The mast of the most decorated U.S. Navy destroyer, the USS Nicholas, will soon be on display at the Veterans Memorial Museum in Chehalis.
The USS Nicholas DD/DDE 449, was a Fletcher-class destroyer, built in 1942, that served in World War II, the Korean War and the Vietnam War. The destroyer was decommissioned in January of 1970 after earning 30 battle stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.
Toledo graduate Bill Linn, a Toledo resident and Navy veteran, served as a Torpedoman on the USS Nicholas during his first year in the Navy in 1969 after graduating high school the year prior.
“I’m just really excited to see part of this ship, where so many sailors proudly served, is being placed somewhere where people can see it and it’s getting the recognition it deserves,” said Linn.
He is involved with the USS Nicholas Veterans Association which is a nationwide community for all who served on the Nicholas during its eventful lifetime. Linn is the project manager for the Nicolas Mast Relocation and is responsible for contacting and arranging the necessary trucks, trailers, cranes and welders needed to transport the mast from Portland to its new home in Chehalis.
“I was on the Nicholas for its very last tour. I’m old but I’m young in comparison to the other guys who served on the ship,” Linn said with a laugh.
The Nicholas was decommissioned in a ceremony at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii in January of 1970 and the historically significant mast is currently on display along the Columbia River in Portland.
The Nicholas, named after the first Commandant of the Marine Corps. Major Samuel Nicholas, was the lead ship into the Tokyo Bay in 1945 for the signing of the surrender documents during World War II. In addition to the ship’s war service, the USS Nicholas participated in two Apollo capsule retrievals in the Pacific.
The mast will be lowered and cut for transport on Oct. 6 and 7. It will then be loaded, transported and unloaded at the Veterans Memorial Museum on Oct. 8.
The following companies were contacted by Linn because of their companies expertise and graciously accepted the challenge it offered. Ness Campbell Crane will hoist and transport the mast, Accurate Concrete Cutting will cut the mast from its current concrete base, Chris John Crane Service will hoist the mast from the trailer in when it arrives in Chehalis, Tyler Rental will provide the metal-cutting saws and Squish Pest Control will eradicate the bees that have made a home in and around the mast.
“As each company learned the Nicholas’s story most if not all adjusted their fees by donating equipment, reducing or donating their service fee or by not charging for labor. Some employees went so far as to even donate their time,” said Linn.
Various flags were flown from the USS Nicolas mast during its time in service. John Bailey, ship historian and former officer plans to have replacement flags made to be flown from the mast.
Chip Duncan, the executive director of the Veterans Memorial Museum, said that he hopes to have a dedication ceremony after the mast is installed outside the museum. The mast is about 50 feet tall and 30 feet wide and is planned to be installed in front of the museum so that it is visible to all traveling past Chehalis on I-5. Linn said he plans to invite not only his fellow USS Nicholas Veterans but local Navy and Marine Corps Veterans as well.