Killed in Action – Invasion at Salerno, Italy

Contributed by Linda Hamilton Schnacke

Roy Ernest Thomason Photo Contributed by Joe V. Holmes

Telegram From Chief of Naval Personnel, Rear Admiral Randolf Jacob to Stella Mae Thomason, mother of Roy Thomason

My copy is handwritten (on the backside of a brief telegram from a friend to my mother telling her of my Uncle Roy’s death) in my mother’s writing with “WUX Arlington, Vir 9:09 am Sept 16” handwritten on the other side

The Navy Department deeply regrets to inform you that your son Roy Earnest Thomason Seaman First Class U.S. N.R. was killed in action in the performance of his duty and in the service of his country. The department extends to you its sincerest sympathy in our great loss. On account of existing conditions, the body, if recovered cannot be returned at present. If further details are received you will be informed. To prevent possible aid to our enemies, please do not divulge the name of his ship or station.

Rear Admiral Randolf Jacob
Chief of Naval Personnel

Newspaper Clipping

Message Reports Roy Thomason Killed in Action

The community was shocked Thursday morning when a message came from the Navy Department announcing that Roy Thomason was killed in action. He was the only son of Mrs. Stella Thomason.

Roy had been in Atlantic waters, but owning to giving information to the enemy, the name of his ship is not published. He has been in the Navy over a year and never been home since he volunteered. Just a mere lad, he begged his mother’s consent to join the Navy. Only two weeks ago his mother received the first letter from him for several weeks, although he usually wrote often. He told her he was very busy, that he was well, not to worry.

Beside his mother, Roy is survived by three sisters, Mrs. Lavon Holmes, Granbury; Mrs. Carroll Dabney, Calif; Miss Valera Thomason, Fort Worth.

Newspaper Clipping

Roy Thomason Killed in Action in Atlantic

Mrs. Stella Thomason received the following telegram from the Navy Department this Thursday morning: “The Navy Department regrets to inform you that your son, Seaman First Class Roy Ernest Thomason, has been killed in action in the defense of his country. We extend to you our deepest sympathy.”

Roy joined the navy nineteen months ago and has not been home since. His service has been largely in the Atlantic area. He took part in the Sicily campaign recently. In a letter received from him on Sept. 10 he advised his folks not to mail his Christmas package, and they have hoped that meant he was expecting to spend Christmas at home.

Roy is survived by his mother; three sisters: Mrs. Lavon Holmes, Granbury; Mrs. Carroll Dabney, Long Beach, Calif; and Miss Valera Thomason of Fort Worth, besides a host of friends who join the family in their bereavement.

Newspaper Clipping Under photograph of Uncle Roy

Roy Ernest Thomason, 18, seaman first class serving as gunner aboard the Savannah, was reported killed in action Sept 11 by the War Department. He was the son of Mrs. Stella Thomason of Granbury.

Letter From Commander P. D. Lohmann to Stella Mae Thomason, mother of Roy Thomason

c/o Fleet Post Office
New York, New York
10 October 1943.

Mrs. Stella Mae Thomason
General Delivery
Granbury, Texas

MY dear Mrs. Thomason:

It is with deep regret that I have to inform you of the untimely death of your son, Roy Earnest Thomason, seaman first class, U.S. Naval Reserve, which occurred on board this vessel at 0944, 11 September 1943.

Roy met his death while at his general quarters station when the ship was engaged by the enemy. With the thought in mind that nothing which can be said or written that will lessen the grief which you are called upon to endure, I do want you to know that his conduct was in keeping with the finest traditions of the Naval service. No greater praise of a Navy man can be expressed, for devotion to duty is the highest call of the service. Later on, when time has dulled the sharpness of your present sorrow, you and your dear ones will be comforted by the knowledge that the one whom you have lost for a while bravely gave his life that our country might endure.

On 11 September 1943, the remains of your son were taken to the Army Graves Registration, Salerno, Italy for burial.

Your son was well thought of by the ship’s officers and his shipmates and his loss is keenly felt by all. Enclosed please find standard form 1055 and it is requested that you complete same and send by registered mail to the Bureau of Supplies and Accounts, Navy Department, Washington, D.C. in order that you may obtain what money was due your son at the date of his death. Your local Red Cross will assist you in completing this form.

The Commanding Office extends to you the heartfelt sympathy and condolences of the entire ship’s company, U.S.S. SAVANNAH, in this your hour of greatest sorrow.

May the Good Lord assist and comfort you.

Sincerely yours,

Commander, U.S. Navy
Commanding, U.S.S. SAVANNAH

Letter From Chaplain Frank F. Smart, Jr. to Stella Mae Thomason, mother of Roy Thomason

September 30, 1943
U.S.S. Savannah

Mrs. Stella Mae Thomason
Granbury, Texas

Dear Mrs. Thomason,

I believe that you have already received word from the Navy Department concerning the death of your son which occurred as a result of enemy action against the Savannah. By the time this letter reaches you, I sincerely hope that the first numbing shock will have passed a way and that you are now able to face this great loss with courage.

Those of us who have survived the experiences of the past three months on this ship find it difficult to speak highly enough of your shipmates who have given their lives to the service. Every man died a hero and those who were left carried on in a manner worthy of the highest praise. The ship was given a good account of herself during these months, inflicting severe damage to the enemy. Sooner or later we knew that the time would come for us to pay the terrible price of war. Now that our comrades have been called upon to pay that price we remember that their sacrifice has furthered the cause of peace and will win for them eternal glory.

Nothing can drive away the sorrow caused by the loss of a loved one. Yet, there are two sources of consolation and courage which you must lay hold of, now only for you own sake, about also if you are to be loyal to him whom you have given the service. The first is the realization that to give one’s life to the high cause of freedom is of itself a great achievement. The other is summed up by the comforting words,

“God so love the world, that He have His only begotten Son to the end that all that believe in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”

As we open our hearts to the consoling love of God, He will give us that hope which transcends death and promises a future reunion with those we have lost. I pray that you will be strengthened to meet this present grief with courage and faith in the knowledge that it was occasioned by Roy’s response to the high call of duty.

Faithfully yours,

Frank F. Smart, Jr,

Newspaper Clipping

US CRUISER Hit at Salerno


Hit by a German bomb off Salerno, the light cruiser Savannah was damaged and some members of her crew were killed and wounded, the Navy said yesterday.

The bomb landed atop a gun turret. Flames started by the explosion were brought under control in 20 minutes while Navy doctors were treating the wounded men. The ship carried on in support of the landing troops and continued to operate effectively.

She was assigned a covering job with the cruisers Boise, Philadelphia and other naval units.

The Navy said next of kin of all reported casualties abroad the Savannah had been notified.

The cruiser was skippered by Capt. Robert W. Cary, 53, Kansas City who was uninjured.

Letter From Commanding Officer P. D. Lohmann to Roy Thomason’s sister (my mother)

c/o Fleet Post Office,
New York, New York.
1 December 1943.

Miss Valera Thomason,
2304 Clinton,
Fort Worth, Texas

My dear Miss Thomason:-

Your letter of November 3rd addressed to Captain Cary has just been received.

On October 10th I wrote a letter to your mother, Mrs. Stella Mae Thomason, Granbury, Texas, expressing the deep sorrow felt by the officers, crew, and myself at the loss of Roy. I hope this letter has already been received and that your mother has shown it to you.

Roy was at his battle station below decks in a compartment on the morning of September 11th when an aerial bomb penetrated the deck and exploded nearby. He died instantly and I can assure you he did not suffer any pain. His body, which was not marked or disfigured in any manner, was recovered and sent ashore about noon of the same day in Salerno, Italy, for burial by the U. S. Army Graves Registration.

Again, please let me extend to you and all Roy’s family the deepest sympathy of the officers, crew, and my self in your loss.

Sincerely yours,

P. D. Lohmann,
Commander, U. S. Navy
Commanding, U. S. S. SAVANNAH

Obituary 1948

Salerno Seaman to be reburied in San Antonio

Reburial services for Seaman 1/C Roy E. Thomason, son of Mrs. Stella Thomason of 2237 Irwin (Fort Worth), will be conducted Sept 2 at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery at San Antonio.

Thomason was killed Sept 11, 1943, when the ship on which he was serving, the USS Savanah [Savannah], was bombed during the battle of Salerno. He was 18.

Thomason had lived in Granbury most of his life and had attended high school there. His mother moved to Fort Worth while he was in the service. He had been in the Navy 19 months at the time of his death.

Surviving besides his mother are three sisters, Mrs. P. L. Holmes and Mrs. T. C. Dabney of Fort Worth, and Mrs. A. D. Hamilton of Austin.Unknown Newspaper

Poem by Jan Mitchell of Granbury, Texas

In Memory of Roy Thomason

A cherry smile and eyes of blue,
A happy heart so kind and true,
As sunshine on a rainy day.
We’ll remember you that way.
To you, America’s son, today,
Our last tribute we must pay.
Our last respect–it all is due,
We must bid farewell to you.
Earthly good byes–our very last,
The flag now settles at half mast,
Taps are heard so clear and low
And we know that you must go
for there is One who commands us all
And you must obey His call.
Far be it for us to keep you here
Where life with war and strife is drear,
So bon voyage sailor, you must go
And leave us here, our hearts so low.
Our hearts so low–and they’ll be that way
While we linger for a day
Then we’ll bid farewell to life’s cold way
And depart as you’ve done today.
No wars, no strife, no pain to bear
No more good-byes to say up there.

Another Poem by Jan Mitchell of Granbury, Texas

In Memory of Roy Thomason

We cannot say in truth today
That we’re glad you have gone away;
Nor can we say we’d keep you here,
Where the world with war and strife is drear.

Our hearts are heavy and tear drops flow,
Words aren’t exchanged in the twilight’s glow;
No, smiles have vanished, and hopes have, too,
The skies are gray that once were blue.

It all was so short; we never dreamed
When you waved your hand, and your blue eyes gleamed,
That so soon good-bye we’d say
And you’d meet the Commander who decides the way.

And so we grieve not for so short is life,
So filled with sorrow and untold strife;
Then how can we mourn longer, dear,
When you are happier than those left here.

Newspaper Clipping with Poem Found with Uncle Roy’s personal possessions that my mother kept

One of the serious poems which aroused wide comment was found in the personal effects of a young sergeant, a waistgunner on a Flying Fortress, who was killed April 17 during a bombing mission. His commanding officer sent the poem to Stars and Stripes. This is it.

We’ve laid aside our peaceful tasks
We’ve packed kits and gone to war;
We love those things we left behind
But loved our country even more.
And tho we lie in some strange land
Forgotten perhaps by all but God,
We rest in peace because we know
Transgressors’ heels shall never grind
Our country’s flag into the dust;
We know because we made it so.
The lad whose hand had milked the cow,
Whose hands have guided straight the plow,
He did not shirk his country’s call
But gladly gave his life his all.
He loved the murmur of the brook
That flows between the mountain slopes;
A golden morn that softly smiled
As if he shared our secret hopes.
We loved the whisper of the rain,
Upon the rooftop overhead;
The gleam of sun upon the snow.
We sacrificed these things we loved
To keep the flag forever free;
We know because we made it so.
The land whose hand made tools of steel,
Whose hands have held the big truck’s wheels.
He did not shirk his country’s call
But gladly gave his life his all.

USS Savannah