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John B. Nichols
Nickname Pirate
Born (1931-09-28)September 28, 1931
Died June 17, 2004(2004-06-17) (aged 72)
Allegiance United States United States of America
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service 1957–1975
Rank US-O5 insignia.svg Commander
Unit Fighter Squadron 62 (VF-62)
United States Navy Fighter Weapons School
Commands held VF-24 [1]
Battles/wars Vietnam War

John Bennett Nichols, III (September 28, 1931 – June 17, 2004) was a United States Navy aviator and author.

Raised in Hialeah, Florida, Nichols enlisted in the United States Army and served as a combat medic during the Korean War. After attending college he was accepted for NavCad training and commissioned in 1957. Originally he flew the North American FJ-4 Fury but shortly thereafter he flew the Vought F-8 Crusader, the aircraft that defined his professional career.

Nichols joined Fighter Squadron 62 (VF-62) and adopted the callsign "Pirate." He also became a landing signal officer as well as a flight and tactics instructor. In the latter capacity he was one of the founding members of the Naval Fighter Weapons School that evolved into "Topgun." During the Vietnam War Nichols made three Tonkin Gulf deployments between 1967 and 1973, flying from the aircraft carriers USS Ticonderoga (CVA-14) and USS Hancock (CVA-19).

On his first combat deployment, assigned to VF-191, Nichols was wingman to LCDR Michael Estocin, who posthumously received the Medal of Honor for actions in April 1967. On the following deployment Nichols destroyed one of two North Vietnamese MiG-17s that were attacking an RF-8 reconnaissance plane. He later commanded VF-24 during the closing days of the war in 1973. At the end of his naval career, he was one of only five pilots to log over 3,000 hours in the demanding Crusader.

Upon retirement in 1975, Nichols entered the real estate business in Southern California and wrote occasionally. The first of his two books was a combination memoir and analysis titled On Yankee Station (1987). Warriors, a novel about a Mideast air war, was released shortly before Operation Desert Storm in 1990. Both were written with his friend Barrett Tillman.

On Yankee Station was well received in military aviation circles, and was added to the Air Force and Marine Corps professional reading lists. Ironically, it was not selected for a Navy readership though at least one carrier air wing took copies to Operation Desert Storm in 1990–91.

Nichols returned to Florida and settled in Melbourne with his wife Jacqueline. There he died of cancer at age 72, survived his three children, John IV, Gray and Leigh from a previous marriage, his wife, and two step daughters. Nichols is also survived by his brothers, James and Steve Nichols and sisters, Fran Brady and Dorothy Battaglia.


Further reading[]

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