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September 28, 1944 – Survivors

In the mid-air collision on September 28, 1944 between Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, four of the eighteen men aboard the two forts survived.  From the Lead Banana, the waist/flexible gunner, George Edwin Farrar, was the sole survivor.  From the Lazy Daisy, the three survivors were the navigator, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the tail gunner, Wilfred Frank Miller, and the waist/flexible gunner, Harry Allen Liniger.  All four were saved because they were either thrown from the aircraft or were able to exit on their own and then parachute safely to the ground.  What would happen to them next, in the hands of the Germans?

George Edwin Farrar was seriously injured.  In a letter to the VA dated October 20, 1982 he wrote:

I was unable to walk and carried to a house, where I spent several days before being transferred to Frankfort, Germany for interrogation and medical treatment.  I was later transferred by train and was allowed to sleep in the bottom bunk of the guard’s quarters on the Prisoner of War train.  After reaching Stalag Luft IV, I was placed in the hospital there where I could not walk for a total of two months or the latter part of November 1944.  At that time, I was transferred to a regular barracks in the prison camp and I could only walk by shuffling my feet as I could not lift either leg to walk.

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. wrote in a questionnaire that is attached to MACR9366:

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller.

The following evening would have been the evening of September 29, 1944, the day after the mid-air collision.  I am assuming that Hawkins, Liniger, and Miller had all been captured by this time.  This meeting between Hawkins and his surviving crewmates must have been before transfer to the interrogation center.  They would not have been able to talk to each other at the interrogation center where they would have been placed in solitary confinement.  Hawkins did not comment on the physical condition of himself, Liniger, or Miller.

The interrogation facility near Frankfort was known by the POWs as Dulag Luft.  It was located in Oberursel about eight miles from Frankfurt-am-Main.  Most captured allied airmen were first sent there to be interrogated before being assigned to a permanent prison camp.

After leaving the Dulug Luft interrogation center, the enlisted men, Farrar, Liniger, and Miller were moved to Stalag Luft IV.  Their Prisoner of War records all show Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow (formerly Heydekrug) Pomerania, Prussia (moved to Wobbelin Bei Ludwigslust) (To Usedom Bei Savenmunde) 54-16.

Hawkins, an officer, was sent to Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (Serves Stalag 9-C) Obermassfeld Thuringia, Germany 50-10, according to National Archives Prisoner of War records.

Questions…

  • Were either Liniger or Miller injured in the collision?
  • Were Liniger and Miller placed in the same barracks in Stalag Luft IV?  Did they ever see each other again?
  • Farrar spent time in the hospital area of the prison camp, but after being moved to a regular barracks, did he ever meet Liniger or Miller?
  • Was Hawkins seriously injured in the collision?  His records show he was sent to a hospital at Stalag 9C.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

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George M. Hawkins, Jr. – September 28, 1944

George M. Hawkins, Jr. (Navigator), Wilfred F. Miller (Tail Gunner), and Harry A. Liniger (Waist Gunner) who were aboard the Lazy Daisy all survived the mid-air collision with the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944.  Hawkins wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in 1945.  His account, as follows, is included in MACR9366:

Following “Bombs away” at our target over Magdeburg, Germany, our B17-G and another ship in our formation collided.  At the time of the accident our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage.  As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.

At the time of the collision, the front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner, S/Sgt Byron L. Atkins.  The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin.  I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.

Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute.  Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later.  However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.

Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me.  It was then in a flat spin, burning.  It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below.  When I next saw the ship it was on the ground.  While floating downward, I saw one other chute below me.

I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg.  The plane landed within two or three miles of me.  Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller.  Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship.  At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.

To the best of my knowledge, All other five members of the crew were at their positions on the plane and failed to leave the ship.  All were uninjured up till the time of the collision.

In the Casualty Questionnaire section of MACR9366, Hawkins adds that Miller, the tail gunner, rode the tail down some distance following an explosion which severed the tail from the ship.  Miller later bailed out of the tail section.  Also, in the Casualty Questionnaire section, Wilfred Miller adds that he heard through Hawkins that the wing of the other plane knocked Atkins out the nose without his chute.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

George Edwin Farrar – September 28, 1944

George Edwin Farrar, my dad, and the only survivor on the Lead Banana in the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944, wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in late 1945.  His account, as follows, is included in MACR9753:

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.

Any information you can find out about the boys I would appreciate hearing very much.

Please pardon this not being typed, but am out of my town, and have tried, with no luck to obtain one (typewriter), but can’t.

May you have luck on the mission of finding what did happen to the boys.

George E. Farrar

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Donald W. Bean Crew – September 28, 1944

The Donald W. “Beano” Bean crew commanded by Maurice A. Booska was the Low Group Lead on September 28, 1944 and was aboard aircraft 43-38542.  See Sortie Report.

In MACR9366, Missing Air Crew Report 9366, several members of the Bean crew are listed as witnesses to the mid-air collision between the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana:  Maurice A. Booska (Commander), Henry P. Nastick (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Delmar R. Casper (Ball Turret Gunner), and Omar L. Gordon, Jr. (Waist Gunner).

In MACR9366, the Bean crew described enemy opposition as “No enemy Aircraft,” and “Moderate and accurate flak at the target.”

Their description to the extent of damage to the Lazy Daisy was “Aircraft broke up near tail assembly and went down in flames.”

In response to “If aircraft was out of control describe appearance,” they wrote, “Aircraft was burning and slowly spiraling down until it disappeared in the clouds.”

And their response to “Number of parachutes seen” was “None.”

Note:

  1. The Bean crew names were not all listed properly on MACR9366.  Henry Nastick’s name was listed as Henry Nastrick.
  2. September 28, 1944 was the first flight for aircraft 43-38542.  It was credited with 22 combat missions.  It crashed on landing at Grafton Underwood on November 30, 1944 when it “landed with wheels up due to confusion in the cockpit during final approach” as noted on the Sortie Report.  After repairs, 43-38542’s next flight was on January 20, 1945 (Sortie Report).  On that mission, during the return to base in a heavy snowstorm, engine #4 was lost, and possibly engine #3, due to ice accumulation.  It crash landed killing the navigator and togglier, and seriously wounding the remainder of the crew.
  3. See Aircraft 43-38542 November 30, 1944 Accident Report 44-11-30-510 for more details of the landing accident.
  4. Aircraft 43-38542 January 20, 1945 Accident Report 45-01-20-527 for more details of the crash.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

William F. Combs Crew – September 28, 1944

As on the Sortie Report for the Blankenmeyer crew on September 28, 1944, the Sortie Report for the William F. Combs crew aboard aircraft 42-102661, Big Dog, also notes “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.”  The Combs crew also was attempting to learn the fate of the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana and the Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy.

In MACR9753, Missing Air Crew Report 9753, several members of the Combs crew are listed as witnesses to the collision:  William F. Combs (Pilot), Merlin L. Flower (Waist Gunner), Raymond Ciaccio (Ball Turret Gunner), and John S. Fadda (Tail Gunner).

In MACR9753, the Combs crew described enemy opposition as “No enemy Aircraft,” and “Moderate-accurate flak at the target.”

Their description to the extent of damage to the Lead Banana was “Pieces of tail and wings falling off.  Plane in flames from engines.”

In response to “If aircraft was out of control describe appearance,” they wrote, “Going down in flames spinning into the clouds.”

And their response to “Number of parachutes seen” was “None.”

Note:  The Combs crew names were not all listed properly on MACR9753.  Merlin Flower was listed as Merlin Flowers, Raymond Ciaccio was listed as Raymond Cesccio, and John Fadda was listed correctly on one page, but as John Gadda on another.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Chester Rybarczyk – September 28, 1944

According to the Sortie Report, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg on September 28, 1944, aircraft 42-39888, known as Hot Nuts, “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.”  Flying on Hot Nuts was the William J. Blankenmeyer crew.  Robert H. Obermeyer was the regular navigator for the Blankenmeyer crew, but for some reason, he did not fly on the September 28 mission.

On September 28, Obermeyer was replaced as navigator by Chester A. Rybarczyk, who usually flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew.  It was through this action that Rybarczyk was not on the Lead Banana with the Buslee crew that day, and instead of being a part of the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy, was a witness to it instead.

Undoubtedly, the crew aboard Hot Nuts left formation in an attempt to determine the fate of the crews of the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, especially the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana, as Chester Rybarczyk was normally a part of that crew and could have been on that plane if he had not replaced Obermeyer on the Blankenmeyer crew.

Chester Rybarczyk later wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s family, and probably to the families of the other boys in his crew, giving them hope that the boys survived the collision.  Rybarczyk was limited in what information he could divulge, but what he did write contradicted official witness reports in MACR9753, Missing Air Crew Report 9753.

I will publish Rybarczyk’s complete letter dated October 12, 1944 in a future post.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Brodie Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

The diagram shows the combat position of each Brodie crewmember on Mission 201 on September 28, 1944.  Only one crewmember manned both waist gunner positions on this mission.  If they were all still in position after coming off the target at Magdeburg, the diagram shows where each man would have been at the time of the mid-air collision with the Lead Banana.

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger

The only survivors of the mid-air collision this day with the Lead Banana were the waist gunner, Harry Allen Liniger, the navigator, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., and the tail gunner, Wilfred Frank Miller.

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club site.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

The diagram shows the combat position of each Buslee crewmember on Mission 201 on September 28, 1944.  Only one crewmember manned both waist gunner positions on this mission.  If they were all still in position after coming off the target at Magdeburg, the diagram shows where each man would have been at the time of the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

The only survivor of the mid-air collision this day with the Lazy Daisy was the waist gunner, George Edwin Farrar.

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club site.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

Map of September 28, 1944 Collision and Crash Sites

Maps of the area show the location of the mid-air collision and subsequent crash sites of the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944.  Two maps are included below.

The first map shows the collision site and crash sites of the Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana.  The mid-air collision occurred after coming off the target at Magdeburg, at 12:11 pm on September 28, 1944 at 52°06’N 11°39’E (X on the first map, just past the second “g” in “Magdeburg”). Both planes crashed approximately 20 miles northwest of the mid-air collision.  Lazy Daisy crashed near Erxleben (E on the first map) and Lead Banana crashed approximately one and one-quarter miles north of Ostingersleben (O on the first map).

X = Collision Site, 52°06'N 11°39'E O = Ostingersleben E = Erxleben

X = Collision Site, 52°06’N 11°39’E
O = Ostingersleben
E = Erxleben

The second map is a map of Germany with the area of detail outlined.

Germany Map

Royalty free map of Germany obtained from http://www.tourvideos.com/maps-Germany.html.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

AAF Narrative Report of September 28, 1944 Mission 201

The following is a narrative report of Mission 201 on September 28, 1944.

HEADQUARTERS

AAF STATION NO. 106

Office of the Intelligence Officer

APO 557,

28 September, 1944

 

SUBJECT:  Narrative for Lead, High, and Low Sections, 41st. “C” Combat Bombardment Wing on Mission Flown 28 September, 1944.

TO:  Commanding Officer, AAF Station No. 106, A.P.O. 557.

The following is a combined Narrative and Report by Lt. W.V. HENDERSON, Deputy Wing Commander, Capt. JOHNSON, High Section Leader, and Capt. M.A. BOOSKA, Low Section Leader.  Due to battle damage received at the target, Major H.E. FRINK, 41st “C” Wing Air Commander was forced to land away at BRUSSELS, Belgium.  All navigational data is taken from the High Section Navigator.

1.        Twelve (12) aircraft (without spares) of the Lead Section, twelve (12) aircraft plus one (1) Spare of the High Section, and twelve (12) aircraft (without spares) of the Low Section took off between 0730 and 0818 hours to attack the Steel Works at MAGDEBURG, Germany.

a.       Number of A/C taking off (including spares):  37

 Number of A/C taking off (less unused spares):  36

 Number of A/C attacking (any target):  36

 Number of A/C not attacking:  0

 Number of A/C returned to Base:  33q

 Number of A/C presumed landed in allied-occupied terr:  1

 Number of A/C unaccounted for:  2

 Number of A/C known missing:  2

 Number of Sorties Flown:  36

b.       Spare A/C 7703 (Lt. Rice, pilot) turned back as briefed.

c.       Due to severe mechanical trouble, A/C 2106 (Lt. Wismer, pilot) was forced to drop his bombs on a Target of Opportunity at 50°45’N.-09°25’E.  He then turned back at 50°50’N.-09°30’E., 1130 hours and landed at this Base at 1438 hours.

2.       Two (2) of our aircraft are known missing.

Two (2) aircraft of the High Section, A/C 337-822 (Lt. Buslee, pilot) and A/C 1222 (Lt. Brodie, pilot) collided over the target and both ships were observed going down on fire and out of control.  No chutes were observed.

3.       Assembly of the Group and Wing was accomplished fifteen (15) minutes before departure time from our Base at 0823 hours, 7,000 feet without difficulty.  We were ahead of “Cowboy-Baker” but we swung wide on the first control point and got in our correct slot in the Division at 0920 hours over Cambridge, 7,000 feet.  We left the coast of England on course and on time at 0937 hours, Clacton, 9,000 feet.  Speeds were S. O. P.

4.       The route to the Belgian Coast was without incident and we crossed it at 1001-1/2 hours, 50°10’N.-02°44’E., 13,000 feet.  From this point into the I.P. the mission was flown as briefed and without difficulty.  No flak was encountered prior to the target and no enemy fighter attacks were made on our Wing for the entire mission.  [Wallace Storey notes that this information is incorrect and that ten (10) planes were lost by the 303rd Group of the 41st Combat Wing on this mission.  Storey references the books “Mighty Eighth” and “Mighty Eighth War Diaries.”]

5.       At the I.P., we were notified by Buckeye-Red that target weather would be approximately 8/10th’s which was accurate.  We made our bomb run from the I.P. to the target in Wing formation on PFF.  When we approached the target, there was another Section making a run 90° to us on the same target.  They passed over the target at the same time we did directly underneath us and we were unable to drop because we would have dropped on them.  We therefore made a turn and started a second run in Wing formation.  Bombs were away on PFF at 1211 hours from 26,000 feet.  However, in the opinion of Capt. Booska, Low Section Leader, it is possible that today’s may have been visual as there was a break in the clouds directly over the target one (1) minute before bombs were away.  As it is presumed that the Lead Wing Bombardier landed in Belgium, our reports will state that PFF bombing was accomplished.  Magnetic heading of bombs away was 265 degrees.  Some crews observed the results through breaks in the clouds and they state that the bombs hit in the target area.  Flak at the target was moderate and accurate.

6.       After we dropped our bombs, and swung off the target, the Wing Leader informed the Deputy to take over as the former had been hit by flak.  At this point, the entire Lead Section started to break up.  We were on a collision course at the same time with another unidentified Wing and the Low and High Sections became separated from the Lead Section.  The High and Low reassembled and flew alone until we finally picked up the Lead Section ten (10) miles ahead of us.  I called the Deputy Leader to slow down, which he did, and we assembled back into Combat Wing formation.  After this, we had no other difficulties and the rest of the mission was flown as briefed and without incident.  We departed the Belgian Coast at 1437 hours, 10,500 feet and recrossed the English Coast at 1508 hours, 1,000 feet.

7.       Fighter escort was excellent on the entire mission and close support was given at all times.  Contact was made with Buckeye-Red and the information received was accurate.

8.       There are no further comments or suggestions.

W. E. DOLAN,

Major, Air Corps,

Station S-2 Officer

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013