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How Far Can You Throw That Bucket?

I’m presenting more detail on turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels to follow-up my previous posts, Gremlins, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3, Part 2 of 3, and Part 3 of 3

During my research into gremlins, and particularly the gremlins infesting the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 known as Lazy Daisy, I had to delve into a subject with which I am very unfamiliar, the mechanics of the B-17.

I am not at all mechanically-inclined, and in reading about Lazy Daisy’s gremlins (i.e., mechanical issues) some terms were more familiar ( like “broken piston heads,” “dropping oil pressure,” and “runaway props”) than others (like “lagging superchargers” and “throwing a bucket”).

So, to learn more, I asked a lot of questions and did a lot of reading. Here’s what I’ve learned.

Turbosuperchargers

In Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3, the 384th Bomb Group’s Fred Preller and John Edwards helped me explain these terms, and since then, John and the 384th’s Keith Ellefson provided me with new information that I think deserves further review.

Remember the comment by pilot David Rucker after he used Lazy Daisy on the 29 May 1944 mission (in Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3)? Rucker suggested,

A/C (Aircraft) 222 (Lazy Daisy) be taken out of combat because of oil regulator supercharger.  You cannot stay in formation with the electronic type.

John Edwards shed some more light on superchargers with,

When we say supercharger, that was a common name for the component as a whole. The actual name is turbosupercharger. There were two types of superchargers used, frequently called stages. You have a first stage which is used at lower altitudes and the one commonly referenced for higher (combat) altitude… The supercharger intake is a scoop on the bottom of the engine nacelle [the outer casing/housing of an aircraft engine]. This scoop feeds air into the charger which is the conventional way a supercharger worked back then.

The comment from the pilot is important because the GE [electronic type like Rucker mentioned] charger is a very widely used supercharger. It’s function operated in two stages as Fred indicated… [see Part 2 of 3].  I can’t determine other known vendors for the superchargers so for now I can only say that the tech data … clearly states the supercharger must be connected to an oil pump. These instructions apply to the B-17F and G model aircraft and Lazy Daisy is a G so this tech info applies. Therefore I can’t explain why the pilot mentioned the ‘oil one’.

Note: John is referencing a section named Removal of Turbosupercharger from B-17 Airplane of the book World War II – General Electric Turbosuperchargers.

With John’s new information, I’m not sure why Rucker phrased the reference to both the “oil regulator” and “electronic type” superchargers as he did either.

Apparently, the different models of B-17’s used different supercharger types and the transition from the (older) oil regulator to the (newer) electronic type came between the F and G models. I had determined that on all of David Rucker’s missions, up to the point of piloting Lazy Daisy on 29 May 1944, he had been assigned only G model B-17’s.

Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson told me that it was still possible that some of the G models Rucker had flown might still be of the older oil regulator type. Keith said,

I don’t know if all the G models were equipped with electronically controlled superchargers. I suspect that some of the early Gs were built with the oil control system until the inventory of oil control systems was used up and then the electronic system was phased in to replace the oil control system.

And even if Rucker had only flown the electronic type, Keith added,

Pilots would have to be briefed/trained on the difference between oil regulated and electronic regulated superchargers as the new ships came into the inventory. The controls for each system are different and it would be immediately apparent to the pilot when he got into the ship for a mission. In reality, I am sure that each pilot in the squadron knew which ships still had the oil regulator system and which ships had the electronic regulated system. From what I have read, the electronic system was a big improvement over the old, oil regulated system.

Keith also shared some information written by Wellwood E. Beall, who was Vice-President in charge of Engineering at Boeing Aircraft Company, that indicates that the electronic system was a “significant improvement” over the oil regulated system. The link to Beall’s document is below in the Further Reading section, and Beall’s more comprehensive text with illustrations in PDF format follows in the list.

Wellwood Edmetson Beall, who died in 1978, was an aerospace pioneer – an airplane designer and engineer – who had major roles in developing the B‐17 Flying Fortress, the B‐29 Superfortress, and the Boeing 707. In particular, for the B-17, Beall ordered continuous modification in the B‐17 Flying Fortress to meet changing battle conditions over Europe in World War II.

The History of

Turbosuperchargers

The information from Fred, John, and Keith led me to search the internet to learn more and I found a most interesting article in Google Books about the history of turbosuperchargers in B-17’s. Since it looks to be from a publication that is now in the public domain (a compilation of the 1945 issues of Air Force – The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces), I want to share part of it here.

In early March, 1939, Lt. P. H. Robey took a YB-17A up to 25,000 feet in a test run and clocked its speed at 311 mph. This was 100 mph faster than a B-17 had ever flown, even faster than any of our fighter aircraft had flown at that altitude. The test flight was an astounding performance for those days, but no one thought of it as milestone in the development of jet propulsion in this country. Yet, indirectly, that’s just what it was.

If that test flight had been unsuccessful, all orders for turbo-superchargers on B-17s would have been cancelled, for it was the turbo that produced the 100 mph margin in speed – and in early 1939 the turbo-supercharger definitely was on the spot. At the time of the flight, orders for turbos on B-17s had already been technically cancelled. The paper work had been initiated and forwarded to Washington. Boeing Aircraft and the AAF [US Army Air Forces] had lost faith in the turbo. For 20 years, the AAF had struggled with the gadget only to have one disappointing flight test after another. The Robey test used a turbo that was equipped with a new regulator, the final hope for assuring reliable performance.

As soon as the B-17 rolled to a stop after the record-breaking flight, the telegraph wires to Washington began to sizzle. Headquarters read the test results, threw the cancellation papers in the waste basket and issued a directive that all AAF high altitude bombers should be equipped with turbo-superchargers from that date on.

~ “Growing Pains of Jets” by Major Robert V. Guelich, Air Force Staff, June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces)

For more information about turbosuperchargers, including the entire article “Growing Pains of Jets,” refer to the Further Reading list below.

Bucket Wheels

(And what it means to “throw a bucket”)

The 384th Bomb Group’s Historian, John Edwards, shed a little light on the bucket wheel that the pilots’ referred to “throwing,”

The wheel on the bottom of the [super]charger, which looks like the carousel of an old slide projector, is called ‘the bucket wheel’ as I found in [Roger] Freeman’s “The B-17 Flying Fortress Story on page 55.

The article, “Growing Pains of Jets” also explained the pilots’ phrasing of “throwing a bucket.”

The search for high temperature alloys [which could withstand the stresses of hot turbine wheels] was stimulated primarily by the AAF development program to the turbo-supercharger. This program was kept alive by a handful of men who refused to lose faith when time after time the turbo-supercharger would overheat and throw its buckets out of the turbo wheel.

~ “Growing Pains of Jets” by Major Robert V. Guelich, Air Force Staff, June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces)

But the Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress B-17 presented by the Aviation in World War II website explains turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels in short order in a section on Turbo-superchargers (links in Further Reading below).

Each engine on the B-17 has a turbo-supercharger which boosts manifold pressure for takeoff and provides sea-level air pressure at high altitudes.

To operate the turbo-superchargers, engine exhaust gas passes through the collector ring and tailstack to the nozzle box, expands to atmosphere through the turbine nozzle, and drives the bucket wheel at high speed…

…The amount of turbo boost is determined by the speed of the turbo bucket wheel.

As for the gremlins who liked to antagonize the pilots of Lazy Daisy and other AAF aircraft in WWII, I think disrupting turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels were probably a favorite pastime, and seeing which gremlin could throw a bucket the furthest must have been a competition for bragging rights. How far can you throw a bucket?

Please browse through the Further Reading links below for further (and quite interesting) reading about turbosuperchargers and bucket wheels and some excellent illustrations of the B-17’s mechanical parts.

* * * * *

Further Reading

Design Analysis of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress by Wellwood E. Beall (webpage)

Design Analysis of the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress by Wellwood E. Beall (PDF document)

Aviation of World War II: Turbo-superchargers

Pilot Training Manual for the Flying Fortress B-17, Published for Headquarters AAF, Office of Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Training

Supercharge Me: How Boeing Helped GE Reinvent Jet Travel (GE Reports)

The Turbosupercharger and the Airplane Power Plant – General Electric, January 1943

Turbosupercharger Field Service Manual – General Electric

“Growing Pains of Jets” which begins on page 24 of the June 1945 issue of Air Force (The Official Service Journal of the U.S. Army Forces), and starting on page 441 of the 1433-page downloadable PDF document. To download the entire 1433-page PDF document, click the sprocket in the upper right corner of the page, then select “Download PDF.” Note: Air Force is a book in the public domain that Google has made available in digital format. Terms of Service available through a link on the landing page.

Sources

Wellwood Beall’s Obituary from the New York Times

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3

Continuation of my previous posts, Gremlins, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3 and Part 2 of 3

In this post, I’m picking back up with the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17G 42-31222’s (Lazy Daisy’s) missions after her six week break following the April 18, 1944 mission. For information on her December 1943 through April 1944 missions, follow the link above for prior posts about Lazy Daisy’s gremlins in Part 2.

In reviewing Lazy Daisy’s missions, note that she was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group’s 546th Squadron and was assigned to 546th crews exclusively until early June 1944. After that point she was assigned as a spare aircraft on many occasions, something that had been done for this aircraft only once previously, in February 1944. And she was also assigned to other squadrons.

In this continuation of the list of Lazy Daisy’s missions, the missions were flown by crews of the 546th Bomb Squadron unless I note otherwise. ALL of her missions aren’t listed. I’ve listed the ones with the most serious problems and if no problems were reported on a mission (although only a few missions had no technical or equipment failures of any kind), that mission wasn’t included either.

On Lazy Daisy’s first mission back in action on 28 MAY 1944, the James Gibson crew reported the bomb doors motor burned out and the pilot’s oxygen system ran out twenty minutes after the target. The pilot was forced to use a “walk around” oxygen bottle on the return to base. The 384th Bomb Group webmaster’s – Fred Preller’s – father, Robert Henry “Bob” Preller, was Gibson’s co-pilot aboard Lazy Daisy this date, his second mission.

On the 29 MAY 1944 mission, the David Rucker crew reported the ship received battle damage – a 20 mm hole in the left wing and minor flak holes in the rudder. The ball turret was also reported as being inoperative and kept burning out fuses. The pilot also suggested that,

A/C (Aircraft) 222 (Lazy Daisy) be taken out of combat because of oil regulator supercharger.  You cannot stay in formation with the electronic type.

The ship was held as a spare for the 4 JUN 1944 mission, but returned to the formation on 6 JUN 1944.

On 6 JUN 1944, she was assigned to the Robert Menke crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron. The only failure he reported that mission was that the elevation clutch slipped out in the upper turret. More serious mechanical problems reappeared after that.

  • 8 JUN 1944 The Edward Thoma crew reported #3 Turbo Supercharger went ‘out’ at altitude.

On 21 JUN 1944, Lazy Daisy was not flown at all by the 384th, but instead was assigned to the Willis Matter crew of the 379th Bomb Group. I did not find any comments from Matter about any failures of the aircraft in the mission reports.

  • 20 JUL 1944 The Daniel Young crew of the 384th’s 545th Bomb Squadron reported, Engines: #2, #3, #4 lag bad. Major battle damage to right wing.
  • 21 JUL 1944 The Joseph Patella crew of the 384th’s 544th Bomb Squadron reported exhaust stack on #1 engine broke, cut spark plug lead and all manifold pressure lost through hole in exhaust stack. #2 engine ran away on and off. #3 oil pressure gauge gave readings from 5 (typed report says 35, but pilot’s hand-written narrative looks like 5) – 75 lbs.

On 25 JUL 1944, Lazy Daisy was assigned to the Ned Sweeney crew of the 547th Bomb Squadron. Sweeney did not report any aircraft failures after the mission, but sadly he was killed four days later on the 29 JUL 1944 mission aboard 43-37870.

  • 29 JUL 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported a bad oil break in #2 engine.
  • 31 JUL 1944 The Ralph Hicks crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported manifold pressure on #1 (or #2?) engine reading inconsistently (handwritten report reads ‘incorrectly’ rather than ‘inconsistently’).

The 547th Bomb Squadron continued to man Lazy Daisy on 1 AUG 1944 (no failures reported) and again on 3 AUG.

  • 3 AUG 1944 The John Mock crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported #2 supercharger lags.

The 545th Bomb Squadron manned Lazy Daisy on 4 AUG 1944 and did not report any failures, but did report 10 flak holes throughout the aircraft.

On 5 AUG 1944, the 546th took back their ship, and didn’t report any failures, but did report battle damage of flak holes in the left and right wings and the #3 nacelle (outer casing/housing of an aircraft engine).

  • 7 AUG 1944 The Donald Duesler crew reported No. #4 engine ran away. Oil temperature went up so it had to be feathered. Worked O.K. until target area was reached. They also reported battle damage of a few flak holes in the vertical stabilizer.
  • 13 AUG 1944 The James Brookshire crew reported #3 engine out. Returned with #3 prop windmilling because the shaft broke. They also reported battle damage of flak holes in the right flap.

After the 13 AUG mission came another gap, this time for a month, in combat missions for Lazy Daisy. She was assigned as a spare on 11 SEP, but was unused. But she did return the next day.

  • 12 SEP 1944 The John Mohler crew reported #3 cylinder head gauge out. #4 prop governor ran away. They also reported some flak damage.
  • 17 SEP 1944 The Ralph Hicks crew of the 384th’s 547th Bomb Squadron reported #4 leaking oil. It’s unclear if it was due to battle damage or technical failure.
  • 19 SEP 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported #4 Engine throwing oil badly.
  • 25 SEP 1944 The Frank Mead crew reported #2 and #3 sluggish at altitude. OK till 15,000 ft. They also reported moderate flak damage over the target and that the co-pilot was unable to transmit over the interphone. And, Mead, the pilot, wrote in his narrative, “Brief B-24s to quit flying collision courses with us.” A forewarning?

In Lazy Daisy’s entire combat mission history, in addition to her engine and/or supercharger defects, pilots reported 5 malfunctions with the bomb bay, 20 problems with the radio and interphone system, 5 issues with the oxygen system, and a variety of other issues with the vertical stabilizer, ball turret, flight indicator, hydraulic lines, gyro compass, fluxgate compass, upper turret, chin turret, and most alarming, on Lazy Daisy’s next-to-last mission, the steering wheel aileron.

On that next-to-last mission on 27 SEP 1944, the 348th’s 547th Bomb Squadron used Lazy Daisy and the pilot, Rueben Farnsworth, reported that the steering wheel aileron control had too much vertical play. Also, the same issue that was reported two days earlier on 25 SEP, a problem with the interphone was reported as “Interphone needs checking – co-pilot’s system wouldn’t work,” along with a newly reported problem that there was a spark in the motor of the top turret which caused it to smoke. Battle damage was recorded as one minor hole, location unreported, due to flak at the target.

What sounded pretty significant to me was the report of a steering issue, a problem with the steering wheel aileron. Not being particularly well versed in the parts of or functions of the parts of a B-17 aircraft, I looked up the term “aileron.” I learned,

Ailerons help a pilot maintain control of an aircraft. On the outer rear edge of each wing, the two ailerons move in opposite directions, up and down, decreasing lift on one wing while increasing it on the other. This causes the airplane to roll to the left or right. To turn the airplane, the pilot uses the ailerons to tilt the wings in the desired direction.

Becoming more concerned with this news, I asked the 384th’s group of volunteer researchers for more information about the effects of a B-17’s aileron with too much vertical play in close formation flying during a combat mission.

Marc Poole, Founder of the 384th Bomb Group website, aviation artist, college art instructor, and a licensed pilot, provided this insight regarding the aircraft’s aileron and steering,

I would think any play in the control yoke would be similar to having too much slop or slack in your steering like on an old pickup truck…One of the 172’s I trained in last summer had a lot of slack in the control yoke…you could turn the wheel left or right about 1/8 turn either way with zero response…pretty unnerving. I didn’t fly that one much!

On 28 SEP 1944 the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron used Lazy Daisy on the mission to Magdeburg, Germany. The John (Jay) Buslee crew was nearby in the formation aboard 43-37822. It would be the last mission for both crews. Official reports show,

Lazy Daisy collided with 43‑37822 over the target. Both ships went down on fire and out of control; no chutes observed; crashed near Erxleben, Germany; (Missing Air Crew Report) MACR9366.

A witness, Wallace Storey, co-pilot on 43-38548 with the Kenneth Gross crew on 28 SEP, later described the mid-air collision and the moments before it,

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 43-37822, on whose wing our element was flying. I yelled to Gross [the pilot] 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.

Note: The other group on the crossing course on this date was a B-17 Group, not a B-24 Group as it was three days earlier.

Speculation now in overdrive, I wondered, was Lazy Daisy’s steering wheel aileron issue addressed before the 28 September mission? Overnight from the return of the formation the afternoon of 27 September when Lazy Daisy was used by the 547th Bomb Squadron, to take-off of the formation on the morning of 28 September, was a pretty narrow window for maintenance to take place for,

  • A steering wheel aileron control which had too much vertical play
  • The co-pilot’s interphone system which wouldn’t work (and hadn’t worked the prior mission of 25 SEP)
  • A spark in the motor of the top turret which caused it to smoke
  • Battle damage of one minor hole, location unreported, due to flak at the target

The 546th Bomb Squadron’s ground crew also had a lot of work to do on Lazy Daisy earlier that week. After the 25 September mission, they had to address the #2 and #3 engines, which had been reported sluggish at altitude, repair moderate flak damage, and fix the problem with the co-pilot’s interphone system (which apparently didn’t get fixed by 27 September).

IF on 28 September, Lazy Daisy’s engines were being sluggish (as they were often reported) AND the steering wheel aileron still had too much play, how would Lazy Daisy have reacted to Lt. Brodie’s attempts to quickly reduce power, climb, and change direction with the formation when they found themselves on a crossing course with another Group as Wallace Storey described?

The mid-air collision between Lazy Daisy and 43-37822 on 28 September 1944 likely did not happen because of one single issue – the flak, the crossing course with the other group, the quick maneuvering, the prop wash, or the gremlins – but a compounding of these and perhaps other issues I’m not aware of.

I have been struggling to make sense of all the information I discovered about Lazy Daisy’s mechanical issues, or gremlins, from all of her mission reports. I still think there may be something there that I’m missing or not considering. But it’s more likely that the answer I search for is written nowhere in history.

I now know more about Lazy Daisy, her gremlins, and about how they may have contributed to her collision with my dad’s B-17, but I will never know exactly why it happened. I could look forever, review thousands of more documents, create hundreds of more theories, and spend many more sleepless nights pondering all the conditions. But the reality is that the answer I search for died with Lazy Daisy’s pilots when she fell to earth. And there it shall remain.

Sources

Ailerons – NASA

Flight Control Failures – AOPA

Aileron – Wikipedia

Thank you Marc Poole for your help on this post.

Stay tuned in a couple of weeks for a post about the mechanics of a B-17, in particular, turbosuperchargers, and “throwing a bucket…”

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3

Continuation of my previous posts, Gremlins and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3

Why would I think the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17G 42-31222, nicknamed Lazy Daisy, was infested with gremlins? After reviewing the aircraft’s failures in the post-mission documents from her first mission in December 1943 to her next-to-last in September 1944, I was overwhelmed by the number and kinds of problems the aircraft experienced.

Lazy Daisy, a B-17G of the 384th Bombardment Group’s 546th Bombardment Squadron, experienced serious engine problems from the start and was taken out of commission for long periods, presumably for major repairs. Later in her career, she was assigned often as a spare aircraft and unused. At one point, it seems the 546th was trying to avoid using her (my opinion), so she was assigned to other bombardment squadrons of the 384th, and even once to another bombardment group because, (also only my theory) the men of the 546th Squadron didn’t want to fly in her.

When my dad, George Edwin Farrar, told me the story of surviving a mid-air collision between two B-17’s in WWII, he told me the reason the other ship (Lazy Daisy) collided with his ship (B-17G 43-37822), was that Lazy Daisy had been hit by ground fire (flak) which caused it to be knocked off course and into his ship.

I long believed flak was the sole reason for the collision until,

  1. A 384th Bomb Group B-17 pilot, Wallace Storey, who witnessed the collision, told me he didn’t think Lazy Daisy was hit by flak and,
  2. Many of the reports from the day of the collision do not attribute flak as the cause (although some do), and speculated on other causes, such as (1) the group was forced to pull up to avoid collision with another group, (2) pilot error during evasive action, and (3) the formation was broken up by very sharp turns and prop wash.

But, in the case of what seemed to some like pilot error, what if a mechanical problem with the aircraft caused the aircraft to not respond correctly to properly executed maneuvering by the pilot, James Brodie? And what if this mechanical problem compounded the scenario of flak damage?

Only the aircraft’s pilot, James Brodie, and co-pilot, Lloyd Vevle, would have been able to answer that question and neither one lived to do so. I can’t pretend to know the extent of what they were facing that day, that moment, that Lazy Daisy collided with my dad’s B-17, but I can look at what kinds of issues Lazy Daisy experienced in the missions leading up to that fateful one on September 28, 1944, and venture a guess.

I reviewed the mission reports of all 64 missions to which Lazy Daisy was assigned, looking for mechanical issues or anything else that stood out, to try to build a greater understanding of the aircraft’s history. Before I get into the mission details, here’s a little background info on the ship.

Lazy Daisy was,

  • Built by the Boeing Airplane Company
  • A new replacement aircraft assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group, 546th Bombardment Squadron (H)
  • Formally identified as B-17G 42-31222, with the ’42’ prefix meaning built in 1942, a newer ‘G’ series B-17
  • Identified with Aircraft ID Code BK*D, BK being the squadron code of the 384th’s 546th Bomb Squadron
  • Assigned to Ground Crew Chief James F. Flynn for maintenance

Lazy Daisy’s start date with the 384th Bomb Group was 23 November 1943 and her first assigned mission was 5 December 1943. Of course, Lazy Daisy’s End Date was 28 September 1944, failing to return from a combat operation due to the mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany.

Of Lazy Daisy’s assigned 64 missions, she received combat credit for 49.

Lazy Daisy’s entry in Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log is,

42-31222 Del Denver 4/10/43; Gr Island 17/10/43; Memphis 24/10/43; Ass 545BS/384BG [JD-D] Grafton Underwood 546 [BK-D] 23/11/43; MIA Magdeburg (Berlin) 28/9/44 w/Jim Brodie, Lloyd Vevle, Byron Atkins, Bob Crumpton, Don Dooley, Gordon Hetu (6KIA); George Hawkins, Harry Liniger, Wilf Miller (3POW); flak, cr Erxleben, Ger; MACR 9366. LAZY DAISY.

I introduced you to Lazy Daisy’s first “date” (first official combat mission’s pilot), Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, in Lazy Daisy’s Gremlin’s, Part 1 of 3.

Following Taylor’s previous very rough mission of November 29, 1943 in Silver Dollar, he was probably looking forward to a less eventful round trip in his new ship to a Luftwaffe Fighter Airfield in Saint-Jean-d’Angély, France on December 5, 1943. It was less eventful in that Lazy Daisy had to return to base with a broken piston head soon after takeoff.

Not a great start for Lazy Daisy, and in the missions that followed, the ship was plagued by aircraft technical failure after technical failure. Over the course of her life, the crews of Lazy Daisy reported engine problems on 27 missions, including 21 engine/prop malfunctions and 9 supercharger problems (3 missions included both).

It wasn’t hard to notice the many engine and supercharger issues once I had them all in a list. Next question, what the heck is a supercharger?

Fred Preller, the 384th Bomb Group website’s Webmaster, helped me out with this one, noting,

A supercharger is an air compressor. On the B-17 it is a turbo-supercharger, meaning it is driven by a turbine in the engine exhaust line. The supercharger compresses air being fed into the engine.

Side note: as you go up in altitude the air pressure lessens, and there is consequently less air pressure to force air into the engine.

So the supercharger offsets that loss in air pressure to provide sufficient air to the engine for proper combustion. In fact, it “supercharges” the air pressure several times the normal atmospheric pressure. I seem to recall that the B-17 turbos would provide up to 45 psi air to the engine (normal atmospheric pressure at sea level is about 15 psi).

So, how does this all work? The engine exhaust gases are routed to the turbine which spins the compressor. There is a “waste gate” in the exhaust line which will route more or less exhaust gas to the turbine, and is the means of controlling the “boost” in air pressure that the compressor provides.

So what about all the “lagging” of the superchargers that I read in the pilot narratives of the mission reports? Fred added,

I am not sure of this but I imagine it has to do with the supercharger response to the waste gate setting – in fact, there is quite a linkage between the cockpit and each engine for controlling the waste gate, so it is easy to see that different kinds of problems could occur.

John Edwards, 384th Bomb Group Historian, helped me out when I pointedly asked what would happen to a B-17 during all those supercharger failures? Would it make the aircraft seem sluggish, or lazy? John noted,

A supercharger failure at altitude would certainly make it hard for the aircraft to hold position especially if still carrying the full bomb load and the higher amount of fuel before the target. If the charger is not performing appropriately at lower altitudes, the impact can be slow to climb which puts the aircraft behind schedule and makes the pilot push the engines harder when it finally reaches altitude.

And much more to come about the fascinating subject of superchargers at a later date, following this series…

I can’t help but speculate that once her first pilot, Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, got to know her “personality”, why wouldn’t he name his new B-17 Lazy Daisy?

So here comes the mission list, and in the list of Lazy Daisy’s missions I present here, December 1943 through April 1944, all the missions were flown by crews of the 546th Bomb Squadron. ALL of her missions aren’t listed. I’ve listed the ones with the most serious problems and if no problems were reported on a mission (although only a few missions had no technical or equipment failures of any kind), that mission wasn’t included either. [May through September 1944 missions coming up in Part 3.]

Specific engine/supercharger problems and other serious issues on different missions included,

  • 5 DEC 1943 Broken piston head in the No. 2 engine. The pilot, Lt. Taylor, wrote in his narrative statement, “On take-off the manifold pressure dropped to 31” & 1800 RPM. The engine was feathered when we attained an altitude of 200’. It was impossible to climb. The engine was feathered, but created such a drag that it was necessary to re-feather it. We drew 46” & 2500 RPM on the three remaining engines in order to maintain altitude & speed. When these settings were reduced, it was not possible to maintain altitude & flying speed. As soon as the group completed take-off we landed. We landed with full bomb load.”

It would take 8 days of tinkering before Lazy Daisy was assigned to another mission after having problems with the No. 2 engine. So what happened on 13 DEC 1943 with the Taylor crew assigned to the ship for her second mission?

  • 13 DEC 1943 No. 2 engine oil pressure dropped to 37 lbs. Taylor wrote, “On the trip over, the manifold pressure repeatedly dropped to about 20lbs. for no apparent cause. The pressure could be brought back up by manipulation of the supercharger control. Eventually the oil pressure dropped to 40 lbs. We continued for about 15 minutes, then the oil pressure began to drop further, so I attempted to feather the engine. It would not feather. I turned back and bombed a Target of Opportunity. At low altitude the engine performed alright.”

The Taylor crew would not man Lazy Daisy again until Christmas Eve, so on her next mission, Lazy Daisy’s gremlins were able to antagonize a different crew.

  • 16 DEC 1943 The Clifford Moore crew reported a problem with the fuel pressure on #3 engine. Prop on #2 over sped. They also reported flak damage and that the heated gloves on the ship were faulty, too.

The Taylor crew was back on board on 24 DEC 1943, Christmas Eve, but reported no aircraft failures, only an equipment failure that the co-pilot’s microphone was out. Over the next few months, the Taylor crew and other crews reported a slew of problems.

  • 30 DEC 1943 The Austin Rinne crew reported #3 supercharger drew only 22 inches at 22,000 ft. They also reported that the antenna brace on the vertical stabilizer was broken off, the bomb bay doors wouldn’t close, and flak had pierced the left outboard Tokyo fuel tank.
  • 5 JAN 1944 The Ralph Courtemanche crew reported #1 and #3 superchargers lagged on climb. #2 engine was shooting oil at altitude. It ran all right at lower altitudes.
  • 7 JAN 1944 The Sidney Taylor crew reported that the flight indicator was completely out and must be replaced. They became separated from formation in dense clouds after group assembly, failed to make wing rendezvous, and were forced to abort.
  • 30 JAN 1944 The Merlin Reed crew reported a runaway prop on #2 engine. A separate report alternately reported the problem as – Returned to station early due to runaway No. 3 propeller. Inspection revealed a broken shaft.
  • 3 FEB 1944 The Sidney Taylor crew reported #1 supercharger threw a bucket, but it was not noticed until the ship had landed.
  • 20 FEB 1944 Today was pilot Sidney Taylor’s 25th mission, completing his tour. He reported Lazy Daisy threw a bucket from #1 supercharger, #2 prop over traveled, and #1 supercharger regulator out. I guess Lazy Daisy’s gremlins couldn’t let Taylor have an easy final mission.
  • 21 FEB 1944 The James Miller crew reported #3 supercharger lags. Apparently Lazy Daisy’s gremlins didn’t leave Grafton Underwood with Sidney Taylor.
  • 25 FEB 1944 The Ralph Courtemanche crew reported fuel had to be siphoned out of #4 wing tank when fuel pressure went up to 19.5 lbs, and #3 engine began throwing oil.
  • 2 MAR 1944 The Charles Bishop crew reported #4 fuel pressure was extremely high. Had to run engines between 20” and 25” to keep it down.
  • 3 MAR 1944 The Charles Decker crew reported #1 engine was running roughly and vibrated excessively. Alternately reported – #2 engine failed and couldn’t be feathered. Pilot believes it was ignition trouble. #3 supercharger lagged at altitude.
  • 8 MAR 1944 The Charles Bishop crew reported No. 1 engine was running roughly and vibrated excessively. Returned early with feathered No. 1 engine. On ground check excessive blow-by of the valves was noted. Inspection revealed No. 7 exhaust valve broken. Further inspection showed No. 6 exhaust valve broken off.
  • 22 MAR 1944 The James Miller crew reported #2 Engine knocked out by flak and had general flak damages. Miller wrote, “Hit by flak. Lost #2 engine. Oil pressure dropped. Evidently oil line hit by flak. Unable to feather prop. Dropped off at enemy coast.”
  • 13 APR 1944 The Anthony Gekakis crew reported No. 1 Engine running rough and smoking continuously at altitude.
  • 18 APR 1944 The James Miller crew reported #1 Engine went out over target.

After the April 18, 1944 mission, Lazy Daisy was out of service for almost six weeks (40 days). I turned to my fellow research volunteers of the 384th Bomb Group to help me analyze this and other breaks in Lazy Daisy’s inclusion in combat missions.

384th Bomb Group’s Historian John Edwards’ thoughts on the gap of missions were that,

  1. In Fall 1944, there are typically more aircraft on station than crews so the group could afford a tail to sit a while as maintenance worked the gremlins.
  2. The USAAF maintenance system was designed to move aircraft with problems to the next level of maintenance if the required amount of time to complete the repair exceeded certain time requirements.

The SD (Sub-depot) would work the aircraft since it stayed on station. We would see an annotation had the aircraft been sent to a SAD (Strategic Air Depot) or BAD (Base Air Depot).

Keith Ellefson, the 384th Bomb Group’s Combat Data Specialist, found that indeed,

42-31222 was at 2SAD (the 2nd Strategic Air Depot), Station 547 (aka Abbots Ripton at Alconbury, England) on 6 May 1944 and back at Station 106 (Grafton Underwood) on 6 June 1944.

A few photos from the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery of Lazy Daisy undergoing various repairs…

Dispersal 24
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Apparently 42-31222 BK*D “LAZY DAISY”
Note bent or sheered propeller shaft and damaged cowling sections in foreground.
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Lazy Daisy
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Thank you Fred Preller, John Edwards, and Keith Ellefson for you help on this post.

Stay tuned for Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3 and her return from maintenance…

Sources

Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log (Fortlog)

2nd Strategic Air Depot, Station 547

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 1 of 3

Continuation of my post from two weeks ago, Gremlins.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner on a B-17 crew in WWII. He was a member of the John Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England. On their sixteenth mission, their ship, 43‑37822, was knocked down by the ship of the James Brodie crew, 42‑31222, nicknamed Lazy Daisy, in a mid-air collision. Three men survived on Lazy Daisy, but my dad was the sole survivor of 43-37822.

Although Dad always recounted that Lazy Daisy had been hit by flak before the collision, I am not certain that is the only reason she veered out of formation and into his ship. I decided to research the complete mission record of Lazy Daisy to determine if something in her maintenance history pointed to any specific problems (aka gremlins) with the ship.

I found plenty of issues and developed lots of theories about Lazy Daisy and her gremlins, but before I delve into the depths of the 384th Bomb Group’s mission reports and the failures that plagued Lazy Daisy, I want to back up for a bit and review something I found late in my research.

A pilot of the 546th Bomb Squadron named Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor began his career with the 384th Bomb Group as a co-pilot. His first mission commanding his own ship as pilot was his sixteenth credited mission. On his seventeenth, he was given Lazy Daisy as “his ship,” so I assume he was the one who named her. Taylor piloted Lazy Daisy on her very first mission on December 5, 1943, which by the way he aborted due to engine problems – but I’ll get to that in due course.

In this photo, Sidney Taylor is standing second from left. The aircraft is ID’d as likely being Lazy Daisy.

Back L-R: Lt. James Miller (CP), Lt. Sidney Taylor (P), Lt. Albert Rymer (B), Lt. Robert Chapin (N)
Front L-R: Murray Stamm (RO)?, unidentified 1, unidentified 2, unidentified 3, Lorin Schekel (TG), unidentified 5
To Be Identified: Virgil Wallace (TT), George Stropek (BT), Sidney Ukrain (FG), Robert Drennan (FG)
Aircraft: Probably B-17G 546th BS 42-31222 BK*D Lazy Daisy; James Flynn crew chief
Courtesy of 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

As I said, late in my research I stumbled across something I found very interesting. It was a very in-depth pilot narrative that Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor wrote following his first mission as pilot on November 29, 1943. He and his crew were aboard B-17G 42-37781 Silver Dollar. It was Silver Dollar’s first mission, so maybe she was supposed to be Taylor’s ship, but after the mission, she was out of commission for three weeks, so on his next mission, he was assigned Lazy Daisy.

Taylor only had nine missions left to complete his tour of twenty-five and he completed six of those, including his twenty-fifth and last mission, piloting Lazy Daisy. By the time he left Grafton Underwood for home, he knew Lazy Daisy’s gremlins well.

The reason I want to share Taylor’s narrative of the November 29, 1943 mission is that it points out so well two of the most dangerous “enemies” that airmen of WWII had to go up against. When you think of the men going into battle in the air, you likely think of the barrage of flak they had aimed at them or the enemy fighter jets who tried to bring them down, and the damage to the aircraft caused by these enemy actions.

But there were three other things that the crews had to contend with that could be just as deadly. Two of those things were the bitter cold and the lack of oxygen at high altitude. I’ll get to number three later. Sidney Taylor and his new crew had to contend with both cold and oxygen issues on their first mission together.

Like you, I understand the problems, but I never really comprehended the seriousness of these challenges until I read Taylor’s narrative. So I want to include Taylor’s words and the words of others from that November 29, 1943 mission to Bremen, Germany to bring the point home.

The mission was the 384th Bomb Group’s Number 38, the 8th Air Force’s Number 143. The target was the sea port and submarine building base at Bremen, Germany. The mission was led by Col. Dale O. Smith, the thirty-two year old commanding officer of the 384th. In post-mission summary reports, I read their descriptions of what that mission was like,

  • The new enemy to contend with was the intense cold, which they all agreed bothered them much more than the flak or the enemy fighter opposition.
  • Co-pilot Lt. Francis J. Witt, Jr:  “I won’t thaw out for six months. It was cold, bitter cold – about 55 below. I’ve never been so cold in my life.”
  • Pilot Darwin G. Nelson: “The flak and fighters didn’t annoy us half as much as that penetrating cold. They used to say it was cold back home in Minnesota, but that was mid-July weather compared to what we went through today on that long ride to Bremen.”
  • Several of the fliers were overcome due to a combination of the cold and frozen oxygen system. However, they were all revived and were none the worse for their experience. [Lt. Taylor had landed away at Coltishall, so his crew’s experience was not recorded in Grafton Underwood at the time of the post-mission briefing.]
  • Vernon Herman Kaufman, ball turret gunner of the Earl Allison crew, was overcome, but rescued by the crew’s top turret gunner and placed in the radio room where he was revived.

Lt. Taylor, as you’ll read below, didn’t make it back to Grafton Underwood that day with the formation on his first mission as pilot, so the summary report didn’t include his comments or experience. He did, however, pen a very detailed account of what happened aboard his ship. Please consider this an educational opportunity into what B-17 air crews experienced during WWII and what we can learn about the man who first took Lazy Daisy into combat as his ship.

* * * * *

Narrative by Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, pilot, A/C 7781, mission to Breman, Germany, 29 NOVEMBER, 1943.

We were flying as briefed with the formation until we crossed the English coast on the return journey. We flew at 1,500 feet from assembly until we crossed the English coast going out, at which point we began our climb. The rate of climb was as briefed to 27,800 feet, which was 800 feet higher than the altitude for which we were originally briefed, but which was necessary because of the clouds. Before reaching the enemy coast we began to have slight difficulty with certain members of the crew because of the extreme cold. The Left Waist Gunner’s eyes froze and he thawed them out on several occasions. After each thawing they froze immediately again.

As we approached the I.P. we saw several wide concentrations of flak ahead of us and around the wing that preceded us. We flew over what we presumed to be the target. The target was obscured by clouds so it was impossible for us to be sure where we were, and in that area we were subjected to moderate flak, which was fairly accurate; not extremely accurate, but not wild. Our ship suffered minor damage from flak at that point. The damage consisted of a hole in the bomb-bay doors; the door covering the camera well was blown open and up into the radio compartment, and the magento harness on No. 3 engine was torn by a piece of flak. The ship operated all right after that damage. It was not affected at all. We then circled what we presumed to be the target area and on passing over the area again all of our bombs were released along with the rest of our Group. Because of the clouds bombing results were unobserved.

About the time that bombs were away our left aileron control cables were shot away, and we did not see the plane that attacked us. It came from the rear and I do not think that it attacked our ship specifically. I think it attacked ships behind us, but one bullet hit us and cut our control cables on the left aileron. That resulted in our being thrown out of the formation, because we could not control the ship. While out of the formation we were not subjected to any attacks. We regained control of the ship and brought it back into formation in the position which we had formerly occupied. We then had a head-on attack, and, chronologically, it was just after we got into formation, by FW 190, the color of which was brown, and I think it had a white spinner with a ring around it, but I am not sure. That ship made a pass at us from 12 o’clock, level, and broke away below our ship. As it broke away it attacked our low Group.

About the time we had reached the I.P. the Pilot [Taylor, referring to himself] was informed by the Right Waist Gunner that the Ball Turret Gunner’s oxygen supply was at 100 lbs. pressure. The pressure in the Ball Turret dropped rather rapidly, and we were unable to refill it. The refiller nipple on the Ball Turret oxygen supply was broken. The Pilot then instructed the Right Waist Gunner to assist the Ball Turret Gunner in getting out of the Ball Turret. The Ball Turret Gunner personally informed the Pilot that he would get out. About 15 minutes later the Co-Pilot checked to be sure that the Ball Turret Gunner was all right and had gotten out. At that time we were informed by the Right Waist Gunner that the Ball Turret Gunner was in extreme difficulty and that they were unable to get him out of the Ball Turret. After repeated efforts by both Waist Gunners and the Radio Gunner to get the man out of the Ball Turret, the Pilot was informed that it was impossible to get him out and that they believed that he was dead. During this time the Left Waist Gunner was suffering from seriously frozen hands and face and feet, and also was irrational probably as a result of anoxia. The Pilot instructed the Right Waist Gunner to administer artificial respiration to the Ball Turret Gunner. This was done intermittently, and all together for not over five (5) minutes. About the time that we crossed the enemy coast on the way out the Pilot was informed that it was reasonably certain that the Ball Turret Gunner was dead. At this time both the Pilot’s and Co-Pilot’s oxygen system registered only 100 lbs. each.

As soon as I felt sure that we were clear of the Frisian Islands we left the formation and descended through breaks in heavy cumulus clouds to 800 feet.

From the time we reached an altitude of approximately 26,000 feet until we descended to about 12,000 feet, the Navigator was in a semi-conscious condition and unable to use either arm. By the time that we had reached an altitude of 800 feet on the return journey, the Navigator had completely recovered, and by means of radio fixes we determined our approximate position. At this point, even though I had every reason to believe that we would safely make England, I instructed the Radio Operator to send an S.O.S. on the MF/DF frequency, which he did. Also the emergency IFF was turned on. Having determined our approximate position, a course was plotted by the Navigator, and we took up a Mag. heading of 281°, which we held until we hit the English coast. As we flew over the North Sea we passed immediately over one 50-foot Air/Sea Rescue Launch, which flashed something on the Aldis Lamp. We were unable to read the message on the Aldis Lamp due to the fact that we were passing over him so rapidly and were so low. However, we presumed that he challenged us with the challenge of the day. We made no reply to his challenge because we were out of range so fast.

As we flew at an altitude of 800 to 1,000 feet we came upon another B-17 flying at approximately the same altitude and on approximately the same course. That B-17 apparently followed us in, for it was obvious that he began flying on us.

We reached the coast four or five miles east of Cromer. By that time it was about 5:15 [PM English time], and a combination of darkness and extremely poor visibility made navigation difficult. Our gasoline supply was low, but not dangerously low. About two or three minutes after we crossed the coast a searchlight was turned on almost directly beneath us and directed us to a field which was about 10 miles away. The name of the field was Coltishall, an R.A.F Interceptor Station. When we reached the field we contacted the Tower on command set 6440. The field lights were turned on and we landed safely.

After we had landed we discovered that Colonel Smith and Captain Algar [both aboard A/C 42-30026 Battlewagon], who had been leading the Group, had landed immediately before us.

We examined the dead man and his equipment and found that he had vomited in the Ball Turret, in his oxygen mask, and on the floor of the ship as he was being removed from the Turret. The vomit was filled with blood. Both Waist Gunners suffered from frostbite and nervous shock and were removed to a U.S. Hospital at Wynondham. The body of the Ball Turret Gunner was kept for two (2) days at Coltishall. The following day the Assistant Engineering Officer of the 546th Squadron arrived with a crew of workmen and began repairing Captain Algar’s ship and my ship. The second day after we landed Captain Algar’s ship was in condition to fly and he flew home. The following afternoon our ship was ready, and we flew home.

The two Waist Gunners are still in the hospital at Wynondham, and the body of the Ball Turret Gunner was removed from Coltishall by Captain Foley.

S.P. Taylor,
1st Lt., AC,
Pilot,
A/C 7781

* * * * *

Author’s Notes

Taylor’s crew members on the 29 NOV 1943 mission to Bremen were,

  • Robert J. Conn, waist gunner. This was Conn’s only mission with the 384th Bomb Group. He did not return to duty with the 384th after his hospitalization following the 29 NOV 1943 mission.
  • Sidney Charles Ukrain, waist gunner. This was Ukrain’s first mission with the 384th Bomb Group. He went on to complete his tour with the group after 31 missions.
  • Joseph Albert Kuspa, ball turret gunner. Kuspa was born Jan 27, 1921 and was from New Carlisle, Indiana. He died on this mission, November 29, 1943. This was his first and only mission with the 384th Bomb Group. He is buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery, Cambridge, England, Plot F Row 2 Grave 50.

The Taylor crew endured both flak and German fighters on the 29 NOV 1943 mission, but it was the cold and (likely cold-induced) problems with the oxygen system that proved deadly.

And for that third problem I mentioned earlier that air crews had to contend with, by now I imagine you know I’ll soon be showing you how these mighty aircraft and their crews could be brought down out of the sky by mechanical failures, the dreaded gremlins.

Sources

Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, 384th Bomb Group Personnel Record

Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor, 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

American Air Museum in Britain: Sidney Taylor

Stay tuned for Lt. Sidney Paul Taylor’s and other pilots’ of the 384th Bomb Group’s trouble with Lazy Daisy’s gremlins…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

The Lead Banana

Last week, I explained how I have become convinced that 384th Bomb Group B-17G 43-37822 was not the Lead Banana. That name actually belonged to the Group’s B-17G 42-37822.

 

B-17G 42-37822 The Lead Banana

As I indicated last week, I did not want to believe that the ship I had come to know as Lead Banana would now be referred to solely by number, 43-37822. Notwithstanding the evidence that Marc Poole provided, I still clung to the Lead Banana name as the name of the ship in which my father and the Buslee crew suffered a mid-air collision on September 28, 1944. Regardless, a poem that Keith Ellefson ran across during his research leaves me with  no other choice.

The poem, which is called The Lead Banana: A B-17 Flying Fortress, was published in the August 1989 384th Bomb Group, Inc.’s newsletter. The poet was a radio operator of the group who served on the Paul Norton crew at the same time my dad was stationed at Grafton Underwood. First, I’ll present Lawrence Vallo’s poem, and afterwards share compelling information I gleaned from it.

THE LEAD BANANA: A B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
by Lawrence J. Vallo

She sits on her hard stand enshrouded in fog,
Her towering tail fin almost lost in the smog,
Knock kneed weary wings drooping,
Looking all the world like the ugly duckling.

Tin benders patch the rips in her skin,
Scars from her late trip to Berlin.
There were Frankfurt, Merzburg, Munich, and many more,
Do you wonder that she looks weary and sore?

Yes, she does look sickly and kind’a wan
As she squats on her stand in the grey light of dawn,
But, wait till you see this old bird in the air,
She’ll turn into a majestic and graceful swan.

She’s carried her crew into flak filled skies
That promised deadly encounters, and someone dies,
Proudly she’s burst through the treacherous shroud
Surging ever upward toward sunlit cloud.

Her place in the group formation today
Is her usual spot, number four in the low.
Some pilots have said in a half hearted way,
“Let’s leave her home, she’s too old and too slow.”

But a hundred missions she has under the belt,
Countless hostile blows on her skin she has felt.
Fire, flak, fighters, and bone chilling air,
None has deterred her from the enemy’s lair.

Over the I.P. and holding steady,
Bombardier sighting and at the ready,
“Bombs away!” and upward she lunges,
Wheeling ’round, and then downward she plunges.

Shuddering and shaking as she makes the round,
Nothing will stop her, she’s homeward bound,
All guns blazing, and you can bet all your script,
No yellow nosed demon will get her this trip.

Little brothers appear in the sky,
They waggle their wings as they zip by,
Her crew, dazed, spent and numb with cold,
Lads in their teens suddenly forty years old.

Into the pattern she’ll gracefully glide,
All four turning, wings spread out in pride,
Gear down and locked, flaps coming lower,
No red flares to add to the shower.

Taxiing to her stand, her engines she’ll preen,
Just look at her, she’s no “hanger queen.”
Clearing her stacks, she’ll relax with a shudder,
Heave a sigh of relief as ground lock finds rudder.

Once more she rests, weary wings drooping,
Knocked kneed and looking like the ugly duckling.
But, don’t get misty eyed and put away your bandana,
The great fortress you see, is the “Lead Banana.”

Yes, she’s back from her war, holed like a tin can,
But mister, she’s carried her load,
And brought home many a fine young man,
Who bravely went forth to KEEP THE SHOW ON THE ROAD.

By “Chief” Vallo (NM)
544th  Bomb Squad
“Frigham Young”

* * * * *

“Chief” Lawrence Vallo’s poem does indeed close the book for me on which B-17 was named Lead Banana. I’ll tell you why by pointing out various clues I discovered in the poem and through my research on both planes.

About the plane…

  • Vallo flew on seventeen different B-17’s during his service with the 384th Bomb Group with one mission aboard 42-37822 and one aboard 43-37822. While Vallo only flew one mission aboard 42-37822 Lead Banana, it was his very first combat mission. It seems like the first ship an airman flies into combat will forever be special in his heart, so special to Vallo that he would write a poem about it.
  • 42-37822, Lead Banana, was with the 384th for 311 days, was assigned to 104 missions, and received combat credit for 63 missions.
  • 43-37822 was with the 384th for 91 days, was assigned to 34 missions, and received combat credit for 28 missions.
  • Vallo mentions the ship’s 100 missions. 42-37822 was assigned to 104 and 43-37822 was only assigned to 34.
  • 42-37822 had missions to Berlin, Frankfurt, Merzburg (sp. Merseburg), and Munich.
  • 43-37822 never went on a mission to Berlin, but did have missions to Frankfurt, Merzburg (sp. Merseburg), and Munich.
  • Vallo’s description of the ship is of an older painted ship like 42-37822, not the newer, shiny 43-37822.
  • 42-27822, Lead Banana, crashed during a training mission on March 16, 1945 when the right main landing gear collapsed after a hard landing at RAF Ringway. There were no injuries to personnel, but it was the end for Lead Banana, which was salvaged.
  • 43-37822 was lost on the September 28, 1944 combat mission in a mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany. My father, George Edwin Farrar, became a POW and the other eight airmen aboard were killed.
  • Lead in Lead Banana was pronounced like the metal lead and at one time was spelled Led, not Lead.

About Lawrence Vallo…

Lawrence J. Vallo

Lawrence Jonathan (or Jack) Vallo was a Native American born on July 6, 1922 to James (Santiago) and Annie Vallo in McCarty, New Mexico. At nineteen years old, on June 30, 1942, he registered for the draft. He listed his middle name as Jack on his draft card, rather than Jonathan. At the time, he was living in Richmond, Contra Costa, California and his employer was the Santa Fe Railroad Co. He reported his weight at 138 pounds, height at 5’4″, with dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair. The Department of Veterans Affairs lists his WWII enlistment date in the Army Air Corps as February 3, 1943 with a release date of October 8, 1945.

During WWII, Lawrence Vallo served with the 384th Bomb Group as the Radio Operator of the Paul Norton crew, a crew who gave themselves the nickname “Frigham Young.”

In addition to his WWII service, Vallo served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The National Archives contains an enlistment record for Vallo with the enlistment date of June 29, 1946 in the Air Corps with the grade designation of Corporal and the term of enlistment as “Enlistment for Hawaiian Department.”

However, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not include the 1946 enlistment, but includes two other enlistments into the Air Force. One has an enlistment date of July 1, 1949 and release date of March 10, 1955. The other has an enlistment date of March 11, 1961 with a release date of June 30, 1964.

Lawrence Vallo died on November 26, 2001 at the age of 79 at Jemez Pueblo, Sandoval, New Mexico. He is buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe, New Mexico in Plot 11A, 32.

In a memorial on Ancestry.com, Lawrence “Larry” Vallo was described as an “educational advocate for Indian youths.” His wife said that his “individualism, extroverted nature and love of people set him apart from others” and “He was very proud he was a Native American.”

Lawrence Vallo would probably also be proud that he was able to clear up the confusion for me through his poem of the correct B-17 to be known as Lead Banana. And thank you Keith Ellefson for bringing Vallo’s poem to my attention.

Next week, I had planned to explore Vallo’s crew, “Frigham Young,” and tell you why they are important to my dad’s WWII history. But I have some new information about the search for relatives of Jack Coleman Cook to share. I’ll return to the “Frigham Young” crew the next week following the update to the Jack Coleman Cook story.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Not the Lead Banana

In all of my previous articles describing the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision in which my dad was involved, I stated that the Brodie crew was aboard Lazy Daisy and the Buslee crew was aboard Lead Banana. I have recently learned that the ship 43-37822, which my dad and the Buslee crew manned that day, was not, in fact, named Lead Banana.

Lead Banana was the nickname for 42-37822, not 43-37822. The name was incorrectly assigned in the 384th Bomb Group’s database of WWII aircraft, but has now been corrected. The error was discovered through Marc Poole’s research and confirmed by a poem that Keith Ellefson ran across last month. The aircraft is also misidentified in Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log, which can be found here. On page 545, the Fortlog entry reads:

43-37822 Del Cheyenne 25/5/44; Kearney 8/6/44; Grenier 28/6/44; Ass 544BS/384BG [SU-N] Grafton Underwood 29/6/44; MIA Magdeburg 28/9/44 w/John Buslee, Dave Albrecht, Bill Henson, Bob Stearns, Len Bryant, Seb Peluso, George McMann, Gerald Anderson (8KIA); George Farrar (POW); flak, cr Ingersleben, Ger; MACR 9753. LEAD BANANA.

Early in my research of my dad’s WWII service, when I initially learned that my dad was aboard ship 43-37822 on September 28, 1944 in the mid-air collision, I was stunned. In all the stories that my dad told me about the war, the only B-17 he ever mentioned by name was Tremblin’ Gremlin. I had always assumed that was the ship he was aboard on September 28.

But the fact that my dad never did mention the name Lead Banana does help me believe that 43-37822 was not named. If it had been so named, Dad probably would have used that name when he told his story of the mid-air collision. And Wallace Storey did not use the name Lead Banana when he wrote about that day either. He did use the name Lazy Daisy for the Brodie crew’s ship, but he referred to my dad’s ship by number, not by name.

Both 42-37822 and 43-37822 were B-17G models. And both were fortresses of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th. My father flew missions on both ships, one on 42-37822 (the real Lead Banana) and three on 43-37822.

B-17G 42-37822 The Lead Banana

Marc Poole is the fellow who originally started the 384th Bomb Group’s website. Fred Preller is now the webmaster of the site and there are a group of volunteers and researchers that help maintain it. Though Marc is still active in the research of the 384th Bomb Group, he is primarily an artist, college art instructor, and family man. Not surprisingly, Marc is an amazing aviation artist who has a keen eye for aircraft detail.

As a result of Marc’s research, we now know that the above photo, which is part of the Quentin Bland collection in the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery, had been misidentified as 43-37822. Marc provided this information about 43-37822:

Aircraft 43-37822 was a Block 70 Boeing-built B-17G with a Natural Metal Finish, and not painted. Boeing quit painting their B-17’s after Block 30. This photo is of an early G model, and a very well-worn one at that.

Marc checked the listing for 42-37822, a Block 15 Douglas built ship, and there is a photo posted of that ship in flight, with nose art very similar to this close-up photo. Someone may have mistaken 42-37822 for 43-37822. Marc added:

I have yet to see a listing in any references for 42-37822 as Lead Banana, but I think that this is most likely the correct ship. There is a large gap of time in the listing for the ship in Osborne’s FortLog…no info between October 43 and its assignment to the 384th in May 44…odd. In comparing pics of Lead Banana currently posted for 43-37822, and one posted of 42-37822, I think it is the same earlier ship. Note the similarity of the black scoreboard under the Co-Pilot window and along the nose, and the same banana shape in the same spot, (but a different shade). Not 100%, but certainly plausible.

The Fortlog entry for 42-37822 is

42-37822 Del Long Beach 9/9/43; Gr Island 17/10/43; ass 544BS/384BG [SU-C] Grafton Underwood 12/5/44; on landing w/Ray Cook the undercarriage collapsed at RAF Ringway, UK (now Manchester Aprt) 16/3/45. Sal AFSC 19/3/45.

The only photo I can find for 43-37822 is the one below which was the High Group Lead on the August 1, 1944 Mission #169. Gerald Sammons commanded and accompanied pilot William Combs, radio operator Emil Morlan, top turret gunner Forest Bemis, bombardier Donald Ward, ball turret gunner Boyce Ragsdale, navigator Kenneth Lord, waist gunner James Fisher, and tail gunner/observer Lloyd LaChine.

B-17G 43-37822 Unnamed

The photo is from the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery, courtesy of Cynthia Smith, via Keith Ellefson. It has the natural metal finish, is not painted, and shows no evidence of any banana nose art.

But the final piece of evidence that has put the misidentification of 43-37822 as Lead Banana to rest for me was some new information that Keith Ellefson shared with me just recently. Keith ran across a poem called The Lead Banana: A B-17 Flying Fortress in the August 1989 384th Bomb Group, Inc.’s newsletter.

Next week I will share the poem and tell you about it’s author, a radio operator of the group. The following week I’ll share the poet’s connection with some of the airmen my dad served with at Grafton Underwood in the late summer and early fall of 1944 and how mysterious old photos can have amazing significance more than seventy years after they were taken.

And one more thing since we’re on the subject of misidentified B-17’s. The ship that Dad talked about in every war story he told me, Tremblin’ Gremlin? He only flew one mission on that one, his very first. The exact name of 42-37982 is in question if you take a look at the nose art. I have never seen the name written as anything other than with the spelling Tremblin’ with the apostrophe at the end. But the nose art was painted with the spelling Trembling.

B-17G 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin

Sorry, but I can’t have all my illusions about my dad’s planes’ names blown away at once. The guy who painted that nose art obviously made a mistake. She’ll always be the Tremblin’ Gremlin to me.

Continued next week…

…and then I’ll continue the story of Jack Coleman Cook and Edward Field in a few weeks after a little more research.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

October 21, 1944 Telegram Form

Twenty-three days after the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, a Telegram Form dated October 21, 1944 reported the fate of one more of the crew from the two planes, and provided the identification of four of the previously unidentified.   It reported “one more dead has been found:  Byron L. Atkins.”  The newly identified men were identified as:

  • John Buslee (identified on the form as Jon Busslee)
  • David F. Albrecht
  • Lloyd Vevle (identified on the form as LLoyd Ovevle)
  • Lenard Bryant (identified on the form as Lenhard J. Eyret)

Atkins and Vevle were from the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.  Buslee, Albrecht, and Bryant were from the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana.  Atkins was probably located away from both crash sites as he was carried away with the nose of the Lazy Daisy during the initial impact of the collision.

In determination of the fate of the two crews, eighteen total men, this report updates the count to fourteen (14) recovered dead, with twelve (12) identified, and four (4) P.O.W.s.

MACR9753 does not include any more Telegram Forms or Reports of Captured Aircraft and does not provide any information on the identifications of Sebastiano Joseph Peluso aboard Lead Banana or James Joseph Brodie aboard Lazy Daisy.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee    Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht    Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant    Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)    Reported P.O.W. on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle     Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.    Reported P.O.W. on October 6, 1944 Report on Captured Aircraft
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins     Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form

The October 21 Telegram Form notes also:

  • Time:  0925
  • From:  L L E N
  • Remarks:  SSD L B K M 157     19 Oct.44   -1740-

This information can be found on pages 18 of MACR9753.  MACR stands for Missing Air Crew Report.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

October 6, 1944 Report on Captured Aircraft

Eight days after the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, a Report on Captured Aircraft dated October 6, 1944 reported the fate of one more of the crew from the two planes.  It reported an additional prisoner of war.  The prisoner was identified as George Hawkins.  Hawkins was from the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.

In determination of the fate of the two crews, eighteen total men, this report updates the count to thirteen (13) recovered dead, with only seven (7) identified, and four (4) P.O.W.s.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)    Reported P.O.W. on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.    Reported P.O.W. on October 6, 1944 Report on Captured Aircraft
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form

This information can be found on page 14 of MACR9753.  MACR stands for Missing Air Crew Report.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

October 5, 1944 File Notice

One week after the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, a File Notice dated October 5, 1944 reported the death of four men.  One of them, Robert D. Crumpton, had previously been reported dead on the September 30, 1944 Telegram Form.  Another, Gerald Andersen, had previously been reported dead on the October 1, 1944 Telegram Form.  The other two were identified by Identification and Ration cards from September 23, 1944, 545 Sqd., 384 Group:

  • Sgt. Robert W. Wagner, 32381177
  • T/Sgt. James E. Flynn, 16126771

The only problem with this identification, though, was that neither Wagner nor Flynn were aboard the Lazy Daisy or Lead Banana on September 28, 1944.  Neither one flew that day at all.  Wagner was an Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the 545th at the time, but missed that day’s mission.  Flynn was a Radio Operator/Gunner with the 545th, but had completed his tour in May 1944 and returned home.

For a time, it seems that this mis-identification probably added to the confusion of determining the fate of the men on board.

In determination of the fate of the two crews, eighteen total men, this report does not change any information previously reported except to add the names of two men who were not involved in the mid-air collision.  The actual count remains at thirteen (13) recovered dead, with only seven (7) identified, and three (3) P.O.W.s.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)    Reported P.O.W. on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form

This information can be found on pages 17 and 19 of MACR9753.  MACR stands for Missing Air Crew Report.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

October 4, 1944 Telegram Form

Six days after the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, a Telegram Form dated October 4, 1944 reported the fate of two more of the crew from the two planes.  It reported two additional prisoners of war.  The two were identified as:

  • Wilfred F. Miller (incorrectly identified on the report as Wilfred Z. Miller)
  • Harry A. Liniger (incorrectly identified on the report as Harry A. Lininger)

Miller and Liniger were both from the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.

In determination of the fate of the two crews, eighteen total men, this report updates the count to thirteen (13) recovered dead, with only seven (7) identified, and three (3) P.O.W.s.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)    Reported P.O.W. on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form

An October 6, 1944 Captured Aircraft Report conveys the same information.

The October 4 Telegram Form notes also:

  • Time:  1140
  • From:  L S E B
  • Through:  Frank
  • Remarks:  SSD L B K M 18     3 Oct.44   -1815-

This information can be found on pages 14 and 15 of MACR9753.  MACR stands for Missing Air Crew Report.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014