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Herbert Joseph Thomas
February 9, 1918(1918-02-09) – November 7, 1943 (aged 25)
Thomas HJ USMC.jpg A light blue neck ribbon with a gold star shaped medallion hanging from it. The ribbon is similar in shape to a bowtie with 13 white stars in the center of the ribbon.
Herbert J. Thomas, Medal of Honor recipient
Place of birth Columbus, Ohio
Place of death KIA at Bougainville, Solomon Islands
Allegiance United States of America
Service/branch United States Marine Corps
Years of service 1942-1943
Rank Sergeant
Unit 1st Battalion, 3rd Marines
Battles/wars World War II
Awards Medal of Honor

Herbert Joseph Thomas Jr. (February 8, 1918 – November 7, 1943) was a Sergeant in the United States Marine Corps and a Medal of Honor recipient for his heroic actions during World War II.

He was born in Columbus, Ohio, but spent most of his childhood in South Charleston, West Virginia, where his family moved when he was seven years old. Thomas eventually went to Virginia Tech on a football scholarship. In his senior year of 1940, he led his team in pass receptions and scoring, and all Virginia college players in scoring. He would go on to be named to the Virginia Tech Sports Hall of Fame. Thomas left Virginia Tech two months short of graduation to enlist in the Army Air Corps, but transferred to the Marines because many of his friends were in that branch of service.

Sergeant Thomas was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for his actions during combat versus Japanese forces on the Solomon Islands (on November 7, 1943). Thomas attempted to disable a machine gun post with a hand grenade. However, the grenade bounced off the jungle flora and fell back to his position. He immediately leaped onto the grenade to save the lives of his men, who went on to destroy the enemy machine gun.

Contents

Namesake

Thomas has had a United States Navy destroyer, the USS Herbert J. Thomas (DD-833), named in his honor. The destroyer was launched on March 25, 1945 and commissioned on May 29, 1945. Thomas Memorial Hospital in South Charleston is also named in his honor.

Medal of Honor citation

The President of the United States takes pride in presenting the MEDAL OF HONOR posthumously to

SERGEANT HERBERT J. THOMAS
UNITED STATES MARINE CORPS RESERVE

for service as set forth in the following CITATION:

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 machine gun 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 machine gun 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.

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