Somewhere on the high seas floats a destroyer escort bearing the name “U.S.S. Thomas F. Nickel.”
The mortal remains of the man this fighting ship was named after will arrive here Tuesday in the wan light of a winter dawn.
The man was Pvt. Thomas F. Nickel, wearer of the Silver Star, posthumously. Private Nickel lost his life when he stormed ashore with the first Marine wave on August 7, 1942.
Private Nickel was honored four times, the last instance involving christening of a warship of the line with his name. His mother, Mrs. Fred J. Nickel, broke the bottle of champagne on the bow of the ship at Hingham, Mass.
“Bravery under fire and utter disregard of personal safety in permitting his outfit to move forward and take its objective,” read the citation for Private Nickel of the First Marine Raider Battalion.
The Purple Heart Medal for wounds received in action, and a copy of the Presidential Unit Citation were also Nickel’s in recognition of “outstanding gallantry and determination in successfully executing forced landing assaults against a number of strongly-defended Japanese positions.”
Besides these honors, Private Nickel’s heroism was recognized locally when the Lansing Marine Corps League Auxiliary was reorganized and named the Nickel and Coffey Memorial Auxiliary.
The Lansing youth was born here on July 18, 1921, the son of Mr. and Mrs. Fred Nickel. He graduated from Eastern High School in June, 1939, and was employed by the Motor Wheel Corporation in November of the following year. He enlisted in the Marine Corps in January, 1942, and volunteered for overseas duty. He left for the Solomons a few months later and lost his life in one of the first series of battles that opened up the road to Tokyo.
In addition to the parents, Private Nickel is survived by two sisters, Mrs. Dorothy Allen of Lansing and Mrs. Carol Kent of Muskegon.
The body will arrive Tuesday morning at 5 o’clock at the Grand Trunk station from Chicago, and will be removed to the Gorsline-Runciman Funeral Home.
Services will be held Friday afternoon at 3:30 o’clock at the funeral home, with Rev. Norman W. Klump of First Evangelical Church officiating. Burial will follow in Deepdale Cemetery.
Pallbearers will be Rudy Schmidt, Clayton Johnson, Clarence Ferman, Earl Clark, Melvin Webber and William Kemp.