(DE-102: dp. 1,240; 1. 306'; b. 36'7'; dr. 8'9"; s. 21 k.; cpl. 216; a. 3 3", 6 40mm., 3 21" tt, 2 dct., 1 dcp. (hh.); cl. Cannon)
Clarence Crase Thomas, born on 26 December 1886 in Grass Valley, Calif., was appointed midshipman on 7 July 1904 and graduated from the United States Naval Academy on 5 June 1908. After service in armored cruiser Maryland and gunboat Yorktown, he was commissioned ensign on 29 June 1910.
In the next few years, Thomas served in Denver, Cleveland, and West Virginia. Appointed lieutenant (jg.) on 26 June 1913, he was detached from West Virginia in the summer of 1914 to attend a post-graduate course in steam engineering at the Naval Academy. He attended Columbia University in late 1915 and, on 24 June 1916, reported on board Florida as her electrical officer.
Thomas was commissioned lieutenant on 8 January 1917 and, about a fortnight after the United States entered World War I, was placed in charge of the naval armed guard on the merchant steamship SS Vacuum in April. On the 28th, when a lookout reported sighting a German submarine, some 120 miles west of the Hebrides Islands, Lt. Thomas went to the ship's after gun. A few moments later, a torpedo from U-21 struck Vacuum, and exploded, throwing Thomas and the gun's crew into the water. The ship sank within two minutes. Picked up by a boat, Thomas soon died of cold and exposure. He was the first United States naval officer to lose his life in the war with Germany and was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross "for distinguished service in the line of his profession as commander of the armed guard crew of the . . . Vacuum."
The second Thomas (DE-102) was laid down on 16 January 1943 at Wilmington, Del., by the Dravo Corp.; launched on 31 July 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Herndon B. Kelly; and commissioned on 21 November 1943, Lt. Comdr. David M. Kellogg in command.
On 7 December 1943, Thomas got underway for Bermuda to conduct her shakedown cruise which ended on 15 January 1944. During the first part of February, she acted as a school ship at Norfolk and then joined Task Group (TG) 21.16, a submarine hunter-killer group, centered around escort carrier Block Island (CVE-21). Thomas remained with the task group until 31 March. During this period, the group sank three German U-boats in the North Atlantic. At 2208 hours on 29 February, Bronstein (DE-189) made radar contact with a vessel from a range of 6,500 yards. She, Thomas, and Bostwick (DE-103) boxed the target; and Bronstein fired flares which revealed a surfaced submarine. When Bronstein opened fire with her deck guns, the U-boat submerged. The escorts tracked and depth charged the submarine until 0324 when a pattern of depth charges from Thomas produced a huge secondary explosion that marked the end of [7-709. Meanwhile, Bronstein had made a second contact and had sunk U-603 with a pattern of depth charges. The third kill came on St. Patrick's Day when Bronstein and Carry (DD-463) aided aircraft from Block Island in sinking U-801.
On 13 April, Thomas departed Norfolk, steamed to North Africa with convoy UGS 39, and returned with convoy GUS 39 on the 29th. On 10 June, she was assigned to a hunter-killer group (TG 22.10) whose nucleus was Card (CVE-11). The ships hunted German submarines along the southern Great Circle Route. At sunset on 5 July, they were approximately 100 miles south of Sable Island when Baker (DE-190) developed a contact. Two depth-charge patterns brought the U-boat to the surface. Thomas set a collision course and bore down on the submarine with all guns firing. She sliced through U-233's pressure hull about 20 feet aft of the submarine's conning tower. The U-boat sank stern first in less than a minute. Thomas rescued 20 survivors, including the captain. Two days later, she was detached from the task group to return to the Boston Navy Yard for repairs.
Thomas left the yard on 18 July and provided training services for new submarines until the end of August. On 18 September, she rejoined the Card group and patrolled in the North Atlantic until 3 November when the ships of the group returned to east coast ports for repairs. On 30 November, the reassembled task group headed back to its asigned area but contacted no enemy submarines during the patrol.
On 29 December, Thomas was ordered to return to New York. She sortied again with her hunter-killer group on 16 January 1945, On 14 March, she returned to New York for repairs and rejoined Card, off the Florida coast, 10 days later. Thomas acted as a plane guard during carrier qualifications for a month and then rendezvoused with convoy KN 32 at Key West to escort it to New York.
On the night of 29 April, the convoy was east of Cape Henry when Natchez (PF-2) made sonar contact and sighted the snorkel of a German submarine. The frigate attempted to ram the U-boat, but her quarry went deep. When the ship radioed for help, Thomas, Bostwick, and Coffman (DE-191) went to her assistance. Coffman made three attacks; Thomas unleashed a creeping barrage; and Bostwick moved in, firing a pattern of depth charges. The American sailors heard deep sea explosions about eight minutes later. Natchez returned to the attack at 0207, and a pattern of her charges produced a large oil slick. Forty-five minutes later, Thomas' sound crew heard a huge underwater explosion. All contact with the submarine was lost, for German submarine U-548 had been destroyed.
A little more than a week later, Germany surrendered, ending fighting in the Atlantic. Thomas conducted exercises in Long Island and Block Island Sounds in May and June. The destroyer escort joined Mission Bay (CVE-59) for plane-guard duty in July and August and performed the same duties for Croatan (CVE-25) during September and October. On 27 October, the destroyer escort entered New York harbor to participate in the Navy Day celebration. In November, Thomas escorted the captured German submarine U-530 to various ports in Texas.
Thomas was decommissioned at Green Cove Springs, Fla., in March 1946. On 29 October 1948, the destroyer escort was transferred to Taiwan and renamed T'Ai Ho. Thomas was struck from the Navy list on 22 December 1948.
Thomas received four battle stars for World War II service.