Nelson (DD-623) was laid down 7 May 1942 at the Federal
Shipbuilding and Drydock Co., Kearny, N.J., launched 15
September sponsored by Mrs. Nelson Stewart, daughter of Rear
Admiral Charles Preston Nelson, and commissioned 26 November,
Lt. Comdr. M. M. Riker in command.
shakedown along the Atlantic coast,
Nelson reported to the
Atlantic Fleet 21 January 1943. Through 29 May, she operated on
convoy duty as flagship of Destroyer Squadron 17, making runs to
Bermuda, Port of Spain, Trinidad, Dakar, French West Africa;
Aruba, Netherlands West Indies; Casablanca; and Gibraltar.
completion of a short training period at Norfolk, Va.,
Nelson got underway 7 June to take part in the invasion of Sicily.
During the crossing she screened Boise (CL 47), arriving at
Algiers 20 June. Serving as flagship for Commander Task Force 81
during the Sicily operation,
Nelson was assigned duty with the
central part of the Western Task Force. This group was to land
assault troops on beachheads near Gela, Sicily, to expand the
captured area, and to seize the nearby airfield at Ponte Olivo.
0246 on D-Day, 10 July, the first assault waves hit the Gela
beaches. Plunging in through the breakers, the shock troops
encountered light opposition. But furious gunfire raked the
follow-up waves. Caught in the blue-white glare of searchlights,
landing craft were subjected to intense fire, and LCI's took
Nelson commenced figure eight patrols to the east of the
transports. Shortly after dawn Axis aircraft joined the fight,
flying out of the Acate river valley on the eastern coast and
attempting to bomb and strafe Allied ships, landing craft, and
Nelson fired sporadically at the planes throughout the
day. At 1230 she received word that Maddox (DD-622) had been
sunk. Enemy aircraft continued the attack the next day,
delivering a high level bombing attack on the
Nelson's area and
obtaining a direct hit on the liberty ship Robert Rowan. By 2302
the ships commenced laying a heavy smoke screen, and the Axis
attacks were beaten off.
dive bombers buzzed in on a surprise attack from the northeast
at 1733 on the 12th, dropping bombs and making strafing runs.
Nelson splashed one plane at 1742 and an hour later departed in
convoy for Algiers. North Africa.
to the battle area the 17th, she took up antisubmarine patrol
station around Gela and Scoglitti until the 23rd, when she
returned to Algiers. Later, on the 30th, she escorted troop
ships into Palermo Harbor on the north coast of Sicily. During
this operation she was harassed by constant German air attacks.
At 0548 on 1 August she opened fire on a single plane, splashing
it with the third salvo.
Nelson returned to New York 22 August, where Lt. Comdr. Thomas D.
McGrath relieved Lt. Comdr. Riker of command 3 September. The
ship was assigned to North Atlantic convoy runs for the winter.
This duty took the destroyer to Belfast, Northern Ireland three
times and to Greenock Bay, Scotland, and Gibraltar once each.
Nelson steamed to England to stage for the coming
Normandy invasion. While moored alongside a tanker at Plymouth,
England 24 May, her port screw fouled a mooring buoy, causing
extensive damage to the screw and shaft.
Nelson was placed in
drydock where the screw and shaft, deemed beyond repair, were
removed. But the need for fighting ships was so great that
Nelson got underway 2 June with only a starboard screw. At
Milford Haven she rendezvoused with a convoy, and by 8 June was
in the Normandy assault area.
next day she steamed into position No. 13 on the "Dixie
Line" as part of the anti-submarine and E-boat screen
around the Omaha beachhead. E-boats were the German version of
PT boats - speedy, agile, hard-hitting, and hard to hit. Armed
with 40mm. guns and torpedoes, they specialized in night
attacks. On the night of 8-9 June several destroyers on the
"Dixie Line" had taken under fire and chased several
of these E-boats, sinking two.
Nelson was anchored in position 13 the night of 12 June. Thus far her
only contact with the enemy had been in the form of a glide bomb
which had exploded harmlessly off the starboard quarter during
her first night in the area. At 0105 on the 13th she made a
radar contact, challenged the contact by flashing light, and
opened fire. The target slowed, turned away, and split into
three distinct blips. The destroyer had loosed ten salvos when a
torpedo struck her just aft the No. 4 gun mount blowing off the
stern and No.4 mount. Maloy (DE-791) stood by to transfer
Nelson was taken in tow. Twenty-four of her crew
were killed or missing and 9 wounded. After emergency repairs at
Londonderry, Northern Ireland, the destroyer was towed to Boston
where she received a new stern.