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Frigham Young

A few weeks ago, in an article about the B-17 Lead Banana, I published a poem about that Flying Fortress by Lawrence Vallo, radio operator of the Paul Norton crew of the 384th Bomb Group. Vallo was a Native American airman and you can read much more about him in that previous post. I immediately recognized the Vallo name when I read the poem and that got me to thinking about some Norton crew photos I had in my collection.

There is a connection between the Paul Norton crew and the John Buslee crew of which my dad, George Edwin Farrar, was the waist gunner. The Buslee crew arrived at their air base in Grafton Underwood, England about seven weeks after the Norton crew. They were both part of the 544th Bomb Squadron and therefore lived in the same area of the airbase.

Map of Grafton Underwood airbase

Note the circled 544th SQDN in the bottom right corner of the map of the Grafton Underwood airbase. I speculate that the enlisted men of the Buslee crew may have even shared living quarters with the enlisted men of the Norton crew. Among my dad’s photos from Grafton Underwood are several of the enlisted men of the Norton crew, which I share below with further descriptions. I believe all of these casual photos may have been taken in the same time period as this one of my dad and some of his Buslee enlisted crewmates.

Buslee crewmates left to right: George Edwin Farrar (waist gunner), Lenard Leroy Bryant (top turret gunner), Erwin V. Foster (ball turret gunner), and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso (radio operator). In the background (left) are tents, and (right) a latrine.

The Buslee crew’s first mission with the 384th Bomb Group was on August 4, 1944. It was a training mission for crew pilot John Buslee. With Buslee in the co-pilot seat and Arthur Shwery showing him the ropes, that didn’t leave a spot in the cockpit for Buslee’s co-pilot David Albrecht. So Albrecht got in some training himself flying as co-pilot with the Paul Norton crew.

 

L to R: (I believe) David Albrecht and Carl Guinn
Courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s WWII photo collection

I think the photo (above) is of the Buslee crew’s David Albrecht on the left and the Norton crew’s Carl Guinn on the right. Carl was the Norton crew’s engineer/top turret gunner and his position in the aircraft was directly behind the pilot’s compartment. The engineer interacted with and assisted the pilot and co-pilot and was in charge of interpreting the instrument readings during flight. A good engineer knew what the combination of instrument readings meant as far as condition of the engines, etc.

I believe the photo, and most of the others included here, were taken after the completion of the August 4, 1944 mission. The next photo will explain why.

Standing, L to R: (I believe) John Bregant, Carl Guinn, and Lester Noble
Kneeling with jacket: Clarence Bigley
Courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s WWII photo collection

Notice the flight jacket in the above photo. The man holding it was Norton crew waist gunner turned togglier Clarence Bigley. Bigley decorated the back of his jacket with the crew’s nickname Frigham Young and twenty bombs. I don’t believe it was coincidence that the August 4, 1944 mission was Bigley’s twentieth. As for the name Frigham Young, it was a play on words on the name of Mormon leader Brigham Young as the crew’s commander, pilot Paul Norton, was reportedly a Mormon.

Also appearing in the above photo are Norton crew tail gunner John Bregant, engineer/top turret gunner Carl Guinn, and ball turret gunner Lester Noble. In the crew photo of the entire Norton crew, I cannot identify Bregant. However, I have managed to find a few school yearbook photos of him, and his thick mass of hair gives him away. I am quite certain that it is Bregant in the above photo.

Paul E. Norton crew
Co-pilot Robert C. Barnes standing on left, Togglier Clarence Bigley kneeling 2nd from left, Engineer Carl Guinn kneeling 3rd from left, Ball turret gunner Lester Noble kneeling 2nd from right, Radio operator Lawrence Vallo kneeling far right
Photo courtesy of Tracie Guinn Coons, Carl Guinn’s daughter

The man standing on the right in the above flight jacket photo has Les painted on the front of his flight jacket. He must be Norton crew ball turret gunner Lester Noble.

It took me years to identify Carl Guinn in the photo, but with the help of his relatives on Facebook, we made a positive ID about a year ago. I could never make out the name on the front of his flight jacket, but Carl’s daughter Tracie was able to clear up that mystery. The name painted on the front of her dad’s flight jacket is Jelly. Carl was a southern boy, born in Mississippi and was living in Louisiana when he enlisted in June of 1942. At the Grafton Underwood enlisted mess breakfasts, the other men would tease Carl about his southern accent when he asked “would y’all pass the jelly.”

All four of these men of the Paul Norton crew were on the August 4, 1944 initiation flight of Buslee co-pilot David Albrecht aboard the B-17 Little Kenny. The poet of the crew, Lawrence Vallo, was aboard, too, and so was Thomas Everitt, the Norton crew’s waist gunner.

Thomas Everitt and Carl Guinn…

L to R: Thomas B. Everitt and Carl Guinn
From a lead crew photo courtesy of Mark Léautaud of The Netherlands

and Native American airman Lawrence Vallo…

Lawrence Jonathan Vallo

who later wrote a book, Tales of a Pueblo Boy, about his life growing up in an Indian Pueblo, which can still be found on used book sites and Amazon.com.

Remember the tents in the background of the photo of my dad and three of his crewmates at the beginning of this article? The tents in that photo look to be the same tents that Carl Guinn and John Bregant are standing in front of in this photo.

L to R: Carl Guinn and (I believe) John Bregant
Courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s WWII photo collection

Also, in both photos, Carl Guinn and Lenard Bryant are both wearing the same type of coveralls. Carl was the top turret gunner for the Norton crew, and after the Buslee crew’s top turret gunner, Clarence Seeley, was injured on the August 5, 1944 mission, Lenard, previously trained as a waist gunner, took over that position. I believe it was Carl who gave Lenard some pointers as to what tasks a B-17 engineer/top turret gunner performed.

Lenard attended radio school for a while during his training in the states, and was familiar with reading switches and settings, so probably was a quick study for the requirements of adapting to the position of engineer/top turret gunner for the Buslee crew. From his first mission on August 4 as a waist gunner, Lenard had only five days to figure out his new job as top turret gunner on the August 9 mission, not much time for any kind of formal training.

L to R: Lenard Bryant and Carl Guinn
Courtesy of George Edwin Farrar’s WWII photo collection

All members of the Frigham Young crew, including pilot Paul Norton, navigator John Lezenby, and original bombardier Hugh Green completed their tours with the 384th Bomb Group with the exception of one. Co-pilot Robert C. Barnes was killed while flying with a different crew on November 16, 1944.

Paul Norton crew co-pilot Robert C. Barnes

I must conclude, considering that my dad had these photos of the enlisted men of the Norton crew in his collection, that though most men didn’t make a lot of friends outside of their own crew, the enlisted men of the Buslee crew and Norton crew must have been friends and may have even shared living quarters in the 544th Bomb Squadron enlisted housing.

I’d even like to go a bit further in thinking that my dad, from Georgia, and Lenard, from Texas, took a liking to Carl because he was a fellow Southerner. Living so far from their families in America, hearing “y’all” from a fellow airman in England probably helped them feel at home.

Wouldn’t our dads be amazed to know that their children had “met” through a Facebook group because of some long-forgotten photos saved from their time in WWII? Long after my dad, George Edwin Farrar, and Tracie and Debbie’s dad, Carl Guinn, served in that great war, we were able to find each other and make a new connection in the 384th Bomb Group NexGen family.

I have made many such connections over the years of researching my dad’s time in the war and I know I will make many more as my journey to learn more about the 384th Bomb Group and Grafton Underwood continues…

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018

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The Boys, Part II

Today’s post is a continuation of last week’s post, “The Boys.” Last week, I took a look at the Buslee and Brodie crews as they were composed on the September 28, 1944 mission to Magdeburg. This week, I want to look at the two crews as they were originally formed, with one exception. I am including two bombardiers for the Buslee crew. The original bombardier was killed on the crew’s second mission, so I am also including the crew’s replacement bombardier.

Both crews were originally made up of ten members. The crews each trained with two flexible, or waist, gunners. At their base at Grafton Underwood, England, by the Fall of 1944, a B-17 crew flew missions with only one flexible/waist gunner, meaning only nine members of the crew flew at one time. I imagine that this was one of the first stressful situations faced by the crews, knowing that the close connection the ten had made with each other in training was jeopardized. One man, one waist gunner, was going to have to fly with a different crew. I’ll look into how that played out for the Buslee and Brodie crews.

These are the two crews as they were originally assigned to the 384th Bomb Group:

The Buslee Crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron

PILOT John Oliver Buslee, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

John Oliver Buslee

CO-PILOT David Franklin Albrecht, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

David Franklin Albrecht

NAVIGATOR Chester Anthony Rybarczyk, original Buslee crew member, completed tour

BOMBARDIER Marvin Fryden, original Buslee crew member, KIA 8/5/1944 on the crew’s second mission

Possibly Marvin Fryden (if not, James Davis)

BOMBARDIER James Buford Davis, replacement for Marvin Fryden, completed tour

James Buford Davis

RADIO OPERATOR Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Clarence Benjamin “Ben” Seeley, original Buslee crew member, completed tour

Clarence Benjamin “Ben” Seeley

BALL TURRET GUNNER Erwin Vernon Foster, original Buslee crew member, completed tour

Erwin Vernon Foster

TAIL GUNNER Eugene Daniel Lucynski, original Buslee crew member, WIA (wounded in action) 9/19/1944

Eugene Daniel Lucynski

FLEXIBLE/WAIST GUNNER Lenard Leroy Bryant, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Bryant was originally assigned as a flexible/waist gunner with the Buslee crew and flew on the crew’s first mission. He alternated with the crew’s other waist gunner, George Edwin Farrar, who flew the crew’s second mission. When Clarence “Ben” Seeley was seriously wounded on the crew’s second mission, Bryant took his place in the top turret for the remainder of the Buslee crew’s missions.

Lenard Leroy Bryant

FLEXIBLE GUNNER George Edwin Farrar, original Buslee crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV 9/28/1944

George Edwin Farrar

The Brodie Crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron

PILOT James Joseph Brodie, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

James Joseph Brodie

CO-PILOT Lloyd Oliver Vevle, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Lloyd Oliver Vevlve

NAVIGATOR George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., original Brodie crew member, POW Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (served Stalag 9-C)

No photo available

BOMBARDIER William Douglas Barnes, Jr., original Brodie crew member, completed tour

William Douglas Barnes, Jr.

RADIO OPERATOR William Edson Taylor, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV 10/5/1944

No photo available

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Robert Doyle Crumpton, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Robert Doyle Crumpton

BALL TURRET GUNNER Gordon Eugene Hetu, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

TAIL GUNNER Wilfred Frank Miller, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

No photo available

FLEXIBLE/WAIST GUNNER Leonard Wood Opie, original Brodie crew member, TBD (to be determined)

Opie and the other Brodie crew waist gunner, Harry Liniger, alternated flying waist with the Brodie crew in the month of August 1944. Opie flew only three missions with the crew and his record with the 384th ends there. The remainder of his WWII service remains unknown.

No photo available

FLEXIBLE/WAIST GUNNER Harry Allen Liniger, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

Harry Allen Liniger

Five of the enlisted men of the Brodie crew

Far left: Harry Allen Liniger, Waist/Flexible Gunner on the James J. Brodie Crew

I have connected with many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews of these boys. If I have not connected with you yet, and you are related to any of them, please comment or e-mail me. If anyone can provide pictures of those I don’t have yet, that would be greatly appreciated. They all deserve to be honored for their service and their fight for our freedom.

Original crew lists provided by the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

The Boys

On September 28, 1944, the Lead Banana, manned by the Buslee crew, and the Lazy Daisy, manned by the Brodie crew collided after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Neither crew of the 384th Bomb Group was the original crew as assigned.

That day, the Buslee crew was made up of five original crew members and four fill-ins. The Brodie crew was made up of seven original members and two fill-ins.

These are the two crews as they were that day:

The Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana, 544th Bomb Squad

PILOT John Oliver Buslee, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

John Oliver Buslee

CO-PILOT David Franklin Albrecht, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

David Franklin Albrecht

NAVIGATOR William Alvin Henson II, Gerald Sammons crew, KIA 9/28/1944

William Alvin Henson II

BOMBARDIER Robert Sumner Stearns, Larkin Durden crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

RADIO OPERATOR Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Lenard Leroy Bryant, original Buslee crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Lenard Leroy Bryant

BALL TURRET GUNNER George Francis McMann, Jr., Stanley Gilbert crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

TAIL GUNNER Gerald Lee Andersen, Joe Ross Carnes crew, KIA 9/28/1944

Gerald Lee Andersen

FLEXIBLE GUNNER George Edwin Farrar, original Buslee crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

George Edwin Farrar

 

The Brodie crew aboard Lazy Daisy, 545th Bomb Squad

PILOT James Joseph Brodie, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

James Joseph Brodie

CO-PILOT Lloyd Oliver Vevle, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Lloyd Oliver Vevlve

NAVIGATOR George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., original Brodie crew member, POW Obermassfeld Hospital #1249 (served Stalag 9-C)

No photo available

TOGGLIER Byron Leverne Atkins, James Chadwick crew, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

RADIO OPERATOR Donald William Dooley, from Group Headquarters, KIA 9/28/1944

Donald William Dooley

ENGINEER/TOP TURRET GUNNER Robert Doyle Crumpton, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

Robert Doyle Crumpton

BALL TURRET GUNNER Gordon Eugene Hetu, original Brodie crew member, KIA 9/28/1944

No photo available

TAIL GUNNER Wilfred Frank Miller, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

No photo available

FLEXIBLE GUNNER Harry Allen Liniger, original Brodie crew member, POW Stalag Luft IV

Harry Allen Liniger

Fourteen out of the eighteen boys aboard the two B-17’s were lost that day. Not only did they leave behind grieving parents and siblings, but they also left behind at least five wives and three children.

I have connected with many children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews, great-nieces, and great-nephews of these boys. If I have not connected with you yet, and you are related to any of them, please comment or e-mail me. If anyone can provide pictures of those I don’t have yet, that would be greatly appreciated. They all deserve to be honored for their service and their fight for our freedom.

Sortie reports provided by the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017

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

I’m Not All Here

Lenard Leroy Bryant’s wife, Maudene, wrote to Mrs. Farrar a couple weeks later.  It was hard to keep things straight in her mind when her mind was so filled with thoughts of her husband.  Lenard had been the top turret gunner on Lead Banana on September 28, 1944.  Maudene had received news that Lenard had been killed that day, and if she were to believe the news, had to plan for a life without him.

June 25, 1945
Lubbock, Texas

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

Just a note to let you know I am so glad George has been liberated & will be so glad when he gets home. Sometimes I think I’m not all here. I can’t remember if I answered your last letter or not. Ha.

I don’t know what folks will do here. We haven’t had a rain this year.

Three more months I will be out of school then I will have a good job.

I wish it were possible for George to make a trip out here.

I am sending a picture of Lenard.

Write soon.

As Ever,
Maudene Bryant

Lenard Leroy Bryant

Lenard Leroy Bryant

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

 

Life Goes On

Lenard Leroy Bryant’s wife, Ruby Maudene, may not have completely given up hope of her husband returning from war, but she decided that it was time to move forward in life again.  She explained her plans in a letter to my grandmother very near the end of the war in Europe.

April 29, 1945
Lubbock, Texas

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

May I once again write you a few lines, I didn’t intend to let so much time past but it has.

I do so hope you are still hearing from George and maybe he has been freed by now. The news sounds good now doesn’t it?

I am now going to a cosmetology school so have been busy – at least it has kept my mind busy & that’s what I need. I still can’t believe all the boys are gone. I’ll be so glad when it’s over so all the boys can come home & we all know the truth.

Mrs. Farrar, let me hear from you often & please don’t wait on me – I so slow at writing.

As Ever,
Maudene Bryant

P.S. I am going to school in Lubbock.

Ruby Maudene Bryant wrote the letter on a Sunday – April 29, 1945.  She probably mailed it on Monday, April 30.  Two days later – Wednesday, May 2, 1945 – George Edwin Farrar and the other P.O.W.s he was marching with were liberated.  Since being forced to march out of Stalag Luft IV on February 6, they had been marching for eighty-six days.  I don’t know what day my grandmother received Mrs. Bryant’s letter, but by the time she received it Maudene’s wish for him to be freed had come true.

Lenard Leroy Bryant was the top turret gunner for the Buslee crew aboard Lead Banana on September 28, 1944 when Lazy Daisy collided with it coming off the target at Magdeburg.  Bryant had been reported killed in action in the collision.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Sad News for Mrs. Bryant

Four of the John Buslee Crew, left to right, George Edwin Farrar (waist gunner), Lenard Leroy Bryant (engineer/top turret gunner), Erwin V. Foster (ball turret gunner), and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso (radio operator/gunner)

Four of the John Buslee Crew, left to right, George Edwin Farrar (waist gunner), Lenard Leroy Bryant (engineer/top turret gunner), Erwin V. Foster (ball turret gunner), and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso (radio operator/gunner)

Lenard Bryant’s wife, Maudene, probably received the sad news about the same time as the Buslees.  She wrote to Raleigh Mae Farrar on February 2, 1945 to share the news.

February 2, 1945
Littlefield, Texas

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

I have at last heard from the War Department.

Thru the Inter. Red Cross my husband has been reported killed in action on the 28th of Sept.

I just can’t believe it and won’t until the last minute. I am so glad you have heard from George and if he ever gets back I hope he can tell what did happen.

But I can’t feel that my husband is gone.

I hope and pray that the others will hear as you did.

I hope to hear from you soon.

As Ever,
Mrs. Ruby M. Bryant

Like the others receiving the news that their loved ones were killed in the mid-air collision between the Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944, Maudene Bryant could not believe that it was true.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Letter from Mrs. Bryant

Maudene and Lenard Bryant, March 1944

Maudene and Lenard Bryant, March 1944

On January 5, 1945, Lenard Leroy Bryant’s wife, Maudene, wrote to George Edwin Farrar’s mother, Raleigh Mae.  Maudene was writing in response to a letter she had just received from Mrs. Farrar.  Lenard and George (Ed) had both been on Lead Banana on September 28, 1944 when it collided with Lazy Daisy over Magdeburg, Germany.  Raleigh Mae Farrar had received news just six days earlier that her son was a prisoner of war.  Maudene Bryant had still not heard any news about her husband except that he was missing in action.

WWII-001

Photo:  Lenard Bryant on the left, location may be Grafton Underwood

January 5, 1945
Littlefield, Texas

Dear Mrs. Farrar,

Received your letter this noon.  Am so glad for you that George is a prisoner.

I had the pleasure of meeting your son in Ardmore, Okla. and it seems as tho they were all brothers, the boys were so close to one another.

Only five of our old crew went down, the others are in England.

I haven’t as yet heard from the War Dept. – but when I do I pray for the best – and I for one hold out for the best.  I think I would have known if Lenard (my husband) was dead.

I just wonder now how close to Magdeburg the boys will be kept.  Mrs. Henson has my deepest sympathy.

I am in hopes of hearing from you again.

As Ever
Maudene Bryant
Littlefield, Texas
Rt. 2

Maudene had apparently heard that William Alvin Henson II, the crew’s navigator, had been declared killed in action.  Not hearing anything about her husband, Lenard, gave her hope that he was still alive.  She must have known the names of all of the boys on the original Buslee crew and realized, after reviewing the next-of-kin list, that only five of them were on the Lead Banana when it went down.

The five original members were:

  • John Oliver Buslee, pilot
  • David Franklin Albrecht, co-pilot
  • Sebastian Joseph Peluso, radio operator/gunner
  • Lenard Leroy Bryant, engineer/top turret gunner (Maudene’s husband)
  • George Edwin Farrar, waist/flexible gunner (my dad)

As she states that the other members of the crew were in England, Maudene may not have been aware that original bombardier, Marvin B. Fryden, had lost his life on August 5, 1944 on the Buslee crew’s second mission.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Next of Kin List Released

The day after Christmas 1944, at ninety days missing in action, the US Army Air Forces wrote to the Buslee crew’s next of kin and enclosed a list of the names of the crew members on the Lead Banana on September 28 and also included the names and addresses of next of kin in case the families wanted to communicate with each other.

December 26, 1944
Headquarters, Army Air Forces
Washington

Attention:  AFPPA-8
(9753) Farrar, George E.
14119873

Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar,
79 EastLake Terrace Northeast,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Dear Mrs. Farrar:

For reasons of military security it has been necessary to withhold the names of the air crew members who were serving with your son at the time he was reported missing.

Since it is now permissible to release this information, we are inclosing a complete list of names of the crew members.

The names and addresses of the next of kin of the men are also given in the belief that you may desire to correspond with them.

Sincerely,

Clyde V. Finter
Colonel, Air Corps
Chief, Personal Affairs Division
Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Personnel

1 Incl
List of crew members & names
& addresses of next of kin
5-2032, AF

1st. Lt. John O. Buslee
Mr. John Buslee, (Father)
411 North Wisner Avenue,
Park Ridge, Illinois.

1st. Lt. William A. Henson, II
Mrs. Harriet W. Henson, (Wife)
Summerville, Georgia.

1st. Lt. Robert S. Stearns
Mr. Carey S. Stearns, (Father)
Post Office Box 113,
Lapine, Oregon.

2nd. Lt. David F. Albrecht
Reverand Louis M. Albrecht, (Father)
Scribner, Nebraska.

S/Sgt. Sebastiano J. Peluso
Mrs. Antonetta Peluso, (Mother)
2963 West 24th Street,
Brooklyn, New York.

S/Sgt. Lenard L. Bryant
Mrs. Ruby M. Bryant, (Wife)
Route Number Two,
Littlefield, Texas.

S/Sgt. Gerald L. Andersen
Mrs. Esther E. Coolen Andersen, (Wife)
Box Number 282,
Stromburg, Nebraska.

S/Sgt. George E. Farrar
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar, (Mother)
79 East Lake Terrace Northeast,
Atlanta, Georgia.

Sgt. George F. McMann
Mr. George F. McMann, (Father)
354 West Avenue,
Bridgeport, Connecticut.

The above list is also a part of MACR (Missing Air Crew Report) 9753.  For a diagram and list of each man’s position on the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944, click here.

The Brodie crew’s next of kin must have gotten the same letter and a list of those on the Lazy Daisy.  The following list is attached to MACR9366.  For a diagram and list of each man’s position on the Lazy Daisy on September 28, 1944, click here.

1st Lt. James J. Brodie
Mrs. Mary E. Brodie, (Wife)
4436 North Kostner Avenue
Chicago, Illinois.

2nd Lt. Lloyd O. Vevle
Mr. Oliver E. Vevle, (Father)
240 Sixth Avenue, North
Fort Dodge, Iowa.

2nd Lt. George M. Hawkins, Jr.
Mr. George M. Hawkins, Sr., (Father)
52 Marchard Street
Fords, New Jersey

T/Sgt. Donald W. Dooley
Mr. Guy T. Dooley, (Father)
711 South Rogers Street
Bloomington, Indiana.

S/Sgt. Byron L. Atkins
Mr. Verne Atkins, (Father)
Route Number Two
Lebanon, Indiana.

Sgt. Robert D. Crumpton
Mrs. Stella M. Parks, (Mother)
Route Number One
Ennis, Texas

Sgt. Gordon E. Hetu
Mr. Raymond J. Hetu, (Father)
3821 Webb Street
Detroit, Michigan.

S/Sgt. Wilfred F. Miller
Mrs. Mary Miller, (Mother)
Rural Free Delivery Number One
Newton, Wisconsin.

S/Sgt. Harry A. Liniger
Mrs. Estelle P. Liniger, (Mother)
Box Number 251
Gatesville, North Carolina

If the US Army Air Forces had told the families of the two crews what actually happened to their sons’ aircraft and provided the lists of both crews to the families, the families of the two pilots, Buslee and Brodie, would have discovered that they lived only seven and a half miles apart in Chicago, Illinois.  These families would most likely have been very interested in communicating if they had been made aware of each other.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014

Lenard Leroy Bryant, Top Turret Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Lenard Leroy Bryant

Lenard Leroy Bryant

Lenard Leroy Bryant, the top turret gunner on the Buslee crew, was born March 17, 1919 in Alex, Oklahoma.  Lenard was the youngest of the ten children of Fannie and John Gilbert Bryant.  Lenard’s family moved to a farm in Whitharral, Texas when he was only five.

John and Fannie Bryant, 1927

John and Fannie Bryant, 1927

Lenard’s father died on January 7, 1938, only one day after contracting influenza, and two months before Lenard’s 19th birthday.  The Bryant family on January 8, 1938, the day of John Gilbert Bryant’s funeral:

Lenard Bryant's family after Lenard's father's funeral on January 13, 1938 Back row, left to right: Lenard, Chief, Booster, Coot, Dick, Red, Jack & Buck Front row, left to right: Lettie, Fannie (Lenard's Mother) & Letha

Lenard Bryant’s family after Lenard’s father’s funeral on January 8, 1938
Back row, left to right: Lenard, Chief, Booster, Coot, Dick, Red, Jack & Buck
Front row, left to right: Lettie, Fannie (Lenard’s Mother) & Letha

Most of the boys in the Bryant family went by nicknames.  Lenard Bryant and his brothers and brothers-in-law…

Lenard Bryant's brothers, left to right: Lenard, Booster, Coot, Chief, Red, Dick, Monroe (Letha's husband), Buck, Jack, Raymond (Lettie's husband) Taken after Lenard's father's funeral January 13, 1938

Lenard Bryant’s brothers and brothers-in-law, left to right: Lenard, Booster, Coot, Chief, Red, Dick, Buck, Jack, Monroe Whittington (Letha’s husband), and Raymond Burch (Lettie’s husband)

The next year, Lenard married Maudene on October 21, 1939.  They lived in Littlefield, Texas after their marriage, perhaps on Maudene’s parents’ farm.

Lenard and Maudene Bryant 1939

Lenard and Maudene Bryant 1939

A little over two years later, on February 28, 1942, Lenard enlisted in the Army Air Corps in Dallas, Texas.

In the letters that follow, Lenard wrote to his brother Buck and family, which included Buck’s wife Edith (the former Edith Orringderff), their son Ralph, Jr., and sons Calvin Louis (Stump) and Gilbert from Buck’s first marriage to Lula Strain.  Lula was five months pregnant at the time of her death in 1934.

On July 3, 1943, Lenard wrote home from Amarillo Air Field in Amarillo, Texas.  In WWII, Amarillo Air Field was a site for basic training, and training of air crew and ground mechanics to service the B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft.  Lenard was apparently laid up in the hospital, reason unknown, but later letters indicate he might have had an injury to his left leg or foot.

Hi Folks,

How is everything down there by now.  Is it as wet down there as it is up here.  It rained all night last night, but it is clear this morning.  I am feeling fine, would like to get up, but they won’t let me yet, although it won’t be long, I hope.  Sure wish I was down there now.  Maudene wrote and said the crops was looking good.

Tell Buck he ought to come up here and get sick.  The nurses sure take good care of you.  Ha.  I guess I will have to come home and have to make some money.  No, I have a good excuse, I am not supposed to do anything, Goody.

I can eat twice as much as Buck now.  I am about to starve to death.  Ha.  All I have got to do is lay here and think of something mean to do.  How is Mom.  Tell her to take care of herself.  Well dam this mess.  Anyhow, I write so answer soon.

As ever, Lenard

Lenard apparently had a good sense of humor as he included this drawing with his signature on the letter…

Lenards Devil Drawing

A week later, on July 10, 1943, Lenard, still in the hospital, wrote home again…

How is everything down there.  I got that $15.00.  Sure was proud of it, but you shouldn’t have sent it.  Maybe I can repay you someday though.

Well Buck they stopped my furlough so if you come to Amarillo after a load of oil stop by and get Maudene and come see me.  Wish you could make it some Sunday.  You could visit all day then.  Sure made me mad when they stopped furloughs but I guess I will get over it.

How is that “big Boy.”  Has he ever give you a whipping yet.  Ha.  They say I will have to spend my furlough and about a month more here at the hospital.  If I do I will go crazy.  Well better close and get this mailed so answer soon.

Lenard’s injury must have been pretty serious as he was still in the hospital four weeks later as he writes home again on August 5, 1943…

How is everybody down there.  I guess you think I died by not writing, but I haven’t wrote anybody in two weeks but Mom and Maudene’s folks.  I have got the blues again but have got 13 more days in the horse-pistol.  Haven’t had a letter in a week and half so thought I had better write one or two.  How is the watermelons down there sure would like to have one.  Well can’t think of anything to write so answer soon and tell ‘Stump’ hello.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, often used the same term, “horse-pistol” for “hospital.”  I supposed he might have picked up that particular terminology from his crewmate, Lenard Bryant.

By September 2, 1943, Lenard was finally out of the hospital but his military future was uncertain.  He wrote home…

…all I do is sit or run around.  I don’t know what they are going to do with me.  I was released the other day, I am a truck driver now, that is if I ever get out of here to go to school.

I am supposed to go before the medical board pretty soon, to either be discharged or get back in full duty, but I never will be able to take full duty.  I was down at the hospital the other day and the doc said they wouldn’t do anything to my foot here, but when I get back home I could have it done, but I don’t know when that will be.

On September 13, 1943, Lenard wrote that…

I am going to try to get a three day pass next week.  I think I can get it.  Some of the boys are getting theirs.  I would try this week but there is too many put in already.

Two days later, on September 15, 1943, Lenard wrote that he was unable to get his three-day pass because…

I am on shipping orders now.  I will ship out in a day or so, to where I don’t know.  Today is my day off but I can’t go to see Maudene because I am on shipping.  I was glad Mom didn’t come up here to catch the train because she might not of got one there is so many troop trains.  If I had got my weekend pass last night I was coming home anyway but I didn’t get nothing but a pass until 11:30 o’clock.  Had to tell a lie to get that.  I told them I had to get my laundry up at town.

One month later, on October 15, 1943, Lenard wrote home from Sioux Falls, South Dakota.  Sioux Falls was the site of a WWII Army Air Corps Radio and Communications School.  Apparently Lenard, a farm boy from Texas, and radio, didn’t get along too well.

How’s everything, is it cold there yet, it sure is here.  There was ice this morning and the frost was a half inch thick.  It’s sure hard on my bad leg.  I guess I’ve got rheumatic the way my joints ache in my left leg…

…Looks like I won’t get to see Maudene for a long time, sure wish she was here, or I was there.  Ha.  How is cotton pulling this year.  If I was there I bet I could beat Buck pulling bolls.  I don’t think me and radio is getting along too well together.  I wish they would stick a radio up their rear for a change…

…If it gets much colder here I guess I will just about freeze out.  Well I can’t think of any more to say, except I wish I was further south for the winter.  If you are ever in a mile of So. Dakota drop in to see me.  Ha.  Answer soon.

By December 2, Christmas was not too far away and Lenard was struggling with radio school in Sioux Falls.  It must have been a bad year for the flu, but Lenard was avoiding it.  He wrote home…

How’s everything, a lot of colds I suppose, just think yourselves lucky to be there instead of here.  This whole country is down with flu.  I’m afraid they will quarantine this camp in a few days it’s getting so bad.  The hosp. is full and are sending some to the town hospitals.  I almost had the flu but I took about a box of aspirins and half tube of “Ben Gay” balm and got over it.  The most of the boys don’t try to doctor themselves.  I wouldn’t trust these doctors here at all.  Well I’m going to town today for the first time in nine weeks.  I’m going to get Maudene a good wrist watch if I can find one.  It’s time for P.T.  I will finish this after I get back.

Here I am back from P.T.  Had to walk all the way around the post and it sure was cold too.  I sure wish I could be there Xmas but guess I can’t.  About this school here I don’t like it worth a dam.

And think I will wash out, maybe I will get sent somewhere so I can do some good.  This is just a boy scout outfit here.  If I do wash out I may get to come home for a few days.

I would like to get in a.m. if I can.  I would get to go back to Amarillo then.  The doctors, nurses and all here are falling out with colds and flu.  It’s getting pretty serious here, but I think I can dodge the flu, I hope.  Well I can’t think of any more to say, so answer soon.  I hope you all have a good Xmas, if I don’t hear from you before Xmas.

Lenard’s reference to “a.m.” probably stood for aircraft maintenance or aircraft mechanics school.

The day after Christmas, December 26, 1943, Lenard learned he had washed out of radio school.  He was homesick and wrote this letter home…

Well I’m out of school now.  I washed out today.  I will go to gunnery school when I ship out of here and I guess it will be at Yuma Arizona.

I just hope I get to come home before I start that school.  Did you all have a good Xmas dinner.  I sure did.  It was better than the one we had at Thanksgiving.  And all the boys that was lucky enough to have their wives here brought them out to the mess halls to have Xmas dinner with them.  It sure made me homesick too.  Maybe I will get to fly some at gunnery school.  I’ll be “Tail Gun Tommy.”  Ha.  …  I don’t know when I will ship.  I may be on K.P. here for a month.  Ha.  I will close.  Hoping you all had a good Xmas, and hope the next one will be different.

The last letter I have from Lenard Bryant is dated January 17, 1944.  He wasn’t sent to Yuma, Arizona as he had thought.  He wrote home from his new location in Las Vegas, Nevada.  He wrote…

…Thought I would write a line or two to let you know where I’m at.  I haven’t got too much time to write much.  I got here last Thurs. night the 13th but won’t get to start to school until next Monday a week from today.  This is a pretty place here and the weather is perfect, but I don’t like the idea of being a gunner, but there’s not much I have to say about.  I will get a fifteen day furlough when I finish this school, then it’s good-bye to the good old U.S.A. if I don’t get to go to another school.  They have a lot of B-17 here, that’s all they use, and I’m glad of that.  I’d rather go up in one of those than any other kind.

Lenard mentioned in his letter written the day after Christmas 1943 that he hoped the next Christmas would be different.  The next Christmas was different for the Bryant family.

Lenard had been sent to the air station at Grafton Underwood, England.  Here he was part of the Eighth Air Force, 384th bomb group, 544th bomber squadron, a gunner on the John Oliver Buslee crew.  He started out as a waist gunner.  My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was the other waist gunner on the ten-man crew.  By the time they got to England, the crews of ten, with two waist gunners – one for each waist window – had been downsized to nine, with only one waist gunner manning both waist windows, and now called a flexible gunner.  Lenard flew his first mission on August 4, 1944 as waist/flexible gunner, but on his second mission on August 9, and all his subsequent missions, he flew as the engineer/top turret gunner.

On his 16th mission on September 28, 1944, Lenard Leroy Bryant was on the Lead Banana and was involved in a mid-air collision with the Lazy Daisy coming off the target in Magdeburg, Germany.  Bryant was killed in the collision.  In mid-October, his family was notified that he was missing, but they spent Christmas not knowing if he was dead, or alive and a prisoner of war, as did all the other families of the boys on the two planes.

By February 1945, the Bryant family had learned the sad news that Lenard had died in the mid-air collision.  He was originally buried in the Ostingersleben Cemetery near the crash site.  Bryant was later interred in the Netherlands American Cemetery in the village of Margraten, where he remains today in Plot G, Row 7, Grave 22.

Heartbroken over the loss of her husband, Lenard’s wife, Maudene, never remarried.  She remained in Littlefield, Texas until she passed away at the age of 80 on February 16, 2004.

Thank you to Lenard Leroy Bryant’s great-nephew, Derral Bryant, for providing the photos, identifications, and other information in this post. Derral is the grandson of Lenard’s brother, Earl (Red) Bryant.  Derral obtained this material from Lenard’s brother, Ralph Hubert (Buck) Bryant’s widow, Edith.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014