The Arrowhead Club

Category Archives: Miller, Wilfred F

The B-17 Tail Gunner

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

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

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, assigned Buslee crew tail gunner

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

Wilfred Frank Miller, assigned Brodie crew tail gunner

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 Tail Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group and the B-17 Queen of the Sky websites,

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

  • Must have a fine sense of timing and be familiar with the rudiments of exterior ballistics.
  • Should be familiar with the coverage area of all gun positions, and be prepared to bring the proper gun to bear as the conditions may warrant.
  • Should be experts in aircraft identification.
  • Must be thoroughly familiar with the Browning aircraft machine gun. They should know how to maintain the guns, how to clear jams and stoppages, and how to harmonize the sights with the guns.
  • Should fire the guns at each station to familiarize himself with the other man’s position and to insure knowledge of operation in the event of an emergency.
  • Had the primary duty to shoot down enemy planes.
  • As the only constantly rear facing crewmember, he was responsible for passing along anything he saw behind the aircraft, including fighters, to the rest of the crew.
  • Would relay information to the bombardier and navigator concerning bombing results as the formations left the target.
  • Aided the navigator and radio operator by counting chutes from B-17s that were going down and the condition of stragglers that were lagging behind the formation.
  • Was normally an enlisted man, but sometimes in the lead aircraft when the squadron commander was in the cockpit, the tail position would be flown by a co-pilot who was an officer. In this case, the co-pilot occupied the tail gunner position to allow him to relay information on the condition of the formation to the pilots to help to co-ordinate the formation and keep it as tight as possible.

Location of the Tail Position in a B-17

The tail gunner position of a B-17 is at the very back of the aircraft, a confined and cramped position in which the gunner must kneel on a modified bicycle-type seat with a view to the rear of the formation. Should the tail gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the emergency exit door in the tail of the aircraft.

In the following diagram, Gerald Lee Andersen is noted in the tail 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 Tail Position Photos

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

The 384th Bomb Group’s pilot John DeFrancesco stands beside the tail of the Collings Foundation’s aircraft. First, a view directly from behind the B-17…

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

And in a side view…

John DeFrancesco, WWII B-17 pilot with the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Tail Gunners

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

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Beesley, Delmar James⇗ Beesley’s 9 September 1944 Debrief⇓ (4.554 MB)
Borgeson, Wesley Clifton, “Wes”⇗ Wesley Borgeson, B-17 Tail Gunner, POW⇗
Lavoie, Ralph Edmund⇗ Near-Escape From Infamous Stalag 17⇓ (0.971 MB)
Lentz, Kenneth Melvin⇗ Former POW Recalls His Day of Liberation⇓ (0.111 MB)
Matican, Sigmund Sidney⇗ Matican Diary⇓ (1.381 MB)
Montz, Nemours Albert, “Nem”⇗ Army Air Corps Vet Remembers His Luck⇓ (3.905 MB)
Schimenek, John Francis⇗ John Francis Schimenek WWII Diary⇓ (10.380 MB)
Westlake, Albert F⇗ Westlake’s Story⇓ (1.754 MB)
Blevins, Donald Hillman⇗ 2002 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2014 Interview Transcript⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Bonacker, Marlyn Rae⇗ 2017 – A Tail Gunner’s Story⇗
Britton, Joseph Rodman⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Jaworski, Frank (NMI)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Kushner, Jack (NMI), “Kush”⇗ 2011 Oral History Interview⇗
Martin, J D (IO)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

Sources and Further Reading

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

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

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

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

The Military Yearbook Project – Army Air Force WWII Codes

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

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

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

The Evacuation of Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I (Barth)

On 28 September 1944, the John Oliver Buslee crew B-17 (the unnamed 43‑37822) was involved in a mid-air collision with the James Joseph Brodie crew B-17 (42‑31222Lazy Daisy) coming off the 384th Bomb Group’s target at Magdeburg, Germany.

My father, George Edwin Farrar, was the only survivor of the Buslee ship. George Hawkins (navigator), Harry Liniger (waist gunner), and Wilfred Miller (tail gunner) were the only survivors of the Brodie ship. As an officer, Hawkins would have been sent to an officers’ POW camp in Germany, but he was seriously injured and was held in a hospital setting for prisoners instead.

Farrar, Liniger, and Miller – all enlisted men of the USAAF – were sent to a POW camp for enlisted men only, Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland). With the Russian Army advancing toward the camp in January 1945, the Germans made the decision to evacuate the camp. The majority of the prisoners in the camp were marched out the gates of the camp on February 6, 1945 and were herded at gunpoint across Pomerania and Germany for the next 86 days, covering over 500 miles on foot and by boxcar.

However, not all of the POW’s of Stalag Luft IV made this march. Many were too sick or injured to undertake the trek and other prisoners who were able-bodied enough to do so were selected to be moved, mostly by train, to another POW camp, Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany.

George Farrar and Harry Liniger were both part of the group of POW marchers. Wilfred Miller was part of the POW group sent to Barth. I have written previously about the march and will write more about it in the future, but today I want to share recent information I have learned about the evacuation to Barth by train.

The POW camp of origin of Farrar, Liniger, and Miller was Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now known as Tychowo, Poland). It was about 25 miles or 40 km south of the Baltic Sea coastline.

Stalag Luft I was located two miles northwest of the village of Barth, Germany, on the Baltic Sea. The direct distance, “as the crow flies”, between Luft I and Stalag Luft IV at Gross Tychow is approximately 144 miles or 232 km, with Luft I being northwest of Luft IV.

Map of 28 September 1944 Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision and crash sites, Stalag Luft IV POW camp, and Stalag Luft I (Barth) POW camp
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

Train Ride to Barth

However, the prisoners were not marched to Barth. Rather they were moved by rail in boxcars. According to former Stalag Luft IV prisoner Joseph P. O’Donnell’s book, The Shoe Leather Express – The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany on pages 34,

Stalag Luft I was located on the Baltic Sea at Barth at 13° Longitude and 54° Latitude and approximately 175 miles from Grosstychow by the 40 and 8 via Stettin.

The prisoners were moved from Luft IV to Luft I by train, and more specifically in “40 and 8” boxcars. A Forty-and-Eight boxcar is of a size that should hold 40 men or 8 horses. Stettin refers to today’s Szczecin, Poland.

Today the trip from Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I would be about four hours by automobile or about fifteen to seventeen hours by train (from Tychowo, Poland to Barth, Germany).

On January 29 or 30, 1945 (or perhaps over multiple days in multiple groups considering the large number of POW’s being transferred), the prisoners selected to be moved to Barth were moved out of Stalag Luft IV. Wilfred Frank Miller of the Brodie crew was one of them.

In Chapter 31, “Train Ride to Barth,”  of her book, “What I Never Told You – A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father,” Candy Kyler Brown describes the transfer of POW’s, including her father, John Kyler, from Stalag Luft IV to Stalag Luft I. Candy writes,

On page 279:

…between two to three thousand inmates of Stalag Luft IV, approximately one-third of the camp population…were marched out in polar weather for the two-mile trek to the Kiefheide train station on January 29, 1945 [to evacuate] the camp. Many among the selected group were ill or injured, but prisoners who were fairly healthy were included in the draw.

On page 281:

On February 8, 1945, [the] train arrived in Barth, Germany, where [the Stalag IV P.O.W.’s] would next take up residence in Stalag Luft I, a POW camp for Allied officers, located on the shores of the Baltic Sea.

In Chapter 32, “The Walk to Stalag Luft I,” on pages 283 and 284 of her book, Candy describes the walk of the Stalag Luft IV prisoners from the Barth railroad station at the end of the “eleven grueling days of boxcar travel,” to the new POW camp at Barth. The POW’s were marched through “a quaint storybook village in a seaside setting,” on “a cobblestone road past open fields and farmland,” and past “an anti-aircraft artillery (flak) school.”

In Joe O’Donnell’s first Shoe Leather Express book, The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany, pages 34 – 35, POW Paul B. Brady, Sr. of the 15th Air Corp, 465th Bomb Group, 781st Bomb Squadron, recalled he was moved to Barth, Stalag Luft I, on January 30, 1945. Brady stated that fifty-two POW’s were loaded into his boxcar for the evacuation from Grosstychow to Barth.

Brady also said,

It took us eight days to reach Stalag Luft I, we were seldom let out of the boxcars and only had two buckets for relief purposes, we had to bribe the guards with a few cigarettes when we stopped on the sidings to push some snow through the crack of the door so we could let it melt for drinking water. Of course this was the same opening all of us had been using to urinate through for days to try to conserve the two buckets for the P.O.W.’s with dysentery that most of us had.

Another Stalag Luft IV transferee, Godfrey E. “Jeff” Boehm, added that before the arrival of the POW’s from Stalag Luft IV, Stalag Luft I was only for Air Force officers (multi-national, mostly American, British, and French) and their orderlies. Yes, it seems in Stalag Luft I, American POW officers had American G.I. (soldiers, ground forces rather than airmen) POW’s as orderlies.

Life at Stalag Luft I, Barth

I am providing a summary of information about the prison camp at Barth, Stalag Luft I, in this article. For an in-depth look at life in Stalag Luft I at Barth, Germany, please check out the extensive information on B24.net and Merkki.com.

The following information was prepared by the Military Intelligence Service War Department on 1 November 1945 and was compiled and presented by Greg Hatton on the 392 Bomb Group’s B24.net website. Follow the link for Greg’s full report.

Reproduced from the introduction (general) of camps:

Source material for this report consisted of interrogations of former prisoners of war made by CPM Branch, Military Intelligence Service and Reports of the Protecting Power and International Red Cross received by the State Department (Special War Problems Division).

The first prisoners of Stalag Luft I, which was for Air Force officers, were French and British POW’s who arrived at the camp on 10 July 1940, before the entry of the Americans into World War II.

Housing

By early 1944 the camp consisted of 2 compounds, the South & West compounds, with a total of 7 barracks, housing American officers, and British officers and enlisted men. A new compound (North 1) opened the last of February 1944 to which an increasing number of American officers were housed. North 2 opened on 9 September 1944 and North 3 opened on 9 December 1944. The North compounds completed the camp and this is how the camp remained until liberation of the prisoners in May 1945.

As far as “amenities” in the separate compounds went,

  • The South compound lacked adequate cooking, washing, and toilet facilities.
  • The West compound had latrines and running water in the barracks.
  • The North 1 compound was considered the best compound with a communal mess hall, inside latrines, and running water.
  • The North 2 and 3 compounds were constructed the same as the South compound and also lacked adequate cooking, washing, and toilet facilities.

The completion of North 2 and 3 gave the camp an L-shape appearance. Guard towers were placed at strategic intervals.

As for housing, the barracks in each compound had,

  • Triple-tiered wooden (bunk) beds with wood chip-filled mattresses
  • (Or at least almost every barracks had) a communal day room but without much equipment
  • Inadequate lighting
  • Insufficient ventilation due to the requirement that the barracks’ shutters remain closed from 2100 (9pm) to 0600 (6am)
  • Inadequate stoves for heating and cooking
  • Poor weather-proofing for the bitterly cold northern Germany climate so close to the Baltic Sea

In addition to barracks for housing, the West and North 1 compounds each had the following facilities which were used by all compounds,

  • One kitchen barrack
  • One theater room
  • One church room
  • One library
  • One study room

Food

Before the arrival of the Stalag Luft IV prisoners, the POW’s of Stalag Luft I were fed with Red Cross parcels plus German food prepared in separate kitchens in each compound.

Up until 1 October 1944, the German food ration provided 1200 to 1800 calories per day per man. However, by September through November 1944, the German food ration had been cut to 800 calories and Red Cross supplies became so low, they were also cut, except for the month of December 1944 when the supply returned to the normal amount. In January 1945, the Red Cross supplies were cut again.

In March 1945, no Red Cross parcels were distributed, and German rations were also severely cut. Per the information provided by Greg Hatton, during this “starvation period”, “…Men became so weak that many would fall down while attempting to get from their beds. American ‘MPs’ were placed around garbage cans to prevent the starving PW from eating out of the cans and becoming sick.”

From around the beginning of April 1945, a sufficient supply of Red Cross parcels was received and the POW’s were better fed until the time of the evacuation of the camp.

Health

The medical staff of the camp consisted of two British doctors and six orderlies until 1 March 1945 when an American doctor, Capt. Wilbur E. McKee, arrived. Keeping the POW’s healthy was difficult because of a lack of medical supplies and facilities to handle a large number of patients.

Even before the arrival of the Stalag Luft IV POW’s, the biggest challenge was the poor sanitation in the camp. The camp had only one bathhouse with ten shower heads. Early in 1945, though, another bathhouse with ten shower heads was added.

Still insufficient for the number of POW’s in the camp, there was also an insufficient quantity of wash basins and soap, which not only challenged personal cleanliness, but also the ability to launder clothing and bed linens. Disposal of garbage was also a challenge and the poorly working latrine and wash drains often caused flooding around the barracks.

The number of stoves and amount of fuel was not sufficient to battle the extreme cold of the climate in the area, resulting in upper respiratory illnesses. The requirement that barracks shutters remain closed at night also did not allow for sufficient ventilation in overcrowded conditions inside the barracks.

Liberation

Stalag Luft IV transferee, Godfrey E. “Jeff” Boehm said that on May 1, 1945, Russian guerrillas overran the camp. Paul Brady, Jeff Boehme, John Kyler, Wilfred Miller, and the other POW’s at Stalag Luft I were liberated by the Russians.

The German Commandant of the camp had been ordered to move the camp to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Russians, but the POW’s were determined not to move unless they were forced to do so. On the night of April 30, to avoid bloodshed, the Commandant and guards of the camp turned out the lights and left the camp, leaving the gate unlocked.

The POW’s took over the camp, taking over the guard stations to keep the POW’s orderly and from leaving the camp and to keep other Germans from coming into the camp. On May 1, contact was made with Russian advance troops and Russian scouting parties visited the camp. After two or three days, the Russian commander made arrangements to feed the Stalag Luft I prisoners.

Evacuation

Jeff Boehm reported,

The Russians had the airfield cleared in three days so we could be evacuated but it was thirteen days before the sky was crowded with B-17’s for our mass move to Camp Lucky Strike in LeHarve, France. We had a couple of guys who spoke Russian so we spent quite a lot of time visiting with the Russians.

Although the actual liberation was performed by the Russians, they did not attempt to evacuate the POW’s from the camp other than clearing the airfield. On 6 May 1945, American POW Colonel Jean R. Byerly left camp with two British officers and flew to England the following day. They reported to 8th Air Force headquarters regarding the conditions at the camp, and arrangements were made to evacuate the liberated POWs.

In Chapter 24, “Liberation,” of her book, “What I Never Told You – A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father,” Candy Kyler Brown notes that at the time of liberation of the camp, the sick and injured left Barth on May 12 and everyone else starting on May 13, 1945. Candy’s dad flew out from the POW camp at Barth on May 13. This is the same date Wilfred Miller notes on his POW application as the date he was released as a POW. He must have been in the same group to be liberated as John Kyler.

In “Operation Revival,” the 8th Air Force evacuated nearly 8,500 Allied POW’s between May 13 and 15, 1945 using mainly stripped-down B-17’s, with some C-46’s and C-47’s. This article on the website of the National WWII Museum provides a great deal of detail about the operation to evacuate the prisoners of Stalag Luft I at Barth. For more information about the liberation, the National WWII Museum provides this article.

Notes

Kriegsgefangenen Lagers: Home of the “Kriegie” Airmen, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

STALAG LUFT I – Barth Germany (Air Force Officers), courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft 1 Images, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft 1 Stories, courtesy of the 392nd Bomb Group

Stalag Luft I Online – World War II – Prisoners of War – Stalag Luft I

What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father” by Candy Kyler Brown

A selection from The Shoe Leather Express Book 1, courtesy of Gregory Hatton’s Stalag Luft IV website

Operation Revival: Rescue from Stalag Luft I, courtesy of the National WWII Museum

The Liberation of Stalag Luft I, courtesy of the National WWII Museum

Previous post, Wilfred Frank Miller, Update

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Wilfred Frank Miller, Update

Wilfred Frank Miller at Grafton Underwood
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Last year, the youngest son of Wilfred Frank Miller, Patrick Miller, and I connected after he found my articles online about his father and his father’s B-17 crew of World War II. Patrick has shared a lot of information about his dad and his family and has made some new discoveries regarding his father’s POW experience.

Wilfred Frank Miller was the tail gunner of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was aboard B-17 42‑31222 Lazy Daisy when it collided with the John Oliver Buslee crew’s B-17 43‑37822, with my father aboard, coming off the target at Magdeburg on 28 September 1944.

Today I want to share the new information I’ve learned about Wilfred Frank Miller, thanks to his son Patrick. To view my original post and other information about Wilfred Frank Miller, please see the links at the end of this post.

Wilfred Miller, Growing Up

Wilfred Frank Miller was born February 15, 1925, at Pigeon Lake, Wisconsin, son of Fred and Mary Sadkowski Miller. Wilfred had an older brother by two years named Leo Anton Miller. Leo was born on February 8, 1923.

The family farmed first in the township of Rhine, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, then later moved to Osman, an unincorporated community in the township of Meeme, Manitowoc CountyWisconsin. Both Miller boys would grow up to serve in World War II, Wilfred in the Army Air Forces and Leo in the Marines.

Left to right, brothers Wilfred Frank Miller and Leo Anton Miller
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Miller on Ancestry.com

The boys’ father, Fred Miller, died of a heart attack on April 6, 1943, two days short of his fifty-first birthday. Leo had registered for the draft in 1942, but then delayed his enlistment until June 30, 1944. Wilfred entered the service in October of 1943. The war years must have been especially difficult for Wilfred’s mother, Mary Miller, as a widow worrying about her two sons serving in a world war.

Entry into World War II Military Service

Although I cannot find an enlistment record for Wilfred Miller, I believe that he likely did enlist in order to get into the Army Air Forces. I did find a copy of his draft registration, however.

Wilfred Miller registered for the WWII draft on February 15, 1943, his eighteenth birthday. On his draft registration, he listed his father, Mr. Fred Miller of R #1, Newton, Wisconsin, as the person who would always know his address. But Fred Miller would die on April 6, 1943, less than two months after Wilfred registered for the draft.

On his draft registration form, Wilfred Miller noted he was eighteen years old, born on February 15, 1925 in Liberty Township, Wisconsin. His employer was Matthias Cheese Factory, also known as Matthias Dairy or Cleveland Cheese Factory, located in the village of Cleveland in the township of Centerville, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

He described himself as 6’1″ in height, 164 pounds, with brown eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion. Topping six feet made him pretty tall for a B-17 airman and I imagine sitting on the bicycle-style seat in his position in the tail of a B-17 was a tight fit for him.

Wilfred Miller’s induction into the Army Air Forces was 28 September 1943, exactly one year before the Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision. I believe his induction date could represent his enlistment date. He entered into active service almost a month later on 23 October 1943 at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.

Wilfred Miller completed two months of basic training (MOS 521) at Jefferson Barracks. He then attended six weeks of Aerial Gunnery School at Las Vegas, Nevada, where he received his wings.

Wilfred Miller completed his crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he became a member of the James Joseph Brodie B-17 crew, and departed the U.S. for combat duty in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) on 1 July 1944, arriving in England on 5 July 1944, according to his honorable discharge record. However, he actually left Ardmore somewhere between 23 and 25 June, and was in transit at Goose Bay, Labrador on 1 July.

World War II Military Service at Grafton Underwood, England

Wilfred Frank Miller’s 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record indicates that his duty was tail gunner, one month’s pay was $140.40, and his home address was Mrs. Mary Miller, Newton, RFD #1, Wisconsin.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Wilfred Frank Miller:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Corporal Wilfred Frank Miller was assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group, 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 611).
  • On 2 AUGUST 1944, Corporal Wilfred Frank Miller was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany (Target was Industry, Steelworks), Wilfred Frank Miller, flying with the James Joseph Brodie crew, went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared POW (Prisoner of War).

Prisoner of War

On April 14, 1988, Wilfred Miller filled out an application for a POW medal. On this form he noted (with corrections) that:

  • I was captured on September 28, 1944 at Magdeburg, Germany.
  • I was at Stalag Luft No 3 [correction: should read Stalag Luft IV; Luft IV was a sub-camp of Luft III] Baltic Sea Bay, (East Side) September 28, 1944 to Jan. 1945.
  • Then at Stalag Luft No 4 [correction: should read Stalag Luft I] Baltic Sea Bay (West Side) Jan 1945 to May 13, 1945.
  • I was released [as a POW] on May 13, 1945 at France.
  • Date of discharge [from WWII military service], November 4, 1945.

Wilfred’s son Patrick requested his father’s POW Records from the Red Cross in January this year and received a reply in March. The ICRC sent the following information: A capture card dated 13 October 1944 noted Wilfred Miller was a POW in German hands detained in Stalag Luft IV. His prisoner of war number at Stalag Luft IV (Gross Tychow) was 3916. He arrived at Stalag Luft I (Barth) on 7 February 1945 according to a list sent 1 March 1945.

Wilfred Miller was listed in a Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster on page 44. He is the second W.F. Miller listed on the page, POW 3916, ASN 36834864.

Wilfred Frank Miller on Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster

Note that Miller W.F. (POW 3916, ASN 36834864) on page 44 of the roster has a circle beside his name. At the top of page 8 of the same list is an asterisk with a notation, “Men moved to Barth 1-30-45.” I believe that an asterisk, or circle in Miller’s case, signifies that the POW was moved to Stalag Luft I (Barth) on Jan 30, 1945 before the general population of the camp was to begin the march.

I believe in his POW medal application, Wilfred Miller just confused the stalag numbers after forty-three years had gone by. Stalag Luft IV was a satellite camp of Stalag Luft III, so I can see the confusion in the camp numbers.

In the past, I believed that only sick and injured POWs who were unable to walk were selected to be transported to Stalag Luft I at Barth ahead of the march. However, now I understand that is not the case, thanks to Candy Kyler Brown, daughter of Stalag Luft IV POW John R. Kyler of the 92nd Bombardment Group of the 8th Army Air Forces.

Candy is author of the book “What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father.” John Kyler was also one of the POWs who was moved to Stalag Luft I at Barth.

In her book, Candy writes in Chapter 31 (Train Ride to Barth),

Many of the selected group were ill or injured, but prisoners who were fairly healthy were included in the draw.

The train ride to Barth and the subsequent imprisonment in a different POW camp was not as simple as it may appear on the surface. In fact, it was just a different slice of the same living hell the prisoners had endured in their previous captivity. I will share more information about their experience from the train ride to their liberation in a future post.

In Chapter 34 (Liberation) of her book, Candy notes that at the time of liberation of the camp, the sick and injured left Barth on May 12 and everyone else on May 13, 1945. Candy’s dad flew out from the POW camp at Barth on May 13. This is the same date Wilfred Miller notes on his POW application as the date he was released as a POW. He must have been in the same group to be liberated as John Kyler.

Candy Kyler Brown stands next to a display at the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force of a vest her father, John Kyler, knitted during his time as a POW in WWII

Wilfred Miller’s POW record in the online National Archives notes his Last Report Date as 4 June 1945. This possibly could have been the date he departed Europe on his return to the US as no departure date was recorded on his honorable discharge separation document, but his date of arrival in the USA was noted as 21 June 1945. He likely returned on a slow moving service members’ transit ship.

Release from World War II Military Service

Wilfred Miller was honorably discharged from military service on 4 November 1945 (his Date of Separation). His Place of Separation was the Lincoln Army Air Field at Lincoln, Nebraska. Documents list his civilian occupation as farmer.

Separation documents note he received no wounds in action and he was not awarded a Purple Heart. These facts lead me to believe that he was not physically injured in the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944.

Wilfred’s Separation Qualification Record notes his Summary of Military Occupations as,

Aerial Gunner (611). Flew on a B-17 as tail gunner in the E.T.O. for 19 missions. Was shot down and bailed out over Germany. Was taken prisoner of war and interned for 7 months. Was returned to U.S. control 13 May 1945.

Also noted in separation documents, Miller’s continental (U.S.) service was reported as 1 year, 22 days. His foreign service was reported as 11 months, 20 days as an Aerial Gunner (MOS 611).

A departure date for his return from Europe was not recorded, but his date of arrival in the USA was noted as 21 June 1945. He returned home to his mother Mrs. Mary Miller of Route 1, Newton, Wisconsin, where he would run their 80 acre dairy farm.

During his World War II military service, Wilfred Miller earned the Air Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal, American Theater EAME Theater Ribbon with 3 battle stars, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, one Overseas Bar, and the Prisoner of War medal.

Post-World War II

On October 25, 1947, Wilfred Frank Miller married June Holfeltz at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Osman, Wisconsin.

Wilfred and June Miller Wedding
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

In the wedding photo are Wilfred’s brother, Leo Miller, and June’s brother, Edsel Holfeltz.

Son Patrick Miller notes that after the war, his parents farmed in the town of Osman, Wisconsin, a small town with a population of around 75. Wilfred was also a carpenter. Wilfred and June had six children, five sons and one daughter.

Wilfred and June Miller enjoyed traveling together and traveling with friends and neighbors, visiting relatives, and seeing sights in the US. But for the rest of his life, Wilfred kept his feet, or tires, on the ground. He never again flew in a plane after the war.

In the early 1960’s, Wilfred and June sold the cows and Wilfred went into carpentry as a profession. He worked with a few builders in Manitowoc and Sheboygan.

In the 1960’s, Wilfred purchased a nearby abandoned schoolhouse in Osman. He and his oldest sons tore it down, and built a new house on the site. Patrick Miller mostly grew up in this house. Wilfred and June lived in that house until the early 1990’s when they sold the house to build another.

They purchased land in Cleveland, Wisconsin to build the new house. Wilfred was now retired as a carpenter, but was going to do the finish work in the house himself. While temporarily living in Cleveland, and in the process of building the new house, Wilfred died in his sleep of a heart attack on June 29, 1991 at the age of 66. June had the house finished and lived there for several years before selling it. Wilfred’s brother Leo died less than three months after Wilfred, on September 10, 1991, at the age of 68.

Patrick Miller said that his dad never talked about the war, not to his kids, and not even to his wife, June. The only things Wilfred’s family were aware of were that he was shot down and became a POW in Germany. They were unaware of the mid-air collision and Wilfred Miller’s terrifying freefall toward earth in the severed tail of his B-17 until he was able to bail out and save his life with his parachute.

Brodie crew navigator George Hawkins calmly described the scene following the mid-air collision in a post-war narrative as,

The following evening (after the mid-air collision and his capture) 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.

A terrifying experience for all three, I’m sure, regardless of how matter-of-factly Hawkins described the events of the explosion and how the tail simply “left the ship” with Wilfred Miller still in it plummeting toward the ground.

Wilfred’s wife June still lives in Wisconsin. Her first airplane trip was not until after Wilfred had passed away. Wilfred and June’s children Frederick, Nancy, John, Joseph, and Patrick all currently reside in Wisconsin, and Ronald resides in Florida.

In the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, Wilfred and June Miller took a trip to visit two of Wilfred’s Brodie crewmates, both also World War II prisoners of war, George Hawkins (navigator) and Bill (William) Taylor (radio operator). Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor were both held in D Lager of Stalag Luft IV. While Wilfred Miller was taken to Stalag Luft I (Barth) in late January of 1945, I believe Bill Taylor participated in the same march out of Stalag Luft IV on February 6, 1945 as my father, George Edwin Farrar, and Brodie crew waist gunner Harry Liniger.

George Hawkins was seriously wounded in the mid-air collision and was held POW in a hospital until his own liberation at the end of the war. I’ll be sharing more information about George Hawkins and his POW experience at a later date, too, thanks to 384th Bomb Group NexGen member Paul Furiga, son of bombardier Frank Furiga, who was held POW in the same hospital as Hawkins.

Photo: Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor, date unknown

Left to right, likely Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Brodie crew mates Wilfred Miller (tail gunner) and Bill Taylor (radio operator)
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: Wilfred and June Miller, and Barbara and Bill Taylor, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Wilfred and June Miller, and Barbara and Bill Taylor.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: George Hawkins and Wilfred Miller, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Brodie crew mates George Marshall Hawkins, Jr (navigator) and Wilfred Frank Miller (tail gunner)
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Thank you to Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son, for sharing so many wonderful stories and photographs of his father.

Notes

Previous post, Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Wilfred Miller’s POW record in the online National Archives

Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster – see page 44

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

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

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

Previous post, ICRC POW Records Request

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

Wilfred Frank Miller on Find a Grave

What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father” by Candy Kyler Brown

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Path from Mid-air Collision to Crash Area

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).

Distance between coordinates of collision (52.100000, 11.650000 – upper left corner of map) and 2km north of Ost Ingersleben (52.23022501900543, 11.169220977746475 – lower left corner of map)
MAP DATA ©2022 GOOGLE

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.

Notes

Previous post, When in Magdeburg, Look Up

MACR9753

MACR9366

Aircraft records and Missing Air Crew Reports courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller was a member of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII.  His family was from Wisconsin.

Wilfred’s father, Fred Anton Miller, was born April 8, 1892 in Dorchester, Wisconsin. His mother, Mary Ludvina Sadkowski Miller, almost nine years younger than her husband, was born March 31, 1901 in Pueblo, Colorado.

Fred and Mary were married September 27 (or October 18 according to a second source), 1920 in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. Their first son, Leo Anton Miller, came along on February 8, 1923. Second son, Wilfred Frank Miller, followed two years later on February 15, 1925 in Osman, Wisconsin. Osman is an unincorporated community in the town of Meeme, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

In 1930, the family lived on a farm in Rhine, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, which was about fifteen miles away from Meeme. But by 1940, the family had moved back to the Osman community in Meeme, and were still farming. The boys were now seventeen and fifteen years old, and helped out on the family farm.

On April 6, 1943, their father Fred died of a heart attack. I don’t know if either of the boys had already begun their service in WWII by that time, but both boys did go to war. Older brother Leo was a Marine. A partial war record shows that he was in the service on June 30, 1944 and that he spent time at Camp Pendleton.

Younger brother Wilfred enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was assigned to the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bombardment Group on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944, as part of the James Joseph Brodie Crew. Wilfred was the tail gunner for the crew. Brodie flew two missions – on August 4 and 5, 1944 – as co-pilot with two other crews in order to get some combat training before piloting his own ship with his crew. Wilfred Miller and the rest of the Brodie crew flew their first mission together on August 7. Wilfred completed nineteen missions.

On September 28, 1944, on Mission 201 (Wilfred’s nineteenth mission), 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. Aboard Lazy Daisy, the navigator, George M. Hawkins, Jr., tail gunner, Wilfred Frank 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.

Wilfred Miller became a prisoner of war at the Stalag Luft IV POW camp in Gross-Tychow Pomerania, Prussia. I have no specific record, but he must have also endured the eighty-six day Black March with the other prisoners of Stalag Luft IV. After liberation in 1945, Miller returned to the states, but I have no further record of his life.

In late 1944, according to the Next of Kin list for the Brodie crew, Wilfred’s mother Mary lived in Newton, Wisconsin, another unincorporated community in Manitowoc County. Perhaps she had moved off the family farm after her husband died and both boys had gone to war.

On September 30, 1950, Wilfred’s mother Mary re-married. She married Adolph Bauer in Osman, Wisconsin. After thirteen years together, Mary became a widow a second time on November 4, 1963 when Adolph died. Mary lived until the age of eighty-eight, dying January 25, 1990 in Manitowoc, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, just two months from her eighty-ninth birthday. She is buried in Saint Isidore Catholic Cemetery in Meeme.

Both of Mary’s sons died the next year. Younger brother Wilfred died June 29, 1991 in Cleveland, Wisconsin. He is also buried in the Saint Isidore Catholic Cemetery in Meeme. Older brother Leo died just a few months later on September 8, 1991 in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller

If any descendants of the Miller family have any additional information about Wilfred Frank Miller they would be willing to share, please contact me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

The Congressional Record

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

The March

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

Next of Kin List Released

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

December 26, 1944
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Attention:  AFPPA-8
(9753) Farrar, George E.
14119873

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

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

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

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

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

Sincerely,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

October 4, 1944 Telegram Form

Six days after the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, a Telegram Form dated October 4, 1944 reported the fate of two more of the crew from the two planes.  It reported two additional prisoners of war.  The two were identified as:

  • Wilfred F. Miller (incorrectly identified on the report as Wilfred Z. Miller)
  • Harry A. Liniger (incorrectly identified on the report as Harry A. Lininger)

Miller and Liniger were both from the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.

In determination of the fate of the two crews, eighteen total men, this report updates the count to thirteen (13) recovered dead, with only seven (7) identified, and three (3) P.O.W.s.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns    Reported dead on September 30, 1944 Telegram Form
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.    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
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins
  • 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

An October 6, 1944 Captured Aircraft Report conveys the same information.

The October 4 Telegram Form notes also:

  • Time:  1140
  • From:  L S E B
  • Through:  Frank
  • Remarks:  SSD L B K M 18     3 Oct.44   -1815-

This information can be found on pages 14 and 15 of MACR9753.  MACR stands for Missing Air Crew Report.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

September 28, 1944 – Survivors

In the mid-air collision on September 28, 1944 between Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, four of the eighteen men aboard the two forts survived.  From the Lead Banana, the waist/flexible gunner, George Edwin Farrar, was the sole survivor.  From the Lazy Daisy, the three survivors were the navigator, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the tail gunner, Wilfred Frank Miller, and the waist/flexible gunner, Harry Allen Liniger.  All four were saved because they were either thrown from the aircraft or were able to exit on their own and then parachute safely to the ground.  What would happen to them next, in the hands of the Germans?

George Edwin Farrar was seriously injured.  In a letter to the VA dated October 20, 1982 he wrote:

I was unable to walk and carried to a house, where I spent several days before being transferred to Frankfort, Germany for interrogation and medical treatment.  I was later transferred by train and was allowed to sleep in the bottom bunk of the guard’s quarters on the Prisoner of War train.  After reaching Stalag Luft IV, I was placed in the hospital there where I could not walk for a total of two months or the latter part of November 1944.  At that time, I was transferred to a regular barracks in the prison camp and I could only walk by shuffling my feet as I could not lift either leg to walk.

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. wrote in a questionnaire that is attached to MACR9366:

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller.

The following evening would have been the evening of September 29, 1944, the day after the mid-air collision.  I am assuming that Hawkins, Liniger, and Miller had all been captured by this time.  This meeting between Hawkins and his surviving crewmates must have been before transfer to the interrogation center.  They would not have been able to talk to each other at the interrogation center where they would have been placed in solitary confinement.  Hawkins did not comment on the physical condition of himself, Liniger, or Miller.

The interrogation facility near Frankfort was known by the POWs as Dulag Luft.  It was located in Oberursel about eight miles from Frankfurt-am-Main.  Most captured allied airmen were first sent there to be interrogated before being assigned to a permanent prison camp.

After leaving the Dulug Luft interrogation center, the enlisted men, Farrar, Liniger, and Miller were moved to Stalag Luft IV.  Their Prisoner of War records all show Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow (formerly Heydekrug) Pomerania, Prussia (moved to Wobbelin Bei Ludwigslust) (To Usedom Bei Savenmunde) 54-16.

Hawkins, an officer, was sent to Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (Serves Stalag 9-C) Obermassfeld Thuringia, Germany 50-10, according to National Archives Prisoner of War records.

Questions…

  • Were either Liniger or Miller injured in the collision?
  • Were Liniger and Miller placed in the same barracks in Stalag Luft IV?  Did they ever see each other again?
  • Farrar spent time in the hospital area of the prison camp, but after being moved to a regular barracks, did he ever meet Liniger or Miller?
  • Was Hawkins seriously injured in the collision?  His records show he was sent to a hospital at Stalag 9C.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014