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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Leland E. Thomas

 

Leland Evan Thomas, was born 20 September 1918 in Ontario, Oreg. He enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve 10 September 1941, was appointed air cadet 15 October 1941 and commissioned 2d lieutenant 17 April 1942. While serving in the southwest Pacific Lieutenant Thomas contributed to the sinking of a Japanese cruiser and a destroyer and was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross “for heroism and extraordinary achievement as a pilot....His indomitable fighting spirit was in keeping with the highest traditions of the U.S. Naval Service.” Lieutenant Thomas was killed in action at Guadalcanal, Solomon Islands, 18 September 1942 while launching an aggressive attack on enemy warships.

 

(DE-420: dp. 1,350; l. 306'; b. 36'8"; dr. 13'4"; s. 24 k.; cpl. 186; a. 2 5", 2 dct., 8 dcp., 3 21" tt.; cl. John C. Butler)

 

Leland E. Thomas (DE-420) was laid down 21 January 1944 by Brown Shipbuilding Co., Houston, Tex.; launched 28 February 1944; sponsored by Mrs. Benjamin E. Thomas, mother of Lieutenant Thomas; and commissioned 19 June 1944, Lt. Comdr. Leslie E. Rosenberg in command.

 

Following fitting out and tests at Galveston, Tex., and shakedown off Bermuda, Leland E. Thomas got underway for Massachusetts 11 August, arriving Boston the 13th. After completing availability at the Boston Navy Yard, the destroyer escort headed for Norfolk, Va., arriving 25 August. Two days later she began hunter-killer operations along the east coast until she headed for Maine 5 September, arriving at Casco Bay the 6th. She operated along the Atlantic coast until she sailed for Italy 20 September, escorting a convoy into Naples 4 October.

 

The DE sailed for the United States 10 October, escortIng a convoy to New York 23 October. She got underway 10 November escorting store ship Polaris (AF-11)to the Canal Zone, arriving Cristobal 16 November.

 

Leland E. Thomas, with other ships of Escort Division 76, proceeded to the southwest Pacific 17 November, arriving at Manus 20 December. From 1 January to 19 February 1945, she escorted convoys between Leyte Gulf, Manus, and Hollandia. The DE was busy defending Mangarin Bay, Mindoro, and patrolling lanes in the Sulu Sea, Mindoro Strait, and western approaches to Luzon until 17 March. On 4 March, while she was investigating a possible submarine sighting south of San Jose de Buenavista, Panay, her lookouts spotted enemy planes on a nearby airstrip. Immediately the ship requested fighter-bombers which soon effectively bombed the airstrip. From 18 March to 28 April, she escorted ships and convoys within the Philippine sea frontier.

 

From 29 April to 9 June 1945, she protected Polloc Harbor, Mindanao, and operated with the Davao Gulf 3d Resupply Echelon and the Davao Gulf Attack Unit. Leland E. Thomas bombarded Falisay Point area, north of Cape San Augustan, Davao Gulf 19 May and on 1 June with destroyer Flusser (DD-368) shelled Luayan Point. The same task unit participated in the landing on Balut Island, Sarangani Group. The DE headed for Borneo escorting Chepachet (AO-78) to a fueling rendezvous with the task group which bombarded Balikpapan, Borneo. Later she patrolled the outer anchorage area in Ballkpapan during the initial landings. On 20 July she set course for Subic Bay, arriving 28 July. Leland E. Thomas was busy escorting convoys between Subic Bay and Okinawa when the war ended 15 August, and continued on this duty, touching at Manila and other Philippine Island ports until 28 November. She got underway from Samar, Philippine Islands for home via Eniwetok and Pearl Harbor, arriving San Pedro, Calif., 17 December 1945. She decommissioned 3 May 1946 and entered the Pacific Reserve Fleet Group at San Diego, where she remains.

 

Leland E. Thomas received one battle star for World War II service.