In Memory of
U.S. Naval Lieutenant Commander Yankton, South Dakota
Yankton County

February 7, 1919 -- August 28, 1951
Died in plane crash on Catalina Island


Robert Howard Nash was born February 7, 1919, in Yankton, South Dakota, to Ralph and Pearl (Miller) Nash. He had two brothers, Ralph and Richard, and three sisters, Marge, Lois, and Kathryn. During his youth, he attended schools in Yankton and graduated from Yankton High School. After WW II, he finished college at Yankton College and taught one year at Onida, South Dakota. He then attended USD under the GI Bill and graduated with a double major in political science and a doctorate of jurisprudence (law). The family then moved to California where he attended the University at Berkley, worked on a doctorate in political science, and taught undergraduate students. Some of the activities he enjoyed were being a teacher, a lawyer, and a pilot. His family remembers him as “a great joke teller and a perennial student.”

Robert was 17 when he enlisted in the Navy on July 21, 1936, in Yankton. He was a Coxswain on the USS Bailey until January of 1940 when he was released from active duty for a time as a member of the Naval Reserve. During WW II, in March of 1942, he accepted an appointment as an aviation cadet and was trained in flight first in Jacksonville, Florida. He went on to receive additional training and battle experience, and eventually advanced to Lieutenant Commander. From the end of WW II until the beginning of the Korean War, Lt. Nash was on reserve duty.

During his service to his country in WW II, Lt. Nash received the Distinguished Flying Cross:

…for heroism and extraordinary achievement in aerial flight as Pilot of a Torpedo Plane in Composite Squadron SEVENTY-FIVE, attached to the U.S.S. OMMANEY BAY in action against enemy Japanese forces during the Battle off Samar, on October 24, 1944. …Lieutenant Nash delivered a torpedo attack on a hostile cruiser and succeeded in diverting its fire from his own carrier division. Later, he made another attack and scored a direct hit on a Japanese destroyer, thereby assisting in clearing the vicinity of enemy surface craft.

Lt. Nash also received the Air Medal in WW II “For meritorious achievement in aerial flight as Pilot of Torpedo Bomber in Composite Squadron SEVENTY FIVE, attached to the U.S.S. OMMANEY BAY, during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Vicinity of the Palau Islands, September 13, 1944.” In addition, for his WW II service he was awarded the Good Conduct Medal, Naval Reserve Medal, American Defense Service Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, and Philippine Liberation Ribbon.

On May 16, 1945, Lt. Robert Nash married Marion Potts in California. They had three children: Robert M., Angie, and Jill. He reported for active duty once again on May 1, 1951, assigned to Service Squadron 871.

Lieutenant Commander Robert Howard Nash died on August 28, 1951, at Santa Catalina Island during the evacuation of a plane because of a tropical storm. The telegram received by his family in California included these words:

WITH DEEP REGRET I OFFICALLY REPORT THE DEATH OF YOUR HUSBAND ROBERT H NASH LCDR USNR FROM AN AIRCRAFT ACCIDENT ON AUGUST 28 1951 ON THE NORTH TIP OF SANTA CATALINA ISLAND X YOU WILL RECEIVE DETAILS BY LETTER X

He is currently survived by one brother, a sister, his wife, Marion C. Nash, his son, Robert M. Nash, and his two daughters, Angie Beaudette and Jill Nash-Hoxeng. Surviving grandchildren are three boys: Robert, James, and Grant Nash, and one girl, Erika Kristine Hoxeng.

After WW II, Lt. Nash received a letter from the Secretary of the Navy that said in part: “You have served in the greatest Navy in the world…No other Navy at any time has done so much. For your part in these achievements you deserve to be proud as long as you live. The Nation which you served at a time of crisis will remember you with gratitude.”

We will always remember the service and sacrifice of Lieutenant Commander Robert Howard Nash.

Amanda Goetz and Julie Williams, 8th Grade, Spearfish Middle School, Spearfish, South Dakota, May 24, 2004. Information was provided by Marion Nash, Yankton, South Dakota, widow of Lieutenant Commander Robert Nash. Profile approval by Marion Nash.