Anyone who follows or flew military aviation knows about and loves Nellis Air Force Base in Las Vegas, Nevada. There is not a military pilot in the world who is not excited when they hear they might be going to Nellis for Red Flag or even just a gas and go.

It may just be a strange coincidence but there seems to be something about Nellis and mechanical failures if you are in the Navy or Marine Corps and you decided to re-fuel there. For some reason, Navy and Marine Corps aircraft always seems to break down at Nellis but then the next day they start right up! In fact, there have been stories that in the past some Navy squadrons actually forbid their pilots to gas and go at Nellis simply because so many aircraft had mechanical problems upon their arrival at the base. Bermuda triangle stuff??? Hmmm….

Back to our story line…so how did Nellis get named? A brave young aviator named Lieutenant William Harrell Nellis who just happened to live in Searchlight, Nevada as a child and later moved to Las Vegas.

William Harrell Nellis was born in Santa Rita, N.M., March 8, 1916. He was still a child when his family relocated to Searchlight, Nev. Nellis lived with his grandmother for a time in Searchlight. When not attending school, he helped her run the Searchlight Hotel.

Nellis remained in the town until he graduated the eighth grade, then moved to Las Vegas where he attended Las Vegas High School, where he graduated in 1936. He rented a room and held a job after school to pay room and board. In 1939, Nellis married Las Vegas native Shirley R. Fletcher. The couple had two children, Gary and Joyce. After relocating to Searchlight for a time, the Nellis family returned to Las Vegas where Nellis found a job with the railroad.

Nellis’ job with the railroad was enough to keep him out of the Army at the outbreak of World War II. However, after completing some flying lessons and logging eight hours in the air, Nellis enlisted in the Enlisted Reserve Corps Dec. 9, 1942.

Lieutenant William Harrell Nellis