ROBERT C. THOMSEN, ENS, USN
Robert Thomsen '45
Date of birth: April 9, 1923
Date of death: April 16, 1945
From the 1945 Lucky Bag:
Robert C. Thomsen was born in Culbertson, Montana to Jens and Dagmar Thomsen on April 9, 1923. They moved to Portland, Oregon in 1924. Bob had 2 younger brothers, Bill who served in the Marine Corps and Thomas (Fred) who served the Navy.
He attended Kenton grade school, and graduated from Jefferson High School in 1941 with honors. Upon graduation, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy from U.S. Representative Homer D. Angel and reported to the academy that fall. Although scheduled for graduation in the class of 1945, because of the war, he was graduated in 1944. He joined the Laffey in Pearl Harbor during the month of August 1944.
Bob’s general quarter’s station was in the Combat Information Center. At the height of the attack, he volunteered to fight fires that had spread below decks in the after part of the ship. While attempting to put out these fires, 2 more kamikazes hit the ship above the compartment in which he and others were attempting to put out the fire. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for his actions.
On a personal note. I saw Bob for the first time in Hawaii as he approached the ship to report for duty. He was a tall. lanky young man. One would never suspect that he was an Annapolis graduate. In fact, I do not remember him ever mentioning it. He certainly did not act the role of an Annapolis man as we pictured it in our minds.
His primary duty was that of Navigator and it did not take us long to realize his proficiency in this field. He was a quiet, intense, competent and unassuming officer who, for relaxation, took to reading and smoking an occasional cigar in the chart room. Had it not been for his heroic actions, I am certain the ship would have sunk and the loss of life would have been extremely high.
From The Oregonian on 7 May 1945, via Find A Grave:
Naval Action Claims Officer.
Ensign Robert C. Thomsen, son of Mr. and Mrs. Jens Thomsen, 1525 N. Kilpatrick Street, was killed in action while serving aboard a destroyer in the south Pacific, the navy department has notified his parents.
A June, 1944 graduate of Annapolis, Ensign Thomsen had been serving in the Pacific since last October. He was graduated from Jefferson High School and received his appointment to the naval academy in 1941.
Also surviving are two brothers, William J. Thomsen, now in marine corps officer candidate school, and Fred Thomsen in Portland.
From Hall of Valor:
The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Ensign Robert Clarence Thomsen (NSN: 0-390066), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as a Navigator, serving as evaluator in C.I.C. on board the Destroyer U.S.S. LAFFEY (DD-459), in action against the enemy on 16 April 1945, off Okinawa in the Ryukyu Islands. After radars were put out of action by two direct hits on the mast and his services were no longer required, Ensign Thomsen proceeded aft to assist in fighting fires that were raging as a result of two suicide crashes and a bomb hit. He fearlessly led a fire hose into the smoke and flame compartment C-204-LM, where fires were threatening to set off ammunition in five inch mount 3 upper handling room and in the after five inch magazine. There he met his death when two suicide planes crashed near him. Although his primary duties were in C.I.C., he unhesitatingly risked, and lost, his life when he realized the urgency of the situation which threatened destruction of his ship. His conduct was exemplary and a source of inspiration to those who carried on the fight to save the ship, for which he gave his life. Ensign Thomsen's conduct throughout was in keeping with the highest traditions of the Navy of the United States.
General Orders: Commander in Chief Pacific: Serial 033361 (October 11, 1945)
Action Date: 16-Apr-45
Division: U.S.S. Laffey (DD-459)