William Humphrey Nelson

United States Air Force
24 September 1917 - 20 July 1966
Filion, Michigan
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The database page for William Humphrey Nelson

23 Jun 2008

Colonel Nelson's daughter Judy was a friend of mine and one of my best friends. The Nelsons lived directly across the street in base housing at McConnell AFB, Kansas (Colonel Nelson also lived next door to LtCol Felix "Doc" Blanchard, the Heisman Trophy winner from West Point.) I always liked and admired the colonel. He was a really sharp guy. I was also an Air Force brat so I'd met a lot of colonels upon which to base that opinion.

He had a full chest of fruit salad and had served in World War II as had my dad. He was one of the first (if not the first) father of a friend to die in Vietnam.

His brother was a pacifist and even sailed to North Vietnam with so called "humanitarian aid." Even after Colonel Nelson had been killed none of the family seemed as angry about it as I was.

He was an obviously an outstanding officer, and with Judy as the example, an outstanding father. I often think of him when I think of my father. Although I only knew him as a friend's father, I always felt the loss. Like all Air Force children I realized it could have been my dad. Rest in Peace, Colonel.

From a friend of his daughter Judy,
John Fleming

A Note from The Virtual Wall

On 20 July 1966 Colonel William H. Nelson in F-105D tail number 61-0116 was conducting a strafing run on trucks along Highway 12 about 10 kilometers south of Hoa Binh when he failed to pull out of the run and crashed. There was no sign of ejection and the crash itself was unsurvivable. On 30 Sep 1977 the Vietnamese returned Col Nelson's remains, with positive identification announced by the US government on 25 Oct 1977.

A JTF-FA summary dated 04 June 1997 adds two other points:

  • In August 1974 a Polish citizen reported visiting the area in February 1967. He was told Col Nelson's body had been recovered by local citizens and buried near the wreckage of his aircraft. The villagers, who identified Nelson by name, said the grave was marked with a small white cross and that it was maintained by the villagers.

  • On 16 April 1997 a wartime correspondent for the Soviet news agency TASS provided a copy of a photograph he'd taken of a grave marker in the hamlet. The marker didn't have a name on it, but instead said "Grave of American enemy pilot of F105D, shot down by People's Militia on July 20, 1966".

The point-of-contact for this memorial is
a friend of his daughter Judy,
John Fleming

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With all respect
Jim Schueckler, former CW2, US Army
Ken Davis, Commander, United States Navy (Ret)
Memorial first published on 23 Jun 2008
Last updated 11/13/2010