The Arrowhead Club

Home » Posts tagged 'Lenard Leroy Bryant'

Tag Archives: Lenard Leroy Bryant

The B-17 Flexible (Waist) Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a flexible/waist gunner with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in World War II. On 28 September 1944, the Buslee crew and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the same group became forever connected when the B-17’s they were aboard on a combat mission over Germany suffered a mid-air collision.

I am currently updating the biographical information of the men of these two crews, and I thought it would be a good time to explain the duties involved in each position of the airmen aboard the aircraft, the B-17. I have recently updated the information of the four 384th Bomb Group Flexible (Waist) Gunners who flew with the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron.

Lenard Leroy Bryant, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner, reassigned to top turret gunner after 5 August 1944 mission

George Edwin Farrar, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner

Leonard Wood Opie, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

Harry Allen Liniger, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

For a list of all of the airmen of the Buslee and Brodie crews, see permanent page The Buslee and Brodie Crews, which is maintained with new information/posts.

Duties and Responsibilities of the B-17 Flexible (Waist) Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group and the B-17 Queen of the Sky websites,

Training in the various phases of the heavy bomber program is designed to fit each member of the crew for the handling of his jobs. The flexible/waist gunner:

  • Must have a fine sense of timing and be familiar with the rudiments of exterior ballistics.
  • Should be familiar with the coverage area of all gun positions, and be prepared to bring the proper gun to bear as the conditions may warrant.
  • Should be experts in aircraft identification.
  • Must be thoroughly familiar with the Browning aircraft machine gun. They should know how to maintain the guns, how to clear jams and stoppages, and how to harmonize the sights with the guns.
  • Should fire the guns at each station to familiarize himself with the other man’s position and to insure knowledge of operation in the event of an emergency.
  • Had the primary duty to look for and shoot down enemy fighters.
  • Would call out fighter positions (for the benefit of the other gunners and for the navigator to record in his log).
  • Would call out enemy aircraft he deemed to be damaged or destroyed (also for the benefit of  the navigator’s log record).
  • Would call out B-17’s that he saw go down and the number of chutes deployed (for the benefit of the navigator and radio operator so that they could report these losses at the debriefing).
  • Would report damage to the aircraft to the pilot.

The waist gun position of the B-17 presented several difficulties, but mostly remedied with the introduction of the “G” model.

  • In models previous to the G model, the waist gunners were placed directly opposite each other, resulting in difficult maneuvering during engagement with fighters. Their placement also led to accidental disconnection of the other’s oxygen system, and if such disconnection went unnoticed, would result in the stages of anoxia – dizziness, loss of consciousness, and death.
  • Also in models previous to the G model, the waist windows were open to 200 mph winds at altitude, which resulted in minus 50 degrees below zero Fahrenheit temperature in the slipstream of air racing past the Fortress.  Problem: frostbite.  Anoxia and frostbite were the two biggest enemies of the B-17 waist gunner past the enemy fighters and flak. The waist gunners battled the freezing temperatures by wearing layers of heavy clothing and electrically heated suits. The G model added Plexiglas windows with an opening for the guns in the waist windows.
  • The waist gunners’ 50 caliber machine guns did not use a power assisted mount until the G model and the sights were aimed with a ball and ring sight until the sights were upgraded in the G with computing sights like those in the top turret and ball.
  • Originally, B-17’s carried two waist gunners, but late in the war, most bombardment groups reduced the number of waist gunners in a B-17 from two to one. The improvement of the distance the Allied fighters could accompany the bomber stream reduced the incidence and number of enemy fighters attacking the Fortresses, thus reducing the need for two waist gunners.

Location of the Waist Position in a B-17

The waist gunner positions of a B-17 are at the mid-point of the aircraft, just past the radio room and ball turret. Should the waist gunner have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the waist door of the aircraft, just past the waist positions on the starboard (right-hand) side of the aircraft and forward of the tail.

In the following diagram, George Edwin Farrar is noted in the waist position of the aircraft along with the other Buslee crew members in their positions on September 28, 1944.

Buslee Crew in Position on September 28, 1944
Diagram courtesy of 91st Bomb Group and modified by Cindy Farrar Bryan in 2014

B-17 Waist Position Photos

I took the following photos of the Collings Foundation’s B-17 Nine-O-Nine a few years before its tragic crash.

View of waist door and right waist gunner window.

Waist door and waist window on the starboard (right) side of the B-17
Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine at Ocala, Florida airport in November 2014

Note, step ladder is for post-war tour guests only and was not used in combat!

View of waist from rear of aircraft…

Waist area and waist windows with 50 caliber machine guns, seats not original (added for post-war tour flights)
Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine at Ocala, Florida airport in November 2014

Note, seats also for post-war tour guests only and not used in combat!

View of waist from front of aircraft.

B-17 waist area aft of the ball turret in the foreground, ammunition boxes visible
Collings Foundation B-17 Nine-O-Nine at Leesburg, Florida airport in November 2017

View of waist, waist windows, waist door, and entry into tail area from just behind the ball turret.

Waist area of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

Again, post-war tourist seats were not original equipment!

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Waist Gunners

I thought it might also be interesting to read stories, diaries, and journals written by or view video interviews of some of the 384th’s own waist gunners. You’ll find a chart of several waist gunners of the 384th Bomb Group below with links to their personnel records and their written and oral histories as are provided on the Stories page of 384thBombGroup.com.

Airman Personnel Record Stories, Diaries, Journals, and Interviews
Austin, Ralph Earl⇗ A Personal Account⇓ (0.058 MB)
Burns, Robert (NMI)⇗ My Bit For Victory⇓ (2.721 MB)
Hitzeroth, Franklin Carl⇗ My Story: The First Four Days⇓ (2.045 MB)
Jackson, Leslie Hall⇗ How Leslie Jackson Became a Friend of Füssen⇓ (1.863 MB)
Matican, Sigmund Sidney⇗ Matican Diary⇓ (1.381 MB)
Montz, Nemours Albert, “Nem”⇗ Army Air Corps Vet Remembers His Luck⇓ (3.905 MB)
Schimenek, John Francis⇗ John Francis Schimenek WWII Diary⇓ (10.380 MB)
Seniawsky, Peter (NMI)⇗ Peter Seniawsky’s Black Thursday Escape⇓ (0.979 MB)
Sylvia, Francis Robert⇗ Account of 14 October 1943 Mission and its Aftermath⇓ (9.866 MB)
Zieba, Edmund (NMI)⇗ I Remember…⇓ (0.169 MB)
Britton, Joseph Rodman⇗ 2016 Veteran’s History Project Oral History Interview⇗
Furrey, Thomas Edwin, Jr⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Meyer, Alfred (NMI)⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

Note: I was unable to open the links to the last three entries in the list, the oral history interviews of Britton, Furrey, and Meyer. I will leave the links in place in the hope that the problem is temporary.

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Engineer and the Gunners

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

B-17 Flying Fortress Queen of the Skies, Crew Positions, Waist Gunner

TM 12-427 Military Occupational Classification of Enlisted Personnel

The Military Yearbook Project – Army Air Force WWII Codes

The Army Air Forces in World War II: VI, Men and Planes, Edited by W.F. Craven and J.L. Cate, Chapter 19: Training of Ground Technicians and Service Personnel

Training to Fly:  Military Flight Training 1907 – 1945 by Rebecca Hancock Cameron

Thank you to the 91st Bomb Group for granting me permission in 2014 to use and modify their B-17 diagram for use on The Arrowhead Club.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2023

Lenard Leroy Bryant, Update

Lenard Leroy Bryant, photo courtesy of Derral Bryant

A new search has provided me with some new information regarding one of the original waist gunners, Lenard Leroy Bryant, of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group in World War II.

To view my original post and other information about Lenard Leroy Bryant, please see the links at the end of this post.

Bryant Family

Lenard Leroy Bryant was born 7 March 1919 in Alex, Grady County, Oklahoma. Lenard was the youngest of the ten children of Fannie Lenora Drake (1879 – 1961) and John Gilbert Bryant (1878 – 1938).

According to the 1930 Federal census, the Bryant family lived in Justice Precinct 6 of Hockley County, Texas. Nine members of the extended family were listed at the family’s address. Along with John and Fannie were four of their children including Jewel, John, Lester, and Lenard, and Fannie’s mother (Florence Drake), sister (Birdie Wadkins), and sister’s daughter (Daisey Wadkins).

John Bryant was born in Georgia, as were both of his parents. Fannie Drake Bryant was born in Texas, her father was born in Tennessee, and her mother was born in Alabama. John’s occupation was farmer.

The ten children of John and Fannie Bryant were:

  • James Clyde Bryant (1900 – 1986)
  • Ralph Hubert Bryant (1901 – 1989)
  • Earl Alfred Bryant (1903 – 1991)
  • William Marion Bryant (1906 – 1975)
  • Jewel L. Bryant (1908 – 1978)
  • Letha Murel Bryant (1910 – 1994)
  • Lettie Mae Bryant (1912 – 1982)
  • John Bryant (1914 – 1969)
  • Lester Marvin Bryant (1917 – 1968)
  • Lenard Leroy Bryant (1919 – 1944)

Lenard Leroy Bryant married Ruby Maudene Baisden on 21 October 1939. Maudine was born 2 June 1923 in Gasoline, Briscoe County, Texas to Ottie and Virgie Baisden, and died 16 February 2004 in Littlefield, Lamb County, Texas.

The 1940 census records Lenard (age 21) and Maudene (age 16) as living as a married couple in Justice Precinct 4 of Hockley County, Texas. Lenard’s occupation was laborer and Maudene’s occupation was housewife.

Entry into WWII 

Lenard registered for the draft on 16 October 1940. He was 21 years old, born on 7 March 1919 in Grady County, Oklahoma, and currently lived at Route 2, Littlefield, Hockley County, Texas.

The name of the person who would always know his address was his wife, Mrs. Ruby Maudene Bryant of the same address.

His employer’s name was Otte Baisden (which I believe was his father-in-law) of the same address.

Lenard listed his height as 5 ft. 10 in. and his weight as 145 pounds. He had blue eyes, blonde hair and a light complexion.

I do not find an enlistment record for Lenard in the NARA online files, but did find a form titled “Certification by Uniformed Services” of the Department of Health and Human Services SSA in his NPRC record which notes Lenard’s Date of Entry into Active Service as 18 May 1943.

Left to right: George Edwin Farrar, Lenard Leroy Bryant, Erwin V. Foster, and Sebastiano Joseph Peluso at Grafton Underwood.

WWII Service – Morning Reports and other military documents of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Lenard Leroy Bryant:

  • On 22 JULY 1944, Lenard Leroy Bryant was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944 as a waist gunner (classification AAEG, Aerial Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 611), for the John Oliver Buslee crew. His pay per month was $140.40. His rank when assigned was Corporal. He listed his home address as Mrs. Ruby Maudene Bryant, Rt #2, Littlefield, Tex.
  • On 6 AUGUST 1944, Lenard Bryant was promoted to Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #158.
  • On the 9 AUGUST 1944 mission to Erding, Germany, Lenard Bryant was reassigned to the position of Engineer/Top Turret Gunner with the Buslee crew. Clarence Seeley, the crew’s original Engineer, was seriously wounded on the 5 AUGUST mission and did not return to duty for two months. This enabled both of the waist gunners of the Buslee crew, Lenard Bryant and George Farrar, to remain with their original crew. Farrar remained the crew’s waist gunner while Bryant took over the top turret position. If Seeley had not been seriously wounded and unable to participate in combat missions, either Bryant or Farrar would have been moved to another crew, or possibly even another bombardment group.
  • On 9 SEPTEMBER 1944, Lenard Bryant was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #180.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Lenard Bryant went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared KIA (Killed in Action) on that date.

Lenard Bryant was credited with 16 completed combat missions with the 384th Bomb Group.

Medals and Decorations

Lenard Leroy Bryant earned the Air Medal with Oak Leaf Cluster and also received the Purple Heart.

Casualty of War

Lenard Leroy Bryant died 28 September 1944 at the age of 25, leaving his young wife, Ruby Maudene, a widow at the age of 21. Lenard is buried at Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot G, Row 7, Grave 22. Maudene lived to the age of 80 and never remarried.

Lenard and Maudene Bryant, 1939, photo courtesy of Derral Bryant

Notes

Previous post, Lenard Leroy Bryant, Top Turret Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Lenard Leroy Bryant’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Buslee Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Thank you to the 384th Bomb Group and especially Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for their research and obtaining and presenting records of the servicemen of the Group.

Thank you to Derral Bryant, Lenard’s great-nephew, for family information and photos.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Airmen of the Buslee and Brodie Crews of the 384th Bomb Group

I have been writing about the men of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII for many years, particularly those airmen who served on the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron. The 384th was a B-17 heavy bomber group based in Grafton Underwood, England during the war.

My connection with these two crews is my father, George Edwin Farrar, who was a waist gunner on the Buslee crew.

Both the Buslee and Brodie crew departed the states from their final combat crew training in Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time. Both crews were assigned to the 384th Bomb Group within days of each other.

On 28 September 1944, the Buslee and Brodie crews participated in the 384th’s Mission 201 (which was the 8th Air Force’s numbered Mission 652).

On the mission, coming off the bomb run on the target, the B-17 42-31222, Lazy Daisy, piloted by James Joseph Brodie, collided with the unnamed B-17 43-37822 piloted by John Oliver Buslee with my father manning the machine guns in the waist.

All aboard Buslee’s aircraft were killed in the collision, ensuing explosion, and crash except for my father, the sole survivor of his fortress. Eight of my father’s bomber brothers perished on this one B-17 on this one day.

Three men survived aboard Brodie’s aircraft, and the remaining six perished, a total of fourteen killed in the collision of the two aircraft.

I have been researching the lives of these airmen for many years and am about to embark on another search for new information on each, so I thought it was time to recap what I have already learned and share links of what I have previously written about them.

Keep in mind, there are more than eighteen men (the number of airmen that made up the two crews on 28 September 1944) involved in this story. Each crew was originally made up of ten men, although neither crew ever flew missions with all ten aboard. All of their missions were flown with a crew of nine containing only one waist gunner instead of two, a change from earlier in the war.

And neither crew flew as all original members on every mission. Substitutes were more common on missions for the Buslee crew, but both crews flew with substitute airmen on the fatal mission of 28 September 1944. My histories of the men of the Buslee and Brodie crews include both original members and those who were substituting for them on that final mission.

Including original crew members and substitute crew members on 28 September 1944 for both crews, plus two key witnesses to the collision, the number of airmen whose family history I research is twenty-nine, thirty including Lloyd Vevle’s twin brother, Floyd.

In the list below, I’m listing all of the airmen by position in the B-17 and noting who were original crew members, who were crew substitutions, and who were key witnesses to the mid-air collision. I’m also including very brief biographical information (birth, death, and burial data), links to each airman’s personnel record on the 384th Bomb Group’s website, and links to histories I’ve previously written about them.

This post will also be available as a permanent page which will be updated with additional links to posts of any new findings from my research.


The Pilots

John Oliver Buslee, pilot of the 544th Bomb Squadron

James Joseph Brodie, pilot of the 545th Bomb Squadron

  • Born 14 November 1917
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 26
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot J, Row 13, Grave 4
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • James Joseph Brodie

The Co-pilots

David Franklin Albrecht, assigned Buslee crew co-pilot

  • Born 1 March 1922
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 22
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot C, Row 2, Grave 11
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • David Franklin Albrecht

Lloyd Oliver Vevle, assigned Brodie crew co-pilot

  • Born 9 December 1922
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 21
  • Buried Ardennes American Cemetery and Memorial, Neuville-en-Condroz, Arrondissement de Liège, Liège, Belgium, Plot C, Row 37, Grave 20
  • Lloyd’s twin brother Floyd Martin Vevle (Born 9 December 1922 – Died 14 January 1945, age 22) of the 390th Bomb Group is memorialized on the Tablets of the Missing at  the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery in Henri-Chapelle, Belgium.
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Lloyd Oliver Vevle
  • Floyd Martin Vevle
  • The Vevle Twins

The Navigators

Chester Anthony Rybarczyk, assigned Buslee crew navigator

William Alvin Henson II, Sammons crew navigator, but navigator of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., assigned Brodie crew navigator

The Bombardiers

Marvin Fryden, assigned Buslee crew bombardier

James Buford Davis, Jung crew bombardier & Buslee crew replacement bombardier after Fryden’s death

Robert Sumner Stearns, Durdin crew bombardier, but bombardier of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

  • Born 25 August 1923
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 21
  • Buried Golden Gate National Cemetery, San Bruno, San Mateo County, California, USA, Section B, Site 302
  • Memorial marker at Family/Home Cemetery at Juniper Haven Cemetery, Prineville, Crook County, Oregon, USA
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Robert Sumner Stearns

William Douglas Barnes, Jr., assigned Brodie crew bombardier

Byron Leverne Atkins, Chadwick crew flexible (waist) gunner, but togglier of the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944

The Radio Operators/Gunners

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, assigned Buslee crew radio operator

William Edson Taylor, assigned Brodie crew radio operator

Donald William Dooley, Headquarters, but radio operator of the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944

The Engineers/Top Turret Gunners

Clarence Burdell Seeley, assigned Buslee crew engineer

Robert Doyle Crumpton, assigned Brodie crew engineer

  • Born 27 July 1920
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 24
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot E, Row 19, Grave 22
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Robert Doyle Crumpton

The Ball Turret Gunners

Erwin Vernon Foster, assigned Buslee crew ball turret gunner

George Francis McMann, Jr., Gilbert crew ball turret gunner, but ball turret gunner of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

  • Born 26 September 1924
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 20, two days past his 20th birthday
  • Buried Netherlands American Cemetery and Memorial, Margraten, Eijsden-Margraten Municipality, Limburg, Netherlands, Plot N, Row 22, Grave 4
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • George Francis McMann, Jr.

Gordon Eugene Hetu, assigned Brodie crew ball turret gunner

  • Born 26 September 1925
  • Died 28 September 1944, age 19, two days past his 19th birthday
  • Buried Oakland Hills Memorial Gardens Cemetery, Novi, Oakland County, Michigan, USA
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Gordon Eugene Hetu

The Tail Gunners

Eugene Daniel Lucynski, assigned Buslee crew tail gunner

  • Born 22 December 1919
  • Died 14 April 1981, age 61
  • Burial information unknown, but parents (Gustave and Dominica Lucynski) are buried All Saints Church Cemetery, Flint, Genesee County, Michigan, USA
  • Also known as Eugene D. or Dan Lucyn
  • 384th BG Personnel Record
  • Eugene D. Lucynski

Gerald Lee Andersen, Carnes crew tail gunner, but tail gunner of the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944

Wilfred Frank Miller, assigned Brodie crew tail gunner

The Flexible (Waist) Gunners

Lenard Leroy Bryant, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner, reassigned to top turret gunner after 5 August 1944 mission

George Edwin Farrar, assigned Buslee crew waist gunner

Leonard Wood Opie, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

Harry Allen Liniger, assigned Brodie crew waist gunner

Witnesses to the 28 September 1944 Mid-air Collision

Wallace Arnold Storey, Gross crew co-pilot

Robert McKinley Mitchell, Jr., Allred crew ball turret gunner

Thank you to Fred Preller, webmaster of 384thBombGroup.com, and his volunteer researchers for providing and sharing information of the Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

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: 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 can identify Bregant as of November 2021. Bregant’s granddaughter, Kathryn Bregant Smith has positively identified him in photos for me.

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, Tail gunner John Bregant kneeling 4th 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 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.

Update, November 2021:  Another connection this month with family of Norton crew tail gunner John Bregant adds to my 384th Bomb Group NexGen family. Thank you to John’s granddaughter, Kathryn Bregant Smith, for connecting with the group and providing positive IDs of John in wartime photos.

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

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

(Possibly) Robert Sumner Stearns

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

George McMann

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

Gordon Eugene Hetu
Photo courtesy of Anne Fisher via Ancestry.com

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