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Laurie Newbold of Belton, Leicestershire, England

First, a recap…

In August, I wrote about an aspect of the WWII Black March of prisoners of war of Stalag Luft IV, the Combine. My father, George Edwin Farrar, who was a waist gunner in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England, was one of the prisoners on the March. Dad’s B-17 went down on September 28, 1944 and after a lengthy hospital stay, he was placed in Stalag Luft IV around Thanksgiving.

I have found that when the prisoners of Stalag Luft IV were marched out of the prison camp on February 6, 1945, Dad, RAF airman Laurie Newbold, and 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil McWhorter likely made up a three-man combine. I learned of these men through a letter Laurie Newbold sent Dad on July 15, 1946.

I wanted to know more about the two men my dad spent his darkest days with in the prison camp and on the March. I have already researched and written about the man I learned was “Old Mac Whorter.” He was Cecil Carlton McWhorter and you can read more about him in these previous posts, Cecil Carlton McWhorter –

…End of recap

My search for Laurie Newbold began with his letter. I had his address, 6 Forest View Cottages, Belton, NR Loughborough, Leicestershire, England. Belton is a parish, or small village, in the district of North West Leicestershire in England. A Google Maps search today does not find “6 Forest View Cottages” in Belton.

I learned a few other things from the letter. Laurie was married and his wife’s father ran the local pub. Laurie had one son before his war service. And after he returned home from the war, he had a second son.

In an internet search, I recently found a pub in Belton called “The Queen’s Head Pub.”

Queen’s Head Pub in Belton

The Queen’s Head Pub in Belton, Leicestershire has been a village pub for over 200 years. The building is a historic coaching inn which was built in the 1700’s. It has been a pub since 1800. Now it is a restaurant with a bar and accommodations. The Queen’s Head is situated in the center of the village facing the square. The pub is located at 2 Long Street, Belton, Loughborough, LE12 9TP.

I e-mailed the pub and quickly received a response from Jo Newby, General Manager of the Queen’s Head. Jo did some checking and discovered that I had the correct Belton, England (there are two), but possibly not the right pub. Jo said that there were once two pubs in Belton. The other, the George Hotel, is no longer there, but she thinks it was the George which Laurie Newbold’s father-in-law ran.

Jo found a few folks who remember Lawrence (Laurie) Newbold. A couple of Jo Newby’s regulars at the Queen’s Head, Barry and Mary-Jean, know a lot about Laurie. He was Mary-Jean’s uncle and they lived next door to him. Laurie Newbold had three children, Michael, Stephen, and Janice. Laurie has passed away and so have Michael and Janice. But Stephen is still alive and lives in the adjacent village of Long Whatton.

Jo found an interesting photo hanging on a wall of the Queen’s Head Pub. It is a picture of Laurie Newbold and the Long Whatton and Belton Home Guard. In the photo, Laurie Newbold is standing second from left in the second from top row. I have circled him in the photo.

Lawrence Newbold, second from left in the second from top row
Long Whatton and Belton Home Guard
Photo courtesy of Jo Newby

More internet searches revealed that L.E. (Laurie) Newbold was a Sergeant in the RAF, in the No. 50 Squadron of Bomber Command.  He became a POW on March 18, 1944 when his Avro Lancaster #ED-308 went down on a mission to Frankfurt.

The No. 50 Squadron flew out of RAF Skellingthorpe in Lincoln, England, from November 26,1941 to June 20, 1942 and October 17, 1942 to June 15, 1945. Skellingthorpe was about seventy miles north of Grafton Underwood (where my dad was stationed) and Polebrook (where Cecil McWhorter was stationed).

The Back to Normandy website has a photo of ED-308 and some information about the March 18/19 mission. The site’s publisher, Fred Vogels, wrote,

On Saturday, 18 March 1944, (a part of) the aircraft of the 50 squadron (RAF), took off for a mission to Frankfurt in Germany from a station (airfield) in or near Skellingthorpe.

One of the crew members was Flight Sergeant H J Rouse. He departed for his mission at 19:15.

He flew with a Avro Lancaster (type I, with serial ED308 and code VN-J). His mission and of the other crew members was planned for Sunday, 19 March 1944.

I found a list of the crew aboard ED-308 on March 18, 1944 on the UK’s National Archives website. Once the page opens, scroll down and click Preview an image of this record. Select Image 12 and then go to full screen. About halfway down the page, you will see 18/19 March 1944 in the left column. Zooming in helps immensely. You can view the crew listing and comments even though viewing is obstructed by a water mark. The pilot’s last name is Miller, and fourth line down on Miller’s crew is Sgt. L.E. Newbold.

The Sortie notes state: Bombing Attack on Frankfurt. Aircraft Missing – no signal received.

I’m happy to have learned more about Laurie Newbold and have a photo of him thanks to Jo Newby. Perhaps someday Stephen Newbold and I will be able to meet face to face. I think that if I can look directly into his eyes, I will be able to see the ghost of his father and he will be able to see the ghost of mine, how they appeared seventy-four years ago when they helped each other survive what was probably the most fearful time in their lives, and watched each other waste away from lack of food, illness, and other hardships of marching across Germany, not knowing if they would live to ever see their families again. Stephen Newbold, this is our shared history. The history of our fathers, two survivors of WWII.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

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Cecil Carlton McWhorter, Part 3 of 3

Cecil Carlton McWhorter, continued..

Read Part 1 here.

Read Part 2 here.

In my search for Cecil Carlton McWhorter and descendants, I also turned to Ancestry.com for personal information.

Cecil was born in Olney, Texas on March 4, 1918. His birth year explains why Laurie Newbold considered Cecil McWhorter “old.” Cecil would have been twenty-seven years old in 1945. Most of the men who made up WWII air crews were in their late teens and early twenties.

In 1930, the United States Census reported that the McWhorter family lived in Throckmorton County, Texas. Cecil’s father was Isaac McWhorter, 51 years old, and was a farmer. Isaac was born in Kentucky as was his father. Isaac’s mother was born in Tennessee. Cecil’s mother was Susan Cloyd McWhorter. She was born in Kentucky as was her mother. Her father was born in Tennessee. Susan was 41 years old in 1930. She and Isaac had been married for 23 years.

Isaac and Susan McWhorter had 5 children living at home in 1930. Albert was 20, Cecil was 12, Martha Dee was 10, Louis Winston was 6, and Eldon Cloyd was 2 1/2. They also had an older daughter, Francis, who was 22 and no longer living at home.

Shortly before being shipped overseas, on May 6, 1944, at age 26, Cecil Carlton McWhorter married Martha Elizabeth Rohner in Highlands County, Florida. At the time, he listed his address as the 399th Bomb Squadron of the 88th Bomb Group, stationed at Avon Park Army Air Field. He listed his occupation as S/Sgt., U.S. Army. Martha’s age was listed as 27, birthplace East Bernstadt, Kentucky.

Oddly, it was Cecil’s marriage license that revealed how and where Cecil served in WWII before he was assigned to the 351st Bomb Group. The 88th Bomb Group was a training unit that was part of the 2nd and 3rd Air Forces and was based in Avon Park, Florida. It was inactivated on May 1, 1944, just five days before Cecil married Martha. They must have married knowing Cecil would soon be going overseas, leaving Martha behind. She must have worried greatly about her new husband when he was first declared missing in action and then prisoner of war.

Between 1956 and 1958, Cecil and Martha must have divorced. They are listed as husband and wife in the 1956 Louisville, Kentucky city directory. Cecil worked in the lab at Ford Motors and they lived at 1353 Lillian. In the 1958 directory, Cecil’s wife is listed as Ethel L., and the couple lived at 1207 West Market. Cecil was employed as a Trimmer for Ford Motors. Cecil must have been 39 or 40 years old when he remarried in 1957 or 1958.

Cecil Carlton McWhorter died on February 10, 1965 in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky at age 46 of pancreatic cancer, of which he had been suffering for ten months. On his death certificate, his occupation was listed as Assembler for the Ford Motor Company. His wife was listed as Mrs. Ethel McWhorter. He is buried in Evergreen Cemetery in Louisville, Jefferson County, Kentucky.

Cecil’s first wife, Martha Rohner, died March 21, 2010 in Louisville at the age of 93. The last name “McWhorter” was not included in her obituary title, leading me to believe that she and Cecil had indeed divorced. However, there was mention that she was preceded in death by her husband, Cecil [McWhorter]. Survivors listed in her obituary included nieces, nephews, great-nieces and great-nephews, but no children.

I cannot find an obituary, death record, or current address listing for Cecil’s second wife, Ethel L. McWhorter. An obituary usually reveals whether a person had any children or not. Cecil and Martha apparently didn’t have children, but I don’t know if he and Ethel did. They were married for seven or eight years before he died, so could have.

When I visited the NPRC (National Personnel Records Center) in St. Louis, Missouri, I reviewed Cecil McWhorter’s military record. Unfortunately, Cecil’s record was destroyed in the fire of 1973, or at least most of his record. The only document it contained was Cecil’s Final Payment Roll dated August 25, 1945.

As far as I know, on Black March Liberation Day, May 2, 1945, Dad, Laurie Newbold, and Cecil McWhorter finished their march across Germany together. The column of prisoners of which these three were a combine had been on the road marching since February 6, eighty-six days and five hundred miles. They endured so much together, but I don’t believe that they ever saw each other again for the remainder of their lives. I would like to find their children to share the knowledge of the bond our fathers had almost seventy-five years ago with the next generation.

If you are a relative of 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil C. McWhorter or RAF airman Laurie Newbold, please Contact Me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Cecil Carlton McWhorter, Part 2 of 3

Cecil Carlton McWhorter, continued…

Read Part 1 here.

On his final mission, Cecil McWhorter was left waist gunner on the Charles E. Cregar, Jr. crew of the 511th Bomb Squadron of the 351st Bomb Group on the October 3, 1944 Mission #213 to the Nuremburg Railroad Marshaling Yards. They were aboard B-17G 43-38518, which was a new ship assigned to the 511st Bomb Squad/351st Bomb Group less than two weeks before on September 21 according to Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log. Cecil was on his twelfth mission with the 351st.

On October 3, 1944 the Cregar crew consisted of:

  • Pilot, 1st Lt Charles E. Cregar, Jr., SN O-1043908
  • Co-pilot, 2nd Lt Sanford N. Groendyke, SN O-819086
  • Navigator, F/O James D. Timmie, SN T-124869
  • Bombardier, 1st Lt John F. Dwyer, SN O-1283565
  • Top Turret Gunner/Engineer, T/Sgt Edward L. Huth, SN 32447653
  • Radio Operator, S/Sgt  Elwood A. (Ziggy) Zigenfus, Jr., SN 13152369
  • Left Waist Gunner, S/Sgt Cecil C. McWhorter, SN 6285927
  • Ball Turret Gunner,  S/Sgt Charles E. Weller, SN 35263548
  • Tail Gunner, S/Sgt Thomas W. Richardson, SN 15195066

All on board were taken prisoner of war with the exception of bombardier John F. Dwyer, who lost his life on that mission.

The details of MIssing Air Crew Report 9358 (MACR9358) explain what happened on October 3, 1944 to the Cregar crew.

According to witnesses from other aircraft in the formation, the Cregar crew’s 43-38518 left the formation at 1150 hours under control for causes unknown. Pilot Donald Hadley noticed that Lt. Cregar’s plane failed to turn with the formation coming off the target. Hadley reported no visible signs of damage and all four engines turning. There were no fighters in the area, but there was moderate flak. Cregar never caught up with the formation and descended under control out of sight. Hadley saw no parachutes and heard no radio call from 43-38518.

Another witness, tail gunner Jack Tucker, reported much the same as Donald Hadley, adding that as the plane left the formation, it began to lose altitude and traveled in an easterly direction. He saw nothing to indicate that Cregar’s plane was damaged and the last he saw of them, they were flying at about 8500 feet (descending from their flying altitude of 25,500 feet).

Either Hadley or Tucker later added that thirty minutes after the aircraft left the formation, the pilot was heard to call for fighter support over VHF.

According to Individual Casualty Questionnaires included within the Missing Air Crew Report, just after Bombardier John Dwyer released the bombs and was observing the results, he was hit by flak and killed. One of the responders to the questionnaire (probably the navigator James Timmie, who would have been in the nose of the B-17 with Dwyer) reported,

The first shell burst about ten feet in front of the nose slightly to the right. A small fragment entered his head thru his steel helmet, earphone, and skull and started profuse bleeding. I administered firstaid to no avail and in a few minutes he was dead. His body was left with the plane, which did not burn, when last seen.

The pilot left formation in an attempt to fly the badly damaged ship to Switzerland.

The radio operator, Elwood Zigenfus, and tail gunner, Thomas Richardson, both reported that the pilot and co-pilot remained at the controls while the rest of the crew, with the exception of bombardier John Dwyer who was dead in the nose of the ship, assumed ditching positions in the radio room.

None of the men bailed out of the ship, but instead rode it down to a crash landing. The men reported that the ship struck the ground using various landmarks:

  • At Stellman (300 m west) 12 km west of Donauwoerth at 1230 hours
  • 10 miles south of Ulm
  • Near Dilligen, Germany
  • Near Elms, Germany
  • At the small village of Stattinham

Bombardier John F. Dwyer (born September 10, 1918) was found dead in the aircraft after the emergency landing. His date and place of death were listed as October 3, 1944 in Stillnau at Leipheim/Donau. His initial date and place of interment were October 7, 1944 at Leipheim/Donau town cemetery.

One of the crew said that the German guards reported that Dwyer was given a military funeral near where the ship went down, a small town named Dillingen. According to Findagrave.com, Dwyer was later re-interred at Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial at Saint-Avold, Department de la Moselle, Lorraine, France.

The pilot, Charles Cregar, summarized with:

The target was RR Yards in Marsburg. They were at the target at 11:55 a.m. at an altitude of 26,000 feet. They left the formation at the first turn off the target. He didn’t bail out nor did any of the other members of the crew. He wrote:

All members of crew remained in the plane until we crash landed. One member was killed by the flak burst which knocked out our four engines. All other members uninjured then or in the crash landing that followed.

A German interrogator informed me voluntarily that Lt. Dwyer had been buried in Leipheim, “with full military honors just as if he had been a German officer.”

On pilot Charles Cregar’s page on the American Air Museum in Britain website, his son wrote about memories of his dad, in part,

Dad would never discuss the war, Mom said it brought up terrible memories. He regretted the death of his one crew member, and never discussed POW with anyone…Dad had fun, enjoyed friends including Ernie Kovacs (TV comedian), who was a childhood friend and Ziggy (from the flight crew). Never would eat potato soup or cabbage, apparently a POW thing.

Bombardier John Dwyer’s page includes a photo and notes,

John Dwyer, 351st Bomb Group

Killed in Action (KIA) Crashed near Stellnau in B-17 4338518.

Lt. Dwyer was a member of the International Guards before Pearl Harbor and first served with the Infantry, then being transferred to the air corps. He received his training at Santa Anna, Cal., Las Vegas, Nev., Carlsbad, NM, and Avon Park, Fla.

He was overseas from July 1944, and had completed twelve missions. Lt. Dwyer received the Presidential Group Citation and a posthumous Purple Heart.

Tail gunner Thomas Richardson’s page includes a photo,

Thomas Richardson, 351st Bomb Group

Pages for the remainder of the crew, including Cecil McWhorter, do not include any additional information or photos.

Thank you to 384th Bomb Group researcher Keith Ellefson for getting me a copy of Missing Air Crew Report 9358.

If you are a relative of 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil C. McWhorter, or others on the Charles Cregar crew, or RAF airman Laurie Newbold, please Contact Me.

To be continued…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Cecil Carlton McWhorter, Part 1 of 3

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an aspect of the WWII Black March of prisoners of war of Stalag Luft IV, the Combine. My father, George Edwin Farrar, who was a waist gunner in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England, was one of the prisoners on the March. Dad’s B-17 went down on September 28, 1944 and after a lengthy hospital stay, he was placed in Stalag Luft IV around Thanksgiving.

I have found that when the prisoners of Stalag Luft IV were marched out of the prison camp on February 6, 1945, Dad, RAF airman Laurie Newbold, and 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil McWhorter likely made up a three-man combine. This is not information that my dad shared with me. He never mentioned these men when he told me stories of the POW camp and March. These things I had to find on my own, but as a place to start, he left a clue, a letter he had saved since 1946.

Most of the letters in the bundle my dad saved since the war were written by the families of my dad’s crew between the time the crew went missing and the end of the war. But this one was dated July 15, 1946 and it came from England. It was from Laurie Newbold, an airman with England’s RAF and it was clear that he had been close to my father when they were prisoners of war. In his letter, Laurie mentioned another airman, this one American.

Have you ever come across any more of Room 12. Old Mac Whorter lives down south at East Bernstadt, N London, Kentucky but I forgot that your states are as big as England.

This one letter my father saved added to the little detail I knew about his time as a POW:

  • My dad, Laurie Newbold, and a man Laurie called “Old Mac Whorter” roomed together at Stalag Luft IV and likely marched together in the Black March. Laurie also noted that this man lived in East Bernstadt, Kentucky.
  • Dad, Laurie, and “Old Mac Whorter” were assigned to Room 12, hut number unknown, compound unknown.

Gregory Hatton runs a memorial website on Stalag Luft IV. Among the interesting information Greg presents is a document that contains a “Report of the International Committee of the Red Cross Visit of Oct. 5 & 6, 1944 by Mr. Biner, Stalag Luft IV.” In a section describing the accommodations at the camp, the report notes that there are four camps or compounds within Luft IV: A, B, C, and D.

A, B, and C contained Americans only. Camp D contained American and British. I must assume that my father and “Old Mac Whorter” were in Camp D as they were housed with British RAF POW Laurie Newbold. I don’t know how many barracks or huts were built in Camp D and haven’t yet found a way to determine which one they were in, but apparently they were in Room 12 of their hut.

I wanted to know more about the two men my dad spent his darkest days with in the prison camp and on the March. Since “Old Mac Whorter” was an American, I thought I would research him first since I am more familiar with the American WWII airman websites and genealogical sites.

To discover the real name of “Old Mac Whorter,” I had to make a few guesses. First, the man’s last name was probably MacWhorter or McWhorter. Searching the National Archives database of WWII prisoners of war in Stalag Luft IV, I found him. Not easily, but I found him. For some reason, the database listed his last name as Mc Whorter, with a space after the “Mc.” But here was a good candidate, Cecil C. McWhorter, and his home was in Kentucky.

Cecil C. McWhorter’s Army Air Forces serial number was 6285927. He was a staff sergeant in the Air Corps, had become a POW on October 3, 1944, and served with the 351st Bomb Group. The 351st was a B-17 group based in Polebrook, England, not very far from my dad’s group, the 384th in Grafton Underwood, less than fifteen miles away. Cecil’s plane went down just five days after my dad’s.

Continuing my National Archives search, I found Cecil’s enlistment record. It revealed he was born in 1918 and he resided in Laurel County, Kentucky. The city Laurie Newbold mentioned in his letter, East Bernstadt, is a city in Laurel County.

Cecil enlisted in the Air Corps on December 19, 1941. I realized Cecil must have also served in another capacity or he would have finished his tour and returned home long before he became a POW in 1944. I did not discover how or where else he served at this point in my research.

Next in the search, I turned to the American Air Museum in Britain’s database. Here I found that Cecil served in the 511th Bomb Squadron of the 351st Bomb Group, based at Polebrook, England. His page confirmed how Cecil came to be in Stalag Luft IV,

Prisoner of War (POW) Crashed near Stellnau on 10/3/44 in B-17 #4338518

When I followed a link to the page for the aircraft (unnamed 43-38518), I learned even more details:  where the ship crashed, the names of the crew, and the Missing Air Crew Report number, 9358.

Now that I knew which bomb group of the 8th Air Force Cecil served in, I searched for more information for his group, the 351st. I found they have both a website and a Facebook group page. The 351st Bomb Group’s website contains detailed information about Cecil’s last mission, the crew he flew with, their target for October 3, 1944, the B-17 they were aboard, and the number for the missing air crew report, MACR9358.

If you are a relative of 351st Bomb Group waist gunner Cecil C. McWhorter or RAF airman Laurie Newbold, please Contact Me.

To be continued…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

A Black March Combine

I have previously written several articles about the WWII Black March, the march of prisoners of war of Stalag Luft IV across Germany in the winter of 1945. Today, I want to explain a very important aspect of that march, the Combine.

But first, as a refresher to the Black March itself, please refer to this previous post. It is the proclamation entered into the Congressional Record on May 8, 1995 by WWII veteran, Congressman John William Warner.

Congressman Warner was approached by three WWII veterans who were on the march and who brought this piece of WWII history to his attention – Cpl. Bob McVicker of Alexandria, Virginia; S. Sgt. Ralph Pippens of Alexandria, Louisiana; and Sgt. Arthur Duchesneau of Daytona Beach, Florida. Rep. Warner wanted to tell their story and raise awareness of what the Stalag Luft IV prisoners endured on this little-known march in pursuit of freedom.

The proclamation explains that McVicker, Pippens, and Duchesneau each survived, “mostly because of the efforts of the other two – American crewmates compassionately and selflessly helping buddies in need.” This statement is the definition of a Black March “Combine.”

In WWII, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner in the 384th Bomb Group based in Grafton Underwood, England. His B-17 went down on September 28, 1944 and after a lengthy hospital stay, he was put in Stalag Luft IV. On February 6, 1945, he was one of the prisoners from Stalag Luft IV who were marched out of the camp in several columns accompanied by German guards armed with rifles, and guard dogs. For Dad, the Black March lasted the full eighty-six days, covering approximately five-hundred miles.

From an old letter, I determined that the two men closest to my dad in the prison camp and on the Black March were the author of the letter, British airman Laurie Newbold, and American airman Cecil McWhorter.

Newbold’s letter adds much to what I know about who shared my father’s WWII experiences, especially these two sentences.

Have you ever come across any more of Room 12. Old Mac Whorter lives down south at East Bernstadt, N London, Kentucky but I forgot that your states are as big as England.

In my research of my father during WWII, it is not enough to know who the members of my father’s air crew were. Although Dad’s WWII experience was shared with the other men of the John Buslee crew, 544th Bomb Squad, and the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force, he had a connection that went beyond the usual military camaraderie of an air crew. He had a connection with two men with whom he had not served in the 384th, Laurie Newbold and Cecil McWhorter, on whom his life depended in that eighty-six day span of time he called “The March.”

Joseph O’Donnell, another Stalag Luft IV prisoner on the Black March, wrote a book about the march. In The Shoe Leather Express, O’Donnell explains how the prisoners joined forces in small groups in order to help each other survive. These small groups of two to four Kriegies (short for Kriegesgefangenen, which is the German word for prisoner of war) were created out of necessity, for survival. Joe wrote:

A combine usually consisted of three Kriegies, sometimes two, sometimes four, but the most logical number combination was three. Further explanation will confirm the logic of three men versus two or four men. Of all the reasons for a three man combine, there is no one reason to justify this combination, there are many reasons. As stated before, we each had two blankets, and with a combination of three Kriegies this gave us six blankets. After our arrival at a barn we would stake a claim to an area in the barn according to our arrival. First-in claimed the advantageous areas, usually near an exit.

Since we shared our food, it was imperative that we should stick together; but we usually marched in columns of fours and it always presented a problem at the end of a [day’s] march, when the guards would count off 150 or 200 Kriegies for one barn. This would usually split a combine. One hell of a lot of shuffling went on to get the combine together again. When trading, bartering or stealing detail; the other two would construct our bed of straw for the night. Our bed of straw was covered with the three German blankets, two lengthwise and one across the bottom and tucked in. The three GI blankets would cover us along with our GI overcoats.

The mention of trading, bartering, and stealing references the fact that the men had very little food and clean water on the road. They often attempted to supplement their meager rations by trading items like the watch my father traded for a loaf of bread, or stealing potatoes or chickens from the farmers in whose barns they slept.

The combines walked together, all day, every day, sometimes as far as twenty miles in one day. They shared food and ate together. They slept together and shared body heat in the unheated barns and under the stars in the sub-freezing temperatures of the winter of 1945. When one felt weak, the others helped him put one foot in front of the other, to take one more step, to keep up with the column. Falling behind the group meant the risk of being shot and left for dead beside the road as the group trudged forward. The combine gave the men someone to lean on in more ways than one.

How many men died on the march is not known. It is truly a miracle that any of them survived. They were covered in lice, were afflicted with dysentery and other diseases, and were close to the point of starvation. They have been described as walking skeletons. Thoughts of home and the support of each other must have kept them going.

But when it was all over, when Liberation Day came, the combines were split apart for good. Each man went his separate way, returning to his country and his family, to pick up with life as though his eighty-six day struggle for survival was all a bad dream. Laurie Newbold wrote:

I never saw you again after the day we were liberated. I understand that nearly all your boys stopped the first night at Boizenburg but most of the RAF went straight on to Luneburg & I got there that night. From there I went to Emsdetten near Holland & then flew to England in a Lanc [possible abbreviation for Lancaster bomber].

Well George I expect I could write all night about the past but most of that’s best forgotten, don’t you think.

Is the past and that piece of history best forgotten? When I read pages from Joe O’Donnell’s Shoe Leather Express and read Laurie Newbold’s letter, their words trouble me. They unsettle me. It disturbs me deeply to know these things that my father endured. Things that he himself could not or would not tell me. I understand, at least I think I do, why he wouldn’t divulge these things. I was too young. I was too innocent. He did not want to burden me or anyone else with this horrible knowledge.

My father was right in not telling me. I should not know these things because as I’ve learned, now that I know them, I cannot un-know them. They rattle around in my head and pop to the surface at unexpected moments. These things that were a part of him, they are now a part of me. Not to the extent they were for him, of course, because he actually lived them and I only learned them. I cannot imagine the way the horrific memories crashed upon his shore of existence every single moment of every single day of the remainder of his life.

These are things that no being should ever have to endure. But at that time in history there were people who looked much like the rest of us, who underneath that layer of human-like skin were not human at all, but monsters.

When I was young, monsters lived under my bed and in my closet. I had to take a long-jump into and out of bed so the monster wouldn’t grab my feet and pull me under into a certain horrible death. I had to jump back when I opened the closet door so the monster inside couldn’t grab me and drag me in.

My monsters vanished over time. They probably tired of not being able to catch me and moved on to the bed and closet of another child. But my father’s monsters never left. He died thirty-seven years after his time in the prison camp and Black March were over. Dying was the only way to end the war for him and banish his monsters.

Notes

Joe O’Donnell inadvertently used the word “concubine” to define the groups of marching prisoners in the text of The Shoe Leather Express rather than the word “combine.” I have published Joe’s passages substituting the word “combine,” which Joe points out in a correction at the top of the Table of Contents page. He states:  “CORRECTION. The word ‘concubine’ was misused, it should be ‘combine.’

The Preface and first two chapters of Joseph O’Donnell’s The Shoe Leather Express may be read courtesy of Joseph O’Donnell and Gregory Hatton here.

To be continued with more information about Cecil McWhorter and Laurie Newbold and my search for their relatives…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Dad’s Escape and Evasion Photos

George Edwin Farrar Escape and Evasion Photo

In WWII, airmen were equipped with an escape and evasion kit to help them in the event that they had to bail out of a crippled plane. Once on the ground, if they were not immediately captured, they would have a few tools to help them evade capture.

George Edwin Farrar Escape and Evasion Photo

For those airmen in the European theater, the kit may have contained banknotes from several countries, multilingual language cards, silk maps, a knife, a small amount of rations, first aid supplies, and photos in civilian clothing for false papers.

George Edwin Farrar Escape and Evasion Photo

An airman forced to bail out over France or Belgium had a better chance of evasion than an airman forced to bail out over Germany. One who bailed out over Germany was much more likely to be found quickly by German soldiers and much less likely to be found by someone sympathetic to his predicament.

When my father, George Edwin Farrar, landed on German soil, he was severely injured. He was unable to walk and never had a chance to attempt to evade capture.

I found these photos in my dad’s wartime things along with two silk maps which he never had the chance to use.

Edouard Renière has written a nice piece on the items the airmen may have been given before their missions which you can read here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Rendezvous in Savannah

The March 2017 issue of the 8th AF News contains a wonderful story, “Band of Daughters.” The story is about two women, Ellen Hartman and Laura Edge, and their adventure together to visit the WWII prison camp, Stalag Luft IV, where their fathers and my father, were held as prisoners of war. You can read the story here.

Laura holds a Masters of Social Studies Education degree and wrote the book “On the Wings of Dawn:  American Airmen as Germany’s Prisoners – Their Story of Courage, Sacrifice, and Survival.” Ellen owns her own public relations agency in Atlanta and is just beginning to research her father’s service in WWII. You can read the post I wrote about Ellen’s father, Joe Weaver, here.

I contacted both Ellen and Laura and learned that they had big plans for this year’s Fourth of July weekend in Savannah. They would be visiting the National Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force. Joining them would be Zigmunt Wujek, a Polish sculptor, and Jupi Podlaszewski, head of the English School of Koszalin. Zigmunt created the memorial sculpture at the site of Stalag Luft IV.

Zigmunt Wujek has created more than two hundred memorials in his native Pomerania including monuments commissioned by Lech Walesa to mark the entrance to Stalag Luft IV. Zigmunt also created a bronze bust of an American airman from a photograph of Stalag Luft IV POW Joseph O’Donnell, author of the book “The Shoe Leather Express.”

Also joining the group as the third Stalag Luft IV daughter would be Candy Kyler Brown. Candy wrote the book “What I Never Told You:  A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father.”

A WWII veteran of the 8th Air Force, Walter Grotz, was to join the group. Walter, of the 445th Bomb Group and his wife, Mary, sponsored the Polish dignitaries’ journey to the US. Walter and Mary had a B-24 propeller blade to donate to the museum and wanted Zigmunt to see his American Airman’s home in the museum. Walter became a prisoner at Stalag Luft IV when he had to bail out of his B-24 on the November 26, 1944 mission to an oil refinery at Hannover, Germany. Sadly, Walter Grotz died in May, but his wife, Mary, carried on Walter’s wishes and joined the group in Savannah.

Walter’s B-24 Propeller Blade

Zigmunt Wujek’s bronze bust of the American Airman in the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force

The American Aviator bronze bust (as described in the accompanying plaque) …

is the only exact copy of the “American Aviator” in the 1992 memorial at Stalag Luft IV, the WWII prison camp for enlisted American airmen in Poland. Wujek used a photograph of Joseph O’Donnell, a  POW at Stalag Luft IV, as his model. At the 2006 dedication of the site as a Polish War Memorial, Wujek gave this bust to former POW Walter Grotz. It took Grotz five years to make the necessary import arrangements, and in 2011 he delivered the bust to this museum which will be its permanent home. Wujek presented it on behalf of the people of the Pomerania region of Poland as a Thank You to Eighth Air Force Veterans, all Veterans and the people of the United States.

Zigmunt Wujek and Mary Grotz admire Zigmunt’s work.

The organizer of the Savannah group, Ellen Hartman, was kind enough to invite me at join them as the fourth Stalag Luft IV daughter. And I, knowing that a WWII veteran living near me, John DeFrancesco, had a great desire to see the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, invited him to go to Savannah with me. John had been a POW in WWII, but not in Stalag Luft IV.

John was a pilot with the 384th Bomb Group, 544th Bomb Squadron, the same group and squadron in which my dad served. John was on his thirty-fifth mission on January 8, 1945 to a railroad line in Kyllburg, Germany when two of his engines exploded and his B-17 caught fire. After bailing out of the crippled aircraft, John was a POW at Stalag 13D Nuremburg (Oflag 73) Bavaria, an officers’ camp, and later after a forced march, was held at Stalag 7A (Moosburg).

John DeFrancesco standing in front of the B-17 “City of Savannah” at the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force

Our experience at the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force was extraordinary. In addition to touring the museum on our own (we took advantage of every free moment in our schedule to see as much as we could), we had two excellent guided tours.

Our first tour was led by 384th Bomb Group, Inc. Historian and NexGen Research Director John Edwards. John was one of the original nine who started the Museum of the Mighty Eighth. Between John’s history with the museum and his interest in aviation research, John’s tour offered our group a unique insight to the museum and the WWII history of the 8th Air Force.

Left to right: Zigmunt Wujek, Mary Grotz, Jupi Podlaszewski, and John DeFrancesco enjoy John Edward’s tour of the museum

Our second tour was led by Al Pela, museum docent and son of Stalag Luft IV POW Albert Pela who was a flexible gunner with the 100th Bomb Group, also known as “The Bloody Hundreth.” Albert’s B-17 crashed at Gottesgab (now Bozi Dar, Czech Republic) on September 11, 1944. Al’s stories of his father’s experiences at Stalag Luft IV added another perspective to our museum experience.

Al Pela’s tour included the personal POW history of his father in front of the museum’s POW barracks display

Just past the POW exhibit in the museum is a display case in which the vest that Candy Kyler Brown’s father, John Roland Kyler, made while he was a prisoner of war in Stalag Luft IV. Candy proudly shows her father’s work to the group. Kyler knitted the vest from a Red Cross-provided kit and he was able to bring it home on his trek across Germany in the Black March.

The museum is full of wonderful displays. John DeFrancesco stands in front of a memorial to the 384th Bomb Group complete with a model of a B-17.

Past a set of glass doors at the back of the large space housing the B-17 and other aircraft is the museum’s memorial garden. The garden is a beautiful, peaceful place full of memorials to groups and members of the 8th Air Force and the Chapel of the Fallen Eagles.

Inside the chapel are a multitude of stained glass windows…

… including a replica of the one honoring the 384th Bomb Group in the Church of St James the Apostle in Grafton Underwood, England.

John DeFrancesco stands in front of a replica of the 384th Bomb Group Memorial in Grafton Underwood, England, where the group was stationed during WWII.

After some help from Al Pela, I was able to find the memorial to the Brodie crew of the B-17 Lazy Daisy which collided with the B-17 Lead Banana on which my dad was the waist gunner on September 28, 1944.

To end this wonderful weekend, our group was honored at the American Legion Post 135 which is housed at 1108 Bull Street in Savannah, where on January 28, 1942, the Eighth Air Force was activated.

John DeFrancesco receiving a Certificate of Honor from American Legion Post 135 in Savannah

In addition to honoring the WWII veteran of our group, John DeFrancesco, the American Legion also honored Zigmunt Wujek, Walter Grotz, and each of the Stalag Luft IV daughters’ fathers.

Following the ceremony at the American Legion, our group enjoyed a spectacular dinner right next door at the restaurant Local11ten. It was the perfect ending to the perfect adventure for this group which was brought together because of a shared history in WWII. That adventure ended, but I suspect a new journey is just beginning.

Four daughters of Stalag Luft IV with WWII veteran John DeFrancesco.
Left to right: Cindy Farrar Bryan, Laura Witt Edge, John Joseph DeFrancesco, Candy Kyler Brown, and Ellen Weaver Hartman

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Magdeburg and Belgard (Bialogard)

My dad flew sixteen missions with the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII, but the only mission location he marked on this Invasion Map of Europe in his World Atlas was Magdeburg, Germany. It was the only mission he told me stories about, the one where another B-17 collided with his and he lost all of his fellow crewmates on that ship that day.

In a report to the military after his return to the States, he wrote:

Am very sorry I can’t give more information, but our ship was hit by another B-17 from our group.  The other ship must have hit right in the center of our ship, as we were knocked half in-to.  At the time we were struck I was knocked unconscious, and fell about 25,000 feet, before I knew I was even out of the ship.  Never saw any of the other boys.  I received a little rough treatment from the Germans when I hit the ground, and was unable to tell where I was.

He also marked Magdeburg on another map in his World Atlas and wrote “Belgard” in the top margin. Belgard, or Bialogard, is the county in which Gross-Tychow (now Tychowo), Poland lies, home of Stalag Luft IV.

Stalag Luft IV in Gross-Tychow was where Dad spent the darkest days of his life. It was one of the worst WWII prison camps in Germany, where prisoners were mistreated and underfed. It was the camp from which prisoners were marched in early February 1944, in one of the worst winters in Germany’s history, until their liberation in late April/early May.

These places, Magdeburg and Belgard, these two places on his map, would be burned into my father’s memory and soul forever. He would never return to those places for the rest of his life, but the memories of them remained with him every day and every night.

I am drawn to these places and I hope one day I will visit both. Neither look the same today as what Dad experienced in 1944, but I wish to stand on the soil where he hit the ground in his parachute, where his B-17 crashed to earth, and where he was held a prisoner behind barbed wire. I would like to walk the roads he marched as a prisoner of war by day, and see the barns where he slept in the hay at night.

Why do I want to visit these sites? Dad would probably not want me to see these places he would like to have forgotten, but they were an important part of his history and that makes them an important part of mine. I imagine seeing these places will take my breath away and bring me to tears.

I lost Dad almost thirty-five years ago. He died at the age of sixty-one. His heart gave out when he was too young to leave us. The mid-air collision and his subsequent time as a prisoner of war are what killed him. But he was tough and it took him another thirty-eight years to die. I would like to have had him around for another thirty years or more, so he could watch my sister and me mature, walk us down the aisle, and hold his grandchildren. But I understand now that the only way he found peace from the war was to leave this life and those horrible memories behind.

Rest in peace, Dad. I will never stop loving you.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

Joseph Donald Weaver

Joseph Donald Weaver, 9th AF, 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squad

I don’t know how many of you are members of the Eighth Air Force Historical Society, but I am a member and receive their 8th AF News magazine. I was intrigued by the cover of the March 2017 issue I received in the mail. The cover photo was a woman named Ellen Weaver Hartman holding dog tags and surrounded by photos and other items. The item that caught my eye was a small piece of wood inscribed with “Stalag Luft IV 1944.” Stalag Luft IV was the prison camp in which my dad was held POW in 1944 and 1945.

I quickly turned to the article, “Band of Daughters.” It was a reprint of an article by Josh Green for the Atlanta Journal Constitution newspaper. You can read the entire article here.

I went on to read the story of Ellen Weaver Hartman and Laura Witt Edge. Ellen’s dad was Joseph (Joe) Donald Weaver, who was a Radio Operator/Mechanic Gunner with the 9th Air Force, 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squad.

According to the American Air Museum in Britain, the 386th Bomb Group flew B-26 Marauders for the Eighth and Ninth Air Forces. While assigned to the Eighth Air Force, the 386th developed the formation release procedure for the B-26, a medium bomber, on missions from Great Dunmow, England in the winter of 1943 – 1944 to aerodromes, marshalling yards and V-weapon sites along the coast of France. In October 1944, the 386th moved to Beaumont-sur-Oise, north of Paris, and on to St. Trond, Belgium in support of the push eastward by ground forces.

Laura’s dad was Lawrence (Larry) Lee Witt, who was an Engineer/Waist Gunner with the 8th Air Force, 96th Bomb Group, 338th Bomb Squad.

According the the American Air Museum in Britain, the 96th Bomb Group flew B-17 Flying Fortresses to targets across occupied Europe from May 1943 to April 1945. They were awarded two Distinguished Unit Citations, the first for bombing an aircraft factory at Regensburg on August 17, 1943 under intense pressure from enemy fighters. The second was for leading the 45th Bomb Wing through difficult weather conditions and anti-aircraft fire on a mission to an aircraft components factories at Poznan on April 9, 1944.

Laura Edge knows a great deal about her father’s service in WWII. When her father was in his eighties, Laura sat down with him and one of his old crewmates and they told her their stories of WWII, Stalag Luft IV, and the Black March they endured while prisoners of war. Laura wrote a book, On the Wings of Dawn, a well-written and excellent record of the experiences of the American airmen who shared those experiences. I consider it a must-read for anyone whose father was confined in Stalag Luft IV during WWII and I will write more about it in a future post.

While Laura Edge knows a great deal about her father’s service in WWII, Ellen Weaver Hartman does not have as much information about her father’s service, but she would like to learn more. Who were the members of Joe Weaver’s originally assigned crew? How can she find a photo of that crew? If you have found your way to this article through an internet search on one of the names I’ve mentioned here, or if you recognize any of the faces in the included photos, and you have any information to share, I urge you to comment on this post or e-mail Ellen directly.

Joseph Donald Weaver on the right

Joseph (Joe) Donald Weaver was born on August 28, 1923 in Ackerman, Mississippi. On October 8, 1942, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps at Camp Shelby, Mississippi. At the time, he was living in Choctaw County. He was assigned service number 14150971. Joe served in the 8th AF, 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squad as a radio operator/gunner on a B-26 Maurader. The 386th Bomb Group started out with the 8th AF, but transferred to the 9th AF in 1944.

Jospeh Donald Weaver (on the right) with friends in Ireland

Early in his overseas service, Joe was in a training accident in Ireland with pilot Robert G. Fry. The American Air Museum in Britain describes Fry as an Instructor (Pilot) with the 3rd Combat Crew Replacement Center. On December 27, 1943, B-26 #41-17961 was involved in a landing accident at Froome Airfield (Station 236) near Antrim, Northern Ireland after a local training flight. The aircraft landed in a small field. Joe Weaver and four others returned.

The four others mentioned were:

John Latiloasis was from Louisiana and remained friends with Joe Weaver after the war.

The American Air Museum in Britain web site notes that after flying fifty-one missions with the Lt. Fry crew, Joe Weaver was assigned to the 386th Bomb Group, 554th Bomb Squadron of the 9th Air Force. Joe was a Radio Operator/Mechanical Gunner. On the August 6, 1944 mission to bomb fuel dumps near the Forêt d’Andainnein, east of the Domfront region of Calvados, France, Joe was flying with pilot Walter Edward Payne in B-26 #42-96184. This was Joe’s fifty-second mission, but his and the other gunners’ first mission with Captain Payne. Joe replaced Payne’s regular radio operator who had just completed his tour. Hit by flak, the plane crashed in the English Channel, one mile off the coast at Trouville-sur-Mer.  Joe Weaver was made prisoner (POW) and was interned at Stalag Luft IV in Gross Tychow/Tychowo, Poland. Four others, including Captain Payne, were also made prisoners of war. Gunner Franklin E. Swanson was killed.

Aboard B-26 42-96184 that day were officers…

Payne, Altvater, and Roggenkamp were all on their 63rd mission. All three were made prisoner.

And enlisted men…

The three enlisted men on board were all experienced gunners who had flown on earlier missions and were replacing the Payne crew’s regular gunners who had flown more than the sixty-five required missions (some with other crews) and had completed their tours.

The AAM (American Air Museum) reports that B-26 42-96184 was on its second mission of the day when it was hit by an 88mm flak shell above Le Havre, causing a fire in the right engine. Included in the missing air crew report, MACR7875, is this eyewitness statement from S/Sgt. Leonard J. Zuckerman:

I was flying as tail gunner in lead aircraft of formation in which Captain Payne was flying deputy lead.

Capt. Payne’s aircraft was hit by flak, causing fire in the right engine, which didn’t seem too large and was apparently unnoticed because ship was equipped with engine fire extinguishers. The flames subsided for a moment then flared up brightly and I saw three chutes from the tail end of the ship.

The pilot held the ship in formation for a time but was losing altitude slowly and the engine was burning brightly.

Two more chutes which evidently came from the front end of the ship, blossomed out as the ship began to lose altitude more rapidly. When about one mile off shore the right engine and wing came away from the ship and the ship itself spiraled into the channel.

I did not see a sixth chute from this aircraft. My vision was blurred after the first few minutes by hydraulic fluid which was smearing my plexiglass windshield.

This map, included in the missing air crew report was likely drawn by S/Sgt. Zuckerman to indicate the path of the aircraft, flying through the flak area and over the English Channel until it crashed in the Channel. Zuckerman also includes lattitude and longitude markings on his drawing. Zuckerman has drawn an outline around the flak area. Note the zig-zagging pattern of the aircraft through the flak area, attempting to evade the flak guns. The crew bailed out somewhere along the line indicating the aircraft’s path and probably landed somewhere between the flak area and the coastline at Trouville-sur-Mer, except for the co-pilot who actually landed in the channel about fifty feet offshore on a sandbar.

Map included in MACR7875, likely hand-drawn by witness Leonard J. Zuckerman

More information is provided in the Missing Air Crew Report, MACR7875, and in a narrative of “Mission 63” written by co-pilot H. Mark Altvater. Among the details are these:

  • According to Lt. Altvater, bombardier/navigator Lt. Roggenkamp commented on the return trip from the target that they were getting too close to Le Havre, which was heavily defended by flak guns. He did not understand why the formation did not turn to avoid Le Havre, but they had no choice but to follow the lead aircraft.
  • Lt. Altvater reported an ear-splitting explosion and realized that they had taken a direct hit from the 88mm flak guns in Le Havre. The windshield was hit and the pilot compartment was littered with dust, debris, Plexiglass splinters, and shell fragments. The fuel tanks in the right wing were punctured and spewing aviation fuel. Shortly after, they were on fire.
  • About four minutes before the crew bailed out, Sgt. Swanson announced by interphone that he had been hit by flak, but that he would not leave his guns.
  • They left formation approximately three minutes south of Trouville-sur-Mer.
  • Lt. Roggenkamp, then Lt. Altvater bailed out of the aircraft through the bomb bay slightly west of Trouville, France. Cpl. Salyer, then Sgt. Weaver, then Sgt. Swanson left the aircraft through the waist window over Trouville. The last to bail out, Payne followed Altvater and Roggenkamp out the bomb bay.
  • Captain Payne reported that his aircraft struck the ground in the English Channel approximately 10 miles west of Trouville and that none of the crew were in the aircraft at that time. (Although the witness, Zuckerman, noted the crash as one mile off shore, Payne noted ten miles off shore).
  • The other gunners reported seeing blood on Swanson’s clothing near his groin, but they did not believe he was badly wounded before he bailed out. They saw his chute come out of its pack, but it did not canopy. It merely trailed behind, apparently caused by cut shrouds.
  • After bailing out, Joe Weaver watched Franklin Swanson pass him on the way down. Swanson was trying to get his chute open as he passed Weaver. Weaver reported that Swanson’s chute was “one long streamer” and that he watched Swanson almost to the ground.
  • Payne’s supposition was that at the time that Swanson was injured, his parachute was also hit by flak causing it to fail to function properly.
  • The Germans provided Swanson’s dog tags and reported him found dead in a nearby woods. The Germans also said they buried him. He was likely buried in a local French cemetery, probably near Trouville-sur-Mer.
  • The exact locations of where all of the crew landed are not noted other than Swanson’s body was found “in a nearby woods” and Altvater reported landing in the Channel, having to wade ashore.

After enduring six months in Stalag Luft IV and three more months on the road in the Black March, Joseph Donald Weaver was liberated and returned to the US. His formal date of separation from the Army Air Forces was October, 15 1945.

Ellen Weaver Hartman would like to find relatives her dad’s crew mates, and especially relatives of Franklin Swanson, the only crew member killed aboard 42-96184 that day. When Ellen’s dad, Joe Weaver, was picking up his gear for the August 6 mission, he didn’t pick up the parachute that he was supposed to get. Instead, he picked up the previous one in the gear line. Franklin Swanson picked up the parachute that was intended for Joe, the chute that didn’t open properly and didn’t deliver him safely to the ground. Joe Weaver was so upset over this that when he was liberated and returned home after the war, he and his parents drove from Mississippi to New York to visit Franklin’s parents. But, probably not considered by Joe was the possibility that the parachute Swanson picked up from the gear line was damaged by flak rather than defective.

Sgt. Franklin Swanson was born in 1923. His parents were Charles and Margaret Swanson and he had a younger brother named Carl. They were from Buffalo, Erie County, New York. Franklin enlisted in the Army Air Corps on August 28, 1942 in Buffalo and his service number was 12139321. He was noted, at the time of his enlistment, as being employed in the building of aircraft and also as single, without dependents. He served as an Ap. (airplane) Armorer Gunner with the 386th Bomb Group (Medium), 554th Bomb Squadron in WWII.

Franklin Swanson died August 6, 1944. He was awarded the Air Medal with one Oak Leaf Cluster and the Purple Heart. He was re-interred in the Normandy American Cemetery in Colleville-sur-Mer, France, Plot B Row 9 Grave 6. Ellen plans to visit Franklin Swanson’s grave this summer.

Ellen Weaver Hartman would like to find the names of the men on which her father, Joseph Donald Weaver, served as an original crew and would also like to find a photo of the crew. Was the pilot of his original crew Robert Fry? Or did Weaver only fly with Fry on training missions?

She’d also like to find the exact location where the crew bailed out of the aircraft before it crashed into the channel, and also the places they landed and where Franklin Swanson’s body was found. In sixty seconds after bail out, the plane would have been over the sea, so it must have been very near the coastline, probably within a mile of Trouville-sur-Mer.

Ellen would also like to know what happened next. Her dad mentioned going to Chalon, France, and her mother told of a packed train ride to Dusseldorf, Germany.

Ellen would like to find more information about Franklin Swanson, pilot instructor Robert G. Fry, and the other men with which her father served in WWII. If any relatives of any of the men mentioned in this article stumble across it, Ellen Weaver Hartman would love to hear from you to learn more about the men her father flew with under pilot Robert Fry (Robert G. Fry, Pierre S. Buckner, Vernon R. Hodges, and John G. Latiloasis), and the men he flew with under pilot Walter Payne (Walter E. Payne, Hubert M. Altvater, Edward William Roggenkamp, William L. Salyer, and Franklin E. Swanson).

If you are related to any of these men or have any information for Joe Weaver’s daughter Ellen, please contact her through e-mail using this link:  contact Ellen Weaver Hartman.

Notes

To learn more about the B-26 Marauder, click here.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

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