2nd Lt. Merlin Shepherd Neff was killed on April 2, 1945 when his B-25 Mitchell bomber was brought down by anti-aircraft fire near the current town of Taichung City, Taiwan (then known as Taichu, Formosa) during an attack on Japanese railroad rolling stock. Two aircraft from the mission went town close to the same time. One crashed on land while the one piloted by 2nd Lt. Neff crashed into the water just off the coast. There were no survivors of either aircraft. They were both assigned to the 5th Air Force, V Bomber Command, 308th Bombardment Wing, 38th Bombardment Command, 822nd Bombardment Squadron, nicknamed the Black Panthers.
2nd Lt. Neff’s unit was based at Lingayen Airfield, Lingayen Gulf, on the western side of the island of Luzon, Philippines. Their mission was to fly from Luzon to the western side of Formosa, present day Taiwan, and attack Japanese railroads.. It was a distance of roughly 466 miles, within the range of the B-25, which was about 1,350 miles at an air speed of 300 miles per hour. Six aircraft from 2nd Lt. Neff’s squadron joined six more from another squadron along with a group of P-47 fighters as escorts. They reached their objective and succeeded in attacking enemy railroad assets at Shakoru and were in the process of attacking at Taichu when the two aircraft suffered their damage. Recovery of the remains was achieved in the case of the bomber crashing on land but Neff’s plane was considered not recoverable.
Merlin had enlisted in the Army Air Corps on February 24, 1943 as a private, initially not as a candidate for flight training, but at some point he qualified for flight school and training as a bomber pilot. His unit had arrived a couple of months earlier at Lingayen.
2nd Lt. Neff was the son of Robert Benton Neff and Ruby Lee Bryant Neff and the family had resided in the 4000 block of Travis Avenue in Dallas. Merlin had graduated from North Dallas High School. After high school, he enrolled at Baylor University in Waco where he spent two years on a pre-law education track. At Baylor, he was a member of the Golden Wave Band, the Esquire Club, First Families of Baylor and the Debate Club. The name Neff is strongly associated with Baylor since his great uncle, Pat Morris Neff (1871-1952), had served as President for many years. Pat Neff, also a former governor of Texas, was a brother to Merlin’s grandfather, Robert Shepherd Neff (1862-1912).
Benton and Ruby Neff were married about 1922 and are known to have had two sons, Merlin (1923-1945) and Charles (1927-2010). The Benton Neff family were long time members of First Baptist Church in Dallas where Benton served as a deacon. Benton worked as a bookkeeper in the banking industry.
2nd Lt. Neff’s name is included in a memorial at the Manila American Cemetery and Memorial located in Manila, Philippines. He has a headstone, also, at Restland Memorial Park in Dallas, Texas.
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