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Category Archives: Stearns, Robert S

Robert Sumner Stearns

Robert Sumner (Bobby) Stearns was born August 25, 1923 to Carey Sumner Stearns (1894 – 1966) and Betty Hunt Stearns (1896 – 1970) of LaPine, Deschutes County, Oregon. Older brother James Gerry (Jim) had been born a year earlier, in 1922. The Stearns were a farming/ranching family.

Both of the Stearns’ sons served in WWII.  Jim first became a flight instructor and later trained to be a turret mechanic and gunner on a B-29.  Robert enlisted in the Army Air Corps on August 19, 1942. He trained to become a bombardier and was assigned to the 544th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #113 dated June 15, 1944 as part of the Larkin C. Durdin crew.

Robert’s first mission as a bombardier was Mission #142 on June 21, 1944 to Berlin. By June 28, he had flown his last mission with the Durdin crew. After that, he served as bombardier on several different crews.  In a letter to the Stearns family in January 1945, Durdin explained the reason that their son was flying with other crews was that Durdin had started flying lead, but Bob had not been checked out as lead.

The Stearns’ local paper reported on August 26, 1944 that Robert had earned an air medal.

LaPine Aviator Wins Air Medal Over Europe

An Eighth AAF Bomber Station, England, Aug. 26 (Special)

Award of the air medal for “exceptionally meritorious achievement while participating in sustained bomber combat operations over enemy occupied continental Europe” to 2nd Lt. Robert S. Stearns, 20, Box 113, Lapine, was announced today.

Lt. Stearns, a bombardier on a B-17 Flying Fortress, has taken part in more than 10 bombing attacks against targets in Germany and occupied countries. The son of Carey S. Stearns of the same address, he attended Oregon State college and worked as a ranch foreman…

On September 27, 1944 on Mission #200, Robert replaced James B. Davis as the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew’s bombardier.  Mission #200 was Robert’s sixteenth credited mission.

On his seventeenth credited mission on September 28, Mission #201, Robert replaced Davis on the Buslee crew as bombardier for the second time. After coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany, Lazy Daisy carrying the Brodie crew collided with Lead Banana carrying the Buslee crew. Of the Buslee crew, only waist gunner George Edwin Farrar survived.  Robert and the other members of the Buslee crew were killed in the mid-air collision.

The local paper announced that Robert was missing in action, article date unknown.

Lt. Robert Stearns is Missing, Parents Told

Lapine, (Special) – First Lieut. Robert Stearns has been missing in action over Germany since September 28, his parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carey Stearns, Lapine, have been notified by the war department.

Lt. Stearns, a bombardier, was a graduate from the Lapine high school.

Classified as missing in action since the collision, the Stearns learned on December 23, 1944 that their son, Bobby, had been killed on the September 28 mission. The local newspaper ran an article regarding Robert’s death.

Lt. Robert S. Stearns is Killed in Action

Bend, Dec. 23 – Reported missing since September 28, in action over Germany, Lt. Robert S. Stearns, son of Mr. and Mrs. Carey Stearns, Lapine, was killed in action, his parents were notified today by the war department.

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

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

Lt. Robert Stearns was a grandson of Mrs. Frances E. Stearns, and a nephew of Harry and the Misses Lora and Nora Stearns, of Prineville.

Robert Sumner Stearns lost his life barely a month past his twenty-first birthday.  He was first buried in the cemetery at Ost Ingersleben, near the Lead Banana crash site. He was later buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland in Plot “L” Row 12, Grave 299.

After the end of the war, Robert’s body was returned to the states and he was buried in Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, San Mateo County, California, Section B, Site 302.

Stearns Grave CA

He also has a memorial marker in the Stearns family section at the Juniper Haven Cemetery, Prineville, Crook Co, Oregon.

Stearns marker

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

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Our Bomber Crew

The parents of Buslee crew bombardier, Robert Sumner Stearns, wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar, on January 1, 1945.  The Stearns sent the same information to all of the families of the Buslee crew included on the Next-of-Kin list they had just received.  The Stearns had learned on December 23, 1944 that their son had been killed on September 28.

Had other families also learned on December 23, 1944 that their sons had been killed that day?  The September 30, 1944 Telegram Form that became a part of MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 9753 identified four men that had been killed in the mid-air collision of Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944.  It would make sense that all four families were notified on the same date.  Eight men had been reported dead, but only these four were identified:

  • William A. Henson II, navigator on Lead Banana
  • Robert S. Stearns, bombardier on Lead Banana
  • Gordon Hetu, ball turret gunner on Lazy Daisy
  • Robert D. Crumpton, engineer/top turret gunner on Lazy Daisy

I believe William Henson’s next-of-kin had been notified at the same time as the Stearns, which indicates that Hetu and Crumpton’s relatives also received the bad news around December 23.  All had been buried on September 30 at the Ostingersleben Cemetery near the crash site.

January 1, 1945
LaPine, Oregon

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

In today’s mail we received a letter from the War Department giving the names of the crew members of the bomber in which our son lost his life on September 28.  We are writing this letter to each of you who were listed as next of kin to give you all of the information we have received to date about our son.  Will you compare this information with what you have received and if there is anything you have which would add to the very meager reports which we have so far received we would greatly appreciated it if you would send it to us.  We hope to keep in close touch with all of you until every possible bit of information that would, in any way, help answer the many questions as to the fate of “Our Bomber Crew” which are in our minds today.  We all, definitely, have a lot in common; you may rest assured that Mrs. Stearns and I will forward any information we may receive that we think will be of interest to any of you.

Following is the information we have received to date:  The first word, of course, was the telegram stating that our son was listed as missing in action over Germany on Sept. 28th.

Following this wire was the letter from Headquarters of the Army Air Forces, Washington, which stated:  “Further information has been received indicating that Lieut. Stearns was a crew member of a B-17 Flying Fortress Bomber which departed from England on a combat mission to Magdeburg, Germany, on Sept. 28th.  The report indicates that during this mission at 12:10 P.M., in the vicinity of the target your sons bomber sustained damage from enemy anti-aircraft fire.  Shortly afterwards the disabled craft was observed to fall to earth, and, inasmuch as the crew members of the accompanying planes were unable to obtain any further details regarding its loss, the above facts constitute all the information presently available.”

Our next word was a short note from a close friend of our son, who was a pilot on another bomber, which stated:  although I wasn’t on the same mission I have talked with others who were on the same mission with Bob and we have reasons to believe he is safe.”  None of the reasons were stated but naturally this short note boosted our morale to the skies.

We then, on Dec. 23rd., received the telegram which stated:  “The German Government reporting through the International Red Cross states that your son, 1st. Lieut. Robert S. Stearns, previously reported as missing in action was killed on Sept. 28th.  Letter follows.”

This letter was the one giving the names of the crew members and the next of kin.

 – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

If any of you have not received a wire similar to the one we got on Dec. 23rd, you should be encouraged for it could mean that you could hear shortly that he is still living.  We have only the dim hope that the German Government is wrong, as it has been wrong in every thing it ever did do, and that we too may have good news of our son.

Our deepest sympathy is with you.  We would be very happy to have a letter from you soon.

Sincerely yours,
Carey & Betty Stearns,
LaPine, Oregon.

The friend of Bob Stearns to which his parents referred in the letter was Lt. Larkin C. Durdin, the pilot of the crew with which Stearns normally flew.  More information is provided in a second letter from Durdin to the Stearns, information which the Stearns passed along to the Farrars in a letter dated January 10, 1945.  The January 10th letter will be published in a future post.

The Stearns, who had been in a state of not knowing the fate of their son since September 28, 1944, were now in a state of not believing it.  On the day they received the telegram with the bad news, December 23, 1944, their son Bob had been missing for eighty-seven days.  They couldn’t yet let themselves believe that their son wouldn’t be coming back.  At this point they weren’t even aware that the War Department’s news of how Bob’s plane had gone down was not correct.  They would soon learn the truth.

© 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

September 30, 1944 Telegram Form

Two days after the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, a Telegram Form dated September 30, 1944 reported the fate of eight of the crew from the two planes.  It reported eight men dead, all buried on September 30, 1944 at the Ostingersleben Cemetery (the report identified it as the Osteringersleben Cemetery).  Only four of the eight men were identified:

  • William A. Henson II (listed incorrectly on the report as William A. Hedson II)
  • Robert S. Stearns
  • Gordon Hetu (listed incorrectly on the report as Gorden Heu)
  • Robert D. Crumpton

Henson and Stearns were from the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana.  Hetu and Crumpton were from the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.  The other four were unidentified because, as the report states, they were “completely burned” and the “crews were mixed together.”

In determination of the fate of the two crews, eighteen total men, this report starts the count at eight (8) recovered dead, with only four (4) identified.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger

An October 7, 1944 Captured Aircraft Report conveys the same information.

The September 30 Telegram Form notes also:

  • Time:  1215
  • From:  L S E B
  • Through:  F R P
  • Remarks:  SSD L B K M 322     29 Sept.44   -2130-
  • The aircraft could not be identified as the fire destroyed all markings, but it must have been Lead Banana as Lazy Daisy was identified through the tail number on the October 1, 1944 Telegram Form.

Questions:

  • What does the date of September 30, 1944 signify?
  • Was this information received by the US Army Air Forces on this date?  From who?
  • What do the abbreviations in the “From,” “Through,” and “Remarks” sections stand for?

This information can be found on pages 12 and 13 of MACR9753.  MACR stands for Missing Air Crew Report.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

The diagram shows the combat position of each Buslee crewmember on Mission 201 on September 28, 1944.  Only one crewmember manned both waist gunner positions on this mission.  If they were all still in position after coming off the target at Magdeburg, the diagram shows where each man would have been at the time of the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

The only survivor of the mid-air collision this day with the Lazy Daisy was the waist gunner, George Edwin Farrar.

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club site.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Map of September 28, 1944 Collision and Crash Sites

Maps of the area show the location of the mid-air collision and subsequent crash sites of the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944.  Two maps are included below.

The first map shows the collision site and crash sites of the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana.  The mid-air collision occurred after coming off the target at Magdeburg, at 12:11 pm on September 28, 1944 at 52°06’N 11°39’E (X on the first map, just past the second “g” in “Magdeburg”). Both planes crashed approximately 20 miles northwest of the mid-air collision.  Lazy Daisy crashed near Erxleben (E on the first map) and Lead Banana crashed approximately one and one-quarter miles north of Ostingersleben (O on the first map).

X = Collision Site, 52°06'N 11°39'E O = Ostingersleben E = Erxleben

X = Collision Site, 52°06’N 11°39’E
O = Ostingersleben
E = Erxleben

The second map is a map of Germany with the area of detail outlined.

Germany Map

Royalty free map of Germany obtained from http://www.tourvideos.com/maps-Germany.html.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

Lazy Daisy, Aircraft 42-31222

Lazy Daisy, Aircraft 42-31222

Lead Banana, 43-37822

Lead Banana, Aircraft 43-37822

September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201.

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 201 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 652.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 43-37822, Lead Banana.  The Brodie crew was aboard 42-31222, Lazy Daisy.

The primary target was the steelworks industry in Magdeburg, Germany.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

Chester A. Rybarczyk flew this mission with the William J. Blankenmeyer crew.  William Alvin Henson II replaced Rybarczyk as Navigator on the Buslee crew.  This was Henson’s third flight with the Buslee crew.

James B. Davis flew this mission with the Raymond J. Gabel crew.  Robert Sumner Stearns replaced Davis as Bombardier on the Buslee crew.  This was Stearns second flight with the Buslee crew.

George Francis McMann, Jr. flew this mission as Ball Turret Gunner on the Buslee crew.  This was McMann’s first flight with the Buslee crew.  Irving L. Miller, who had replaced Erwin V. Foster as Ball Turret Gunner five times on the Buslee crew, also flew with Davis on the Gabel crew this mission.

Gerald Lee Andersen replaced Eugene D. Lucynski for the third time as Tail Gunner on the Buslee crew.

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger

James Joseph Brodie (Pilot), Lloyd Oliver Vevle (Co-Pilot), George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. (Navigator), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), and Harry Allen Liniger (Waist Gunner) were all original Brodie crew members aboard the Lazy Daisy.  The only non-original crew members were Byron Laverne Atkins (Bombardier/Togglier) and Donald William Dooley (Radio Operator/Gunner).

Original Brodie crew Bombardier, William D. Barnes, Jr., last flew with the Brodie crew on September 13, 1944.  Barnes did not fly again until October 17, 1944.  He returned to flight as a Navigator, completed his tour after 35 missions, and returned to the US.

Byron Laverne Atkins flew only six missions, three of them as a Ball Turret Gunner, and one as a Flexible Gunner.  He served as Togglier for the Brodie crew on two occasions – once on September 21 and again on September 28, 1944.

William Edson Taylor, the original Radio Operator/Gunner for the Brodie crew did not fly on the September 28 mission.  On October 5, he flew as Radio Operator/Gunner with the Robert Bruce Birckhead crew.  His aircraft was damaged by flak and crashed near Munchen-Gladbach, Germany (MACR 9754).  Of the crew, four were killed, and five were taken prisoner of war, including Taylor.

Donald William Dooley’s first mission would be his last.  He flew as Radio Operator/Gunner for the Brodie crew on this mission.

Sortie Report Description:

Two Bomb Runs – Primary Target Attacked: The 384th Bombardment Group (H) flew as the 41st CBW “C” Wing on today’s mission. Near the target, another formation of bombers flew below this wing, forcing them to hold their bombs. The wing made a second bomb run and released their bombs on the primary target.

Lazy Daisy Sortie Report Status and Comments:

Failed to Return
MIA; collided with 43-37822 over target; both ships went down on fire and out of control; no chutes observed; crashed near Erxleben, Germany; MACR 9366.

Lead Banana Sortie Report Status and Comments:

Failed to Return
MIA; collided with 42-31222 over target; both ships went down on fire and out of control; no chutes; crashed near Osteringersleben, Germany; MACR 9753.

Source:  Sortie Report – Buslee Crew, Sortie Report – Brodie Crew

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 27, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 200

Hale's Angels, Aircraft 42-102449

Hale’s Angels, Aircraft 42-102449

September 27, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 200.

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 200 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 650.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 42-102449, Hale’s Angels.

The primary target was the railroad marshaling yards in Cologne, Germany.

Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Robert M. Mitchell
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

On this mission, the Buslee crew was the High Group Deputy and Hot Camera Ship.

Chester A. Rybarczyk did not fly this mission.  William Alvin Henson II replaced him as Navigator on this flight.

James B. Davis also did not fly this mission.  Robert Sumner Stearns replaced him as Bombardier.

Henson had flown with the Buslee crew once before, on September 3, 1944.  This was the first flight with the Buslee crew for Stearns.

Robert M. Mitchell replaced Erwin V. Foster as Ball Turret Gunner on this mission.  This was the first time Mitchell flew with the Buslee crew, although he had flown with Farrar on September 19 as part of the William M. Reed crew.

Gerald Lee Andersen replaced Eugene D. Lucynski for the second time as Tail Gunner.

Source:  Sortie Report, Aircraft Photo

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Buslee Crew on September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

Buslee Crew on September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 201 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 652.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 43-37822, named “The Lead Banana.”

The primary target was the Steelworks Industry in Magdeburg, Germany.

Coming off the target, aircraft 42-31222, “Lazy Daisy,” collided with “The Lead Banana.”

Lead Banana Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar

Buslee, Albrecht, Peluso, Bryant, and Farrar were the only original Buslee crew members on the aircraft.

William Alvin Henson II replaced Chester Rybarczyk three times on the Buslee crew.  It was Rybarczyk’s lucky day to be flying with the William J. Blankenmeyer crew on aircraft 42-39888, “Hotnuts” on this mission.  Comments were entered on the “Hotnuts” Sortie Report that the ship “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.”  Rybarczyk did witness the crash, as he stated in a letter to Farrar’s mother dated October 13, 1944.  The “unknown reason” was most likely a search for parachutes and survivors after the collision.

Original Bombardier Marvin B. Fryden was killed on the crew’s second mission on August 5, 1944.  James B. Davis replaced Fryden on the Buslee crew, but for the second time, Robert Sumner Stearns replaced Davis on this mission.  Davis flew as Bombardier on the Raymond J. Gabel crew on aircraft 43-38062, “Pleasure Bent.”

Original Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Clarence B. Seeley was wounded on the August 5, 1944 mission, and did not fly again until October 2, 1944.  Lenard Leroy Bryant, an original member of the Buslee crew, moved to the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner position from his original waist gunner position.

Original Ball Turret Gunner Erwin V. Foster’s last flight with the Buslee crew was on September 9, 1944.  Foster did not fly again until September 30, 1944.  George Francis McMann served with the Buslee crew as Ball Turret Gunner on the September 28 flight, his one and only flight with this crew.

Source:  Sortie Reports for Lead Banana, Hotnuts, and Pleasure Bent.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

The Lead Banana

Lead Banana

Lead Banana

 

The B17-G aircraft with serial number 43-37822 was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 544th Squadron.  Known as The Lead Banana, it completed 27 missions, returning safely to base on 26 of those missions.  Its first mission, on July 20, 1944, was to an aircraft plant in Dessau, Germany.  Its last mission, on September 28, 1944, was to a steelworks plant in Magdeburg, Germany.  The crew was able to complete its assignment and drop its bombs over Magdeburg, but was involved in a mid-air collision coming off the target.

John Oliver Buslee, David Franklin Albrecht, William Alvin Henson, II, Robert Sumner Stearns, Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Lenard Leroy Bryant, George Francis McMann, Jr., and Gerald Lee Andersen, all aboard the Lead Banana, did not survive the crash.

The only survivor, George Edwin Farrar (my dad), became a POW confined at Stalag Luft IV.

Most of these men had flown on The Lead Banana on previous missions, but for George Francis McMann, Jr., and Gerald Lee Andersen, September 28 was the first and last time they set foot on this plane.

Source

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013