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Airmen of the Buslee and Brodie Crews of the 384th Bomb Group

I have been writing about the men of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII for many years, particularly those airmen who served on the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bomber group based in Grafton Underwood, England during the war.

My connection with these two crews is my father, George Edwin Farrar, who was a waist gunner on the Buslee crew.

Both the Buslee and Brodie crew departed the states from their final combat crew training in Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time. Both crews were assigned to the 384th Bomb Group within days of each other.

On 28 September 1944, the Buslee and Brodie crews participated in the 384th’s Mission 201 (which was the 8th Air Force’s numbered Mission 652).

On the mission, coming off the bomb run on the target, the B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy, piloted by James Joseph Brodie, collided with the unnamed B-17 43-37822 piloted by John Oliver Buslee with my father manning the machine guns in the waist.

All aboard Buslee’s aircraft were killed in the collision, ensuing explosion, and crash except for my father, the sole survivor of his fortress. Eight of my father’s bomber brothers perished on this one B-17 on this one day.

Three men survived aboard Brodie’s aircraft, and the remaining six perished, a total of fourteen killed in the collision of the two aircraft.

I have been researching the lives of these airmen for many years and am about to embark on another search for new information on each, so I thought it was time to recap what I have already learned and share links of what I have previously written about them.

Keep in mind, there are more than eighteen men (the number of airmen that made up the two crews on 28 September 1944) involved in this story. Each crew was originally made up of ten men, although neither crew ever flew missions with all ten aboard. All of their missions were flown with a crew of nine containing only one waist gunner instead of two, a change from earlier in the war.

And neither crew flew as all original members on every mission. Substitutes were more common on missions for the Buslee crew, but both crews flew with substitute airmen on the fatal mission of 28 September 1944. My histories of the men of the Buslee and Brodie crews include both original members and those who were substituting for them on that final mission.

Including original crew members and substitute crew members on 28 September 1944 for both crews, plus two key witnesses to the collision, the number of airmen whose family history I research is twenty-nine, thirty including Lloyd Vevle’s twin brother, Floyd.

In the list below, I’m listing all of the airmen by position in the B-17 and noting who were original crew members, who were crew substitutions, and who were key witnesses to the mid-air collision. I’m also including very brief biographical information (birth, death, and burial data), links to each airman’s personnel record on the 384th Bomb Group’s website, and links to histories I’ve previously written about them.

This post will also be available as a permanent page which will be updated with additional links to posts of any new findings from my research.


The Pilots

John Oliver Buslee, pilot of the 544th Bomb Squadron

James Joseph Brodie, pilot of the 545th Bomb Squadron

  • Born 14 November 1917
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 26
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot J, Row 13, Grave 4
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • James Joseph Brodie

The Co-pilots

David Franklin Albrecht, assigned Buslee crew co-pilot

  • Born 1 March 1922
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 22
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot C, Row 2, Grave 11
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • David Franklin Albrecht

Lloyd Oliver Vevle, assigned Brodie crew co-pilot

  • Born 9 December 1922
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 21
  • Buried Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, Neuville-en-Condroz, Arrondissement de Liège, Liège, Belgium, Plot C, Row 37, Grave 20
  • Lloyd’s twin brother Floyd Martin Vevle (Born 9 December 1922 – Died 14 January 1945, age 22) of the 390th Bomb Group is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at  the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Floyd Martin Vevle
  • The Vevle Twins

The Navigators

Chester Anthony Rybarczyk, assigned Buslee crew navigator

William Alvin Henson II, Sammons crew navigator, but navigator of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., assigned Brodie crew navigator

The Bombardiers

Marvin Fryden, assigned Buslee crew bombardier

James Buford Davis, Jung crew bombardier & Buslee crew replacement bombardier after Fryden’s death

Robert Sumner Stearns, Durdin crew bombardier, but bombardier of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

  • Born 25 August 1923
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 21
  • Buried Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, San Mateo County, California, USA, Section B, Site 302
  • Memorial marker at Family/Home Cemetery at Juniper Haven Cemetery, Prineville, Crook County, Oregon, USA
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Robert Sumner Stearns

William Douglas Barnes, Jr., assigned Brodie crew bombardier

Byron Leverne Atkins, Chadwick crew flexible (waist) gunner, but togglier of the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944

The Radio Operators/Gunners

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, assigned Buslee crew radio operator

William Edson Taylor, assigned Brodie crew radio operator

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

The Engineers/Top Turret Gunners

Clarence Burdell Seeley, assigned Buslee crew engineer

Robert Doyle Crumpton, assigned Brodie crew engineer

  • Born 26 July 1920
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 24
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot E, Row 19, Grave 22
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Robert Doyle Crumpton

The Ball Turret Gunners

Erwin Vernon Foster, assigned Buslee crew ball turret gunner

George Francis McMann, Jr., Gilbert crew ball turret gunner, but ball turret gunner of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

  • Born 26 September 1924
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 20, two days past his 20th birthday
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot N, Row 22, Grave 4
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • George Francis McMann, Jr.

Gordon Eugene Hetu, assigned Brodie crew ball turret gunner

  • Born 26 September 1925
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 19, two days past his 19th birthday
  • Buried Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Novi, Oakland County, Michigan, USA
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Gordon Eugene Hetu

The Tail Gunners

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, assigned Buslee crew tail gunner

  • Born 22 December 1919
  • Died 14 April 1981, age 61
  • Burial information unknown, but parents (Gustave and Dominica Lucynski) are buried All Saints Church Cemetery, Flint, Genesee County, Michigan, USA
  • Also known as Eugene D. or Dan Lucyn
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Eugene D. Lucynski

Gerald Lee Andersen, Carnes crew tail gunner, but tail gunner of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

Wilfred Frank Miller, assigned Brodie crew tail gunner

The Flexible (Waist) Gunners

Lenard Leroy Bryant, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner, reassigned to top turret gunner after 5 August 1944 mission

George Edwin Farrar, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner

Leonard Wood Opie, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

Harry Allen Liniger, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

Witnesses to the 28 September 1944 Mid-air Collision

Wallace Arnold Storey, Gross crew co-pilot

Robert McKinley Mitchell, Jr., Allred crew ball turret gunner

Thank you to Fred Preller, webmaster of 384thBombGroup.com, and his volunteer researchers for providing and sharing information of the Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Marilyn Fryden’s Letter and Photos Sixty Years Later

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

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

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

2nd Lt. Frank D. Furiga

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notes/Discrepancies Explained

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

John Buslee’s Ring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Ring – Letter of January 21, 1948

The Ring – Letter of January 28, 1948

The Ring – Letter of February 20, 1948

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

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

The Ring – Letter of March 11, 1948

The Ring – Letter of March 16, 1948

The Ring – Letter of March 26, 1948

The Ring – Letter of April 12, 1948

The Ring – Letter of April 17, 1948

The Ring – Letter of August 25, 1948

The Ring – Letter Undated

The Ring – Letter of September 23, 1948

The Ring – Letter of December 4, 1948

The Ring – Letter of December 26, 1948

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

I previously wrote about the special orders, Special Orders 86, for the John Oliver Buslee crew (Crew #4679) of the 384th Bomb Group (of which my dad was waist gunner). The orders, dated 23 JUNE 1944, released the airmen from their combat crew training assignment and duty at the 222nd Combat Crew Training School (H) at the Ardmore Army Air Field and transferred them to AAB, Kearney, Nebraska, the next leg of their journey to their permanent duty station in England.

Special Orders #86, Buslee crew

The James Joseph Brodie crew (Crew #4659) was assigned on the same special orders, on page 4 of the same document.

Special Orders #86, Brodie crew

I had a chance recently to review those orders and pull some more information from them, specifically (at time of the orders),

  • Assigned occupation in the B-17 and MOS (Military Operational Specialty)/Job Assignment number
  • Rank
  • Whether Married or Single (Married status was indicated by the * preceding their rank in the list)

The MOS (Military Operation Specialties)/Job Assignments, of which there were many in the United States Military, of the Buslee and Brodie crews at the time of these Special Orders were limited to these:

  • 1022 Pilot – Twin Engine (A-20, B-25, B-26, etc)
  • 1024 Pilot – Four Engine (Usually Transport Pilots)
  • 1034 Bombardier
  • 1035 Navigator
  • 748 Aerial Engineer Gunner, specifically Top Turret Gunner/Flight Engineer. Earlier, 748 was Airplane Mechanic Gunner, but the MOS changed when TM 12-427 (see Sources below) was updated/revised.
  • 757 Radio Operator/Mechanic/Gunner, the radio operator who could man a weapon and perform some basic repairs in flight as well as basic maintenance tasks.
  • 611 Aerial Gunner (Waist, Ball & Tail), a general classification for aerial gunner. That indicates the service member did not have additional formal school training on a specialty like RO (radio operator) or flight engineer.  Typically WG (waist gunners) and BT (ball turret gunners) are listed as assistant armorers, flight engineers or radio operators.  They are the fill-in guy to attempt to fulfill one of those jobs if needed.
  • 612 Armorer Gunner (Togglier), an Airplane Armorer Gunner.  He performs basic maintenance and repairs on various weapons-related equipment.  A togglier could be a guy – someone who isn’t busy with constant duties, performing a specific role on the bomb run (to toggle the switch to release the bombs at the same time as the lead bombardier), and someone who can get back to another position quickly.

Specific details in the above list were provided by 384th Bomb Group Historian John Edwards.

* * * * *

From the crew lists on Special Orders 86, I can produce a “Who’s Who” for the Buslee and Brodie crews at the time of those orders.

P – Pilot, classified as MOS 1024 Pilot – Four Engine (Usually Transport Pilots), but later, according to 384th Bomb Group records, re-classified as MOS 1091, Pilot, B-17

  • 2nd Lt. John O. Buslee, SN O-764209, marital status Single
  • 2nd Lt. James J. Brodie, SN O-1012186, marital status Married

CP – Co-pilot, classified as MOS 1022 Pilot – Twin Engine (A-20, B-25, B-26, etc), but later, according to 384th Bomb Group records, re-classified as MOS 1091, Pilot, B-17

  • [Buslee crew] 2nd Lt. David F. Albrecht, SN O-767423, marital status Married
  • [Brodie crew] 2nd Lt. Lloyd O. Vevle, SN O-768760, marital status Single

N – Navigator, classified as MOS 1035 Navigator

  • [Buslee crew] 2nd Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk, SN O-0720014, marital status Single
  • [Brodie crew] 2nd Lt. George M. Hawkins, Jr., SN O-719944, marital status Single

B – Bombardier, classified as MOS 1034 Bombardier

  • [Buslee crew] 1st Lt. Marvin [NMI] Fryden, SN O-731492, marital status Married
  • [Brodie crew] 2nd Lt. William D. Barnes, Jr., SN O-768921, marital status Single

Marvin Fryden was a stateside instructor in the Army Air Forces before joining a combat crew, likely explaining why his rank was greater than the other officers of the two crews at the time of these orders.

AEG – Army Airplane Mechanic/Gunner, Flight Engineer (Top Turret Gunner/Flight Engineer), classified as MOS 748 Aerial Engineer Gunner

  • [Buslee crew] Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, SN 39270874, marital status Single
  • [Brodie crew] S/Sgt. Robert D. Crumpton, SN 19056991, marital status Single

ROG – Radio Operator/Mechanic/Gunner, AAF, classified as MOS 757 Radio Operator/Mechanic/Gunner

  • [Buslee crew] Sgt. Sebastiano J. Peluso, SN 12182596, marital status Single
  • [Brodie crew] Sgt. William E. Taylor, SN 16115332, marital status Single

AAEG – Assistant Aerial Engineer Gunner (Assistant Flight Engineer/Gunner), classified as MOS 611 Aerial Gunner (Waist, Ball & Tail)

  • [Buslee crew] Cpl. Lenard L. Bryant, SN 38344446, one of the crew’s two waist gunners, marital status Married (although not indicated on SO 86)
  • [Brodie crew] Cpl. Leonard W. Opie, SN 36431961, one of the crew’s two waist gunners, marital status Single

Lenard Bryant later became the Buslee crew’s top turret gunner after Clarence Seeley was seriously injured.

GUN – Airplane Armorer/Gunner (classified as a 612 MOS) or Aerial Gunner (classified as a 611 MOS)

  • [Buslee crew] S/Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, SN 36507488, the crew’s tail gunner, classified as MOS 612 Airplane Armorer/Gunner, marital status Single
  • [Brodie crew] Cpl. Gordon E. Hetu, SN 16189148, the crew’s ball turret gunner, classified as MOS 611 Aerial Gunner, marital status Single

AG – Aerial Gunner (Waist, Ball & Tail), classified as a basic 611 MOS

  • [Buslee crew] Cpl. Erwin V. Foster, SN 32588280, the crew’s ball turret gunner, marital status Single
  • [Brodie crew] Cpl. Harry A. Liniger, SN 34670187, one of the crew’s two waist gunners, marital status Single

AAG – Airplane Armorer/Gunner (classified as a 612 MOS) or Aerial Gunner (classified as a 611 MOS)

  • [Buslee crew] Sgt. George E. Farrar, SN 14119873, one of the crew’s two waist gunners, classified as MOS 612 Airplane Armorer/Gunner, marital status Single
  • [Brodie crew] Cpl. Wilfred F. Miller, SN 36834864, the crew’s tail gunner, classified as MOS 611 Aerial Gunner, marital status Single

George Farrar was a stateside instructor in the Army Air Forces before joining a combat crew (with his last assignment as an instructor at Ardmore Army Air Field), likely explaining why his rank was Sgt. at the time of these orders.

Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski was assigned on the same Combat Crew Detachment Orders Number 52 as George Farrar, possibly indicating that he also held a position (maybe also instructor) at Ardmore, and possibly explaining why he held the rank of S/Sgt. at the time of these orders.

In some cases, the makeup of the airmen assigned to a bomber crew changed before the crew reached the final destination of its overseas duty station. For instance, if one of the airmen became ill en route, he might be left behind while the remainder of the crew continued on with a replacement assigned in his stead. In this case, both the Buslee and Brodie crews arrived intact, as assigned on Special Orders 86, at the 384th Bomb Group’s Station #106 in the English midlands village of Grafton Underwood, and began flying missions as assigned in Special Orders 86.

Notes

[NMI] indicates No Middle Initial in name.

After discovering that Lenard Bryant’s marital status was incorrect on the SO, I realize that I need to review the marital status of the other airmen on these two crews, but will do so at a later date.

Sources

303rd Bomb Group website

384th Bomb Group Historian John Edwards, referencing “TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel” dated 12 JULY 1944.

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

David Franklin Albrecht

David Franklin Albrecht, co-pilot of the Buslee crew, 384th Bomb Group

David Franklink Albrecht was born March 1, 1922 in Litchfield, Sherman County, Nebraska. His parents were Louis Michael Albrecht (1896 – 1969) and Minnie Jane Corder Albrecht (1895 – 1983). Louis’s heritage was German, Russian, and Polish. Louis’s father immigrated to America in 1873 as a child. Minnie’s family immigrated at some point prior to that as her parents were both born in the United States. Louis and Minnie were both born in Iowa.

According to the 1930 Federal census, Louis and Minnie Albrecht and their children lived in Newark Township, Kearney County, Nebraska. Louis, at 33 years old, was a high school teacher. Minnie, at 34, did not work outside the home. Their children were listed as son David F. (born in 1922, 8 years old), son Louis J. (born in 1924, 5 years old), and daughter Minnie M. (born in 1928, 2 years old). All of the children were born in Nebraska.

According to the 1940 Federal census, the Albrecht family lived in Hackberry Precinct, Polk County, Nebraska. The family’s last name was transcribed from the census record as Albracht rather than Albrecht, but the family members were the same, with everyone reported ten years older, but with the addition of another daughter, Lillian Lavon (5 years old and perhaps known as Bunny according to a newspaper article), also born in Nebraska. A middle name of Marie was recorded for daughter Minnie. Louis Sr. was a public school teacher. The 1940 census also noted that the family lived in the same home in 1935.

Although David’s father, Louis Albrecht, was listed in census records as a school teacher, he was identified as Reverend Louis M. Albrecht in the crew’s next-of-kin list and as Pastor of the Congregational Church of Scribner, Nebraska in the letterhead of the letter he sent to my grandmother in June 1945.

David Albrecht enlisted in the Army Air Corps on June 22, 1942. His Army serial number was initially assigned as 15125471, but once he completed pilot training and became an officer, his number changed to O-767423. His enlistment record also noted that his residence county/state was Gage County, Nebraska and he enlisted in Columbus, Ohio.

Although he enlisted on June 22, 1942, he received a deferred date of June 1943, one year from his enlistment. His nativity (the state in which he was born) was noted as Nebraska and the year of his birth as 1922. He had had three years of college as of his enlistment date.

On June 30, 1942, David registered for the draft in Marion, Marion County, Ohio. He listed his place of residence as Courtland, Gage County, Nebraska. He noted he was born on March 1, 1922 in Litchfield, Nebraska. The person he listed as the “person who will always know your address” was Rev. Louis M. Albrecht, Courtland, Nebraska. He listed his employer’s name as F. & Y. Construction Co. at RFD, Marion, Marion County, Ohio.

He listed his height as 5′ 8 1/2″, weight as 146 pounds, with blue eyes, blonde hair, and a light complexion.

David Franklin Albrecht married Patricia Hendrix of Chico, California on December 24, 1943 in Stockton, San Joaquin County, California at the First Congregational Church. She was born on September 20, 1926.

Patricia Hendrix Ross

David Albrecht  was assigned to the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) of the 384th Bombardment Group stationed in Grafton Underwood, England, per Army Air Forces Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944. He flew his first of eighteen missions on August 4, 1944.

On September 28, 1944, David Franklin Albrecht was co-pilot aboard 43-37822 with the Buslee crew when it was involved in a mid-air collision coming off the target at Magdeburg. He was killed in the collision and is buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial at Margraten in the Netherlands in Plot C, Row 2, Grave 11.

On December 8, 1944, Patricia Albrecht gave birth to her and David’s baby girl, still not knowing if her husband was dead or alive. She would not learn of his death until after the first of the next year.

Patricia remarried on April 7, 1947 to Albert Louis Ross in Chico, California and divorced him in March 1968. She died on December 10, 1991 at the age of 65 and is buried in Chico Cemetery, Chico, Butte County, California.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Clarence Burdell Seeley

Clarence Burdell Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner of the John Oliver Buslee Crew
Photo courtesy of grandson Jess Seeley

Clarence Burdell Seeley was born in Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska on December 12, 1921, and grew up in Halsey, Thomas County, Nebraska. His parent were Ferris and Esther M. Rasmussen Seeley. Rather than Clarence, he preferred to go by his middle name, Burdell.

Burdell’s father, Ferris Seeley, was born in Nebraska in 1894. Ferris’s parents, John and Clara Seeley, were born in Iowa (John) and Illinois (Clara).

Burdell’s mother, Esther M. Rasmussen Seeley, was born in Christiansand, Norway in 1898. Her parents, George August and Gunnild Gurine Rasmussen, were both born in Norway. The Rasmussen’s immigrated to the United States in 1903 when Esther was five years old.

Ferris and Esther married on June 18, 1918 in Omaha, Nebraska shortly before Ferris enlisted for WWI service. He enlisted on July 25, 1918 and served in the Balloon Corps during the war. He was released from his military service on January 15, 1919.

I cannot locate a census record for Ferris and Esther Seeley for 1920, but their first son Donald Ferris Seeley was born that year in Omaha.

In 1930, according to the Federal census, the Seeley family lived at 2786 E. Street, Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska, where Ferris Seeley worked as a delivery man in the construction industry. Ferris and Esther had four children – ten year old son Donald Ferris, eight year old son Clarence Burdell, six year old son Harold Floyd, and two months shy of four year old daughter Margaret Gwendolyn. All of the Seeley children were born in Nebraska.

In 1940, according to the Federal census and family records, the Seeley family lived in the village of Halsey in the Natick Precinct of Thomas County, Nebraska. The census record reported that on April 1, 1935, the family still lived in Lincoln, so the move to Halsey occurred after that point. Ferris worked as a “Care of Stock Rancher” on a ranch. Donald was no longer listed as living at home, but Burdell, Harold, and Margaret Gwendolyn were still at home with their parents. Burdell also worked as a “Care of Stock Rancher.”

In 1942, at twenty years old, Burdell was living in San Diego, California and working for Consolidated Air Craft when he registered for the draft on February 15. He listed his mother, Mrs. Esther Seeley of Halsey, Nebraska as the “person who will always know your address.” He listed his height at 5 feet 11 1/2 inches, weight at 167 pounds, and with brown hair, brown eyes, and a ruddy complexion.

Although I cannot find an enlistment record for Burdell in the National Archives under the Serial Number recorded for him in his 384th Bomb Group website’s personnel record (39270874), according to his U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File, he enlisted in the Army on December 22, 1942.

Of course, at the time, the Air Force was part of the Army, so he either signed up for the Army Air Forces or he was designated so because of his aviation employment at Consolidated Air Craft. [Even without finding an actual enlistment record, I believe the December 22 date to be accurate because Burdell’s Social Security Number as indicated on the BIRLS file matches the SSN for him in the Social Security Death Index (both records found on Ancestry.com).]

Burdell’s two brothers also served in WWII. Older brother Donald Ferris Seeley (1920 – 1974) served in the Navy aboard the ammunition ship USS Rainier, and younger brother Harold Floyd Seeley served in the Army in a clerical position.

Clarence B. Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Buslee Crew

At the completion of his military training in the states, Clarence Burdell Seeley became the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew.  After final crew training in Ardmore, Oklahoma, the Buslee crew was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated July 22, 1944. The crew flew heavy bomber missions in B-17s over Germany.  The ten-man crew included:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – Chester A. Rybarczyk
  • Bombardier – Marvin B. Fryden
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Clarence B. Seeley
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Erwin V. Foster
  • Tail Gunner – Eugene D. Lucynski
  • Waist Gunner/Flexible Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Waist Gunner/Flexible Gunner – George Edwin Farrar

Once the Buslee crew of ten reached Grafton Underwood, flight crews had been reduced to only nine men per aircraft and included only one waist gunner rather than two. On the crew’s first mission on August 4, 1944 to Rocket R&D, Crossbow (V-Weapons), Peenemunde, Germany, Jay Buslee co-piloted alongside pilot Arthur Shwery, giving Buslee some combat training. This resulted in co-pilot David Franklin Albrecht flying with the Paul E. Norton crew, and George Edwin Farrar sitting out the mission as Lenard Leroy Bryant had been selected to fly as sole waist gunner on the Buslee crew’s first mission. Clarence Burdell Seeley completed his first mission as Engineer/Top Turret Gunner.

On the crew’s next mission, Shwery again provided combat training for Buslee, and Albrecht flew with the Norton crew. Farrar was rotated in as waist gunner and Bryant sat out this mission. This August 5 mission was to a military airfield in Langenhagen, Germany with the Buslee crew aboard aircraft 42-37982, The Tremblin’ Gremlin. At the beginning of the bomb run over the target, they were met with anti-aircraft fire. A shell exploded to the side of the Tremblin’ Gremlin’s nose and a shell fragment pierced the flying fortress and struck bombardier Marvin Fryden in the chest. Fryden managed to maintain his position and released Tremblin’ Gremlin’s bombs on the target before collapsing.

The engineer and top turret gunner, Clarence Burdell Seeley, sustained the second most serious injury. A piece of flak tore through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. Also incurring minor injuries on the mission were navigator Chester A. Rybarczyk, pilot Arthur J. Shwery, co-pilot John Oliver Buslee, and waist gunner George E. Farrar.

The fort had sustained heavy battle damage. The right inboard engine was out. The radio compartment was riddled with flak holes and the radio equipment was destroyed. The trim tabs that control the plane’s balance were shredded. The hydraulic brake system was shot out. Part of the oxygen system was also out, causing the men up forward to use emergency supplies or tap other lines.

Only Fryden and Seeley needed immediate first aid treatment during the return trip. Navigator Chester Rybarczyk assisted Fryden, who remained conscious during the entire mission. Seeley attended to his own leg wound.

The left inboard engine went out as they reached the English coast and Buslee headed for the nearest airfield. Even with his brakes gone, Buslee managed to bring the plane in on the concrete landing strip and slide it off onto the grass to reduce the speed before finally coming to a halt.

Bombardier Marvin B. Fryden died later in an Army hospital with his friend Chester Rybarczyk at his side.

Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Clarence Burdell Seeley was seriously wounded and was taken to the 65th General Hospital for treatment. In the report written up regarding his qualification for the Purple Heart, the circumstances surrounding the receipt of wounds were reported as:

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

The report continued, describing that the wound consisted of:

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

The 65th General Hospital during World War II was a reserve unit made up of staff from Duke University Medical Center of Durham, North Carolina, and was located in England on the grounds of Redgrave Park in Suffolk County. It was mainly Nissen Hut construction supplemented by ward tents. The hospital had 1456 beds and served from February 1944 to August 1945 as the major hospital center for the surrounding U.S. 8th Army Air Force.

Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson speculated that,

I suspect the 65th General Hospital was the general hospital closest to the field (Halesworth, Station 365) that they landed at upon return from the mission. Once he [Seeley] was ambulatory and it was determined that he would possibly recover well enough to go back on flight status, I imagine he would be returned to GU [the 384th’s base at Grafton Underwood] for convalescence and evaluation by the squadron flight surgeon.

Following his flak injury, Burdell Seeley was not able to fly again for almost two months.  As a result, he was grounded until October 1944.

With Seeley out as the Buslee crew’s engineer/top turret gunner, and the fact that flight crews had been reduced to only one waist gunner, Lenard Leroy Bryant was moved into the engineer/top turret gunner position on the crew. This left George Edwin Farrar as the sole waist gunner for the Buslee crew.

On September 28, just days before Seeley would return to flight duty, Lazy Daisy carrying the Brodie crew collided with 43-37822 carrying the Buslee crew after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Of the Buslee crew, only waist gunner George Edwin Farrar survived. The other eight members of the crew (see note below) were killed in the mid-air collision.

Burdell Seeley returned to flight duty for Mission 203 on October 2, 1944. He safely completed his tour with 34 missions, the last being Mission 285 on March 10, 1945, and was able to return home.

Clarence Burdell Seeley was released from military service on June 12, 1945. He and Patricia Louise Johnson of Merna, Nebraska were married that year.

Burdell returned to cattle ranching after the war and he and Patricia had two children. Burdell died on March 18, 1980 at 58 years old of a heart attack while working cattle in the corral with a neighbor. He is buried at the Kilfoil Cemetery in Merna, Custer County, Nebraska.

Note

On the September 28, 1944 mission the Buslee crew was made up of:

  • 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)

Note of Apology

In an earlier post, I incorrectly identified Clarence B. Seeley, engineer/top turret gunner of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group, as Clarence Benjamin Seeley, born on February 26, 1921 to Clarence A. and Marie A. Seeley, died August 17, 2007 in Portland, Clackamas County, Oregon. Interestingly, both Seeley families had roots in both Iowa and Nebraska, so I think it’s possible there could be a family relationship somewhere between them. Regardless, I apologize to both Seeley families for the mis-identification and thank Clarence Burdell Seeley’s grandson, Jess Seeley, for correcting me and providing me with biographical information on his grandfather, Burdell.

Sources

Press Release of the Buslee Crew’s August 5, 1944 Mission as reported in the Park Ridge, Illinois Advocate

65th General Hospital

Clarence Burdell Seeley and family memorial infomation on FindaGrave.com

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Crewmates, Part 2 of 2

Continued from Crewmates, Part 1 of 2…

Photos of my dad, George Edwin Farrar, and the 32 airmen he flew missions with on B-17’s in WWII

Albrecht, David Franklin

Co-Pilot
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

David Franklin Albrecht

Andersen, Gerald Lee

Tail Gunner
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

Gerald Lee Andersen

Bryant, Lenard Leroy

Top Turret Gunner
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

Lenard Leroy Bryant

Buslee, John Oliver

Pilot
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

John Oliver “Jay” Buslee

Davis, James Buford

Bombardier
Completed Tour

James Buford Davis, second bombardier of the John Buslee crew

Fairfield, William Adelbert

Commander
Completed Tour

William A. Fairfield

Farrar, George Edwin (my dad)

Waist Gunner
Prisoner of War – Stalag Luft IV, September 28, 1944

George Edwin Farrar

Foster, Erwin Vernon

Ball Turret Gunner
Completed Tour

Erwin Vernon Foster

Fryden, Marvin

Bombardier
Killed in Action, August 5, 1944

Possibly Marvin Fryden

Galloway, Leonard (NMI)

Navigator
Completed Tour

Leonard Galloway

Henson, William Alvin

Navigator
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

William Alvin Henson II

Jacobs, Edward Gregory

Navigator
Prisoner of War, November 16, 1944
Edward Gregory Jacobs was part of the Dale McKinney crew and is likely in this photo, but unidentified. Individual photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Dale M McKinney Crew. All unidentified except:
Albert Richard Macuch (flexible gunner): second row, second from left.
Donald George Springsted (co-pilot): first row second from left.

Jacobson, George John

Navigator
Completed Tour

George John Jacobson

La Chine, Lloyd Earl

Tail Gunner
Completed Tour

LLoyd E. La Chine

Leschak, Nickolas

Togglier
Completed Tour

Nickolas (or Nicholas) Leschak

Lord, Kenneth Smith

Navigator
Completed Tour

Kenneth S. Lord

Lucynski, Eugene Daniel

Tail Gunner
Wounded in Action, September 19, 1944

Eugene Daniel Lucynski

Macuch, Albert Richard

Tail Gunner
Wounded in Action, November 16, 1944

Albert Richard Macuch

McMann, George Francis

Ball Turret Gunner
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944
Photo unavailable.  If you have one to share, please contact me.

Meyer, Melvin J

Radio Operator
Completed Tour
Melvin J Meyer was part of the Dale McKinney crew and is likely in the crew photo above, but unidentified. Individual photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Miller, Irving L

Ball Turret Gunner
Completed Tour

Irving L. Miller

Mitchell, Robert McKinley

Ball Turret Gunner
Completed Tour

Robert McKinley Mitchell

Murphy, William C

Top Turret Gunner
Killed in Action, November 16, 1944
William C Murphy was part of the Dale McKinney crew and is likely in the crew photo above, but unidentified. Individual photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Peluso, Sebastiano Joseph

Radio Operator
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Reed, William M

Pilot
Completed Tour

William Reed

Rybarczyk, Chester Anthony

Navigator
Completed Tour

Chester Anthony Rybarczyk

Seeley, Clarence Benjamin

Top Turret Gunner
Completed Tour

Clarence Benjamin “Ben” Seeley

Sherriff, Albert Keith

Radio Operator
Completed Tour

Albert K. Sherriff

Shwery, Arthur J

Pilot/Training Mission
Completed Tour

Arthur Shwery

Springsted, Donald George

Co-Pilot
Completed Tour
Donald George Springsted was part of the Dale McKinney crew and is identified in the crew photo above. Otherwise, individual photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Donald George Springstead

Stearns, Robert Sumner

Bombardier
Killed in Action, September 28, 1944
Military era photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

(Possibly) Robert Sumner Stearns

Ward, Donald L

Bombardier
Completed Tour

Donald L. Ward

Watson, Paul Leland

Ball Turret Gunner
Prisoner of War – Stalag Luft IV, November 16, 1944
Military era photo unavailable. If you have one to share, please contact me.

Paul Leland Watson Washington Iowa HS 1941 Yearbook Photo (Freshman)

Photos courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s personal collection and that of the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Crewmates, Part 1 of 2

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner on a B-17 crew based in England during WWII. I have written extensively about his bomb group, the 384th of the 8th Army Air Force, his base in Grafton Underwood, and his crew piloted by John Oliver “Jay” Buslee.

While many people are familiar with the makeup of a B-17 crew, many are unaware that by the time that Daddy was flying his missions, a B-17 crew was generally made up of nine airmen instead of ten. The crew positions were:

  1. Pilot
  2. Co-pilot
  3. Navigator
  4. Bombardier
  5. Radio Operator
  6. Engineer/Top Turret Gunner
  7. Ball Turret Gunner
  8. Tail Gunner
  9. Waist Gunner (originally two were assigned to each crew, but during Daddy’s time, the crews flew with only one)

And the crews on each mission were not always made up of the same original crew members that were trained together and assigned to the group together. In fact, on the sixteen missions my father completed before becoming a POW, he served with thirty-two different crewmates.

I have written about them before, so today will be a recap, a list only, of who they were. I’ll follow up next week with Part 2 which will include a photo of each man.

6 Crewmates who served in the cockpit of the B-17:  Commanders, Pilots, and Co-Pilots

  • Buslee, John Oliver, 15 missions
  • Albrecht, David Franklin, 13 missions
  • Fairfield, William Adelbert, 1 mission
  • Reed, William M, 1 mission
  • Shwery, Arthur J, 1 mission
  • Springsted, Donald George, 1 mission

11 Crewmates who served in the nose of the B-17:  Navigators, Bombardiers, and Toggliers

  • Davis, James Buford, 11 missions
  • Rybarczyk, Chester Anthony, 9 missions
  • Henson, William Alvin, 3 missions
  • Stearns, Robert Sumner, 2 missions
  • Fryden, Marvin, 1 mission
  • Galloway, Leonard (NMI), 1 mission
  • Jacobs, Edward Gregory, 1 mission
  • Jacobson, George John, 1 mission
  • Leschak, Nickolas, 1 mission
  • Lord, Kenneth Smith, 1 mission
  • Ward, Donald L, 1 mission

3 Crewmates who served in the radio room of the B-17: Radio Operators

  • Peluso, Sebastiano Joseph, 14 missions
  • Meyer, Melvin J, 1 mission
  • Sherriff, Albert Keith, 1 mission

3 Crewmates who served in the top turret just behind the pilots of the B-17:  Engineers/Top Turret Gunners

  • Bryant, Lenard Leroy, 14 missions
  • Murphy, William C, 1 mission
  • Seeley, Clarence Benjamin, 1 mission

5 Crewmates who served in the ball turret of the B-17: Ball Turret Gunners

  • Foster, Erwin Vernon, 6 missions
  • Miller, Irving L, 5 missions
  • Mitchell, Robert McKinley, 2 missions
  • Watson, Paul Leland, 2 missions
  • McMann, George Francis, 1 mission

4 Crewmates who served in the tail of the B-17: Tail Gunners

  • Lucynski, Eugene Daniel, 11 missions
  • Andersen, Gerald Lee, 3 missions
  • La Chine, Lloyd Earl, 1 mission
  • Macuch, Albert Richard, 1 mission

To be continued next week…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

George Farrar, Lawrence Newbold, and Christmas 1944

During WWII, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner on a B-17 crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the United States Army Air Forces’ (USAAF) 8th Air Force. The 384th was based in Grafton Underwood, England. Dad was “Ed” to family, but in the Army Air Forces, he was known as “George.”

During the war, Lawrence Newbold was a wireless operator on an Avro Lancaster crew of the 50 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force (RAF). The 50 Squadron was based in Skellingthorpe, England. He was also known as “Lawrie” and signed a letter to my father as such (although I originally read it as “Laurie.”)

While the British Royal Air Force flew night bombing missions over Germany during WWII, the US Army Air Forces flew daytime missions. The result was constant, continuous bombardment against the Nazis in the European Theater.

On the night of March 18, 1944, Lawrence Newbold’s 50 Squadron took part in a mission to Frankfurt, Germany. In the course of the mission, his Lancaster was shot down and Lawrence bailed out over Germany. After interrogation, he was likely first confined to the Stalag Luft VI prison camp near the town of Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania), although I am not certain that was his original camp.

In July 1944, the POW’s of Stalag Luft VI were moved to the Stalag Luft IV prison camp in Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland), which had opened in May. Whether Lawrence was one of the prisoners who endured the dreadful transfer from Stalag Luft VI to IV, via crammed railroad boxcars, the dismal hold of a ship, and the torturous “run up the road” (also known as the “Heydekrug Run” – more on this subject at a later date), I do not know, but I do know at the time he was captured, Stalag Luft IV was not yet open and he was transferred there sometime on or after the opening in May 1944.

On the morning of September 28, 1944, George Farrar’s 384th Bomb Group took part in a mission to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, another of the group’s B-17’s collided with George’s. George, who was luckily wearing his parachute, was thrown from the aircraft which had split in two in the collision. After interrogation and a lengthy hospital stay, he was confined to Stalag Luft IV in late November, around Thanksgiving.

Lawrence and George were assigned to Room 12 of an unknown barracks and lager of Stalag Luft IV. Within weeks the newfound roommates would spend Christmas 1944 together. Lawrence undoubtedly would like to have been home to spend Christmas with his wife Marjorie and their son Michael, and George was likely dreaming of Christmas with his parents and eight siblings.

In a Christmas POW postcard to his mother, George wrote,

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas.  We had as good as can be expected here.

I often think of how alone and scared my dad must have been at Christmas 1944 in a prison camp with no family to comfort him. But this year I have a new perspective. This Christmas is the 75th anniversary of the Christmas Dad spent in Stalag Luft IV and I will think of it as the Christmas Dad spent with Lawrence Newbold and his POW family of “Room 12.”

This year is special because Stephen Newbold, the son of Lawrence Newbold, and I, the daughter of George Farrar, met for the first time. When I was in England for the 384th Bomb Group reunion in September, Steve and his son, Paul, and I met in the village of Grafton Underwood, where Dad’s 384th Bomb Group’s airbase was located.

Paul Newbold, Cindy Bryan, and Steve Newbold

Dad would never have believed that seventy-five years after he and Lawrence Newbold endured the horrors of imprisonment in Stalag Luft IV and the 86-day 500-mile march to liberation during WWII, their descendants would have the opportunity to meet. At our meeting, the connection was instantaneous. I predict our friendship will be long lasting and I look forward to a future visit to England which must include meeting more of Lawrence Newbold’s descendants.

Even though George and Lawrence are both gone now, our pride in the sacrifices they made for us seventy-five years ago will live on through their children, grandchildren, and many generations to come.

On this 75th anniversary of the Christmas George and Lawrence spent together in 1944, to my newfound friends, Steve and Paul Newbold, and the Newbold family members I have yet to meet, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

The Little Girl in the Photo

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Richard Denney, Cindy Bryan, and June Denney Moatt

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

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

Then I showed June the Buslee crew photo.

The Buslee Crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019