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Wilson Skipper Nelson, Jr.

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                         Name: Wilson Skipper Nelson, Jr.

                         Branch of Service: U.S. Army Air Forces

                         Unit: 855th Engineer Battalion (Aviation)

                         Rank: T/5

                         Dates of Service:11/06/1942-11/11/1943

                         Missing in Action or Buried at Sea in Pacific.

                         Awarded a Purple Heart

                         Area of Service: Asiatic-Pacific

                         Parents: Wilson S. Nelson, Sr., and Alice Nelson
                         Esmont, VA

T/5 Wilson Skipper Nelson, Jr., died while enroute from San Francisco to Townville, Australia, in the early morning hours on 11 November 1943 when his unescorted troopship, the SS Cape San Juan, was torpedoed near the Fiji Islands.  The Cape San Juan eventually listed to the side and then sank from the torpedo damage on 13 November.

Research by Alec Pandaleon, III, Clinton Corners, NY

SS Cape San Juan, 11 November 1943

Photo courtesy of U.S. Naval Historical Center, Washington Naval Yard, DC
Cape San Juan, a 6711 gross ton C1-B type cargo ship, was built at Long Beach, California, for the U.S. Maritime Commission. Completed in June 1943 and converted to a troopship during the next two months, she was assigned to the American Hawaiian Steamship Company for operation. Cape San Juan made one round-trip voyage between San Francisco and the south Pacific during August-October 1943 and late in the latter month began a second trip, this time to Australia. While near the Fiji Islands on 12 November 1943 (local time -- 11 November in the U.S.) she was torpedoed by the Japanese submarine I-21. More than a hundred lives were lost among her crew and passengers as a result of this attack and the subsequent abandonment of the ship. Attempts were made to tow Cape San Juan to port, but she sank on the following day.

The telegram notifying Alice M. Nelson of her son's death on 11 November 1943:

Wilson Skipper Nelson, Jr., was born on August 11, 1922, in Albemarle County, Virginia; he was the son of Wilson Skipper Nelson, Sr., and Alice (Bowler) Nelson of Esmont, Virginia.  Wilson, Jr., enlisted in the U.S. Army on November 6, 1942, in Fort Meyer, Virginia.  When his troop ship, the SS Cape San Juan, was torpedoed on November 11, 1943, near the Fiji Islands, Wilson and more than 100 passengers and crew members were lost when the ship sank.  Wilson's name is included on the Honolulu Memorial in Honolulu, Hawaii, and he was awarded a Purple Heart posthumously.

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