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A Letter from Aunt Will

George Edwin Farrar’s father, Carroll Johnson Farrar, was born in Charlotte Court House (Charlotte County), Virginia to Charles Henry and Martha Ann (Johnson) Farrar on December 17, 1888.  Carroll was the second youngest of the seven Farrar children.  Older brothers and sisters included Julia Elizabeth, Daniel Boone, Mary Pearl, Baker William, and Herman Parham Farrar.  His younger sister, Willie Brent, was born August 24, 1892 and married Arthur Burrows Burnham on October 8, 1913.

Willie Brent Farrar Burnham, better known as Aunt Will, wrote a letter to her nephew, George Edwin Farrar, addressing it to Stalag Luft IV.  She, too, was unaware that the prisoners were no longer held in the camp.  Aunt Will didn’t date her letter, but it was postmarked in New York on February 16, 1945, so she probably mailed it around February 13.  Her letter was also marked “RETURNED TO SENDER By Direction of the War Department. Undeliverable as Addressed.”

Charleston, South Carolina

Dear George:

Was glad to hear from Raleigh giving me your address. Missed seeing you when I was in Atlanta, found all looking well. Beverly has grown to be quite a big girl and is very pretty. Fell in love with Dot’s twins, they are precious and into everything. She has darling children. Your Dad is doing nicely and seemed to enjoy my visit. Raleigh also. If you come through Charleston on your way home be sure to call us up and pay us a visit, we are listed in the phone book.

I would hardly have known Gene and Martha they have grown so. I think Gene looks like you.

Aunt Daisy, Katie and Uncle Arthur all send love. Would love to send you a box if possible. Let me know if I can. I can’t get cigaretts.

Lots of love from all,

Aunt Will

Notes:

  • Raleigh was George Edwin Farrar’s mother.
  • Beverly, Dot and Martha were three of George Edwin Farrar’s sisters.
  • Gene was one of George Edwin Farrar’s younger brothers.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

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Mr. Buslee Writes to George Edwin Farrar

Not knowing that George Edwin Farrar and the other prisoners of Stalag Luft IV had been marched out of the camp on February 6, 1944, Mr. Buslee, father of Lead Banana pilot John Oliver (Jay) Buslee, wrote a letter to him two days later.  The letter was marked “RETURNED TO SENDER By Direction of the War Department. Undeliverable as Addressed.”  Mr. Buslee must have saved the letter and given it to Farrar when they met after the war.

February 8, 1945

Dear George,

A few days ago I received your new address from your Mother and was greatly pleased to know that she heard from you and I was more pleased to learn that you were in good health. That is sure splendid news.

Last Saturday we had a visit with Chester Rybarczyk who recently became engaged to a girl who lives in Toledo and of course he could not make the trip without her so we had a chance to see the girl of his dreams. Chet will leave next week for California just how long he will stay there is uncertain. He is however very happy that he can go there as he has never been on the West Coast so I imagine that our son John has given him a big build up on the many wonderful things that he did while out there. Yes the thrill of walking down the streets of Hollywood and meeting up with some of the movie stars is a treat for everybody it seems. Then too the weather will be much nicer than the continual snow that has ruled here for a couple of months.

This is an amateur attempt to use the typewriter so I trust you will allow for any mistakes.

We look forward to the day when you too can come to Chicago and we will try to make your visit interesting. There are many things of interest in this big city and I do feel that Chet enjoyed it at least he said he did and he has promised to return and then stay longer.

My wife and I so thoroughly enjoyed meeting you yes it hardly seems like almost a year ago as so many things have happened since then. She has asked me to greet you most sincerely and requests me to extend to you a most cordial welcome to visit us.

Do you remember our son in law? I think you met him in Oklahoma he at present is in [CENSORED] the Navy Air Transport service. He finds the weather plenty warm as it is a big change from the weather in this vicinity. Had a nice letter from Mrs. Bryant. It was such a pleasure to meet her last summer.

Well George space is limited so I will close with the wish that all of the best is yours and hope you continue to feel fine.

Sincerely yours
John Buslee

Notes:

  • Chester (Chet) Rybarczyk was the original navigator on the Buslee crew.  He flew with a different crew on September 28, 1944 and witnessed the mid-air collision between Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Buslee traveled to Ardmore, Oklahoma to see their son before he and his crew shipped off to England.  It was there that the Buslees met all the boys on the crew.
  • Mr. Buslee’s son-in-law was Gene Kielhofer, who was married to his daughter, Janice.
  • Mrs. Bryant was Ruby Maudene Bryant, the wife of Buslee crew top turret gunner, Lenard Leroy Bryant.  Lenard Bryant was killed in the September 28 mid-air collision.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

The March

Three of the survivors of the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision between Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana – George Edwin Farrar, Harry Allen Liniger, and Wilfred Frank Miller – were being held as prisoners of war in Stalag Luft IV.  Stalag Luft IV was located in Gross Tychow, Pomerania, which is now Tychowo, Poland.

Near the end of WWII, with Allied forces advancing from the west and the Soviet Red Army advancing from the east, the Nazis began a series of forced marches of prisoners out of the prisoner of war camps.  There is no definitive answer as to why the prisoners were marched from the camps or what the Nazis planned for them in the end.  One theory is that the prisoners were marched out of the camps simply to delay their liberation.

By the end of January 1945, the plan to march allied prisoners out of Stalag Luft IV and away from liberation by the Soviet Red Army was ready to begin.  The winter of 1945 was one of Germany’s coldest on record with blizzard conditions.  The prisoners of Stalag Luft IV were ill-equipped for a march in such weather.  They had been underfed and were not clothed properly for the conditions.

On February 6, 1945 the march out of Stalag Luft IV began.  With just a few hours notice to prepare to march out of the camp, the prisoners scrambled to gather what they could.

The prisoners did not know where they were going or how long they would be on the road.  The march out of Stalag Luft IV has been given many names – the Death March, the Black March, and even the Shoe Leather Express.  Most of those that survived just called it “The March”.  My dad, George Edwin Farrar, usually called it the “Forced March” when he told me stories of sleeping in the hay and stealing a chicken for food.

Back home, the relatives and friends of Farrar, Liniger, and Miller pictured the three dealing with the hardships of prison camp life.  They had no idea their loved ones were enduring something even worse.  “The March” meant walking fifteen to twenty miles a day.  It meant very little food.  It meant sleeping in piles of hay in barns and sometimes out in the open.  It meant exhaustion, illness, and starvation.  Some would not reach liberation, but most just kept marching, with thoughts of home and family keeping them going.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Sad News for Mrs. Bryant

Four of the John Buslee Crew, left to right, George Edwin Farrar (waist gunner), Lenard Leroy Bryant (engineer/top turret gunner), Erwin V. Foster (ball turret gunner), and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso (radio operator/gunner)

Four of the John Buslee Crew, left to right, George Edwin Farrar (waist gunner), Lenard Leroy Bryant (engineer/top turret gunner), Erwin V. Foster (ball turret gunner), and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso (radio operator/gunner)

Lenard Bryant’s wife, Maudene, probably received the sad news about the same time as the Buslees.  She wrote to Raleigh Mae Farrar on February 2, 1945 to share the news.

February 2, 1945
Littlefield, Texas

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

I have at last heard from the War Department.

Thru the Inter. Red Cross my husband has been reported killed in action on the 28th of Sept.

I just can’t believe it and won’t until the last minute. I am so glad you have heard from George and if he ever gets back I hope he can tell what did happen.

But I can’t feel that my husband is gone.

I hope and pray that the others will hear as you did.

I hope to hear from you soon.

As Ever,
Mrs. Ruby M. Bryant

Like the others receiving the news that their loved ones were killed in the mid-air collision between the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944, Maudene Bryant could not believe that it was true.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Mrs. Henson Writes to Mrs. Buslee

On February 1, 1945, William Alvin Henson’s wife, Harriet, wrote a sympathy letter to John Oliver (Jay) Buslee’s mother.  The Buslees had just learned on January 28 that their son had been killed on September 28, 1944 in the same mid-air collision between Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy that claimed the life of William Henson.  Harriet had learned of her husband’s fate just two days before Christmas.  It was her infant daughter’s first Christmas, a holiday she would never be able to celebrate with her father.

February 1, 1945

Dear Mrs. Buslee,

I am so sorry that I have to write this letter. I had prayed that I wouldn’t, because, to say the least, it isn’t very pleasant.

Mrs. Buslee, to say I am sorry is trite, but I really am sorry. To lose a son is different from losing a husband (presuming that we have), and since I have my little girl I feel that I can sympathize with you more, because I just don’t know what I would do if something happened to her.

It isn’t human nature to give up hope. So please don’t, I haven’t. I asked God to bring Bill back to me and I believe He will. Bill has to come back and see his little girl.

Give my best regards to Mr. Buslee and your daughter, and know that I am thinking about you. I feel so close to you even though I do not know you. Maybe when Jay and Bill get back, we can all get together and have a gay time.

Sincerely,

Harriet Henson

Thank you to John Dale Kielhofer, nephew of John Oliver (Jay) Buslee, for sharing this letter from Harriet Henson to his grandmother.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Map of Prisoner of War Camps in Germany

With her son a prisoner of war of the Germans, Raleigh Mae Farrar received the monthly Prisoners of War Bulletin.  As stated in the mast head, the bulletin was published by the American National Red Cross for the Relatives of American Prisoners of War and Civilian Internees.  The February 1945 edition included a map of prison camps.

February 1945 Prisoners of War Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 2

February 1945 Prisoners of War Bulletin, Volume 3, Number 2

Raleigh Mae circled Stalag Luft IV where her son, George Edwin Farrar of the John Oliver Buslee crew, was being held.  Also held at Stalag Luft IV were Harry Allen Liniger and Wilfred Frank Miller of the James Brodie crew.  George Marshall Hawkins, Jr, navigator of the Brodie crew was held some distance away to the southwest at the Obermassfeld Hospital which served Stalag 9-C.

The February 1945 issue of the Prisoners of War Bulletin also noted that Russian advances in January were bringing many changes in the camps, with the expectation that men held in the camps would be moved to stay ahead of the Russian advances.  The Soviet Red Army crossed the Oder River into Germany and reached within fifty miles of Berlin.

In a section of the bulletin named Camp Movements, the following information was reported:

Grosstychow, in Pomerania, where Stalag Luft IV with its large complement of British and American airmen was located, was close to the combat zone in late January.

Also a blow to the Germans, earlier in January the Germans had withdrawn from the Ardennes, giving the Allies the victory in the month-long Battle of the Bulge on January 25.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014