Thaddeus Johnson Van Metre was born on 3 May 1907, in Anderson Indiana, the son of Thaddeus S. and Sarah Johnson Van Metre (now Mrs. Copeland). He was graduated from Anderson High School in 1925, and attended George Washington University in Washington, DC, for a year before entering the US Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, on 7 July 1926. He was graduated and commissioned Ensign in the US Navy on 5 June 1930, and subsequently advanced in rank to that of Captain, to date from 1 July 1949.
After graduation from the Naval Academy in June 1930, he joined USS Detroit (CL-8), in which he served as junior officer in the gunnery department until January 1931. From January 1931 until July 1937, he remained at sea, serving first in USS Pennsylvania (BB-38), assigned to the gunnery department, and from May 1933 as Engineering Officer of USS Herbert (DD-160). He next had duty on the Staff of the Commandant, Fourth Naval District, Headquarters at Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. There he was an instructor in the Naval Reserve Program and also served as Merchant Marine Naval Reserve Enrollment Officer.
In December 1938 he reported to the Commander in Chief, US Asiatic Fleet, for duty on board USS Tulsa (PG-22) as First Lieutenant and Damage Control Officer. In January 1941 he was transferred to USS North Carolina (BB-55) in which he served as Main Propulsion and Electrical Officer, Assistant Gunnery Officer, Communications Officer and Navigator during the early period of World War II. As such he participated in the Guadalcanal-Tulagi landings (including First Savo); capture and defense of Guadalcanal; Eastern Solomon operation (Stewart Island); Gilbert Islands operation; Marshall Islands operation; attacks on Truk and Marianas; Palau, Yap, Ulithi and Woleai raids; Hollandia operation; raids on Truk, Satawan and Ponape; capture and occupation of Saipan; and Battle of the Philippine Sea.
“For meritorious achievement as Navigator of the USS NORTH CAROLINA during operations against enemy Japanese forces in the Pacific War Area from 27 May 1943, to 3 October 1944…” he was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”. The citation further states:
“Skillfully navigating his ship, Commander Van Metre rendered valuable assistance to his commanding officer in action against repeated day and night attacks by enemy aircraft and, during the bombardment of Roi Island on the night of 29-30 January 1944, contributed materially to infliction of damage on the enemy and to the success of our in denying the use of the airfield to Japanese planes…”
He assumed command of USS Hilary P. Jones (DD-427) in October 1944. That destroyer, under his command, toured the Mediterranean, making two trip convoys between the United States and the Mediterranean before transferring to the Pacific Area for convoy work between Ulithi, Okinawa, the Philippines and Japan. The Hilary P. Jones participated in the original landings in Tokyo Bay and Northern Japan, and acted as flagship for Commander, Task Force 34 at Yokohama for about a month after the surrender of Japan. On his return to the United States, while still in command of Hilary P. Jones, he assumed command of Destroyer Division 13 and Destroyer Squadron 7, preparatory to placing that squadron out of commission. During the period 15 December 1945 until 1 December 1947, he served in the temporary rank of Captain, and on 1 July 1949, again attained that rank (permanent).
His postwar duties included service at the Naval Proving Ground, Dahlgren, Virginia, as Administrative Officer, from February 1946 until January 1949; and as Commanding Officer of USS Kennebec (AO-36) from that time until June 1950. He next had a tour of duty in the Bureau of Naval Personnel, Navy Department, Washington, DC as Director, Enlisted Services and Records Division; and from July 1952 until June 1953 he was a student at the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (course in Economic Mobilization).
For six months he served as Chief of the Navy Section, Military Assistance Advisory Group, Lisbon, Portugal, and in January 1954 he returned to the Navy Department to serve as Head, Current Plans Branch Logistics Plans Division of the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. On 15 July 1956, he assumed command of Service Squadron TWO, and on 6 June 1957, was ordered detached for duty as Commanding Officer of the Naval Station, Naval Base, Norfolk, Virginia.
In addition to the Bronze Star Medal with Combat “V”, Captain Van Metre had the China Service Medal; American Defense Service Medal, with one silver and two bronze stars (seven operations); European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal (Asia Clasp) and National Defense Service Medal.
Captain Van Metre’s brother, Rear Admiral Merle Van Metre, USN, was a graduate of the Naval Academy, Class of 1925.