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The Eight-Digit Number

My dad’s youngest sister, Beverly, was only seven years old when my dad’s B17 collided mid-air with another B17 on September 28, 1944.  With three of her older brothers away serving in WWII, her childhood was entrenched in the war.  One of the memories that she still recalls vividly to this day was of her mother awakening from sleep with the thought of an eight-digit number in her head, which she quickly wrote down upon rising.  By the way, premonitions were apparently a common occurrence for my grandmother.

My Aunt Beverly told me about this incident, but she didn’t know what the number signified, or what the eight digits actually were.  My dad’s Army Air Forces serial number was eight digits, but he had been assigned that number when he enlisted.  My dad’s POW number was only four digits.  Again, not a good candidate for matching the story.

It wasn’t until I ran across this letter that I wondered about that eight-digit number again.  From this letter my dad received, I can only presume that his mother told him the story of awakening with that number in her head upon his return home from the war.  In turn, my dad wrote to the Parachute Department of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bombardment Group, now stationed in Istres, France, inquiring about the eight-digit serial number of the parachute that had saved his life on September 28, 1944.

September 11, 1945
Istres, France

S/Sgt. George E. Farrar
79 East Lake Ter. S. E.
Atlanta, Georgia
A. S. N. 14119873

In regards to the parachute you used on Sept. 28, 1944.

It is impossible anymore for us to give you the exact number of the chute which you used.

I am enclosing the number of one which did go down at about the time you stated.

Mfg. Reliance
Serial No. 42-263628

We hope this will be satisfactory and was glad to hear that we were of some help to you.

S/Sgt. W. A. Carnahan
544th. Bomb Sqd.
Parachute Department

A parachute saved my father’s life on September 28, 1944, but he had a little more help than just the parachute that day.  In the mid-air collision at 30,000 feet, he was knocked unconscious and thrown from the aircraft.  He didn’t even know he was out of the plane until he came to after free falling 25,000 feet.  He wrote down the events of that day several times since it happened, but he always left out one detail.

That detail was part of my dad’s story when he would tell it to me as a child.  It would be bedtime and my dad would sit on the side of my bed until I fell asleep.  I would ask for a story, the one about his airplane in WWII, or the prison camp, or the march across Germany when he had to sleep in the hay.  He would tell how another plane flew into the side of his plane, cracking it open like an egg.  He woke up out of the plane and falling, falling.  He was here sitting on the side of my bed, able to tell me about these experiences he had in the war because he woke up only 5,000 feet from the ground when he heard his mother calling his name.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

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