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Buslee Crew Photo – A Deeper Look

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier) Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

Standing, left to right: John Buslee (pilot), David Albrecht (co-pilot), Chester Rybarczyk (navigator), and Marvin Fryden or James Davis (bombardier)
Kneeling, left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso (radioman), Lenard Bryant (waist gunner), Clarence Seeley (engineer/top turret gunner), Eugene Lucynski (tail gunner), and George Farrar (waist gunner)

This photo of my dad’s (George Edwin Farrar) crew in WWII still confuses me.  Is the navigator in the photo really James Davis, or is it Marvin Fryden? If it is Fryden, does the photo look like it was taken in the states before the crew shipped overseas? If it is Davis, it must be Grafton Underwood.

I sent the photo to Keith Ellefson, a researcher and combat data specialist with the 384th Bomb Group. Keith pointed out several things in the photo to me that I did not see.

Look at the far background on the right side of the picture. It looks like a tree line to me.  Than would be consistent with GU.  Most of the stateside crew training bases were on large airfields with nary a tree or fence in sight.   Looking at the background over Foster’s head, it looks to me like a fence line with some sort of grass or vines on it.  Again, GU and probably not stateside.  Also, on the far left side over the tire I think I see the slope of a squad tent roof.  If it is a tent, it is probably the crew chief’s lair next to the hardstand. I understand nearly every crew had some sort of shelter near the hardstand for warming, storage, naps, etc.

Keith annotated the photo pointing out a couple of items.

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), and Lenard Bryant (waist gunner)

Left to right: Erwin Foster (ball turret gunner), Sebastiano Peluso ( radioman), and Lenard Bryant (waist gunner)

  • Looks like SGT Foster must have had a combat tour previous to this photo being taken.
  • Those are training qualification badges on the sleeves of two of the enlisted men.
  • All of the men in the photo are wearing wings but only Foster has any kind of awards being displayed.
  • I see two different unit patches.  Davis (or Fryden) and Lucynski are wearing the 8th AF patch.  Your dad (Farrar) and Seeley have the generic AF patch.
  • Two of the officers, Buslee and Rybarczyk also seem to have the generic AF patch.
  • Three of the enlisted guys appear to have no unit patch.
  • Then we get to the enlisted ranks, or lack of rank, on their uniforms. On the assignment orders, Lucynski  was a SSG. Your dad, Seeley and Peluso were SGTs.  Foster and Bryant were Corporals.
  • Peluso, Foster and Seeley are ’slicksleeves’  (Old army slang for no rank displayed).  I don’t know what to make of this.  Usually the guys would be immensely proud of their ranks and wouldn’t be caught without them.  If it was just one of them, I could think that the guy had been reduced in rank.  That was not uncommon back in the day.  I don’t recall seeing any of these names being reduced in rank on any special orders.
  • [I commented that perhaps some of the jackets were borrowed. Keith replied that it was a possibility.] Every soldier was issued a ‘Class A’ uniform but ….   Five of them (Bryant, Foster, Seeley, Farrar, and Peluso) were promoted to Staff Sergeant on 9 September 1944, SO #180, 9 SEP 44.  Maybe the three ‘slicksleeves’ had their jackets out for rank change and borrowed the jackets for the picture.
  • Also, talking about ranks, Foster, who had a previous tour, would normally be at least a Sergeant and more likely a Staff Sergeant.  I suspect he had been reduced to Corporal prior to being assigned to this crew.
  • Fryden is a 1st LT in the assignment orders.  The other three officers are 2nd LTs.  Fryden may have had several months or more service in the states, maybe as an instructor, prior to being assigned to this crew. I think there was something like a 6 month to one year time between 2nd LT and 1st LT. He wouldn’t have been promoted before the pilot would be promoted if they both had the same length of time in service.
  • Foster and Bryant were promoted to SGT on SO #158, 6 August 1944.  Since Bryant is wearing SGT stripes in the photo, I think this dates the photo to sometime after 6 August 1944, putting Davis in the picture.

Marilyn Fryden, Marvin’s wife, wrote about Marvin in a post to the 384th Bomb Group’s web site in 2007. Her comments support that he had been an instructor in the states for some time before being assigned to the Buslee crew. Marilyn wrote:

He had been commissioned and assigned as an instructor in the states. We had almost 2 years together. As he constantly said he was not doing his part, he finally requested combat duty and was assigned to the Gremlin with John Buslee, Dick Albrecht and other crew members.

Marvin and Marilyn had married October 8, 1942 in Albuquerque, New Mexico. In a wedding announcement, her parents noted that:

Lieutenant Fryden was appointed instructor at the Albuquerque Air Base and will continue to re-side there with his bride.

After Keith’s analysis, I still question whether the photo includes Davis or Fryden. The back of the photo identifies the navigator as Davis and I believe the identification was provided by the pilot’s father. In a letter to my grandmother dated November 27, 1944, Mr. Buslee wrote:

Early in September we received a snapshot showing the crew members and the plane.  The boys all looked fine and seemed to be in the same high spirit that they enjoyed when we met them in Ardmore.

This comment indicates that Mr. Buslee would have been able to recognize the bombardier since he had met the entire crew. Mr. Buslee offered to send a copy of the photo to my grandmother if she did not have one. My grandmother, Raleigh May Farrar, must have responded to Mr. Buslee that she did indeed have a copy of the picture. He wrote back on December 16, 1944.

I note that you have a crew picture and thinking that you may not know who they are I am sending a list of names in the event that this will interest you.  To look at that group one can well understand what I mean when I say the youth are wonderful.  To my mind that is as fine an assortment of manhood as one could find anywhere and I count it a privilege that my son is among so fine a crew.  Yes I had the good fortune to meet all of them in Ardmore last June and I trust it will be my pleasure to again meet all of them and more that this may be real soon.

Mr. Buslee’s list of names:


Mr. Buslee would not have met James Davis in Ardmore, Oklahoma. At that time, he was not part of the Buslee crew. Marvin Fryden trained with the crew in Ardmore.

Mr. Buslee would also have already known of Marvin Fryden’s death on August 5, 1944. The Buslees and the Frydens both lived in the Chicago area, the Buslees in the Park Ridge area. The Park Ridge Advocate published an article on September 1, 1944 about the crew’s August 5 mission in which Fryden died. Mr. Buslee must have read the article by the time he wrote my grandmother.

Although mortally wounded, the bombardier of a B17 Flying Fortress calmly reported his injury to his pilot and then released his bombs on the target in a remarkable exhibition of sheer courage and presence of mind during a recent American heavy bomber attack over Germany.

The bombardier, 1st Lt. Marvin Fryden, 23, 6719 North Lakewood, Chicago, died later in an army hospital after his bomber, the “Tremblin’ Gremlin,” had reached England with only two of its four engines functioning, its fuselage riddled with more than 100 flak holes and with more than half of its crew wounded.

If the photo includes Fryden, it must have been taken before the August 5, 1944 mission on which Fryden was killed. On that same mission, Seeley was seriously wounded. Davis started flying with the crew on August 9, 1944. Since Seeley was seriously wounded on the August 5 mission, would he have been able to appear in a crew photo after that mission? He wasn’t able to fly again until October 2, 1944, four days after the Buslee crew was lost on the mission to Magdeburg on September 28.

I have not been able to locate any other photos of Marvin Fryden, but I did find a school yearbook photo of James Davis. Putting the photo in question and the photo of Davis side by side, I’m still not certain of the identification. What do you think? Is the man on the left Fryden or Davis?

Photo on left: Marvin Fryden or James Davis? Photo on right: School yearbook photo of James Davis.

Photo on left: Marvin Fryden or James Davis?
Photo on right: School yearbook photo of James Davis.

Enough for today. I have a little more info to add on a couple of the other Buslee crew members, but will hold off for next week. I think this is enough to digest today.

If anyone has a photo of Marvin Fryden (the family spelled the name Frydyn, but Marvin enlisted as Fryden), please contact me. Either comment on this post or e-mail me. Also, if anyone is good at photo analysis, please help me decide – Fryden or Davis?

Thank you, Keith Ellefson, for taking an in-depth look at this photo and providing me with so much information.

Photos courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2016

The Family of Marvin B. Fryden

Marvin B. Fryden was the original bombardier of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group of the Eighth Air Force. On August 5, 1944, on his second mission as bombardier with the Buslee crew of the 384th Bomb Group, Marvin was mortally wounded. To read more about that mission, click here.

A little research into turned up some information on his family, but not anything new about Marvin himself.

Marvin’s parents were Harry and Sylvia Kaplan Frydyn. The Frydyn’s were Jewish. They were originally from Radom which was considered part of Poland or Russia, depending on the year. Radom is located about sixty miles south of Warsaw. Both Harry and Sylvia’s parents were also from the same area. (See note below).

Harry Frydyn was born on February 15, 1889 in Radom. According to US Naturalization Records, he immigrated to the United States from Russia on November 13, 1907 around the age of 18.

The 1910 census recorded Harry as “Harry Freiden,” from Russia Pol, with both parents from Russia Pol. It confirms that Harry immigrated in 1907. His native tongue was Polish. He was a presser in a tailor shop. At the time, he would have been twenty-one years old and was a boarder living with Jake and Eva Dekalsky. His age and residential status as a border leads me to believe that he immigrated to America without his parents, but I find no documentation to support the theory. [The 1910 census instructed: if foreign born, give country.]

On March 5, 1914, according to Harry’s immigration and naturalization record, he became a naturalized citizen.

Sylvia Kaplan Frydyn was born in 1898 in Bialastok, Poland. She immigrated to the United States in either 1910 (according to the 1920 census) or 1914 (according to the 1930 census).

On June 5, 1917, Harry registered for the WWI draft. He would have been twenty-eight years old. His draft registration card shows he lived at 2343 W. Iowa St., Chicago. He was a naturalized citizen from Radom, Russia. He was a presser for S. Shapiro at 1315 Milwaukee Avenue. He was Jewish and single. He noted that he had no previous military service. He claimed an exemption from the draft due to defective eyes. He described himself as 5’8″, of slender build, brown eyes, brown hair, and slightly bald. I see no record of Harry having served in WWI.

Harry and Sylvia were married on December 8, 1919 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

The 1920 census recorded Harry and Sylvia “Frydyn” living at 3238 Augusta Street, Chicago, Ward 15 as borders of David and Rose Rosenberg and their son Jerome. Although the record states that the Rosenbergs immigrated in 1907, it states that Harry and Sylvia both immigrated in 1910, Harry was naturalized in 1916, and Sylvia in 1919. It shows both Harry and Sylvia’s birthplace as Russia and native tongue as Yiddish, and the same for both sets of their parents. Harry was a tailor in a tailor shop. David Rosenberg was also a tailor. [The 1920 census instructed: if foreign born, give the place of birth and, in addition, the mother tongue.]

Harry and Sylvia had three children in the 1920’s. Their first child, Marvin, was born on January 8, 1921 in Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. On May 20 or 21, 1925, they were blessed with a second son, Marshall. But sadly Marshall only lived to the age of five and a half months, dying on November 4, 1925. The next year, the Frydyn’s third child came along. Florence was born on October 16, 1926.

The 1930 census recorded Harry (39), Sylvia (31), Marvin (9) and Florence (3) renting a home at 2652 W. Potomac Avenue, Chicago, Cook County, Illinois. Living with them was Sylvia’s sister Lilly (25). The census noted that both Harry and Sylvia were from Poland and both sets of their parents were from Poland. Their native language was Jewish. It states Harry immigrated in 1910 and Sylvia immigrated in 1914. Harry was a tailor in a clothing factory. Lilly was an operator in a clothing factory. Lilly had immigrated to the U.S. in 1927. Sylvia did not work outside the home. [The 1930 census instructed: if foreign born, give country in which birthplace is now situated.]

The 1940 census recorded the Frydyn family still residing at 2652 W. Potomac Avenue in Chicago. Harry (50) worked as a dress presser for a dress company. Sylvia (42) did not work outside the home. Marvin (19) worked as a salesman at Hyraces Silk Manufacturers and had had one year of college. Florence (13) was a student. The 1940 census record also states that Harry and Sylvia were both born in Poland. [The 1940 census instructed: if foreign born, give country in which birthplace was situated on January 1, 1937.]

On January 13, 1942, Marvin enlisted in the Army Air Corps. An aviation cadet, his enlistment record shows that he had completed two years of college, was 5’9″ tall, weighted 126 pounds, worked as a laboratory technician or assistant, and was single with no dependents. His enlistment record spells his name “Fryden,” although only two years earlier, he was listed on the 1940 census as “Frydyn.”

In 1942, Harry also had to register for the WWII draft. His registration card shows he was born in Radom, Poland and lived at 6719 Lakewood, Chicago, Cook Co., Illinois. He worked for Johara, Inc. at 325 W. Jackson Blvd., Chicago, Cook County, Illinois.

Sometime in 1942, Marvin married Marilyn Ash. Marilyn was born on October 26, 1925. Their marriage license states that Marilyn was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico and that she and Marvin married in Bernalillo, New Mexico. Marvin would have been twenty-one years old, but Marilyn would have only been about sixteen or seventeen when they married. Although she stated that she was born in Albuquerque, records on lead me to believe that it’s possible that Marilyn was born and raised in the Chicago area, which would indicate that Marvin and Marilyn knew each other before he entered the service. Marvin and Marilyn had had only two years of married life together when Marvin died on August 5, 1944. At the time of Marvin’s death, Marilyn was only eighteen years old. You can read more about Marilyn and her love for Marvin here.

Marvin Fryden is buried in the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial in Cambridge, England, Plot E, Row 2, Grave 4. He earned a purple heart, American Campaign Medal, and WWII Victory Medal.

Marvin’s mother, Sylvia, died on July 8, 1952, and his father, Harry, died in January 1967. Marvin’s wife, Marilyn – who had remarried and whose last name had become Samet – died on November 7, 2013 in Cary, North Carolina.

Note:  I hope to delve a little deeper into the history of Radom with some more research and make it the subject of next week’s post.  Update:  I will cover Radom the week after Thanksgiving. Update 2: Researching the history of Radom is more complicated than I anticipated. I’ll have to put off that post until I have more time to cover the subject properly.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015

More Information About James B. Davis

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

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

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

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

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

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

James Buford Davis Senior High School Photo

James Buford Davis Senior High School Photo

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

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

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

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

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

The Buslee Crew

The Buslee Crew

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015