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Category Archives: Farrar, George Edwin

Home Bases

While trying to piece together my dad’s timeline during his WWII service, I decided to dig through his box of WWII letters and memorabilia again. I ran across this treasure, “World Atlas of Today – War Edition.” I know I have thumbed through it before, but I did not remember my dad’s annotations I found on its cover and within it.

The inside cover calls it “Hammond’s World Atlas” and it was copyrighted 1943 by C.S. Hammond & Co., New York. It was printed specifically for WWII and includes a description of this volume which starts with…

With the whole of the globe the scene of the greatest upheaval since the birth of man – Maps – clear and accurate maps are absolutely indispensable to enable one to grasp the vast scope of the present world shaking conflict, and to form an appreciation of the tremendous distances involved.

Remember, this was a time before jet airliners and cell phones. Travel to distant places took much longer and news from those faraway places took longer, too. But my dad went to those faraway places and in the pages of this volume of maps, he recorded his travels, and in doing so recorded his history.

Dad wrote his name and station on the cover, George E. Farrar, 328th Hd. Sq., Kingman, Ariz. I know he was stationed with the 328 Hd. Sq in May 1943, so that’s probably about the time he received this atlas.

Inside the atlas on a map of the United States, Dad circled his home bases while he served stateside and drew some lines that I’m working to decipher. The bases he circled were:

  • Kingman, Arizona
  • Albuquerque, New Mexico
  • Kearney, Nebraska
  • Grenier Army Air Base, New Hampshire (three miles south of Manchester, New Hampshire)

Other than Kingman, I know Dad was in Albuquerque sometime between October 12 and December 18, 1942 as those were the dates a movie crew was in Albuquerque filming the movie “Bombardier.” Dad was there as part of the 383rd Student Squadron at Kirtland Army Air Base. I know this only from his notes, as his separation documents don’t list Albuquerque as a place he was either a student or instructor.

As for Kearney and Grenier, he and the Buslee crew picked up their B-17 in Kearney and I believe Grenier Army Air Base was their final destination in the states on their way to ferry their B-17 across the Atlantic.

Surprisingly, he did not circle Ardmore, Oklahoma, where for six months he administered phase checks and organized students and instructors, and completed his combat crew training, but he does have it marked on the map. Other points around the country that he connected with red and black lines were:

  • Seattle, Washington
  • Sacramento, California
  • San Francisco, California
  • Los Angeles, California
  • Long Beach, California
  • Reno, Nevada
  • Flagstaff, Arizona
  • Phoenix, Arizona
  • Yuma, Arizona
  • Salt Lake City, Utah
  • Denver, Colorado
  • Wichita, Kansas
  • Amarillo, Texas
  • Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas
  • New Orleans, Louisiana
  • Mobile, Alabama
  • Montgomery, Alabama
  • Atlanta, Georgia
  • Thomasville, Georgia
  • Waycross, Georgia
  • Jacksonville, Florida
  • Tampa/St. Petersburg, Florida
  • Fort Myers, Florida

I don’t know the significance of these cities other than his hometown was Atlanta, Georgia, and he attended AC Instructors School in Fort Myers, Florida for six weeks. I also don’t understand the significance of the red lines vs. the black lines. Perhaps the lines were routes he traveled, possibly red by train and black by plane. The lines emanating from Kingman and Albuquerque could have been training flight paths. As I discover more information, perhaps one day I will better understand Dad’s annotations on his maps.

To be continued…

…with a map showing his route to the ETO in more detail.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Ardmore Army Air Field

My dad’s (George Edwin “Ed” Farrar’s) WWII Separation Qualification record indicates that he was an Army Air Forces (AAF) Gunnery instructor for thirteen months. For seven months he was a flexible gunnery instructor in Kingman, Arizona, conducting and administering training classes and gunnery tests. For six months he administered phase checks, organized students and instructors for training in aerial gunnery at Ardmore OTU, Oklahoma.

George Edwin “Ed” Farrar pointing to Ardmore, Oklahoma on the map

He spent six weeks at an Aircraft Instructor’s School in Ft. Myers, Florida. The course included instruction and practical training in teaching methods and student psychology as well as fundamentals of advanced aerial gunnery. I’m not sure whether he attended the AC Instructor’s School before he was a flexible gunnery instructor in Kingman or if the Instructor’s School came later, before his stint as an instructor in Ardmore.

Ardmore Army Air Field opened in Ardmore, Oklahoma in 1942 as a glider training facility. By July 12, 1943, it became a Martin Marauder B-26 crew training base of the 394th Bombardment Group, but the 394th transferred out five weeks later on August 19, 1943.

On August 20, 1943, Ardmore Army Air Field passed from the Third Air Force to the Second Air Force and on September 16, the 46th Bombardment Operational Training Wing of the 20th Bomber Command moved to Ardmore. Soon after, the 395th Bombardment Group arrived with their B-17’s.

On November 24, 1943, the 395th Bombardment Group was transformed into the 395th Combat Crew Training School, which provided instructional personnel for the training of new combat crews for the B-17s. Perhaps it was at this time that my dad was assigned to Ardmore as an instructor.

George Edwin “Ed” Farrar in Ardmore, Oklahoma

According to their web site, during this time period in WWII, Ardmore Army Air Field was a receiving facility for new pilots, navigators, gunners, bombardiers, radio operators and flight engineers after they had completed their individual specialty training at other bases around the country.

While at Ardmore, the individuals were brought together for their final combat training to become B-17 combat crews ready to ship overseas and into the action. The training program included both classroom and flying instruction. As a combat crew in training, the men would be at the Ardmore base from three to five months before shipping overseas.

On March 25, 1944, the 395th Combat Crew Training School was changed to the 222nd Combat Crew Training School by Second Air Force General Order Number 35.

My dad transitioned from instructor at Ardmore to a gunner on one of the B-17 crews, where he completed his combat crew training as a flexible gunner (waist gunner) on the the John Oliver Buslee crew.

The Buslee Crew.  My dad is on the far right in the front row.

On June 8, 1944, he received his written orders “as a combat crew member requiring regular and frequent participation in aerial flights.” The order was issued by Major Milton S. Angier, Air Corps Commandant of the Combat Crew Detachment, 222nd Combat Crew Training School, AAF, Ardmore, Oklahoma.

My dad wrote his mother on June 22, 1944 on his way out of Ardmore and the beginning of his journey to Grafton Underwood with the Buslee crew. At the time, most of the B-17 crews traveled by train from the Ardmore base to Grand Island, Nebraska, where they were assigned the B-17’s that they flew to England, and I can only assume that Grand Island was his next destination.

He wrote, “We will be at the next place just long enough to get our plane. It should take from three to seven days.” He also said that he wanted his mother to know that “I haven’t waited this long to start asking God to help me.”

George Edwin “Ed” Farrar

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Buslee Crew Photo – A Deeper Look

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier) Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier)
Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso (radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

This photo of my dad’s (George Edwin Farrar) crew in WWII still confuses me.  Is the navigator in the photo really James Davis, or is it Marvin Fryden? If it is Fryden, does the photo look like it was taken in the states before the crew shipped overseas? If it is Davis, it must be Grafton Underwood.

I sent the photo to Keith Ellefson, a researcher and combat data specialist with the 384th Bomb Group. Keith pointed out several things in the photo to me that I did not see.

Look at the far background on the right side of the picture. It looks like a tree line to me.  Than would be consistent with GU.  Most of the stateside crew training bases were on large airfields with nary a tree or fence in sight.   Looking at the background over Foster’s head, it looks to me like a fence line with some sort of grass or vines on it.  Again, GU and probably not stateside.  Also, on the far left side over the tire I think I see the slope of a squad tent roof.  If it is a tent, it is probably the crew chief’s lair next to the hardstand. I understand nearly every crew had some sort of shelter near the hardstand for warming, storage, naps, etc.

Keith annotated the photo pointing out a couple of items.

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), and Lenard Bryant (waist gunner)

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), and Lenard Bryant (waist gunner)

  • Looks like SGT Foster must have had a combat tour previous to this photo being taken.
  • Those are training qualification badges on the sleeves of two of the enlisted men.
  • All of the men in the photo are wearing wings but only Foster has any kind of awards being displayed.
  • I see two different unit patches.  Davis (or Fryden) and Lucynski are wearing the 8th AF patch.  Your dad (Farrar) and Seeley have the generic AF patch.
  • Two of the officers, Buslee and Rybarczyk also seem to have the generic AF patch.
  • Three of the enlisted guys appear to have no unit patch.
  • Then we get to the enlisted ranks, or lack of rank, on their uniforms. On the assignment orders, Lucynski  was a SSG. Your dad, Seeley and Peluso were SGTs.  Foster and Bryant were Corporals.
  • Peluso, Foster and Seeley are ’slicksleeves’  (Old army slang for no rank displayed).  I don’t know what to make of this.  Usually the guys would be immensely proud of their ranks and wouldn’t be caught without them.  If it was just one of them, I could think that the guy had been reduced in rank.  That was not uncommon back in the day.  I don’t recall seeing any of these names being reduced in rank on any special orders.
  • [I commented that perhaps some of the jackets were borrowed. Keith replied that it was a possibility.] Every soldier was issued a ‘Class A’ uniform but ….   Five of them (Bryant, Foster, Seeley, Farrar, and Peluso) were promoted to Staff Sergeant on 9 September 1944, SO #180, 9 SEP 44.  Maybe the three ‘slicksleeves’ had their jackets out for rank change and borrowed the jackets for the picture.
  • Also, talking about ranks, Foster, who had a previous tour, would normally be at least a Sergeant and more likely a Staff Sergeant.  I suspect he had been reduced to Corporal prior to being assigned to this crew.
  • Fryden is a 1st LT in the assignment orders.  The other three officers are 2nd LTs.  Fryden may have had several months or more service in the states, maybe as an instructor, prior to being assigned to this crew. I think there was something like a 6 month to one year time between 2nd LT and 1st LT. He wouldn’t have been promoted before the pilot would be promoted if they both had the same length of time in service.
  • Foster and Bryant were promoted to SGT on SO #158, 6 August 1944.  Since Bryant is wearing SGT stripes in the photo, I think this dates the photo to sometime after 6 August 1944, putting Davis in the picture.

Marilyn Fryden, Marvin’s wife, wrote about Marvin in a post to the 384th Bomb Group’s web site in 2007. Her comments support that he had been an instructor in the states for some time before being assigned to the Buslee crew. Marilyn wrote:

He had been commissioned and assigned as an instructor in the states. We had almost 2 years together. As he constantly said he was not doing his part, he finally requested combat duty and was assigned to the Gremlin with John Buslee, Dick Albrecht and other crew members.

Marvin and Marilyn had married October 8, 1942 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In a wedding announcement, her parents noted that:

Lieutenant Fryden was appointed instructor at the Albuquerque Air Base and will continue to re-side there with his bride.

After Keith’s analysis, I still question whether the photo includes Davis or Fryden. The back of the photo identifies the navigator as Davis and I believe the identification was provided by the pilot’s father. In a letter to my grandmother dated November 27, 1944, Mr. Buslee wrote:

Early in September we received a snapshot showing the crew members and the plane.  The boys all looked fine and seemed to be in the same high spirit that they enjoyed when we met them in Ardmore.

This comment indicates that Mr. Buslee would have been able to recognize the bombardier since he had met the entire crew. Mr. Buslee offered to send a copy of the photo to my grandmother if she did not have one. My grandmother, Raleigh May Farrar, must have responded to Mr. Buslee that she did indeed have a copy of the picture. He wrote back on December 16, 1944.

I note that you have a crew picture and thinking that you may not know who they are I am sending a list of names in the event that this will interest you.  To look at that group one can well understand what I mean when I say the youth are wonderful.  To my mind that is as fine an assortment of manhood as one could find anywhere and I count it a privilege that my son is among so fine a crew.  Yes I had the good fortune to meet all of them in Ardmore last June and I trust it will be my pleasure to again meet all of them and more that this may be real soon.

Mr. Buslee’s list of names:

WWII-106

Mr. Buslee would not have met James Davis in Ardmore, Oklahoma. At that time, he was not part of the Buslee crew. Marvin Fryden trained with the crew in Ardmore.

Mr. Buslee would also have already known of Marvin Fryden’s death on August 5, 1944. The Buslees and the Frydens both lived in the Chicago area, the Buslees in the Park Ridge area. The Park Ridge Advocate published an article on September 1, 1944 about the crew’s August 5 mission in which Fryden died. Mr. Buslee must have read the article by the time he wrote my grandmother.

Although mortally wounded, the bombardier of a B17 Flying Fortress calmly reported his injury to his pilot and then released his bombs on the target in a remarkable exhibition of sheer courage and presence of mind during a recent American heavy bomber attack over Germany.

The bombardier, 1st Lt. Marvin Fryden, 23, 6719 North Lakewood, Chicago, died later in an army hospital after his bomber, the “Tremblin’ Gremlin,” had reached England with only two of its four engines functioning, its fuselage riddled with more than 100 flak holes and with more than half of its crew wounded.

If the photo includes Fryden, it must have been taken before the August 5, 1944 mission on which Fryden was killed. On that same mission, Seeley was seriously wounded. Davis started flying with the crew on August 9, 1944. Since Seeley was seriously wounded on the August 5 mission, would he have been able to appear in a crew photo after that mission? He wasn’t able to fly again until October 2, 1944, four days after the Buslee crew was lost on the mission to Magdeburg on September 28.

I have not been able to locate any other photos of Marvin Fryden, but I did find a school yearbook photo of James Davis. Putting the photo in question and the photo of Davis side by side, I’m still not certain of the identification. What do you think? Is the man on the left Fryden or Davis?

Photo on left: Marvin Fryden or James Davis? Photo on right: School yearbook photo of James Davis.

Photo on left: Marvin Fryden or James Davis?
Photo on right: School yearbook photo of James Davis.

Enough for today. I have a little more info to add on a couple of the other Buslee crew members, but will hold off for next week. I think this is enough to digest today.

If anyone has a photo of Marvin Fryden (the family spelled the name Frydyn, but Marvin enlisted as Fryden), please contact me. Either comment on this post or e-mail me. Also, if anyone is good at photo analysis, please help me decide – Fryden or Davis?

Thank you, Keith Ellefson, for taking an in-depth look at this photo and providing me with so much information.

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

Bombardier, the Movie

Bombardier was a movie about the training program for US Air Force bombardiers released in 1943. It was filmed mainly at Kirtland Army Air Field (formerly Albuquerque Army Air Base) in New Mexico, site of the first bombardier training school.

RKO Pictures began the film project in 1940 with full cooperation of the US Army Air Corps. It was in production from October 12 to December 18, 1942, with six weeks of filming at Kirtland. Aviation cadets in training at the base were extras in the film and veteran aircrews assigned to the school as instructors flew the B-17s in formation shots seen at the end of the film.

Anne Shirley plays the character Burton “Burt” Hughes, a secretary who is the daughter of an Air Corps general and the field’s former owner. Bombardier premiered on May 14, 1943, at Kirtland AAB. In 1993, 50 years after its first release, a color version was released.

My dad had his picture taken with Anne Shirley. One picture was published in the Sub-Depot Notes publication. See photo 6 on the third page. The caption is

“Now look here, sergeant” (and who wouldn’t.) “1st Sgt.” Anne assumes a top-kick’s pose before two members of the 383rd School Squadron.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, is the one seated on the left side of photo 6 on page 3.

Page 1

Sub-DepotNotes-001

Page 2

Sub-DepotNotes-002

Page 3

Sub-DepotNotes-003

Page 4

Sub-DepotNotes-004

Photos of my dad with Anne Shirley from his collection

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

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

and

George Edwin Farrar and Movie Star Anne Shirley

George Edwin Farrar and Movie Star Anne Shirley

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

Late May 1945

Almost three weeks after my dad’s liberation, the Adjutant General sent this telegram to my dad’s mother.

1945-05-28-AdjutantGeneral-001

At the time of the telegram my dad was in France and expected to go to England before returning to the states. He wrote a longer letter to his mother from France in which he explained what had happened to him.  This is a portion of that letter.

 

I guess I can tell you a little about my missions now that the war here is over. I was knocked down on my 16th mission by another plane that ran into the side of us at 30,000 ft. I fell 25,000 ft. before I came to, and pulled my chute; it was a very nice ride. I didn’t think when Bob and I were kids and I told him he would never be a flyer, that some-day I would save my life with a parachute. I guess it was just meant to be that way.

I was the only man to live from my crew and we were flying lead ship of that group. Our bombardier was killed on our first mission when we brought a ship back from Hanover with 106 holes, and only one engine going. We crashed landed on the English coast. We had several other rough missions, but those were the worst.

By the way my last mission was at Magdeburg. When I hit the ground I received a little rough treatment from the Germans, but I expected it. I was in three German Hospitals for about two and a half months, but am in perfect shape now, that is as perfect as I ever was. We have been on the road marching since Feb. 6 and a lot of nights had to sleep in the open.

Well I guess that will be enough of my history until I get home on furlough. I just hope now that I will find every-one at home feeling fine, as I pray you will be every night. Even on the march, at night when we reached a barn at night I didn’t care how rough it had been that day or how rough it would be without food the next. The main thing that kept me going was the thought that some day I may have the chance to make you just a bit more happy, and that has been my thought ever since the day I was knocked down, and had hours to do nothing but think and look at fence.

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). Tell every-one hello, and I will see you soon.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

 

 

 

Early May 1945

Seventy-one years ago this week my dad, George Edwin Farrar, and the group of Stalag Luft IV prisoners of war with which he was on the forced march across Germany, were liberated by British soldiers. This is the 15-word message my dad sent home to notify his family that he was alive and was free.

1945-05-02-FarrarEd-001

In the fifteen words to which he was limited, it reads:

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

That same week, he penned a short letter home.

1945-05-06-FarrarEd-001

It reads:

Dearest Mother:

I guess you have heard through the government that I was liberated.  I was liberated by the English May 2nd and have been treated very nice since.  I should be home soon, and having some of the nice meals you fix.  That I have dreamed of for all-most a year.  Life was a bit hard here, but it is all over now.  I have been on the road marching since Feb. 6th with very little food, but am not in bad condition.  I hope that every-one at home are o.k. as I have been thinking of every-one each day.  Tell Gene I hope he had a nice birthday, and I was thinking of him on that day.

I’ll sure have a lot of things to tell you when I get home, and I am really going to stay around home.  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.

Love to all,
Ed

I’m not certain when either of these posts were received by my dad’s family in Atlanta, Georgia, but in 1945, Mother’s Day was on May 13. If either arrived prior to that date, I’m sure it made for a very happy Mother’s Day for his mother, Raleigh May George Farrar.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

Military Records Received

I received fifteen pages of copies from the NPRC shortly after they mailed them on February 18, 2015, in addition to a letter noting that “the copy quality is the best that can be obtained.”

The documents included:

INFORMAL INFORMATION REPLY

This document looks like a reply for information requested by my mother and is dated October 31, 1994. It supplies very little actual information. It shows my father’s dates of POW status as September 28, 1944 to May 8, 1945. It also shows that:

  • The record needed to answer your inquiry is not in our files. If the record were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in the area that suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed.
  • The enclosed copies of documents were obtained from an alternate record source.
  • However, complete records cannot be reconstructed.
  • And, we regret that these sources do not contain the particular type of information or document requested.

It also gave an alternate address to request information about medals.

ENVELOPE (COPIED)

The envelope in which my mother mailed her request on September 28, 1994 (exactly 50 years after the mid-air collision) to:

AIR FORCE MANPOWER AND PERSONNEL CENTER
MILITARY PERSONNEL RECORDS DIVISION
RANDOLPH AFB, TX. 78150-6001

REQUEST PERTAINING TO MILITARY RECORDS

…filled out by my mother. Her request was for my father’s “Military history, where trained and where sent overseas. Also record of being a Prisoner of War in Germany, dates and camps, and what battles.”

For the purpose for which information or documents are needed, she wrote:  “Since he is deceased, we would like to have the Military history to include in our Family history and for the benefit of me and our children. Also what medals issued.”

INSTRUCTIONS

…presumably printed on the back of the REQUEST PERTAINING TO MILITARY RECORDS form.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION MPR FINDING AID REPORT

After a search on my father’s social security number, on 10/12/94 at 15:00:33, this report was summed up simply: NOT FOUND.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION MPR FINDING AID REPORT

After a search on my father’s service number, on 10/12/94 at 15:00:39, this report returned the following information:

SGO HOSPITAL LIST         QT          H 1945 022 002
FARRAR GEORGE E          QM         P 0000 193 180
FARRAR GEORGE E          QT          W280944 080545
FARRAR GEORGE E          AR          R 0009 076 277

ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES HONORABLE DISCHARGE certificate

ENLISTED RECORD AND REPORT OF SEPARATION, HONORABLE DISCHARGE form

  • Battles and campaigns included Normandy, No. France, and Rhineland.
  • Decorations and citations included American Theater Ribbon, EAME Ribbon w/3 Bronze Stars, Good Conduct Medal, Purple Heart, Air Medal w/1 Bronze Cluster
  • Wounds received in action listed Germany 28 September 44.
  • Service schools attended were Kingman, Ariz., Ft. Myers, Fla.

ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES SEPARATION QUALIFICATION RECORD (front)

Military Occupational Assignments:

  • 1 month as Pvt in AAF Basic Tng 521
  • 13 months as Sgt as AAF Gunnery Instructor 938
  • 3 months as S/Sgt Airplane Armorer Gunner 612

Summary of Military Occupations:

  • 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 Armore [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.

ARMY OF THE UNITED STATES SEPARATION QUALIFICATION RECORD (back)

MILITARY EDUCATION

  • 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.

TRANSMITTAL OF AND/OR ENTITLEMENT TO AWARDS

This form, dated September 19, 1988, noted approval of the Prisoner of War medal.  The approval verification at the bottom was actually dated September 28, 1988 (forty-four years  to the day after the mid-air collision).

TRANSMITTAL OF AND/OR ENTITLEMENT TO AWARDS

This form, also dated September 19, 1988, must refer to a different medal, but the writing on the form is too light to read.  I guess that’s part of the reference to the copy quality being the best that could be obtained.

VETERAN IDENTIFICATION SCREEN printout

This printout copy is very light, but I can read most of the information included, although most of the fields are not completed. Dates are correct: birth date, death date, enlistment date, and release date.  Social security and service numbers are noted.  The only other substantial bit of information on this printout is POW DAYS. It looks like it reads C030. I am unsure of the meaning of C030. His actual number of POW days was 217.

NATIONAL ARCHIVES AND RECORDS ADMINISTRATION – NATIONAL PERSONNEL RECORDS CENTER (Military Personnel Records), dated 08/23/88.

NAME                                   SERVICE               REGISTER
                                              CODE                    NUMBER              
SGO HOSPITAL LIST         QT                          H 1945 022 002
FARRAR GEORGE E          QT                          W280944 080545
FARRAR GEORGE E          QM                         P 0000 193 180

PRISONER OF WAR (POW) MEDAL APPLICATION/INFORMATION

A copy of the form my mother filled out on August 17, 1988 to apply for a posthumous POW medal for my dad. She included the description:

Was in B-17 #4337822. Plane on right hit by ground fire and hit the plane George Edwin Farrar was on, at 30,000 ft., coming off a target in Magdeburg, Germany. He was knocked unconscious, came to, hooked up parachute, landed on the ground. He was only survivor out of a crew of nine (9). He was liberated on May 2, 1945. Sent to Brussels, Belgium and on to a hospital in France where he spent several weeks.

He was a prisoner at Stalag Luft IV and was on a forced march across Germany from Feb. 6, 1945 until May 2, 1945.

Do not have POW identification card but do have the POW tag #3885.

I would have liked to have received much, much more information on my dad’s years of service in the Army Air Forces, but this is all that is left of his official military personnel record. Thanks to the internet and 384thBombGroup.com, I have been able to piece together a much more complete picture, and find new information every day…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

My Personal Experience Obtaining Military Records

In an effort to complete the picture of my dad’s war service, I decided to obtain his military records and asked for his entire file. I requested his records online through eVetRecs on September 10, 2014 and mailed the signature verification that day. I was given a maximum wait time of ninety days, so I expected to hear something by at least December 9, 2014.

December 9, 2014 came and went without any word on my request. I hoped this was a good thing, that there was so much information in my dad’s military file that it was taking longer than usual.

On January 21, 2015, an archives technician from the NPRC (National Personnel Records Center) mailed me a letter. The letter began:

The complete Official Military Personnel File for the veteran named above is not in our files. If the record were here on July 12, 1973, it would have been in the area that suffered the most damage in the fire on that date and may have been destroyed.

My heart sank, but I kept reading. The letter continued:

Fortunately, there were alternate records sources that contained information which was used to reconstruct some service record data lost in the fire. However, complete records could not be reconstructed.

Ah, some hope. Not much, but some.

We have located a file created during our reconstruction attempts for the veteran named in your request. This partially “reconstructed” file is a record in the legal custody of the National Archives and Records Administration. Access to this record will be granted by providing a copy of the documents in the file. A reconstructed file typically contains limited service data from some of the alternate records sources, working notes from the reconstruction efforts and miscellaneous correspondence or unofficial documents sent to the NPRC with previous requests for information.

Hmmm… At this point, I was not sure how much information they had, but they did have something. And my curiosity was getting the better of me. I really wanted to know exactly what information they had.

The charge for reproducing this reconstructed file is shown on the attached ‘Order for Archival Reproduction Services’ form.

The total cost listed on the Order for Archival Record Reproduction Services was $70.00. Now I was confused. They didn’t have much information, but what they had was worth $70.00. Could this be something interesting, or could it be not much more than I already knew. I had failed to note on the website when I initially made the request – or maybe I did note it and had forgotten by the time I received the letter – that the fee schedule for five pages or less was $25.00, and six pages or more was $70.00.

Please return this form with your payment within 30 days. Once payment is received, the photocopies will be mailed to you. If payment is not received within this period, we will assume that you no longer desire a copy of this reconstructed file and your request will be closed automatically without further notice.

Now they’re getting to me. My take:  We don’t have much info for you, but what we have is worth $70, and you have to decide quickly if you want it or not, or else you can start this process all over again at a future date. And then there’s this…

Please keep in mind that the record may contain few military documents and NPRC will not refund your payment if the photocopies you receive do not contain the information you seek.

Oh, now what to do. I tried to translate what this cryptic letter meant. We don’t have anything interesting for you. We have something juicy that’s worth $70.00. Couldn’t they just tell me exactly what they had so I could make an informed decision? Obviously not. They had to tease me into paying up front to find out what was in this treasure chest. Of course…

As an alternative to purchasing copies of the file, you may view the original reconstructed file in our archival research room located at the National Personnel Records Center (Military Personnel Records), 1 Archives Drive, St. Louis, MO 63138.

How much would it cost for me to travel to St. Louis? Much more than the $70.00 fee for having my dad’s records copied and mailed to me. On February 3, 2015, I mailed back the form and a check.

To be continued: Records received.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

Military Service Records for WWII Veterans

In researching my dad’s time in WWII, I decided to obtain his military service record from the National Archives. While I would have liked to have visited the Archives in person, at the time I did not want to travel to St. Louis to do so. I chose to request his records online and started here:

http://www.archives.gov/veterans/military-service-records/index.html.

Other than a personal visit to the archives, records may be requested online, by mail, or by fax. Available records are the DD 214 (separation documents), personnel records, replacement medals, and/or medical records. The online process of requesting records is accomplished using the eVetRecs process and is not completely digital. Once you request records through eVetRecs, you must either mail or fax your written signature. The process is fairly simple, and you can begin by clicking “Submit your request ONLINE with eVetRecs.” If you wish to proceed through mail or fax, click “Submit your request by MAIL or FAX using the SF-180 Form.”

Only a veteran or next-of-kin of a deceased veteran may order personnel records online through eVetRecs. Depending on the information requested, fees can vary.

While most requests from the NPRC (National Personnel Records Center) are for only a copy of the separation document, about ten percent request a copy of the entire file, as I did. Since the 1970’s the center’s standard procedure for requests for entire files has been to provide only copies of key documents and vital information. However, for files more than sixty-two years old – as are the files of WWII veterans – all documents are provided if requested.

Some of the information contained in a personnel file could include separation documents, military service dates, character of service, promotions and reductions, duty stations and assignments, foreign or sea service, military schooling and training, awards and letters of commendation, disciplinary actions, lost time, enlistment contract, entry and separation physical exams, immunizations, dental examinations, and clinical summaries.

I already had a copy of my dad’s separation documents. My interest in obtaining his entire file was mainly to see medical records and his physical condition after his liberation as a prisoner of war. I had read that the prisoners that were liberated on the march were not weighed or their deteriorated conditions recorded in their medical records. I had some unanswered questions and hoped to find some of those answers in his service record.

I started, like many others, with an online request through eVetRecs for my dad’s entire service file.

To be continued: my personal experience receiving my dad’s service record from the NPRC.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

The Replacements

Earlier this year, I entered a Florida Writers Association contest. The top sixty entries would be published in the association’s annual collection of short stories. All of the stories would be based on the theme of revisions or starting over. I wrote about my dad and how he restarted his life after WWII. My story was selected as one of the top sixty and was published in the book, Florida Writers Association Collection 7: Revisions – Stories of Starting Over.

I have many projects I must tackle before the end of the year and am not able to devote the time to a weekly blog publication and the research that goes behind each post, so I will leave you with this as my last post of the year. It is the story I wrote, The Replacements, about my dad and how he restarted his life after WWII. Blog posts will resume in January and will include a deeper look into the history of Radom, Poland as I have promised. So for now, I hope you all have a wonderful holiday season. Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas.

 

The Replacements

by Cindy Farrar Bryan

 

In WWII, the Army Air Forces’ recruitment posters, pamphlets, and movie trailers seduced “average American boys from average American families” to join the service.  Two of those average American boys shared a desire to perform their patriotic duty from the air.

George Edwin (Ed) Farrar was the middle child of Carroll and Raleigh May Farrar’s brood of nine from Atlanta, Georgia.  Carroll Farrar owned a print shop until his health failed.  Very ill, he could no longer support his family.  Ed quit school after the tenth grade to replace report cards with paychecks.  Aside from his job servicing vending machines, Ed brought home a steady stream of winnings from Golden Gloves boxing matches.

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee was the second child and only son of John and Olga Buslee of Park Ridge, Illinois.  John Buslee was a partner in the Chicago firm Neumann, Buslee & Wolfe, Inc., self-described as “merchants, importers, and manufacturers of essential oils.”  On the road to a bright future, Jay studied for two years at the University of Wisconsin.

Though Ed’s and Jay’s lives had different starts and different expected futures, WWII brought them together.  They both enlisted in the Army Air Forces.  Ed began his military duty as an enlisted man and gunnery instructor.  Jay followed the path of an aviation cadet and future officer and embarked upon pilot training.

***

The Eighth Air Force waged a fierce air battle over Europe fighting the Nazis, with numerous losses of aircraft and bomber crew after bomber crew.  The American war machine constantly required new bombers and replacement crews to man the controls and guns of those bombers.

Ed’s and Jay’s paths crossed in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where they were selected to serve on a replacement crew and completed their final combat training.  They would man a B-17 heavy bomber with Jay as the pilot and Ed as a waist gunner.  In July 1944, Ed, Jay, and the rest of the “Buslee crew” were assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group of the Eighth Air Force to fly bombing missions over Germany out of Grafton Underwood, England.

For the Buslee crew, the reality that their combat training had become actual combat came quickly.  On their second mission on August 5th, their flying fortress, Tremblin’ Gremlin, was pounded by heavy flak.  They limped back to England with 106 holes in the fuselage; damage to the radio, brakes, and oxygen system; loss of two of the four engines; half the crew wounded; and a dying bombardier.

Their following missions throughout August and September were not as rough, but that changed on their sixteenth mission to Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944.  The Buslee crew manned the B-17 Lead Banana.  After dropping their bombs and coming off the target, their group was startled to find themselves on a crossing course with another group coming in.  Wallace Storey was piloting a B-17 behind and to the right of Lead Banana when “the lead ship made a sharp descending right turn” to avoid the oncoming group.

Storey saw the B-17 to his right, Lazy Daisy, slide toward him.  He responded quickly and “pulled back on the control column to climb out of her path.”  Moments after the near miss, he saw Lazy Daisy continue her slide and collide with Lead BananaLead Banana cracked in two, just past the ball turret.  Lazy Daisy’s wings “folded up and both planes fell in a fireball,” spinning into the clouds.

***

The boys’ families held out hope, and waited for news of their sons.  Three of the nine men aboard Lazy Daisy survived, but Ed Farrar was the only survivor of the Buslee crew’s nine aboard Lead Banana.  The Farrar family learned Ed was a prisoner of war on New Year’s Eve.  Near the end of January 1945, the Buslee family learned Jay died in the collision.

Ed sustained serious injuries in the collision.  He was unable to walk when confined in the Stalag Luft IV prison camp.  Only able to shuffle his feet at first, Ed eventually regained his mobility.

On February 6, 1945, the prisoners were marched westward out of the camp.  Known as the “Black March,” it began during one of Germany’s coldest winters on record, with blizzard conditions.  With very little food, the prisoners marched by day and slept in barns or out in the open at night, never knowing their intended fate.

On May 2, 1945, after eighty-six days and five hundred miles, the British liberated the column of men in which Ed Farrar marched.  The prisoners, described as walking skeletons, were returned to health before they were returned home.

***

Months later, Ed finally made it home.  By then, Ed’s own father was bedridden, but Jay’s father was eager to visit Ed to learn everything he could about the mid-air collision that killed his son.  John and Olga Buslee traveled to Atlanta to hear the news in person.  Before they returned to Park Ridge, John offered Ed a job as a salesman for his business.  Ed did not want to leave home so soon, but he accepted the offer and the opportunity to restart his life.

Ed moved into the Buslee home as Jay’s parents would not hear of him living anywhere else.  Ed helped fill the void left by their lost son, easing a small portion of the pain in their hearts.  John Buslee taught Ed sales skills and life skills and helped him return to the normalcy of civilian life.  Ed lived as the Buslee’s son and thrived under John Buslee’s tutelage.  He walked a new path toward the man he would become, and toward a success in life he would not have attained without John’s help.

***

Ed had two brothers who also fought in WWII, and he had not seen them since his return home from war.  He learned they would both be home for Christmas, and they arranged a reunion in Atlanta.  Ed was the last to arrive home, on December 16, and found that his father’s condition had worsened.  Carroll Farrar had delayed the business of dying until he could see his three boys together, home from war.  A few days after Ed’s arrival, his father was admitted to the hospital.  Carroll Farrar died on December 20, just five days before Christmas.

In January 1946, once again reluctant to leave his family, Ed returned north to the Buslee home.  As a man who had just lost his father, Ed was welcomed back by the man who a year earlier had lost his son.  A beloved father and a precious son could not be replaced, but Ed Farrar and John Buslee stepped into those roles for each other to help ease their shared sorrow.

Ed and John needed each other in a way neither would have expected before WWII.  They both traveled a new, unexpected path that would not have existed without the tragedy of war.  The war had ceased to wage over Europe, but the aftermath of war continued to wage deep within both men.  For Ed Farrar and John Buslee, WWII meant not only victory, but also loss, healing, learning to live with an altered version of the future, and starting over.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015