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MISSION 198

The 384th Bomb Group’s Mission #198 was the 8th AAF’s Mission #647.

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, participated as waist gunner in his fourteenth mission with the 384th Bomb Group on 25 SEPTEMBER 1944, flying with the 544th Bomb Squadron’s John Oliver Buslee crew.

The 384th Bomb Group was part of the 1st Bombardment Division, 41st Combat Wing, of the Mighty Eighth Air Force, and today they flew in both the “B” and “C” Wings.

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

Primary Target Attacked By PFF
The 384th Bombardment Group (H) flew as the 41st CBW B Wing, and as the lead and high groups of the 41st CBW C Wing. In all, 53 aircraft took off between 0700 and 0736. All formations bombed the primary target using PFF aiming, with unobserved results.

Mission documents, specifically the Pre-Briefing Target Study, identified the specific target of the day for both the “B” and “C” Combat Wings as the Frankfurt Ost Marshalling Yards. The Secondary Target was the Center of the city of Frankfurt and the Target of Last Resort was the Branch Ordnance Depot at Giessen, Germany.

Briefing Notes further detailed,

Primary Target: Frankfurt Ost Marshalling Yards: It is located on the eastern end of the city of Frankfurt and north of the Main River. It has a capacity of 2400 wagons per day and is of vital importance in connection with the waterways system of the Rhineland, since it serves the port area to its south which is the third most important inland port in Germany. This is a request target by army headquarters and the traffic in this marshalling yards has been very heavy in the last few days.

Fifty-three aircraft of the 384th Bomb Group were assigned to the mission. Of the 53,

  • 48 completed the mission (not including spares)
  • 1 flying spare completed the mission
  • 3 aircraft aborted, 1 due to mechanical failure, and 2 due to personnel illness
  • 1 aircraft failed to return

The B-17 42-10757 Spririt of 96 of the Noel Elwin Plowman crew failed to return. They were flying in the Lead Group of the 41st “B” Combat Wing.

In his book, Memories of the 384th Bombardment Group, Ken Decker reported two stories of this mission shared with him by mission participants, the first regarding the loss of the Plowman crew.

Flying with the William Elmer Doran crew in the Low Group of the 41st “B” Combat Wing, ball turret gunner Melvin Edward Holtwick had a bird’s eye view of the action from his turret which hung from the belly of his B-17 44-6109 Ole Tulik. It was Holtwick’s very first mission. They were flying off the wing of B-17 42-10757, Spirit of 96. Holtwick recalled,

The plane that was lost was flying off our wing and I saw the plane get hit. This was my first mission and I was as green as grass about what was in store for us. I was watching the squadrons ahead of us going into the flak area and watching the flak burst all around them. Seemed pretty to me. About that time we were going into it also.

I was looking at the plane off our wing when all of a sudden the entire tail assembly flew off. It fluttered off to the left like a leaf in a wind storm. The rest of the plane fell off to the right and went into a tight spin. There were a lot of debris falling and I couldn’t make out any bodies. It had been a hit around the waist door and the right waist window. No doubt blowing the waist gunner to bits. That was when my idea of flak being pretty made a 180 turn, and I saw it for what it really was.

Ole Tulik received battle damage due to flak in the plexiglass nose. The pilot, William Doran, reported his observation of the Spirit of 96 in his post-mission tactical interrogation report,

Direct hit no left window of waist cut it in 1/2. Tail went past us underneath. Rest of fuselage nosed over. No chutes seen.

The observer, Melvin Holtwick, was fortunate to finish his tour of 35 missions on February 9, 1945.

Contrary to the expected outcome, the tail gunner and waist gunner survived the flak hit. Of the crew of Spirit of 96, the Pilot, Co-pilot, Navigator, Bombardier, and Radio Operator were killed. The Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Ball Turret Gunner, Tail Gunner, and Waist Gunner all became POW’s. All were held in Stalag Luft IV, the same camp as my dad, except for Tail Gunner Kenneth Lentz who was seriously injured and held in Obermassfeld Hospital #1249.

The Missing Air Crew report, MACR9414, for the Plowman crew provides more detail.

The report’s S-2 Summary of Eye-witness Accounts notes,

  • In formation when hit, and nosed over
  • Flak was meager to moderate and very accurate
  • The tail was blown off in front of the horizontal stabilizer
  • The aircraft nosed over straight down out of control and was lost in the clouds
  • Number of parachutes seen was NONE.

The plane crashed near Wiesbaden, Germany.

In a Casualty Questionnaire filled out after the end of the war and his liberation and return to the states, Kenneth Lentz stated that,

I was unconscious from time plane was hit – until two weeks after.

Lentz also noted that,

My mother received a letter from England stating four parachutes were seen bailing out of the plane.

He also included a personal note saying,

Dear Sir,

Am very sorry that I can [not] give you the necessary information concerning the members of my crew because I was unconscious and do not know how I bailed out.

Sincerely,

Kenneth Lentz

The Ball Turret Gunner, Armando Oliva, reported on his Casualty Questionnaire that they left the formation right over the target and he bailed out. He added,

My waist gunner bailed out immediately after me and my engineer a few seconds before us through the nose hatch. I have no knowledge of my tail gunner.

The Engineer/Top Turret Gunner, Robert Allen Cameron, reported, regarding the Radio Operator,

…when I came out of my turret, next to the radio room door, I saw him lying on the floor very still which makes me believe he was unconscious. I tried to pull him toward me and out to the waist but just then the ship went into a spin and I was knocked past the ball turret landing near the waist window & seeing the ground very close I barely had time to jump.

My supposition is that since the waist gunner bailed out directly behind me, and my chute barely opened before I hit the ground, no one else could have had time to jump, especially if he was unconscious when I had seen him.

Also according to Cameron, but reported by one of the other survivors, as Cameron was passing the pilot’s compartment on the way to bail out, he noticed that the pilot and co-pilot had just broken loose their safety belts and were scrambling on the floor. That led them to believe that since the plane was at approximately 4000 feet when Cameron bailed out, and since the plane was in a dive, that the pilot and co-pilot went down with the ship.

They also supposed that due to the wild spinning of the ship that the navigator and bombardier may have been knocked against some object and lost consciousness, also going down with the ship.

Also shared with Decker and reported in his book was a story from this same mission from pilot Raymond Causa, also flying in the Lead Group of the 41st “B” Combat Wing, aboard the unnamed B-17 42-107083, which collided with a B-24, but was able to return to base with a damaged left wing. Causa said,

I was flying Lead in the top flight of the 384th Formation. A Captain Smith was flying Lead in the Group. While returning we descended a bit and flew close to the Rhur, right into the bomb line of B-24’s. We missed the first group, re-formed and into the second group. While in a climbing turn to the right to miss the 24’s, my plane was struck by the left wing of a B-24, which took a major portion of my left wing, just behind the centerline. I don’t know what happened to the 24, but we had no trouble getting home. The B-17 was a fine ship. Our crew finished all our missions without any difficulties.

Post-mission, Causa reported minor flak damage and major damage to the left wing due to a collision. On his Tactical Interrogation form, he wrote,

Our Gp. Nav. turned into the B-24 Bomb Line. B-17 & B-24 formation split up and 1 B-24 wing collided into our left wing.

Battle damage: Left wing major damage due to a collision. Horizontal & vertical stabilizer damage. Minor flak holes.

On Mission 198, the Buslee crew was part of the Low Group of the 41st “C” Combat Wing led by Captain Roy Alan Vinnedge.

The Buslee crew flew under these leaders on this date,

  • Captain Roy Alan Vinnedge, Low Section leader for the 41st “C” Combat Wing
  • Major Arthur E. Bean, Jr., Air Commander and Lead Section leader for the 41st “C” Combat Wing, Assistant Group Operations Officer (Primary) and Group Training Officer
  • Col. Dale Orville Smith (not a mission participant), 384th Bomb Group Commander 23 November 1943 to 24 October 1944
  • Major Gerald Busby Sammons, (not a mission participant), 544th Bomb Squadron Commanding Officer 14 September 1944 to 6 November 1944.
  • Air Commander Major Horace Everett “Ev” Frink, serving his second tour with the 384th Bomb Group, previous and soon-to-be again 547th Bomb Squadron Commanding Officer, led the 41st “B” Combat Wing on this mission

The Buslee Crew Loading List for Mission #198, with the only crew substitutions in the ball turret and tail, was:

  • Pilot – John Oliver Buslee
  • Co-Pilot – David Franklin Albrecht
  • Navigator – Chester Anthony Rybarczyk
  • Bombardier – James Buford Davis
  • Radio Operator/Gunner – Sebastiano Joseph Peluso
  • Engineer/Top Turret Gunner – Lenard Leroy Bryant
  • Ball Turret Gunner – Irving L. Miller
  • Tail Gunner – Gerald Lee Andersen
  • Waist Gunner – George Edwin Farrar (my dad)

Irving L. Miller replaced Erwin Foster in the ball turret for the fifth time. Gerald Lee Andersen replaced Eugene Daniel Lucynski in the tail for the first time. Lucynski had been injured in the 19 September 1944 mission aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin.

The Buslee crew was aboard B-17 42-39888 Hotnuts on this mission.  The Tactical Interrogation form filled out by Lt. Buslee at the completion of the mission described,

  • Time took off 0733
  • Time landed 1411
  • Target attacked at 1053 from an altitude of 26,700 ft.
  • Bombs on target: All (12 x 500 GP)
  • Flak at Frankfurt was “not accurate on this formation. 4 gun bursts. Rockets in area. Rocket observed – trail of white smoke dissipated at once. No explosion.”
  • Technical Failures: 5 walk-around oxygen bottles not filled.
  • Armament Failures: (1) Bombs would not release in train, and (2) Doors failed to retract electrically
  • Battle damage: none
  • Crew suggestion: Don’t believe escort on time on way in to target.

The James Brodie crew – James Brodie, Lloyd Vevle, replacement navigator Jack Irvin Haas, replacement togglier Theodore Rothschild, William Taylor, Robert Crumpton, Gordon Hetu, Wilfred Miller, and Harry Liniger – of the 545th Bomb Squadron flew on this mission in the Low Group of the 41st “B” Combat Wing aboard B-17 42-97309, Kathleen Lady of Victory. This mission was the Brodie crew’s seventh aboard Kathleen Lady of Victory.

The Brodie crew reported,

  • Inaccurate barrage flak in the target area.
  • Technical Failures, Aircraft: none.
  • Battle damage: Upper turret window broken. Over target area.
  • Observed the “direct flak hit, tail blown off” of the A/C in the #3 lead.

Mission data in group reports included,

For the “B” Wing,

  • No enemy fighters observed.
  • Flak at the target was moderate to intense and fairly accurate. CPF and Barrage type fire employed. Rockets also observed in the area. Black bursts noted.
  • Fighter escort was good and as briefed.
  • One of our aircraft is missing. A/C 057 [42-10757] was hit by flak in the target area. And tail was seen to fall off. Three chutes observed.

For the “C” Wing,

  • No fighters encountered.
  • Moderate, CPF and Barrage type flak encountered at target. Rockets also seen.
  • Fighter escort as briefed.
  • No A/C are missing in this formation.

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 198
  • 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.
  • Ken Decker’s Memories of the 384th Bombardment Group (H), Second Edition

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021