The Arrowhead Club

Category Archives: #201, 9/28/1944

The Boys

On September 28, 1944, the Lead Banana, manned by the Buslee crew, and the Lazy Daisy, manned by the Brodie crew collided after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Neither crew of the 384th Bomb Group was the original crew as assigned.

That day, the Buslee crew was made up of five original crew members and four fill-ins. The Brodie crew was made up of seven original members and two fill-ins.

These are the two crews as they were that day:

The Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana, 544th Bomb Squad

PILOT John Oliver Buslee, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

John Oliver Buslee

CO-PILOT David Franklin Albrecht, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

David Franklin Albrecht

NAVIGATOR William Alvin Henson II, Gerald Sammons crew, KIA 9/28/1944

William Alvin Henson II

BOMBARDIER Robert Sumner Stearns, Larkin Durden crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

RADIO OPERATOR Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Lenard Leroy Bryant, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Lenard Leroy Bryant

BALL TURRET GUNNER George Francis McMann, Jr., Stanley Gilbert crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

TAIL GUNNER Gerald Lee Andersen, Joe Ross Carnes crew, KIA 9/28/1944

Gerald Lee Andersen

FLEXIBLE GUNNER George Edwin Farrar, original Buslee crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

George Edwin Farrar

 

The Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy, 545th Bomb Squad

PILOT James Joseph Brodie, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

James Joseph Brodie

CO-PILOT Lloyd Oliver Vevle, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Lloyd Oliver Vevlve

NAVIGATOR George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., original Brodie crew member, POW Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (served Stalag 9-C)

No photo available

TOGGLIER Byron Leverne Atkins, James Chadwick crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

RADIO OPERATOR Donald William Dooley, from Group Headquarters, KIA 9/28/1944

Donald William Dooley

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Robert Doyle Crumpton, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Robert Doyle Crumpton

BALL TURRET GUNNER Gordon Eugene Hetu, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

TAIL GUNNER Wilfred Frank Miller, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

No photo available

FLEXIBLE GUNNER Harry Allen Liniger, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

Harry Allen Liniger

Fourteen out of the eighteen boys aboard the two B-17’s were lost that day. Not only did they leave behind grieving parents and siblings, but they also left behind at least five wives and three children.

I have connected with many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews of these boys. If I have not connected with you yet, and you are related to any of them, please comment or e-mail me. If anyone can provide pictures of those I don’t have yet, that would be greatly appreciated. They all deserve to be honored for their service and their fight for our freedom.

Sortie reports provided by the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Robert McKinley Mitchell

I recently had the pleasure of talking with Robert “Bob” Mitchell on the phone. Bob served on two missions in WWII with my dad, George Edwin Farrar of the Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group, and I hoped Bob remembered my dad. Bob did not remember my dad specifically, but he did tell me an interesting story involving the Buslee crew, which I’ll get to in a minute. Until then, I’d like to share with you what I have learned about – and from – Bob Mitchell.

Robert “Bob” McKinley Mitchell, Jr. was born November 21, 1921 to Robert McKinley and Vadie Olivia Stewart Mitchell of Sheffield, Colbert County, Alabama. Sheffield is a small town in northern Alabama between Muscle Shoals and the Tennessee River.

In 1930, the Mitchell family lived at 1209 Atlanta Avenue in Sheffield. Robert’s father was a clerk at the post office, while Robert’s mother was busy raising four children. Robert was the oldest at eight, followed by Muriel at five, Opal at four, and Ruth at two.

In 1940, the Mitchell family still resided at 1209 Atlanta Avenue. Robert’s father was still with the post office, and his mother was now employed as a florist. The family had grown by three more children, and the brood now consisted two boys and five girls: Robert (18), Muriel (15), Opal (14), Ruth (12), Shirley (9), Elizabeth (5), and Thomas (1).

Bob and his high school sweetheart, Joyce Willette Lowe, were married March 21, 1942 in Colbert County, Alabama. Willette was named for her father, William. Bob and Willette knew Bob would be going off to war and decided that they wanted to be married before he left. For a time, Willette worked for the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).

Bob enlisted in the Army Air Forces on September 8, 1942 at Fort McClellan, Alabama. His enlistment record listed his civilian occupation as a “semiskilled inter-industry metal working occupation.”

Bob’s Army Air Forces training included aircraft maintenance training on T38 and T40 turboprop engines at Craig Field, Alabama, instructing aircraft maintenance in Texas, gunnery school at Kendall Field in Florida, and final B-17 bomber crew training in Louisiana.

Bob was assigned to the Frank L. Allred crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #107 dated June 8, 1944. The 384th Bomb Group was stationed in Grafton Underwood, England. Bob’s MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) was 748 – Army Airplane Mechanic/Gunner, Flight Engineer. During crew training, one of the enlisted crew needed to be assigned to the ball turret and Bob volunteered to man what is considered the most dangerous position in a B-17.

Standing L-R: Gerald B. Sammons (AC), Frank L. Allred (P), Donald L. Ward (B), Timothy J. O’Sullivan (N), Richard E. Rafeld (TG) Kneeling L-R: Robert M. Mitchell (BT), Forrest J. Bemis (ENG/TT), Eldon B. Drury (RO), Carl H. Redcay (FG) Crew identification provided by Robert M. Mitchell, 2 September 2014.

Standing L-R: Gerald B. Sammons (AC), Frank L. Allred (P), Donald L. Ward (B), Timothy J. O’Sullivan (N), Richard E. Rafeld (TG)
Kneeling L-R: Robert M. Mitchell (BT), Forrest J. Bemis (ENG/TT), Eldon B. Drury (RO), Carl H. Redcay (FG)
Crew identification provided by Robert M. Mitchell, 2 September 2014.

The Allred crew and Bob’s first mission was the 384th Bomb Group’s Mission 136 on June 15, 1944. The target was a railroad viaduct in La Possonnièrre, France. The objective of the mission was to cut one of the enemy troop’s main supply routes. The mission was successful, and the Allred crew aboard Hotnuts returned safely to Grafton Underwood.

In all, Bob Mitchell completed 35 missions over France and Germany, but the 384th’s Mission 170 on August 3, 1944 was the closest call for the Allred crew. The 384th’s targets were NOBALL V-1 launch sites in Fleury, Flers, and Fiefs, France. NOBALL was the allied code name given to the manufacturing, storage and launching facilities of the German V-1 Flying Bomb and the V-2 Rocket.

There were three formations that mission – “H”, “I”, and “J” groups. The “H” group hit their target at Fleury and the “I” group hit theirs at Flers. The “J” group, of which the Allred crew was part, was unable to bomb their target at Fiefs due to the weather.

As a result, the Allred crew aboard Devil’s Brat had to return to base with battle damage and a full load of bombs. According to Bob Mitchell, not only did they still have their bombs on board, but the plane caught fire. They crash landed at RAF Chailey, East Sussex just after they crossed the English Channel, still 140 miles from Grafton Underwood.

All of the crew got out of the plane before the bombs exploded and all were uninjured except for the engineer/top turret gunner, Raymon L. Noble, who cut his arm on one of the props. Noble didn’t fly another mission for over a month.

Bob Mitchell’s thirty-fifth and final mission with the 384th Bomb Group was Mission 201 on September 28, 1944 to a steel manufacturing plant in Magdeburg, Germany. He was scheduled to fly with the Buslee crew that day. He had just filled in for the Buslee crew’s ball turret gunner the day before, September 27, on Mission 200.

Bob had requested to fly with friends from the Allred crew, Raymon L. Noble and Carl H. Redcay, for his last mission, but it didn’t look like his request was going to be honored. September 28 was also Redcay’s thirty-fifth and last mission, but Noble still had one more mission to go.

Bob was aboard Lead Banana ready to go with the Buslee crew when a jeep pulled up to the plane. The driver let one man out of the jeep and told Bob to get in. At the last minute, his request had been granted and he was driven over to Lorraine to fly with his Allred crewmates on his final flight. The September 28 mission to Magdeburg was the mission where the Brodie crew in Lazy Daisy collided with the Buslee crew in Lead Banana.

My interest in Mission 201 stems from the fact that my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was the only survivor aboard Lead Banana. Only three men aboard Lazy Daisy survived. I continue to look for information and theories about the mid-air collision. New information from Bob gave me another perspective on the accident.

Lorraine was to the left of Lead Banana in the formation. Coming off the target at Magdeburg, Bob was still in position in the ball turret of Lorraine, looking out the ball turret’s window, thinking about the fellow in the other ball turret. As he watched the fellow in the ball turret of Lead Banana, he saw the collision occur. He saw the ball turret of Lead Banana knocked off the plane and watched as it fell away.

After witnessing the horrific event, Bob understood the significance of his reassignment from Lead Banana to Lorraine that day. With Bob’s thirty-fifth and last mission with the 384th Bomb Group complete, he was able to return home to his wife, Willette.

When he returned to the states, even though he had completed thirty-five missions with the 384th, his WWII service was not complete. He went back into training to fly missions in the Japanese theater. Fortunately, before it was time for him to ship out, WWII ended and so did his military service. Bob’s WWII decorations included the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster, and the European Theater Medal with Five Bronze Stars.

One of Bob’s favorite post-war memories was meeting aviator Charles Lindbergh. Lindbergh was the speaker at an event Willette was involved with. Bob introduced himself and told Lindbergh that as a child in Sheffield, Alabama, Bob had been the recipient of some candy thrown by Lindbergh out of an airplane. Lindbergh remembered the flight, and he and Bob enjoyed several hours of conversation at the event.

Robert McKinley “Bob” Mitchell, Jr. died last week, May 12, 2015. He was 93 years old. When I talked to him in April, I could hear the pride he had in his service with the 384th and the love he had for Willette, his wife of seventy-three years. For Bob, the war is over. Rest in peace Robert Mitchell.

Robert McKinley Mitchell Signs the 384th Bomb Group Wing Panel January 2014

Robert McKinley Mitchell Signs the 384th Bomb Group Wing Panel
January 2014

Robert McKinley Mitchell, Jr. is buried in the Oakwood Cemetery in his native Sheffield, Alabama.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

 

 

 

 

 

Propwash?

I recently found a handwritten report from the September 28, 1944 Mission 201 that I had not seen before.  It was written by co-pilot Ronald H. Froebel.  He was on the crew flying lead that day, which put him in the tail gunner position, presumably for observation purposes.  I am told that this was a common practice – placing a co-pilot in the tail gunner position – on lead crews.  The crew that day was made up of Commander Horace E. Frink, pilot L.K. Davis, Jr., three navigators, a bombardier, a radio operator, an engineer/top turret gunner, a waist gunner, and Froebel.

In the tail, Froebel would have a birds-eye view of the mid-air collision between the Brodie crew in Lazy Daisy and the Buslee crew in Lead Banana.  After returning from the mission Froebel wrote:

No. 3 ship in the High Element (Green) was almost constantly lagging behind his respective position in the formation.  No. 4 in Low Element flew a good lead most of the time but flew his position lower than he should have.

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.  On the whole the formation looked fairly decent throughout the trip until we were hit and had to leave the formation.

Lt. Ronald H. Froebel, Tail Gunner, Lead Ship

Screaming Eagle, with Ronald H. Froebel and the Frink crew on board, was hit by flak.  The ship was damaged seriously enough to necessitate landing away in Brussels.

Froebel’s report is the only explanation I have read that points to prop wash as a factor in the mid-air collision.  Lead Banana is the plane that broke in half at the ball turret.  My father, George Edwin Farrar was just behind the ball turret in the waist gunner position.  He was knocked unconscious and must have fallen through the break in the fuselage.  He was fortunate to come to at 5,000 feet, in time to pull the D-ring on his chute before losing consciousness again.

Below is a document from September 28, 1944 showing the 41st “C” Combat Wing.  The document illustrates where  all the crews should have been in the formation.  The Buslee and Brodie crews are in the High Group.

DSCN4649
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

 

George M. Hawkins, Jr. – September 28, 1944

George M. Hawkins, Jr. (Navigator), Wilfred F. Miller (Tail Gunner), and Harry A. Liniger (Waist Gunner) who were aboard the Lazy Daisy all survived the mid-air collision with the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944.  Hawkins wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in 1945.  His account, as follows, is included in MACR9366:

Following “Bombs away” at our target over Magdeburg, Germany, our B17-G and another ship in our formation collided.  At the time of the accident our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage.  As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.

At the time of the collision, the front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner, S/Sgt Byron L. Atkins.  The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin.  I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.

Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute.  Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later.  However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.

Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me.  It was then in a flat spin, burning.  It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below.  When I next saw the ship it was on the ground.  While floating downward, I saw one other chute below me.

I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg.  The plane landed within two or three miles of me.  Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller.  Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship.  At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.

To the best of my knowledge, All other five members of the crew were at their positions on the plane and failed to leave the ship.  All were uninjured up till the time of the collision.

In the Casualty Questionnaire section of MACR9366, Hawkins adds that Miller, the tail gunner, rode the tail down some distance following an explosion which severed the tail from the ship.  Miller later bailed out of the tail section.  Also, in the Casualty Questionnaire section, Wilfred Miller adds that he heard through Hawkins that the wing of the other plane knocked Atkins out the nose without his chute.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

George Edwin Farrar – September 28, 1944

George Edwin Farrar, my dad, and the only survivor on the Lead Banana in the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944, wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in late 1945.  His account, as follows, is included in MACR9753:

Am very sorry I can’t give more information, but our ship was hit by another B-17 from our group.  The other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to.  At the time we were struck I was knocked unconscious, and fell about 25,000 feet, before I knew I was even out of the ship.  Never saw any of the other boys.  I received a little rough treatment from the Germans when I hit the ground, and was unable to tell where I was.

Any information you can find out about the boys I would appreciate hearing very much.

Please pardon this not being typed, but am out of my town, and have tried, with no luck to obtain one (typewriter), but can’t.

May you have luck on the mission of finding what did happen to the boys.

George E. Farrar

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Donald W. Bean Crew – September 28, 1944

The Donald W. “Beano” Bean crew commanded by Maurice A. Booska was the Low Group Lead on September 28, 1944 and was aboard aircraft 43-38542.  See Sortie Report.

In MACR9366, Missing Air Crew Report 9366, several members of the Bean crew are listed as witnesses to the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana:  Maurice A. Booska (Commander), Henry P. Nastick (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Delmar R. Casper (Ball Turret Gunner), and Omar L. Gordon, Jr. (Waist Gunner).

In MACR9366, the Bean crew described enemy opposition as “No enemy Aircraft,” and “Moderate and accurate flak at the target.”

Their description to the extent of damage to the Lazy Daisy was “Aircraft broke up near tail assembly and went down in flames.”

In response to “If aircraft was out of control describe appearance,” they wrote, “Aircraft was burning and slowly spiraling down until it disappeared in the clouds.”

And their response to “Number of parachutes seen” was “None.”

Note:

  1. The Bean crew names were not all listed properly on MACR9366.  Henry Nastick’s name was listed as Henry Nastrick.
  2. September 28, 1944 was the first flight for aircraft 43-38542.  It was credited with 22 combat missions.  It crashed on landing at Grafton Underwood on November 30, 1944 when it “landed with wheels up due to confusion in the cockpit during final approach” as noted on the Sortie Report.  After repairs, 43-38542’s next flight was on January 20, 1945 (Sortie Report).  On that mission, during the return to base in a heavy snowstorm, engine #4 was lost, and possibly engine #3, due to ice accumulation.  It crash landed killing the navigator and togglier, and seriously wounding the remainder of the crew.
  3. See Aircraft 43-38542 November 30, 1944 Accident Report 44-11-30-510 for more details of the landing accident.
  4. Aircraft 43-38542 January 20, 1945 Accident Report 45-01-20-527 for more details of the crash.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

William F. Combs Crew – September 28, 1944

As on the Sortie Report for the Blankenmeyer crew on September 28, 1944, the Sortie Report for the William F. Combs crew aboard aircraft 42-102661, Big Dog, also notes “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.”  The Combs crew also was attempting to learn the fate of the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana and the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.

In MACR9753, Missing Air Crew Report 9753, several members of the Combs crew are listed as witnesses to the collision:  William F. Combs (Pilot), Merlin L. Flower (Waist Gunner), Raymond Ciaccio (Ball Turret Gunner), and John S. Fadda (Tail Gunner).

In MACR9753, the Combs crew described enemy opposition as “No enemy Aircraft,” and “Moderate-accurate flak at the target.”

Their description to the extent of damage to the Lead Banana was “Pieces of tail and wings falling off.  Plane in flames from engines.”

In response to “If aircraft was out of control describe appearance,” they wrote, “Going down in flames spinning into the clouds.”

And their response to “Number of parachutes seen” was “None.”

Note:  The Combs crew names were not all listed properly on MACR9753.  Merlin Flower was listed as Merlin Flowers, Raymond Ciaccio was listed as Raymond Cesccio, and John Fadda was listed correctly on one page, but as John Gadda on another.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Chester Rybarczyk – September 28, 1944

According to the Sortie Report, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg on September 28, 1944, aircraft 42-39888, known as Hot Nuts, “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.”  Flying on Hot Nuts was the William J. Blankenmeyer crew.  Robert H. Obermeyer was the regular navigator for the Blankenmeyer crew, but for some reason, he did not fly on the September 28 mission.

On September 28, Obermeyer was replaced as navigator by Chester A. Rybarczyk, who usually flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew.  It was through this action that Rybarczyk was not on the Lead Banana with the Buslee crew that day, and instead of being a part of the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy, was a witness to it instead.

Undoubtedly, the crew aboard Hot Nuts left formation in an attempt to determine the fate of the crews of the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, especially the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana, as Chester Rybarczyk was normally a part of that crew and could have been on that plane if he had not replaced Obermeyer on the Blankenmeyer crew.

Chester Rybarczyk later wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s family, and probably to the families of the other boys in his crew, giving them hope that the boys survived the collision.  Rybarczyk was limited in what information he could divulge, but what he did write contradicted official witness reports in MACR9753, Missing Air Crew Report 9753.

I will publish Rybarczyk’s complete letter dated October 12, 1944 in a future post.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

The diagram shows the combat position of each Brodie crewmember on Mission 201 on September 28, 1944.  Only one crewmember manned both waist gunner positions on this mission.  If they were all still in position after coming off the target at Magdeburg, the diagram shows where each man would have been at the time of the mid-air collision with the Lead Banana.

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
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger

The only survivors of the mid-air collision this day with the Lead Banana were the waist gunner, Harry Allen Liniger, the navigator, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., and the tail gunner, Wilfred Frank Miller.

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

The diagram shows the combat position of each Buslee crewmember on Mission 201 on September 28, 1944.  Only one crewmember manned both waist gunner positions on this mission.  If they were all still in position after coming off the target at Magdeburg, the diagram shows where each man would have been at the time of the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy.

Buslee Crew List:

  • 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 only survivor of the mid-air collision this day with the Lazy Daisy was the waist gunner, George Edwin Farrar.

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013