The Suburbanite
  • WWII Then and Now: Chester Nebo was an Army radio operator in the Pacific

  • Chester Nebo was an Army radio operator in the Pacific.

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  • The shrapnel from the shell that fell only feet from Chester Nebo of Perry Township, when he was serving in the Phillipines during World War II, killed his captain and another soldier before it tore into his leg.
    “It cut right across my kneecap,” he recalled. “I stood up to move away and I knew I was wounded. My leg was all bloody. I could stand, but not very good. I couldn’t walk because my kneecap was off center.”
    The wound confirmed a commonly-held belief about the artillery that bombards troops in the battlefield.
    “You can hear the shells going over you,” explained Nebo. “But, you don’t hear the one that hits you.”
    Nebo was drafted in October of 1942 and was turned into a radio operator by the Army. The skill returns to Nebo on command, even these many decades after he served in the Pacific theater of operations.
    “We used Morse code. Dit, dah, dit. A dot, a dash, and a dot. That’s an ‘R.’ ‘Dit-dah-dit.’ That’s how fast it comes across,” said Nebo. “I used to go asleep many times at night and that’s all I heard. ‘Dit-dah-dit.’”  
    Nebo’s unit, the 511th Airborne Division, landed in New Guinea, a few dozen miles from Australia. He served there and in the Philippines. Despite the name of his unit, Nebo and the other men had few combat jumps.
    “Guys would get hung up in the trees,” explained Nebo. “The snipers would pick them off.”
    Nebo was wounded by the artillery shrapnel at Leyte Gulf in the Philippines.
    “They got me to the rear, out of all the mess. I knew the captain was gone; the shell blew him up,” said Nebo. “At the first hospital I was at, they pushed the kneecap back in place and stitched me up. I used a tree limb as a crutch. I was out for quite a while. The battle of Manilla was over by the time I went back to camp. We were getting closer and closer to Japan. We were getting ready to invade Japan.”
    The war was over before that invasion was launched, so when Nebo and his fellow soldiers landed on Japanese soil it was as an army of occupation.
    “The road to Yokohama was a serpentine road and all the way along the road the Japanese soldiers were standing about 25 feet apart. They all had their backs to the road with their hands behind them and their heads bowed. That was their sign of surrender.”
    Nebo returned to the states to work at and operate the window cleaning business of his father. Many of his customers were commercial clients.
    Page 2 of 2 - Flying planes — he learned on a Piper Cub and later flew a Cessna 172 — and taking photographs were among his many avocations. He also played music as a member of the Tuscarawas Philharmonic Orchestra.
    He and his wife, Norma, were married on Valentine’s Day in 1953, celebrating 60 years of marriage last month. They raised three children, Gay Nebo, Joy Lavrencik, and John Nebo.
    Nebo rarely thinks of the war that once was his life. When asked, he recalls the days preparing for the invasion of Japan, before the B-29 “Enola Gay” dropped an atomic bomb, “Little Boy,” that helped end World War II.
    “It might have saved my life,” he said.