FRED T. LITTLEWOLF
Branch: U. S. Army Air Corps
Status: Died non-battle
Date of Service: WWII
Home Town: LaPrairie Township
1. Pvt. Fred T. Littlewolf 2. Fred Littlewolf’s headstone in St. Anne’s Cemetery, Naytahwaush
Fred T. Littlewolf was born to David James Littlewolf (Indian name Tay cum o say) and an unknown mother on September 25, 1920. David was a tall, stout man, a member of the Rem Mille Lac Miss Chippewa Tribe who farmed in the Twin Lakes area near Naytahwaush on the White Earth Reservation. Twin Lakes is an unincorporated community in the townships of Little Elbow and Twin Lakes in Mahnomen County. David’s wife was never mentioned on the available Indian Census Rolls and he was listed as widowed. David raised five children: Julia, Joseph, Isabelle, Fred and Robert. A daughter Alice, born in 1918, died at age 3.
David moved to LaPrairie Township in Clearwater County some time before 1940. Fred attended school through the 7th grade, then went to work as a laborer and timber cutter.
Fred enlisted in the Army Air Corps on February 2, 1942 and became a member of the 97th Bombardment Group as an aerial gunner. The Bombardment Group was sent to England where it flew the first heavy bomber mission from the UK, which involved bombing a marshalling yard at Rouen on August 17, 1942.
The Group left England for the Mediterranean theater in September of 1942 and flew bombing missions in support of ground operations as well as bombing missions with more strategic targets in Germany. Flying B-17 flying Fortresses, they bombed shipping in the Mediterranean and airfields, clocks, harbors and marshalling yards in North Africa, Southern France, Sardinia, Sicily and Southern Italy. The Group received a Distinguished Unit Citation for leading a strike against an aircraft factory at Steyr, Austria in February of 1944.
By August of 1943 Fred had received his seventh bronze oak leaf cluster for achievement in the Northwest African and European theaters of operations. In October of 1943 he was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, a military decoration awarded for heroism while participating in an aerial flight. Sadly, the specific circumstances are unknown.
By May of 1944, Fred had been wounded and sent back stateside to recover. As a veteran of at least 50 combat missions, his survival entitled him to pass his skills on to gunners training for the war. He was posted at Kearney Army Air Field in Nebraska.
On May 26, 1944 Fred was the gunner/radio operator aboard a training flight from the Sioux City Army Air Base, perhaps as a make-up crew member or as an additional gunner-instructor. The B-17G bomber from the 224th Army Air Force Base Unit was on an instrument check and practice bombing mission. The crew had been assembled for less than two weeks and this was to be their final training flight before taking the place of aviators who had flown 35 missions out of England over Europe.
The B-17 had left the Sioux City base airfield about 6:31 a.m. and was flying at air speeds of 160 mph. Farmer Clelland Yockey, who lived three miles west of Anthon, Iowa, spotted the bomber traveling low, so low that he could read the numbers on the plane from the ground. Farmer Worth Fitchner was working in a nearby field and heard the plane approach. All of a sudden the motors quit. He saw a propeller drop before the plane went into a nose dive.
The Anthon Herald reported: “ . . . (the Flying Fortress) went into a nose dive, plummeted to the earth like a giant mortally wounded bird, and dug itself into the ground on a corn field tenanted by Clelland Yockey. The plane burst into flames and exploded, strewing parts of the wrecked plane over a wide area. All the occupants met instantaneous death. . . The heavy plane dug a trench 15 feet deep and about three times as long into the field as it fell. It immediately burst into flames, eyewitnesses declared, and in a few moments there was a loud blast as the fuel tanks and practice bombs exploded. Later there was a series of minor explosions as the ammunition ignited.”
An investigation by authorities could not determine the cause, but some now believe that the engines could not produce enough power to allow the plane to climb at a severe angle because they were running so rough. The plane may have gone into a stall and crashed.
Twenty-four-year-old Private Fred T. Littlewolf’s body was returned to his family and buried at Saint Anne’s Cemetery in Naytahwaush. Mason Nass of the Bagley American Legion Post 16 applied for a marble upright military headstone for Fred in 1946.