Lieutenant General Herman Nickerson, Jr.



Lieutenant General Herman Nickerson, Jr., a decorated combat veteran of three wars who's last assignment was Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Force, Vietnam, in 1969 and 1970, died 27 December 2000 in Maine.

As a colonel during the Korean conflict, General Nickerson was awarded the Army Distinguished Service Cross, the Nation's second highest combat award, for extraordinary heroism on 31 May 1951 as Commanding Officer of the Seventh Marines, 1st Marine Division. His citation states in part:


"Learning that two of his battalions were heavily engaged and that the enemy was grouping for a counter-attack, Colonel Nickerson unhesitatingly left the comparative safety of his command post and fearlessly moved forward over rugged mountainous terrain, under intense enemy mortar and artillery fire, to the most forward elements of his command. Unmindful of his personal safety, he advanced to an exposed vantage point under heavy enemy fire and through his brilliant guidance, his troops repulsed the ferocious counter-attack, taking the offensive and overwhelming the fanatical foe to secure the high ground dominating the vital road junction of Yang-gu."


Herman Nickerson, Jr., was born 30 July 1913, in Boston, Massachusetts, and graduated from high school in Arlington, Massachusetts. Following graduation from Boston University where he was a member of the ROTC unit for four years, he resigned an Army Reserve commission to accept appointment as a Marine second lieutenant on 10 July 1935.

After completing Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard in February 1936, Lieutenant Nickerson embarked for Shanghai, China, where he served for two and a half years with the Fourth Marines. While in China, he was promoted to first lieutenant in August 1938. On his return to the United States in November 1938, he served as Commanding Officer of the Marine Detachment at the Naval Air Station, Seattle, Washington. Joining the 2d Defense Battalion in September 1940, he served with them in San Diego, California, and Parris Island, South Carolina. In May 1941, he was promoted to captain while on temporary duty under instruction at the Coast Artillery School, Fort Monroe, Virginia.

In December 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor Captain Nickerson departed Parris Island for San Diego with the 2d Defense Battalion to join the 2d Marine Brigade overseas. Arriving on American Samoa in January 1942, he served consecutively as Battery Commander, Group Executive Officer, and finally Group Commander, Three-Inch Antiaircraft Artillery Group. While overseas, he was promoted to major in May 1942 and to lieutenant colonel in June 1943. He returned to the United States in July 1943.

That October, Lieutenant Colonel Nickerson was assigned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, Virginia, as Commanding Officer of the Ordnance School, and subsequently completed the Command and Staff School. In February 1945, he joined the Fourth Infantry Training Regiment at Camp Pendleton, California, and again embarked for duty in the Pacific area, serving as Ordnance Officer, 4th Marine Division, and Executive Officer, 25th Marines. He later saw duty as Ordnance Officer with the III Amphibious Corps in Tientsin, China, and following dissolving of the III Amphibious Corps, served as Division Ordnance Officer and Division Legal Officer, respectively, of the 1st Marine Division.

In January, 1947, on his return to the United States, Lieutenant Colonel Nickerson began a three-year assignment at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot, Parris Island, serving consecutively as Assistant G-3, Recruiting Training Battalion Commander, Weapons Training Battalion Commander, and Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3. He also saw temporary duty from January through August 1949 as a U.S. Military Observer with the United Nations Mission in Palestine and seven Arab States. Following this, he completed the Armed Forces Staff College, Norfolk, Virginia, and was promoted to colonel in July 1950. That same month, upon the outbreak of hostilities in Korea, he departed for the Far East.

From August 1950 to April 1951, Colonel Nickerson served as Advisor on Marine Corps matters, General Headquarters, Far East Command, and also performed temporary additional duty in Korea. For conspicuous gallantry in September 1950 as Liaison Officer, First Marines, 1st Marine Division, during the advance along the Inchon-Seoul highway and the Han River crossing, he was awarded the Silver Star Medal. In April 1951, he became Commanding Officer of the Seventh Marines in Korea, serving in this capacity through September 1951. During the early part of this period, he earned both the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and, subsequently, the Army Distinguished Service Cross.

Colonel Nickerson was named Inspector of Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, in October 1951. In March 1952, he returned to Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, where he served as Director, Advance Base Problem Section, until June 1954, and Director Senior School, until July 1956. He served next as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, Fleet Marine Force, Pacific, at Pearl Harbor, from August 1956 to December 1957. In January 1958, he joined Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic, at Norfolk, as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3.

Transferred to Headquarters Marine Corps in September 1958, Colonel Nickerson served as Special Assistant to the Fiscal Director until April 1959, when he was named Fiscal Director of the Marine Corps. He was promoted to brigadier general on 1 January 1959.

While at Headquarters Marine Corps, General Nickerson was elected President of the American Society of Military Comptrollers in 1959 and again in 1960. He completed his tour of duty as Fiscal Director of the Marine Corps in May 1962. That June he assumed command of the 1st Marine Division at Camp Pendleton. He was promoted to major general, 1 July 1962.

In April 1963, General Nickerson joined the Marine Corps Supply Center, Barstow, California, as Commanding General. He served as Commanding General, Marine Corps Base, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, from June 1965 until September 1966.

Ordered to the Republic of Vietnam in October 1966, General Nickerson commanded the First Marine Division until May 1967, earning the Distinguished Service Medal, and for service as Deputy Commander, III Marine Amphibious Force from June 1967 to October 1967, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Legion of Merit with Combat "V".

Upon his return to the United States in November 1967, he served briefly as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, at Headquarters Marine Corps. In January 1968, he was assigned duty as Director of Personnel/Deputy Chief of Staff (Manpower), and served in this capacity until he was ordered to the Far East to assume his final assignment. Shortly after becoming Director of Personnel/Deputy Chief of Staff (Manpower), he was nominated for lieutenant general by President Johnson and his promotion confirmed by the Senate, 15 March 1968. One year later, in March 1969, he returned to Vietnam as Commanding General, III Marine Amphibious Forces. He retired after 35 years as a Marine on 31 March 1970.

A complete list of his medals and decorations include: the Army Distinguished Service Cross; the Distinguished Service Medal; the Silver Star Medal; the Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and Gold Star in lieu of a second award; the Bronze Star Meal; the Air Medal; the Presidential Unit Citation with two bronze stars indicative of second and third awards; the China Service Medal with one bronze star; the American Defense Service Medal; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal; the American Campaign Medal; the World War II Victory Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal with one bronze star; the Korean Service Medal with one silver star in lieu of five bronze stars; the Vietnam Service Medal with two bronze stars; the United Nations Service Medal (Korea); the United Nations Service Medal (Palestine); two Korean Presidential Unit Citations; the Korean Chung Mu Medal; the Vietnamese National Order; the Vietnamese Army Distinguished Service Order; the Cross of Gallantry with two Palms; and the Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

Marine Corps University