Category Archives: Farrar, George Edwin
On Sunday, June 2, 2019, the children of the waist gunners of both ships involved in the 384th Bomb Group’s mid-air collision of September 28, 1944 over Magdeburg, Germany met for the first time.
That’s me, Cindy Farrar Bryan, daughter of George Edwin Farrar of the Buslee crew, on the left and Harry Liniger, Jr., son of Harry Allen Liniger, Sr. of the Brodie crew, on the right. Harry is pointing to his dad’s name on a plaque in the garden of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA. The plaque is dedicated to the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group.
On September 28, 1944, the 384th Bomb Group flew their Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, two B-17’s collided, the Buslee crew’s 43-37822 and the Brodie crew’s 42-31222 (also known as “Lazy Daisy.”)
The only survivors of the Brodie crew were navigator George Hawkins, tail gunner Wilfred Miller, and waist gunner Harry Liniger.
The front section of the nose of the Brodie crew’s “Lazy Daisy” was carried away, and with it, the togglier. Hawkins managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun. Waist gunner Harry Liniger was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. The explosion also severed the tail of the ship and tail gunner Wilfred Miller rode the tail assembly down and later chuted from the tail section.
The only survivor of the Buslee crew was waist gunner George Edwin Farrar, my dad. He believed that the other ship must have hit right in the center of their ship, as they were knocked half in-to. At the time they were struck, Dad was knocked unconscious and fell about 25,000 feet, before he knew he was even out of the ship.
Both Liniger and Farrar (and also Miller) were confined as POWs in Stalag Luft IV and survived the 500-mile, 86-day Black March across Germany to their liberation in May 1945. Hawkins was so severely injured in the collision that he was confined to the hospital during the whole of his time as a prisoner of war.
Now that Harry and I have finally met, we’d like one day to meet the children of George Hawkins and Wilfred Miller, the only other survivors of the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision over Magdeburg. To those children, if you feel the same, please contact me.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019
I have previously written several articles about the WWII Black March, the march of prisoners of war of Stalag Luft IV across Germany in the winter of 1945. Today, I want to explain a very important aspect of that march, the Combine.
But first, as a refresher to the Black March itself, please refer to this previous post. It is the proclamation entered into the Congressional Record on May 8, 1995 by WWII veteran, Congressman John William Warner.
Congressman Warner was approached by three WWII veterans who were on the march and who brought this piece of WWII history to his attention – Cpl. Bob McVicker of Alexandria, Virginia; S. Sgt. Ralph Pippens of Alexandria, Louisiana; and Sgt. Arthur Duchesneau of Daytona Beach, Florida. Rep. Warner wanted to tell their story and raise awareness of what the Stalag Luft IV prisoners endured on this little-known march in pursuit of freedom.
The proclamation explains that McVicker, Pippens, and Duchesneau each survived, “mostly because of the efforts of the other two – American crewmates compassionately and selflessly helping buddies in need.” This statement is the definition of a Black March “Combine.”
In WWII, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England. His B-17 went down on September 28, 1944 and after a lengthy hospital stay, he was put in Stalag Luft IV. On February 6, 1945, he was one of the prisoners from Stalag Luft IV who were marched out of the camp in several columns accompanied by German guards armed with rifles, and guard dogs. For Dad, the Black March lasted the full eighty-six days, covering approximately five-hundred miles.
From an old letter, I determined that the two men closest to my dad in the prison camp and on the Black March were the author of the letter, British airman Laurie Newbold, and American airman Cecil McWhorter.
Newbold’s letter adds much to what I know about who shared my father’s WWII experiences, especially these two sentences.
Have you ever come across any more of Room 12. Old Mac Whorter lives down south at East Bernstadt, N London, Kentucky but I forgot that your states are as big as England.
In my research of my father during WWII, it is not enough to know who the members of my father’s air crew were. Although Dad’s WWII experience was shared with the other men of the John Buslee crew, 544th Bomb Squad, and the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, he had a connection that went beyond the usual military camaraderie of an air crew. He had a connection with two men with whom he had not served in the 384th, Laurie Newbold and Cecil McWhorter, on whom his life depended in that eighty-six day span of time he called “The March.”
Joseph O’Donnell, another Stalag Luft IV prisoner on the Black March, wrote a book about the march. In The Shoe Leather Express, O’Donnell explains how the prisoners joined forces in small groups in order to help each other survive. These small groups of two to four Kriegies (short for Kriegesgefangenen, which is the German word for prisoner of war) were created out of necessity, for survival. Joe wrote:
A combine usually consisted of three Kriegies, sometimes two, sometimes four, but the most logical number combination was three. Further explanation will confirm the logic of three men versus two or four men. Of all the reasons for a three man combine, there is no one reason to justify this combination, there are many reasons. As stated before, we each had two blankets, and with a combination of three Kriegies this gave us six blankets. After our arrival at a barn we would stake a claim to an area in the barn according to our arrival. First-in claimed the advantageous areas, usually near an exit.
Since we shared our food, it was imperative that we should stick together; but we usually marched in columns of fours and it always presented a problem at the end of a [day’s] march, when the guards would count off 150 or 200 Kriegies for one barn. This would usually split a combine. One hell of a lot of shuffling went on to get the combine together again. When trading, bartering or stealing detail; the other two would construct our bed of straw for the night. Our bed of straw was covered with the three German blankets, two lengthwise and one across the bottom and tucked in. The three GI blankets would cover us along with our GI overcoats.
The mention of trading, bartering, and stealing references the fact that the men had very little food and clean water on the road. They often attempted to supplement their meager rations by trading items like the watch my father traded for a loaf of bread, or stealing potatoes or chickens from the farmers in whose barns they slept.
The combines walked together, all day, every day, sometimes as far as twenty miles in one day. They shared food and ate together. They slept together and shared body heat in the unheated barns and under the stars in the sub-freezing temperatures of the winter of 1945. When one felt weak, the others helped him put one foot in front of the other, to take one more step, to keep up with the column. Falling behind the group meant the risk of being shot and left for dead beside the road as the group trudged forward. The combine gave the men someone to lean on in more ways than one.
How many men died on the march is not known. It is truly a miracle that any of them survived. They were covered in lice, were afflicted with dysentery and other diseases, and were close to the point of starvation. They have been described as walking skeletons. Thoughts of home and the support of each other must have kept them going.
But when it was all over, when Liberation Day came, the combines were split apart for good. Each man went his separate way, returning to his country and his family, to pick up with life as though his eighty-six day struggle for survival was all a bad dream. Laurie Newbold wrote:
I never saw you again after the day we were liberated. I understand that nearly all your boys stopped the first night at Boizenburg but most of the RAF went straight on to Luneburg & I got there that night. From there I went to Emsdetten near Holland & then flew to England in a Lanc [possible abbreviation for Lancaster bomber].
Well George I expect I could write all night about the past but most of that’s best forgotten, don’t you think.
Is the past and that piece of history best forgotten? When I read pages from Joe O’Donnell’s Shoe Leather Express and read Laurie Newbold’s letter, their words trouble me. They unsettle me. It disturbs me deeply to know these things that my father endured. Things that he himself could not or would not tell me. I understand, at least I think I do, why he wouldn’t divulge these things. I was too young. I was too innocent. He did not want to burden me or anyone else with this horrible knowledge.
My father was right in not telling me. I should not know these things because as I’ve learned, now that I know them, I cannot un-know them. They rattle around in my head and pop to the surface at unexpected moments. These things that were a part of him, they are now a part of me. Not to the extent they were for him, of course, because he actually lived them and I only learned them. I cannot imagine the way the horrific memories crashed upon his shore of existence every single moment of every single day of the remainder of his life.
These are things that no being should ever have to endure. But at that time in history there were people who looked much like the rest of us, who underneath that layer of human-like skin were not human at all, but monsters.
When I was young, monsters lived under my bed and in my closet. I had to take a long-jump into and out of bed so the monster wouldn’t grab my feet and pull me under into a certain horrible death. I had to jump back when I opened the closet door so the monster inside couldn’t grab me and drag me in.
My monsters vanished over time. They probably tired of not being able to catch me and moved on to the bed and closet of another child. But my father’s monsters never left. He died thirty-seven years after his time in the prison camp and Black March were over. Dying was the only way to end the war for him and banish his monsters.
Joe O’Donnell inadvertently used the word “concubine” to define the groups of marching prisoners in the text of The Shoe Leather Express rather than the word “combine.” I have published Joe’s passages substituting the word “combine,” which Joe points out in a correction at the top of the Table of Contents page. He states: “CORRECTION. The word ‘concubine’ was misused, it should be ‘combine.’
The Preface and first two chapters of Joseph O’Donnell’s The Shoe Leather Express may be read courtesy of Joseph O’Donnell and Gregory Hatton here.
To be continued with more information about Cecil McWhorter and Laurie Newbold and my search for their relatives…
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018
I started this blog when I started researching my dad’s WWII history, including his training, but mainly focused on his service with the 384th Bomb Group and his mid-air collision on September 28, 1944. By delving into the actions of the 384th Bomb Group, I have found many interesting stories and fascinating people. As much as I enjoy researching them, I find I have wandered very much off the subject which I originally intended to explore.
I am going to attempt – and I say attempt because I am easily distracted – to get back on topic this year and follow through my dad’s story to the end. George Edwin Farrar’s story includes the stories of many others – the other men on his crew, the other men he associated with at Grafton Underwood, the men of the crew of the other B-17 involved in the mid-air collision, his fellow POW’s, his family, and the families of his military “brothers.”
I will also study what the world was like during WWII and the years leading up to the war and what life was like during that time period for the people who lived through it. I don’t think I can fully understand the people I’m researching until I understand their time period, which was so different from ours.
The actions of the men who experienced that war still echo through the thoughts of those of us who descended from them or their brothers and sisters. But it is difficult to comprehend for many of us living in today’s very different world what it truly meant to fight in that war.
Today we can take a ride as a passenger in a B-17, as quite a few of them tour the country. But that is a fun ride in the clear skies at low altitude over a piece of beautiful American countryside. We cannot know, no matter how good our imaginations are, what that ride would have been like in the cold of 25,000 feet with no oxygen, with German fighters bearing down, or flak exploding into the belly of the plane. We cannot fully imagine the excitement or the terror or the sadness that those men felt mission after mission after mission.
I need to know. I need to piece the picture together bit by bit until I can see it more clearly. My dad is no longer around to tell me his war stories and even if he were, I don’t think I could ever completely know what it was like without living through it. By talking with men who served in the 384th, and reading books and watching documentaries and movies about the war, I have developed a picture in my mind. But that picture is not, and never will be, complete. The edges are fuzzy and holes remain in the middle of my picture.
I’ll just keep piecing it together, looking for new information and gaining a better understanding. It’s been an interesting journey so far.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018
On June 6, 1994, the French government commemorated the 50th anniversary of D-Day (the invasion by the Allied forces of Normandy on June 6, 1944) by distributing the French Jubilee of Liberty medal to U.S. veterans who participated in the Normandy campaign. The medal was first awarded to American servicemen for their participation in the Battle of Normandy. They were minted at the request of the Regional Council of Normandy to be presented to the veterans attending the 50th anniversary of the D-Day landing. Eligible veterans included those who served in the Normandy campaign from June 6 to August 31, 1944, and were part of the of land forces, off-shore personnel, or airmen flying overhead. The first medals awarded were those presented in the anniversary ceremony to the veterans attending.
The French government no longer awards the Jubilee of Liberty medal. However, they have granted the 8th Air Force Historical Society approval to mint and distribute the medal to eligible veterans or the families of eligible deceased veterans who qualify for the award. A certificate accompanies the medal.
The certificate reads:
Jubilee of Liberty Medal
The Jubilee of Liberty Medal is presented in grateful recognition of your contribution in the liberation of France. Your participation in the invasion of Normandy is a testament to your commitment to the freedom so many have fought and continue to fight for, every day. Your honorable service to the United States is commendable and will never be forgotten.
Thank you for all that you have done for France, the United States, and the world.
It is with great gratitude and extreme honor that I proudly present
the Jubilee of Liberty Medal to Normandy Veteran:
George E Farrar, 384th Bomb Group
The front of the medal is inscribed with “Overlord 6 Juin 1944” on the upper part of the medal, with the flags of the Allied nations and the names of the landing beaches completing the face of the medal.
The reverse of the medal shows the Torch of Freedom surrounded by the device of William the Conqueror “Diex Aie” (“God is with us” in Norman French).
Dad, George Edwin Farrar, participated in the Normandy campaign with the 384th Bomb Group in August 1944, which made him eligible for the award. I applied for the Jubilee of Liberty medal for him as soon as I found the application instructions in the September 2017 issue of the 8th Air Force News. As I hold this medal in my hand, it becomes more than metal and ribbon. It is a reminder for me of my dad’s service to our country and his fight for not only our freedom, but France’s and the free world.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017
My dad flew sixteen missions with the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII, but the only mission location he marked on this Invasion Map of Europe in his World Atlas was Magdeburg, Germany. It was the only mission he told me stories about, the one where another B-17 collided with his and he lost all of his fellow crewmates on that ship that day.
In a report to the military after his return to the States, he wrote:
Am very sorry I can’t give more information, but our ship was hit by another B-17 from our group. The other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to. At the time we were struck I was knocked unconscious, and fell about 25,000 feet, before I knew I was even out of the ship. Never saw any of the other boys. I received a little rough treatment from the Germans when I hit the ground, and was unable to tell where I was.
He also marked Magdeburg on another map in his World Atlas and wrote “Belgard” in the top margin. Belgard, or Bialogard, is the county in which Gross-Tychow (now Tychowo), Poland lies, home of Stalag Luft IV.
Stalag Luft IV in Gross-Tychow was where Dad spent the darkest days of his life. It was one of the worst WWII prison camps in Germany, where prisoners were mistreated and underfed. It was the camp from which prisoners were marched in early February 1944, in one of the worst winters in Germany’s history, until their liberation in late April/early May.
These places, Magdeburg and Belgard, these two places on his map, would be burned into my father’s memory and soul forever. He would never return to those places for the rest of his life, but the memories of them remained with him every day and every night.
I am drawn to these places and I hope one day I will visit both. Neither look the same today as what Dad experienced in 1944, but I wish to stand on the soil where he hit the ground in his parachute, where his B-17 crashed to earth, and where he was held a prisoner behind barbed wire. I would like to walk the roads he marched as a prisoner of war by day, and see the barns where he slept in the hay at night.
Why do I want to visit these sites? Dad would probably not want me to see these places he would like to have forgotten, but they were an important part of his history and that makes them an important part of mine. I imagine seeing these places will take my breath away and bring me to tears.
I lost Dad almost thirty-five years ago. He died at the age of sixty-one. His heart gave out when he was too young to leave us. The mid-air collision and his subsequent time as a prisoner of war are what killed him. But he was tough and it took him another thirty-eight years to die. I would like to have had him around for another thirty years or more, so he could watch my sister and me mature, walk us down the aisle, and hold his grandchildren. But I understand now that the only way he found peace from the war was to leave this life and those horrible memories behind.
Rest in peace, Dad. I will never stop loving you.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017
One of the maps in my dad’s World Atlas showed his route from the US to the UK and then on into Germany. I believe the starting point in the US was Kearney, Nebraska, where he and the Buslee crew picked up their B-17 to ferry across the Atlantic.
On his way out of Ardmore, Oklahoma, he wrote about his expected stay in Nebraska in a letter to his mother dated June 22, 1944.
We will be at the next place just long enough to get our plane. It should take from three to seven days.
Dad must have made a few stops between Kearney and the East Coast of the US. On June 25, he wrote to his mother again.
Just a line to let you know that everything is fine. There is no use in you writing me here, as we will only be here four days. We have our own plane, and will fly over. We should be there next week this time.
In describing their new B-17, he also wrote that
It only has twelve hours on it and guns all over it. They are giving each of us a cal. – 45 pistol and a large knife. You would think we were going to look for a fight.
Daddy was ready to head to combat. He wrote
Please don’t worry about me as I know what I am doing, and love it.
Daddy wrote to his mother again the next day, June 26.
One more day in this place, and we will be going.
Two days later on June 28, I’m not sure where he was, but he wrote to his mother,
In just a little while and we will be on our way. I wish I could tell you where to, but it just isn’t being done this season. I can tell you we will stay once more in the States, and I will try to drop you a line from there. I am in the ship now. We have everything packed, and we are taking time about watching it until take-off time.
This is one of the best places I have been in some time, and I hate to leave it without going to town once more.
According to his separation documents, my dad departed the US on July 1, 1944 and arrived in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) on July 3.
There were three air bases in the Northeast involved in ferrying aircraft to the ETO – Grenier Army Air Base in New Hampshire, Presque Isle Army Airfield in Maine, and Dow Army Airfield, also in Maine. From the spot marked on his map, I believe Daddy’s last stop in the US was Grenier Army Air Base in Manchester, New Hampshire.
From there, most ferried aircraft next went to RCAF Station Gander, Newfoundland until mid-1942, when a change was made to Goose Bay Labrador. Sure enough, Dad marked the location of Goose Bay on his map.
There were three aircraft ferrying stops in the North Atlantic Route in Greenland, Bluie West 1, Bluie West 8, and Bluie East 2, but Daddy didn’t note a stop in Greenland.
The next stop Dad noted on his map was on the East coast of Iceland. There were three airfields in Iceland used on the North Atlantic Ferrying route: Meeks Field, Patterson Field (originally Svidningar Field), and Reykjavik Airport. Reykjavik Airport and Meeks Field appear on the map on the West coast of Iceland. I can’t locate Patterson Field on the map. He must have stopped in Iceland, but I am not certain of the exact location.
Next stop must have been the RAF Valley in Wales in the UK, judging from the location Dad marked on his map. Sixty to seventy ferried aircraft arrived there each day, then were forwarded to the operational bases in England of the 8th and 9th Air Forces.
From there, Dad marked a route across England to his home base in Grafton Underwood, and then continued the route deep into Germany. I know the location of his final mark. It would be Magdeburg, where high in the skies above Germany, another B-17 of his own Bomb Group would collide with his B-17 on September 28, 1944.
Another map included in the Atlas showed some various routes to the ETO.
Dad marked one spot on his Atlas map of Great Britain and Ireland, his home base in Grafton Underwood. (I added the arrow and red outline). Station 106 at Grafton Underwood was the home of the 384th Bomb Group, from which my dad flew his missions in WWII.
To be continued…
…with Magdeburg and Belgard.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017
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
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.
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.
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.
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.”
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017
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.
- 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:
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?
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 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.
Photos of my dad with Anne Shirley from his collection
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016