Richard Mueller Nixon
USS West Virginia
Richard Mueller Nixon, the youngest of three children, was born on a hillside farm above Waterford, Ohio, in 1910. His dad, Milton Gregg Nixon, was a truck farmer. His mother, Stella Mueller Nixon, was a homemaker and former Normal School teacher. He grew up in a period that economists call the “Golden Age of American Farming.” Education was progressive and expansive, and parents doted on their children. The Boy Scouts and Girl Scouts were both founded at that time, producing what is called today the Civic Generation or the “Greatest Generation.”
Richard attended Waterford schools and graduated from the high school in 1926, at the age of 16. That year, he took a competitive exam in the State of Ohio and won a Congressional appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy. After graduating from the Academy in 1930, he served in the U.S. Navy for the next 30 years. He retired as a Captain.
A Navy Lieutenant, he was on shore patrol on December 7, 1941, when Japanese planes bombed Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. His ship, the USS West Virginia, was sunk. His ceremonial Navy sword went down with the ship along with most of his other possessions. Later, his slightly mangled sword was recovered and returned to him. His name was engraved on the blade.
His interest in the military was inspired by the fact that an ancestor, John Nixon, had served in the Revolutionary War, his grandfather and two great uncles has served on the Union side in the Civil War, and his father, Milton, had volunteered to serve in the Philippines during the Spanish-American War. Richard was the first in the family to become an officer. Subsequently, he and several of his nephews served in World War II and the Korean War.
Transcribed by Ann Nixon Gazourian, Daughter
Read Lt. Nixon's account of his Pearl Harbor experience here.
Following the Pearl Harbor attack, Lt. Nixon sent two letters home to his wife, Mary. The text of those letters is below.
My Dearest Mary,
Business is rushing but I am OK without a scratch. You might let folks know by telegraph if you think they would be worried about me. All the officers’ wives out here are safe and sound as are all the officers you know on the ship.
Things will probably be tough for a while. It might be best for you to move inland from the coast away from defense areas. If you should make a move, let Mrs. Huler, Helen Eddy’s mother, know where I can locate you and let the folks know I am mailing all letters with the folks’ address as return address so, if you miss them, you will get them.
Your allotment will continue. Will you take over payment of FHA and Montgomery Ward, water bill and dentist? I will try not to spend any of the $200.
A big hug and a kiss to each Ann and Maureen and all my love to you -- Try not to worry. Dick
December 14, 1941
My Dearest Mary,
Just received your letter today and I know what a dreadful strain you must be under. Please try and be brave, my dear, and don’t pay any attention to rumors. In case my last letter didn’t get through I haven’t been as much as scratched. Please let the folks know if you haven’t already.
Business is still rushing and we are getting squared around nicely. I am afraid you’ll have to do my Christmas shopping however.
You might entertain the possibility of taking the youngsters home for Christmas and settling in Marietta for the duration but do whatever you feel is best. I think some of you wives should get together and move back inland where it will be much safer in case the Japs should get a raider through to the coast.
It might develop that there will be long gaps between my letters but don’t be alarmed. A big hug and a kiss for each Ann and Maureen and all my love to you, Dick
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