Wichita Falls Navy WWII hero dies at age 101

WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — One of the few remaining heroes from World War II has passed away at the age of 101.

A memorial service for Navy vet and this year's Wichitan of the Year, Dale Nelsen, will be held this Saturday, April 6, at 2 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church in Wichita Falls.

Dale, who served as Grand Marshal in last year's Veterans Day Parade, was always happy to share his memories and stories with us over the years. We were amazed at how many battle theaters he was involved in across the globe.

When he got to North Africa, he was virtually the only medic for a 140-man Navy crew from the African front into Italy.

RELATED: Wichita Falls Navy veteran looks back on his service

On the Far Eastern Front, Dale was sent on a mission with six others behind enemy lines into then-Burma. He said it was a secret mission and could never find a record of it.

He said Japanese soldiers heard them in the brush and fired at them, but no one was hit.

Later, he helped in the invasion of Europe at Omaha Beach in Normandy. And in 2014, he had the thrill of a lifetime, returning along with his granddaughter to the 70th Anniversary of D-day to those once bloody and body-strewn beaches.

Some days, Dale would go to Sheppard Air Force Base and get as close as he could to watch the planes land and take off. In 2022, the 362nd Training Squadron brought him in for a hands-on, up-close inspection of all the aircraft.

But he said it has always been the ships on the sea waves, not airwaves, that thrill him the most,
and every time he saw one, he would wish he were a little younger so he could be on it.

Every Memorial Day, Dale said he thought of his comrades in arms, both those who came home and those left behind.

He helped plan reunions for his unit for almost 20 years until not enough people could make them. By 2021, only he and one other were still around to share the memories.

RELATED: Wichita Falls Navy veteran turns 100 years old

As the years passed and memories faded, Dale was always adamant that schools should keep them alive for future generations.

On that trip back to Normandy, he was gratified to find out that many of the younger generations do indeed know what Dale and hundreds of thousands like him did so long ago.

A young French boy approached him with a red rose, a hug, and a heart-shaped card that said, "Thank you so much to our liberator."

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