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George Edwin (Ed) Farrar had written to his family in Atlanta, Georgia on December 10, 1945. He stated in his letter that he would be leaving Chicago, Illinois on the 15th to come home for a family Christmas. I don’t know his method of travel. He may have traveled with another person by car, or perhaps by train. He expected to be home by the 16th of December. He sounded in high spirits and was looking forward to reuniting with older brother Carroll Jr. on the visit.
Carroll Sr. and Raleigh Mae Farrar had nine children, four of them boys. Carroll Jr. was the oldest and had also served with the Army Air Forces during WWII, but in the Pacific theatre. My dad, George Edwin, was the middle child and second son. Younger brother Bob was the third Farrar son to serve in WWII, in the Navy aboard the USS Intrepid. The youngest boy, Gene, was too young to join the fighting.
Raleigh Mae was excited about having most of the family home that year to celebrate Christmas and to celebrate that her three sons in WWII had all made it back home alive. Carroll Sr. was very ill and bedridden, but was anxious to see his boys back together again.
Youngest daughter, Beverly, who was only eight years old at the time, remembers that Christmas to this day. Bob and Carroll Jr. had arrived home first. Carroll Jr. decided the house needed some sprucing up and took to painting and wallpapering the interior. There were no decorations, presents, or even a Christmas tree, so instead of a festive holiday atmosphere, the house was a wreck with Carroll Jr’s paint and wallpaper supplies scattered about.
Six of the Farrar children gathered at their parents’ home for the holidays – Janet, Carroll Jr., Ed, Bob, Gene, and Beverly. Only three – Geraldine (Gerry), Martha, and Dorothy (Dot) – were absent. Ed was the last to arrive.
Carroll Sr. had been waiting to see his boys all together, home from the war. He had been holding off the business of dying, waiting for his sons to arrive. A few days after their arrival, Carroll Sr.’s condition worsened and he was taken to the hospital. Beverly was sent to a neighbor’s house, the Patterson’s, while the rest of the family gathered at her father’s hospital bedside. Carroll Sr. died at Grady Hospital on December 20.
Beverly remembers Carroll Jr. coming to the Patterson’s very late to take her home. He told her their father had died. She would spend her eighth Christmas, just five days away, without her father. Instead of planning a joyous holiday, the Farrar’s would be planning a funeral.
Christmas Eve came with no Christmas tree and no presents. After Beverly was sent to bed, older brother Gene, fourteen years old, walked over to North Kirkwood in search of a Christmas tree. The tree lot was closed, but he found a tree he liked remaining and brought it home. When Beverly arose on Christmas morning, she was surprised to find a decorated Christmas tree and a Christmas present for her, a pair of skates, under it.
Carroll Farrar, Sr. didn’t live to see that Christmas, but he did live to see what was much more important to him. He made death wait to take him until he saw with his own eyes all three of his sons who had survived WWII come together again for a family Christmas.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014
The Stearns Family Looks for Answers
Just five days before a very sad Christmas without their son, Bobby Stearns’ mother wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother. Their son was the bombardier aboard Lead Banana who was killed in the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision with Lazy Daisy. They hoped Farrar, the only survivor aboard Lead Banana, could furnish some details of the loss of their son that the Army Air Forces had apparently not provided them.
December 20, 1945
My dear Mrs. Farrar:
Last evening we had a letter from the Quarter Master General stating that Bobby is buried in the U.S. Military Cemetery at Margraten, Holland in Plot “L” Row 12, Grave 299 – this is the same location as Lt. Henson’s grave – his is 297. While we hoped for a far different ending to this final chapter, it’s a relief to know he had a decent burial by his own people.
We hope your son is recovered from his ordeal in the prison camp. I know he wants to forget it all as quickly as he can but there are just a few questions I’d like to ask and maybe some time when he feels like it he could write. 1 – Just how did the accident happen? We’ve heard several different versions but would like to know which is true. 2 – Were any of the boys killed by the collision or did they all get out? 3 – Did they go down over the city or country? 4 – Anything else that would help us have it straight in our minds.
Like all the rest of the country we are having a severe winter which began in early November. We have been feeding the cattle since then so this will be a long winter for us. Had 16 in. of snow at the deepest and 17° below the coldest. Today’s paper says it has even reached as far south as Georgia.
Our son Jim is discharged now and he and his wife June are home with us now. We are so glad to have them home.
I hope your family is all together and that you are all well. That’s the best thing I can think of to wish you for the new year.
With best wishes,
Mrs. Carey Stearns
As for answers, I don’t know if the Army Air Forces divulged any of the details during my dad’s lifetime. He died in 1982. The reports are no longer confidential and reflect that:
- Lazy Daisy collided with Lead Banana due to confusing and quick maneuvering to avoid colliding with another group head on. There was no flak and no ground fire that hit either fort.
- None of the boys on Lead Banana except my dad made it out of the aircraft before it crashed. They all died either from the collision itself or the ensuing fire and crash.
- I don’t know the exact location of where each fort went down, but I do know that the collision was said to happen near Magdeburg, Germany at 52°06′N 11°39′E. Both planes crashed approximately 20 miles northwest of this location. Lazy Daisy crashed near Erxleben and Lead Banana crashed approximately one and one-quarter miles north of Ostingersleben. Today, Google Earth shows this to be mostly farm land, or countryside, rather than a large city. (Note: Google maps do not show Erxleben in the correct location. If you want to locate Erxleben on the map, search on Ostingersleben and you will see Erxleben nearby, about 5km to the northeast).
Robert Sumner Stearns has since been reburied at Golden Gate National Cemetery in San Bruno (San Mateo County), California, Section B, plot 302. He also has a memorial marker at the Juniper Haven Cemetery in Prineville (Crook County), Oregon.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014