish, Kent County, New Brunswick, Canada. Grandfather John immigrated to America at eighteen years old, settled in Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and married and raised a family there. Grandson John was born there in 1922.

John Graham Forster, Senior Year photo from Waltham High School Yearbook

In the 1940 Waltham High School Yearbook, John’s Senior year, he noted his first ambition was to,

Go round the world and see our 48 states

He liked nice girls and baseball, planned to enter an art career, and was Art Manager of the Senior Play.

In 1942, John enlisted in the United States Air Corps. After his training, including his and Harry’s time at radio school, John was assigned to the 764th Bomb Squadron of the 461st Bomb Group.

But the 461st was stationed nowhere near Harry’s 8th Air Force base with the 384th in Grafton Underwood, England. In fact, the 461st was not even part of the 8th Air Force, but was instead part of the 49th Bombardment Wing of the Fifteenth Air Force. The 461st flew B-24 Liberators and the group was known as the “Liberaiders.”

The Fifteenth Air Force operated in the WWII Mediterranean Theater of Operations and mainly operated out of bases in southern Italy. The 461st was based at Torretto Field, about 12 km (about 7 1/2 miles) south of the town of Cerignola, Italy.

John Forster was assigned to the Carl J. Schultz crew as radio operator/gunner. The Schultz (#3-1) crew consisted of:

  • Carl J. Schultz, Pilot
  • William R. Baird, Co-Pilot
  • James R. Merkel, Navigator
  • Joshua Loring, Jr., Bombardier
  • John G. Forster, Radio Operator/Gunner
  • John W. Rice, Engineer/Gunner
  • William F. Sanders, Gunner
  • Glenn A. Sligar, Engineer/Gunner
  • Don R. Trail, Gunner
  • William R. Vaitkunas, Gunner

On 23 March 1945, John Forster participated in the 461st’s Mission 200 to bomb a high priority target, the Kagran Oil Refinery in Vienna, Austria. Thirteen of the 461st’s thirty aircraft were hit by flak over the target and the lead bombardier, Lt. Rosulek, was wounded just before bombs away.

On this mission, William Baird was pilot of the unnamed B-24J 44-41091 with Dwight B. Olson serving as his co-pilot. Other original crew members included John Rice, Glenn Sligar, William Sanders, William Vaitkunas, and of course, John Forster. Substitutes, besides Olson, included Edward T. Wenslik as Bombardier, Richard C. Davis as Navigator, and Marlin R. Smith as Gunner.

At about the time of bombs away, the Number 2 engine of 44-41091 was hit by flak and knocked completely off the ship. They dropped back in the formation with a fire in the wing. Following an unsuccessful attempt to put out the fire, they lost altitude and dropped about 5,000 feet. Five chutes were seen to emerge before the plane went into a dive and exploded.

Davis, the Navigator of the crew, reported that he was reunited in the next few days with all of the crew except for Lt. Baird, the pilot. A German guard reported that Baird was found dead with an unopened chute some distance from the wreckage of the aircraft.

One of the crew wrote in his Individual Casualty Questionaire that,

Lt. Baird … went beyond the “call of duty” that day in fighting the ship to keep it from going into a spin, and then momentarily leveling it out with the trim tabs giving us all, the nine of us, time to jump.

With the exception of Baird, the entire crew was held prisoner of war at Moosburg, Stalag VIIA. All were liberated from Moosburg on 29 April 1945 and were taken to Camp Lucky Strike in La Harve, France to begin their journey back to America.

Forster did become an artist after the war. In the 1952 Waltham Massachusetts City Directory, he listed his occupation as artist. He married a nice girl and had seven children.

John Graham Forster died on 24 June 1982 at the age of 59 in Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Maynard, Middlesex County, Massachusetts in Section 23-N, Lot 48-A.

I don’t know if he ever saw all of our “48 states” (or additionally Alaska and Hawaii), but he did see quite a bit of the world, including Italy, France, Austria, and Germany, and saw things he couldn’t imagine during high school from the radio room of a B-24.

Thank you to Chuck Parsonon, Admin of the 461st Bombardment Group’s Facebook group for providing me with information for this post.

Thank you to the folks running the 461st Bombardment Group website for the excellent information on the group and its service members you provide.

Sources

Last week’s post, Harry Liniger’s Letters and Guardian Angel

461st Bombardment Group on Facebook

461st Bombardment Group

15th Air Force

March 1945 Missions

23 March 1945 Mission

Missing Air Crew Report, MACR13190

Wikipedia: Spark-gap Transmitter

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Harry Liniger’s Letters and Guardian Angel

Harry Allen Liniger

Harry Allen Liniger was a waist gunner with the 384th Bomb Group in WWII and was on the B-17 42-31222 Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944 when it, carrying Harry and the James Brodie crew, suffered a mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany with my father’s unnamed B-17 43-37822. Both Harry and my dad, along with two other crew members on the Lazy Daisy, survived. The other fourteen airmen aboard the two fortresses were killed.

Recently, I have been looking into the pre-combat/training phase of the men who transferred into combat at the same time as my dad, George Edwin Farrar. I have traced their path to the European Theatre of Operations (the ETO) through my dad’s letters home and through fellow 384th Bomb Group service member Frank Furiga’s diary. And recently Harry Liniger’s son, Harry Liniger, Jr., shared a few letters with me that his father wrote to his future bride during his pre-combat military training in the United States.

The postmarks of some of those letters put Harry Liniger in Ardmore, Oklahoma for combat crew training at the same time as my dad and Frank Furiga were there, and in Kearney, Nebraska picking up a brand new B-17 to ferry across to the ETO, also at the same time as Dad and Frank.

But Harry’s letters start earlier than combat crew training, at the time he was in Radio School at Scott Field, Illinois, and during Gunnery School in Harlingen, Texas. I’m sharing, with Harry’s son’s permission, excerpts from those letters to illustrate the intensity of military training before the airmen of WWII were ready to go into combat, and to show the emotional toll inflicted from being away from home and family and other loved ones while these young men were preparing for a war from which they were unsure of their return.

Radio School

Harry “Sparks” Liniger at Radio School training at Scott Field. Drawing by John Graham Forster, fellow radio student.

On 29 August 1943, future 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Liniger was a PFC in Radio School at Scott Field, Illinois. I know this because a letter he wrote to his future wife, Miss Carrie Belle Carter of Hilton Village, Virginia, was mailed on this day from Belleville, Illinois with his return address of Barracks 797 of the Army Air Forces 30th Technical School Squadron at Scott Field.

Scott Field is now known as Scott Air Force Base and is about seventeen miles east-southeast of St. Louis, Missouri. During WWII, training skilled radio operators and maintainers was the primary wartime mission of Scott Field.

In his letter, Harry described the area around the base as “Nothing but Cocktail Lounges and Bars. Ever other building.” But, he said, “I never frequent those disreputable haunts. I try to be a model soldier which at times seems to be rather foolish, but just the same, I keep my head high and go on.”

Like most of the boys in the service, Harry was homesick for familiar places and faces and said, “I like this place swell. The only thing I dislike about it is it’s so damn far from home and I won’t get a chance to get there.”

Radio school was pretty tough and required a lot of work from serious students and not much time for anything else. Fellow 384th Bomb Group airman Lenard Bryant, a waist gunner (and later top turret gunner) and crewmate of my dad, also had a tough time at radio school and wrote home once that “I don’t think me and radio is getting along too well together.” He later wrote, “I washed out today.  I will go to gunnery school when I ship out of here…”

On 18 September 1943, Harry wrote to Carrie again from radio school at the same station.

In the letter, Harry related that he had been on a B-24 mission over the Gulf. I assume Harry meant that he was doing some airborne training over the Gulf of Mexico as by late 1943, students of the Radio School at Scott Field were in the air practicing code transmission under actual flight conditions.

On 25 September 1943, Harry wrote to Carrie, again from Radio School at Scott Field.

In this letter he didn’t talk much about his training. He was more concerned about trying to keep his relationship with Carrie going through the mail as I’m sure was the concern of many servicemen far from home in wartime.

Gunnery School

On 5 February 1944, Harry wrote to Carrie, this time from the Student Reception Pool at H.A.A.F. (Harlingen Army Air Field), Harlingen, Texas. Harry was at Army Gunnery School. I suppose, like Lenard Bryant, Harry and Radio School hadn’t gotten along too well together.

Harry wrote,

Believe me, my life has changed, I am working harder than I ever thought I would. Right now I am taking advanced Gunnery. I will go to P.O.E. from here. I am getting a ten day furlough before I go over. I will be home in about 2 months. I am looking forward to seeing you. There are some things I would like to tell you someday.

Combat Crew Training

On 16 May 1944, Harry wrote to Carrie from Combat Crew Detachment at Ardmore Army Air Field in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

While I haven’t included many of the more personal aspects of Harry’s letters to Carrie up to this point, it is clear to me that his love for her had been growing over his period of stateside training, while he was preparing to go to war. Although he was able to enjoy a few in-person visits during furloughs, Harry and Carrie were able to continue their relationship mainly through their letters to each other.

In this letter, now that his transfer into combat was fast approaching, Harry shared with Carrie the rigors of the training involved, the reality of entering combat, and thoughts of his own mortality.

Harry wrote,

Your sweet and most welcome letters have been coming daily; or almost daily. I sure do appreciate you writing so often. It seems to give me a “lift.” I try to answer as many of them as I possibly can. I hope you will try to understand when my letters are few and far between. I fly all day and go to school all night and I am so damn tired when I get back to the barracks I can’t seem to do anything but flop on my “sack” (bed).

In regards to my meeting you someplace I don’t think it will be possible for me to get any days off. I can get out almost every night if I pass all my subjects. And I think if seeing you were my reward I could pass anything. If you could only come out here. But that would be asking too much. I love you even though I may never see you again.

I will have to close for now darling. “I love you.”

A week later, on 22 May, 1944, again writing from Ardmore, Harry expressed his deep appreciation for all of the letters Carrie had written him, telling her,

You will never know how important mail is to a guy who is away from home, and being in the army makes him appreciate it even more. But the main thing is when you hear from someone you care for as much as I care for you. I really love you. I love you more than anyone or anything else in the world.

On the way to the ETO

On 28 June 1944, Harry wrote to Carrie from Kearney Army Air Field in Kearney, Nebraska.

The date of Harry’s letter coincides with a letter written by my dad to his mother, and a diary entry of fellow 384th service member Frank Furiga, putting them all in Kearney at the same time, picking up the B-17’s they would ferry to the European Theater of Operations.

According to Frank Furiga’s diary entries, they left Kearney the next day, on 29 June 1944. (Use the link below in the Sources section to follow the trail to the ETO of Liniger, Farrar, Furiga, and the rest of the servicemen in their crossing group).

On this date, Harry wrote,

My last letter in the States. I don’t know where the next one will be from but I will write to you as soon as I reach my destination. Your letters will be cherished more now than they ever were, and they were always more important than anything else.

I sure would like to open one and find you there. I am afraid my love for you is growing day by day now that I know I am not going to be able to see you.

I don’t have a date for the last of Harry’s letters that his son shared with me, but in it he gave Carrie an A.P.O. address care of the Postmaster in New York City. He may still have been in combat crew training in the States or he may have been overseas at this point.

In addition to Harry professing his deep love for Carrie with,

I love you more and more each day.

and

I don’t think I could possibly love you more than I already do.

Harry wrote about a landing accident, but also spoke as though he had not reached combat duty yet.

Nothing new except we had a plane make a belly landing the other day. No one was hurt. One of the guys had a nervous breakdown after the crash.

You would be surprised at the number of guys in a crew like this who go to pieces before they reach combat.

Combat

Training missions had their risks, but they were nothing like what the airmen would face in combat. Those men who could summon the courage to fly combat missions against their enemies faced brutal cold and lack of oxygen in the high altitude flying of unpressurized bombers, necessitating heated flying suits and an oxygen system to survive. Over enemy territory, they faced German fighters and flak from the ground guns.

Harry endured all of these challenges and horrors, a true assault on the senses, mission after mission, climbing right back in the B-17 day after day sixteen times. He didn’t break down. He didn’t go to pieces.

During the time Harry Liniger served his combat duty in the Army Air Forces, a combat tour with the 8th Air Force consisted of thirty-five missions. He had made it almost halfway through earning his ticket home, until the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944 ended Harry’s duty as an airman in combat.

Prisoner of War

What Harry had seen up to this point serving as a waist gunner on a B-17, with flak bursting around him, attacks from German fighters, watching nearby fortresses exploding and plummeting to the ground, counting parachutes coming out of those planes as they went down, was only the beginning of the horrors of war for Harry.

Nothing could prepare one captured by the Nazis physically or mentally for what came next. Harry needed to survive over four months starving in a prison camp and another eighty-six days with little food and water on a march of over five hundred miles across Germany before he would gain his liberation and freedom.

Home and Marriage

Harry’s son also shared with me a photo of his dad’s Guardian Angel, who apparently did a fine job protecting Harry while he served his country – in his training in the States, in his overseas combat, and during his POW experience. Harry Liniger was one of the lucky ones to return home.

Harry Liniger’s Figurine, “His Guardian Angel”

Harry survived it all and returned home during the summer of 1945 to marry the girl he exchanged letters with, the girl he fell in love with and who fell in love with him during such a dark time in our American history. Harry arrived back in the States on 9 June 1945 and he and Carrie Belle Carter married a little over a month later on 26 July.

Harry Allen and Carrie Belle Carter Liniger on the far right, in Miami Beach just after their marriage

Thank you, Harry Liniger, Jr., for sharing photos, letters, and stories of your dad from WWII.

Sources

Harry Liniger, Waist Gunner for the Brodie Crew

Wikipedia: Scott Air Force Base

Lenard Bryant in Radio School

Frank Furiga Diary Entries Trace the Crossing to the ETO

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Marilyn Fryden’s Letter and Photos Sixty Years Later

Marvin Fryden was the original bombardier of the 384th Bomb Group’s John Oliver Buslee crew on which my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner. Marvin was killed on his second mission on August 5, 1944 after being hit by flak. The young wife he left behind to grieve for him for the rest of her life was named Marilyn.

The photo above of Marvin Fryden is not of very good quality, but it is the first portrait I have seen of him. This new find is thanks to Frank Furiga, original bombardier of the 384th Bomb Group’s Bert Brown crew, and the amazing volume of information he kept from the war, and to Frank’s son, Paul, for sharing it with me.

Before deciding to join a combat crew, Marvin Fryden was a bombardier training instructor in Deming, New Mexico. He and Frank Furiga crossed paths in Deming where Frank did his bombardier training.

2nd Lt. Frank D. Furiga

I know that’s where the two men met because Furiga noted it on the bottom of a page of the 8th Air Force Magazine that included Marvin’s photo and Marilyn’s letter. Frank wrote,

Met him at Deming for 1st time where I trained.

From that point, or sometime thereafter, Fryden and Furiga would continue on the same path into World War II combat, and both performed their final combat crew training in Ardmore, Oklahoma. They were sent to the European Theater of Operations (ETO) at the same time, and were both assigned to the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England.

Frank Furiga remembered Marvin when he saw the photos in the September 2005 issue of the 8th Air Force Magazine and read Marilyn’s letter, sixty-one years after their first meeting.


This is the page from the magazine that Frank Furiga kept and his son Paul recently ran across. Below, I have transcribed Marilyn’s letter, and noted a few discrepancies [in numbered brackets] in my transcribed copy.

Courtesy of Paul Furiga, son of 384th BG bombardier Frank Furiga

Marilyn Fryden’s letter as published in the September 2005 issue of the 8th Air Force Magazine

1st LT. MARVIN FRYDEN
384th Bomb Group   544th Bomb Squadron   8th Air Force

Marv enlisted on January 13, 1942 from his home in Chicago. He was sent for pilot training but then went on to Bombardier School in Albuquerque where he got his Wings in October 1942.

We married and went to training command at Chandler, Airzona and Deming, New Mexico. In Deming on June 6th – D-Day – his comment was, “I should be there helping them,” after which he was assigned to advanced training in Midland, Texas. There he met bombardiers who had returned from their missions, and he became even more dedicated to serving in a combat zone. He requested combat duty and was sent to Salt Lake City, was assigned to a crew, and went on to Ardmore, Oklahoma for B-17 training.

His pilot, John Buslee, was from Forest, Illinois [1]. The copilot, his wife and infant daughter [2] were from Chico, California. They lived at the same place we did. I think that his name was Dick Albrecht or Albright and that her name was Patty [2], but I can’t recall for certain. The navigator was from Pennsylvania [3] and was the only survivor of that crew. [Frank circled this section and noted: Ray Sherer, Pittsburgh, PA]

They left Ardmore on the 26th of June in 1944 [4], flew to Kearney, Nebraska, picked up the Tremblin Gremlin [5], and flew it to England via Iceland. On August 4th they flew their first mission. Marv wrote me, “Your pappy’s a veteran now…”

On the mission flown the next day, Marv was fatally wounded and died in a hospital of chest wounds. He is buried in Cambridge, England. I have seen several of his student classmates’ names on the Wall of the Missing at the cemetery there. The crew’s plane was blown up on a subsequent mission and all of the crew but the navigator, who was not aboard, perished [6].

I treasure the 8th AF News Magazine. I wear Marv’s wedding ring, proudly. I remember it all and read your magazine eagerly, knowing that so many might share my story.

Sincerely,
Marilyn A. Fryden-Samet
Cary, North Carolina
Memorial Day, 2005

Postscript: I am a member of the 8th AF Historical Society Chapter here in Raleigh, North Carolina. I am also a Gold Star wife. Although over sixty years have passed since those terrible war years, I am still deeply affected by the tragedy which shaped my life. Sometimes, I can’t read the articles in the magazine because they touch me so specially. I hope that I will be notified when renewal times comes for my subscription.

Keep up your wonderful work … even as those of us who remember are passing into the other world.

Notes/Discrepancies Explained

[1] Pilot John Buslee was from Park Ridge, Illinois

[2] Co-pilot was David Albrecht. His and his wife Patricia (Patty’s) daughter was not born until December 1944, after he was declared MIA. He did not have an infant daughter before leaving the States.

[3] Buslee crew navigator Chester Rybarczyk was from Toledo, Ohio. The navigator on Frank Furiga’s crew was named Raymond Scherer and was from Pittsburgh, PA.

[4] The officers of the Buslee crew may have flown to Kearney on June 26, 1944, but the enlisted men were already in Kearney as of this date, likely having traveled by train. I know this because my father wrote a letter home from Kearney on June 25.

[5] The name of the B-17 that the Buslee crew ferried to the ETO is unknown. The B-17 in which Marvin Fryden received a fatal flak injury on August 5 was named the Tremblin’ Gremlin. Marilyn may have assumed that the B-17 the Buslee crew ferried across the Atlantic was the same B-17 in which her husband was killed, but it was not the same ship.

[6] The Buslee crew’s aircraft was involved in a mid-air collision on September 28, 1944. Of the nine crew members aboard, only five of them were original Buslee crew members: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner turned engineer/top turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso (radio operator), and George Edwin Farrar (waist gunner, my dad). My dad was the only survivor on the plane. Other original Buslee crew members who survived the war because they were not on Buslee’s plane on September 28, 1944 were Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), James Davis (permanent replacement bombardier), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), and Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner).

There were also a few discrepancies in the included crew photo identifications and I have noted those in the photo caption,

Standing L to R: John Buslee, David Albrecht, Chester Rybarczyk (from Toledo, Ohio), and Marvin Fryden
Kneeling L to R: Sebastiano Peluso, Erwin Foster, Clarence Seeley, and Unidentified (possibly Lenard Bryant)

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, is not in the crew photo and neither was Eugene Lucynski, and possibly Lenard Bryant.

Thank you again, Paul Furiga, for sharing these pieces of history with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Frank Furiga Diary Entries Trace the Crossing to the ETO

2nd Lt. Frank D. Furiga, bombardier/navigator, 547th squadron. Photo courtesy of Paul Furiga.

Recently, Paul Furiga, son of 384th Bomb Group Bombardier/Navigator Frank Furiga, shared a page from his father’s World War II diary with me. The particular page described Frank’s journey from the US to the UK when he and his fellow USAAF service members ferried a group of B-17’s from Kearney, Nebraska to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). They were on the final leg of their journey into combat duty with the 8th Army Air Forces.

Frank Furiga left his last training base at Admore, Oklahoma in the same group of servicemen as my dad, George Edwin Farrar. Both Dad and Frank ended up at the same air base in Grafton Underwood, England, flying missions in heavy bombers, B-17’s.

I have written previously about my dad’s journey from Oklahoma to England, but today I am going to combine the information in my dad’s letters home with Frank Furiga’s diary entries to get a better picture of where they stopped along the way and on what dates. So here goes…


Dad illustrated his trip across the Atlantic on a map in a world atlas.

And then he explained where he was and when in several letters to his mother up to the point he left the United States.

June 22, 1944 [Farrar Letter]

Dad wrote a letter to his Mother that they would be leaving Ardmore, Oklahoma. They were heading to Kearney, Nebraska to pick up their plane which he thought would take from three to seven days. They likely left Ardmore, probably by troop train, somewhere between June 23 and June 25. Today, driving the 540 miles between Ardmore and Kearney takes eight to nine hours. The letter was postmarked Ardmore on June 23.

June 25, 1944 [Farrar Letter]

Dad’s next letter was written from Kearney, Nebraska on June 25 and postmarked Kearney the same day. He wrote, “We will only be here four days.” They had been assigned their plane to ferry overseas.

June 26, 1944 [Farrar Letter]

The next day, still in Kearney, Dad wrote, “One more day in this place and we will be going.”

June 28, 1944 [Farrar Letter]

Two days later, they were still in Kearney. Dad wrote, “In just a little while we will be on our way. We will stay once more in the States. This is one of the best places I have been in some time, and I hate to leave it without going to town once more.” This letter was postmarked Kearney on June 29.

I think Dad liked Kearney so much he had this photo made to send home to his mother. I can’t be certain this is Kearney, but it looks very similar to a photo of Central Avenue in Kearney on page 7 of an article, “Kearney, Nebraska, and the Kearney Army Air Field in World War II” by Todd L. Peterson.

George Edwin Farrar, likely in Kearney, Nebraska, June 1944

Kearney must have been a nice place even during wartime. Today, the “Visit Kearney” website tells me that Kearney is pronounced (car + knee), it is a colorful and exciting city situated in the heart of the Heartland, and it is the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World.


Now I’ll turn the next leg of the journey over to Frank Furiga and his diary entries.

June 29, 1944 [Furiga Diary]

Left Kearney, Neb. June 29.

Arrived Grenier Field, New Hampshire June 29 in morning.

Grenier Field was located in Manchester, New Hampshire.

June 30, 1944 [Furiga Diary]

Left June 30th.

Arrived Goose Bay, Labrador June 30th in evening.

July 1, 1944 [Furiga Diary]

Left there (Goose Bay, Labrador) July 1st evening.

July 2, 1944 [Furiga Diary]

Arrived Meeks Field, Iceland on A.M. of July 2nd.

July 4, 1944 [Furiga Diary]

Left Meeks July 4th A.M.

Arrived Nutts Corner, Ireland on July 4th (or 5th).

Nutts Corner was a Royal Air Force (RAF) Station located 2.7 miles (4.3 km) east of Crumlin, County Antrim, Northern Ireland and 9.2 miles (14.8 km) north west of Belfast. During the Second World War it became an important RAF Coastal Command station and was also used as a transport hub for aircraft arriving from the United States.

Station #2, European Wing, Air Transport Command was activated 24 September 1943 at Nutts Corner using personnel from detachments of the 69th Transport Squadron and 1149th Military Police Company (Aviation) [per General Orders 21, EWATC, 24 September 1943] and operated as a transport hub until it was redesignated 18 July 1944.

July 5, 1944 [Furiga Diary]

Went from there (Nutts Corner, Ireland) on 5th by boat to Scotland.

From there in train to Stone in Staffordshire a few miles south of Stoke-on-Trent.

AAF Station 518 (VIII AF Service Command) was in Stone.


From this point, I can only follow their path through the orders sending both men and their crews to Grafton Underwood, just days apart. What they did between July 5 and the third week of July, I can’t say, but it may have involved some additional training time. Or perhaps just sitting around waiting for their assignments.

July 22, 1944 [USAAF Special Orders #144]

George Edwin Farrar was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944. Orders stated,

The following Officers and Enlisted Men having been assigned to the 384th Bomb Group from ACU & attached to 1st Replacement and Training Squadron (B), per par 2 SO #202, Hq AAF Station 112, dated 20 July, 1944, are further assigned to organization as indicated, effective 21 July, 1944.

Hq AAF Station 112 was identified in “Army Air Force Stations” as

  • AAF Number: 112
  • Name: Bovingdon
  • Location: Hertfordshire
  • Principal Unit(s) Assigned: 11 Cmbt (Combat) Crew Replacement Ctr (Center)

Army Air Force Stations” is subtitled “A Guide to the Stations Where U .S . Army Air Forces Personnel Served in the United Kingdom During World War II” and was written by Captain Barry J. Anderson, USAF of the Research Division of the USAF Historical Research Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama and published 31 January 1985.

July 26, 1944 [USAAF Special Orders #148]

Frank Dominic Furiga was assigned to the 547th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944. Orders stated,

The following Officers and Enlisted Men having been assigned to the 384th Bomb Group from ACU & attached to 1st Replacement and Training Squadron (B), per par 1 SO #206, Hq AAF Station 112, dated 24 July, 1944, are further assigned to organization as indicated, effective 25 July, 1944.


From the letters and diary entries, I believe I can trace the path of George Edwin Farrar and Frank Dominic Furiga and the other servicemen they were traveling with as:

June 22, 1944: In Ardmore, Oklahoma.

June 23 – 25, 1944: Left Ardmore, Oklahoma. Arrived Kearney, Nebraska.

June 29, 1944: Left Kearney, Nebraska. Arrived Grenier Field, Manchester, New Hampshire.

June 30, 1944: Left Grenier Field, New Hampshire. Arrived Goose Bay, Labrador.

July 1, 1944: Left Goose Bay, Labrador.

July 2, 1944: Arrived Meeks Field, Iceland.

July 4, 1944: Left Meeks Field, Iceland. Arrived Nutts Corner, Ireland.

July 5, 1944: Left Nutts Corner, Ireland. Boarded boat for Scotland. Continued by train to Stone in Staffordshire, England.

Unknown date, July, 1944: Continued to Combat Crew Replacement Center at AAF Station 112 Bovingdon in Hertfordshire.

July 22, 1944: George Edwin Farrar was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England.

July 26, 1944: Frank Dominic Furiga was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England.


Thank you Paul Furiga for sharing your dad’s diary entries.

Sources

Previous post:  From the US to the UK and Beyond

RAF Nutts Corner

Army Air Force Elements Stationed in Northern Ireland(1)

Army Air Force Stations

Kearney, Nebraska, and the Kearney Army Air Field in World War II

Visit Kearney

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

John Buslee’s Ring

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee died September 28, 1944 when the B-17 he was piloting, the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17G 43‑37822, crashed after a mid-air collision with his own group’s B-17G 42‑31222 Lazy Daisy.  His parents were notified shortly thereafter that he was missing in action, but it would be another four months before they received news that he had died in the collision.

Jay’s parents, Mr. and Mrs. John Buslee of Park Ridge, IL, a suburb of Chicago, eventually received Jay’s possessions, only to find that the Air Force ring they had given him as a gift was not among the items returned to them.  They assumed he must have been wearing the ring on his last mission, but it was not recovered with his body as far as they knew.

Several years after the war, in 1948, Jay’s ring surfaced.  At the time, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, the waist gunner and sole survivor on Buslee’s aircraft, was working for Jay’s father and living in the Buslee home.  I believe in that situation, he would have been aware of the ring’s discovery, but it’s not anything he ever mentioned to me.  He was a traveling salesman and it was the same year he met and courted my mother, and it probably wasn’t as important of a discovery to him as it was to Mr. and Mrs. Buslee.

The surfacing of the ring was one thing.  Getting the ring back was another.  Distance and politics and the state of the world in the 1940’s made this a very difficult task. This task was orchestrated between the finder of the ring (a Czech man the Nazis forced into slave labor in Germany), the finder’s parents in Czechoslovakia, a Czech immigrant living in Texas, the Adjutant General of the US Department of the Army, the American Embassy in Czechoslovakia, and Jay’s parents in Illinois.

From November 2014 to March 2015, I published the group’s communications through a series of letters they exchanged between January 21 and December 26, 1948, from the time of first contact to the expressions of gratitude between the parties after the return of the ring.

John Dale Kielhofer, Jay Buslee’s nephew, shared the letters with me, and with his permission, I share with you the story of the recovery and return of John Buslee’s ring.

This list of links below includes all of my original posts and all of the letters between the parties.

Note: The original posts indicate the name of Buslee’s aircraft B-17G 43‑37822 was “Lead Banana.” I learned after writing the posts that the name was mistakenly applied in 384th Bomb Group documents and photos to that particular aircraft and wrote an explanatory post regarding the error.

The Ring (Original post of this Introduction to the letters)

The Ring – Letter of January 21, 1948

The Ring – Letter of January 28, 1948

The Ring – Letter of February 20, 1948

The Ring – Letter of March 8, 1948 – Letter to Mr B

The Ring – Letter of March 8, 1948 – Letter to Z

The Ring – Letter of March 11, 1948

The Ring – Letter of March 16, 1948

The Ring – Letter of March 26, 1948

The Ring – Letter of April 12, 1948

The Ring – Letter of April 17, 1948

The Ring – Letter of August 25, 1948

The Ring – Letter Undated

The Ring – Letter of September 23, 1948

The Ring – Letter of December 4, 1948

The Ring – Letter of December 26, 1948

This post is also included on this site as a permanent page here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Timeline for Brodie Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

In continuing my research into the original airmen assigned to the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group, and of the airmen who were aboard these two pilots’ respective fortresses in the mid-air collision of September 28, 1944, I searched through morning reports, special orders, individual sortie records, and personnel records on the 384th Bomb Group’s website. I was looking for any other information about them outside of their bombing missions.

I discovered several entries in those documents regarding the men who were either original members of the Buslee and Brodie crews or were substitutes on missions when the original members did not participate. Today I present the information for the Brodie crew in timeline format. Last week I presented the timeline for the John Oliver Buslee crew.

Note that this information should not be considered complete due to sometimes illegible, incomplete, and missing records, but what I have found is included here. I have also included the Brodie crew’s bombing missions in the timeline.

Timeline of information from Morning Reports, Special Orders, Individual Sortie Records, and 384th Bomb Group website Personnel Records for James Joseph Brodie original crew members and mission substitutes:

25 JULY 1944

Donald William Dooley was assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group Headquarters Detachment, per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #147 dated 25 July 1944 as a radar mechanic/bombardment.

26 JULY 1944

The James Joseph Brodie crew was assigned to the 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944. Crew members were:

  • William D. Barnes, Jr., Bombardier
  • James Joseph Brodie, Pilot
  • Robert Doyle Crumpton, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner
  • George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., Navigator
  • Gordon Eugene Hetu, Ball Turret Gunner
  • Harry Allen Liniger, Waist Gunner
  • Wilfred Frank Miller, Tail Gunner
  • Leonard Opie, Waist Gunner
  • William Edson Taylor, Radio Operator
  • Lloyd Oliver Vevle, Co-pilot

2 AUGUST 1944

The following enlisted men were promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155:

  • Gordon Hetu
  • Harry Liniger
  • Wilfred Miller
  • Leonard Opie

4 AUGUST 1944

Mission 171 to Peenemünde, Germany. Target was a CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) Rocket Research & Development Complex.

5 AUGUST 1944

Mission 173 to Langenhagen, Germany. Target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), a Luftwaffe Controlling Station.

Byron Leverne “Bud” Atkins was assigned to the 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #157 dated 5 August 1944 as Waist Gunner of the James Woodrow Chadwick crew.

7 AUGUST 1944

Mission 174 to Dugny (Paris), France. Target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), an Aircraft Fuel Depot.

8 AUGUST 1944

Mission 175 to Bretteville-sur-Laize, France. Target was Military and Tactical, Enemy Strong Points.

9 AUGUST 1944

Mission 176 to Erding, Germany. Target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), the Erding Airdrome & Airfield.

11 AUGUST 1944

Mission 177 to Brest, France. Target was Military and Tactical, Coastal Artillery Emplacements.

14 AUGUST 1944

William Taylor was promoted to Staff Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #163.

16 AUGUST 1944

Mission 181 to Delitzsch, Germany. Target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), the Delitzsch Air Field and Air Equipment Depot.

17 AUGUST 1944

Byron Atkins was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #165.

24 AUGUST 1944

Mission 183 to Merseburg, Germany. Target was the Oil Industry, a Synthetic Oil & Chemical Plant.

26 AUGUST 1944

Mission 185 to Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Target was the Oil Industry, the Buer Synthetic Oil Plant.

30 AUGUST 1944

Mission 186 to Crepieul, France. Target was a CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) NOBALL (V-1 Launch Site).

5 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 188 to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Target was Industry, the I. G. Farben Chemical Works.

8 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 189 to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Target was Industry, the I. G. Farben Chemical Works.

Tech Sergeant Donald Dooley was reclassified from MOS 867 (radar mechanic/bombardment) to MOS 757 (radio operator/gunner) and transferred from Headquarters Detachment 384th BG to 545th BS on SO #179, AAF Station 106, SPO 557, dated 8 September 1944.

Leonard Opie was transferred in grade to the Casual Pool, 8th AFRD, AAF Station 594.

9 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 190 to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Target was Industry, the I. G. Farben Chemical Works.

James Brodie was appointed 1st LT AUS 9 September 1944.

10 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 191 to Sindelfingen, Germany. Target was Industry, the BMW Motor Component Parts Plant.

11 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 192 to Lützkendorf & Merseburg, Germany. Target was the Oil Industry, an Oil Refinery.

13 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 194 to Merseburg, Germany. Target was the Oil Industry, the Leuna Synthetic Oil Refinery.

The 13 SEPTEMBER mission was William Barnes’s last with the Brodie crew. Between 13 September 1944 and 17 October 1944, Barnes retrained as a Navigator. After the 13 SEPTEMBER 1944 mission, the Brodie crew was assigned a Togglier to missions instead of a Bombardier.

19 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.

21 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 197 to Mainz, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.

25 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 198 to Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.

26 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 199 to Osnabrück, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks.

28 SEPTEMBER 1944

Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks.

The following airmen flying with the James Joseph Brodie crew on the 28 September 1944 mission went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action):

  • Byron L. “Bud” Atkins
  • James Joseph Brodie
  • Robert Doyle Crumpton
  • Donald William Dooley
  • George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
  • Gordon Eugene Hetu
  • Harry Allen Liniger
  • Wilfred Frank Miller
  • Lloyd Oliver Vevle

Subsequently, all were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., Harry Allen Liniger, and Wilfred Frank Miller who were declared POW (Prisoner of War).

5 OCTOBER 1944

William Taylor went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action) over Cologne, Germany. Subsequently, he was declared POW (Prisoner of War).

7 OCTOBER 1944

William Barnes went from duty to sick quarters (LD).

11 OCTOBER 1944

William Barnes went from sick quarters (LD) to duty.

4 JANUARY 1945

William Barnes was relieved from assignment and transferred to the Casual Pool 70th Replacement Depot Station 594 30 DECEMBER 1944 per 5 SO 365 HQ 1st BD departed 0800 hours 4 JANUARY 1945 (Completed tour).

Sources

Thank you to the 384th’s Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for obtaining and sharing WWII reports from the National Archives for the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

“Minor Accident of War,” the Animated Short Film

I have previously written about 384th Bomb Group navigator Edward Field and ball turret gunner Jack Coleman Cook, and about the animated short film Edward’s niece, Diane Weis, created from Edward’s poem, “World War II.” The poem chronicles the events of their B-17’s crash into the North Sea on their return to England following the 8th Air Force’s mission to Berlin on February 3, 1945.

Today happens to be the seventy-sixth anniversary of Edward and Jack’s crash into the North Sea and today I’m happy to be able to share the entirety of the film, “Minor Accident of War” with you.

The film did very well on the film festival circuit and is now in consideration for this year’s Oscar race. The 93rd Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences Awards ceremony is scheduled to take place on Sunday, April 25, 2021 at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, California.

If you’d like to watch “Minor Accident of War” in its entirety, which comes in at just under ten minutes, I’ve embedded it below. Be sure to turn up the volume, go to full screen, and just click the Play button.

* * * Minor Accident of War * * *

*  *  *

The talented “Minor Accident of War” team includes,

  • Executive Producer Diane Fredel-Weis
  • Story Edward Field
  • Animator Piotr Kabat
  • Narrator Edward Field
  • Producers Diane Fredel-Weis and David Finch
  • Animation Consultant Alex Kupershmidt
  • Sound Design Michal Fojcik, Soundmind Studios
  • Composer Alex Gimeno
  • Production Supervisor Stephen M. Cyr
  • Narration Recording John Kilgore Studios
  • Technical Support Gabriel Weis
  • Film Photographer Elise Bloom
  • Legal Assistance Alana Crow
  • Research Consultant Cindy Farrar Bryan
  • Business Manager Andrea Ferraco
  • With Special Thanks to 384th Bomb Group website and Craig Murray

I am proud to have played my part in the making of the film as the team’s Research Consultant. And I am especially proud that Diane chose to include a photo of my father, George Edwin Farrar, who was a fellow 384th Bomb Group airman of Edward and Jack, although at a different time in the war, in the film. If you were wondering, that’s my dad who shows up at 7:11 in the film.

I’d also like to share a few recent articles about the film.

  • “Diane Weis & Piotr Kabat Discuss Their Powerful Short ‘Minor Accident of War'” by Animation Magazine
  • “Gay WWII Veteran Tells Harrowing Tale of Survival in Animated Short” by The Advocate
  • “Hand-Drawn ‘Minor Accident of War’ Tells Harrowing Personal WWII Story” by Animation World Network
  • “Miami Beach native makes film about gay uncle serving in WWII” in the Miami Herald

For more information, visit…

The “Minor Accident of War” website


You may read more – all previous posts, in fact, if you’re so inclined – about Edward and Jack and their crash into the North Sea on February 3, 1945 by following the links at the end of this article.

And for the curious, a few photos…


© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The Bomber Boys’ Bombers

Three hundred forty-five (345) B-17 heavy bombers were assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII during its service at Grafton Underwood between 1943 and 1945. One (1) was a B-17 model E, one hundred fourteen (114) were model F, and two hundred thirty (230) were model G.

The 384th BG Aircraft page of the 384th Bomb Group’s website contains a list of them all. Links on the page will lead to (1) mission information for each aircraft, and (2) any existing photos of each in the 384th Bomb Group’s photo gallery.

While traditional lore reflects that each bomber crew had their own plane that they used exclusively on their missions, that was not always the case. Most of the crews flew their missions in whatever aircraft was assigned to them for the day’s mission.

For instance, my father, George Edwin Farrar, flew in thirteen different B-17 heavy bombers in his sixteen combat missions of WWII.

When I look at the significance of the various ships to my father’s military service, I find that two of the thirteen in which he flew missions and two others he didn’t fly aboard were important players during his combat tour. These are the four that I believe were the most significant in his war service, and determined his future.

(1) Dad’s Ship. Although Dad flew aboard thirteen different B-17’s in the war, he only spoke one name, Tremblin’ Gremlin, in the telling of his war stories. Growing up, I thought Tremblin’ Gremlin was “his crew’s” plane and thought it was the ship of the mid-air collision in which he was involved. I did not learn until adulthood that it was not the ship of the mid-air collision.

Tremblin’ Gremlin, B-17 42-37982, was a new replacement aircraft assigned to the 384th Bomb Group on 21 January 1944 and put into service on the 384th’s Mission #55 on 29 January 1944 to Frankfurt am Main, Germany.

It was the ship of my dad’s first mission on 5 August 1944 and on that date it took a pounding from flak which injured several of the crew including my dad, killed the bombardier, and left the ship with 106 flak holes. It made it back to England, but took over a month to repair, and didn’t fly its next mission until 8 September.

On the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany, Tremblin’ Gremlin was so badly damaged, the crew had to bail out over Belgium and the Gremlin was left unmanned to crash to earth alone. Thus ended Tremblin’ Gremlin’s eight month career with the 384th.

Tremblin’ Gremlin was assigned to 73 missions and earned combat credit for 61.

Regardless, I still think of Tremblin’ Gremlin as my dad’s ship. The stories and the name learned in childhood are too ingrained to think and feel otherwise.

(2) The One in the Wrong Place at the Wrong Time. On 28 September 1944 my dad was aboard the unnamed B-17 43-37822 flown by Lt. John Buslee. Coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany, Lt. James Brodie lost control of his aircraft and it collided with my dad’s.

Brodie’s assigned aircraft had a long history of problems and I suspect one or more of them were responsible for Brodie’s loss of control or at least contributed to the collision, as likely also did flak at the target and the rush to get out of the path of another group coming in to the target area.

Aircraft 43-37822 was a new replacement aircraft assigned to the 384th Bomb Group on 29 June 1944 and put into service on the 384th’s Mission #162 on 20 July 1944. It was the aircraft in which my dad flew the most missions in the same aircraft, for a total of three – on 5 September, 9 September, and the last on 28 September.

At the time of this aircraft’s demise on 28 September 1944, it had been assigned to 34 missions and completed only 28. It met a horrible death, like all of the crew aboard except for my father, by exploding and falling to the ground after the mid-air collision.

If this aircraft had been named, I imagine it would have been the aircraft name my dad would have used in his stories instead of Tremblin’ Gremlin, in which he only flew once.

(3) The Other Ship. On 28 September 1944, Mission #201, B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy, flown by the Lt. James Brodie crew, careened out of formation and collided with the B-17 flown by Lt. John Buslee with my father aboard.

Lazy Daisy was a new replacement aircraft assigned to the 384th Bomb Group on 23 November 1943 and put into service on the 384th’s Mission #40 on 5 December 1943. Daisy experienced mechanical failure after mechanical failure and was out of service for long periods at a time, but was always patched up and sent back into the fray.

In Daisy’s eleven month career with the 384th, the ship was assigned to only 64 missions and completed 49, not many missions for a combat duration of 299 days from the ship’s first mission to its last. I never heard this ship’s name growing up. It was just “the other ship” that had wreaked such havoc, that had caused so much death and destruction by careening off course into my dad’s ship.

(4) The Century Bomber that might have made all the difference. Bombers reaching one hundred (100) completed missions during the war received the status of “Century Bomber.” Only thirteen B-17’s, or 4% of the Group’s three hundred forty-five (345) bombers, reached the status of Century Bomber.

At the low end of the 384th’s Century Bomber list sits The Challenger with 100 missions, lost in the North Sea on 3 February 1945 with the Robert Long crew aboard, including navigator Edward Field. After the war, Field became a poet and years later told the story of the mission in his poem, World War II, which has been made into an animated short film, Minor Accident of War.

Topping the Century Bomber list, with 136 completed missions, sits B-17 42-102518 Damn Yankee, probably the most talked about flying fortress of the Group. A long list of 384th Bomb Group pilots considered Damn Yankee “their ship.” (Note: three different ships of the 384th Bomb Group were named Damn Yankee, and the one that achieved Century Bomber status was 42-102518).

Damn Yankee is also the name of the song Todd Touton, son of 384th pilot William Touton (one of Damn Yankee’s pilots), and Todd’s friend Evan Wallach wrote to honor Todd’s father’s service in WWII. It is the music that accompanies my video, A Tribute to the 384th Bomb Group in WWII.

Between the bottom of the list and the top, sit eleven Century Bombers, of which my dad flew missions in three – Nevada Avenger with 104 completed missions, Hotnuts with 105, and Big Dog with 109.

But another Century Bomber that sits in the middle of the list, B-17 42-97309, Kathleen Lady of Victory, at 106 missions, is the one that could have changed the history of 28 September 1944 and the future of eighteen airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews. Kathleen was a new replacement aircraft assigned to the 384th Bomb Group on 6 April 1944 and put into service on the 384th’s Mission #88 on 11 April 1944.

Kathleen Lady of Victory was the Brodie crew’s aircraft of choice, “their ship” at the time they served in the war, and the ship they likely would have been assigned on Mission #201. But on the previous day’s Mission #200, Kathleen Lady of Victory was damaged by flak and suffered a slew of mechanical failures, and was apparently not ready for service for the Brodie crew come 28 September.

The Brodie crew had flown Kathleen on Mission #199 (their eighth mission aboard the ship), but they didn’t participate in #200. The Robert Leslie Farra crew flew Kathleen on Mission #200. The Farra crew was flying spare, but joined the formation and completed the mission.

In the Mission #200 post-mission briefing, Farra reported several technical failures including two broken rheostats, a broken gas gauge, an improperly installed pilot’s mike switch, and most notably, the continuous running away of the #2 prop. Farra also reported battle damage received at the target, with the right aileron, horizontal stabilizer, fin, and rudder hit by flak. Repairs to the ship were going to keep the ground crew busy for several days.

Had this Century Bomber been ready to serve the Brodie crew, the mid-air collision may have never happened. I can’t say if or how things may have worked out differently, but it gives me pause to think that Kathleen Lady of Victory might have made all the difference in the lives of eighteen men.

When the Brodie crew, who had been aboard Lazy Daisy instead, didn’t return to base after Mission #201 on 28 September 1944, Kathleen Lady of Victory became Farra’s ship until he completed his tour the next month and then it began a rotation between many crews.

In her 380 day combat career with the 384th, Kathleen was assigned to 129 missions and completed 106 of them.

Kathleen Lady of Victory served the 384th Bomb Group until their very last mission, #316 on 25 April 1945 and was transferred with the Group to Istres, France for mapping duties after the European Air War ended. Dave Osborne’s Fortlog notes her End Date of 31 October 1945, salvaged 9th AF, Germany. A sad end for a beloved Century Bomber.

Resources

384th BG Aircraft page

384th Bomb Group Website Group Statistics Page, Aircraft Section

Dave Osborne’s Fortlog

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

MISSION 201

The 384th Bomb Group’s Mission #201 was the 8th AAF’s Mission #652.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, participated as waist gunner in his sixteenth and final mission with the 384th Bomb Group on 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, flying with the 544th Bomb Squadron’s John Oliver Buslee crew.

The 384th Bomb Group was part of the 1st Bombardment Division, 41st Combat Wing, of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, and today they flew as the “C” Wing.

The 384th Bomb Group website’s Mission Summary describes the mission as,

Two Bomb Runs – Primary Target Attacked
The 384th Bombardment Group (H) flew as the 41st CBW C Wing on today’s mission. Near the target, another formation of bombers flew below this wing, forcing them to hold their bombs. The wing made a second bomb run and released their bombs on the primary target.

Mission documents, specifically the Pre-Briefing Target Study, identified the target as Krupp Steel Works at Magdeburg, Germany, 35,000 workers.

Briefing Notes further detailed,

P.T. [Primary Target]. Is the most important Krupp Steel Works in Germany. Located Magdeburg. Its the main producer of the 25 ton Mark IV Tank and also makes flak guns, armor plating and heavy sheels [perhaps “shells”], it is a One Plus priority, and employs 35,000 workers, there is a smoke screen N. of the city.

P.F.F. target is the Mar. [Marshalling] Yards, in the city of Magdeburg, and adjacent to your P.T. [Primary Target].

Last Resorts. A/F [i.e., German Airforce/Luftwaffe targets] at Gardelegen, Quedlinburg, and Giessen. Every effort should be made to attack one of these targets. If not possible, then any Mil. Obj Pos. Iden. [military objective positively identifed] as East of the current strategic bomb line, which can be bombed without disrupting the fighter support.

Stay on the alert for E/A [Enemy Aircraft]. Yesterday E/A jumped the 2nd Div [Division] on 9 Degrees East and shot down 33 A/C [aircraft]. The E/A came in at 6 O’Clock high in waves of 15 – 20 [abreast] breaking away in all directions and then coming up from below while next wave attack at 6 O’Clock high.

Forty aircraft of the 384th Bomb Group were assigned to the mission. Of the 40,

  • 31 completed the mission (not including spares)
  • 1 flying spare completed the mission
  • 1 aircraft aborted due to personnel illness
  • 2 aircraft were scrubbed
  • 1 ground spare aircraft was unused
  • 1 aircraft returned early, the aircraft of Lt. Richard Glen Wismer, due to a mechanical failure
  • 1 aircraft landed in Allied Territory. The Wing Lead, with Commander Horace Everett Frink aboard, landed away in Brussels due to flak damage
  • 2 aircraft failed to return, the aircraft of the Buslee and Brodie crews, with my dad aboard Buslee’s ship

On Mission 201, the Buslee crew was part of the High Group of the 41st “C” Combat Wing led by Capt. William T. Johnson.

The Buslee crew flew under these leaders on this date,

  • 41st “C” Group and Senior Air Commander Major Horace Everett “Ev” Frink, serving his second tour with the 384th Bomb Group, previous and soon-to-be again 547th Bomb Squadron Commanding Officer
  • Capt. William T. Johnson, 41st “C” Wing High Group Lead
  • Col. Dale Orville Smith (not a mission participant), 384th Bomb Group Commander 23 November 1943 to 24 October 1944
  • Major Gerald Busby Sammons, (not a mission participant), 544th Bomb Squadron Commanding Officer 14 September 1944 to 6 November 1944.

The Buslee Crew Loading List for Mission #201, with several crew substitutions, was:

  • 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.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

The Buslee crew for #201 was essentially the same as the previous day’s Mission #200, with the only difference being the airman in the ball turret.

William Henson replaced Chester Rybarczyk as navigator, Robert Stearns replaced James Davis as bombardier, George McMann replaced Erwin Foster in the ball turret and Gerald Lee Andersen replaced Eugene Daniel Lucynski in the tail.

The Buslee crew was aboard the unnamed B-17 43-37822 on this mission. Mission reports show their “Time took off” as 0731.

The James Brodie crew – James Brodie, Lloyd Vevle, navigator George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., replacement togglier Byron Atkins, replacement radio operator Donald Dooley, Robert Crumpton, Gordon Hetu, Wilfred Miller, and Harry Liniger – of the 545th Bomb Squadron flew on this mission in the High Group of the 41st “C” Combat Wing aboard B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy. Mission reports show their “Time took off” as 0742.

The High Group formation with the Buslee and Brodie crews looked like this,

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

The Brodie crew’s favorite ship, A/C 42-97309 Kathleen Lady of Victory, had not been repaired in time for the 28 September 1944 Mission #201 from the damage and technical failures reported by the Farra crew, which had flown her on the previous day’s Mission #200. Kathleen would not go back into combat service until Mission #202 on 30 September 1944.

Mission data in group reports included,

From the Navigators Narrative for the High Group,

  • High Group takeoff began at 0730 hours.
  • Completed climb to bombing altitude at 1110, altitude 27,500.
  • No enemy fighter attack.
  • Flak accurate and moderate at the target at 1210.
  • Bomb run began at 1154 at altitude of 27,700.
  • Bombs away at 1211 at altitude of 27,700.
  • Number of Runs: 2.

From other reports, including the post-mission “Narrative for Lead, High, and Low Sections, 41st ‘C’ Combat Bombardment Wing on Mission Flown 28 September, 1944,”

  • No fighters encountered.
  • Behind schedule 20 minutes.
  • Flak at the target was moderate to intense and accurate. CPF and Barrage type fire employed. Black, gray bursts being noted.
  • Battle damage was recorded post-mission for twenty-three of the 384th’s B-17’s. Damage varied from “minor damage” to major damage such as “hydraulic system shot out,” “right and left Tokyo tanks hit,” “bombardier’s compartment, pilot’s compartment, exhaust stack on #3 engine, waist, and tail vertical stabilizer hit,” “#1 engine hit, 3-inch flak hole,” and “5 flak holes and 1 engine shot out,” among others. The aircraft of the Wing Lead, with Commander Horace Everett Frink aboard, was so badly damaged by flak that it had to drop out of formation and land away in Brussels.
  • The extent of battle damage can best be visualized using the mission’s formation chart. Aircraft circled in red sustained major flak damage. Aircraft circled in yellow sustained minor flak damage. The two aircraft outlined in blue are the ships of the Buslee and Brodie crews involved in the mid-air collision. Considering their positions, it is likely that one or both of them also sustained flak damage.

Battle Damage noted in 384th Bomb Group Formation Chart for 28 September 1944 Mission 201

  • Fighter escort was excellent on the entire mission and close support was given at all times.
  • In a “Flash Telephone Report on A.A. Gunfire,” flak was reported as, (a) On first run on target, CPF fire [Continuously Pointed Fire] encountered with inacc. Barr [inaccurate Barrage flak]/ over target, and (b) Sec. [Second] run CPF encountered almost exclusively. Also noted was, 2 A/C lost in collision over target.
  • Lead Bombardier, Lt. George K. Smith reported reason for “other than primary attacked” to be, “Another Wing flew under us over release point.” In a narrative, Smith reported more details,

Turned short of the I.P. [Initial Point of the bomb run] because of cloud coverage. Opened bomb bay doors at the I.P to encounter complete coverage on the bomb run. Ships flew under us so we couldn’t release our bombs. We flew out and made a 180 degrees turn to put us on a heading of 260 degrees heading back over the target. There was a little opening in the clouds over a part in a river, which I believe the Lead Bombardier [Joe Baggs aboard Major Frink’s lead aircraft] killed his course. We dropped the bombs PFF and shortly after the lead aircraft was hit by flak. Then we took over from our deputy lead position to reform the Wing and start home. No flak was encountered on the way home.

28 September 1944 Mission #201 to Magdeburg, Germany, Target Photo

  • Regarding the Wing Leader’s, Major Frink’s, aircraft, which happened to be the 384th Commanding Officer Dale’s Smith’s personal favorite B-17 44-8007 Screaming Eagle,

After we dropped our bombs, and swung off the target, the Wing Leader informed the Deputy to take over as the former had been hit by flak. At this point, the entire Lead Section started to break up. We were on a collision course at the same time with another unidentified Wing and the Low and High Sections became separated from the Lead Section.

The High and Low reassembled and flew alone until we finally picked up the Lead Section ten (10) miles ahead of us. I called the Deputy Leader to slow down, which he did, and we assembled back into Combat Wing formation.

  • Regarding Lt. Buslee’s and Lt. Brodie’s aircraft,

Two (2) of our aircraft are known missing.

Two (2) aircraft of the High Section, A/C 337-822 (Lt. Buslee, pilot) and A/C 1222 (Lt. Brodie, pilot) collided over the target and both ships were observed going down on fire and out of control. No chutes were observed.

  • Observer Ronald H. Froebel wrote,

Two ships in the high group, Brodie & Buslee, which were involved in the collision appeared to have been caught in prop wash on a turn to the left.  It appeared that Brodie was thrown down and into Buslee one plane, immediately disintegrated and the [other] broke into at the ball turret and finally caught fire and broke up.  I observed one chute.

  • Co-pilot Wallace Storey flying with the Gross crew in the High Group on Brodie’s left wing provided this firsthand account of the 28 September 1944 Mission #201 to Magdeburg,

MAGDEBURG
September 28, 1944

On this day the 384th Bomb Group was dispatched to bomb the Krupps Steel Manufacturing Plant at Magdeburg, Germany. This was a heavily defended target and a long flight of almost ten hours. On this mission there was a tragic occurrence illustrative of some of the little discussed risks of combat flying that sometimes happened but, fortunately, was never repeated on any of my missions.

After being awakened at 0310 we had breakfast and briefing and were in our planes at 0610 as the “start engine” flares arched from the 384thBG control tower—or “Cherub” as was its call sign. Of course, the radio was not used for aircraft control as the group departed so as to avoid alerting the German defenses any earlier than necessary. Once we were airborne the fact that the 8th was assembling was soon evident to the enemy but any delay increased the chances of deception.

On this mission, I was to follow ship #222, [42-31222]“Lazy Daisy”, flown by Lt. Brodie, on to the taxiway leading to the runway. He was to fly #2 position of the high element of our squadron and I was to fly position #3 (i.e. right and left wing respectively off of the lead plane,#941, [42-97941, “Marion”] of the element). Take off went well as we began our roll at 0720. The Group assembled without incident and we fell into line as briefed for the Wing Order of Battle.

Our 41st Combat Wing was made up that day of the 303rdBG in lead, followed by the 379th, with the 384th last. This order, which varied from mission to mission, was to prove fateful on that day. Just a few weeks earlier the Luftwaffe had begun a new tactic which they called “company front attacks”. They added extra armor and guns to three or four dozen Focke Wolfe FW-190 single engine fighters. They approached the 8th Air Force Groups head on in wedges of eight to sixteen planes so as to saturate the bombers’ defensive fire and sometimes disrupt their formation. Although we did not know it at the time, they had used this tactic against the 446th Group of the Second Division the previous day and inflicted the greatest loss ever suffered by a single group of the 8th Air Force in World War II—-25 B-24’s.

The German fighters used this tactic against the 303rd Group, the lead group in our Combat Wing, on the mission to Magdeburg on the 28th. The 303rd lost eleven B-17’s in this frontal assault. One of the lead pilots of the 303rd is quoted as saying “When we turned on our bomb run we were attacked by about 50 Nazi fighters en masse, coming at us as a solid bunch. Those guys were like mad men–with one idea–to knock us down in a suicidal attack”. There was a total of fifteen B-17’s that were lost that day from our Combat Wing. This amounted to a 13.9% loss of the 108 planes–the highest loss in the Wing of any of my missions.

Being the 3rd Group in the Wing we were fortunate not to be as heavily attacked as the other two Groups, but what happened led to confusion as we bombed the target. Flak was extremely heavy that day and the Wing had been somewhat disrupted by the heavy opposition. We found ourselves on a crossing course with another Group and just after “bombs away” the lead ship made a sharp descending right turn. Our high element, being on the inside of this steep turn, had to move quickly by reducing power while climbing slightly. Glancing to my right, I saw that “Lazy Daisy” was sliding toward me. I pulled back on the control column to climb out of her path while keeping my eye on the #2 ship of the lead element, Lt. Buslee in #337 [43-37822], on whose wing our element was flying. I yelled to Gross to watch for him to come out on the other side and, sure enough, he slid under us and right into Buslee in the lead element.

I watched the two planes as they collided. It cut #337 [43-37822] in half and the wings on #222 [42-31222] folded up and both planes fell in a fireball. They were 18 men lost in those two ships. We didn’t see any chutes as we continued our turn to the right.

Some of the formations were broken up, both because of this and because of the fighter attack, but we did not have any further problem as we headed back home. Even though the 1st Division lost 23 planes, the Germans did not come out unscathed. There were 10 confirmed fighters destroyed, 7 probables, and 5 damaged by the B-17 gunners. Our crew was extremely lucky that day as “Lazy Daisy”, by all normal odds, should have collided with us and must have crossed under with less than five foot clearance as I pulled up. And for Buslee, flying on the last of his 35 missions [correction: Buslee was on his 16th mission], and for Brodie, and their crews it was the unluckiest of all days.

We were all happy to be safely back at Grafton Underwood as we touched down on the soil of England. Upon inspecting our plane we found two sizable Flak holes but, fortunately, they missed our fuel tanks and other vital points. Fighters and Flak were not the only dangers of combat flying. Taking off, assembling, and landing in extremely bad English weather (such as grounded the 8th frequently in 1943 but not later) formation flying in weather where only the adjoining plane could be seen and maneuvering large formations required great competency in the flight crews and, often, great luck as described in this mission.

Copyright (C) 2002—Lt/Col. Wallace A. Storey

Many more details of the 28 September 1944 Mission #201 have previously been published in my posts,

Contrary to the lack of chutes observed coming from the two ships of the Buslee and Brodie crews, there were a handful of survivors. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the lone survivor of the Buslee crew’s B-17. Three survived on the Brodie crew’s B-17 – Harry Liniger, Wilfred Miller, and George Hawkins. Four men out of eighteen survived. Fourteen did not and perished on September 28, 1944.

Notes

The James Brodie crew left crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time as the Buslee crew on their way to the ETO, European Theatre of Operations. Both crews were assigned to the 384th Bomb Group within days of each other after reaching England although the Buslee crew was assigned to the 544th Bomb Squadron while the Brodie crew was assigned to the 545th.

The two crews participated in many of the same missions, although it is unlikely that the men of the two crews interacted in any other way as they were members of different crews and different squadrons at Grafton Underwood, although they may have recognized each other from their time at Ardmore together.

  • Previous post on Mission 201. Note: at the time of my previous post about Mission 201, the Buslee crew’s aircraft was misidentified in the 384th Bomb Group database and photo gallery. At the time, the photo and name attached to B-17 43-37822 were actually those of B-17 42-37822. A/C 43-37822 was unnamed or the name never recorded or nose art, if it existed, never photographed.
  • Previous posts of details about Mission 201 in “What Happened in the Skies Over Magdeburg?”, Part 1 and Part 2
  • Previous post Propwash?
  • Previous post, Wallace Storey
  • Thank you to the 384th’s Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for obtaining and sharing WWII reports and mission documents from the National Archives for the 384th Bomb Group.
  • Mission documents and other mission information may be found, viewed, and saved or printed courtesy of Fred Preller’s 384th Bomb Group website.

With the exception of material in this post copyrighted by Wallace A. Storey, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021