Nelson helped break in new vessel
PIPESTONE -- What Delos Nelson Jr. remembers most about World War II is its aftermath. Like many young men, Nelson was scarcely past his training when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ending the war. He has no memories of ...
PIPESTONE -- What Delos Nelson Jr. remembers most about World War II is its aftermath.
Like many young men, Nelson was scarcely past his training when the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Nagasaki and Hiroshima, ending the war.
He has no memories of combat -- those would come from his service in the Korean War -- but he does remember the jubilant reaction to the war's end on the West Coast -- and the overwhelming defeat felt by those across the ocean.
"We were in San Francisco loading ammunition when World War II ended," he recalled. "There was a big celebration that day. On main street they had big water pools of some kind, fountains, and people were bathing in them. It was quite the celebration. Everybody was out in the streets."
Nelson, a Sunnydale, Idaho, native, had graduated from Madison High School in Rexburg and entered the service about a year earlier.
He was inducted into the U.S. Navy in June 1944 and completed his basic training in Farragut, Idaho. From there it was off to Fort Lauderdale, Fla., for fire control school.
"They had the radar units all set up; we trained on those. We practiced with range finders taking ranges and ships and planes and shore bombarding," he said.
His keen eyesight and quick learning style made him stand out.
"I came out of there, and they offered me a chance to stay there and teach, but I wanted to get back to the West Coast. I told them to get another guy," he explained.
Nelson traveled to California, where he found all-new digs aboard the freshly commissioned USS Fred T. Berry. The vessel was so new that its first crew -- called plank owners -- put the finishing touches on it as it sailed to Japan via Pearl Harbor. In fact, the crew was in Yokohama Harbor when the armistice ending the war was signed.
"We went ashore quite a bit; I never seen such a downtrodden people as there was at that time," he said of the Japanese. "They just walked with their head down all the time. They were just depressed, the whole bunch of them. ... We went into some of those aircraft factories; they were absolutely just bombed out. In some of them there was nothing left."
He also noticed the complete depletion of the country's resources, remembering the easily worn copper wires the Japanese were using to generate power for their aircraft.
Still, Nelson had his share of interesting experiences while on liberty in Yokohama. One day while attending a movie showing in an underground cinema, another sailor got in a bit of trouble with the shore patrol.
"We used to take our laundry over to Tokyo, and we were on laundry detail and we were going back and it was noontime," he remembered. "We knew we weren't going to get back to the ship for dinner, so we stopped in at the café there. There were five or six of us, and we ordered lunch. Well, one of the fellas decided they wanted a beer while they was waiting. Well, I didn't drink ,but he ordered a beer and then the shore patrol came in and we got all arrested. For the next two weeks, we couldn't leave the ship."
The Fred T. Berry soon sailed for Shanghai, China, and Nelson had time to explore that country before being discharged in June 1946.
He started dating his wife, Mary Lou, when he returned; they married in 1949. The couple had three daughters, a son, 17 grandchildren and 13 great-grandchildren.
He resurrected his childhood beekeeping business after the war, leasing bees from A. H. Meyer and Sons before the company moved him to Montana to supervise a honey-packing plant.
After moving to Pipestone, he continued leasing bees and purchased the bees his father had first leased him when he was 14 years old. When he retired in 1993, he was in possession of more than 3,000 honey bees, and he still eats plenty of honey.
Nelson also served in the Navy during the Korean War, witnessing the renewal of the "downtrodden" people.
"We went back to Japan in '51 and they were out in the streets and really building," he said.
While on a train from Yokohama, his crew travelled past Nagasaki.
"They were really building then. Most of it was all completely obliterated, but around the edges they was building houses again," he recalled. "They would use three-wheel motorcycles to haul cement in. They could really get around fast, but they probably only had -- it wouldn't even be half a yard of cement. But they were fast and go the job done.
"It was just amazing the accomplishments they had done between '46 and '51."