Nelson is a veteran of both the Battle of the Bulge and, among other locations, Normandy Beach, Nuremberg, Salzburg and Munich. Although he has WWII memorabilia on the walls of his house, I had never really heard him speak about what he actually did during the war, so I asked him.
He responded, “I was a radio operator for the forward observation for artillery. We radioed back to the guns. We were way up front and we were way back.” Asked about Normandy, memorialized in Stephen Spielberg’s film “Saving Private Ryan” he said, “D-Day was the sixth of June. I went in 10 days after D-Day.”
Asked how, exactly, he “went in” (“Did you parachute in?”) Nelson said he had gone in on an LST ship and also remembered that he crossed the Rhine at Worms.
Nelson joined the Army when he was just 18, so, out of his company of 150 men (there were 3 or 4 companies in a Battalion), “All of those men are gone.” His best friend was Jack Norris from Fort Wayne, Indiana. Since Jack is long gone, perhaps it won’t matter that Nelson described him as a bit of a kleptomaniac at times.
When asked to describe his experiences during World War II in a word or phrase, he said, “It was a great experience.” Asked about war, in general, he said, “It’s a necessary evil. And sometimes it’s an unnecessary evil.”
Happy 93rd Birthday, Nelson, and many, many more.