The Marine Corps Medal of Honor Recipients
Featuring Marine Medal of Honor Recipients From WWII-Korea-Viet Nam And Iraqi Freedom
SERGEANT HERBERT J. THOMAS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Third Marines, Third Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese forces during the battle at the Koromokina River, Bougainville Island, Solomon Islands, on November 7, 1943. Although several of his men were struck by enemy bullets as he led his squad through dense jungle undergrowth in the face of severe hostile machinegun fire, Sergeant Thomas and his group fearlessly pressed forward into the center of the Japanese position and destroyed the crews of two machine guns by accurate rifle fire and grenades. Discovering a third gun more difficult to approach, he carefully placed his men closely around him in strategic positions from which they were to charge after he had thrown a grenade into the emplacement. When the grenade struck vines and fell back into the midst of the group, Sergeant Thomas deliberately flung himself upon it to smother the explosion, valiantly sacrificing his life for his comrades. Inspired by his selfless action, his men unhesitatingly charged the enemy machinegun and, with fierce determination, killed the crew and several other nearby defenders. The splendid initiative and extremely heroic conduct of Sergeant Thomas in carrying out his prompt decision with full knowledge of his fate reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his country.
FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT
President of the United States
Sergeant Herbert Joseph Thomas, 25, a Marine from West Virginia and a former football star at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism on Bougainville at the cost of the life, 7 November 1943.
Sergeant Thomas was killed in the Koromokina River area on Bougainville on 7 November 1943, while participating with Marine infantry in an assault upon two Japanese infantry companies. The enemy was reinforced by mortars and automatic weapons and entrenched in skillfully camouflaged emplacements. The Japanese at the time were engaged in a major effort against the left flank of the 3d Marine Division's position and the sergeant was leading his squad in an advance to the center of the enemy's position.
During the attack, his squad fought its way through defense jungle undergrowth and in the face of heavy fire.
After wiping out two Japanese machine gun crews in their daring advance toward the heart of the enemy's assaulting forces, the Marines discovered a third machine gun, strongly emplaced. It was in preparation for an attack upon this emplacement that Sgt Thomas met death, throwing himself upon a grenade to save the lives of his comrades. He threw the grenade to open the attack, but it struck vine growth overhead and fell among the closely grouped squad. In taking the force of the explosion, Sgt Thomas was killed instantly. Saved by their leader and inspired by his sacrifice, the Marine squad immediately charged the gun and killed its defenders.
Herbert Joseph Thomas was born 9 February 1918 in Columbus, Ohio. He was chosen on the Virginia all-State college eleven football squad in his last year at V.P.I., and was a member of the all-Southern team. He received honorable mention for all-America.
Previously, he excelled in football at South Charleston High School and Greenbrier Military School, Greenbrier, West Virginia. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on 3 March 1942. A year earlier, he had joined the Army as an aviation cadet, but was discharged for flying deficiency after almost four months of service.
Initially buried in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps Cemetery on Bougainville, Sgt Thomas' remains were later reinterred in Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery, South Charleston, West Virginia.
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