WILLIS M. THOMAS, LCDR, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Willis Thomas '31

Date of birth: September 26, 1907

Date of death: September 17, 1943

Age: 35

Lucky Bag

From the 1931 Lucky Bag:


Loss

1931 Thomas 1.jpg

Willis was lost when USS Pompano (SS 181) was sunk, likely on September 17, 1944. He was the boat’s commanding officer.

He has a memory marker in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife was listed as next of kin; he was also survived by at least one child (a daughter).

Career

From Fleet Organization:

  • Duty USS Pompano (SS-181) 1 Jul 1939 - 1 Jul 1940
  • Executive Officer USS Pompano (SS-181) 1 Nov 1940
  • Staff Submarine Squadron Eight Mar 1942
  • Captain USS Pompano (SS-181) 29 Jun 1942 - Sep 1943

He was promoted to Lieutenant on October 1, 1938 and to Lieutenant Commander on June 15, 1942.

Navy Cross

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Navy Cross (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander Willis Manning Thomas (NSN: 0-70166), United States Navy, for extraordinary heroism and distinguished service in the line of his profession as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. POMPANO (SS-181), during the FIRST War Patrol of that vessel in enemy controlled waters near the Japanese home islands during the period 19 July 1942 to 12 September 1942. Despite strong enemy countermeasures and unfavorable sea conditions, Lieutenant Commander Thomas took advantage of every opportunity to strike the enemy and in a series of skillfully conducted attacks succeeded in sinking a destroyer, a 900-ton patrol vessel, and 6,900 tons of merchant shipping without casualty to personnel of his own command. Lieutenant Commander Thomas' conduct throughout was an inspiration to his officers and men, and are in keeping with the highest traditions of the Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 313 (April 1943)
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Commander

Silver Star

From Hall of Valor:

The President of the United States of America takes pride in presenting the Silver Star (Posthumously) to Lieutenant Commander Willis Manning Thomas (NSN: 070166), United States Navy, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action as Commanding Officer of the U.S.S. POMPANO (SS-181) during the SIXTH War patrol of that submarine in heavily patrolled enemy Japanese waters from 6 June to 28 July 1943. By his tenacity, skill, and excellent judgment, Lieutenant Commander Thomas succeeded in closing a strong enemy task force and inflicting severe damage on a SHOKAKU-Class aircraft carrier. His superb seamanship and great courage under fire were an inspiration to his officers and crew and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 313 (April 1943)
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Commander

Bronze Star

He was also awarded the Bronze Star, but unable to find a citation.

Memorial Hall Error?

Willis' memory marker in Arlington National Cemetery lists him as a Commander, as does the Courts of the Missing in Hawaii.


Class of 1931

Willis is one of 51 members of the Class of 1931 in Memorial Hall.