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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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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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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Central Pacific Campaign (1941-43)/Battle of Midway
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The Battle of Midway in the Pacific Theater of Operations was one of the most important naval battles of World War II. Between 4 and 7 June 1942, only six months after Japan's attack on Pearl Harbor, and one month after the Battle of the Coral Sea, the United States Navy (USN), under Admirals Chester W. Nimitz, Frank Jack Fletcher, and Raymond A. Spruance decisively defeated an attack by the Imperial Japanese Navy (IJN), under Admirals Isoroku Yamamoto, Chuichi Nagumo, and Nobutake Kondo on Midway Atoll, inflicting irreparable damage on the Japanese fleet. Military historian John Keegan called it "the most stunning and decisive blow in the history of naval warfare." It was Japan's first naval defeat since the Battle of Shimonoseki Straits in 1863.

The Japanese operation, like the earlier attack on Pearl Harbor, sought to eliminate the United States as a strategic power in the Pacific, thereby giving Japan a free hand in establishing its Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere. The Japanese hoped that another demoralizing defeat would force the U.S. to capitulate in the Pacific War and thus ensure Japanese dominance in the Pacific.

The Japanese plan was to lure the United States' aircraft carriers into a trap. The Japanese also intended to occupy Midway as part of an overall plan to extend their defensive perimeter in response to the Doolittle air raid on Tokyo. This operation was also considered preparatory for further attacks against Fiji, Samoa, and Hawaii itself.

The plan was handicapped by faulty Japanese assumptions of the American reaction and poor initial dispositions.Most significantly, American codebreakers were able to determine the date and location of the attack, enabling the forewarned U.S. Navy to set up an ambush of its own. Four Japanese aircraft carriers—Akagi, Kaga, Soryu and Hiryu, all part of the six-carrier force that had attacked Pearl Harbor six months earlier—and a heavy cruiser were sunk at a cost of one American aircraft carrier and a destroyer. After Midway and the exhausting attrition of the Solomon Islands campaign, Japan's shipbuilding and pilot training programs were unable to keep pace in replacing their losses, while the U.S. steadily increased its output in both areas.
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  311 Also There at This Battle:
  • Banzuelo, Antonio, MCPO, (1930-1960)
  • Besson, John Henry, RADM, (1931-1959)
  • Betty, Charles, PO2, (1941-1945)
  • Delchamps, Newton, MCPO, (1941-1965)
  • Earnest, Albert, CAPT, (1941-1972)
  • Feeney, John Martin, RDML, (1942-1962)
  • Ferrier, Harry, CDR, (1941-1970)
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