Last Known Activity
Fred S. Luke was born in Ogden, Utah on April 17, 1918, a son of Frederick John and Nellie Augustine Campbell Luke. Census data states his parents were deceased, and he was being raised by a guardian, Raymond Field. The US Census 1940 shows him in Salt Lake City.
Luke enlisted on May 25, 1941 at Salt Lake City, Utah. He was a private, and his enlistment papers further state he had completed 4 years of high school, and was employed as a skilled mechanic on motor vehicles.
He was selected for flight duty, and trained as an aerial gunner. He was assigned to a combat crew, supposedly in England in 1942. According to the custom at the time, he flew on at least 45 credited missions, although some of them were undoubtedly flown against targets in North Africa and Italy after transfer to North Africa.
On July 27, 1943. the target area was Capua, Italy, near Foggia. The bomb run was made in a normal fashion, and the bombs fell in trail. Observers within the formation noticed the bomb bay doors did not close, and that the top turret, usually manned by the flight engineer, was empty. This led to a speculation later at crew interviews that a malfunction had happened, and the engineer was attempting to correct it.
The aircraft suddenly nosed upward, almost colliding with another aircraft. The pilot pulled the nose down, the aircraft entered a steep dive, and fell into the sea. Observers accounts vary, but many reported seeing parachutes out. There was, however, only one survivor.
No remains were recovered, and after 1 year, the crew's status was changed from Missing In Action (MIA) to Finding of Death (FOD.) Sgt Luke is remembered with his comrades on the Walls of the Missing in the Sicily-Rome American Cemetery in Nettuno, Italy.
US Census 1940
NARA Enlistment Records
SSgt Fred S. Luke was the assigned tail gunner on B-17F #42-3170, not named, assigned to the 353rd Bomb Squadron.
Missing Air Crew Report 339 was issued, but only contains aircraft and crew identification, with target information. Mission loading lists agree the crew consisted of:
1 Lt Denis G. Booker p
2 Lt Robert T. Dix c-p
2 Lt Harvey P. Harrington nav
2 Lt Bernard Turansky bomb
SSgt William L. Hayes eng/tt gun
SSgt Seeburn V. Rosheger r/o
SSgt Jasper C. Pearson btg
SSgt Eugene B. Fleming wg
SSgt Fred S. Luke tail gun
SSgt Charles A. Hurlbutt photo
Ranks and grades as of mission date.
Sgt Hayes was the only survivor.
At this stage of the war, most units awarded an Air Medal for each 5 missions credited, and a combat tour was 25 missions. Later, this tour length was increased to 50 missions, and the interval for the Air Medal went to 7 missions (or even 10). Units varied in their policies.