NICHOLS, THOMAS EDWARD
NICHOLS, THOMAS EDWARD
Rank / Branch:
CAPTAIN, U.S. ARMY
Date of Birth:
NON-HOSTILE AIR CRAS
Awards & Decorations:
See Alphabetical list
list by County
THOMAS E. NICHOLS, CAPTAIN, U.S. ARMY, ODESSA, ECTOR COUNTY, TEXAS
AWARDS AND DECORATIONS
Combat Infantryman's Badge, Silver Star, Bronze Star with Oak Leaf Cluster, Purple Heart, Air Medal, Army Commendation's Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Vietnam Service Medal, Vietnam Campaign Medal, Vietnam Military Merit Medal, Vietnam Civil Action Medal
Tom Nichols was born in Abilene, Texas and spent his early years in Coleman, Texas. He was a 1956 graduate of Coleman High School. His family moved to Odessa shortly after he graduated and he attended Odessa College and the University of Texas at Austin. While at the University of Texas, he joined the Texas National Guard and became a full time Guardsman. He attended National Guard OCS in Austin, Texas and was commissioned a 2LT. He served in Odessa as an Executive Officer and then moved to Amarillo, where he commanded the National Guard unit there. In 1966, he transferred to the Regular Army as a Infantry Captain. He married Benita Glossbrenner of Amarillo, a divorcee with three daughters. A daughter was born into this marriage.
He began his tour in Vietnam in September 1967 and was initially assigned as a military advisor to MACV Team 86. In October 1967, one month after arriving, he was engaged in heavy combat with a Viet Cong unit who assaulted his camp. A grenade was thrown into the bunker in which Cpt. Nichols and several other members were occuping. The grenade blew him into a pool of water, broke his glasses and he suffered a concussion plus fragmentary wounds. Although handicapped by his wounds, loss of his glasses and his weapon, he stood up to detract two Viet Cong he saw going toward the bunker. Capt Nichols' actions gave the other men time to escape. Despite his wounds, he later assisted a serously wounded fellow advisor to safety and then returned to the bunker to organize a defense and engaged the enemy until a reactionary force could have time to arrive and give relief. For this action, he was awarded the Silver Star and Purple Heart. He extended his tour in Vietnam in September 1968 and came home on a 30 day leave where he spent time with his parents in Odessa and his wife and children in Longview.
When he returned to Vietnam in October 1968, he was assigned to MACV Team 95. On February 1, 1969, the 190th Assault Helicopter Company was tasked with providing airlift in support of a MAC-V Advisory Team. The UH-1D tail number 66-00845 was piloted by 2LT. M.S. Cheney and copilot WO1 J.D. Barnes, departed the base at 1300 hours. It proceeded to the HQ III Corps helipad, thence to Ben Hoa, and thence to the 3rd ARVN Engineer Battalion helipad at Hoc Mon, landed at about 1340 hours with three passengers aboard. Four additional passengers boarded the helicopter at Hoc Mon.
With 2 Lt. Cheney at controls, the UH-1 lifted off into a hover, and then commenced forward flight into a southerly wind. After about 130 feet of travel, the Huey's main rotor blade struck a flagpole, ripping he transmission from the aircraft. The fuselage continued forward and impacted the ground in a nose-dive attitude.
Of the eleven men aboard, five died and four others were injured in the crash. The dead included Captain Nichols. At the time of his death, he had been in Vietnam 17 months.
He was buried with full military honors in the Fort Bliss National Cemetery in El Paso, Texas. He was survived by his wife, Benita and three step daughters, Lisa, Leslie and Leah Glossbrenner and by his daughter, Laura Sue Nichols, all of Longview. He was also survived by his parents, Mr and Mrs. Aubrey Nichols of Odessa, his sisters, Mary Ann Nichols of the home and his sister, Connie Nichols of Austin and his brother, Weldon Nichols of Abilene and his grandmother, Mrs. T.W. Thompson of Odessa. His younger brother, James (Jimmy) Nichols died from injuries suffered in an automobile accident December 23, 1967. He was serving in the U.S. Navy stationed at Memphis, Tennessee. He was traveling with his two sisters from Memphis to Odessa for X-mas. The accident occurred near Marshall, Texas and he died in Shreveport, Louisiana January 7, 1968. He is buried at the Sunset Memorial Garden's Cemetery in Odessa.
Fort Bliss National Cemetery, El Paso, Texas