FORT CARSON, Colorado - The 3rd Infantry Division presented the Silver Star on Tuesday to U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Harold Nelson, who fought in World War II from November 1942 to June 1944.
Nelson, 107 years old, was approved for the Silver Star Medal on June 22, 2022, by the Army’s Human Resources Command. U.S. Army Maj. General Charles Costanza, the 3rd Infantry Division commanding general, presented the award to Nelson at a ceremony on Fort Carson, Colorado, hosted by the 4th Infantry Division.
“Harold Nelson served our nation with honor and distinction and I am grateful that we could honor his service today,” Costanza said. “It is important to ensure that the service and sacrifice of our veterans, those whose shoulders we stand upon now, is never overlooked or forgotten. Harold is a Dogface Soldier and I’m proud to call myself one too.”
Nelson was drafted into the U.S. Army on July 14, 1941, from Fort Crook, Nebraska. He entered World War II with F Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Infantry Division, as part of Operation Torch in Morocco. Following intense fighting in Northern Africa, Nelson participated in Operation Husky in Sicily, and Operations Avalanche and Shingle in Italy.
In total, Nelson participated in six amphibious landings and lived in austere and dangerous conditions for two years during 3rd Infantry Division’s World War II campaign. During his wartime service, he sustained three gunshot wounds and was eventually discharged from the Army in June 1945.
In 2019, Nelson petitioned the Army Board for Corrections of Military Records to determine if he should be awarded the Silver Star. Nelson’s records were partially destroyed in a fire in 1973 at the military records storage facility, which reduced the amount of supporting documents Nelson could submit along with his petition.
Ultimately, the board awarded Nelson the Silver Star based on his detailed account of combat during World War II and a letter from his then-commander, Capt. James Pearman Jr., who described his efforts to award Nelson the Silver Star.
According to Nelson, his unit helped liberate Anzio, Italy, from enemy forces in 1944. While his unit was moving toward Rome, they came under fire from German forces. Nelson had expended all of his ammunition, so he climbed onto an abandoned German tank and began firing back. This act suppressed German fighters long enough for his platoon to move to a better position to attack and led to the surrender of the enemy forces during that battle.
Nelson believes this engagement is the reason his commander initially submitted him for a Silver Star in 1944. He is grateful to the Army for recognizing his actions nearly 80 years ago.
“I appreciate what they have done. It’s a wonderful thing,” Nelson said. “I guess it means I did what I was supposed to do.”
Nelson lives in Denver and has two daughters, four grandchildren, and six great grandchildren. Nelson’s wife, Frances, died in 1991.
Nelson’s awards include: the Good Conduct Medal, American Defense Service Ribbon, European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, WWII Victory Medal, Purple Heart (with Bronze Oak Leaf), and Combat Infantryman Badge. In June 2022, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star medals for actions during Operation Shingle.