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Home Town Staten Island, NY
Last Address Los Angeles, CA
Casualty Date Nov 08, 1944
Cause Hostile-Body Not Recovered
Reason Other Explosive Device
Location Pacific Ocean
Conflict World War II
Location of Interment Manila American Cemetery and Memorial - Manila, Philippines
Wall/Plot Coordinates (cenotaph)
Last Known Activity
USS Growler's (SS-215) final war patrol began in Freemantle, Australia, 20 October 1944, operating in wolfpack with two other submarines. On 8 November, in concert with Hake and Harder, the order to commence firing was given attacking a convoy. Growler was never heard from again, and the cause of her sinking is unknown. Commander Oakley was listed as Missing in Action and later declared dead 8 November 1945.
Legion of Merit
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 348 (March 1946)
Action Date: December 12, 1943 - January 5, 1944
Company: Commanding Officer
Division: U.S.S. Tarpon (SS-175)
(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.
Awarded for Action During World War II
Division: U.S.S. Growler (SS-215)
Citation: 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.
The fourth and final ship of the Colorado Class Battleship, USS West Virginia (BB-48) was laid down at Newport News Shipbuilding on April 12, 1920. Construction moved forward and on November 19, 1921, it slid down the ways with Alice W. Mann, daughter of West Virginia coal magnate Isaac T. Mann, serving as sponsor. After another two years of work, West Virginia was completed and entered commission on December 1, 1923, with Captain Thomas J. Senn in command.
: Displacement 32,600 Tons, Dimensions, 624' (oa) x 97' 4" x 31' 4" (Max). Armament 8 x 16"/45 14 x 5"/51, 4 x 3"/50AA 2 x 21" tt.Armor, 13 1/2" Belt, 18" Turrets, 3 1/2" + 1 1/2" Decks, 16" Conning Tower. Machinery, 28,900 SHP; Turbines with Electric Drive, 4 screws. Speed, 21 Knots, Crew 1080. Operational and Building Data: Laid down by Newport News Shipbuilding, Newport News, VA, April 12, 1920.
Launched November 19, 1921. Commissioned December 1, 1923. Decommissioned January 9, 1947. Stricken March 1, 1959. Fate: Sold August 2, 1959 and broken up for scrap.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Pearl Harbor:
On the morning of December 7, 1941, West Virginia was moored along Pearl Harbor's Battleship Row, outboard of USS Tennessee (BB-43), when the Japanese attacked and pulled the United States into World War II. In a vulnerable position with its port side exposed, West Virginia sustained seven torpedo hits (six exploded) from Japanese aircraft. Only rapid counter-flooding by the battleship's crew prevented it from capsizing. The damage from the torpedoes was exacerbated by two armor-piercing bomb hits as well as a massive oil fire started following the explosion of USS Arizona(BB-39) which was moored aft. Severely damaged, West Virginia sank upright with little more than its superstructure above the water. In the course of that attack, the battleship's commander, Captain Mervyn S. Bennion, was mortally wounded. He posthumously received the Medal of Honor for his defense of the ship.
USS West Virginia (BB-48) - Rebirth:
In the weeks after the attack, efforts to salvage West Virginia commenced. After patching the massive holes in the hull, the battleship was refloated on May 17, 1942 and later moved to Drydock Number One. As work commenced 66 bodies were found trapped in the hull. Three located in a storeroom appear to have survived until at least December 23.
After extensive repairs to the hull, West Virginia departed for Puget Sound Navy Yard on May 7, 1943. Arriving, it underwent a modernization program that dramatically altered the battleship's appearance. This saw the construction of a new superstructure which included trunking the two funnels into one, a greatly enhanced anti-aircraft armament, and elimination of the old cage masts. In addition, the hull was widened to 114 feet which precluded it from passing through the Panama Canal. When complete, West Virginia looked more similar to the modernized Tennessee-class battleships than those from its own Colorado-class.