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Nelms, Richard Alan, 1923-



  • Existence: 1923-

U.S. Army Air Forces veteran Richard “Dick” Alan Nelms served in the European Theater during World War II as a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress copilot and pilot. He was born on February 17, 1923 in Cleveland, Ohio to George W. and Lazette O. Nelms. The family relocated to Niagara Falls, New York shortly after his birth. In 1938, the family moved to Columbia, South Carolina following the death of Nelms’s father.

Nelms graduated from high school in 1941 and enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Forces shortly afterward. He completed his flight training through the Southeast Army Air Forces Training Command at airfields in Alabama, Florida, and Indiana. After receiving his commission, he joined the 710th Bombardment Squadron of the 447th Bombardment Group and deployed to Europe as a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress crewmember. He initially served as a copilot before receiving a promotion to first pilot. During his tour, Nelms flew a total of 35 bombing missions in Europe and earned five Air Medals, the Presidential Unit Citation, and the Distinguished Flying Cross.

Following the end of World War II, Nelms left military service to return to school. He attended California State University in Bakersfield, then moved to Seattle, Washington to study commercial art. After graduating from a professional arts school, Nelms established a freelance commercial art business, which he ran from 1949 to 1990. He married his wife Laurel in 1951, and they had one son.

After the passing of his wife in 2014, Nelms followed his son’s advice to become a volunteer at The Museum of Flight. As of 2020, Nelms serves as one of the Museum’s history storytellers, giving talks about his World War II experiences.


Biography derived from collection materials.

Found in 2 Collections and/or Records:

Biographical Information Files - N

Scope and Contents Individuals whose names begin with N: Nance, John [Pilot and aviation writer] "Aviation Expert Culls Material for His Novel, 'Scorpion Strike,' from Persian Gulf Experience," Seattle Post-Intelligencer, July 7, 1992 Navarre, Jean [French WWI ace] "The Mad Ace of Verdun," Air Classic, undated Nazir, Phiroze [Aeronautical engineer] ...

Nelms, Dick -- oral history interview, 2017 March 17

Interview Summary U.S. Army Air Forces veteran Richard “Dick” Alan Nelms is interviewed about his service as a Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress copilot and pilot during World War II. He describes his wartime experiences with the 710th Bombardment Squadron of the 447th Bombardment Group and recounts notable events from his service in the European Theater. Topics discussed include his training and service history, bombing missions over Germany, his thoughts on handling fear in combat situations, and his involvement...

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