Melvin Nesteby was born the fifth of ten
children, on a farm near the little town of Greenbush, Minnesota, in the
far northwestern corner of the state, on 16 July, 1920. His mother
and father were first generation Norwegian and they homesteaded the land
on which they lived. Their sturdy makeup was passed on to their
children and was one of the traits responsible for the endurance which
stood these children well for all the trials of their lives. Not
only did the parents bequeath their children physical strength, but
likewise, they provided them a strong spiritual basis for their lives.
Their Lutheran faith was a sustaining element. During the depression
years of the1930's, Mel was growing up. Because of the hard physical
work on the home farm and the necessity to earn a living for himself and
assist in supporting his family as a laborer on neighboring farms, his
schooling frequently took second place. However, this life gave him
a love for all outdoor things: the sky, the clouds, all animal life, the
Mel enlisted in the Army on 17 May, 1941,.at Fargo, N.D. He chose
a warm part of the world, in contrast to the frigid temperatures of
Alaska, in which to serve, and the Philippine Islands over the Panama
Canal Zone. Since he had been driving a big Caterpillar tractor in
his farm work, he figured that he would be qualified for operating a tank.
At Fort Snelling, near St. Paul, Minn., Mel was sworn into the Army.
Mel and some other recruits attended a service at a nearby Methodist
Church. Each young man was presented a pocket-sized New Testament.
This little book was a divine gift, with a significance far beyond
expectations. It sustained Mel through all his trials in the coming years.
Not only that , but it brought the presence of Jesus to men who had
reached the final hours of their lives: men so sick and so destitute that
they were beyond recovery. This little Bible was confiscated by the
Japanese at the time of surrender; but miraculously, it was returned to
Mel. On its second page, it bears the stamp of the Japanese Imperial
Army censor, with a date line inserted, and it is a sacred keepsake today.
Upon arrival in Manila, Mel was assigned to Company A, 1st Battalion,
of the 31st Infantry Regiment, which was bivouacked in the Cortel d'Espana,
which was a part of Intramuros (Walled City). The new arrivals were
placed under a thirty-day quarantine in order to acclimate them to the
tropical conditions. Thereafter, until the war broke out, Mel
received basic infantry training, including hand -to-hand fighting, forced
marching, weapon mastery, first aid and survival techniques.
At that time, the regiment was considered on of America's best
battle-ready units on active duty. It was equipped with the Army's
best modern M1, 30 caliber, 8 round magazine, semi-automatic rifle/
The machine guns and the mortars were the Army's best. The personnel
head count of soldiers in the ranks was somewhat more than half-strength.
The unit's morale was high.
The regiment performed gallantly, with bravery and great sacrifice.
No fire fight was lost, no mission was unaccomplished.
After the liberation, Mel continued on active duty to include one year
in the Korean War and three years of Cold War occupation duty in West
Germany. Mel retired with the rank of Chief Warrant Officer.
The Veteran's Administration has Mel on their rolls as permanently 100%
service connected disabled veteran. Among his health problems, the two
that give him the greatest concern are his heart, which was weakened by
the serious beri-beri he experienced, and the peripheral neuropathy in his
arms and legs. Both of these conditions were brought on by lack of
protein and vitamins during the three and one half years as a prisoner of
the Japs. Although Mel is semi-housebound, and his activities are
severely limited, he greets each new day with joy: happy, happy that he is
a free man. Let no force ever take Old Glory down again with rifles
Mel earned the following awards:
||Bronze Star (2 awards)
|Presidential Unit Citation (3
||Combat Infantry Badge (1 award)
|Bronze Battle Stars (11 awards)
||Other Medals and Ribbons
|U.S. Presidential Citation (1
||Philippine President Citation (1
|Korean President Citation (1
||American Ex-POW Medal (1 award)
Mel carried from the Army one and one half years of earned college
credits. Later, he earned a two-year Associate Degree in finance
from Parson's Business College. Still later, he attended Illinois
State University and received the Bachelor of Science Degree in political
science with a major in international law. In all, he has seven and
one half years of college credits.
Mel states that although he paid a heavy price for his service to his
country, he has no regrets. The Armed Services and the Veterans
Administration have treated him with great respect and have provided him
with the best of medical services.