Graduated from South Cache High School, Hyrum, Utah, 1935. Attended Utah State University from 1935 to 1938; majored in Civil Engineering. Enlisted as Flying Cadet at Fort Douglas, Utah on August 18, 1939. Commissioned and rated navigator, June, 1941. Later earned ratings as Senior Aircraft Observer and Master Navigator. Was Prisoner of War, Japanese, after Tokyo Raid from April, 1942 until release in August, 1945. Was only Tokyo Raider who returned to testify at Japanese War Crimes Trials and is only living survivor of his crew. Remained in service with various units of the Strategic Air Command until retirement in November, 1961. Decorations include Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart with 1 Oak Leaf Cluster, and Chinese Breast Order of Pao Ting.
Born January 14, 1917, Hyrum, Utah Died March 23, 2007, Brigham City, Utah
WWII hero Chase J. Nielsen dies
Utahn flew raids that struck Japan early in the war
One of Utah's greatest World War II heroes, Air Force Lt. Col. Chase J. Nielsen (Ret.) of the Tokyo Doolittle Raiders, died March 23 at his home in Brigham City. Born 90 years ago in Hyrum, Colo., Nielsen earned a civil engineering degree from Utah State University in 1939 and enlisted in what was then the Army Air Corps (later the Air Force) as a flying cadet. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in 1941. Early the next year he became the navigator of one of the 16 B-52 bombers chosen to strike at Japan. The exceptionally dangerous raid, led by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle, was the first to hit Japan after that country's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor. The Raiders traveled toward Japan on an aircraft carrier, the Hornet, and launched from the carrier. Normally, fighter planes took off from carriers but the heavily-laden bombers all managed to get airborne. On April 18, 1942, Chase Nielsen's plane hit industrial targets in Tokyo. But because they had been forced to take off farther from Japan than planned, the raiders ran out of fuel after they dropped their bombs. His plane ditched four miles offshore in the East China Sea off the coast of occupied China, killing two crewmen. The survivors reached shore and were hidden by sympathetic Chinese. However, Col. Nielsen and other crew members were captured by Japanese forces and tortured for information, but he never gave any except his name, rank and serial number. He was subjected to a mock execution, then actually sentenced to die. That sentence was commuted to life in prison, but three other Raiders were executed. A press release issued by the Air Force about Col. Nielsen's passing says, "Of the 80 men who took part in the raid with Col. Nielsen, three were killed during the mission, five were interned in Russia and eight became prisoners of war in Japan." Of those in Japan, three were executed by Japanese firing squads and a fourth died in captivity, it adds. "Thirteen others would die later in the war," the release says of the bombers' crews. "There are 14 Raiders alive today." The raid had immense impacts here and in Japan. It gave American morale a much-needed boost at a time when the war had been going badly, and it forced Japan to divert forces to protect the mainland. That reduced the forces opposing Americans who were fighting their way across the Pacific. Lt. Nielsen and the few survivors were rescued a week after the war ended. He had spent 40 months in prison, nearly all of that in solitary confinement. In 1946, he provided evidence during war crimes trials that helped convict Japanese officers of maltreatment and murder of prisoners. Following World War II, he rose through the ranks in the Air Force, helping to build up the Strategic Air Command. He retired in 1961 as a lieutenant colonel. Col. Nielsen then began a career as an industrial engineer at Hill Air Force Base, retiring in 1981. He was the first Utahn to earn the Distinguished Flying Cross, and he was awarded the Air Medal, the Purple Heart with Cluster, the Air Force Commendation Medal with Cluster, the Outstanding Unit Award, the Longevity Ribbon with Four Clusters and the Chinese equivalent of the Flying Cross. Funeral services are scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at the Allen Hall Mortuary Chapel in Logan. A viewing is scheduled from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday at the mortuary and from 10 a.m. to 10:45 a.m. the day of the funeral. 03/26/07 - http://deseretnews.com/dn/view/0,1249,660206318,00.html
Air Force legend Col. Chase Nielsen passes away
by Lt. Col. Stephen Clutter Air Force Print News
3/25/2007 - SAN ANTONIO (AFNEWS) -- Retired Lt. Col. Chase J. Nielsen, one of the famed "Tokyo Doolittle Raiders" who helped boost American morale in the early days of World War II with a surprise air attack on Japan and spent a lifetime as an advocate for American airpower, died March 23 at his home in Brigham City, Utah.
Born Jan. 14, 1917 in Hyrum, Utah, Colonel Nielsen attended Utah State University and graduated in 1939 with a bachelor of science degree in civil engineering. In August 1939, he enlisted in the U.S. Army Air Corps as a flying cadet. He was commissioned as a second lieutenant in June 1941.
Colonel Nielsen, a lieutenant at the time, was the navigator of "Crew # 6," one of 16 B-25 Mitchell bombers and 80 Airmen that launched from the deck of the USS Hornet on April 18, 1942. Led by legendary aviation pioneer Lt. Col. James H. "Jimmy" Doolittle, the raid is one of the most studied and talked about missions in the history of aerial warfare.
It was personally ordered by President Franklin D. Roosevelt as response to Japan's surprise attack on Pearl Harbor nearly five months earlier. Preparation for the attack was conducted in secrecy at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla., and was executed by loading 16 of the medium bombers onto the deck of the USS Hornet, which departed from San Francisco, Calif., April 2, 1942. Although Doolittle and his crews had perfected the art of taking off on a short field, returning to carrier was not an option.
All 16 bombers made it to their targets, however, they were forced to ditch or bail out over or along the Chinese Coast because the U.S. task force had been spotted by Japanese picket boats, and Doolittle had decided to launch early -- more than 600 miles from the Japanese mainland and 200 miles farther out than planned.
The original plan had called for the Raiders to launch during the night and recover in China at dawn, but due to being spotted by the picket boats, Doolittle's improvised plan had them taking off in the early afternoon and landing in China at night. Further complicating the recovery, an aircraft with a beacon that was supposed to take off over China and guide the crews to friendly airfields wasn't able to get airborne, so the Raiders were not able to avoid areas where Japanese occupation forces were concentrated.
Most of the aircraft were able to reach land, but two, including Colonel Nielsen's, were forced to ditch off the coast of China. Two men were killed in the ditching.
The eight men who survived were taken prisoner by the Japanese forces and held in inhumane conditions from which only four of the eight survived. Colonel Nielsen spent the next 40 months as a prisoner of war, most of the time in solitary confinement, before being rescued at the end of the war by an Office of Strategic Services para-rescue team and brought back to the U.S.
Colonel Nielsen returned to Shanghai, China, in January 1946 to testify in the International War Crimes Trials against his former captors.
Colonel Nielsen became a member of Strategic Air Command in March 1949 at Roswell AFB, N.M., where he was assigned to the 509th Bombardment Group -- the first group to be organized, equipped and trained for atomic warfare. The assignment was fitting as SAC's mission was to provide the United States with a long-range combat capability.
During his decade with the major command, Colonel Nielsen helped SAC develop key operational innovations, including radar navigation bombardment, air refueling employing the flying boom, and electronic countermeasures. He helped integrate "fail safe" and other emergency war order procedures into SAC's unique set of flight profiles.
Colonel Nielsen returned to the air while assigned to SAC and reached more than 10,000 flying hours mostly in B-29s, B-50s, B-36s and B-52s. His longest flight lasted 26 hours non-stop without refueling from Okinawa, Japan, to Roswell, New Mexico, in a B-36.
Colonel Nielsen retired from the Air Force in 1961 as a lieutenant colonel and began a career as an industrial engineer at Hill Air Force Base, Utah. He retired in 1981.
Colonel Nielsen's decorations include the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart with Cluster, the Air Force Commendation Medal with Cluster, Outstanding Unit Award, Longevity Ribbon with four Clusters, and the Breast Order of Pao Ting from the People's Republic of China.
Of the 80 men who took part in the raid with Colonel Nielsen, three were killed during the mission, five were interned in Russia and eight became prisoners of war in Japan. Of those POWs, three were executed by firing squad by the Japanese and another died in captivity. Thirteen others would die later in the war. There are 14 Raiders alive today.
The Raiders are also famous for their annual reunions, which began as a party hosted by Doolittle, in Miami Beach, Fla., in 1947. The reunions have evolved into a gathering of one of the most elite military fraternities in the world. At each reunion, surviving Raiders meet privately to conduct a solemn "Goblet Ceremony."
After a role call followed by a toasting the Raiders who died since their last meeting, they turn the deceased men's goblets upside down. Each goblet has the Raider's name engraved twice -- so that it can be read if the goblet is right side up or upside down.
When only two Raiders remain alive, they will drink a final toast using a vintage bottle of cognac.
The 80 goblets, which are normally on display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, are accompanied by U.S. Air Force Academy cadets. The Raider reunion will be held this year in San Antonio from April 17 through 21.
At last year's 64th reunion, Colonel Nielsen said, "I am proud to have been on the Doolittle Raid. I am more proud to have been of service to my country. I hope and I pray that what we Doolittle Raiders have done will be an inspiration to you people.
"I hope and pray that our young men and young women who are serving in the service today will be protected; that they will live their lives in accordance with the military rules and laws of war, that they will do their best and that they will appreciate their country and protect their flag as we tried to do ourselves," Colonel Nielsen said during reunion ceremony April 18.
Besides Colonel Nielsen, the other Raider who will be toasted this year is former Staff Sergeant William L. Birch, a bombardier on Crew #11, who passed away Nov. 18, 2006, in Santa Anna, Calif.
Funeral services will be 11 a.m. Wednesday at Allen-Hall Mortuary in Logan, Utah.
Utah Vet Who Fought Back Against Japan Dies BRIGHAM CITY - Lt. Col. Chase J. Nielsen, a Utah man and member of the famed "Doolittle Raiders" who bombed Japan in 1942 -- in a retaliation attack from Pearl Harbor -- passed away on Friday at the age of 90.
Nielsen was a navigator in one of the most daring air raids in American history, when 16 B-25 bombers took off from an aircraft carrier and bombed Tokyo on April 18, 1942.
Nielsen and his crew -- named "Crew 6," because of the order in which they left the aircraft carrier -- ditched the plane off the coast of China after it ran out of fuel. He then spent more than three years as a Japanese prisoner of war. Nielsen was the only member of "Crew 6" to survive the war.
The raid, planned by Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle as a retaliation attack from Japan's assault on Pearl Harbor four months earlier, was the subject of the book and movie "Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo" and the book "Four Came Home," which chronicled the story of Nielsen and the three other survivors. (Click Here to see pictures of the raid)
Nielsen, who returned to China to testify at Japanese war crimes trials just months after he was released, was known for telling his story to anyone who asked.
"They were always after him to tell his war stories," Nielsen's wife, Phyllis, told the Ogden Standard-Examiner. "He was a very well-thought-of man because he was just a nice person. He loved to help anybody that needed help."
Nielsen's death leaves 14 surviving "Doolittle Raiders," according to researchers.
In 1935, Nielsen graduated from South Cache High School in Hyrum before attending Utah State University between 1935 and 1938, where he received a degree in civil engineering. Nielsen enlisted at Fort Douglas in Salt Lake City as a flying cadet in 1939. He retired from military service in 1961 after receiving several honors including the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Purple Heart.
Doolittle Raiders by 2nd. Lt. Kelly Cahalan Ogden ALC Public Affairs
Looking back, Chase Nielson doesn't think he would've survived another six months, after all, his six-foot frame was already down to 103 pounds.
He recalled the morning of Apr. 18, 1942, when Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle reminded the 16 B-25 Mitchell crews that the mission was still voluntary. The mission they were about to embark on would later become known as the "Doolittle Raid," the first aerial bombing of Tokyo. Nielson was the navigator aboard the sixth bomber to take off that morning.
"There were five extra crews and everyone wanted to go," the retired colonel recalled. "One individual offered $1,000 to anyone willing to give up his seat, but there were no takers. And back then, that was a lot of money."
Describing the excitement that morning was difficult for Nielson.
"You became one with the airplane and took it one thing at a time." He explained there wasn't time to consider what might happen in the next several hours, let alone next week or next year.
Nielson, a native of Utah, would spend the next 3 1/2 years as a Japanese prisoner of war in China.
After their carrier, the U.S.S. Hornet, was spotted by a Japanese picket boat, the raiders were forced to take off more than 300 miles further away and 10 hours earlier than planned. When they successfully completed their mission over Tokyo, the 16 bombers headed west, towards prearranged landing fields in China that weren't occupied by the Japanese.
As they flew, the weather turned sour and head winds grew stronger. It became impossible to see in the stormy darkness outside and the radio beacons that were to guide them toward the landing fields never came on the air. When the fuel of each plane reached dangerously low levels, the pilots had to decide whether to attempt a crash landing in the darkness or ditch the plane.
One of the planes had diverted early towards Russia, where it landed and was interred until the end of the war. Eleven of the 15 remaining crews bailed out into the black skies and the remaining four crash-landed.
Nielson and his crew ditched their bomber into the sea off the coast of China. He remembers his crew standing on top of the downed plane. Their life raft wouldn't inflate, and they were unsuccessful in tying each other together before being swept away by the violent waves.
"The next thing I remember," said Nielson, "I woke up on the coast thinking, 'what the heck am I doing here?'"
Within a couple of weeks, the Japanese captured Nielson and seven other Tokyo Raiders, including the pilot from his crew.
"No one knew we had been captured, so they felt they could do whatever they wanted -- torture us, execute us. The hardest part was the thought that no one would ever know how I had died," he explained.
In late August, they were tried before a Japanese court for war crimes, convicted and sentenced to death. On Oct. 15, 1942, Lt. William G. Farrow, Lt. Dean E. Hallmark and Sgt. Harold A. Spatz were executed by firing squad at Kiangwan Cemetary in Shanghai, China.
The following day the Japanese commuted the death sentence of the remaining five prisoners -- Nielson, Lt. Robert J. Meder, Lt. Robert Hite, Lt. George Barr, Cpl. Jacob D. DeShazer. Meder died in prison on Dec. 1, 1943 of dysentery and beri-beri.
The next two years and 90 days were spent living in solitary confinement on a cup of watery soup and a cup of bug-infested rice each day. Nielson and the other prisoners learned to communicate by writing on the bottom of their cups. Every once and a while, they were allowed out to sit with each other for a few moments. Nielson credits his childhood on a farm, his faith and those few precious moments for his survival.
On Aug. 21, 1945, an Allied soldier came to Nielson's cell in the Peking prison where the Raiders had been moved less than a month before. Nielson had figured that he'd talk someone's ear off when finally given the chance. Now that the rescue had that come, he remembers, he couldn't say a word.
After being cleared through the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Maryland, Nielson was promoted to captain and assigned to Hill AFB. He was given 90 days recuperation leave, but never took it because the Army asked him to return to China to testify in war crimes trials against four Japanese officers for their treatment of the eight Doolittle Raider prisoners during the war. Three were found guilty and sentenced to 5 years hard labor and the fourth to 9 years.
Nielson retired from the Air Force in 1961. Today he stays busy with speaking engagements around the country, his wife Phyllis and their eight grandchildren and his beautifully landscaped backyard in Brigham City.
Nielson said that although he doesn't understand why his captors felt compelled to treat their prisoners as they did, he doesn't harbor any animosity toward them today.
And aside from a touchy stomach -- the result of a poor diet for such an extended time -- Nielson thinks he's doing pretty well for an 83 year-old man.
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