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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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More Information About James B. Davis

I previously wrote about James B. Davis, the second bombardier of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group stationed at Grafton Underwood Airfield in England. Click here for the previous article.

I have found some more information about him before and after his WWII years that I’d like to share.

James Buford Davis was born on October 5, 1921 in New Castle, Henry County, Indiana to Charles Raymond (1891 – 1986) and Bessie “Bess” Millican (1893 – 1981) Davis. Charles Raymond, who went by the name “Ray,” named his son after his own father. He and Bess lived in Crofton, Christian County, Kentucky in 1920 and he was a farmer. But by the time son James was born, the family had moved to Indiana.

In 1930, the Davis family lived at 356 South 14th Street in the Fifth Ward of New Castle, Henry County, Indiana. Ray was thirty-nine years old and Bess was thirty-six. Ray had been born in Kentucky and both of his parents were from Kentucky. Bess was born in Indiana. Her father was from Indiana and her mother was from Kentucky. James was eight years old at the time of the 1930 census. He had a younger brother Charles R., age five, and a younger sister Evelyn Joy, age four. Ray was employed as a commercial paint salesman.

In 1940, the family had moved to 1216 Woodlawn Drive, but still lived in New Castle. Ray was still working as a salesman for a paint company. James was now eighteen years old, and had another brother Neel D. Davis, who was nine.

James graduated from New Castle Chrysler High School with the Class of 1940. The school’s Rosennial Yearbook of 1940 pictured James with the caption “Hi-Y Student Manager.”

James Buford Davis Senior High School Photo

James Buford Davis Senior High School Photo

The code of the sixty Hi-Y boys of New Castle High School was “clean speech, clean living, and clean scholarship.” All boys of good character who desired membership were eligible to join.

After high school, James attended college for two years before enlisting in the Air Corps on July 21, 1942 at Bowman Field, Louisville, Kentucky. As I’ve covered James’s WWII career here, I won’t cover it again. While serving with the 384th Bomb Group, James received 3 bronze stars, an Air medal with 5 oak leaf clusters, and a presidential citation.

After the war, James graduated from Purdue University. He married Joan McShirley on August 21, 1948. They had one son, Sean (1951 – 1967). At one time James owned Express Auto Supply in Hobart, Indiana and later co-owned a Kentucky Fried Chicken franchise in New Castle, Indiana.

James B. Davis, 88 of Indianapolis died December 20, 2009.

Note:  Now that I have found a photo of James B. Davis, I am trying to determine if the bombardier in the Buslee crew photo is the original bombardier Marvin Fryden or replacement bombardier James B. Davis.  What do you think? Is the man standing on the far right Fryden (who I don’t have a picture of) or Davis?

The Buslee Crew

The Buslee Crew

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

 

 

 

 

James B. Davis

James Davis was not an original member of the John Oliver Buslee crew.  However, his first mission as a bombardier was with the Buslee crew on the August 9, 1944 Mission 176 to the Erding Airdrome & Airfield at Erding, Germany.

What a first mission as a 384th bombardier this must have been for James.  According to the sortie report notes from the 384th’s web site:

The 384th Bombardment Group (H) provided all three groups of the 41st “B” Combat Bombardment Wing – except for three aircraft from the 303rd BG, which formed the high element of the high group. Although the division abandoned operations at the Dutch Coast due to bad weather, the 41st “B” carried on until after they had passed Aachen, at which point the weather had become impenetrable. The wing leader ordered the wing to attack the briefed target of last resort, which the lead and high groups accomplished.  However, the low group’s bombsight gyro “tumbled” just before bombs away, so they went on to bomb a target of opportunity (TOO).

The Buslee crew was part of the low group and their visual target of opportunity was a railroad and highway viaduct in Nohfelden/Hoppstädten, Germany.  This must have been quite a harrowing mission for rookie bombardier, James Davis, but he went on to complete thirty-four missions before finishing his tour and returning to the states.

James was originally assigned to the Howard A. Jung crew of the 544th bomb group on July 26, 1944.  On August 3, 1944, Jung, co-pilot James Allan Vranna, navigator Thomas C. Bates, engineer/top turret gunner Harold L. Perry, and radio operator William Isaac Sellers – who was not a regular member of the Jung crew – were assigned to slow-time a new engine.  On their way back to the base in the darkness, the evening fog settled in.

The aircraft made several passes at the field with landing lights on at a very low altitude but could not see the ground.  The aircraft could not be seen from the ground either, only the glow of his lights in the clouds.  At 2330 hours, even though the crew was unable to locate the runway, Jung attempted to come in under the low ceiling, estimated at 300 feet.  The aircraft struck the trees with a wing tip, tearing off several feet of the wing, crashed and exploded.

Jung, Bates, Perry, and Sellars were killed in the crash.  Vranna, the sole survivor, was seriously wounded (see note below).

With the pilot dead and the co-pilot seriously wounded, the crew broke up.  Ball turret gunner Harold J. Laursen became a member of the Richard H. Groff crew and completed thirty-three missions before finishing his tour and returning to the states.  Radioman Herman J. Wolters flew three missions with the 384th before being transferred to the 36th bomb squad of the 801st bomb group.  Flexible gunners Roland E. Creasy, William F. Peters, and James D. Walker, Jr.’s Army Air Forces careers are unknown.  James B. Davis was the only other Jung crewmember to be reassigned to another 384th crew.

James Davis was born on October 5, 1921 in New Castle, Indiana to Charles R. and Bess Millican Davis.  During his 384th career, he earned three bronze stars, an air medal with five oak leaf clusters, and a presidential citation.  He died on December 20, 2009 in Indianapolis, Indiana.

Notes

According to his obituary on FindAGrave.com, James Allan Vranna “sustained multiple, devastating injuries which he bore with tremendous grace throughout his lifetime. He spent the next three years undergoing multiple surgical procedures and recovering from his injuries.”  James Vranna died July 22, 2012 and is buried in the North Dakota Veteran’s Cemetery in Mandan, Morton County, North Dakota.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

 

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

September 13, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 194

Lorraine, Aircraft 43-38016

Lorraine, Aircraft 43-38016

September 13, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 194.

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 194 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 628.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 43-38016, Lorraine.

The primary target was the oil industry in Merseburg, Germany.

Crew List:

  • Commander – William A. Fairfield, Jr.
  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Navigator – Kenneth S. Lord
  • Bombardier – Donald L. Ward
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Albert K. Sherriff
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Irving L. Miller
  • Tail Gunner – Lloyd E. La Chine
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

Not the normal Buslee crew at all.  With William A. Fairfield, Jr. as Commander and John Oliver Buslee as Pilot, the regular Co-Pilot, David Franklin Albrecht, did not fly.

Donald L. Ward replaced James B. Davis on this flight.  Davis flew as part of the Joe Carnes crew.

Albert K. Sherriff replaced Sebastiano Joseph Peluso.  Irving L. Miller replaced Erwin V. Foster as Ball Turret Gunner as he had three times before.  Lloyd E. La Chine replaced Eugene D. Lucynski as Tail Gunner.

The only regular Buslee crew members on this flight were Buslee, Bryant, and Farrar.  Rybarczyk, Peluso, Foster, and Lucynski did not fly this mission.

Source:  Sortie Report, Aircraft Photo

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 11, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 192

Big Dog, Aircraft 42-102661

Big Dog, Aircraft 42-102661

September 11, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 192.

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 192 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 623.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 42-102661, Big Dog.

The primary target was the oil industry in Luetzkendorf, 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 – Paul Leland Watson
  • Tail Gunner – Eugene D. Lucynski
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

The same crew as mission 191 from the day before.  Again the regular Buslee crew without Erwin V. Foster.  Paul Leland Watson again replaced Foster as Ball Turret Gunner on this mission.

Source:  Sortie Report, Aircraft Photo

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 10, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 191

September 10, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 191

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 191 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 619.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 43-38213, name unknown.

The primary target was the BMW Motor Component Parts Plant in Sindelfingen, 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 – Paul Leland Watson
  • Tail Gunner – Eugene D. Lucynski
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

The regular Buslee crew without Erwin V. Foster.  Paul Leland Watson replaced Foster as Ball Turret Gunner on this mission.  Foster did not fly again until September 30, 1944, two days after the Buslee crew was involved in the September 28 mid-air collision with the Brodie crew.  Foster completed his tour with 35 missions on February 28, 1945, returning to the US.

Watson would also replace Foster the next day on mission 192, but would not fly with the Buslee crew again after that.  Watson flew 29 missions in all, his last on November 16, 1944 when his aircraft received a direct flak hit to an engine, setting it on fire.  Six chutes were observed, with one on fire.  The aircraft crash-landed in Belgium, with an injured pilot and engineer, and a dead co-pilot.  Five of the crew became POW’s, including Watson.

Rybarczyk is back as Navigator after sitting out the September 9 mission.

Aircraft 43-38213 only flew three more missions after this one, for a total of fourteen combat missions.  On September 13, 1944, immediately after bombs away, the aircraft was seen going down in flames.  Four of the crew members on this flight were killed, with five becoming POWs.

Source:  Sortie Report

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013

September 9, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 190

Lead Banana, 43-37822

Lead Banana, 43-37822

September 9, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 190

The 384th Bomb Group Mission 190 was also known as Eighth Air Force Mission 614.

The Buslee crew flew this mission aboard aircraft 43-37822, Lead Banana.  This was their second of three missions aboard the Lead Banana.

The primary target was again, but for the last time, the chemical works industry in Ludwigshaven, Germany.

Crew List:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – George J. Jacobson
  • Bombardier – James B. Davis
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Erwin V. Foster
  • Tail Gunner – Eugene D. Lucynski
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

The regular Buslee crew without Chester A. Rybarczyk.  George J. Jacobson replaced Rybarczyk as Navigator or this flight.  Rybarczyk did not fly this mission.

Erwin V. Foster was back as Ball Turret Gunner.  Foster had not flown since the August 24 mission.

Source:  Sortie Report

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013