Nickerson was assigned to the 10th Mountain Division, which saw combat in World War II for only four months, but its casualty count was among the highest.
Nickerson arrived in Italy with a unit of 42 men. He was one of only two to survive.
As he told UD professor McKay Jenkins in "The Last Ridge: The Epic Story of America's First Mountain Soldiers," no amount of training can prepare a soldier for the battlefield:
"Many men will remember their first hours in combat more clearly than anything that happens for the rest of their days, especially if this moment comes at night. Mine came at the top of a mountain, amid dark pine trees and patches of snow blackened by explosives and reeking sharply of cordite. Cordite is a stench I had never smelled before and have smelled rarely since, and I actually confused it, in my extraordinary ignorance, with the smell of dead bodies. There were also a few dead Germans in slit trenches, but their characteristic smell - of sweaty leather belts and other leather gear, and heavy, unwashed, woolen uniforms - must have been overwhelmed by the stink of cordite. In the cold, they did not smell of decomposition that first night. It's the cordite I remember, strange and penetrating and frightening."
Despite such horrors, years later Nickerson told The Review that everyone who served "felt we had to do something to make (WWII) the last big war."
After the war, he returned to Dartmouth, finished his degree and eventually went to work for the Associated Press in Baltimore. Editing his co-workers stories made him realize that what he really wanted to do was teach, he told The Review.
In a farewell column in The Review, Nickerson wrote that "despite all the flaws of journalism, printing the news is worthwhile, for the simple reason that knowledge is better than ignorance, openness better than secrecy and light better than darkness."
As Nickerson often said, "Keep the faith."