Summary

Conflict Period:
World War II 1
Branch:
Army 1
Birth:
1922 1
Minnesota 1
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Personal Details

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Person:
Frederick U Nelson 1
Level of Education: 1 year of college 1
Marital Status: Single, without dependents 1
Birth:
1922 1
Minnesota 1
Residence:
Place: Dakota County, Minnesota 1
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World War II 1

Branch:
Army 1
Enlistment Date:
16 Dec 1941 1
Army Branch:
Medical Administrative Corps - For Officers only 1
Army Serial Number:
17036077 1
Enlistment Place:
Ft Snelling Minnesota 1
Enlistment Term:
Enlistment for the duration of the War or other emergency, plus six months, subject to the discretion of the President or otherwise according to law 1
Source of Army Personnel:
Civil Life 1
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Category:
WWII B-25 1944 Corsica, France 2
Occupation:
Architects 1
Race or Ethnicity:
White 1
Source Information:
Box Number: 0242 1
Film Reel Number: 2.99 1

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Fred U Nelson, WWII, Korea, USAF and CAP

Hemet, Calif.

S/Sgt Fred U Nelson, 1944 on Corsica
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S/Sgt Fred Underwood Nelson;

310thBG,381stBS, S/Sgt. Fred Underwood Nelson

Fred left the 310th Group as a Staff Sergeant in '44 and still hold that rank permanently ,Fred asks if they ever want me back ? I am retired from the Regular Air Force as a 1st Lt. after the Korean fracas was over and I joined the USAF Auxiliary [CAP] as a search pilot after I bought my C-182 in '78 . I have since held CAP Squadron and Group Commands and California Wing Staff positions and am at present assigned to Sq 59 in Hemet as a Lt. Col. and regular member . Cheers ! Fred     (2 Jan.2009 to Barbi Enns Connolly)

From George B Underwood; 

310thBG,381stBS, Fred U Nelson flew Missions as enlisted Bombardier, & Tail-Gunner /GU Info. -B

June 22, 1944…Cousins in the 381st BS

We met, Fred and I, for the first time on the island of Corsica, France in January 1944 during WWII.   He lived in a tent very close to mine and found my name on one of the mission rosters posted on the bulletin board of the 381st Bomb Squadron, 310th Bomb Group. He asked me then “if I were related to the Underwood families of New York or West Virginia in which case we might be ‘distant’ cousins related to Frederick Douglas Underwood of railroad fame.” His name is Frederick Underwood Nelson so you can see the Underwood connection.

We flew 31 combat missions on the same targets, sometimes at the same time while others were at different times since he was in a different flight than I was and we even flew in the same aircraft on one mission on 30 April. He flew as our crew’s enlisted bombardier to a target called North Ficulle RR Bridges. Our Squadron put up 12 aircraft that day and our crew on the Squadron roster read as follows:                                                   
“Mission results were good and moderate to intense heavy accurate flak from the area of Orvieto and the North R.R. Bridge.”
He also flew as tail gunner (in the awesome 75mm cannon totin’ B-25 G’s models), and as an enlisted Bombardier after the Group had been re-equipped with the new B-25 J models.

He served in two wars, WWII, and Korea, both in the Air Force and he retired from the Air Force in 1953 to work at Lockheed for 30 years. I flew 68 missions as a Top Turret Gunner in the cannon totin’ G model and in the new  B-25 J’s. I joined the 310th Bomb Group in November of 1943 in Phillilpville, North Africa.   I worked in advertising and marketing until I retired.

    Fred went overseas as a flight engineer in September 1942 with the 310th Bomb Group via the northern route through Greenland and Iceland to England arriving in early December. After serving as an Assistant Crew Chief on the ground for nearly two years in North Africa he went back on flying status after the surviving original crews, with whom he flew overseas originally, had rotated back to the United States.  Flying was in his blood then as it is now and he is a pilot and owns his own Skylane airplane and is presently active in The Civil Air Patrol as Assistant Squadron Commander. 

  

June 22, 1944 was quite a day for us ‘cousins’ and deadly for our 310th Bomb Group. Our Group was called on to put up three missions that day; two were late in the afternoon. The mission Fred was on was to bomb the south RR bridge in Vernio in northern Italy.  He flew this mission as a bombardier in a formation of 18 B-25’s each carrying an unusual bomb load for our group and for the first time, six 1,000 pound bombs.

 

As they crossed the coast and headed for the IP (Initial Point to turn and start the bomb run) accurate, heavy flak hit the group. Fred’s aircraft caught in the maelstrom of flak took a hit in the left engine setting it on fire and he salvoed the bombs and quickly crawled down the long tunnel leading from the bombardier’s compartment in the nose of the aircraft to the pilot’s cockpit.  The Top Turret Gunner dropped from his turret, hooked his chest pack parachute on as did Fred, folded up the floor (that covers the bottom hatch) pulled the emergency lever ejecting the escape door and ladder hatch in the floor away and dropped out the opening with Fred right behind him.

     The entire crew made it out of the burning aircraft and landed safely but behind the German line.  The Germans had been firing at the men parachuting down and the green tracers zinged past them as they swung down to earth.  Fred, the Top Turret Gunner and the Pilot managed to evade the German soldiers who were hunting them and a few days later were told by the Italian Partisans that there were American patrols in the area and later were met by members of the 34th Infantry Division and returned to Corsica to pack up and be sent back to the ZI (Zone of the Interior or home in the US of A). It was his 52nd mission and his last.

Fred's accounting of the entire event;(A/C # 43-4087)
 
"BAIL OUT! BAIL OUT! before we lose the wing," came the command.
(From the Pilot, Lt. Killian,  Lt. Killian's struggle to save his Crew,
and miraculously, himself.) 
The actual bailout sequence was:
#1 S/Sgt. John W. Close, Radio Operator
#2 Sgt. Walter J. Kwiecien, Tail Gunner
#3 Sgt. Jerry L. Jared, Turret Gunner
#4 S/Sgt. Fred U. Nelson, Bombardier
#5 Lt. Halvor L. Tennyson, Co-Pilot
#6 Lt. Robert F. Killian, Pilot

From FRED NELSON's Words as excerpted from the Book:
"Bullets, Bombs and Bridges" by Charles Hair:

"I snapped on my chute as Jared swung down and was gone. I removed my
glasses, tucked them inside my flight jacket. Facing the rear, I dropped
through the open hatch feet first and the slip stream grabbed me in a giant hand
that tore me away from the ship. I yanked on the rip cord, but nothing
happened. I clawed the pack open, pulled the silk loose, and gave it a heave
into the wind. With a swinging jerk, the chute opened. From my floating
perch, I saw our plane cut across the tail of the next flight still streaming
sparks and fire. To the North and below, I saw Jared drifting down."

{5 chutes opened

The aircraft stayed in a left turn, skidding and diving violently. Then
its nose dropped almost vertically, and headed for the ground. At
approximately twenty to fifty feet, it pulled out, leaving vapor trails and climbed
almost straight up, then stalled at about fifteen hundred feet.
At this time the sixth chute appeared. The plane then broke into a flat
spin and crashed in flames.}

"I pulled myself up to release the pressure on my legs," continues Fred,
"and something went past me like giant bees. I heard gun fire and looking
off to my right saw the dirty Kraut bastards were shooting at me."

"Green tracers slipped by at a terrific speed and made a popping sound as
they passed through my chute. A swing developed and I yanked on the risers
to give the Germans as difficult a target as possible. The shooting soon
stopped and I looked toward the aircraft and as I watched, it fell over in a
flat spin. The one engine must have still been at full power because she put
up a terrible howl. She hit and everything was quiet. There was no
explosion--she just died."

"I landed in a small clearing close to some woods. The impact was worse
than I had expected and it knocked the wind out of me. When I could breathe
again, I got up, unbuckled the chute, and dragged it over a small rise, then
covered it with some leaves and brush. My Mae West and harness I stuffed in
a hollow stump, then took off south through the woods."

"I came across a path that led toward some farmhouses. As I approached
them cautiously, a farmer spotted me, ran up to me and announced in fairly good
English, that I was to be quick and follow him into his vineyard. He made
sure I was hidden, then rushed off. On his return, he brought some civilian
clothes, a bottle of water and two loaves of bread. I discarded my flying
gear and presto- I was an Italian civilian."

"After I had a rest, I started out for the nearby hills. The sun had set
by this time and when I came to the main road, some little voice told me not
to walk on the surface, so I started south, paralleling the highway, keeping
one row of grapevines between me and the road."

"I had gone no more than about 100 yards when I heard the "clomp" of
hobnailed boots on the road. I slowed to a shuffle, and pulled my white straw hat
down near my eyes. Glancing over to my left, I spied two, black uniformed
SS men, both carrying machine guns. One of them shouted something at me. I
half turned and waived the water bottle at them and kept walking. One of
them laughed, then they picked up their pace and moved away down the road. I
silently called them a couple of dirty SOBs as they disappeared into the
darkening twilight."

"When I was sure they were gone, and the truck traffic had thinned, I
slowly crossed the road although the impulse to run was so strong I could hardly
stand it. With all the strength I could muster, with my heart pounding in
my ears, I reached the other side and followed a path into a field. Soon the
path had a hedge on each side and ended at a closed door in a house wall.
What to do? I sure wasn't going back, so I tried the door latch and it
opened, I walked in and in the back patio was a man and a woman eating supper.
They stared at me as I walked past them hoping that there was a rear door
out of the building. Neither of them spoke as I exited out the back way and
set out again. After a short time, I sat down and rested. After I was
refreshed, I set out again and worked my way across fields and wooded areas
southward."

"I must have gotten careless for just before it got completely dark, I
walked up on a German jeep with four helmeted soldiers in it. I walked slowly
past them and they just stared at me. After walking a few hundred yards into
the thickening twilight I heard someone call out, "Americanos," then a
burst of machine gun fire. I didn't look back--just kept walking and soon had
left them behind."

"I blundered up the dark wooded trail for hours, and around 0100 I was deep
in the hills where I found a farmer's hay wagon. I climbed in, lay down
and was immediately asleep."

"Up at the crack of dawn I kept on the move until 0900 when I found a
spring, and I holed up for the rest of the day. At dusk I was away again,
climbing ridges and crossing valleys. Sometime later it started to rain, I sat
down against a large tree trunk, under the limbs and fell asleep. At dawn the
next day I was moving once more. Walking down a path I was accosted by a
Partisan who recognized me as an American. He took me to his camp where I
met Lt. Killian--my pilot. We ate a bit and talked of our experiences for the
rest of the day."

"Next day, the Partisans got into a scrap with a 50 man German patrol.
Three of the enemy were taken prisoner, and the fight ended with no clear
winner."

"Next day, Killian and I went down the mountain with the Partisans to make
contact with our Army, and we almost got involved in a battle. We withdrew
quickly and went back with the Partisans. While we were eating supper a
couple of scouts arrived with the news that the Americans had arrived. I was
so happy I almost wept. With directions provided by a Unit of the 34th
Division scouts, we started out. After much walking, we sought shelter in a farm
house near a small town."

"Contact with the Army was completed the next day."

"Through the generosity of the Army, we rode a Jeep toward Division
Headquarters. Three miles North of San Vincenzo, we came upon the remains of our
airplane, lying in a ditch."

"Pressing on, we arrived in Rome at 2000 hours, met our Squadron Commander
at a very nice little hotel, and after a bath, a shave, and a good nights'
sleep, set out for the Foggia Airdrome."
*************************************************************************************

     (George Underwood)  My eventful 58th mission also on June 22nd started around 5 o’clock.  Our crew was called for a special mission. On this last mission three aircraft from the 381st Bomb Squadron and three from the 380th Bomb Squadron would join another 12 from a third squadron the 428th but all were in the 310th Bomb Group.  The target was Leghorn Harbor and not like any target we had ever bombed before. The Germans were moving gutted hulks of four ships from one position in the harbor and planned on sinking them in the south harbor entrance.  They had already blocked the northern entrance with sunken ships so the movement of these four hulks made this quick mission important. With the allies quickly advancing towards Leghorn they thought it would be captured soon and the harbor should be usable for our ground forces and the supplies needed.  Our task was to sink those hulks before they could be moved and sunk to block the entrances and the mission was successful.

     We got hit hard by flak over the target and limped back over the sea to Ghisonnacia, our home base, on one dead engine with feathered prop while the remaining “good” engine spewed oil and smoke into that blue Corsican sky.  We made it to the airfield and used the red handled emergency system to get the wheels down.  The hydraulic system had been shot out and we landed normally not knowing that flak had damaged the nose wheel.

 

     The main gear ‘chirped’ on the pierced steel runway and as we slowed down enough to settle on the nose wheel, it collapsed and the aircraft stopped dead with a loud, hard thumping smash! The nose was buried in the runway and the tail high in the sky.  We counted over 200 flak holes as well as one 88mm hole through our left wing (which meant that one 88-mm shell had passed through the aircraft without exploding!) but no one was hurt.  I got a scratch on my nose from a chip of Plexiglas from flying flak, which hit my turret and a flak bump on my shin (I still have that piece of flak and no Purple Hearts for any of my crew).  Herbert Campbell, our tail gunner, wrenched his back when he “stepped out” of the rear hatch and landed 20 feet below on the pierced steel runway.  I guess we should have warned him about that first big step but in the excitement just forgot to. But we were the lucky ones.

 

****************************************************************************************************

The strangeness of life cannot be measured... 22 June, 1944, today is 10 June, 2011 and Italian Researcher Prof. Ago Alberti (Team- AirCrashPO) has inquited about 2 "flyiers" who parachuted into this territory.   Almost 67 years ago to the day!   .....

> AGO WROTE:
>
> Dear Patti,
> Have received the following information from a friend of mine,
> Alessandro Dondoli.
> He lives in Piombino, Tuscany, and has told me this story:
> "On June 22, 1944, an American airman, ROBERT I. KILLIAM H.L.T.A. /
> C.O. 675435 was rescued by partisans in the S.Vincenzo area (N of
> Piombino) after parachuting from his shot up plane.
> The following day, a second airman from the same plane, was rescued by
> partisans in the same area: his name was P.VEDENICH V. NELSON
> S/S G. T. 17036077."
> May be the names reported are not so correct but, could you tell me
> somethingh more about them?
>
> Have checked the MACR's list and have found a 47th BG (L) was lost on
> the night between June 20/21, 1944.
> Two of the crew survived the experience, but I do not know if they were
> the airmen in spoke...
> Unfortunately, we do not know the type of aircraft involved in my
> friend's story...   Sincerely,  Ago

> Dear Ago,
>
> The Two Airmen are OURS.   PILOT: 1st Lt. Robert F. Killian, O-675435
   Bombardier: S/Sgt. Frederick U. Nelson 17036077... 310th Bomb Group, 381st Bomb Squadron.    B-25J A/C# 43-4087    22 June 1944
 Bombing Mission Target was Vernio North Viaduct;  6 Parachutes were seen to open......
From Patti Johnson, 57th Bomb Wing Historical Researcher.................

 

     Out of the six planes in my flight, one went down over Leghorn without anyone getting out or it…no parachutes were seen to our knowledge.  The flak forced us to make a sharp diving left turn into the good engine and finally pulled out close to the surface of the sea and headed for Corsica and home.  Another aircraft crew that was supposed to start home the next day also went down and only one or two survived. I saw a gunner go out from the rear of the plane and saw his chute open as their plane passed us to the left and below us with its right engine blazing fiercely I knew it wouldn’t go far. They were a few miles out to sea when the right wing came off. The pilot was picked up dead.  Air-Sea Rescue picked up the Co-pilot and he was hospitalized with a broken leg.

    In 198l, through the 57th Bomb Wing Association, I made contact with John E. Vest who bailed out of that plane.  He was a POW until the end of the war.  He said another gunner also had bailed out at that time, but he was killed when he landed in Leghorn. Years later the pilot who had been flying on my right wing visited me and told me what had been theorized as to how much damage was done to my flight in such short time. The theory in that a bomb or bombs had dropped far enough to have been armed, had been hit by flak and they exploded closely enough to do all that awesome damage. We’ll probably never know for sure, but the theory certainly is a good one.

      Of the 57 aircraft on the three missions that day the 22nd of June 1944 the 310th   Bomb Group lost 3 aircraft shot down, four crashed making wheels-up belly landings on home fields, five came in on single engines, and thirty-eight had severe flak damage.  A Bombardier and a Radio/Gunner returned to base dead and several other crew members were wounded.  Several aircraft crash landed at Ghisonaccia and other Corsican bases arriving in a scattered fashion shooting red flares signifying wounded aboard the returning aircraft. The write up on our aircraft was “one of the 381st airplanes had returned on one engine so badly riddled that it was fit only to scrounge serviceable parts from”.

  Then in January 2007 we met again.  This time celebrating the 60th Wedding Anniversary of George and Beverly Underwood at their home in Hollywood, California not far from where they were married at the Hollywood  Methodist Church. Fred attended the Anniversary, driving the hundred or so miles from Hemet, California to Hollywood bringing his finance,  Mirian Whitt, now his wife with him. It is our hope that we ‘cousins’ can meet again to compare note of WWII and the years after and as Fred puts it “let’s communicate while there is still time”.

George B. Underwood (20 July, 2007)

 

 

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