Captain Charles L. Thomas
Captain Charles Thomas became the second black soldier to receive the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest honor. In front of his admirers the soft-spoken serviceman played down his heroics. "I was just trying to stay alive out there" he remarked.
His fellow soldiers and officers weren't as modest. They believed Thomas deserved the Medal of Honor, the nation's highest military tribute. It took fifty years, but in 1997 Captain Charles Thomas was one of seven African American World War II heroes given the distinguished Medal of Honor by President Clinton. Vernon Baker was the only recipient still living and present to receive his award; the other six soldiers received their awards posthumously, with their medals being presented to family members.
Charles Thomas was born on 17 April 1920, in Birmingham, Alabama. His family soon moved to Detroit at a time when the city's black population was rapidly growing. As a child, Thomas showed a bookish interest in planes and electronics. After graduating from Cass Technical High School in 1938, he worked with his father at the Ford River Rouge factory making steel. He also enrolled at Wayne State University to study mechanical engineering but the war interfered. Thomas was drafted and entered the army in January 1942.
He started as an infantryman but when the army began forming tank destroyer units, Thomas was transferred to Camp Wolters in Texas, for officer training school. He was commissioned a second lieutenant in March 1943 and reported to Camp Hood in Texas, to join the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion. While the soldiers were black, most of the officers were white. Thomas also noticed the stark differences between the 614th and white units. Black units were forced to use older, less efficient equipment that frequently needed repairs, and recreational facilities were nonexistent for black soldiers and officers.
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.
Captain Charles Thomas' Citation for the Medal of Honor Reads:
761st Tank Battalion
First Lieutenant Vernon J. Baker
Rear Admiral Barry C. Black
Major General Charles F. Bolden, Jr. |
Corporal Buddie Branch Vice Admiral David L. Brewer III Rear Admiral Erroll M. Brown Staff Sergeant Edward A. Carter, Jr. Brigadier General Roscoe C. Cartwright Rear Admiral Osie V. Combs Four Star General Benjamin Davis
Major General Arnold Fields Rear Admiral Lillian Fishburne First Lieutenant John R. Fox Vice Admiral Samuel Gravely, Jr.
Major General James F. Hamlet Harlem Hellfighters 4 Star General Daniel James Jr. Private First Class Willy F. James, Jr.
Corporal Harry Johns Major Robert H. Lawrence, Jr. Staff Sergeant Aubrey L. McDade, Jr. Vice-Admiral Ed Moore
Four Star General Lloyd W. Newton Captain Joseph N. Peterson General Colin Powell Captain Ronald A. Radcliffe
Admiral J. Paul Reason Four Star General Edward A. Rice Jr. Staff Sergeant Ruben Rivers Clifford Chester Sims
Robert Smalls Major General Clifford L. Stanley Tuskegee Airmen Lieutenant Colonel Merryl (David) Tengesdal
Captain Charles L. Thomas Private George Watson Major General Leo V. Williams, III Colonel Charles Young
Contact Us Advertise
Alaskan Nature | |Floridian Nature | Free Holiday Ideas | Reflections | Michael Arnold Art