Operation: Fighter escort to Munich (München) (Mission #553), Germany
Date: 9th August 1944 (Wednesday)
Unit: 364th Fighter Group, 384th Fighter Squadron, 67th Fighter Wing, 8th Air Force
Type: P-51D Mustang
Base: Honington (Station #375), Suffolk, England
Location: Near Saulgau, Germany
Pilot: 1st Lt. Theodore ‘Ted’ D. Nielsen O-756665 AAF Age 22. Survived
1st Lt. Nielsen - From the Advanced Flying School Army Air Forces , Phoenix, AZ - Luke Field, Class 43-I book
REASON FOR LOSS:
The following was the after mission statement by 1st Lt. Frank T. Kozloski, O-758819
“On 9 August 1944 1st Lt. Theodore L. Nielsen was flying number 3 position in Goldfish Blue flight as we went across an airfield. I was Lt. Nielsen's wing man and was on his left. Being occupied with a good target I did not see Lt. Nielsen until he came toward me at either a 45° or 90° angle. I was at that time firing at gun emplacements.
On coming off the target we started to re-form. I noticed that Lt. Nielsen was behind so I investigated. On doing so I discovered that he had no canopy. He also had his left hand holding his face. I could not contact him by radio, so flew in front of him and set him on course. I then flew in back of him, protecting his tail. We were then about 100 feet from the ground. I tried to get him to climb and after 15 to 20 minutes we reached 3500 feet. I was then in back of him. His airplane started to smoke. Fire appeared and the ship became ablaze. He went into a spin and I circled. A parachute opened and I circled until he reached the ground. He picked his chute up and as I buzzed him, he waved and then ran into the woods nearby. I then set course for home”.
The aircraft crashed beside the road which runs from Saulgau to Haid and the pilot was captured nearby.
Today Haid is part of Bad Saulgau and the road would be the Federal Highway B32.
The circumstances leading to the death of 1st Lt. Nielsen were determined by a General Military Government Court convened at Dachau from the 17th to 19th September 1947.
One German national was charged in that he did, at or near Saulgau, Germany, on or about the 9th August 1944, wrongfully encourage, aid, abet and participate in the killing of a member of the United States Army who was then and there a surrendered PoW in the custody of the then German Reich.
The accused was a Friedrich Wilhelm Altena who was a former SS-Sturmbannführer (Maj) in the SS, the SA, a member of the Nazi party and a Fachführer (Akin to Special Leader) in Amt XI Umsiedlung (Resettlement) of the Volksdeutsche Mittelstelle (Coordination centre for Ethnic Germans).
The SS (Schutzstaffel) and the SA (Sturmabteilung) were Paramilitary organisations of the Nazi party.
Accompanied by two witnesses, Altena drove in a car to the place which was to become the crime scene. He arrived after the airman, then believed to be Theodore Nielsen, had been captured by a third witness. After meeting the airman Altena ordered the three witnesses and other individuals present to leave.
Although the airman offered no resistance Altena opened fire with his pistol and shot him at least three times which caused the airman to collapse to the ground. Another witness, who was a nurse, was prohibited from giving the airman first aid.
After the shooting, Altena claimed that the airman had assaulted him with a dagger but no dagger was seen by anyone present. There was no sign of any weapons in the possession of the airman even after a witness opened the airman’s clothing. Furthermore no weapons were found after the airman was taken to a hospital for treatment.
The airman had suffered multiple gunshot wounds including one to his stomach. The stomach wound proved to fatal and he died at the hospital at 14:30 hrs that day. He was buried the next day, the 10th August, in the Saulgau Cemetery.
Altena testified that he had acted in self-defence when the airman attacked him with a dagger. He claimed that the dagger has been confiscated by a police officer whom he did not know. His claim of self-defence was rejected by the court and he was found guilty of the charge. The court sentenced him to life imprisonment but he was paroled in April 1957.
1st Lt. Theodore ‘Ted’ D. Nielsen. Air Medal (2 Oak Leaf Clusters), Purple Heart. Recovered and reinterred at the Lorraine American Cemetery, Plot 4F, Row 12, Grave 137 on the 12th July 1946. Relocated to Plot B, Row 26, Grave 56. Born on the 10th June 1922 in Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, Washington. Son of Peter Manuel and Rhoda Margaret (née Cochran) Nielsen. His mother and father predeceased him in 1939 and 1941 respectively. Husband to Artie (née Nichols) Nielsen from Aberdeen, Grays Harbor County, Washington, USA.
Above: The memorial to 1st Lt. Nielsen which was erected at the crime scene in 2005 (Credit: Florian Krönert - FindAGrave)
Above: Plaque and below the translation: (Credit: Grave Tag’r - FindAGrave)
In memory of the US pilot
Theodore D. Nielsen 1922 - 1944
On this spot on 9 August 1944 the American pilot Lt. Theodore D. Nielsen was shot dead
The 22-year-old soldier had saved himself by parachute after being hit by flak and
surrendered to an SS man. But instead of taking him prisoner
the SS man killed the defenceless soldier in cold blood.
In 1947, the perpetrator was sentenced by a US military court to life imprisonment,
from which he was released 10 years later.
Theodore D. Nielsen left behind a wife and a daughter
Nielsen, Lt. Theodore (1922-1944): His Last Flight has been described by Gary Anderson, Ph.D. and posted on History Link.org on the 16th March 2004.
Researched by Ralph Snape and Traugott Vitz for Aircrew Remembered and dedicated to the relatives of this pilot. Thanks also to Traugott Vitz for his work on the ‘VitzArchive’. Thanks to Florian Krönert for permission use the image of the memorial to 1st Lt. Nielsen (Aug 2021).