Category Archives: Liniger, Harry A
In my last post, I mapped out the location of the 28 September 1944 mid-air collision of the Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) and Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222, Lazy Daisy) as it was recorded in wartime documents.
The coordinates of the collision, in the area of Magdeburg, Germany, were noted as 52°06’00.0″N 11°39’00.0″E on post-briefing reports, (52.100000, 11.650000 for Google maps), at an approximate altitude of 27,000 feet.
After the collision, the two fortresses traveled quite a distance, about 22 miles (approx. 36 km), before crashing to the ground north of the village of Ost Ingersleben, Germany (today, part of the municipality of Ingersleben in the Börde district in Saxony-Anhalt, Germany).
Click on the map to enlarge the image. Ignore the roadways and driving directions and look at the straight line diagonally crossing the map and representing the flight path between the two points. The survivors who were able to leave the aircraft and parachute to the ground likely landed in the vicinity of this path.
The crash site of 43-37822 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Buslee crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9753) as “33 km west of Magdeburg and 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.” Measuring the distance on a Google map between the Magdeburg city center and Ost Ingersleben city center is 33 km according to Google maps, but the distance between the collision point and an approximated crash point 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben calculates to approximately 36 km or about 22 miles.
The only survivor of the Buslee ship, my dad George Edwin Farrar, was not able to provide any location information in his Casualty Questionnaire Narrative and noted that when he hit the ground, “I was unable to tell where I was.” I previously imagined that he landed in his parachute close to the site of the crash 2km north of Ost Ingersleben, but that assumption is probably not correct.
Dad, the waist gunner aboard the Buslee crew’s B-17, was likely one of the first out, thrown out when “the other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to. He added that “at the time we were struck I was knocked unconscious, and fell about 25,000 feet, before I knew I was even out of the ship.”
It was uncommon for B-17 crew members to wear their parachutes in combat, preferring instead to keep them nearby for easy access if needed. Wearing his parachute during the mission that day saved my dad’s life as he would not have been able to retrieve it in his state of unconsciousness.
Dad must have landed in his parachute further east along the flight path and closer to Magdeburg and the site of the mid-air collision than I previously thought, as he was knocked out of the plane at the moment of the collision.
This leads to the question of where the other survivors of the mid-air collision landed after bailing out of the Brodie crew’s B-17.
The crash site of 42-31222 was noted in a German Report on Captured Aircraft included in the Brodie crew Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9366) as “north edge of Ost Ingersleben, 33 km west of Magdeburg.” The two B-17’s likely crashed very close to the same location.
Brodie crew navigator George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the only officer of the two crews to survive the mid-air collision noted as part of his Casualty Questionnaire in MACR9366 that they were “near Erxleben, Germany” when their aircraft left the formation. Brodie crew tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller noted it to be “about 4 minutes out of flak area.”
Did Hawkins’ wording “left the formation” indicate the moment of the collision? If so, the coordinates of the collision as noted in post-mission briefing documents are too far east. I believe it is possible that the collision occurred further west than the noted coordinates due to Hawkins’ and Miller’s statements, and will keep that in mind while retaining the documented coordinates for this research.
Hawkins also noted that their aircraft struck the ground “near Erxleben, Germany.” Erxleben is 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben according to Google Maps, the same location as noted in the German Report on Captured Aircraft, but without using the name “Erxleben” as where the aircraft crashed.
Hawkins described his bailout and the Brodie ship’s crash location by noting, “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… 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.”
I do not know which direction from the town of Erxleben Hawkins landed, but from his wording “from the town” instead of “before the town”, I believe he landed west of the town, around mile marker 20.0 on the flight path map. That would put the plane landing right at the crash site coordinate at mile marker 22, which would be about two miles from where Hawkins landed in his parachute and where the German reports note the crash, about 2 km north of Ost Ingersleben.
I believe Hawkins must have been the first to bail out of the Brodie crew’s B-17. He wrote that “I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.”
In his Casualty Questionnaire Narrative, Hawkins also noted that “Sgt. Liniger [waist gunner Harry Allen Liniger] said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller [tail gunner Wilfred Frank Miller] said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.”
All three likely left the ship at nearly the same time, but I believe Hawkins left the ship before the explosion as he didn’t mention it in his recounting of his own bailout. Hawkins, Liniger, and Miller likely landed in the same vicinity near Erxleben, but did not meet up again until the next night in captivity.
To be continued in a future post with an attempt to narrow down the crash site with an eye-witness report from a Czechoslovakian man in the forced labor of the Nazis.
Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up
Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022
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.
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.
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.
Last week’s post, Harry Liniger’s Letters and Guardian Angel
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Thank you, Harry Liniger, Jr., for sharing photos, letters, and stories of your dad from WWII.
Wikipedia: Scott Air Force Base
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021
On Sunday, June 2, 2019, the children of the waist gunners of both ships involved in the 384th Bomb Group’s mid-air collision of September 28, 1944 over Magdeburg, Germany met for the first time.
That’s me, Cindy Farrar Bryan, daughter of George Edwin Farrar of the Buslee crew, on the left and Harry Liniger, Jr., son of Harry Allen Liniger, Sr. of the Brodie crew, on the right. Harry is pointing to his dad’s name on a plaque in the garden of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA. The plaque is dedicated to the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group.
On September 28, 1944, the 384th Bomb Group flew their Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, two B-17’s collided, the Buslee crew’s 43-37822 and the Brodie crew’s 42-31222 (also known as “Lazy Daisy.”)
The only survivors of the Brodie crew were navigator George Hawkins, tail gunner Wilfred Miller, and waist gunner Harry Liniger.
The front section of the nose of the Brodie crew’s “Lazy Daisy” was carried away, and with it, the togglier. Hawkins managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun. Waist gunner Harry Liniger was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. The explosion also severed the tail of the ship and tail gunner Wilfred Miller rode the tail assembly down and later chuted from the tail section.
The only survivor of the Buslee crew was waist gunner George Edwin Farrar, my dad. He believed that the other ship must have hit right in the center of their ship, as they were knocked half in-to. At the time they were struck, Dad was knocked unconscious and fell about 25,000 feet, before he knew he was even out of the ship.
Both Liniger and Farrar (and also Miller) were confined as POWs in Stalag Luft IV and survived the 500-mile, 86-day Black March across Germany to their liberation in May 1945. Hawkins was so severely injured in the collision that he was confined to the hospital during the whole of his time as a prisoner of war.
Now that Harry and I have finally met, we’d like one day to meet the children of George Hawkins and Wilfred Miller, the only other survivors of the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision over Magdeburg. To those children, if you feel the same, please contact me.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019
John William Warner, a veteran of WWII, served as Secretary of the Navy from 1972 to 1974 and as a five-term United States Senator from Virginia from January 1979 to January 2009. On May 8, 1995, in the First Session of the 104th Congress, Mr. Warner entered the following commemoration into the 141st Congressional Record (S6237):
Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the
Forced March of
American Prisoners of War from Stalag Luft IV
Mr. President, today we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe. Victory in Europe Day is one of the milestone dates of this century. I rise today to honor a group of Americans who made a large contribution to the Allied victory in Europe while also enduring more than their fair share of personal suffering and sacrifice: The brave men who were prisoners of war.
I believe it is appropriate to commemorate our World War II POW’s by describing one incident from the war that is emblematic of the unique service rendered by those special people. This is the story of an 86-day, 488-mile forced march that commenced at a POW camp known as Stalag Luft IV, near Gross Tychow, Poland, on February 6, 1945, and ended in Halle, Germany on April 26, 1945. The ordeal of the 9,500 men, most of whom were U.S. Army Air Force Bomber Command noncommissioned officers, who suffered through incredible hardships on the march yet survived, stands as an everlasting testimonial to the triumph of the American spirit over immeasurable adversity and of the indomitable ability of camaraderie, teamwork, and fortitude to overcome brutality, horrible conditions, and human suffering.
Bomber crews shot down over Axis countries often went through terrifying experiences even before being confined in concentration camps. Flying through withering flak, while also having to fight off enemy fighters, the bomber crews routinely saw other aircraft in their formations blown to bits or turned into fiery coffins. Those who were taken POW had to endure their own planes being shot down or otherwise damaged sufficiently to cause the crews to bail out. Often crewmates–close friends–did not make it out of the burning aircraft. Those lucky enough to see their parachutes open had to then go through a perilous descent amid flak and gunfire from the ground.
Many crews were then captured by incensed civilians who had seen their property destroyed or had loved ones killed or maimed by Allied bombs. Those civilians at times would beat, spit upon, or even try to lynch the captured crews. And in the case of Stalag Luft IV, once the POW’s had arrived at the railroad station near the camp, though exhausted, unfed, and often wounded, many were forced to run the 2 miles to the camp at the points of bayonets. Those who dropped behind were either bayonetted or bitten on the legs by police dogs. And all that was just the prelude to their incarceration where they were underfed, overcrowded, and often maltreated.
In February 1945, the Soviet offensive was rapidly pushing toward Stalag Luft IV. The German High Command determined that it was necessary that the POW’s be evacuated and moved into Germany. But by that stage of the war, German materiel was at a premium, and neither sufficient railcars nor trucks were available to move prisoners. Therefore the decision was made to move the Allied prisoners by foot in a forced road march.
The 86-day march was, by all accounts, savage. Men who for months, and in some cases years, had been denied proper nutrition, personal hygiene, and medical care, were forced to do something that would be difficult for well-nourished, healthy, and appropriately trained infantry soldiers to accomplish. The late Doctor [Major] Leslie Caplan, an American flight surgeon who was the chief medical officer for the 2,500-man section C from Stalag Luft IV, summed up the march up this year:
It was a march of great hardship * * * (W)e marched long distances in bitter weather and on starvation rations. We lived in filth and slept in open fields or barns. Clothing, medical facilities and sanitary facilities were utterly inadequate. Hundreds of men suffered from malnutrition, exposure, trench foot, exhaustion, dysentery, tuberculosis, and other diseases.
A number of American POW’s on the march did not survive. Others suffered amputations of limbs or appendages while many more endured maladies that remained or will remain with them for the remainder of their lives. For nearly 500 miles and over 86 days, enduring unbelievably inhumane conditions, the men from Stalag Luft IV walked, limped and, in some cases, crawled onward until they reached the end of their march, with their liberation by the American 104th Infantry Division on April 26, 1945.
Unfortunately, the story of the men of Stalag Luft IV, replete with tales of the selfless and often heroic deeds of prisoners looking after other prisoners and helping each other to survive under deplorable conditions, is not well known. I therefore rise today to bring their saga of victory over incredible adversity to the attention of my colleagues. I trust that these comments will serve as a springboard for a wider awareness among the American people of what the prisoners from Stalag Luft IV–and all prisoner of war camps–endured in the pursuit of freedom.
I especially want to honor three Stalag Luft IV veterans who endured and survived the march. Cpl. Bob McVicker, a fellow Virginian from Alexandria, S. Sgt. Ralph Pippens of Alexandria, LA, and Sgt. Arthur Duchesneau of Daytona Beach, FL, brought this important piece of history to my attention and provided me with in-depth information, to include testimony by Dr. Caplan, articles, personal diaries and photographs.
Mr. McVicker, Mr. Pippens, and Mr. Duchesneau, at different points along the march, were each too impaired to walk under their own power. Mr. McVicker suffered frostbite to the extent that Dr. Caplan told him, along the way, that he would likely lose his hands and feet–miraculously, he did not; Mr. Pippens was too weak from malnutrition to walk on his own during the initial stages of the march; and Mr. Duchesneau almost became completely incapacitated from dysentery. By the end of the march, all three men had lost so much weight that their bodies were mere shells of what they had been prior to their capture–Mr. McVicker, for example, at 5 foot, 8 inches, weighed but 80 pounds. Yet they each survived, mostly because of the efforts of the other two–American crewmates compassionately and selflessly helping buddies in need.
Mr. President, I am sure that my colleagues join me in saluting Mr. McVicker, Mr. Pippens, Mr. Duchesneau, the late Dr. Caplan, the other survivors of the Stalag Luft IV march, and all the brave Americans who were prisoners of war in World War II. Their service was twofold: first as fighting men putting their lives on the line, each day, in the cause of freedom and then as prisoners of war, stoically enduring incredible hardships and showing their captors that the American spirit cannot be broken, no matter how terrible the conditions. We owe them a great debt of gratitude and the memory of their service our undying respect.
Information in the above commemoration is sobering. I must point out, however, that it is not entirely accurate. The march did indeed start on February 6, 1945, but for many of the prisoners it did not end until May 2, 1945. There were several groups, or columns, of men marching. My father, George Edwin Farrar, was in the group of men that were still on the road until May 2, when they were liberated by the British. If you calculate the dates, the number of days between February 6 and May 2, 1945 is 86.
Along with my father, who was the sole survivor from the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana, two of the three survivors from the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy were also imprisoned at Stalag Luft IV. They were Harry Allen Liniger and Wilfred Frank Miller. And Liniger and Miller were later joined at Stalag Luft IV by former crewmate William Edson Taylor just one week after they were captured.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014
Harry Allen Liniger, waist gunner for the James Joseph Brodie crew, was only one of three survivors on the Lazy Daisy when it collided with Lead Banana over Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944. He survived the mid-air collision on his sixteenth mission, being thrown from the waist door. He survived the parachute ride down and was captured by German soldiers. He survived as a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft IV and he survived the Black March, an eighty-six day march of prisoners of war across Germany to eventual liberation on May 2, 1945.
Once he returned to the states, Harry married his sweetheart, Carrie Belle Carter on July 26, 1945, and on October 31 of that year was discharged from the Army Air Forces. After the war Harry and Carrie lived in Ocala, Florida for a time where Harry worked at an alligator farm. The name of the gator farm is unknown, but perhaps Harry worked for Ross Allen, the noted herpetologist, at the Ross Allen Reptile Institute on land near the head of Silver Springs. The reptile institute attracted thousands of tourists to Silver Springs for many decades.
The Linigers later moved to Portsmouth, Virginia and in 1946, Harry and Carrie were blessed with a son, Harry Jr.
Although the war was over, tragedy would still strike the Liniger family. Even the strongest and bravest of warriors is not invincible. On October 8, 1947, Harry Liniger died in an accident when Harry Jr. was fourteen months old. He is buried in the Powells Point Christian Church Cemetery in Harbinger, Currituck County, North Carolina.
Having lost her husband, Carrie worked various odd jobs to provide for herself and Harry Jr., who was left in the care of a black lady named Georgie each day. Georgie took very good care of Harry Jr., and Carrie held her in high esteem. Carrie came from a large family with six brothers and sisters. At one point in time, Carrie and Harry Jr. went to live with one of Carrie’s sisters.
Carrie passed away October 5, 2011, and is buried in the Carter family plot in Gatesville, NC, less than 100 yards from the house in which she was born.
Thank you to Harry Liniger, Jr. for sharing this piece of his family history.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014
It is March 28, 1945. For George Edwin Farrar, Harry Allen Liniger, Wilfred Frank Miller, and the rest of the former prisoners of Stalag Luft IV, it is the fifty-first day of marching.
The prisoners were divided into large groups or “columns” for the march. Farrar, Liniger, and Miller may or may not have been part of the same column. Such records do not exist. For Farrar and Miller, we are unsure exactly where in the march they were on that day, but we do know where Harry Liniger was. Harry was boarding a train.
A note Liniger wrote that day on a piece of cigarette rolling paper was recently found tucked into his New Testament by his son, Harry. Almost 69 years later, it briefly describes that day.
51 day on the road. Boarded train at 2PM March 28. Recd [received] 3/8 of a loaf of bread per man. 60 men on a car.
Joseph P. O’Donnell, another former prisoner of Stalag Luft IV, describes that day in more detail in his book, The Shoe Leather Express. O’Donnell writes that they arrived at 3PM and were loaded sixty-five men to each boxcar – boxcars that were designed to hold forty men or eight horses, providing the name “the 40 and 8.” They were “jammed into the boxcars and the doors were sealed shut.” O’Donnell continues to describe the scene, explaining that there was not enough room for all of the men to sit down at the same time. The sick were allowed to lie down and the rest of the men took turns sitting and standing.
The train ride did not turn into a “ride” for a very long time. The train sat without moving, other than occasional movements back and forth of one hundred to two hundred feet. The tops of the boxcars were unmarked, making them targets for allied aircraft. Transportation modes were prime targets of the allies. O’Donnell considered their “confinement in the boxcars and the intermittent movement of the boxcars as a diabolic and intentional plan by the German commandant to have us destroyed by our own Air Force.”
O’Donnell described conditions in the boxcars as “unbearable”, considering the number of P.O.W.’s with chronic dysentery. The men were denied water that was available nearby during their torturous wait. Finally, on March 30, after forty hours of confinement, the train began its journey to Fallingbostel, a thirty mile trip. The men were never let out of the boxcars until they arrived in Fallingbostel.
From the Fallingbostel train station, the men were marched to Stalag Luft XIB.
Thank you to Harry Allen Liniger, Jr. for sharing his father’s note.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014
Three of the survivors of the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision between Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana – George Edwin Farrar, Harry Allen Liniger, and Wilfred Frank Miller – were being held as prisoners of war in Stalag Luft IV. Stalag Luft IV was located in Gross Tychow, Pomerania, which is now Tychowo, Poland.
Near the end of WWII, with Allied forces advancing from the west and the Soviet Red Army advancing from the east, the Nazis began a series of forced marches of prisoners out of the prisoner of war camps. There is no definitive answer as to why the prisoners were marched from the camps or what the Nazis planned for them in the end. One theory is that the prisoners were marched out of the camps simply to delay their liberation.
By the end of January 1945, the plan to march allied prisoners out of Stalag Luft IV and away from liberation by the Soviet Red Army was ready to begin. The winter of 1945 was one of Germany’s coldest on record with blizzard conditions. The prisoners of Stalag Luft IV were ill-equipped for a march in such weather. They had been underfed and were not clothed properly for the conditions.
On February 6, 1945 the march out of Stalag Luft IV began. With just a few hours notice to prepare to march out of the camp, the prisoners scrambled to gather what they could.
The prisoners did not know where they were going or how long they would be on the road. The march out of Stalag Luft IV has been given many names – the Death March, the Black March, and even the Shoe Leather Express. Most of those that survived just called it “The March”. My dad, George Edwin Farrar, usually called it the “Forced March” when he told me stories of sleeping in the hay and stealing a chicken for food.
Back home, the relatives and friends of Farrar, Liniger, and Miller pictured the three dealing with the hardships of prison camp life. They had no idea their loved ones were enduring something even worse. “The March” meant walking fifteen to twenty miles a day. It meant very little food. It meant sleeping in piles of hay in barns and sometimes out in the open. It meant exhaustion, illness, and starvation. Some would not reach liberation, but most just kept marching, with thoughts of home and family keeping them going.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014
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
(9753) Farrar, George E.
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar,
79 EastLake Terrace Northeast,
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
List of crew members & names
& addresses of next of kin
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)
1st. Lt. Robert S. Stearns
Mr. Carey S. Stearns, (Father)
Post Office Box 113,
2nd. Lt. David F. Albrecht
Reverand Louis M. Albrecht, (Father)
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,
S/Sgt. Gerald L. Andersen
Mrs. Esther E. Coolen Andersen, (Wife)
Box Number 282,
S/Sgt. George E. Farrar
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar, (Mother)
79 East Lake Terrace Northeast,
Sgt. George F. McMann
Mr. George F. McMann, (Father)
354 West Avenue,
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
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
S/Sgt. Byron L. Atkins
Mr. Verne Atkins, (Father)
Route Number Two
Sgt. Robert D. Crumpton
Mrs. Stella M. Parks, (Mother)
Route Number One
Sgt. Gordon E. Hetu
Mr. Raymond J. Hetu, (Father)
3821 Webb Street
S/Sgt. Wilfred F. Miller
Mrs. Mary Miller, (Mother)
Rural Free Delivery Number One
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
Harry Allen Liniger was born on August 9, 1924 in Steubenville, Ohio to Paul W. and Estella P. Liniger. Harry was named for an uncle, his father’s brother Harry, a WWI veteran.
Harry and his friend, Dink, both graduated from the Edwards Military Institute.
At the age of 18, Harry – the Brodie crew waist gunner – enlisted in the Army Air Corps on March 24, 1943 at Fort Bragg, North Carolina. The courthouse where he enlisted was the very same courthouse at which his future wife’s great-grandfather enlisted in the Confederate States Army.
Harry trained at eight duty stations in the U.S. prior to going overseas:
- Fort Bragg, North Carolina
- 613 Training Group, St. Petersburg, Florida
- 403 Training Group, Miami Beach, Florida
- Academic Squadron 1, Scott Field, Illinois
- 4th Training Detachment, Harlingen, Texas
- Prov. Squadron, Lincoln, Nebraska
- Combat Crew Detachment, Ardmore, Oklahoma
- 23rd Prov. Squadron, Kearney, Nebraska
While Harry was serving his country in the Army Air Forces, his sweetheart, Carrie Belle Carter, waited for him here at home. During the war, Carrie worked at a German POW processing center in Newport News, Virginia.
After his training in the states, Harry was sent to the air station at Grafton Underwood, England. There he was part of the Eighth Air Force, 384th bomb group, 545th bomber squadron, a waist gunner on the John Joseph Brodie crew. Harry flew his first mission on August 7, 1944.
Flying his 16th mission with the James J. Brodie crew on September 28, 1944, Harry Liniger was aboard the Lazy Daisy. Harry and his crewmates were involved in a mid-air collision with the Lead Banana coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. With the Lazy Daisy going down, as Harry attempted to escape through the waist door, an explosion threw him from the ship. Harry survived the collision and became a prisoner of war, one of only three men from the Lazy Daisy to survive.
Harry Liniger was held prisoner at Stalag Luft IV and was part of the Black March that started on February 6, 1945. He was eventually liberated in late April or early May, 1945 and returned to the states.
- The other man identified in the above photo, Robert Doyle Crumpton, was the engineer/top turret gunner for the Brodie crew. He was aboard Lazy Daisy on September 28, and did not survive the mid-air collision.
- The unidentified men in the photographs may have been other Brodie crew members assuming the photos were taken at Grafton Underwood.
Harry was highly decorated during his military career, earning the following medals:
- Bronze Star
- Air Medal w/Bronze Oak Leaf Cluster
- Purple Heart
- European Campaign Medal
- WWII Victory Medal
- Good Conduct Medal
- American Campaign Medal
- Prisoner of War Medal
After returning to the states, while still on active duty, Harry and Carrie Belle married on July 26, 1945.
Harry Liniger was discharged from the Army Air Forces on October 31, 1945.
Thank you to Harry Liniger, Jr., Harry’s son, for supplying the photos and information presented in this post.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014