Mt Pleasant News

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Neighbors Growing Together | May 21, 2018

Iowa WWII airman returns home

Airman comes home 73 years after discovery of remains in Italy
Jun 26, 2017

More than 73 years after being shot down on a bombing mission over Italy during WWII, Staff Sgt. Byron H. Nelson is returning home to Iowa.

Nelson, a 28-year-old Primghar, Iowa native serving with the 721st Bomber Squadron, 450th Bomber Group, 15th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Corps, was last seen April 25, 1944 as his unit was conducting a bombing mission over Varese, Italy. With the flight originating from Manduria, Italy, the aircraft, a B-24G “Liberator” on which Nelson served as a nose gunner, was shot down by German fighter aircraft and crashed near Fognano, Italy after Nelson’s aircraft and two others became separated from the main formation due to dense clouds. Eight of the ten crewmembers were able to parachute from the aircraft; six evaded capture and returned to friendly lines, while two were taken prisoner by German forces.

Nelson and one other crewmember from the aircraft, Sgt. John E. White, were officially declared deceased but their remains were never recovered. On Sept. 9, 1947, the American Graves Registration Service disinterred remains from a cemetery near Fognano, Italy, where they were reportedly buried by local residents following the crash of an American bomber in April 1944. The remains were unable to be identified and were re-interred as “Unknown X-190” in the Florence (Italy) American Cemetery on May 26, 1949.

Due to new historical investigations and new technology that could link an identification to Unknown X-190, the remains were disinterred in Aug. 2015 by the U.S. Department of Defense’s Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency. DNA analysis and circumstantial evidence were used in the identification of Nelson’s remains in late 2016.

Byron H. Nelson was born March 29, 1916 in Baker Township, O’Brien County, Iowa to Charles E. and Mabel (Faulkner) Nelson. He attended school in Primghar and enlisted in the U.S. Army in January 1943. Nelson’s military awards and honors include the Purple Heart, Air Medal (with one silver and one bronze Oak Leaf Clusters), Army Good Conduct Medal, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal (with one bronze service star), World War II Victory Medal, Enlisted Aircrew Member Wings, and Aerial Gunner Badge Wings.

At the time of his death, Nelson was married to Thelma (Bostrom) Nelson and had a two-year-old daughter, Judith Ann. He is survived by two grandsons and many nieces, nephews, and extended family members. Nelson’s parents, five siblings, widow and daughter are deceased.

A memorial service will be held at the Pleasant Hill Cemetery, 5831 380th St., Primghar, Iowa on Saturday, July 1 at 1:30 p.m., with full military honors provided by the Iowa National Guard. The public is welcome to attend the memorial service. The cemetery is located approximately one mile northwest of Primghar.

Memorial contributions may be directed to the family through Gaudian and Eldridge Funeral Home, 415 S. Hayes Ave., Primghar, Iowa 51245, phone 712-757-8055.

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