USS Nicholson (DD-442)

USS Nicholson (DD-442) was a Gleaves class destroyer that served on convoy escort duty, then took part in Operation Torch and the landings at Salerno, before moving to the Pacific, where she took part in the fighting in the Bismarck Archipelago, at Hollandia and western New Guinea, in the Caroline Islands, Leyte and Okinawa, and supported the carrier raids on Japan.

Commissioning Ceremeny for USS Nicholson (DD-442), 1941 Commissioning Ceremeny for USS Nicholson (DD-442), 1941

The Nicholson was named after several generations of the Nicholson family, who served in the US Navy during the War of Independence, War of 1812 and American Civil War.

The Nicholson (DD-442) was laid down on 1 November 1939 by the Boston Naval Shipyard, launched on 31 May 1940 when she was sponsored by Mrs. S. A. Bathrick, a great-grandaughter of Samuel Nicholson; and commissioned on 3 June 1941.

Her shakedown cruise took her into the Eastern Atlantic.

The Nicholson was originally classified as a Livermore class ship, but became a Gleaves class ship when the two classes were merged because the two Gleaves class ships were given the same more powerful engines as the Livermore class.

After her shakedown cruise the Nicholson began to escort convoys, first on the route from Boston to Iceland. After the US entry into the Second World War she also escorted convoys to Scotland and England. 


At the end of February the Nicholson and Lea (DD-118) escorted the transport American Legion from Halifax back to the Boston Navy Yard for repairs, arriving on 4 March.

On 18 July the Nicholson was part of a flotilla of destroyers that joined the new battleship South Dakota (BB-57) at sea to escort her on her shakedown cruise. On 20 July this small fleet sighted the Washington and her screen, carrying out the same role, at a distance of 15 miles. Soon after this the Nicholson had to return to Boston for engineering repairs.

On 6 August the Arkansas, Brooklyn (CL-40), Roe (DD-418), Ericsson (DD-440), Madison (DD-425), Eberle, Nicholson (DD-442), Kearny, Mayo, Niblack, Benson, Gleaves, Hilary P. Jones (DD-427) and Charles F. Hughes (DD-428) left Brooklyn to escort a convoy of fourteen US, British and Polish troop transports to Halifax, arriving on 8 August.

The Nicholson was selected to join the fleet being gathered to take part in Operation Torch, and was assigned to the forces heading to Casablanca. A brief period of training off the coast of Virginia followed.

On 29 November the Nicholson escorted DesDiv 14 from New London where they had been training to New York, ready to take part in Operation Torch. On 2 November she left New York with Task Force 38, but problems with one of her turbines meant she couldn’t keep up with the initial invasion fleet. Instead she reached Casablanca on 12 November, just as the fighting there was coming to an end. She helped support the consolidation of the beachhead and patrolled off Casablanca.


After Operation Torch was complete the Nicholson moved into the Mediterranean to support the fighting in Tunisia. During this campaign she came under heavy German air attack.

Crew of USS Nicholas (DD-449) engaged in recreation, Tulagi, 1943 Crew of USS Nicholas (DD-449) engaged in recreation, Tulagi, 1943

The Nicholson was part of DesDiv 26, part of TG 86.1 (Western Naval Task Force) during the invasion of Sicily. Their role was to support the US troops landing near Licata. During the landings on 10 July west of Licata she was used to help lay a smoke screen to shield the landing craft.  

The Nicholson supported the initial stages of the landings at Salerno, starting on 3 September.

After this she returned to the United States for an overhaul, to prepare her for a move to the Pacific theatre.

On 2 December the Nicholson was part of a group of destroyers that left Long Island after taking part in training exercises, reaching New York Navy Yard on 3 December.


The Nicholson left New York to head to the Pacific early in January 1944.

She reached the Seventh Fleet at New Guinea in February and joined the forces fighting at Cape Gloucester. Her first role was to escort LSTs moving to and from the fighting.

Late on 5 March General Innis P Swift, commander of the 1st Cavalry Division and General William C Chase, commander of the 1st Brigade of the 1st Cavalry, came on board from the Bush, and watched the next stage of the campaign in the Admiralty Islands from the Nicholson.

The Nicholson provided fire support during the invasion of the Admiralty Islands. During the attack on Seeadler Harbour she was used to draw fire from a Japanese battery on Hauwei. A 4in shell hit her No.2 Ammunition Handling Room, killing three and wounding four. In return she knocked out the Japanese gun.

In August 1944 the Nicholson moved north to join the Third Fleet in the Marshalls. She helped screen the fast carries during raids on the Bonins, Formosa and the Philippines, supported the invasion of the Palau Islands and attacks on the Japanese base on Yap.

She then rejoined the Seventh Fleet for the invasion of Leyte, and took part in the battle of Leyte Gulf.

On 3-4 November the Nicholson and Wilkes (DD-441) moved from Ulithi to Guam. The two destroyers carried out a round trip to Manus in the Admiralty Islands, then escorted Convoy GE-29 to Eniwetok, arriving on 26 November.

The Nicholson then returned to the US West Coast for an overhaul.


On 9 March the Nicholson, Wilkes and New Mexico (BB-40) left Pearl Harbor, and arrived at Ulithi on 19 March.

She then took part in the invasion of Okinawa, serving on the radar picket line. She wasn’t hit herself, but rescued survivors from the Little and Morrison, both sunk by kamikaze attack.

The Nicholson rejoined the Third Fleet and supported the carriers during the final raids on the Japanese Home Islands. She was off Honshu when the Japanese surrendered.

The Nicholson entered Sagami Wan on 29 August and Tokyo Bay on 15 September. Soon afterwards she departed for home, reaching San Diego on 6 November and Charleston on 23 November.

The Nicholson returned to San Diego on 6 November then continued on east, reaching Charleston on 23 November where she joined the Atlantic Reserve Fleet. On 26 February 1946 she was decommissioned. However this didn’t end her American career – on 30 November 1948 she became a Naval Reserve Training Ship in the 3rd Naval District. While serving in this role at the Brooklyn Navy Yard she was used to film the musical On the Town (1949). She was recommissioned on 17 July 1950.

On 15 January 1951 she was decommissioned and sold to the Italian Navy, where she became the Aviere (Airman). In 1970 she was converted into an experimental gun ship and in 1975 she was sunk as a target.

Nicholson received 10 battle stars for World War II service, for Convoy ON-67, Sicily, Salerno, the Bismarck Archipelago, Hollandia, Western New Guinea, the Western Caroline Islands, Leyte, Okinawa and Third Fleet Operations against Japan

Anyone who served on her between 11 November-7 December 1941 qualified for the American Defense Service Medal. Anyone who served on her between 14 September and 20 October 1945 qualified for the Navy Occupation Service Medal

Displacement (standard)

1,630t design
1,838t as built

Displacement (loaded)


Top Speed

35kts design
36.5kt at 50,200shp at 2,220t on trial (Niblack)


2-shaft Westinghouse turbines
4 boilers
50,000hp design


6500nm at 12kt design


348ft 3in


36ft 1in


Five 5in/38 guns
Ten 21in torpedo tubes
Six 0.5in AA guns
Two depth charge tracks

Crew complement


Laid down

1 November 1939


31 May 1940


3 June 1941

To Italy

15 January 1951

Sunk as Target


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

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How to cite this article: Rickard, J (18 December 2023), USS Nicholson (DD-442) ,

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