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Memorial Day Memories: A Nephew Remembers (Part One)

Submitted by R. Thurston Clark

(May 8, 2024) — John Arthur Nilsen, youngest son of Harry Severen Nilsen and Ruth Dreilick, was born November 8, 1928.

Both he and his brother Harry William were in the military.  John went into the Navy, in the submarine service, right out of high school, at the end of World War II.  He sailed on the Argonaut.  This was the second time that name had been used, the first being a submarine commissioned May 1, 1925, that was sunk January 10, 1943.  His version was commissioned at Portsmouth, New Hampshire on June 28, 1944.

He boarded her there on April 14, 1945 as Fireman Second Class.  They first sailed to Key West, then transited the Panama Canal and reached Pearl Harbor on June 11, 1945.  From there they sailed to Saipan in the Northern Mariana Islands, then continued to Formosa/Taiwan.

On August 20th they sank a Japanese Junk with their deck gun near Guam, in the Southern Mariana Islands.  This was just after the atomic bomb had been dropped on August 9, 1945.  At some point the Argonaut had a collision in the fog near Honolulu. In September they transited back through the Panama Canal, continued up the East Coast and put in for repairs at New London.  In early 1946 the Argonaut was assigned to the Atlantic Theater as part of Sub Squadron 2.

The Argonaut over its career in the Navy was based at New London; Pearl Harbor, Hawaii; Norfolk, Virginia; Tompkinsville, New York; and San Juan, Puerto Rico.  She also sailed with the Sixth Fleet into the Mediterranean.  In 1968 she was sold to Canada and became the HMCS Rainbow.  They had a number of mechanical issues with her, so she shortly scrapped.

On November 29, 1952 John married Elaine Violet Grape, who was born May 29, 1932.  John died August 8, 2017, while his wife preceded him on April 24, 2006.  They had two children: John (Jay) Arthur, Jr. born December 12, 1954 and Victoria Elaine born August 1, 1958.  Jay married Holly Christa De Young on August 31, 1985.  They had a son John (Jack) William on May 18, 1992.  Vicky married Alan Howard Wasserman on April 14, 1984.  They had two sons David Alan born August 7, 1986 and Scott Ryder born September 27, 1988.

John’s brother Harry William was in the Korean War where he became First Sergeant in the U.S. Army.  (More on him in Part Two). By 1954 Harry was back, because on May 26th of that year, he married Mary Louise Haidet.  They had a son, (Harry) Russel on December 16, 1956.

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