Einar Nielsen


Einar Nielsen, was a Sgt in the 9th Air Force 495th Bomb Squadron, 344th Bomb Group. He was shot down in the B-26 “Nick’s Chick.” His pilot was Herbert Moore. Katie Ryan has researched the fatal mission extensively. <link>

Here is an excerpt of an older article about Einar and his service.


BATTLE CREEK, Iowa (5/24/2009) — As the Memorial Day program unfolds at Mt. Hope Cemetery in Battle Creek Monday morning, Einar Nielsen will zip through a pasture eight miles from town, checking his cows from his seat atop a four-wheeler.

Nielsen, 86, hasn’t participated in the Memorial Day observance for decades, if ever. He visits his cemetery early and late that day, avoiding the crowd.

He is a man who parachuted from 12,000 feet into enemy territory 65 years ago. His B-26 exploded into a fireball, killing three crew members instantly. Sgt. Nielsen fell into an orchard, somehow evading German fire.

“The bullets tore through my chute, I could hear them,” he says. “Maybe the Germans were just having fun.”

All quiet about the war

Until three years ago Einar Nielsen said little about his 11th and final mission as a radio operator/gunner aboard a ship dubbed “The Widowmaker” for its dangerous duty.

“We got shot up pretty good on some of my first 10 missions,” Nielsen says.

The 11th was it. It happened Oct. 6, 1944 as the crew of seven joined 34 other ships sweeping over Arnhem, Holland to take out a bridge German forces used for shipments of troops and supplies.

The plane passed its target twice. German flak hammered it the second time. Eyewitnesses said the ship burst into flames.

Nielsen felt fire on the back of his aviator coat. It burned his fur collar and sent him scrambling for a parachute.

“I took off my flak vest and put on my parachute, but I only got one hook fastened,” he says. “I jumped at 12,000 feet and the Germans shot up my parachute on my way down.”

He landed in an orchard. “I was hungry and would have liked an apple, but I was too scared to move,” he says.

Miraculously, he was rescued by soldiers from England who held territory nearby.

“I’d hurt my leg and foot in the fall,” he says. “And my nerves were shot. I don’t remember much else.”

Three die instantly

At least three members of the crew were

killed instantly, one on his first mission and another on his 57th. Sixty-five were needed to go home.

Two died stateside within the next six years. One was the plane’s pilot, 1st Lt. Herbert Moore, who died after sustaining injuries while inspecting a gun he thought was empty.

Co-pilot Albert Joslyn Allen of Elgin, Ill. survived. Nielsen never heard from him. Neither did Michieli Cavuoti, of Abilene, Texas, who spent countless hours tracking the events of Oct. 6. Her reason? Her mother dated Moore during the war. (Nielsen’s unique first name was a benefit in the search process.)

Cavuoti knows 2nd Lt. Allen was on a training run that day with this crew. It was his second mission.

“I have never been able to locate anything about him,” she notes.

“I never talked to or saw any of them after that day,” says Nielsen, who was listed missing in action for five days after the crash.

For decades, Nielsen tucked away these tragic events and went about the business of farming, delivering mail and raising livestock and children with his wife Lucia. She died three years ago.

It was about then Nielsen began recalling his 31 months of World War II service. He was one of five sons of farmers Anna and Peter Nielsen of Battle Creek to serve overseas in World War II. All made it home.

“Einar’s parents were first-generation Danish immigrants and Einar took pride in serving his country, one his parents chose to come to,” says daughter-in-law Joan Stocks Nielsen. “He’s proud to have been a soldier.”

“We bombed targets to prevent the Germans from moving troops and equipment,” he says. “I always obeyed and did what I was told.”

The fear didn’t paralyze him. “No,” he says with a laugh. “We were young and didn’t know any different.”

Apparently, Nielsen also didn’t know he earned at least six additional medals. A house fire at Battle Creek in 1955 destroyed most of his citations. A fire at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, Mo., in 1973 damaged or destroyed other documents.

Cavuoti’s persistence in tracking down citations and reports enabled Nielsen to open an Easter surprise last month. It was package of medals long overdue, including the American Campaign Medal with two Bronze Stars, Air Medal and Bar with Oak Leaf Cluster, Army Good Conduct Medal, World War II Victory Medal and the European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal.

The medals, his dog tags and more are now displayed in a case son Roger Nielsen created. That and several memory books from World War II decorate a space in his living room.

Slowly, he’s remembering more about his final mission. His son and daughter-in-law learned of the burning fur Tuesday.

While he’s not yet visible in his town’s public patriotic ceremonies, he’s talking about the experience with his family. On the 64th anniversary of his jump to safety, Einar Nielsen gathered the family and headed to the Fireside Steakhouse & Lounge in nearby Anthon for dinner.

He treated.





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