A Primghar native who was shot down during a bombing mission over Italy during WWII, is returning home to Iowa after more than 73-years. 28-year old Byron Nelson was serving with the 721st Bomber Squadron, 450th Bomber Group, 15th Air Force, U.S. Army Air Corps, when he was last seen April 25, 1944, as his unit was conducting a bombing mission over Varese, Italy. Nelson's flight originated from Manduria, Italy that day. The aircraft, a B-24G "Liberator" on which he served as a nose gunner, was shot down by a German fighter aircraft and crashed near Fognano, Italy, after the aircraft and two others became separated from the main formation due to dense clouds. According to military authorities, 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 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 Nelson was born March 29, 1916 in Baker Township, O’Brien County, to Charles E. and Mabel (Faulkner) Nelson. He attended school in Primghar and enlisted in the U.S. Army in January, 1943.
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.
From KIWA Radio June 23, 2017