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 

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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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 Unit Assignments
VMF-213MCAS Miramar, CA
  1943-1944, 7598, VMF-213
  1944-1944, 7598, IMA Detachment (MCAS Miramar)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1941-1945 World War II1
  1943-1943 Northern Solomon Islands Campaign (1943-44)/New Georgia Group Operation
  1943-1943 Northern Solomon Islands Campaign (1943-44)/Russel Islands Landings
  1944-1944 Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Northern Solomon Islands Campaign (1943-44)1
  1945-1945 Asiatic-Pacific Theater/Luzon Campaign (1944-45)
  1945-1945 Ryukyus Campaign (1945)/Battle for Okinawa
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