Retired Sep. 1, 1974. Died Feb. 7, 2005.
Maj. Gen. Douglas T. Nelson is vice commander of the Aeronautical Systems Division, Air Force Systems Command, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio. The division is responsible for research and development of all Air Force aircraft, engines, and missiles.
General Nelson was born in Astoria, Ore., in 1921. He graduated from high school in 1938, enrolled in Oregon State College in 1940, and as a member of the Oregon National Guard was ordered to active duty that same year. In May 1941 he entered Army Air Corps flying school and graduated in March 1942 with a commission as second lieutenant and his pilot wings.
He served an instructor in advanced pilot training at Stockton, Calif., and Roswell, N.M., until February 1943. After a brief tour of duty ferrying aircraft to Alaska, he went to the China-Burma-India Theater of Operations in June 1943 where he flew 590 combat hours. He returned to the United States in September 1944.
After a brief tour of duty as air evacuation pilot, General Nelson was separated from the U.S. Army Air Forces in 1946. He was employed as a commercial airline pilot until November 1947 when he received a Regular Air Force commission and returned to active duty.
He was assigned to the Strategic Air Command and served with the 33d Fighter Group at Walker Air Force Base, N.M., and during 1948 attended the Air Tactical School, Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla. From October 1948 until March 1949, he served as a member of the United Nations Truce Force in Palestine. He then returned to Walker Air Force Base and was assigned to the 509th Bombardment Group where he became a lead crew aircraft commander. He and his crew represented the 509th Group at the Strategic Air Command bombing competition in 1949.
General Nelson joined the first class of SAC aircraft commanders to be trained as navigators, bombardiers and radar observers in 1950. After completing this training at Mather Air Force Base, Calif., in 1951, he was assigned to the 306th Bombardment Wing at MacDill Air Force Base, Fla., as an aircraft commander in the first B-47 squadron to achieve combat readiness.
He served at Strategic Air Command headquarters, Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., from June 1953 to February 1957, where he was assigned to the Tactics Branch and Systems Division, Directorate of Operations. He next went to Ellsworth Air Force Base, S.D., and was assigned to the 28th Bombardment Wing, a B-52 unit, and later to the 821st Air Division. In March 1960 he was transferred to Headquarters Fifteenth Air Force, March Air Force Base, Calif., as chief, Operations and Training Division, and in November 1961, was assigned to Headquarters U.S. Air Force with duty station in Las Vegas, Nev.
General Nelson went to Beale Air Force Base, Calif., in September 1964, for duty as director of plans, 14th Strategic Aerospace Division, and was involved in activating, equipping and training the first Air Force organization equipped with SR-71 aircraft, the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing at Beale Air Force Base. He became vice commander, and then commander of the wing. In December 1966 he assumed command of the 14th Strategic Aerospace Division also at Beale Air Force Base. He returned to Headquarters Strategic Air Command as assistant deputy chief of staff for plans in August 1968.
General Nelson was assigned to Aeronautical Systems Division, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio, in May 1970, as deputy director of the B-1 Program, in September 1970 assumed duties as system program director, deputy for B-1, and in January 1974 became vice commander of ASD.
His military decorations and awards include the Distinguished Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Distinguished Flying Cross, Air Medal with oak leaf cluster, Air Force Commendation Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Presidential Unit Citation Emblem, and the Air Force Outstanding Unit Award Ribbon. He has more than 10,000 hours of pilot time and holds a current airline transport pilot rating.
He was promoted to the grade of major general effective Feb. 26, 1971, with date of rank June 8, 1968.