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The B-17 Radio Operator/Gunner

My dad, George Edwin Farrar, was a waist/flexible 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 three 384th Bomb Group Radio Operators/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.

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

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 Radio Operator/Gunner

According to the 303rd Bomb Group’s website,

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 radio operator will be required to:

  1. Render position reports every 30 minutes.
  2. Assist the navigator in taking fixes.
  3. Keep the liaison and command sets properly tuned and in good operating order.
  4. Understand from an operational point of view Instrument landing, IFF, VHF, and other navigational aids equipment in the airplane.
  5. Maintain a log.

In addition to being a radio operator, the radio man is also a gunner. During periods of combat he will be required to leave his watch at the radio and take up his guns. He is often required to learn photography. Some of the best pictures taken in the Southwest Pacific were taken by radio operators.

Aside from these duties noted by the 303rd, I have read that when B-17 crews were reduced from ten airmen to nine, losing one of the waist gunners, the radio operator was tasked with manning the left waist gun if needed while the lone waist gunner manned the right waist gun. That may have been true in some B-17 groups and may have been true for some crews in the 384th Bomb Group, but one of the group’s veterans once told me that was not the case.

The 384th veteran told me that the lone waist gunner would man both waist guns and the side he manned – left or right – depended on where his B-17 was in the formation, and which side of the aircraft was more vulnerable to enemy attack. He said that the radio operator, aside from his radio duties, was also tasked with distributing chaff, the aluminum strips dropped from aircraft in the formation to confuse enemy radar.

Radio communications during the war needed to be precise and understandable and the phonetic alphabet helped in the effort. The 384th Bomb Group’s website includes this chart and explanation.

Combined Phonetic Alphabet

This phonetic code was adopted for 8th AF use in 1942. The purpose of the code is to improve the accuracy of radio voice communications by providing an unambiguous key word for each letter that would improve recognition of the intended letter through static, intermittent transmissions, and jamming.

Letter Phonetic Letter Phonetic Letter Phonetic
A Able J Jig S Sugar
B Baker K King T Tare
C Charlie L Love U Uncle
D Dog M Mike V Victor
E Easy N Nan W William
F Fox O Oboe X X-ray
G George P Peter Y Yoke
H How Q Queen Z Zebra
I Item R Roger

Phonetic Alphabet Chart courtesy of 384thBombGroup.com

Location of the Radio Room in a B-17

The radio room of a B-17 sits between the bomb bay and the ball turret. Should the radio operator have to bail out of the aircraft, he would likely bail out through the bomb bay doors.

In the following diagram, Sebastiano Peluso is noted in the radio room 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 Radio Room Photos

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

Entry of the radio room from the bomb bay catwalk of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

 

Radio operator’s desk of the Collings Foundation’s B-17G Nine-o-Nine In Leesburg, Florida, November 4, 2017

 

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

 

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

Stories of 384th Bomb Group Radio Operators

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 radio operators. You’ll find a chart of several radio operators 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
Grosbier, Gordon Joseph⇗ Grosbier, Combat Mission Diary⇓ (8.508 MB)
Grosbier, Gordon Joseph⇗ Grosbier, Daily Journal⇓ (6.235 MB)
Levison, Jules Sidney, “Julie”⇗ Jules Levison Diary⇓ (3.622 MB)
Misch, Henry Conrad⇗ Henry C Misch WWII Diary⇓ (7.671 MB)
Pratt, John Butler⇗ Diary of John Butler Pratt⇓ (7.246 MB)
Spearman, Eugene (NMI)⇗ The Eighth Air Force in World War II⇓ (3.588 MB)
Williamson, Albert (NMI)⇗ The Trip of a Lifetime⇓ (3.296 MB)
Kovach, Joseph William⇗ Oral History Interview⇗
Lustig, David Carl, “Dave”, Jr⇗ 2003 Oral History Interview⇗
Lustig, David Carl, “Dave”, Jr⇗ Book:  “Initial Point: Reminiscences of a World War II B-17 Bomber Crewman” (out of print, but occasionally available on used book sites)
Wininger, Dexter Gene⇗ Oral History Interview⇗

Sources and Further Reading

303rd Bomb Group:  Duties and Responsibilities of the Radio Operator

384th Bomb Group:  Combined Phonetic Alphabet

303rd Bomb Group:  Military Occupational Specialty

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, 2021

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Update

A new search on Ancestry.com has provided me with some new and updated/corrected information regarding my father’s (George Edwin Farrar’s) WWII crewmate Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, radio operator of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was on board Buslee’s B-17 on the 28 September 1944 mission to Magdeburg. Corrected information is bolded.

To view my original post and other information about Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, please see the links at the end of this post.

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso was the radio operator on the John Oliver “Jay” Buslee crew. Sebastiano, known as Yano (or Yono) to family, was born on July 7 or 8, 1924. His parents were Giuseppe (Joseph) Peluso and Antonetta Fiore Peluso, Italian immigrants to the United States. Sebastiano had two older sisters, Sara and Gina. All three children were born in New York. During WWII, the Peluso’s lived in Brooklyn, New York.

To update the information I know about Sebastiano Peluso, I searched back through Peluso family records in Ancestry.com. Unfortunately, I did not uncover much new information about Sebastiano himself, but I did learn a lot more about his family.

Sebastiano’s father, Giuseppe (changed to Joseph in the U.S.) Peluso was born on September 1 or 7, 1887 in Augusta, Italy. Augusta is in the Province of Syracuse and is on the east coast of the island of Sicily. Sicily is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and one of the 20 regions of Italy.

Sebastiano’s mother, Antonetta Fiore Peluso, was born on December 1, 1894 or 1895 in Marigliano, Italy, a metropolitan city of Naples, also noted in some records as in the Italian province of Caserta.

Both of Sebastiano’s parents would emigrate from their native Italy, and, of course, this means Sebastiano’s parents were first generation Americans, arriving in the United States in the early 1900’s.

On September 5, 1908, Antonetta Fiore boarded the Sannio in Naples, Italy with her family. Antonetta was fourteen years old. Prior to coming to America, the Fiore family resided in Marigliano, Caserta, Italy. For everyone in the Fiore family, it was their first time in the United States except for Antonetta’s father. The Fiore family arrived in the US on September 30, 1908, at the port of New York, New York, but their final destination was indicated to be New Jersey. The arrival records indicate Antonetta’s father had previously been in the U.S. from 1904 to 1908, so he possibly returned to Italy to accompany the rest of his family to America.

Early the next year, on April 23, 1909, Giuseppe (Jospeh) Peluso boarded the Liguria in Napoli (Naples), Italy. Giuseppe was twenty-one years old and single. Prior to coming to America, Giuseppe last resided in Augusta, Siracusa (Syracuse Province), Italy. Giuseppe arrived in the United States on May 7, 1909, at the port of New York, New York, with twelve dollars in his pocket. His final destination was New York and noted a person he knew in the U.S. was Eugenio De Filippo. He had left his father, named Sebastiano, behind in Augusta.

Seven months later, on December 4, 1909, Giuseppe’s older brother Salvatore Peluso, age twenty-four, departed Augusta via Napoli on the Oceania. He arrived in America on December 16 or 17, 1909, with eleven dollars in his pocket.  His arrival port was, like his brother, New York, New York and that was his final destination.

Settling into life in America, both Antonetta and Giuseppe (and also Salvatore) show up on the 1910 Federal Census.

In 1910, Antonetta Fiore (age 15) and her family lived in Manhattan Ward 12 in New York. The family included her father, Giacinto (age 50 and a varnisher in a piano factory), her mother, Rochele (age 37), sister Maria (age 18), sister Elvira (age 16), sister Cirio (age 13), sister Maddalena (age 9), brother Francesco (age 6), and brother Peitro (age 1 1/2 and the only Fiore child born in the United States). The census record indicates Giacinto immigrated prior to the rest of the family, in 1900 (differing from arrival records).

In 1910, Giuseppe (now known as Joseph) Peluso (age 23) was single and was employed as a tailor. He and his brother Salvatore (age 26) were living in the home of their cousin Giovanni Daniele (known in the U.S. as John Daniels) and John’s mother Vincenza Daniels, both of whom had immigrated to the U.S. in 1906, on First Avenue in the Borough of Manhattan. John Daniels owned a cigar store.

At some point, Joseph’s brother Salvatore (now 28 years old) must have returned to Italy because records indicate he again left Italy, departing Napoli on January 14, 1914 and arriving in New York on January 28, 1914 on the Taormina. On this arrival, Salvatore was carrying twenty-five dollars.

On January 13, 1916, Giuseppe (Joseph) Peluso married Antonetta Fiore in Manhattan. Their first daughter, Sara, was born on November 17, 1916 in Manhattan.

On June 5, 1917, Joseph Peluso, under the name Giuseppe Peluso, registered for the World War I draft. He noted on his registration form that he was married, was age 29, was a “Declarant” concerning citizenship, and was born September 1, 1887 in Augusta, Siracusa, Italy. Joseph was employed as a presser and his mother, father, and brothers were dependent upon him for support. He had no previous military service, no disabilities, and he signed his form as Giuseppe (after scratching through the name “Joseph”) Peluso. At the time, he resided in Manhattan on E. 113th Street.

On May 22, 1918, Joseph and Antonetta Peluso’s second daughter, Gina, was born in Manhattan.

The 1920 Federal Census shows the Peluso family lived at 1920 East 119th Street in Manhattan Assembly District 20 in New York. The family was reported as Joseph Peluso (age 31, occupation Presser on Suits, head of household, and naturalization status Alien), wife Antonette (age 24), daughter Sara (listed as Sala, age 3), and daughter Gina (listed as Jennie, age 1 9/12).

On June 17, 1924, Joseph Peluso petitioned for Naturalization. His documents listed his age as 36, born September 7, 1887 in Augusta, Italy, and arrived May 7, 1909 on the vessel Liguria in New York, New York from Naples. His spouse was Antonietta and their residence was 2869 W 17th St. Coney Island, NY. His occupation was Presser. Joseph noted these facts in his declaration of intention to become a U.S. citizen:

  • I declared my intention to become a citizen of the US on November 12, 1917 in New York, NY.
  • My wife’s name is Antonietta. She was born on December 1, 1895 in Marigliano, Italy.
  • Have two children. Sara, born November 17, 1916 and Gina, born May 22, 1918. Both born at New York, NY and reside at same res.

The next month after Joseph Peluso petitioned for U.S. citizenship, on July 7 (or 8), 1924, his and Antonetta’s son Sebastiano was born.

On September 18, 1924, Giuseppe Peluso took the oath of allegiance to the United States and by the Order of Court Admitting Petitioner, Joseph Peluso became a citizen of the United States. I don’t know how hard a life the Peluso family had in New York as Italian immigrants in the 1920’s, but 1924 seemed a fortunate year for Joseph Peluso. He became the proud father of a son, whom he named Sebastiano after his own father, and he became an American.

As life seemed good for the Peluso family in America in the 1920’s, things were going differently in Europe. On July 29, 1921, Adolf Hitler became the leader of National Socialist (Nazi) Party. On October 28, 1922, Benito Mussolini, the first of 20th-century Europe’s fascist dictators, became head of the Italian government.

The year before Joseph Peluso welcomed his son into the world and became an American citizen, on November 8, 1923, Adolf Hitler and other Nazis attempted a government takeover, known as Hitler’s Beer Hall Putsch, in Munich, Germany. Approximately two thousand Nazis marched on the Feldherrnhalle in the Munich city center, but were confronted by a police line, which resulted in the deaths of sixteen Nazi Party members and four police officers.

Hitler was wounded during the clash and temporarily escaped arrest. Two days later, Hitler was arrested and charged with treason. Hitler generated front-page headlines in newspapers around the world, especially garnering attention in Germany. His twenty-four day trial was the perfect platform for him to express his nationalist sentiments to the German nation. He was found guilty of treason and sentenced to five years in prison, but on December 20, 1924, he was released after serving only nine months, free to develop his Nazi propaganda.

Little did Joseph Peluso know during those happy moments of 1924 that twenty years later he would lose his son to the American war effort to fight Hitler’s Nazism in World War II, the ultimate sacrifice for American freedom, because of history in the making halfway around the world in Germany.

In 1929, the U.S. stock market crashed leading to the Great Depression. I do not know how the Peluso family fared early on during this terrible time. I do not find a 1930 Federal Census record for the family, but the 1933 New York City Directory for Brooklyn does list Joe and Antoinette Peluso and indicates that they lived in Brooklyn and that Joseph Peluso was a garment worker.

In the 1940 Federal Census record, the Peluso family lived at 6802 Thirteenth Avenue in New York, Kings County, New York, and all three children were still living at home. Joseph Peluso (head of household, age 52, was a naturalized citizen, occupation Presser, Industry Dresses, rented the home, and noted his highest grade completed was elementary school 2nd grade).

Antoinette (Antonetta) Peluso (wife, age 44), Sarah (Sara) Peluso (daughter, age 24, Occupation Examiner, Industry Dresses), Jean (Gina) Peluso (daughter, age 22, Occupation Secretary, Industry Fur Industry), and Yano Peluso (son, age 15) were all listed in the census record. “Yano” was short for Sebastiano and Yano or Yono was also the name his mother referred to him by in letters to my grandmother in 1945.

On January 5, 1942, Sara Peluso married Joseph Cambria in New York, Manhattan, New York. At the time, her occupation was airbrush artist.

On April 26, 1942, Joseph Peluso registered for the World War II “old man’s” draft. At the time he was 54 years old and resided at 6802 13 Ave., Bklyn, Kings, NY. This document notes his birthdate as September 1, 1887.

On November 4, 1942, at the age of 18, Sebastiano J. Peluso enlisted in the Army Air Corps in New York City. He resided in Kings County, New York City, New York. Although I don’t see this information in his enlistment record online for NARA, his enlistment record in Ancestry.com states he was 69 inches (5 ft 9 inches) tall and weighed 134 pounds. The Ancestry record also noted that he had completed one year of college.

On April 6, 1944, Antonetta Peluso, age 48, and residing at 6802 – 13th Av. Bklyn, Kgs. NY, became a naturalized United States citizen.

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso was assigned to the 544th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy) of the 384th Bombardment Group based in Grafton Underwood, England, per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #144 dated 22 July 1944.

Sebastiano Peluso’s 384th Bomb Group Sortie Record indicates he had the rank of Sgt. (Sergeant), his duty was Radio Operator, and his pay was $140.40 per month. He listed his Home Address as Mrs. Antonetta Peluso, 2963 West 24th St., Brooklyn, N.Y.

On his second combat mission on 5 AUGUST 1944, Sebastiano narrowly escaped serious injury or possibly death during a flak attack on the Buslee crew’s B-17. A newspaper report notes that,

Probably the fact that the radio operator, Sgt. Sebastino Peluso, 20, 2963 West 24th   Street, Brooklyn, N.Y., was bending over attending to a chore, saved him from becoming a casualty when the flak pierced the sides of the big bomber and so thoroughly smashed up his radio compartment.  More than a dozen flak holes ringed his section of the ship.

On 9 SEPTEMBER 1944, Sebastiano Peluso was promoted to Staff Sergeant on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #180.

On his fifteenth and final mission with the 384th Bomb Group on 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany (Target was Industry, Steelworks), Sebastiano Peluso, flying with the John Oliver Buslee crew, went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared KIA (Killed in Action).

On September 28, 1944, just two months past his twentieth birthday, he was aboard B-17 43-37822 with the Buslee crew and was killed in the mid-air collision with B-17 42‑31222 Lazy Daisy.

Sebastiano was the last man of the crew to be identified, and most likely was buried in the Ost Ingersleben cemetery near Magdeburg with his crew mates, and later re-interred at the Netherlands American Military Cemetery at Margraten.

Sebastiano’s mother and father corresponded with my dad’s mother in 1945, attempting to learn more about their son’s fate. You can read their letters to my grandmother here.

In 1924, Joseph Peluso had become an American citizen and welcomed his son Sebastiano into the world. In 1944, Antonetta Peluso became an American citizen and they lost him.

On June 21, 1947, Gina Peluso married Carmelo Mesite in Meriden, Connecticut.

On December 31, 1948, the U.S. Army transport Barney Kirschbaum returned the body of Sebastiano Peluso to his parents, one of 4,384 war dead returned on the ship. Sebastiano Joseph Peluso was buried on January 19, 1949 in his final resting place in the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York in Plot J, Site 15423.

On July 3, 1953, according to a List of Outward-Bound Passengers, Joseph and Antonetta Peluso departed New York, New York on the S.S. Homeland. They were bound for Genoa Italy. They indicated they intended to remain abroad for three months, with their country of Destination listed as Italy.

On September 28, 1953 (the ninth anniversary of the day of the mid-air collision), Joseph and Antonetta Peluso departed Naples, Italy on the S.S. Homeland, heading back to America. According to the List of In-Bound Passengers, they arrived back in New York on October 12, 1953.

On March 25, 1987, Antonetta Fiore Peluso died in Meriden, New Haven, CT. Her death record indicates she was a homemaker, was widowed from Joseph, and was 92 years old. She is buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery, Meriden, New Haven County, Connecticut. I have been unable to find a death record for Joseph Peluso.

In 1994, Jospeh’s and Antonetta’s daughter Gina lived in Brooklyn and Sara lived in Meriden, Connecticut.

On April 2, 1999, Gina Peluso Mesite died as the widow of Carmelo D. Mesite (b. 1920 – d. 1990) in Meriden, New Haven, Connecticut at 80 years old. Her occupation was Cafeteria worker for the Meriden School System. Gina is also buried in Sacred Heart Cemetery in Meriden, New Haven County, Connecticut, the same cemetery as her mother.

On June 21, 2007, Sara Peluso Cambria died at age of 90, as the widow of Joseph Cambria, in Meriden, New Haven, Connecticut. Sara is buried at South Main St., Middletown. Sara and Joseph Cambria had two children, Lisa Cambria and Gina Dunlap.

If any family or friends of Sebastiano Joseph Peluso has information about him or photos of him to share, please contact me. I would very much like to connect with descendants of Giuseppe (Joseph) and Antonetta Peluso.

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

Notes/Links

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2021

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 26 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: (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

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

No photo available

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

No photo available

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

No photo available

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

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso, Radio Operator/Gunner for the Buslee Crew

Sebastiano Jospeph Peluso was the radio operator on the John Oliver “Jay” Buslee crew.  Sebastiano, known as Yano to family, was born on July 8, 1924. His parents were Joseph and Antonetta Peluso, Italian immigrants to the United States.  Sebastiano, the youngest of the Peluso children, had two older sisters, Sala (or Sarah) and Jennie (or Jean).  Sala was nine years older and Jennie was seven years older than Sebastiano.  All of the children were born in New York. During WWII, the Pelusos lived in Brooklyn.

On November 4, 1942 at the age of 18, Sebastiano enlisted in the Army Air Corps in New York City.  His enlistment record notes that he was single, had completed one year of college, was 5’9″, and weighed 134 pounds.

Sebastiano served on fifteen missions with the 384th Bomb Group, all of them as Radio Operator of the Buslee crew.  On September 28, 1944, just two months past his twentieth birthday, he was aboard Lead Banana with the Buslee crew and was killed in the mid-air collision with Lazy Daisy.

Sebastiano was the last man of the crew to be identified, and most likely was buried in the Ost Ingersleben cemetery with his crew mates, and then re-interred at the Netherlands American Military Cemetery at Margraten.

The Brooklyn Daily Eagle reported on December 30, 1948:

82 Boro War Dead On Way From Europe

The U.S. Army transport Barney Kirschbaum, bearing the bodies of 4,384 war dead, will arrive at the Brooklyn Army Base at about 9 a.m. tomorrow, two days late as the result of storms at sea.

Memorial services, previously announced for yesterday, will be held at 11 a.m. tomorrow on the upper level of Pier 3 at the base, 58th St. and 1st Ave.  Next of kin and the public are invited.

Armed forces dead originally interred in temporary military cemeteries in France, Belgium, Holland, and Luxembourg are among those being brought back to this country.

A total of 429 remains are being returned upon instructions of next of kin residing in New York, 82 of them in Brooklyn.

Following is a list of the Brooklyn war dead on the ship and their next of kin:

Listed among the war dead was

S/Sgt. Sebastiano J. Peluso.  Joseph Peluso, 2963 W. 24th St.

Sebastiano Joseph Peluso was buried on January 19, 1949 in his final resting place in the Long Island National Cemetery in Farmingdale, Suffolk County, New York in Plot J, Site 15423.

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)

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015