Naval History and Heritage Command

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Harold C. Thomas (DE-21)

(DE-21: dp. 1,140 t.; l. 289'5" ; b. 35'1" ; dr. 8'3" ; s. 21 k.; cpl. 156; a. 3 3", 4 1" ; 9 20mm., 2 dct, 8 dcp., 1 dcp. (h.h.) ; cl. Evarts)

Harold Chester Tomas was born in Gleo, Okla., 7 May 1907 and enlisted in the Navy 28 January 1927. He was appointed Carpenter 8 February 1933 and served in various ships and at Cavite before being commissioned Chief Carpenter 24 March 1939. Thomas reported to Boise 14 May 1940 and was appointed Lieutenant (junior grade) 1 September 1942. During the Battle of Cape Esperance, 11-12 October 1942, Boise with three other cruisers and destroyers under Rear Admiral Norman Scott, exchanged salvos with enemy cruisers, and was badly hit by gunfire. Lt. (j.g.) Thomas lost his life while valiantly working with damage control parties to keep his ship in the battle, and was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously.

Harold C. Thomas (DE-21) was launched 18 December 1942 by the Mare Island Navy Yard as Essington (BDE-21) for the Brtish; later designed for Navy use; and commissioned 31 May 1943, Comdr. H. Reich in command.

After three voyages escorting merchantmen from San Francisco to Pearl Harbor, Harold C. Thomas served with ComSubTraPac 2-20 November 1943. Sailing from Pearl Harbor 20 November with a convoy of merchantmen and cargo ships, she reached Abemama, Gilbert Islands, 28 November, a week after Vice Admiral R. A. Spruance began the occupation of those islands. Harold C. Thomas spent the rest of the year in the Gilberts on patrol and escort duty.

After undergoing availability early in 1944, Harold C. Thomas sailed as flagship for Escort Division 10, 29 February. Reaching Eniwetok, Marshall Islands, 11 March, she did escort work until 30 March when she became part of a hunter-killer carrier group on antisubmarine patrol east of the Marshalls. Returning to Pearl Harbor 6 May, the destroyer spent the remainder of the year in the vital but unsung work of shepherding merchantmen, cargo ships, and transports through the back staging area up to their assembly points for invasion forces. This duty took Harold C. Thomas to the Marshall, Admiralty, Palau, and Marianas Islands. She also performed some submarine training work at Pearl Harbor. On 21 November Harold C. Thomas rescued seven men from a PBM which had crashed at sea off Majuro Atoll.

Departing Pearl Harbor 21 January 1945, she reached San Francisco 6 days later and proceeded to San Diego for badly needed repairs. Harold C. Thomas returned to Pearl Harbor 5 April and spent the rest of the war in submarine training and escort duty. The long Pacific war ended 1 September with the signing of the armistice on board Missouri in Tokyo Bay, and Harold C. Thomas sailed for the States 20 days later, putting into San Pedro 27 September where she decommissioned 26 October 1945. She was sold to the Pacific Bridge Co., San Francisco, 25 November 1946 and scrapped 26 March 1947.

Harold C. Thomas received two battle stars for World War II service.

Published: Tue Jul 14 15:07:23 EDT 2015