2nd Lt. Fredric T. Neel (front row, right) was killed in action on 24 May 1944. He was navigator on a no-name B-17, 401st Bomb Squadron, 91 Bomb Group (Heavy) that crashed just off the coast of Sweden. The 91st was flying as part of an armada of 616 heavy bombers who flew a mission to bomb aircraft plants in Berlin that day. The pilot of the B-17 was William Nee.
The 91st Bomb Group was attacked by German fighters while in the vicinity of Berlin. William Nee’s B-17 received direct hits by 20-mm canon shells, which started a fire in the electircal wiring that controlled the intercom and also affected the alarm bell, which was used to tell the crew members to bail out.
The fire appeard to be uncontrollable and Nee alerted the crew to bail out by intercom and turned on the alarm bell. He then bailed out with the copilot and flight engineer. The other six members of the crew evidently didn’t hear the bailout order or the alarm bell. The Navigator, Neel, put the fire out and climbed into the pilot’s seat. Tail gunner Spaulding climbed into the copilot’s seat and the navigator flew the B-17 on a course that would take them to Sweden. After making several passes at landing the aircraft on land, Neel had the others bail out over land and then apparently bailed out himself prior to setting the aircraft down just off the coast. Neel was drowned in this attempt. Of the six men who flew with the B-17 to Sweden, only three men survived.