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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.

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 (http://www.fieldsofhonor-database.com/index.php/american-war-cemetery-henri-chapelle-v/50115-vevle-floyd-m) 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

Lloyd Oliver Vevle

Oliver R. Vevle was born in Illinois in 1886. Both of Oliver’s parents were from Norway. Louise Cleveland was born in Illinois in 1884. Both of her parents were also from Norway. Oliver and Louise married on May 6, 1911 in Fort Dodge, Webster County, Iowa. Their first-born son, Rudolph (Rudy) Bernhardt Vevle, came along on October 22, 1912.

In 1920 (according to the federal census), Oliver and Louise Vevle lived at 334 7th Avenue North in Fort Dodge. Martha Cleveland, Louise’s mother, lived with Oliver and Louise. Oddly, Rudolph was not listed in the census record, possibly simply an oversight in recording the census. Oliver worked as a bank teller.

On December 9, 1922, twin sons Lloyd Oliver and Floyd Martin were born.

On October 19, 1925, Louise Vevle died at the age of 41, leaving her husband, Oliver, to raise their three sons. She was buried three days later, on October 22, Rudy’s thirteenth birthday. The twins, Lloyd and Floyd, had not yet reached their third birthday.

Almost four years later, on August 15, 1929, Oliver remarried. His new bride was Martha Elizabeth Richardson Vevle, born in Illinois in 1882. Like Oliver, her parents were born in Norway.

In 1930 (according to the federal census), Oliver and Martha and the rest of the Vevle family lived at 6th Avenue North in Fort Dodge. Oliver was a teller at a savings bank. At 17 years old, Rudolph worked as a grocery store clerk. The twins were 7. Martha was listed as Elizabeth M., so possibly she preferred to go by her middle name.

A 1940 census record for the family eludes my searches, but a 1940 city directory lists Lloyd as a student and Floyd as a salesman at L&L Department store. Their father, Oliver, was listed as a teller at the Fort Dodge National Bank. By the printing of the 1941 Fort Dodge city directory, Lloyd and Floyd were both listed as students. Both boys graduated from Port Washington High School in 1940.

Update, September 19, 2018

Thank you to Sarah Little, who found that a 1940 census record does exist for the Vevle family. Sarah gave me the enumeration district number, page number, and location for the record. After more research I discovered that Ancestry.com had transcribed their last name as Viole and the record was therefore not coming up in searches. In 1940, the Vevle family still lived on 6th Avenue North in Fort Dodge, Iowa. Oliver held the same job as in 1930 as a teller in a bank. Son Rudolph no longer lived at home, but Lloyd and Floyd, at 17 years old, did.

Lloyd Vevle, Senior class of 1940, Port Washington High School Yearbook photo

Lloyd Vevle, Senior class of 1940, Port Washington High School Yearbook photo

Lloyd’s high school strengths and accomplishments included:  English, History, Science, Mathematics, Wrestling, Debate, and Orchestra. His 1940 yearbook quote was “I am not a politician and my other habits are good.”

Floyd Vevle, Senior class of 1940, Port Washington High School Yearbook photo

Floyd Vevle, Senior class of 1940, Port Washington High School Yearbook photo

Floyd’s high school strengths and accomplishments included:  English, History, Science, Mathematics, Wrestling, Student Manager, Debate, and Orchestra. His 1940 yearbook quote was “Honor lies in honest toil.”

On April 7, 1942, oldest brother, Rudy, enlisted in WWII. His residence was noted as Cook County, Illinois, and his place of enlistment as Chicago. His enlistment record states that he was single and had two years of college. He served as a technical sergeant in the US Army.

On November 4, 1942, Floyd enlisted in the US Army Air Corps. His residence was noted as Webster County, Iowa, and his place of enlistment as Minneapolis, Minnesota. His enlistment record states that he was single and had two years of college.

January 31, 1943? Lloyd also enlisted in the US Army Air Corps, but his enlistment record raises some questions. His record states that he was born in 1908, not 1922. It does note his residence as Webster County, Iowa, but incorrectly shows his highest level of education was grammar school. His place of enlistment was noted as Jefferson Barracks, Missouri. His enlistment date was noted as January 31, 1943. Lloyd’s record also noted that he was a widower without dependents, although I have not found a marriage record for him.

Both boys, Lloyd and Floyd, became co-pilots in the 8th Air Force in WWII.

Lloyd was assigned to the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group (Heavy) on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944, James Joseph Brodie Crew. The 384th was based in Grafton Underwood, England. Lloyd’s first mission was as Brodie’s co-pilot on the 384th’s Mission #174 to Dugny (Paris), France. The target was a German Air Force (Luftwaffe) fuel depot.

Lloyd earned the title of First Lieutenant by his nineteenth mission on September 28, 1944, the 384th’s Mission #201 to the Krupps Steel Manufacturing Plant in Magdeburg, Germany. It was on this mission that the Brodie crew’s aircraft, Lazy Daisy, collided with the John Oliver Buslee crew’s aircraft, Lead Banana, coming off the target at Magdeburg. Lloyd Oliver Vevle was one of the eighteen crew from both flying fortresses listed as missing in action.

Floyd was assigned to the 568th Bomb Squadron of the 390th Bomb Group. The 390th was based in Framlingham, England. (Framlingham is just shy of 100 miles from Grafton Underwood.) Ten days after Lloyd was declared missing, Floyd flew his first mission. Would Floyd have gotten word by then that his twin brother was missing in action? It was the 390th’s October 7, 1944 Mission #202 to Bohlen-Biefeld, Germany. Note that each bomb group had their own unique numbering system for missions. Also note that Lloyd’s last mission was #201 and Floyd’s first mission was #202.

Floyd Vevle crew photo

On January 14, 1945, Floyd flew his twenty-seventh mission with the 390th Bomb Group, Mission # 243 to Derben, Germany. He was aboard aircraft 42-8426. Floyd was killed on that mission and he still considered missing.

I estimate that the Oliver and Martha Elizabeth Vevle received word of Lloyd’s death in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collison around January 28, 1945, two weeks after his twin brother, Floyd, died. I base this date on the fact that the Buslee family learned of their son Jay’s death that date and because the identification of both Buslee and Vevle were reported on the same telegram form.

Rudy returned to the states on June 20, 1945, arriving in New York on the Queen Mary. He was released from the service on January 18, 1946.

Lloyd Vevle is buried in Plot C, Row 37, Grave 20 at the Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium. Lloyd earned the Purple Heart and the Air Medal with 3 Oak Leaf Clusters.

Lloyd Vevle grave marker, Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium

Lloyd Vevle grave marker, Ardennes American Cemetery in Neupre, Belgium

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

In 1950, Oliver and Martha Elizabeth Vevle traveled abroad, possibly to visit Lloyd’s grave and find Floyd’s name on the Tablet of the Missing. A passenger list shows them returning on the Queen Elizabeth, leaving Southampton on September 29 and arriving New York October 4.

Oliver died in 1963. Martha Elizabeth died in 1987. Engraved on Oliver and Martha Elizabeth’s tombstone is:

In loving memory of our twin sons
Pilots – U.S. Army Air Corps – W.W. II
Lt. Lloyd O. (1922-1944) — Killed in combat, Mahgraten, Germany. Buried U.S. Military Cemetery Liege, Belgium.
Lt. Floyd M. (1922-1945) — Lost in combat over Berlin, Germany. Missing.

Vevle Tombstone - edited

Lloyd and Floyd’s older brother, Rudy, died on June 13, 2000 at the age of eighty-seven.

Note

The 390th Memorial Museum is located on the grounds of the Pima Air & Space Museum in Tucson, AZ. The 390th’s reunion will be held October 16-17, 2015 in Tucson. The 384th’s reunion will be held later that same month, also in Tucson. On Friday, Oct 30, 2015, the 384th reunion attendees will tour the Pima Air and Space Museum in Tucson. I am looking forward to visiting the 390th Memorial Museum during the reunion.

Links

http://www.384thbombgroup.com

http://www.390th.org

My next post will continue with more information on Floyd Vevle gleaned from MACR11719, the missing air crew report regarding his last mission with the 390th Bomb Group. I had hoped to include the information in this post, but due to a power outage from a large thunder storm sitting over central Florida, I could not finish the job Tuesday evening. Thank you to Keith Ellefson, combat data specialist for the 384th Bomb Group research group for providing me with a copy of MACR11719.

I know Floyd Vevle did not serve with the 384th and is therefore outside of the scope of my usual posts, but being he was Lloyd Vevle’s twin brother, I determined that the information about him was pertinent to the Vevle’s and the 384th’s story.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

 

 

 

Gordon Eugene Hetu

Gordon Eugene Hetu was the ball turret gunner on the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force in WWII.

Gordon was born September 26, 1925 in Detroit, Wayne County, Michigan. He was the only child of Raymond Joseph (1896 – 1982) and Esther A Johnson (1897 to unknown) Hetu. Raymond and Esther were married January 28, 1922, both at the age of 24. Gordon was born four years later, when they were both 28 years old.

Esther was born in Michigan, and her parents were also born in Michigan. Raymond was born in Michigan, but his parents were French Canadian. In 1930, the Hetu family lived at 3821 Webb Avenue in Detroit. Raymond worked a plumber, and Esther was a typist for an insurance office.

In 1940, the Hetu family still lived at 3821 Webb Avenue. Raymond was a maintenance man at an auto factory. Esther no longer worked.

At the young age of seventeen, Gordon enlisted in the Army Air Corps on June 24, 1943. After his training, Gordon was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squad on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944, as the J Brodie Crew’s ball turret gunner.

Gordon’s first of nineteen combat missions was Mission #174 on August 7, 1944. The target was a Luftwaffe Aircraft Fuel Depot at Dugny (Paris), France. The Brodie crew was aboard Snuffy, also known as Worry Bird, as High Section Deputy of the Lead Group. The fuel depot was near Le Bourget and combined two strategic targets in one, the Luftwaffe and their fuel supply. Unfortunately, the lead and low groups dropped their bombs several miles to the east and the high group attacked Chateaudun Airfield as they were unable to sight the primary target. None of the bombs came near the intended target of the Luftwaffe or their fuel supply.

Gordon celebrated his nineteenth birthday on his eighteenth mission with the 384th – Mission #199 on September 26, 1944, to a steelworks target at Osnabruck, Germany. The Brodie crew completed a successful mission aboard Kathleen Lady of Victory.

Gordon’s next mission, his nineteenth, was Mission #201 on September 28, 1944.  The target was the Krupps Steel Manufacturing Plant in Magdeburg, Germany. The Brodie crew completed a successful mission aboard Lazy Daisy, but coming off the target, collided with Lead Banana. Only three men made it out of Lazy Daisy alive, and Gordon was not one of them. He probably never had a chance to emerge from the ball turret.

Gordon Eugene Hetu died September 28, 1944, two days after his nineteenth birthday.  He is buried at Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens in Oakland County, Michigan.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

Donald William Dooley

Donald William Dooley was born July 26, 1919 in Indiana. Donald’s parents were Guy T. (1893 to 1992) and Dora Laverne McWilliams (1893 to 1988) Dooley. Donald had an older sister, Dorothy, who was about 2 1/2 years older than Donald.

In 1920, the Dooley family lived in Walker, Jasper County, Indiana where Donald’s father, Guy, was a farmer. By 1930, the family had moved to Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana where Guy Dooley worked as a foreman at a furniture factory. Between 1938 and 1940, Donald attended Indiana University in Bloomington.

Donald William Dooley Indiana University 1940

Donald William Dooley
Indiana University 1940

On September 10, 1941, at the age of 22, Donald enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Fort Benjamin Harrison, Indiana. His enlistment record notes that he resided in Marion County, Indiana at the time of enlistment. Marion County encompasses the greater Indianapolis area. His enlistment record also notes that he was working as a salesperson at the time and was single.

In WWII, Donald served with the 482nd Bombardment Group (P).  The “P” stood for Pathfinder. The 482nd was activated on August 20, 1943 at AAF Station 102 in Alconbury, Huntingdonshire, England for the purpose of providing pathfinder (PFF) lead aircraft for other bomb groups, specifically through the winter of 1943 to 1944. The 482nd had the distinction of being the only 8th Air Force bomb group to be formed outside of the United States during WWII.

Before the Pathfinders, in 1942 and 1943, the Norden bombsight was used for visual precision bombing in the ETO (European Theater of Operations). However, poor weather conditions often caused problems when the target could not be clearly seen. The 482nd worked to prove a new radar bombing technique to resolve the issue. These new top secret radar platforms were called BTO – Bomb Through Overcast and were used against Nazi Germany.

The 482nd Bomb Group’s last radar-led combat mission was March 22, 1944 to Berlin. On March 23, the 482nd ceased combat operations and became a radar training center and research and development operation. It did, however, undertake special operations, particulary on D-Day when eighteen 482nd crews were provided to lead bomb groups. With the change, 482nd personnel were dispersed to other bomb groups.

Donald William Dooley was transferred to the 384th Bomb Group. He was assigned to the 384th BG Hq Det on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #147 dated July 25,1944. He was then reclassified from MOS 867 (radar mechanic, bombardment) to MOS 757 (radio operator/gunner) and transferred from Hq Det to the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th on SO #179 dated September 8, 1944.

Donald’s first, and only, mission with the 384th Bomb Group was with the James Joseph Brodie crew on September 28, 1944. He replaced William Edson Taylor on that mission as the crew’s radio operator/gunner. The change put him on Lazy Daisy that day, where he was killed in the mid-air collision with the John Oliver Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana coming off the target at Magdeburg.

Donald lost his life at the young age of twenty-five. He is buried at the Valhalla Memory Gardens in Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana.

Notes

  • Information on the 482nd Bombardment Group was obtained from http://www.482nd.org/.
  • MOS means Military Occupational Specialty.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

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

 

 

Leonard Opie

Leonard Wood (previously reported as Wesley) Opie was a member of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII. He came from a farming family in Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois.

Leonard’s father was Chester Arthur Opie (1893 – 1981) and his mother was Annie or Anna M. Opie (born 1898). Both Chester and Annie were born in Illinois. Annie’s parents were both born in Germany, and they immigrated to America before her birth. Chester’s father, Charles “Fremont” Opie, was born in Indiana, and his mother, Anna, was born in Illionis.

Leonard was born on September 14, 1921 in Peoria County, Illinois.

In 1930, the Opie family lived in Trivoli, Peoria County, Illinois.  Chester’s parents lived next to Chester, Annie, and their family, which consisted of son Leonard (eight years old at the time of the census) and daughter Miriam (five years old). Chester was a farm laborer.

In 1940, the family still lived in Trivoli. Chester, wife Annie, son Leonard (18), oldest daughter Miriam (15), youngest daughter Barbara Jean (9), and Chester’s mother Anna all lived together. Chester’s father had died in 1939. Chester was still farming, and Leonard, at eighteen years old, worked on the farm.  

On October 17, 1942, Leonard enlisted in the Army Air Forces. After training, he found himself designated as one of the two flexible (waist) gunners on the James Joseph Brodie crew. Leonard was assigned to the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944.

Once arriving at the 384th’s base in Grafton Underwood in England, Leonard discovered that missions were conducted with only one waist gunner on each crew. The other waist gunner of the Brodie crew was Harry Allen Liniger. On the crew’s first three missions together on August 7, 1944, Liniger was selected to be the the waist gunner on the crew. Leonard did not fly his first mission until August 11 and was finally able to fly with the Brodie crew while Liniger sat out. Leonard also flew the next two missions with the Brodie crew, leaving Liniger back at the base.

By the Brodie crew’s next mission, though, Liniger was back on the crew as waist gunner, leaving Leonard off the crew. Leonard only flew those three missions with the Brodie crew, the last one being on August 24, 1944. His record with the 384th ends there. He is not recorded as flying with another 384th crew. He may have been transferred to a ground crew with the 384th or he may have been transferred to another bomb group.

Leonard did return home after the end of the war, though. On May 13, 1946, he married Hattie Ellen T. Todd (1923 – 2010) in Little Rock, Pulaski County, Arkansas. Twenty-eight years later, on May 20, 1974, he died in Longview (Gregg County), Texas.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

 

 

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

 

Byron L. Atkins

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aboard Lazy Daisy, the navigator, George M. Hawkins, Jr., tail gunner, Wilfred F. Miller, and flexible gunner, Harry A. Liniger were the only survivors. Hawkins wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in 1945. His account, as follows, is included in MACR9366:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

In the Casualty Questionnaire section of MACR9366, Hawkins adds that Miller, the tail gunner, rode the tail down some distance following an explosion which severed the tail from the ship. Miller later bailed out of the tail section. Also, in the Casualty Questionnaire section, Wilfred Miller adds that he heard through Hawkins that the wing of the other plane knocked Atkins out the nose without his chute. On September 28, 1944, on only his sixth mission, and at twenty years old, Byron Atkins died serving his country.

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

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

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

© 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