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The B-17 Flexible (Waist) Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a flexible/waist 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 four 384th Bomb Group Flexible (Waist) 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.

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

George Edwin Farrar, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner

Leonard Wood Opie, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

Harry Allen Liniger, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

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 Flexible (Waist) 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 flexible/waist 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 look for and shoot down enemy fighters.
  • Would call out fighter positions (for the benefit of the other gunners and for the navigator to record in his log).
  • Would call out enemy aircraft he deemed to be damaged or destroyed (also for the benefit of  the navigator’s log record).
  • Would call out B-17’s that he saw go down and the number of chutes deployed (for the benefit of the navigator and radio operator so that they could report these losses at the debriefing).
  • Would report damage to the aircraft to the pilot.

The waist gun position of the B-17 presented several difficulties, but mostly remedied with the introduction of the “G” model.

  • In models previous to the G model, the waist gunners were placed directly opposite each other, resulting in difficult maneuvering during engagement with fighters. Their placement also led to accidental disconnection of the other’s oxygen system, and if such disconnection went unnoticed, would result in the stages of anoxia – dizziness, loss of consciousness, and death.
  • Also in models previous to the G model, the waist windows were open to 200 mph winds at altitude, which resulted in minus 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit temperature in the slipstream of air racing past the Fortress.  Problem: frostbite.  Anoxia and frostbite were the two biggest enemies of the B-17 waist gunner past the enemy fighters and flak. The waist gunners battled the freezing temperatures by wearing layers of heavy clothing and electrically heated suits. The G model added Plexiglas windows with an opening for the guns in the waist windows.
  • The waist gunners’ 50 caliber machine guns did not use a power assisted mount until the G model and the sights were aimed with a ball and ring sight until the sights were upgraded in the G with computing sights like those in the top turret and ball.
  • Originally, B-17’s carried two waist gunners, but late in the war, most bombardment groups reduced the number of waist gunners in a B-17 from two to one. The improvement of the distance the Allied fighters could accompany the bomber stream reduced the incidence and number of enemy fighters attacking the Fortresses, thus reducing the need for two waist gunners.

Location of the Waist Position in a B-17

The waist gunner positions of a B-17 are at the mid-point of the aircraft, just past the radio room and ball turret. Should the waist gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the waist door of the aircraft, just past the waist positions on the starboard (right-hand) side of the aircraft and forward of the tail.

In the following diagram, George Edwin Farrar is noted in the waist position 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 Waist Position Photos

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

View of waist door and right waist gunner window.

Waist door and waist window on the starboard (right) side of the B-17
Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine at Ocala, Florida airport in November 2014

Note, step ladder is for post-war tour guests only and was not used in combat!

View of waist from rear of aircraft…

Waist area and waist windows with 50 caliber machine guns, seats not original (added for post-war tour flights)
Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine at Ocala, Florida airport in November 2014

Note, seats also for post-war tour guests only and not used in combat!

View of waist from front of aircraft.

B-17 waist area aft of the ball turret in the foreground, ammunition boxes visible
Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine at Leesburg, Florida airport in November 2017

View of waist, waist windows, waist door, and entry into tail area from just behind the ball turret.

Waist area of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Again, post-war tourist seats were not original equipment!

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Waist 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 waist gunners. You’ll find a chart of several waist 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
Austin, Ralph Earl⇗ A Personal Account⇓ (0.058 MB)
Burns, Robert (NMI)⇗ My Bit For Victory⇓ (2.721 MB)
Hitzeroth, Franklin Carl⇗ My Story: The First Four Days⇓ (2.045 MB)
Jackson, Leslie Hall⇗ How Leslie Jackson Became a Friend of Füssen⇓ (1.863 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)
Seniawsky, Peter (NMI)⇗ Peter Seniawsky’s Black Thursday Escape⇓ (0.979 MB)
Sylvia, Francis Robert⇗ Account of 14 October 1943 Mission and its Aftermath⇓ (9.866 MB)
Zieba, Edmund (NMI)⇗ I Remember…⇓ (0.169 MB)
Britton, Joseph Rodman⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Furrey, Thomas Edwin, Jr⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Meyer, Alfred (NMI)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

Note: I was unable to open the links to the last three entries in the list, the oral history interviews of Britton, Furrey, and Meyer. I will leave the links in place in the hope that the problem is temporary.

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, Waist 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, 2023

George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 5

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding my dad, George Edwin Farrar, one of the original waist gunners 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 George Edwin Farrar, please see the links at the end of this post.


Continued from George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

This part will cover George Edwin Farrar’s post-WWII life.

Post-World War II

Following George Edwin Farrar’s honorable discharge and release from military service in San Antonio, Texas on 29 October 1945, he began a new career in a new part of the country as a civilian.

Ed’s father, Carroll Johnson Farrar, Sr., was in ill health and bedridden by time Ed returned to States in July 1945. Ed’s sister, Beverly, who was eight years old at the time, remembered a special visit to the Farrar home from the parents of the pilot, John Oliver “Jay” Buslee, of Ed’s B-17 crew.

The Buslee’s may have visited after Ed was discharged in October or at an earlier date while he was home on furlough soon after his return to the States. Regardless of the time frame, the Buslee’s traveled from Chicago to meet with Ed (whom they knew as George), the only survivor on their son’s B-17 in the mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany on 28 September 1944.

Ed had written to the Buslee’s from France and they in turn, wrote to Ed’s mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar, on 4 June 1944 about wanting to visit when he returned home.

The Buslee’s wrote again on 15 July 1945, mentioning a visit in the “near future.” The July 15th letter was the last letter from the Buslee’s that was in the war letters Ed’s mother saved, making it likely that the visit was in the summer of 1945 shortly after Ed’s return, but the visit could have been later, in the Fall, after his military discharge.

Jay Buslee’s parents were eager to learn everything they could about the mid-air collision that killed their son. John and Olga Buslee traveled to Atlanta to hear the news in person. Ed’s sister Beverly remembered Mr. and Mrs. Buslee, Ed, and her mother Raleigh Mae talking in the living room during their visit. Ed’s father Carroll was too ill to join the group.

John Buslee offered Ed a job as a salesman for his business. John Buslee was the “Buslee” in Neumann, Buslee & Wolfe, Inc., self-described as “Merchants, Importers, and Manufacturers” of essential oils, based in the Bauer Building on West Huron Street in Chicago, Illinois.

Ed did not want to leave home so soon, but he accepted the offer and the opportunity to restart his life. Ed moved to Chicago and into the Buslee home as Jay’s parents would not hear of him living anywhere else. John Buslee taught Ed sales skills and gave him the chance to make a good living in post-war America.

George Edwin Farrar became a traveling salesman of essential oils for Neumann, Buslee & Wolfe, traveling his territory by train and bus. The extent of the area his sales territory covered is unknown, but letters reveal he worked in Arkansas, Kansas, and Oklahoma. He wrote a letter home on 29 March 1946 from Oklahoma City in which he mentioned revisiting Ardmore, where he was a gunnery instructor in the war.

Ed missed his family and home in Atlanta, but the Buslee’s provided him with a good home, a good job, and a good life in Chicago.

In July 1946, the Henson’s traveled to Chicago to visit with Ed Farrar and the Buslee’s. Bill and Minnie Henson were the parents of William Alvin Henson II, the Sammons crew navigator who was on board the Buslee crew B-17 on 28 September 1944. Jeanne was their daughter. They, along with Ed and the Buslee’s, visited Barney’s Market Club on 10 July.

At Barney’s Market Club on July 10, 1946
Left side of table: John Buslee, Janice Buslee Kielhofer, Gene Kielhofer, Gertrude (unknown relationship)
Right side of table: Bill Henson, Minnie Henson, Jeanne Henson, Ed Farrar, Olga Buslee. (Photo courtesy of John Dale Kielhofer).

and earlier, on 6 July, visited The College Inn.

The College Inn in Chicago, Illinois on July 6, 1946
Left to right: Ed Farrar, Minnie Henson, Janice Buslee Kielhofer, Gene Kielhofer, Jeanne Henson. (Photo courtesy of John Dale Kielhofer).

Ed Farrar worked for Mr. Buslee and lived in Mr. and Mrs. Buslee’s home from late-1945 to mid-1949. In mid-1948, Ed’s brother Carroll Jr., and his brother’s wife Millie, formerly of Enid, Oklahoma, introduced Ed to Millie’s friend, Bernice Jane Chase of Enid. Bernice, known as Bernie, was a native of the farming community of Meno, Oklahoma, about twenty miles from Enid.

Bernice Chase was the middle daughter of Louis Albert Chase and Mary Selina Allen Chase, born on 2 June 1920. She had two sisters, an older one named Bethel, and a younger one named Beatrice. Mary called her three girls her “three little B’s.” Bernie’s father Louis and grandfather Cornelius Judson Allen both homesteaded on land in Meno acquired during the Oklahoma Land Rush. Their land in Meno was used to raise wheat crops, and later, oil wells and oil pumps marked the landscape.

Bernice Chase and her sisters lost their mother in 1928 to pneumonia and their father was left to raise them alone in a farm house with no electricity on the wheat farm. Bernice was eight years when her mother died. Her father never remarried. Electricity finally came to the Chase farm when Bernice was in high school. After high school and some college, Bernice moved into Enid to live and work.

I will write more about Bernice Chase Farrar, my mother, in future posts.

Bernie and Ed met in June 1948. Their courtship was mainly through letters as Ed was a traveling salesman who could visit only on occasions when he was working in the area.

Their letters and courtship photos would have to do between visits,

Bernice Jane Chase
“To Ed with all my love, Bernie”

and

George Edwin Farrar

George Edwin Farrar married Bernice Jane Chase a year after they met, on 30 June 1949 in Tulsa, Oklahoma. It was a small ceremony with just Ed and Bernie standing in front of the Justice of the Peace. No family. No photos. Even though I don’t have a wedding photo, I do have a photo from early in their marriage.

Bernie and Ed Farrar

After his marriage to Bernice Chase in June 1949, Ed left Chicago and they both moved to his parents’ Atlanta home until Ed took a job with Oakite Products, Inc. on 26 September 1949. That day, Ed was in New York City for his final interview and was hired and began his training with the company that same day.

Ed Farrar’s First Oakite Company Photo (1949)

With his training complete, on November 14, 1949, he was assigned to the Columbia-Spartanburg, South Carolina territory as an Oakite Products salesman. Little did he know that a witness to his 28 September 1944 mid-air collision over Magdeburg, the late Wallace Storey, lived in Spartanburg after the war.

Ed and Bernie moved to Greenville, South Carolina and rented an apartment in a beautiful large stone home at 20 Arden Street. Bernie took a job doing office work with an insurance company as Ed began his Oakite career.

The recently-released 1950 Federal Census records George E and Bernice J Farrar residing in the Arden Street home in that year. George/Ed was 28 years old and Bernice was 29.

The 1950 census record incorrectly identifies my parents’ states of birth as South Carolina. His correct place of birth was Georgia and hers was Oklahoma. Just a reminder that not all information recorded in the census is correct information.

Also recorded,

  • Ed worked 45 hours the previous week as a salesman for a cleaning products plant
  • Bernice worked 40 hours the previous week as an accountant and office clerk for a life insurance company.

Notes recorded on their page of the census indicate that the census taker had stopped by previously, but found no one at home. The note did provide some interesting information about the house, however.

House unit 416, upstairs apartment, in large house, did not find any one home on first call and thought house had only 3 apartments. Return call, found 1 more.

Ed and Bernie photographed their Greenville home,

Home in Greenville, South Carolina where Ed and Bernice Farrar lived after they got married

and I photographed it sixty years later when I visited Greenville.

Home in Greenville, SC where Ed and Bernie rented an apartment in 1949, photographed in 2010

The Greenville home reminds me very much of the Keeper’s Lodge at Grafton Underwood. The lodge sits just outside a gate separating it from George Edwin Farrar’s 544th Bomb Squadron living area on the 384th Bomb Group base.

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

On 13 November 1950, Ed Farrar was notified by Oakite Products that he was reassigned to Atlanta, Georgia as of 1 December. Ed and Bernie Farrar moved to Atlanta to continue their lives in Ed’s hometown where they both remained until their deaths.

George Edwin Farrar wearing his Air Force ring

George Edwin Farrar never forgot his lost crewmates of the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. He wore a memorial to them in the form of an Air Force ring for the rest of his life.

Dad’s United States Air Force Ring

Ed Farrar became a top salesman for Oakite Products and late in his Oakite career, won the top corporate honor for Oakite Products, the D.C. Ball Award for Distinguished Oakite Service.

In the sales year of 1979, he was in the #4 sales spot nationally in the company. In March 1982, he set a new one month sales record for Oakite, the “highest sales volume ever recorded in one month by an Oakiter.”

Ed and Bernie’s first home was on Conway Road in Decatur, DeKalb County, Georgia. In 1957, they moved to Arrowhead Trail in Atlanta, also in DeKalb County.

Ed and Bernie wanted to start a family upon their return to Atlanta, but it took longer than expected. I was born in the late 1950’s and my sister in the early 1960’s. We were born ten to fifteen years behind the children of most WWII veterans, in the later years of the baby boom.

George Edwin Farrar at home on Arrowhead Trail

Ed Farrar continued to work for Oakite Products until his death at the age of 61 on 5 November 1982 from cardiac arrest. Bernie continued to live in the Arrowhead Trail home until her death at the age of 83 on 12 March 2004. They are buried side by side at Floral Hills Memory Gardens in Tucker, DeKalb County, Georgia.

I will write more about both my dad’s and mother’s lives in future posts, but for now I conclude this update.

Notes

Previous post, George Edwin Farrar, Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia

Previous posts, George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4

Previous post, letter, The Buslees Want to Visit

Previous post, letter, Faithful Correspondent

Previous post, Mr. and Mrs. Buslee Visit

Previous post, Revisiting Ardmore

Previous post, Ed Meets Bernie

Previous post, Ed and Bernie Marry

Previous post, Ed and Bernie Start Their New Life Together

Previous post, Wallace A. Storey

Previous post, September 28, 1944 – Wallace Storey

Short story and previous post, The Replacements

George Edwin Farrar’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Find a Grave, George Edwin Farrar

Find a Grave, Bernice Jane Farrar

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, 2023

George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 4

George Edwin Farrar

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding my dad George Edwin Farrar, one of the original waist gunners 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 George Edwin Farrar, please see the links at the end of this post.


Continued from George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

This part will cover George Edwin Farrar’s journey home from Germany following his liberation as a POW and his release from military service.

Germany Surrenders

George Edwin Farrar was liberated by the British Royal Dragoons on 2 May 1945. Just five days later, on 7 May 1945, Germany surrendered to the western Allies at General Dwight D. Eisenhower’s Headquarters in Reims, France. German Chief-of-Staff, General Alfred Jodl, signed the unconditional surrender, to take effect the following day.

On 8 May 1945, V-E (Victory in Europe) Day was declared as German troops continued to surrender to the Allies throughout Europe.

On the day of Germany’s surrender (7 May) and V-E Day (8 May), George Farrar was likely still in Germany or possibly in Brussels, Belgium, but would travel to both France and England before returning home. I am able to track his path through letters home and a medal application.

Waiting to Return Home

George Edwin Farrar just wanted to get home, but between the time he was liberated and the day he departed the European Theater calculates to sixty-one days.

In Germany following 2 May 1945 Liberation

George Edwin Farrar first wrote home after liberation, filling out the blanks of a “Priority Message.” Within his fifteen word limit, he did not indicate what day it was or where he was.

He wrote:

Dear Mother, was liberated May Second.  Am in good health.  Will be home soon.  Love, S/Sgt. George E. Farrar, ASN 14119873

In Germany on 6 May 1945

Four days after he was liberated, George Edwin Farrar wrote a longer letter to his mother from Germany. Some of the highlights of the letter were that,

  • I was liberated by the English May 2nd.
  • I should be home soon.
  • I have been on the road marching since Feb. 6th with very little food, but am not in bad condition.
  • I guess I’ll have to get a new watch when I return as I had to sell mine for bread when I was on the march.
  • I hope you can read this, as I am writing on an old German gas mask case, and it is a bit rough, so will close until I have a better chance to write.

In Brussels, Belgium after leaving Germany

In filling out my dad’s posthumous Prisoner of War (POW) Medal Application on 17 August 1988, my mother wrote,

He was liberated on May 2, 1945. Sent to Brussels, Belgium and on to a hospital in France where he spent several weeks.

I do not know the source of her information other than probably told to her by my dad.

According to a U.S. World War II Hospital Admission Card, on 14 May 1945, George E. Farrar was hospitalized for ten days (presumably till about May 23) in a field hospital with a diagnosis of acute Tonsillitis. This field hospital likely was in Belgium, but the location was not included on the transcription of the card.

In France, 22 to 29 May 1945

On 22 May 1945, George Edwin Farrar wrote a letter to his mother from France. In part, he wrote,

  • Thought I had better drop you a line, as it is taking a little longer to get away from here than I thought, but it won’t be much longer.
  • I had better cut this as it is getting late and the lights here are very poor. And if I expect to do any more flying I had better take good care of them (my eyes).

At this point, he probably thought he would have to return to combat duty and flying. He also noted that while he was a prisoner of war,

I was in three German Hospitals for about two and a half months.

This indicates he was not placed in the general population of Stalag Luft IV until mid-December 1944, not mid-November as I have been thinking. I am also now even more curious about in which three German hospitals he stayed.

After not having a chance to mail his letter, Ed Farrar added a few more lines on 29 May 1945, with the new information that,

I have been in France for little over a week, and am going to England before I come to the States.

That last line leads me to believe he was in Germany and Belgium for almost three weeks before he arrived in France around 22 May.

In addition to a hospital stay in France, as indicated in the POW medal application, I believe it’s possible he was processed through the Cigarette Camp, Camp Lucky Strike, while he was in France. Most American airmen who had become POW’s during the war were processed through this camp.

I’ll write more about Camp Lucky Strike and the other RAMP (Recovered American Military Personnel) camps in a future post.

In England, June 1945

On 29 June 1945, George Edwin Farrar wrote a letter to his mother from England. He had thought he would be going home near the end of May and now it was a whole month later and he was still in Europe, in England.

He wrote that,

This will be my last letter from England, as we are leaving to-night. I will call you the first chance I get, after we reach the States. It will take a good while to cross, as we are going to be on a very small ship.

But George Farrar didn’t leave that night. According to his separation papers, he left England three days later, on 2 July 1945.

Return Home

George Edwin Farrar left England one year and one day after he left the States on 1 July 1944 heading to the European Theater of Operations for combat duty. He returned home by ship from an unknown departure point in England on 2 July 1945 to an unknown arrival port in the U.S. on 17 July 1945. I have not found any more details about his journey, including the name of the ship.

Release from WWII Military Service

George Edwin Farrar’s WWII Final Payment Worksheet noted a “Previous Organization” as Miami Beach, Florida. Just like Brodie crew waist gunner Harry Liniger, I believe George Farrar was sent to Army Air Forces Redistribution Station No. 2 in Miami Beach for reassignment processing after completing his tour of duty outside the continental United States.

The Gates County Index newspaper reported for Harry Liniger that, “During his processing, he is housed in an ocean-front hotel and enjoys abundant facilities for rest and recreation in this year-round beneficial climate.” George Farrar likely spent time in Miami for the same reason and probably in the same or a similar hotel.

Before going to Miami, Harry Liniger enjoyed some time at home, and I believe George Farrar would have also. George must have been considered to be on furlough from 24 July (a week after he returned to the States on 17 July) until 5 October 1945, and I believe the two locations he would have been in during this timeframe would have been home in Atlanta, Georgia, and at the AAF Redistribution Station in Miami.

During this time, on 14 August 1945, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender, but surrender documents would not be signed until 2 September. Some consider the 14 August 1945 date to be V-J (Victory over Japan) Day, but others consider it to be 2 September 1945, when the surrender document was signed.

From Miami, George Farrar was likely next sent to San Antonio, Texas, where he received his Honorable Discharge and Separation Notice on 29 October 1945, from Miami.

According to his Final Payment Worksheet, George Edwin Farrar was discharged from the Army Air Forces on 29 October 1945. Up until this final payment, he was last paid on 30 June 1945, which was just before his departure from England, on the way home.

His Accrued Base & Longevity Pay from 1 July 1945 to 29 October 1945 was $399.84. His Foreign Service Pay from 1 July to 17 July 1945 was $10.88. His Furlough Rations from 24 July 1945 to 5 October 1945 was $48.84.

Honorable Discharge and Enlisted Record and Report of Separation

George Edwin Farrar was honorably discharged from the military service of the United States of America on 29 October 1945.

His place of separation was SAD AAFPDC (Army Air Forces Personnel Distribution Command), San Antonio, Texas.

He recorded his Honorable Discharge with the Clerk Superior Court of DeKalb County, Georgia on 14 November 1945.

George Edwin Farrar’s Report of Separation listed his height as 5’8″ tall and weight as 140 pounds. Comparing these measurements to those he listed on his draft registration card, during the course of his military service he lost an inch in height and two pounds. I can’t say why there was a height difference, but he must have regained the weight he lost as a prisoner or war over the six months since his liberation.

His separation record listed his (partial) Military History and Pay Data,

  • Military Occupational Specialty and No. – AP Arm Gnr. 612
  • Military Qualification – AAF Air Crew Member Badge (Wings)
  • Battles and Campaigns – Normandy, No. France, Rhineland
  • Decorations and Citations – listed below…
  • Service Outside Continental U.S. and Return – listed below…
  • Wounds Received in Action – Germany 28 Sept 44
  • Longevity for Pay Purposes was 3 years, 4 months, and 25 days
  • Total Length of Continental Service – 2 years, 4 months, and 9 days
  • Total Length of Foreign Service – 1 year and 16 days
  • Reason and Authority for Separation – RR 1-1 Convn of the Gov’t.
  • Service Schools Attended – Kingman, Ariz., Ft. Myers, Fla.

Decorations and Citations (Awards and Decorations)

  • American Theater Ribbon
  • EAME Ribbon w/3 Bronze Stars
  • Good Conduct Medal
  • Air Medal w/1 Bronze (Oak Leaf) Cluster
  • World War II Victory Medal
  • Purple Heart

George Farrar was awarded the Purple Heart medal for wounds received on 28 September 1944 per General Orders #41, San Antonio District, AAF PDC dated 25 October 1945.

George Edwin Farrar Purple Heart Card
Image courtesy of Keith Ellefson

  • POW Medal (awarded posthumously in 1988)

Service Outside Continental U.S. and Return

  • Departure from U.S.
    • Date of Departure 1 Jul 44
    • Destination ETO
    • Date of Arrival 3 Jul 44
  • Departure from ETO
    • Date of Departure 2 Jul 45
    • Destination USA
    • Date of Arrival 17 Jul 45

George Edwin Farrar’s Separation Record noted for his Military Occupational Assignments,

  • 1 month, Grade Pvt, a Military Occupational Specialty (MOS) of AAF Basic Tng 521
  • 13 months, Grade Sgt, MOS of AAF Gunnery Instructor 938
  • 3 months, Grade S/Sgt (Staff Sergeant), MOS of Airplane Armorer Gunner 612

The Summary of his Military Occupations noted,

  • AAF GUNNERY INSTRUCTOR (938) – Instructed Military Personnel in flexible gunnery for 7 months 1943 at Kingman, Arizona. Conducted and administered training classes and gunnery tests. Administered phase checks, organized students and instructors for training in aerial gunner for six months at Ardmore OTU, Okla.
  • AIRPLANE ARMORER GUNNER – Was a crew member of a B-17 at an 8th AF Heavy Bombardment Base in England for 3 months in 1944. Flew 17 missions over German Occupied territory. Flew as Armorer Gunner in lead ship and was responsible for inspection and repair of bomb racks, gun sights, and turrets. Fired 50 caliber machine gun from Waist position when in combat.

George Farrar’s Military Education noted,

  • ACGS: Kingman, Ariz. Flexible Gunnery, (30 and 50 caliber machine guns) 6 weeks.
  • AC INSTRUCTORS SCHOOL – Ft. Myers, Fla. 6 wks. – Course included instruction and practical training in teaching methods and Student Psychology as well as fundamentals of advanced Aerial Gunnery.

Additional Information noted,

POW in Germany 28 Sept 44 – 2 May 45.

More about George Edwin Farrar’s post-WWII life in my next post…

Notes

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.

Previous post, George Edwin Farrar, Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia

Previous posts, George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3

George Edwin Farrar’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 3

George Edwin Farrar

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding my dad George Edwin Farrar, one of the original waist gunners 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 George Edwin Farrar, please see the links at the end of this post.


Continued from George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1 and Part 2

This part will cover George Edwin Farrar as MIA (Missing in Action) and as a POW (Prisoner of War).

The Mid-air Collision

On 28 September 1944, the B-17’s of the John Buslee crew and the James Brodie crew collided over Magdeburg, Germany. Rather than repeat the story of the collision, I will direct those who would like to read it to 384th Bomb Group pilot Wallace Storey’s account of the collision here.

Missing in Action

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group note the following for George Edwin Farrar: On 28 September 1944, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany (Target was Industry, Steelworks), George Edwin Farrar, flying with the John Oliver Buslee crew, went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action).

George Farrar and the other airmen involved in the collision would remain missing until some word was heard, typically relayed from the Red Cross to the military, and from the military to the families, or next of kin, of the missing. Word did not travel quickly outside of wartime Germany to families waiting to learn the fate of their loved ones.

George Edwin Farrar’s missing in action status was reported in his hometown newspaper, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, date unknown, but likely in early- or mid-October 1944.

Sgt. George Farrar Missing Over Reich

This particular article noted George received his wings at Kingman, Arizona, and mentioned he was a gunnery instructor at Kingman before going overseas for combat duty. It also looks like, at the time, his older brother Carroll was stationed in Greensboro, North Carolina with the Army Air Corps and his younger brother Robert (Bob) was stationed in the Pacific with the Navy.

During WWII, Greensboro was the only city to have a military base inside its city limits. In 1944, Greensboro’s Army Air Force base’s role was as an ORD, an “Overseas Replacement Depot.” It processed, reassigned and shipped out soldiers. It is likely that Carroll had finished one tour and was being reassigned there at the time.

At that same time, Robert (Bob), the youngest of the trio of Farrar brothers in WWII, was serving on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific, the USS Intrepid.

Prisoner of War

Capture

In the mid-air collision, George Edwin Farrar was thrown unconscious from his B-17. He awakened long enough to deploy his chest chute before losing consciousness again. He next awoke on the ground, received a beating from German civilians, but was soon rescued by Nazi military.

He was unable to walk and was carried to a house. He received medical attention and was interrogated, but I don’t know the details other than he traveled by train and remembered that his German guards were kind to him and allowed him to ride in one of their bunks.

Within the first week after capture, the Germans allowed the POWs to send a pre-printed postcard home. George Edwin Farrar was allowed to send his postcard on 5 October 1944.

George likely wrote his card from the hospital. Considering his condition, his report that he was “in good health” was certainly not accurate. And he was not transported to another camp “within the next few days.”

POW mail could take several months to arrive at its destination. Fellow POW, Brodie crew waist gunner Harry Liniger, wrote his post card on 3 October and his mother received it on 20 December 1944.

George Farrar’s postcard, written two days later, could have been received in late December, too, but I think it is equally likely that it was not received until after the first of the new year. In late December, the Farrar family had not yet heard any official word about the fate of their son from the U.S. government.

Hospital and Prison Camp

George Edwin Farrar was severely injured in the mid-air collision and was hospitalized at an unknown location. Unable to walk, he remained hospitalized until shortly before Thanksgiving 1944, at which time he was moved to a barracks in the Stalag Luft IV POW camp.

Aside from George Farrar of the John Oliver Buslee crew, the only airmen of the two crews to survive the mid-air collision were George Hawkins, Wilfred Miller, and Harry Liniger of the James Joseph Brodie crew.

The only surviving officer, Brodie crew navigator George Marshall Hawkins, was seriously injured and served his entire POW internment in a POW hospital. All three gunners, Farrar, Miller, and Liniger, were all held in the Stalag Luft IV POW camp for enlisted airmen.

Stalag Luft IV map drawing courtesy of Jack McCracken

George Farrar and Wilfred Miller appear on the same camp roster, a Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster, placing both of them in the same Lager of the camp. I believe Harry Liniger may have been held in the same lager even though his name does not appear on the roster, which could be incomplete.

George Edwin Farrar’s POW number was #3885. He was held in Stalag Luft IV, Lager D, Barracks 4, Room 12. This I know from two POW Lager D rosters, one for American airmen and one for British airmen, from Gregory Hatton’s website, Kriegsgefangen Lagar Der Luft VI and VI.

George Edwin Farrar’s POW ID Tag

Telegram Received

The Farrar family received official word on New Year’s Eve, 31 December 1944, that their son was alive and a prisoner of war. More than three months had passed since the mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews’ B-17’s before George Edwin Farrar’s parents and siblings would officially learn he had survived.

Subsequent newspaper articles reported George’s status as a prisoner of war. None of these articles are dated, but are likely from early January 1945. Two of the articles were very similar, but provided slightly different details.

Prisoners of War

and

Sergeant Farrar Is Prisoner of Nazis

Both articles refer to my father as “Edwin” Farrar, the name he was called by family, rather than “George” Farrar, as he was known in the service. Both also mention his duty as a B-17 gunner, his Air Medal, and note he was a gunnery instructor, with one article adding the location detail of Albuquerque, New Mexico (rather than Kingman, Arizona as in the previous MIA article) and Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Both articles also mention brothers Carroll and Robert (Bob). Both identify Carroll as a Staff Sergeant with one noting his branch of service as Army Air Corps. Both identify Bob’s branch of service as the U.S. Navy with the additional detail of his duty as Watertender, and his rank of Third Class in one article. (Watertender is defined as “a crewman aboard a steam-powered ship who is responsible for tending to the fires and boilers in the ship’s engine room.”)

The news of Ed Farrar’s POW status even made the Susanville, California newspaper. His oldest sister Geraldine, “Gerry,” must have reported the story to her local paper after learning the wonderful news from home.

Previously “Missing”, Is Reported a Prisoner

I must assume that Ed Farrar’s POW postcard had been received by this time also as the telegram did not mention his condition. The postcard, with its report that he was in “good health” (and with “slightly wounded” canceled out) must have led Ed’s family to believe he was uninjured. And at this point, it is clear that the assumption was that his plane was shot down rather than being involved in a mid-air collision.

George Edwin Farrar’s sister Gerry (Mrs. W.C. Mass) also reported to her local paper that her brother had written to her and said, “With the things the Red Cross gives us we get plenty to eat.” If that was so, why would he have written to his mother on 24 October 1944 that, “I hope you will have plenty chicken when I get there. I think I could eat a couple all alone.”

The Red Cross Appreciated!

I believe prisoners in the German hospitals may have been fed more and better than the prisoners in the POW camps, but still of insufficient calories and nutrients.

It was not that the Red Cross wasn’t providing. It was that the Germans were not distributing the packages to the prisoners – at least the enlisted POW’s, but letting them slowly starve instead. With the Americans and British bombing the railways, many Red Cross packages did not get to their intended destinations. But many packages did and were hoarded by the Nazi POW camp leaders instead of distributing them to the prisoners.

The March

While Wilfred Miller was evacuated by train from Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I in Barth, Germany in late January 1945, George Farrar and Harry Liniger remained in Stalag Luft IV until the majority of the POW camp’s prisoners were marched out of the gates of the camp on 6 February 1945.

They did not know where they were going or how long they would be on the road, but it would be the start of an 86-day 500-mile march of prisoners across Germany.

I have previously written about the march and how little the men were fed, how poorly they were clothed, how sick and exhausted they became, and how they were housed in barns or slept out in the open all across Germany. I have written about how the winter of 1945 was so brutally cold. But as I learn more details about the march from many of the survivors who wrote about it, I will have more information to share in future articles.

POW Liberation

George Edwin Farrar was liberated by the British Royal Dragoons on 2 May 1945. He and his marching companion Lawrence Newbold, an RAF Lancaster wireless operator, were still on the road when they were freed.

As a prisoner of war, George Farrar had been hospitalized for almost two months, had been held in a POW camp for over two more months, and had been on the road marching across Germany for almost three more.

Once he was liberated, George was again hospitalized, but not until twelve days after he gained his freedom. According to a U.S. World War II Hospital Admission Card, on 14 May 1945, George E. Farrar was hospitalized for ten days in a field hospital with a diagnosis of acute Tonsillitis. The record does not give any other indication of his weight or overall condition at the time of his hospitalization. I believe he was cared for in multiple hospitals before returning home, including a hospital in England, remaining overseas until early July 1945.

More about George Edwin Farrar’s return home, release from military service, and post-WWII life in my next post…

Notes

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.

Previous post, George Edwin Farrar, Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia

Previous posts, George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1 and Part 2

Previous post, Stalag Luft IV, Lager D, Barracks 4, Room 12

George Edwin Farrar’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

George Edwin Farrar’s Enlistment Record in the online National Archives

George Farrar’s POW record in the online National Archives

Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster

Jack McCracken‘s map drawing of Stalag Luft IV

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

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

Online article, Greensboro’s Forgotten And Now Mostly Hidden History As Military Base

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 2

George Edwin Farrar

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding one of the original waist gunners, my dad George Edwin Farrar, 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 George Edwin Farrar, please see the links at the end of this post.


Continued from George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1

George Edwin Farrar’s Education and Civilian Employment prior to his Military Service

An entry on George Edwin Farrar’s WWII Separation Qualification Record reveals his pre-war Civilian Occupation as “Vending Machine Repairman: Was employed 18 mos. by C.D. Harris Cigarette Service, Atlanta, Ga. Serviced, repaired, and restocked cigarette vending machines.”

The timeframe of 18 months prior to his WWII enlistment and entry into active service (4 June 1942) would mean he started the vending machine repairman job in December 1940. This leads me to believe Ed Farrar’s last complete year of school was his 10th grade year in the 1939 – 1940 school year. He may have begun 11th grade in the Fall of 1940, but left school to take the job with C.D. Harris in December 1940.

Entry into WWII Military Service

Following in his older brother’s footsteps

Carroll Johnson Farrar, Jr.
Enid (Oklahoma) Army Airfield Yearbook, Station Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. An inscription dates the yearbook to July 1943.
Photo courtesy of Fold3 and Find a Grave

George Edwin Farrar’s older brother, Carroll, Jr., enlisted in the United States Army Air Corps on 13 August 1941. One of his stateside training stations was the Enid, Oklahoma Army Airfield in Army Air Forces Training Cd class 43H – Station Aircraft Maintenance Squadron / Air Base Squadron. He later served in the Pacific Theater.

Information from a Farrar family history book written by Clarence B. Farrar in 1988 notes that Carroll,

Served 1941 to 1945, was Technical Sgt. Decorations include American Service Medal; Asiatic Pacific and American Defense Medal. WWII Victory medal; Air Forces Service Squadron 315th Army Air Forces. Battles India, Burma.

Ed always looked up to his older brother and followed in Carroll’s footsteps into the Army Air Forces.

Draft registration

George Edwin Farrar registered for the draft on 15 February 1942. According to his draft registration card, he was 20 years old, born on 3 September 1921 in Atlanta, DeKalb County, Georgia, and lived at 79 East Lake Terrace, Atlanta, DeKalb County, Georgia.

The name of the person who would always know his address was his mother, Mrs. C.J. Farrar, of the same address.

His employer’s name was Harris, Inc., at the Hurt Building, Atlanta, Fulton County, Georgia, which was his place of employment.

George listed his height as 5 ft. 9 in. and his weight as 142 pounds. He had gray eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion. He also noted, as an “obvious physical characteristic that will aid in identification,” a scar on his right ankle.

Enlistment

George Edwin Farrar enlisted in the US Army Air Forces at Ft. McPherson, Atlanta, Georgia on 4 June 1942, beginning his entry into active service on that date. His residence was noted as Fulton County, Georgia, although the area of Atlanta – Kirkwood – in which the Farrar family lived was in DeKalb County rather than Fulton County.

He also noted he was born in Georgia in 1921 and his education was two years of high school, which means he left school after the 10th grade. His civilian occupation was “Skilled mechanics and repairmen.” His marital status was single, without dependents.

Military Training

George Edwin Farrar began his military training with one month of AAF Basic Training 521 as a private.

Following Basic Training, he attended Flexible Gunnery School (30 and 50 caliber machine guns) for six weeks at Kingman, Arizona. He may have gone to a classification center before gunnery school, but I do not see any record of it. George Farrar was part of the 4th Student Squadron at Kingman, AZ in October 1942.

I see additionally that he was part of the 383rd Student Squadron in Albuquerque, New Mexico at Kirtland Army Air Base during the same timeframe, but do not see a formal record of him there. I have two pieces of evidence that he was in Albuquerque.

One is a news blurb in the base’s Bombsight newsletter, news reported from the 383rd Student Squadron,

It reads:

Lfc. Farrar made high score of the class with the Thompson Sub-Machine gun on the range. (Gee guys, better not fool with his gals.)

George was such a good shot with the Thompson Sub-machine gun, aka Tommy gun, that he earned the nickname “Tommy”.

The second piece of evidence was that he was in Albuquerque at the time of the filming of the Bombardier movie, which was filmed on location between October 12 and December 18, 1942. In this photo with one of the movie’s stars, Anne Shirley, you can see the 383rd School Squadron sign on the desk.

George Edwin Farrar on left with movie Star Anne Shirley
383rd School Squadron in Albuquerque, New Mexico

During his time in Kingman as a gunnery student, George Farrar attended the ACGS flexible gunnery school there for a six-week course. In a notebook he kept, he titled a section “4th Student Sq., Kingman, Ariz.” In that section are notes dated October 8 and 9, 1942.

His notes cover gunnery subjects such as small arms, Thompson sub-machine gun (cal.-45, model 1928), “US” Browning automatic rifle (cal.-30, M-1918), U.S. rifle (cal.-30, M-1917, Enfield), Shotgun (M-31, Skeet & Riot), and Browning machine gun (cal.-50, M2, Aircraft, Fixed & Flexible).

After gunnery school, George attended AC Instructors School in Fort Myers, Florida for six weeks. The course included “instruction and practical training in teaching methods and Student Psychology as well as fundamentals of advanced Aerial Gunnery.” I assume he was given the opportunity to become a gunnery instructor after performing so well as a student.

Following AC Instructors School, George became an Army Air Forces Gunnery Instructor with the 328th Hd. Sq. at Kingman. Beginning in May 1943 (Dad wrote a letter to his mother on May 23, 1943 giving her 328 Hd. Sq., Kingman, Ariz. as his new address, stating that he had just moved), he instructed military personnel in flexible gunnery for 7 months at Kingman, Arizona. He conducted and administered training classes and gunnery tests.

George Farrar left Kingman for an instructor’s position in Ardmore, Oklahoma about December 1943. In Ardmore, he administered phase checks, and organized students and instructors for training in aerial gunnery for six months at the 222nd Combat Crew Training School at Ardmore OTU. The Ardmore assignment lasted until May 1944.

On June 8, 1944, while at the 222nd Combat Crew Training School in Ardmore, George Edwin Farrar and future crewmate, Eugene D. Lucynski, received written orders “as a combat crew member requiring regular and frequent participation in aerial flights.”

George Farrar left Ardmore around June 22, 1944 with the John Oliver Buslee B-17 combat crew heading to England to fly heavy bomber missions over Europe. The crew made several stops in the states before finally departing the states June 29/30.

Combat Duty with the 384th Bomb Group

Morning Reports and other military documents of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for George Edwin Farrar:

  • On 22 JULY 1944, George Edwin Farrar was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944 as a waist 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 $140.40. His rank when assigned was Sergeant. He listed his home address as Mrs. Raleigh Mae George Farrar (his mother), 79 East Lake Terrace, N.E., Atlanta, GA.
  • On 9 SEPTEMBER 1944, George Farrar was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #180.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, George Farrar went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared POW (Prisoner of War) on that date.

George Farrar was credited with 16 completed combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

On his sixteenth mission, the B-17’s of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 over Magdeburg, Germany. Three of the Brodie crew survived the collision, but George Edwin Farrar was the sole survivor of the Buslee crew’s Flying Fortress.

More about George Edwin Farrar as a prisoner of war in my next post…

Notes

Previous post, George Edwin Farrar, Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia

Previous post, George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1

Carroll Johnson Farrar, Jr. photo courtesy of Fold3 and Find a Grave

George Edwin Farrar’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

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

George Edwin Farrar, Update – Part 1

George Edwin Farrar

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding one of the original waist gunners, my dad George Edwin Farrar, 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 George Edwin Farrar, please see the links at the end of this post.


George Edwin Farrar

I’m going to begin with a discussion about my dad’s name. His full name was George Edwin Farrar. His first name, George, came from his maternal roots. It was his mother’s maiden name, the surname of her paternal ancestry. I am not sure where his middle name, Edwin, came from. I do not find an Edwin in the George or Farrar ancestry other than his 22nd great-grandfather happened to be Edward I Plantagenet, King of England. Did Dad’s parents even know of that ancestry? I’m not certain they did.

But Dad was an “Edwin,” not an “Edward.” The only other “Edwin” I find in his family’s history is the name of the street on which his parents lived in 1913, 1 Edwin Place in Atlanta, Georgia. Did they like the name so much that they picked it for his middle name eight years later? I’m so not certain about that either.

To family and friends, George Edwin Farrar, was always “Ed.” Once he entered the military, he became “George.” Obviously, when your superior officer calls you “George,” your name is “George.” I’m quite sure he never would have corrected anyone with whom he was associated in the military, including fellow enlistees or crewmates, and especially not anyone under whom he was training or serving.

The name issue causes me difficulty when I transition between stories of my dad’s military life and his family life, like now. I often find myself switching back and forth between “George” and “Ed” when referring to my father, and sincerely hope I do not cause too much confusion about whom I am speaking. Forgive me for the lengthy digression into something as simple as my father’s name, but I thought it deserved an explanation up front.

Farrar Family

George Edwin Farrar came into this world on 3 September 1921. He was the fifth child and second son of Carroll Johnson Farrar and Raleigh Mae George Farrar.

Carroll was born December 17, 1888 in Charlotte Court House, Virginia to Charles Henry Farrar and Martha Ann Johnson Farrar. Charles was a private in the Confederate Army during the Civil War.

Raleigh Mae was a native Atlantan, growing up in the Grant Park area of Atlanta. She was born January 25, 1890 in Atlanta, Georgia to Raleigh David George (1858 – 1891) and Mary Willie Hollingsworth George (1861 – 1935). Her father, Raleigh David, was a train conductor and killed in a train accident the year after her birth.

Supposedly, up until his death, his daughter remained unnamed and was called “Baby.” After his death, Baby’s mother decided to name her Raleigh after her father. Unfortunately, the 1890 Federal census records were destroyed by fire leaving me unable to confirm this family legend told to me by the family’s youngest daughter, Beverly Farrar Millwood.

Carroll Farrar and Raleigh George were married in Atlanta, Georgia on June 25, 1909. Over the next twenty-eight years, they would have nine children.

The nine children of Carroll Sr and Raleigh Mae Farrar were:

  • Nell Geraldine “Gerry” Farrar (1910 – 1994)
  • Janet Mae Farrar (1912 – 1990)
  • Carroll Johnson Farrar, Jr (1916 – 1967)
  • Dorothy Gertrude “Dot” Farrar (1919 – 1970)
  • George Edwin “Ed” Farrar (1921 – 1982)
  • Robert Burnham “Bob” Farrar (1925 – 1983)
  • Martha Ann Farrar (1927 – 1970)
  • Harold Eugene “Gene” Farrar (1931 – 2011)
  • Beverly Marie Farrar (1937 – 2017)

While I have previously covered the 1930 and 1940 Federal census records for the Farrar family, I’ll provide a summary, or recap, here. Click the link for all the details.

Carroll and Raleigh Mae Farrar raised their family in Atlanta, Georgia, and according to the 1920 census, were renting their home in the Kirkwood section of the city. Four of the Farrar children were born by this year: Geraldine (age 9), Janet (age 7), Carroll, Jr. (age 3), and Dorothy (a month shy of age 1).

The family moved around quite a bit in the 1920’s, always renting in Atlanta’s Kirkwood neighborhood.

According to the 1930 census, the Farrar family was living in a rented home, still in Kirkwood. By now the family had grown to seven children and all seven lived at home: Geraldine (19), Janet (17), Carroll Jr. (13), Dorothy (11), my dad, Edwin (8), Robert (5), and Martha (2). The Farrar family continued to rent the same home for the first half of the 1930’s.

By 1937, according to the Atlanta city directory, the Farrar’s lived at 79 East Lake Terrace, SE. By now the family had grown to nine children with the addition of Gene, born in 1931, and Beverly, born in 1937. The youngest child of the Farrar family, Beverly, was the only one born in the East Lake Terrace home.

Ed Farrar attended J. C. Murphy Junior High School in Atlanta, Georgia, completing the junior high course of study on 2 June 1938. He would go on to high school, but I do not know which high school he attended. More research for me, I see.

By the late 1930’s, while Ed Farrar was still completing his education, it was now two decades after the end of World War I. World War II was brewing in Europe, but most Americans felt the United States should stay out of foreign conflicts.

On 1 September 1939, the Nazis invaded Poland to start World War II. Two days later, on 3 September, the day George Edwin Farrar celebrated his eighteenth birthday, Great Britain, France, Australia, and New Zealand declared war on Germany.

On 5 September, the United States proclaimed its neutrality, but it would only be a matter of time before three of Carroll and Raleigh Mae’s four sons would take part in fighting in the European and Pacific theaters of World War II.

Before America and the Farrar family went to war, time slowly marched on into the 1940’s. Americans must have been very on edge while the rest of the world battled on, wondering if and when they and their American sons would be called upon to join the destruction of nation against nation.

According to the 1940 census, the Farrar family owned their home at 79 East Lake Terrace, SE in Atlanta, DeKalb County, Georgia. Beverly remembered that the family rented the home first and then Raleigh decided they should buy it. Carroll, Sr., objected to the purchase, but Raleigh succeeded in talking him into buying the home. I don’t know what year they made the purchase, but they had done so by 18 April 1940, when census takers recorded the Farrar family for the Federal census.

In 1940, the three oldest girls – Geraldine, Janet, and Dorothy – were married and no longer living at home, but six of the Farrar children lived at 79 East Lake Terrace with their parents. Living in the home in 1940 were Carroll Sr. (51), Raleigh (50), Carroll Jr. (24), Edwin (18), Robert (15), Martha (12), Gene (9), and Beverly (3). Carroll Sr. worked as a printer in a printing shop, Carroll Jr. worked as a floor salesman in a department store (Atlanta’s downtown Rich’s store), and Edwin was a soda clerk in a drug store. The younger children attended school.

For the 1940 Federal census record entry for Edwin Farrar, in response to the question “Attended school or college any time since March 1, 1940,” the answer was “Yes.” The next question, “Highest Grade Completed” was H2, or 10th Grade. Ed left school after completing the 10th grade. He was a good math student and won many math competitions, but with so many brothers and sisters at home to feed, the family needed an extra paycheck and his education was over.

[Note: his WWII Separation Record notes that after 2 years of high school, Ed Farrar left school in 1939. Even though the year he left school contradicts the census record, all records note his highest grade completed as 2 years of high school, or 10th grade.]

After his stint as a soda clerk, or as Ed called it, “soda jerk,” he worked as a vending machine maintenance man and made extra money as a Golden Gloves boxer.

On 4 September 1940, the “America First Committee” was established with the goal of keeping the United States out of WWII. But less than two weeks later, on 16 September, the United States military conscription bill passed and the first U.S. peacetime draft was enacted. A month later, Ed Farrar’s older brother, Carroll, Jr., registered for the WWII draft on 16 October.

Left to Right: Carroll Johnson Farrar, Jr. and George Edwin (Ed) Farrar.
May 8, 1941
Carroll enlisted in WWII 3 months later, on August 13, 1941

The next year, in the Summer of 1941, Carroll, Jr. was preparing to join in the war effort, even though the U.S. had not yet entered the war. Carroll, Jr. enlisted in the Air Corps on 13 August 1941, and this family photo was taken shortly before he entered the service.

The Farrar family, circa Summer 1941
Standing, back row, L to R: Ed, Bob Hunt (Janet’s first husband), Janet, Ozzie Couch (family friend), Carroll Jr.
Standing, middle, L to R: Martha, Dorothy (Dot) holding her daughter Phyllis, Raleigh, Carroll Sr.
Kneeling front: Bob, Gene, Beverly, Hugh Cobb (Dot’s husband), Denny (Dot’s son)
Not pictured: Geraldine

On 7 December 1941, the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor. The next day, on 8 December, the United States and Great Britain declared war on Japan.

On 11 December 1941, Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. Hours later, President Roosevelt asked Congress for a declaration of war on Germany saying,

Never before has there been a greater challenge to life, liberty and civilization.

As the U.S. entered the war in Europe, Ed Farrar was still living in Kirkwood with his family at the 79 East Lake Terrace home. He followed his brother into war the next year, enlisting in the Army Air Corps on 4 June 1942.

On 8 May 1943, Ed’s younger brother Robert “Bob” enlisted in the Navy at the age of 18.

More about George Edwin Farrar and his military training and World War II service in my next post…

Notes

Previous post, George Edwin Farrar, Growing Up in Atlanta, Georgia

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Lenard Leroy Bryant, Update

Lenard Leroy Bryant, photo courtesy of Derral Bryant

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding one of the original waist gunners, Lenard Leroy Bryant, 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 Lenard Leroy Bryant, please see the links at the end of this post.

Bryant Family

Lenard Leroy Bryant was born 7 March 1919 in Alex, Grady County, Oklahoma. Lenard was the youngest of the ten children of Fannie Lenora Drake (1879 – 1961) and John Gilbert Bryant (1878 – 1938).

According to the 1930 Federal census, the Bryant family lived in Justice Precinct 6 of Hockley County, Texas. Nine members of the extended family were listed at the family’s address. Along with John and Fannie were four of their children including Jewel, John, Lester, and Lenard, and Fannie’s mother (Florence Drake), sister (Birdie Wadkins), and sister’s daughter (Daisey Wadkins).

John Bryant was born in Georgia, as were both of his parents. Fannie Drake Bryant was born in Texas, her father was born in Tennessee, and her mother was born in Alabama. John’s occupation was farmer.

The ten children of John and Fannie Bryant were:

  • James Clyde Bryant (1900 – 1986)
  • Ralph Hubert Bryant (1901 – 1989)
  • Earl Alfred Bryant (1903 – 1991)
  • William Marion Bryant (1906 – 1975)
  • Jewel L. Bryant (1908 – 1978)
  • Letha Murel Bryant (1910 – 1994)
  • Lettie Mae Bryant (1912 – 1982)
  • John Bryant (1914 – 1969)
  • Lester Marvin Bryant (1917 – 1968)
  • Lenard Leroy Bryant (1919 – 1944)

Lenard Leroy Bryant married Ruby Maudene Baisden on 21 October 1939. Maudine was born 2 June 1923 in Gasoline, Briscoe County, Texas to Ottie and Virgie Baisden, and died 16 February 2004 in Littlefield, Lamb County, Texas.

The 1940 census records Lenard (age 21) and Maudene (age 16) as living as a married couple in Justice Precinct 4 of Hockley County, Texas. Lenard’s occupation was laborer and Maudene’s occupation was housewife.

Entry into WWII 

Lenard registered for the draft on 16 October 1940. He was 21 years old, born on 7 March 1919 in Grady County, Oklahoma, and currently lived at Route 2, Littlefield, Hockley County, Texas.

The name of the person who would always know his address was his wife, Mrs. Ruby Maudene Bryant of the same address.

His employer’s name was Otte Baisden (which I believe was his father-in-law) of the same address.

Lenard listed his height as 5 ft. 10 in. and his weight as 145 pounds. He had blue eyes, blonde hair and a light complexion.

I do not find an enlistment record for Lenard in the NARA online files, but did find a form titled “Certification by Uniformed Services” of the Department of Health and Human Services SSA in his NPRC record which notes Lenard’s Date of Entry into Active Service as 18 May 1943.

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

WWII Service – Morning Reports and other military documents of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Lenard Leroy Bryant:

  • On 22 JULY 1944, Lenard Leroy Bryant was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944 as a waist gunner (classification AAEG, Aerial Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 611), for the John Oliver Buslee crew. His pay per month was $140.40. His rank when assigned was Corporal. He listed his home address as Mrs. Ruby Maudene Bryant, Rt #2, Littlefield, Tex.
  • On 6 AUGUST 1944, Lenard Bryant was promoted to Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #158.
  • On the 9 AUGUST 1944 mission to Erding, Germany, Lenard Bryant was reassigned to the position of Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the Buslee crew. Clarence Seeley, the crew’s original Engineer, was seriously wounded on the 5 AUGUST mission and did not return to duty for two months. This enabled both of the waist gunners of the Buslee crew, Lenard Bryant and George Farrar, to remain with their original crew. Farrar remained the crew’s waist gunner while Bryant took over the top turret position. If Seeley had not been seriously wounded and unable to participate in combat missions, either Bryant or Farrar would have been moved to another crew, or possibly even another bombardment group.
  • On 9 SEPTEMBER 1944, Lenard Bryant was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #180.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Lenard Bryant went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared KIA (Killed in Action) on that date.

Lenard Bryant was credited with 16 completed combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Medals and Decorations

Lenard Leroy Bryant earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and also received the Purple Heart.

Casualty of War

Lenard Leroy Bryant died 28 September 1944 at the age of 25, leaving his young wife, Ruby Maudene, a widow at the age of 21. Lenard is buried at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot G, Row 7, Grave 22. Maudene lived to the age of 80 and never remarried.

Lenard and Maudene Bryant, 1939, photo courtesy of Derral Bryant

Notes

Previous post, Lenard Leroy Bryant, Top Turret Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Lenard Leroy Bryant’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

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.

Thank you to Derral Bryant, Lenard’s great-nephew, for family information and photos.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The Loss of the Buslee Crew on 28 September 1944

Buslee crew at Ardmore Army Airfield in Ardmore, Oklahoma shortly before leaving the States for combat duty in Europe.
Standing left to right: John Buslee (P), David Albrecht (CP), Chester Rybarczyk (N), Marvin Fryden (B)
Kneeling left to right,: Sebastiano Peluso (RO), Erwin Foster (BT), Clarence Seeley (TT), Lenard Bryant (WG)
Missing from this original crew photo are Eugene Lucynski (TG) and George Farrar (WG)
Photo courtesy of Sebastiano Peluso’s nephew, David Mesite

Today is the seventy-eighth anniversary of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision between the Buslee crew’s and Brodie crew’s B-17’s over Magdeburg, Germany. Killed in Action on this day were original Buslee crewmembers John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Sebastiano Peluso (radio operator), and Lenard Bryant (top turret gunner). Original crewmember George Farrar (waist gunner) became a prisoner of war.

Four more airmen were also killed aboard the Buslee B-17, men who were from different crews, but were flying with Buslee that day. They were William Henson (navigator), Robert Stearns (bombardier), George McMann (ball turret gunner), and Gerald Andersen (tail gunner).

Original Buslee crew bombardier Marvin Fryden had been killed on the crew’s 5 August 1944 mission.

Other than my father, George Edwin Farrar, who became a POW on the 28 September 1944 mission, and liberated 2 May 1945, four other original Buslee crew members returned home after the end of the war. They were Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), Clarence Seeley (engineer), Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), and Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner).

Both Clarence Seeley and Eugene Lucynski were seriously wounded in action. Seeley was able to recover from his injuries enough to return to combat duty and complete his missions, but Lucynski was not able to return to combat after being injured on his fourteenth mission.

When you look at the statistics for this one B-17 crew of ten airmen from World War II, five (half) were killed in action, two were seriously wounded in action, one became a prisoner of war, and only two completed their tours without serious injury, death, or capture by the enemy. It’s a very grim statistic which highlights the dangers faced by the airmen of World War II.

The statistics for the original Buslee crew:

  • Killed in Action 50%
  • Wounded in Action 20%
  • Prisoner of War 10%
  • Returned home without major incident 20%

Now remember, these boys weren’t just “statistics.” They were sons, brothers, husbands, and fathers. They were from all parts of the United States, some of whose ancestors arrived in Colonial times and some of whose families were recent immigrants. They came from all walks of life. They had varying educations.

But they all had one purpose for serving their country and serving on this crew. They were all needed to help fight a war, to defeat Adolf Hitler and the Nazis, and to regain the freedom and safety of citizens in Europe and assure its continuation in America.

For every loss of an airman or any other serviceman or woman, family members at home suffered. One family who suffered immensely was the family of the Buslee crew’s radioman, Sebastiano Joseph Peluso.

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

Waiting for word about the fate of their son after learning he was missing in action was pure torture for Sebastiano’s parents. Farrar’s parents learned he was alive and a prisoner of war on New Year’s Eve 1944, three months after the collision. Then, one by one, over the course of several months, the families of the other airmen aboard Buslee’s B-17 received the bad news that their sons and husbands had been killed on 28 September.

All except for Sebastiano Peluso’s parents. By the middle of July 1945, the Peluso’s still had no word regarding the fate of their son. I am not sure how long they did wait for the official word of his death, but the passage of time between that date and the notification that he had been declared missing on 28 September 1944 must have been excruciatingly slow for his father Giuseppe (Joseph), mother Antonetta, and two older sisters Sara and Gina.


Over the years of researching the men of both the Buslee and Brodie crews and their families, I have connected with many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews of most of these airmen. I was overjoyed recently to connect with several Peluso family members, descendants of both of Sebastiano’s sisters, Sara and Gina.

Right at the tail end of August, I received a Facebook message request and was delighted to find a message from David Mesite along with the Ardmore crew photo. David is the son of Sebastiano Peluso’s sister Gina.

David also sent me a close-up of the photo of the boys at Ardmore.

Buslee crew at Ardmore Army Airfield in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Photo courtesy of Sebastiano Peluso’s nephew, David Mesite

I had seen the Ardmore crew photo once before, as published in an old 8th Air Force Magazine from September 2005. The magazine arrived courtesy of 384th Bomb Group NexGen, Paul Furiga, son of 384th BG bombardier Frank Furiga. Frank had saved the magazine because his friend, Buslee crew bombardier Marvin Fryden, was pictured on the cover. This was the first time I had seen a copy of the Ardmore photo that was used in the magazine.

Not pictured in this photo were tail gunner Eugene Lucynski and waist gunner George Farrar. The photo opportunity may have happened before the two were named to the crew, or perhaps they were just not around for the photo. Lucynski and Farrar were issued combat orders at the same time, 8 June 1944. Farrar, my dad, was a gunnery instructor at Ardmore at the time, so perhaps Lucynski was an instructor there as well, with both leaving their duty at Ardmore to go into combat in the European theater.

In his Facebook message, David Mesite told me that his daughter, also named Gina, found my The Arrowhead Club stories about Sebastiano and the Peluso family while performing an internet search of her grandmother’s name. David made the initial contact with me, but over the next week or so, I received e-mails from many more Peluso family members. I am happy to report that I now have connections with many of Sebastiano Peluso’s nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews.

I am pleased that information I shared from my research provided Sebastiano’s family with details about his military service and sacrifice of which they were not previously aware. And I am equally pleased to learn Sebastiano’s memory is honored by them all even though he died before they were born and never had the chance to meet or know him.

The Peluso family’s messages to me are heart-warming. I have learned how proud they are of Sebastiano and how grateful they are for his and his generation’s sacrifices during World War II.

I also understand something that this future generation of the Peluso family may not have considered. After reading and rereading all of their messages to me, and appreciating how grateful, compassionate, and talented the nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews are, I know Sebastiano would be equally, if not more, proud of them.

I won’t share the many messages I received from Peluso family members, but I hope Sebastiano’s niece Marianne doesn’t mind if I share her moving thoughts and touching reflection.

It is such a tragic story for all of us, in all of the families—yet, I feel better knowing that my uncle had wonderful friends and fellow soldiers right until the end. Again, many thanks to you and yours and please know that your love and care have helped us to grow closer as a family, and to honor the memory of our beloved uncle.

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

Notes

Thank you David, Marianne, Gina, Bill and Gina, Kirsten, and Christopher for connecting and conveying your heartfelt messages. I know you all will keep your Uncle Sebastiano’s memory alive for generations to come.

Sebastiano Peluso

Peluso Family Letters

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

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