Leland E. Thomas

NAME
Leland Evan Thomas
NICKNAME
MCSN
O-9964
HOME OF RECORD
Fruitland, ID
NEXT OF KIN
Mother, Mrs. B. E. Thomas
DATE OF BIRTH
September 20, 1918
DATE OF ENLISTMENT
September 10, 1941
DATE OF LOSS
September 18, 1942
REGION
Solomons
CAMPAIGN / AREA
Guadalcanal
CASUALTY TYPE
Accidental Death
Friendly Fire Incident
UNIT
VMSB-232
DUTY
Pilot
CIRCUMSTANCES OF LOSS
On 18 September 1942, Second Lieutenant Thomas was assigned to fly the regular morning anti-sub patrol out of Guadalcanal’s Henderson Field. The flight was uneventful, and at around 1100 hours Thomas began to head back to base. His route took him over a small convoy of American transports unloading reinforcements near Lunga.

In the low overcast conditions, Thomas’ bomber (SBD-3 #03347) was mistaken for an enemy marauder. Gunners on the transports opened fire, smoking Thomas’ engine. He attempted a water landing, but became trapped in his cockpit when the plane hit the water.

The gunner, PFC Edward Lee Eades, managed to escape, but was unable to free Lieutenant Thomas before the plane sank.

INDIVIDUAL DECORATIONS
Distinguished Flying Cross, Purple Heart
LAST KNOWN RANK
Second Lieutenant
STATUS OF REMAINS
Not Recovered.
MEMORIALS
USS Leland E. Thomas (DE-420)
Manila American Cemetery

Biography:
Temporarily removed for editing and updating. Contact the webmaster for information on this Marine.


For heroism and extraordinary achievement as a pilot attached to a Marine Aircraft group during action against enemy Japanese forces in the Solomon Islands area on August 25 and Sept. 15, 1942, while vigorously attacking a hostile force composed of a light cruiser, four transports, and seven destroyers, Second Lieut. Thomas, by his expert marksmanship and superb flying skill, scored the second of two hits which sunk the light cruiser. Resolutely pursuing his task, he further contributed to the destruction of one large destroyer. On the latter date, after contacting a hostile light cruiser and two destroyers while a member of a two-plane aerial search, Second Lieut. Thomas immediately transmitted a report to his base and launched an aggressive attack, scoring several near misses on the enemy war ships. His indomitable fighting spirit was in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.

“At about 10.30 a.m. word passed up and down the beach that at exactly 11.00 a.m. each day the Japs would hit us with an air raid. We got jumpy! We were told to dig in, but few of us bothered – we were too tired. A few minutes before 11.00 a.m. a low-flying plane came from the direction of Tologa. All the ships began firing at it. The plane banked to the right to try to escape the fire, but it was too late. The engine began smoking, and the pilot made a five or six mile circle up past the Matanikau River and back – to crash land just off the shore in front of us. So our first plane shot down was one of our own, trying to get back to refuel before the Jap air raid began.”
– Sergeant Joe Goble, B/1/7th Marines

Articles and Records:

Photo Gallery:

Thomas’ gunner, former Corporal Edward Lee Eades, recounted his experiences in 1999. He was retroactively awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his attempts to rescue his pilot.


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