In 1958 the Jake Henry Nilva Post 722 of the Jewish War Veterans of St. Louis Park was formed in ceremonies on April 13 at Adath Jeshurun Synagogue at 34th and Dupont S. in Minneapolis. Program speaker was Benjamin Kaufman, national executive director of the Jewish War Veterans of the United States and a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient.  Jack C. Gittelson was the department of Minnesota commander of the JWV.  Jack Kasoy, Jr., was post vice commander, organizer, and membership chairman.  The post was still listed in the 1960 directory.


Jake Henry Nilva was a Navy Aviation Machinist’s Mate Petty Officer 2nd Class from St. Paul.  Billboard Magazine reported on March 15, 1947, that Nilva

was an air gunner on an 11-man crew returning from a mission over Kendari [later reported as Darvel Bay, North Borneo] in the Celebes.  Two members of the crew died in the crash and nine survivors, according to Thomas J. O’Neill, chief prosecutor for the War Crimes Commission in Manila, were captured.  Evidence collected by O’Neill in the Celebes indicated at least five were beheaded on the spot and the other four taken to an airfield. 40 miles away.


Nilva’s body was never identified as one of the five beheaded and no trace of the other four ever has been found, leading O’Neill to believe, according to wire reports, they may have met a similar fate.


Nilva engaged in 115 missions in the South Pacific and was awarded two air medals and the Purple Heart.  Unmarried, his family last heard from him in September, 1944.


First word of what might have happened to Nilva… came this week when a Jap naval captain was sentenced to the firing squad for beheading a group of American fliers.

Nilva’s fate was reported in Billboard because he was credit manager of the Mayflower Novelty Company, which sold jukeboxes and arcade games.  In the October 1941 issue of Automatic Age Magazine there is a picture of:

  • Jake Nilva
  • Herman Paster, Nilva’s brother-in-law
  • Sam Taran, Nilva’s uncle.  James Kenline reports that “in 1929, Sam Taran had the dubious honor of being the most arrested man in St Paul. He was a minor bootlegger, a former boxer and was rumored to have been a member of the Karpis Barker gang.”
  • Morris Roisner, a former bootlegger, according to Kenline

signing a substantial order for Wurlitzer “automatic phonographs and related music equipment” with Wurlitzer’s district manager.


A subsequent story in the June 26, 1948, Billboard reported that all nine survivors were taken to  Tokai Tei prison and later executed.  The information came out in war trials “over a year ago” and led to the discovery of Nilva’s grave.  His remains were brought back to the U.S. and a reburial service was held on June 9, 1948.