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Thanks to the stories and diaries of 384th Bomb Group Bombardier-Navigator Frank Furiga, I have a little more detail about the journey of a group of airmen, including Furiga of the Bert Brown crew, and my dad, George Edwin Farrar of the John Oliver Buslee crew, as they ferried a formation of B-17’s into the European Theater of Operations in the summer of 1944.
I have written previously about the journey, but Frank’s stories add new details to the crews’ experience.
In the latter part of June 1944 (likely sometime between June 23 and 25) , both the Brown and Buslee crews, along with several other air crews who had completed their combat training at Ardmore, Oklahoma, traveled by train from Ardmore to Kearney, Nebraska, on the first leg of their journey to their air bases in England.
Frank Furiga described Kearney as,
…where we were assigned a brand new B-17 G FLYING FORTRESS bomber to fly to Europe. It was so new that the plane had fresh paint odor. Here we assembled our flight clothes plus a few pieces of equipment. At 3 A.M. on June 29th, we took off [departing Kearney, Nebraska] headed to Europe.
Our first overnight stop was Grenier Field in Manchester, New Hampshire [arriving June 29]. On the next day [departing June 30] we flew to Goose Bay Labrador [arriving the evening of June 30]. We were held up by bad weather for a day.
On our next flight we left early in the morning [departing the evening of July 1] and flew to Meeks Field at Keflavik, Iceland [arriving the morning of July 2].
We flew above clouds and witnessed a very interesting phenomenon. The shadow of our plane on the clouds was encircled by a beautiful multi-colored rainbow. Some of the fellows saw small icebergs on the way. Because of bad weather over the Atlantic we rested here a few days. Here again we experienced something else new — the length of the sunny day.
Early in the morning [departing the morning of July 4], we left for Nutts Corner, Northern Ireland. Approaching the airfield [arriving July 4], we saw the control tower firing a variety of colored flares which was most puzzling to our pilots as there were no alarms over the radio. Upon landing, we found out the control tower boys were having a jolly good time saluting us with various colored flares as they were celebrating our July Fourth national holiday!
Within a few days we departed for Bovingdon near London where we had combat lectures and procedures with our planes. We had left the new Fort [B-17 Flying Fortress] at Nutts Corner since it had to be combat-outfitted with armor plating and other items. Here we were assigned Bomb Groups. For us on July 23rd, we arrived at the 384th Bomb Group at Kettering, England, in Northamptonshire County. Our airfield was known as GRAFTON-UNDERWOOD.
Special Orders #144 indicate the Buslee crew was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group at Grafton Underwood, England effective July 21, 1944. Special Orders #148 indicate the Brown crew was assigned to the group effective July 25.
Frank Furiga brings up Buslee crew bombardier Marvin Fryden again, reflecting on Fryden’s August 5 death on his second mission, while also remembering the loss of his brother, John, while they were in Ardmore, Oklahoma during combat crew training.
Lt. Fryden, on an early combat mission with the Buslee-Albrecht crew, was hit by flak in the chest during their bomb run over the target. When they landed, he was rushed to the hospital, but died on the operating table. In two events [the deaths of his brother, John, and friend, Marvin Fryden], combat had produced a profound effect on me. Especially since just a scant few weeks before we had been in London. The brevity of combat life was aging me, indeed.
While stationed at Grafton Underwood, Frank Furiga had the opportunity to see his older brothers Stephen and Michael, who were both also stationed in England at the time. Frank wrote,
Stephen, just a few years older than I, had been in the service the longest. He was a member of the 82nd Airborne paratroops and was somewhere in England. I happened to run into a few of his men and was surprised to find out that he was stationed at Cottesmore Aerodrome, just a twenty minute trip by train. I managed to spend an afternoon with him. Later on, I visited brother Michael at Thatcham near Reading where he was with the Medical corps.
Frank Furiga, George Farrar, and their respective crews were very quickly immersed in the dangers of aerial combat with mission after mission over the European continent, assisting in the liberation of France, and destroying the Nazi war machine in Germany. The war wasn’t “over there” anymore. The war was in them and they were in the war.
Each time they climbed aboard the B-17 for a mission, they knew might be their last. They knew it was best not to think about it, to just do their jobs. But before the end of the year, for both Furiga and Farrar, the war was over as both would become prisoners of war until the Spring of 1945.
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© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021
I have previously written about Frank Dominic Furiga, 384th Bomb Group Bombardier-Navigator and father of my fellow 384th NexGen member Paul Furiga. Frank and my dad, George Edwin Farrar, completed their combat crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time and traveled to the European Theater of Operations at the same time, with both of their crews ferrying brand new B-17’s into the war zone.
Frank recorded many of his memories from World War II, and his son, Paul, kindly shared them with me. As the stories Frank wrote also reflect my father’s WWII history, they are, of course, very interesting to me.
There are several different subjects in which I’ve been able to learn more about the actions of my dad and his crew through Frank’s stories, so expect to see several future posts which rely on information from Frank Furiga.
I’d like to start with a little about Frank himself, and then my next post will add to some information I’ve already written about, their crossing into the ETO (European Theater of Operations).
* * * * *
Frank Furiga was fascinated with airplanes at least as early as the age of five when the sound of a low-flying bi-plane caught his attention. By then he knew all about American aviator “Charlie Lindbergh” from an older brother. Growing up, Frank immersed himself in aviation from every source possible, from books and movies, and in making his own aircraft from orange crate wood and model plane kits.
Frank had three older brothers and all four of the Furiga boys became involved in the war effort in WWII. The oldest, John, served in a Special Forces group, the next, Michael, was in the Medical Corps, the third, Stephen, was an early member of the 82nd Airborne paratroopers, and Frank was a B-17 bombardier and navigator.
Frank was part of a large Catholic family from Avella, Washington County, Pennsylvania. His parents Andrew Furiga and Anna Pankovic Furiga also had three girls, Mary, Helen, and Pauline.
Frank Furiga was born on February 9, 1925. At the age of seventeen, Frank enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps with his enlistment delayed until he reached his eighteenth birthday. On his eighteenth birthday in February 1943, Frank was ready to begin his service to his country and was classified for Bombardier training at the Nashville Classification Center. He began his service on April 12, 1943 and attended basic cadet training in Santa Ana, California.
Following basic training, Frank attended gunnery training in Kingman, Arizona, where my dad was a flexible gunnery instructor for seven months in 1943. Although I see no mention of it in Frank’s writings, perhaps they crossed paths in Kingman at that time.
Frank would follow gunnery training with bombardier training in Deming, New Mexico, arriving there in the last week of October 1943 and was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant on February 26, 1944. While training at Deming, Marvin Fryden – future Buslee crew bombardier and one of my dad’s crew mates – was one of Furiga’s instructors. They later became friends on their shared path into combat.
Furiga next reported to Salt Lake City, Utah in March for crew assembly and spent about three weeks there. His crew, number #338, consisted of Bert Oliver Brown (Pilot), William Davis Bayne (Co-pilot), Raymond Julius Scherer (Navigator), Frank Dominic Furiga (Bombardier), Richard George Regan (Top turret gunner / Engineer), Marvin John Ondrusek (Radio operator), Joseph William Chalkus (Left waist gunner), Walter Dewitt Franklin (Right waist gunner), William Jesse Jones (Ball turret gunner), and Raymond George Palmer (Tail gunner).
Following crew assembly, the Bert Brown crew attended combat training in Ardmore, Oklahoma, where my dad was an aerial gunnery instructor for six months before joining a combat crew himself, the John Oliver Buslee crew. The RTU, or combat, training at Ardmore lasted about one and a half months.
Furiga wrote about this experience,
We simulated all sorts of combat conditions and near the end flew quite a few combat formation missions. It was a great experience flying in the big B-17ʼs. I dropped a number of bombs and liked the way the big ship responded to the Norden Bomb-sight compared to the AT-11 trainers in Bombardierʼs School.
In one of his recorded stories, Frank Furiga related a heartbreaking incident that happened in his last week of combat training at Ardmore,
I received a telegram from my oldest sister Mary in Pittsburgh that my parents had received a telegram from the U.S. Government that our oldest brother John had been killed at Anzio, Italy on May 23rd. I was quite shocked as I always looked up to him.
At this time, Lt. Marvin Fryden, the bombardier on Lt. Busleeʼs crew expressed great sympathy for me. He had been one of our Bombardier instructors at Deming, New Mexico, and signed up for combat when we graduated. He took it upon himself to see if I could get emergency leave of a few days to go home to Pennsylvania. He went so far as to contact the base commander at a country club.
My request was denied.
More about Frank Furiga, his World War II experiences, and connections with my father’s crew to come…
RTU is an abbreviation for Replacement Training Units
Thank you, Paul Furiga, for sharing your dad’s stories and diaries!
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021
Recently, Paul Furiga, son of 384th Bomb Group Bombardier/Navigator Frank Furiga, shared a page from his father’s World War II diary with me. The particular page described Frank’s journey from the US to the UK when he and his fellow USAAF service members ferried a group of B-17’s from Kearney, Nebraska to the European Theater of Operations (ETO). They were on the final leg of their journey into combat duty with the 8th Army Air Forces.
Frank Furiga left his last training base at Admore, Oklahoma in the same group of servicemen as my dad, George Edwin Farrar. Both Dad and Frank ended up at the same air base in Grafton Underwood, England, flying missions in heavy bombers, B-17’s.
I have written previously about my dad’s journey from Oklahoma to England, but today I am going to combine the information in my dad’s letters home with Frank Furiga’s diary entries to get a better picture of where they stopped along the way and on what dates. So here goes…
Dad illustrated his trip across the Atlantic on a map in a world atlas.
And then he explained where he was and when in several letters to his mother up to the point he left the United States.
June 22, 1944 [Farrar Letter]
Dad wrote a letter to his Mother that they would be leaving Ardmore, Oklahoma. They were heading to Kearney, Nebraska to pick up their plane which he thought would take from three to seven days. They likely left Ardmore, probably by troop train, somewhere between June 23 and June 25. Today, driving the 540 miles between Ardmore and Kearney takes eight to nine hours. The letter was postmarked Ardmore on June 23.
June 25, 1944 [Farrar Letter]
Dad’s next letter was written from Kearney, Nebraska on June 25 and postmarked Kearney the same day. He wrote, “We will only be here four days.” They had been assigned their plane to ferry overseas.
June 26, 1944 [Farrar Letter]
The next day, still in Kearney, Dad wrote, “One more day in this place and we will be going.”
June 28, 1944 [Farrar Letter]
Two days later, they were still in Kearney. Dad wrote, “In just a little while we will be on our way. We will stay once more in the States. This is one of the best places I have been in some time, and I hate to leave it without going to town once more.” This letter was postmarked Kearney on June 29.
I think Dad liked Kearney so much he had this photo made to send home to his mother. I can’t be certain this is Kearney, but it looks very similar to a photo of Central Avenue in Kearney on page 7 of an article, “Kearney, Nebraska, and the Kearney Army Air Field in World War II” by Todd L. Peterson.
Kearney must have been a nice place even during wartime. Today, the “Visit Kearney” website tells me that Kearney is pronounced (car + knee), it is a colorful and exciting city situated in the heart of the Heartland, and it is the Sandhill Crane Capital of the World.
Now I’ll turn the next leg of the journey over to Frank Furiga and his diary entries.
June 29, 1944 [Furiga Diary]
Left Kearney, Neb. June 29.
Arrived Grenier Field, New Hampshire June 29 in morning.
Grenier Field was located in Manchester, New Hampshire.
June 30, 1944 [Furiga Diary]
Left June 30th.
Arrived Goose Bay, Labrador June 30th in evening.
July 1, 1944 [Furiga Diary]
Left there (Goose Bay, Labrador) July 1st evening.
July 2, 1944 [Furiga Diary]
Arrived Meeks Field, Iceland on A.M. of July 2nd.
July 4, 1944 [Furiga Diary]
Left Meeks July 4th A.M.
Arrived Nutts Corner, Ireland on July 4th (or 5th).
Nutts Corner was a Royal Air Force (RAF) Station located 2.7 miles (4.3 km) east of Crumlin, County Antrim, Northern Ireland and 9.2 miles (14.8 km) north west of Belfast. During the Second World War it became an important RAF Coastal Command station and was also used as a transport hub for aircraft arriving from the United States.
Station #2, European Wing, Air Transport Command was activated 24 September 1943 at Nutts Corner using personnel from detachments of the 69th Transport Squadron and 1149th Military Police Company (Aviation) [per General Orders 21, EWATC, 24 September 1943] and operated as a transport hub until it was redesignated 18 July 1944.
July 5, 1944 [Furiga Diary]
Went from there (Nutts Corner, Ireland) on 5th by boat to Scotland.
From there in train to Stone in Staffordshire a few miles south of Stoke-on-Trent.
AAF Station 518 (VIII AF Service Command) was in Stone.
From this point, I can only follow their path through the orders sending both men and their crews to Grafton Underwood, just days apart. What they did between July 5 and the third week of July, I can’t say, but it may have involved some additional training time. Or perhaps just sitting around waiting for their assignments.
July 22, 1944 [USAAF Special Orders #144]
George Edwin Farrar was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944. Orders stated,
The following Officers and Enlisted Men having been assigned to the 384th Bomb Group from ACU & attached to 1st Replacement and Training Squadron (B), per par 2 SO #202, Hq AAF Station 112, dated 20 July, 1944, are further assigned to organization as indicated, effective 21 July, 1944.
Hq AAF Station 112 was identified in “Army Air Force Stations” as
- AAF Number: 112
- Name: Bovingdon
- Location: Hertfordshire
- Principal Unit(s) Assigned: 11 Cmbt (Combat) Crew Replacement Ctr (Center)
“Army Air Force Stations” is subtitled “A Guide to the Stations Where U .S . Army Air Forces Personnel Served in the United Kingdom During World War II” and was written by Captain Barry J. Anderson, USAF of the Research Division of the USAF Historical Research Center at Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama and published 31 January 1985.
July 26, 1944 [USAAF Special Orders #148]
Frank Dominic Furiga was assigned to the 547th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944. Orders stated,
The following Officers and Enlisted Men having been assigned to the 384th Bomb Group from ACU & attached to 1st Replacement and Training Squadron (B), per par 1 SO #206, Hq AAF Station 112, dated 24 July, 1944, are further assigned to organization as indicated, effective 25 July, 1944.
From the letters and diary entries, I believe I can trace the path of George Edwin Farrar and Frank Dominic Furiga and the other servicemen they were traveling with as:
June 22, 1944: In Ardmore, Oklahoma.
June 23 – 25, 1944: Left Ardmore, Oklahoma. Arrived Kearney, Nebraska.
June 29, 1944: Left Kearney, Nebraska. Arrived Grenier Field, Manchester, New Hampshire.
June 30, 1944: Left Grenier Field, New Hampshire. Arrived Goose Bay, Labrador.
July 1, 1944: Left Goose Bay, Labrador.
July 2, 1944: Arrived Meeks Field, Iceland.
July 4, 1944: Left Meeks Field, Iceland. Arrived Nutts Corner, Ireland.
July 5, 1944: Left Nutts Corner, Ireland. Boarded boat for Scotland. Continued by train to Stone in Staffordshire, England.
Unknown date, July, 1944: Continued to Combat Crew Replacement Center at AAF Station 112 Bovingdon in Hertfordshire.
July 22, 1944: George Edwin Farrar was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England.
July 26, 1944: Frank Dominic Furiga was assigned to the 384th Bomb Group in Grafton Underwood, Northamptonshire, England.
Thank you Paul Furiga for sharing your dad’s diary entries.
Previous post: From the US to the UK and Beyond
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021