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The Buslees Receive Bad News

On January 31, 1945, John Buslee, father of pilot John Oliver (Jay) Buslee, wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae Farrar.  Farrar was the wasit gunner of Jay Buslee’s bomber crew.   Buslee and Farrar and the other boys in the crew had been reported missing in action from Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany on September 28, 1944.  On New Year’s Eve 1944, Farrar had been reported as a prisoner of war.  Now four months after the mid-air collision between Lead Banana carrying the Buslee crew, and Lazy Daisy carrying the Brodie crew, Jay Buslee was reported as killed in action on the September 28 mission.

It must have been a very hard letter to write.  Instead of writing from home as he had done previously, Buslee wrote this letter from his office.  Home was about fifteen miles from his office downtown.  On that long drive into work, did John Buslee even notice how cold it was on this winter day in Chicago when all he could think about was the news, and news he couldn’t believe, about his only son?

January 31, 1945
Neumann – Buslee & Wolfe Inc
Merchants – Importers – Manufacturers
224 – 230 W. Huron Street, Chicago (10), Illinois

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace N.E.
Atlanta, Georgia

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

On January 28 we received a telegram from the Adjutant General at Washington, D.C. advising that our son John O. was killed in action on September 28 while over Germany.

This, you can realize, was shocking news, particularly as we felt the time was in our favor and that the delay in definite word reaching us was due to his being a prisoner of war.

Having promised to keep you advised of any news reaching us prompts writing this letter. Mrs. Buslee, my daughter and self just can’t realize that the word sent to us is correct. We are hopeful that some error has been made due to all of the confusion in war-torn Germany and that we will ultimately get different word from our son.

We trust that you have heard recently from your son, George, and that he is in good health.

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

John Oliver (Jay) Buslee was identified as killed in action on an October 21, 1944 Telegram Form.  This form is part of MACR9753, the Missing Air Crew Report which contained information on both the crews of Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.  In addition to identifying Buslee, the Telegram Form also reported the identifications of David Albrecht (Buslee’s co-pilot), Lenard Bryant (Buslee’s top turret gunner), Lloyd Vevle (Brodie’s co-pilot), and Byron Atkins (Brodie’s bombardier).  All but Atkins had previously been recovered dead, but remained unidentified until this point.  Atkins had been carried off in the nose of Lazy Daisy, away from the rest of the crew and the crash site, and had just recently been found dead and identified.

I assume the Albrecht, Bryant, Vevle, and Atkins families also received news of their sons’ deaths about the same time as the Buslees.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

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We Can’t Give Up

The Stearns, parents of Lead Banana bombardier Robert Sumner (Bobby) Stearns, had been notified by the War Department on December 23, 1944, that their son had been killed in action on September 28.  They chose not to believe the news and held out hope that their son would be coming home one day.  On January 24, 1945, Mrs. Stearns wrote to Mrs. Farrar.

January 24, 1945
Lapine, Oregon

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

How happy we all were to get your letter yesterday saying you had heard direct from your son. I can imagine nothing ever looked any more wonderful than his own writing after all the Government reports. That let you know it was really true that he was alive and well treated.  How happy we would be to get this same word – nothing could be more wonderful to us but we’ve had no further word about Bobby, and I don’t believe any of the others have, either.

We had a letter from Mrs. Peluso today and they had been told practically the same story about the accident by some friend of theirs. Coming from so many different ones that it was a collision and not anti-aircraft that put their plane down surely some more of them got down unhurt.

The way the war is going surely it can’t be too long until we will all know more than we do now. I hope your son is soon home safe and well and bringing good news of the others. We just can’t give up but that our Bobby is safe somewhere even tho we have nothing more than our faith to go on.

Our oldest son was given the emergency furlough he should have had at Xmas time and got home Tuesday. He is at the Sheppard Field, Texas being classified for some Air Force work besides piloting after having been a flight instructor for a year for the Army.

I am glad your son is home from the So. Pacific – how nice for all of you just at this time. So many boys from our home town are in the Navy and some have been very close to serious hurt. One boy had his shirt blown from his back and several killed beside him. One of my son’s schoolmates is in India with the Airborne Engineers. I hope you hear from your son there often. Kenneth’s folks have heard from him quite regularily.

Thank you so very much for your very kind letter. We are so interested in hearing everything you hear from your son. When you write tell him “Bob’s mother sends him her best wishes.”

Sincerely,
Mrs. Stearns

Notes:

  • Mrs. Peluso’s son, Sebastiano, was also on the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944.  Word was getting around that the War Department had not told the next-of-kin the truth about their sons’ plane.  If they couldn’t believe the War Department’s version of the crash, should they believe the deparment’s news about their son’s death?
  • The son home from the South Pacific was Robert Burnham (Bob) Farrar, who had been injured in a kamikaze attack on the USS Intrepid.
  • The son in India was Carroll Johnson Farrar, Jr.  Farrar family stories indicate he served in Asia, but I don’t have record of exactly where.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Still Waiting For News

On January 20, 1945 Franklin D. Roosevelt was sworn into office for his fourth term as President and Harry Truman was sworn in as Vice President.  Across the globe, the Soviet Red Army was advancing into East Prussia, putting more and more pressure on the Germans.

Four days later, Mr. Buslee, the father of the pilot of Lead Banana, again wrote to Raleigh Mae Farrar, the mother of the Banana’s waist gunner.  The families of the missing boys were communicating with each other often, quickly passing along any news good or bad.

January 24, 1945
411 Wisner Avenue
Park Ridge, Illinois

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

Through Mr. Henson we learned that you have received a card from your son, George. This is indeed wonderful news.

Would like to hear from you as to what kind of a message he sent to you and we sincerely hope that as developments in Europe show such rapid advances by the Russians that it will mean the early closing of the battle over there and so release the prisoners of war so that they may return to their families at a very early date.

We have had no word pertaining to our son, Jay, nor any word from any of the next of kin outside of Mr. Henson and Mr. Stearns who unfortunately did not have very good news. We also have had a very recent letter from Mrs. Bryant and she is trying to keep up her spirits in the hope that her husband is safe and sound.

With every good wish for your continued good health and the hope that all of your boys write you often, I am,

Sincerely yours,
John Buslee

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

My Dear Boy

George Edwin Farrar, waist gunner on the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew, 544th Bomb Squad, 384th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force in WWII

George Edwin Farrar, waist gunner on the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew, 544th Bomb Squad, 384th Bombardment Group, 8th Air Force in WWII

In early January 1945, the Soviet Red Army invaded Nazi-occupied Poland, sending the Germans into a retreat.  On January 17, the Soviets captured Warsaw, which was about three hundred miles from Stalag Luft IV in Gross Tychow, Pomerania (now Tychowo, Poland).  George Edwin Farrar, Wilfred Frank Miller, and Harry Allen Liniger were all prisoners of the Germans and were all held at Stalag Luft IV.

On January 18, the Farrar family had received their son’s first letter home from prison camp.  He had written it on October 24, 1944.  I’ll re-publish his letter here.  George Edwin Farrar wrote:

Dearest Mother:  I find it rather hard to write even a letter as small as this.  Of course, we can’t say much, but are being treated O.K.  We have plenty books and I spend most of my time reading.  I hope you will have plenty chicken when I get there.  I think I could eat a couple all alone.  I guess Gene is doing good in school by now.  Tell him to study hard, and make good grades.  How is Martha getting along with her new job.  I hope she likes it.  I’ll bet by now she is having a hard time with her boyfriends.  I wish you would send me some candy.  Be sure it is something that will keep until it gets here, because it is a long trip.  I’ll make up for these letters when I get home.  Love to all, George

The next day, Raleigh Mae Farrar wrote back to her son:

January 19, 1945
Atlanta, Ga.

My Dear Boy,

We were so happy to get your letter yesterday. Do write as often as possible for its so good to hear from you.

I mailed you a box and sent in order for cigaretts. If you need clothes let me know. I can send them. Things here at home are just about the same. Dad doesn’t improve. Gene is taller than I now, and is doing good in school. Gene and I will start our garden and chickens soon. Dot and kids are doing pretty good. Demmey will go to first grade, so Dot feels like he is really growing up. Beverly is as pretty as ever. She had flu and its taking a long time to get rid of it. I will be on the look out for some good candy and as I know now what I can send, I will be ready when my next labels come. I do hope you get the box. We all love you and hope and pray you will get along good. I will try to send some books.

Be good and write.

Lots and Lots of Love,
Mother

Raleigh Mae Farrar’s letter would never be received by her son in Stalag Luft IV.  By the time it would arrive, Stalag Luft IV was empty of prisoners.  The letter was marked “RETURNED TO SENDER By Direction of the War Department.  Undeliverable as Addressed.”  The date she got the letter back is unknown.

Notes:

  • Dad was Carroll Johnson Farrar, Sr.  He was very ill and bedridden.
  • Martha was Martha Ann Farrar, the Farrar’s seventh child and seventeen years old.
  • Gene was Harold Eugene Farrar, the Farrar’s youngest son and only thirteen years old.
  • Dot was Dorothy Gertrude Farrar, the Farrar’s fourth child.  In January 1945, Dot had been married for eight years to Hugh Dimmock Cobb and had five children, two of them twins.  She would eventually follow in her mother’s footsteps and have nine children of her own.  “Demmey” was Dot’s first child, son Hugh Dimmock Cobb, Jr.
  • Beverly is Beverly Marie Farrar, the youngest of the Farrar’s nine children, and the only one still living.  Beverly shared her mother’s birthdate and turned eight in January of 1945, the same day her mother turned fifty-five.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

First Correspondence from Mrs. Peluso

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Mrs. Antonetta Peluso was the mother of the Buslee crew’s radio operator/gunner, Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, aboard the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944.  Both she and her husband, Joseph, were born in Italy and had immigrated to the United States.  Sebastiano, better known as Yano to the family, and his older sisters were born in New York.  Sebastiano was the youngest, born July 8, 1924.  Sister Sala or Sarah (different sources report different names) was nine years older, and Jennie or Jean (different sources report different names) was seven years older than Sebastiano.  During the war, the Pelusos lived in Brooklyn, New York.

January 12, 1945
2963 West 24th Street
Brooklyn, 24, New York

My Dear Mrs. Farrar,

I received your letter last week, and it makes me happy to know your dear son, George, is safe in a German Prison Camp.  Let us hope it won’t be long now, that he will be home once again.

As yet I have not received any information concerning my son Sebastiano.  I am waiting patiently for news that will lighten the heavy burden in my heart.

I was deeply sorry to read about 1st. Lt. William A. Henson II.  Mr. Carey S. Stearns has also received the same news about his son 1st Lt. Robert S. Stearns.  I am praying that the German Government made a mistake in the reports Mrs. Henson and Mr. Stearns received.

Mrs. Farrar, I wish you all the Luck in the world in your dear son’s safety.  I will inform you if I get news about my son.

Sincerely yours,
Mrs. Antonetta Peluso

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Another Letter from the Stearns

On January 10, 1945, Robert (Bob) Stearns’s mother wrote her second letter to George Edwin (Ed) Farrar’s mother.  She had some news from a friend of Bob’s, the pilot of the crew Bob usually flew with.  Bob’s friend was Lt. Larkin C. Durdin.  Durdin had completed his thirty-five missions on October 6, 1944 and had returned to the states.  While he was at Grafton Underwood, he wasn’t allowed to share the information he knew with Bob’s parents, but now that he was out of the service and back at home, he felt compelled to tell them what he knew.  Betty Stearns passed this information along to Raleigh Mae Farrar and probably to other parents of the boys on Lead Banana on September 28, 1944.

January 10, 1945
Lapine, Oregon

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

Thank you for your very kind letter and the clipping about Lt. Henson.  What a fine looking young man he is.  I only hope the report is not true which we will know in time.

In our first letter to you we mentioned a friend of our son’s who had written us that he “felt they were safe.”  He is Capt. Durdin and at home at Horn Lake, Miss. at present, and as his letter received yesterday is of the greatest interest to all of us I’ll quote the part about what happened to our boys plane.

“I couldn’t tell you about what happened while I was over-seas but I’ll tell you now from the first.  I had started flying lead but Bob wasn’t checked out as lead so he went to school, had finished and was flying deputy lead.  You fly deputy a few times then start leading.

Henson was Navigator on the crew Bob was flying with.  His plane was cut in half over the target by another plane that was hit.  Both planes went down.  The fighter command reported that nine chutes came from the plane Bob was in.

I wasn’t on that mission because I had flown several straight and was grounded that day.  I heard that one member of the crew was P. W.  I don’t know who it was.  All this was my reason and hopes he was safe.”

These are his words copied from his letter as so often in repeating things the true meaning is lost.  It is your son who he refers to as P. W.  How wonderful that he is alive even tho a prisoner.  A year ago that would have been terrible news to me but what I wouldn’t give to hear Bobby was with him.

I hope you hear from him soon.  Of course he can tell you very little but just to see his writing again will mean everything.  From Capt. Durdin’s letter we feel some of the others will be heard from in time and we aren’t giving up hopes but that our Bobby will be among them.

While we are waiting for that to happen we must show some of the same courage our boys did in taking the War right to Hitler’s doorstep.  As I have never been too air-minded, that, to me, took the greatest bravery.

If you hear anything from your son please let us know.

Did Mrs. Henson write you?  Her report is practically the same as Lt. Durdin’s.

Very Sincerely,
Mrs. Carey Stearns

I’m not sure if Mrs. Stearns was referring to William A. Henson’s wife or mother as Mrs. Henson.  As the Hensons lived in the Atlanta area near the Farrars, they must have exchanged phone calls rather than letters, so I do not have a record of what Mrs. Henson wrote or who her source of information might have been.

This is the first time the families were told that the plane went down due to a mid-air collision rather than being hit by enemy anti-aircraft fire.

The report that nine parachutes were spotted is not backed up by any official reports.  Both Missing Air Crew Reports, MACR9366 and MACR9753, report that “no chutes were seen to emerge.”

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

A Letter from Georgia’s Governor Ellis Arnall

On January 8, 1945, the Governor of the state of Georgia, Ellis Arnall, also wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s family.

1945-01-08-Arnall-001

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

A Letter from Brigadier General Marvin Griffin

On January 8, 1945 Brigadier General S. Marvin Griffin, wrote to the parents of George Edwin Farrar, now a prisoner of war of the Germans in Stalag Luft IV.

1945-01-08-Griffin-001

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Prisoner 3885 of Stalag Luft IV

George Edwin Farrar's POW ID Tag

George Edwin Farrar’s POW ID Tag

The next communication Raleigh Mae Farrar received about her son was from the War Department.  Her son, George Edwin Farrar, was now identified as prisoner #3885, confined at Stalag Luft IV (4).  She now had instructions on how to send her son parcels and tobacco and revised instructions for sending letters.

January 6, 1945
Headquarters Army Service Forces
Office of the Provost Marshal General
Washington 25, D.C.

Re:  S/Sgt. George E Farrar,
United States Prisoner of War # 3885,
Stalag Luft 4, Germany.

Mrs. Raleigh M Farrar
79 EastLake Terrace North East,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

The Provost Marshal General has directed me to inform you that the above-named prisoner of war has been reported interned at the place indicated.

You may communicate with him by following instructions in the inclosed circular.

One parcel label and two tobacco labels will be forwarded to you every sixty days without application on your part.  Labels for the current period will be forwarded under separate cover with the least practicable delay.

Further information will be forwarded as soon as it is received.

Sincerely yours,
Howard F. Bresee,
Colonel, C.M.P. Director,
Prisoner of War Information Bureau.

Incls.
Mailing Circular
Information Circular

1944-08-00-ParcelMailingInstructions-001

1944-08-00-ParcelMailingInstructions-002

Page 1 of Revised Mailing Instructions for Prisoners of War

Page 1 of Revised Mailing Instructions for Prisoners of War

Page 2 of Revised Mailing Instructions for Prisoners of War

Page 2 of Revised Mailing Instructions for Prisoners of War

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Letter from Mrs. Bryant

Maudene and Lenard Bryant, March 1944

Maudene and Lenard Bryant, March 1944

On January 5, 1945, Lenard Leroy Bryant’s wife, Maudene, wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae.  Maudene was writing in response to a letter she had just received from Mrs. Farrar.  Lenard and George (Ed) had both been on Lead Banana on September 28, 1944 when it collided with Lazy Daisy over Magdeburg, Germany.  Raleigh Mae Farrar had received news just six days earlier that her son was a prisoner of war.  Maudene Bryant had still not heard any news about her husband except that he was missing in action.

WWII-001

Photo:  Lenard Bryant on the left, location may be Grafton Underwood

January 5, 1945
Littlefield, Texas

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

Received your letter this noon.  Am so glad for you that George is a prisoner.

I had the pleasure of meeting your son in Ardmore, Okla. and it seems as tho they were all brothers, the boys were so close to one another.

Only five of our old crew went down, the others are in England.

I haven’t as yet heard from the War Dept. – but when I do I pray for the best – and I for one hold out for the best.  I think I would have known if Lenard (my husband) was dead.

I just wonder now how close to Magdeburg the boys will be kept.  Mrs. Henson has my deepest sympathy.

I am in hopes of hearing from you again.

As Ever
Maudene Bryant
Littlefield, Texas
Rt. 2

Maudene had apparently heard that William Alvin Henson II, the crew’s navigator, had been declared killed in action.  Not hearing anything about her husband, Lenard, gave her hope that he was still alive.  She must have known the names of all of the boys on the original Buslee crew and realized, after reviewing the next-of-kin list, that only five of them were on the Lead Banana when it went down.

The five original members were:

  • John Oliver Buslee, pilot
  • David Franklin Albrecht, co-pilot
  • Sebastian Joseph Peluso, radio operator/gunner
  • Lenard Leroy Bryant, engineer/top turret gunner (Maudene’s husband)
  • George Edwin Farrar, waist/flexible gunner (my dad)

As she states that the other members of the crew were in England, Maudene may not have been aware that original bombardier, Marvin B. Fryden, had lost his life on August 5, 1944 on the Buslee crew’s second mission.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014