PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — A Cranston native who became a U.S. Air Force pilot will be laid to rest next week, 53 years after he was shot down and killed during the Vietnam War.
Col. Fredric M. Mellor in the U.S. Air Force Reserve was accounted for on July 13. His remains were returned by the government of Vietnam in 1991 after Vietnamese residents discovered them and his personal effects. It then took time for scientists and anthropologists to identify him through DNA and other evidence.
Col. Mellor will be buried Sept. 28 in Exeter.
According to military records, on Aug. 13, 1965, Mellor had been flying the lead aircraft in a mission to conduct photo and visual reconnaissance. They were trying to determine if there was a surface-to-air missile site in the province of Son La.
Hostile ground fire damaged Mellor’s RF-101C and it crashed. He survived his ejection from the aircraft and attempted to evade the enemy, but radio contact was lost. Neither Mellor nor his aircraft were found, and he was listed as missing in action.
In the identifying process, eyewitnesses from North Vietnam said they saw – or participated in – the shooting-down of an American aircraft and the capture and death of its pilot on Aug. 13.
According to SFC Kristen Duus, 1,594 American servicemen and civilians remain unaccounted for from the Vietnam War. Mellor’s name is among those recorded on the Courts of the Missing at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu but now, a rosette will be placed next to his name there to indicate he is now accounted for.