The Arrowhead Club

Category Archives: Buslee, John Oliver

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The Ring – March 11, 1948

To review:  On March 8, 1948, the Buslees wrote to both Mr. B – the translator living in Texas – and Z – the finder of the ring.  In the letters they identified themselves as the parents of Lt. John O. Buslee, O-764209, who lost his life in a plane on a mission over Magdeburg, Germany in September 1944.  They also confirm that the ring in question is their son’s ring.  In addition to wishing to get the ring back, they ask for information about the crash that took their son’s life.

Mr. B writes the following letter back to the Buslees.

Mr. B
Richmond, Texas
U.S.A.

March 11, 1948

Mr. and Mrs. John Buslee,
Park Ridge, Ill.

My dear Mr. and Mrs. Buslee:

To-day I received your letter and am answering at once. I am writing to Z in Czechoslovakia too and at the same time, but—I don’t know if the letter will reach him. You know, dear Mr. and Mrs. Buslee, what happened in that little country I was born, last couple of weeks – the red murderers took Czechoslovakia over – and I did not receive any mail.

Your letter, dear people, touched us – me and my wife – so much, that we were not able keep our tears back-! Your sorrow is our sorrow-! You don’t know how happy I would be, if it would be possible for me now, to get the ring for you, because I DO know, how you would be happy and how you would esteem it.

The way it looks to me now is, that the red murderers, who took Czechoslovakia, do not let the peoples even write the letters to USA, and I don’t believe it would be possible for Z to mail the ring now. But, I got an idea, how it would be possible to get the ring and I will return to this below.

First I would like to tell you, that I do not know Z. I have some friends in the same town where he is, and all my letters to Czechoslovakia I furnished with nice American stamps, the “flag stamps”. And it so happen, that he have soon one of my letters and because he is a stamp collector, my friend gave him my address and he asked me for the stamps and in the same letter he asked me, if I would be able to find out you.

I am enclosing his first letter and you better send this letter to the American Embassy too, so they will understand better what it is all about. So I am very sorry, dear Mr. and Mrs. Buslee, that I am not able tell you anything about your beloved son. All I know is, what Z wrote to me, that is, that the plane came down Sept. 24, 1944, near a town about 50 km from Magdeburg.

“I worked” – he write – “near by, and came to the plane sooner than the German did. The plane came down in flames and none of the flyers were alive.” Then he write, he found the ring with the name and number and he ask me, if it would be possible to find out his family, that he would be glad to send them the ring.

I don’t know this man, but I do believe, he is an honest man. You know, Mr. and Mrs. Buslee, it all could be finished already if it would not be so much red tape. Soon, as I got the letter from Z, I went to the Veteran Service Officer here in Richmond and asked him for help.

He wrote at once to the Adjutant General’s Office, but they told him, “It is a long established policy of the Department to protect the privacy of the next of kin of former military personnel.” Well, I do understand this, but in this case, if the Adjutant General would send your address, you would have the ring long time ago. Of course, nobody knew, what would happen in Czechoslovakia. But now, here is my idea, now – I hope – would be possible to get the ring for you. I am SURE, Z will be glad to send you the ring. If he would be not, he would not ask me to find out the family of that flyer.

Please, write a letter to: American Consul General, Prague, Czechoslovakia., and tell him all you know, now you got the information about the ring, and it would be wise, to enclose the letter which Z wrote to me. It is written in Czech, but they have translators in the office in Prague, and asks the Consul General, to ask Z to send the ring to the Consul General and he will deliver the ring to you. It will be possible for the Consul General to do this, because I believe, those red murderers would not dare to open diplomatic mail.

You don’t know, dear Mr. and Mrs. Buslee, how happy I would be, if you would get the ring. I know, it would be great ease for you. And I do all I am told, to get it for you -! I will write to the president office in Prague, and I will beg President Dr. Beneš, to help me and, if the komunists will not kill him before that, – like they kill Jan Masaryk last Tuesday – I am sure he will help us too.

I am asking Z, if he will get a letter from American consul in Prague, and the consul will ask him for the ring, just to send him the ring, because I did arranged it this way, and please, Mr. and Mrs. Buslee, ask the American consul, when he will ask Z for the ring, ask him to enclose Z a letter, /which he wrote to me and I am enclosing to you/ so he will be sure, that the right people get the ring.

I am closing, dear Mr. and Mrs. Buslee and I wish, you believe, how happy I would be if you would get the ring-!

With great respect for you,
I am sincerely yours:
Mr. B.
Richmond, Texas

Handwritten addition to the above typed letter:
P.S. Please, send the letter to the Amer. Consul General in Prague Registered and Air Mail (15cents half oz., 30 cents one oz. and 20 cents registry)

This transcription is a careful reproduction of the original except for occasional spelling and punctuation corrections. Some names have been masked to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families.  In some circumstances, based on relevancy or a desire to mask locations, some material may not have been transcribed.

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s nephew, for sharing these letters with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

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The Ring – March 8, 1948 – Letter to Z

To review:  On February 20, 1948, the Buslee’s had learned that their son’s Air Force ring, a gift from them, had surfaced in Czechoslovakia.

On March 8, the Buslee’s wrote to both Mr. B – the translator living in Texas – and Z – the finder of the ring.  Last week’s post presented their letter to Mr. B and this week’s post will present their letter to Z.

411 Wisner Avenue
Park Ridge, Illinois U.S.A.

March 8, 1948

Dear Z:

Your letter of December 22, 1947 to your friend Mr. B was forwarded to us through the Adjutant General’s Office so that we could personally get in touch with you and Mr. B. This correspondence has just been received by us.

We are the parents of Lt. John O. Buslee, O-764209, who we were informed lost his life in a plane on a mission over Magdeburg, Germany in September 1944. Yes, it is his ring which you describe and now have. We gave it to him as a gift before he went overseas, and we would be very happy to have it back as a keepsake.

Z, it would be wonderful if you could help us get the ring back and write to us and tell us all you know about our son, the condition of the plane and, if possible, if our son and the rest of the men were dead when the plane reached the ground. Any news you can tell us we will be thankful for.

The Government has never been able to tell us anything about him due to the fact that the plane came down in enemy territory, so you can well imagine how word from you will help to ease our broken hearts. He was our only son.

We are so grateful to both you and Mr. B for your effort in trying to locate us and we assure you we shall always remember your thoughtfulness.

We will gladly reimburse you for any expense you have in returning the ring to us.

We patiently await an early reply from both of you gentlemen and our sincere thanks to you both for your kindness.

The anxious parents of John O. Buslee.

Sincerely yours,
Mr. and Mrs. John Buslee
411 Wisner Avenue
Park Ridge, Illinois, U.S.A.

Notice that the Buslee’s did not specify the date in September 1944 in which their son lost his life.  They were probably perplexed, as I am, as to why Z reported the date in his letter as September 22 instead of the actual date of the mid-air collision, September 28.  They chose not to correct the date or pursue any line of questioning regarding the date.  Were they skeptical, as I am, with Z’s claims, considering the inaccurate date?  Skepticism only goes so far, though, if Z actually has the ring.

This transcription is a careful reproduction of the original except for occasional spelling and punctuation corrections. Some names have been masked to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families.  In some circumstances, based on relevancy or a desire to mask locations, some material may not have been transcribed.

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s nephew, for sharing these letters with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

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

To review:  On February 20, 1948, the Buslee’s had learned that their son’s Air Force ring, a gift from them, had surfaced in Czechoslovakia.

On March 8, the Buslee’s wrote to both Mr. B – the translator living in Texas – and Z – the finder of the ring.  Today’s post will present their letter to Mr. B and next week’s post will present their letter to Z.

411 Wisner Avenue
Park Ridge, Illinois

March 8, 1948

Mr. B
Richmond, Texas

Dear Mr. B:

The letter you wrote to the Adjutant General Charles D. Carle, was in turn mailed to us so that we could personally get in touch with you and Z. This correspondence has just been received by us.

We are the parents of Lt. John O. Buslee, O-764209, who we were informed lost his life in a plane on a mission over Magdeburg, Germany in September 1944. Yes, it is his ring which Z describes and now has. We gave it to him as a gift before he went overseas, and we would be very happy to have it back as a keepsake.

Mr. B, it would be wonderful if you could help us get the ring back from your friend, Z. We would appreciate it very much if you would get in touch with him at once, as you suggested in your letter and write to us and tell us all you know about our son. We are also sending a letter to Z with the hope that he will write and tell us all he can about the day he saw the plane, the condition of it, [and how many men were in the plane,]and if possible, if our son and the rest of the men were dead when the plane reached the ground. Any news you can tell us, Mr. B, we will be thankful for.

The Government has never been able to tell us anything about him due to the fact that the plane came down in enemy territory, so you can well imagine how word from you will help to ease our broken hearts. He was our only son.

We are so grateful to both of you men for your effort in trying to locate us and we assure you we shall always remember your thoughtfulness.

We will gladly reimburse you for any expense you have in returning the ring to us.

We patiently await an early reply from both of you gentlemen and our sincere thanks to you both for your kindness.

The anxious parents of John O. Buslee.

Sincerely yours,
Mr. and Mrs. John Buslee
411 Wisner Avenue
Park Ridge, Illinois, U.S.A.

I have two copies of this letter.  One is typed and one is handwritten.  In the handwritten draft of this letter, the Buslees also asked how many men were in the plane.  I have included that text above in brackets.  I assume that the typed letter is the one sent to Mr. B and the Buslee’s decided to leave out the question of how many men were found in the plane.

This transcription is a careful reproduction of the original except for occasional spelling and punctuation corrections. Some names have been masked to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families.  In some circumstances, based on relevancy or a desire to mask locations, some material may not have been transcribed.

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s nephew, for sharing these letters with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The Ring – February 20, 1948

To review:  On January 28, 1948, Mr B sent a letter to the Adjutant General’s office in St. Louis, Missouri.  He requested that his enclosed letter be delivered to John Oliver Buslee’s parents.  It took three weeks for a letter to be drafted and sent to the Buslees.  Along with Mr. B’s letter was this one from Colonel Charles D. Carle.

DEPARTMENT OF THE ARMY
OFFICE OF THE ADJUTANT GENERAL
RECORDS ADMINISTRATION CENTER
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI

In reply refer to:
ACRS-CD-S 201 Buslee, John O.
(28 Jan. 48) 764209

20 February 1948

Mr. John Buslee
411 N. Wisner Ave.
Park Ridge, Illinois

Dear Mr. Buslee:

The inclosed letter is forwarded to you for whatever action you deem appropriate inasmuch as it is the policy of the Department of the Army not to furnish the address of the next of kin in order to protect their privacy.

Sincerely yours,
Charles D. Carle
Colonel, AGD
Commanding

1 Inclosure
Ltr dtd 28 Jan 48

Imagine the Buslee’s surprise upon receiving the letter from Mr. B and hearing that their son’s ring had surfaced, and in all places – Czechoslovakia.

This transcription is a careful reproduction of the original except for occasional spelling and punctuation corrections. Some names have been masked to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families.  In some circumstances, based on relevancy or a desire to mask locations, some material may not have been transcribed.

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s nephew, for sharing these letters with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The Ring – January 28, 1948

To review:  a man whom I will call “Mr. B” was an immigrant to the United States from Czechoslovakia.  In 1948, he was living in Richmond, Texas.  He had received a letter from a friend of a friend still living in Czechoslovakia.  The friend had a special favor to ask Mr. B – to please help him find the next of kin of the owner of a ring he had found in Germany in September 1944.

With the information he had been given, on January 5, 1948 Mr. B wrote to the Veteran’s Service Office in Richmond requesting the name and home address of the family of John Oliver (Jay) Buslee.  He received a letter in reply on January 21, stating that if he transmitted any communications to the next of kin to their office, they would forward it to the family.

A week later, Mr. B wrote back, giving the details of his request.

Richmond, Texas, Jan. 28, 1948

The Adjutant General’s Office,
Records Administration Center,
St. Louis, Missouri.
Charles D. Carle, Colonel, AGD Commanding.

AGRS-DC-8 301 Buslee, John O.

Dear Colonel:

Mr. William F. Doggett, Veteran Service Officer for Fort Bend County, Texas, send to my hand your letter, concerning John O. Buslee, serial number O 764 209. Let me explain first, why I would be so happy to get in touch with the next of kin, above mentioned flyer.

On 22/12, 1947, I received a letter from one unknown in Czechoslovakia, who got my address from one friend of mine. Here is the translation of said letter:

Dear Mr. B,

I am begging you for a favor and I do hope you will be so kind and help us. On Sept. 22, 1944, American plane came down in flames alone, about 40 kilometers from Magdeburg. I have been working in the fields, there the Germans put me on forced labor. I came to the plane before the Gestapo and SS did and all the flyers have been dead and I pick up a ring which belonged to one of the flyers. It is a ring with a big jewel and around the jewel there are 13 stars engraved, and on one side of the jewel is a USA emblem and on the other side a USA flyer emblem with the wording: War of survival, and the name John O. Buslee, O-764209. Please, Mr. B, if it would be possible for you to find out the family of the dead flyer, so I would be able to send them the ring. But I will not give it to nobody, unless I am sure the right people will get it.

I hope you will fulfill my wish and I remain yours,

Z
Czechoslovakia

I would be very happy, dear Colonel, if the ring would be send to the family of the flyer and I am sure, they would be happy to get it too. I am sending a letter to Z too and I am informing him, that if he would send the ring to me, I would send the ring to you and I am sure, the ring would reach the right people. Please, kindly advise me on this matter.

Respectfully yours,
Mr. B
Richmond, Texas

A young man from Czechoslovakia witnessed the Lead Banana crash after its mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy.  He was working in the fields, as forced labor of the Nazis during WWII.  He was the first person to arrive at the plane and discover that there were no survivors of the crash.

In this letter, Z identifies the date of the crash as September 22, 1944, a Friday.  The mission, and crash, actually occurred the next Thursday, September 28, 1944.

This transcription is a careful reproduction of the original except for occasional spelling and punctuation corrections. Some names have been masked to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families.  In some circumstances, based on relevancy or a desire to mask locations, some material may not have been transcribed.

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s nephew, for sharing these letters with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The Ring – January 21, 1948

A man whom I will call “Mr. B” was an immigrant to the United States from Czechoslovakia.  In 1948, he was living in Richmond, Texas.  He had received a letter from a friend of a friend still living in Czechoslovakia.  The friend had a special favor to ask Mr. B – to please help him find the next of kin of the owner of a ring he had found in Germany in September 1944.

With the information he had been given, on January 5, 1948 Mr. B wrote to the Veteran’s Service Office in Richmond requesting the name and home address of the family of John Oliver (Jay) Buslee.  He received the following letter in reply:

21 January 1948

AGRS-DC-8 301 Buslee, John O.
(5 Jan 48)

Veterans Service Officer
Richmond, Texas

Dear Sir:

Reference is made to your letter in which you request the name and home address of the next of kin of John O. Buslee, serial number 0 764 209.

It is a long established policy of the Department of the Army to protect the privacy of the next of kin of former military personnel. However any communication intended for the next of kin will be forwarded to the last known address if transmitted to this office.

Sincerely yours,
Charles D. Carle
Colonel, AGD,
Commanding

This communication between Mr. B and the Veterans Service Office began the quest to return John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s ring to his parents.  In subsequent letters, we will learn how the man in Czechoslovakia, whom I will call “Z”, came to possess the ring.  We will also learn that this was the second time Z attempted to reunite Jay Buslee’s ring with his parents, something he had tried to do three years before – in 1945 – but was unable to accomplish.

The letters show the dedication and persistence of a man on one side of the world to bring some peace to another family far away, the family of a man he had never met, but who he felt a bond with through the tragedy of war.  The letters also open a window to what another part of the world was like during and after WWII.

This transcription is a careful reproduction of the original except for occasional spelling and punctuation corrections. Some names have been masked to protect the privacy of those individuals and their families.  In some circumstances, based on relevancy or a desire to mask locations, some material may not have been transcribed.

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s nephew, for sharing these letters with me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The Ring

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee died September 28, 1944 when the B-17 he was piloting, Lead Banana, crashed after a mid-air collision with B-17 Lazy Daisy.  His parents were notified shortly thereafter that he was missing in action, but it would be another four months before they received news that he had died in the collision.

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

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

The surfacing of the ring was one thing.  Getting the ring back was another.  Distance and politics and the state of the world in the 1940’s made this a very difficult task.

Over the next several weeks I will publish a collection of letters shared with me by John Dale Kielhofer, Jay Buslee’s nephew, and share with you The Story of the Ring.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

 

The Buslees Receive Bad News

On January 31, 1945, John Buslee, father of pilot John Oliver (Jay) Buslee, wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar.  Farrar was the wasit gunner of Jay Buslee’s bomber crew.   Buslee and Farrar and the other boys in the crew had been reported missing in action from Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944.  On New Year’s Eve 1944, Farrar had been reported as a prisoner of war.  Now four months after the mid-air collision between Lead Banana carrying the Buslee crew, and Lazy Daisy carrying the Brodie crew, Jay Buslee was reported as killed in action on the September 28 mission.

It must have been a very hard letter to write.  Instead of writing from home as he had done previously, Buslee wrote this letter from his office.  Home was about fifteen miles from his office downtown.  On that long drive into work, did John Buslee even notice how cold it was on this winter day in Chicago when all he could think about was the news, and news he couldn’t believe, about his only son?

January 31, 1945
Neumann – Buslee & Wolfe Inc
Merchants – Importers – Manufacturers
224 – 230 W. Huron Street, Chicago (10), Illinois

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

On January 28 we received a telegram from the Adjutant General at Washington, D.C. advising that our son John O. was killed in action on September 28 while over Germany.

This, you can realize, was shocking news, particularly as we felt the time was in our favor and that the delay in definite word reaching us was due to his being a prisoner of war.

Having promised to keep you advised of any news reaching us prompts writing this letter. Mrs. Buslee, my daughter and self just can’t realize that the word sent to us is correct. We are hopeful that some error has been made due to all of the confusion in war-torn Germany and that we will ultimately get different word from our son.

We trust that you have heard recently from your son, George, and that he is in good health.

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee was identified as killed in action on an October 21, 1944 Telegram Form.  This form is part of MACR9753, the Missing Air Crew Report which contained information on both the crews of Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.  In addition to identifying Buslee, the Telegram Form also reported the identifications of David Albrecht (Buslee’s co-pilot), Lenard Bryant (Buslee’s top turret gunner), Lloyd Vevle (Brodie’s co-pilot), and Byron Atkins (Brodie’s bombardier).  All but Atkins had previously been recovered dead, but remained unidentified until this point.  Atkins had been carried off in the nose of Lazy Daisy, away from the rest of the crew and the crash site, and had just recently been found dead and identified.

I assume the Albrecht, Bryant, Vevle, and Atkins families also received news of their sons’ deaths about the same time as the Buslees.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

John Oliver Buslee

John Oliver Buslee

John Oliver Buslee

John Oliver Buslee, known to family as “John Oliver”, “J Oliver”, or “Jay” was born June 24, 1923 in Maine Township, Cook County, Illinois to parents John and Olga Gruenfeld Buslee.  In this post, I’ll refer to John (the father) as “John”, and John Oliver (the son and WWII pilot) as “Jay” in an attempt to avoid confusion between father and son.

Jay’s father, 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.  Neumann, Buslee & Wolfe occupied half of the Bauer Building while the Shure Brothers microphone company occupied the other half.  The 1930 census describes John’s profession as a chemical salesman, and by the 1940 census he was labeled a salesman of essential oils.

While both John and Olga were born in Illinois, John’s parents were both born in Norway, and Olga’s father was born in Germany.  Olga’s mother was Jay’s only grandparent born in Illinois.  One of the Buslee family stories is that John’s parents’ last name was originally Andersen or Anderson.  Fearing difficulties in America with so many named Anderson, John’s father decided to take a new name based on the place he was from in Norway, possibly the county of Buskerud, and came up with Buslee as his and his wife’s new last name.  John’s father’s death certificate lists his full name as John Anderson Buslee, lending some truth to the story.

Jay was the youngest of John and Olga’s two children.  His sister, Janice Elizabeth, came along first, about three and a half years before Jay.  Janice was married to Gene D. Kielhofer on September 25, 1943.  Gene was a pilot in the Navy, serving his country in the South Pacific flying NATS, Naval Air Transport Services.  Janice had both a brother and husband to worry about in the war.

In his youth, Jay attended Maine Township High School (now called Maine Township High School East) in Park Ridge, Illinois, where he was president of the German Club, vice-president of the Rose Cassidy Chemistry Club, a member of the M Club, and played baseball and football.  He graduated in 1941.  He then attended the University of Wisconsin in Madison for two years before enlisting in the Army Air Corps.

John Oliver Buslee, second row, second from left at the University of Wisconsin

John Oliver Buslee, second row, second from left at the University of Wisconsin

Jay enlisted in the Army Air Corps in mid-April 1943 (sources note conflicting dates of April 9, 17 and 19).  He enjoyed a last dinner out with his father before heading to Union Station for the train ride to Nashville.  Union Station was a busy place during WWII.  As many as 300 trains and 100,000 passengers, many of them soldiers, passed through Union Station every day during the war.

The Classification Center in Nashville, Tennessee was the first stop in the training program in which Jay would earn his wings.  This was the stage where Jay would be classified to train as a navigator, bombardier, or pilot, and lasted about a week.  By the end of the week, Jay was selected for pilot training.

From his classification in Nashville as an Aviation Cadet Pilot, Jay was sent to pre-flight training in Santa Ana, California.  Pre-flight training for pilots, navigators, and bombardiers lasted ten weeks and was divided into two parts.  The first six weeks was a short version of boot camp, dealing mostly with physical conditioning and military training.  The next four weeks covered academics, including everything from the mechanics and physics of flight to refresher courses in mathematics and physics, which the cadets were required to pass.  Practical applications of their knowledge came next through the instruction of aeronautics, deflection shooting, and thinking in three dimensions.  Evaluations were performed through flight simulators and ride-alongs with a pilot-instructor.  The lucky ones that passed were given Cadet Wings and were promoted to pilot school.

Pilot school was rigorous and not every cadet made it all the way through the pilot training program.  Washing out was not uncommon.  Aviation cadets who washed out of pilot training were sent to navigator school or bombardier school.  Navigator and bombardier schools were no walk in the park either.  Washing out of those schools usually meant heading for gunnery school.

Anxious to see their son and help him celebrate his twentieth birthday, Jay’s parents headed to Santa Ana for a visit.  It was near the end of Jay’s pre-flight pilot training and Jay was selected as one of three boys promoted to primary pilot training at Sequoia Field in Visalia, California.  Mr. and Mrs. Buslee arrived in Santa Ana only a few hours before Jay was to be transferred to Sequoia Field for his primary pilot training.  Luckily, the transfer was put on hold, allowing Jay to spend the night with his parents at their hotel.

Used to enduring the cold winters in the Chicago area, Jay loved the warmer climate and being close to the desert at Sequoia Field.  Here Jay learned to fly in a two-seater training aircraft.  His quarters were nice, too, and air conditioned.  Meals were a treat, with the boys dining at tables of eight with white table cloths.  He was happy to find he was not required to do any guard duty or K.P., as those tasks were performed by civilian guard.  The boys in primary pilot training at  Sequoia Field only had to concentrate on one thing – learning to fly.  Three weeks after his twentieth birthday, on July 15, 1943, Jay made his first solo flight.

Next stop was Jay’s basic pilot training at Minter Field in Bakersfield, California.   At Minter Field, Jay learned to fly in formation, fly by instruments or aerial navigation, fly at night, and fly for long distances, all required training for a future B-17 bomber pilot.

After finishing his basic pilot training, Jay went on to advanced pilot training at the Army Pilot Training School in Douglas, Arizona, where he earned his wings and commission as a Second Lieutenant on January 7, 1944.  Only cadets who graduated at the top of their class were graded as second lieutenants.

Classified as a multi-engine pilot, Jay continued his transition pilot training in multiple-motored bombers in Roswell, New Mexico after taking a short furlough.  Transition pilot training normally lasted for two months.

Jay finished the final phase of his pilot training in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where the original Buslee crew was formed, and all the boys bonded as brothers as they prepared for combat duty.

Training alongside Lt. John Oliver (Jay) Bulsee in Ardmore were the other members of his original crew, which included:

  • Co-pilot Lt. David Franklin Albrecht from Chico, California
  • Navigator Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk from Toledo, Ohio
  • Bombardier Lt. Marvin Fryden, also from Cook County, Illinois
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley from Halsey, Nebraska
  • Radio Operator/Gunner Sgt. Sebastiano Joseph Peluso from Brooklyn, New York
  • Tail Gunner Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski from Detroit, Michigan
  • Ball Turret Gunner Sgt. Erwin V. Foster from Elmira, New York
  • Waist Gunner Sgt. Lenard Leroy Bryant from Littlefield, Texas
  • Waist Gunner Sgt. George Edwin Farrar from Atlanta, Georgia, (my dad)

At one point, the boys thought that they would not be going to England, which eased their minds, as they knew flying bomber missions from England was very risky and posed the greatest threat of running into flak.  By the time they were ready for combat, they found that they were going to England after all.

The Buslee crew was assigned to the Eighth Air Force, 384th Bombardment Group, 544th Bomb Squadron, and were soon on their way to the Grafton Underwood Air Station in England.  They would fly together as a crew in what they thought of as their own plane, a B-17.  When my dad described it to his mother, he wrote that “it only has twelve hours on it and guns all over
it.”  The boys were not allowed to divulge where they were heading, but were allowed to write home once they reached England.

On their second mission on August 5, 1944, with Jay still in training but handling the controls of the famous flying fortress known as the Tremblin’ Gremlin, the Buslee crew was hit by flak during their bomb run over an airfield in Langenhagen, Germany, north of Hanover.  All but two of the crew were injured.  Luckily, Jay’s injuries were minor.   The most major injuries were to engineer and top turret gunner, Clarence B. Seeley, whose lower right leg was pierced by a jagged piece of steel, and to bombardier, Marvin Fryden, who was hit in the chest below the left shoulder.  Fryden was able to release his bombs on the target before collapsing.

Jay was later quoted as saying, “It was popping all over the place during the few minutes we were on the bomb run.  By the time we made our turn away from the target, more than half the crew had been hit and suffered injuries of varying degrees.”

The pilot who was training Jay, Lt. Arthur J. Shwery of Janesville, Wisconsin, was hit above the eye, leaving Jay in charge for the return trip to England, a return trip that was harrowing considering the condition of the ship.  The right inboard motor was hit and was lost.  The radio compartment was riddled with holes and the radio equipment destroyed.  The only thing that saved the radioman, Sebastiano Peluso, was the fact that he was bending over when the flak hit his radio compartment.  The trim tabs that control the plane’s balance were shredded.  The hydraulic brake system was shot out.  Part of the oxygen system was lost and the men up front had to use emergency supplies or tap other lines.  The left inboard engine went out as Tremblin’ Gremlin reached the English coast.  With no brakes, Jay thought he was heading for a rough landing, but he managed to bring the plane in on the concrete landing strip and slide it off into the grass to reduce the speed of the uncontrollable wheels.  Ground crews counted more than 100 flak holes in the fort.

Back in England, Marvin Fryden died in an Army hospital in the arms of his friend, the navigator, Chester Rybarczyk.  Everyone else on the Buslee crew had a few days off to decompress before their next mission on August 9 except for Clarence Seeley, who took until October 2 to heal from his leg wound.  Arthur “James” Shwery, who had trained Jay on Jay’s first two missions, also flew again on August 9, and only had four missions to go until he completed his tour and returned to the states.  He must have felt lucky to escape with only a cut above the eye so close to the end of his service.

After the harrowing mission of August 5, Jay was ready to take over as pilot and completed a total of sixteen missions with his last mission being mission 201 on September 28, 1944 to Magdeburg.  It was this mission that Jay and his crew in Lead Banana were involved in a mid-air collision with the James Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.  Jay and seven of his crew mates on the Banana lost their lives in the collision and subsequent crash.  Six lives were lost aboard the Daisy.

Like the other boys that lost their lives that day, Jay was originally buried in the Ostingersleben Cemetery near the crash site.  He was later interred in the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten.  More than four years after his death, he was brought home and re-interred February 3, 1949 at the Saint Joseph Cemetery in River Grove, Cook County, Illinois.  Today Jay is interred in Building 1, Tier C, Crypt 2, alongside his parents and sister, Janice, and Janice’s husband, Gene.

Thank you to Craig and John Dale Kielhofer, sons of Gene and Janice Buslee Kielhofer and nephews of John Oliver (Jay) Buslee, for sharing family stories and photographs.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Next of Kin List Released

The day after Christmas 1944, at ninety days missing in action, the US Army Air Forces wrote to the Buslee crew’s next of kin and enclosed a list of the names of the crew members on the Lead Banana on September 28 and also included the names and addresses of next of kin in case the families wanted to communicate with each other.

December 26, 1944
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Attention:  AFPPA-8
(9753) Farrar, George E.
14119873

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar,
79 EastLake Terrace Northeast,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

For reasons of military security it has been necessary to withhold the names of the air crew members who were serving with your son at the time he was reported missing.

Since it is now permissible to release this information, we are inclosing a complete list of names of the crew members.

The names and addresses of the next of kin of the men are also given in the belief that you may desire to correspond with them.

Sincerely,

Clyde V. Finter
Colonel, Air Corps
Chief, Personal Affairs Division
Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Personnel

1 Incl
List of crew members & names
& addresses of next of kin
5-2032, AF

1st. Lt. John O. Buslee
Mr. John Buslee, (Father)
411 North Wisner Avenue,
Park Ridge, Illinois.

1st. Lt. William A. Henson, II
Mrs. Harriet W. Henson, (Wife)
Summerville, Georgia.

1st. Lt. Robert S. Stearns
Mr. Carey S. Stearns, (Father)
Post Office Box 113,
Lapine, Oregon.

2nd. Lt. David F. Albrecht
Reverand Louis M. Albrecht, (Father)
Scribner, Nebraska.

S/Sgt. Sebastiano J. Peluso
Mrs. Antonetta Peluso, (Mother)
2963 West 24th Street,
Brooklyn, New York.

S/Sgt. Lenard L. Bryant
Mrs. Ruby M. Bryant, (Wife)
Route Number Two,
Littlefield, Texas.

S/Sgt. Gerald L. Andersen
Mrs. Esther E. Coolen Andersen, (Wife)
Box Number 282,
Stromburg, Nebraska.

S/Sgt. George E. Farrar
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar, (Mother)
79 East Lake Terrace Northeast,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Sgt. George F. McMann
Mr. George F. McMann, (Father)
354 West Avenue,
Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The above list is also a part of MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 9753.  For a diagram and list of each man’s position on the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944, click here.

The Brodie crew’s next of kin must have gotten the same letter and a list of those on the Lazy Daisy.  The following list is attached to MACR9366.  For a diagram and list of each man’s position on the Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944, click here.

1st Lt. James J. Brodie
Mrs. Mary E. Brodie, (Wife)
4436 North Kostner Avenue
Chicago, Illinois.

2nd Lt. Lloyd O. Vevle
Mr. Oliver E. Vevle, (Father)
240 Sixth Avenue, North
Fort Dodge, Iowa.

2nd Lt. George M. Hawkins, Jr.
Mr. George M. Hawkins, Sr., (Father)
52 Marchard Street
Fords, New Jersey

T/Sgt. Donald W. Dooley
Mr. Guy T. Dooley, (Father)
711 South Rogers Street
Bloomington, Indiana.

S/Sgt. Byron L. Atkins
Mr. Verne Atkins, (Father)
Route Number Two
Lebanon, Indiana.

Sgt. Robert D. Crumpton
Mrs. Stella M. Parks, (Mother)
Route Number One
Ennis, Texas

Sgt. Gordon E. Hetu
Mr. Raymond J. Hetu, (Father)
3821 Webb Street
Detroit, Michigan.

S/Sgt. Wilfred F. Miller
Mrs. Mary Miller, (Mother)
Rural Free Delivery Number One
Newton, Wisconsin.

S/Sgt. Harry A. Liniger
Mrs. Estelle P. Liniger, (Mother)
Box Number 251
Gatesville, North Carolina

If the US Army Air Forces had told the families of the two crews what actually happened to their sons’ aircraft and provided the lists of both crews to the families, the families of the two pilots, Buslee and Brodie, would have discovered that they lived only seven and a half miles apart in Chicago, Illinois.  These families would most likely have been very interested in communicating if they had been made aware of each other.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014