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Memorial Day

 

There are many ways to memorialize the men of the 384th Bomb Group of WWII, but my dad – George Edwin Farrar – chose to remember his crew mates on a cap that I believe from its condition he wore on the Black March of Stalag Luft IV prisoners of war in early 1945. I discovered the cap over twenty years after my father died when my sister and I were cleaning out the family home for sale after the death of my mother.

On the bill of the cap, he wrote the names of the men that were members of the original Buslee crew, and the name of the replacement bombardier after the death of the original bombardier on August 5, 1944.

DSCN0285

Sebastiano Peluso was the radioman, Erwin Foster the belly gunner, George Farrar and Lenard Bryant the waist gunners, Clarence Seeley the top turret gunner/engineer, Eugene Lucynski the tail gunner, John Buslee the pilot, David Albrecht the co-pilot, Marvin Fryden the bombardier, and Chester Rybarczyk the navigator. James Davis replaced Marvin Fryden as bombardier after the August 5, 1944 mission.

Half of the crew – Peluso, Bryant, Buslee, Albrecht, and Fryden – perished in WWII.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

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Chester Rybarczyk – After the War

After the war, Chester Rybarczyk returned to Toledo, Ohio where he and wife, Bernadette, raised four children.  For a time, he drove a city bus.  On July 16, 1952, he was accepted into the Toledo Fire Department and assigned badge #109.  On March 9, 1964, Chester was promoted to Lieutenant.

Chester’s son, Tony, remembers that his father was very proud of being on the fire department.  He enjoyed the camaraderie with the other firefighters and he would often take his children to watch them train, or he would arrange demonstrations for their schools.  At the end of his shift, he would come home and tell them stories about things that happened that day.

On September 2, 1967, the Toledo Fire Department Rescue Squad responded to a two-alarm fire at a local north side tavern, Pee Wee’s Inn, at 5101 Suder Avenue.

Lieutenant Chester Rybarczyk, now a fifteen-year veteran with the Toledo Fire Department, was one of the firefighters who entered the building to fight the fire.  Suddenly, conditions inside the building changed and the rescue squad attempted to evacuate the structure.

Four firefighters became trapped behind a partition separating the bar from a game room.  Two of the four men made it out while Chester and another firefighter, James Martin, remained trapped.  Crews on the outside used a ladder in a rescue attempt through a window.  They were able to pull James out first, saving him.  With James safe, they began to pull an unconscious Chester, overcome by smoke, out of the same window.  The fireman that had a hold of Chester’s arm stepped on a power line that had fallen on the ladder.  When the shock of electricity hit him, he lost his grip and Chester fell back into the burning room.  Chester was finally removed from the building, but he died shortly afterward at Riverside Hospital.  The other three managed to escape with only minor injuries.

Chester’s son, Tony, was only eight years old when his father died.  His mother, Bernadette, was able to tell him a bit about his father’s WWII experiences in the 384th Bombardment Group.  She said that Chester did see his original crew, the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th bomb squadron, go down after a mid-air collision on September 28, 1944, but he didn’t talk much about it.

Chester was the navigator on the Buslee crew, but was assigned to fly with a different crew that day.  As a result, he was fortunate to not be involved in the mid-air collision.  Instead, he was a witness to the fiery descent of the plane in which most of his Buslee crewmates were killed, unable to abandon the burning aircraft after it had broken into two pieces and spiraled toward the ground.

A fellow Buslee crew member, bombardier James Davis, was also assigned to fly with a different crew that day.  Chester and James served many of their remaining missions together.  James finished his tour a few weeks before Chester in December 1944 and both returned home to the states.  Chester and James remained friends after the war.  After he got older, Tony was able to contact James, and James was able to tell Tony about his father, so that he could know him a little better.  James died in 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Chester Rybarczyk was born Jan 18, 1923 and died Sept 2, 1967 at the age of 44.  He is buried at Calvary Cemetery in Toledo, Lucas County, Ohio, Grave: S 1/2, Lot 21, Section 34.  Chester’s widow, Berandette, died in 1986 and is buried beside him.

Thank you to Tony Rybarczyk, Chester’s son, for sharing this piece of his family history.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Chester Rybarczyk

Chester Anthony Rybarczyk

Chester Anthony Rybarczyk

Chester “Chet” Rybarczyk had finished his tour with the 384th and returned to the states.  He wanted to talk to George Edwin Farrar, his crewmate on the John Oliver Buslee crew after learning that Farrar was on his way home from the war.  Rybarczyk was fortunate to have not been on Lead Banana with the Buslee crew on September 28, 1944.

July 15, 1945
Officers Mess – AAFNS – Hondo, Texas

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

With the war over in Germany, I was wondering if you had heard from George. Has he been home yet? I’m anxious to hear from him or of him. So if you will be kind enough to send me his address or send him mine.

I am the navigator from the crew. I have been in the States for some time now. I wrote to you once before if you can remember. I guess you could with a name like mine.

I really don’t have much more to say. I hope to hear something soon. Give my best to all.

Sincerely yours,
“Chet”
Lt. C. A. Rybarczyk 0720014
Br #3 H.A.A.F.
Hondo Tex

Thank you to Tony Rybarczyk, Chester’s son, for providing the photo above.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

George Francis McMann, Jr.

My grandmother, Raleigh Mae Farrar, communicated regularly with most of the families on the Next-of-Kin list she received from the War Department.  The document listed all the crew members that were aboard Lead Banana on September 28, 1944 in the mid-air collision with Lazy Daisy.  One family from which she did not receive any letters was the McMann family.  The letter of April 9, 1945 from Mrs. Buslee to Raleigh Mae Farrar indicates that none of the families had heard from the McManns.

Their son, George Francis McMann, Jr., was the ball turret gunner with the Stanley M. Gilbert crew.  September 28, 1944 was the first time McMann had flown with the Buslee crew.  He had just flown with the Gilbert crew the day before, September 27, but the Gilbert crew did not fly on September 28.  McMann was selected for that mission as ball turret gunner for the Buslee crew, one of a long list of replacements for original Buslee crew ball turret gunner, Erwin V. Foster.

The only other Gilbert crew member to fly on September 28 was Jack V. Carella, the tail gunner.  Carella joined Buslee navigator, Chester Rybarczyk, on Hot Nuts with the William J. Blankenmeyer crew on September 28.

According to the Blankenmeyer Sortie Report, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg on September 28, 1944, aircraft 42-39888, known as Hot Nuts, “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.”  Undoubtedly, the crew aboard Hot Nuts left formation in an attempt to determine the fate of the crews of the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, especially the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana, as Chester Rybarczyk was normally a part of that crew and could have been on that plane if he had not replaced Robert H. Obermeyer on the Blankenmeyer crew.

Jack Carella must have been very concerned for his Gilbert crewmate, George McMann, as well.  The two men aboard Hot Nuts were watching their close friends’ plane go down as described in MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 9753, with “pieces of tail and wings falling off.”  Lead Banana was “going down in flames, spinning into the clouds.”

Two days after witnessing the mid-air collision between Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, tail gunner Jack Carella returned to the skies with the Gilbert crew for mission 202 on September 30 to the German Air Force (Luftwaffe) airfield, Handorf Airfield, in Münster, Germany.  Joining him on the Gilbert crew that day was none other than Erwin V. Foster, whose absence from the Buslee crew since September 9 had put George McMann in the ball turret on Lead Banana on September 28.  From his position in the ball turret, Foster would have had a great view except for the clouds that day, clouds which obscured the primary target and resulted in a decision to release the bombs on the center of the city.

Foster and Carella continued to fly together on the Gilbert crew until the end of their tours.  Carella completed his tour on January 28, 1945 and returned to the states.  Foster completed his tour a month later on February 28.  Along the way, Foster was able to serve one more time with one of his original Buslee crew mates, engineer/top turret gunner, Clarence B. Seeley, eight days before Foster’s final mission.  They were reunited on mission 269 on February 20 to a railroad target in Nuremburg, Germany.  Seeley eventually completed his tour on March 10.

George Francis McMann was born in early October 1924 to George and Nellie McMann.  He entered the service from Rhode Island.  McMann lost his life on his tenth mission on September 28, 1944 in the mid-air collision between Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy.  He is buried at the Netherlands American Cemetery, Margraten, Netherlands in Plot N, Row 22, Grave 4.  McMann was awarded the Purple Heart.

In August 2013, Jack Carella signed the 384th Bombardment Group’s Wing Panel.  To see photos, click here.

For more information on the Wing Panel project, click here.

May 3, 2015:  Correction made above to George McMann’s birthdate.  After reviewing the 1925 Rhode Island state census, I can see that George’s age was 6/12, rather than 6, when the family’s entry was recorded on April 18, 1925.  George was born in Providence Ward 7, Providence County, Rhode Island.  At the time of the census, the McManns were boarders in the home of Florence Riley at 1466 Westminster Street in Providence.  Both of George’s parents were born in Rhode Island about 1900 as both were listed at 25 years old at the time of the census.  No other children for the McManns were listed.  I can find no other census record for the family.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

October 12, 1944 Letter from Chester Rybarczyk

Two weeks after the mid-air collision between the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, the original navigator on the Buslee crew, Chester Rybarczyk, wrote to the Farrar family.  Rybarczyk flew the September 28 mission with the William J. Blankenmeyer crew, and watched the mid-air collision involving his Buslee crewmates aboard Lead Banana.

October 12, 1944

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

First of all, I’ll introduce myself.  I’m Lt. Rybarczyk, navigator on the crew that George trained with at Ardmore and we flew our first missions together.  You probably have the news of him being missing.  Well I can’t tell you very much about what happened.  I’m not allowed to give such information.  I was flying in another ship that day.  I saw what did happen.  The ship he was in was not on fire and he had plenty of altitude.   The crew had a good chance of bailing out and I think they did.  You may not hear anything else about him for a little while.  He will probably be a prisoner of war and he will be back with you as soon as the war with Germany is over.  So don’t take this too bad.  I think he is safe and well.

He sure was a good boy.  One of the best men on the crew.  I had lots of confidence in him.  He got along swell with the rest of the boys.  We never had any trouble with him.  He was excellent in his work and gave it everything he had.  You should be proud of a boy like that.  I know I was glad to have him on the crew.

If you should hear anything about him, please let me know.  May God Help those boys.

Sincerely yours,

Chester Rybarczyk

The ship Rybarczyk was flying in that day, Aircraft 42-39888, also known as Hot Nuts, “left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base” according to the Sortie Report, apparently in a effort to determine the fate of the crew of Lead Banana.  It is unclear why Rybarczyk would state that “the ship he [George Edwin Farrar] was in was not on fire” as all other eye witness reports state otherwise.  Perhaps it was simply an act of kindness to give Farrar’s family more hope for his survival.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Chester Rybarczyk, Original Navigator on the Buslee Crew

Chester Rybarczyk on a Mission over France

Chester Rybarczyk on a Mission over France

On October 7, 1944 Chester Rybarczyk was on his fifteenth mission, 384th Bomber Group Mission Number 207 to a synthetic oil plant at Leipzig, Germany.  At 1100 hours in the vicinity of Bad Iburg, Germany, Chester Rybarczyk’s aircraft was hit by flak and peeled off from formation with the #2 wing tank smoking and leaking.  Rybarczyk was flying as Navigator with the James W. Orr crew on aircraft 43-38615, name unknown.  They were last seen over Osnabruck with wheels down and under control.  No chutes were seen to emerge.  The aircraft landed in allied territory with all crew safe.  A crash landing didn’t stop this crew for long.  A week later Rybarczyk and the Orr crew were back in the air again on Mission 210 to the Marshalling Yards at Saarbrucken, Germany.

Rybarczyk’s flight jacket shows a picture of a bomb for each of his missions except for his 15th mission.  That mission is depicted as a boot, signifying a mission from which the boys had to walk back after a crash landing.  He also had the back of his jacket inscribed “Korky,” his nickname for his sweetheart back home, Bernadette Korlewski.  His last duty was in December 1944, and Chester and Bernadette married on May 21, 1945.

Chester Rybarczky in his Flight Jacket

Chester Rybarczyk in his Flight Jacket

Chester Rybarczyk's Flight Jacket Today

Chester Rybarczyk’s Flight Jacket Today

Information and photos provided by Tony Rybarczyk, Chester Rybarczyk’s son.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Chester Rybarczyk – September 28, 1944

According to the Sortie Report, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg on September 28, 1944, aircraft 42-39888, known as Hot Nuts, “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.”  Flying on Hot Nuts was the William J. Blankenmeyer crew.  Robert H. Obermeyer was the regular navigator for the Blankenmeyer crew, but for some reason, he did not fly on the September 28 mission.

On September 28, Obermeyer was replaced as navigator by Chester A. Rybarczyk, who usually flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew.  It was through this action that Rybarczyk was not on the Lead Banana with the Buslee crew that day, and instead of being a part of the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy, was a witness to it instead.

Undoubtedly, the crew aboard Hot Nuts left formation in an attempt to determine the fate of the crews of the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, especially the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana, as Chester Rybarczyk was normally a part of that crew and could have been on that plane if he had not replaced Obermeyer on the Blankenmeyer crew.

Chester Rybarczyk later wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s family, and probably to the families of the other boys in his crew, giving them hope that the boys survived the collision.  Rybarczyk was limited in what information he could divulge, but what he did write contradicted official witness reports in MACR9753, Missing Air Crew Report 9753.

I will publish Rybarczyk’s complete letter dated October 12, 1944 in a future post.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

Lazy Daisy, Aircraft 42-31222

Lazy Daisy, Aircraft 42-31222

Lead Banana, 43-37822

Lead Banana, Aircraft 43-37822

September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201.

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 201 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 652.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 43-37822, Lead Banana.  The Brodie crew was aboard 42-31222, Lazy Daisy.

The primary target was the steelworks industry in Magdeburg, Germany.

Buslee Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – George Francis McMann, Jr.
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

Chester A. Rybarczyk flew this mission with the William J. Blankenmeyer crew.  William Alvin Henson II replaced Rybarczyk as Navigator on the Buslee crew.  This was Henson’s third flight with the Buslee crew.

James B. Davis flew this mission with the Raymond J. Gabel crew.  Robert Sumner Stearns replaced Davis as Bombardier on the Buslee crew.  This was Stearns second flight with the Buslee crew.

George Francis McMann, Jr. flew this mission as Ball Turret Gunner on the Buslee crew.  This was McMann’s first flight with the Buslee crew.  Irving L. Miller, who had replaced Erwin V. Foster as Ball Turret Gunner five times on the Buslee crew, also flew with Davis on the Gabel crew this mission.

Gerald Lee Andersen replaced Eugene D. Lucynski for the third time as Tail Gunner on the Buslee crew.

Brodie Crew List:

  • Pilot – James Joseph Brodie
  • Co-Pilot – Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Navigator – George Marshall Hawkins, Jr.
  • Togglier – Byron Laverne Atkins
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Donald William Dooley
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Robert Doyle Crumpton
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Gordon Eugene Hetu
  • Tail Gunner – Wilfred Frank Miller
  • Waist Gunner – Harry Allen Liniger

James Joseph Brodie (Pilot), Lloyd Oliver Vevle (Co-Pilot), George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. (Navigator), Robert Doyle Crumpton (Engineer/Top Turret Gunner), Gordon Eugene Hetu (Ball Turret Gunner), Wilfred Frank Miller (Tail Gunner), and Harry Allen Liniger (Waist Gunner) were all original Brodie crew members aboard the Lazy Daisy.  The only non-original crew members were Byron Laverne Atkins (Bombardier/Togglier) and Donald William Dooley (Radio Operator/Gunner).

Original Brodie crew Bombardier, William D. Barnes, Jr., last flew with the Brodie crew on September 13, 1944.  Barnes did not fly again until October 17, 1944.  He returned to flight as a Navigator, completed his tour after 35 missions, and returned to the US.

Byron Laverne Atkins flew only six missions, three of them as a Ball Turret Gunner, and one as a Flexible Gunner.  He served as Togglier for the Brodie crew on two occasions – once on September 21 and again on September 28, 1944.

William Edson Taylor, the original Radio Operator/Gunner for the Brodie crew did not fly on the September 28 mission.  On October 5, he flew as Radio Operator/Gunner with the Robert Bruce Birckhead crew.  His aircraft was damaged by flak and crashed near Munchen-Gladbach, Germany (MACR 9754).  Of the crew, four were killed, and five were taken prisoner of war, including Taylor.

Donald William Dooley’s first mission would be his last.  He flew as Radio Operator/Gunner for the Brodie crew on this mission.

Sortie Report Description:

Two Bomb Runs – Primary Target Attacked: The 384th Bombardment Group (H) flew as the 41st CBW “C” Wing on today’s mission. Near the target, another formation of bombers flew below this wing, forcing them to hold their bombs. The wing made a second bomb run and released their bombs on the primary target.

Lazy Daisy Sortie Report Status and Comments:

Failed to Return
MIA; collided with 43-37822 over target; both ships went down on fire and out of control; no chutes observed; crashed near Erxleben, Germany; MACR 9366.

Lead Banana Sortie Report Status and Comments:

Failed to Return
MIA; collided with 42-31222 over target; both ships went down on fire and out of control; no chutes; crashed near Osteringersleben, Germany; MACR 9753.

Source:  Sortie Report – Buslee Crew, Sortie Report – Brodie Crew

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 27, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 200

Hale's Angels, Aircraft 42-102449

Hale’s Angels, Aircraft 42-102449

September 27, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 200.

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 200 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 650.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 42-102449, Hale’s Angels.

The primary target was the railroad marshaling yards in Cologne, Germany.

Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – William Alvin Henson II
  • Bombardier – Robert Sumner Stearns
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Robert M. Mitchell
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

On this mission, the Buslee crew was the High Group Deputy and Hot Camera Ship.

Chester A. Rybarczyk did not fly this mission.  William Alvin Henson II replaced him as Navigator on this flight.

James B. Davis also did not fly this mission.  Robert Sumner Stearns replaced him as Bombardier.

Henson had flown with the Buslee crew once before, on September 3, 1944.  This was the first flight with the Buslee crew for Stearns.

Robert M. Mitchell replaced Erwin V. Foster as Ball Turret Gunner on this mission.  This was the first time Mitchell flew with the Buslee crew, although he had flown with Farrar on September 19 as part of the William M. Reed crew.

Gerald Lee Andersen replaced Eugene D. Lucynski for the second time as Tail Gunner.

Source:  Sortie Report, Aircraft Photo

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 25, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 198

Hot Nuts, Aircraft 42-39888

Hot Nuts, Aircraft 42-39888

September 25, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 198.

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 198 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 644.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 42-39888, Hot Nuts.

The primary target was the railroad marshaling yards in Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany.

Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – Chester A. Rybarczyk
  • Bombardier – James B. Davis
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Irving L. Miller
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

Irving L. Miller replaced Erwin V. Foster as Ball Turret Gunner for the fifth time.  This was the last time Miller would fly with the Buslee crew.  On March 19, 1945, Miller completed his tour and returned to the US.

Eugene D. Lucynski had bailed out of The Tremblin’ Gremlin on September 19 when it was struck by flak and had not returned to the Buslee crew.  Gerald Lee Andersen replaced Lucynski on this and the next two missions as Tail Gunner.

Source:  Sortie Report, Aircraft Photo

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013