High School Graduation portrait of a young man

Graduation photograph of Raymond Nicholson, Class of 1941. (Gift of Linda Mechling)

October 20, 1942 – Raymond Nicholson joined the U. S. Navy during World War II.

Born in Mendocino in 1923 to Alfred and Anna Ellison Nicholson, Ray grew up in the Daniels-Nicholson House (today’s Nicholson House at Beaujolais) near the east end of Ukiah Street. He attended the local schools, where he excelled at football, basketball and track, and played trumpet in the band. Ray’s hobbies were hunting and fishing, and his ambition was to join the Navy. After graduating from Mendocino High School in June 1941, he accepted a job at a shipyard in Oakland.

Following his Navy enlistment in San Diego, Ray was sent to a Naval Training Station in Idaho, then returned to San Diego for further training. He was deployed to the Central Pacific where he served on the battleship USS Maryland from July 1943 to August 1944, and on the destroyer USS Gainard from November 1944 to March 1946. His decorations included the American Theatre, Asiatic Pacific (4 stars), Victory Ribbon, and Philippine Liberation.

On August 25, 1945, the Beacon published portions of a letter he wrote to his parents. “Raymond Nicholson, son of Mr. and Mrs. Allie Nicholson of this place, writes from the Central Pacific and wishes to be remembered to all his friends. In part he writes: They have lifted the censorship quite a bit now, so I can tell you just where I’ve been the last few months. We were at or around Okinawa since the beginning of the campaign.

“We were screening for transports at first and were attacked by Japanese planes a few times but nothing serious. We destroyed a couple of mines, etc. and were assigned to picket duty off the island during the heavier raids. We were attacked quite often by torpedo bombers, and mainly those suicide planes and we succeeded in knocking down five planes while on duty and none of them even got to knock any paint off our ship, so we were pretty lucky. Our destroyer had more time on picket duty there than any other destroyer and we are still floating. We are in a rear area now for a little rest and get some liberty.

“August 10. [The United States detonated two atomic bombs over the Japanese cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and August 9, respectively. Japan formally surrendered on September 2, 1945.] Well, it looks like last night was what we have been waiting for for the last four years. It surely was a happy night out here. I guess it was the best fire-works that I’ll ever see and have seen on any Fourth of  July. There were rockets and flares coming from all the ships in the harbor. All the whistles and sirens were blowing, and ours was doing a good job of making a lot of noise.

“It surely seemed good and its really hard to believe. It’s not official yet, but it sounds good to me. No more suicide planes, no more night raids, no G.Q. at all, as we are having holiday routine. Even if I don’t get home for awhile life will be a lot easier out here and a lot longer too, but getting home is secondary and the word that the war is over, is the best one I’ve heard in my life.”

Ray was honorably discharged from the Navy on March 26, 1946. After the war, he trained to be a lineman with Pacific Gas & Electric and worked in the San Francisco Bay Area. Ray passed away in a Palo Alto hospital on October 3, 1976, and is buried in the Nicholson family plot in Evergreen Cemetery.

New Exhibit! Celebrate the 50th anniversary of Mendocino Historical Research Inc., now known as the Kelley House Museum. Meet founders Dorothy Bear and Beth Stebbins, who moved to Mendocino, fell in love with local history, then galvanized a community to establish a research center to preserve the town’s many stories and artifacts. On display are some of the earliest donations made to MHRI: census records from the 1860s, clothing from the Kelley family, the Ford family’s Bible, materials from Bear & Stebbins’ first exhibit “Mendocino Homes,” Anne Kendall Foote’s bespoke wallpaper reproductions, and photographs of the activists whose labor restored the house and whose contributions have supported the Kelley House over the years. 45007 Albion Street, Mendocino. Thursday-Monday, 11am – 3pm. Now until February 26.