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Faithful Correspondent

George Edwin Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae, sent her telephone number to the Buslees at their request.  They wished to speak to Farrar when he returned home from the war, and wanted to plan a visit to see him.

July 15, 1945
411 Wisner Avenue
Park Ridge, Ill.

Mrs. R. M. Farrar
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mrs. Farrar;

Many thanks for your letter with your telephone number and to learn that you expected George to reach a spot so near to Atlanta must have been very comforting word to you.

We have just received a letter from Miss Marbach and from it we understand that you have been in touch with her and the Peluso family. It does seem very strange that they are still without any definite word, however to us it seems that this is far better that the word the Hensons and we received. At least if one believes in the oft quoted term NO NEWS IS GOOD NEWS.

Our son in law has just returned from the Admiralty Islands. He is a pilot in the Navy Air Transport so after a few days here he now reports to Olathe Kansas. So our daughter has left to be with him at that point.

George must have had many experiences that he will long remember and it is our prayer that he is now in the best of health and that he may in the future enjoy all of the best which he so richly deserves.

We do hope that the opportunity to visit with George will develop in the near future. Yes we are anxious to meet you as you have been such a faithful correspondent not only with us but with other families of the men who were on the ill fated plane.

To you and your family our sincere greetings, believe me when I say that in these days of worry you have lightened our load greatly.

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

The Buslee’s son-in-law was Gene Kielhofer.  He was married to their daughter, Janice.

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee's sister and brother-in-law, Janice and Gene Kielhofer

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s sister and brother-in-law, Janice and Gene Kielhofer

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The Buslees Want to Visit

George Edwin Farrar, sole survivor of the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944, had been liberated and was expected to return home to Atlanta, Georgia in the near future.  He had written a letter to Mr. and Mrs. Buslee, parents of the Lead Banana’s pilot, John Oliver, (Jay) Buslee, while recuperating in France after also surviving POW camp and the Black March.  Mr. Buslee wrote to Farrar’s mother in response.

June 4, 1945
411 Wisner Avenue
Park Ridge, Illinois

Mrs. R. M. Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace, N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

We have just received a letter from George stating that he is in France, and this I infer means that he will return home. For his sake and yours I hope there is no delay in his getting home.

Naturally he was very brief when writing to us and so we hope that he is in the best of health. Further, we would like very much to have a talk with him when he returns and so would appreciate hearing from him as soon as he gets home so that we can arrange for a trip to Atlanta to have a personal visit with him, which of course would be more satisfactory as it is difficult to cover in mail the subjects that we would like to discuss with him.

I am addressing this letter to you, but it is really a reply to the letter written by George, and I trust that he will so consider it.

Would appreciate receiving your telephone number in the event we should desire to call you on long distance telephone. For your information in the event we would request your telephoning us at our expense, reversing the charges, our telephone number is PARK RIDGE 541-J.

Sincerely hope that you have had equally good news pertaining to your other boys in the service.

Meantime, kindest regards,

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

According to my dad’s youngest sister, Beverly, Mr. and Mrs. Buslee did indeed visit the Farrar’s in Atlanta after my dad returned home from the war.  Beverly was only eight years old at the time, but she remembers them visiting with my dad and his mother in the living room of their home at 79 East Lake Terrace.  My grandfather was very ill and bedridden and was not at this emotional meeting.

One more memory from my Aunt Beverly – as I have said, she was only eight years old when my almost twenty-four year old dad returned from the war.  He had been a slender man when he entered the war, but after spending seven months as a POW in Stalag Luft IV and on the Black March, he returned home smaller than my eight year old aunt, even after months of recovery and recuperation before coming home.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The Other Crew

Normally, Mr. Buslee was the letter writer of the Buslee family, but today John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s mother took the time to write to George Edwin Farrar’s mother.

April 9, 1945
Park Ridge, Ill.

My Dear Mrs. Farrar: –

We have received your letter telling of the good news of hearing from your son, George, it is, and must be wonderful for you to know he is alive and well, at least I imagine that’s all he could say or they wouldn’t pass it if he would say he was ill or hungry which I’m sure he is. I understand all prisoners would really be in a bad way if it weren’t for the Red Cross. I hear each fellow gets certain rations from them each week which should help a little, altho, their life must be almost unbearable there in those camps.

Just a day or so before we received your letter I noticed in one of our papers where a boy who was a prisoner in Stalag Luft 4 B – Germany had notified his people he’d be released, so we are in hopes your son is also free again. We are so happy to know that George at least is alive and that he may some day be able to tell us all about the rest of the crew. Isn’t it strange the nothing has been heard of the other two boys?

We have never had a word from the McManns altho Mr. Buslee has written them several times, the Peluso’s have promised to let us hear as soon as they hear anything, and the family of Lt. Brody who was the other pilot haven’t heard any other news than missing, either, and according to some of the other eye witnesses he was in the most dangerous spot, so you see we never can tell so we hear are still hopeful because each day we see where someone who had been reported killed has been found to be alive. I do hope our prayers will be repaid with good news soon.

We are so sorry to hear your other son is ill in the hospital, please let us hear how he is, we are very much interested in you and your family. Hope good luck follows your son in China, and that you will continue to hear good news of George often. Wish we could get something to him to lighten his burden in camp. Mr. Buslee has written him, it must have been a terrible blow to him to have them tell him all his crew were gone – but we heard tell that the Germans like to break down the hopes of the boys by telling them all sorts of lies.

We hear the Henson’s are enjoying a trip to Florida, they seem to be such grand folks, nice that you live so close to each other in Atlanta.

We have had such nice letters from so many of the wives and mothers of the boys and we do appreciate them so much.

We hope you and Mr. Farrar are in perfect health and try to keep up your spirits until your sons come home again and thank you so much for all your kindnesses, and write again soon.

Sincerely,
Mrs. John Buslee

Lots of interesting information for me in this letter.  From this one letter I have learned:

  1. How uninformed the folks back home were about conditions in Germany.  Most of the boys were out on the road marching, not sitting in a prison camp.  They weren’t receiving those Red Cross rations either.  Most of the boys were slowing starving to death.  Don’t know how or what kept them going.
  2. Mrs. Buslee must have meant Sebastiano Peluso of the Buslee crew and James Brodie of the Brodie crew as the “other two boys.”  From reviewing letters, I believe all of the Buslee crew next-of-kin except the Pelusos had heard word of their sons.
  3. I don’t have any letters from the McManns, and apparently other familes had not heard from them either.
  4. The families did know the identity of at least the pilot of the other crew as Mrs. Buslee references Lt. Brody (meaning James Brodie).  This is the most interesting piece of information in this letter to me.  It does let me know that the families knew that their boys were involved in a mid-air collision that involved two flying fortresses and did know about the other crew.
  5. My Uncle Bob, George Edwin Farrar’s (my dad) younger brother, who was injured in a kamikaze attack on the USS Intrepid in November 1944 must have still been hospitalized.
  6. My Uncle Carroll, Dad’s older brother, was still serving in China.
  7. The Hensons were the parents of the crew’s navigator, William Alvin Henson II.  Mrs. Buslee may also have been including Henson’s wife and infant daughter.
  8. “Mr. Farrar”, my dad’s father, was not in good health.  He was bedridden and very ill and the family hoped he would live long enough to see the three of his four sons that were in WWII come home from the war.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Mr. Buslee Writes to George Edwin Farrar

Not knowing that George Edwin Farrar and the other prisoners of Stalag Luft IV had been marched out of the camp on February 6, 1944, Mr. Buslee, father of Lead Banana pilot John Oliver (Jay) Buslee, wrote a letter to him two days later.  The letter was marked “RETURNED TO SENDER By Direction of the War Department. Undeliverable as Addressed.”  Mr. Buslee must have saved the letter and given it to Farrar when they met after the war.

February 8, 1945

Dear George,

A few days ago I received your new address from your Mother and was greatly pleased to know that she heard from you and I was more pleased to learn that you were in good health. That is sure splendid news.

Last Saturday we had a visit with Chester Rybarczyk who recently became engaged to a girl who lives in Toledo and of course he could not make the trip without her so we had a chance to see the girl of his dreams. Chet will leave next week for California just how long he will stay there is uncertain. He is however very happy that he can go there as he has never been on the West Coast so I imagine that our son John has given him a big build up on the many wonderful things that he did while out there. Yes the thrill of walking down the streets of Hollywood and meeting up with some of the movie stars is a treat for everybody it seems. Then too the weather will be much nicer than the continual snow that has ruled here for a couple of months.

This is an amateur attempt to use the typewriter so I trust you will allow for any mistakes.

We look forward to the day when you too can come to Chicago and we will try to make your visit interesting. There are many things of interest in this big city and I do feel that Chet enjoyed it at least he said he did and he has promised to return and then stay longer.

My wife and I so thoroughly enjoyed meeting you yes it hardly seems like almost a year ago as so many things have happened since then. She has asked me to greet you most sincerely and requests me to extend to you a most cordial welcome to visit us.

Do you remember our son in law? I think you met him in Oklahoma he at present is in [CENSORED] the Navy Air Transport service. He finds the weather plenty warm as it is a big change from the weather in this vicinity. Had a nice letter from Mrs. Bryant. It was such a pleasure to meet her last summer.

Well George space is limited so I will close with the wish that all of the best is yours and hope you continue to feel fine.

Sincerely yours
John Buslee

Notes:

  • Chester (Chet) Rybarczyk was the original navigator on the Buslee crew.  He flew with a different crew on September 28, 1944 and witnessed the mid-air collision between Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Buslee traveled to Ardmore, Oklahoma to see their son before he and his crew shipped off to England.  It was there that the Buslees met all the boys on the crew.
  • Mr. Buslee’s son-in-law was Gene Kielhofer, who was married to his daughter, Janice.
  • Mrs. Bryant was Ruby Maudene Bryant, the wife of Buslee crew top turret gunner, Lenard Leroy Bryant.  Lenard Bryant was killed in the September 28 mid-air collision.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The Buslees Receive Bad News

On January 31, 1945, John Buslee, father of pilot John Oliver (Jay) Buslee, wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar.  Farrar was the wasit gunner of Jay Buslee’s bomber crew.   Buslee and Farrar and the other boys in the crew had been reported missing in action from Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944.  On New Year’s Eve 1944, Farrar had been reported as a prisoner of war.  Now four months after the mid-air collision between Lead Banana carrying the Buslee crew, and Lazy Daisy carrying the Brodie crew, Jay Buslee was reported as killed in action on the September 28 mission.

It must have been a very hard letter to write.  Instead of writing from home as he had done previously, Buslee wrote this letter from his office.  Home was about fifteen miles from his office downtown.  On that long drive into work, did John Buslee even notice how cold it was on this winter day in Chicago when all he could think about was the news, and news he couldn’t believe, about his only son?

January 31, 1945
Neumann – Buslee & Wolfe Inc
Merchants – Importers – Manufacturers
224 – 230 W. Huron Street, Chicago (10), Illinois

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

On January 28 we received a telegram from the Adjutant General at Washington, D.C. advising that our son John O. was killed in action on September 28 while over Germany.

This, you can realize, was shocking news, particularly as we felt the time was in our favor and that the delay in definite word reaching us was due to his being a prisoner of war.

Having promised to keep you advised of any news reaching us prompts writing this letter. Mrs. Buslee, my daughter and self just can’t realize that the word sent to us is correct. We are hopeful that some error has been made due to all of the confusion in war-torn Germany and that we will ultimately get different word from our son.

We trust that you have heard recently from your son, George, and that he is in good health.

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee was identified as killed in action on an October 21, 1944 Telegram Form.  This form is part of MACR9753, the Missing Air Crew Report which contained information on both the crews of Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.  In addition to identifying Buslee, the Telegram Form also reported the identifications of David Albrecht (Buslee’s co-pilot), Lenard Bryant (Buslee’s top turret gunner), Lloyd Vevle (Brodie’s co-pilot), and Byron Atkins (Brodie’s bombardier).  All but Atkins had previously been recovered dead, but remained unidentified until this point.  Atkins had been carried off in the nose of Lazy Daisy, away from the rest of the crew and the crash site, and had just recently been found dead and identified.

I assume the Albrecht, Bryant, Vevle, and Atkins families also received news of their sons’ deaths about the same time as the Buslees.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Still Waiting For News

On January 20, 1945 Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office for his fourth term as President and Harry Truman was sworn in as Vice President.  Across the globe, the Soviet Red Army was advancing into East Prussia, putting more and more pressure on the Germans.

Four days later, Mr. Buslee, the father of the pilot of Lead Banana, again wrote to Raleigh Mae Farrar, the mother of the Banana’s waist gunner.  The families of the missing boys were communicating with each other often, quickly passing along any news good or bad.

January 24, 1945
411 Wisner Avenue
Park Ridge, Illinois

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

Through Mr. Henson we learned that you have received a card from your son, George. This is indeed wonderful news.

Would like to hear from you as to what kind of a message he sent to you and we sincerely hope that as developments in Europe show such rapid advances by the Russians that it will mean the early closing of the battle over there and so release the prisoners of war so that they may return to their families at a very early date.

We have had no word pertaining to our son, Jay, nor any word from any of the next of kin outside of Mr. Henson and Mr. Stearns who unfortunately did not have very good news. We also have had a very recent letter from Mrs. Bryant and she is trying to keep up her spirits in the hope that her husband is safe and sound.

With every good wish for your continued good health and the hope that all of your boys write you often, I am,

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Not a Happy New Year for Everyone

After receiving the New Year’s Eve telegram from the War Department telling her that her son was alive and a prisoner of war, Raleigh Mae Farrar sent a telegram to the Buslee family the next morning, New Year’s Day 1945, to share her good news.  Mr. Buslee quickly wrote a letter in response to Mrs. Farrar.

January 1, 1945
411 Wisner Ave.
Park Ridge, Ill.

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

Your letter of the 27th and news clipping were received on Saturday and it was so nice of you to keep us informed.  The news in this item was naturally that which we would have liked to receive about Lt. Henson and to think that a daughter was born to his wife recently makes for increased worries for her and I trust that the sad news is not too great a strain on her.

The copilot as you may know is also a Daddy to a girl born about a month ago.  We met he and his wife at Ardmore in June and like all of the boys in the crew we have been awaiting such word.  Mrs. Albrecht is at the home of her parents at Chico, California.  She reports that both she and the baby are doing well.

The telegram that we received from you this morning was indeed a piece of good news for the New Year.  To learn of your son’s safety is indeed wonderful and I hope means such good news may come regarding all of the other boys and more that this terrible struggle will soon end and that all may return and lets hope that the peoples of the World will realize that there is but one way to get along and that is in a peaceful harmonious manner forgetting all greed and selfishness and faith in the Lord.

My wife and my daughter and myself are overjoyed in learning that your son has been reported.  You can imagine our feelings since Saturday after hearing about Lt. Henson.  Then too there is cause for worry as our son in law is due to leave California any day.  He is also a pilot but in the Navy and is scheduled for the South Pacific.

To learn that your younger son is now scheduled to go to school after the harrowing experiences in the Navy on a carrier was more good news so I trust that the favorable word that has come to you of late is a fore runner to the still greater news that the war is over.

Thanks again Mrs. Farrar for your thoughtfullness in keeping us so closely advised and we will in turn write to you when we get word.  My wife and daughter join me in this appreciation,

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

Notes:

  • I don’t know what information my grandmother’s letter of December 27 or news clipping contained.
  • Lt. Henson was William Alvin Henson II, the navigator on Lead Banana when it collided with Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944.
  • The co-pilot was David Franklin Albrecht.
  • Mrs. Farrar’s son mentioned in the letter is George Edwin Farrar’s younger brother, Robert Burnham (Bob) Farrar, who was injured in a kamikaze attack on the USS Intrepid on November 25, 1944.
  • Mr. Buslee’s daughter and son-in-law were Janice and Gene Kielhofer.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

A Second Letter from Mr. Buslee

My grandmother, Raleigh Mae Farrar, must have replied to Mr. Buslee’s first letter of November 27, as this second letter from Mr. Buslee indicates.  Since that time, both families apparently received the same letter from the Army Air Forces providing some details of the September 28 incident in which their sons were reported missing.  Mr. Buslee wrote to my grandmother again on December 16, 1944.

Your recent letter was duly received and I have delayed a reply in the hope that each day would bring some word about your son and the rest of the crew.  Thus far the only definite word is a letter from the War Department dated the 10th of December which advises that the plane was shot down by enemy flak over the target at 12:10 P.M. at Magdeburg Germany on Sept 28th.  They state that they have no further word pertaining our son John Oliver and that when they do they will advise us.

From what we have heard from many friends such word is supposed to be very encourageing.  In other words a delay usually means that the men are safe and will be reported in due time; so it seems that we must have faith and be patient.

We too had a letter from the navigator and in it he tells us the same as sent to you.  Well that is perhaps the best he can do with the restrictions placed on him and we are very appreciative of his writing to us.  From what we have heard the missions are indeed strenuous and truly it is a wonder that the boys that made these trips ever feel like writing.  Our son was quite a faithful correspondent so you can realize what the absence of any mail from him means to us and especially his Mother.  Then too the letters that we sent to him are returned as well as boxes all of which are a sad reminder that the boys are really worse off than we at home.  However the youth of this country are showing what a wonderful lot of boys they are and I marvel at the spirit they have under these trying times.  They should be an inspiration to the older folks.

I note that you have a crew picture and thinking that you may not know who they are I am sending a list of names in the event that this will interest you.  To look at that group one can well understand what I mean when I say the youth are wonderful.  To my mind that is as fine an assortment of manhood as one could find anywhere and I count it a privilege that my son is among so fine a crew.  Yes I had the good fortune to meet all of them in Ardmore last June and I trust it will be my pleasure to again meet all of them and more that this may be real soon.  Should you or any of your family get to Chicago I trust that we may have the pleasure of your call as we live in a suburb of Chicago only 17 miles from downtown.

Mrs. Buslee and my daughter join me in sending to your our sincere greetings and that you will soon hear favorably from your fine son with the good word that he is hale and hearty.

The navigator mentioned in Mr. Buslee’s letter was Chester Rybarczyk, the original navigator on the Buslee crew who flew with a different crew on September 28.  He sent a letter to the Farrar family on October 12, 1944.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

First Communication Between Buslee Crew Families

In 1944, Thanksgiving came and went without any of the Buslee crew families hearing any additional news about their sons.  The following Tuesday would mark two months since the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana on September 28.  The day before that sad anniversary, John Buslee, the Lead Banana pilot’s father, wrote a letter to the parents of my dad, George Edwin Farrar.  Mr. Buslee had visited the boys in Ardmore, Oklahoma before they left the states for England and must have asked for home addresses at that time.  The War Department had not released Next of Kin information to the families at this point.

In his letter dated Monday, November 27, 1944 from Park Ridge, Illinois, Mr. Buslee wrote:

Dear Parents of George A. Farrar,

It was my pleasure to meet your son, George, in Ardmore, Oklahoma last June just before the boys flew to England.

My son, John O., was the pilot of the plane and as we were notified on October 13 that our son was missing in action over Germany on September 28, we presume that your son, George, was also on the plane.

We have been under a lot of suspense since that time and imagine that you have also wondered what has happened to the boys.  In an effort to learn something about them, we have made some inquiry and the best hope we get is that no word from them could mean that they are prisoners of war and thus it would take several months before word would reach us from Washington about them.

Naturally, we are very anxious to learn something as to their whereabouts, and I am writing to you in the hope that you have been fortunate enough to have heard something from your son.  It seems that there are instances when names of missing are mentioned over the short wave radio and the next of kin have thus been advised through this medium long before any official word comes from Washington.

Early in September we received a snapshot showing the crew members and the plane.  The boys all looked fine and seemed to be in the same high spirit that they enjoyed when we met them in Ardmore.  I presume you also have one of these pictures.  If not, I have an extra one and could send it to you.

I sincerely trust that George will return safely and soon.  Meantime, it seems we at home will have to have the faith that our prayers are answered and that the boys are in no danger.

Would like very much to hear from you with any word that you might receive.  Meantime,

Sincerely yours,

John Buslee

The snapshot Mr. Buslee refers to is this crew photo:

The Buslee Crew

The Buslee Crew

Only five of the original ten members of the crew shown in the photo were on the Lead Banana on September 28.  The five were:

  • Lt. John Oliver Buslee, Pilot, from Park Ridge, Illinois, back row, far left
  • Lt. David Franklin Albrecht, Co-Pilot, from Chico, California, back row, second from left
  • Sgt. Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner, from Brooklyn, New York, front row, second from left
  • Sgt. Lenard Leroy Bryant, Engineer/ Top Turret Gunner, from Littlefield, Texas, front row, third from left
  • Sgt. George Edwin Farrar, Waist Gunner, from Atlanta, Georgia, (my dad), front row, far right

Only nine men made up the Lead Banana crew on September 28.  The other four, filling in from other crews, were:

  • Lt. William Alvin Henson, II, Navigator
  • Lt. Robert Sumner Stearns, Bombardier
  • Sgt. Gerald Lee Andersen, Tail Gunner
  • Sgt. George Francis McMann, Jr., Ball Turret Gunner

Buslee crewmembers who were not on Lead Banana on September 28 were:

  • Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk, Navigator, from Toledo, Ohio, back row, second from right
  • Lt. James B. Davis, Bombadier, from New Castle, Indiana, back row, far right [Note:  John Oliver Buslee’s father provided the identifications for this photo, and identified the bombardier as Davis; however, this may be original Buslee crew bombardier Marvin B. Fryden who was killed on the August 5, 1944 mission]
  • Sgt. Erwin V. Foster, Ball Turret Gunner, from Elmira, New York, front row, far left
  • Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, from Nebraska, front row, third from right
  • Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, Tail Gunner, from Detroit, Michigan, front row, second from right

As an interesting side note, the only men who signed my dad’s copy of the photograph were the enlisted men that were original Buslee crewmembers who were on the Lead Banana on September 28 – Sebastiano Peluso, Lenard Bryant, and George Farrar.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014