U.S. Airman Laid to Rest in Iowa 73 Years After Death

PRIMGHAR, Iowa  --  After 73 years, an American hero can now rest easy in his hometown in northwest Iowa.

KTIV's Ashly Richardson visited Primghar, Iowa, where Staff Sergeant Byron Nelson's remains have been laid to rest.

"My grandfather not only died in this plane, but he was a hero. He really was. It's easy to say that, 'oh, he's a hero," says Sgt. Nelson's grandson Ron Reifenstahl.

Sgt. Nelson's plane was gunned down by the Germans in 1944 while his unit was carrying out a bombing mission in Italy.

"A big mortar came through the front and probably clipped off of him and it actually hit another guy, it knocked him unconscious in the aircraft. The other gunner was already dead, so he was already going down. My grandfather was probably hit pretty hard, and what he did was he actually went back to the other guy that was knocked out, put a parachute on him, and threw him out of the plane," says Reifenstahl.

Sgt. Nelson gave the ultimate sacrifice for the country, and over seven decades later the military was finally able to identify his remains. New DNA technology confirmed the remains in Italy were his, and he is now able to rest peacefully in his hometown.

"It's actually an incredible honor. The United States is not going to rest until every missing in action solider or service member is accounted for, so it's a great honor for me to be part of the welcoming home of staff Sgt. Nelson" says Greg Mosser with the United States Army Reserve.

The Primghar community came together to see Sgt. Nelson at his final resting place.

"And when you see the number of community members that came out to honor this individual, Staff Sgt. Nelson, it's incredible," says Mosser. "It really gives me a great feeling inside because we do this all the time in the Army, serve the country, a lot of patriotic feelings, but to see the number of the public that came out to celebrate his coming home is really heartwarming."