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HomeAt Home & BeyondHarley B. Nelson: Local War Hero

Harley B. Nelson: Local War Hero

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By TOM BOWEN
Secretary, Withlacoochee Chapter FLSSAR of the Sons of the American Revolution

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Harley B. Nelson, 96 of Homosassa, Florida passed away on Jan. 4, 2022. He was a native of Noble County, In. and born March 24, 1915, to Ward and Letha Nelson, one of 13 children. He dropped out of high school and enlisted on his 17th birthday on March 25, 1942, in the U. S. Navy. He was trained as a Signalman. After his training he was assigned to a short stint at a lighthouse on the east coast of the country then transferred to the Pacific Theatre and served on the U.S.S LST 632 for his war service.

He participated in several Pacific Island landings including an amphibious landing on Biak Island in Dutch New Guinea on 27 May 1944. He received the Bronze Star for his actions that day. His citation from Vice Admiral T. C. Kinkaid states “For distinguishing himself by heroic and meritorious service as a member of Navy Beach Party Number 6…” “When members of the party landed on Green Beach, they were subjected to severe hand grenade fire from Japanese troops in two caves in the cliff near the beach. While other members of the party attacked the enemy, he proceeded calmly and efficiently about his task in the face of continued enemy action. He confirmed the absence of underwater obstacles, located a safe approach for incoming craft, and successfully guided Landing Craft Tanks (LCT) with their vital load of material, to the beach. His cool, efficient and courageous performance of duty under fire permitted the accomplishment of his mission and contributed materially to the successes of the operation. His conduct has distinguished him among those performing duties of the same character.”
He participated in the Bataan and Corregidor Landings in the Philippines from 2/13 to 2/18, 1945 on the U.S.S. LST 632. He received additional written commendations from James Forrestal – Secretary of the Navy and President Harry S. Truman for his Pacific War Service. His additional medals received for his war service were the American Campaign Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with three bronze stars, World War II Victory Medal, Philippine Liberation Ribbon with one bronze star. He was released from active duty on 31 Mar 1946 and was Honorably separated from his military service on 29 Oct 1952.

After Harley was released from active duty, he received his GED and then sent himself to Manchester University where he received his Bachelor’s Degree. He then attended Indiana University where he received his Law degree. In between his schooling he married Beverly Jean Pence Nelson, a DAR, on February 14, 1947. They had one daughter, Carla Nelson Heimer who faithfully brought her dad to every SAR meeting. He used his law degree as a supervisor claims adjuster for several insurance companies, retiring as a Senior Vice President of Claims from Foremost Insurance.

Carla advised that they moved many times for her dad’s job, and she attended 16 different schools in 16 years. After Harley retired, he moved his family to Homosassa, Florida. Harley was a great community volunteer serving the Withlacoochee Chapter as Secretary and President. He was also a member of the color guard. He served as president of the Citrus County Library Board and oversaw the construction of a new library. Harley was a regular attender of every SAR meeting up to November 2021 always accompanied by his loving daughter Carla Heimer. He was interred next to his previously deceased wife Beverly on March 25, 2022, with full military honors at the National Bushnell Cemetery in Bushnell, Florida. Carla was presented with the American Flag in a beautiful presentation case from the Withlacoochee Chapter of the SAR by President David Hitchcock.

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