The USS Nicholas (DD-449) served in the U.S. Navy for nearly three decades in the mid-20th century. She was named for Major Samuel Nicholas who served in the American Revolutionary War. Nicholas was a member of the Fletcher class of destroyers.
Nicholas was laid down at Bath, Maine by the Bath Iron Works Corporation in March 1941, launched in February 1942, and commissioned in June with Lieutenant Commander W.D. Brown in command. Carrying a crew of 273, Nicholas was armed with five 5-inch anti-aircraft guns, four 1.1 inch anti-aircraft guns, four 20-millimeter anti-aircraft guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes.
Nicholas, assigned to Destroyer Squadron 21, sailed from New York and arrived at Espiritu Santo in September 1942. During this deployment, Nicholas escorted troop and supply convoys to Guadalcanal, as well as convoys from Espiritu Santo and Noumea to Guadalcanal and Tulagi. Nicholas also participated in the final resistance against the Japanese at Guadalcanal in January 1943.
Nicholas served as a cover for the 2nd Battalion, 132nd Infantry while the Japanese evacuated Guadalcanal in January, and then was damaged by enemy aircraft in Ironbottom Sound. Following repairs, Nicholas continued escort and bombardment duty off New Georgia Island, and then was assigned to anti-submarine patrols. Nicholas participated in the Battle of Kula Gulf and the Battle of Kolombangara in the summer of 1943.
In November, Nicholas served in the raids on Kwajalein and Wotje, was overhauled at San Francisco in December, and continued with escort duties in the South Pacific in February 1944. Nicholas conduced escort duty and anti-submarine patrols in the Solomon Islands, and then began operations at Leyte in October. She sank submarine I-88 off Ulithi in November, and weathered attacks by kamikaze planes at Leyte Gulf in December.
In 1945, Nicholas participated in the Lingayan Gulf assault with Task Group 77.3, and then served as an escort between Leyte and Mindoro and throughout Manila Bay until sailing for Okinawa in June. In September, Nicholas transported representatives of the United States and Allies to Missouri, where the formal surrender took place. Following a brief period of reserve status, Nicholas was reactivated for service off Korea, as DDE-449, and participated in atomic tests in 1954.
Nicholas was re-classified as DD-449 in July 1962 for service in the South China Sea during the Vietnam War, and also patrolled Taiwan Straight in December 1965. In 1968, Nicholas supported NASA’s Apollo Program by serving in the recovery areas for space capsules. She was decommissioned in January 1970 and sold for scrap in October.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Nicholas (DD-449)
Almost every sailor that served aboard Nicholas was exposed to asbestos. The ship was fireproofed and insulated with asbestos materials. Engineering spaces usually had the highest concentration of asbestos products, but dangerous asbestos dust was found throughout the ship. Service in the U.S. Navy is a risk factor for mesothelioma and other serious illnesses. If you or a loved one served aboard Nicholas and later suffered an asbestos-related disease, speak to a mesothelioma lawyer about your legal rights.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-449.
NavSource Naval History, USS Nicholas (DD-449).