USS Nicholson (DD-52)

USS Nicholson (DD-52) was an O'Brien class destroyer that served from Queenstown and later Brest during the First World War.

The Nicholson was named after five members of the Nicholson Family. The brothers James, Samuel and John all served in the Continental Navy during the War of Independence. John's son William served as a midshipman during the War of 1812 and retired as a Commodore in 1863. Samuel''s grandson James took part in Commodore Perry's Japanese Expedition, served throughout the American Civil War and commanded the European Station with the rank of Rear Admiral in 1881-83.

USS Nicholson (DD-52) under way, 1918
USS Nicholson (DD-52)
under way, 1918

The Nicholson was laid down by Cramp at Philadelphia on 8 September 1913, launched on 19 August 1914 and commissioned on 30 April 1915. She reached 30.09 knots during her builder's trials in 1914. She spent the first two years of her career operating off the US East Coast and in the Caribbean.

After the US entry into the First World War the Nicholson left New York on 15 May and reached Queenstown on 24 May 1917. She was used on anti-submarine patrols, to escort individual ships and convoys and rescue the survivors from victims of the U-boats. Amongst her successes was the rescue of the SS J. L. Luckenbach, after she was shelled by a surfaced U-boat.

On 17 November 1917 she played a part in the sinking of U-58, near Queenstown, Ireland. USS Fanning (DD-37) depth charged the submarine, and just as the Nicholson arrived the submarine surfaced and her crew surrendered. Soon afterwards the submarine sank.

Between February and November 1918 the Nicholson was based at Brest, and spent much of her time escorting convoys along the French Coast.

On 5 September 1918 U-82 sank the Mount Vernon. Nicholson (DD-52), Winslow (DD-53), Wainwright (DD-62) and Conner (DD-72) all attempted to depth charge the submarine, but she escaped.

USS Nicholson (DD-52) on builder's trials, 1914
USS Nicholson (DD-52) on builder's trials, 1914

In October 1918 the Nicholson helped escort Troop Convoy 70 on the last stage of its voyage across the Atlantic. This convoy was noteworthy for suffering a high number of fatalities early in the great Influence Epidemic

Anyone who served on her between 24 May 1917 and 11 November 1918 qualified for the First World War Victory Medal.

After the end of the war the Nicholson returned to the United States, reaching New York on 10 January 1919. She operated along the US East Coast for a short time, before being decommissioned on 27 November 1919. She was briefly recommissioned with a reduced complement between May 1921 and 26 May 1922, when she was decommissioned for a final time. She was struck off on 7 January 1936 and sold for scrap on 30 June 1936.

Displacement (standard)

1,050t design

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

29kts at 17,000shp
30kts at 16,974shp at 1,021t on trial (McDougal)


2-shaft Zoelly turbines plus reciprocating cruising engine
4 boilers


305ft 5in


31ft 2in


Four 4in/50
Eight 21in torpedoes in twin mountings
Depth charges

Crew complement



19 August 1914


30 April 1915


Sold for scrap 1936

U.S. Destroyers: An Illustrated Design History, Norman Friedmann . The standard history of the development of American destroyers, from the earliest torpedo boat destroyers to the post-war fleet, and covering the massive classes of destroyers built for both World Wars. Gives the reader a good understanding of the debates that surrounded each class of destroyer and led to their individual features.
cover cover cover


Books on the First World War | Subject Index: First World War

How to cite this article: Rickard, J (2 August 2016), USS Nicholson (DD-52) ,

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