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Kurt Nelson

Fighting for Paradise: A Military History of the Pacific Northwest

Author Kurt Nelson, on his book, Fighting for Paradise: A Military History of the Pacific Northwest, covering important historical moments in the Pacific Northwest including the final confrontation between the US and Great Britain in the Americas, Chief Joseph seeking independence for the Nez Perce, the Oregon Trail, and attacks by the Japanese in WWII.

One of the Most Important Battlegrounds in the History of America

While it is in the eastern United States where most Americans identify our military history, the vast, resource-rich Pacific Northwest, stretching from Northern California through British Columbia, endured a series of battles and wars over the course of the nineteenth century that were of regional and national importance. It was here where Great Britain and the United States had their final confrontation in the Americas, where Chief Joseph attempted to secure independence for the Nez Perce, and where the Oregon Trail marked the first great migration to the West of settlers bent on carving out new lives in the wilderness. The Pacific Northwest also saw some of the only attacks on the mainland by Japan during World War II.

Beginning with the earliest known accounts of wars among the American Indians of the region, Fighting for Paradise: A Military History of the Pacific Northwest describes early European contact, including British trappers of the Hudson’s Bay Company, the Lewis and Clark Expedition, Jedediah Smith, and John Jacob Astor’s trading post. The competition over the lucrative fur trade led to the “Pig War,” which almost resulted in another armed conflict between Great Britain and the United States, but it was the influx of settlers from the Oregon Trail that touched off the long bitter battles between whites and American Indians. Starting with the 1847 Whitman Massacre and the ensuing war it touched off, the book covers the next three decades of violence, ending with the Sheepeater’s War in 1879. Kurt R. Nelson then relates the Pacific Northwest’s contributions to the Spanish-American and Philippine-American Wars, the Mexican Punitive Expedition, World War I, and finally World War II, where the region fought Japanese submarine attacks and was harassed by balloon bombs. Throughout, the author provides current information about the state of preservation of various battle sites and other points of historical interest. Accompanied by maps and photographs, Fighting for Paradise provides insight into an area of American military history, rich in drama, that is not generally known.

[Recorded on February 17, 2022.]

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      Born and raised in Oregon, Kurt Nelson spent his life in service to his nation in the military, the Peace Corps, and in law enforcement as his primary career.  His undergraduate degrees in Political Science and History and his Master of Public Administration degree allowed a second career as an educator in adult education at the college level.

      In addition, Kurt Nelson has used his skills in service to his country as a volunteer with the National Ocean Service (1980s - 1990s) and the National Park Service.  He has been a volunteer at more than a half a dozen historic parks as an interpreter of our country’s history.

      An author of hundreds of magazine articles and three books, his two books on Pacific Northwest History, Fighting for Paradise and Treaties and Treachery, have been significant contributions to providing a balance to the history of the region.

      Kurt Nelson lives in Central Oregon where he continues to research the region’s history.


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