Obituary: Robert Nett

COL (Retired) ROBERT B. NETT  

Colonel Robert Burton Nett, 86, of Columbus, Georgia, died on October 19, 2008, after a brief illness.  A Rosary Service will be held at Striffler-Hamby Mortuary on Macon Road, Columbus, at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 2008. Visitation will be held at Striffler-Hamby Mortuary from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. on Wednesday, October 22, 2008.  His Funeral Mass will be celebrated at the Catholic Chapel on Ingersoll Street, Fort Benning, at 10 a.m. on Thursday, October 23, 2008.

Colonel Nett was born on June 13, 1922 in New Haven, Connecticut, son of the late Matthew Martin Nett, a well-known interior decorative artist whose work is to be seen in churches and public buildings in New Haven, including Yale University. His mother was the late Emma Miller Nett, who raised him, his brother, and his sister after his father died when Robert was eight years old.  Robert Nett began his military service in 1940, enlisting in Company C, 102nd Infantry, and has maintained close to ties to both that state and its men and women serving in the Connecticut National Guard. He was mobilized and deployed to the Pacific Theater of Operations shortly after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and served as an acting platoon sergeant in the Pacific War Zone Task Force on Christmas Island until his return to Fort Benning in 1942 to attend the Officer Candidate School, where he received his commission as an infantry officer in December 1942.

Following extensive training, including commando and jungle warfare schools, he returned to the Pacific in March 1944 as a First Lieutenant with the 305th Infantry, 77th Infantry Division. Lieutenant Nett commanded Company E, the lead company of his battalion, which was attached to the First Marine Provisional Brigade with the mission of protecting the Marine Brigade's right flank. As the Commander of Company E, he led his unit as part of a successful amphibious assault landing on the Agat Beachhead on the Isle of Guam. Following the Guam Campaign, he took part in landings on the island of Leyte in the Philippines where he led numerous combat patrols against Japanese ground forces.

On December 6, 1944, under the cover of darkness, the 77th Infantry Division made a surprise amphibious landing behind enemy lines at Ipil on the west coast of Leyte. In the subsequent days Lieutenant Nett's company saw heavy action as the 305th Regiment liberated Camp Downes (a Japanese prison camp holding American and Philippine prisoners of war) and the port city of Ormoc.  On December 14, 1944, Lieutenant Nett led an attack against a reinforced enemy battalion which had held up the American advance for 2 days due to the enemy's entrenched position built around a three story reinforced concrete building. With another infantry company, Lieutenant Nett spearheaded the assault against their stronghold using demolitions, flame throwers and hand to hand fighting against heavy machine guns and automatic weapons fire. During this hand to hand combat he killed seven deeply entrenched Japanese with his rifle and bayonet.  Although already severely wounded twice, Lieutenant Nett pressed ahead with his troops to assure the capture of his objective. Being wounded a third time in the final assault, he made arrangements for the continuation of the attack and the transfer of command before he turned his command over to another officer and began walking unaided to the rear for medical treatment until he collapsed.  For this remarkable courage and determination Lieutenant Nett was awarded the Medal of Honor, our nation's highest military award for valor.

Following his recovery, Lieutenant Nett later rejoined his company and went on to fight on Okinawa until the successful completion of the campaign. When World War II ended with surrender of Japan, Captain Nett was at Cebu in the Philippines, where the 77th Infantry Division was undergoing training for the planned invasion of the Japanese home islands. After World War II, Captain Nett served with the Artillery Center School Troops, Fort Sill, Oklahoma; was Company A Commander, 19th Infantry Regiment, 24th Division, in occupied Japan, where he was responsible for the collection and disposition of Japanese weapons and ammunition stocks, and later was the Inspector General of Kobe Base, Japan.

During the Korean War, Captain Nett was once again a Company Commander as he trained South Korean soldiers who fought alongside U.S. and United Nations forces, and later served as the Inspector General, Headquarters, Southwestern Area Command, where he was responsible for conducting classified Headquarters missions for General MacArthur's Far East Headquarters.

In 1951, Major Nett attended the Regular Advanced Infantry Course at Fort Benning, Georgia, and then served as an instructor at the Army Ground General School at Fort Riley, Kansas until 1954 when he was assigned as the Commander of Erlangen Station at

Nürnberg, Germany.  In 1957, he returned to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas to attend the Command and General Staff College and subsequently was appointed the Chairman of the Platoon Operations Committee in the Ranger Department of the Infantry School. In 1963 Lieutenant Colonel Nett was assigned as an advisor to the Vietnamese 2nd Infantry Division. Subsequent assignments included Deputy Brigade Commander, 11th Air Assault (Test) Division-which later deployed to Vietnam as the 1st Cavalry Division (Airmobile), Battalion Commander of the Officer Candidate School, Deputy Director of Company Operations of the Infantry School with his final assignment in Heidelberg, Germany as Chief of Reserve Affairs for Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa.

Colonel Nett's decorations include the Medal of Honor, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal with "V" Device and two Oak Leaf Clusters, the Purple Heart with Oak Leaf Cluster, Meritorious Service Medal, Air Medal, Army Commendation Medal, Good Conduct Medal, Combat Infantryman Badge with Star, Ranger Tab, Airborne Gliderman Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Grand Cross of Malta.

Colonel Nett retired from the Army in August of 1973 and continued his community service as a teacher in the Columbus School System. Holding a Bachelor of Science Degree and teaching certificates in Social Science and Industrial Arts, he continued his record of outstanding performance by being named Teacher of the Year in 1985. Colonel Nett retired from teaching in 1987 and resided with Frances, his wife of 66 years, in the Columbus - Fort Benning community.

He was preceded in death by his parents, his brother Joseph Frederick Nett, and his sister Doris Nett Manion.  He is survived by Frances K. Nett, his wife of 66 years; his son Dr. Robert B. Nett, Jr., and his wife Patti Ann Nett, and his grandchildren Erica and Nicholas Nett of San Antonio, Texas; and by his daughter Frances Anne  Randall, of Roswell, New Mexico and her husband Doyle, and his granddaughter Yvonne Michelle Randall of Las Vegas, Nevada.

Colonel Robert Burton Nett will long be remembered for his heroism, his willingness to step forward when America needed him, and his distinguished military service.  Equally important, however, are his contributions to the community. His mentoring and guidance to the countless students he served in the public school system, and his tireless assistance and advice to veterans who came to him for help have earned him the friendship of more people than even he could recall. To virtually his last day, he found himself greeted by those whose lives he had touched, and who still had the greatest respect for this great American.  His devotion to the Catholic Church and to the ever-living God she serves was boundless and exemplary, and those he leaves behind can find comfort in the assurance that Robert Burton Nett has gone from death into new life.

In lieu of flowers, the Nett family requests that donations be made to the Colonel Robert B. Nett Hall Preservation Fund, managed by Kathy Leach at Wachovia Bank, 1915 Auburn Ave., Columbus, GA 31907 at 706-225-1243 or by calling Infantry Magazine at 706-545-3643.


Colonel Nett was inducted into the Officer Candidate School Hall of Fame in 1959.

Colonel Nett is Honorary Colonel of the Officer Candidate School Battalion.

A portion of U.S. Highway 27 through Fort Benning, Georgia has been named: Colonel Robert B. Nett Medal of Honor Highway.

Fort Benning Building No. 2768, Officer Candidate School, has been named NETT HALL in honor of Colonel Nett.

On July 25, 1996, Colonel Nett ran in the Olympic Torch Run in Columbus, Georgia, taking the flame to the South Commons Area Celebration.

On April 5, 1997, Colonel Nett was awarded the "Order of Saint Maurice" by the National Infantry Association.

On 19 June 1997, Colonel Nett was named to the Ranger Hall of Fame.

1998 Asian Pacific Alliance Honoree of the Year.

Veteran of the Year, June 21, 2001, American Legion Post 35.

Commanders Award for Distinguished Service and furthering the aims of the VFW, 19 June 2002, Post 665.

Participated in the dedication ceremonies for Colonel Robert B. Nett Leadership Hall, Camp Rowland, East Lyme, Connecticut, on 26 July 2003.

In 2005, COL Nett was selected to receive the Spirit of Hope Award, a prestigious award presented each year to a distinguished American by the Wiegand Foundation.  Previous recipients include Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator Strom Thurmond, Secretary of Defense William Cohen, and Bob and Dolores Hope.

He was a Life Member of the Association of the United States Army.

Courtesy: Fort Benning