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Eugene Lucynski in the News and his Polish Ancestry

Last month I published an update regarding Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Daniel Lucynski. Even after my latest search for information about Eugene, I still did not know if Eugene married and had children, and was not able to find where he might be buried.

Eugene Lucynski must have been married at one point in his life as he reported in the 1950 Federal Census that he was divorced. However, I can find no other record noting his wife’s name or if they had any children together. Past 1950, I cannot find any record that Eugene remarried or had any children after that date.

So, still wanting to learn more about Eugene, I turned to the owners of family trees on Ancestry.com that included Eugene in their trees. One very helpful family tree owner, Frannie Lada, responded to my request. While Frannie was not able to provide me with the information for which I had been searching, she did share a newspaper article and some information about Polish emigration.

Frannie Lada is distantly related to Eugene Lucynski, but not by blood, the first cousin once removed of the husband of a third cousin. But Frannie kindly assisted me in my search.

Frannie shared this newspaper article published following the crash of the Tremblin’ Gremlin on 19 September 1944, although the article notes an incorrect date of the incident.

Sgt. Eugene Lucynski Wounded Over France
Source: 17 October 1944 Flint (Michigan) Journal
Article contributed by Frannie Lada

The article reads:

Sgt. Eugene Lucynski Wounded Over France

Mt. Morris – Staff Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, tail gunner aboard a Flying Fortress based with the Eighth Air Force in England, was wounded Sept. 27 according to word received by his father, Gus Lucynski, 7307 N. Dort Hwy.

Through a letter from a Red Cross worker in France, the father has learned that his son and fellow crew members bailed out of their plane over France while returning from a raid on German targets. The men left the plane only seconds before it exploded in mid-air. Sgt. Lucynski is under treatment for arm and leg injuries.

The airman, who holds the Air Medal, was inducted in June 1942 and received his gunner’s wings from Ardmore Field, Okla. He has been overseas seven months.

In addition to a correction for the date, which should have been the 19th of September rather than the 27th, the article also overstates Eugene’s length of overseas duty by several months as he and the Buslee crew did not arrive in the UK until early July 1944 and did not participate in their first mission until August.

Frannie Lada also educated me regarding the interpretation of terminology found on census and immigration records as far as location origins and language of Germany vs. Poland are concerned. Frannie said,

Although ship and census records may say “Germany,” the Luczynski’s and Bruzewski’s [Eugene’s mother’s side of the family] were from Poland. Poland ceased to exist as an independent nation from 1795-1918. (Google the “Partitions of  Poland”). The land was divided among Germany, Austria, and Russia. The Polish language and the culture was suppressed.

My grandma was baptized in the same Polish parish church where John Luczynski married Katherine Borowski [Gustave Lucynski’s (Eugene’s father’s) parents]. The village of Dobrcz (or Dobsch in German) is in the county of Bydgoszcz (Bromberg in German) in what is now the province of Kujawsko-Pomorskie.

By 1939, when Hitler invaded, Poland had been free from being part of the German, Austro-Hungarian, and Russian empires for only a little over 20 years. (The Polish word for Germany is ”Niemcy” which is very close to the Polish phrase “niema nic” which means “there is nothing”).

The bottom line is that these families are from the Polish partition that was ruled by the German Empire.

Frannie also added “just a bit more for context,”

The Poles, even in this country, were fiercely nationalistic. During the first world war, as many as 20,000 Poles living in the US joined Haller’s Army. The memory of oppression was never far from their thoughts.

Read more about Haller’s Army in WWI here.

And Frannie shared that,

As a child, I recall standing with pride next to my grandma as we sang the Polish national anthem.  The anthem, written in 1797 a few years after the last partition, is a military march but my favorite version is this one.

The version Frannie shared is lovely and performed by the Warsaw Philharmonia Orchestra. Today, in honor of Eugene Daniel Lucynski and all the Polish ancestors who came before him, I will conclude with this version, sung in Polish, with an onscreen English translation.

As Frannie pointed out to me, the opening line says it all:  “Jeszcze Polska nie zginęła, Kiedy my żyjemy.” “Poland has not yet perished so long as we still live.”

Notes

Many thanks to fellow Ancestry.com member Frannie Lada for her assistance.

Previous post, Eugene Daniel Lucynski, Update

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The B-17 Tail Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist/flexible gunner with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. On 28 September 1944, the Buslee crew and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the same group became forever connected when the B-17’s they were aboard on a combat mission over Germany suffered a mid-air collision.

I am currently updating the biographical information of the men of these two crews, and I thought it would be a good time to explain the duties involved in each position of the airmen aboard the aircraft, the B-17. I have recently updated the information of the three 384th Bomb Group Tail Gunners who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, assigned Buslee crew tail gunner

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

For a list of all of the airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews, see permanent page The Buslee and Brodie Crews, which is maintained with new information/posts.

Duties and Responsibilities of the B-17 Tail Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group and the B-17 Queen of the Sky websites,

Training in the various phases of the heavy bomber program is designed to fit each member of the crew for the handling of his jobs. The tail gunner:

  • Must have a fine sense of timing and be familiar with the rudiments of exterior ballistics.
  • Should be familiar with the coverage area of all gun positions, and be prepared to bring the proper gun to bear as the conditions may warrant.
  • Should be experts in aircraft identification.
  • Must be thoroughly familiar with the Browning aircraft machine gun. They should know how to maintain the guns, how to clear jams and stoppages, and how to harmonize the sights with the guns.
  • Should fire the guns at each station to familiarize himself with the other man’s position and to insure knowledge of operation in the event of an emergency.
  • Had the primary duty to shoot down enemy planes.
  • As the only constantly rear facing crewmember, he was responsible for passing along anything he saw behind the aircraft, including fighters, to the rest of the crew.
  • Would relay information to the bombardier and navigator concerning bombing results as the formations left the target.
  • Aided the navigator and radio operator by counting chutes from B-17s that were going down and the condition of stragglers that were lagging behind the formation.
  • Was normally an enlisted man, but sometimes in the lead aircraft when the squadron commander was in the cockpit, the tail position would be flown by a co-pilot who was an officer. In this case, the co-pilot occupied the tail gunner position to allow him to relay information on the condition of the formation to the pilots to help to co-ordinate the formation and keep it as tight as possible.

Location of the Tail Position in a B-17

The tail gunner position of a B-17 is at the very back of the aircraft, a confined and cramped position in which the gunner must kneel on a modified bicycle-type seat with a view to the rear of the formation. Should the tail gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the emergency exit door in the tail of the aircraft.

In the following diagram, Gerald Lee Andersen is noted in the tail of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944
Diagram courtesy of 91st Bomb Group and modified by Cindy Farrar Bryan in 2014

B-17 Tail Position Photos

I took the following photos of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.

The 384th Bomb Group’s pilot John DeFrancesco stands beside the tail of the Collings Foundation’s aircraft. First, a view directly from behind the B-17…

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

And in a side view…

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Tail Gunners

I thought it might also be interesting to read stories, diaries, and journals written by or view video interviews of some of the 384th’s own tail gunners. You’ll find a chart of several tail gunners of the 384th Bomb Group below with links to their personnel records and their written and oral histories as are provided on the Stories page of 384thBombGroup.com.

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Beesley, Delmar James⇗ Beesley’s 9 September 1944 Debrief⇓ (4.554 MB)
Borgeson, Wesley Clifton, “Wes”⇗ Wesley Borgeson, B-17 Tail Gunner, POW⇗
Lavoie, Ralph Edmund⇗ Near-Escape From Infamous Stalag 17⇓ (0.971 MB)
Lentz, Kenneth Melvin⇗ Former POW Recalls His Day of Liberation⇓ (0.111 MB)
Matican, Sigmund Sidney⇗ Matican Diary⇓ (1.381 MB)
Montz, Nemours Albert, “Nem”⇗ Army Air Corps Vet Remembers His Luck⇓ (3.905 MB)
Schimenek, John Francis⇗ John Francis Schimenek WWII Diary⇓ (10.380 MB)
Westlake, Albert F⇗ Westlake’s Story⇓ (1.754 MB)
Blevins, Donald Hillman⇗ 2002 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2014 Interview Transcript⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2017 – A Tail Gunner’s Story⇗
Britton, Joseph Rodman⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Jaworski, Frank (NMI)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Kushner, Jack (NMI), “Kush”⇗ 2011 Oral History Interview⇗
Martin, J D (IO)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Engineer and the Gunners

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

B-17 Flying Fortress Queen of the Skies, Crew Positions, Tail Gunner 

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

The Military Yearbook Project – Army Air Force WWII Codes

The Army Air Forces in World War II: VI, Men and Planes, Edited by W.F. Craven and J.L. Cate, Chapter 19: Training of Ground Technicians and Service Personnel

Training to Fly:  Military Flight Training 1907 – 1945 by Rebecca Hancock Cameron

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission in 2014 to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

In the Dark of the Night

Alfred David Benjamin, 384th Bomb Group navigator
Photo courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Alfred David Benjamin was the navigator of the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group in World War II. He was aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin with the Carnes crew on 19 September 1944 on the mission to Hamm, Germany in which the Buslee crew’s tailgunner, Eugene Lucynski, was injured. Eugene was filling in for the Carnes crew’s tail gunner Gerald Lee Andersen, who was on sick leave.

The 384th Bomb Group website provides a concise summary of the events of the mission in regards to the Carnes crew aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin as,

Lead Squadron flying spare; joined formation; aircraft struck by flak just before the IP; after dropping bombs on target, left formation, apparently under control; crew bailed out over Binche, Bel.; all crew returned to duty except ball turret gunner and tail gunner who were seriously injured.

Alfred Benjamin completed his combat duty with thirty-one combat missions and this one particularly stuck with him as he wrote a play that included the experience seventy-three years later, in 2017. His play is named In the Dark of the Night, a name he resurrected from a poem he wrote with the same name, although the subject of the poem is not of the Hamm mission. The subject of the poem seems to be Alfred’s 6th mission as mentioned in the play, a poem the play notes that he sent into Time Magazine for publication in their 50th anniversary issue.

The play is set many years after the war, in the year 1995 with the airmen in their seventies. They reminisce about the war, their bomb group, and the mission. Alfred includes a list of the play’s characters on the second page and calls the tail gunner of the crew “Vinnie.” I believe “Vinnie” is a blending of Gerald Lee Andersen, the original tail gunner of the crew, and Eugene Daniel Lucynski, the Buslee crew tail gunner who participated with the Carnes crew on the 19 September 1944 mission.

Early in the play, each character introduces himself and the character “Vinnie” describes himself as,

My moniker is Vincent Adams, former tail gunner. I am 72 now and glad I reached this age. After service I was very ill and went to the VA for medical services. I have a service connected disability and have lived on my government pension since.

Clearly, the character is fictional with a dose, or several doses, of fact. Gerald Andersen died in the Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision on 28 September 1944 at the age of twenty-one and Eugene Lucynski died on 14 April 1981 at the age of sixty-one.

The airmen go on to describe their personal histories and what led them into the US Army Air Forces in World War II. It’s clear that WWII bomber crew members came from all parts of the country and all walks of life. But they learned to depend on each other for their survival. Where a crew mate was from and how he previously earned his living was not important in the brutal existence of war.

Alfred Benjamin walks us through several missions and clues us into what it was like to serve in World War II back in the 1940’s and the entire play is well worth the read.

The story of the 19 September 1944 mission begins on page 23 of the play and continues to page 29. Alfred Benjamin expertly, and in detail, describes the mission through his characters. At this point in the play, I believe “Vinnie” is a portrayal of Eugene Lucynski, as Eugene is the tail gunner who flew this mission with the Carnes crew.

I urge you to read Alfred’s play in its entirety, and especially these pages to hear the story from one who lived it, but I will include here information I learned about his and Eugene Lucynski’s and the other airmen’s experience aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin on 19 September 1944. I’m paraphrasing here rather than quoting Alfred’s poem verbatim, so read the play to hear Alfred’s story in his own words.


The crew was flying spare and joined up with the 303rd Bomb Group, a sister group in their Wing. They were in the tail end position of the formation.

Being at the tail end, the tail gunner had to watch for enemy attack from the rear. He test fired his guns and one jammed, requiring him to work to fix the jam for half of the mission.

They ran into flak crossing the coast from England and again as they crossed the Rhine River in Germany.

Flak was also very heavy approaching the target and was decimating the formation during the eight-minute bomb run.

At bombs away, the plane jumped with a tremendous explosion on the left side of the plane resulting in a fire in Engine 3. The pilot feathered the prop and they fell away from the group. Engine 2 was leaking oil and also had to be feathered. At this point they were about a thousand feet below the group, falling back, and struggling to maintain altitude.

The pilot asked the navigator to find a route to the nearest known American battle line.

It was time to lighten the load by throwing everything possible overboard including machine guns, ammunition, flak suits, and even the ball turret.

Armed with information from the pilot, the navigator (Alfred Benjamin) calculated how much time they had until the ship would crash – 77 minutes – and how far they could travel – about 200 miles – if everything stayed the same. He plotted a zig-zag course to miss known flak fields and passed an initial course to the pilot.

The pilot noted one of the two remaining engines running rough and the temperature rising to the danger point. Engine failure at this point would doom them. Dropping to 15,000 feet and below, the pilot ordered the crew to remove their oxygen masks for more freedom of movement.

The engineer knew of a trick to make the balky engine clean itself up and explained it to the pilot – cut way back on the throttle and after the engine slowed, apply full throttle. This worked, just like it would on a Model T, with the engine backfiring and then roaring to full power by cleaning the spark plugs.

As the ship was losing altitude, the crew attempted to avoid the flak fields by flying a zig-zag pattern, but four flak blasts blew out their Plexiglas nose and the navigator was hit by a jagged piece of flak in the left hand.

The bombardier grabbed the navigation maps and he and the bloodied navigator headed for the waist of the aircraft. They kept up with their progress by watching out the waist portal for landmarks.

The flak burst that had shattered the nose also hit the prop of Engine 1 causing the plane to wobble and shake. The pilot had to feather that engine and realized they would not be able to land the plane and would have to prepare to bail out.

The navigator felt they needed only a few more minutes of flying to be over allied territory. He was Jewish and concerned for his survival if he bailed out over German-controlled territory. He asked the pilot to attempt to activate Engine 2 and reverse the feather, which the pilot did, and it came back to life.

The act saved not only the Jewish navigator, but the whole crew, as Germans were still in the area as the Allies advanced. At the time they finally jumped from the plane, there were in territory controlled mostly by Belgian Freedom Fighters, but the Nazi’s were still around.

At an altitude of about 10,000 feet, Engine 2 was running out of oil. One of the cylinders blew off through the cowling and it burst into flame. The pilot rang the bailout bell and the airmen jumped.

The navigator was in pain from the landing and was surrounded by men with machine guns pointed at him.

The ball turret gunner injured his ankle upon landing and was also in pain. But he announced they were American and their “rescuers” took them to a farmhouse to hide out as the Nazis were still in the area and would be looking for the flyers.

After nightfall, they were driven to the town hospital for treatment, where they were also fed and housed.

In the night, the tail gunner was brought into the hospital, too. He had been hit by shrapnel in the tail and needed medical attention. That would make three of the crew back together in the Belgian hospital.

The three were the first Americans the townspeople had seen since the Nazi occupation started and they were lining up outside the hospital to visit and thank them – with little gifts, tears, and joy.

The pilot learned the three were in the hospital and came to see them, then reported to the Army that the three were there and needed to be evacuated. They were moved by ambulance to a Paris hospital and then returned to their base at Grafton Underwood, England.


Alfred Benjamin ends his play on this note…

(Joe, the pilot) I hope that the Time article and this play will help to remind people of the sacrifice of our flying crewmembers.

Everybody gets up and they shake hands all around. One by one they exit through the doorway. Benny’s last in line to leave. He reaches the doorway, pauses, turns and walks to the front of the stage.

(Benny, the navigator, addressing the audience)
We leave one by one and soon we will all be gone. None of these men, they are men now but they were really just boys, they came from all corners of the country and all walks of life. They left behind homes and families and loved ones. Many went to serve and many never returned. They fought for America and the world. Their mission was to win a war. Our mission is to never forget.

Benny turns and slowly walks through the door. The stage is empty.

After bailing out over Belgium on the 19 September 1944 mission, Alfred returned to combat duty on 17 October 1944. He completed his combat tour of thirty-one missions on 20 January 1945.

Alfred Benjamin served on two missions with Eugene Lucynski and served on one mission each with two other Buslee crew members, ball turret gunner Erwin Foster in January 1945 and bombardier James Davis in September 1944.

Navigator Alfred David Benjamin of the 384th Bomb Group signed the Association’s commemorative wing panel in 2015.

Alfred Benjamin signs the Association’s Commemorative Wing Panel

Notes

Alfred David Benjamin’s Personnel Record with the 384th Bomb Group

In the Dark of the Night, a poem by Alfred David Benjamin

In the Dark of the Night, a play by Alfred David Benjamin

Previous post, The Fate of Tremblin’ Gremlin and Her Crew on Mission 196

The Coastal Star article: South Palm Beach: WWII plane wing noses its way around nation for autographs

Except for excerpts and paraphrasing from Alfred Benjamin’s play, In the Dark of the Night ©2017 Alfred D. Benjamin, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, Update

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, photo courtesy of Keith Ellefson and the 384th Bomb Group

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding the original tail gunner, Eugene Daniel Lucynski, of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group in World War II.

To view my original post and other information about Eugene Daniel Lucynski, please see the links at the end of this post.

Lucynski Family

Combining information from several sources including the Federal censuses of  1920, 1930, 1940, and 1950, and Eugene Lucynski’s Person page from an Ancestry family tree, I find that the Lucynski family consisted of parents,

  • Father – Gustave K. (Kanstantaius or Konstantiane) Lucynski (or possible alternate spelling of Luczynski), born 1 October 1890 in Oscoda, Michigan, died 21 February 1948 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan
  • Mother – Dominica C. Bruzewski, born 13 February 1896 in Beaver Township, Bay County, Michigan, died 23 February 1941 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan

and their four children (one boy and three girls),

  1. Daughter – Gertrude Constance Lucynski Hogue, born 8 March 1917, died 7 August 1990
  2. Daughter – Virginia Josephine Lucynski Plunkey, born 1 June 1918, died 27 September 1988
  3. Son – Eugene Daniel Lucynski, born 22 December 1919, died 14 April 1981
  4. Daughter – LaWretha Marie Lucynski, born 27 July 1924, died 23 April 1925, at almost nine months old, of meningitis and influenza

In various census records, Gus Lucynski reported that his parents were born in Prussia or Poland and spoke German as their native language. Eugene Lucynski’s grandparents, Gus Lucynski’s parents, Joseph Lucynski and Catherine Rakowski, immigrated to the United States in 1884.

Their European residence was in Bromberg, Posen, and they boarded the German ship the Wieland (a “dampfschiff”, steamship, with accommodations in “zwischendeck”, steerage) and departed Hamburg, Germany on 3 February 1884 for their journey to America, arriving in New York. Joseph’s occupation was listed as “stellmacher” which translates to “wheelwright.”

Dominica Lucynski’s parents were Stanley Bruzewski and Josephine Reeder. On census records, Dominic reported that her father was born in Germany and spoke German and her mother was born in New York.

The ancestry of Eugene Lucynski clearly shows that he was fighting a war in which two generations prior, grandparents on both sides were from current day Poland and Germany. This likely made World War II very personal for him, considering two possibilities, that Eugene was fighting against some German relatives and fighting for Polish relatives still living in those areas. Read more about the history of Bromberg and Bloody Sunday of 1939 here.

Eugene’s sister Gertrude was married to Charles M. Hogue and they had at least two children, sons Gerald and Ronald.

Eugene’s sister Virginia was married to John (alternately referred to as Steve) Plunkey and they had at least three children, daughters Judy Marie and Virginia, and son John.

In the recently-released 1950 census, Eugene Lucynski is listed as a Lodger living in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. He reported his age as 26 and his marital status as divorced. He worked 40 hours a week as a mechanic for a retail electrical company. With his age listed as 26, this would indicate his birth year as 1924 rather than 1919, as stated elsewhere.

While I cannot find a burial record for Eugene Daniel Lucynski, I have noted that his parents Gustave and Dominica and sister LaWretha are buried in the All Saints Church Cemetery of Flint, Genesee County, Michigan. Dominica‘s Find a Grave memorial does not specify a gravesite and Gustave‘s and LaWretha‘s memorials note that they are buried in unmarked graves. I believe it is possible that Eugene is also buried in the same cemetery, possibly in a Lucynski family plot, but without any record of such or memorial.

Entry into World War II

A few months after the death of his mother, Eugene Daniel Lucynski registered for the World War II draft on 1 July 1941 at Local Board No. 3 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan and recorded the following information on his draft form.

His place of residence at the time of registration was 1484 Oregon Ave, Flint, Genesee, Michigan. His date and place of birth was 22 December 1919 in Bay City, Michigan, and he was twenty-one years old at the time of registration.

The name and address of the person who would always know his address was his father, Gustave Lucynski. His employer’s name and address was A.C. Manufacturer of Flint, Michigan.

Eugene was 5’ 6 1/2″ tall, 130 pounds, with hazel eyes, brown hair, and a dark complexion, and had no other obvious physical characteristics.

Although I do not find an enlistment record for Eugene Lucynski, the US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File notes his WWII enlistment date of 23 June 1942.

Morning Reports and other military documents of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Eugene Daniel Lucynski:

  • On 22 JULY 1944, Eugene Daniel Lucynski was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 612), for the John Oliver Buslee crew. His pay per month was $172.80. His rank when assigned was Staff Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mr. Gustave Lucynski, 7307 N. Dort Highway, Mt. Morris, Michigan.
  • On 19 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany (Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards), Eugene Lucynski, flying as Tail Gunner with the Joe Carnes crew, went (MIA) Missing in Action when he was forced to bail out over Allied Territory. Seven of the crew returned to duty. The ball turret gunner was injured by flak and transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 4178 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. Lucynski was injured by flak and hospitalized from 19 September 1944 until 10 November 1944. Lucynski had replaced the Carnes crew Tail Gunner Gerald Andersen, who was on sick quarters.
  • As noted in my recent update regarding Gerald Lee Andersen, on 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Eugene Lucynski had not returned to duty since he went MIA on 19 SEPTEMBER. With Gerald Andersen more than a week off sick leave, he replaced Lucynski as tail gunner with the Buslee crew on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks. On this mission the James Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming off the target. The Buslee crew, as well as the Brodie crew, were declared MIA. Subsequently, all airmen on board the Buslee crew’s B-17, including Eugene Lucynski’s replacement, Gerald Lee Andersen, were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Edwin Farrar who was declared POW (Prisoner of War). By the time Eugene returned to Grafton Underwood, the only members of his original crew still serving there were navigator Chester Rybarczyk, engineer/top turret gunner Clarence Seeley, and ball turret gunner Erwin Foster. Eugene never returned to combat duty, and it is unclear what duty he did perform following his return.
  • On 4 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski was recommended for the DFC (Distinguished Flying Crosss) for Ex. Achiev.
  • On 12 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski was placed on DS for an indefinite period at Y-17, Marseilles/Istres, France, effective o/a (on or about) 13 June 45 and will report to COL SAULT upon arrival at Y-17.
  • On 22 JUNE 1945, Eugene Lucynski went from DS, Y-17 Marseilles/Istres, France to duty, effective 22 June 1945.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski was credited with 14 combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Hospitalization Record

A Hospital Admission Card for Eugene was included in his personnel record at the NPRC and noted his battle injury from the 19 September 1944 mission as “Wound(s), Penetrating” location “Hand, generally.” The disposition date was October 1944 and disposition was “not death nor transfer to the Zone of Interior.” In other words, he was wounded, but not wounded seriously enough to be sent home. The hospital was identified as the 53rd General Hospital.

Tremblin’ Gremlin

The 19 September 1944 mission was Eugene’s second mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin. His first mission aboard that ship was his second mission of the war on 5 August 1944. On that mission, he was one of a very few airmen aboard who were not struck and injured by flak. The gremlins were not to forget their oversight of 5 August when on 19 September, they finished their business with Buslee crew member Eugene Lucynski.

Medals and Decorations

Eugene Lucynski was awarded the Purple Heart on 7 December 1944 for wounds received on the 19 September 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin. In the medal recommendation paperwork, the circumstances surrounding the receipt of wounds were,

S/Sgt. Lucynski was WIA by flak while serving as Tail Gunner in a B-17 aircraft on an operational mission over enemy territory.

The wounds consisted of multiple lacerations of right hand and left wrist. Hospitalized from 19 Sept. to 10 Nov., 1944.

Eugene was previously awarded the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster.

Eugene’s Individual Sortie Record also notes he was recommended for a DFC (Distinguished Flying Cross) on 4 June 1945 for “Ex. Achiev.” (extra achievement).

However, I find no record of Eugene receiving the award except on his Final Payment Worksheet completed at his military discharge of 30 October 1945 at Separation Center #32, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. This record was in Eugene’s file at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis, Missouri. Very little else was included in Eugene’s file, leading me to believe his was one of the files burned in the 1973 fire.

On this document is listed a $4.00 (yes, a four dollar) “Pay for Awards” specified as “D.F.C.” Underneath that entry is an unspecified entry of FR 235.04 and TO 103.30, with a net of $131.74. I do not know if this additional entry refers to his “Pay for Awards” or not.

Return Home

Eugene D. Lucynski arrived in New York aboard the Queen Mary on 16 October 1945. He was included in a list of personnel for Separation Center No. 32, Ft. Sheridan, Illinois. The US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File notes his discharge date of 30 October 1945.

Eugene Daniel Lucynski died on 14 April 1981 in Flint, Genesee County, Michigan at the age of 61.

Name Change

Eugene Daniel Lucynski is listed in the Michigan Death Index under the name Eugene D. Lucyn. This record lists his birth date as 22 December 1919 and his death date as 14 April 1981, residence and place of death as Flint, Genesee, Michigan.

He was listed in the US Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS Death File also under the name Eugene D. Lucyn. This record confirmed his same birth and death dates as the Michigan Death Index and added his WWII enlistment date of 23 June 1942 and discharge date of 30 October 1945.

I find two Social Security records for Eugene in the National Archives. Both list the same Social Security Number and date of birth, but the different names of Eugene Daniel Lucynski and Eugene Dan Lucyn.

Family Connections

I would love to connect with relatives of Eugene Lucynski. I have been unable to find much information about Eugene Daniel Lucynski (aka Eugene, Gene, or Dan Lucyn) after the end of the war. Please e-mail me if you have more information to share about Eugene’s life after World War II.

Notes

Previous post, Eugene D. Lucynski

Eugene Daniel Lucynski’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Press release from 5 August 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin

Previous post, The Fate of “Tremblin’ Gremlin” and Her Crew on Mission 196

Wikipedia: Bloody Sunday (1939)

Thank you to the 384th Bomb Group and especially Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for their research and obtaining and presenting records of the servicemen of the Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Gerald Lee Andersen, Update

Gerald Lee Andersen

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding the tail gunner, Gerald Lee Andersen, who was onboard my father’s (George Edwin Farrar’s) B-17 the day of the Buslee crew’s mid-air collision with the Brodie crew’s B-17, 28 September 1944.

Gerald Andersen was the tail gunner of the Joe Carnes crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII and filled in for Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski on that date.

To view my original post and other information about Gerald Lee Andersen, please see the links at the end of this post.

Andersen Family

Combining information from several sources including the Federal censuses of 1930, 1940, and 1950, Gerald Andersen’s Person page from an Ancestry family tree, Gerald’s memorial on Find A Grave, and the obituaries of two of Gerald’s brothers (Dale and Jimmie), I find that the Andersen family consisted of parents,

  • Father – Ernest William Andersen, 1899 – 1982
  • Mother – Verna Esther Yost, 1900 – 1950

and their fifteen children (ten boys and five girls),

  1. Daughter – Betty Joyce Andersen, 1921 – 2005
  2. Son – Gerald Lee Andersen, 1923 – 1944
  3. Daughter – Lila Mae Andersen McLaughlin, 1925 – 2002
  4. Son – Dale E. Andersen, 1927 – 2013
  5. Son – Billie LeRoy Andersen, 1928 – 2019
  6. Son – Don DeVern Andersen, 1929–1991
  7. Son – Lon Wesley Andersen, born 1931
  8. Daughter – Verna Elagene Andersen, 1932–1941
  9. Son – Edwin Ernest Andersen, 1934–2013
  10. Daughter – Charlene Andersen Taylor, born approx. 1938
  11. Son – Jimmie Ray Andersen, 1939–2016
  12. Son – Jack Wayne Andersen, 1940–1990
  13. Daughter – Althea Kay Andersen Wolfenden, born approx. 1941
  14. Son – Larry D. Andersen (alternately reported as having the surname Yost), possibly 1944 – 1991
  15. Son – Dennis L. Andersen (alternately reported as having the surname Yost), possibly 1947 – 2012

Marriage of Gerald Andersen and Esther Coolen

According to marriage records on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen (born 20 June 1923) and Esther Elaine Coolen (born 16 June 1916 – seven years older than Gerald), both of Seneca, Nebraska, married on 24 May 1942.

Entry into World War II

A little over a month after he and Esther married, Gerald Lee Andersen registered for the World War II draft on 30 June 1942 at the Thomas County Court House in Thedford, Nebraska and recorded the following information on his draft form.

His place of residence at the time of registration was Seneca, Thomas County, Nebraska. His date and place of birth was 20 June 1923 in Dunning, Nebraska, and he was nineteen years old at the time of registration.

The name and address of the person who would always know his address was his wife, Esther Andersen of Seneca, Nebraska. His employer’s name and address was E.W. Andersen (his father) of Seneca, Nebraska.

Gerald was 5’8″ tall, 135 pounds, with blue eyes and black hair, with a dark complexion, and had no other obvious physical characteristics.

WWII Induction and Active Duty

According to a US National Cemetery Interment Control Form entry found on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen was inducted into the US Army Air Forces on 6 May 1943 and began active duty on 13 May 1943. The form specifically notes the 6 May date as an “induction” date rather than an “enlistment” date.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Gerald Lee Andersen:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Gerald Lee Andersen was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 612), for the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew. His pay per month was $140.40. His rank when assigned was Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mrs. Esther E. Andersen, Box 282, Stromsberg, Neb.
  • On 1 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #175.
  • On 6 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from sick quarters (LD) to absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston.
  • On 11 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from absent sick (LD) 303rd Station Hospital Thrapston to duty.
  • On 16 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from duty to sick quarters (LD).
  • On 19 SEPTEMBER 1944, with Gerald Andersen on sick leave, Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski flew in Gerald’s place with the Joe Carnes crew on Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards. Aboard B-17G 42‑37982, Tremblin’ Gremlin, the crew went MIA (Missing in Action). Lucynski was forced to bail out over Allied Territory. Seven of the crew returned to duty. The ball turret gunner, James Bernard King, Jr., was injured by flak and transferred to the Detachment of Patients, 4178 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. Eugene Lucynski was injured by flak and hospitalized from 19 September 1944 until 10 November 1944.
  • On 20 SEPTEMBER 1944, Gerald Andersen went from sick quarters (LD) to duty.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Eugene Lucynski had not returned to duty since he went MIA on 19 SEPTEMBER. With Gerald Andersen more than a week off sick leave, he replaced Lucynski as tail gunner with the Buslee crew on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks. On this mission the James Brodie crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming off the target. The Buslee crew, as well as the Brodie crew, were declared MIA. Subsequently, all airmen on board the Buslee crew’s B-17, including Gerald Lee Andersen, were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Edwin Farrar who was declared POW (Prisoner of War).

Gerald Lee Andersen was credited with 12 combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Gerald Andersen’s WWII service as remembered by fellow crew mate Alfred Benjamin, the Carnes crew Navigator

In 2016, I connected with 384th Bomb Group navigator Alfred Benjamin. He and Gerald were crew mates on the Joe Ross Carnes, Jr. crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron. As Alfred stated at the time, “Although I am 92, I can still remember most things about the War.” He admitted, though that after seventy-two years, he “could not remember a great deal about Gerald,” but he did recall that,

I believe that Gerald joined the Carnes crew in Sioux City AAF Base in early 1944. I was the last person to join the crew and they had been training there for some period. We completed our training in early June and picked up a B-17 in Kearney, Neb. And proceeded across the USA to New Hampshire, Maine and then to Labrador, Iceland and England. We eventually were assigned to the 384th BG 544th SQ. and started our familiarization phase. As I remember, Gerald was a serious young man intent on being a positive asset to our crew of 9.

Like me he had certain trepidations about the mission we were on.  At this time in the War the 8th [AF] was still undergoing heavy casualties and this certainly affected our thinking.

Gerald flew with us on 9 missions but as things go I believe that he went on sick call and did not fly with our crew again until September 9th. [Correction: September 13th].  The Carnes Crew ran into Heavy Flak and we were forced to Bail out over Binche Belgium on Sept 19th and Gerald did not fly with us on that mission.  I personally was injured and did not return to Grafton Underwood for 29 days and then learned that Gerald was shot down during my absence.

These were the Missions we flew together.

  • 7 Aug 1944—Aircraft Fuel Depot, Dugny France
  • 8 Aug 1944—Tactical Mission, Bretteville-sur-Laize, France
  • 9 Aug 1944—Erding  Luftwaffe Base, Erding Germany
  • 11 Aug 1944—Coastal Artillery Emplacements, Brest France
  • 16 Aug 1944—Delitzsch Luftwaffe Depot, Delizsch, Germany
  • 18 Aug 1944—Bridge, Vise, Belgium
  • 24 Aug 1944—Synthetic oil plant, Merseburg, Germany
  • 25 Aug 1944—Luftwaffe Airfield, Anklam, Germany
  • 13 Sept 1944—Synthetic Oil Refinery, Merseburg, Germany

Returned Home

According to a US National Cemetery Interment Control Form entry found on Ancestry.com, Gerald Lee Andersen’s Date of Interment on American soil is noted as 23 August 1949. The form also notes that Gerald earned the Purple Heart and an Air Medal with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster.

The airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews who had been killed in the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision were initially buried in the cemetery at Ost Ingersleben, Germany, a village near the crash site of the two B-17’s.

Their bodies were later reinterred in the United States Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland, and Gerald was buried in Plot R, Row 3, Grave 51.

In 1953, Gerald Andersen was brought home and on 23 August 1953, was reinterred in the Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell (Lincoln County), Nebraska, Section F, Site 1229.

Connections with Andersen family members

Since initially writing about Gerald in 2015, I have heard from several family members who found my original article about Gerald.

Gerald’s youngest sister, Kay Andersen Wolfenden, wrote to me in 2016. At the time, the most current Federal census available was the 1940 census, which was taken before the youngest four Andersen children were born, including Kay. Kay informed me that,

There were fifteen children altogether, 10 boys and 5 girls.  I am number 13 and lost my mother to cancer when I was 8 years old.  The rest of the family always said that mother never got over losing Gerald.

Kay’s son Cyrus is researching her brother Gerald.

The son of Gerald’s brother Dale, Myron Andersen, also contacted me in 2016 and noted that Dale often spoke of Gerald. Dale’s obituary (he died in 2013) provided some interesting family information. It mentioned that,

Dale learned many fine things from his dad, not the least of which was the value of hard work…a great deal of hard work.

and,

Early in his working career, Dale worked with his dad in his tank wagon business.

Remember, Gerald worked for his dad at the time of his draft registration, and I assume it was also in the “tank wagon business.”

Also, Janelle Sommer Davis connected with me just after the Fourth of July in 2018. While not related to Gerald, Janelle is the daughter of Esther Coolen, Gerald’s widow. Janelle told me that Esther remarried and had a daughter, but Esther’s second husband died when their daughter was still a newborn. She married again in 1953 and had a second daughter, Janelle, and a son, Rob.

Janelle wrote,

In honor of July 4th, I get out the flag and the purple heart and medal of honors my mom kept in an attic. As a little girl, I would ask about the medals and she was silently mysterious about them.

They stayed in the attic when she passed in 2002.

I got them out again, and since I was off this week from work, I decided to look at the medals closer. Who was this man of mystery that married my mom, and was so tragically KIA over France [correction: Germany]?

I looked closer and noted that the name on the purple heart had his name on the back. I started to research his name. Wondering when he died, wondering how he looked and wondering what he did. 4 hours later today, I found he was a part of the 384th bomb squad [Group]. He ran 12 missions and was missing Sept 28, 1944. He was a part of the arrowhead club. He was the tail gunner and his name was Gerald L Andersen.

I am writing to you because I found the Andersen letters written by my mom, Esther Coolen Andersen. It was with joy, to see her writings of concern and sadness at the same time. It was an honor to know she was once married to a man of courage and of valor.

Esther’s life post-World War II

Esther married Benjamin Carl Bilhorn, who was twenty years her senior and a veteran of World War I, on 2 June 1946. Their daughter was born 15 July 1948. Benjamin Bilhorn’s obituary states that he died 27 August 1948 in the hospital after a two weeks’ illness.

Esther Elaine Coolen remarried 16 January 1953 to William A. Sommer, who was three years older than Esther. William died 29 October 1992 and Esther died 6 March 2002 at age 85.

Remember

I love connecting with family and friends of the men who served with my dad, George Edwin Farrar, in the 384th Bomb Group during World War II. It warms my heart to know that the men who never made it home are not forgotten, even more than seventy years after we lost them in the war.

Esther Elaine Coolen, who married Gerald Lee Andersen on 24 May 1942, became a war widow on 28 September 1944. Even though she was married to Gerald only a little over two years, and remarried twice after losing Gerald, she kept his burial flag and war medals for the rest of her life, through marriages to two other men.

The letters Esther wrote to my grandmother after the mid-air collision tell how deeply she loved Gerald and it is easy to see how she could never forget him. Now that Esther is gone, it is up to us to remember him and keep his memory alive so future generations know what Gerald and others who lost their lives fighting World War II and their families sacrificed for our freedom.

Esther Andersen’s letters to my grandmother,

Notes

Previous post, Gerald Lee Andersen

Gerald Lee Andersen’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Missing Air Crew Report 9753 for the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Missing Air Crew Report 9366 for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Gerald Lee Andersen on Find a Grave

Esther Elaine Coolen (Andersen Bilhorn) Sommer on Find a Grave

Dale Andersen Obituary

Jimmie R Andersen Obituary

Alfred Benjamin’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The Bombardier in the Buslee Crew Photo

Five years ago, in February 2017, I posed a question to my readers. Do you think the bombardier in the John Buslee crew photo is Marvin Fryden or James Davis? I am referring to the airman standing in the back row on the far right.

The Buslee Crew

The Buslee Crew

Marvin Fryden was the John Buslee crew’s original bombardier. Fryden was killed on his second mission on 5 August 1944 aboard the B-17 Tremblin’ Gremlin by a burst of flak. James Buford Davis replaced Fryden as the Buslee crew’s bombardier on 9 August 1944.

On the back of the Buslee crew photo that I have, the man standing on the far right is identified as James Davis. I have always questioned the accuracy of that identification. I have always believed that the bombardier in the photo is Fryden.

I have positive identifications of the remaining members of the crew in the photo. These are the identifications provided on the back of the photo in my mother’s handwriting.

Back row, left to right:
• 2Lt. John Oliver Buslee, Pilot, from Park Ridge, Illinois
• 2Lt. David Franklin Albrecht, Co-Pilot, from Chico, California
• 2Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk, Navigator, from Toledo, Ohio
• 2Lt. James B. Davis, Bombardier, from New Castle, Indiana

Front row, left to right:
• Sgt. Erwin V. Foster, Ball Turret Gunner, from Elmira, New York
• Sgt. Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner, from Brooklyn, New York
• Cpl. Lenard Leroy Bryant, Waist Gunner, from Lubbock, Texas
• Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, from Halsey, Nebraska
• S/Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, Tail Gunner, from Detroit, Michigan
• Sgt. George Edwin Farrar, Waist Gunner, from Atlanta, Georgia, (my dad)

I have been able to verify through other photographs of these men that those identifications are accurate. I only questioned the identification of Davis as the bombardier and hoped I could eventually determine if that identification is accurate as well.

Unfortunately, at the time I was attempting to analyze the faces in the photo, I only had a photo of James Davis, no photo of Marvin Fryden. On my visit to the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis in October 2016, I found this photo of James Buford Davis in uniform in his Army Air Forces personnel file.

James Buford Davis, second bombardier of the John Buslee crew

James Buford Davis, second bombardier of the John Buslee crew

To my eye, when comparing the photo of Davis to the bombardier in the crew photo, I could not determine that the airman in the crew photo was Davis, and so concluded that it was Fryden. But I still felt a great deal of uncertainty without a photo of Fryden to use for the comparison.

James Davis on the left. Davis or Marvin Fryden on the right?

James Davis on the left. Davis or Marvin Fryden on the right?

I had another reason to believe Fryden was in the photo. I believed that James Davis would not have appeared in a Buslee crew photo that also included Clarence Burdell Seeley.

James Davis did not join the Buslee crew until the 9 August 1944 mission and would not have appeared in a crew photo until, at least, he had been named as the bombardier replacement for their crew. So James Davis would not be in a Buslee crew photo on or before 5 August, when Marvin Fryden was killed. Add to that, Clarence Burdell Seeley looks very healthy in the crew photo, not what I would expect after 5 August 1944.

On the 5 August 1944 mission in which Marvin Fryden was killed, the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Clarence Burdell Seeley was hit by flak and seriously injured. A jagged piece of steel ripped through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. He was taken to the 65th General Hospital for treatment and was hospitalized there for 35 days.

The 65th General Hospital was at Redgrave Park in Suffolk County, England. Redgrave Park is about 85 miles/137 km from Grafton Underwood, home of the 384th Bomb Group. During his period of hospitalization, Seeley would not have been in the Grafton Underwood area for a crew photograph.

Back in 2017, I enlisted 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson in my research and he speculated that,

I suspect the 65th General Hospital was the general hospital closest to the field (Halesworth, Station 365) that they [the Buslee crew] landed at upon return from the [5 August 1944] 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.

If I recall correctly, five years ago Keith believed the bombardier in the photo to be Davis and believed the photo was taken at Grafton Underwood. At the time, I was under the assumption that the photo was a photo of the original crew taken at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the end of their crew training before they left the States for England.

In the past few years, I have found more information in the records of the 384th Bomb Group which provides more detail about the timeline of Seeley’s hospitalization and recovery period.

According to military records, on 13 August 1944, Seeley was moved from the 65th General Hospital to the 4209 U.S. Army Hospital Plant, APO 587. APO (Army Post Office) 587 was located at Knettishall, England, which was about 5.5 miles/8.8 km from the 65th General Hospital at Redgrave Park, still far from Grafton Underwood.

But on 11 September 1944, Seeley went from absent sick (LD) 65th General Hospital to duty. Even though he would not return to flight duty until Mission 203 on 2 October 1944 (four days after the Buslee crew went MIA on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany), Seeley was likely back at Grafton Underwood on or shortly after 11 September.

Now I see a window of opportunity for the Buslee crew photo to include both James Davis and Clarence Seeley that I did not previously see. The crew photo could have been taken sometime during this period between 11 and 28 September. That is the only way I can see both James Davis and a healthy Clarence Burdell Seeley appearing in the same photo.

Sounds like the issue of all the parties being available at the same time for a photo op between 11 and 28 September 1944 works out fine, right? Not so fast. I also discovered that ball turret gunner Erwin Foster was out on sick leave at the 303rd Station Hospital at Thrapston between 10 and 26 September. And tail gunner Eugene Lucynski went MIA with another crew on 19 September, bailing out of Tremblin’ Gremlin over Belgium. He was injured and hospitalized at an unknown location reportedly until 10 November.

Thrapston was only about 5.5 miles/9 km from Grafton Underwood. So I see a possibility that Foster was still close by, maybe even still at Grafton Underwood and being treated on an outpatient basis. If he was on base or able to travel to the base long enough for a photo, perhaps the crew photo was taken during a narrower window of between 11 and 18 September 1944. By 19 September, Lucynski would not have been in the photo.

And recently my other issue – that I had no photo of Marvin Fryden for comparison purposes – was also resolved. Ash Samet, Marvin Fryden’s widow’s grandson (of Marilyn’s second marriage to Jerome Samet), contacted me just a few weeks ago and sent me a portrait of Marilyn and Marvin Fryden. The grandson’s name is Ash Samet. Ash is a computer graphics artist.

Marvin Fryden, bombardier of the John Buslee crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron
Photo courtesy of Ash Samet

I ran the question by him of who he thinks the bombardier in the Buslee crew photo is – Fryden or Davis – and he created this very elaborate comparison of the facial features of both Davis and Fryden to the bombardier in the crew photo.

Photo analysis of Buslee crew photo with comparison to photos of Marvin Fryden and James Davis
Created by Ash Samet, Marilyn Fryden’s grandson and computer graphics artist

If you click the comparison graphic, then click again to enlarge, you can review the detailed comparison that Ash performed. I am going to note Ash’s findings here, too, but please keep in mind, this is Ash Samet’s work and Ash’s words, and I credit Ash Samet fully with this expert analysis.

Ears

One of the first things I notice between the pictures are their ear-shapes! The greyscale photo has an almost angular feel to it, matching James, where Marvin’s ears (for lack of a better word) are almost bean-shaped. Silhouette aside, the greyscale image has an attached earlobe, like James, where Marvin’s earlobes are detached.

Eyes

It’s hard to see since it’s in shadow, but I thought it was interesting how James’s eyelid falls so low that it’s almost giving the appearance of a monolid, where Marvin has a definitively double eyelid. The greyscale image is squinting, but since the brows are lower/not raised, the skin above the eye isn’t being stretched. If he had a double eyelid as defined as Marvin’s, it would be more exaggerated as the folds compress with a squint!

Lips

Another landmark I notice between these pictures is the lips- Marvin has very full lips, and while they could pull to be thinner in a smile/squint, I’d estimate the corners of his mouth would have to reach more towards aligning with the outsides of his eyes. The middle photo’s mouth is pulled slightly wider, but still close enough to a neutral position that I’d say the lip thickness matches James more!

Mouth

James’ mouth also has more of a natural curl at the corners, which is accentuated by the expression in the middle photo.

Smile-lines

A more subtle detail in the photo is the “smile-lines” look very angular- even seeming to make a diamond-shape! Though the left picture of James is a neutral expression, you can see a natural indent that looks similar.

Based on the fat distribution on Marvin’s face, I’d imagine if his mouth pulled wider he’d show dimples.

Nose

The picture of James has a nose with noticeably round features matching the greyscale photo more closely than the picture of Marv, but aside from that, it looks like the eye-to-nose proportions of Marv’s nose is longer than the other images.

Eyebrows

Also a minor detail that’s harder to see- but the eyebrows of the greyscale image seem to reach much closer to the middle of the face than Marv’s- it could possibly be shadow, but they’re dark enough that I’d wager the actual hair itself is darker than Marvin’s!

Well, that kind of does it for me. Ash Samet has me convinced. I’m going with identification of the bombardier in the Buslee crew photo being James Buford Davis.

Keith Ellefson was trying to lead me down that road, but I resisted. I was so convinced that the Buslee crew photo was taken in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where the crew performed their final training. But Keith said, no, the background looks more like England than Oklahoma. To me, if the location was Ardmore, it had to be Fryden in the picture. I wanted to believe it was Oklahoma and I wanted to believe it was Fryden.

And Keith thought the bombardier looked like Davis, too. I should have listened. I just couldn’t get my head around the fact that the crew photo may not have been taken before the crew’s first mission with all ten original crew members. I took the wrong road. I took the scenic route instead, leading me about five years in the wrong direction. Sorry for not listening to you five years ago, Keith. And thank you Ash Samet for taking me by the hand and showing me the proper path step by step to the correct identification of James Buford Davis, the airman, the bombardier, in the photo.

Sources/Notes

Previous post, Davis or Fryden?

Previous post, A Photo of Marvin Fryden, Bombardier of the Buslee Crew

Previous post, August 5, 1944 Mission 173 Press Release – Transcription

Numerical Listing of APO’s January 1942 to November 1947

65th General Hospital

Notes about the 65th General Hospital link: the American Air Museum in Britain website will be down from 30 June 2022 until September 2022 for reconstruction. A notice on their site reads:

The American Air Museum archive is temporarily closing for reconstruction. We are working on a site-wide upgrade which will be completed in September  2022. To allow the American Air Museum team time to process the database, we will be stopping crowdsourced contributions from 30 June 2022. This means that from 30 June 2022 you will not be able to search, add or edit information in the American Air Museum archive. You can find out more about our plans here.

Thank you to the 384th’s Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for obtaining and sharing WWII reports from the National Archives for the 384th Bomb Group. Thanks to Keith, also, for his superb research, analysis, and advice, and thank you to Ash Samet for providing me with the photo of Marvin Fryden and his photo analysis.

Except for the work – image, graphics, and text – of Ash Samet, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

A Photo of Marvin Fryden, Bombardier of the Buslee Crew

Marvin Fryden, bombardier of the John Buslee crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron
Photo courtesy of Ash Samet

Memorial Day 2022 was on Monday, earlier this week, but I must take this opportunity a couple of days past the holiday to remember Marvin Fryden today. He was the John Oliver Buslee crew’s original bombardier. Marvin was killed on his second B-17 combat mission of WWII on 5 August 1944.

The mission was my dad’s first. Dad, George Edwin Farrar, served as the Buslee crew’s waist gunner that day and it was the most memorable and tragic mission of his combat career until the mid-air collision in which he was involved on 28 September 1944.

You see, the only B-17 Dad ever mentioned by name when I was growing up was Tremblin’ Gremlin. That was the ship that Dad, Marvin Fryden, and the rest of the Buslee crew manned on that 5 August 1944 mission to a German Air Force (Luftwaffe) target in Langenhagen, Germany.

On that mission, a flak shell exploded just outside the nose of Tremblin’ Gremlin where Marvin Fryden sat in position ready to drop his bombs. A piece of flak hit Marvin in the chest, but he was able to release his bombs on the target. He collapsed and survived the return trip to England, but died in the arms of his friend, navigator Chester Rybarczyk, in the hospital.

The grave of Marvin Fryden, 384th Bomb Group
Buried at Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England, Plot E, Row 2, Grave 4

Marvin Fryden is buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England, Plot E, Row 2, Grave 4.

There were other less severe injuries among the crew and the ship was severely damaged, including 106 flak holes. Tremblin’ Gremlin barely made it back to England, but not as far as Grafton Underwood, landing at AAF Station 365 at Halesworth, about eight miles (13 km) inland from the English coastline of the North Sea.

The Buslee crew lost their bombardier on 5 August 1944, but Marvin was a married man, and Marilyn Ash Fryden lost her husband that day, too. Marilyn saw her future with the man she loved disappear in an instant.

The couple had this portrait made on 13 June 1944 in Ardmore, Oklahoma where Marvin was completing his crew training shortly before he and the Buslee crew left the States for England and combat duty.

Marilyn and Marvin Fryden
Marilyn was the former Marilyn Ash and later Marilyn Samet
Marvin Fryden was the original bombardier of the John Buslee crew, 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron
Photo courtesy of Ash Samet

On the back of the photo, Marilyn noted,

Marv left for combat 6-26-1944, is buried in Cambridge, England. By 8-5-44 was dead! Less than 2 mo before “gone” forever!

Finding herself a widow at the young age of eighteen, Marilyn found love again, and a few days before Christmas 1945 Marilyn married Jerome Samet. Jerome was a member of the US Army Air Forces stationed at Marana Air Base in Arizona. Jerome was discharged from the AAF in February 1946 and the Samets began a family.

Recently, Marilyn and Jerome’s grandson, Ash Samet, found my stories of Marvin and Marilyn and shared the portrait with me. Ash said about the photo,

Marilyn had it hanging in her room for as long as I could remember, and always spoke so lovingly of Marv, even 69 years after his death.

Marilyn died on November 7, 2013 at the age of 88. Ash said that after her death he kept the photo, even though Marvin wasn’t his grandfather, because it meant so much to his grandmother.

Even though Marilyn lost Marvin almost seventy years earlier, shortly before her death she recorded this message in the 384th Bomb Group’s online log book.

I am 88, still loving my first love. Ready to leave this world and reunite with my love in England.

Her grandson, Ash, remembers,

She said the “next time around” she’d be born in England, since that was where her heart would always be.

Notes

Thank you Ash Samet for sharing the portrait of Marilyn and Marvin Fryden.

Marvin Fryden’s Personnel Record, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Previous post, August 5, 1944 Mission 173 Press Release – Transcription

Previous post, The Family of Marvin Fryden

Previous post, Never Forgotten

Previous post, Marilyn Fryden’s Letter and Photos Sixty Years Later

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 2

A continuation of my previous post, What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 1


A recap of the mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews on 28 September 1944…

On 28 September 1944, the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was involved in a mid-air collision with the James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222Lazy Daisy) coming off the 384th Bomb Group’s target at Magdeburg, Germany.

The Missing Air Crew Report for the Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was MACR9753. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the waist gunner aboard this fortress. He was thrown from the plane following the collision and was the only survivor of his crew.

The Missing Air Crew Report for the Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy) was MACR9366. Three of the airmen aboard Lazy Daisy bailed out and survived.

In my father’s response to the Army Air Force’s request for information about the mid-air collision, which is included in MACR9753, he concluded his narrative with,

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


My father died on November 5, 1982, never knowing the details of what happened to his crewmates on board B-17 43-37822 in the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944. Nor would he know what happened to the airmen of B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy, the ship with which his B-17 collided.

Dad died of cardiac arrest at the age of 61, still wearing the Air Force ring he wore on his left ring finger beginning sometime after he returned home from World War II, but before marrying my mother in 1949. He did not replace the ring with a wedding band or move it to another finger upon his marriage.

Dad’s United States Air Force Ring

Dad’s Air Force ring was clearly his personal memorial to his lost crewmates, a symbol which could not easily be set aside even when he took the vows of marriage to my mother, a ring he only parted with upon his death.

On the day he died, Dad finally joined his crewmates as one of the men who, I believe, were all lost on that day. In the mid-air collision, I believe my father was fatally wounded in heart, mind, and spirit, even though he remained physically tethered to this earth and his family for another thirty-eight years.

I need to finish his unfinished business, to answer his question that remained unanswered and disturbed him so deeply, “what did happen to the boys?”

George Edwin Farrar’s complete narrative of the mid-air collision, included in MACR9753, is as follows:

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

All of the documents of Missing Air Crew Report 9753 and 9366 are now declassified and available for perusal by anyone who cares to review them. And peruse I have, over and over, studying them as if some new secret may emerge upon repeated inspections. It’s not uncommon for me to notice something I hadn’t noticed before or maybe something that just hadn’t sunk in with past readings.

For example, this go-round, I noticed something in George Hawkins’ narrative of Missing Air Crew Report 9366 (the MACR for the Brodie crew involved in the collision) that previously slipped past me. Hawkins stated in the first paragraph of his narrative, “At the time of the accident [the collision], our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage. As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.”

George Hawkins, as navigator, was seated in the nose of Brodie’s B-17, so he would not be able to see from his seat the cockpit, top turret, radio room, ball turret, waist, or tail. He would not be able to know for certain from a visual standpoint the condition of the other areas of the aircraft or its occupants.

However, all of the airmen of the crew would have been in interphone radio contact with each other, and I believe if the aircraft had suffered a major flak hit or mechanical failure or if any of his crewmates had suffered an injury before the collision, he would have heard of it over the interphone. If there had been time.

Regardless of what he could see or hear or know otherwise of what was happening in his ship, I imagine from the nose of Lazy Daisy, George Hawkins had a front row seat to view their slide out of formation on the path to collision, to feel the quickly changing course of destruction in the pit of his stomach. And to quickly comprehend that he could do nothing about it.

I have researched in detail (see links below to previous posts, What Happened in the Skies over Magdeburg Parts 1 and 2, and Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins Parts 1, 2, and 3) what might have happened to B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy, to cause it to veer off course into B-17 43-37822.

I have considered that George Hawkins may have had the answer. If he did, he did not share the information in his Missing Air Crew Report narrative. If the ship had suffered major damage from flak as my father believed and I, therefore, have supposed, I don’t think Hawkins would have described it as “light flak damage.”

However, if what Hawkins believed to be light flak damage was more injurious to the pilots than it was destructive to the aircraft, Hawkins may not have been aware of it.

From eye-witness reports, here’s what I do know, or think I know, just from the two missing air crew reports, MACR9753 and MACR9366:

The Buslee crew’s B-17 43-37822

  • Broke in half near the center of the ship, either at the waist or at the radio room
  • The ball turret of this ship and the tail of the other ship hit, tearing off both
  • The wings folded up
  • Pieces of the tail and wings fell off. Plane was in flames from the engine.
  • Was going down in flames spinning into the clouds.

The Brodie crew’s B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy

  • The left wing of this ship hit the other ship’s tail and cut part of a wing off
  • The aircraft broke up near the tail assembly (in collision with ball turret of other ship) and went down in flames.
  • The aircraft was burning and slowly spiraling down until it disappeared into the clouds.
  • George Hawkins noted:  “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.”
  • George Hawkins added:  “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.”

In the collision, six men left the two planes, possibly in this order, but only four survived to become prisoners of war. Two were knocked from their respective aircraft but were not able to save themselves with their parachutes.

  • Brodie crew nose gunner Byron Atkins was knocked from 42-31222, but his parachute failed, was not hooked up properly, or he was not conscious to properly deploy it
  • Buslee crew ball turret gunner George McMann, while still inside the ball turret, was knocked from 43-37822, likely without a parachute as was customary in those tight quarters, unable to save himself in his fall
  • Buslee crew waist gunner George Farrar was thrown from 43-37822 when it broke in half, parachuted to the ground, and was captured by the Germans
  • Brodie crew waist gunner Harry Liniger was thrown from 42-31222 in an explosion, parachuted to the ground, and was captured by the Germans
  • Brodie crew tail gunner Wilfred Miller, while still inside the tail of 42-31222, rode the tail down before bailing out after an explosion, parachuted to the ground, and was captured by the Germans
  • Brodie crew navigator George Hawkins, while still inside the nose of 42-31222, broke out behind the right nose gun to bail out, parachuted to the ground, and was captured by the Germans

Of the remaining twelve airmen who were still on board the two B-17’s when they crashed, they were likely severely injured, or killed in the collision or ensuing explosion and fire, or if uninjured, unable to exit the planes due to centrifugal force trapping them in the spinning planes as they plummeted to earth.

These diagrams are of the B-17’s of the two crews, with different colored notations to represent the groupings and order of identification. Each individual is circled upon identification, not recovery. See the descriptions following the diagrams for details.

Diagram of BUSLEE CREW aboard 43-37822

B-17 43-37822, Buslee crew, 28 September 1944

Diagram of BRODIE CREW aboard 42-31222

B-17 42-31222, aka Lazy Daisy, Brodie crew, 28 September 1944

Circled in PURPLE in the Diagrams

Of the first eight airmen recovered from the two crashed B-17’s, only two from each crew were identified.

  • William Henson (Navigator) and Robert Stearns (Bombardier) were in position in the nose of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822
  • Robert Crumpton (Engineer) in the top turret and Gordon Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner) in the ball turret were in position in Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222
  • Four unidentified, crew unknown, not circled at this time

Circled in BLUE in the Diagrams

Of the next five airmen recovered, two from the Buslee crew and one from the Brodie crew were identified.

  • Gerald Andersen (Tail Gunner, name misspelled Anderson on the diagram) was in position in the tail, and George McMann (Ball Turret Gunner) was in position in the ball turret of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822, when the ball turret was knocked from the ship during the collision.
  • Donald Dooley was in position in the radio room of Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222
  • Two unidentified, crew unknown, not circled at this time

Circled in GREEN in the Diagrams

Four airmen captured by the Germans were identified.

  • George Farrar (Waist Gunner) was thrown from his position in the waist of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822
  • Harry Liniger (Waist Gunner) was thrown from the waist door and Wilfred Miller (Tail Gunner) bailed out of the severed tail following an explosion in Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222, and George Hawkins (Navigator) bailed out of the nose.

At this point, seventeen of the eighteen airmen of the two crews of nine each had been found, with eleven identified and six unidentified. One was still missing. I think the Germans may have believed three airmen from the two crews were still missing, as I think they were assuming each crew had ten airmen rather than nine, for a total of twenty rather than eighteen.

Circled in RED in the 42-31222 Diagram

One more airman was recovered, identified as the nose gunner of the Brodie aircraft, Byron Atkins (Togglier), who was knocked out of the nose during the collision.

The total now stood at all 18 found, but only 12 had been identified, with 6 unidentified.

Circled in ORANGE in the Diagrams

Four airmen, who were originally unidentified, were later identified.

  • John Buslee (Pilot) and David Albrecht, in position in the cockpit, and Lenard Bryant (Engineer), in position in the top turret directly behind the cockpit of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822
  • Lloyd Vevle (Co-pilot) in position in the cockpit of Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222

Circled in YELLOW in the 42-31222 Diagram

The next airman, originally unidentified, to be identified later was James Brodie (Pilot), in position in the cockpit of his aircraft, 42-31222.

Circled in BLACK in the 43-37822 Diagram

Recovered, but never identified in documents associated with either Missing Air Crew Report of the Buslee or Brodie crew, was Sebastiano Peluso (Radio Operator), in position in the radio room of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822. Peluso was likely at ground zero of the collision and likely at the center of the most destruction of the two aircraft. I am not sure when Sebastiano was finally identified, but by July 1945, his parents were still left wondering what happened to their son.

Identification Difficulties

Several factors led to difficulties in identification of the casualties.

  • Mixed crews – the casualties of both crews of both B-17’s were mixed together in the aftermath of the collision.
  • False/fake identification – at least one of the airmen in the mid-air collision, probably one of the Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron, was carrying ID and ration cards from two other 545th Bomb Squadron airmen, Robert W. Wagner and James E. Flynn, who were not on board either aircraft on 28 September 1944. Wagner was a gunner who was active during the timeframe of the collision, but did not participate in the 28 September 1944 mission. James E. Flynn was a radio operator who had completed his tour in May of 1944.
  • Missing identification – a Czech man who was on forced labor in Germany and was first to the site of the crash of 43-37822 took souvenirs and some identification and money from the plane.
  • Burned beyond recognition – the most difficult reason that six casualties of the two B-17’s could not easily be identified was that they were completely burned in the fire. These were likely the airmen originally unidentified in the German records – John Buslee, David Albrecht, Lenard Bryant and Sebastiano Peluso of Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822, and James Brodie and Lloyd Vevle of Brodie’s aircraft, 42-31222.

The Worst Place to Be in the Mid-air Collision

The areas of the two B-17’s with the most destruction, as evidenced by the difficulty identifying the occupants of the different positions, were the cockpits of both aircraft and the top turret and radio room behind the cockpit on Buslee’s aircraft, 43-37822, and past that, the ball turret of Buslee’s aircraft, which was knocked from the plane.

What Did Happen to the Boys

Dad was not the only one who wanted to learn details of the mid-air collision and what happened to his crewmates. Chester Rybarczyk, the Navigator of the original Buslee crew, who was not onboard the B-17 43-37822 on 28 September, wanted to know. The families of the the boys who lost their lives that day wanted to know. They were all very anxious for my father to return home from the war and answer the same question, what did happen to the boys?

I doubt in their lifetimes any of them ever found a satisfactory answer. Dad, the only survivor of the Buslee ship, was expected to know. But Dad knew almost as little as anyone did. He probably felt the pressure to answer their questions, but could not. He probably felt a responsibility to ease their pain, but could not. He probably felt a need to comfort them, but could not as there is no comfort from losing a child.

Dad wanted answers. Dad shared the families’ pain. Dad, too, needed comfort. And he alone felt the guilt of being the only survivor of his crew. He never understood, why did he live when the other boys died?

What did happen to the boys? Dad, I hope this research puts your question to rest, comforts your soul, and eases your pain. Please know, for you, I carry all of the boys lost on 28 September 1944 in a special place in my heart. I will always remember them. And I will make sure your grandchildren and future generations remember you and remember them.

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

Previous post, Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

Previous post, Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben

Previous post, On Forced Labor

Previous post, What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 1

Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters

Previous post, What Happened in the Skies Over Magdeburg? Part 1

Previous post, What Happened in the Skies Over Magdeburg? Part 2

Previous post, Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 1 of 3

Previous post, Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 2 of 3

Previous post, Lazy Daisy’s Gremlins, Part 3 of 3

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 1

A recap of the mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews on 28 September 1944…

On 28 September 1944, the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was involved in a mid-air collision with the James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222Lazy Daisy) coming off the 384th Bomb Group’s target at Magdeburg, Germany.

The Missing Air Crew Report for the Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was MACR9753. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the waist gunner aboard this fortress. He was thrown from the plane following the collision and was the only survivor of his crew.

The Missing Air Crew Report for the Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy) was MACR9366. Three of the airmen aboard Lazy Daisy bailed out and survived.


While recently reviewing a missing air crew report (MACR4814) for a different air crew (not the Buslee or Brodie crew), I ran across a letter from HEADQUARTERS, ARMY AIR FORCES, that was contained in that missing air crew report file. The Subject of the letter was “Casualty Information of Crew Members” and noted “In reply, refer to AFPPA-8.”

This particular letter was not made a part of the Buslee or Brodie missing air crew reports (MACR9753 and MACR9366, respectively), but I do believe my dad and the other survivors of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision of those crews received this same letter.

The Buslee and Brodie MACR files contain what I believe are responses to this letter from Buslee crew waist gunner (my dad) George Edwin Farrar (questionnaire and narrative) and Brodie crew navigator George Marshall Hawkins (questionnaire and narrative) and tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller (questionnaire). I had been curious about how they received a request for the information and now I believe I have my answer.

The contents of the undated “Casualty Information of Crew Members” letter are as follows:

  1. You will be interested to know that there have been formed here in Washington and in the theaters overseas, Missing Aircrew Research and Investigation Offices to collect all information from our own and enemy sources, correlate this information and furnish it to search teams in the theaters who will go to the scene of the casualty incident and investigate. These teams will question those in the area who have knowledge of the incident and trace all leads down until they have the story. The German records we have translated are excellent. We have just received the Japanese records. By combining all this data with the story available in your memory, we can tell next of kin the things that mean so much to them.
  2. You may or may not have been questioned in this manner before concerning the mission on which you were shot down and the events that followed. Regardless of previous questionnaires, it is important that we have the information requested here to complete our records concerning combat crewmen remaining in a casualty status.
  3. If you have been sworn to secrecy as a result of your escape, evasion or internment, you may consider yourself released from all restrictions as to disclosure or publication of experiences except:
    1. Secret intelligence activities and methods developed for use, or actually used, in prison camps.
    2. Details of techniques employed by military intelligence organizations operating behind enemy lines to assist evasion and escape.
    3. Negotiations conducted on high government or military level to secure release from internment in a neutral country. (See AAF Reg 46-8 dated 30 October 1945)
  4. Please answer all the questions you can promptly and accurately. Request that, if possible, answers be typewritten; if not, printed. Mail the reply to Commanding General, Army Air Forces, Attention: AFPPA-8, Washington 25, D.C.

BY COMMAND OF GENERAL ARNOLD:

JOHN J. SMITH
Lt. Col., Air Corps
Chief, Notification Section
Personal Affairs Branch<
Personnel Services Division, AC/AS-1

Brodie crew navigator aboard B-17 42-31222 Lazy Daisy, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr’s, narrative, 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.

Buslee crew waist gunner aboard B-17 43-37822, George Edwin Farrar’s narrative, 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

George Edwin Farrar’s handwritten narrative, with apology for it not being typed as requested in the “Casualty Information of Crew Members” letter:

George Edwin Farrar’s response to Army Air Forces letter regarding Casualty Information of Crew Members (click/select image to enlarge)

I am unsure of the dates Dad and the other survivors of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision received the request for information or the dates they returned their responses, but in 1946, Dad received two responses to his completed casualty questionnaire and narrative.

First, on June 14, 1946, Dad received a letter from Lt. Colonel William H. Brandon, Air Corps. Dad did receive a reply, but he did not get any answers.

June 14, 1946
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Mr. George E. Farrar,
79 East Lake Terrace, Northeast
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mr. Farrar:

Your completed casualty questionnaire has been received in this Headquarters, and we are appreciative of the information you furnished us relative to the fate of your fellow crew members.

At present we have on hand a large back-log of inquiries from the next of kin of our personnel who were killed in action or who are otherwise unaccounted for. In accordance with the Air Force post war reduction in manpower, the staff of this office has been reduced to a point where all inquiries cannot be answered as promptly as we would desire. In view of this, I am certain you will agree with our policy of giving preference to the next of kin. It is not known when we will be able to answer your questions concerning the members of your crew; however, an attempt will be made to furnish you this information as soon as possible.

Sincerely yours,
WILLIAM H. BRANDON
Lt. Colonel, Air Corps
Chief, Notification Section
Personal Affairs Branch
Personnel Services Division, AC/AS-1

On September 11, 1946, he received this letter from 1st Lt. John W. Bertschi:

September 11, 1946
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Dear Sir:

The casualty questionnaire you completed for Air Forces Headquarters came to my attention today. I noticed your own question in the back of the sheet, and knowing how anxious any crewmember is to know what happened to the rest of the fellows, I want to tell you what we have found.

German casualty records which we recently translated state that all your crewmembers were recovered dead. The only one not identified by name was S. J. Peluso. All the boys were buried in a cemetery at Ost Ingersleben where the plane crashed. This town is twenty miles northwest of Magdeburg. We do not have reburial on all of the fellows yet so this would indicate that the Quartermaster General is having trouble identifying the bodies.

That is really all there is to tell you. You might be interested to know that the German records also include your name and state that you were taken to Dulag Luft West.

You really lived through a close one. I hope you suffer no permanent ill effects, and are enjoying a normal life once again.

This personal letter is easier to get out than an official one.

Very sincerely,
John W. Bertschi
1ST LT. AC

In a handwritten note at the bottom of the typed letter, John Bertschi described himself as “Just one of the boys now working in AAF Hdqts personnel division.”

He also added:

P. S. When I checked your 201 file for your address, I found our “very sorry” letter to you.

John Bertschi hoped Dad had returned to a normal life. A “normal life?” How does one return to a normal life after such a catastrophic event as a mid-air collision between two B-17’s, confinement to a POW camp, and an 86-day 500-mile march to liberation and freedom, on top of the constant reminder that he was the only one on his ship who lived?

And yes, he did receive some information from this second letter, but I believe he still had more questions than answers.

To be continued with what I have learned did happen to the boys in What Did Happen to the Boys, Part 2

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

Previous post, Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

Previous post, Mapping the Crash Area Near Ost Ingersleben

Previous post, On Forced Labor

Previous posts, The John Buslee Ring Letters

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

In my last post, I mapped out the location of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision of the Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) and Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy) as it was recorded in wartime documents.

The coordinates of the collision, in the area of Magdeburg, Germany, were noted as 52°06’00.0″N 11°39’00.0″E on post-briefing reports, (52.100000, 11.650000 for Google maps), at an approximate altitude of 27,000 feet.

After the collision, the two fortresses traveled quite a distance, about 22 miles (approx. 36 km), before crashing to the ground north of the village of Ost Ingersleben, Germany (today, part of the municipality of Ingersleben in the Börde district in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany).

Distance between coordinates of collision (52.100000, 11.650000 – upper left corner of map) and 2km north of Ost Ingersleben (52.23022501900543, 11.169220977746475 – lower left corner of map)
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

Click on the map to enlarge the image. Ignore the roadways and driving directions and look at the straight line diagonally crossing the map and representing the flight path between the two points. The survivors who were able to leave the aircraft and parachute to the ground likely landed in the vicinity of this path.

The crash site of 43-37822 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Buslee crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753) as “33 km west of Magdeburg and 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.” Measuring the distance on a Google map between the Magdeburg city center and Ost Ingersleben city center is 33 km according to Google maps, but the distance between the collision point and an approximated crash point 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben calculates to approximately 36 km or about 22 miles.

The only survivor of the Buslee ship, my dad George Edwin Farrar, was not able to provide any location information in his Casualty Questionnaire Narrative and noted that when he hit the ground, “I was unable to tell where I was.” I previously imagined that he landed in his parachute close to the site of the crash 2km north of Ost Ingersleben, but that assumption is probably not correct.

Dad, the waist gunner aboard the Buslee crew’s B-17, was likely one of the first out, thrown out when “the other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to. He added that “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.”

It was uncommon for B-17 crew members to wear their parachutes in combat, preferring instead to keep them nearby for easy access if needed. Wearing his parachute during the mission that day saved my dad’s life as he would not have been able to retrieve it in his state of unconsciousness.

Dad must have landed in his parachute further east along the flight path and closer to Magdeburg and the site of the mid-air collision than I previously thought, as he was knocked out of the plane at the moment of the collision.

This leads to the question of where the other survivors of the mid-air collision landed after bailing out of the Brodie crew’s B-17.

The crash site of 42-31222 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Brodie crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9366) as “north edge of Ost Ingersleben, 33 km west of Magdeburg.” The two B-17’s likely crashed very close to the same location.

Brodie crew navigator George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the only officer of the two crews to survive the mid-air collision noted as part of his Casualty Questionnaire in MACR9366 that they were “near Erxleben, Germany” when their aircraft left the formation. Brodie crew tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller noted it to be “about 4 minutes out of flak area.”

Did Hawkins’ wording “left the formation” indicate the moment of the collision? If so, the coordinates of the collision as noted in post-mission briefing documents are too far east. I believe it is possible that the collision occurred further west than the noted coordinates due to Hawkins’ and Miller’s statements, and will keep that in mind while retaining the documented coordinates for this research.

Hawkins also noted that their aircraft struck the ground “near Erxleben, Germany.” Erxleben is 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben according to Google Maps, the same location as noted in the German Report on Captured Aircraft, but without using the name “Erxleben” as where the aircraft crashed.

Hawkins described his bailout and the Brodie ship’s crash location by noting, “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… 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.”

I do not know which direction from the town of Erxleben Hawkins landed, but from his wording “from the town” instead of “before the town”, I believe he landed west of the town, around mile marker 20.0 on the flight path map. That would put the plane landing right at the crash site coordinate at mile marker 22, which would be about two miles from where Hawkins landed in his parachute and where the German reports note the crash, about 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.

I believe Hawkins must have been the first to bail out of the Brodie crew’s B-17. He wrote that “I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.”

In his Casualty Questionnaire Narrative, Hawkins also noted that “Sgt. Liniger [waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger] said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller [tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller] said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.”

All three likely left the ship at nearly the same time, but I believe Hawkins left the ship before the explosion as he didn’t mention it in his recounting of his own bailout. Hawkins, Liniger, and Miller likely landed in the same vicinity near Erxleben, but did not meet up again until the next night in captivity.

To be continued in a future post with an attempt to narrow down the crash site with an eye-witness report from a Czechoslovakian man in the forced labor of the Nazis.

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

MACR9753

MACR9366

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022