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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USS Pompano (SS-181)
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USS Pompano (SS-181), a United States Porpoise-class submarine, was the second ship of the United States Navy to be named for the pompano.
Her keel was laid down on 14 January 1936 by the Mare Island Navy Yard in California. She was launched on 11 March 1937, sponsored by Mrs. Isaac I. Yates, and commissioned on 12 June 1937, Lieutenant Commander Lewis S. Parks in command.

Although the fate of the Pompano has been unknown for years, new evidence from Japan suggests it may have been hit by depth charges from members of the Japanese Navy following an oil slick on top of the water — which they took as an indication there was a submarine below. A possibility is that she was sunk on September 17, 1943, by a bomb and depth-charge attack in the Shiriyasaki Sea, off Aomori Prefecture, at northeast Honshu Island, by a Japanese seaplane and surface vessels. The seaplane spotted and attacked a surfaced submarine, which returned gunfire. Oil rose to the surface after the attack. Consecutive depth-charge attacks were then made by five surface vessels on the submerged submarine, which was stopped and possibly sunk. A Tabular Record of Movement for one of the Japanese surface vessels indicates the submarine was possibly the Pompano. 


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