During the September, 2016 training weekend, retired Air National
Guard Wing Commander, Col. Warren "Bud" Nelson returned to his old
unit in order to help commemorate the 185th Air Refueling Wing's
70th year as a member of the Iowa National Guard.
World War II Veteran and former Air National Guard Wing Commander,
Col. Warren “Bud” Nelson (Ret.), stands in front of a U.S. Air Force
F-80 Shooting Star, he once piloted as a member of the Iowa Air
National Guard. Nelson is visiting his old unit, the 185th Air
Refueling Wing, during a 70th anniversary open house event in Sioux
City, Iowa on September 10, 2016. (U.S. Air Force photo by U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot, Iowa Air National Guard)
Now in his 90's, Nelson, who still resides in Sioux City,
Iowa was one of the original pilots of the 174th Fighter
Squadron after it was first organized at the Sioux City Air
Base on Dec 2nd, 1946.
After serving as a P-51
instructor pilot during World War II, the Jackson, MN native
eventually made his way to the Iowa National Guard, after
initially being rejected. Nelson said he joined the Air
Reserve Unit, also located at the Sioux City Air Base, which
had been used as a B-24 and B-29 bomber training base during
“I wanted to join the Iowa Guard,” said
Nelson “but they would not let me join because I was not a
resident of the state.”
veteran pilot's desire and persistence to join the National
Guard eventually paid off and he was allowed to join the
Iowa Guard's 174th FS while it was still in its infancy.
During his tenure with the unit, Nelson would pilot
eight different aircraft and be recalled two additional
times before ending his National Guard career in 1980 as the
185th Wing Commander in Sioux City, Iowa.
the 174th initially flew World War II era P-51 Mustangs but
by 1950 the unit received its first jet powered aircraft,
the newer F-84 Thunderjet.
At the same time, nearly
every Air Guard flying unit had begun receiving notice that
they were being recalled to active duty as part of a massive
call up due to the Korean War. Official notice for the 174th
would come in the spring of 1951.
“It was April
fool's day 1951,” Nelson said, “we were recalled and sent to
Bangor, Maine in order to set up the base.”
In just 4
years, the small unit had grown from 9 pilots to 26 at the
time of the recall. Almost all the pilots were World War II
Veterans. According to Nelson, the pilots didn't know if
they were being called to a police action, or if this was
the beginning of another world war. The only difference this
time, as members of the National Guard, they were all
Pilots and crew were eventually parceled
out to different areas in the United States and abroad.
Nelson, along with several other 174th pilots, spent their
time in Europe on the front lines of the Cold War with the
Soviet Union, quite literally with their fingers on the
Nearly two years after vacating the
base at Sioux City, some of the 174th unit members began to
return home. Even though some pilots would stay on active
duty, Nelson returned to Sioux City where he remained an
active member of the Iowa Air Guard.
continued to grow and eventually became the 185th Tactical
Fighter Group which was assigned the F-100 Super Saber in
the early 1960's.
In 1968 the Air Force was again
looking for pilots and aircraft to send to yet another war.
Pilots and crew from the 185th TFG were recalled and became
one of only four Air Guard units to be activated for service
After the squadrons return in 1969,
Nelson would stick with the group for the better part of
another decade. He went through his final airframe change as
the 185th Wing Commander, when the unit transitioned to the
A-7 Corsair in 1977. Nelson commented that the A-7 was one
of his favorite airplanes to fly 2nd only to the P-51.
Nelson was a member of the 185th from the beginning and
remained so for more than half the units' history. He was
also the unit's last World War II veteran to serve as Wing
Commander before retiring in 1980.
While at the
September open house event Nelson commented that the biggest
change he has seen in 70 years is the high quality
"We were living in old WW II buildings.
Said Nelson. “Old wooden tar-paper shacks and look at the
facilities that you have now."
Nelson said he
remained in the Air Guard for so long because he liked to
fly, but it eventually had to come to an end.
let me fly for 37 years,” said Nelson, “I figure that was a
pretty good career.”
By U.S. Air Force Master Sgt. Vincent De Groot
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