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Kriegie Kids and the Search for POW Records, Part 2

I hope those of you who wished to place a request for Prisoner of War (POW) records from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) were successful in submitting your request on 24 January. Prepare to wait a while for the results, but when you do get them, please let me know what you learned either through a comment here on my blog or with an e-mail.

For those who still wish to place a request for POW records, check the website of the ICRC for the next submission date. For now, the ICRC is accepting requests once a quarter, but that could change in the future, so please check the site for the next available date. See this previous article for more details.


George Edwin Farrar’s POW ID Tag, #3885 from Stalag Luft IV

A recap:

My father, George Edwin Farrar, was an American Prisoner of War (POW) of Germany during World War II. The Nazis called the prisoners “Kriegsgefangenen.” The POWs called themselves “Kriegies.” That makes me, the daughter of POW #3885, a “Kriegie Kid.”

As a Kriegie Kid, I am naturally interested in discovering information about my father’s Prisoner of War experience and have found various ways to search for details.


A note, to start. My father was an airman in a B-17 Heavy Bomber Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. Therefore, the focus of my research has always been on units of the air war based in England.

The information I share may not be as applicable to units based in other theaters of the war or to Army soldiers of the ground forces or seamen of the Navy.

If you are searching for POW information for a military member from one of these other groups, I hope this information gives you some ideas on how to start your search as I’m sure I am not covering all of the options pertaining to your POW family member.

In Part 1 of this article, I covered finding POW information in the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Access to Archival Databases (AAD). In this part, Part 2, I’ll cover a few alternate resources.

Other POW information resources:

  • Wartime Missing Air Crew Reports
  • Post-wartime documents, including Honorable Discharge, Separation Qualification Record, and POW Medal Application

Wartime Missing Air Crew Reports

If you can locate the wartime Missing Air Crew Report (MACR) for an air crews’ loss and subsequent capture, you may learn many details depending on how complete the report is. Some of the WWII Army Air Force Groups have websites or Facebook pages and may have a historian or researcher that will help you find this information.

An alternate source is to perform a name search for the WWII time period on fold3, a separate Ancestry.com website of online military records. You may register for a free account to search, but may need to join or start a free trial to review any Missing Air Crew Reports the search reveals.

You may also find B-17 crew/aircraft losses and the MACR number in Dave Osborne’s Fortlog (B-17 Fortress Master Log) by searching on the name of your POW. For example, when I search on my dad’s last name, I find the B-17’s serial number and name, Bomb Group and Squadron numbers, MIA place and date, names of the members of the crew on board, where they were lost, and the MACR number:

43-37822 Del Cheyenne 25/5/44; Kearney 8/6/44; Grenier 28/6/44; Ass 544BS/384BG [SU-N] Grafton Underwood 29/6/44; MIA Magdeburg 28/9/44 w/John Buslee, Dave Albrecht, Bill Henson, Bob Stearns, Len Bryant, Seb Peluso, George McMann, Gerald Anderson (8KIA); George Farrar (POW); flak, cr Ingersleben, Ger; MACR 9753. LEAD BANANA.

Post-wartime Documents

I was able to find POW information on my father’s Honorable Discharge and Separation Qualification Record paperwork. After communicating with other children of former POW’s, though, I learned that the information was not always presented in the same area of those documents, so if you have these, carefully look over the entire documents, front and back.

For example, on my father’s Honorable Discharge, I find this information listed on the back page:

  • Box 34, Wounds Received in Action: Germany 28 Sept 44 (indicates the date of the mid-air collision in which he became a POW)
  • Box 36, Date of Departure (indicates the date he left the ETO – European Theater of Operations – two months after his liberation date and return to US military control)
  • Box 55, Remarks: POW Germany – 28 Sept 44 – 2 May 45 (Not all discharge papers list the POW’s exact dates of internment, but my father’s did)

On the back page of my father’s Separation Qualification Record, under Additional Information, Box 23, Remarks, is noted: POW in Germany 28 Sept 44 – 2 May 45.

On the front page of Wilfred Frank Miller’s Separation Qualification Record, under Summary of Military Occupations, Box 13, Title – Description – Related Civilian Occupation, this information is noted: Was shot down and Bailed out over Germany. Was taken prisoner of war and interned for 7 months. Was returned to U.S. control 13 May 1945.

Obviously, there was no standard way to report this information, so review these documents thoroughly for POW details.

Also, the dates noted are not completely clear as to what the end date signifies. Liberation date and date returned to military control are not necessarily the same date, as was the case for my father. However, my father was liberated by the British and it likely took time from his liberation date for him to be transferred from British forces to American forces and returned to U.S. control.

For Miller, perhaps his date signifies that he was liberated by the Americans and immediately returned to U.S. control. These clues can help pinpoint where the POW was when he was liberated if we can find the historical evidence of the dates of separate liberations of various groups of prisoners.

From the different end dates between Miller and my dad, I must assume they did not march in the same column of marchers from Stalag Luft IV and took different paths to freedom.

Prisoner of War (POW) Medal Application: If you still have your father’s post-wartime documents, you may find a copy of his POW medal application, if he applied for this post-war medal. Or you may find it in his file at the National Personnel Records Center (NPRC) in St. Louis.

In Section I – Prisoner of War Identification Data, Box 13, Additional Information, the former POW was asked to describe his Place of imprisonment, disposition after release, or escape, recapture and release. There are also other spaces for information such as Branch of Service, Date Confined as POW, Unit of Assignment/Attachment when Captured, and Date Released as POW.

More Options

In Part 3, I’ll cover a few more options and suggestions for finding POW information.

Notes

The German word for prisoner of war (POW) was Kriegsgefangener (singular) and Kriegsgefangenen (plural). The POWs called themselves “Kriegies” for short.

Links

Kriegie Kids and the Search for POW Records, Part 1

fold3 military records website

Dave Osborne’s Fortlog (B-17 Fortress Master Log)

National Personnel Records Center (NPRC)

NARA search of Records of World War II Prisoner of War

ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) Requests for Information About People Held POW

Kriegie Kids Facebook group

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Kriegie Kids and the Search for POW Records, Part 1

Reminder! The next window to place a request for Prisoner of War (POW) records from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) opens on 24 January 2022 at 8:00 (GMT +1). Please see this previous article for details.


George Edwin Farrar’s POW ID Tag, #3885 from Stalag Luft IV

My father, George Edwin Farrar, was an American Prisoner of War (POW) of Germany during World War II. The Nazis called the prisoners “Kriegsgefangenen.” The POWs called themselves “Kriegies.” That makes me, the daughter of POW #3885, a “Kriegie Kid.”

As a Kriegie Kid, I am naturally interested in discovering information about my father’s Prisoner of War experience and have found various ways to search for details.

One option to find at least summary information with a few details is NARA’s (National Archives and Record Administration’s) Access to Archival Databases (AAD). Let’s start with a name search in the Archival Databases.

NARA – AAD

Open the NARA – AAD webpage.

Enter the POW’s name in the “Search AAD” text box and click the Search button.

Review the list of the results and find Records of World War II Prisoners of War, created, 1942 – 1947, documenting the period 12/7/1941 – 11/19/1946 in the list.

Click on View Records.

When you find the correct record in the records list, click on the document icon in the View Record column.

As an example, I am including my father’s POW record from NARA – AAD. The information provided includes:

  • Date of capture, here listed as Report Date – September 28, 1944 for my dad.
  • Bomb Group, here listed as Parent Unit Number – 384th Bomb Group for my dad.
  • Place of capture, here listed as Area – European Theatre, Germany for my dad.
  • Last Report Date – July 13, 1945 for my dad. I am not certain of how this date was assigned. It was not the date of his liberation (May 2, 1945) or the date he was returned to US military control (May 8, 1945), and between July 2 and July 17, 1945, he was reportedly on a ship returning to the states.
  • Detaining Power – Germany for my dad.
  • POW Camp, here listed as Camp – Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow (formerly Heydekrug) Pomerania, Prussia (moved to Wobbelin Bei Ludwigslust) (To Usedom Bei Savenmunde) 54-16 for my dad.

File unit: World War II Prisoners of War Data File, 12/7/1941 – 11/19/1946

Field Title Value Meaning
SERIAL NUMBER 14119873 14119873
NAME FARRAR GEORGE E FARRAR GEORGE E
GRADE, ALPHA S SG Staff Sergeant
GRADE CODE 4 Major or Asst. superintendent of nurses or Director of nurses or Director of dietitians or Director of physical therapy aides or Staff Sergeant or Technician 3d Grade or Lt. Commander or Petty Officer, 2nd Class
SERVICE CODE 1 ARMY
ARM OR SERVICE AC Air Corps
ARM OR SERVICE CODE 20 AC: AIR CORPS
DATE REPORT: DAY (DD) 28 28
DATE REPORT: MONTH (MM) 09 09
DATE REPORT: YEAR (Y) 4 1944
RACIAL GROUP CODE 1 WHITE
STATE OF RESIDENCE 43 Georgia
TYPE OF ORGANIZATION S53 Heavy Bomber
PARENT UNIT NUMBER 0384 0384
PARENT UNIT TYPE 06 Group/Regiment/Commands/System
AREA 72 European Theatre: Germany
LATEST REPORT DATE: DAY (DD) 13 13
LATEST REPORT DATE: MONTH (MM) 07 07
LATEST REPORT DATE: YEAR (Y) 5 1945
SOURCE OF REPORT 1 Individual has been reported through sources considered official.
STATUS 8 Returned to Military Control, Liberated or Repatriated
DETAINING POWER 1 GERMANY
CAMP 091 Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow (formerly Heydekrug) Pomerania, Prussia (moved to Wobbelin Bei Ludwigslust) (To Usedom Bei Savenmunde) 54-16
REP
POW TRANSPORT SHIPS

Note that you may not immediately find the search name in the records. It is possible that the record is missing from the database, but it may just be that the name has not been recorded correctly or in the expected format.

I have had difficulties with some names, for instance one that begins with Mc, like McDougall. The database seems to record a name beginning with Mc with a space between the “Mc” and the rest of the last name. Try entering a last name beginning with Mc with the space, like “Mc Dougall” instead of “McDougall.”

In the case that your search does not return the correct record, if you do have the POW’s US military Serial Number, enter that number in the search box rather than the name and the search engine may find the correct record in the database.

Learning a few facts about your POW relative’s internment is a good place to start, but it’s just the beginning. And the information you find in a NARA – AAD search may help you fill in some of the information needed to request POW records from the ICRC, too.

Notes

  • The German word for prisoner of war (POW) was Kriegsgefangener (singular) and Kriegsgefangenen (plural). The POWs called themselves “Kriegies” for short.
  • On the NARA – AAD Search Results page, you may also find the POW’s enlistment record in the World War II Army Enlistment Records, created, 6/1/2002 – 9/30/2002, documenting the period ca. 1938 – 1946 results.

Links

Kriegie Kids Facebook group

NARA search (NARA – AAD webpage) of Records of World War II Prisoner of War

ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) Requests for Information About People Held POW

To be continued with more options for finding POW information for Kriegie Kids…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

ICRC POW Records Request

The next window to place a request for Prisoner of War (POW) records from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) opens up on 24 January 2022 at 8:00 (GMT +1).

My father, George Edwin Farrar, was an American Prisoner of War (POW) of Germany during World War II and because of that, my research into his WWII history includes an extra aspect of his military service. On top of learning about his stateside training and combat history, I want to know about his time of imprisonment by the enemy.

The information to be learned, once I’m past the initial information of dates and places, will not be very pleasant, but it’s important for me to know. And the best place to start is to find out how long he was a POW and where he was held prisoner.

There are a couple of places to find information, but today I want to write about the request for information from the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) because a short window opens up to request this information only a few times a year and the next window is opening very soon.

This website of the International Committee of the Red Cross is the place to request information about someone held as a prisoner of war or civilian internee during the Spanish Civil War or the Second World War.

If you open the website at any time other than when the short window is open, you will see the page heading, “Requests for information about people held during Spanish Civil War or Second World War: Quarterly limit reached.”

If you open the website during the window of opportunity to request information, you will be able to access an online form which you can fill out for your request.

The website did not supply me in advance with a list of the information the form would require me to fill in, so I had to scramble at the time I was completing the form to make sure I had the correct information and to enter it before the quarterly limit was reached. For that reason, I’m going to list the items I had to provide so you can prepare in advance and be able to fill out the online form quickly and as accurately as possible.

The fields I had to complete were:

Person about whom the information is sought: 

  • Surname
  • First name
  • Gender
  • Date of birth
  • Place of birth
  • Date of death
  • Nationality
  • Place of residence at the time of the conflict
  • Father’s surname and first name
  • Mother’s maiden name and first name
  • Wife/husband’s name
  • Conflict (2nd World War)
  • Status (Military)
  • Rank
  • Unit
  • Army
  • Service number
  • Date of capture
  • Place of capture
  • Prisoner of war number
  • Place(s) of detention
  • Date of release (and repatriation)
  • Additional information (large text box)

Person requiring the research:

  • Title
  • Surname
  • First name
  • Institution
  • Street
  • Street No.
  • Postal code
  • City
  • Country
  • Email
  • Family tie (the person about whom I am seeking information is my…)
  • Reason for enquiry
  • Reason for enquiry (additional information) – large text box

It’s possible you may not have some of the requested information, but the more you can provide, the better the chance the Red Cross can find the records of your POW.

The next window to place a request opens up on 24 January 2022 at 8:00 (GMT +1) (note this is the time zone of Geneva, Switzerland). It only opens four times a year and they only take a limited number of applications, so determine what time it correlates to in your own time zone (use Google or a world clock app) and then get online immediately at the time the window opens to request the info.

I also want to point out that each applicant is allowed to request information for only one POW. If you are considering requesting information for more than one POW, it’s best to realize in advance you only get one request, so make it the one for which you most want to seek information.

I requested information about my father last year. In my case, I determined that Geneva is six hours ahead of my time zone, so I got online at 2 a.m. on 20 September 2021 to submit my application. By 2:10 a.m. my form was complete and submitted.

I did wait several weeks and was rewarded with an e-mail from the ICRC on 5 November 2021 with a digital document of results attached. The information arrived exactly thirty-nine years to the day of my father’s death.

Unfortunately, I learned nothing new from the report I received. But information I already knew was confirmed. My father was held in Stalag Luft IV and the date of his liberation by Allied forces was confirmed as 2 May 1945.

The report did not indicate the date of his capture, but I already knew that date, too, and there are other resources to find that information, like a NARA search of records of WWII POW’s, which I’ll address in a couple of weeks.

I still think it was worth the time and effort to get up in the middle of the night to submit the request. There was no charge or fee to request the information or to receive the results, and you just never know what you might find out unless you ask. If you miss the window coming up on 24 January, you should have three more chances in 2022 and the dates will be announced on the ICRC website.

In a couple of weeks, I’ll remind you about this opportunity again and write more in detail about searching the NARA records and a place on Facebook to connect with other relatives of POW’s, Kriegie Kids.

Links

I’ve only covered the ICRC requests today, but am including a couple more links to information I’ll be covering in a future post in case you want to do a little exploring on your own…

ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) Requests for Information About Someone Held POW

NARA search of Records of World War II Prisoner of War

Kriegie Kids Facebook group

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

A Liberation Day Souvenir

I have previously written about my dad’s time as a POW during WWII, both during his confinement in Stalag Luft IV and during his 86-day march across Poland and Germany to his liberation. The 500-plus mile march started on February 6, 1945, and for my dad, George Edwin Farrar, ended on May 2, 1945.

On the morning of May 2, 1945, Day 86 of the march, the prisoners’ morning started as usual, awakening early, with some prisoners searching the farm for food, eggs that could be eaten raw, or potatoes that could be carried to the next stop. On this day, the Germans distributed canned sardines and commanded the prisoners to pack up and walk to the end of the farm lane to the main road where they would be liberated by the British 8th Army, the Royal Dragoons, shortly before noon.

The 76th anniversary of Dad’s liberation day will be this coming Sunday and this year I have a piece of history to hold in my hand as I reflect on this day and what his liberation and freedom meant to my father those many years ago.

WWII German Air Force (Luftwaffe) Officer’s Peak Cap

Dad kept this WWII German Air Force (Luftwaffe) officer’s peak cap as a souvenir of his experience as a POW during the war. I don’t recall him ever showing it to me or telling me about it.

It wasn’t until my sister and I were cleaning out my mother’s attic after her death in 2004 (Dad had died in 1982) that we found it in a footlocker with a few other items from his military service. My sister kept those things when we divided up the family heirlooms and I forgot about them over the years.

My sister recently reminded me she had these things of dad’s from the war and offered them to me to add to my collection of his WWII memorabilia. I am sure I know how my dad came to be in possession of this Nazi military cap. Once the prisoners were liberated and realized they would soon be going home, they all collected some souvenirs to bring home with them.

In the Shoe Leather Express, author and former POW Joseph O’Donnell wrote, that his first souvenirs were a “military map of Germany and a German canteen and kit.” He noted that “other G.I.’s were gathering souvenirs such as swords, bayonets, and guns.”

A Luftwaffe officer’s cap must have seemed a fitting symbol, a victory prize, for an enlisted serviceman of the American Army Air Forces in the Allies’ defeat over Nazi Germany on the day of his liberation. But it was never something he showed off with pride or even shared the existence of when he told his stories of the mid-air collision, of being a POW, or enduring the forced march. Like many of his memories of that tragic time in his life and our country’s history, it remained buried and not spoken of until long after his death.

Notes

Previous Post: Liberation Gudow

All previous posts about Stalag Luft IV

All previous posts about The Black March

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

The Boxcars

Seventy-five years ago in the month of March 1945, the POW’s of Stalag Luft IV continued their forced march across Germany which they had begun the previous month on February 6. Traveling on foot with very little food was so very difficult that when they saw an opportunity to travel by rail, it was seen to be a welcome relief. Instead, it turned out to be likely one of the most horrific parts of their journey.

For these men who completed the march and eventually gained their liberation and freedom, nightmares of this time in their lives would likely include these few days of the eighty-six day total when they were loaded into 40 x 8 boxcars for a short journey deep into hell.

Joseph P. O’Donnell, the Stalag Luft IV POW who recorded his experience and that of fellow POW’s in the Shoe Leather Express books, included many individual stories of the boxcars in both the first book in the series, The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany, and the second book, The Shoe Leather Express – Book II -Luftgangsters Marching Across Germany.

* * * * *

Joe O’Donnell wrote of his personal experience that on Day 51, March 28, 1945, his group arrived at the town of Ebstorf, a small town west of the Elbe River. At 3 PM, he was loaded onto a 40 x 8 boxcar with sixty-four other POW’s. A 40 x 8 boxcar is a train or rail car that is designed to carry forty men or 8 head of cattle.

They, and other groups of sixty or more POW’s, were jammed into the cars and the doors locked shut. Although the sick were allowed to lie down, and there were many sick, the remainder of the men had to take turns standing and sitting as there was not room for all to sit at the same time.

At first, the men were relieved that they would be able to ride rather than walk to their next destination, but relief soon turned to horror when they realized that the boxcars were more dangerous than the road. The boxcars did not move for more than ten hours except for occasional movements of 100 to 200 yards back and forth from their original position.

The boxcars had no markings on them, nothing that allied aircraft could see from the air, to indicate they were filled with allied POW’s. Aerial activity in the area was considerable and train movements were prime targets of allied aircraft. O’Donnell considered their confinement in the boxcars to be an intentional plan of the Germans to have the POW’s killed by the strafings and bombings from their own aircraft.

Aside from the fear of the POW’s inside the boxcars, the conditions inside were unbearable as the men had nowhere to urinate or defecate other than the boxcar floor, although some were able to break through holes in the floor for the purpose. On top of this, many were stricken with chronic dysentery.

After forty hours of confinement in the boxcars, the trains moved out toward Fallingbostel on March 30, 1945, for a thirty-mile journey. The men were not allowed out of the boxcars or provided with drinking water for the entire trip.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 22

* * * * *

Bob Richards, Jr. (8th AF, 392nd BG, 577th Bomb Squadron) from Hanover, Pennsylvania, and John Hargrove (445th BG, 702nd Bomb Squadron) from Delran, New Jersey, noted in their personal journals that they were loaded into the 40 x 8 boxcars also on March 28, but in Hohenbunftorf, and traveled to Uelsen. However, they reported that only fifty men were confined in each car in which they spent two days and nights.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 35

* * * * *

Walter V. Lawrence (8th AF, 44th BG, 506th Bomb Squadron) was on the March 28 train ride to Fallingbostel in the 40 x 8 boxcars.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, pages 39/40

* * * * *

Lawrence “Larry” S. Moses (8th AF, 452nd BG, 728th Bomb Squadron) reported in his log that he left Uelzen by 40 x 8 boxcars on March 28, 1945 and arrived at Altengrabow, Stalag IIA, on March 30. (Although his date chart indicates he left Hohenbonstorf on the 28th, arrived Uelzen the same day, left Uelzen on the 29th, and arrived Altengrabow on the 30th).

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, pages 43/44

* * * * *

Louis Wayne Dirickson (9th AF, 409th BG (Light), 643rd Bomb Squadron):

3/28/45 – Walked 7 kilometers to Ebstorf and 1 1/2 kilometers to the train station. Loaded into boxcars (60/car) at 1:30 P.M. we were given 3/8 loaf of bread and 1/5 of a 3/4 lb. of margarine for three days.

3/29/45 – Sat all night in the boxcars, all of today and part of the evening, without moving an inch. Jerries gave us 2 buckets of water for 60 men and nothing to eat. Started moving at 11 P.M.

3/30/45 – Arrived at Station at 12 o’clock – walked 2 kilometers to Stalag XIB located at Fallingbostel – got inside the camp at 3 P.M. (100 men to a tent). Got a carrot and barley soup at 6 P.M. Darn good.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 49

* * * * *

Dr. Leslie Caplan provided testimony to Lt. Col. William C. Hoffman of the War Crimes Office on December 31, 1947, stating:

At 1500 hours on 28 March 1945 a large number of our men were loaded on freight cars at Ebbsdorf, Germany. We were forced in at the rate of 60 men or more to a car. This was so crowded that there was not enough room for all men to sit at the same time. We remained in these jammed boxcars until 0030 hours March 30, 1945 when our train left Ebbsdorf. During this 33 hour period few men were allowed out of the cars for the cars were sealed shut most of the time. The suffering this caused was unnecessary for there was a pump with a good supply of water in the railroad yards a short distance from the train. At one time I was allowed to fetch some water for a few of our men who were suffering from dysentery. Many men had dysentery at the time and the hardship of being confined to the freight cars was aggravated by the filth and stench resulting from men who had to urinate and defecate inside the cars. We did not get off these freight cars until we reached Fallingbostel around noon of 30 March 1945 and then we marched to Stalag IIB. The freight cars we were transported in had no marking on them to indicate that they were occupied by helpless prisoners of war. There was considerable aerial activity in the area at the time and there was a good chance of being strafed.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 70

* * * * *

Joseph P. O’Donnell, in a section named “Kriegie Land,” related an undated summarized log entry which followed his March 30, 1945 entry. I am not certain if this was O’Donnell’s personal log or that of another prisoner.

We boarded boxcars at Ebstorf. We got on at 3 o’clock P.M. 60 men to a car. We stayed in the car all that night, next day, that night, another day and night. I arrived here [Stalag XIB, Fallingbustel] the next day at 12 NOON.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book I, page 86

* * * * *

Tom Farrow (8th AF, 384th BG, 547th Bomb Squadron), walking with fellow 384th-er Ray Jablonski, wrote,

On Tuesday, the 27th of March, our group, numbering about 400, was crowded into boxcars, about 100 to a car designed to hold 40. We were given a quarter loaf of bread and the doors were shut and locked. The train started immediately but only for that day. We were stopped all night, the next day and night. The car had very small windows at each end for ventilation but was not enough to overcome the stench of diarrhea and vomit that soon covered the floor. There was not enough room for everyone to sit down, so we sat with our knees drawn up with another P.O.W. leaning on our knees.

On Thursday evening we began moving slowly through the night, stopping on Good Friday morning. The doors were opened and everyone struggled out, gulping fresh air. I never knew completely about the casualties of the trip. Everyone in our car made it, but a least two in the next car had died. We were marched to a very large camp to a compound of Russian workers. Large tents had been erected but there were no beds or straw.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book II, page 32

* * * * *

James W. McCloskey of Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, wrote in his log that he was loaded in a boxcar (48 in each) on March 17, 1945, rode all day on March 18 and 19, was in Hamburg Station on March 20 and received 1/2 bread, 1/3 margerine, and wurst, then arrived at Fallingbostel, Stalag 357, on March 21.

~The Shoe Leather Express – Book II, page 86

* * * * *

Harry Liniger (8th AF, 384th Bomb Group, 545th Bomb Squadron) boarded a train to Fallingbostel on March 28, 1945. I wrote about Harry’s experience almost five years ago and you can read it in its entirety here. Harry used a cigarette paper to record this piece of his POW history,

51 day on the road.  Boarded train at 2PM March 28.  Recd [received] 3/8 of a loaf of bread per man.  60 men on a car.

* * * * *

I don’t know if all of the POW’s on the march from Stalag Luft IV had this same experience, but many of them were forced to endure a train ride through hell on the road to their liberation and freedom.

Upon capture, the Germans would tell their prisoners, “For you, the war is over.” I don’t think that statement was the least bit accurate. These men were living the war every single day, even in captivity. For these men, the war wasn’t over until their liberation and return to civilian life, and for some of them, the war would never end until the end of life itself.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

The Black March Begins

The March of the POWs, of which my father George Edwin Farrar was one, from Stalag Luft IV began 75 years ago on February 6, 1945. It continued for 86 days and covered 500 miles across Pomerania and Germany.

Joseph P. O’Donnell, one of the Stalag Luft IV POW’s and the author of the Shoe Leather Express books wrote in his first volume, The Evacuation of Kriegsgefangenen Lager Stalag Luft IV Deutschland Germany, about the evacuation of the prison camp and the 86-day 500-mile march of which my father, George Edwin Farrar, was a part.

When I was a child, Daddy told me that he had been in a POW camp and had to march across Germany, but the details were too horrific for a father to tell his young daughter. I did not learn the horrors of what he had endured until many years after he died. Those I learned from the books of Joseph O’Donnell, Candy Kyler Brown, Laura Edge, and David Dorfmeier, and from the memories, written and oral, of some of the participants.

Joseph O’Donnell wrote in the opening pages of his first volume that,

By February 3, 1945, the front line was 45 miles south of Luft IV and extended to the Oder River, 40 miles east of Berlin…

With the Russian Red Army moving so close to the POW camp, it was a time of uncertainty for the prisoners. Would they be liberated by the Russians? Would they all be executed before the Red Army’s arrival? Would they evacuate the camp ahead of the Russians? Most expected an evacuation, but it was not a certainty.

O’Donnell continued,

We knew our evacuation was imminent as the Russians were advancing from the east. We could look through the cracks in the shutters over the windows and see the flashes from the artillery; and if the wind was right, we could hear the artillery at the front. My estimation was that we were less than 30 miles from the front lines.

Early on the morning of February 5, 1945, seventy-five years ago today, an announcement was made that the POWs would not evacuate the camp. But at 10 a.m., another announcement was made that they would be moving out the next morning.

The prisoners were told that they would be walking for three days. They were each given 1/3 loaf of bread and were allowed to take as many Red Cross parcels as they wanted. With each parcel weighing eleven pounds, the prisoners were forced to discard what they couldn’t comfortably carry.

Joseph O’Donnell wrote that the first day’s march was uneventful, and that they walked eighteen kilometers, a little over eleven miles.

But for men who were already malnourished, injured, and otherwise in poor physical shape from their confinement, this was no easy task.

Knowing that my father was one of the men packing up and marching out of the camp exactly seventy-five years ago sends a chill down my spine. To this point, he had already survived a mid-air collision (the sole survivor of his crew), an attack by German civilians after he parachuted to the ground, injuries requiring a two-month hospital stay, and months in the prison camp with very little food.

At twenty-three years old, survival was his main goal in life. Marching through the gates of the prison camp must have seemed overwhelming, with a mix of a sense of freedom with the uncertainty of what lay ahead. A yearning to see his family again kept him placing one foot in front of the other for the next eighty-six days.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

Stalag Luft IV, January 1945

I recently wrote about my dad and his Stalag Luft IV roomate, George Farrar, Lawrence Newbold, and Christmas 1944. By early January 1945, after a dismal 1944 holiday season, the POWs believed they were in for a long stay in Stalag Luft IV.

Stalag Luft IV was located at Gross Tychow, Pomerania, (now Tychowo, Poland), 20 kilometers (about 12 1/2 miles) southeast of Belgard.

On January 12, 1945, the Soviets launched the first phase of their long-planned Winter Offensive, with the Russian Red Army invading eastern Germany. German forces were greatly outnumbered as German troops and equipment had earlier been transferred from the eastern front to support the operation in the Ardennes to the west. The Germans retreated ahead of the Red Army’s advance through Poland.

On January 16, Adolf Hitler moved his residence and base of operations to the underground air raid shelter/subterranean bunker complex at Berlin’s Reich Chancellery known as the Führerbunker. It would be the last of the various headquarters he used in WWII, until the last week of the war. (On April 29, Adolf Hitler would marry Eva Braun there, less than two days before they committed suicide).

On January 17, the Soviet Red Army liberated the Polish capital of Warsaw, less than 300 miles southeast of Stalag Luft IV.

The POW’s of Stalag Luft IV were aware of the Russian advance and some believed liberation by the Red Army and freedom might be possible. Others feared the results of the Soviets overrunning their camp.

Soon rumors of the evacuation of the camp of 10,000 Allied airmen began circulating. Beginning January 26, approximately 3,000 of Stalag Luft IV’s most disabled POW’s were evacuated by train to Stalag Luft I at Barth and Stalag VIIA at Moosburg. One of these men was the 384th Bomb Group’s Patrick Dennis Benker.

Following the evacuation of the most disabled prisoners, POW’s from Stalag XXA at Tourn and IIB at Hammerstein arrived at Stalag Luft IV as the Soviet Red Army moved into Pomerania.

Now expecting an imminent evacuation of Stalag Luft IV, the POW’s began preparing to leave the camp.

By January 30, the Red Army had advanced within 100 miles of Berlin and Adolf Hitler delivered his final radio address. By the next day, the last day of January, 1945, the Soviets had reached the Oder River.

Sources:

Wikipedia:  Führerbunker

World War II Chronicle by the Editors of Publications International, Ltd.

C-Lager:  Stalag Luft IV & the 86-Day Hunger March by David Dorfmeier

Notes:

Chapter 13 of David Dorfmeier’s book, C-Lager, covers the month leading up to the evacuation of Stalag Luft IV in great detail. C-Lager offers excellent descriptions of camp life and the march. David’s father, Donald Dorfmeier, served as a waist gunner of the 398th Bomb Group, based at Nuthampstead, England, and was a POW at Stalag Luft IV. David’s book can be found on Amazon using the link above in the Sources section.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020

George Farrar, Lawrence Newbold, and Christmas 1944

During WWII, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist gunner on a B-17 crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the United States Army Air Forces’ (USAAF) 8th Air Force. The 384th was based in Grafton Underwood, England. Dad was “Ed” to family, but in the Army Air Forces, he was known as “George.”

During the war, Lawrence Newbold was a wireless operator on an Avro Lancaster crew of the 50 Squadron of the British Royal Air Force (RAF). The 50 Squadron was based in Skellingthorpe, England. He was also known as “Lawrie” and signed a letter to my father as such (although I originally read it as “Laurie.”)

While the British Royal Air Force flew night bombing missions over Germany during WWII, the US Army Air Forces flew daytime missions. The result was constant, continuous bombardment against the Nazis in the European Theater.

On the night of March 18, 1944, Lawrence Newbold’s 50 Squadron took part in a mission to Frankfurt, Germany. In the course of the mission, his Lancaster was shot down and Lawrence bailed out over Germany. After interrogation, he was likely first confined to the Stalag Luft VI prison camp near the town of Heydekrug, Memelland (now Šilutė in Lithuania), although I am not certain that was his original camp.

In July 1944, the POW’s of Stalag Luft VI were moved to the Stalag Luft IV prison camp in Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland), which had opened in May. Whether Lawrence was one of the prisoners who endured the dreadful transfer from Stalag Luft VI to IV, via crammed railroad boxcars, the dismal hold of a ship, and the torturous “run up the road” (also known as the “Heydekrug Run” – more on this subject at a later date), I do not know, but I do know at the time he was captured, Stalag Luft IV was not yet open and he was transferred there sometime on or after the opening in May 1944.

On the morning of September 28, 1944, George Farrar’s 384th Bomb Group took part in a mission to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, another of the group’s B-17’s collided with George’s. George, who was luckily wearing his parachute, was thrown from the aircraft which had split in two in the collision. After interrogation and a lengthy hospital stay, he was confined to Stalag Luft IV in late November, around Thanksgiving.

Lawrence and George were assigned to Room 12 of an unknown barracks and lager of Stalag Luft IV. Within weeks the newfound roommates would spend Christmas 1944 together. Lawrence undoubtedly would like to have been home to spend Christmas with his wife Marjorie and their son Michael, and George was likely dreaming of Christmas with his parents and eight siblings.

In a Christmas POW postcard to his mother, George wrote,

Hope everyone had a nice Christmas.  We had as good as can be expected here.

I often think of how alone and scared my dad must have been at Christmas 1944 in a prison camp with no family to comfort him. But this year I have a new perspective. This Christmas is the 75th anniversary of the Christmas Dad spent in Stalag Luft IV and I will think of it as the Christmas Dad spent with Lawrence Newbold and his POW family of “Room 12.”

This year is special because Stephen Newbold, the son of Lawrence Newbold, and I, the daughter of George Farrar, met for the first time. When I was in England for the 384th Bomb Group reunion in September, Steve and his son, Paul, and I met in the village of Grafton Underwood, where Dad’s 384th Bomb Group’s airbase was located.

Paul Newbold, Cindy Bryan, and Steve Newbold

Dad would never have believed that seventy-five years after he and Lawrence Newbold endured the horrors of imprisonment in Stalag Luft IV and the 86-day 500-mile march to liberation during WWII, their descendants would have the opportunity to meet. At our meeting, the connection was instantaneous. I predict our friendship will be long lasting and I look forward to a future visit to England which must include meeting more of Lawrence Newbold’s descendants.

Even though George and Lawrence are both gone now, our pride in the sacrifices they made for us seventy-five years ago will live on through their children, grandchildren, and many generations to come.

On this 75th anniversary of the Christmas George and Lawrence spent together in 1944, to my newfound friends, Steve and Paul Newbold, and the Newbold family members I have yet to meet, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

The Next Generation Meets

On Sunday, June 2, 2019, the children of the waist gunners of both ships involved in the 384th Bomb Group’s mid-air collision of September 28, 1944 over Magdeburg, Germany met for the first time.

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

That’s me, Cindy Farrar Bryan, daughter of George Edwin Farrar of the Buslee crew, on the left and Harry Liniger, Jr., son of Harry Allen Liniger, Sr. of the Brodie crew, on the right. Harry is pointing to his dad’s name on a plaque in the garden of the Mighty Eighth Air Force Museum in Savannah, GA. The plaque is dedicated to the James Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group.

On September 28, 1944, the 384th Bomb Group flew their Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany. Coming off the target, two B-17’s collided, the Buslee crew’s 43-37822 and the Brodie crew’s 42-31222 (also known as “Lazy Daisy.”)

The only survivors of the Brodie crew were navigator George Hawkins, tail gunner Wilfred Miller, and waist gunner Harry Liniger.

The front section of the nose of the Brodie crew’s “Lazy Daisy” was carried away, and with it, the togglier. Hawkins managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun. Waist gunner Harry Liniger was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. The explosion also severed the tail of the ship and tail gunner Wilfred Miller rode the tail assembly down and later chuted from the tail section.

The only survivor of the Buslee crew was waist gunner George Edwin Farrar, my dad.  He believed that the other ship must have hit right in the center of their ship, as they were knocked half in-to.  At the time they were struck, Dad was knocked unconscious and fell about 25,000 feet, before he knew he was even out of the ship.

Both Liniger and Farrar (and also Miller) were confined as POWs in Stalag Luft IV and survived the 500-mile, 86-day Black March across Germany to their liberation in May 1945. Hawkins was so severely injured in the collision that he was confined to the hospital during the whole of his time as a prisoner of war.

Now that Harry and I have finally met, we’d like one day to meet the children of George Hawkins and Wilfred Miller, the only other survivors of the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision over Magdeburg. To those children, if you feel the same, please contact me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019

384th Bomb Group Airmen Confined to Stalag Luft IV

During WWII, my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a prisoner of war held in the Stalag Luft IV prison camp for enlisted airmen. I have seen several lists of WWII airmen who were held as prisoners of war in Stalag Luft IV, but until recently I have never found my father’s name on any of the lists.

The only place I have seen Dad’s name associated with Stalag Luft IV is his record in the digital records of the National Archives.

Recently, Fred Preller, the webmaster of the 384th Bomb Group website, added several new reports to the site, among them a list of 384th Bomb Group airmen who were prisoners of war in all prison camps. In all, 880 airmen of the 384th Bomb Group became POWs during their WWII service, and 156 of those were held in Stalag Luft IV. Finally, I have a list of Stalag Luft IV POWs that includes my father’s name. This one’s for you, Dad.

384th Bomb Group Airmen Held POW in Stalag Luft IV

Adams, Benjamin Harold Marshall, Sylvester Joseph
Amspacher, Ray Richard May, Gayle Gustavus
Anderson, Frank J McAnear, Carlton S
Anderson, Jack R McClure, Charles Roesler
Andrews, Ralph Cash, Jr McCracken, Dwight Howard
Atkinson, Owen Glenn Miles, Harold Ruoff
Baird, Ralph Edwin, Jr Miller, Robert Lee
Barnes, Karl Francis Miller, Wilfred Frank
Bartholomew, Everett Laverne Misiewicz, Joseph R
Bedsted, Lee Roy Moore, John William
Benker, Patrick Denis Mosbey, James Millard
Bianca, Buddy Armand Nickles, Mercer Chartos, Jr
Bingaman, Jack William Norton, Richard Anthony
Boon, Howard Goodall, Jr O’Leary, Edward Joseph
Borgeson, Wesley Clifton Odom, Rufus Thurman, Jr
Brannigan, Allen Francis Oldham, Jesse Zera
Brown, Cecil William Oliva, Armando (NMI)
Brown, Jack M Onstad, William Walter
Brown, James Paul Osepchook, Arthur John
Cameron, Robert Allen Owens, Norris Reece
Castiglione, Vincent Joseph Page, William Marvin
Clary, Leonard Estus Palladino, Joseph Anthony
Clymer, Charles Richard Parsons, Roland Westley
Cook, Herbert Arno Peckerar, Irvin Milton
David, Alfred Alme Perry, Gilbert Franklin
Day, Huley Newton Petrillo, Joseph (NMI)
Ecker, John Eric Pierce, Lee Clifton
Edwards, Thomas Joseph, Jr Pire, Irwin Joseph, Jr
Egger, Richard Henry Plotz, John James
Egger, Robert Ross Rabe, William Arthur, Jr
Fallesen, Wayne Peter Raines, Louis Edward
Farrar, George Edwin Rardon, Edward Perish
Farrow, Thomas Chapell Reed, Clarence Eugene
Faust, Glenn Millard Robinson, Warren Ray
Felicetti, Frank Dominick Romano, Vincent Peter
Fiory, William John Joseph Rood, James Raymond
Flaherty, James DeValera Sack, Ralph William
Fooder, Elmer H Sager, Edwin M
Foretich, Gerald Fabian Santosuosso, John Peter
Franzo, Anthony Joseph Saunders, Paul Ralph
Frederickson, Ralph Louis Schepers, Bob Eugene
Friedman, Jack Kenyon Schick, Frank Joseph, Jr
Fulwider, Albert Clayton, Jr Sexton, William Hiram
Gabriel, Daniel (NMI) Simon, Edward (NMI)
Gerhold, Melvin Henry Smith, Joseph H
Gilroy, Robert Peter Snead, William Austin
Girard, Donald Robert Snyder, Charles Leslie
Golka, Larry John Stanley, James Farrell
Gregorich, Vincent (NMI) Stephenson, Hilton Hubert
Gribbons, Warren David Stevens, Howard Orville
Grimes, Robert Albert Stropek, George Vincent
Hale, Kenneth Oliver Sylvia, Joseph Herbert
Hallam, Harley Ross Taylor, Homer William
Hamilton, Harry Tobais Taylor, William Edson
Harbrecht, Robert Francis Thompson, Raymond Archie
Hardman, John Bethany Thornhill, John G
Harrison, Joseph Horatio Traynor, James Patrick
Haverlah, Alton Bernhard Treat, John Afton
Hickey, James Currie Van Beveren, John Edward
Holler, Edward Ralph Vennel, Alexander Joseph
Hopkins, James Russell Wallo, Andrew (NMI)
House, Horace Doster, Jr Walsh, James Francis
Hunt, Walter Francis Walton, Horace Murphy
Jellings, Charles Albert Wasilewski, Aleck Michael
Jones, Leroy Charles Watson, Paul Leland
Kane, Francis P Way, Arthur Harold
Kenedy, John Joseph Whipple, Charles Thomas
Kidwell, Hugh Thomas Whitney, Stanley Clifford
Klonowski, Francis Dominick Wick, Andrew Oliver
Kohl, John Gustave Wilson, Gerald Eugene
Kushner, Jack (NMI) Wolfe, Clark Benjamin, Jr
Larocca, Frank (NMI) Woodruff, Walker Ace
Liniger, Harry Allen Woods, Harold Leroy
Louden, Jack Elmer Wright, William Clifford
Lunceford, John William Wyatt, Kenneth Ainley
MacGregor, Douglas Roy Younker, John Joseph
Madden, Arthur W Zesch, Charles Emil
Mariani, Waldo Frank Zordel, Wilbur Godfrey

Thanks, Fred, and thank you to all of the 384th Bomb Group volunteers who research and record, compile, and share information with me and all other 384th Bomb Group researchers. Whether we researchers are historians or family members, we all greatly benefit from the hard work of these few:

Fred Preller, 384thBombGroup.com Webmaster, tries to keep all the pieces of the website working together. Fred’s father Robert H. Preller served as a 546th BS copilot from May to September 1944.

Keith Ellefson, combat data specialist. Keith’s Uncle Raymond O. Wisdahl flew 35 missions with the 384th. Keith has taken a serious interest in data validity and completeness He has been especially involved in the Wing Panel Signing Project.

John Edwards, 384th Bomb Group, Inc. Historian and 384th NEXGEN Research Director. John is an aviation researcher who, thru friendships with 384th Veterans, formed a bond with the 384th family.

Mark Meehl, 384th Bomb Group, Inc. Archivist, is a researcher who specializes in ground personnel, and who also maintains the master log of all combat sorties. Mark’s father Paul E. Meehl served as a 384th ground crew chief from early 1943 thru the end of the war.

Phil Hettel, combat data specialist. Phil’s Uncle Joseph J. Rachunas flew 25 combat missions with the 384th, was shot down and became a POW on his last mission.

Marc Poole, 384thBombGroup.com Webmaster Emeritus, founder of the original 384th website. Marc now serves in an advisory capacity, with occasional forays into research. While a student at Mississippi State University, Starkville, MS, Marc established the website in 1999. He was motivated by the wartime experiences of his uncle, Johnny Butler, who was a 547th Bomb Squadron pilot during Summer 1943. In 2004, Marc turned over operation of the site to current webmaster Fred Preller.

And, yes, I’m one of the research volunteers, too…

Cindy Farrar Bryan, author of this blog, researcher and website analyst. My father George Edwin Farrar, a gunner on the Buslee Crew, was the sole survivor of that crew when they were involved in a mid-air collision on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg, Germany.

In addition…

All who contribute materials and suggestions – and who report factual errors and website problems. Additional volunteers are always welcome. If you have an interest in helping to preserve the heritage of the 384th, whether you are a computer whiz or not, there are tasks in the (overflowing) Official 384thBombGroup.com Job Jar to suit all capabilities. To inquire about opportunities, e-mail the Webmaster.

The above information was appropriated from Fred Preller’s “About This Site” page on 384thBombgroup.com.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2019