The Arrowhead Club

Category Archives: Brodie Crew

Gordon Eugene Hetu, Update

Gordon Eugene Hetu
Photo courtesy of Anne Fisher via Ancestry.com

A new search has provided me with a photo of and some new information regarding Gordon Eugene Hetu, ball turret gunner of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was on board Brodie’s B-17 on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. 

To view my original post and other information about Gordon Eugene Hetu, please see the links at the end of this post.

During my search for new information on Gordon Hetu, I ran across a Hetu family tree on Ancestry.com. I messaged the owner of the tree, Anne Fisher, and learned that she was not a relative, but many years ago, Gordon Hetu was her father’s best friend. Anne provided me with this new photo of Gordon, which allows me to positively identify him in the Brodie enlisted crew photos (see the new descriptions below).

Anne also told me that as Gordon was an only child, his parents took his loss in the war very hard. He was killed in the mid-air collision between the Buslee and Brodie crews’ B-17’s over Magdeburg, Germany on 28 September 1944.

Anne’s father, Howard William Fisher, was not only Gordon Eugene Hetu’s best friend, he was a close neighbor according to the 1940 census. At the time, the Fisher and Hetu families both lived on Webb Avenue in Detroit, Michigan, the Fisher’s at house number 3839 and the Hetu’s at number 3821.

Howard Fisher was a veteran of WWII, serving in New Guinea and the Philippines. He and his brother, Harry Anson Fisher, were only eighteen months apart in age, both drafted just a month after their high school graduations, and both survived the war.

With the pain of Gordon’s death too deep, Gordon’s parents, Raymond and Esther Hetu, could not bring themselves to see their son’s best friend for several years after the war, but Anne’s father persisted and Gordon’s parents were eventually able to visit with Howard and his family.

After the war, Howard Fisher married Marjorie Joyce Mathews and they had three children – Anne, Peggy, and John. Marjorie’s family lived in Hessel, Michigan. On visits to Marjorie’s family, the Fishers would stop in St. Ignace, where Raymond and Esther Hetu owned and operated a motel.

Anne built the Hetu family tree on Ancestry.com to try to find out if Gordon Eugene Hetu has any living relatives. If you are related to the Raymond and Esther (Johnson) Hetu family of Detroit, Michigan, please contact me and I will forward your information to Anne Fisher.

I do not have any additional biographical information for Gordon Hetu except that I can add the year of his mother’s, Esther Johnson Hetu’s, death of 1989.

On July 26, 1944, Cpl. Gordon Eugene Hetu was assigned as ball turret gunner to the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bombardment Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces, per AAF Station 106 (Grafton Underwood, England) Special Orders #148. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bombardment group. According to his Sortie record, his combat pay was $140.40 per month. His home address is listed as Mrs. Esther Hetu (his mother), 3821 Webb St., Detroit, Michigan.

Gordon Eugene Hetu was promoted from Corporal to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155 dated 2 August 1944.

On his nineteenth mission on September 28, 1944, two days after his nineteenth birthday, Gordon Eugene Hetu was killed when his crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. He was awarded the Air Medal with two Oak Leaf Clusters and the Purple Heart (posthumously). He is buried at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens in Oakland County, Michigan.

The wartime photos below include the enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew. These photos were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., son of 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, of the Brodie crew. Identifications were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., Patrick Miller, son of 384th Tail Gunner Wilfred Miller, and Anne Fisher, family friend of Gordon Eugene Hetu’s family.

Gordon Eugene Hetu is the man kneeling on the far right:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Gordon Hetu is the man standing second from right:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Gordon Hetu is the man standing second from left:

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

Thank you to Anne Fisher for providing me with the photo of and information about Gordon Eugene Hetu.

Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The B-17 Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist/flexible gunner with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. On 28 September 1944, the Buslee crew and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the same group became forever connected when the B-17’s they were aboard on a combat mission over Germany suffered a mid-air collision.

I am currently updating the biographical information of the men of these two crews, and I thought it would be a good time to explain the duties involved in each position of the airmen aboard the aircraft, the B-17. I have recently updated the information of the two 384th Bomb Group Engineers/Top Turret Gunners who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Clarence Burdell Seeley, assigned Buslee crew engineer

Robert Doyle Crumpton, assigned Brodie crew engineer

Although Lenard Leroy Bryant served as Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the Buslee crew after Clarence Seeley was seriously wounded, he was originally assigned as one of the Buslee crew’s Flexible/Waist Gunners and I will include him in my future post regarding that position in the B-17.

For a list of all of the airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews, see permanent page The Buslee and Brodie Crews, which is maintained with new information/posts.

Duties and Responsibilities of the B-17 Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website,

Training in the various phases of the heavy bomber program is designed to fit each member of the crew for the handling of his jobs. The engineer/top turret gunner:

  • Has been trained in the Air Forces’ highly specialized technical schools.
  • Works closely with the pilot and co-pilot, checking engine operation, fuel consumption, and the operation of all equipment.
  • Must be able to work with the bombardier, and know how to cock, lock, and load the bomb racks.
  • Must be thoroughly familiar with the armament equipment, especially the Browning aircraft machine gun. He should know how to strip, clean, and re-assemble the guns, how to maintain the guns, how to clear jams and stoppages, and how to harmonize the sights with the guns.
  • Should have a general knowledge of radio equipment, and be able to assist in tuning transmitters and receivers.
  • Should be an expert in aircraft identification.
  • Should know more about the airplane than any other member of the crew, including the pilot and co-pilot. He must know his engines and his armament equipment thoroughly. This is a big responsibility: the lives of the entire crew, the safety of the equipment, the success of the mission depend upon it.

Location of the Top Turret in a B-17

The top turret of a B-17 sits behind the pilot and co-pilot, who are seated in the cockpit. Should the top turret gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the bomb bay doors.

In the following diagram, Lenard Bryant is noted in the top turret of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944
Diagram courtesy of 91st Bomb Group and modified by Cindy Farrar Bryan in 2014

B-17 Top Turret Photo

I took the following photo of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.

Top turret view of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Engineers/Top Turret Gunners

I thought it might also be interesting to read stories, diaries, and journals written by or view video interviews of some of the 384th’s own engineers/top turret gunners. You’ll find a chart of several engineers/top turret gunners of the 384th Bomb Group below with links to their personnel records and their written and oral histories as are provided on the Stories page of 384thBombGroup.com.

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Bardue, Theodore Roosevelt⇗ A Rough Mission to Munich⇓ (0.120 MB)
Clemis, Joseph Bernard⇗ Joseph Clemis Mission Diary⇓ (2.525 MB)
Stahlhut, Robert Fred⇗ The Way I Remember It⇓ (1.945 MB)
Turlington, Howard Joe⇗ My Experience⇓ (0.312 MB)
Wick, Harvey Arthur⇗ A Tribute to Harvey Arthur Wick⇓ (9.481 MB)
Wilkens, William John, “Bill”⇗ Bill Wilkens’ Combat Diary⇓ (3.842 MB)
Barber, Raymond Clifford⇗ 2004 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Furrey, Thomas Edwin, Jr⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Oglesby, Howard Jasper⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Wilkens, William John, “Bill”⇗ 2020 Video Interview of Bill Wilkens⇗

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Engineer and the Gunners

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

The Military Yearbook Project – Army Air Force WWII Codes

The Army Air Forces in World War II: VI, Men and Planes, Edited by W.F. Craven and J.L. Cate, Chapter 19: Training of Ground Technicians and Service Personnel

Training to Fly:  Military Flight Training 1907 – 1945 by Rebecca Hancock Cameron

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission in 2014 to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Robert Doyle Crumpton, Update

A new search has provided me with some new and updated/corrected information regarding Robert Doyle Crumpton, top turret gunner/engineer of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was on board Brodie’s B-17 on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. Corrected information is bolded.

To view my original post and other information about Robert Doyle Crumpton, please see the links at the end of this post.

Robert Doyle Crumpton, Jr. was born July 27, 1920 (according to his birth certificate, one day after other records note it as July 26, 1920) in Ennis, Ellis County, Texas to Robert Doyle Crumpton, Sr. (born April 7, 1892) and Stella M. Brown Crumpton (born November 16, 1896).

Robert Doyle Crumpton’s great-grandfather Edmond “Ed” Allen Crumpton, a farmer living in Shelby County Alabama in the 1860’s, fought in the American Civil War (Apr 12, 1861 – Apr 9, 1865). He enlisted in the Confederate Army in 1862. He is listed on the Muster Roll of Captain James Cobb’s Company G of the 31st Regiment, Alabama Volunteers, in the service of the Confederate States.

Robert Doyle Crumpton’s father Robert Crumpton Sr. was a veteran of WWI. On April 24, 1921, Robert Sr. died at the age of twenty-nine when Robert Jr. was only nine months old.

Five years after Robert Sr.’s death, Stella married Claude Parks on April 5, 1926. Stella and Claude had a son, Claude Edward Parks, born August 6, 1930, Robert Jr.’s half-brother.

Robert served in WWII as the top turret gunner/engineer for the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in Grafton Underwood, England.

On July 26, 1944, Sgt. Robert Doyle Crumpton was assigned as top turret gunner/engineer to the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bombardment Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces, per AAF Station 106 (Grafton Underwood, England) Special Orders #148. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bombardment group. According to his Sortie record, his combat pay was $140.40 per month.

These wartime photos include Robert Doyle Crumpton and other enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew. These photos were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., son of 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, of the Brodie crew. Identifications were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., and Patrick Miller, son of 384th Tail Gunner Wilfred Miller.

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator), Unidentified.
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

 

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), Unidentified, William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

 

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Unidentified, Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

On his nineteenth mission on September 28, 1944, Robert Crumpton was killed when his crew’s B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17 after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. He probably saw the near miss with the Gross crew right above his head from his viewpoint in the top turret (see Wallace Storey’s account of the near-miss), and probably saw the collision with the Buslee crew’s B-17 coming, but was helpless to do anything about it.

Robert Crumpton was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group as a Staff Sergeant according to Special Orders.

S/Sgt Robert D. Crumpton earned the Purple Heart and Air Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters. He was buried in the Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot E, Row 19, Grave 22.

Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The B-17 Radio Operator/Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist/flexible gunner with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. On 28 September 1944, the Buslee crew and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the same group became forever connected when the B-17’s they were aboard on a combat mission over Germany suffered a mid-air collision.

I am currently updating the biographical information of the men of these two crews, and I thought it would be a good time to explain the duties involved in each position of the airmen aboard the aircraft, the B-17. I have recently updated the information of the three 384th Bomb Group Radio Operators/Gunners who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, assigned Buslee crew radio operator

William Edson Taylor, assigned Brodie crew radio operator

Donald William Dooley, Headquarters, but radio operator of the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944

For a list of all of the airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews, see permanent page The Buslee and Brodie Crews, which is maintained with new information/posts.

Duties and Responsibilities of the B-17 Radio Operator/Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website,

Training in the various phases of the heavy bomber program is designed to fit each member of the crew for the handling of his jobs. The radio operator will be required to:

  1. Render position reports every 30 minutes.
  2. Assist the navigator in taking fixes.
  3. Keep the liaison and command sets properly tuned and in good operating order.
  4. Understand from an operational point of view Instrument landing, IFF, VHF, and other navigational aids equipment in the airplane.
  5. Maintain a log.

In addition to being a radio operator, the radio man is also a gunner. During periods of combat he will be required to leave his watch at the radio and take up his guns. He is often required to learn photography. Some of the best pictures taken in the Southwest Pacific were taken by radio operators.

Aside from these duties noted by the 303rd, I have read that when B-17 crews were reduced from ten airmen to nine, losing one of the waist gunners, the radio operator was tasked with manning the left waist gun if needed while the lone waist gunner manned the right waist gun. That may have been true in some B-17 groups and may have been true for some crews in the 384th Bomb Group, but one of the group’s veterans once told me that was not the case.

The 384th veteran told me that the lone waist gunner would man both waist guns and the side he manned – left or right – depended on where his B-17 was in the formation, and which side of the aircraft was more vulnerable to enemy attack. He said that the radio operator, aside from his radio duties, was also tasked with distributing chaff, the aluminum strips dropped from aircraft in the formation to confuse enemy radar.

Radio communications during the war needed to be precise and understandable and the phonetic alphabet helped in the effort. The 384th Bomb Group’s website includes this chart and explanation.

Combined Phonetic Alphabet

This phonetic code was adopted for 8th AF use in 1942. The purpose of the code is to improve the accuracy of radio voice communications by providing an unambiguous key word for each letter that would improve recognition of the intended letter through static, intermittent transmissions, and jamming.

Letter Phonetic Letter Phonetic Letter Phonetic
A Able J Jig S Sugar
B Baker K King T Tare
C Charlie L Love U Uncle
D Dog M Mike V Victor
E Easy N Nan W William
F Fox O Oboe X X-ray
G George P Peter Y Yoke
H How Q Queen Z Zebra
I Item R Roger

Phonetic Alphabet Chart courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

Location of the Radio Room in a B-17

The radio room of a B-17 sits between the bomb bay and the ball turret. Should the radio operator have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the bomb bay doors.

In the following diagram, Sebastiano Peluso is noted in the radio room of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944
Diagram courtesy of 91st Bomb Group and modified by Cindy Farrar Bryan in 2014

B-17 Radio Room Photos

I took the following photos of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.

Entry of the radio room from the bomb bay catwalk of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

 

Radio operator’s desk of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

 

Radio room of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

 

Radio room of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Radio Operators

I thought it might also be interesting to read stories, diaries, and journals written by or view video interviews of some of the 384th’s own radio operators. You’ll find a chart of several radio operators of the 384th Bomb Group below with links to their personnel records and their written and oral histories as are provided on the Stories page of 384thBombGroup.com.

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Grosbier, Gordon Joseph⇗ Grosbier, Combat Mission Diary⇓ (8.508 MB)
Grosbier, Gordon Joseph⇗ Grosbier, Daily Journal⇓ (6.235 MB)
Levison, Jules Sidney, “Julie”⇗ Jules Levison Diary⇓ (3.622 MB)
Misch, Henry Conrad⇗ Henry C Misch WWII Diary⇓ (7.671 MB)
Pratt, John Butler⇗ Diary of John Butler Pratt⇓ (7.246 MB)
Spearman, Eugene (NMI)⇗ The Eighth Air Force in World War II⇓ (3.588 MB)
Williamson, Albert (NMI)⇗ The Trip of a Lifetime⇓ (3.296 MB)
Kovach, Joseph William⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Lustig, David Carl, “Dave”, Jr⇗ 2003 Oral History Interview⇗
Lustig, David Carl, “Dave”, Jr⇗ Book:  “Initial Point: Reminiscences of a World War II B-17 Bomber Crewman” (out of print, but occasionally available on used book sites)
Wininger, Dexter Gene⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Radio Operator

384th Bomb Group:  Combined Phonetic Alphabet

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

The Military Yearbook Project – Army Air Force WWII Codes

The Army Air Forces in World War II: VI, Men and Planes, Edited by W.F. Craven and J.L. Cate, Chapter 19: Training of Ground Technicians and Service Personnel

Training to Fly:  Military Flight Training 1907 – 1945 by Rebecca Hancock Cameron

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission in 2014 to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Buslee and Brodie Crew Buried at Margraten

On Memorial Day this year (May 31, 2021), I posted a memorial on my Facebook page honoring the eight men of my father’s B-17 crew who lost their lives on September 28, 1944 in a mid-air collision over Germany. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the only survivor on the ship.

The eight lost were 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., and Tail Gunner Gerald Lee Andersen.

My Facebook friend, Arjan van Prooijen, who lives in Holland, saw the post and responded,

Margraten cemetery has been opened recently after COVID 19 lockdown restrictions had been in order since December 2020. I will make a visit this summer and if you are interested I will make pictures of their graves.

I gladly accepted Arjan’s generous offer and gave him the names of the men of both the Buslee and Brodie crews who lost their lives in the mid-air collision and are buried at Margraten.

Three of the men of the Buslee crew – Co-pilot David Franklin Albrecht, Engineer Lenard Leroy Bryant, and Ball Turret Gunner George Francis McMann, Jr. – are buried at Margraten. Two men of the Brodie crew, whose B-17 collided with the Buslee crew’s B-17, are also buried at Margraten – Pilot James Joseph Brodie and Engineer Robert Doyle Crumpton.

Following up on his Memorial Day promise to take pictures, Arjan visited Margraten on Saturday, August 14. Arjan said,

A clear blue sky and temperatures around 25C (77F) and the cemetery immaculate as usual all combined to make it a beautiful and impressive visit.

Arjan was also at Margraten to visit his adopted grave, that of Eugene L. Longley, a private in the 261st Infantry, 65th Division. Longley was from Iowa and died April 7, 1945, sadly so close to the end of the war.

After his visit, Arjan shared these beautiful photos with me of Margraten, including the memorial and photos of all of the graves of the Buslee and Brodie crew members who lost their lives on September 28, 1944.

Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial at Margraten

Memorial and reflecting pool at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

* * * * *

Memorial at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

* * * * *

David Franklin Albrecht

Buslee Crew

Grave marker of David F. Albrecht at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

 

David Franklin Albrecht

  • Born 1 March 1922 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot C, Row 2, Grave 11

* * * * *

Lenard Leroy Bryant

Buslee Crew

Grave marker of Lenard L. Bryant at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

 

Lenard Leroy Bryant

  • Born 7 March 1919 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot G, Row 7, Grave 22

* * * * *

George Francis McMann, Jr.

Gilbert Crew

Flew with Buslee Crew 28 September 1944

Grave marker of George F. McMann, Jr. at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

  • Born 26 September 1924 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot N, Row 22, Grave 4

* * * * *

James Joseph Brodie

Grave marker of James J. Brodie at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

 

James Joseph Brodie

  • Born 14 November 1917 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot J, Row 13, Grave 4

* * * * *

Robert Doyle Crumpton

Brodie Crew

Grave marker of Robert D. Crumpton at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

 

Robert Doyle Crumpton

  • Born 26 July 1920 – Died 28 September 1944
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
  • Plot E, Row 19, Grave 22

* * * * *

American flag and graves at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands
Photo taken August 14, 2021 by Arjan van Prooijen

* * * * *

Earlier this year, World War II Genealogist Teresa (Terry) Hirsch educated me about American Military Overseas Burials and American Overseas Military Grave Adopters. I also compiled a list of the Buslee and Brodie Crew Burial Locations for all the men of these 384th Bomb Group crews.

Thank you, Arjan van Prooijen, for performing this greatly appreciated kindness and helping me honor these World War II heroes who gave their lives for our freedom.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Donald William Dooley, Update

A new search on Ancestry.com has provided me with some new and updated/corrected information regarding Donald William Dooley, radio operator on the 28 September 1944 mission of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. Corrected information is bolded.

To view my original post and other information about Donald William Dooley, please see the links at the end of this post.

Donald William Dooley
Indiana University 1940

Donald William Dooley was born 26 July 1919 in Wheatfield, Jasper County, Indiana. Donald’s parents were Guy Tobias Dooley (born 22 September 1893 in Marshall, Parke County, Indiana, died 16 August 1992 in Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana) and Medora LaVerne McWilliams Dooley (born 15 June 1893, died 28 August 1988 in Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan). Donald had an older sister, Dorothy Elizabeth Dooley, (born 27 August 1916 in Wheatfield, Jasper County, Indiana, died 8 January 2007 in Lansing, Ingham County, Michigan).

Donald’s sister, Dorothy, married LeRoy Dugan, Jr., in 1938. Dorothy and LeRoy had three children, Ronald Lee Dugan (1943 – 2012), Maureen Kay Dugan (1948 – 2018), and one child who is still living (and therefore unidentified in Ancestry family trees).

The 1920 Federal census indicates that the Dooley family lived in Walker, Jasper County Indiana and Mrs. Dooley was known as Dora.

The 1930 Federal census indicates that the Dooley family lived in Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana and Mrs. Dooley was known as LaVerne.

I cannot find a 1940 Federal census record for the family, but Donald’s WWII draft card, which he filled out on 16 October 1940, indicates he lived in Indianapolis, Marion County, Indiana where he attended Indiana University at that time, and his father lived in Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana.

Donald’s WWII draft card also notes he was 21 years old when he registered for the draft, and worked for Sears, Roebuck & Company at Alabama & Vermont Streets, Indianapolis, Indiana. He was 5’11” tall, weighed 135 pounds, had blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. He listed his father as the person who would always know his address.

On September 10, 1941, Donald enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. He resided in Marion County, Indiana (Indianapolis area) at the time of enlistment.

Donald’s 384th Bomb Group Sortie record notes that his rank was T/Sgt. (Technical Sergeant), his duty was Radio Operator, and his pay was $205.20 per month.

His sortie record also notes his home address as Mrs. LaVerne Wysong, Roosevelt Hotel, Indianapolis, Indiana. This indicates that in 1944 his mother and father were no longer married to each other, his mother had remarried, and that Donald considered his mother’s residence – rather than his father’s – as his home address. Other records at Ancestry.com note that Donald’s mother was also known as Laverne Tenbrook at some point in her life, indicating an additional marriage.

Although his Sortie record indicates his mother’s residence as his home address in 1944, Donald’s next of kin listed in the Missing Air Crew Report for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 was, however, his father with a Bloomington, Indiana address.

Page 2 of Donald’s sortie record lists only one mission, Date 9-28-44, Target Magdeburg, Wounds M/A (missing in action).

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Donald William Dooley:

  • On 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.
  • On 8 SEPTEMBER 1944, 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.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany (Target was Industry, Steelworks), Donald William Dooley, flying with the James Joseph Brodie crew, went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared KIA (Killed in Action).

Donald lost his life at the young age of twenty-five. He is buried at the Valhalla Memory Gardens in Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana.

Notes/Links

  • Previous post, Donald William Dooley
  • Previous post, Timeline for Brodie Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron
  • Donald William Dooley’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group
  • Missing Air Crew Report 9366 for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group
  • Missing Air Crew Report 9753 provides more information about the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision in which Donald was killed, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group
  • Donald William Dooley was with the 482nd Bombardment Group Pathfinders before being transferred to the 384th Bomb Group. For information on the 482nd Bombardment Group, please see http://www.482nd.org/.
  • Donald William Dooley on Find a Grave
  • MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

If any family or friends of Donald William Dooley has information about him or photos of him to share, please contact me. I would like to learn more about his family life before the war and his service in the 482nd Bombardment Group (Pathfinders).

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

William Edson Taylor, Update

A new search on Ancestry.com has provided me with some new and updated/corrected information regarding William Edson Taylor, radio operator of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. Corrected information is bolded.

William Edson Taylor was born in Ishpeming, Michigan on on April 21, 1923 to Carroll Cushing (1895 to 1993) and Ruth Edna Parmelee (1895 to 1985) Taylor. William’s sister, Carol Jane, was born December 2, 1924.

According to the 1930 Federal census, William’s father, Carroll Taylor, was born in Massachusetts. Carroll’s father was born in Massachusetts and his mother in Kansas. William’s mother, Edna Parmelee Taylor, was born in Michigan. Her father was born in Michigan and her mother in Wisconsin. The Taylor family lived in Ironwood, Michigan in 1930. According to the 1940 Federal census, the Taylor family still lived in Ironwood, Michigan and Edna’s parents lived with them.

William Edson Taylor graduated from Luther L. Wright High School in Ironwood, Michigan in 1941.

William E Taylor in the 1941 Yearbook of Luther L Wright High School in Ironwood, Michigan

William’s high school yearbook notes that he participated in many sports including football, volleyball, basketball, and track, and was a member of the I Club and Hi-Y. He was also an ROTC officer and member of the National Honor Society.

William’s younger sister, Carol Jane, was a Junior at the same high school in the 1940 – 1941 academic year, and the next year was Treasurer of the Senior Class of 1942.

On June 30, 1942, William registered for the WWII draft. He listed his address as 165 E. Ridge Street in Ironwood, Michigan. He was nineteen years old and his listed employer was Republic Steel Corporation in Bessemer, Michigan. He was 5’11” tall, weighed 170 pounds, had gray eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion.

On August 27, 1942, at the age of nineteen, William enlisted in the Army Air Corps in Ironwood, Michigan. (Alternate enlistment date was February 8, 1943 with discharge date of October 24, 1945 from Department of Veterans Affairs BIRLS death file. The date discrepancy may have been due to a deferment).

On May 23, 1944, shortly before William shipped off to England to join the 384th Bomb Group, Carol Jane married Donald Martyn McDonald (b. 1921 – d. 2013) in Ironwood, Michigan. Donald was also from Ironwood and graduated from the same high school, but a few years earlier, in 1939.

Prior to his marriage to Carol, Donald enlisted in the Marine Corps in June 1942 and served in the Asia Pacific area on Guadalcanal and Iwo Jima, where he was wounded in action against the enemy. He was awarded the Purple Heart Medal and was honorably discharged in November 1945.

On July 26, 1944, William Taylor was assigned as radio operator to the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bombardment Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces, per AAF Station 106 (Grafton Underwood, England) Special Orders #148. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bombardment group. According to his Sortie record, his combat pay was $172.80 per month.

These wartime photos include William Edson Taylor and other enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew. These photos were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., son of 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, of the Brodie crew. Identifications were provided by Harry Liniger, Jr., and Patrick Miller, son of 384th Tail Gunner Wilfred Miller.

 

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator), Unidentified.
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

 

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), Unidentified, William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

 

Enlisted men of the James Joseph Brodie crew
Left to right: Harry Allen Liniger (Waist/Flexible Gunner), Unidentified, Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), William Edson Taylor (Radio Operator).
Photo contributed by Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. ID’s provided by Harry Liniger, Jr. and Patrick Miller.

On August 14, 1944, William Taylor was promoted to Staff Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #163.

On October 5, 1944, William Taylor went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action) over Cologne, Germany. Subsequently, he was declared POW (Prisoner of War). On that date, Taylor flew a mission over Germany with the Robert Birckhead crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces on a mission to Cologne aboard unnamed flying fortress 43-38579. The Birckhead crew’s fort was damaged by flak and left the formation under control prior to the target.

The damage was too great to make it back to their airbase at Grafton Underwood, England and the fort crashed near Munchen-Gladbach, according to the MACR (missing air crew report). Four of the crew were killed, including pilot Robert Birckhead. Five became POWs, including radio operator William Edson Taylor.

However, the site of the crash is in dispute as discovered by Stewart Lanham, a WWII military aircraft researcher. The crash site likely was east of Dorsten, Germany, near where members of the crew bailed out near Gelsenkirchen.

William Edson Taylor survived POW life at Stalag Luft IV and he survived the eighty-six day, five hundred mile forced march out of the prison camp westward across Germany. I am unsure of the date of his liberation, but according to his NARA POW record, his last Report Date was June 26, 1945.

After the war, William’s sister Carol and brother-in-law Donald McDonald moved to the Boston area where he attended Harvard University. After graduation in 1948, he joined the First National Bank of Boston, becoming vice president. Carol and Donald had three children: Donald, of Chicago, Illinois, Roderick, who died in 2001, and Janice McDonald Rogers (married to Brian Rogers) of Winchester, Massachusetts.

On September 14, 1946, William Edson Taylor married Frances Joyce “Franny” Killeen (b. 13 JAN 1927, Ironwood, Gogebic, Michigan – d. 24 JAN 2016, Largo, Pinellas, Florida). William and Franny had a son, Bradley Thomas Taylor (b. 10 OCT 1954, Minneapolis, Hennepin, Minnesota – d. 6 OCT 2002, New Brighton, Ramsey, Minnesota), and a grandson, Nathan Thomas Taylor (the son of Bradley Thomas Taylor and Marlene Dunsmore), born around 1988. William Taylor married a second time in 1967 to Barbara Elizabeth Magill (1925 – 2010).

William Edson Taylor died on January 29, 2002 in New Hope, Bucks, Pennsylvania, USA and was cremated.

If any family or friends of William Edson Taylor has information about him or photos of him to share, please contact me. I would particularly like to positively identify him in the above wartime photos and am still looking for a full crew photo of the James Joseph Brodie crew.

Notes/Links

Previous post, William Edson Taylor

Previous post, Timeline for Brodie Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Donald Martyn McDonald on Find a Grave.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Airmen of the Buslee and Brodie Crews of the 384th Bomb Group

I have been writing about the men of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII for many years, particularly those airmen who served on the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bomber group based in Grafton Underwood, England during the war.

My connection with these two crews is my father, George Edwin Farrar, who was a waist gunner on the Buslee crew.

Both the Buslee and Brodie crew departed the states from their final combat crew training in Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time. Both crews were assigned to the 384th Bomb Group within days of each other.

On 28 September 1944, the Buslee and Brodie crews participated in the 384th’s Mission 201 (which was the 8th Air Force’s numbered Mission 652).

On the mission, coming off the bomb run on the target, the B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy, piloted by James Joseph Brodie, collided with the unnamed B-17 43-37822 piloted by John Oliver Buslee with my father manning the machine guns in the waist.

All aboard Buslee’s aircraft were killed in the collision, ensuing explosion, and crash except for my father, the sole survivor of his fortress. Eight of my father’s bomber brothers perished on this one B-17 on this one day.

Three men survived aboard Brodie’s aircraft, and the remaining six perished, a total of fourteen killed in the collision of the two aircraft.

I have been researching the lives of these airmen for many years and am about to embark on another search for new information on each, so I thought it was time to recap what I have already learned and share links of what I have previously written about them.

Keep in mind, there are more than eighteen men (the number of airmen that made up the two crews on 28 September 1944) involved in this story. Each crew was originally made up of ten men, although neither crew ever flew missions with all ten aboard. All of their missions were flown with a crew of nine containing only one waist gunner instead of two, a change from earlier in the war.

And neither crew flew as all original members on every mission. Substitutes were more common on missions for the Buslee crew, but both crews flew with substitute airmen on the fatal mission of 28 September 1944. My histories of the men of the Buslee and Brodie crews include both original members and those who were substituting for them on that final mission.

Including original crew members and substitute crew members on 28 September 1944 for both crews, plus two key witnesses to the collision, the number of airmen whose family history I research is twenty-nine, thirty including Lloyd Vevle’s twin brother, Floyd.

In the list below, I’m listing all of the airmen by position in the B-17 and noting who were original crew members, who were crew substitutions, and who were key witnesses to the mid-air collision. I’m also including very brief biographical information (birth, death, and burial data), links to each airman’s personnel record on the 384th Bomb Group’s website, and links to histories I’ve previously written about them.

This post will also be available as a permanent page which will be updated with additional links to posts of any new findings from my research.


The Pilots

John Oliver Buslee, pilot of the 544th Bomb Squadron

James Joseph Brodie, pilot of the 545th Bomb Squadron

  • Born 14 November 1917
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 26
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot J, Row 13, Grave 4
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • James Joseph Brodie

The Co-pilots

David Franklin Albrecht, assigned Buslee crew co-pilot

  • Born 1 March 1922
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 22
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot C, Row 2, Grave 11
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • David Franklin Albrecht

Lloyd Oliver Vevle, assigned Brodie crew co-pilot

  • Born 9 December 1922
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 21
  • Buried Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, Neuville-en-Condroz, Arrondissement de Liège, Liège, Belgium, Plot C, Row 37, Grave 20
  • Lloyd’s twin brother Floyd Martin Vevle (Born 9 December 1922 – Died 14 January 1945, age 22) of the 390th Bomb Group is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at  the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Floyd Martin Vevle
  • The Vevle Twins

The Navigators

Chester Anthony Rybarczyk, assigned Buslee crew navigator

William Alvin Henson II, Sammons crew navigator, but navigator of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., assigned Brodie crew navigator

The Bombardiers

Marvin Fryden, assigned Buslee crew bombardier

James Buford Davis, Jung crew bombardier & Buslee crew replacement bombardier after Fryden’s death

Robert Sumner Stearns, Durdin crew bombardier, but bombardier of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

  • Born 25 August 1923
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 21
  • Buried Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, San Mateo County, California, USA, Section B, Site 302
  • Memorial marker at Family/Home Cemetery at Juniper Haven Cemetery, Prineville, Crook County, Oregon, USA
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Robert Sumner Stearns

William Douglas Barnes, Jr., assigned Brodie crew bombardier

Byron Leverne Atkins, Chadwick crew flexible (waist) gunner, but togglier of the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944

The Radio Operators/Gunners

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, assigned Buslee crew radio operator

William Edson Taylor, assigned Brodie crew radio operator

Donald William Dooley, Headquarters, but radio operator of the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944

The Engineers/Top Turret Gunners

Clarence Burdell Seeley, assigned Buslee crew engineer

Robert Doyle Crumpton, assigned Brodie crew engineer

  • Born 27 July 1920
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 24
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot E, Row 19, Grave 22
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Robert Doyle Crumpton

The Ball Turret Gunners

Erwin Vernon Foster, assigned Buslee crew ball turret gunner

George Francis McMann, Jr., Gilbert crew ball turret gunner, but ball turret gunner of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

  • Born 26 September 1924
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 20, two days past his 20th birthday
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot N, Row 22, Grave 4
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • George Francis McMann, Jr.

Gordon Eugene Hetu, assigned Brodie crew ball turret gunner

  • Born 26 September 1925
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 19, two days past his 19th birthday
  • Buried Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Novi, Oakland County, Michigan, USA
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Gordon Eugene Hetu

The Tail Gunners

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, assigned Buslee crew tail gunner

  • Born 22 December 1919
  • Died 14 April 1981, age 61
  • Burial information unknown, but parents (Gustave and Dominica Lucynski) are buried All Saints Church Cemetery, Flint, Genesee County, Michigan, USA
  • Also known as Eugene D. or Dan Lucyn
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Eugene D. Lucynski

Gerald Lee Andersen, Carnes crew tail gunner, but tail gunner of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

Wilfred Frank Miller, assigned Brodie crew tail gunner

The Flexible (Waist) Gunners

Lenard Leroy Bryant, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner, reassigned to top turret gunner after 5 August 1944 mission

George Edwin Farrar, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner

Leonard Wood Opie, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

Harry Allen Liniger, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

Witnesses to the 28 September 1944 Mid-air Collision

Wallace Arnold Storey, Gross crew co-pilot

Robert McKinley Mitchell, Jr., Allred crew ball turret gunner

Thank you to Fred Preller, webmaster of 384thBombGroup.com, and his volunteer researchers for providing and sharing information of the Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

“Sparks” Artist John Graham Forster

Last week, in a post about 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger, I included a drawing of Harry titled “Sparks Liniger” that was drawn by J. G. Forster. I believe Forster was John Graham Forster, a fellow radio student of Harry’s at radio school at Scott Field, Illinois.

Harry “Sparks” Liniger at Radio School training at Scott Field. Drawing by John Graham Forster, fellow radio student.

I believe “Sparks” was derived at radio school as a nickname for Liniger from the obsolete (today) type of radio equipment called a “spark-gap” transmitter which generated radio waves by means of an electric spark.

Liniger’s fellow radio student, John Graham Forster, did not serve in combat in the same bombardment group as Harry. While in training in the states, servicemen (and servicewomen) were transferred to various stations around the country for different phases of their training and most likely lost track of others they trained with over time.

Regardless of whether they stayed in touch or lost track of each other, Liniger thought enough of the drawing to save it and his son still has it almost eighty years after it was drawn.

It is easier to learn more about men who served in combat together if those historical records have been gathered and presented for future generations by a historical association. But finding someone who served with a relative in a training setting can be quite difficult. Generally, those types of records or lists don’t exist.

So since I have been able to identify the artist who drew Liniger as “Sparks,” I’m going to take the opportunity to look into where Forster came from and a little of his WWII history as it serves to illustrate the differences in the backgrounds of those who were brought together to fight a world war and the enormous movement of those personnel as part of the American war machine to various points across the globe.

I usually research and write about those who served in the Eighth Air Force in WWII, and mostly about the specific B-17 heavy bombardment group in which my father served, the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy). But there were many other divisions of the United States Air Forces serving in different parts of the world during WWII, and this is a good opportunity to introduce the subject, which I will write more about at a later date.

John Forster was a third generation American. He was named after his grandfather, John Graham Forster of St. Louis Parish, Kent County, New Brunswick, Canada. Grandfather John immigrated to America at eighteen years old, settled in Waltham, Middlesex County, Massachusetts, and married and raised a family there. Grandson John was born there in 1922.

John Graham Forster, Senior Year photo from Waltham High School Yearbook

In the 1940 Waltham High School Yearbook, John’s Senior year, he noted his first ambition was to,

Go round the world and see our 48 states

He liked nice girls and baseball, planned to enter an art career, and was Art Manager of the Senior Play.

In 1942, John enlisted in the United States Air Corps. After his training, including his and Harry’s time at radio school, John was assigned to the 764th Bomb Squadron of the 461st Bomb Group.

But the 461st was stationed nowhere near Harry’s 8th Air Force base with the 384th in Grafton Underwood, England. In fact, the 461st was not even part of the 8th Air Force, but was instead part of the 49th Bombardment Wing of the Fifteenth Air Force. The 461st flew B-24 Liberators and the group was known as the “Liberaiders.”

The Fifteenth Air Force operated in the WWII Mediterranean Theater of Operations and mainly operated out of bases in southern Italy. The 461st was based at Torretto Field, about 12 km (about 7 1/2 miles) south of the town of Cerignola, Italy.

John Forster was assigned to the Carl J. Schultz crew as radio operator/gunner. The Schultz (#3-1) crew consisted of:

  • Carl J. Schultz, Pilot
  • William R. Baird, Co-Pilot
  • James R. Merkel, Navigator
  • Joshua Loring, Jr., Bombardier
  • John G. Forster, Radio Operator/Gunner
  • John W. Rice, Engineer/Gunner
  • William F. Sanders, Gunner
  • Glenn A. Sligar, Engineer/Gunner
  • Don R. Trail, Gunner
  • William R. Vaitkunas, Gunner

On 23 March 1945, John Forster participated in the 461st’s Mission 200 to bomb a high priority target, the Kagran Oil Refinery in Vienna, Austria. Thirteen of the 461st’s thirty aircraft were hit by flak over the target and the lead bombardier, Lt. Rosulek, was wounded just before bombs away.

On this mission, William Baird was pilot of the unnamed B-24J 44-41091 with Dwight B. Olson serving as his co-pilot. Other original crew members included John Rice, Glenn Sligar, William Sanders, William Vaitkunas, and of course, John Forster. Substitutes, besides Olson, included Edward T. Wenslik as Bombardier, Richard C. Davis as Navigator, and Marlin R. Smith as Gunner.

At about the time of bombs away, the Number 2 engine of 44-41091 was hit by flak and knocked completely off the ship. They dropped back in the formation with a fire in the wing. Following an unsuccessful attempt to put out the fire, they lost altitude and dropped about 5,000 feet. Five chutes were seen to emerge before the plane went into a dive and exploded.

Davis, the Navigator of the crew, reported that he was reunited in the next few days with all of the crew except for Lt. Baird, the pilot. A German guard reported that Baird was found dead with an unopened chute some distance from the wreckage of the aircraft.

One of the crew wrote in his Individual Casualty Questionaire that,

Lt. Baird … went beyond the “call of duty” that day in fighting the ship to keep it from going into a spin, and then momentarily leveling it out with the trim tabs giving us all, the nine of us, time to jump.

With the exception of Baird, the entire crew was held prisoner of war at Moosburg, Stalag VIIA. All were liberated from Moosburg on 29 April 1945 and were taken to Camp Lucky Strike in La Harve, France to begin their journey back to America.

Forster did become an artist after the war. In the 1952 Waltham Massachusetts City Directory, he listed his occupation as artist. He married a nice girl and had seven children.

John Graham Forster died on 24 June 1982 at the age of 59 in Concord, Middlesex County, Massachusetts. He is buried in Glenwood Cemetery, Maynard, Middlesex County, Massachusetts in Section 23-N, Lot 48-A.

I don’t know if he ever saw all of our “48 states” (or additionally Alaska and Hawaii), but he did see quite a bit of the world, including Italy, France, Austria, and Germany, and saw things he couldn’t imagine during high school from the radio room of a B-24.

Thank you to Chuck Parsonon, Admin of the 461st Bombardment Group’s Facebook group for providing me with information for this post.

Thank you to the folks running the 461st Bombardment Group website for the excellent information on the group and its service members you provide.

Sources

Last week’s post, Harry Liniger’s Letters and Guardian Angel

461st Bombardment Group on Facebook

461st Bombardment Group

15th Air Force

March 1945 Missions

23 March 1945 Mission

Missing Air Crew Report, MACR13190

Wikipedia: Spark-gap Transmitter

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

Harry Liniger’s Letters and Guardian Angel

Harry Allen Liniger

Harry Allen Liniger was a waist gunner with the 384th Bomb Group in WWII and was on the B-17 42-31222 Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944 when it, carrying Harry and the James Brodie crew, suffered a mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany with my father’s unnamed B-17 43-37822. Both Harry and my dad, along with two other crew members on the Lazy Daisy, survived. The other fourteen airmen aboard the two fortresses were killed.

Recently, I have been looking into the pre-combat/training phase of the men who transferred into combat at the same time as my dad, George Edwin Farrar. I have traced their path to the European Theatre of Operations (the ETO) through my dad’s letters home and through fellow 384th Bomb Group service member Frank Furiga’s diary. And recently Harry Liniger’s son, Harry Liniger, Jr., shared a few letters with me that his father wrote to his future bride during his pre-combat military training in the United States.

The postmarks of some of those letters put Harry Liniger in Ardmore, Oklahoma for combat crew training at the same time as my dad and Frank Furiga were there, and in Kearney, Nebraska picking up a brand new B-17 to ferry across to the ETO, also at the same time as Dad and Frank.

But Harry’s letters start earlier than combat crew training, at the time he was in Radio School at Scott Field, Illinois, and during Gunnery School in Harlingen, Texas. I’m sharing, with Harry’s son’s permission, excerpts from those letters to illustrate the intensity of military training before the airmen of WWII were ready to go into combat, and to show the emotional toll inflicted from being away from home and family and other loved ones while these young men were preparing for a war from which they were unsure of their return.

Radio School

Harry “Sparks” Liniger at Radio School training at Scott Field. Drawing by John Graham Forster, fellow radio student.

On 29 August 1943, future 384th Bomb Group waist gunner Harry Liniger was a PFC in Radio School at Scott Field, Illinois. I know this because a letter he wrote to his future wife, Miss Carrie Belle Carter of Hilton Village, Virginia, was mailed on this day from Belleville, Illinois with his return address of Barracks 797 of the Army Air Forces 30th Technical School Squadron at Scott Field.

Scott Field is now known as Scott Air Force Base and is about seventeen miles east-southeast of St. Louis, Missouri. During WWII, training skilled radio operators and maintainers was the primary wartime mission of Scott Field.

In his letter, Harry described the area around the base as “Nothing but Cocktail Lounges and Bars. Ever other building.” But, he said, “I never frequent those disreputable haunts. I try to be a model soldier which at times seems to be rather foolish, but just the same, I keep my head high and go on.”

Like most of the boys in the service, Harry was homesick for familiar places and faces and said, “I like this place swell. The only thing I dislike about it is it’s so damn far from home and I won’t get a chance to get there.”

Radio school was pretty tough and required a lot of work from serious students and not much time for anything else. Fellow 384th Bomb Group airman Lenard Bryant, a waist gunner (and later top turret gunner) and crewmate of my dad, also had a tough time at radio school and wrote home once that “I don’t think me and radio is getting along too well together.” He later wrote, “I washed out today.  I will go to gunnery school when I ship out of here…”

On 18 September 1943, Harry wrote to Carrie again from radio school at the same station.

In the letter, Harry related that he had been on a B-24 mission over the Gulf. I assume Harry meant that he was doing some airborne training over the Gulf of Mexico as by late 1943, students of the Radio School at Scott Field were in the air practicing code transmission under actual flight conditions.

On 25 September 1943, Harry wrote to Carrie, again from Radio School at Scott Field.

In this letter he didn’t talk much about his training. He was more concerned about trying to keep his relationship with Carrie going through the mail as I’m sure was the concern of many servicemen far from home in wartime.

Gunnery School

On 5 February 1944, Harry wrote to Carrie, this time from the Student Reception Pool at H.A.A.F. (Harlingen Army Air Field), Harlingen, Texas. Harry was at Army Gunnery School. I suppose, like Lenard Bryant, Harry and Radio School hadn’t gotten along too well together.

Harry wrote,

Believe me, my life has changed, I am working harder than I ever thought I would. Right now I am taking advanced Gunnery. I will go to P.O.E. from here. I am getting a ten day furlough before I go over. I will be home in about 2 months. I am looking forward to seeing you. There are some things I would like to tell you someday.

Combat Crew Training

On 16 May 1944, Harry wrote to Carrie from Combat Crew Detachment at Ardmore Army Air Field in Ardmore, Oklahoma.

While I haven’t included many of the more personal aspects of Harry’s letters to Carrie up to this point, it is clear to me that his love for her had been growing over his period of stateside training, while he was preparing to go to war. Although he was able to enjoy a few in-person visits during furloughs, Harry and Carrie were able to continue their relationship mainly through their letters to each other.

In this letter, now that his transfer into combat was fast approaching, Harry shared with Carrie the rigors of the training involved, the reality of entering combat, and thoughts of his own mortality.

Harry wrote,

Your sweet and most welcome letters have been coming daily; or almost daily. I sure do appreciate you writing so often. It seems to give me a “lift.” I try to answer as many of them as I possibly can. I hope you will try to understand when my letters are few and far between. I fly all day and go to school all night and I am so damn tired when I get back to the barracks I can’t seem to do anything but flop on my “sack” (bed).

In regards to my meeting you someplace I don’t think it will be possible for me to get any days off. I can get out almost every night if I pass all my subjects. And I think if seeing you were my reward I could pass anything. If you could only come out here. But that would be asking too much. I love you even though I may never see you again.

I will have to close for now darling. “I love you.”

A week later, on 22 May, 1944, again writing from Ardmore, Harry expressed his deep appreciation for all of the letters Carrie had written him, telling her,

You will never know how important mail is to a guy who is away from home, and being in the army makes him appreciate it even more. But the main thing is when you hear from someone you care for as much as I care for you. I really love you. I love you more than anyone or anything else in the world.

On the way to the ETO

On 28 June 1944, Harry wrote to Carrie from Kearney Army Air Field in Kearney, Nebraska.

The date of Harry’s letter coincides with a letter written by my dad to his mother, and a diary entry of fellow 384th service member Frank Furiga, putting them all in Kearney at the same time, picking up the B-17’s they would ferry to the European Theater of Operations.

According to Frank Furiga’s diary entries, they left Kearney the next day, on 29 June 1944. (Use the link below in the Sources section to follow the trail to the ETO of Liniger, Farrar, Furiga, and the rest of the servicemen in their crossing group).

On this date, Harry wrote,

My last letter in the States. I don’t know where the next one will be from but I will write to you as soon as I reach my destination. Your letters will be cherished more now than they ever were, and they were always more important than anything else.

I sure would like to open one and find you there. I am afraid my love for you is growing day by day now that I know I am not going to be able to see you.

I don’t have a date for the last of Harry’s letters that his son shared with me, but in it he gave Carrie an A.P.O. address care of the Postmaster in New York City. He may still have been in combat crew training in the States or he may have been overseas at this point.

In addition to Harry professing his deep love for Carrie with,

I love you more and more each day.

and

I don’t think I could possibly love you more than I already do.

Harry wrote about a landing accident, but also spoke as though he had not reached combat duty yet.

Nothing new except we had a plane make a belly landing the other day. No one was hurt. One of the guys had a nervous breakdown after the crash.

You would be surprised at the number of guys in a crew like this who go to pieces before they reach combat.

Combat

Training missions had their risks, but they were nothing like what the airmen would face in combat. Those men who could summon the courage to fly combat missions against their enemies faced brutal cold and lack of oxygen in the high altitude flying of unpressurized bombers, necessitating heated flying suits and an oxygen system to survive. Over enemy territory, they faced German fighters and flak from the ground guns.

Harry endured all of these challenges and horrors, a true assault on the senses, mission after mission, climbing right back in the B-17 day after day sixteen times. He didn’t break down. He didn’t go to pieces.

During the time Harry Liniger served his combat duty in the Army Air Forces, a combat tour with the 8th Air Force consisted of thirty-five missions. He had made it almost halfway through earning his ticket home, until the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944 ended Harry’s duty as an airman in combat.

Prisoner of War

What Harry had seen up to this point serving as a waist gunner on a B-17, with flak bursting around him, attacks from German fighters, watching nearby fortresses exploding and plummeting to the ground, counting parachutes coming out of those planes as they went down, was only the beginning of the horrors of war for Harry.

Nothing could prepare one captured by the Nazis physically or mentally for what came next. Harry needed to survive over four months starving in a prison camp and another eighty-six days with little food and water on a march of over five hundred miles across Germany before he would gain his liberation and freedom.

Home and Marriage

Harry’s son also shared with me a photo of his dad’s Guardian Angel, who apparently did a fine job protecting Harry while he served his country – in his training in the States, in his overseas combat, and during his POW experience. Harry Liniger was one of the lucky ones to return home.

Harry Liniger’s Figurine, “His Guardian Angel”

Harry survived it all and returned home during the summer of 1945 to marry the girl he exchanged letters with, the girl he fell in love with and who fell in love with him during such a dark time in our American history. Harry arrived back in the States on 9 June 1945 and he and Carrie Belle Carter married a little over a month later on 26 July.

Harry Allen and Carrie Belle Carter Liniger on the far right, in Miami Beach just after their marriage

Thank you, Harry Liniger, Jr., for sharing photos, letters, and stories of your dad from WWII.

Sources

Harry Liniger, Waist Gunner for the Brodie Crew

Wikipedia: Scott Air Force Base

Lenard Bryant in Radio School

Frank Furiga Diary Entries Trace the Crossing to the ETO

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021