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Thomas F. Nickel (DE-587) 1944-1972

(DE-587: displacement 1,450; 1ength 306'; beam 37'; draft 13'9"; speed 23.6 knots; complement 221; armament 2 5-inch, 4 40 millimeter, 10 20 millimeter, 2 depth charge tracks, 8 depth charge projectors, 3 21-inch torpedo tubes; class Rudderow)

Thomas Frederick Nickel -- born on 18 July 1921 in Lansing, Mich., to Mr. and Mrs. Fred Nickel -- enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve on 3 February 1942 and reported to served at Parris Island, S.C., on 5 February 1942 for boot camp training. Transferred to Quantico, Va., on 23 March 1942, he was ordered overseas on 28 April 1942.

Private Nickel was serving with the First Marine Raider Battalion when it landed at Tulagi, Solomon Islands, on 7 August 1942. That day, he worked his way forward under heavy machine gun fire and knocked out a Japanese position with hand grenades, enabling his squad to advance without further casualties. Mortally wounded in the attack, however, Private Nickel was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

Thomas F. Nickel  (DE-587) was laid down on 15 December 1943 at Hingham, Mass., by the Bethlehem-Hingham Shipyards; launched on 22 January 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Fred W. Nickel; and commissioned on 9 June 1944, Lt. Cmdr. Claude S. Farmer, USNR, in command.

After shakedown training in the Caribbean from 29 June to 26 July 1944, the destroyer escort made one round-trip voyage across the Atlantic escorting convoy UGS-50 to Bizerte, Tunisia, and back before departing Boston with Escort Division (CortDiv) 71 on the last day of September 1944, bound for the South Pacific.

She transited the Panama Canal on 15 October 1944 and, after calls at the Galapagos and Society Islands, arrived at Espiritu Santo on 1 November. There, after the destroyer escort had taken on 15 aerial torpedoes as deck cargo, she headed for Manus. She delivered her ordnance cargo at Seeadler Harbor on 7 November. Three days later, the ship lay anchored slightly more than a mile from the ammunition ship Mount Hood (AE-11) when the latter vessel exploded, but she was not damaged.

Thomas F. Nickel next proceeded to New Guinea and arrived at Humboldt Bay on 21 November 1944. The following week, she again put to sea in the screen of a Philippine-bound convoy. She arrived at San Pedro Bay, Leyte, on 15 December and, two days later, began the return voyage to Hollandia with another convoy.

On 28 December 1944, three days after Christmas, the destroyer escort departed Aitape with Task Group (TG) 78.1, the San Fabian Attack Force, which was transporting the 43rd Infantry Division to make the initial assault against Luzon. The American ships entered Linagayen Gulf on 9 January 1945, and the DE protected the landings. She was then assigned to the antisubmarine and antiaircraft screen until 18 January. On 10 January, the attack transport Du Page  (APA-41) was hit and badly damaged by a suicide plane. A boat from Thomas F. Nickel rescued five of the kamikazied ship's crewmen who had been blown overboard and gave them medical attention.

On 18 January, orders sent Thomas F. Nickel  to New Guinea waters to conduct antisubmarine patrols between the islands of Biak and Owi. In early February, however, she found herself heading back to the Philippines in the screen of TG 78.6, the third Lingayen reinforcement group. She remained in the Lingayen area of Luzon from 6 February until 7 March. In the following months, the escort vessel performed antisubmarine patrol and escort duty between San Pedro, Subic Bay, and ports in New Guinea and the Carolines.

On 6 August 1945, Thomas F. Nickel  departed Subic Bay with a convoy to refuel at Buckner Bay and returned to the Philippines escorting the dock landing ship Oak Hill (LSD-7). On the evening of 12 August, Oak Hill reported a periscope on her port quarter and, eight minutes later, a torpedo wake 2,000 yards astern of her. Thomas F. Nickel made several depth charge attacks and then lost contact. Both ships arrived safely at Leyte on the 15th, the day hostilities ended. The amphibious ship's assailant had been I-58  (Cmdr. Hashimoto Mochitsura), the Japanese submarine responsible for the sinking of the heavy cruiser Indianapolis (CA-35) less than a fortnight before. I-58  had unsuccessfully employed manned torpedoes (kaiten) in her attack on Oak Hill.

The destroyer escort made one more round-trip voyage to Buckner Bay in late August 1945, escorting Cabildo (LSD-16) there and returning with Hocking (APA-121). She operated in the Philippines until 29 November when she got underway for the United States.

Thomas F. Nickel arrived at San Diego on 18 December 1945 and was decommissioned on 31 May 1946. However, in June, she was assigned to the 12th Naval District as a training ship. On 31 October, she arrived under tow at San Francisco and was subsequently moved to Sacramento for use as a naval reserve armory.

The destroyer escort was reactivated on 8 July 1948 and placed in service as a naval reserve training ship. She made weekend and two-week cruises to Mexico, Canada, Alaska, Pearl Harbor, and Pacific coast ports. After the ship was recommissioned on 22 September 1950, she continued the same duty. She operated out of San Francisco until December 1951 when she moved to San Diego.

On 25 November 1957, Thomas F. Nickel was assigned to the Pacific Reserve Fleet. She was decommissioned on 26 February 1958 and berthed at San Diego until she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register on 1 December 1972. Her hulk was sold for scrap at San Jose, Calif., to the Levin Metals Co. on 9 June 1973.

Thomas F. Nickel received one battle star for her World War II service.

Corrected, Robert J. Cressman

27 October 2015

Published: Tue Oct 27 11:48:56 EDT 2015