THOMAS B. OAKLEY, JR., CDR, USN

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:


Loss

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.

Career

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.")

Navy Directories & Officer Registers

The "Register of Commissioned and Warrant Officers of the United States Navy and Marine Corps" was published annually from 1815 through at least the 1970s; it provided rank, command or station, and occasionally billet until the beginning of World War II when command/station was no longer included. Scanned copies were reviewed and data entered from the mid-1840s through 1922, when more-frequent Navy Directories were available.

The Navy Directory was a publication that provided information on the command, billet, and rank of every active and retired naval officer. Single editions have been found online from January 1915 and March 1918, and then from three to six editions per year from 1923 through 1940; the final edition is from April 1941.

The entries in both series of documents are sometimes cryptic and confusing. They are often inconsistent, even within an edition, with the name of commands; this is especially true for aviation squadrons in the 1920s and early 1930s.

Alumni listed at the same command may or may not have had significant interactions; they could have shared a stateroom or workspace, stood many hours of watch together… or, especially at the larger commands, they might not have known each other at all. The information provides the opportunity to draw connections that are otherwise invisible, though, and gives a fuller view of the professional experiences of these alumni in Memorial Hall.

July 1934

Ensign, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Ernest Hodge '32 and ENS Ludwell Pickett, Jr. '33.

October 1934

Ensign, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Ludwell Pickett, Jr. '33.

Others at or embarked at this command: ENS Ernest Hodge '32 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B) and ENS Reynolds Smith '32 (Battleship Division 4).

January 1935

Ensign, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Ludwell Pickett, Jr. '33.

Others at or embarked at this command: ENS Ernest Hodge '32 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B) and ENS Reynolds Smith '32 (Battleship Division 4).

April 1935

Ensign, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Ludwell Pickett, Jr. '33.

Others at or embarked at this command: ENS Ernest Hodge '32 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B) and ENS Reynolds Smith '32 (Battleship Division 4).

October 1935

Ensign, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Allan Edmands '35 and ENS John Powers '35.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Weldon Hamilton '28 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B) and LTjg Ernest Hodge '32 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B).

January 1936

Ensign, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Allan Edmands '35 and ENS John Powers '35.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Weldon Hamilton '28 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B) and LTjg Ernest Hodge '32 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B).

April 1936

Ensign, USS West Virginia

Others at this command: ENS Allan Edmands '35 and ENS John Powers '35.

Others at or embarked at this command: LTjg Weldon Hamilton '28 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B) and LTjg Ernest Hodge '32 (Observation Plane Squadron (VO) 4B).

July 1936

Ensign, staff, Destroyer Division 16, USS Preble

January 1937

Ensign, USS Williamson

Others at this command: ENS Edward Robertson '35.

April 1937

Ensign, USS Williamson

Others at this command: ENS Edward Robertson '35.

September 1937

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Williamson

Others at this command: ENS Edward Robertson '35.

January 1938

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Williamson

Others at this command: ENS Edward Robertson '35.

July 1938

Lieutenant (j.g.), under instruction, Submarine Base New London, Connecticut

Others at this command: LT Julian Morrison, Jr. '25, LTjg Verne Skjonsby '34, LTjg Keats Montross '35, LTjg Manning Kimmel '35, LTjg Thomas Sharp '35, ENS August Weinel '36, ENS George Wagner, Jr. '36, and ENS Joseph Patterson '36.

January 1939

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Cachalot

Others at this command: LTjg Thomas Williamson '32.

October 1939

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Cachalot

June 1940

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Cachalot

November 1940

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Cachalot

April 1941

Lieutenant (j.g.), USS Cachalot


Class of 1934

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