Fredric Moore Mellor was an American Air Force pilot shot down over Hanoi, in 1965. We of his family know nothing more than that…that and the fact that his dog tags were released to us two decades+, after he was shot down.
Know what’s even more painful? News media showed footage of young American pilots who were captured in those shoot-outs, paraded through the streets of Hanoi, in cages, taunted by the enemy.
One of them looked familiar…One of them looked like Fred.
His mother—Jean Moore Mellor—had only two sons. This was her younger one, a handsome man whose last picture was taken astride the wings of his plane, presumably before take-off.
He was young and impressionable and he believed in what we, as a country, were doing: Protecting the world against aggressors. He was one of the many fighting on the front lines and in the air for a war our government said really “wasn’t one.”
No matter—The bullets were ‘live enough.’ They were real.
For many years, and through countless reports by correspondents in the field, there were suspicions that many of these men survived…that they were held prisoners of war, in some Hellish camp, doing the bidding of captors.
That thought taunted his mother for years, as she thought death would’ve been more merciful.
Unlike many women who would have borne their pain in silence, this woman took to the airwaves. She appeared on “Merv Griffin Show” and other shows, drumming up support for these soldiers, becoming a Grey Panther, the Senior version of that African-American group that demanded resolution of societal injustice.
She demanded our government find out if these men were, indeed, alive.
When the undeclared war ceased, she pressed on. She died, still not knowing what happened to her son.
Many years later, the state determined to pay homage to these Prisoners of War and Missing in Action from the conflict in Viet Nam, at the Rhode Island Veterans’ Cemetery, in Exeter, RI. On that occasion, an official was to call aloud the names and some dignitary from that soldier’s community (Mayor. Etc.) would step forward and receive the tribute in the name of that town/city’s fallen soldier.
What happened when my brother-in-law, Lt. Colonel Fredric Moore Mellor’s name was called? Nothing. The dignitary from Cranston failed to show up. It was the only community that hadn’t sent a representative to this important occasion.
My father-in-law sat mute through the omission, but I was incensed. It was supposed to be a long-awaited recognition of sorts, for his son’s great sacrifice.
Instead, it was a flawed response, showing how very unimportant this occasion was, to those who never served.
Some years later, the government sent us Fred’s dog tags, and that brought forth another round of speculation on our part, as we still wondered “What happened to Fred?” “Where is he today?”
I’ve never met him…I only knew him through family stories and his set of Arnold Palmer golf clubs that stood in my garage for many years, awaiting his return. The lone picture I have of him is of a very handsome, young man, smiling, with one foot up on his airplane’s wing…
A young man full of promise and a determined belief nothing terrible could ever happen to him.
This post is my tribute to him for the one he never got on that earlier solemn occasion.
Rest in Peace, Lt. Colonel Fredric Moore Mellor: True American hero.
The following is a post by the Vietnam Veterans Fund and the last link shows why we think he survived:
Posted for: FREDRIC MOORE MELLOR:
Fredric Moore Mellor was born on April Fifth, 1935 and lived in Cranston Rhode Island. While he was flying a recon missions on August 13th of 1965, the aircraft formation that he was leading encountered enemy fire. Lt Col Mellor was able to radio in his position and additional information before his aircraft suatained battle damage, which caused his radio to go dead and a fire to start in the nose wheel. Fredric instructed his wingman to take the lead as his plane went down. Bystanders report that the pilot eject sucessfully and fell safely to the ground. Rumors of his capture were reported, but an official investigation into the crash yielded no results and Lt Col Mellor is still MIA. We all thank Lt Col Mellor for his service to this country and his bravery in battle.
MIA, Lost but not forgotten.
And here’s another, more official document still.…which tells the story of what many believe: That men like Fredrick Mellor survived and lived as Prisoners of War, in another land. He’s one of many. We don’t forget.