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Category Archives: Atkins, Byron L

Orchestration of a Bomb Run

384th Bomb Group dropping bombs
Photo from the Ken Decker collection, November 2019
Courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

The bombardment missions of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II were well planned with targets selected and the route determined in advance, and weather conditions checked at the air bases in England, along the route, and the area of the target. Probable flak zones were identified, too.

The bombs were loaded, the planes were readied – repaired and fueled – by the ground crews. The air crews were awakened, fed, briefed, and dressed in flight gear, armed with maps, ammunition, oxygen, and a prayer from the Group’s clergymen.

Pilots, navigators, bombardiers, and gunners manned their positions and prepared for their day’s work. Regardless of their position or job on the crew, the goal of each man was the same, to drop their B-17’s bombs on the day’s chosen target.

The navigator’s job was to plot the course both to the target and back to base. The gunners’ jobs were to protect the plane from enemy aircraft so that it would make it to the target. The bombardier’s job was to release the bombs at exactly the right moment for them to strike the target as accurately as possible.

The bombardier worked closely with the pilot to insure an accurate bomb drop, making their positions much more involved in the accuracy of the bomb release than the remainder of the crew, but all of the crew members had roles to play in getting those bombs to their destination.

The bombing mission could take many hours, depending how deep into Germany the formation would travel to arrive at the target, and as many hours for the return trip home. But the most critical period of the mission was that of the bomb run, which began at the Initial Point and concluded with Bombs Away, and was generally measured in minutes, a fraction of the length of the mission.

The steps taken between the B-17 pilot and bombardier depended upon several factors, including whether they were manning a lead aircraft. The lead aircraft carried the lead bombardiers and these officers determined the exact time and location of the bomb release. Other bombardiers of the formation who were following the lead dropped their bombs with the lead rather than calculating their own time and place to drop their bombs.

The 303rd Bomb Group’s website explains in great detail the factors that had to be controlled for the bomb run to be successful and the bomb release to be accurate. I will only summarize here and the 303rd’s information can be reviewed for the detail.

To assist the Bombardier in doing his job successfully, the Pilot had to,

  • Place the aircraft in the proper position to arrive at a point on a circle about the target from which the bombs could be released to hit the target.
  • Control the altitude of the aircraft, which partially determined the time of the bomb fall from time of release to the moment of impact.
  • Control the true airspeed, the measure of the speed of the aircraft through the air.
  • Control the groundspeed, the speed of the airplane in relation to the earth’s surface, while maintaining the correct altitude and constant airspeed.

The Bombardier, in determining the time and place of the bomb drop, controlled,

  • Bomb ballistics, by consulting bomb ballistics tables to account for type of bomb.
  • Trail, the horizontal distance the bomb was behind the airplane at the instant of impact, obtained from bombing tables and set in the bomb sight. However, trail was affected by the altitude and airspeed, which were controlled by the pilot, and by bomb ballistics and air density.
  • Drift, which was determined by the direction and velocity of the wind, and was set on the bombsight by the bombardier.

Prior to the bomb run, and even before takeoff, the pilot worked to set up the correct conditions to determine the proper point of bomb release.

  • Prior to takeoff, the pilot checked the aircraft’s flight instruments – the altimeter, airspeed indicator, free air temperature gauge, and all gyro instruments – for accuracy.
  • The pilot checked the C-1 automatic pilot for proper function.
  • The pilot checked the PDI (Pilot Direction or Directional Indicator), which was an instrument the bombardier used to indicate heading changes to the pilot in order to direct him to the proper location for the bomb drop.
  • If the bomb run was to be made on auto pilot, the pilot adjusted the auto pilot before reaching the target area under the same conditions that would exist over the target, and would continue to adjust due to changes in load due to gas consumption, before reaching the target.
  • The pilot adjusted the turn compensation knobs of the auto pilot to coordinate with the bombardier making turns to it.
  • The pilot adjusted the PDI using coordinated smooth turns and trimmed the aircraft so that the aircraft flew practically hands off with the bomb bay doors open.
  • The pilot and bombardier considered the effect of evasive action before reaching the initial point of the bomb run.
  • The (lead) bombardier selected the initial point onto the as-briefed heading for the beginning point of the bomb run.
  • Depending on whether the bombardier is the lead bombardier, either he or the pilot directed the aircraft to the exact position of the initial point and was on the as-briefed heading.

Even though the longest possible bomb run seldom exceeded three minutes, during the crucial portion of the bomb run, from initial point until bombs away, evasive action was discontinued, and flak and fighter opposition were ignored if bombs were to hit the target.

Either before or during the bomb run,

  • At the initial point of the bomb run, the (lead) bombardier took over the direction of flight by engaging a clutch on his bomb sight. He made adjustments on the sight to hold the sight’s hairline on target, automatically guiding the aircraft to the required course and target. He gave directions to the pilot for the operation of the bomb run.
  • The bombardier asked the pilot for a level, which means the pilot accurately leveled the aircraft using his instruments, and held that level until the bombs were dropped. Just one degree of tilt before or at the time of the bomb drop could cause an error of around 440 feet at an altitude of 20,000 feet.
  • In the case of a manually flown mission using the PDI (rather than using the auto pilot), the bombardier zeroed the PDI while the aircraft was lined up on a direct course with the target. The pilot then adjusted the stick and rudder to hold the PDI on zero.
  • The pilot maintained the selected altitude and airspeed as closely as possible while the bombardier set his course. Again, minor changes could greatly increase the error in the bombs reaching their target.

At the carefully calculated moment, the bombardier released the bombs on the target – Bombs Away!

After bomb release,

  • Evasive action could be continued if it had to be discontinued during the bomb run.
  • The pilot could continue to fly the aircraft on auto pilot or choose to fly manually.
  • The aircraft and the formation headed for home.

Sources and Further Reading

Carlsbad Army Airfield public Facebook page

Facebook post from Carlsbad Army Airfield, Bombardier Training

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Bombardier

B-17 Flying Fortress Queen of the Skies, Crew Positions, Bombardier

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

The B-17 Bombardier

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 four 384th Bomb Group Bombardiers and one Togglier who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

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

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

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 Bombardier

According to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website, the bombardier’s job was the most important of the entire B-17 crew as “accurate and effective bombing is the ultimate purpose of your entire airplane and crew.” This makes “every other function … preparatory to hitting and destroying the target.”

But the bombardier could not act alone. The B-17’s pilot and bombardier worked together to set up the conditions for the bomb run. Many factors were involved in positioning the aircraft and setting the course from the initial point of the run to the target.

The success of the mission rested on the accomplishment of the bombardier during the bomb run, which made up just a matter of minutes, between the initial point of the run and the target, of the multi-hours long mission to the target.

Some of the many things a bombardier must understand were his aircraft’s,

  • Bombsight
  • Bombing instruments and equipment
  • Racks, switches, controls, releases, doors, linkage, etc.
  • Automatic pilot as it pertains to bombing and how to set it up and make any adjustments and minor repairs while in flight
  • Bombs and how to load and fuse them

The bombardier must be an expert in target identification and in aircraft identification and he should be able to assist the navigator in case the navigator becomes incapacitated.

Please refer to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website for the full list of bombardier responsibilities and much more detailed information.

My next post will cover the process and actions necessary for a successful bomb run.

The B-17 Togglier

According to an article posted on the Carlsbad Army Airfield’s public Facebook page,

When there was a shortage of bombardier graduates coming into the operational units, the continental air forces completed their crews with enlisted men who had received individual bombardier training in their own units.

While a good portion of the aircraft in the formation, especially the lead aircraft, carried bombardier school graduates as their bombardiers, many carried toggliers.

Bombardiers were commissioned officers who graduated from bombardier school as part of their stateside training. Toggliers were enlisted men who did not did not attend bombardier school in the States before going overseas into combat.

The togglier was usually a gunner who was retrained and reassigned to sit in the bombardier’s seat in the nose of the aircraft. The togglier was trained to “toggle” a switch to release his aircraft’s bomb load as soon as the lead bombardier released his bombs.

When the standard bombing procedure changed for the non-lead crew/aircraft bombardiers and toggliers to drop their bombs with the lead bombardier, many bombardier graduates pursued lead bombardier training or navigator training within their combat groups.

Location of the Bombardier in a B-17

The bombardier of a B-17 sits over the bombsight in the Plexiglas nose of the aircraft. Should the bombardier have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the door below the nose.

In the following diagram, Robert Stearns is noted in the bombardier position in the nose 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 Bombardier Position Photos

I took the following photo of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash. It shows the nose of the B-17 with the navigator’s table in the left foreground and the bombardier’s seat in the front of the nose in the middle.

Nose position of the navigator and bombardier of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

This photo, shared by photographer John Slemp, shows a much better view of the bombardier’s position.

© (2009) John Slemp

To see more of John Slemp’s photographs, or to purchase his book of photos of WWII Bomber Boys’ flight jacket art, please visit his website.

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Bombardiers and Toggliers

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 bombardiers. You’ll find a chart of several bombardiers 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

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Ackerson, Donald Richard⇗ Résumé of Tour of Bombing Action in Europe⇓ (0.084 MB)
Fleenor, Charles Thurman, “Chuck”⇗ B-17 Bombardier, Speaking at 2011 Reunion⇗
Deignan, Charles Joseph⇗ 2005 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Furiga, Frank Dominic⇗ 2004 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Richard, Oscar Gabriel, III⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Walton, Daniel Alton⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Burns, Robert (NMI)⇗ My Bit For Victory⇓ (2.721 MB)

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Bombardier

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

B-17 Flying Fortress Queen of the Skies, Crew Positions, Bombardier

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

Facebook post from Carlsbad Army Airfield, Bombardier Training

Carlsbad Army Airfield public Facebook page

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, 2023

Byron Leverne “Bud” Atkins, Update

New information from family, a new search on, and new information from military records have provided me with some new and updated/corrected information regarding Byron Leverne (or Laverne) “Bud” Atkins, togglier 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. 

To view my original post and other information about Byron Atkins, please see the links at the end of this post.

Byron “Bud” Atkins on far right with his father Verne Atkins, sister Dorothy Atkins Swinford, and nieces Charlotte and Phyllis
Photo courtesy of Betsy Hawkins, great-niece of Byron Atkins

Since I last wrote about Byron Atkins, I heard from his great-niece, Betsy Hawkins. Betsy sent me a family photo that includes Byron Leverne “Bud” Atkins (standing on the right) along with, left to right, his father Verne Atkins, sister Dorothy Atkins Swinford, and nieces (Dorothy’s daughters) Charlotte Ann Swinford (now Richardson), and Phyllis Louise Swinford (now Perkins).

Betsy, who is the daughter of Phyllis Louise Swinford, had been working with her Aunt Charlotte Swinford to locate any pictures and letters of Bud’s. She also noted that Charlotte was born before Bud shipped out, and provided Byron’s nickname of “Bud.”

Note on the spelling of Byron Atkins middle name

The spelling of Byron Atkins middle name was LaVerne on his birth certificate, with an “a” rather than an “e,” and the “V” captialized. However, by the time Byron filled out his draft registration card, he noted the spelling of his middle name as LeVerne with an “e,” typed into the Name section of the card, and signed as Le Verne.

His 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record uses the spelling Leverne. And his Find a Grave memorial uses LeVerne, although the stone inscription only includes his middle initial “L” rather than his full middle name.

Without intentionally spelling it one way or another, I have used both Laverne and Leverne spellings throughout articles in which I refer to him.  His personnel record with the 384th uses the Leverne spelling. I consider all the different spellings “correct” as in those days, people spelled their names differently at different times without thinking much about it, as did my grandfather, Lewis or Louis Chase, spelling it either way as if he assigned no importance to which was “correct” or preferred.


Byron was the son of Verne Atkins (1894 – 1945) and Goldie Myrtle Jones (1902 – 1994). His older sister was Dorothy Evelyn Atkins Swinford (1920 – 2004).

Verne Atkins served in WWI with Company “L,” 51st Infantry, 6th Division as noted in the US Transport passenger list for the ship “Ceramic” out of the Port of New York.

Verne departed New York on 6 July 1918 and following his WWI service with the 51st Infantry, departed Brest France on 5 June 1919, arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey on 12 June 1919 on the WWI troop transport ship “Leviathan.” The arrival passenger list noted his rank as Private.

Much more family information is available in my original article, Byron L. Atkins.

Entry in to WWII Service

Draft Registration

On 29 December 1942, Byron Atkins registered for the WWII draft at Local Board No. 1 at the Boone County Armory Building in Lebanon, Indiana. He listed his place of residence as Lebanon, Boone County, Indiana. Byron’s Employer’s Name was Vern Atkins (his father) and place of employment was R. R. 2 (probably an abbreviation for Rural Route 2, the family farm) in Lebanon. He was 18 years old and born on 10 November 1924 in Gadsden, Indiana.

Vern Atkins (Byron’s father) of R. R. 2 of Lebanon, Indiana was the person who would always know his address.

Byron described himself as 5′ 10″ tall, 168 pounds, with blue eyes, brown hair, and a light complexion. He noted no “other obvious physical characteristic that will aid in identification.”


On 17 June 1943, Byron enlisted in WWII at Indianapolis, Indiana and was inducted into military service as of this date. Byron’s enlistment record notes his residence as Boone County, Indiana, and that he was born in Indiana in 1924. According to his enlistment record, his civilian occupation was “sales clerk.”

WWII Combat Duty at Grafton Underwood, England

Byron Atkin’s 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record indicates that his duty was Ball Turret, one month’s pay was $140.40, and his home address was Mr. Verne Atkins, RR #2, Lebanon, Indiana.

Byron was credited with six combat missions, for which he earned an Air Medal, with the 384th Bomb Group, from his first on 9 September 1944 to his last on 28 September 1944.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Byron Atkins:

  • On 5 AUGUST 1944, Corporal Byron Leverne “Bud” Atkins was assigned to the 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #157 dated 5 August 1944 as Flexible/Waist Gunner of the James Woodrow Chadwick crew.
  • I am not certain of his initial classification, but by the end of his service his MOS, military occupational specialty, was 612 – Airplane Armorer/Gunner.
  • On 17 AUGUST 1944, Byron Atkins was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #165.
  • On 20 September 1944, Byron Atkins was promoted to Staff Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #186 dated 20 September 1944.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany (Target was Industry, Steelworks), Byron Leverne Atkins, flying with the James Joseph Brodie crew, went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared KIA (Killed in Action).

Byron’s mission record indicates he performed three different duties aboard the B-17, with three turns in the ball turret (9, 10, and 13 September 1944), one turn as waist gunner (25 September), and twice as togglier (21 and 28 September) with both of those occasions with the James Joseph Brodie crew.

Byron never flew with his original crew, the James Woodrow Chadwick crew. With two waist gunners assigned to the Chadwick crew, Louis Merfeld retained the position of lone waist gunner with the crew as the 384th did not place two waist gunners on the B-17 on combat missions at that time in the war.

Byron flew with the Donald Hulcher crew those three times as ball turret gunner, and flew as waist gunner with the Hulcher crew under Commander James Wesley Hines on one mission as the low group lead. George Marshall Hawkins of the Brodie crew was one of the navigators on that crew along with Fred Rubin, whom I witnessed sign the 384th Bomb Group’s wing panel many years ago. And of course, Byron’s other two missions were as togglier with the Brodie crew.

Byron lost his life at the young age of nineteen. He is buried next to his father, who died eleven months after his son of a broken neck and fractured skull in an automobile accident, at Oak Hill Cemetery in LebanonBoone CountyIndianain Plot 151-30.


Previous post, Byron L. Atkins

Byron “Bud” Atkin’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Byron Atkin’s Enlistment Record in the online National Archives

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Occupational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

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

Missing Air Crew Report 9366 for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Missing Air Crew Report 9753 for the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Byron Atkins’ Find a Grave memorial

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

Byron L. Atkins

Byron Laverne Atkins was a member of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII. Byron was one in a long line of Atkins’ from Union Township, Boone County, Indiana of which Lebanon is the county seat. Lebanon is located in central Indiana, about twenty-five miles northwest of Indianapolis.

Byron’s father, Verne Atkins, was born October 28, 1894 to Samuel Thomas (1863 – 1934) and Amy Golden (1868 – 1931) Atkins. When Verne was twenty-three years old, on May 2 or 10, 1918, he married Goldie Myrtle Jones. Goldie was barely sixteen years old. She was born April 8, 1902 in Virginia.

In 1920, Verne and Goldie lived in Union Township, Boone County, Indiana in the home of Verne’s parents, Samuel and Amy Atkins. Samuel was a grocer and Verne helped him run the family store. On October 9 of that year, Verne and Goldie’s first child, daughter Dorothy Evelyn was born. Four years later in 1924, their son Byron Laverne Atkins was born.

By 1930, Verne and Goldie had divorced. Goldie had left the family, leaving Verne to raise two young children alone, but with the help of his family. Byron, now age five, and his sister Dorothy lived with their grandparents, Samuel and Amy Atkins. According to the 1930 census, they were living at street number 123 (street name unknown). Byron and Dorothy’s father Verne was listed as living at street number 121. Verne’s brother William T. Atkins and his wife Blanche, their sons Samuel and Wendell, and their daughters Virginia and Marjorie were living at street number 120.

In 1940, at age fifteen, Byron was living with his aunt (Verne’s sister) and uncle, Orpha and Albert E. Delano, still in Union Township of Boone County, Indiana.  Orpha was a house cleaner and Albert was a farm laborer. Also listed as living nearby were Byron’s father Verne, and another aunt and uncle (Verne’s brother) William T. and Blanche, and their daughter Marjorie. Verne was now proprietor of the family grocery store and by the age of 45 had not remarried.

Byron’s sister Dorothy was now married and no longer living at home. She married Marion H. Swinford, who was a farm laborer like her Uncle Albert. By 1940, Dorothy and Marion lived in Clinton Township of Boone County, Indiana with their baby girl Phyllis Louise.

On June 17, 1943, Byron traveled to Indianapolis to enlist in the Army Air Corps. Byron was now eighteen or nineteen years old. At the time of his enlistment, he was single and worked as a sales clerk, likely in the family grocery store. Byron trained to fly B-17’s as a flexible gunner. He was assigned to Grafton Underwood, England with the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #157 dated August 5, 1944, with the James Woodrow Chadwick crew.

By the time the ten-man Chadwick crew arrived at Grafton Underwood with two flexible gunners, they discovered that flight crews had been reduced to nine men with only one flexible gunner per crew. The Chadwick crew’s first mission was on August 14, 1944, but Byron Atkins did not fly with the Chadwick crew on that mission. The other flexible gunner, Louis Leonard Merfeld, manned the waist gun position with the crew.

Byron retrained as a ball turret gunner and didn’t fly his first mission until September 9, 1944 to a chemical plant in Ludwigshaven, Germany. Byron flew that mission and his next two missions on September 10 and 13 as the ball turret gunner for the Donald L. Hulcher crew.

On September 11, 1944, the Chadwick crew flew Mission #192B to an oil refinery in Merseberg, Germany. With the primary target obscured by poor weather conditions, the formation proceeded to a secondary target. Most of the formation, which included other bomb groups, broke off the attack, but the 384th continued on and dropped their bombs in the vicinity of the target, although results were poor.

Their group was attacked by an ME163 Komet rocket-powered aircraft, which made two passes at the formation. The Chadwick crew aboard White Angel received a direct flak burst in the bomb bay, releasing the bombs and catching on fire. They dove to 18,000 feet and leveled off, but were lost to sight. White Angel crashed near Halle, Germany, killing seven of the men on board, including flexible gunner Louis Leonard Merfeld. Only the navigator and tail gunner survived, becoming prisoners of war.

On September 11, the entire Chadwick crew, other than radio operator Lawrence V. Mulvey, and displaced flexible gunner Byron Atkins, was gone. Mulvey went on to complete his tour and return home. But unknown to Byron Atkins at this point, his days were numbered. He only had seventeen days and four missions left before his time was up, too.

On September 21, 1944, Byron flew as a togglier for the first time, with the James Joseph Brodie crew. A togglier was similar to, but not as fully trained as, a bombardier. A bombardier was an officer who went through extensive training in all technical aspects of determining the right moment to drop the bombs on their target. He sat in the nose of the aircraft and operated the bomb sight. He flew the aircraft during the bomb run, turning the controls back over to the pilot after bombs away.

Originally, each aircraft in a squadron formation had a bombardier in the nose of the plane, each determining the exact moment to drop his bombs. The 8th Air Force decided that instead, all planes in a squadron formation should drop their bombs simultaneously, which meant that only the bombardier in the lead plane needed to operate his bomb sight.

All of the other planes in the squadron needed only to release their bombs at the same time as the lead plane’s bombardier. This technique resulted in enlisted crew sitting in the bombardier’s position and tripping the bomb release switch at the appropriate time – when the bombardier in the lead plane dropped his bombs. On that September 21 mission, the planes successfully bombed the railroad marshalling yards at Mainz, Germany.

On his next misson on September 25, Byron returned to the Hulcher crew as a flexible gunner, the position for which he had originally trained. But three days later, on September 28, Byron was called to fly as togglier for the Brodie crew again. Original Brodie crew bombardier William D. Barnes, Jr. had recently left the crew for navigator training. Theodore Rothschild filled in for Barnes as a togglier on several missions, but on September 28, the job went to Byron Atkins.

On September 28, 1944, on Mission 201, moments after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany, the Brodie crew’s flying fortress, Lazy Daisy, collided with the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew’s fort, Lead Banana. It was Byron Atkins bad fortune to be sitting in the nose as togglier that day. Only three of the nine crew members aboard Lazy Daisy survived and Byron Atkins was not one of them.

Aboard Lazy Daisy, the navigator, George M. Hawkins, Jr., tail gunner, Wilfred F. Miller, and flexible gunner, Harry A. Liniger were the only survivors. 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. On September 28, 1944, on only his sixth mission, and at twenty years old, Byron Atkins died serving his country.

Byron’s father, Verne Atkins died on August 24, 1945 in Lebanon, Boone County, Indiana, shortly before the first anniversary of his son’s death. Byron’s sister Dorothy lived to be eighty-four, dying in 2004, also in Lebanon, Indiana.

Byron is buried in the Oak Hill Cemetery in Lebanon, Boone County, Indiana, Plot: 151-30.

If any family of Byron Laverne Atkins finds this post and can share any additional information or pictures of Byron, please contact me.

Updated June 5, 2021: Byron Laverne [LaVerne] Atkins was born 10 November 1924 in Marion, Boone County, Indiana.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

Next of Kin List Released

The day after Christmas 1944, at ninety days missing in action, the US Army Air Forces wrote to the Buslee crew’s next of kin and enclosed a list of the names of the crew members on the Lead Banana on September 28 and also included the names and addresses of next of kin in case the families wanted to communicate with each other.

December 26, 1944
Headquarters, Army Air Forces

Attention:  AFPPA-8
(9753) Farrar, George E.

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar,
79 EastLake Terrace Northeast,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

For reasons of military security it has been necessary to withhold the names of the air crew members who were serving with your son at the time he was reported missing.

Since it is now permissible to release this information, we are inclosing a complete list of names of the crew members.

The names and addresses of the next of kin of the men are also given in the belief that you may desire to correspond with them.


Clyde V. Finter
Colonel, Air Corps
Chief, Personal Affairs Division
Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Personnel

1 Incl
List of crew members & names
& addresses of next of kin
5-2032, AF

1st. Lt. John O. Buslee
Mr. John Buslee, (Father)
411 North Wisner Avenue,
Park Ridge, Illinois.

1st. Lt. William A. Henson, II
Mrs. Harriet W. Henson, (Wife)
Summerville, Georgia.

1st. Lt. Robert S. Stearns
Mr. Carey S. Stearns, (Father)
Post Office Box 113,
Lapine, Oregon.

2nd. Lt. David F. Albrecht
Reverand Louis M. Albrecht, (Father)
Scribner, Nebraska.

S/Sgt. Sebastiano J. Peluso
Mrs. Antonetta Peluso, (Mother)
2963 West 24th Street,
Brooklyn, New York.

S/Sgt. Lenard L. Bryant
Mrs. Ruby M. Bryant, (Wife)
Route Number Two,
Littlefield, Texas.

S/Sgt. Gerald L. Andersen
Mrs. Esther E. Coolen Andersen, (Wife)
Box Number 282,
Stromburg, Nebraska.

S/Sgt. George E. Farrar
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar, (Mother)
79 East Lake Terrace Northeast,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Sgt. George F. McMann
Mr. George F. McMann, (Father)
354 West Avenue,
Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The above list is also a part of MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 9753.  For a diagram and list of each man’s position on the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944, click here.

The Brodie crew’s next of kin must have gotten the same letter and a list of those on the Lazy Daisy.  The following list is attached to MACR9366.  For a diagram and list of each man’s position on the Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944, click here.

1st Lt. James J. Brodie
Mrs. Mary E. Brodie, (Wife)
4436 North Kostner Avenue
Chicago, Illinois.

2nd Lt. Lloyd O. Vevle
Mr. Oliver E. Vevle, (Father)
240 Sixth Avenue, North
Fort Dodge, Iowa.

2nd Lt. George M. Hawkins, Jr.
Mr. George M. Hawkins, Sr., (Father)
52 Marchard Street
Fords, New Jersey

T/Sgt. Donald W. Dooley
Mr. Guy T. Dooley, (Father)
711 South Rogers Street
Bloomington, Indiana.

S/Sgt. Byron L. Atkins
Mr. Verne Atkins, (Father)
Route Number Two
Lebanon, Indiana.

Sgt. Robert D. Crumpton
Mrs. Stella M. Parks, (Mother)
Route Number One
Ennis, Texas

Sgt. Gordon E. Hetu
Mr. Raymond J. Hetu, (Father)
3821 Webb Street
Detroit, Michigan.

S/Sgt. Wilfred F. Miller
Mrs. Mary Miller, (Mother)
Rural Free Delivery Number One
Newton, Wisconsin.

S/Sgt. Harry A. Liniger
Mrs. Estelle P. Liniger, (Mother)
Box Number 251
Gatesville, North Carolina

If the US Army Air Forces had told the families of the two crews what actually happened to their sons’ aircraft and provided the lists of both crews to the families, the families of the two pilots, Buslee and Brodie, would have discovered that they lived only seven and a half miles apart in Chicago, Illinois.  These families would most likely have been very interested in communicating if they had been made aware of each other.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

October 21, 1944 Telegram Form

Twenty-three days after the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, a Telegram Form dated October 21, 1944 reported the fate of one more of the crew from the two planes, and provided the identification of four of the previously unidentified.   It reported “one more dead has been found:  Byron L. Atkins.”  The newly identified men were identified as:

  • John Buslee (identified on the form as Jon Busslee)
  • David F. Albrecht
  • Lloyd Vevle (identified on the form as LLoyd Ovevle)
  • Lenard Bryant (identified on the form as Lenhard J. Eyret)

Atkins and Vevle were from the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.  Buslee, Albrecht, and Bryant were from the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana.  Atkins was probably located away from both crash sites as he was carried away with the nose of the Lazy Daisy during the initial impact of the collision.

In determination of the fate of the two crews, eighteen total men, this report updates the count to fourteen (14) recovered dead, with twelve (12) identified, and four (4) P.O.W.s.

MACR9753 does not include any more Telegram Forms or Reports of Captured Aircraft and does not provide any information on the identifications of Sebastiano Joseph Peluso aboard Lead Banana or James Joseph Brodie aboard Lazy Daisy.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee    Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht    Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant    Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)    Reported P.O.W. on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle     Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.    Reported P.O.W. on October 6, 1944 Report on Captured Aircraft
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins     Reported dead on October 21, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley    Reported dead on October 1, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger    Reported P.O.W. on October 4, 1944 Telegram Form

The October 21 Telegram Form notes also:

  • Time:  0925
  • From:  L L E N
  • Remarks:  SSD L B K M 157     19 Oct.44   -1740-

This information can be found on pages 18 of MACR9753.  MACR stands for Missing Air Crew Report.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

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

Brodie Crew List:

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

The only survivors of the mid-air collision this day with the Lead Banana were the waist gunner, Harry Allen Liniger, the navigator, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., and the tail gunner, Wilfred Frank Miller.

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Map of September 28, 1944 Collision and Crash Sites

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

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

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

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

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

Germany Map

Royalty free map of Germany obtained from

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

Lazy Daisy, Aircraft 42-31222

Lazy Daisy, Aircraft 42-31222

Lead Banana, 43-37822

Lead Banana, Aircraft 43-37822

September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201.

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

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

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

Buslee Crew List:

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

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

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

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

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

Brodie Crew List:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sortie Report Description:

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

Lazy Daisy Sortie Report Status and Comments:

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

Lead Banana Sortie Report Status and Comments:

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

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Lazy Daisy

Lazy Daisy

Lazy Daisy


The B17-G aircraft with serial number 42-31222 was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 546th Squadron.  Known as Lazy Daisy, it completed 45 missions, returning safely to base on 44 of those missions.  Its first mission, on December 5, 1943, was to a German Air Force (Luftwaffe) Fighter Airfield in St. Jean D’ Angely, France.  Its last mission, on September 28, 1944, was to a steelworks plant in Magdeburg, Germany.  The crew was able to complete its assignment and drop its bombs over Magdeburg, but was involved in a mid-air collision coming off the target.

James Joseph Brodie, Lloyd Oliver Vevle, Byron Laverne Atkins, Donald William Dooley, Robert Doyle Crumpton, and Gordon Eugene Hetu, all aboard the Lazy Daisy, did not survive the crash.

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., Wilfred Frank Miller, and Harry Allen Liniger, became POWs.

Wilfred Frank Miller and Harry Allen Liniger were confined at Stalag Luft IV.

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., was confined at Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (Serves Stalag 9-C),  Obermassfeld Thuringia, Germany 50-10.

Donald William Dooley was not part of the 545th Bomb Squadron.  He was assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group Headquarters Complement.  September 28, 1944 was his only flight.

The crew chief for Lazy Daisy was James F. Flynn.


© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013