Thomas L. Niffen, WWII Veteran, Rest In PeacePhoto # 80-G-216804 USS Oakland firing on Japanese planes during the Marshall Island raids, Dec. 1944
Thomas L. Niffen, WWII veteran, was born Jan. 30, 1926, and passed away July 12 at age 88. He wasn’t famous, though he was seemingly well-known in his community. A reader mentioned his name.
Tom was a Sailor in World War II, serving in the US Navy on the USS Oakland in the Pacific. See below for some of the exploits the ship carried out.
After the war, Tom and his wife Jeanne ran a local fish market.
The USS Oakland was decommissioned in 1949, but the mast was donated to the City of Oakland, CA.
From the Navy archive:
USS Oakland Battle Stars
Gilbert Islands operation ~ Tarawa – 18 Nov to 26 Nov 1943
Marshall Islands operation ~ Kwajalein and Majuro Atolls – 16 Jan to 3 Feb 1944
Bismarck Archipelago operation ~ Emirau Island 20- 27 March 1944
Asiatic-Pacific raids ~ 1944
Western New Guinea operations ~ 20-22 April 1944
Hollandia operation ~ Hollandia – 13 Apr to May 4 1944
Marianas operation ~ Saipan – 6 June to 24 July 1944
Western Caroline Islands operation ~ Palau – 6 Sep to 8 Sep
Leyte operation ~ 20 Oct to 29 Oct 1944
Luzon operation ~ 4 Jan to 18 Jan 1945
Okinawa Gunto operation ~ Okinawa Gunto – 1 Apr to 29 May 1945
Third Fleet operations against Japan ~ 1 Jul to 15 Aug 1945
USS Oakland, first of a class of four 6,000-ton light cruisers built at San Francisco, California, was commissioned in mid-July 1943. After shakedown and training off the West Coast, she arrived in the Pacific war zone in time to escort the fast carriers during the November 1943 invasion of the Gilbert Islands and subsequent raids into the Marshalls. Oakland remained in the carrier screening role as U.S. forces seized bases in the Marshall Islands during January and February 1944, raided enemy-held islands throughout the Central Pacific, attacked Saipan and fought the Japanese Mobile Fleet in the Battle of the Philippine Sea in June, and conquered Guam in July. From August through October 1944 she took part in carrier strikes against the Bonin Islands, the Palaus, Okinawa and Formosa, and in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Oakland served with the fast carriers for the rest of the year, as they supported the campaign to liberate the Philippines and hit Japanese facilities on the Asian mainland and the Western Pacific.
Following a West Coast overhaul that occupied the first part of 1945, Oakland returned to the combat area in late March. For the next four and a half months she helped protect the Pacific Fleet’s aircraft carriers from enemy counterattacks during the bitter fight for Okinawa and strikes against the Japanese Home Islands. The light cruiser was one of the ships in attendance in Tokyo Bay when the enemy formally surrendered on 2 September 1945. During October-December of that year Oakland made three “Magic Carpet” voyages to bring home veterans of the great Pacific War. Though scheduled for inactivation in 1946, she remained active for three more years, serving as a gunnery training ship and making a cruise to the Western Pacific in 1947. Reclassified CLAA-95 in March 1949, USS Oakland was decommissioned in the following July. Following nearly a decade in the Pacific Reserve Fleet, she was stricken from the Naval Vessel Register in March 1959 and sold for scrapping in December of that year.
We don’t know exactly when Tom Niffen joined the crew of the Oakland, but we can be sure he saw plenty of those battles.