Skip to main content

Archives at The Museum of Flight

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

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 with The Museum of Flight.


  • 2017 March 17

Language of Materials

All materials are in English.

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research and is accessible in the Dahlberg Research Center by appointment. Interviews are being made available online on an ongoing basis. For more information contact us.


4.76 Gigabytes (1 master video file, 1 access video file, 1 PDF transcript)

1 Digital recordings : 1 hr., 38 sec.

Biographical Note: Dick Nelms

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.

Nelms 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.

Biographical information derived from interview and from additional information by interviewee.

Existence and Location of Copies

This interview available at The Museum of Flight Digital Collections.


Repository Details

Part of the The Museum of Flight Archives Repository

9404 East Marginal Way South
Seattle Washington 98108-4097

The Museum of Flight | 9404 E. Marginal Way South | Seattle WA 98108-4097 | 206-764-5874
Contact us with a research request