|Lt. Col Joshua Olsen, 37th Airlift Squadron
Commander from Ramstein Air Force Base
represented the US military, along with the
Air Force Historian (2nd from left)
|To Honor a Hero: Schopp Thanks 1LT Salvatore Meli 55 Years
After His Sacrifice
A small portion of the crowd, before the
ceremony. Manfred Schuck, foreground in
the black jacket, suffered hearing damage as
a child from the crash.
The plaque on the Rathaus says "In
remembrance of 1LT Salvatore Angelo Meli,
who came to his death in the crash of his plane,
and through his selfless act saved our village
from a larger catastrophe. Our citizens will
always hold him in thankful and honorable
(above L to R) Uwe Benkel, Vinnie Teriaca,
Mayor Bernd Mayer, and Herr Mayer's
Frau Schuck, center, was slightly injured
when 1LT Meli's plane exploded outside
her house. She was making soup and
tossed it on the flames, while pushing her
son Manfred (below) to safety. The
curtains in all the houses were aflame.
Just before 6PM, the church bells started to
ring on the warm evening of 24 September
2011. Soon a crowd of about 200 villagers,
both young and old, gathered on the main
street to posthumously honor the young
pilot who stayed with his plane instead of
ejecting over the village in 1956. The
mayor acknowledged 1LT Meli's sacrifice,
and the price paid by his family, including
daughter Vinnie Meli Teriaca, who came
from NYC for the ceremony.
August Bachmann, left, was a fireman in
1956 and one of the first responders to the
crash. "Everything was so hot, and the
houses were all black", he said.
Special thanks to TSgt Chris Wolfe, who
has provided much volunteer guidance on
the Air Force side.
Uwe Benkel, Vinnie Teriaca, Ann Shields,
Patrick Zenke, and Schopp resident Sieglinde
Freeman. Patrick took many of the photos
here, and Sieglinde made a special effort to
thank Vinnie and acknowledge her loss,
having lost her own father during the war in
Following the unveiling of the plaque, the village
put on a nice reception. Uwe Benkel, leader of
the Working Group for the Missing, then
presented a program on 1LT Meli and the crash
in Schopp 14 November 1956.
Uwe Benkel and his family are the force behind the
recovery/research of plane crashes in this area. Jonas,
Martina, and Georgina joined Mo and I for a photo.
Thanks for everything.
For more information on the
ceremony, visit these links:
Stars & Stripes "German Town
Honors U.S. Airman Credited With
Giving Life to Save Residents"
Rheinpfalz: "We are Thankful For
This Act of Heroism"