The Arrowhead Club

Home » Posts tagged 'Lead Banana'

Tag Archives: Lead Banana

Advertisements

The Lead Banana

Last week, I explained how I have become convinced that 384th Bomb Group B-17G 43-37822 was not the Lead Banana. That name actually belonged to the Group’s B-17G 42-37822.

 

B-17G 42-37822 The Lead Banana

As I indicated last week, I did not want to believe that the ship I had come to know as Lead Banana would now be referred to solely by number, 43-37822. Notwithstanding the evidence that Marc Poole provided, I still clung to the Lead Banana name as the name of the ship in which my father and the Buslee crew suffered a mid-air collision on September 28, 1944. Regardless, a poem that Keith Ellefson ran across during his research leaves me with  no other choice.

The poem, which is called The Lead Banana: A B-17 Flying Fortress, was published in the August 1989 384th Bomb Group, Inc.’s newsletter. The poet was a radio operator of the group who served on the Paul Norton crew at the same time my dad was stationed at Grafton Underwood. First, I’ll present Lawrence Vallo’s poem, and afterwards share compelling information I gleaned from it.

THE LEAD BANANA: A B-17 FLYING FORTRESS
by Lawrence J. Vallo

She sits on her hard stand enshrouded in fog,
Her towering tail fin almost lost in the smog,
Knock kneed weary wings drooping,
Looking all the world like the ugly duckling.

Tin benders patch the rips in her skin,
Scars from her late trip to Berlin.
There were Frankfurt, Merzburg, Munich, and many more,
Do you wonder that she looks weary and sore?

Yes, she does look sickly and kind’a wan
As she squats on her stand in the grey light of dawn,
But, wait till you see this old bird in the air,
She’ll turn into a majestic and graceful swan.

She’s carried her crew into flak filled skies
That promised deadly encounters, and someone dies,
Proudly she’s burst through the treacherous shroud
Surging ever upward toward sunlit cloud.

Her place in the group formation today
Is her usual spot, number four in the low.
Some pilots have said in a half hearted way,
“Let’s leave her home, she’s too old and too slow.”

But a hundred missions she has under the belt,
Countless hostile blows on her skin she has felt.
Fire, flak, fighters, and bone chilling air,
None has deterred her from the enemy’s lair.

Over the I.P. and holding steady,
Bombardier sighting and at the ready,
“Bombs away!” and upward she lunges,
Wheeling ’round, and then downward she plunges.

Shuddering and shaking as she makes the round,
Nothing will stop her, she’s homeward bound,
All guns blazing, and you can bet all your script,
No yellow nosed demon will get her this trip.

Little brothers appear in the sky,
They waggle their wings as they zip by,
Her crew, dazed, spent and numb with cold,
Lads in their teens suddenly forty years old.

Into the pattern she’ll gracefully glide,
All four turning, wings spread out in pride,
Gear down and locked, flaps coming lower,
No red flares to add to the shower.

Taxiing to her stand, her engines she’ll preen,
Just look at her, she’s no “hanger queen.”
Clearing her stacks, she’ll relax with a shudder,
Heave a sigh of relief as ground lock finds rudder.

Once more she rests, weary wings drooping,
Knocked kneed and looking like the ugly duckling.
But, don’t get misty eyed and put away your bandana,
The great fortress you see, is the “Lead Banana.”

Yes, she’s back from her war, holed like a tin can,
But mister, she’s carried her load,
And brought home many a fine young man,
Who bravely went forth to KEEP THE SHOW ON THE ROAD.

By “Chief” Vallo (NM)
544th  Bomb Squad
“Frigham Young”

* * * * *

“Chief” Lawrence Vallo’s poem does indeed close the book for me on which B-17 was named Lead Banana. I’ll tell you why by pointing out various clues I discovered in the poem and through my research on both planes.

About the plane…

  • Vallo flew on seventeen different B-17’s during his service with the 384th Bomb Group with one mission aboard 42-37822 and one aboard 43-37822. While Vallo only flew one mission aboard 42-37822 Lead Banana, it was his very first combat mission. It seems like the first ship an airman flies into combat will forever be special in his heart, so special to Vallo that he would write a poem about it.
  • 42-37822, Lead Banana, was with the 384th for 311 days, was assigned to 104 missions, and received combat credit for 63 missions.
  • 43-37822 was with the 384th for 91 days, was assigned to 34 missions, and received combat credit for 28 missions.
  • Vallo mentions the ship’s 100 missions. 42-37822 was assigned to 104 and 43-37822 was only assigned to 34.
  • 42-37822 had missions to Berlin, Frankfurt, Merzburg (sp. Merseburg), and Munich.
  • 43-37822 never went on a mission to Berlin, but did have missions to Frankfurt, Merzburg (sp. Merseburg), and Munich.
  • Vallo’s description of the ship is of an older painted ship like 42-37822, not the newer, shiny 43-37822.
  • 42-27822, Lead Banana, crashed during a training mission on March 16, 1945 when the right main landing gear collapsed after a hard landing at RAF Ringway. There were no injuries to personnel, but it was the end for Lead Banana, which was salvaged.
  • 43-37822 was lost on the September 28, 1944 combat mission in a mid-air collision over Magdeburg, Germany. My father, George Edwin Farrar, became a POW and the other eight airmen aboard were killed.
  • Lead in Lead Banana was pronounced like the metal lead and at one time was spelled Led, not Lead.

About Lawrence Vallo…

Lawrence J. Vallo

Lawrence Jonathan (or Jack) Vallo was a Native American born on July 6, 1922 to James (Santiago) and Annie Vallo in McCarty, New Mexico. At nineteen years old, on June 30, 1942, he registered for the draft. He listed his middle name as Jack on his draft card, rather than Jonathan. At the time, he was living in Richmond, Contra Costa, California and his employer was the Santa Fe Railroad Co. He reported his weight at 138 pounds, height at 5’4″, with dark complexion, brown eyes, and black hair. The Department of Veterans Affairs lists his WWII enlistment date in the Army Air Corps as February 3, 1943 with a release date of October 8, 1945.

During WWII, Lawrence Vallo served with the 384th Bomb Group as the Radio Operator of the Paul Norton crew, a crew who gave themselves the nickname “Frigham Young.”

In addition to his WWII service, Vallo served in the Korean War and the Vietnam War.

The National Archives contains an enlistment record for Vallo with the enlistment date of June 29, 1946 in the Air Corps with the grade designation of Corporal and the term of enlistment as “Enlistment for Hawaiian Department.”

However, the Department of Veterans Affairs does not include the 1946 enlistment, but includes two other enlistments into the Air Force. One has an enlistment date of July 1, 1949 and release date of March 10, 1955. The other has an enlistment date of March 11, 1961 with a release date of June 30, 1964.

Lawrence Vallo died on November 26, 2001 at the age of 79 at Jemez Pueblo, Sandoval, New Mexico. He is buried in the Santa Fe National Cemetery in Santa Fe, New Mexico in Plot 11A, 32.

In a memorial on Ancestry.com, Lawrence “Larry” Vallo was described as an “educational advocate for Indian youths.” His wife said that his “individualism, extroverted nature and love of people set him apart from others” and “He was very proud he was a Native American.”

Lawrence Vallo would probably also be proud that he was able to clear up the confusion for me through his poem of the correct B-17 to be known as Lead Banana. And thank you Keith Ellefson for bringing Vallo’s poem to my attention.

Next week, I had planned to explore Vallo’s crew, “Frigham Young,” and tell you why they are important to my dad’s WWII history. But I have some new information about the search for relatives of Jack Coleman Cook to share. I’ll return to the “Frigham Young” crew the next week following the update to the Jack Coleman Cook story.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

Advertisements

Not the Lead Banana

In all of my previous articles describing the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision in which my dad was involved, I stated that the Brodie crew was aboard Lazy Daisy and the Buslee crew was aboard Lead Banana. I have recently learned that the ship 43-37822, which my dad and the Buslee crew manned that day, was not, in fact, named Lead Banana.

Lead Banana was the nickname for 42-37822, not 43-37822. The name was incorrectly assigned in the 384th Bomb Group’s database of WWII aircraft, but has now been corrected. The error was discovered through Marc Poole’s research and confirmed by a poem that Keith Ellefson ran across last month. The aircraft is also misidentified in Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log, which can be found here. On page 545, the Fortlog entry reads:

43-37822 Del Cheyenne 25/5/44; Kearney 8/6/44; Grenier 28/6/44; Ass 544BS/384BG [SU-N] Grafton Underwood 29/6/44; MIA Magdeburg 28/9/44 w/John Buslee, Dave Albrecht, Bill Henson, Bob Stearns, Len Bryant, Seb Peluso, George McMann, Gerald Anderson (8KIA); George Farrar (POW); flak, cr Ingersleben, Ger; MACR 9753. LEAD BANANA.

Early in my research of my dad’s WWII service, when I initially learned that my dad was aboard ship 43-37822 on September 28, 1944 in the mid-air collision, I was stunned. In all the stories that my dad told me about the war, the only B-17 he ever mentioned by name was Tremblin’ Gremlin. I had always assumed that was the ship he was aboard on September 28.

But the fact that my dad never did mention the name Lead Banana does help me believe that 43-37822 was not named. If it had been so named, Dad probably would have used that name when he told his story of the mid-air collision. And Wallace Storey did not use the name Lead Banana when he wrote about that day either. He did use the name Lazy Daisy for the Brodie crew’s ship, but he referred to my dad’s ship by number, not by name.

Both 42-37822 and 43-37822 were B-17G models. And both were fortresses of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th. My father flew missions on both ships, one on 42-37822 (the real Lead Banana) and three on 43-37822.

B-17G 42-37822 The Lead Banana

Marc Poole is the fellow who originally started the 384th Bomb Group’s website. Fred Preller is now the webmaster of the site and there are a group of volunteers and researchers that help maintain it. Though Marc is still active in the research of the 384th Bomb Group, he is primarily an artist, college art instructor, and family man. Not surprisingly, Marc is an amazing aviation artist who has a keen eye for aircraft detail.

As a result of Marc’s research, we now know that the above photo, which is part of the Quentin Bland collection in the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery, had been misidentified as 43-37822. Marc provided this information about 43-37822:

Aircraft 43-37822 was a Block 70 Boeing-built B-17G with a Natural Metal Finish, and not painted. Boeing quit painting their B-17’s after Block 30. This photo is of an early G model, and a very well-worn one at that.

Marc checked the listing for 42-37822, a Block 15 Douglas built ship, and there is a photo posted of that ship in flight, with nose art very similar to this close-up photo. Someone may have mistaken 42-37822 for 43-37822. Marc added:

I have yet to see a listing in any references for 42-37822 as Lead Banana, but I think that this is most likely the correct ship. There is a large gap of time in the listing for the ship in Osborne’s FortLog…no info between October 43 and its assignment to the 384th in May 44…odd. In comparing pics of Lead Banana currently posted for 43-37822, and one posted of 42-37822, I think it is the same earlier ship. Note the similarity of the black scoreboard under the Co-Pilot window and along the nose, and the same banana shape in the same spot, (but a different shade). Not 100%, but certainly plausible.

The Fortlog entry for 42-37822 is

42-37822 Del Long Beach 9/9/43; Gr Island 17/10/43; ass 544BS/384BG [SU-C] Grafton Underwood 12/5/44; on landing w/Ray Cook the undercarriage collapsed at RAF Ringway, UK (now Manchester Aprt) 16/3/45. Sal AFSC 19/3/45.

The only photo I can find for 43-37822 is the one below which was the High Group Lead on the August 1, 1944 Mission #169. Gerald Sammons commanded and accompanied pilot William Combs, radio operator Emil Morlan, top turret gunner Forest Bemis, bombardier Donald Ward, ball turret gunner Boyce Ragsdale, navigator Kenneth Lord, waist gunner James Fisher, and tail gunner/observer Lloyd LaChine.

B-17G 43-37822 Unnamed

The photo is from the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery, courtesy of Cynthia Smith, via Keith Ellefson. It has the natural metal finish, is not painted, and shows no evidence of any banana nose art.

But the final piece of evidence that has put the misidentification of 43-37822 as Lead Banana to rest for me was some new information that Keith Ellefson shared with me just recently. Keith ran across a poem called The Lead Banana: A B-17 Flying Fortress in the August 1989 384th Bomb Group, Inc.’s newsletter.

Next week I will share the poem and tell you about it’s author, a radio operator of the group. The following week I’ll share the poet’s connection with some of the airmen my dad served with at Grafton Underwood in the late summer and early fall of 1944 and how mysterious old photos can have amazing significance more than seventy years after they were taken.

And one more thing since we’re on the subject of misidentified B-17’s. The ship that Dad talked about in every war story he told me, Tremblin’ Gremlin? He only flew one mission on that one, his very first. The exact name of 42-37982 is in question if you take a look at the nose art. I have never seen the name written as anything other than with the spelling Tremblin’ with the apostrophe at the end. But the nose art was painted with the spelling Trembling.

B-17G 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin

Sorry, but I can’t have all my illusions about my dad’s planes’ names blown away at once. The guy who painted that nose art obviously made a mistake. She’ll always be the Tremblin’ Gremlin to me.

Continued next week…

…and then I’ll continue the story of Jack Coleman Cook and Edward Field in a few weeks after a little more research.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

September 28, 1944 – Survivors

In the mid-air collision on September 28, 1944 between Lazy Daisy and Lead Banana, four of the eighteen men aboard the two forts survived.  From the Lead Banana, the waist/flexible gunner, George Edwin Farrar, was the sole survivor.  From the Lazy Daisy, the three survivors were the navigator, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., the tail gunner, Wilfred Frank Miller, and the waist/flexible gunner, Harry Allen Liniger.  All four were saved because they were either thrown from the aircraft or were able to exit on their own and then parachute safely to the ground.  What would happen to them next, in the hands of the Germans?

George Edwin Farrar was seriously injured.  In a letter to the VA dated October 20, 1982 he wrote:

I was unable to walk and carried to a house, where I spent several days before being transferred to Frankfort, Germany for interrogation and medical treatment.  I was later transferred by train and was allowed to sleep in the bottom bunk of the guard’s quarters on the Prisoner of War train.  After reaching Stalag Luft IV, I was placed in the hospital there where I could not walk for a total of two months or the latter part of November 1944.  At that time, I was transferred to a regular barracks in the prison camp and I could only walk by shuffling my feet as I could not lift either leg to walk.

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr. wrote in a questionnaire that is attached to MACR9366:

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller.

The following evening would have been the evening of September 29, 1944, the day after the mid-air collision.  I am assuming that Hawkins, Liniger, and Miller had all been captured by this time.  This meeting between Hawkins and his surviving crewmates must have been before transfer to the interrogation center.  They would not have been able to talk to each other at the interrogation center where they would have been placed in solitary confinement.  Hawkins did not comment on the physical condition of himself, Liniger, or Miller.

The interrogation facility near Frankfort was known by the POWs as Dulag Luft.  It was located in Oberursel about eight miles from Frankfurt-am-Main.  Most captured allied airmen were first sent there to be interrogated before being assigned to a permanent prison camp.

After leaving the Dulug Luft interrogation center, the enlisted men, Farrar, Liniger, and Miller were moved to Stalag Luft IV.  Their Prisoner of War records all show Stalag Luft 4 Gross-Tychow (formerly Heydekrug) Pomerania, Prussia (moved to Wobbelin Bei Ludwigslust) (To Usedom Bei Savenmunde) 54-16.

Hawkins, an officer, was sent to Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (Serves Stalag 9-C) Obermassfeld Thuringia, Germany 50-10, according to National Archives Prisoner of War records.

Questions…

  • Were either Liniger or Miller injured in the collision?
  • Were Liniger and Miller placed in the same barracks in Stalag Luft IV?  Did they ever see each other again?
  • Farrar spent time in the hospital area of the prison camp, but after being moved to a regular barracks, did he ever meet Liniger or Miller?
  • Was Hawkins seriously injured in the collision?  His records show he was sent to a hospital at Stalag 9C.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944

The diagram shows the combat position of each Buslee crewmember on Mission 201 on September 28, 1944.  Only one crewmember manned both waist gunner positions on this mission.  If they were all still in position after coming off the target at Magdeburg, the diagram shows where each man would have been at the time of the mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy.

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)

The only survivor of the mid-air collision this day with the Lazy Daisy was the waist gunner, George Edwin Farrar.

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club site.

© 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

Buslee Crew on September 28, 1944 – 384th BG Mission 201

Buslee Crew on 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, named “The Lead Banana.”

The primary target was the Steelworks Industry in Magdeburg, Germany.

Coming off the target, aircraft 42-31222, “Lazy Daisy,” collided with “The Lead Banana.”

Lead Banana 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

Buslee, Albrecht, Peluso, Bryant, and Farrar were the only original Buslee crew members on the aircraft.

William Alvin Henson II replaced Chester Rybarczyk three times on the Buslee crew.  It was Rybarczyk’s lucky day to be flying with the William J. Blankenmeyer crew on aircraft 42-39888, “Hotnuts” on this mission.  Comments were entered on the “Hotnuts” Sortie Report that the ship “Left formation after target for unknown reasons, but returned to base.”  Rybarczyk did witness the crash, as he stated in a letter to Farrar’s mother dated October 13, 1944.  The “unknown reason” was most likely a search for parachutes and survivors after the collision.

Original Bombardier Marvin B. Fryden was killed on the crew’s second mission on August 5, 1944.  James B. Davis replaced Fryden on the Buslee crew, but for the second time, Robert Sumner Stearns replaced Davis on this mission.  Davis flew as Bombardier on the Raymond J. Gabel crew on aircraft 43-38062, “Pleasure Bent.”

Original Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Clarence B. Seeley was wounded on the August 5, 1944 mission, and did not fly again until October 2, 1944.  Lenard Leroy Bryant, an original member of the Buslee crew, moved to the Engineer/Top Turret Gunner position from his original waist gunner position.

Original Ball Turret Gunner Erwin V. Foster’s last flight with the Buslee crew was on September 9, 1944.  Foster did not fly again until September 30, 1944.  George Francis McMann served with the Buslee crew as Ball Turret Gunner on the September 28 flight, his one and only flight with this crew.

Source:  Sortie Reports for Lead Banana, Hotnuts, and Pleasure Bent.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013