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Category Archives: Taylor, William E

William Edson Taylor

William Edson Taylor was a member of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII. He came from Ironwood, Gogebic County, Michigan. Ironwood is the westernmost city in Michigan and is separated from Hurley, Wisconsin by the Montreal River. Ironwood is about eighteen miles south of Lake Superior. These days, Ironwood is known for its downhill ski resorts, but back in the 1940’s, it was a mining town.

William was born in Ishpeming, Michigan on on April 21, 1923 to Carroll Cushing (1895 to 1993) and Ruth Edna Parmelee (1895 to unk.) Taylor. By 1930, the Taylor family had moved to Ironwood where Carroll worked as an engineer for an iron mine. William’s sister, Carol Jane, was born about 1925.

On April 26, 1943, at the age of twenty, William enlisted in the Army Air Forces in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He trained to be a radio operator and during combat training, William was selected to serve on the James Joseph Brodie crew. He was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squadron on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944.

William flew his first seventeen missions as radio operator/gunner with the Brodie crew. But, on the crew’s next mission, on September 28, 1944, William was not called on to fly with the Brodie crew. On that mission, a radio operator new to the 384th, Donald William Dooley, was assigned to fly with the Brodie crew. Dooley had recently transferred in from the 482nd Bomb Group.

It was William’s good luck to sit out the September 28th mission, as the Brodie crew, aboard Lazy Daisy, went down after a mid-air collision coming off the target at Magdeburg. When the formation came back to Grafton Underwood, William learned that his crew was gone. Two days later, he was assigned to fly with the Loren Green crew, and after that continued to fill in with other crews on his next two missions.

On October 5, he flew with the Robert Birckhead crew on a mission to Cologne aboard unnamed flying fortress 43-38579. The Birckhead crew’s fort was damaged by flak and left the formation under control prior to the target. But the damage was too great to make it back to Grafton Underwood and the fort crashed near Munchen-Gladbach. Four of the crew were killed, including pilot Robert Birckhead. Five became POWs, including radio operator William Edson Taylor.

In a report he filled out after the war, William provided the following details:

This was the first time I had ever flown with this crew – in fact, it wasn’t a regular crew. As a consequence I was not familiar with any one of them, except Adams, the tail gunner, who I knew slightly.

The plane was hit by flak and immediately dropped out of formation. It was on fire. Crew members in the nose bailed out first and the others from the waist back after the plane exploded. So we didn’t land together and I had no chance to observe what happened to the others.

The aircraft struck the ground near Gelsinkirchen. Several of the surviving crew noted in the Missing Air Crew Report (MACR9754) that Birckhead survived the crash, but died the next day in the hospital from head injuries and/or internal injuries. One of the crew members noted that this mission was Birckhead’s first mission of his second tour. In fact, it was the third mission of Birckhead’s second tour, but the first as pilot of his own crew. On his first two missions of his second tour, he flew as co-pilot.

William Taylor was confined to Stalag Luft IV, the same prison camp two others from the Brodie crew – Wilfred Frank Miller and Harry Allen Liniger – had been taken to the week before after surviving the mid-air collison on September 28.

William Edson Taylor survived Stalag Luft IV and he survived the eighty-six day, five hundred mile forced march out of the prison camp westward across Germany. In 1967, he married Barbara Elizabeth Magill (1925 – 2010) in Cook County, Illinois. William died January 29, 2002 in New Hope, Bucks County, Pennsylvania at the age of 78.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

 

 

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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

September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

Lazy Daisy, Aircraft 42-31222

Lazy Daisy, Aircraft 42-31222

Lead Banana, 43-37822

Lead Banana, Aircraft 43-37822

September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201.

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

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

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

Buslee Crew List:

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

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

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

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

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

Brodie Crew List:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sortie Report Description:

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

Lazy Daisy Sortie Report Status and Comments:

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

Lead Banana Sortie Report Status and Comments:

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

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Brodie Crew on September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

Brodie Crew on September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

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

The Brodie crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 42-31222, named “Lazy Daisy.”

The primary target was the Steelworks Industry in Magdeburg, Germany.

Coming off the target, aircraft 42-31222, “Lazy Daisy,” collided with 43-37822, “The Lead Banana.”

Lazy Daisy Crew List:

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

Brodie, Vevle, Hawkins, Crumpton, Hetu, Miller, and Liniger were all original Brodie crew members on the aircraft.

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

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

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

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

Source:  Sortie Reports for Lazy Daisy.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013