Category Archives: 545th Bomb Squadron
In continuing my research into the original airmen assigned to the John Oliver Buslee crew and James Joseph Brodie crew of the 384th Bomb Group, and of the airmen who were aboard these two pilots’ respective fortresses in the mid-air collision of September 28, 1944, I searched through morning reports, special orders, individual sortie records, and personnel records on the 384th Bomb Group’s website. I was looking for any other information about them outside of their bombing missions.
I discovered several entries in those documents regarding the men who were either original members of the Buslee and Brodie crews or were substitutes on missions when the original members did not participate. Today I present the information for the Brodie crew in timeline format. Last week I presented the timeline for the John Oliver Buslee crew.
Note that this information should not be considered complete due to sometimes illegible, incomplete, and missing records, but what I have found is included here. I have also included the Brodie crew’s bombing missions in the timeline.
Timeline of information from Morning Reports, Special Orders, Individual Sortie Records, and 384th Bomb Group website Personnel Records for James Joseph Brodie original crew members and mission substitutes:
25 JULY 1944
Donald William Dooley was assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group Headquarters Detachment, per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #147 dated 25 July 1944 as a radar mechanic/bombardment.
26 JULY 1944
The James Joseph Brodie crew was assigned to the 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944. Crew members were:
- William D. Barnes, Jr., Bombardier
- James Joseph Brodie, Pilot
- Robert Doyle Crumpton, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner
- George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., Navigator
- Gordon Eugene Hetu, Ball Turret Gunner
- Harry Allen Liniger, Waist Gunner
- Wilfred Frank Miller, Tail Gunner
- Leonard Opie, Waist Gunner
- William Edson Taylor, Radio Operator
- Lloyd Oliver Vevle, Co-pilot
2 AUGUST 1944
The following enlisted men were promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155:
- Gordon Hetu
- Harry Liniger
- Wilfred Miller
- Leonard Opie
4 AUGUST 1944
Mission 171 to Peenemünde, Germany. Target was a CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) Rocket Research & Development Complex.
5 AUGUST 1944
Mission 173 to Langenhagen, Germany. Target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), a Luftwaffe Controlling Station.
Byron Leverne “Bud” Atkins was assigned to the 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #157 dated 5 August 1944 as Waist Gunner of the James Woodrow Chadwick crew.
7 AUGUST 1944
Mission 174 to Dugny (Paris), France. Target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), an Aircraft Fuel Depot.
8 AUGUST 1944
Mission 175 to Bretteville-sur-Laize, France. Target was Military and Tactical, Enemy Strong Points.
9 AUGUST 1944
Mission 176 to Erding, Germany. Target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), the Erding Airdrome & Airfield.
11 AUGUST 1944
Mission 177 to Brest, France. Target was Military and Tactical, Coastal Artillery Emplacements.
14 AUGUST 1944
William Taylor was promoted to Staff Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #163.
16 AUGUST 1944
Mission 181 to Delitzsch, Germany. Target was the German Air Force (Luftwaffe), the Delitzsch Air Field and Air Equipment Depot.
17 AUGUST 1944
Byron Atkins was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #165.
24 AUGUST 1944
Mission 183 to Merseburg, Germany. Target was the Oil Industry, a Synthetic Oil & Chemical Plant.
26 AUGUST 1944
Mission 185 to Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Target was the Oil Industry, the Buer Synthetic Oil Plant.
30 AUGUST 1944
Mission 186 to Crepieul, France. Target was a CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) NOBALL (V-1 Launch Site).
5 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 188 to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Target was Industry, the I. G. Farben Chemical Works.
8 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 189 to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Target was Industry, the I. G. Farben Chemical Works.
Tech Sergeant Donald Dooley was reclassified from MOS 867 (radar mechanic/bombardment) to MOS 757 (radio operator/gunner) and transferred from Headquarters Detachment 384th BG to 545th BS on SO #179, AAF Station 106, SPO 557, dated 8 September 1944.
Leonard Opie was transferred in grade to the Casual Pool, 8th AFRD, AAF Station 594.
9 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 190 to Ludwigshafen, Germany. Target was Industry, the I. G. Farben Chemical Works.
James Brodie was appointed 1st LT AUS 9 September 1944.
10 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 191 to Sindelfingen, Germany. Target was Industry, the BMW Motor Component Parts Plant.
11 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 192 to Lützkendorf & Merseburg, Germany. Target was the Oil Industry, an Oil Refinery.
13 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 194 to Merseburg, Germany. Target was the Oil Industry, the Leuna Synthetic Oil Refinery.
The 13 SEPTEMBER mission was William Barnes’s last with the Brodie crew. Between 13 September 1944 and 17 October 1944, Barnes retrained as a Navigator. After the 13 SEPTEMBER 1944 mission, the Brodie crew was assigned a Togglier to missions instead of a Bombardier.
19 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 196 to Hamm, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.
21 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 197 to Mainz, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.
25 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 198 to Frankfurt am Main, Germany. Target was Transportation, the Railroad Marshalling Yards.
26 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 199 to Osnabrück, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks.
28 SEPTEMBER 1944
Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Target was Industry, Steelworks.
The following airmen flying with the James Joseph Brodie crew on the 28 September 1944 mission went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action):
- Byron L. “Bud” Atkins
- James Joseph Brodie
- Robert Doyle Crumpton
- Donald William Dooley
- George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
- Gordon Eugene Hetu
- Harry Allen Liniger
- Wilfred Frank Miller
- Lloyd Oliver Vevle
Subsequently, all were declared KIA (Killed in Action) except for George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., Harry Allen Liniger, and Wilfred Frank Miller who were declared POW (Prisoner of War).
5 OCTOBER 1944
William Taylor went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action) over Cologne, Germany. Subsequently, he was declared POW (Prisoner of War).
7 OCTOBER 1944
William Barnes went from duty to sick quarters (LD).
11 OCTOBER 1944
William Barnes went from sick quarters (LD) to duty.
4 JANUARY 1945
William Barnes was relieved from assignment and transferred to the Casual Pool 70th Replacement Depot Station 594 30 DECEMBER 1944 per 5 SO 365 HQ 1st BD departed 0800 hours 4 JANUARY 1945 (Completed tour).
Thank you to the 384th’s Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for obtaining and sharing WWII reports from the National Archives for the 384th Bomb Group.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021
I previously wrote about the special orders, Special Orders 86, for the John Oliver Buslee crew (Crew #4679) of the 384th Bomb Group (of which my dad was waist gunner). The orders, dated 23 JUNE 1944, released the airmen from their combat crew training assignment and duty at the 222nd Combat Crew Training School (H) at the Ardmore Army Air Field and transferred them to AAB, Kearney, Nebraska, the next leg of their journey to their permanent duty station in England.
The James Joseph Brodie crew (Crew #4659) was assigned on the same special orders, on page 4 of the same document.
I had a chance recently to review those orders and pull some more information from them, specifically (at time of the orders),
- Assigned occupation in the B-17 and MOS (Military Operational Specialty)/Job Assignment number
- Whether Married or Single (Married status was indicated by the * preceding their rank in the list)
The MOS (Military Operation Specialties)/Job Assignments, of which there were many in the United States Military, of the Buslee and Brodie crews at the time of these Special Orders were limited to these:
- 1022 Pilot – Twin Engine (A-20, B-25, B-26, etc)
- 1024 Pilot – Four Engine (Usually Transport Pilots)
- 1034 Bombardier
- 1035 Navigator
- 748 Aerial Engineer Gunner, specifically Top Turret Gunner/Flight Engineer. Earlier, 748 was Airplane Mechanic Gunner, but the MOS changed when TM 12-427 (see Sources below) was updated/revised.
- 757 Radio Operator/Mechanic/Gunner, the radio operator who could man a weapon and perform some basic repairs in flight as well as basic maintenance tasks.
- 611 Aerial Gunner (Waist, Ball & Tail), a general classification for aerial gunner. That indicates the service member did not have additional formal school training on a specialty like RO (radio operator) or flight engineer. Typically WG (waist gunners) and BT (ball turret gunners) are listed as assistant armorers, flight engineers or radio operators. They are the fill-in guy to attempt to fulfill one of those jobs if needed.
- 612 Armorer Gunner (Togglier), an Airplane Armorer Gunner. He performs basic maintenance and repairs on various weapons-related equipment. A togglier could be a guy – someone who isn’t busy with constant duties, performing a specific role on the bomb run (to toggle the switch to release the bombs at the same time as the lead bombardier), and someone who can get back to another position quickly.
Specific details in the above list were provided by 384th Bomb Group Historian John Edwards.
* * * * *
From the crew lists on Special Orders 86, I can produce a “Who’s Who” for the Buslee and Brodie crews at the time of those orders.
P – Pilot, classified as MOS 1024 Pilot – Four Engine (Usually Transport Pilots), but later, according to 384th Bomb Group records, re-classified as MOS 1091, Pilot, B-17
- 2nd Lt. John O. Buslee, SN O-764209, marital status Single
- 2nd Lt. James J. Brodie, SN O-1012186, marital status Married
CP – Co-pilot, classified as MOS 1022 Pilot – Twin Engine (A-20, B-25, B-26, etc), but later, according to 384th Bomb Group records, re-classified as MOS 1091, Pilot, B-17
- [Buslee crew] 2nd Lt. David F. Albrecht, SN O-767423, marital status Married
- [Brodie crew] 2nd Lt. Lloyd O. Vevle, SN O-768760, marital status Single
N – Navigator, classified as MOS 1035 Navigator
- [Buslee crew] 2nd Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk, SN O-0720014, marital status Single
- [Brodie crew] 2nd Lt. George M. Hawkins, Jr., SN O-719944, marital status Single
B – Bombardier, classified as MOS 1034 Bombardier
- [Buslee crew] 1st Lt. Marvin [NMI] Fryden, SN O-731492, marital status Married
- [Brodie crew] 2nd Lt. William D. Barnes, Jr., SN O-768921, marital status Single
Marvin Fryden was a stateside instructor in the Army Air Forces before joining a combat crew, likely explaining why his rank was greater than the other officers of the two crews at the time of these orders.
AEG – Army Airplane Mechanic/Gunner, Flight Engineer (Top Turret Gunner/Flight Engineer), classified as MOS 748 Aerial Engineer Gunner
- [Buslee crew] Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, SN 39270874, marital status Single
- [Brodie crew] S/Sgt. Robert D. Crumpton, SN 19056991, marital status Single
ROG – Radio Operator/Mechanic/Gunner, AAF, classified as MOS 757 Radio Operator/Mechanic/Gunner
- [Buslee crew] Sgt. Sebastiano J. Peluso, SN 12182596, marital status Single
- [Brodie crew] Sgt. William E. Taylor, SN 16115332, marital status Single
AAEG – Assistant Aerial Engineer Gunner (Assistant Flight Engineer/Gunner), classified as MOS 611 Aerial Gunner (Waist, Ball & Tail)
- [Buslee crew] Cpl. Lenard L. Bryant, SN 38344446, one of the crew’s two waist gunners, marital status Married (although not indicated on SO 86)
- [Brodie crew] Cpl. Leonard W. Opie, SN 36431961, one of the crew’s two waist gunners, marital status Single
Lenard Bryant later became the Buslee crew’s top turret gunner after Clarence Seeley was seriously injured.
GUN – Airplane Armorer/Gunner (classified as a 612 MOS) or Aerial Gunner (classified as a 611 MOS)
- [Buslee crew] S/Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, SN 36507488, the crew’s tail gunner, classified as MOS 612 Airplane Armorer/Gunner, marital status Single
- [Brodie crew] Cpl. Gordon E. Hetu, SN 16189148, the crew’s ball turret gunner, classified as MOS 611 Aerial Gunner, marital status Single
AG – Aerial Gunner (Waist, Ball & Tail), classified as a basic 611 MOS
- [Buslee crew] Cpl. Erwin V. Foster, SN 32588280, the crew’s ball turret gunner, marital status Single
- [Brodie crew] Cpl. Harry A. Liniger, SN 34670187, one of the crew’s two waist gunners, marital status Single
AAG – Airplane Armorer/Gunner (classified as a 612 MOS) or Aerial Gunner (classified as a 611 MOS)
- [Buslee crew] Sgt. George E. Farrar, SN 14119873, one of the crew’s two waist gunners, classified as MOS 612 Airplane Armorer/Gunner, marital status Single
- [Brodie crew] Cpl. Wilfred F. Miller, SN 36834864, the crew’s tail gunner, classified as MOS 611 Aerial Gunner, marital status Single
George Farrar was a stateside instructor in the Army Air Forces before joining a combat crew (with his last assignment as an instructor at Ardmore Army Air Field), likely explaining why his rank was Sgt. at the time of these orders.
Buslee crew tail gunner Eugene Lucynski was assigned on the same Combat Crew Detachment Orders Number 52 as George Farrar, possibly indicating that he also held a position (maybe also instructor) at Ardmore, and possibly explaining why he held the rank of S/Sgt. at the time of these orders.
In some cases, the makeup of the airmen assigned to a bomber crew changed before the crew reached the final destination of its overseas duty station. For instance, if one of the airmen became ill en route, he might be left behind while the remainder of the crew continued on with a replacement assigned in his stead. In this case, both the Buslee and Brodie crews arrived intact, as assigned on Special Orders 86, at the 384th Bomb Group’s Station #106 in the English midlands village of Grafton Underwood, and began flying missions as assigned in Special Orders 86.
[NMI] indicates No Middle Initial in name.
After discovering that Lenard Bryant’s marital status was incorrect on the SO, I realize that I need to review the marital status of the other airmen on these two crews, but will do so at a later date.
384th Bomb Group Historian John Edwards, referencing “TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel” dated 12 JULY 1944.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020
WWII Pilot Wallace Arnold Storey will be laid to rest today. His loss is personal for me. Wallace was the WWII veteran of the 384th Bomb Group who started me on my journey of discovery of my father’s WWII service.
I have written several articles about Wallace Storey (see Notes at the end for links), but have not previously written about his early life, which I will do today.
Wallace was born on November 19, 1922 to Paul Eugene and Ethel A. (Cooley) Storey in Calhoun Falls, Abbeville County, South Carolina.
The 1930 census records Wallace as a seven year old child. The family record lists father Paul E. Storey (29 years old), mother Ethel A. Storey (29 years old), and younger brother Paul E. Storey (2 years old). The family resided at 404 Houston Street in Greenville, Greenville County, South Carolina. Parents Paul and Ethel were both South Carolina natives as were both sets of their parents. Father Paul E. Storey was an insurance agent.
The 1940 census records Wallace as a seventeen year old and the same family members as in 1930, but ten years older. The family lived on Grove Road in Greenville and had lived there since at least 1935. Father Paul E. Storey was an Assistant Manager of an Insurance Agency. Wallace had completed the third year of high school as of the date the census was taken, and would graduate from Greenville High School later that year.
“The Nautilus” 1940 yearbook from Wallace’s senior year in high school listed his many accomplishments.
As you can see, Wallace was already interested in aviation, achieving the role of president of the Aviation Club.
After high school, Wallace continued his education at Clemson University, including involvement in the school’s R.O.T.C. program where he was part of Company A-1 at the school, until a war got in the way of his education.
On June 30, 1942, nineteen-year-old Wallace filled out his military draft card. He listed his address as 112 Grove Road in Greenville, South Carolina. He listed his date and place of birth as November 19, 1922 in Calhoun Falls, Abbeville County, South Carolina. He listed the person who would always know his address as his father, P.E. Storey. His employer’s name was Mr. Bailey at Judson Mill in Greenville. His height was 5’10” and he was 165 pounds with blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion.
Less than two months later, Wallace Arnold Storey enlisted in the Air Corps, on August 13, 1942. His enlistment record shows that at the time of enlistment, he was a resident of Greenville County, South Carolina. His enlistment record also shows he was born in 1922 in South Carolina. He was single with two years of college.
I have previously written of Wallace’s military history, so will only mention here that he completed thirty-five missions as a B-17 pilot with the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII, stationed in Grafton Underwood England, and served in the Air Force Reserve until retirement as a Lt/Col. in February of 1969.
It was Wallace’s ninth credited mission with the 384th Bomb Group that put him in a front row seat to witness the mid-air collision of my father’s B-17 with another B-17 of the group.
After the war, Wallace continued his education at Clemson University where he graduated in 1947 with degrees in both Mechanical and Electrical Engineering. After graduation, Wallace worked with the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (now NASA) before joining Milliken and Company.
In 1948, Wallace married Martha Ray Lasseter of Decatur, Georgia and they became Spartanburg, South Carolina residents. He continued his employment with Milliken in the capacity of Vice-president and Director of Engineering, where he designed over forty Milliken facilities before retiring in 1987. After retirement, he continued as a consultant to Milliken for many years.
In 2011, my cousin Terry found Wallace’s story of the Magdeburg, Germany mission of September 28, 1944 on the internet and alerted me to read it.
I had not thought of my dad’s WWII stories for a very long time, and reading Wallace’s account of the story I knew so well awakened a renewed interest in me to learn more about my dad’s time in the war.
After an initial phone conversation, I visited Wallace and Martha Ray at their home in South Carolina and heard him tell the Magdeburg story firsthand. And so began my journey back in time into the 1940’s and a world at war.
I credit two people with setting me on this journey. One, my cousin Terry, who remembered the stories my dad told in our childhood, and second, Wallace Storey, who was actually there and saw the mid-air collision at the moment it happened.
Wallace Arnold Storey passed away on September 4, 2020. Wallace’s obituary is a tribute to the military, professional, and personal aspects of his life in more detail than I have told you here. His funeral service is today, which will conclude with his burial in Greenville Memorial Gardens in Piedmont, Greenville County, South Carolina beside Martha Ray, his wife of 71 years, who predeceased him in July.
Blue skies, Wallace Storey. Thank you for your service and may you rest in peace.
Previous post – Wallace A. Storey
Previous post – A Visit to Wallace Storey
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020
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
When I look at written World War II history, I see names, dates, places of great battles, and statistics. I rarely see mention of family, but families are what’s at the core of such a great struggle. One man was not fighting this great war against his enemy, another man. Their families were right there beside them fighting, too. When one man went down, many more at home who shared his blood went down with him. The loss of one man became a great emotional loss at home and the loss of many future generations of his family.
Two B-17 flying fortresses collided above Germany on September 28, 1944. Of the eighteen men aboard the two forts, four survived. None of the four live on today, but their children and grandchildren carry on their legacy. At least three of the men who died that day had children or knew that they were to become fathers in the months to come. That makes seven families, not quite half, who share a common history dating back to WWII.
Of the eleven men who would have no descendants, most of them had siblings who had children and there are nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and -nephews who also share their history and cherish their memories.
We are known collectively as the Buslee and Brodie crews’ NexGens, the Next Generation of the men of these two crews of the 384th Bomb Group of the Mighty Eighth Air Force who bravely defended our country in WWII.
I began my search for Buslee/Brodie NexGens, who I consider extended family, in 2011 after I met Wallace Storey. I remember so clearly now my astonishment when Wallace told me that he had been in touch with other family members of the two crews. It was that light-headed feeling of shattered disbelief that almost knocked me off my feet, the thought of something I had never considered possible. There were others out there who knew my father’s story of the mid-air collision. It was no longer my family’s private history.
I had never before considered that my sister and I were not the only ones. From my dad’s stories, I knew he was the only survivor of the Buslee crew. At the time, I did not know that children were born to two of the men after the mid-air collision. And I never suspected that any of the men of the Brodie crew had survived the horrific accident, but three of them had. One of their sons had contacted Wallace Storey before me. So had a newphew and great-nephew of Buslee crew members.
I began contacting the relatives for whom Wallace provided information and I started researching each man who had been on those two planes, looking for their families, and finding some of them. During this process, I realized there was a lot we didn’t know about September 28, 1944, and that the other NexGens wanted to know as badly as I what happened in the skies above Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944.
Top secret reports from WWII were public now, and I discovered details bit by bit and started putting them together, like pieces of a puzzle. I shared what I found with the other Buslee/Brodie NexGens and they shared knowledge, photos, and letters. These men who were our fathers and grandfathers, and uncles and great-uncles had an incredibly close bond. And now we NexGens were forming our own bond as we learned details about that late September day, details that in the 1940’s our families struggled so very hard to discover, but of which they were left uniformed.
With the power of knowledge of what happened to the boys that day, we are able to feel them again, hold them close, grieve for them, and look at them with a new sense of awe and respect. I have new family now, these descendants of the great airmen of WWII. We live in the lingering shadows of an aluminum overcast that will never fade away as long as we remember.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018
Sometimes we choose our path in life and sometimes it is chosen for us. Every single decision we make and every step we take in a certain direction write a piece of our history. But that history is not solely of our making. Outside influences are a huge factor in what happens to us upon each footfall, upon each spoken and unspoken thought, upon the most minute action we take.
The men of the Buslee and Brodie crews all chose the path of joining the United States Army Air Forces to fight in WWII. The histories of eighteen men from eighteen families were all very different from the moment of their births until the morning of September 28, 1944 when they climbed aboard their two B-17s to take their places in the 8th Air Force bomber stream on that day’s mission to Magdeburg, Germany.
On that day, each man had his job to do. The pilots and co-pilots had to deliver the bombs to the target. The navigators had to direct them to the correct location. The bombardiers had to release the bombs at the precise point. The radio operators had to maintain communications. The engineers had to make sure all systems worked properly. The gunners in the ball turret, waist, and tail had to defend their ships and loads of bombs and personnel. Each man had his individual job, but each crew was speeding through the skies toward their target as one.
They had one goal. Get their bombs on the target. And then they could go home. That day, their path was chosen for them. They were not completely in charge of the history they were making that day. They were a small piece of an enormous weapon of destruction, a tiny cog in a very big wheel. And that day, they would not go home.
Whatever minute action or outside influence it was, because a single determining factor cannot be pinpointed, the Brodie crew’s ship collided with the Buslee crew’s ship after coming off the target. That one defining action fixed forever the most important moment in the history of eighteen men. It was the moment that the lives of fourteen men were lost and fourteen families were destroyed. It was the moment that the future path of four men was reset to skew greatly from the path that was imagined for them at birth.
It was just one moment in history. But it changed everything.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018
The co-pilot of the James Brodie crew was Lloyd Vevle. He lost his life in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision between his B-17, Lazy Daisy, and the Buslee crew’s B-17, Lead Banana. I have written about Lloyd previously here.
Lloyd had a twin brother named Floyd in the 390th Bomb Group. Floyd lost his life early the next year on January 14, 1945. I have also previously written about Floyd here.
The reason I am returning to the story of the Vevle twins at this time is that 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson has informed me that the American Air Museum in Britain website has found and added photos of the Vevle boys.
Since the AAM so kindly shares their photos, I am pleased to have the opportunity to share them here.
As I’m digging into research again on the Buslee and Brodie crews, I need to revisit sources like the American Air Museum in Britain for updated information on all of the boys of both crews. I also will be digging into the research records that I obtained from the National Personnel Research Center during my visit last October.
The picture of these two crews and their families becomes clearer to me with every bit of information I find. Thank you to all of them for the sacrifices they made in WWII.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017
Thank you to Keith Ellefson, combat data specialist and volunteer for http://www.384thbombgroup.com, and Bobby Silliman, of the Carlsbad Army Airfield’s Facebook community, for finding “our” William D. Barnes, Jr. Bobby Silliman has a master list of all 47,466 bombardier graduates who earned their wings in America during WWII and the only William D. Barnes Jr. was from Hastings, Michigan. There were no other bombardiers with this name, so this has got to be our guy.
Now that we found the right Barnes, I can tell you more about him.
William Douglas Barnes, Jr. was born on May 20, 1919 in Charleston Township, Pennsylvania to Williams D. Sr. (b. August 4, 1884 – d. September 27, 1965), and Carrie M. Vandegrift Barnes (b. November 8, 1887 to d. July 6, 1970).
In 1920, the Barnes family lived on a farm on Elk Run Road in Charleston Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. William Sr. was a farmer. William Sr. was 35, Carrie was 33, and William Jr. was only 7 months old at the time of the census on January 2 or 3, 1920.
In 1930, the family had moved to Eastmanville Street in Polkton Township, Ottawa County, Michigan. The Barnes’s second son, Charles F., had been born in 1920 and was now nine years old. William Sr. was a machinist in a condensery and Carrie was a clerk in a dry goods store in 1930. William Jr. may have been called by his middle name “Douglas” as he is listed on the census as “W. Douglas.”
In 1940, the family lived in Hastings, Barry County, Michigan at 135 S. Jeff Street. They moved to Hastings some time after 1935. William Sr. was a pattern storage foreman for a press and tool manufacturer. Carrie was no longer working outside the home. William Jr., at 20, was a commercial teller for a city bank. Charles was a clock repairman and salesman for a jewelry store.
Younger brother Charles was the first of the Barnes boys to enlist in the Army Air Corps on January 10, 1942. William Jr. enlisted in the Air Corps a few months later, on May 21, 1942. Born only about a year apart, the brothers must have been very close.
William D. Barnes, Jr. was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26,1944 as bombardier of the James Joseph Brodie crew. For more information about his military career with the 384th, see my previous post.
Charles married Dorothea E. Kolch on October 22, 1950 in Marshall, Calhoun County, Michigan, but I can find no record of a marriage for William Douglas, Jr.
William Douglas Barnes, Jr. died on December 6, 1990. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Hastings, Michigan. His parents are also buried in the same cemetery.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015
George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. was born on November 26, 1918 in New York to George Marshall, Sr. and Mildred Sonnenthal Hawkins. George Jr. was their only child. George, Sr. was born on June 16, 1893 in La Plata, Maryland. His parents were also Maryland natives. Mildred was born on December 16, 1898 in Queens, New York. Her parents, William and Clara Sonnenthal, were of Hungarian or German descent and immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s. Aside from Mildred, they had four other children – Adolph, Elsa (or Elsie), Leah, and Elwood. The 1900 census reported that Mildred’s parents resided in Queens, New York.
George Sr. and Mildred lived on Laurel Street in Ridgefield Park, Bergen County, New Jersey in 1920. George Sr. (who may have gone by his middle name “Marshall” as recorded by the census) was twenty-five and Mildred was twenty-one. Mildred’s parents were reported to have been born in Vienna (her father) and Hamburg (her mother). George Jr. (who it seems also went by his middle name “Marshall”) was one and a half years old. George Sr.’s occupation was listed as a chemist in the field of medicine.
By 1930, the Hawkins family had moved to Woodbridge in Middlesex County, New Jersey, where they lived at 35 William St. George Jr. was now eleven years old.
By 1940, the family had moved to 52 Burchard Street in Raritan Township (since renamed to Edison), Middlesex County, New Jersey. George Jr. was now twenty-one and in college. George Sr. was working as a foreman of a chemical factory. (According to George Sr’s WWII draft registration card, he worked at Heyden Chemical Corporation in Fords, New Jersey).
On July 17, 1941, George Jr. enlisted in the service in Trenton, New Jersey. According to his enlistment record, he was single, had three years of college, and his civilian occupation was as an actor. After training in the states, he was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944, as navigator of the James Joseph Brodie crew. He served as navigator on nineteen missions, sixteen of them with the Brodie crew. It is unknown why he flew those three missions on different crews as the Brodie crew did fly those missions, but with a replacement for Hawkins.
George Jr. was aboard Lazy Daisy with the Brodie crew on September 28, 1944, when their B-17 collided over Magdeburg, Germany with the Buslee crew’s Lead Banana. George Jr. was one of only three men aboard Lazy Daisy to survive and became a prisoner of war. As an officer, he was not held in Stalag Luft IV with the other two survivors, enlisted men Wilfred Frank Miller (tail gunner), and Harry Liniger (waist gunner). George Jr. was held as a prisoner at Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (Serves Stalag 9-C), Obermassfeld Thuringia, Germany 50-10.
Hawkins wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in 1945. His account, as follows, is included in MACR9366:
Following “Bombs away” at our target over Magdeburg, Germany, our B17-G and another ship in our formation collided. At the time of the accident our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage. As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.
At the time of the collision, the front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner, S/Sgt Byron L. Atkins. The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin. I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.
Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute. Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later. However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.
Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me. It was then in a flat spin, burning. It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below. When I next saw the ship it was on the ground. While floating downward, I saw one other chute below me.
I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg. The plane landed within two or three miles of me. Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.
The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller. Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.
To the best of my knowledge, All other five members of the crew were at their positions on the plane and failed to leave the ship. All were uninjured up till the time of the collision.
In the Casualty Questionnaire section of MACR9366, Hawkins adds that Miller, the tail gunner, rode the tail down some distance following an explosion which severed the tail from the ship. Miller later bailed out of the tail section. Also, in the Casualty Questionnaire section, Wilfred Miller adds that he heard through Hawkins that the wing of the other plane knocked Atkins out the nose without his chute.
George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. survived WWII. The fact that he was held at a hospital indicates that he was very seriously wounded, although the extent of his injuries is not known. After the end of the war, he returned to the states. In 1959, George moved to Central Florida and became a publications manager for NASA at Kennedy Space Center. He was a member of the Cape Canaveral Chapter of The Retired Officers Association. He was also a licensed amateur radio operator and a member of the Indian River Amateur Radio Club. He died on January 4, 1998 at the age of seventy-nine. He was living in Cocoa Beach, Brevard County, Florida at the time. His wife, Helen (born March 1, 1916), died on May 9, 2008. (Information from his obituary in the Orlando Sentinel and Ancestry.com.)
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015
William D. Barnes, Jr. was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26,1944 as bombardier of the James Joseph Brodie crew. The target of his first mission on August 7, 1944 was a German Luftwaffe fuel depot in Dugny (Paris), France.
He flew a total of fifteen missions as a bombardier, the majority of them with the Brodie crew. His last mission as a bombardier was on September 13, 1944. At that time, Barnes retrained as a navigator.
He was not flying, as he was still in training, on September 28, 1944 when the Brodie crew’s B-17 Lazy Daisy was involved in the mid-air collision with the Buslee crew’s B-17 Lead Banana. His decision to retrain as a navigator may very well have saved his life.
Barnes’s next mission was not until October 17, 1944, when he flew his first mission as a navigator. He flew his last twenty missions as a navigator, completing his thirty-five missions on December 28, 1944, earning him a ticket home. His decision to extend his service by the month he spent in training allowed him to survive WWII, complete his tour, and return home.
I wish I could tell you about his family life growing up and the future he had after the war, but unfortunately there were too many men named William D. Barnes that served in WWII to uncover which one of them served with the 384th Bomb Group by the time of this post. If anyone out there can provide any information on “our” William D. Barnes, Jr., please let me know. In the meantime, I’ll keep digging…
To view the personnel record of William D. Barnes, Jr. on the 384th Bomb Group’s website, click here.
Note: Barnes’s replacement, Byron Laverne Atkins, as togglier of the Brodie crew on September 28, 1944, did not survive the mid-air collision.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015