The USS Nicholson (DD-442) served in the U.S. Navy for a decade in the mid-20th century, before being transferred to Italy. She was named for Rear Admiral James Nicholson who served in the American Revolution, the War of 1812, and the Civil War. Nicholson was a member of the Gleaves class of destroyers.
Nicholson was laid down by the Boston Navy Yard in November 1939, launched in May 1940, and commissioned in June 1941 with Commander J.S. Keating in command. Armed with four five-inch anti-aircraft guns, six one-half inch machine guns, and ten 21-inch torpedo tubes, Nicholson carried a crew of 208 and had a cruising speed of 35 knots.
Nicholson began service as a convoy escort in the North Atlantic from Boston to Iceland, and then to Scotland and England. After training off Virginia in 1942, Nicholson was deployed to the Casablanca invasion but suffered a failed turbine which delayed her involvement there. Nicholson participated in the Bizerte campaign as well as in the assaults on Salerno, Italy.
Nicholson spent five months in the Mediterranean and then returned to the United States for overhaul. She was then deployed from New York to the Pacific in January 1944, and arrived at New Guinea in February. During this deployment, Nicholson provided gunfire support for onshore troops. Nicholson was hit by enemy fire while serving during the conquest of Seeadler Harbor in the Admiralty Islands, but survived the battle.
Nicholson operated in the Marshall Islands in August as a member of the 3rd Fleet, and screened aircraft carriers in the Philippines in support of the invasion of Palaus. During the invasion of Leyte, Nicholson operated with the 7th Fleet. She was overhauled in Seattle and returned to the western Pacific in February 1945 for escort duty between Guam and Ulithi. Nicholson participated in the invasion of Okinawa and rescued survivors of kamikaze-stricken Little and Morrison.
Nicholson rejoined the 3rd Fleet for the final assaults on Japan, and then returned to San Diego Naval Shipyard in November, before joining the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. She was assigned to naval reserve training in November 1948, re-commissioned in 1950, and decommissioned and transferred to the Italian Navy in January 1951. Renamed Aviere, the former Nicholson was used as an experimental gun vessel in 1970 and sunk as a target in 1975.
Asbestos Risk on the USS Nicholson (DD-442)
Nicholson deployed asbestos-based products in nearly every compartment. Engineering and mechanical sections used the most asbestos, as products made from the mineral were durable and resistant to heat and flames. The crew mess and galleys, bunkrooms, fuel storage compartments, and armories also made use of asbestos fireproofing.
The development of mesothelioma is strongly correlated with the overall level and duration of asbestos exposure. The level of exposure increased when asbestos products were damaged in battle. Such products could send many thousands of tiny asbestos fibers billowing into the air. Sailors stationed in engineering spaces or performing repair work were generally the most likely to become ill with asbestos-related ailments.Sources
Haze Gray & Underway. Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships. DD-442.
NavSource Naval History, USS Nicholson (DD-442).