From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Thomas Oakley, Jr. '34

Date of birth: February 27, 1912

Date of death: November 8, 1944

Age: 32

Lucky Bag

From the 1934 Lucky Bag:


Ben was lost when USS Growler (SS 215) was sunk by a Japanese surface vessels on November 8, 1944 in the South China Sea. He was Commanding Officer at the time.

His wife was listed as next of kin; he was also survived by his father, William, and his brothers Gordon and Fred.


From Fleet Organization:

  • Duty USS Cachalot (SS-170) 1 Jul 1939 - 1 Nov 1940
  • Executive Officer USS Cachalot (SS-170) 2 Jan 1942 - 1 Jul 1942
  • Executive Officer USS Tinosa (SS-283) 18 Jan 1943 - Jul 1943
  • Captain USS Tarpon (SS-175) 19 Nov 1943 - 15 Apr 1944
  • Captain USS Growler (SS-215) 23 Apr 1944 - Nov 1944
  • Lieutenant (j.g.) 31 May 1937
  • Lieutenant 1 Jul 1941
  • Lieutenant Commander (T) 1 Mar 1943
  • Commander (T) 1 Feb 1944

Navy Cross

1934 Oakley 1.jpg

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Commander Thomas Benjamin Oakley, Jr. (NSN: 0-73499), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. GROWLER (SS-215), on the TENTH War Patrol of that submarine during the period 11 August 1944 to 26 September 1944, in enemy controlled waters of the Southwest Pacific. Striking fiercely at a large Japanese convoy in a daring night surface action, Commander Oakley delivered a fast bow attack, sinking a tanker and damaging a freighter, then, swinging hard right under terrific shellfire, shot four stern torpedoes point blank at an aggressive destroyer, exploding the target in billows of smoke. Threatened with depth-charging and under furious surface attack, he remained surfaced while skillfully evading the persistent counterfire and submerged just before dawn to make his escape undamaged. Warned of the approach of a second heavily-escorted convoy, he attacked from dead ahead of the starboard column, firing three down-the-throat shots at a destroyer bearing down on a collision course, executed a sharp maneuver hard left, fired his stern tubes at two overlapping merchantmen to score heavy damage on both, and swung hard left again in time to see the blazing man-of-war sink a short 200 yards off his port side. Undaunted, he cleared the area under heavy fire while still surfaced and, a few hours after daylight, sighted a third destroyer searching the scene of earlier action. Immediately submerging, he rigged for depth-charging, conducted a brilliant close-range periscope attack and plunged deep to register through the GROWLER's hull the shattering concussions of his death-dealing torpedoes as they struck the target and exploded. His superb ship handling and indomitable fighting spirit in achieving this outstanding record reflect the highest credit upon commander Oakley, his gallant ship's company and the United States Naval Service.

Action Date: August 11 - September 26, 1944
Rank: Commander
Company: Commanding Officer
Division: U.S.S. Growler (SS-215)

Legion of Merit

From Hall of Valor:

(Citation Needed) - SYNOPSIS: Commander Thomas Benjamin Oakley, Jr. (NSN: 0-73499), United States Navy, was awarded the Legion of Merit (Posthumously) for exceptionally meritorious conduct in the performance of outstanding services to the Government of the United States as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. TARPON (SS-175) from 12 December 1943 to 5 January 1944.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 348 (March 1946)
Action Date: December 12, 1943 - January 5, 1944
Rank: Commander
Company: Commanding Officer
Division: U.S.S. Tarpon (SS-175)

(From USS Tarpon (SS 175): "Tarpon's next war patrol, a photo reconnaissance of various atolls in the Marshall Islands group from 4 December 1943 to 12 January 1944, was largely uneventful. She did get an opportunity at an inter-island tanker and fired two torpedoes, but both missed and the vessel escaped.")

Class of 1934

Thomas is one of 41 members of the Class of 1934 on Virtual Memorial Hall.