MOORE HAVEN — WWII veteran Leonard Nichols was born and raised in Arkansas. He joined the Navy when he was 17. There were six boys in the family, and all of them were in the service, three in the Navy and three in the Army. Five of them saw action, and all of them made it safely back home, he said. He went through basic training in Great Lakes in Michigan and then went to the naval armory before being shipped to California to Treasure Island.
“I was trained to do whatever I had to do. They didn’t have special trainings back then. We didn’t even have a gun. We had wooden guns!” he laughed.
After Treasure Island, they shipped him to Seattle on a transport ship. “I caught a troop ship there.” Then he was put to work running back and forth to Alaska to Kodiak and all the Alaskan ports about once a month taking a load of soldiers up there until finally there were enough men there, he said. “I guess to get enough soldiers up there to invade the islands of Attu and Kiska,” he said. Those were some of the Aleutian Islands. “We took them in there, and they took Attu back. Then we went into Kiska, but I don’t think they found anybody there. They had already abandoned that one.”
Later, they decided to make a hospital ship out of his transport ship, so they took it through the canal and up into Boston so they could convert it. He got a 30-day leave and then turned back in at Tampa where he joined a supply ship and did that for the rest of the war.
One of his brothers was in the 3rd Torpedo Squad. He saw more action than any of the brothers, because he was on a carrier over near Japan. One of the brothers was on a YMS92 minesweeper. “We pulled into the Lady Gulf over there one time, and I looked over there and saw his ship over there, and the whole stern was blowed off of it. As soon as we got anchored, I got my boat in the water and went over to check him out, and none of them got hurt. Another brother, I knew I was in the harbor with him several times, but I never could find out what ship he was on, all that secretive stuff,” he said.
Mr. Nichols spent the rest of the war going in and out of those islands, he said. His job on the ship was to run an LCM twin engine boat that they used to haul supplies to different ships.
Before joining the Navy, he had never been on a ship before, but he said he only got seasick once. Some of the other sailors were sick longer, though. “One boy was sick until we dropped anchor again,” he laughed. He joined the Navy because some of his friends did and his brothers did. He thought it would give him a chance to see some things he had never seen before.
He does not think there were any close calls while he was out on the sea, but he does remember some bad storms, including a typhoon right at the end of the war. They didn’t worry about it too much, he said. “Just lay back and relax, head into the wind.” He said everyone out there was always in danger back then. “It was war. No one was safe,” he said.
He didn’t really like being in the service, all the regulations and rules, so he decided to get out as soon as he could. He went to Ohio and worked on the pipeline the rest of his life until he retired — 50 years, he said.