Lt. “Jeeter” Neal Becomes an Ace

From a Chatham, Virginia newspaper, ca. 1943.
Fitz Neal

Pittsylvania County Airman Shoots Down Fifth Plane Over Europe

Lieut. Thomas Fitz[gerald] Neal, of Pittsylvania County, is an Ace.

Announcement was made yesterday of “Jeeter” Neal shooting down his fifth German plane over the continent. In fierce dog-fights, the 23-year-old Mustang pilot has won the nickname “The One-Man Gang.”

Following is a dispatch received yesterday from his fighter station in England:

With a grin as wide as the wingspan on his trim Mustang, Lieutenant Neal recounted the scrap which ensued when nine German planes launched an attack on Eighth Air Force bombers which the lieutenant's fighter group was escorting deep into Germany.

“These guys were climbing up into the sun to get ready to jump the bombers,” the lieutenant began. “Reckon they didn't know we were already up there, hopin' they'd come up to play. The colonel (Lt. Colonel Everett W. Stewart, Abilene, Kansas, the group executive officer who also destroyed his fifth Hun in this fight) called us all on the radio and said: ‘Everybody take one — they're 109s.’

“Soon as we started after 'em they forgot all about hittin' those bombers, an' broke every which way. They went straight down. I started for one but lost him under my wing. Another Mustang got him, so I shifted my attack to another 109. He spun straight down for about 5,000 feet with me after him, an' then he recovered and dived for the clouds. He went on into 'em, and I went in after him. Boy, I was really movin'.

“When I broke out of the clouds I saw I was getting pretty close to him. We levelled off right over some woods. Dropping down so fast into warmer air had clouded up my canopy a little bit. I wiped off the inside with one hand so I could see him, and opened fire from about 75 yards behind him. That burst got him in the fuselage and wings. He jerked his nose up and my bullets hit the ground under him. I shot once more — an' that did it. He blew up into what looked like a million pieces. I flew through the pieces.

My plane vibrated hard, for a moment, and I found out when I got home that pieces of his plane had lodged in my wing. I still got a little hunk for a souvenir.”


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