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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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John W. Thomason

 

John William Thomason, Jr., was born 28 February 1893 in Huntsville, Tex. He studied art and was a writer in the editorial department of the Houston Chronicle at the beginning of World War I. Appointed Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps in April 1917, he sailed to France with the AEF in 1918. When a German machine gun nest held up a Marine advance at Soissons 18 July 1918, Thomason and one of his men fearlessly advanced on the position and killed 13 of the enemy. For his heroism he received the Navy Cross and the Silver Star. He likewise became noted for his stirring self-illustrated accounts of marines in battle. Following the First World War he served at many posts of the Corps ashore and afloat and in 1941 made an extensive air survey of South and Central America, for which he received the Air Medal. He served briefly on the staff of Admiral Nimitz in the Pacific and as an instructor in amphibious technique. Promoted to Colonel 30 May 1942, he died at San Diego Naval Hospital 12 March 1944. During his entire career, John William Thomason, Jr., continued to be active as a writer and illustrator, publishing numerous books about marines and on western subjects.

 

(DD-760: dp. 2,200; l. 376'5"; b. 41'; dr. 15'8"; s. 34 k.; cpl. 336; a. 0 5", 16 40mm., 20 20 mm., 2 dct, 6 dcp.. 5 21" tt.; cl. Allen M. Sumner)

 

John W. Thomason (DD-760) was launched by Bethlehem Steel Co., San Francisco, Calif., 30 September 1944; sponsored by Mrs. John W. Thomason, widow of Colonel Thomason; and commissioned 11 October 1945, Comdr. W. L. Tagg in command.

 

The new destroyer conducted shakedown training out of San Diego, followed by a series of Naval Reserve training cruises from Seattle and San Francisco. From November 1947 to December 1948 the ship carried out training maneuvers. She sailed 5 December 1948 for her first deployment to the Far East, arriving Tsingtao 1 January 1949 for operations supporting the marines ashore in China. Departing 24 May 1949, John W. Thompson returned via Okinawa to San Diego 23 June 1949 and spent the remainder of the year training.

 

The ship returned to the Far East in early 1950, arriving Yokosuka 29 January. During this critical post-war period, she operated with British ships on training maneuvers off the coast of Indochina and Korea, returning to San Diego 25 April 1950. Two months later, North Korean aggression plunged the United States and the United Nations into the Korean conflict. John W. Thomason sailed 30 September to join the 7th Fleet, operating in the screen of carrier task groups pounding Communist positions and supply lines. She arrived Wonsan 9 November to patrol and bombard during the campaign against that port. Antisubmarine exercises took her to Pearl Harbor January-March 1951, but John W. Thomason arrived off Korea again 26 March to operate with Boxer (CV-21) and Princeton (CV-37) during air strikes. Two weeks in April were spent on the important Formosa Patrol, after which she returned to the carrier task force. With battleship New Jersey and another destroyer, she moved close in 24 May 1951 for gun bombardment of Yang Yang. The veteran ship returned to San Diego from this deployment 2 July 1951.

 

John W. Thomason sailed again for Korea 4 January 1952 and resumed operations with Task Force 77 off the coast of North Korea. She fired at railway targets 21 February in the Songjin area. During this period of stalemate on land, Navy strikes made up the bulk of offensive operations. The destroyer returned to Formosa Patrol duty in April. Back at Songjin and Wonsan 26 April, the ship screened larger units, took part in shore bombardment, and patrolled offshore. She was relieved by a British destroyer 21 June and returned to San Diego 11 July 1952.

 

The destroyer operated off the California coast for the remainder of 1952, then sailed once more for Korea 21 February 1953. Formosa Patrol duty alternated with carrier task force operations off North Korea. John W. Thomason arrived Wonsan harbor 2 July; while firing at shore targets five days later, she received numerous shrapnel hits in a duel with enemy batteries. Maneuvering in the restricted waters, Commander Ratliff skillfully returned the fire until three batteries had been silenced. She continued to operate off Wonsan until the armistice 27 July, and after a brief stay in Japan arrived San Diego 22 September 1953.

 

In 1954, 1955, and 1956 John W. Thomason returned to the now-familiar waters off Korea and in the explosive Formosa Strait, serving with 7th Fleet to keep the peace and protect American interest in the strategic area. The first half of 1957 was spent in readiness exercises off San Diego. John W. Thomason then sailed 29 July for a cruise which took her to Pago Pago, Aukland, and Manus. Upon arrival Yokosuka 7 September 1957 she resumed operations in the Formosa Straits and antisubmarine exercises with 7th Fleet ships. The ship returned to San Diego 8 January 1958, and conducted maneuvers off California and Hawaii.

 

In March 1959, John W. Thomason entered Long Beach Naval Shipyard as prototype ship for the new FRAM (Fleet Rehabilitation And Modernization) program. During this extensive repair and modernization period she received a helicopter deck and hanger aft, variable depth sonar, the latest electronic equipment, and many improvements in living and working spaces. The conversion was followed by extensive trials and local training operations. As new flagship of Destroyer Division 72, she sailed 8 March 1961 for 7th Fleet duty. She sailed to the coast of Laos 27 April to help stabilize that volatile Southwest Asian country, patrolling for 21 days in a graphic demonstration of America's determination to prevent a Communist take-over. After further operation John W. Thomason sailed to San Diego, arriving 18 September 1961.

 

Extensive conversion and installation of new sonar equipment at Long Beach occupied the ship until July 1962. In December she took part in a massive antiaircraft exercise with units of the 1st Fleet off California. She sailed again for the Far East, a part of the ready-hunter-killer group. En route, however, she took part in recovery operations for Major Cooper's Mercury Space shot as part of a task unit built around veteran carrier Kearsarge. During the cruise which followed, the ship perfected her antisubmarine warfare tactics and became familiar with her new equipment in operations with 7th Fleet and the Japanese Maritime Self-Defense Force. John W. Thomason returned to San Diego 3 December 1963.

 

Most of 1964 was spent in ASW exercises in the Eastern Pacific. On 23 October, she sailed with Destroyer Division 213 for redeployment exercises in Hawaii. Exactly a month later, with four other destroyers, she got under way for the western Pacific screening Yorktown (CVS-10), arrived Yokosuka, Japan, 4 December and joined the 7th Fleet in its unrelenting effort to preserve freedom in the Far West. In the spring she earned her first battle star for operating in the troubled waters off the coast of Indochina from 21 March to 28 April 1965.

 

After returning to the West Coast, she departed San Diego for the Far East 22 March 1966 and reached Danang 19 April and the same day took station a few miles south of Chu Lai. At the end of April she supported Operation "Osage," and landed north of Danang. On 13 May she sailed for Sasebo and upkeep. Back in the war zone 6 June, she provided gunfire support and supported Operation "Deckhouse I" from 17 to 23 June. That day she retired toward Hong Kong. The destroyer returned to gunfire support duties off South Vietnam 16 August. From the 18th to the 23d she supported the amphibious Ready Group and Special Landing Force in Operation "Deckhouse III." After visiting Guam and Japan, John W. Thomason headed home 9 September, reached San Diego on the 24th and operated off the West Coast until the end of the year and into 1967 preparing for further action in the defense of freedom.

 

John W. Thomason received seven battle stars for Korean service and three for Vietnam service.