BM1c Henry Clarence Nelson

Unknown Sailor

BM1c Henry Clarence Nelson

Henry Clarence Nelson was a career Navy man from Wahkon, Minnesota circa 95 miles north of Minneapolis. He enlisted in the Navy in 1933 and was a boatswain’s mate and petty officer  first class on the U.S.S. Arizona when he was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, Dec. 7, 1941.

Mr. Nelson was born Nov. 1, 1909. His father, John, was a farmer and his mother, Helena, a homemaker. 

The son  graduated from Wahkon High School in 1928. He played basketball and attended the Presbyterian church in Wahkon, which had a population of 228 in 1930. The 1930 Census listed Henry as an unpaid family worker, as was a younger brother.


Sources: Mille Lacs Messenger newspaper, U.S. Census, Navy muster rolls; Defense Department. ​​This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.

Sent in by family member: Cindy Elliott

Henry Clarence Nelson, son of John and Helen Nelson, was born November 1, 1909 in Grand Meadow, Minnesota.  When he was only a few months old, his family moved to a homestead in North Dakota. The family moved to Wahkon, Minnesota in 1914.  Henry graduated from the Wahkon High School in Wahkon, Minnesota in 1927.  After graduation from high school,  Henry went to work in logging camps in Mill Lacs County in Minnesota.

On November 15, 1933, Henry enlisted in the United States Navy.  He was on the USS Arizona.  He was a boatswain first class. He re-enlisted for a third term but did not have over a month of that term when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor.  They sent a bomb down the smokestack of the USS Arizona.   That was the beginning of the United States formal involvement in World War II.  Henry lost his life on December 7, 1941.

Henry had a good friend who had enlisted in the Navy at the same time Henry did.  They shared the same locker.  However, his friend had not re-enlisted when Henry did a month earlier.  When this young man heard of Henry‘s death, he immediately enlisted.

Because of the death of her son, Helena Nelson of Waukon, Minnesota, became a Gold Star mother, and received the Purple Heart which Henry was awarded.  In Isle Minnesota, the Haggard-Nelson unit was formed in honor of the two boys that have lost their lives.

In Pearl Harbor, there is a marker with the name Henry C. Nelson.  Many bodies could not be reached and had to be left in the U.S.S. Arizona.  Henry’s name is also included in the list of people who lost their lives on December 7, 1941 there. 

The U.S.S. Memorial, Pearl Harbor, Hawaii honors the war dead of December 7, 1941 in the Pacific ocean area and provides a national monument to the eternal vigilance.  The Memorial is built directly over the hull of the sunken battleship, Arizona.  The battleship, Arizona has never been decommissioned.  Her flag still stands.  In the Pearl Harbor cemetery, there is a tombstone bearing the name, Henry C. Nelson.

This excerpt was written by Henry C. Nelson’s sister, Velma Nelson-Voss, taken from pages 57-59 of her book, Ancestors and Descendants of Torger Johannesson.  Est. publishing date: 1986.

NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM