Picadilly Ann

Boeing's B-17G-5-BO was delivered to the USAAF on October 4, 1943 and assigned to the 447th Bomb Group at Harvard AAB.  It was flown across the Atlantic by Lt. Gerald Leavitt.  On board for the transit flight were:

Leavitt crew at Harvard, October 1943, 
with Picadilly Ann, 42-31210

Lt. Gerald N. Leavitt
Lt. Carrol Greshan
Lt. Walter Kolodziejczyk
Lt. James W. Ferry, Jr.
Sgt. Harry V. Coleman
Sgt. Murray Wasserman
Sgt. Dewey "Dusty" Rhodes
Sgt. Forest N. Lowry
Sgt. Arthur L. Varnau
Sgt. Clairmont D. Hohensee

Combat Missions:

1 01/04/44 MERIGNAC Overdorf
2 01/11/44 BRUNSWICK Leavitt
3 01/24/44 FRANKFURT Overdorf
4 01/29/44 BRUNSWICK Leavitt
5 01/30/44 WILHELMSHAVEN Leavitt
6 02/04/44 ROMILLY Leavitt
7 02/25/44 REGENSBURG Marcy
8 03/03/44 BERLIN - RECALL Socolofsky
9 03/04/44 BERLIN - RECALL Leavitt
10 03/08/44 BERLIN Overdorf
11 03/09/44 BERLIN McGuire

From the Public Relations Office, 
447th Bomb Group, Rattlesden
This is the only known reference to the aircraft 42-31210 as "Buccaneer."  In all other records, the aircraft's name "Piccadilly Ann" is well-established.

Quick thinking and courage on the part of Staff Sergeant Arthur L. Varnau, 26, ball turret gunner on the Flying Fortress, "Buccaneer" saved the lives of two of his fellow crew members. Sgt. Varnau's crew were flying their eighth mission over enemy territory, the target was Frankfurt, one of Germany's largest industrial and rail centers. As the plane reached the target, she was me by a heavy concentration of flak, one burst tore through the nose of the ship, glanced off the navigator's table, hitting both the Navigator, 2nd Lt. Marion O. McGurer, 23, of Athens, Michigan, and the Bombardier, 2nd Lt. Thomas D. Burrell, 23, of San Diego, California, in the leg. Both of the officers informed the pilot of their plight. Sgt. Varnau, his own gun rendered useless because of a damaged sight,  immediately went to their aid. Reaching the nose of the ship he found the Bombardier stretched our in the doorway; he quickly applied a tourniquet to his leg and helped him to his seat. He followed the same procedure with the Navigator and after making them both as comfortable as possible he turned his attention to the ship which thought damaged badly by flak, was still heading for the target, which was only a few minutes away.

Realizing that both Navigator and Bombardier were out of action, he saw that it would be his job to drop the bombs. Without a moment's hesitation, he opened the bomb bay doors and prepared to release the Buccaneer's special gift to Frankfurt. Over the target he dropped his bombs and watched with satisfaction as he saw them hurtling downward in their journey of destruction.

Sgt. Varnau now resumed his attentions to the two men injured in the nose. The Bombardier's leg was still bleeding badly, Sgt. Varnau applied another tourniquet and gave the officer some morphine to ease the pain. It was then that he began to notice his own predicament: his oxygen supply from his walk-around bottle was almost gone, there was no way of getting fresh oxygen in the nose, both the injured men needed all the oxygen they could get. If it had not been for the sudden appearance of a German fighter on the scene, Sgt. Varnau would probably not be around to tell this story today. In order to avoid the fighter, the Buccaneer went into a steep dive seeking protection in the clouds. She was flying at about 17,000 feet, this permitting Sgt. Varnau to take off his mask and replenish his oxygen supply. 

For the remainder of the journey homeward, Sgt. Varnau rose in the nose looking after the injured crew members. Upon reaching their home station safely, the two men were taken to the station hospital and the flight surgeon commended Sgt. Varnau for the skillful way in which he had handled the difficult situation, for it was undoubtedly his First Aid that saved the lives of the two men. For Sgt. Varnau it was just another scene in the continuous drama that goes on in the Flying Forts every time they take off on a bombing assault on Fortress Europe.

Bombardier Lt. Thomas Burrell (Huckins crew, 711th) and navigator Lt. Marion McGurer (Gilleran crew, 708th) were both flying on this 4 February 1944 mission as replacements with the Lt. Gerald Leavitt crew. Sgt Varnau was decorated for his actions on the recommendation of Lt. Leavitt and the group’s commanding officer, Col. Hunter Harris. 

One week later, the Leavitt crew again came to the attention of the PR office in this article written on the 10 February 1944 mission to Brunswick (Branschwieg):

Staff Sergeant Forest L. Lowry, 22, of Redkey, Ind., is the left waist gunner on the Flying Fortress "Piccadilly Ann" that was with the formation of the Eighth Air Force that went out to pound the vital German industrial targets in Brunswick, Germany. The Luftwaffe put in the air all the fighters they could muster to meet the determined assault of the Fortresses. 

Sgt. Lowry tells of his part in the great air battles that ensued: "The Jerries were attacking pretty regularly, as someone said, ‘it was a devil's merry-go-round.' There must have been at least twenty-five or thirty attacks on my left waist gun position. They stayed with us and kept up running attacks on our formation that lasted for two hours, from the time we entered enemy territory until the time we left it." 

"About two minutes after we left the target area, two Messerschmitt 110's came in together. One peeled off and I opened fire on the one that kept coming ion towards my gun position. I kept firing, more or less steadily, until he passed underneath our ship. Our ball turret gunner, Staff Sergeant Arthur L. Varnau, 23, of 1809 N. Oakland Street, Arlington, Va., saw the Kessie turn over and a German bail out before his ship went into a cloud." "Some of the Nazi's were more successful than the one I shot down. I saw two fortresses blow up and go down. At one time an old fortress with a German crew passed very close to us. They grinned and waved as they went by. There were parachutes, both German and American, floating all around." 

"Our ship did not escape injury. The astrodome, the small glass lookout the Navigator uses to set a course, was knocked out; the fuselage was split, there were 20mm holes in the engine cowling and flak holes in the tail. This was my sixth mission and I hope I will never have another one as rough. Not one of our crew had a scratch but we were very tired. It was all we could do to carry our equipment to the supply room." 

A graduate of Redkey High School, Sgt. Lowry is the son of Mrs. Orie E. Lowry of Redkey. He was employed as a glass worker by the Indiana Glass Company of Dunkirk, Ind. before entering the AAF in September, 1942.

42-31210, ditched in the English Channel on March 9, 1944
on returning from Berlin.