Thomas, Willis Manning, CDR

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Last Rank
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1942-1943, 112X, USS Pompano (SS-181)
Service Years
1927 - 1943

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Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Michael D. Withers (Mike), OSCS to remember Thomas, Willis Manning, CDR.

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Casualty Info
Home Town
Richmond, CA
Last Address
Fresno, CS

Casualty Date
Sep 17, 1943
Hostile-Body Not Recovered
Other Explosive Device
Pacific Ocean
World War II
Location of Interment
Arlington National Cemetery - Arlington, Virginia
Wall/Plot Coordinates
MH-26 (memorial marker)

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 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

The USS Pompano was due to leave her patrol area at sunset on 27 September 1943 and return to Pearl Harbor through Midway. She was expected to arrive at Midway for fuel and provisions on 5 October 1943 but she never arrived. The official version is that she was lost while patrolling off the coasts of Hokkaido and Honshu. Probably lost to Japanese mines. The date usually given (27 September) is an approximate one.

However Japanese records show that a submarine was sunk on 17 September by air attack off the AomoriPrefecture near Shiriya Zaki. Though we cannot be certain the boat was actually sunk here, it must be taken into consideration since it can only have been directed against Pompano as this is within her patrol area and as there were no other submarines operating in that area. They say a seaplane based on Ominato attacked a surfaced sub which returned fire (this is critical since it leaves little doubt about what the plane attacked) then dived. The Japanese minelayer Ashizaki dropped depth charges the following day on a spot where oil was surfacing, bringing up more oil.

USS Pompano (SS 181) was lost with 77 officers and men.

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


Navy Cross
Awarded for Actions During World War II
Service: Navy
Division: U.S.S. Pompano (SS-181)
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 313 (April 1943)
Citation: 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.

Silver Star
General Orders: Bureau of Naval Personnel Information Bulletin No. 313 (April 1943)
Service: Navy
Rank: Lieutenant Commander
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.
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  1933-1935, USS West Virginia (BB-48)


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 USS West Virginia (BB-48) Details

USS West Virginia (BB-48)
Original photo pre-Pearl Harbor

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.

Rebuilt view 1944.


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Last Updated: Dec 27, 2018
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19 Members Also There at Same Time
USS West Virginia (BB-48)

Rentz, George Snavely, CDR, (1917-1942) OFF 410X Commander
Adams, Samuel, LT, (1935-1942) OFF 110X Ensign
Geist, John Willard, CAPT, (1934-1961) OFF Ensign
Merrill, Grayson, CAPT, (1929-1957) OFF 000X Ensign
Oakley, Thomas Benjamin, CDR, (1930-1944) OFF Ensign
Craven, Thomas Tingey, VADM, (1896-1946) Vice Admiral
Anderson, Walter Stratton, VADM, (1903-1946) Captain
Stark, Harold Rainsford, ADM, (1905-1946) Captain
Sherman, Frederick Carl, ADM, (1910-1947) Commander
Thomas, William Nathaniel, RADM, (1918-1949) OFF 410X Commander
Rosendahl, Charles Emery, VADM, (1914-1946) Lieutenant Commander
Beaumont, Arthur Edwin, CDR, (1933-1945) Lieutenant
Bell, Frederick, RDML, (1924-1948) Lieutenant
OLD, Francis, VADM, (1917-1954) Lieutenant
Munson, Henry Glass, CAPT, (1927-1961) Ensign
Pierce, Edward, CPO, (1922-1951) MM MM-0000 Petty Officer First Class
Ferguson, Robert, CPO, (1932-1945) EM Seaman 1st Class
Cooksey, Lee Dale, PO1, (1933-1942) MM MM-0000 Fireman
Oldendorf, Jesse Bartlett, ADM, (1909-1948) Commander

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