- Charles L. Thomas
Charles Leroy Thomas
Major Charles L. Thomas
Born April 17, 1920
Died February 15, 1980(aged 59)
Allegiance United States of America Service/branch United States Army Years of service 1942-1947 Rank Major Unit 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion Battles/wars World War II Awards Medal of Honor
Major Charles Leroy Thomas (April 17, 1920-February 15, 1980) was a United States Army officer who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his actions while a company commander during the capture of Climbach, France in 1944 — the second African American to be awarded one during World War II. This award was upgraded to the Medal of Honor awarded posthumously in 1997.
Prior to the war he had worked as a molder for the Ford Motor Company, and was a student at Wayne State University when he joined the Army in January 1942. He was assigned to the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion, and sent to Officer Candidate School; he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in March 1943 and returned to his battalion, deploying with it to England and then to North-Western Europe.
On December 14, 1944, Thomas led a task force storming Climbach, consisting of a platoon from the 756th Tank Battalion and a reinforced company of the 411th Infantry Regiment, 103rd Infantry Division, led by a platoon of his tank destroyers. Approaching Climbach, Thomas' armored scout car was knocked out by enemy fire and he was wounded.
The lieutenant helped his crew out of the vehicle, but as he left the car's protection, he was again wounded in the chest, legs and arms. Despite his wounds, Thomas directed the dispersal and emplacement of the anti-tank guns, which then returned fire and covered the attempt by the rest of the task force to outflank the defenders. He briefed one of his platoon leaders, a junior lieutenant, on the general situation, and only when he was sure the situation was under control did he allow himself to be evacuated. The platoon continued to fight for four hours, losing two of its four guns and half its men as casualties (3 dead, 17 wounded).
The strong performance of the platoon ensured the capture of the town and forced the defenders to withdraw to the Siegfried Line; the unit was awarded a Distinguished Unit Citation (the first black combat unit, and the first unit attached to the 103rd Division, to be so honored) and its men received four Silver Stars and nine Bronze Stars. Thomas himself was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross for his part in the engagement, and returned home a hero, though he played down his role - "I know I was sent out to locate and draw the enemy fire, but I didn't mean to draw that much."
Thomas remained in the Army, and retired with the rank of Major. In the 1990s, following a study which indicated severe racial discrimination in the process of awarding medals during the war, it was recommended that seven Distinguished Service Crosses be upgraded to Medals of Honor, and Thomas was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously on January 13, 1997.
Awards and decoration
Medal of Honor Purple Heart European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal World War II Victory Medal
Medal of Honor citation
Thomas' Medal of Honor citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism in action on December 14, 1944, near Climbach, France. While riding in the lead vehicle of a task force organized to storm and capture the village of Climbach, France, then First Lieutenant Thomas's armored scout car was subjected to intense enemy artillery, self-propelled gun, and small arms fire. Although wounded by the initial burst of hostile fire, Lieutenant Thomas signalled the remainder of the column to halt and, despite the severity of his wounds, assisted the crew of the wrecked car in dismounting. Upon leaving the scant protection which the vehicle afforded, Lieutenant Thomas was again subjected to a hail of enemy fire which inflicted multiple gunshot wounds in his chest, legs, and left arm. Despite the intense pain caused by these wounds, Lieutenant Thomas ordered and directed the dispersion and emplacement of two antitank guns which in a few moments were promptly and effectively returning the enemy fire. Realizing that he could no longer remain in command of the platoon, he signalled to the platoon commander to join him. Lieutenant Thomas then thoroughly oriented him on enemy gun dispositions and the general situation. Only after he was certain that his junior officer was in full control of the situation did he permit himself to be evacuated. First Lieutenant Thomas' outstanding heroism were an inspiration to his men and exemplify the highest traditions of the Armed Forces.
- List of Medal of Honor recipients
- List of Medal of Honor recipients for World War II
- List of African American Medal of Honor recipients
- Kelly, S.H. (January 13, 1997). "Seven WWII vets to receive Medals of Honor". Army News Service. Archived from the original on 2006-07-25. http://web.archive.org/web/20060725142210/http://www4.army.mil/ocpa/print.php?story_id_key=2187.
- "Charles L. Thomas". Claim to Fame: Medal of Honor recipients. Find a Grave. http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=7932140. Retrieved 2008-02-01.
- The 761st "Black Panther" Tank Battalion in World War II, Joe W. Wilson. McFarland & Company, 1999. ISBN 0786406674
- The Exclusion of Black Soldiers from the Medal of Honor in World War II, Elliott V. Converse. McFarland & Company, 1997. ISBN 0786402776
- Jim Garamone (January 15, 1997). "Army Finally Recognizes WWII Black Heroes". DefenseLINK News. Archived from the original on 2007-03-19. http://web.archive.org/web/20070319043513/http://www.defenselink.mil/news/Jan1997/n01151997_9701154.html. Retrieved 2007-03-27.
Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.
Look at other dictionaries:
Charles John Thomas — (November 20, 1832 – March 31, 1919) was the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir for part of the 1860s, and was involved in several other musical endeavors in early Utah. Biography Thomas was born in Burnley, Lancashire, England. His… … Wikipedia
Charles Xavier Thomas — de Colmar Monument in Colmar Born May 5, 1785 Colmar, France … Wikipedia
Charles Allen Thomas — (February 15, 1900 – March 29, 1982) was a noted American chemist and businessman, and an important figure in the Manhattan Project. Thomas was born on a farm in Scott County, Kentucky, the son of Charles Allen and Frances Carrick Thomas. He… … Wikipedia
Charles Spalding Thomas — (* 6. Dezember 1849 in Darien, Georgia; † 24. Juni 1934 in Denver, Colorado) war ein US amerikanischer Politiker und von 1899 bis 1901 der 11. Gouverneur des Bundesstaates Colorado … Deutsch Wikipedia
Charles S. Thomas — (* 28. September 1897 in Independence, Missouri; † 1983) war ein US amerikanischer Geschäftsmann und Politiker, der von 1954 bis 1957 als Marinestaatssekretär der Vereinigten Staaten amtierte. Der ursprünglich aus Missouri st … Deutsch Wikipedia
Charles Victor-Thomas — (1871–1908) was a French military officer, a journalist and an author, known for his writing as a war correspondent during the Russo Japanese War. In 1904, Captain Victor Thomas was permitted to Join General Kuroki s Japanese First Army. His own… … Wikipedia
Charles H. Thomas — may refer to: Charles Humbert Thomas (1915–1976), Progressive Conservative party member of the Canadian House of Commons Charles H. Thomas (sports executive), one time president of the Chicago Cubs Charles H. Thomas (diplomat), former United… … Wikipedia
Charles Mitchell Thomas — This article is about the naval officer. For other uses, see Charles Thomas (disambiguation). Charles M. Thomas Rear Admiral Charles Mitchell Thomas … Wikipedia
Charles S. Thomas — This article is about the governor of Colorado. For other uses, see Charles Thomas (disambiguation). Charles Spalding Thomas 11th Governor of the State of Colorado In office 1899–1901 Preceded by Al … Wikipedia
Charles W. Thomas — Major General (Ret) Charles William Chuck Thomas is a retired officer of the United States Army and defense industry executive. Contents 1 Early military service 2 Military career 3 Retirement 4 … Wikipedia