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The Next Generation Meets

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.

L to R: George Edwin Farrar, Cindy Farrar Bryan, Harry Allen Liniger, Jr., and Harry Allen Liniger, Sr.

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

Lingering Shadows of an Aluminum Overcast

When  I look at written World War II history, I see names, dates, places of great battles, and statistics. I rarely see mention of family, but families are what’s at the core of such a great struggle. One man was not fighting this great war against his enemy, another man. Their families were right there beside them fighting, too. When one man went down, many more at home who shared his blood went down with him. The loss of one man became a great emotional loss at home and the loss of many future generations of his family.

Two B-17 flying fortresses collided above Germany on September 28, 1944. Of the eighteen men aboard the two forts, four survived. None of the four live on today, but their children and grandchildren carry on their legacy. At least three of the men who died that day had children or knew that they were to become fathers in the months to come. That makes seven families, not quite half, who share a common history dating back to WWII.

Of the eleven men who would have no descendants, most of them had siblings who had children and there are nieces and nephews, and great-nieces and -nephews who also share their history and cherish their memories.

We are known collectively as the Buslee and Brodie crews’ NexGens, the Next Generation of the men of these two crews of the 384th Bomb Group of the Mighty Eighth Air Force who bravely defended our country in WWII.

I began my search for Buslee/Brodie NexGens, who I consider extended family, in 2011 after I met Wallace Storey. I remember so clearly now my astonishment when Wallace told me that he had been in touch with other family members of the two crews. It was that light-headed feeling of shattered disbelief that almost knocked me off my feet, the thought of something I had never considered possible. There were others out there who knew my father’s story of the mid-air collision. It was no longer my family’s private history.

I had never before considered that my sister and I were not the only ones. From my dad’s stories, I knew he was the only survivor of the Buslee crew. At the time, I did not know that children were born to two of the men after the mid-air collision. And I never suspected that any of the men of the Brodie crew had survived the horrific accident, but three of them had. One of their sons had contacted Wallace Storey before me. So had a newphew and great-nephew of Buslee crew members.

I began contacting the relatives for whom Wallace provided information and I started researching each man who had been on those two planes, looking for their families, and finding some of them. During this process, I realized there was a lot we didn’t know about September 28, 1944, and that the other NexGens wanted to know as badly as I what happened in the skies above Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944.

Top secret reports from WWII were public now, and I discovered details bit by bit and started putting them together, like pieces of a puzzle. I shared what I found with the other Buslee/Brodie NexGens and they shared knowledge, photos, and letters. These men who were our fathers and grandfathers, and uncles and great-uncles had an incredibly close bond. And now we NexGens were forming our own bond as we learned details about that late September day, details that in the 1940’s our families struggled so very hard to discover, but of which they were left uniformed.

With the power of knowledge of what happened to the boys that day, we are able to feel them again, hold them close, grieve for them, and look at them with a new sense of awe and respect. I have new family now, these descendants of the great airmen of WWII. We live in the lingering shadows of an aluminum overcast that will never fade away as long as we remember.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

One Moment

Sometimes we choose our path in life and sometimes it is chosen for us. Every single decision we make and every step we take in a certain direction write a piece of our history. But that history is not solely of our making. Outside influences are a huge factor in what happens to us upon each footfall, upon each spoken and unspoken thought, upon the most minute action we take.

The men of the Buslee and Brodie crews all chose the path of joining the United States Army Air Forces to fight in WWII. The histories of eighteen men from eighteen families were all very different from the moment of their births until the morning of September 28, 1944 when they climbed aboard their two B-17s to take their places in the 8th Air Force bomber stream on that day’s mission to Magdeburg, Germany.

On that day, each man had his job to do. The pilots and co-pilots had to deliver the bombs to the target. The navigators had to direct them to the correct location. The bombardiers had to release the bombs at the precise point. The radio operators had to maintain communications. The engineers had to make sure all systems worked properly. The gunners in the ball turret, waist, and tail had to defend their ships and loads of bombs and personnel. Each man had his individual job, but each crew was speeding through the skies toward their target as one.

They had one goal. Get their bombs on the target. And then they could go home. That day, their path was chosen for them. They were not completely in charge of the history they were making that day. They were a small piece of an enormous weapon of destruction, a tiny cog in a very big wheel.  And that day, they would not go home.

Whatever minute action or outside influence it was, because a single determining factor cannot be pinpointed, the Brodie crew’s ship collided with the Buslee crew’s ship after coming off the target. That one defining action fixed forever the most important moment in the history of eighteen men. It was the moment that the lives of fourteen men were lost and fourteen families were destroyed. It was the moment that the future path of four men was reset to skew greatly from the path that was imagined for them at birth.

It was just one moment in history. But it changed everything.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

The Vevle Twins

The co-pilot of the James Brodie crew was Lloyd Vevle. He lost his life in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision between his B-17, Lazy Daisy, and the Buslee crew’s B-17, Lead Banana. I have written about Lloyd previously here.

Lloyd had a twin brother named Floyd in the 390th Bomb Group.  Floyd lost his life early the next year on January 14, 1945. I have also previously written about Floyd here.

The reason I am returning to the story of the Vevle twins at this time is that 384th Bomb Group Combat Data Specialist Keith Ellefson has informed me that the American Air Museum in Britain website has found and added photos of the Vevle boys.

Since the AAM so kindly shares their photos, I am pleased to have the opportunity to share them here.

Lloyd Oliver Vevle, 384th Bomb Group

Lloyd Oliver Vevle, 384th Bomb Group


Floyd Martin Vevle, 390th Bomb Group

Floyd Martin Vevle, 390th Bomb Group

As I’m digging into research again on the Buslee and Brodie crews, I need to revisit sources like the American Air Museum in Britain for updated information on all of the boys of both crews. I also will be digging into the research records that I obtained from the National Personnel Research Center during my visit last October.

The picture of these two crews and their families becomes clearer to me with every bit of information I find. Thank you to all of them for the sacrifices they made in WWII.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

More Information About William D. Barnes, Jr.

Thank you to Keith Ellefson, combat data specialist and volunteer for, and Bobby Silliman, of the Carlsbad Army Airfield’s Facebook community, for finding “our” William D. Barnes, Jr. Bobby Silliman has a master list of all 47,466 bombardier graduates who earned their wings in America during WWII and the only William D. Barnes Jr. was from Hastings, Michigan. There were no other bombardiers with this name, so this has got to be our guy.

Bombardier class picture of William Douglas Barnes, Jr.

Bombardier class picture of William Douglas Barnes, Jr.

Now that we found the right Barnes, I can tell you more about him.

William Douglas Barnes, Jr. was born on May 20, 1919 in Charleston Township, Pennsylvania to Williams D. Sr. (b. August 4, 1884 – d. September 27, 1965), and Carrie M. Vandegrift Barnes (b. November 8, 1887 to d. July 6, 1970).

In 1920, the Barnes family lived on a farm on Elk Run Road in Charleston Township, Tioga County, Pennsylvania. William Sr. was a farmer. William Sr. was 35, Carrie was 33, and William Jr. was only 7 months old at the time of the census on January 2 or 3, 1920.

In 1930, the family had moved to Eastmanville Street in Polkton Township, Ottawa County, Michigan. The Barnes’s second son, Charles F., had been born in 1920 and was now nine years old. William Sr. was a machinist in a condensery and Carrie was a clerk in a dry goods store in 1930. William Jr. may have been called by his middle name “Douglas” as he is listed on the census as “W. Douglas.”

In 1940, the family lived in Hastings, Barry County, Michigan at 135 S. Jeff Street. They moved to Hastings some time after 1935. William Sr. was a pattern storage foreman for a press and tool manufacturer. Carrie was no longer working outside the home. William Jr., at 20, was a commercial teller for a city bank. Charles was a clock repairman and salesman for a jewelry store.

Younger brother Charles was the first of the Barnes boys to enlist in the Army Air Corps on January 10, 1942. William Jr. enlisted in the Air Corps a few months later, on May 21, 1942. Born only about a year apart, the brothers must have been very close.

William D. Barnes, Jr. was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26,1944 as bombardier of the James Joseph Brodie crew. For more information about his military career with the 384th, see my previous post.

Charles married Dorothea E. Kolch on October 22, 1950 in Marshall, Calhoun County, Michigan, but I can find no record of a marriage for William Douglas, Jr.

William Douglas Barnes, Jr. died on December 6, 1990. He is buried in Riverside Cemetery in Hastings, Michigan. His parents are also buried in the same cemetery.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. was born on November 26, 1918 in New York to George Marshall, Sr. and Mildred Sonnenthal Hawkins. George Jr. was their only child. George, Sr. was born on June 16, 1893 in La Plata, Maryland. His parents were also Maryland natives. Mildred was born on December 16, 1898 in Queens, New York. Her parents, William and Clara Sonnenthal, were of Hungarian or German descent and immigrated to the United States in the late 1800’s. Aside from Mildred, they had four other children – Adolph, Elsa (or Elsie), Leah, and Elwood. The 1900 census reported that Mildred’s parents resided in Queens, New York.

George Sr. and Mildred lived on Laurel Street in Ridgefield Park, Bergen County, New Jersey in 1920. George Sr. (who may have gone by his middle name “Marshall” as recorded by the census) was twenty-five and Mildred was twenty-one. Mildred’s parents were reported to have been born in Vienna (her father) and Hamburg (her mother). George Jr. (who it seems also went by his middle name “Marshall”) was one and a half years old. George Sr.’s occupation was listed as a chemist in the field of medicine.

By 1930, the Hawkins family had moved to Woodbridge in Middlesex County, New Jersey, where they lived at 35 William St. George Jr. was now eleven years old.

By 1940, the family had moved to 52 Burchard Street in Raritan Township (since renamed to Edison), Middlesex County, New Jersey. George Jr. was now twenty-one and in college. George Sr. was working as a foreman of a chemical factory. (According to George Sr’s WWII draft registration card, he worked at Heyden Chemical Corporation in Fords, New Jersey).

On July 17, 1941, George Jr. enlisted in the service in Trenton, New Jersey. According to his enlistment record, he was single, had three years of college, and his civilian occupation was as an actor. After training in the states, he was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944, as navigator of the James Joseph Brodie crew. He served as navigator on nineteen missions, sixteen of them with the Brodie crew. It is unknown why he flew those three missions on different crews as the Brodie crew did fly those missions, but with a replacement for Hawkins.

George Jr. was aboard Lazy Daisy with the Brodie crew on September 28, 1944, when their B-17 collided over Magdeburg, Germany with the Buslee crew’s Lead Banana. George Jr. was one of only three men aboard Lazy Daisy to survive and became a prisoner of war. As an officer, he was not held in Stalag Luft IV with the other two survivors, enlisted men Wilfred Frank Miller (tail gunner), and Harry Liniger (waist gunner). George Jr. was held as a prisoner at Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (Serves Stalag 9-C), Obermassfeld Thuringia, Germany 50-10.

Hawkins wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in 1945.  His account, as follows, is included in MACR9366:

Following “Bombs away” at our target over Magdeburg, Germany, our B17-G and another ship in our formation collided. At the time of the accident our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage. As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.

At the time of the collision, the front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner, S/Sgt Byron L. Atkins. The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin. I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.

Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute. Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later. However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.

Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me. It was then in a flat spin, burning. It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below. When I next saw the ship it was on the ground. While floating downward, I saw one other chute below me.

I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg. The plane landed within two or three miles of me. Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller. Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.

To the best of my knowledge, All other five members of the crew were at their positions on the plane and failed to leave the ship. All were uninjured up till the time of the collision.

In the Casualty Questionnaire section of MACR9366, Hawkins adds that Miller, the tail gunner, rode the tail down some distance following an explosion which severed the tail from the ship.  Miller later bailed out of the tail section.  Also, in the Casualty Questionnaire section, Wilfred Miller adds that he heard through Hawkins that the wing of the other plane knocked Atkins out the nose without his chute.

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. survived WWII. The fact that he was held at a hospital indicates that he was very seriously wounded, although the extent of his injuries is not known. After the end of the war, he returned to the states. In 1959, George moved to Central Florida and became a publications manager for NASA at Kennedy Space Center. He was a member of the Cape Canaveral Chapter of The Retired Officers Association. He was also a licensed amateur radio operator and a member of the Indian River Amateur Radio Club. He died on January 4, 1998 at the age of seventy-nine. He was living in Cocoa Beach, Brevard County, Florida at the time. His wife, Helen (born March 1, 1916), died on May 9, 2008. (Information from his obituary in the Orlando Sentinel and


© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015



William D. Barnes, Jr.

William D. Barnes, Jr. was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26,1944 as bombardier of the James Joseph Brodie crew. The target of his first mission on August 7, 1944 was a German Luftwaffe fuel depot in Dugny (Paris), France.

He flew a total of fifteen missions as a bombardier, the majority of them with the Brodie crew. His last mission as a bombardier was on September 13, 1944. At that time, Barnes retrained as a navigator.

He was not flying, as he was still in training, on September 28, 1944 when the Brodie crew’s B-17 Lazy Daisy was involved in the mid-air collision with the Buslee crew’s B-17 Lead Banana. His decision to retrain as a navigator may very well have saved his life.

Barnes’s next mission was not until October 17, 1944, when he flew his first mission as a navigator. He flew his last twenty missions as a navigator, completing his thirty-five missions on December 28, 1944, earning him a ticket home. His decision to extend his service by the month he spent in training allowed him to survive WWII, complete his tour, and return home.

I wish I could tell you about his family life growing up and the future he had after the war, but unfortunately there were too many men named William D. Barnes that served in WWII to uncover which one of them served with the 384th Bomb Group by the time of this post. If anyone out there can provide any information on “our” William D. Barnes, Jr., please let me know.  In the meantime, I’ll keep digging…

To view the personnel record of William D. Barnes, Jr. on the 384th Bomb Group’s website, click here.

Note:  Barnes’s replacement, Byron Laverne Atkins, as togglier of the Brodie crew on September 28, 1944, did not survive the mid-air collision.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial

One day a Navy veteran named Michael Newberry, who does volunteer work for the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial in Canton, Texas as the gift shop/museum manager, came across a collection in one of the museum’s display cases that was not particularly visible. It was comprised of some photos, flat boxes, certificates and a folded 48-star American flag.

Upon further examination, Mike found the medals, air crew wings, pictures, high school diploma, and aircraft mechanic certification of Staff Sergeant Robert Doyle Crumpton of the 384th Bomb Group’s Brodie Crew. Robert was the top turret gunner/engineer for the Brodie crew and was aboard Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944 and died in the mid-air collision with Lead Banana. Robert’s half-brother, Claude, had kept the items all of his life and upon his death, Claude’s wife donated them to the museum.

Mike set up a nice exhibit of Robert’s items in the museum. He even intends to replicate a model of the Lazy Daisy, the B-17 on which Robert lost his life, to add to the collection.

Robert Crumpton exhibit at the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial in Canton, Texas

Robert Crumpton exhibit at the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial in Canton, Texas

I would like to thank Mike Newberry for honoring Robert Doyle Crumpton with this wonderful exhibit. For anyone in the area near Canton, Texas, please stop by the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial museum to see it. In addition to the Robert Doyle Crumpton exhibit, you can tour the memorial plaza with an Air Force F-4 Phantom, a Huey helicopter, a 105mm howitzer and more. And please tell Mike I sent you!

Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial is located at 1200 S Trade Days Blvd, Suite 600, Canton, TX 75103, phone (903) 567-0657, web address:

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

Robert Doyle Crumpton

Robert Doyle Crumpton

Robert Doyle Crumpton

Robert Doyle Crumpton, Jr. was born in 1921 (or possibly as early as 1920) in Ennis, Ellis County, Texas to Robert Doyle Crumpton, Sr. and Stella M. Brown Crumpton.

[Update June 6, 2021: Robert Doyle Crumpton’s birthdate was 26 July 1920.]

Robert Doyle Crumpton, Sr. was born April 7, 1892. In 1917, he registered for the WWI draft. He enlisted on May 26, 1918. He was a private in the 26th Company, 7th Bn., 165th Depot Brigade, Btry C, 126 F.A. (SN 1 416 038). He was discharged on January 22, 1919.

In 1920, Robert Sr. (26 years old) and Stella (23 years old) lived with Stella’s parents, William and Minnie Bachoffer Brown in Ennis, Texas. Stella’s father, William, was a conductor. At the time, Robert Sr. worked as a mail carrier.

Robert Sr. died on April 24, 1921 and is buried in Myrtle Cemetery in Ennis. Without an exact birth date for Robert Jr., it is unclear whether he was born before or after his father died. A cause of death for his father is also unknown.

After Robert Sr.’s death, Stella married Claude Parks. Stella and Claude had a son, Claude Edward Parks, born August 6, 1930, Robert Jr.’s half-brother.

The 1930 census shows Robert Jr. listed as Robert Parks. After graduation from Ennis High School, he worked as an automobile serviceman for a time.

The 1940 census shows him listed as Robert Crumpton. He was a farm laborer in 1940, an unpaid family worker. The family lived in Ennis in the 1930’s and 1940’s, where Robert Jr. was born and raised.

On May 2, 1941, Robert Doyle Crumpton, Jr. enlisted in the Army Air Forces in WWII at Fort MacArthur, San Pedro, California. He trained in Oklahoma, Arizona, Nebraska, California, and Illinois.

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

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

S/Sgt Robert D. Crumpton earned the Purple Heart and Air Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters. He was buried at the Temporary American Military Cemetery Margraten, Netherlands, Block Plot R, Row 9, Grave 210 before being moved to his final resting place in Plot E, Row 19, Grave 22 of the American War Cemetery at Margraten.

Next week: An exhibit featuring the life and military career of Robert Doyle Crumpton at the Van Zandt County Veterans Memorial in Canton, Texas.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

Floyd Martin Vevle

The story of the Vevle twin brothers in the 8th Air Force, continued…

To recap, Lloyd Vevle was a co-pilot in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England. Lloyd lost his life on the 384th’s September 28, 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany. Involved in a mid-air collision, Lloyd could not bail out of his B-17G and his body was recovered near Ostingersleben, Germany. His parents were likely notified of his death on January 28, 1945.

Less than 100 miles from Grafton Underwood, Lloyd’s twin brother, Floyd Vevle was part of the 390th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force based in Framlingham, England. Floyd was co-pilot of the Alvin J. Morman crew.

On January 14th, 1945, the 390th Bomb Group flew a mission to Derben, Germany. The target was an underground oil storage depot. The Morman crew was aboard B-17G 44-8426 and was made up of:

  • Pilot, 1st Lt. Alvin J. Morman
  • Co-pilot, 1st Lt. Floyd M. Vevle
  • Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack A. Simon
  • Togglier/Nose Gunner, 1st Lt. Robert C. (or G.) Springborn
  • Radio Operator, T/Sgt. Robert G. Hehr
  • Top Turret/Engineer T/Sgt. Mario J. Manfredini
  • Ball Turret, S/Sgt. James F. Stieg
  • Tail Gunner, S/Sgt. Samuel W. Barton
  • Waist Gunner, S/Sgt. Leon J. Cousineau

Floyd Vevle crew photo

Nearing the I.P. (Initial Point of the bomb run) at about 1240 hours, their squadron was attacked by approximately one hundred German FW 190’s and ME 109’s in the area between 5300N-1200E and 5220N-1250E at about 1240 hours.

With information from the Missing Air Crew Report, MACR11719, I will try to piece together the series of events that took place aboard 44-8426.

As a result of the enemy aircraft attack, the interphone system of communication was disabled and a wing was on fire. The crew resorted to the use of signals to convey to each other that the ship was going down. Radio Operator, T/Sgt. Robert G. Hehr and Waist Gunner, S/Sgt. Leon J. Cousineau were either killed instantly or mortally wounded in the initial attack, or succumbed to anoxia (oxygen deprivation).

Tail Gunner S/Sgt. Samuel W. Barton bailed out first, likely from the tail gunner’s emergency exit. Reported by an unknown crewmember, Barton observed Cousineau before he left the ship and said Cousineau was in a daze.

Top Turret Gunner/Engineer T/Sgt. Mario J. Manfredini made his way to the front escape hatch where he met Co-pilot 1st Lt. Floyd M. Vevle. Vevle motioned Manfredini to bail out before him. Vevle, standing behind Manfredini, was wearing his parachute and was himself prepared to bail out. Manfredini noted that Pilot 1st Lt. Alvin J. Morman was “still at the controls trying to keep plane level when I jumped.” Morman was also observed wearing his chute. Manfredini does not know if Vevle followed him out, but reported that Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack A. Simon did follow him out and that Togglier/Nose Gunner, 1st Lt. Robert Springborn followed Simon.

Simon reported that “with the engineer [Manfredini] gone, I entered the escape hatch and stood up beside Lt. Vevle and verified by signs that we were going down (wing fire not visible from nose) and that he and the pilot, Lt. Morman were alright. With that information I left the ship. The togglier, Sgt. Springborn, leaving the ship only seconds later apparently, states that no one was standing in the escape hatch, and though from his position he could not be sure, he does not believe there was anyone in the pilots compartment. (From personal conversations later). The engineer [Manfredini] also verified at the time of his leaving the ship the pilot and co-pilot were uninjured.”

By this point, the following crew members have bailed out of the ship:

  • Tail Gunner, S/Sgt. Samuel W. Barton
  • Top Turret/Engineer T/Sgt. Mario J. Manfredini
  • Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack A. Simon
  • Togglier/Nose Gunner, 1st Lt. Robert Springborn

Surviving crew members believed that Vevle and Morman may have engaged the autopilot and gone to the rear of the ship to help other crewmen still on board.

Simon reported what happened next, information he gleaned from conversations with Ball Turret Gunner S/Sgt. James F. Stieg. Simon wrote, “Despite the visible fire, he [Stieg] remained at his position in the turret until he was wounded in the leg.”

Stieg continued the story. When Stieg emerged from the ball turret, he noted that Hehr “was wounded.  Last seen slumped over the radio table.  Being seriously wounded myself, I was unable to crawl to him.” Additionally, Manfredini reported that Stieg said Hehr was wedged between his table and chair. He was not trying to get loose, so Stieg thought that he was either dead or wounded severely and unable to get out of the plane. Stieg wrote that Cousineau “was fatally wounded by enemy aircraft.”

Simon continued: “Manning a waist gun against fighters which continued to attack, until wounded again, he [Stieg] then tried to get out the waist escape hatch, but was unable to get the door off, because the emergency release would not operate. He estimates this action consumed approximately fifteen minutes… Being unable to get out, and in a weakened condition, he endeavored to protect himself from flames then entering the fuselage when the ship blew up hurling him into space where he was able to parachute to safety.”

Stieg elaborated, “He [Cousineau] was fatally wounded by enemy aircraft. He was lying next to me on the waist floor prior to the ship’s nosing over and going down – but all of a sudden I heard an explosion and evidently it blew me clear.” After being blown out of the aircraft, Stieg parachuted to the ground near Potsdam. Ball Turret Gunner S/Sgt. James F. Stieg was the fifth and last crewman to leave the plane alive. When asked in the questionnaire if he bailed out, James F. Stieg wrote, “No – blown out and parachuted to safety.”

Simon continued, “Because of the erratic flight of the aircraft, he [Stieg] assumes that the ship was flying out of control. Although he did not go forward of the radio room, he feels that there was no one in the pilot’s compartment.” Though he didn’t feel anyone was in the pilot’s compartment, Stieg did not report seeing either Morman or Vevle in the waist. By this time, Morman and Vevle, if they had remained in the pilot’s compartment, may have been killed in the continuing attack or may have succumbed to anoxia.

Simon reported that “When I bailed out, I landed a few kilometers southeast of the small town of Freysach (spelling?) Germany. It is my understanding that Sgt. Manfredini, Sgt. Springborn, and Sgt. Barton all landed within a few miles radius.”

Barton, Manfredini, Simon, Springborn, and Stieg all became prisoners of war. Stieg was hospitalized. All of them eventually returned home.

Springborn “thought aircraft struck the ground in a small lake” and Manfredini “was told [the] plane exploded in air.” Stieg reported that the aircraft “struck the ground near Potsdam, Germany when it exploded.”

Cousineau, Hehr, Vevle, and Morman were assumed to be in the ship when it struck the ground or blown out when it exploded. Hehr and Cousineau were in the waist, Vevle and Morman may have still been in the cockpit. According to Stieg, Hehr and Cousineau were dead. The condition of Morman and Vevle was not known.

Simon reported that “The only additional information was obtained from the German colonel who interrogated me, who for some unexplainable reason called me in just before my release from the interrogation center to inform me of the disposition of my crew. According to his statement, the bodies of Lt. Vevle, Lt. Morman, Sgt. Cousineau and Sgt. Hehr were found in the airplane. The others were accounted for as prisoners of war except for Sgt. Stieg, regarding who whereabouts he was uninformed. At that time, it was later learned from Stg. Stieg, he was in a hospital in Berlin. It is possible that a more exact position of where the aircraft crashed may be obtained from Sgt. Stieg.” German authorities at the Interrogation Center told other survivors that Lt. Vevle, Lt. Morman, Sgt. Cousineau, and Sgt. Hehr were found in or near the wreckage of the airplane.

The questionnaire filled out by survivors of the crash asked each respondent to explain Pilot Lt. Morman’s fate in part or wholly on supposition. Responses included:

  • “By remaining at the cockpit site until reasonably sure that all had left the ship it is probable that successive fighter assaults reported by the lower turret gunner resulted in the pilot and co-pilot being hit and wounded badly or killed. This is purely an assumption.”
  • “Anoxia victim trying to help crew members while ship on auto pilot.”
  • “Believe he was trying to hold the plane in level flight so crew could get out.”

Responses to the same question regarding Co-pilot Lt. Vevle included:

  • “By remaining at the cockpit site until reasonably sure that all had left the ship it is probable that successive fighter assaults reported by the lower turret gunner resulted in the pilot and co-pilot being hit and wounded badly or killed. This is purely an assumption.”
  • “I was the last man to leave the ship and as I glanced back toward the pilots compartment I couldn’t see his feet. He must have going back in the ship succumbed from anoxia [deprivation of oxygen].”
  • “Believe that for some reason unknown to me he went back either to the cockpit or was trying to make his way back to the waist to warn other crew members since interphone and the alarm system were shot out.”

Responses regarding Waist Gunner Sgt. Cousineau included:

  • “Dead either from wounds or [lack of] oxygen.”
  • “Apparently killed by one of the initial assaults which put the plane out of control (fire).”

Responses regarding Radio Operator Sgt. Hehr included:

  • “Apparently killed by one of the initial assaults which put the plane out of control (fire).”

Manfredini also reported on the tragic death of a member of another 390th crew. “S/Sgt. [Victor] James Perrotta killed while trying to escape at Dulug Luft at Wetzlar, Germany.  Saw it happen.”

The entire squadron of eight aircraft, of which 44-8426 was a part, was lost. Killed aboard 44-8426 were:

  • Pilot, 1st Lt. Alvin J. Morman
  • Co-pilot, 1st Lt. Floyd M. Vevle
  • Radio Operator, T/Sgt. Robert G. Hehr
  • Wait Gunner, S/Sgt. Leon J. Cousineau

Taken prisoner and eventually returned home were:

  • Navigator, 1st Lt. Jack A. Simon
  • Togglier, 1st Lt. Robert C. (or G.) Springborn
  • Top Turret/Engineer T/Sgt. Mario J. Manfredini
  • Ball Turret, S/Sgt. James F. Stieg
  • Tail Gunner, S/Sgt. Samuel W. Barton

One source ( states that Floyd Vevle was initially buried at the Wachow Community Cemetery, but that after the war, his body could not be found.

Even though the German Colonel at the Interrogation Center reported that four bodies were found in the crash, MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 17119 which covers the loss of the crew, does not report that his body was found at the crash site. MACR11719 shows that Robert G. Hehr, Leon J. Cousineau, and Alvin J. Morman were found dead near the place of the crash, 3.5 km west of Wachow and 20 km northeast of Brandenburg. Interment was January 16, 1945 in the community of Wachow. Floyd Vevle’s name was not included among the dead.

MACR11719 Page 18

MACR11719 Page 27

Within a 109-day period of WWII, Oliver Vevle lost both of his twin sons, Lloyd and Floyd. Both in the 8th Air Force. Both Co-pilots. Both killed in action over Germany. Floyd is still considered missing.

Floyd Vevle is memorialized on the Tablet of the Missing at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium. Floyd earned the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Floyd’s twin brother, Lloyd Vevle of the 384th Bomb Group, is buried in Plot C, Row 37, Grave 20 at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium. Like his twin brother, Lloyd earned the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Thank you to Keith Ellefson, combat data specialist for the 384th Bomb Group research group for providing me with a copy of MACR11719.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015