CPT David Martin Nilsson

CPT David Martin Nilsson

Death Sep 1944 (aged 48–49)
Burial Buried or Lost at Sea
Memorial ID 199665779 · View Source
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Master David Martin Nilsson resided in San Francisco, California just prior to the war with his wife Anne and son David.

His first known command as a Merchant Marine "Master" was of the S.S. Sebastian Cermeno.

On June 27, 1943 the unescorted Sebastian Cermeno, while en-route from Suez, Egypt to Paramaribo, Suriname, was hit on the port side by two torpedoes from German Submarine U-511 about 290 miles southeast of Madagascar. " 5 " out of a crew of " 74 " perished. The remaining crew, including Master Nilsson, were able to abandon ship in 5 lifeboats. The ship sank quickly by the stern.

On July 14th "19" of the survivors in the boat that included Master Nilsson were picked up by the American steam merchant the S.S. Theodore Parker and taken to safety.

Master Nilsson's next assignment was of another Liberty ship, the S.S. Jean Nicolet.

The S.S. Jean Nicolet was built in Portland, Oregon, in October 1943, and was operated for the War Shipping Administration by the Oliver J. Olson Company of San Francisco, California.

The S.S. Jean Nicolet departed from San Pedro, California, on May 12, 1944 enroute to Colombo, Ceylon. She first made one stop in Fremantle, Australia and then departed from there on June 21, 1944 to continue on to Ceylon.

On board was a complement of 100 men consisting of 41 merchant crew, 28 Naval Armed Guard, and 31 passengers. The passenger list was made up of six U.S. Army officers, 12 U.S. Army enlisted men, eight Navy technicians, four civilians, and one U.S. Army medical corpsman.

Approximately 700 miles south of Ceylon she was struck by two torpedoes fired from the Japanese submarine I-8. Because of the ship's listing Master (Captain) Nilsson ordered everyone to "abandon ship" which it is believed everyone did safely.

Japanese submarine I-8 surfaced and called to all of the survivors to come over to their submarine. Which the majority, but not all, did. Approximately " 80 " of the survivors then boarded the submarine.

Captain Nilsson, Augustus "Gus" Tilden (radio operator), Francis J. O'Gara (War Shipping Administration representative), and two others were taken to the conning tower and shoved below.

The only one of the five to survive the war was "Francis J. O'Gara" who was on the submarine until August 15, 1944. At that time he was taken off the submarine in Penang, Malaysia and reported seeing Captain Nilsson. However he noted that he did not see Gus Tilden or the other two.

On September 15, 1944 "O'Gara" was once again loaded on Japanese submarine I-8 and eventually arrived at Yokohama, Japan on October 9, 1944. He was found alive in the Ofuna prison camp near Yokohama after the war. He passed away on September 18, 1981 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

The rest of crew were held in two different locations on the submarine ~ some on the fore deck and others on the after deck behind the conning tower of the submarine. Those on the fore deck did not realize that those on the after deck were being "executed" and thrown over board. Many were led, one by one, from the fore deck to the after deck.

Soon a Liberator aircraft was detected by the submarine's radar and the commander of the submarine decided that he need to submerge. About 30 of the survivors, with their hands tied, were still on deck when the submarine went down into the sea. Some of them survived ... and some didn't.

David apparently "Lost His Life" sometime in the September, 1944 time frame. ( as noted above ). His actual fate is unknown.

He was posthumously awarded the Mariner's Medal, The Mariner's POW Medal, the Combat Bar (ribbon) and a Star affixed to the Combat bar.

His remains were not recovered.

( Bio by: Russ Pickett )

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  • Created by: Russ Pickett
  • Added: 2 Jun 2019
  • Find a Grave Memorial 199665779
  • Find a Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for CPT David Martin Nilsson (21 Sep 1895–Sep 1944), Find a Grave Memorial no. 199665779, ; Maintained by Russ Pickett (contributor 46575736) Buried or Lost at Sea.