In the summer of 1946 a group of Niceville
veterans began gathering in City Hall to form an American Legion
Post. The plans came together and were completed on August 15,
1946. The Charter for American Legion, Oliver D. Nichelson
Post 221 of Niceville was official, with 15 charter members.
Joel C. Helms was the first Commander. A short time later, Cecil L.
Anchors was the first elected Commander.
The land the Post was built upon was donated by a
member of the Meigs family. Post members borrowed $5,000 from a
man who ask for no collateral and built a 30-by-70 foot building
on John Sims Parkway.
At that time, John Sims Parkway was a dirt road.
They had numerous fish fries (probably mullet) and dance parties
to pay off the loan. Since it was the largest building in
Niceville, many others used it for meetings and parties. At that
time there was no air conditioning and it got very hot inside,
so they poured a concrete slab behind the building for outside
gatherings and square dances.
The Post was named in honor of Corporal Oliver
Daniel Nichelson, son of Thomas and Alvaretta Nichelson of
Niceville. Oliver was Niceville's first causality of WWII.
He had enlisted in the U.S. Marines in December 1939 in San
Francisco and was serving in the Marine detachment aboard the
(CV-2) in the Coral Sea.
In February and March 1942,
Lexington raided Japanese positions in the southwestern
Pacific, then returned to Pearl Harbor for a brief overhaul and removal
of her eight-inch guns. In early May,
Lexington returned to the South Pacific in time to join
sister ship USS Yorktown (CV-5) in successfully countering the
Japanese offensive in the Coral Sea.
On 7 and 8 May 1942 her planes helped sink the
small Japanese aircraft carrier Shoho and participated in
attacks on the large carriers
Shokaku and Zuikaku.
In turn, however, she was the target of Japanese
carrier planes and received two torpedo and three bomb hits.
Though initial damage control efforts appeared to be successful,
she was racked by gasoline explosions in the early afternoon of
Aircraft from the morning's air strike began
landing at 13:22 and all surviving aircraft had landed by 14:14.
Another serious explosion occurred at 14:42 that
started severe fires in the hangar and blew the forward elevator
12 inches above the flight deck. Power to the forward half of
the ship failed shortly afterward. Rear Admiral Frank Jack
Fletcher sent three destroyers to assist, but another major
explosion at 15:25 knocked out water pressure in the hangar and
forced the evacuation of the forward machinery spaces.
The fire eventually forced the evacuation of all
compartments below the waterline at 16:00 and Lexington
eventually drifted to a halt.
Evacuation of the wounded began shortly afterward
and Captain Frederick Sherman ordered "abandon ship" at 17:07. A
series of large explosions began around 18:00 that blew the aft
elevator apart and threw aircraft into the air. Sherman waited
until 18:30 to ensure that all of his crewmen were off the ship
before leaving himself. Some 216 crewmen were killed and
2,735 officers and men were rescued by the rest of the task
The destroyer USS Phelps
was ordered to sink the ship and fired a total of five torpedoes
between 19:15 and 19:52. Immediately after the last torpedo hit,
capsized to port and sank; the first U.S. aircraft carrier to be
lost in World War II.
Cpl Nichelson died of his wounds aboard the USS New Orleans
May 8, 1942 and was buried at sea the next day. He was 22 years
old. He was
posthumously awarded the Purple Heart.