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First Communication Between Buslee Crew Families

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

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

Dear Parents of George A. Farrar,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sincerely yours,

John Buslee

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

The Buslee Crew

The Buslee Crew

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Bob Farrar Injured in Kamikaze Attack on USS Intrepid

Robert Burnham Farrar

Robert Burnham Farrar

By late 1944, Raleigh Mae Farrar would have more than one son in the war to worry about.  George Edwin Farrar’s younger brother, Robert Burnham Farrar, known as Bob, had enlisted in the Navy on May 8 the year before, just a few months after turning eighteen.  His parents were against it, thinking him too young to go to war, but he had made his mind up that he was going to serve his country like his older brothers Carroll and Ed.

Bob was serving on the USS Intrepid when it was attacked by two Japanese kamikaze pilots within five minutes on November 25, 1944, the day after Thanksgiving.  Six officers and fifty-nine crew were killed, while about a hundred men were wounded.  Bob survived the attack, but was injured, possibly from smoke inhalation from the resulting fire.  He required later hospitalization.

The fire was reportedly extinguished in two hours.  Still able to sail, Intrepid headed to San Francisco the next day, November 26, for repairs and arrived there on December 20.

A slide show of photos of the attack on the USS Intrepid on November 25, 1944 can be seen on YouTube.

Bob and older brother Ed as children in Atlanta, Georgia:

Left to right, George Edwin (Ed) Farrar and younger brother Robert Burnham (Bob) Farrar

Left to right, George Edwin (Ed) Farrar and younger brother Robert Burnham (Bob) Farrar

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Second Letter Home from Prison Camp

On November 7, 1944, Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected President of the United States, an unprecedented fourth term in office.

Two days later, on November 9, and far away from home and family in the states, George Edwin Farrar was still a patient in the hospital of Stalag Luft IV,  a subsidiary camp of Stalag Luft III.  It was now forty-two days after the mid-air collision between the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.  This day, Farrar wrote his second letter home.  This letter was postmarked January 17, 1945, and was marked with the date when the Farrar family in Atlanta, Georgia received it – March 23, 1945.

From the time of its writing, this letter took 134 days to reach its destination.  Farrar’s situation by that time was much different from the day he penned that letter.  In late November 1944, he had been moved from the hospital into a barracks in the prison camp.  In his own words, Farrar described his condition at the time of his placement in the barracks as “I could only walk by shuffling my feet as I could not lift either leg to walk.”

Farrar must have worked very hard to regain his ability to walk.  He could not have known at the time that in a few months he and all the other prisoners at Stalag Luft IV would be forced to march out of the camp and begin an 86-day journey across Germany to their final liberation on May 2, 1945.  By the time of the Farrar family’s receipt of this letter on March 23, George Edwin Farrar had been marching for forty-five days.  He was not, as it seemed from his letter, sitting in a German prison camp and “feeling fine.”  He was tired and hungry to the point of starving.

This letter also indicates that by November 9, he had been told that he was the only survivor on the Lead Banana.

November 9, 1944

Kriegsgefangenenpost

Gefangenennummer 3885

Lager-Bezeichnung:  Stalag Luft 3

Postmarked January 17, 1945

Marked Received March 23, 1945

Dearest Mother:

In a few more months I should be hearing from you and it will sure be nice.  I think this is the longest I have ever gone without hearing from you.  I hope you and Dad, and the rest of the family are getting along fine.  As for myself, I am feeling fine, but miss that good cooking of yours.  I’ll really keep you busy when I get home.  I guess I have more luck than anyone to still be here, and not a thing wrong with me.  Your prayers came in good.  I still can’t believe I am alive.  They said I was the only one out of my ship that is alive.  Write often.  Love, George

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Christmas 1944

1944-11-23-Rybarczyk-001

1944-11-23-Rybarczyk-002

Chester Rybarczyk, original Navigator with the Buslee crew, was very lucky to not be on the Lead Banana with his regular crewmates on September 28, 1944 when it collided with the Lazy Daisy.  Rybarczyk, who witnessed the collision and was concerned about the fate of the crew, sent this Christmas card to the Farrar family on November 23, 1944.  Still no news about the crew almost two months later.  Rybarczyk wrote:

I hope you have heard some good news.  I have heard nothing as yet.

“Chet”

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013