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Wilfred Frank Miller, Update

Wilfred Frank Miller at Grafton Underwood
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Last year, the youngest son of Wilfred Frank Miller, Patrick Miller, and I connected after he found my articles online about his father and his father’s B-17 crew of World War II. Patrick has shared a lot of information about his dad and his family and has made some new discoveries regarding his father’s POW experience.

Wilfred Frank Miller was the tail gunner of the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Army Air Forces in WWII. He was aboard B-17 42‑31222 Lazy Daisy when it collided with the John Oliver Buslee crew’s B-17 43‑37822, with my father aboard, coming off the target at Magdeburg on 28 September 1944.

Today I want to share the new information I’ve learned about Wilfred Frank Miller, thanks to his son Patrick. To view my original post and other information about Wilfred Frank Miller, please see the links at the end of this post.

Wilfred Miller, Growing Up

Wilfred Frank Miller was born February 15, 1925, at Pigeon Lake, Wisconsin, son of Fred and Mary Sadkowski Miller. Wilfred had an older brother by two years named Leo Anton Miller. Leo was born on February 8, 1923.

The family farmed first in the township of Rhine, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, then later moved to Osman, an unincorporated community in the township of Meeme, Manitowoc CountyWisconsin. Both Miller boys would grow up to serve in World War II, Wilfred in the Army Air Forces and Leo in the Marines.

Left to right, brothers Wilfred Frank Miller and Leo Anton Miller
Photo courtesy of Alyssa Miller on Ancestry.com

The boys’ father, Fred Miller, died of a heart attack on April 6, 1943, two days short of his fifty-first birthday. Leo had registered for the draft in 1942, but then delayed his enlistment until June 30, 1944. Wilfred entered the service in October of 1943. The war years must have been especially difficult for Wilfred’s mother, Mary Miller, as a widow worrying about her two sons serving in a world war.

Entry into World War II Military Service

Although I cannot find an enlistment record for Wilfred Miller, I believe that he likely did enlist in order to get into the Army Air Forces. I did find a copy of his draft registration, however.

Wilfred Miller registered for the WWII draft on February 15, 1943, his eighteenth birthday. On his draft registration, he listed his father, Mr. Fred Miller of R #1, Newton, Wisconsin, as the person who would always know his address. But Fred Miller would die on April 6, 1943, less than two months after Wilfred registered for the draft.

On his draft registration form, Wilfred Miller noted he was eighteen years old, born on February 15, 1925 in Liberty Township, Wisconsin. His employer was Matthias Cheese Factory, also known as Matthias Dairy or Cleveland Cheese Factory, located in the village of Cleveland in the township of Centerville, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

He described himself as 6’1″ in height, 164 pounds, with brown eyes, brown hair, and a ruddy complexion. Topping six feet made him pretty tall for a B-17 airman and I imagine sitting on the bicycle-style seat in his position in the tail of a B-17 was a tight fit for him.

Wilfred Miller’s induction into the Army Air Forces was 28 September 1943, exactly one year before the Buslee-Brodie mid-air collision. I believe his induction date could represent his enlistment date. He entered into active service almost a month later on 23 October 1943 at Jefferson Barracks, Missouri.

Wilfred Miller completed two months of basic training (MOS 521) at Jefferson Barracks. He then attended six weeks of Aerial Gunnery School at Las Vegas, Nevada, where he received his wings.

Wilfred Miller completed his crew training at Ardmore, Oklahoma, where he became a member of the James Joseph Brodie B-17 crew, and departed the U.S. for combat duty in the ETO (European Theater of Operations) on 1 July 1944, arriving in England on 5 July 1944, according to his honorable discharge record. However, he actually left Ardmore somewhere between 23 and 25 June, and was in transit at Goose Bay, Labrador on 1 July.

World War II Military Service at Grafton Underwood, England

Wilfred Frank Miller’s 384th Bomb Group Individual Sortie record indicates that his duty was tail gunner, one month’s pay was $140.40, and his home address was Mrs. Mary Miller, Newton, RFD #1, Wisconsin.

Morning Reports of the 384th Bombardment Group indicate the following for Wilfred Frank Miller:

  • On 26 JULY 1944, Corporal Wilfred Frank Miller was assigned to the 384th Bombardment Group, 545th Bombardment Squadron (Heavy), per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated 26 July 1944 as a tail gunner (classification AAG, Airplane Armorer/Gunner, with the MOS, military operational specialty, of 611).
  • On 2 AUGUST 1944, Corporal Wilfred Frank Miller was promoted to Sergeant per AAF Station 106 Special Orders #155.
  • On 28 SEPTEMBER 1944, on Mission 201 to Magdeburg, Germany (Target was Industry, Steelworks), Wilfred Frank Miller, flying with the James Joseph Brodie crew, went from duty to MIA (Missing in Action). He was subsequently declared POW (Prisoner of War).

Prisoner of War

On April 14, 1988, Wilfred Miller filled out an application for a POW medal. On this form he noted (with corrections) that:

  • I was captured on September 28, 1944 at Magdeburg, Germany.
  • I was at Stalag Luft No 3 [correction: should read Stalag Luft IV; Luft IV was a sub-camp of Luft III] Baltic Sea Bay, (East Side) September 28, 1944 to Jan. 1945.
  • Then at Stalag Luft No 4 [correction: should read Stalag Luft I] Baltic Sea Bay (West Side) Jan 1945 to May 13, 1945.
  • I was released [as a POW] on May 13, 1945 at France.
  • Date of discharge [from WWII military service], November 4, 1945.

Wilfred’s son Patrick requested his father’s POW Records from the Red Cross in January this year and received a reply in March. The ICRC sent the following information: A capture card dated 13 October 1944 noted Wilfred Miller was a POW in German hands detained in Stalag Luft IV. His prisoner of war number at Stalag Luft IV (Gross Tychow) was 3916. He arrived at Stalag Luft I (Barth) on 7 February 1945 according to a list sent 1 March 1945.

Wilfred Miller was listed in a Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster on page 44. He is the second W.F. Miller listed on the page, POW 3916, ASN 36834864.

Wilfred Frank Miller on Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster

Note that Miller W.F. (POW 3916, ASN 36834864) on page 44 of the roster has a circle beside his name. At the top of page 8 of the same list is an asterisk with a notation, “Men moved to Barth 1-30-45.” I believe that an asterisk, or circle in Miller’s case, signifies that the POW was moved to Stalag Luft I (Barth) on Jan 30, 1945 before the general population of the camp was to begin the march.

I believe in his POW medal application, Wilfred Miller just confused the stalag numbers after forty-three years had gone by. Stalag Luft IV was a satellite camp of Stalag Luft III, so I can see the confusion in the camp numbers.

In the past, I believed that only sick and injured POWs who were unable to walk were selected to be transported to Stalag Luft I at Barth ahead of the march. However, now I understand that is not the case, thanks to Candy Kyler Brown, daughter of Stalag Luft IV POW John R. Kyler of the 92nd Bombardment Group of the 8th Army Air Forces.

Candy is author of the book “What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father.” John Kyler was also one of the POWs who was moved to Stalag Luft I at Barth.

In her book, Candy writes in Chapter 31 (Train Ride to Barth),

Many of the selected group were ill or injured, but prisoners who were fairly healthy were included in the draw.

The train ride to Barth and the subsequent imprisonment in a different POW camp was not as simple as it may appear on the surface. In fact, it was just a different slice of the same living hell the prisoners had endured in their previous captivity. I will share more information about their experience from the train ride to their liberation in a future post.

In Chapter 34 (Liberation) of her book, Candy notes that at the time of liberation of the camp, the sick and injured left Barth on May 12 and everyone else on May 13, 1945. Candy’s dad flew out from the POW camp at Barth on May 13. This is the same date Wilfred Miller notes on his POW application as the date he was released as a POW. He must have been in the same group to be liberated as John Kyler.

Candy Kyler Brown stands next to a display at the Museum of the Mighty Eighth Air Force of a vest her father, John Kyler, knitted during his time as a POW in WWII

Wilfred Miller’s POW record in the online National Archives notes his Last Report Date as 4 June 1945. This possibly could have been the date he departed Europe on his return to the US as no departure date was recorded on his honorable discharge separation document, but his date of arrival in the USA was noted as 21 June 1945. He likely returned on a slow moving service members’ transit ship.

Release from World War II Military Service

Wilfred Miller was honorably discharged from military service on 4 November 1945 (his Date of Separation). His Place of Separation was the Lincoln Army Air Field at Lincoln, Nebraska. Documents list his civilian occupation as farmer.

Separation documents note he received no wounds in action and he was not awarded a Purple Heart. These facts lead me to believe that he was not physically injured in the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944.

Wilfred’s Separation Qualification Record notes his Summary of Military Occupations as,

Aerial Gunner (611). Flew on a B-17 as tail gunner in the E.T.O. for 19 missions. Was shot down and bailed out over Germany. Was taken prisoner of war and interned for 7 months. Was returned to U.S. control 13 May 1945.

Also noted in separation documents, Miller’s continental (U.S.) service was reported as 1 year, 22 days. His foreign service was reported as 11 months, 20 days as an Aerial Gunner (MOS 611).

A departure date for his return from Europe was not recorded, but his date of arrival in the USA was noted as 21 June 1945. He returned home to his mother Mrs. Mary Miller of Route 1, Newton, Wisconsin, where he would run their 80 acre dairy farm.

During his World War II military service, Wilfred Miller earned the Air Medal with 2 oak leaf clusters, National Defense Service Medal, American Theater EAME Theater Ribbon with 3 battle stars, Victory Medal, Good Conduct Medal, one Overseas Bar, and the Prisoner of War medal.

Post-World War II

On October 25, 1947, Wilfred Frank Miller married June Holfeltz at St. Isidore Catholic Church in Osman, Wisconsin.

Wilfred and June Miller Wedding
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

In the wedding photo are Wilfred’s brother, Leo Miller, and June’s brother, Edsel Holfeltz.

Son Patrick Miller notes that after the war, his parents farmed in the town of Osman, Wisconsin, a small town with a population of around 75. Wilfred was also a carpenter. Wilfred and June had six children, five sons and one daughter.

Wilfred and June Miller enjoyed traveling together and traveling with friends and neighbors, visiting relatives, and seeing sights in the US. But for the rest of his life, Wilfred kept his feet, or tires, on the ground. He never again flew in a plane after the war.

In the early 1960’s, Wilfred and June sold the cows and Wilfred went into carpentry as a profession. He worked with a few builders in Manitowoc and Sheboygan.

In the 1960’s, Wilfred purchased a nearby abandoned schoolhouse in Osman. He and his oldest sons tore it down, and built a new house on the site. Patrick Miller mostly grew up in this house. Wilfred and June lived in that house until the early 1990’s when they sold the house to build another.

They purchased land in Cleveland, Wisconsin to build the new house. Wilfred was now retired as a carpenter, but was going to do the finish work in the house himself. While temporarily living in Cleveland, and in the process of building the new house, Wilfred died in his sleep of a heart attack on June 29, 1991 at the age of 66. June had the house finished and lived there for several years before selling it. Wilfred’s brother Leo died less than three months after Wilfred, on September 10, 1991, at the age of 68.

Patrick Miller said that his dad never talked about the war, not to his kids, and not even to his wife, June. The only things Wilfred’s family were aware of were that he was shot down and became a POW in Germany. They were unaware of the mid-air collision and Wilfred Miller’s terrifying freefall toward earth in the severed tail of his B-17 until he was able to bail out and save his life with his parachute.

Brodie crew navigator George Hawkins calmly described the scene following the mid-air collision in a post-war narrative as,

The following evening (after the mid-air collision and his capture) I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller. Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.

A terrifying experience for all three, I’m sure, regardless of how matter-of-factly Hawkins described the events of the explosion and how the tail simply “left the ship” with Wilfred Miller still in it plummeting toward the ground.

Wilfred’s wife June still lives in Wisconsin. Her first airplane trip was not until after Wilfred had passed away. Wilfred and June’s children Frederick, Nancy, John, Joseph, and Patrick all currently reside in Wisconsin, and Ronald resides in Florida.

In the late 1970’s or early 1980’s, Wilfred and June Miller took a trip to visit two of Wilfred’s Brodie crewmates, both also World War II prisoners of war, George Hawkins (navigator) and Bill (William) Taylor (radio operator). Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor were both held in D Lager of Stalag Luft IV. While Wilfred Miller was taken to Stalag Luft I (Barth) in late January of 1945, I believe Bill Taylor participated in the same march out of Stalag Luft IV on February 6, 1945 as my father, George Edwin Farrar, and Brodie crew waist gunner Harry Liniger.

George Hawkins was seriously wounded in the mid-air collision and was held POW in a hospital until his own liberation at the end of the war. I’ll be sharing more information about George Hawkins and his POW experience at a later date, too, thanks to 384th Bomb Group NexGen member Paul Furiga, son of bombardier Frank Furiga, who was held POW in the same hospital as Hawkins.

Photo: Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor, date unknown

Left to right, likely Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: Wilfred Miller and Bill Taylor, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Brodie crew mates Wilfred Miller (tail gunner) and Bill Taylor (radio operator)
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: Wilfred and June Miller, and Barbara and Bill Taylor, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Wilfred and June Miller, and Barbara and Bill Taylor.
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Photo: George Hawkins and Wilfred Miller, circa late 1970’s or early 1980’s

Left to right, Brodie crew mates George Marshall Hawkins, Jr (navigator) and Wilfred Frank Miller (tail gunner)
Photo courtesy of Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son

Thank you to Patrick Miller, Wilfred Miller’s youngest son, for sharing so many wonderful stories and photographs of his father.

Notes

Previous post, Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller’s Personnel Record courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Wilfred Miller’s POW record in the online National Archives

Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster – see page 44

MOS means Military Occupational Specialty

Previous post, Assigned Military Operational Specialties of the Buslee and Brodie Crews

Previous post, Timeline for Brodie Crewmembers and Substitutes, 545th Bomb Squadron

Previous post, ICRC POW Records Request

Missing Air Crew Report 9366 for the Brodie crew on 28 September 1944 courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Missing Air Crew Report 9753 for the Buslee crew on 28 September 1944, courtesy of the 384th Bomb Group

Wilfred Frank Miller on Find a Grave

What I Never Told You: A Daughter Traces the Wartime Imprisonment of Her Father” by Candy Kyler Brown

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

Stalag Luft IV, Lager D, Barracks 4, Room 12

In the mid-air collision of 28 September 1944 over Magdeburg, Germany of the B-17’s of the John Oliver Buslee crew of the 544th Bomb Squadron and the James Joseph Brodie crew of the 545th Bomb Squadron of the 384th Bomb Group, four men survived to become prisoners of war.

One of the men of the Brodie crew, George Marshall Hawkins, Jr., was an officer. The other three, my father George Edwin Farrar, Harry Allen Liniger, and Wilfred Frank Miller, were enlisted men. Officers and enlisted men were housed in separate prison camps. Farrar, Liniger, and Miller were housed in Stalag Luft IV, although it seems as though none of them arrived at the same time.

Another airman of the Brodie crew, William Edson Taylor, who was not participating in the 28 September mission with his crew, became a prisoner of war on a later mission, about a week after his crewmates, and was also housed in Stalag Luft IV.

Until two weeks ago, I had never found any of their names on a roster of prisoners of the camp. But two weeks ago, when I was revisiting some POW websites that I had not visited for a long time, I found most of them.

Unfortunately, I did not find the name of Harry Liniger on any of the rosters I reviewed, but I am certain he was held in that camp.

I found three new rosters for prisoners held in D Lager – two rosters of American POW’s and one roster of British POW’s. It is possible that Liniger was held in D Lager, but also as likely that he was held in A, B, or C Lagers instead. I believe he would have arrived at Stalag Luft IV before Miller and Farrar, so my best guess is that he was a resident of C Lager.

George Farrar was a hospital patient until almost Thanksgiving 1944 and Wilfred Miller was originally held in Stalag Luft III until January 1945.

Gregory Hatton’s website, Kriegsgefangen Lagar Der Luft VI and VI, contains a list of Camp Rosters, and in particular, one named Lunsford D Lager Diary Evacuated to Stalag 11A.

In the pages of the Lunsford D Lager Diary, I found my father, George Edwin Farrar listed as G. E. Farrar, on page 21. His S/N was 14119873 and his POW number was 3885.

George Edwin Farrar on Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster

Wilfred Frank Miller, listed as W.F. Miller (the second W.F. Miller on the page), is on page 44. His S/N was 36834864 and his POW number was 3916.

Wilfred Frank Miller on Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster

William Edson Taylor, listed as W.E. Taylor, is on page 72. His S/N was 16115332 and his POW number was 4059.

William Edson Taylor on Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster

I also found airman Cecil Carlton McWhorter, listed as C.C. McWhorter, of the 351st Bomb Group, who was my one of my dad’s POW roommates and marching companions, on page 42. His S/N was 6285927 and his POW number was 3906.

Cecil Carlton McWhorter on Stalag Luft IV Lager D roster

But my finds didn’t end there. Another roster on the Stalag Luft IV website was a roster of British airmen, Flt. Sgt. David Joseph Luft 4 roster RAF POWs at Luft IV. There on page 5, I found the name of my father’s British POW roommate and marching companion, Lawrence Newbold. The British roster provided not only Lawrence Newbold’s RAF S/N of 1576728 and POW number of 3113, it also told his Barracks number (4) and Room number (12).

Lawrence Newbold on Stalag Luft IV Lager D RAF roster

I now had confirmation of exactly where in Stalag Luft IV my father was held – Lager D, Barracks 4, and Room 12. But to really be able to visualize his place in the POW camp, a map of the camp would really come in handy. I found such a map on the website of a former prisoner of the camp, Jack McCracken.

Stalag Luft IV map drawing courtesy of Jack McCracken

With Jack’s map drawing, I was able to see exactly where my father was held in the camp as a prisoner of war. To enlarge the map for a better look, click on the image. Each of the four Lagers – A, B, C, and D are noted with the letters circled. Looking in the “D” section, look just underneath the circled “D” to the circled “4.” That would be Barracks 4.

As for Room 12, I have read that each barracks contained only 10 bunk rooms and that the POW’s called common areas like hallways and kitchens by numbers, too. Room 12’s sleeping arrangements may have been tabletops and floors rather than bunks, but I don’t know for certain except to say “comfort” was probably not a word in the POW’s everyday vocabulary.

Another bit of information, which I’ll have to research in more depth, is that the men on the roster on which I found my dad’s name were supposedly evacuated to Stalag 11A from Stalag Luft IV. I hope to learn more information about this detail as I delve deeper into my POW research.

Notes of Thanks and Credits

SSgt John Huston (Jack) McCracken,
Engineer/Top Turret Gunner

Thank you to S/Sgt. John Huston (Jack) McCracken for sharing his map drawing of Stalag Luft IV on the internet. S/Sgt. McCracken was an Engineer/Top Turret Gunner on a B-17 in the 570th Bomb Squadron of the 390th Bomb Group. He was shot down 9 September 1944  on a mission to Düsseldorf, Germany and imprisoned at Stalag Luft IV and Stalag Luft I. He was housed in Barracks 3 of C Lager according to notes on his map.

I wish to give full credit to Jack McCracken for his map drawing of Stalag Luft IV and have attempted to ask permission through several e-mail addresses I found on his webpage, to use his map in this article but without success.

Unfortunately, I cannot make my request to Jack himself as we lost this hero in 2012. You can read more about Jack McCracken in his obituary on Find a Grave.

Thank you, Jack, for making this information available for generations to come.

Thank you, Gregory Hatton, for providing Stalag Luft IV rosters and other information.

With the exception of images in this post provided by John Huston (Jack) McCracken, Gregory Hatton, and others, © Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2022

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 27 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

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

(Possibly) Robert Sumner Stearns

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

George McMann

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

Gordon Eugene Hetu
Photo courtesy of Anne Fisher via Ancestry.com

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

Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller was a member of the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bomb Group of the 8th Air Force in WWII.  His family was from Wisconsin.

Wilfred’s father, Fred Anton Miller, was born April 8, 1892 in Dorchester, Wisconsin. His mother, Mary Ludvina Sadkowski Miller, almost nine years younger than her husband, was born March 31, 1901 in Pueblo, Colorado.

Fred and Mary were married September 27 (or October 18 according to a second source), 1920 in St. Nazianz, Wisconsin. Their first son, Leo Anton Miller, came along on February 8, 1923. Second son, Wilfred Frank Miller, followed two years later on February 15, 1925 in Osman, Wisconsin. Osman is an unincorporated community in the town of Meeme, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin.

In 1930, the family lived on a farm in Rhine, Sheboygan County, Wisconsin, which was about fifteen miles away from Meeme. But by 1940, the family had moved back to the Osman community in Meeme, and were still farming. The boys were now seventeen and fifteen years old, and helped out on the family farm.

On April 6, 1943, their father Fred died of a heart attack. I don’t know if either of the boys had already begun their service in WWII by that time, but both boys did go to war. Older brother Leo was a Marine. A partial war record shows that he was in the service on June 30, 1944 and that he spent time at Camp Pendleton.

Younger brother Wilfred enlisted in the Army Air Corps and was assigned to the 545th Bomb Squad of the 384th Bombardment Group on AAF Station 106 Special Orders #148 dated July 26, 1944, as part of the James Joseph Brodie Crew. Wilfred was the tail gunner for the crew. Brodie flew two missions – on August 4 and 5, 1944 – as co-pilot with two other crews in order to get some combat training before piloting his own ship with his crew. Wilfred Miller and the rest of the Brodie crew flew their first mission together on August 7. Wilfred completed nineteen missions.

On September 28, 1944, on Mission 201 (Wilfred’s nineteenth mission), moments after coming off the target at Magdeburg, Germany, the Brodie crew’s flying fortress, Lazy Daisy, collided with the John Oliver (Jay) Buslee crew’s fort, Lead Banana. Aboard Lazy Daisy, the navigator, George M. Hawkins, Jr., tail gunner, Wilfred Frank Miller, and flexible gunner, Harry A. Liniger were the only survivors. Hawkins wrote what he knew of the accident after he returned home from the war in 1945. His account, as follows, is included in MACR9366:

Following “Bombs away” at our target over Magdeburg, Germany, our B17-G and another ship in our formation collided. At the time of the accident our plane was in good condition with nothing more than light flak damage. As far as I know, all men on board were uninjured.

At the time of the collision, the front section of our nose was carried away, and with it, the nose gunner, S/Sgt Byron L. Atkins. The plane seemed to be flying straight and level for a very few seconds and then fell off into a spin. I managed to break out of the right side of the nose just behind the right nose gun.

Floating downward I saw an opened but empty chute. Leading me to believe that Atkins’ chute was pulled open at the time of the accident or by him later. However, because of the position of the chute I think the chute must have been opened following a free fall of a few thousand feet and then, because of damage or faulty hook-up, failed to save its occupant.

Following my own free fall, our ship was circling above me. It was then in a flat spin, burning. It passed me and disappeared into the clouds below. When I next saw the ship it was on the ground. While floating downward, I saw one other chute below me.

I landed a mile or so from the town of Erxleben, Germany…west of Magdeburg. The plane landed within two or three miles of me. Many civilians and the military there saw the incident.

The following evening I met two members of the crew…the waist gunner, Sgt. Liniger, and the tail gunner, Sgt. Miller. Sgt. Liniger said he was attempting to escape through the waist door when an explosion threw him from the ship. At that time Sgt. Miller said the tail assembly left the ship and he later chuted from the tail section.

To the best of my knowledge, All other five members of the crew were at their positions on the plane and failed to leave the ship. All were uninjured up till the time of the collision.

In the Casualty Questionnaire section of MACR9366, Hawkins adds that Miller, the tail gunner, rode the tail down some distance following an explosion which severed the tail from the ship. Miller later bailed out of the tail section.

Wilfred Miller became a prisoner of war at the Stalag Luft IV POW camp in Gross-Tychow Pomerania, Prussia. I have no specific record, but he must have also endured the eighty-six day Black March with the other prisoners of Stalag Luft IV. After liberation in 1945, Miller returned to the states, but I have no further record of his life.

In late 1944, according to the Next of Kin list for the Brodie crew, Wilfred’s mother Mary lived in Newton, Wisconsin, another unincorporated community in Manitowoc County. Perhaps she had moved off the family farm after her husband died and both boys had gone to war.

On September 30, 1950, Wilfred’s mother Mary re-married. She married Adolph Bauer in Osman, Wisconsin. After thirteen years together, Mary became a widow a second time on November 4, 1963 when Adolph died. Mary lived until the age of eighty-eight, dying January 25, 1990 in Manitowoc, Manitowoc County, Wisconsin, just two months from her eighty-ninth birthday. She is buried in Saint Isidore Catholic Cemetery in Meeme.

Both of Mary’s sons died the next year. Younger brother Wilfred died June 29, 1991 in Cleveland, Wisconsin. He is also buried in the Saint Isidore Catholic Cemetery in Meeme. Older brother Leo died just a few months later on September 8, 1991 in Tomahawk, Wisconsin.

Wilfred Frank Miller

Wilfred Frank Miller

If any descendants of the Miller family have any additional information about Wilfred Frank Miller they would be willing to share, please contact me.

© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2015