Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame
From Military Combat to CIA
Major General Douglas Nelson, a resident of Page, Arizona since 1976, was born in 1921 in Astoria, Oregon. He graduated from high school in 1938 and enrolled in Oregon State College in 1940. As a member of the Oregon National Guard, he was ordered to active duty that same year. In May 1941 he entered Army Air Corps flying school and graduated in March 1942 as a reserve 2Lt and rated Army pilot.
General Nelson has distinguished himself above others during his military aviation career that began in May 1941 and spanned over 30 years. After flight school, he was assigned an instructor pilot, ferried P-39’s to Alaska and then flew 590 combat hours in the China Burma Invasion. Upon returning to the states he was later assigned to Strategic Air Command. In 1960 he was assigned as project officer to head the CIA U-2 program.
In 1961 he became Director of Operations in support of the CIA program in the development of the A-12, YF-12 flight test program. In 1964 General Nelson became Wing Commander of the 9th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing. In 1970 he was named the Force Program Director, B-1 Strategic Bomber.
Many of General Nelson’s contributions came in assisting in the development of highly confidential high altitude reconnaissance programs during the Cold War; a period in our country’s history when gathering information was critical to our national defense. General Nelson accumulated 14,000 pilot hours in 155 types of aircraft during his flying career.
Pima Air & Space Museum