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MISSION 194

The 384th Bomb Group’s Mission #194 was the 8th AAF’s Mission #628.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, participated as waist gunner in his twelfth mission with the 384th Bomb Group on 13 SEPTEMBER 1944, flying with two other original crew members of the 544th Bomb Squadron’s John Oliver Buslee crew. See more detail about the makeup of the crew below in the loading list…

The 384th Bomb Group was part of the 1st Bombardment Division, 41st Combat Wing, of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, and today they led the 41st “A” Combat Wing.

The 384th Bomb Group website’s Mission Summary describes the mission as,

The ‘Oil Campaign’ Continues
The 384th Bombardment Group (Heavy) led the 41st A Combat Bombardment Wing on today’s mission, supplying all planes and crews, except for the high section of the high group which was filled by three aircraft from the 303rd BG.

Mission documents, specifically the Pre-Briefing Target Study, identified the specific target of the day as the Oil Plant at Merseburg.

Briefing Notes further detailed,

Primary Target: Synthetic Oil Plant at Merseburg. Attacked by this group several times in the past. Produces 600,000 tons of oil per annum when in full production. Is 2 miles from N to  S and 3/4 miles from E to W. Oil is the very life blood of the Luftwaffe and the German War machine, and your target for today is very vital to the Hun in the last ditch defense of his Fatherland. There is no indication that this target has been effectively hit recently. Effective smoke screen at target.

Secondary Visual Target: An aircraft engine plant just outside town of Eisenach.

PFF Target: If weather A/C report both primary and secondary visual obscured, then all wings of 1st Division will attack Merseburg Synthetic plant using PFF.

Last Resort Visual: Rubber Tyre Factory at Fulda, Germany, or any military objective positively identified as being east, repeat, east of the Rhine River.

The 384th Bomb Group was the seventh wing of eight Combat Wings of the 1st Bombardment Division into Germany this date and the fourth of five wings on their target.

A special warning instructed,

There are no convoys expected. Stay on the alert for enemy aircraft. First Division alone lost 19 aircraft on Monday and 26 aircraft yesterday. It takes only one pass at you for them to knock you down. Gunners should stay at your guns and keep your eyes open at all times.

Thirty-nine aircraft of the 384th Bomb Group were assigned to the mission. Of the 39,

  • 30 completed the mission (not including spares)
  • 2 flying spare completed the mission
  • 2 ground spare aircraft were unused
  • 2 were scrubbed
  • 1 returned early
  • 1 completed flight (weather aircraft)
  • 1 failed to return

The three Buslee crew members flew as the High Group Lead commanded by Captain William Adelbert Fairfield, Jr.

The Buslee crew members flew under these leaders on this date,

  • High Group Leader, Captain William Adelbert Fairfield, Jr., 544th Bomb Squadron. Mission #194 was Fairfield’s 30th and final mission with the 384th Bomb Group.
  • 41st “A” Combat Wing Lead, Lt. Col. William Edward Buck, Jr., 384th Bomb Group Deputy Group Commander. Mission #194 was Buck’s 21st and final mission with the 384th Bomb Group.
  • Major Gerald Busby Sammons, (not a mission participant), 544th Bomb Squadron Commanding Officer 14 September 1944 to 6 November 1944
  • Col. Dale Orville Smith (not a mission participant), 384th Bomb Group Commander 23 November 1943 to 24 October 1944

Two ships with major battle damage landed away at RAF Manston, Kent. Both were flying as part of the High Group following the High Group Lead aircraft carrying the members of the Buslee crew.

Also following the High Group Lead aircraft carrying the Buslee crew members was the unnamed B-17 43-38213, the only 384th Bomb Group fortress lost on Mission 194. Immediately after bombs away, at 1124, the aircraft was seen going down in flames due to flak.

On this mission, the Canion crew was aboard 43-38213 with experienced pilot Lee White Dodson checking out new pilot William E. Canion. The Canion crew was on their second mission, their first mission aborted due to engine failure two days earlier.

On Mission 194, two members of the crew were killed, five became POW’s, and two, including Lee Dodson on his 34th mission, remain missing. The Missing Air Crew Report, MACR8902, and a prior post (see the section “September 13, 1944”) provide more details.

The Loading List for Mission #194 for the aircraft carrying the three members of the Buslee crew (bolded) was,

  • Commander – William Adelbert Fairfield, Jr.
  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Navigator – Kenneth Smith Lord
  • Bombardier – Donald Leroy Ward
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Albert Keith Sherriff
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Irving L. Miller
  • Tail Gunner – Lloyd Earl La Chine
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

Other than Buslee, Bryant, and Farrar, the remaining original Buslee crew members did not participate in Mission 194.

The Buslee crew members flying with Commander Fairfield were aboard 43-38016, Lorraine, on this mission. The Tactical Interrogation form filled out by Lt. Buslee at the completion of the mission described,

  • Time took off 0635
  • Time landed 1520
  • Target attacked at 1124 from an altitude of 27,000 ft.
  • Bombs on target: only 5 x 500 due to a malfunction, and the pilot salvoed 5 x 500 on the center of the town of Mühlhausen, Germany at 1145
  • Flak reported at the target, accurate CPF, Barrage, few rockets
  • Visual observations: at 1126 at the target, altitude of 27,000 feet, #3 lead element in flames, #1 high element in flames, #3 high element were hit by flak & left formation. 2 were on fire.
  • Technical Failures, Aircraft: #4 engine lost oil. #1 engine vibrating badly and overheated. Oxygen system hard to draw on. Top turret out in azimuth. GEE box out, radio compass out, left [bomb] rack failed to release on bombardiers salvo or intervalometer – released on pilot salvo.
  • Armament Failure: Upper turret operates rough at high altitude.
  • Battle damage: Control cables in bomb bay shot out. Trim tab controls cut by flak. Lots of small holes throughout aircraft. Most damage the last minute before bombs away.

Note: Buslee’s salvoed bombs apparently missed the Mühlhausen Synagogue at Jüdenstraße which had been damaged during the pogrom of Kristallnacht in 1938. It was one of only a few Synagogues in Germany that survived the Nazi period and World War II.

The James Brodie crew – James Brodie, Lloyd Vevle, George Hawkins, William Barnes, William Taylor, Robert Crumpton, Gordon Hetu, Wilfred Miller, and Harry Liniger – of the 545th Bomb Squadron flew on this mission in the Low Group aboard B-17 42-97521, The Saint.

The Brodie crew reported,

  • Multiple reports of accurate flak, including at the target area.
  • Technical Failures, Aircraft: Radio compass out. Has been out and written up before. Left upper turret gun inoperative. Written up before.
  • Battle damage: Turbo knocked out by flak in target area.

Narratives from 384th Bomb Group crew members who participated in Mission 194 describe events of the mission better than official Group reports. The following excerpts were taken from personal experience shared with Ken Decker and published in his book, Memories of the 384th Bombardment Group (H), Second Edition.

Bombardier Leo Feider, who was in one of the aircraft in the High Group that landed away due to battle damage, described the mission as “one of the severest flak barrages of the war.” (Note: Feider began flying missions at the end of August 1944 and completed his tour at the first of February 1945). He estimated his ship received fifty to seventy-five flak holes on Mission 194.

Feider wrote,

We saw Lee Dodson, a pilot with a new crew go down in flames, right along side of us, over the target. His whole left wing came off, just after we saw only one man get out. I had supper with Dodson last night and he said he had become a father just a few days previously. It was horrible seeing him go down. The flak was so close you could hear it and see the red inside of those damn black bursts. I felt frozen, yet I guess I still functioned, for I got my bombs toggled off and the bomb bay doors closed. I know, though, I shall never be the same after that experience.

Lt. Canion, the pilot in training with Lt. Dodson in the High Group, was blown out of the doomed aircraft, and survived and became a POW. He wrote,

We were high element, high group and we took all the flak. It was so heavy you could have gotten out and walked on it. The last flak that hit us blew up in the ball turret and blew the plane apart.

In his diary, Engineer/Top Turret Gunner Sgt. William P. Hornack, aboard 42-102430, Spam-O-Liner, described,

When we hit the I.P. [Initial Point of the bomb run], the flak was as we suspected (unbearable) again. I was thinking to myself, how in the hell are we going through that stuff? There goes that “rumping” noise, that sound makes your heart skip a beat and swallow your tongue. Every burst of flak seemed like it was rumping against our plane. I’m telling you, a guy really holds a service all of his own, by his guns, hoping we won’t be next.

Spam-O-Liner’s Co-Pilot Gerald Rose said of the mission,

This was in my opinion, one of our most dangerous missions. We had been under a heavy flak barrage from the IP and received many hits, but when we got the explosion from almost a direct hit under our right wing, it flipped us up on our side and we started to fall. I salvoed the bombs and without that weight, we were able to get control after falling 4 or 5 thousand feet.

The Buslee and Brodie crews were lucky to survive this mission unscathed.

Notes

The James Brodie crew left crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma at the same time as the Buslee crew on their way to the ETO, European Theatre of Operations. Both crews were assigned to the 384th Bomb Group within days of each other after reaching England although the Buslee crew was assigned to the 544th Bomb Squadron while the Brodie crew was assigned to the 545th.

The two crews participated in many of the same missions, although it is unlikely that the men of the two crews interacted in any other way as they were members of different crews and different squadrons at Grafton Underwood, although they may have recognized each other from their time at Ardmore together.

  • Previous post on Mission 194
  • Thank you to the 384th’s Fred Preller and Keith Ellefson for obtaining and sharing WWII reports and mission documents from the National Archives for the 384th Bomb Group.
  • Mission documents and other mission information may be found, viewed, and saved or printed courtesy of Fred Preller’s 384th Bomb Group website.
  • Wikipedia: Mühlhausen Synagogue
  • Ken Decker’s Memories of the 384th Bombardment Group (H), Second Edition

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2020