Screen Commander
Task Unit 77.4.3 (Taffy III)

U.S. Navy photograph

Commander William Dow Thomas, U.S. Navy



navycross.jpg Navy Cross
PH.jpg Purple Heart
CAR.jpg Combat Action Ribbon
PUC.jpg Presidential Unit Citation
ADM.jpg American Defense Service Medal
ACM.jpg American Campaign Medal
APCM.jpg Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal
WW2VM.jpg World War II Victory Medal
national_defense_SM.jpg National Defense Service Medal
PPUC.jpg Philippine Presidential Unit Citation
PLM.jpg Philippine Liberation Medal
Award Criteria


- 1904 Born in Wilkes-Barre, PA
MIDN 1925 - 1928 Student, U.S. Naval Academy
ENS 1928 - 1930 USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB 48)
LT 1930 - 1935 Various submarines
CDR 1943 - 1944 CO, USS HOEL (DD-533)
CDR 1944 Screen Commander, Task Unit 77.4.3 in USS HOEL (DD-533) at Samar
CAPT 1945 - 1947 CO, Naval Air Station, St. Simons Island, GA
RADM 1947 Retired from Service
- 1947 - 1968 Vice President and Dean of Men, Cogswell College
- 1968 Died

Short biography of
Rear Admiral William Dow Thomas, U.S. Navy

William Dow Thomas was born in Wilkes-Barre, PA, on April 4, 1904.  He graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy at Annapolis, Maryland in 1928.

His first assignment was to serve on the USS WEST VIRGINIA (BB 48) until 1930 when he entered the submarine service at New London, Connecticut and served on several submarines until 1935.  He served on the Fletcher Class destroyer USS CLAXTON (DD-571) prior to taking command of the USS HOEL when it was commissioned in July 1943.

Commander Thomas served as Captain of HOEL for just over one year and saw much action during that time.  HOEL sailed from San Francisco Bay 16 August 1943 for shakedown training in operating areas out of San Diego during which she made seven depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact with unknown results.  After returning to Mare Island Navy Yard 17 September for final alterations, she cleared San Francisco 26 October as a part of the screen for a convoy which reached Pearl Harbor 31 October 1943.  Commander Thomas next participated in Operation GALVANIC in the Gilbert Islands, operations against Makin Island, antisubmarine patrol off Tarawa, and the invasion of the Marshall Islands. In February 1944 HOEL took station off Eniwetok for close fire support of the initial landings.

HOEL then patrolled south and east of Cape Botiangen, New Hanover, where her guns destroyed an enemy warehouse 26 March 1944, and, the next day, captured documents which contained valuable information from a 4~foot outliner canoe.  That night she made four depth charge runs on an underwater sound contact with unknown results.  She returned to Purvis Bay 8 April 1944 to screen a convoy carrying troops and supplies to Emirau Island.  Upon her return to Purvis Bay 14 April 1944 Hoel reported for duty to the commander of Cruiser Division 12 who kept her busy with training exercises and convoy duty until August when Commander Thomas was promoted to Captain and relieved by Commander Leon S. Kintberger.

In August 1944, Captain Thomas was assigned as Screen Commander of Task Unit 77.4.3 and remained aboard HOEL as his flagship.  He was seriously wounded in the Battle Off Samar where  HOEL was sunk.  He was hospitalized until February 1945.  Commodore Thomas was awarded the Navy Cross and Purple Heart for his wounds.  Task Unit 77.4.3 was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for the engagement at Samar.

After Release from the hospital he was assigned as Commanding Officer Naval Air Station, St. Simons Island, GA. 

He retired from the Navy as Rear Admiral in 1947.  He joined the faculty of Cogswell College upon retirement from the Navy, and at the time of his death in 1968, was Vice President and Dean of Men for the college.

Source: Robert Jon Cox independent research, USS JOHNSTON-HOEL Association and Dictionary of American Naval Fighting Ships

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