The Arrowhead Club

Category Archives: Buslee Crew

The B-17 Bombardier

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 four 384th Bomb Group Bombardiers and one Togglier who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Marvin Fryden, assigned Buslee crew bombardier

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

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

William Douglas Barnes, Jr., assigned Brodie crew bombardier

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

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 Bombardier

According to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website, the bombardier’s job was the most important of the entire B-17 crew as “accurate and effective bombing is the ultimate purpose of your entire airplane and crew.” This makes “every other function … preparatory to hitting and destroying the target.”

But the bombardier could not act alone. The B-17’s pilot and bombardier worked together to set up the conditions for the bomb run. Many factors were involved in positioning the aircraft and setting the course from the initial point of the run to the target.

The success of the mission rested on the accomplishment of the bombardier during the bomb run, which made up just a matter of minutes, between the initial point of the run and the target, of the multi-hours long mission to the target.

Some of the many things a bombardier must understand were his aircraft’s,

  • Bombsight
  • Bombing instruments and equipment
  • Racks, switches, controls, releases, doors, linkage, etc.
  • Automatic pilot as it pertains to bombing and how to set it up and make any adjustments and minor repairs while in flight
  • Bombs and how to load and fuse them

The bombardier must be an expert in target identification and in aircraft identification and he should be able to assist the navigator in case the navigator becomes incapacitated.

Please refer to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website for the full list of bombardier responsibilities and much more detailed information.

My next post will cover the process and actions necessary for a successful bomb run.

The B-17 Togglier

According to an article posted on the Carlsbad Army Airfield’s public Facebook page,

When there was a shortage of bombardier graduates coming into the operational units, the continental air forces completed their crews with enlisted men who had received individual bombardier training in their own units.

While a good portion of the aircraft in the formation, especially the lead aircraft, carried bombardier school graduates as their bombardiers, many carried toggliers.

Bombardiers were commissioned officers who graduated from bombardier school as part of their stateside training. Toggliers were enlisted men who did not did not attend bombardier school in the States before going overseas into combat.

The togglier was usually a gunner who was retrained and reassigned to sit in the bombardier’s seat in the nose of the aircraft. The togglier was trained to “toggle” a switch to release his aircraft’s bomb load as soon as the lead bombardier released his bombs.

When the standard bombing procedure changed for the non-lead crew/aircraft bombardiers and toggliers to drop their bombs with the lead bombardier, many bombardier graduates pursued lead bombardier training or navigator training within their combat groups.

Location of the Bombardier in a B-17

The bombardier of a B-17 sits over the bombsight in the Plexiglas nose of the aircraft. Should the bombardier have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the door below the nose.

In the following diagram, Robert Stearns is noted in the bombardier position in the nose 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 Bombardier Position Photos

I took the following photo of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash. It shows the nose of the B-17 with the navigator’s table in the left foreground and the bombardier’s seat in the front of the nose in the middle.

Nose position of the navigator and bombardier of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

This photo, shared by photographer John Slemp, shows a much better view of the bombardier’s position.

© (2009) John Slemp

To see more of John Slemp’s photographs, or to purchase his book of photos of WWII Bomber Boys’ flight jacket art, please visit his website.

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Bombardiers and Toggliers

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 bombardiers. You’ll find a chart of several bombardiers 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
Ackerson, Donald Richard⇗ Résumé of Tour of Bombing Action in Europe⇓ (0.084 MB)
Fleenor, Charles Thurman, “Chuck”⇗ B-17 Bombardier, Speaking at 2011 Reunion⇗
Deignan, Charles Joseph⇗ 2005 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Furiga, Frank Dominic⇗ 2004 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Richard, Oscar Gabriel, III⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Walton, Daniel Alton⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Burns, Robert (NMI)⇗ My Bit For Victory⇓ (2.721 MB)

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Bombardier

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

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

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

Facebook post from Carlsbad Army Airfield, Bombardier Training

Carlsbad Army Airfield public Facebook page

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, 2021

Marvin Fryden, Update

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

New information from a new search on Ancestry.com, and new information from military records have provided me with some new and updated information regarding Marvin Fryden, the original bombardier of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. 

To view my original post and other information about Marvin Fryden, please see the links at the end of this post.

Fryden Family

While in the military, Marvin Fryden spelled his last name as “Fryden.” However, the original spelling of his family’s last name when he was growing up was “Frydyn.” I will use both spellings as they were found in historical records, but generally Marvin’s parents continued to use the “Frydyn” spelling as Marvin and his younger sister, Florence, used the “Fryden” spelling in the 1940’s.

Marvin’s father was Harry Frydyn and his mother was Sylvia Kaplan. The family was Jewish and Yiddish was their native language.

Harry Frydyn was born on February 15, 1889 in Radom, Poland/Russia (depending on the year, Radom was part of Poland or Russia). Radom is located about sixty miles south of Warsaw. According to U.S. Naturalization Records, Harry immigrated to the United States from Russia on 13 November 1907 around the age of 18 (his birthplace was Russia), and he became a naturalized citizen on 5 March 1914 at the age of 25. Alternate records show he immigrated to the United States in 1910 and was naturalized in 1916 (according to the 1920 and 1930 Federal census records).

Sylvia Kaplan Frydyn was born in 1898 in Bialastok [Bialystok], Poland. She immigrated to the United States in 1910 and was naturalized in 1919 (according to the 1920 census) or immigrated in 1914 (according to the 1930 census).

On 5 June 1917, Marvin’s father, Harry Frydyn, at the age of 28, registered for the World War I (July 1914 to 11 November 1918) draft. While I can find no details of Harry’s military service, the Veterans Administration Master Index notes Harry’s Military Service record date as January 1918.

On 8 December 1919, Harry Frydyn, age 30, married Sylvia Kaplan, age 21, in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

The 1920 census recorded Harry and Sylvia Frydyn living at 3238 Augusta Street, Chicago, Ward 15 as borders of David and Rose Rosenberg and their son Jerome.

Harry and Sylvia Frydyn had three children in the 1920’s. Their first child, Marvin, was born on 8 January 1921 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. On 21 May 1925, they had a second son, Marshall, who survived only five and a half months, dying on 4 November 1925. The next year, the Frydyn’s third child, a daughter named Florence, was born on 16 October 1926.

The 1930 census recorded Harry (39), Sylvia (31), Marvin (9) and Florence (3) renting a home at 2652 W. Potomac Avenue, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Sylvia’s sister, Lilly Kaplan (25), a new immigrant to American in 1927, was living with the family.

The 1940 census recorded the Frydyn family still residing at 2652 W. Potomac Avenue in Chicago. In 1940, Marvin (19) worked as a salesman at Hyraces Silk Manufacturers and had had one year of college. Florence (13) was a student.

In 1944, Florence was pictured in the Sullivan High School yearbook with her last name spelled “Fryden” rather than “Frydyn.”

Marvin Fryden’s sister Florence
Sullivan High School Yearbook of 1944

Entry into WWII Military Service

Enlistment

On 13 January 1942, Marvin Fryden enlisted for service in the Army Air Corps in Chicago, Illinois for Aviation Cadet Training. Marvin’s enlistment record notes his residence as Cook County, Illinois and that he was born in Illinois in 1921. His Army Serial Number at the time of enlistment was 16038334. Note: Officers were reassigned with a new serial number when they were commissioned and Marvin’s later become O-731492.

At the time of his enlistment, Marvin Fryden was 5’9″ tall, weighed 126 pounds, had completed two years of college, and was single with no dependents.

Military Training

With very few official records of Marvin Fryden’s training and service in the States before his combat duty in the European Theater of Operation, I must rely on records noted by Marvin’s wife, Marilyn Ash Fryden Samet.

Marvin…

  • Was sent for pilot training, but then went on to Bombardier School in Albuquerque, New Mexico where he got his wings in October 1942. (Courtesy of Marilyn Fryden)
  • Graduated from Bombardier School at Kirtland AAF, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Class #42-14, 10 October 1942. (Courtesy of Bobby Silliman and 384th Bomb Group personnel records)
  • After marriage, went to training command at Chandler, Arizona and Deming, New Mexico. (Courtesy of Marilyn Fryden)
  • Marvin Fryden served as a Bombardier Instructor at the Bombardier School at Deming Army Air Field in Deming, New Mexico (Courtesy of Marilyn Fryden and Frank Furiga)
  • Avn. Cit. ACRTC. Kelly Field, Texas. Kelly Field was an Advanced Flying School in San Antonio, Texas. (Source: Master Index Card/NPRC – National Personnel Records Center)
  • In Deming, on June 6th, D-Day, commented “I should be there helping them,” after which he was assigned to advanced training in Midland, Texas. There he met bombardiers who had returned from their missions, and he became even more dedicated to serving in a combat zone. He requested combat duty and was sent to Salt Lake City, was assigned to a crew, and went on to Ardmore, Oklahoma for B-17 training. (Courtesy of Marilyn Fryden)

Marriage to Marilyn Ash

Two days before his Bombardier School graduation, Marvin Fryden married Marilyn Ash on 8 October 1942 in Bernalillo, New Mexico. At the time of their marriage, Marvin was twenty-one years old and Marilyn was a few weeks shy of her seventeenth birthday.

Marilyn Ash was born 26 October 1925 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois to Simon Harry Ash and Fay Ash. Simon, a physician in private practice, was born on 26 June 1892 in Germany according to census records, although he noted on his WWII draft registration card that he was born in Vilna, Russia. Fay was born in Illinois. Simon immigrated in 1905 and was a naturalized American citizen. Census records note Fay’s parents were both born in Russia and Simon’s parents were both born in Germany.

In 1930 Simon and Fay Ash and their two children, Marilyn (4 years old) and Myron (a 2-month old infant) lived at 2410 West 51st Street in Chicago. In 1940, the family lived in the same home.

In 1930 and 1940, the Frydyn and Ash families lived only eight miles apart in Chicago, with the Frydyn family at 2651 W Potomac Avenue and the Ash family at 2410 W 51st Street.

The photo below was taken 13 June 1944 at Fonville Studios in Ardmore, Oklahoma. Marvin left for combat on 26 June 1944.

Marilyn and Marvin Fryden
Photo courtesy of Ash Samet

Military Service

Marvin Fryden was assigned as bombardier to the John Oliver Buslee B-17 crew, of which my father was assigned waist gunner, in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

Combat Duty in World War II in the 384th Bomb Group

Marvin Fryden’s 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record indicates that his duty was Bombardier, one month’s pay was $275.00, and his home address was Mrs. Marilyn Fryden, 2416 W. 51st St., Chicago, Illinois. [Marilyn must have returned to her parents’ home to wait for Marvin while he was away in combat].

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group and other military documents indicate the following for Marvin Fryden

On 22 JULY 1944, 1st Lt. Marvin Fryden was assigned as Bombardier with the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty 1035) to the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944.

On 5 AUGUST 1944, on his second mission, Mission 173 to Langenhagen, Germany, target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), a Luftwaffe Controlling Station, Marvin Fryden was (KIA) killed by flak at the age of 23.

On the 5 August 1944 mission to a German Air Force (Luftwaffe) target in Langenhagen, Germany, 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.

Marvin Fryden was credited with two missions with the 384th Bomb Group. His first mission was on 4 August 1944 and his last was on 5 August 1944.

Medals and Decorations

Marvin Fryden was awarded the Purple Heart, Killed in action (died of wounds on August 5, 1944).

Casualty of War

Marvin Fryden, Buslee crew bombardier, participating in the 5 August 1944 mission to Langenhagen, Germany, died on that date, at the age of 23. He is buried at the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Coton, South Cambridgeshire District, Cambridgeshire, England, Plot E, Row 2, Grave 4.

His Hospital Admission card recorded,

  • Age 23
  • Years of service 2 years, 7 months
  • First diagnosis – wounds, perforating, location thorax (the chest), generally
  • Second diagnosis – fracture, compound, comminuted or depressed, humerus (the bone of the upper arm or forelimb, forming joints at the shoulder and the elbow), generally
  • Causative agent shell fragment, flak, shrapnel.

The National Jewish Welfare Board, Bureau of War Records, Master Card System recorded Marvin Fryden’s death on FEB 14 1945. His name as recorded on the card was FRYDYN Marvin, Rank Lt., Age 23, Next of Kin Mr. & Mrs. Harry Frydyn, Relationship Parents, Address 6719 Lakewood Avenue, City Chicago, State Ill.

Marvin and Marilyn Fryden had been married for two years when Marvin died on 5 August 1944. At the time of Marvin’s death, Marilyn was only eighteen years old. You can read more about Marilyn and her love for Marvin here.

Family After the War

Marvin’s mother, Sylvia Kaplan Frydyn, died on July 8, 1952.

Marvin’s father, Harry Frydyn, died on 27 January 1968 (alternately reported as January 1967).

Marvin’s wife, Marilyn Ash Fryden, was remarried on 22 December 1945 in Illinois to Jerome Samet. They divorced on 17 September 1990 in Surry, North Carolina. Marilyn Ash Fryden Samet died on 7 November 2013 in Cary, North Carolina at the age of 88.

Marvin’s sister, Florence “Faye” Fryden/Frydyn Dobrow, married to Morton Dobrow, died on 12 December 2016 at the age of 90.

Fiftieth Anniversary of V-E Day

NPRC Records Search by American Vice President Al Gore’s Advance Team

In researching Marvin Fryden, I reviewed the documents in his personnel file at the NPRC (National Personnel Records Center) in St. Louis, Missouri. Marvin’s personnel file held very few records, but this letter that dates to 1995 was on file as part of his record.

Letter to Vice President Gore’s Advance Team re: Marvin Fryden

The letter, dated 3 May 1995, was sent from the Assistant Director of Military Records of the NPRC and addressed to a representative, Ms. Lynn Sicade, of Vice President Gore’s Advance Team, London, England. In 1995, Al Gore was American President Bill Clinton’s Vice President.

According to the letter, Ms. Sicade was looking for information on three deceased Army veterans, one of whom was Marvin Fryden. While the letter noted that the NPRC did send some “limited” information about Marvin Fryden, it also noted that his military personnel record was destroyed in the major fire at the facility, which occurred in 1973.

So, why would Vice President Al Gore be interested in Marvin Fryden and the other two deceased Army service members, Elsie B. Keasey and Leo E. Apanasewicz, in 1995?

All three men died in World War II and are buried at Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in England.

And that fact leads to the reason that Al Gore was interested in these men.

V-E Day Celebrations: Many Memories of a Great Occasion

According to a 6 May 1995 article, in part, by Audrey Woods,

LONDON (AP) _ Thousands of veterans of World War II joined in commemorations Saturday of the 50th anniversary of V-E Day, each bringing particular memories of triumph, liberation and sorrow.

Vice President Al Gore told veterans gathered at the American Cemetery in Cambridge that the war against evil did not end on May 8, 1945. Vice President Gore said,

“From their deaths, we have learned enduring lessons. If we don’t heed them now, the 21st century … could bring us a greater barbarism than the world has ever known.”

Gore, Veterans in Cambridge to Mark 50th Anniversary of VE-Day

CAMBRIDGE, England (AP) _ American veterans gathered among the graves of their fallen comrades today to mark the 50th anniversary of victory in World War II.

Vice President Al Gore was representing the United States at the ceremony, and at other events in Britain, France and Germany. Vice President Gore said,

“I would like to emphasize on this occasion what a great honor it is to be able to represent my country at VE Day commemorations, and to remember on behalf of all Americans the hours when Britain stood alone against the forces of evil threatening our civilization, and to celebrate partnership that won that war, and to honor those who sacrificed everything for our freedom,” Gore said this morning, after meeting Prime Minister John Major in London.

Gore is to lay a wreath at Cambridge’s American Cemetery to honor the 3,812 U.S. war dead interred there and thousands of others listed as missing.

Some 4,000 U.S. veterans, many of them pilots and crew members of the American planes that flew more than a half million missions from England into occupied Europe, are expected to attend the memorial service.

The multi-nation V-E Day celebration began in London, England and continued to Paris, France, to Berlin, Germany, and to Moscow, Russian Federation. Leaders or other officials of fifty-four nations attended events in London – a formal dinner Saturday night (5 May), a service of reconciliation at St. Paul’s Cathedral Sunday morning (6 May), and another banquet at Buckingham Palace.

While visiting the Cambridge American Cemetery, did Vice President Al Gore visit Marvin Fryden’s grave or make remarks about him and the others his Advance Team researched through the NPRC? I cannot answer that question now, but perhaps the answer is in the archives somewhere in a transcript of his speech or in photos of his visit to the cemetery that day.

Marvin Fryden gravesite, Cambridge American Cemetery, Plot E, Row 2, Grave 4. (Source: Find a Grave contributor Geoffrey Gillon, 6 Jul 2013)

Notes

Previous post, The Family of Marvin Fryden

Wikipedia: Radom, Poland

Wikipedia: Bialystok, Poland

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

Marvin Fryden’s Enlistment Record in the online National Archives (in the Reserve Corps records)

WWII Era at Kelly Field

Marvin Fryden’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, 544th Bomb Squadron

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

Marvin Fryden’s Find a Grave Memorial

Florence “Faye” Frydyn Dobrow obituary

AP News: V-E Day Celebrations: Many Memories of a Great Occasion

AP News: Gore, Veterans in Cambridge to Mark 50th Anniversary of VE-Day

The 1973 Fire, National Personnel Records Center

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

James Buford Davis, Update – Part 2

James Buford Davis

New information from a new search on Ancestry.com, and new information from military records have provided me with some new and updated information regarding James Buford Davis, the second bombardier of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. Davis was the crew’s replacement bombardier following the death of original crew bombardier Marvin Fryden.

To view my original post and other information about James Buford Davis, please see the links at the end of this post.


Continued from James Buford Davis, Update – Part 1

Return to the States

James Buford Davis arrived back in the States on 4 January 1945 from overseas combat duty as a bombardier, 6 months, 35 missions, B-17 combat experience in the ETO.

From 7 December 1944 to 15 May 1945, James Davis was assigned to AAFRS#4, 1040 AAFBU, SAAAB, Santa Ana, California, Return to US, leave and processing.

From February 1945 to May 1945, James Davis was hospitalized in Santa Ana due to combat fatigue. He was admitted on 21 February 1945.

In the doctor’s initial summary, he described James as,

Twenty-three year old bombardier on a B-17, 6 months overseas with the 8th Air Force, 35 missions completed. No wounds, injuries or serious illnesses while overseas. At present, feels nervous, tense, sweaty palms, loss of 15 pounds in weight, feels insecure.

James’ general appearance and condition on admission was,

Well developed, well nourished young adult male in no physical distress at the present time.

The doctor’s final diagnosis was,

Operational fatigue, mild, manifested by nervousness, restlessness, tension, sweaty palms, and loss of weight, 35 combat missions.

On 27 February 1945, James was transferred to the Convalescent Hospital Facility, Convalescent Hospital Division, AAF Regional Hospital, AAF Redistribution Station No. 4, at Santa Ana Army Air Base. The Transfer Diagnosis was “Suspected operational fatigue” with a Working Diagnosis or Impression of “Mild operational fatigue.” No “Contemplated laboratory tests or special examinations” were performed “at this station.”

Even though symptoms, including nervousness, tensions, and mild startle reactions, persisted, notes indicated “no major problem,” and “program satisfactory,” resulting in an eventual disposition on 7 or 9 May 1945 for a return to line of duty. Summary of Progress was “Uncomplicated.” Condition on completion of case: was “Recovered.” No details of what the “program” entailed were included.

Throughout the entire process, doctors noted James’ “tenseness and restlessness” was “more pronounced when in crowds.”

He slept fairly well, but “Occasional difficulty in sleeping persists with rare dreams. Program satisfactory, attendance good.”

Only one comment in the doctor’s notes indicated what was likely causing James’ “mild operational fatigue.”

Two of his crews were lost while Pt. [patient] was not flying with them. There is apparently some guilt reaction associated with the fact that the Pt. was not with his crew.

On 19 April 1945, James was described as, “Feels fairly well. Occasional lapses in feeling of security. CAA course completed.” Other comments were illegible.

By 27 April 1945, notes read, “Feels well – is ready for discharge as soon as restriction is lifted.” And by 4 May 1945, “Generally improving. To start illegible Monday.”

In the Request for Discharge, the Ward Officer noted that Davis’ condition was “Recovered” for Discharge to General Military Duty.

Today we refer to James’ “operational fatigue” as “Post Traumatic Stress Disorder” and we know recovery can take years, not weeks, if ever.

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. However, World War II was still raging in the Pacific theater, and James was still an active duty airman who might be called upon in some capacity to help defeat the Japanese.

From 16 May 1945 to 14 July 1945, James Davis was assigned to MAAF, Midland, Texas, Student Officer, Bmbdr Refresher Course, AT-11, Norden.

On 23 May 1945, James was assigned to 2528 AAFBU, AAFld, Midland, Texas (CFTC).

On 4 June 1945, James Davis was assigned to Army Air Forces Instructors School (Bombardier). He attended from 4 June 1945 to 14 July 1945 and successfully completed the course of instruction with Class 615 Graduate. His overall academic rating as an instructor was Excellent and he ranked 35 in a class of 223.

From 15 July 1945 to 20 July 1945, James was assigned to MAAF, Midland, Texas, awaiting orders.

From 21 July 1945 to 17 October 1945, James was assigned to CAAF, Childress, Texas, Continuation Trainee.

In early August 1945, the United States Army Air Forces dropped atomic bombs on Japan, on Hiroshima on 6 August and on Nagasaki on 9 August. On 14 August, Japan agreed to an unconditional surrender. Surrender documents would not be signed until 2 September. Some consider the 14 August 1945 date to be V-J (Victory in Japan) Day, but others consider 2 September 1945, when the surrender document was signed, to be V-J Day.

During his time in Childress, on 26 August 1945, James B. Davis was suspended from all flying duties, grounded because about a week before, on 21 August, he fell while playing basketball at the Gym at the 2512th AAF BU (BS), CAAF, Childress, Texas, and injured his right knee. He received treatment in the hospital for sixteen days before his release on 11 September 1945 and return to flying duties.

On 22 October 1945, James Davis received his dated orders of separation, and relieved from Active Duty on 11 November 1945 at Amarillo AAF Texas.

On 23 October 1945, James Davis completed an “Application for Appointment and Statement of Preferences for Reserve Officers.” His application was for the Grade of 1st Lt., and Section was Air Corps.

Release from WWII Active Duty

James Buford Davis was relieved from active duty on 11 November 1945 at Amarillo Army Air Field Separation Base.

Military Record and Report of Separation/Certificate of Service

James Davis’ separation record listed his Military History,

  • His Grade was 1st Lt.
  • His Date of Entry into Active Service was 26 Feb 1944
  • His Date of Relief from Active Duty was 11 Nov 1945
  • Military Occupational Specialty and No. – Bombardier 1035
  • Battles and Campaigns – Northern France, Germany
  • Decorations and Citations – Air Medal w/5 OLC
  • Service Outside Continental U.S. and Return – listed below…
  • Wounds Received in Action – None
  • Total Length of Continental Service – 1 year, 2 months, and 10 days
  • Total Length of Foreign Service – 0 years, 6 months, and 3 days
  • Education (years) – Grammar School 8, High School 4, College 2
  • Reason and Authority for Separation – RR 1-5 cs TWX AFPMP 1097 Hq AAF TWX 40[illegible]-28539 Hq AAF TC 11 Sep 45
  • Service Schools Attended – Preflight Primary, Preflight Bombardier, Gunnery, Advanced Bombardier, Bombardier Refresher Course

Service Outside Continental U.S. and Return

  • Departure from U.S.
    • Date of Departure 1 Jul 44
    • Destination ETO
    • Date of Arrival 4 Jul 44
  • Departure from ETO
    • Date of Departure 26 Dec 44
    • Destination USA
    • Date of Arrival 4 Jan 45

James Davis’ Separation Qualification Record noted his

  • Date of entry into active service – 26 Feb 44
  • Date of separation 11 Nov 45
  • Place of separation AAF Sep Base #19. Amarillo, Texas

The Military Occupational Assignments noted,

  • 1 month, Grade Pvt., Military Occupational Specialty – 521 Basic Trng.
  • 25 months, Grade 1st Lt., Military Occupational Specialty – Bombardier 1035

The Summary of his Military Occupations noted,

  • BOMBARDIER: Flew as bombardier on B-17 crew. Has 6 1/2 mo. 275 hrs as a bombardier overseas for the period in the ETO. Has EAME Ribbon with 3 bronze stars, Air medal with 5 oak leaf clusters. Overseas service bars, and presidential citation.

James Davis’ Military Education noted,

    • Pre-flight – 3 1/2 mo. Studied subjects relating to air crew trng. including physics, math, weather, maps and charts and radio code.
    • Primary Pilot Trng. 1/2 mo. Flew single engine planes and studied subjects necessary for aircraft flying.
    • Aerial Gunnery. 1 1/2 mo. nomenclature and operation of (50 & 30) Cal machine guns. Operation and maintenance of all types turrets used in aircraft.
    • Advanced Bombardiering Trng. 4 1/2 mo. Theory of aerial bombardment operation and maintenance of Norden bombsight and bomb racks. Advanced studies in physics, math, meteorology, practice bombing and navigation missions. Pilotage, radio, and D/R navigation.
    • Bombardier, Refresher Course. 1 1/2 mo. Refresher course in bombardiering.

Civilian Education noted,

  • Highest grade completed – 2 yr College
  • Degrees or diploma – None
  • Year left school – 1942
  • Name and address of last school attended – Purdue Univ; Lafayette, Ind.
  • Major courses of study – Mechanical Engineering

Civilian Occupations noted,

  • Student

Medals and Decorations

During his military service with the 384th Bomb Group in World War II, James Buford Davis earned three bronze stars, an air medal with five oak leaf clusters, and a presidential (unit) citation. He was also awarded the EAME (European–African–Middle Eastern Campaign) Ribbon, WWII Victory Medal, and American Theater Ribbon.

Additionally, on 29 January 1944, while an Aviation Cadet, James Davis was recommended for the Good Conduct Medal and was approved on 14 February 1944.

Reserve Duty

James Buford Davis was tendered appointment in the Officers’ Reserve Corps, Army of the United States, effective 23 October 1945 and took the Oath of Office at AAAFld, Amarillo, Texas on that date.

James Davis transferred to the Department of the Air Force per Transfer Order 1, NME, 26 September 1947. As noted in a fact sheet from Evolution of the Department of the Air Force,

On September 26, 1947, by order of the Secretary of Defense, personnel of the Army Air Forces (AAF) were transferred from the Department of the Army (formerly the War Department) to the Department of the Air Force and established as the United States Air Force (USAF).

From the National Archives, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, online documents regarding the Korean War,

The Korean War began on 25 June 1950, when the Northern Korean People’s Army invaded South Korea in a coordinated general attack at several strategic points along the 38th parallel, the line dividing communist North Korea from the non-communist Republic of Korea in the south.

The United States entered the Korean War on 27 June 1950, just two days after it began. Concerned that the Soviet Union and Communist China might have encouraged the invasion, President Harry S. Truman committed United States air, ground, and naval forces to the combined United Nations forces assisting the Republic of Korea in its defense.

On 4 October 1950, James Davis wrote a letter to inquire about his status in the reserves, “as to the probability of my being called up for active duty & if so, how soon?” He continued,

I could better arrange my affairs if I knew whether or not I am to be called.

My 5 year enlistment in the reserves will be terminated in November [1950]. It is my understanding that all reserve enlistments have been frozen. Am I correct?

The official response to his inquiry noted, in part, that he was assigned to Hq and Hq Sq. Tenth Air Force (VRS), Selfridge Air Force Base, Michigan, and

Inasmuch as higher Headquarters allocates the quotas to be filled, this Headquarters is unable to advise you as to the exact date you will be recalled to active duty.

Higher Headquarters has directed that all commissions in the United States Air Force Reserve which would terminate on or subsequent to 27 July 1950, would automatically be extended indefinitely.

Note: VRS is “Volunteer Reserve Section.”

On 22 January 1951, James wrote again to ask about his Reserve Corps status and if he was to be called up, how soon.

The official response on this occasion was,

At this time you would not be ordered to active military service involuntarily except in a case where your military specialty could not be obtained through volunteer sources. All orders to active military service are based upon the immediate needs of the Air Force. In view of this no definite time can be set when you might be ordered to active military service. In the event your services can be utilized you will be promptly notified.

In an Air Force Reserve Inventory Questionnaire he completed on 14 October 1952, James Davis noted that his,

  • Employer was Allison – Div. of G.M.C., Indianapolis, Indiana.
  • Present position was Senior Clerk.
  • Duties: to initiate buys of component parts for turbo jet engine & to make any changes in purchase of parts to make material deviations when specified is not available.
  • College education was Purdue University, completed 4 years, graduated, BS degree in Science (date 2-49), major Business Administration.
  • Marital status was married with 2 dependents (wife and child).

Again, from the National Archives, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, online documents regarding the Korean War,

Acting on a campaign pledge, President-elect Dwight D. Eisenhower went to Korea on December 2, 1952. After visiting the troops, their commanders and South Korean leaders, and receiving briefings on the military situation in Korea, Eisenhower concluded, “we could not stand forever on a static front and continue to accept casualties without any visible results. Small attacks on small hills would not end this war.” President Eisenhower sought an end to hostilities in Korea through a combination of diplomacy and military muscle-flexing.

On 1 April 1953, James Davis’ reserve status in the Air Force was terminated.

In a continuation of the previous excerpt from the National Archives,

On July 27, 1953, seven months after President Eisenhower’s inauguration as the 34th President of the United States, an armistice was signed, ending organized combat operations and leaving the Korean Peninsula divided much as it had been since the close of World War II at the 38th parallel.

Civilian Life After the War

After the war, James Davis continued his college education at Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana.

At the age of 27, James married Joan Joslyn McShirley (born 12 March 1925), daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Herbert McShirley of Sulphur Springs, Indiana, on 21 August 1948 while a student at Purdue. James and Joan were married in her parents’ home.

James graduated from Purdue with a BS degree in Science with a major in Business Administration in February 1949.

The 1950 Federal Census reports that James B. and Joan J. Davis lived in a house on a farm of three or more acres and described as at “left on Hwy 81” in Rumsey, McLean County, Kentucky. James was 28 years old and Joan was 25. James’ occupation was farmer. In an undated military form I found at the NPRC, James noted his “Present civilian occupation” as Farming, managing 460 acre bottom land farm.” This was likely the same farm on which James and Joan lived in 1950.

James’ and Joan’s son, Sean Cameron Davis, was born 1 November 1951 in New Castle, Henry County, Indiana.

In 1967, James, Joan, and Sean lived in New Castle, Indiana, and Sean attended the same high school from which his father graduated in 1940, New Castle Chrysler High School.

On 10 January 1967, Sean Davis, James’ and Joan’s only child, died in Indianapolis, Indiana, at the age of fifteen, from a subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding into the space between the brain and skull) due to arteriovenous malformation (when arteries in the brain connect directly to nearby veins without having the normal small vessels, aka capillaries, between them).

On 2 September 1967, James Davis’ WWII crewmate and friend Chester Rybarczyk, who had become a firefighter in Toledo, Ohio after World War II, died at the age of 44 fighting a fire at a local tavern. A few years later, Chester Rybarczyk’s son Tony connected with James Davis and they stayed in touch, with James sharing memories of Tony’s dad with Tony.

On 20 December 2009, James Buford Davis died at the age of 88 at the Hooverwood Nursing Home in Indianapolis, Indiana. James’ cause of death was dementia with the contributing condition of type 2 diabetes mellitus.

According to James’ obituary as published in the Indianapolis Star, at one time James owned Express Auto Supply in Hobart, Indiana and later co-owned the Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in New Castle.

James Davis was cremated at the Greater South Side Crematory in Greenwood, Indiana, with Wilson St. Pierre Funeral Service on Madison Avenue in Indianapolis in charge of arrangements.

On 29 December 2020, James’ wife, Joan McShirley Davis, died in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Notes/Links

Previous post, James Buford Davis, Update – Part 1

Previous post, James B. Davis

Previous post, More Information About James B. Davis

James Davis’ Enlistment Record in the online National Archives (in the Reserve Corps records)

James Buford Davis’ 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, 544th Bomb Squadron

Evolution of the Department of the Air Force

National Archives, Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library, online documents regarding  the Korean War

Joan McShirley Davis Find a Grave memorial

Previous post, Chester Rybarczyk – After the War

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

James Buford Davis, Update – Part 1

James Buford Davis

New information from a new search on Ancestry.com, and new information from military records have provided me with some new and updated information regarding James Buford Davis, the second bombardier of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. Davis was the crew’s replacement bombardier following the death of original crew bombardier Marvin Fryden.

To view my original post and other information about James Buford Davis, please see the links at the end of this post.


Davis Family

James Buford Davis was born on October 5, 1921 in New Castle, Henry County, Indiana to Charles Raymond “Ray” (1891 – 1986) and Bessie “Bess” Millican (1893 – 1981) Davis. James’ birth certificate originally listed his name as Donald Millican Davis, but the name was scratched through and replaced with the name James Buford Davis. His parents changed their minds in naming their son and named James after his paternal grandfather.

In 1920, Ray and Bess Davis lived in Crofton, Christian County, Kentucky and Ray was a farmer. But by the time son James was born in 1921, the family had moved to Indiana.

In 1930, the Davis family lived at 716 [corrected from previous article] South 14th Street in the Fifth Ward of New Castle, Henry County, Indiana. Charles R. “Ray” was thirty-nine years old and Bess was thirty-six.

The 1930 Federal Census notes that Ray was born in Kentucky and both of his parents were from Kentucky. Bess was born in Indiana. Her father was from Indiana and her mother was from Kentucky. James was eight years old at the time of the 1930 census. He had a younger brother Charles Raymond Jr., age five, and a younger sister Evelyn Joy, age four. Ray was employed as a commercial paint salesman in 1930.

In 1940, the family lived at 1216 Woodlawn Drive in New Castle, and had lived in the same house since at least 1935. Ray was still working as a salesman for a paint company. James was now eighteen years old, and had another brother, Neel D. Davis, who was nine.

Education and Civilian Employment prior to Military Service

James Buford Davis graduated from New Castle Chrysler High School with the Class of 1940. Following high school, James attended two years of college at Purdue University where he majored in Mechanical Engineering, specialized in the subjects of math and science, and participated in the sport of wrestling.

While attending Purdue University, from 7 September 1940 through 30 May 1942, James Davis was a Pfc. in the ROTC. He was classified as in “Field Art., Student, Inactive.”

Prior to his military service, James was employed at Perfect Circle Mfg. Co. in New Castle, Indiana from May 1942 to January 1943. The business was a Piston Ring Foundry. James supervised five employees and his position was “Heat Treater.” His duties were to “heat piston rings to definite temperature & for specified time & remove from furnace for cooling.”

Entry into WWII Military Service

Draft Registration

On 16 February 1942, James Davis registered for the WWII draft at the Selective Service Board, Area #1 in New Castle, Henry County, Indiana. He listed his Place of Residence as 1216 Woodlawn Drive, New Castle, Henry County, Indiana, and Mailing Address as Cary Hall – West, West LaFayette, Indiana. James’ Employer’s Name was Purdue University – Student and place of employment was LaFayette, Tipp County, Indiana. He was 20 years old and born on 5 October 1921 in New Castle, Indiana.

Charles R. Davis (James’ father) of the same residence was the person who would always know his address.

James described himself as 5′ 8″ tall, 140 pounds, with gray eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. He noted no “other obvious physical characteristic that will aid in identification.”

Enlistment

On 21 July 1942, James B. Davis enlisted in the Reserve Corps at Bowman Field in Louisville, Kentucky for Aviation Cadet Training for service in Air Corps Enlisted Reserve. James’ enlistment record notes his residence as Henry County, Indiana and that he was born in Indiana in 1921. His Army Serial Number at the time of enlistment was 15113648. Note: Officers were reassigned with a new serial number when they were commissioned and James’ later become O-769104.

At the time of his enlistment, James Davis had completed 2 years of college and was single, having no one dependent on him for support.

From 22 July 1942 to 6 January 1943, James was a Pvt. in the Air Corps Enlisted Reserve, New Castle Indiana, AAF, Inactive.

Per Special Orders No. 317 from Headquarters Fifth Service Command, Services of Supply, Fort Hayes, Columbus, Ohio, dated 26 December 1942, James B. Davis, 15113648, was ordered to Active Duty effective 6 January 1943 as an Aviation Cadet and would be sent to AFCC, San Antonio, Texas. He was accepted for active duty on 6 January 1943.

Note: James’ enlistment record is found in the Reserve Corps Records, rather than in the Enlistment Records file, link below.

Military Training

From 6 January 1943 to 25 February 1943, James was assigned to classification as an A/C (Aviation Cadet), Air Corps, at the Classification Center, San Antonio, Texas, AAF, Classification, Active.

On 22 February 1943, James’ Final Grade Sheet was reported for the Class of 43-J of the Army Air Forces Preflight School (Pilot) at San Antonio Aviation Cadet Center, San Antonio, Texas. It was stamped at the bottom of the form with “Harmon Flying School, Ballinger, Texas.” It noted James’ Record of Academic Training and Record of Military Training, and Disposition was noted as “SAACCSO 65 Mar.17.1943.”

From 25 February 1943 to 2 April 1943, James was assigned as an A/C (Aviation Cadet) to Pilot Preflight Tng., San Antonio, Texas, AAF, Pilot Training, Active. He successfully completed the training in March 1943.

From 2 April 1943 to 9 May 1943, James was assigned as an A/C (Aviation Cadet) to Primary Training, Bruce Field, Ballinger Texas AAF, Pilot Training, Active. However on 16 April 1943, he was determined to have failed to meet the prescribed standards in flying for further training as a pilot. He had previously been classified for air crew training as (1) pilot, (2) bombardier 4, and (3) navigator 6. James did not successfully complete his pilot primary training and was reclassified in May 1943.

On 23 April 1943, James was reclassified as a Navigator.

From 9 May 1943 to 1 June 1943, James was assigned as an A/C (Aviation Cadet) to Reclassification Center, San Antonio, Texas AAF, Reclassification, Active.

From 1 June 1943 to 26 August 1943, James was assigned as an A/C (Aviation Cadet) to Preflight Training, Ellington Field, Houston, Texas, AAF, Navigator Training, Active, for pre-flight bombardier training of nine weeks.

On 13 or 21 August 1943, James was reclassified as a bombardier.

From 26 August 1943 to 13 October 1943, James was assigned as an A/C (Aviation Cadet) to Aerial Gunnery School, Las Vegas, Nevada AAF, Aerial Gun. Tng., Active, for flexible gunnery training of four weeks.

From 23 October 1943 to February 1944, James was assigned as an A/C (Aviation Cadet) to Advanced Bombardier Training, Carlsbad, New Mexico AAF, Bomb Training, Active. Bombardier training lasted eighteen weeks.

On 25 February 1944, James received an enlisted honorable discharge to accept commission as 2nd Lt., AUS, AAFBS, CAAF, Carlsbad, NM.

James Buford Davis entered active service on 26 February 1944. He graduated bombardier school at Carlsbad Army Air Field in Carlsbad, New Mexico, and became 2nd Lt. as of this date.

From 9 March 1944 to 7 April 1944, James was assigned to 18 Replacement Wing, Salt Lake City, Utah, while awaiting further assignment.

From 14 April 1944 to 23 June 1944, James was assigned to 222 CCTS, Ardmore, Oklahoma for Bombardier, B-17, Phase Training.

Military Service

From 24 June 1944 to 24 July 1944, James Davis was in processing & travel overseas station, via air. He left the USA on 30 June 1944 (reported in his separation papers as 1 July 1944) for England in the European Theater of Operations (ETO).

From 25 July 1944 to 6 November 1944, James Davis served in the 544th Bomb Squadron, 384th Bomb Group, England, 8th AF, Bombardier B-17, 25 combat missions, under G.B. Sammons, Major.

From 7 November 1944 to 6 December 1944, James Davis served in the 544th Bomb Squadron, 384th Bomb Group, England, 8th AF, Bombardier B-17, 10 combat missions under M.A. Booska, Major.

Combat Duty in World War II in the 384th Bomb Group

James Davis’ 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record indicates that his duty was Bombardier, one month’s pay was $247.50 which increased to $275.00 when he was promoted from 2nd Lt. to 1st Lt., and his home address was Mrs. Bess Davis (his mother), 1216 Woodlawn Dr., New Castle, Ind.

James Davis was credited with thirty-five missions with the 384th Bomb Group. His first mission was on 9 August 1944 and his last was on 4 December 1944.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group and other military documents indicate the following for James Buford Davis

  • On 26 JULY 1944, 2nd Lt. James Buford Davis was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944 as Bombardier of the Howard Jung crew with the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) of 1035.
  • On 3 AUGUST 1944, James Davis’ crewmates Howard Jung (pilot), Thomas C. Bates (navigator), and Harold T. Perry (engineer/top turret), and non-crewmate William T. Sellars (radio operator) were killed in a flying/training accident. Jung’s co-pilot James Vrana, also on board, was seriously injured and placed on sick leave. Having never flown a mission, on 8 AUGUST 1944, James A. Vrana was released from assignment and transferred to Detachment of Patients, 4204 U.S. Army Hospital Plant. James Davis was not on board the aircraft in the accident and lost his original crew before he ever flew his first mission.
  • On the 9 AUGUST 1944 Mission 176 to Erding, Germany, target German Air Force (Luftwaffe) Erding Airdrome & Airfield, James Davis joined the John Oliver Buslee crew on his first mission as Bombardier, replacing Marvin Fryden who had been killed on the Buslee crew’s second mission of 5 AUGUST 1944.
  • On the 28 SEPTEMBER 1944 Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany, the Buslee crew went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). James Davis was not on board the aircraft and lost his second/replacement crew on this date. (See note at the end of this list).
  • On 26 NOVEMBER 1944, James Buford Davis was promoted to First Lieutenant effective 26 November 1944 per Headquarters, Eighth Air Force Special Orders #323, EXTRACT dated 26 November 1944.
  • On 6 DECEMBER 1944, James Davis was released from assigned & transferred to Casual Pool 79th Replacement Depot AAF Station 591, departed per 3 SO 341 HQ 1st Bomb Division (Completed Tour).

Note: Chester Rybarczyk, the original Buslee crew navigator, was also not on board Buslee’s aircraft on 28 September 1944. James Davis and Chester Rybarczyk became good friends while serving in the 384th Bomb Group and maintained a close friendship after their service ended.

More about James Buford Davis and his return to the States, release from WWII active duty, appointment to the reserves, and civilian life after the war in my next post…

Notes/Links

Previous post, James B. Davis

Previous post, More Information About James B. Davis

James Davis’ Enlistment Record in the online National Archives (in the Reserve Corps records)

James Buford Davis’ 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, 544th Bomb Squadron

Previous post, Chester Rybarczyk – After the War

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

Robert Sumner Stearns, Update

Robert Sumner Stearns
Photo courtesy of family members Kathy Stearns Anderson and Maradee Stearns

New information from a new search on Ancestry.com, and new information from military records have provided me with some new and updated information regarding Robert Sumner Stearns, the bombardier flying with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII on 28 September 1944.

To view my original post and other information about Robert Stearns, please see the links at the end of this post.

Stearns Family

Robert “Bobby” Sumner Stearns was the son of Carey Sumner Stearns (1894 – 1966) and Betty Hunt Stearns (1896 – 1970) of LaPine, Deschutes County, Oregon. Robert was born 25 August 1923 in LaPine. LaPine is about thirty miles southwest of Bend, Oregon.

Robert had an older brother, James Gerry (Jim) Stearns (1922 – 2003). The Stearns were a farming/ranching family.

Robert’s and James’ great-grandfather on their father’s side led a family wagon train to Oregon from Illinois in 1853 over the Applegate Trail through northern California. Their mother’s family also were Oregon pioneers, arriving in the 1850’s.

In 1930, the Stearns family lived on Freemond Highway in LaPine, Deschutes County, Oregon. Father Carey S. Stearns was 35 years old, mother Betty M. Stearns was 34, brother James G. Stearns was 8, and Robert S. Stearns was 6. Carey Stearns was a farmer. All of the Stearns were born in Oregon.

In 1940, the family still lived in LaPine, Deschutes County, Oregon. Father Carey S. Stearns was 45 years old, mother Betty M. Stearns was 45, brother James G. Stearns was 18, and Robert S. Stearns was 16. Carey Stearns was a farmer.

Education and Civilian Employment prior to Military Service

Robert Stearns graduated from LaPine High School. He worked at Douglas Aircraft Corporation in Los Angeles, California at the time he registered for the WWII draft. He completed one year of college at Oregon State and was attending the college when he entered the service.

James Stearns also attended Oregon State University and worked for the U.S. Forestry Service before entering WWII as a flight instructor.

Entry into WWII Military Service

Draft Registration

On 30 June 1942, Robert Stearns registered for the WWII draft at Local Board No. 273 in Los Angeles County, California at 411 Jergins Trust Building. He listed his place of residence as 1859 Walnut, Long Beach, Los Angeles County, California. Robert’s Employer’s Name was Douglas Aircraft Corporation and place of employment was Lakewood & Carson St., Long Beach, Los Angeles, California. He was 18 years old and born on 25 August 1923 in LaPine, Oregon.

Mr. Carey S. Stearns (Robert’s father) of LaPine, Oregon was the person who would always know his address.

Robert described himself as 5′ 6 1/4″ tall, 160 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. He noted as an “other obvious physical characteristic that will aid in identification” both a scar on the index finger of his left hand and a scar over his right eye.

Enlistment

On 19 August 1942, Robert Stearns enlisted in the Reserve Air Corps at Portland, Oregon. Robert’s enlistment record notes his residence as Deschutes County, Oregon and that he was born in Oregon in 1923. His Army Serial Number at the time of enlistment was 19122996. Note: Officers were reassigned with a new serial number when they were commissioned and Robert’s later become O-761314.

Note: Robert’s enlistment record is found in the Reserve Corps Records, rather than in the Enlistment Records file, link below.

At the time of his enlistment, Robert Stearns had completed 1 year of college and was single, having no one dependent on him for support.

Military Training

Robert Sumner Stearns graduated from Bombardier School at Deming AAF, Albuquerque, New Mexico, Class #43-17, 12 April 1943.

While I do not have an official military record of Robert’s other military training schools, dates, and stations, I do find some information as appeared in the newspaper.

As reported in The Bend [Oregon] Bulletin on Friday, 25 June 1943,

Lapine, June 25 (Special) … Robert Stearns, son of Mr. and Mrs. [Carey] Stearns, is stationed at Kingman, Ariz., where he will study aerial gunnery for six weeks or two months.

As reported in The Bend Bulletin on Saturday, 18 December 1943,

Lapine, Dec. 18 (Special) … Mr. and Mrs. Carey Stearns and son, Lt. Robert Stearns, spent the weekend in Prineville with Carey’s mother Mrs. Frances Stearns. …

… Lt. Robert Stearns left for Avon Park, Fla., Tuesday.

Military Service

Brothers Robert and James Stearns both served in WWII. James first became a flight instructor and later trained to be a turret mechanic and gunner on a B-29.

Robert trained to become a bombardier and was assigned to the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England.

As reported in The Bend [Oregon] Bulletin on Saturday, 3 June 1944,

Lapine, June 1 (Special) … Mr. and Mrs. Carey Stearns received a letter from their son, Lt. Robert Stearns, bombardier, stating that he was overseas and in good health.

Combat Duty in World War II with the 384th Bomb Group

Robert Stearns’ 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record indicates that his duty was Bombardier, one month’s pay was $247.50, and his home address was Mr. Carey S. Stearns, P.O. Box 113, LaPine, Oregon.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group and other military documents indicate the following for Robert Sumner Stearns

  • On 15 JUNE 1944, 2nd Lt. Robert Sumner Stearns was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #113 dated 15 June 1944 as Bombardier with the MOS (Military Occupational Specialty) of 1035, of the Larkin Durdin crew.
  • On 14 SEPTEMBER 1944, Robert Stearns was appointed 1st Lieutenant.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Robert Stearns went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared KIA (Killed in Action) on that date.

Robert was credited with seventeen missions with the 384th Bomb Group. His first mission was on 21 June 1944 and his last was on 28 September 1944.

Medals and Decorations

Robert Sumner Stearns earned the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster, and although I find no record, should have also received the Purple Heart.

Casualty of War

Robert Sumner Stearns, Durdin crew bombardier, but participating on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany as bombardier of the Buslee crew, died on that date, at the age of 21. Robert is buried in the Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, San Mateo County, California, USA, Section B, Site 302, and has a memorial marker at Family/Home Cemetery at Juniper Haven Cemetery, Prineville, Crook County, Oregon.

As reported in The Bend [Oregon] Bulletin on Saturday, 23 December 1944,

Robert Stearns Dies in Action
Article courtesy of The Bend Bulletin, 23 December 1944

Transcription:

Robert Stearns Dies in Action

Reported missing since September 28 in action over Germany, Lt. Robert S. Stearns, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carey Stearns, Lapine, was killed in action, his parents were notified today by the war department.

Meager information received by relatives indicates that Lt. Stearns, a bombardier, was in a plane shot down only ten miles from Berlin. The young officer, a graduate from Lapine high school, went overseas last May. He was attending Oregon State college when he entered the service.

Aside from his parents, Lt. Stearns is survived by one brother, Pvt. James Stearns, now at Fort Lewis. Marshall T. Hunt, Bend, is an uncle.

After the War

Robert Stearns’ brother James, described as a third generation central Oregon cattle rancher, homesteaded in the Tulelake, California area [Tulelake is about three miles south of the California-Oregon state line] from 1947 through 1967, farming grain and hay and also working as a crop duster pilot.

James Stearns was very involved in civic affairs in Modoc County, California and was Modoc County supervisor from 1951 until 1967. He was also the Vice-Chairman of the California Klamath River Compact Commission.

He was director of the California Department of Conservation for then Governor Ronald Reagan from 1967 through 1971. On Sept. 15, 1972 Governor Ronald Reagan appointed him Secretary of the Agriculture and Services Agency and a member of the Governors Cabinet.

He served in that position until 1975. He was appointed by President Ronald Reagan as the Chairman of the Board, Securities Investor Protection Corporation in Washington, D.C.

~per James Stearns’ FindAGrave.com memorial

Notes/Links

Previous post, Robert Sumner Stearns

Robert Stearns’ Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Robert Stearns’ Enlistment Record in the online National Archives (in the Reserve Corps records)

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, 544th Bomb Squadron

Missing Air Crew Report 9753 for the Buslee crew on the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision in which Sebastiano was killed, 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

Robert Sumner Stearns’ Find a Grave memorials

Brother, James Gerry Stearns’ Find A Grave memorial

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

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