This is the way Chief Petty Officer William Gerard Nicholson is remembered by his family according to his grandson, Dave Garder.
Nicholson was one of 80 sailors lost on the USS Grayback when it was sunk by an air attack in 1944 during World War II.
The missing submarine was found off the coast of Japan after explorers discovered a 75-year-old error in the coordinates of where the sub was, the expedition team said.
The USS Grayback sank in February 1944 after Japanese forces attacked it as the sub was on a mission in the East China Sea. The sub had sunk 21,594 tons of shipping on its final mission alone, and overall, the submarine is credited with sinking 14 ships at 63,835 tons, according to the Navy.
Ocean explorer Tim Taylor, who founded the Lost 52 Project that aims to unearth lost US WWII submarines, and his team made the Grayback discovery about 1,400 feet below the surface southwest of Okinawa in June. The Navy recently confirmed the team’s findings.
Taylor’s team discovered the Navy’s translation of the coordinates was off by one digit and it changed the location by more than 100 miles.
Pinpointing the sub’s location proved challenging and the team almost gave up.
“It was amazing, the team had resigned to the fact that we’re headed back to port and would not complete the total search area this year,” Taylor said in a statement. A drone had a technical issue, and the team had only a bit of data left to review.
“You could feel everyone shuffling and getting ready to shift gears to secure the ship for getting underway. The next thing we see in the last quarter of the last line of data is the USS Grayback roll across the monitor,” he added.
The submarine’s discovery brought closure to Garder’s family after 75 years of waiting.
Upon hearing the news of the Grayback’s discovery, Garder was “absolutely stunned,” and said “it was a giant, paralyzing shock. I couldn’t dial the phone or think straight. The first person I tried to call was my stepfather, who died two-and-a-half years ago.”
For nearly eight decades, Nicholson’s family could only wonder about where he was resting. They kept his memory alive by telling his stories and Gardner even built a working replica of the USS Grayback to honor his memory.
Nicholson enlisted at the age of 19 and served in the U.S. Navy for eight years before the Grayback sank. He was on the submarine for every one of her missions as a chief motor machinist’s mate since she was christened, joining a special group of sailors called “plank owners,” denoting sailors who have served on a ship or submarine since her first voyage.
Born and raised in Richlands, Nicholson was a North Carolina man. He met his wife on a USO Shuttle from Richlands to Jacksonville and had one child with her before he served on the Grayback. Before his death, he was away from his family for three years serving on the Grayback, only seeing his wife and 2-year-old son once when he was docked in San Francisco. His sacrifice earned him a Purple Heart, and the pride of his family and community.
Even today, 75 years after he and his crewmates were lost, he is still remembered as a great man who made the ultimate sacrifice for his country and gave his life to protect our families.
USA Today contributed to this report.