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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

Filling in the Blanks

I have a number of photos that I found with my dad’s WWII letters that have no identifications. I have come up with a theory and have made some guesses about who appears in the photos. I would love to get some feedback and opinions as to whether I am on the right track or not.  Here goes…

The information I’m basing my theory on is this:  August 4, 1944 was the Buslee crew’s first mission.  Arthur Shwery was training John Buslee that day, which put Arthur Shwery as the pilot with the crew and John Oliver Buslee as the co-pilot. As a result, David Franklin Albrecht, the Buslee crew’s assigned co-pilot, flew with the Paul Norton crew that day. This setup was repeated the next day, August 5. As a result, David Albrecht got to know some of the men of the Norton crew.

I believe Number 6 in this photo is David Albrecht. I believe Number 2 in this photo is either Carl Bennett Guinn, the engineer/top turret gunner or Thomas Bruce Everitt, the flexible/waist gunner, on the Norton crew.

NUMBERED Unknown 3

 

Here’s why:

I see a resemblance to Number 6 in the above photo to David Franklin Albrecht in the Buslee crew photo:

NUMBERED Albrecht in crew photo

Buslee Crew - Number 6 is David Albrecht

Buslee Crew – Number 6 is David Albrecht

Opinions? Do you see any resemblance?

I also think Number 2 in the above photo is either Carl Bennett Guinn or Thomas Everitt.

Guinn and Everitt both flew with the Norton crew and David Albrecht on August 4 and 5, 1944.  The sortie report shows the entire crew:

8-4-1944 Norton Crew Sortie Report

And in this photo from the 384th Bomb Group’s September 30, 1944 mission, the only two men not identified are Carl Guinn and Thomas Everitt. I have numbered them 2 and 3 in the photo. Comparing the men in the photo to the sortie report, the unidentified men must be Guinn and Everitt.

NUMBERED CREW

Back L-R: Bruno Melchionni (N), Nicholas Leschek (FG), Albert Sherriff (RO), unidentified 2, unidentified 3
Middle: George Jacobson (N)
Front L-R: Joe Sarto (VN), Maj. George Koehne (CA/CP), Ralph Wiley (B), Capt. William Johnson (P), Richard Rafeld (OBS/TG)
To Be Identified: Carl Guinn (TT) and Thomas Everitt (FG)

September 30 1944 Sortie Report

I believe Number 2 in the September 30 photo is the same man standing next to Number 6 (possibly David Albrecht) in the first photo.  Opinions?

Ok, next photo in question:

NUMBERED Unknown 1

Number 2 looks like the same man in the previous photos – either Guinn or Everitt. Note: he is continuously designated as Number 2 in each photo.

Number 1 looks somewhat like Richard Rafeld to me (see Number 1 on the September 30 photo above), but note that Rafeld did not fly with the Norton crew on August 4 and 5, so I may have this identification incorrect. Number 1 may be another of the Norton crew, but I cannot find any more photos for comparison.

Number 3 is probably Lester J. Noble, the Norton crew’s ball turret gunner. Note the name printed on the front of his jacket, “Les,” apparently short for “Lester.”

Number 4 is probably Clarence C. Bigley, the Norton crew’s togglier. Note the number of bombs painted on the back of the jacket he is holding. There are twenty. August 4, 1944 was Clarence Bigley’s twentieth mission. I can also compare this photo to his senior class high school photo in the Phillipsburg, New Jersery 1938 yearbook. His nickname was “Hutch” and his yearbook quote was “A big man with a big name.”

Clarence C. Bigley

Clarence C. Bigley 1938 senior class photo

Next photo:

NUMBERED Unknown 2

Again, Number 2 is the same Number 2 in the other photos – either Carl Guinn or Thomas Everitt.

I am almost certain Number 5 is Lenard Leroy Bryant of the Buslee crew. Lenard started out on the August 4 mission as the flexible gunner/waist gunner on the Buslee crew, but by the August 9 mission had become the Buslee crew’s engineer/top turret gunner.

Number 5 is Lenard Bryant. Pictured with his brother, Buck.

Number 5 is Lenard Bryant. Pictured with his brother, Buck.

And the final photo:

NUMBERED Unknown 4

Number 1 may be Richard Rafeld or one of the Norton crew.

Number 2 must be either Carl Guinn or Thomas Everitt.

I have sent messages to relatives of both Guinn and Everitt on Ancestry.com. I hope the relatives can provide photos and perhaps clear up the identifications of both of these men. If anyone else can provide any information, please contact me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015