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Morton Coleman Weinrib and Bruce Taylor Smith
I have one more story to tell about the 384th Bomb Group’s B-17 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin on her last mission, the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany. According to mission reports and personal accounts, all of the airmen aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin bailed out of the doomed aircraft over Binche, Belgium, leaving no one on board when Tremblin’ Gremlin crashed to the ground, reportedly in the vicinity of Binche-Charleroi.
Witnesses on the ground, however, thought differently and believed there were airmen aboard to rescue.
The Regimental HQ of the 389th Engineer General Service Regiment was located in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. At the time, the Regiment was reinstalling the railway between Maubeuge – Mons – Charleroi, Belgium.
On 19 September 1944, Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib, a dentist, and Major Bruce Taylor Smith, a doctor, who were with the U.S. Army Medical Corps and served in the U.S. Army’s 389th Engineer General Service Regiment, were working in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque when Tremblin’ Gremlin crashed to the ground.
Both Weinrib and Smith approached the downed aircraft to evacuate any wounded aboard when it exploded. In their attempt to save any souls on board, both men were killed in the explosion.
Reports of their deaths note that the two were evacuating wounded from the aircraft, however, we know that the crew had all bailed out before the plane crashed.
Sadly, not only did the U.S. Army Medical Corps and the U.S. Army’s 389th Engineer General Service Regiment lose two brave members, two families at home lost their sons, husbands, and fathers.
Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib was born 12 June 1916 in New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York.
Note: The above photo may or may not be Capt. Morton Coleman Weinrib. He is identified only as “M. Weinrib” in the Syracuse University 1942 yearbook and I find no corroboration that he attended that University.
Morton was the son of Samuel Weinrib and Bessie Coleman Weinrib and the brother of Leonard Weinrib. He married Therese (Terry) Marie Goldstein Weinrib (and later, Tapman) on 13 May 1939. Geni.com notes his descendants as one child, two grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren.
Morton C. Weinrib attended and graduated from Columbia School of Dental and Oral Surgery, Columbia University, New York, New York.
Morton’s hometown was New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York when he entered the service. His service number was #O1690082.
Morton Weinrib died on 19 September 1944 at 28 years old in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. He was first buried at US Temporary American Military Cemetery of Fosse, Belgium. His permanent resting place is at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombières, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium, Plot G, Row 6, Grave 3.
Major Bruce Taylor Smith was born 14 July 1902 in Quebec, Canada. He lived in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada before immigrating to America in 1926.
Bruce was the son of Luther Lewis Smith and Mary Helen Macfie Smith and the brother of Robert Macfie Smith and Lewis Douglas Smith. He married Elin Karlsson McCartney Smith on Christmas Day 1929 and had three sons, Robert, Bruce, Jr., and Douglas.
Maj. Bruce T. Smith was a physician and surgeon before he enlisted. He had his own practice.
Bruce’s hometown when he entered the service was Fort Covington, Franklin County, New York. His service number was #O-490076.
Bruce Smith died on 19 September 1944 at 42 years old in the vicinity of Fontaine L’Eveque, Belgium. He was first buried at Temporary American Military Cemetery of Fosse, Belgium. His permanent resting place is at the Henri-Chapelle American Cemetery and Memorial, Plombières, Liege, Walloon Region, Belgium, Plot G, Row 4, Grave 26.
The Demise of Tremblin’ Gremlin
While we are fortunate and thankful that all of the 384th Bomb Group airmen aboard Tremblin’ Gremlin survived on the 19 September 1944 mission to Hamm, Germany, let us not forget the sacrifice of Captain Morton Coleman Weinrib and Major Bruce Taylor Smith on that day. As we are so familiar these days with the actions of first responders rushing toward a scene of death and destruction, these two men put others first and risked their lives, only to become casualties of the day themselves.
Captain Weinrib and Major Smith, “thank you for your service to our country” does not begin to express the gratitude and honor you deserve for your actions. May you rest in peace and know that we are grateful that men like you served your country in World War II and defended our freedom.
Morton C Weinrib on Geni.com
Find a Grave memorial for Capt. Morton Coleman Weinrib
Fields of Honor database entry for Morton C. Weinrib
Find a Grave memorial for Maj. Bruce Taylor Smith
Fields of Honor database entry for Bruce T. Smith
B-17 42-37982 Tremblin’ Gremlin, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group website
Previous post, The Fate of Tremblin’ Gremlin and Her Crew on Mission 196
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022
Not the Lead Banana
In all of my previous articles describing the September 28, 1944 mid-air collision in which my dad was involved, I stated that the Brodie crew was aboard Lazy Daisy and the Buslee crew was aboard Lead Banana. I have recently learned that the ship 43-37822, which my dad and the Buslee crew manned that day, was not, in fact, named Lead Banana.
Lead Banana was the nickname for 42-37822, not 43-37822. The name was incorrectly assigned in the 384th Bomb Group’s database of WWII aircraft, but has now been corrected. The error was discovered through Marc Poole’s research and confirmed by a poem that Keith Ellefson ran across last month. The aircraft is also misidentified in Dave Osborne’s B-17 Fortress Master Log, which can be found here. On page 545, the Fortlog entry reads:
43-37822 Del Cheyenne 25/5/44; Kearney 8/6/44; Grenier 28/6/44; Ass 544BS/384BG [SU-N] Grafton Underwood 29/6/44; MIA Magdeburg 28/9/44 w/John Buslee, Dave Albrecht, Bill Henson, Bob Stearns, Len Bryant, Seb Peluso, George McMann, Gerald Anderson (8KIA); George Farrar (POW); flak, cr Ingersleben, Ger; MACR 9753. LEAD BANANA.
Early in my research of my dad’s WWII service, when I initially learned that my dad was aboard ship 43-37822 on September 28, 1944 in the mid-air collision, I was stunned. In all the stories that my dad told me about the war, the only B-17 he ever mentioned by name was Tremblin’ Gremlin. I had always assumed that was the ship he was aboard on September 28.
But the fact that my dad never did mention the name Lead Banana does help me believe that 43-37822 was not named. If it had been so named, Dad probably would have used that name when he told his story of the mid-air collision. And Wallace Storey did not use the name Lead Banana when he wrote about that day either. He did use the name Lazy Daisy for the Brodie crew’s ship, but he referred to my dad’s ship by number, not by name.
Both 42-37822 and 43-37822 were B-17G models. And both were fortresses of the 544th Bomb Squadron of the 384th. My father flew missions on both ships, one on 42-37822 (the real Lead Banana) and three on 43-37822.
Marc Poole is the fellow who originally started the 384th Bomb Group’s website. Fred Preller is now the webmaster of the site and there are a group of volunteers and researchers that help maintain it. Though Marc is still active in the research of the 384th Bomb Group, he is primarily an artist, college art instructor, and family man. Not surprisingly, Marc is an amazing aviation artist who has a keen eye for aircraft detail.
As a result of Marc’s research, we now know that the above photo, which is part of the Quentin Bland collection in the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery, had been misidentified as 43-37822. Marc provided this information about 43-37822:
Aircraft 43-37822 was a Block 70 Boeing-built B-17G with a Natural Metal Finish, and not painted. Boeing quit painting their B-17’s after Block 30. This photo is of an early G model, and a very well-worn one at that.
Marc checked the listing for 42-37822, a Block 15 Douglas built ship, and there is a photo posted of that ship in flight, with nose art very similar to this close-up photo. Someone may have mistaken 42-37822 for 43-37822. Marc added:
I have yet to see a listing in any references for 42-37822 as Lead Banana, but I think that this is most likely the correct ship. There is a large gap of time in the listing for the ship in Osborne’s FortLog…no info between October 43 and its assignment to the 384th in May 44…odd. In comparing pics of Lead Banana currently posted for 43-37822, and one posted of 42-37822, I think it is the same earlier ship. Note the similarity of the black scoreboard under the Co-Pilot window and along the nose, and the same banana shape in the same spot, (but a different shade). Not 100%, but certainly plausible.
The Fortlog entry for 42-37822 is
42-37822 Del Long Beach 9/9/43; Gr Island 17/10/43; ass 544BS/384BG [SU-C] Grafton Underwood 12/5/44; on landing w/Ray Cook the undercarriage collapsed at RAF Ringway, UK (now Manchester Aprt) 16/3/45. Sal AFSC 19/3/45.
The only photo I can find for 43-37822 is the one below which was the High Group Lead on the August 1, 1944 Mission #169. Gerald Sammons commanded and accompanied pilot William Combs, radio operator Emil Morlan, top turret gunner Forest Bemis, bombardier Donald Ward, ball turret gunner Boyce Ragsdale, navigator Kenneth Lord, waist gunner James Fisher, and tail gunner/observer Lloyd LaChine.
The photo is from the 384th Bomb Group photo gallery, courtesy of Cynthia Smith, via Keith Ellefson. It has the natural metal finish, is not painted, and shows no evidence of any banana nose art.
But the final piece of evidence that has put the misidentification of 43-37822 as Lead Banana to rest for me was some new information that Keith Ellefson shared with me just recently. Keith ran across a poem called The Lead Banana: A B-17 Flying Fortress in the August 1989 384th Bomb Group, Inc.’s newsletter.
Next week I will share the poem and tell you about it’s author, a radio operator of the group. The following week I’ll share the poet’s connection with some of the airmen my dad served with at Grafton Underwood in the late summer and early fall of 1944 and how mysterious old photos can have amazing significance more than seventy years after they were taken.
And one more thing since we’re on the subject of misidentified B-17’s. The ship that Dad talked about in every war story he told me, Tremblin’ Gremlin? He only flew one mission on that one, his very first. The exact name of 42-37982 is in question if you take a look at the nose art. I have never seen the name written as anything other than with the spelling Tremblin’ with the apostrophe at the end. But the nose art was painted with the spelling Trembling.
Sorry, but I can’t have all my illusions about my dad’s planes’ names blown away at once. The guy who painted that nose art obviously made a mistake. She’ll always be the Tremblin’ Gremlin to me.
Continued next week…
…and then I’ll continue the story of Jack Coleman Cook and Edward Field in a few weeks after a little more research.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2018
First Letter from Mrs. Andersen
The same day she received the US Army Air Corps’ December 26, 1944 letter about her missing husband – the tail gunner on Lead Banana – and accompanying list of crew members and their next of kin, Gerald Lee Andersen’s wife, Esther, penned a letter to Raleigh Mae Farrar, George Edwin Farrar’s mother. Mrs. Andersen dated her letter December 26, 1944, which was the same date of the letter that included the next of kin list from the Army Air Forces. Perhaps the Army Air Forces pre-dated their letter or Mrs. Andersen wrote the wrong date on hers. Her letter is as follows:
December 26, 1944
Mrs. Raleigh Mae Farrar
79 East Lake Terrace Northeast
Dear Mrs. Farrar:
Today I received from the War Department the names of the crew on the B-17 (Flying Fortress) on which my husband, S/Sgt. Gerald Lee Andersen, was reported missing in action since September 28 and also the names of the next of kin.
I received the information that the plane was damaged by antiaircraft fire and forced down near their target over Germany. I would like to know if you have received any information concerning your son, S/Sgt. George E. Farrar, safety.
I wish to keep in contact with all next of kin in case any of us receive any information that we may exchange.
My anxiety as I know yours has been great and we hold on to every hope of their safety. My sympathy is with you. May I hear from you soon.
Mrs. Esther E. Coolen Andersen
Mrs. Esther E. Andersen
Esther’s husband, Gerald Lee Andersen, was the tail gunner on the Joe Carnes crew in the 544th squadron of the 384th bomb group. Andersen’s first mission with the 384th was the August 7, 1944 mission 174 to an oil depot in Dungy, France. Andersen flew nine total missions with the Carnes crew, the last being September 13, 1944.
Eugene D. Lucynski was the tail gunner on the John Buslee crew, also in the 544th squadron of the 384th bomb group. Lucynski’s first mission with the 384th was the August 4, 1944 mission 171 to a rocket R&D facility – CROSSBOW (V-Weapons) – in Peenemunde, Germany. Lucynski flew twelve total missions with the Buslee crew, the last being September 11, 1944.
For reasons unknown, Lucynski flew his next two missions with the Carnes crew, replacing Gerald Lee Andersen as tail gunner. Mission 195 on September 17, was a tactical mission to s’Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands. Mission 196 on September 19, was to the railroad marshalling yards in Hamm, Germany.
On the September 19 mission, the Carnes crew was aboard the Tremblin’ Gremlin. The Gremlin was struck by flak, and after bombs away, left formation under control. The crew, including Eugene Lucynski, who had replaced Gerald Lee Andersen as tail gunner, bailed out over Binche, Belgium. Landing in allied territory, the crew eventually returned to duty, with the exception of seriously injured ball turret gunner, James B. King, Jr. The temporary absence of the Carnes crew left Andersen to fill in with other crews.
Andersen’s next mission was mission 198 on September 25 to the railroad marshalling yards at Frankfurt-am-Main, Germany. He flew as tail gunner on the John Buslee crew replacing Eugene Lucynski, who had taken his place on the Carnes crew. The Bulsee crew didn’t fly on September 26, so on that date on mission 199, Andersen flew with the Joseph D. Patella crew. Andersen’s next two missions on September 27 and September 28, however, would be back on the Buslee crew again, replacing Eugene Lucynski.
This series of crew changes resulted in Gerald Lee Andersen flying as the tail gunner aboard the Lead Banana on September 28, 1944 when it collided with Lazy Daisy coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany. Whatever the reason behind the switch in tail gunners for the two crews, it saved Lucynski from being on the Lead Banana on September 28, and put Andersen on that ill-fated flight, where he lost his life.
Gerald Lee Andersen was born on June 20, 1923. He was only 21 years old when he lost his life on September 28, 1944 in the mid-air collision between Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy. He is buried in Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell (Lincoln County), Nebraska in Section F, Site 1229.
The photo of Andersen was sent to Raleigh Mae Farrar (George Edwin Farrar’s mother) on April 7, 1945 by Andersen’s wife, Esther. On the back of the photo she described her husband as 5-feet 7-inches tall, weighing 140 pounds, with dark wavy hair, green eyes, and a fair complexion. She noted his age as 22, which he would have been, had he lived, in June of that year.
Esther Andersen’s letter of April 7, 1945 will be published in a future post.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2014
The Tremblin’ Gremlin in Flight
Aircraft 42-37982, The Tremblin’ Gremlin in Flight…
Text © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013
August 5, 1944 Mission 173 Press Release – Transcription
This is the transcription of the press release regarding the Buslee crew on Mission 173, August 5, 1944.
SENT TO: Park Ridge (Illinois) Advocate Passed for Publication 112 1 September 1944 SHAEF Field Press Censor
AN EIGHTH AIR FORCE BOMBER STATION, ENGLAND – 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.
The “Tremblin’ Gremlin” was flying in a fortress formation attacking the German airfield at Langenhagen, north of Hannover. As the American heavies started their bomb run over the target, a heavy barrage of anti-aircraft fire suddenly exploded all around them.
One shell exploded at the side of the “Tremblin’ Gremlin’s” nose, and a fragment whirled through the bomber’s metal skin and struck the bombardier in the chest below his left shoulder. Lt. Fryden swayed and nearly toppled over from the force of the enemy steel entering his body, but he regained his balance and clutched his bomb release more firmly.
“I’m hit”, was all that the wounded airman reported over the inter-communication system to the pilot’s compartment.
Perhaps he was thinking of the slogan for bombardiers at this station – “Get the bombs on the target” – for he pressed the bomb release that sent the explosives, carried in the belly of his Fortress, plunging toward the German airfield…Lt. Fryden had accomplished the job that had brought him into central Germany.
This story of Lt. Fryden’s valorous action was told by his friend and pilot, another resident of the Chicago area, 2nd Lt. John O. Buslee, 21, 411 Wisner Ave., Park Ridge.
Lt. Buslee and Lt. Fryden were members of a crew that had just recently arrived in England for action on the Eurpoean aerial front and the Langenhagen operation was their second mission. [This was GEF’s first mission.] On both of these, Lt. Buslee flew in the position of co-pilot with a veteran pilot to gain some combat experience before taking his own ship aloft in the danger ridden skies of Europe. However, he handled the controls the majority of the time.
The flight from England to the center of Germany was made without incident, but when the Fortresses initiated their bomb run in the vicinity of the target, ground defenses opened up with a thick curtain of flak that burst about the planes like black mushrooms popping out of the ground after a heavy rain.
A fragment from the same burst that wounded the bombardier, hit the navigator, 2nd Lt. Chester A. Rybarczyk, 21, 1118 Elum St., Toledo, Ohio behind the ear, but the injury was not serious.
“It was popping all over the place during the few minutes we were in the bomb run,” said Lt. Buslee, describing the flak. By the time we made our turn away from the target, more than half the crew had been hit and suffered injuries of varying degrees.”
The engineer and top turret gunner, Sgt. Clarence B. Seeley, 22, of Halsey, Neb., was the next of the nine-man crew to be hit. A jagged piece of steel ripped through the lower part of his right leg above the ankle. Another burst of flak alongside the nose sent hot metal flying into the pilot’s compartment. The pilot, 2nd Lt. Arthur J. Shwery, 20, Route 2, Janesville, Wis., was hit above the eye, and cut, while a fragment bounced off Lt. Buslee’s thigh, however, merely breaking the skin and inflicting a bruise.
The sixth crew member to be hit was the waist gunner, Sgt. George E. Farrar, 22, 79 East Lake Terrace, S.E., Atlanta, Ga. He was cut on the cheek and a small piece of flesh was torn off one finger.
While its crew was having its bad moments, the big silver-colored ship was taking a heavy pounding. The right inboard engine was hit and ceased to function; the radio compartment was riddled with holes and the radio equipment destroyed; the trim tabs that control the plane’s balance, was shredded; the hydraulic brake system was shot out, and part of the oxygen system was eliminated, necessitating that the men up forward use emergency supplies or tap other lines.
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.
Only the bombardier and top turret gunner were in need of immediate first aid treatment during the return trip, and the navigator, Lt. Rybarczyk, did as much as possible for Lt. Fryden, who retained consciousness during the entire mission. Sgt. Seeley attended to his own leg wound.
The left inboard engine went out as the “Tremblin’ Gremlin” reached the English coast and Lt. Buslee headed for the nearest airfield. With his brakes gone, he was faced with a ticklish landing, but he brought the plane in nicely on the concrete landing strip and slid it off onto the grass to reduce the speed of the freely-rolling uncontrollable wheels.
The other members of the crew not already mentioned, and neither of whom was touched by the liberal quantity of flak the German gunners planted in the sky over Langenhagen, were Sgt. Erwin V. Foster, 24, 356 West Water St., Elmira, N.Y., the ball turret gunner, and S/Sgt. Eugene D. Lucynski, 24, 7307 North Dort Highway, Mt. Morris, Mich.
Lt. Fryden was the son of Mr. and Mrs. Harry Fryden, 6719 North Lakewood, Mrs. Marilyn Fryden, lives at 2410 West 51st St. He was a graduate of Tuley High School and Central College, and worked for a cement company in Chicago as a laboratory assistant before entering the service. He was commissioned a second lieutenant October 10, 1942, and was promoted to first lieutenant October 9, 1943.
Tony Rybarczyk reports that Marvin Fryden did not die alone. His friend, and crew navigator, Chester Rybarczyk (Tony’s dad), was with Marvin and held him as Marvin died. Rybarczyk was put in for the Purple Heart on this mission, but didn’t think it would have been right to accept it.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013
August 5, 1944 Mission 173 Press Release – Scanned Images
These are scanned images of a press release regarding the Buslee crew on Mission 173, August 5, 1944.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2013