Thomas, Wilbur, Capt

Deceased
 
 Service Photo 
 Service Details
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Last Rank
Captain
Last Primary MOS
7598-Basic Fixed-Wing Pilot
Last MOSGroup
Pilots/Naval Flight Officers
Primary Unit
1944-1944, 7598, IMA Detachment (MCAS Miramar)
Service Years
- 1947
Official/Unofficial USMC Certificates
Golden Dragon Certificate
Shellback Certificate
Tailhook Certificate

Captain

 
 

 Last Photo 
 Personal Details 

5 kb

Home State
Kansas
Kansas
Year of Birth
1920
 
This Military Service Page was created/owned by SSgt Michael Frederick (Fred) to remember Marine Capt Wilbur Thomas.

If you knew or served with this Marine and have additional information or photos to support this Page, please leave a message for the Page Administrator(s) HERE.
 
Contact Info
Home Town
El Dorado
Last Address
El Dorado

Date of Passing
Jan 28, 1947
 
Location of Interment
Forest Lawn Cemetery - Glendale, California
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Not Specified

 Official Badges 


 Unofficial Badges 

Shellback




 Additional Information
Last Known Activity
Died in post-war flying mishap in 1947.
   
Other Comments:
Credited with downing 18.5 Japanese aircraft while flying F4U Corsairs with VMF-213.

One of the most successful but least known Marine Corsair aces was First Lieutenant Wilbur J. Thomas, whom Barrett Tillman called "one of the deadliest fighter pilots the Corps ever produced." He scored 18.5 kills while flying with VMF-213. Thomas' combat career is remarkable because he scored most of his kills in a one-month period during the hotly contested landings on Rendova and Vangunu islands in mid-1944.

After staying in the rear area of the New Hebrides, Thomas was finally transferred to the combat zone. He flew his first missions in June and July 1943. His mission on 30 June was a CAP mission over amphibious landings at Wickham Anchorage on the southern tip of New Georgia.

Fifteen Zeros pounced Thomas's fighters. After he had become separated from his group, seven Zeros had attacked the lone F4U, but, undeterred by the odds, Thomas turned into the Japanese, eventually shooting down four of them. He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for this mission. Three weeks later, on 17 July, Thomas and his wingman attacked a group of Japanese bombers and their Zero escort, and shot down one of the bombers.

Thomas was on the receiving end of enemy fire on 23 September. After shooting down three Zeros, and splitting a fourth with his wingman, the young ace found he had taken hits in the oil lines. His engine seized and he glided toward the water, eventually bailing out at 3,000 feet. He scrambled into his rubber raft and waited for rescue. He paddled for five hours to keep from drifting to enemy positions. After 10 hours, a Consolidated Catalina flying boat (PBY) set down beside him and brought him home.

By the time VMF-213 left for the States in December, Wilbur Thomas had scored 16.5 kills in five dogfights. He returned for another combat tour, this time on board the carrier Essex (CV 9) headed for the South China Sea and Japanese bases in Southeast Asia. He added two more kills to his previous score when he took out two Zeros near Tokyo during Essex's first strike against the Japanese Home Islands on the afternoon of 16 February 1945.

Again, as did several of the young aces who managed to survive the war, then-Captain Thomas died in a postwar flying mishap in 1947.
   
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Ryukyus Campaign (1945)/Battle for Okinawa
Start Year
1945
End Year
1945

Description
The Battle of Okinawa, codenamed Operation Iceberg. was fought on the Ryukyu Islands of Okinawa and was the largest amphibious assault in the Pacific War of World War II. The 82-day-long battle lasted from early April until mid-June 1945. After a long campaign of island hopping, the Allies were approaching Japan, and planned to use Okinawa, a large island only 340 mi (550 km) away from mainland Japan, as a base for air operations on the planned invasion of Japanese mainland (coded Operation Downfall). Four divisions of the U.S. 10th Army (the 7th, 27th, 77th, and 96th) and two Marine Divisions (the 1st and 6th) fought on the island. Their invasion was supported by naval, amphibious, and tactical air forces.

The battle has been referred to as the "typhoon of steel" in English, and tetsu no ame ("rain of steel") or ("violent wind of steel") in Japanese. The nicknames refer to the ferocity of the fighting, the intensity of kamikaze attacks from the Japanese defenders, and to the sheer numbers of Allied ships and armored vehicles that assaulted the island. The battle resulted in the highest number of casualties in the Pacific Theater during World War II. Based on Okinawan government sources, mainland Japan lost 77,166 soldiers, who were either killed or committed suicide, and the Allies suffered 14,009 deaths (with an estimated total of more than 65,000 casualties of all kinds). Simultaneously, 42,000–150,000 local civilians were killed or committed suicide, a significant proportion of the local population. The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki together with the Soviet invasion of Manchuria caused Japan to surrender less than two months after the end of the fighting on Okinawa.
   
My Participation in This Battle or Operation
From Year
1945
To Year
1945
 
Last Updated:
Mar 22, 2017
   
Personal Memories
   
Units Participated in Operation

7th Marine Regiment

4th Marine Regiment

3rd Bn, 8th Marine Regiment (3/8)

1st Marine Regiment

1st Marine Regiment/2nd Bn, 1st Marine Regiment (2/1)

1st Marine Regiment/1st Bn, 1st Marine Regiment (1/1)

2nd Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (2/6)

6th Engineer Support Bn

6th Marine Division

VMF-314

3rd Bn, 6th Marine Regiment (3/6)

5th Marine Regiment

1st Bn, 29th Marine Regiment (1/29)

10th Marine Regiment

3rd Bn, 22nd Marine Regiment (3/22)

2nd Bn, 22nd Marine Regiment (2/22)

1st Bn, 22nd Marine Regiment (1/22)

4th Marine Regiment/2nd Bn, 4th Marine Regiment (2/4)

4th Marine Regiment/3rd Bn, 4th Marine Regiment (3/4)

VMA-542

1st Combat Engineer Bn

3rd Bn, 7th Marine Regiment (3/7)

2nd Bn, 7th Marine Regiment (2/7)

VMF-422

3rd Bn, 2nd Marine Regiment (3/2)

1st Bn, 11th Marine Regiment (1/11)

MAG-14

1st Bn, 2nd Marine Regiment (1/2)

2nd Separate Engineer Bn

 
My Photos From This Battle or Operation
No Available Photos

  953 Also There at This Battle:
  • Aiken, Luther L, Cpl, (1943-1946)
  • Akins, Robert R, Cpl, (1943-1946)
  • Albanese, John, Sgt, (1943-1951)
  • Amato, Michael R, Cpl, (1942-1946)
  • Amo, Raymond, PFC, (1942-1945)
  • Apache, Jimmie, PFC, (1944-1946)
  • Arndt, Augustus Little, Capt, (1942-1945)
  • Arnold, James, PFC, (1943-1946)
  • Ash, David Dale, TSgt (Grade 2), (1943-1957)
  • Austin, Arthur James, 1stLt, (1944-1945)
  • Backalukas, George John, Cpl, (1943-1945)
  • Bailey, Herman P, PFC, (1942-1946)
  • Baker, Raymond Douglas, 2ndLt, (1944-1945)
  • Baker, William Orval, 1stLt, (1943-1945)
  • Barcry, William George, PFC, (1943-1945)
  • Barnes, Nathanael
  • Baulch, Clyde F, Cpl, (1942-1946)
  • Beaudry, Joseph James, SSgt, (1942-1945)
  • Begay, Notah, PFC, (1943-1945)
  • Begaye, Fleming David, Pvt, (1943-1945)
  • Benad, Harvey L, PFC, (1942-1945)
  • Berkeley, Robert, Sgt, (1942-1946)
  • Bernath, Francis Joseph, PFC, (1942-1945)
  • Biben, Andrew Charles, TSgt (Grade 2), (1942-1945)
  • Birney, Malcolm MacDonald, 1stLt, (1943-1945)
  • Bitsie, Peter John, Pvt, (1944-1946)
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