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Thomas A. Nelson
Thomas A. Nelson
(1921 - )
859th Squadron
Armament Officer
Life before the War
Thomas A Nelson was born on August 26, 1921 in Berkeley, California. His parents were Thomas F and Mabel Margaretta (Adams) Nelson. His father entered the Navy during WWI and retired in the 1930s as a Chief Carpenter's Mate. Growing up as a navy brat, Tom lived all along the Pacific Coast from San Diego to Eyak, Alaska.
As WWII began in Europe, Tom's father was recalled into active service. His father, who never saw any action during the first World War, saw plenty during the Second War. He was aboard the USS Curtis, as Chief Damage Control, anchored in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked. He survived the battle and served on many fighting ships throughout the war.
When the war hit the US doorsteps, Tom was attending Los Angeles City College majoring in Electrical Engineering. In June of 1942, he received an Associate of Arts degree. Upon graduating he did two things. He went to work for Los Angeles Water and Power (W&P) and he was sworn into the Army Air Force. It wasn't until the following December when Tom was called to active duty. He was granted a leave of absence from work.
Training and Service Record
Dec 1942: Aviation Cadet Program;
Valley Forge Military Academy
Feb 43: Advanced Aviation Cadet (for Armament);
Yale University
May 43: Commissioned 2nd Lt in the Army Air Corps
3 Jun 43: 445th BG, 701st BS; Assistant Armament Officer;
Boise, ID
unit moved to Wendover, UT and then Sioux City, IA
29 Aug 43: Transferred to 354th Base HQ; Sioux City, IA
9 Oct 43: Transferred to 453rd BG, 733rd BS;
Armament Officer; March Field, California
1 Dec 43: 453rd BG ordered for deployment
Old Buckenham, East Anglia
1 Mar 44: Transferred to 492nd BG, 859th BS;
Old Buckenham
12 Apr 44: Moved to North Pickenham
15 Jun 44: Promoted to 1st Lt
5 Aug 44: Transferred to 467th BG, 2nd 788th BS; Rackheath
1 Apr 45: Promoted to Captain
11 Jul 45: Arrived in New York City
Summary of Service
When Tom joined the 453rd BG, 733rd BS in California, about half of his squardon would remain together throughout the war. They served in three different squadrons in three different bomb groups. Included in this band of brothers was the Executive Officer, Adjutant, Armament Officer, Supply Officer, the 1st Sergeant and about 200 enlisted men.
Tom's time with the 492nd was a busy one as the Group flew 67 missions in 89 days. Plus there were numerous scrubbed missions that used the same time and energy as the operational ones required. On D-Day, Tom and his men got little or no sleep as the Group flew three missions. Things were so hectic during the early part of June that the air crews had to clean their own guns. As busy as the invasion time was, Tom's Armament Section kept up with the demands.
As Squadron Armament Officer, Tom was classified as a non-expendible officer. Therefore, he was restricted from participating in actual combat. However, against all regulations, he did slip on board a plane for a couple of the missions to France.
When the Group was disbanded in August, the 859th BS was redesignated to become the 2nd 788th BS of the 467th BG at Rackheath. After arriving at their new base, Tom was given an Assistant Armament Officer. Tom remained at Rackheath until after the war in Europe was over.
On 4 July 1945, the 788th BS began heading back to the US. Tom arrived in New York City on the 11th. The war in the Pacific Theater was still active and the 467th BG was scheduled for redeployment. Tom was assigned to serve as acting troop commander while the men took the train from New Jersey to Fort MacArthur at San Pedro, California. Shortly after their arrival, Tom took a 30 day leave for recuperation. While off on leave, Japan surrendered. Luckily, he had prior reservations at the Cocoanut Grove on VJ evening.
It still took about another month before the 467th BG would become deactivated. So after returning to Fort MacArthur, Tom had to go to Sioux Falls AAB and then back to California to the San Bernardino Separation Center.
After the war
Rather than being discharged from service, Tom elected to remain in the Air Force Reserve and returned to his old job at W&P. The following spring he took another leave of absence from work so he could return to college full time. In 1949, he received a BS in Electrical Engineering at University of Southern California.
After graduation, Tom returned to W&P. During the following years, Tom would remain busy as he worked full time, continued his education with evening courses and still served in the Air Force Reserve. In 1953, Tom earned his MS degree from USC.
Now his work required him to fulfill a number of one-year assignments with locations alternating on both coasts. He was also given some short assignments to Europe and Japan. Because of his work, Tom had been granted relief from a unit assignment with the Air Force Reserve. He was able to stay in the service since he was taking correspondence courses from the Air University. In 1959, after 17 years of service, he was honorably discharged by the military.
In 1958, Tom somehow found the time to marry Mary Anne Mares. His marriage didn't slow him down at all. Instead, he had someone to share his experiences with. His job still included foreign assignments in Europe and Japan. When assigned to work in California, he picked up more classes at UCLA. He continued to work for W&P in the position of Senior Engineer followed by Principal Engineer. He retired in 1980.
Retirement didn't slow Tom down a bit. He had become an expert consultant and authority on rail transporation. Since then, Tom has written numerous articles, worked as editor of a rail transportation publication, held various offices in a rail-interest organization, including President, and had two rail transportation books published. Today (2005), he continues his work just as hard as ever, but with a few vacation trips each year.
More Info
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467th BG
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Page last modified Wednesday, June 22, 2011.