In the course of human events, one story sticks out above all others, Although not directly connected to Christmas it can be correlated to the Spirit of Christmas.
The story began May, 2008 at the Memorial Day celebration, “Remembering Our Veterans” sponsored by the Guilford Fire Department and the Guilford Historical Society and the Guilford Methodist Church Ladies. The day left a lasting impression on many. The soldier honored for the day was Lt. Floyd Gunnard Nelson.
“On April 9th, 1959, the Navy Patrol Squadron 50 with a crew of ten, 3 officers and 7 enlisted men, in a US Naval seaplane piloted by Floyd crashed into the side of Mount Seju on Chejudi Island. The island lay midway between Japan and the Korean Peninsula. Many newspapers reported on the Navy’s seemingly unending search for the crash site. Finally on April 11th, the site was discovered and arrangements were made for Floyd’s body to return home. It was an agonizing month for his wife, father and sister Millie until Floyd’s body arrived at the Erie Railroad Station in Binghamton from San Francisco on Mother’s Day May 8th. The funeral was held in Guilford with burial in Sunset Hill Cemetery. Those who remember are still saddened and have not forgotten the farm boy from Guilford, the son of a carpenter, who started out as an enlisted Naval man, and proudly became a Lieutenant. Floyd accomplished all these things by the age of 29. Herein today, lies a village, the village, that was saddened and numbed by the death of this great young man.”
This story began as a result of an article that appeared in many local papers and placed on WBNG YouNews TV. Above is a selected part of that article. A man, by the name of Arturo Torres began an internet search on Floyd and came up with the piece on the Binghamton TV station site on the web. His mission was to find any living relatives of the crew that was killed on April 9th, 1959. Once he located the piece he contacted the station and they were able to give him the name of the author, Wilma Felton-Gray, and the phone number. Through us he reached Millie, Floyd’s sister. With his permission, the following is an excerpt of Arturo Torres’s letter:
“Dear Shipmates of VP-50
Well I finally got back to the U.S. after a three week business/pleasure trip to South Korea along with a sojourn to Je Ju Do to pay respect to our V.P. 50 shipmates that lost their lives on the summit of the extinct volcano Halla-san on April 9, 2008. Prior to leaving I “googled” Sam Nelson’s name Floyd G. Nelson and up came an article about a Memorial Day event held at his hometown of Guilford, N.Y. in May 2008. It had a picture of him and said they honored him on that day. The article mentioned that his sister Millie McKee, had attended and spoke at the event. After a few phone calls I was able to locate and talk to Millie. We had a long and emotional conversation. She was very glad to know that his shipmates in VP-50 had not forgotten her brother and the rest of the crew. I promised to take pictures and send her a report after my trip..….
During our stay we visited Seoul, the industrial city of Chang Won, Pusan (now pronounced Busan) a bustling modern port and finally a three day trip to Cheju-do (now pronounced Je Ju Do).
Je Ju Do 50 years ago was a volcanic island whose inhabitants were mostly poor farmers and fisherman. Today it is the “Cancun” of Asia. It is the favorite honeymoon vacation spot in Asia. Je Ju now has a population of about 500,000. They have 30 golf courses and there is a US$1.7 billion resort being built on the island. There are hotels of all sizes and quality. We were invited to stay at a six star hotel on the southern coast owned by the Hyundai Corporation. Needless to say it was first class!
The main purpose of my visit to Je Ju Do, of course, was to climb to the top of Halla-San the 7,000 dormant volcano, and pay tribute to our shipmates who died there on April 9, 1959. There are three trails which are used to climb the mountain. We chose the south trail. The west side of the mountain where the crash occurred was not accessible. We started our climb at the 1,000 ft. base. It is a relatively steep climb of 30º/45º and takes about 4½/5 hours at a steady pace; almost all of it is on a volcanic rock trail. About 10% of the trail was made up of wood planks or boards. The climb was very difficult and of course tiring particularly the last quarter. The lack of oxygen at 5,000’ and above was also a factor. The vegetation surrounding the trail is spectacular with many different varieties of trees and shrubs. When we finally reached the top it was foggy but a slight breeze had began to blow and the sky soon cleared. On the edge of the crater with the western side well in sight Chu and I found an isolated spot and paused to rest. It was tranquil and beautiful. I proceeded to read the names of our shipmates:
Lt. Floyd E. Nelson (Sam) - Guilford, N.Y.
LTJG James L. Sullivan (Sully) - Franklin, TN
LTJG Audrice R. Traylor (Ray) - Littlerock, AR
ADC Brinkley Congelton -
ADE Garth G. George – Coupeville, WA
AD2 Bobby J. Abdo – Tulsa, OK
AT2 Gordon P. Kennedy – Morrow, OH
AT3 Duane L. Peterie – Clyde, KN
AE2 Earl J. Pleasant
A03 James H. McDaniel
I said we were there representing the rest of our VP-50 shipmates, paying tribute to them and, thanking them for giving their lives in the service of our country. I also said that none of us has ever forgotten them or ever will, and that our presence there was proof of that. I then read Bob Noble’s report of the accident investigation that he and others conducted the day after the crash. I read the 23rd Psalm and a prayer of farewell. I also read messages that some of you sent to me prior to my trip. As you can imagine this was not easy and the tears were flowing freely. We could not stay long because the descent would not be any easier than the climb, particularly considering our weariness after a 5-hour steady climb. We made it back in the darkness after a climb and descent of 9 ¾ hours and approximately 10 miles. The last three hours were sheer torture. Our knees, thighs and calves took a heavy pounding as we concentrated on where we stepped during our descent but we made it back safely. The next day as I reflected on the trip to the summit of the volcano I felt certain sadness but also a great sense of relief and happiness knowing that our shipmates were not forgotten.
As you can see, this was a story that needed to be told. Remember our Veterans all through the year and those now serving. We are grateful to them and thanks to a man, Arturo Torres, who took the time out of a business trip to remember his fellow shipmates and the young man from Guilford, Lt. Floyd Gunnard Nelson.