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The 222nd Combat Crew Crew Training School in Ardmore, Oklahoma
Last week I wrote about 384th Bomb Group tail gunner John James Bregant of the Frigham Young crew and my new acquaintance with his granddaughter, Kathryn Bregant Smith. Kathryn has her grandfather’s collection of photos and other memorabilia from World War II and shared photos and images of items from his collection.
I learned through Kathryn that John Bregant had attended the 222nd Combat Crew Training School in Ardmore, Oklahoma before starting his combat duty. My dad taught at the same school and joined a combat crew there in June 1944.
My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a gunnery instructor in the Army Air Forces in WWII for thirteen months before entering combat. His first station as an instructor was for seven months as a flexible gunnery instructor at Kingman, Arizona.
Following his service at Kingman, he was an instructor for six months at the 222nd Combat Crew Training School at the Army Airfield at Ardmore, Oklahoma. His duties were detailed as “administered phase checks, organized students and instructors for training in aerial gunnery.” This duty started sometime in December 1943 and continued to early June 1944.
On June 6, 1944, more than 160,000 Allied troops landed along a 50-mile stretch of heavily-fortified French coastline, to fight Nazi Germany on the beaches of Normandy, France.
June 6, 1944 was D-Day. Two days later, on June 8, 1944, Dad received his written orders “as a combat crew member requiring regular and frequent participation in aerial flights.”
I suppose since he had been an aerial gunnery instructor, he didn’t require much more training himself and he was quickly assigned to combat duty in the European theater with the B-17 crew of John Oliver Buslee.
Dad wrote a letter to his mother on June 22 and found himself on his way out of Ardmore somewhere between June 23 and 25, beginning his journey to an 8th Army Air Forces air base of the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England.
Dad’s combat orders included the names of three other men. I was familiar with the name Eugene D. Lucynski. He was the tail gunner on the Buslee crew. But the other two, Harold E. Beam and Arthur Pearlstein, did not find their way into the 384th Bomb Group and I have wondered who these men were that served in WWII with my dad at Ardmore.
Kathryn has her grandfather’s yearbook from the 222nd Combat Crew Training School.
John Bregant’s photo along with the other men of his B-17 crew, the Paul E. Norton crew, are identified as Crew No. 2728 in Combat Crews Section B in the yearbook. The other two crews included on the same page, the Quentin Wilson crew (Crew No. 2729) and the Robert B. Koch crew (Crew No. 2730), also served in the 384th Bomb Group in World War II.
While Kathryn hasn’t located photos of my dad or Eugene Lucynski within the pages of the yearbook, she did find others of interest to me. On a page of Flying Instructors,
Kathryn found photos of the other two men listed on my dad’s combat orders, Harold Beam in Flying Training Section B and Arthur Pearlstein in Flying Training Section C.
Now that I had photos of these men, I decided to dig a little deeper into how they served in combat. While I couldn’t find any more definitive information about Arthur Pearlstein’s (SN 12075325) WWII combat service, I did find out more about Harold Beam (SN 36377873).
Harold E. Beam was a resident of Vermilion County, Illinois when he enlisted on 29 September 1942 in Chicago, Illinois. He was born in Illinois in 1921.
I also found by searching POW records in the National Archives that Harold Beam served his combat duty in the Infantry rather than the Army Air Forces and became a prisoner of war of Germany on 10 March 1945.
Beam’s POW record shows that he was returned to military control, liberated or repatriated, but his Latest Report Date was 24 January 1946. No POW camp is listed in his record. I can’t explain why his Latest Report Date was not until 1946, as the war with Germany ended the previous May. I also can’t explain why a serviceman in WWII with so much experience in aerial gunnery was sent into combat with the Infantry instead of the Army Air Forces.
Regardless of whether my father’s photo can be found or not in the 222nd Combat Crew Training School yearbook, I do have several photos, including these, from his time there as an instructor.
and pointing out Ardmore on the map,
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022