CENTER FOR U.S. WAR
VETERANS' ORAL HISTORIES
World War II
Fred Morelli was born in Trenton, New Jersey in 1921. At the age of 16, while a member of a local Boy Scout troop in Pennington, he joined the New Jersey National Guard’s 112th Field Artillery regiment. Assigned to the 2nd Battalion’s Headquarters Battery, he served with the 112th for three years. Called up with the federalized National Guard, Morelli transferred to the Air Corps. After a stint of basic training in Miami Beach, Florida, during which he failed to qualify for pilot training because he lacked 20/20 eyesight, Morelli was sent to Will Rogers air base in Tulsa, Oklahoma, for further training as a parachute rigger, physical training instructor, and aircraft maintenance ground crew.
After additional training at a base in Colorado Springs, Colorado, Morelli, now returned to New Jersey, where he was assigned to Camp Kilmer, an overseas embarkation camp. He left for Great Britain in December 1943 on a “Liberty Ship” which was part of a huge convoy escorted by aircraft and submarines. The two week voyage aboard the troop transport proved uneventful, and the soldiers, traveling under cramped conditions, took turns sleeping, eating and gathering on deck until their arrival in Glasgow, Scotland.
Morelli was assigned to 458th Squadron of the Eight Air Force’s 466th Bomb Group, then located at Attlebridge Field located near Norwalk, England. While at Attlebridge, he worked alongside Royal Air Force (RAF) and Canadian airmen on aircraft engine maintenance and parachute rigging on B-24 bombers and P-38 and P-41 fighter planes, the latter two aircraft serving as escorts for the B-24s.
Morelli described a typical day at Attlebridge as getting up early to prepare for a mission by making last minute checks and repairs on engines and then, after the planes took off, waiting for their return, as well as occasional socializing with RAF women assigned to the base. Things got more serious as the day progressed, when planes hit by antiaircraft fire returned, some with damaged landing gear making belly landings, and some not returning at all. Morelli flew a few missions as a replacement gunner on a B-24, even though his poor eyesight supposedly disqualified him for missions. He recalled that the American fighter planes provided good cover for the B-24s, protecting them against German interceptors.
When his group completed 100 missions, Morelli remembered, the unit held a party at which the Glenn Miller band played, and he had a beer with Miller after the performance. Miller then left for France on a trip from which he never returned. Available evidence suggests Miller’s plane crashed in the English Channel, but neither it nor Miller were ever found. Morelli also recalled that while on leave in London a V-1 German rocket hit near where he was staying. The concussion threw him out of bed, and he subsequently discovered that the rocket had destroyed a whole block of buildings. He recalled seeing V-1 and V-2 rockets in the air as well in late 1944.
Morelli recalled that his 466th Bomb Group, one of three in the 458th Squadron, flew its first mission on March 22, 1944 and subsequently received a commendation from General James Doolittle for a raid on Berlin. Morelli also remembered that his group led the entire Eighth Air Force in a July 25, 1944 attack in support of American ground operations around Saint Lo, France. In all, Morelli stated, the 466th flew 231 combat missions with 5,693 sorties and dropped almost 13,000 tons of bombs on enemy targets. In September, 1944 the group was taken off bombing runs and assigned to transport fuel to air bases being established in France.
In 1945 Morelli returned to the United States and was assigned to Buckley Field in Colorado. He then went to Manchester, New Hampshire, where he was hospitalized for injuries he had suffered to his back and knees while his unit was under enemy air attack in France. He was discharged with a 60% disability rating in January, 1946. Morelli recalled that although he was glad the war in the Pacific ended, he prayed for the Japanese civilians killed in the atomic bomb attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
Morelli’s father died in 1946, and he supported his mother while working for the FHA and VA as a real estate appraiser. He attended night classes at Temple University and Trenton State College, from where he eventually received a BA degree. He retired in 1989 and is a member of the Disabled American Veterans and the 112th Field Artillery Associations.
Fred Morelli stated that he believes compulsory military training is a good thing for young people, as it imparts survival skills. He also was strongly in favor of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Civilian Conservation Corps program, which he believed provided a great opportunity for young people to develop interpersonal and physical abilities. In closing, Morelli showed the interviewer photos of himself in uniform, as well as a 1940 New Jersey National Guard yearbook with a picture of him in a group photo of the 112th Field Artillery.