Tribute to Bob Nelson, B-29 Navigator, Beheaded Aug 4, 1945

A Tribute to Bob Nelson

ROTC  42'  Bob Nelson     Darrell Landau

            The following is in special tribute to my friend, classmate & college roommate, Bob Nelson who while flying as Lead Navigator on a B-29 mission out of Saipan to Japan was shot down, escaped, was captured and beheaded. He was a most wonderful person. The following from clippings are all I could find about him when I returned and started back to school.

            Bob had grown up in Minneapolis Ks and had married his HS sweetheart Betty Musgrave before going over seas.




In Raid over Nagoya

            Second Lieut. Robert W. Nelson was a member of the B-29 bombing crew that is credited with knocking down two Tony's, a type of Japanese fighter plane, during a raid by the superforts on Nagoya, December 22. News of the raid came by way of A. P. dispatch, from the 21st bomber headquarters, Saipan. "It was the strongest fighter attack we have had yet," reported Major Robert Fitzgerald of Ridgewood, N.J. Bob's pilot.

   Lieut. Nelson was lead navigator on the December 8 raid over Iwo Jima Island, between Saipan and Tokyo. His wife, the former Betty Musgrave is making her home here with her parents, Mr. and Mrs. H. C. Musgrave while Bob is overseas. He is a son of Mr. and Mrs. John H. Nelson.

            Lieut. Bob Nelson Reported Found

            Telegram From the War Department Last Thursday Brings Great News

            A telegram came from the war department in Washington last week Thursday to Mrs. Betty Nelson, which brought great rejoicing to the Nelson and Musgrave families. The telegram read as follows:

            "Mrs. Betty E. Nelson. The Secretary of War has asked me to Inform you that your husband, First Lt. Nelson, Robert W., has been returned to military control. You are invited to submit a message not to exceed twenty-five words for attempted delivery to him. Your message should be addressed to Casualty Branch AGO, Room 3623, Munitions Bldg., Washington, D. C. Further information will be furnished when received.

                        Edward F. Witzell, Acting the, Adjutant General of the Army."

            Betty has been in Kansas City for six weeks taking training to be a stewardess for T.W.A. She graduated that morning and was sent out in the afternoon on her first official flight as a stewardess on a trip to Albuquerque, but the message was phoned to her before she left. Already excited over her success and quick assignment, this important message made her feel it was the happiest day of her life.

            It was on the second of April when the first word came that Bob was missing in action. Betty received a letter from a pal of Bob's on Saipan, written on March 19, stating that the plane on which Bob was Navigator had been missing for three days. It was some time later before an official telegram came announcing that he was missing inaction. A bombing squadron had taken off from Saipan for Japan and Bob's plane was leading the flight. The plane behind reported that the lead plane just disappeared about the time they started dropping their bombs. This plane was following the lead plane when they both went into a cloud. When the second plane got through the cloud, the other was missing and no word was heard here about what happened to it, until recently.

            In the past couple of weeks the families have been getting rumors and hints that Bob would be found. But some of the hints were of the opposite kind and Betty has been constantly stirred up, though hope was growing stronger with her all the time. She receivecd letters from some of the wives of other members of that ill-fated bomber crew. Two wrote her that they had finally received word from the government, confirming the death of their husbands.

            One report was that the ship had crashed near a prison camp close to Kobe, Japan. A sailor who was a prisoner there stated when released by American forces shortly after Japan surrendered, that he saw the plane crash and he saw two of the 9-man crew leave the bomber alive. The ship was identified through a dog tag taken from one of the crew by a Jap and which the sailor had got hold of.

            Last Wednesday night a man whom was acquainted with Bob and had also been a prisoner saw Bob shortly after the crash and Bob had given him Betty's address to use if he had any chance to get word to her. This man was sent home to the United States and arrived last week Wednesday. He immediately called Betty and gave her this news. But Bob had been taken to a different prison camp and none of these people with just hints of news knew where he had been taken. Now the government telegram brings the heartening news to Bob's parents as well as his wife. They are anxiously awaiting mores definite information and praying that Bob has not suffered inhuman treatment and is in good condition. Hundreds of friends of the families are mighty glad to get this good news, too.



            Japs Knew Law Was Illegal, War Crimes Court Hears

            Yokohama, Aug. 4 (AP) Two American fliers, "convicted" under Japan's wartime enemy airmen's act, were beheaded by Japanese who knew the act was illegal, a prosecution witness said today at the Eighth army commission trial of three former Japanese generals and five others on charges of complicity in the case.

            The Americans were Lieut Robert W. Nelson of Minneapolis, Kas, and Staff Sergt. Algy Stanley Augunas of Bay Shore, N. Y.

            The witness, Yasukazu Shimamura, said the Americana, captured after their B-29 was shot down, were convicted after 2-hour trial in Osaka and sentenced to death.

            The witness said Capt. Kanji Nakamichi, commander of Osaka military prison and a defendant in the trial, ordered decapitation, then told the executioners that if they were questioned about the affair they were to say the Americans had been executed by a firing squad. The witness added that the death certificates indicated the Americans had been shot.

            On August 15, 1945, one day after the surrender, the records of the trial were ordered destroyed Shimamura said.


            Witnesses Appear Against Generals in Beheading of Fliers

            YOKOHAMA, Aug. 6. (AP) -Two Japanese witnesses testified today that they were forced to say two captured American fliers had been executed by shooting when actually the Japanese had tried to decapitate them.

            The Japanese appeared for the prosecution in the trial of three former Japanese generals before an Eighth army tribunal on charges of complicity in the brief trial at which the Americans were sentenced to death.

            The airmen included Lieut. Robert W. Nelson, Minneapolis, Kas.