The Arrowhead Club

Home » My Dad - Ed Farrar » WWII » Eighth Air Force » 384th Bomb Group » Commanding Officers

Category Archives: Commanding Officers

Advertisements

Budd Peaslee – Part 9

Budd Peaslee – Part 8 was published December 13, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 9 concludes my series of posts on the first commander of the 384th Bomb Group, Budd Peaslee.

In the final pages of the final chapter of Heritage of Valor, Budd Peaslee recounted the statistics of the 384th Bomb Group’s “enviable” combat record in WWII. The 384th Bomb Group:

  • Flew 316 missions
  • Dropped over 20,000 tons of bombs on enemy targets
  • Lost 159 B-17’s
  • Lost 1,625 men
  • Were credited with the destruction of 165 enemy fighters in combat, plus 34 probably destroyed and 116 damaged

At the end of hostilities in Europe, the 384th moved to Istres, France where they participated in the evacuation. The airfield at Grafton Underwood was returned to its original tenants for the use of grazing cattle and sheep.

Peaslee wrote that the designation of the group was “no longer a proud identity in the armed forces” but for a select and honorable group of men for whom 384 will always have a special meaning. He would probably be pleased to find that the special meaning of 384 has been passed down to children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews of those men. He would probably be pleased to know the pride we have in the group and of the men of that group, who were represented by that number – 384.

Budd Peaslee died before the 384th Bomb Group website was developed, before the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery became filled with priceless photos, and before the 384th Bomber Group Facebook group started its first discussion. I think Budd Peaslee would be very proud that we have no intention of letting the number 384 become simply “a number preceded by 383 and followed by 385.” We will remember the acts of valor by the men of the 384th and we will make sure future generations learn what these men did for us.

During his military service, Budd Peaslee was awarded the Silver Star, Legion of Merit, Croix de Guerre, three Distinguished Flying Crosses, five Air Medals, service and campaign medals, and a Presidential Citation.

After WWII, Colonel Budd Peaslee served in Formosa as head of the Far East Air Force Section. He retired from the military in 1953 because of physical disabilities. In civilian life, he was the director of the Salinas, California airport and enjoyed flying his Cessna 195.

Budd Peaslee’s wife, Evelyn, died May 8, 1980, and three years later, Budd died on April 3, 1983 in Salinas, California. They are buried in the Garden of Memories in Salinas, Monterey County, California.

I want to close this series on Budd Peaslee with the closing words of his book, Heritage of Valor. Of all the stories written about WWII – the battles, the personal accounts, the self-published, and the best sellers – Budd Peaslee’s final words of Heritage of Valor affect me more deeply than any other.

The tumult and the shouting have died away. The B-17’s and B-24’s will never again assemble into strike formation in the bitter cold of embattled skies. Never again will the musical thunder of their passage cause the very earth to tremble, the source of sound lost in infinity and seeming to emanate from all things, visible and invisible. The great deep-throated engines are forever silent, replaced by the flat, toneless roar of the jets and the rockets. But, on bleak and lonely winter nights in the English Midlands, ghost squadrons take off silently in the swirling mist of the North Sea from the ancient week-choked runways, and wing away toward the east, never to return. On other nights the deserted woodlands ring with unheard laughter and gay voices of young men and young women who once passed that way. Recollections of all these fade a little with each passing year until at last there will finally remain only the indelible records of the all-seeing Master of the Universe to recall the deeds of valor excelled by no other nation, arm, or service. These sacred scrolls will forever remain the heritage of the free and untrampled people of this earth.

Budd Peaslee, courtesy of Quentin Bland via the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 6 was published November 29, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 7 was published December 6, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 8 was published December 13, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Advertisements

Budd Peaslee – Part 8

Budd Peaslee – Part 7 was published December 6, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee thought that WWII was a different type of war. He believed historians have left unsaid “a million words” in the telling of the impact the air war had on the outcome of WWII. He also believed that

Due to the nature of the conflict, no airman could reach the stature to be remembered a hundred years hence.

I doubt that Budd Peaslee would have believed that almost seventy-five years after he lead a heavy bomber group in WWII that he would be remembered so well and so fondly by men who served under him, 384th veterans who only heard of this legend from those who went before them, and by us NexGens, the next generation, who never tire of hearing about this great man who was the first Commander of the bomb group in which our fathers served.

After Budd Peaslee left the command of the 384th, he lead the First Scouting Force, of which he was the primary founder. Peaslee suggested the Scouting Force to 8th Air Force Commander Jimmie Doolittle as a way to gather real-time intelligence in advance of bombing missions by the Eighth Air Force. Peaslee described his idea as:

The First Scouting Force was born in the tormented mind of a bomber commander when his formations were broken up by unpredictable weather conditions along the target route.

Peaslee went on to describe the mission of the Scouting Force:

The mission of the Combat Air Scouts was to range out in front of the penetrating bombers, reporting back by radio any facts of weather, opposition in the form of enemy fighter gaggles, or smoke screens in the target area. On the return flight to England, their mission became that of escort to crippled bombers forced to abandon the cover of defensive formations for one reason or another. They were also to observe and report on any other unusual enemy activity noted along the routes and to search for and report clear areas where the bombers might descend to their bases without the long tedious process of descent on instruments, in cases where conditions of poor flying weather prevailed over the British Isles. Not the least of the Scout function was to prevent the bombers from being forced into conditions of weather by the mass of their formations and the momentum of their flight. The Air Scouts, led by former bomber commanders, investigated all weather hazards and kept the bomber leader informed by radio.

Peaslee explained that the Scouts were not in the air to become aces, but to save bombers, which he notes they succeeded in beyond expectation. He quotes an official evaluation in a citation which states the Scouts were of “inestimable value to the prosecution of heavy bombardment operations.”

Plaque in the Road to Berlin exhibit in the WWII Museum in New Orleans

Regardless of his founding of and continued role in the Scouting Force, Peaslee’s heart was still with the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton Underwood.

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 6 was published November 29, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 7 was published December 6, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Budd Peaslee – Part 7

Budd Peaslee – Part 6 was published November 29, 2017 here. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to the entire series).

In Heritage of Valor, Budd Peaslee describes air battles, including the brutal first Schweinfurt mission, from the Summer of 1943 into the Fall. He quotes statistics, including numbers of bombers lost and number of men lost. But the most memorable words of his book to me are not the statistics, but his understanding of the brutalities of war and his empathy for the men who served under him. He wrote:

The men who flew the missions were numb with fatigue and the mental strain of facing death in one form or another – from hundreds of thousands of shrapnel fragments, cannon projectiles, bursting bombs, bullets, fire, oxygen starvation, or a fall from five miles up to sudden and total destruction on the ground. This kind of war had no foxholes or dugouts, no hedgerows or earthworks, no place to hide, no place to run; it was a far different kind of conflict than man had before faced.

He continued with this excerpt that answers the endless “what was it like over there” question to a veteran who was there long ago…

In the absolute darkness of the blacked-out metal huts of the combat crews there was silence except for the regular heavy breathing of those who slept and the creaking of the restless bedsprings of those who couldn’t. Always, day and night, day after day and night after night, there was the distant rumble of engines, as much a part of the air as oxygen. The engines were never still, but had to be listened for with effort except when some crewman revved up a nearby bomber engine to test the replaced spark plugs or the power output of a new turbo-supercharger. In this lonely darkness a man was alone with himself and his thoughts, from which there was no escape. It was in this hour of truth that those with the keenest sensibilities suffered the most. To some the thought of what they and their comrades must face on the morrow took possession of their minds and with it came a vague sadness for those they had seen falter in the vast expanses of sky and then start the long fall toward oblivion.

He continued with the answer to another question – why didn’t our fathers talk about the war?

To some came the nameless dread of the future for themselves, and the restlessness of suspense while waiting for the inevitable. To others, the more sensitive, there was thought of the guilt they bore for their acts and contributions. They saw the masses of the innocent, the aged infirm and helpless, the young, the uncomprehending and the pitiful – all shocked and torn by the devastation of fire and blast that was of their making. These were the things that besieged the mind, that could not be changed or buried by conversation with a companion, or a new romance with a willing British maid, or the ordering of another drink from the club bartender. This was man living with himself in the darkness of his thoughts, but hoping for the blessed oblivion of sleep, dreading to hear the approaching footsteps of a runner summoning him to the duties of war.

Budd Peaslee was a commander to whom the airmen and ground crews of the 384th could relate. He left the 384th on September 8, 1943, but he would forever be THE commander of the 384th, “the Boss.”

Col. Budd J. Peaslee
Photo Courtesy of Marc Poole, 2014, via the 384th Bomb Group Photo Gallery

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 6 was published November 29, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Budd Peaslee – Part 6

One of the subjects I have neglected for the past six months is my series of posts on 384th Bomb Group Commander Budd Peaslee. I’d like to finish up the series before the end of the year, so the next several posts will be all about Budd Peaslee.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to the entire series).

The 384th Bomb Group joined the Eighth Air Force flying missions over Europe in the first week of June 1943 with thirty-five combat crews. Replacement bombers and replacement crews would be added as original crews failed to return. In the first three months of operation, forty-two 384th Bomb Group bombers failed to return from missions over Europe, representing a 120% loss. At this time in the war, a flyer’s tour was defined as twenty-five missions.

In his book, Heritage of Valor, Budd Peaslee offers insights into WWII, and air war in general, that I have never seen from any other source. The following is a paragraph from Peaslee’s book.

Recorded history has little to say about great air battles or significant happenings of aerial combat. As an army or navy moves ponderously across the surface of the earth there is time to record the strategy of its generals or admirals. There is even time to speculate on their thoughts and motives, and to make analysis of their decisions. And there is time to record and reward great acts of heroism and courage, and to condemn and punish cowardice and error. But with an air force, although the drama and heroics are undeniably present, the occurrence is condensed in time and expanded in space to such an extent that the record of significant decision is lost forever to the world. That there are momentous occasions – as an air force moves from deep in the friendly zone, mounts into the firmament, crosses multiple sea and mountain barriers and national boundaries, to penetrate in a few hours to the very heartland of the enemy and there to strike a devastating blow – let no one doubt. That these deeds are lost to history and to the people is the unfortunate penalty of the era of speed that will become worse, never better.

As a heavy bomb group commander based in England, in the summer of 1943, Peaslee identified another enemy of the 8th Air Force, or at the very least an obstacle to a successful air war, poor weather conditions.

In these early months of day bombardment, success was dependent almost wholly on a favorable weather situation, not only over the bases where the bombers must rise and assemble into formation and to which they must return, but also along the routes and in the target area. In truth the weather had turned out to be the greatest enemy of the American scheme and until it was defeated, or at least neutralized to a great extent, the effectiveness of daylight operation with massive striking forces against precision targets was open to serious and skeptical scrutiny.

During that same summer, Peaslee recalls a particular mission in his book, Mission 9 on July 24, 1943.

24 July 1943, Heroya, Norway (Industry)
Back L-R: Lt. Brown (OBS/TG), SSgt. William O’Donnell (LWG), SSgt Fred Wagner (RO), Lt. Charles Bonnett (B), Lt. James Martin-Vegue (N), SSgt James Self (RWG), Lt. James Merritt (CP)
Front L-R: TSgt. George Ursta (BT), Lt. John DuBois (N), TSgt David Cochran (TT), Col. Budd Peaslee (P)
Aircraft: B-17F 544th BS 42-5883 SU*D No Name Jive/Weary Willie
Source: The Quentin Bland Collection via the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery.

The bombing at Heroya has passed into history and is rarely recalled, except by those who made the trip and who still survive. To them it was the most successful and shrewedly planned and executed mission of the entire war.

384th Bomb Group veteran Burnia Martin flew that mission. I met Burnia at the 8th Air Force reunion in New Orleans this year, but wasn’t aware of his participation in that mission, and missed my opportunity to hear about it in person.

Burnia Martin then…

Burnia Martin
Photo courtesy of the Quentin Bland Collection via the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Burnia Martin now…

Burnia Martin, September 2017

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 5 was published May 24, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Budd Peaslee – Part 5

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to the entire series).

Almost a year before the 384th Bomb Group arrived at their home base, the initial air strike of the 8th Air Force was launched from the Grafton Underwood airdrome on July 4, 1942, American Independence Day. It was carried out by a light bombardment squadron, the 15th, using aircraft borrowed from the RAF. Six American crews were led by six British crews and they attacked airdromes in Holland.

The next year, the B-17’s of the 384th Bomb Group moved in. This new home of the 384th, Grafton Underwood, was in rolling wooded hills in the English Midlands. The airdrome site was previously a treeless meadow in a game preserve with private herds of deer and owned by an English nobleman. His family castle, which dated back to the days of Robin Hood, stood a short distance away.

The base was originally built by British Bomber Command and had been operated by the RAF. The formal transfer from the RAF to American ownership was scheduled to take place on the one year anniversary of the July 4 mission.

The airdrome was made up of two crossing runways and the end of each was connected by a circular taxi strip. From the taxis strips, about fifty short strips led to the concrete hard stands, or parking areas, for the Group’s B-17’s. There were several buildings: a small two-story control tower, operations and intelligence buildings, and a hangar and shop area. Other buildings, such as administrative headquarters, the bomb and fuel dumps, and squadron living quarters were scattered in the surrounding woodlands.

Two narrow paved roads led from the airfield to the living areas, but the remainder of the roads were gravel or dirt which would turn to mud for the majority of the time. Grafton Underwood was nicknamed “Grafton Undermud” due to the usual condition of the roads. The base had three exit roads which led to neighboring villages. The closest cities were Kettering, about three miles from GU, and Northampton, about six miles from the base.

Once the 384th moved in to GU, they were given only two weeks to get organized and establish their routines. The flyers also took flights over the English Midlands to familiarize themselves with the countryside and learn how to find their way back to base. There were many airdromes that looked similar from the air.

The 384th waited for their moment, their debut, through a week of poor weather conditions after being declared combat-ready. Finally, on June 21, the message came across the teletype machine: ATTENTION, ATTENTION ALL BOMBER GROUPS: ALL GROUPS ASSUME A CONDITION OF ALERT FOR PROBABLE FIELD ORDER FOR JUNE 22, 1943.

With the receipt of this message, all passes were canceled and the gates were closed to all but specially authorized outbound traffic. The bar in the Officers Club was closed. The waiting began for the call that the field order was in. The 384th’s Mission #1 would be the 8th Air Force’s Mission #65. Take-off, or H hour, was set at 0700 hours, briefing at 0500, and breakfast at 0400. The crews were called at 0330.

At the combat briefing, Intelligence Officer Major William Edward “Pop” Dolan told the crews that the main force would strike the synthetic rubber industry at Huls. But the 384th’s part in the mission would be to confuse the German fighters by making themselves obvious while the main force climbed in altitude in secrecy over the North Sea before turning inland toward the Ruhr Valley. The 384th’s target would be the Ford and General Motors factories at Antwerp, surrounded by flak guns. The 384th was selected to lead the attack with the 381st Bomb Group trailing them. Their attack on Antwerp would divert the German fighters from the main force heading to Huls. They were told to expect an air battle. Other speakers at the briefing covered the various phases and data for the mission.

The last speaker of the briefing was Group Commander Budd Peaslee. Peaslee reminded the air crews of their responsibilities, the importance of holding their close defensive formations, and warned them about the tactics of the enemy fighters and that they should remain calm when shooting at the enemy, holding fire until the target was within range. He said they were “each their brothers’ keeper aloft in a hostile sky” and that he would lead them to success on this mission.

22 June 1943, Antwerp Belgium (Industry)
Back, L-to-R: MAJ. SELDON L MCMILLIN (OBS/LWG), GORDON HANKINSON (CP), JAMES H FOISTER (N), DAVID WILMOT (N), CHARLES D BONNETT (B), COL. BUDD J PEASLEE (P).
Front, L-to-R: WILLIAM SHELTON (RWG), WILLIAM RALSTON (TT), CLYDE SAVAGE (BT), ROY GRIFFITH (RO), JULIUS MCNUTT (TG).
Aircraft: B-17F 547th BS 42-30043 SO*V Ruthless
Source: The Quentin Bland Collection.

The 384th Bomb Group’s web site records the following information for this first mission of the Group:

Col. Budd J. Peaslee led the 384th Bombardment Group (H) on this mission aboard 42-30043, Ruthless.

Combat Chronology: VIII Bomber Command Mission Number 65: In the first large-scale daylight raid on the Ruhr, 235 B-17’s are dispatched to hit the chemical works and synthetic rubber plant at Huls in the main attack; 183 bomb the target; we claim 46-21-35 Luftwaffe aircraft; we lose 16 and 75 others are damaged; casualties are 2 KIA, 16 WIA and 151 MIA; this plant, representing a large percentage of the country’s producing capacity, is severely damaged. 11 YB-40’s accompany the Huls raid; 1 is lost.

In a second raid, 42 B-17’s are dispatched to bomb the former Ford and General Motors plants at Antwerp; 39 hit the target; they claim 1-2-9 Luftwaffe aircraft; we lose 4, 1 is damaged beyond repair and 17 others are damaged; casualties are 1 KIA, 3 WIA and 40 MIA. An additional 21 B-17’s fly an uneventful diversion.

Two of the 384th’s B-17’s failed to return from this mission. The Frederick Disney crew aboard 42-5853, Salvage Queen, was damaged by enemy aircraft and ditched in the English Channel. The Robert Oblinski crew aboard 42-30076 was shot down by enemy aircraft and crashed near Wilhelminadoorp, the Netherlands.

The 384th Bomb Group had officially entered the war.

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 4 was published April 5, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

 

Budd Peaslee – Part 4

Colonel Budd Peaslee

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to the entire series).

In late April 1943, Budd Peaslee received orders from the Second Air Force Headquarters detailing the coordinated movements of his 384th Bomb Group to their base in England. Key officers would be dispatched first to Atlantic City, New Jersey. There they would be instructed in the procedures required to move such a large group. They would greet the ground troops who would travel by troop train the following week to a then-undisclosed location on the East Coast. The air personnel would first proceed to a final staging air base at Camp Kearney, Nebraska.

Following the staging, ground troops would arrive at the point of embarkation via ground transportation, followed by a voyage by ship to England. Air personnel would travel to England via air in their new B-17’s.

On May 9, 1943, movement began to the staging point at Camp Kilmer in New Jersey. The ground troops were at Camp Kilmer for three weeks, and departed May 26 by train for the Port of New York. In fear of German submarines waiting to send them to watery graves, they boarded the Queen Elizabeth and departed the United States on May 27. An escort of destroyers guided them on their way, but turned back the first night out of New York.

After a three and one-half week journey across the Atlantic, on June 2, 1943, the Queen Elizabeth and her precious cargo arrived at the Firth of Clyde and dropped anchor off Greenock, Scotland. The crew staggered ashore on their sea legs and then set off for their final destination.

At Camp Kearney, Nebraska, the air personnel were fitted with new flying gear, and the B-17’s were serviced, checked, and inspected.

In late May 1943, Major Selden McMillin and a hand-picked crew left for their undisclosed location in England. It was their duty to travel ahead of the group to prepare for the entire group’s arrival at their final destination.

A few days later, the rest of the group took off for Presque Isle, Maine. First to take off was Group Commander Budd Peaslee in a B-17F, serial number 43-0063. The aircraft almost immediately experienced engine problems and the crew had to land after less than five minutes in the air and just prior to the takeoff of the next bomber in line. The remainder of the group departed Camp Kearney with Budd Peaslee and his crew forced to wait for repairs, grounding them until the next day.

Aircraft 43-0063 was still experiencing problems the next day, but nothing more could be found wrong with the plane. Midway between Toledo and Buffalo, manifold pressure dropped unexpectedly and the crew had to land in Rome, New York for repairs. A check of the engines the next morning showed everything to be operating normally, so no repairs were made before the crew departed for Presque Isle, where they successfully arrived without further incident.

The day following the arrival of Budd Peaslee and the crew of 43-0063, the group joined the bomber stream to the next destination of Gander, Newfoundland. The route took them across New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, and on a two hundred mile overwater flight across the Gulf of St. Lawrence to the southern tip of the island of Newfoundland. Part of the bomber stream was then routed to Goose Bay, Labrador.

Peaslee’s aircraft flew perfectly until time for landfall. Aircraft 43-0063 began to slowly lose power as fog was forming over the base. They were redirected to land at a base in Stephenville on St. George Bay, which was clear of fog.

Shortly after daylight the next day, Peaslee and his crew were again airborne. He caught up with the rest of his unit at Gander, as the weather had grounded everyone for several days.

Once the weather changed over the Atlantic, the air crews of the 384th Bomb Group were set to take off. They had to fly above 12,000 feet to avoid a storm. The flight path would be directly across the North Atlantic. Landfall would be northern Ireland, then across the North Channel to the Irish Sea and Firth of Clyde to Prestwick, Scotland.

At takeoff, the engines of 43-0063 ran smoothly, having been once again pronounced perfect by the aircraft mechanics. But four hundred miles from Gander and twelve hundred miles from Ireland, the Number 4 engine was going bad again, with power continuing to drop, causing the ship to veer off course. They had to drop to an altitude of 8,000 feet and reduce air speed, but decided to continue on their course on three engines.

The bomber stream continued four thousand feet above Peaslee’s aircraft. Shortly after daybreak, 43-0063 began to receive radio signals from a station in Ireland. The radio compass indicated that the station was a considerable distance south of the aircraft heading. The navigator believed the ship to be on course and a check with a radio station at Prestwick, Scotland confirmed his belief, so the heading was not changed. The crew later learned that a false radio station had been set up in enemy-occupied France to lure ocean-crossing aircraft off course. Peaslee’s crew would not have been the first to be lost through this deception had they believed the ruse. Instead, they landed safely in Scotland only three hours behind schedule.

All of Peaslee’s group successfully arrived in Prestwick except for Kelmer Hall’s crew. They experienced engine failure in flight and attempted to return to base, but a second engine failed causing them to ditch in the sea. The aircraft broke up and sank, but the entire crew made it into the rubber rafts, spending a cold night afloat. The next morning, a search ship sighted them and the crew was rescued.

The next morning following their arrival in Scotland, the group was guided to their home base of Grafton Underwood in the Midlands of England by Colonel Chuck Marion of the Eighth Air Force Bomber Command. With so many American bases in the area, new crews often landed at the wrong one, so they would follow Marion in group formations.

Peaslee’s aircraft was checked by the mechanics in Prestwick and pronounced ready for flight. About mid-point in takeoff, the Number 4 engine died, but became airborne on three engines.

From Prestwick in southwest Scotland, the bomber stream flew along the coastline of the Irish Sea south toward London and the English Midlands. Sixty miles north of London, over Grafton Underwood, Budd Peaslee made radio contact with flight control, established the landing pattern, and the aircraft of the 384th Bomb Group landed in their new home. They were greeted by familiar faces, the ground crew that they had not seen since Sioux City, Iowa. It was the first week of June and the 384th Bomb Group had arrived in England and was ready to go to war.

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 3 was published March 1, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Budd Peaslee – Part 3

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here. (Scroll to the end of this post for links to Parts 1 and 2).

Budd Peaslee and his 384th Bomb Group left Wendover, Utah on April 1, 1943 and headed to Sioux City, Iowa. In Sioux City, the Group received their new B-17’s. They were beautiful, but there was a problem with the engines. The problem was blamed on the never-ending dust that blew across the airfield, but some thought the problem was actually poor workmanship and metallurgy due to production pressures.

While at Sioux City, the Group was ordered to the West Coast for joint maneuvers with two other combat groups in training. They were based at Salinas Army Air Base in central California and the highlight of the excursion was a show of a hundred bombers over San Francisco as a display of air power. Returning to Sioux City, the Group had their only accident in the United States.

Major Selden “Mac” McMillin, deputy group commander, brought up the rear on the flight back to Iowa. He had been the Group’s dispatcher, sending B-17’s off at three-minute intervals from Salinas, so he was the last to take off. As he approached Sioux City, he could not lower the landing wheels on his bomber.

Technicians worked with him from the tower as McMillin circled the base while attempting to lower the gear, but it was not to be. He had no choice but to land the bomber on its belly, with the ball turret grinding against the runway. It came to a stop after sliding along the runway for about half a mile. The bomber was not badly damaged and there were no injuries.

Training was complete for the first members of the 384th Bomb Group by the end of April. From classroom study, to combat training in firing machine guns and dropping bombs, to mock briefings, and even drills in how to ditch in the North Sea, they were as ready for combat as they could be. The 384th was the first group on record that completed its training without a death.

All that was left was the final inspection by the Second Air Force. The inspectors studied the Group’s training records, made final checks of the combat groups, and examined the state of the organization. Pop Dolan’s intelligence section was commended as the best in the Second Air Force. With every other section satisfactory, the Group, now over a thousand strong, packed for combat duty and took final leaves to visit their families for the last time before shipping overseas.

* * * * *

384th Bomb Group Model Crews

The first crews assigned to each squadron, and the dates of assignment, are given in the following section. These crews were termed “Model Crews” in the squadron histories.

  • Assigned to the 544th Bomb Squad on 31 December 1942: 2nd Lt Kelmer J Hall
  • Assigned to the 545th Bomb Squad on 31 December 1942: 2nd Lt Richard T Carrington
  • Assigned to the 546th Bomb Squad on 31 December 1942: 2nd Lt Philip A Algar
  • Assigned to the 547th Bomb Squad on 27 January 1943: 1st Lt James W Smith

384th Bomb Group Initial Aircrews

The following 12 aircrews were assigned to the 384th BG on Gowen Field (Idaho) Special Orders #32 dated 1 February 1943. Personnel on this list were transferred from the 29th BG at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, to the 384th BG at Wendover Field, Utah.

  1. 2nd Lt Halseth, Edwin S, 544th
  2. 2nd Lt Estes, Thomas J, 544th
  3. 2nd Lt Hausenfluck, Jesse D, Jr, 544th
  4. 2nd Lt Edwards, Floyd C, 545th
  5. 2nd Lt Armstrong, Lloyd R, 545th
  6. 2nd Lt Mattes, Frank G, 545th
  7. 2nd Lt Henderson, Lykes S, 546th
  8. 2nd Lt Dietel, William, Jr, 546th
  9. 2nd Lt Kelly, James H, 546th
  10. 2nd Lt Pulcipher, Ralph R, 547th
  11. 2nd Lt Ogilvie, Don P, 547th
  12. 2nd Lt Disney, Frederick G, 547th

Final Allotment of 384th Bomb Group Aircrews

The following 20 aircrews were assigned to the 384th BG on Gowen Field Special Orders #70 dated 11 March 1943. Personnel on this list were transferred from the 29th BG at Gowen Field, Boise, Idaho, to the 384th BG at Wendover Field, Utah.

  1. F/O Erickson, Gordon B, 544th
  2. F/O Wheat, Delton G, 544th
  3. 2nd Lt Kilmer, Robert B, 547th
  4. F/O Cuddeback, Thomas A, 544th
  5. 2nd Lt Way, John R, 544th
  6. F/O Burgoon, Howard C, 544th
  7. 2nd Lt Myer, Lawrence W, 545th
  8. 2nd Lt Manning, Raymond W, 545th
  9. F/O Lecates, Robert L, 545th
  10. F/O Bishop, Charles W, 546th
  11. F/O Rosio, Joseph, 546th
  12. F/O Wilson, Clayton R, 546th
  13. 2nd Lt Kowalski, Elwood D, 546th
  14. F/O Lee, Roy J, 545th
  15. F/O Hall, Ralph J, 545th
  16. 2nd Lt Riches, George T, 545th
  17. 2nd Lt Olbinski, Robert J, 545th
  18. 2nd Lt Witt, Francis J, 547th
  19. 2nd Lt Koch, William S, 547th
  20. 2nd Lt LeFevre, Charles H, 547th (Frink, Horace Everett “Ev”  replaced LeFevre before going to England)

To be continued…

Sources

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Budd Peaslee – Part 2 was published February 1, 2017 here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Budd Peaslee – Part 2

Budd Peaslee – Part 1 was published January 4, 2017 here.

Shortly after the 384th Bomb Group officially came into existence on January 1, 1943, ten-man combat crews began arriving from Gowan Field. Gowan Field was near Boise, Idaho, about three hundred miles northwest of Wendover Army Air Base. The crews had already begun transitional training in B-17’s. At Wendover, they would begin combat crew training and the final phases before being shipped overseas to combat. Budd Peaslee was their group commander during this period.

Other troops also began arriving at Wendover from a variety of specialized schools across the country. These men were necessary for a bombardment group to be self-sustaining and included every specialty from housekeeping and cooks to automotive, armament, communications, and more.

Flight operations began with the assignment of training bombers. In his book, “Heritage of Valor,” Peaslee describes the training aircraft as “dogs with an extremely high out-of-commission rate.” Maintenance crews worked around the clock to keep aircraft in the air.

Peaslee reflected that even with the kind of pressure the crews experienced, morale remained good. He credited it with the responsibility the maintenance crews felt to those who would soon face the enemy in combat.

The endless training and maintenance were not the only factors affecting the crews. The winter weather took its toll, too. The winds were bitterly cold and rain and snow squalls were frequent. Winter storms complicated the normal hazards of the training flights.

Training went on day after day with the exception of religious services on Sunday. And once a month, a three day pass to Salt Lake City broke up the routine. This was the norm for the first three months of 1943 except for one ten day period.

The weather officers of the Second Air Force predicted two weeks of foul weather and fog for the Salt Lake Basin and the commanding general did not like the idea of grounding the 384th for such an extended period of time. The 384th had two hours to pack up combat crews and maintenance personnel and take off for a base at Great Falls, Montana for an expected stay of two weeks. All B-17’s in commission were manned by combat crews that were behind in their training and took off for Great Falls, six hundred miles away. Operations at the Great Salt Lake bombing ranges were halted due to fog for the next ten days.

In Great Falls, though it was bitter cold, the weather remained clear and the crews were able to gain valuable experience they would have been without had they stayed at Wendover. They also had ten days of the sights and sounds and girls of the city and managed to balance their work and play without a single incident.

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Budd J. Peaslee – Part 1

I have previously written about all of the commanders of the 384th Bomb Group except one. If you ask anyone who commanded the Group, the first – and sometimes only – answer will be Budd Peaslee. Budd was the most beloved of those in charge of leading this group of heavy bomber boys into war. I think he mattered most to them because they knew that they mattered most to him.

Why did I wait to write about the first commander last? Because I found him the most interesting and realized that I could not cover the story of Budd Peaslee in one blog post. I don’t know how many posts it will take to share everything I want to share about this man, but my plan is to write about him once a month in this weekly blog until I’ve said all I want to say.

Otherwise, I plan to return primarily to writing about my dad and his crew and their families during WWII. There are many, many wonderful stories that came out of all the boys of the 384th’s experiences, but I do not have time to write about them all. So I have decided to return my focus to the Buslee and Brodie crews of the 544th and 545th Bomb Squads of the 384th.

I constantly discover new relatives, NexGens, of these boys and want to share the story of their fathers, grandfathers, uncles, and great uncles with them, and with anyone else who will listen. We all need to be reminded of their sacrifice in their fight for our freedom. When we are reminded of that cost, it makes our sense of freedom all the sweeter. Know it. Feel it. And share it with the next generation.

And now I turn my attention to that first commander…

COL. BUDD J. PEASLEE

Budd John Peaslee was born May 26, 1902 in Napoli, Cattaragus County, New York, to Geoffrey J. and Zella Ida Glover Peaslee. Budd’s father was a native of New York and his mother was from Michigan. While Budd was still a young boy, the family moved across the country and by 1910, Geoff, Zella, and Budd were living in Monterey in Monterey County, California.  The 1910 census lists Geoff as a helper at an oil pumping station.

Ten years later, according to the 1920 census, the family was living in Toro in Monterey County. Today the area is known as Toro Park. Geoff was the Chief Stationary Engineer for the oil pumping station. Geoff and Zella’s family had grown from one to four children. Budd, now 17, had been joined by a sister and two brothers, Julia J. 7, Everett C. 5, and Richard T. 3 years old.

In 1922, Budd graduated from Salinas High School. A later publication of the Salinas High School Yearbook reported that in 1923, Budd worked for Associated Oil Co.

On July 2, 1927, at twenty-five years old, Budd enlisted in the military.

In 1930, Budd was twenty-eight years old and was a married man. His wife was Nettie Caroline Phelps, who was nineteen years old (born June 29, 1911 in New Berlin, Chenango County, New York). Some records show they married in 1933, but the census records show them as married and living together in 1930. Budd was a lieutenant in the United States Army and the Peaslees were stationed in Wahiawa, Honolulu, Hawaii Territory.

By 1935, Budd and Nettie had returned to the mainland and were living in Monroe, Amherst County, Virginia. That year Nettie gave birth to their son, Richard John.

On January 31, 1940, Budd’s wife Nettie died in Riverside, Riverside County, California. He remarried Evelyn Davis (born September 13, 1914 in Alabama) in 1941.

The attack on Pearl Harbor came on December 7, 1941. Just short of a year later, the 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) was activated on December 1, 1942 at Gowen Field, Idaho. Budd Peaslee was named commander of the group on December 18. By now Budd was a veteran pilot with extensive flying experience, including the B-17.

Budd Peaslee could tell you best about the start of the 384th Bomb Group’s training phase at Wendover Army Air Base in Utah on January 1, 1943 in this excerpt from Budd’s book, “Heritage of Valor.”

The 384th, destined to be a combat group of the Eighth Air Force, European Theater of Operations, came into official existence on January 1, 1943, with two officers present. The writer as the commanding officer, and one Captain “Pop” Dolan, intelligence officer extraordinaire. The station of organization was located 125 miles west of Salt Lake City, Utah, and about 500 miles to the east of San Francisco, Calif., on as barren a piece of desert as any in the United States. This Wendover Army Air Base stood about a hundred yards east of the Nevada-Utah border. The first official act of the group came when Capt. Dolan, his face whipped to a cherry red by the icy wind, presented himself smartly to the colonel, “Reporting for duty.”

A month later, on February 4, 1943, Budd lost his father, Geoffrey J. Peaslee, who died in Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz County, California. Budd didn’t have much time to mourn his father’s passing while he was preparing a B-17 heavy bomber group for war.

To be continued…

Sources

“Heritage of Valor” by Budd J. Peaslee.

www.384thbombgroup.com

384th Bomb Group photo gallery

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Excerpts from Heritage of Valor by Budd J. Peaslee, © Budd J. Peaslee, 1963

Julius K. Lacey

COL. JULIUS K. LACEY

Col. Julius Kahn Lacey was the second Commander of the 384th Bomb Group from September 6, 1943 to November 23, 1943. He was a temporary replacement for Col. Peaslee.

Col. Budd Peaslee hands off command of the 384th Bomb Group to Col. Julius Lacey, September 6, 1943

Col. Budd Peaslee hands off command of the 384th Bomb Group to Col. Julius Lacey, September 6, 1943

Julius Kahn Lacey was born in Elizabethton, Tennessee on September 18, 1904. He grew up in Tennessee and graduated from the University of Tennessee with a Bachelor of Science degree in Civil Engineering.

In February 1929, he enlisted in the military as a flying cadet and entered Primary Flying School at Brooks Field, Texas. In February 1930, he graduated from Advanced Flying School at Kelly Field, Texas. He was appointed second lieutenant in the Air Reserves.

In May 1930, he received his regular army commission orders and reported to Selfridge Field, Michigan, where he served with the 17th Pursuit Squadron. He later served with the 57th Service Squadron.

In August 1931, he entered the Air Corps Technical School at Chanute Field, Illinois. Following graduation in June 1932, he was assigned to the Fifth Observation Squadron at Mitchel Field, New York.

Before leaving for New York in 1932, Julius Lacey married Page Denman Browne (born April 23, 1913 in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas) in Champaign, Illinois.

Page Browne Lacey, wife of Julius K. Lacey, in a school yearbook photo. Caption reads: A small person that radiates pep and joyousness.

Page Browne Lacey, wife of Julius K. Lacey, in a school yearbook photo. Caption reads: A small person that radiates pep and joyousness.

In January 1934, Lacey served with the Eastern Zone Army Air Corps air mail operation out of Langley Field, Virginia. In May, he returned to Mitchel Field, serving with the Ninth Observation Group.

In September 1934, he enrolled in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. After graduation in June 1936 with a master’s degree in meteorology, Lacey went to Norway and Germany to study weather conditions and research aircraft icing.

Lacey returned to Langley Field in September 1936 as base meteorological officer. He put the new Weather Service into place for the Air Corps. It was Lacey who proposed transferring the meteorological service from the Signal Corps and he planned and formulated the new organization.

In March 1937, he became the meteorological officer of the Second Wing of the Air Corps. Three months later, he assumed command of the Second Weather Squadron and was regional control officer of the Second Weather Region.

In December 1939, he graduated from a four-month course at the Air Corps Tactical School at Maxwell Field in Alabama, and then returned to Langley Field.

In 1940, Lacey was selected to survey port facilities and possible locations for air bases in Greenland. By December, he assumed command of the Fourth Weather Region at Maxwell Field, Alabama.

In August 1941, Lacey was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Air Corps and in January 1942, he became Deputy Director of the Weather Service.

In 1942, he was sent to Europe to analyze meteorological problems that affected the Royal Air Force and US Bomber Command.

In 1943, Lacey commanded the Provisional Group at Boise Air Base, Idaho, and then assumed command of the 103rd Combat Wing at Walla Walla Air Base in Washington.

In the latter part of 1943, Lacey went to England where he commanded the 384th Bomb Group for about three months from September 6 to November 23, replacing Colonel Budd Peaslee.

Col. Julius Lacey, 384th Bomb Group Commander at Grafton Underwood

Col. Julius Lacey, 384th Bomb Group Commander at Grafton Underwood

 

Col. Julius K. Lacey at a mission briefing, Grafton Underwood

Col. Julius K. Lacey leads a mission briefing, Grafton Underwood

 

Col. Lacey hands off command of the 384th Bomb Group to Col. Dale Smith on November 23, 1943

Col. Lacey hands off command of the 384th Bomb Group to Col. Dale Smith on November 23, 1943

Following his command of the 384th, Brigadier General Julius Lacey was given command of the 94th Bombardment Wing, which was officially activated on December 12, 1943. The Wing was comprised of the 351st Bomb Group, 401st Bomb Group, and 457th Bomb Group. Lacey commanded the wing until June 1945.

In July 1945, Lacey went on to command the 15th Bombardment Training Wing, and then the Second Air Force from November 1945 to February 1946. (One source alternately states Lacey’s service at this time as: in July 1945, he became Deputy Commander for Operations and Training of the Second Air Force at Colorado Springs, Colorado).

In June 1946, Lacey entered the National War College at Washington, D.C. He graduated a year later and was appointed Commandant of the Air Tactical School, Tyndall Field, Florida.

In 1950, General Lacey joined the Air Training Command and assumed command of Mather Air Force Base, California and the 3535th Bomb Training Wing there.

In February 1952, Lacey was appointed combat crew training Air Force project officer at ATRC headquarters, Scott Air Force Base, Illinois, and assumed command of the Crew Training Air Force, ATRC, at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, in March.

In October 1953, Lacey transferred to Far East Air Forces, and became Vice Commander of the Fifth Air Force. He was named special assistant to the commander, FEAF, on May 5, 1954. On July 15, 1954 he was appointed J-3, Far East Command, FEAF, and on April 26, 1955 became Deputy Chief of Staff, Plans, FEAF.

General Lacey returned to the United States in November 1955, and was appointed Commandant, USAF Institute of Technology, Air University, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. He retired in 1957 as a US Air Force Major General.

Julius Kahn Lacey

Julius Kahn Lacey

Julius Lacey’s decorations include the Silver Star with oak leaf cluster, Distinguished Flying Cross with oak leaf cluster, Bronze Star Medal, Air Medal with two oak leaf clusters, and the French Legion of Honor and Croix de Guerre with Palm.

Julius Kahn Lacey died in July 5, 1992 in San Antonio, Bexar, Texas. He is buried in Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas, Plot: Section 4 Site 25-A. He also has a cenotaph memorial at Lacey Cemetery in Carter County Tennessee. His wife Page died less than a year later on April 1, 1993 and is buried beside him.

Note:  Also buried at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery is Robert Fish, fifth commander of the 384th Bomb Group.

Sources:

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016