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On October 14, 1944, a Western Union telegram messenger delivered the same message to eighteen families across America. Only the names of the son or the husband were different. The families of the eighteen boys that were on two B-17s of the 384th Bomb Group, Lead Banana and Lazy Daisy, would learn that their loved ones were lost sixteen days earlier on September 28. The families would not know for months if missing meant imprisoned or dead.
Hearts sank. Tears flowed. The importance of any aspect of their lives disappeared except for this one thing. The wait for word that their boy was safe, that their boy would return home to them one day. Those eighteen families were on a roller coaster ride of hope and desperation. All because of one day, one telegram. News that no mother or father, brother or sister, or wife wanted to hear. How many times was this one telegram read and re-read?
The Secretary of War desires me to express his deep regret that your son Staff Sergeant George E Farrar has been reported missing in action since Twenty Eight September over Germany If further details or other information are received you will be promptly notified
Ulio the Adjutant General
My grandmother, Raleigh May Farrar, received this particular telegram in October 1944. It was such an important piece of paper to her that she saved it all her life. After she was gone, my dad saved it. After my dad died, my mother saved it. I now have it and when I’m gone, since I don’t have any children to pass it on to, hopefully my nephew will save it and then someday pass it on to his children. One piece of paper with quite a story behind it. And it is this one piece of paper that signifies the start of the roller coaster my family and seventeen other families rode because back in the 1940’s a madman on another continent wanted to take over the world and young American men went to war to fight for our freedom.
Freedom is not free. It comes at a very high price. For these eighteen families, only four received word that their sons were prisoners of war. Fourteen received the worst kind of news, that their sons had died fighting for their country. Freedom cost fourteen souls in a matter of moments, in a collision of B-17s in the skies above a foreign land.
For the four families, the roller coaster stopped and they got off. The wait began for the war to be over and their boys to be free.
The roller coaster did not stop for the fourteen families to disembark at the bottom of the hill, but instead continued its descent and carried them straight into Hell. Their sons and their husbands were never coming back to them. Fourteen lives cut short and fourteen families destroyed, their lives changed forever. A mere drop in the bucket of the price of our freedom in WWII.
© Cindy Farrar Bryan and The Arrowhead Club, 2017