GO Thomasson Jr
GORDON OWEN THOMASSON, JUNIOR (1919-1944)
Unmarried
Killed In Action on Morotai Island in the Pacific, World War II

Staff Sergeant, U.S. Army Air Forces 38444815
Headquarters Squadron, Thirteenth Air Force
Died: November 22, 1944
Buried at: Plot D Row 13 Grave 173
Manila American Cemetery, Manila, Philippines
Awards: Purple Heart

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Donald E. McKinney Jr, son of Eda Faye (Thomasson) McKinney: Our motherís brother, Gordon Thomasson Jr, was killed in action while serving in the Pacific during World War II. We never knew the specifics of how he died until nearly 60 years after his death. He died a true hero, sacrificing his life to save a fellow soldier during a Japanese bomb attack. He was killed on motherís birthday 22 Nov 1944 & the family was notified almost a month later on the day mother gave birth to me in the Paris hospital, 19 Dec 1944. When my grandparents informed mother in the hospital, she was stunned & speechless--she simply kissed her newborn baby & gently stroked his head. Father was serving a combat tour in Burma when I was born.

In 2002 our family was contacted by Mr Sid Chase of St Anthony, Idaho who served with Gordon Jr on Morotai Island & was with him when he was killed. Mr Chase had more specific details concerning how his friend "Gordy", as he was called by his fellow soldiers, was actually killed during that Japanese bombing attack.

Mr Chase had been attempting to contact "Gordy's family" family for over half a century, with no success until recently. Through the efforts of several of his "younger" friends & the advances in communication during the last few years on the internet, etc, he was able to contact Aunt Ruth (Gordon Jr's only surviving sibling).

(When Mr Chase contacted Aunt Ruth via telephone, he never related the specifics concerning Gordon Jr's death other than the fact that Gordon Jr saved his life. She was suspicious & wondered if Mr Chase was legitimate. I wanted to know more, so I contacted Mr Chase. I was satisified that he was the "real deal" & advised Aunt Ruth of this. Mr Chase remained in he military after WWII, gained a commission & served in Korea & Vietnam before retiring as a Major in 1977. Below are excerpts from my recording of a telephone conversation with him 5 Jan 2003.)

****************************************************************************************************************** (SID CHASE QUOTE): "You know its an amazing thing, for 55 years I pursued this search for Gordon's family & in 2 weeks & a half, Linda found where she was (Ada Ruth). Yeah, Gordy & I, - - there were 5 of us in the same tent & Gordy & I usually would wake right up when the alert was sounded- - -they fired off the AA Anti Aircraft Artillery 3 rounds & that notified us that we were going to be visited again & we had been for 90 consecutive nights but they hadn't found us. We had a false landing strip rigged up elsewhere on this island of Morotai & they came in & they bombed that & we would get out the next day & do a few repairs on the thing & fortunately our strip was kept pretty well clear all the time."

"Then we got some new engineers in & this was the night before Thanksgiving or the day before & they put in a plywood Post Office there & all the stuff that came to us for Christmas had to be available by Thanksgiving so it would be there for us when Christmas time came around. The next day we had these metal buckles off the ropes on the postal bags & stuff draped out all over the trees & we were rendered about 55% ineffective that night - - that last night. And Gordy & I had gotten all the boys up out of the tent & the tents around us there & we were heading for the hole in the ground. Most of them had a lid over there but we were late arrivals coming in to the 13th Air Force Headquarters & so we hadn't had a chance to put a lid on that; and the good Lord was kind to us because it was daisy cutters they were dropping that night; they hit with an umbrella affect stemmed down then they would blow from about 36 inches above the ground so they scattered frag pretty high."

"We got to the edge of the hole and then made sure everybody was down there as best we could in the dark & he just pushed me into the hole; it was one of those times when there was no chance for "Alfonse & Gastone- -i.e. you go first, no, you go first" ; - - - - - he just pushed me in the hole & came right in after me; actually Gordy was dead when he fell in. We didn't know- - -we didn't know & for 2 1/2 hours we just laid there and listened to the bombs falling all around us, but if anybody ever had a hero in the family, you did! That's a reality!"
(Don's note: Alfonse & Gastone were an infamous duo who never could decide who should contact each other first or who should take action first, etc)

"I don't think you could replace that individual- - - -He was sure good. - - - - - You sit together & talk after its over & you get ahold of yourself again & say why was it Gordy? Of all the people before God that deserved to remain, Gordy was the one that should have. Any one of the rest of us could have "bought it" & there would have been no protest."

"I have his pocket photo album here right next to the phone stand & that's the thing I want to return.- - - - -
In one of those pictures you know, there is an REA rural electrification what we call a stick. My Dad was a lineman, a power lineman & he worked all over western United States. They were putting in wooded towers in his day & I noticed that pole had a number 30 on it; that pole that was out in front of the house that the Thomassons resided in. But I finally got to thinking, well, the old linemen stick together & so I called the power company. - - - - - & REA didn't have any more tie in there but they were still using some of the old sticks to take the power around town. One of the fellows was still remaining; he had 2 weeks to go & he was going to retire. He was just a kid in the beginning. I talked to him and he said "you know, I never went out to shoot trouble on that stick in the winter time ever that the Thomassons didn't offer me coffee or hot chocolate & cake or pie. I don't know of a soul that disliked those people."

(SID CHASE ENDQUOTE)
(Don's note: The house referred to by Mr Chase was the large white house where Gordon & Hester raised their family in Magazine, AR, before they built the rock house next to it.)

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I also corresponded with other relatives who were all unaware of the circumstances of Gordon Jr's death & heroism, including his cousins Gordon C. Thomasson & John Greer. Gordon C. & John believed Gordon Jr deserved a medal & John mentioned a "silver star" should be considered. I advised them of my intention to contact Mr Chase again & ask for a deposition. Anyway, Mr Chase was making plans to visit Aunt Ruth in Branson in April of 2003 & was going to advise us when he was able to make the trip. He was 85 years old at the time & his younger friends were going to drive him.

I again called him via telephone in May 2004. Initally I called his friend Patti, who I also had contact with in 2003. She advised me he was in good health & still very alert. She said she would help him with the desposition that I requested detailing Gordon Jr's heroic act & that she thought he would be more than happy to do it. She also explained why he has not contacted us or tried to plan a visit; too busy with the theatre and local activites, etc. I guess that kept him going at 87.

He was very cordial & articulate as usual but I had to remind him who I was. I asked him about a deposition several times, but he seemed to dismiss that idea, stating he would give us all the information we need when he makes his visit with the family. He again described Gordy as a true hero.

Well, as Aunt Ruth & I both found out, Mr Chase meant well, but we doubted he would ever make a visit. I did not want to insist on a formal deposition & I did not feel comfortable asking him a 4th time, so I dropped the subject.
I asked him to send me "Gordy's" pocket photo album & I would return it to his surviving sister, Ada Ruth, when I make my trip to Branson in June of that year. He was most happy to mail it out & had offered to do so several times in the past. He said it would take him about two weeks to locate it, etc. I was hoping he would not get side tracked again with all his other activities & would make a real effort to mail it. It would have been very nice to visit with him in person & get the real "scoop", etc, but I doubted we would ever have the opportunity.

Mr Chase never made contact with us since our phone conversation of May 2004, however, 4 years later in May 2008, his niece Necia emailed me & advised me that he was in ill health & in a nursing home. She also mentioned that pocket photo album & wanted to know if I received it. Of course I responded with my address, etc but I never received the photo album. I later learned via google search that he passed away 30 Oct 2008 at age 91.

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Gordon Jr's Obituary:
Arkansas Gazette (December 1944)
Magazine Sergeant Killed in Action
S-Sgt Gordon O. Thomasson Jr, aged 25, son of Mr and Mrs G.O. Thomasson of Magazine, was killed in action on Morotai Island November 22. He was with the 13th Air Force. Sergeant Thomasson was graduated from the College of the Ozarks in 1941 and taught school before entering service in February 1943.
He is survived by his grandparents, Mr and Mrs H.G. Thomasson and Mrs William E. Jones of Little Rock; three sisters, Mrs Donald McKinney, Mrs Willis Page and Miss Ada Ruth Thomasson; an aunt Mrs J. Donald Hayes and an uncle, Dr H. Fay H. Jones of Little Rock.

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GENERAL HEADQUARTERS
SOUTHWEST PACIFIC AREA
A.P.O 500,
February 5, 1945.
Mrs. Hester B. Thomasson,
Magazine, Arkansas.
Dear Mrs. Thomasson:
My deepest sympathy goes to you in the death of your son, Staff Sergeant Gordon O. Thomasson, Jr.
Your consolation for his loss may be that he died in the service of his country in a just cause and for the benefit of all.
Very faithfully,
Douglas MacArthur

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(CONCERNING GORDON JR's DEATH: Letter dated 20 February 1945 from G.W. Tatum, owner of the Tatum Hardware Company, Booneville, Arkansas to Gordon Thomasson Sr)
"February 20, 1945
Mr Gordon Thomasson
Magazine, Arkansas
Dear Friend:
In a letter I have just received from Dan he wrote about your boy as follows:"
"The Thomasson boy had only been in my section a week (he was in A-3) having joined the headquarters a very short time before. The facts are these:
one night about midnight we were having our usual raid when one nip sneaked in from a different angle and, evidently a bad shot, flew right over our area and dropped a string of four 250 lb bombs. The first one on the beach killed two lads, the second fell on the road and did no damage, the third hit between Thomasson's tent and the Post Office and this is the one that got the lad. He was instantly killed, although he wasn't close enough to be crushed. He was buried with full military honors in the local cemetery wich, although I realize it's small comfort, is a beautiful place, clean and beautifully kept, on the loviest island in the Southwest Pacific. I plan on having a picture taken of his grave and will forward it to you so you can give it to his family. Everyone in the section liked the lad and he was to start to work for Capt. McNeil the next day."
"Gordon, I know this is not much comfort for you all but it is facts I knew you would like to have. I will send the picture Dan refers too, to you just as soon as I receive it. My best regards to you and your family. Yours very truly, G.W. Tatum"

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(Don's note: This is a letter written by Gordon Jr in September 1944 to his mother in Arkansas when he was stationed in the Pacific during World War II. His father Gordon Thomasson Sr was stationed with the Marines at this time.
He mentioned his sister EDA FAYE McKINNEY (my mother) & that he was to be an uncle soon. Gordon Jr was killed in action on Eda Faye's birthday, 22 Nov 1944. Eda Faye was notified of her brother's death a month later, 19 Dec 1944, while she was in the hospital, Paris, Arkansas, after giving birth to a baby boy (ME). My father DONALD McKINNEY SR was overseas in Burma during this time.
Gordon Jr also mentioned his sister DOROTHY & husband WILLIS PAGE as well as their baby daughter WILLA NELL. Also mentioned were Gordon Jr's aunt LUCILLE, husband Dr DONALD HAYES & their children, Libby & Little Donald.)

"12 Sept 44
Dear Mother:
Another letter and another address. However this will be, I hope, the last change in address for some time. My address is: Hq. Sq., FEAF, APO #925, % Postmaster, San Francisco, Calif.
As you can tell by the typewriter I am back to work after such a long time. Clerical work but somewhat different. Every office in the army has some changes but I think I can make the grade.
If Father got his discharge he is probably at home by now. I hope he does get out. I know you are tired of carrying the mail. If he is out he probably can't get the flashlight I wanted but you try to pick up a fountain pen. Any kind will do. Although now that I can get to a typewriter a pen is not as important as before but still I need one.
As I told you before I am somewhere in New Guinea and am now working in Headquarters of Far Est Air Forces (FEAF). I believe I am lucky to get in this outfit. The food is OK and everyone seems to be friendly enough. We have a dandy crick to wash our clothes in. Bet you can't imagine me washing clothes.
I received a letter from Eda Faye the other day. Seems as if I am to be an uncle shortly. Imagine she gets lonesome all day by herself but she seemed cheerful enough in her letter.
Sure am glad you could have all that company, even if you were not feeling well. Since Willis got another furlough does that mean he is going over soon? Seems he is getting furlough pretty often. (more power to him).
How much has Willa Nell grown? Be sure and have Dorothy take pictures of her at least every few months. It has been so long since I have seen Libby Lou and little Donald that I imagine they have grown quite a bit.
I wish your washing machine was here for about 2 days. Almost all of my clothes are dirty. On the boat there was not much chance of washing clothes. It was a hard job to keep myself clean.
How did Lucille and Donald enjoy their visit? Suppose they didn't stay very long. Does Donald think he will go overseas anytime soon? Hope he doesn't but one can never tell.
I am finding I cannot spend all of the money I will draw here so will increase the class E allotment. Probably raise it to $50 in the next month or so. I will let you know when to expect the check to jump from twenty five to fifty dollars. I was not much surprised in the marriage of Wanda and Buddy, except I am always surprised that the kids are growing up and are old enough to get married. From the ages that are getting married now it appears that I am an old bachelor already. But I'm not worried, much.
Sometime when you are sending a package put my houseshoes in. I left them on the sleeping pourch. Also if you can get a pair of lowcut shoes send them. I don't know how you will do that without a stamp but maybe someone has an extra stamp. I will close now and get to work. Love, Gordon Jr"
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(Don's Note: In this letter, Gordon Jr mentioned his youngest sister ADA RUTH who was unmarried at the time.)
"S/Sgt G.O. Thomasson, HQ FEAF, APO 925
4 Oct 44
Dear Mother,
Still haven't heard from you direct. Several letters have arrived but all addressed to my old APO. Expect to hear from you in a day or so. Did Father get to come home? Wish it didn't take so long to get answers from letters here. By the time anything gets to me it is old. But I like all the news there is.
I'm not very easy to get along with today. Some so and so stole some of my clothes. Now I only have 3 pair of trousers. I sent some home when I was at Kearns. If they are serviceable send them soon. I ask for something in every letter. I know it is a lot of trouble but I could sure use lots of things. I believe you can send 1 package per week of 5 pounds or less. I don't want 1 a week but for a while I hope for several. We moved into our assigned tents today. Before we were just any place we could find but now each section is together. Not in the same tent but close together. Thus all clerks, crew members etc are together, so they can be easily found.
You can tell summer is coming here because the nights are getting warmer. It is still cool enough at night but I dread to think of later on. I can imagine Magazine now. Early Oct and the nights getting cool. Imagine the days are still pretty hot at times.
Eda Faye (in her letter of last month) was very optimistic about the war in Europe. How does it look to you? I once would guess but now all I do is hope for the best and expect the worst. Germany can (I think) hold out for several months but they might collapse and hope to prepare for another war.
Typewriter busy so now I will strain you eyes with my handwriting. Has Ada Ruth decided what she is going to do yet? She shouldn't stop working until after the war. Now is the time to save all you can.
If I had been here in Dutch New Guinea all the time I could have saved a lot. Can't spend money here at all. This is one place you stand in line 30 minutes to buy 1 bar of candy. Or one coke. Yes we now have a coca cola machine which works only part of the time.
Will stop now. If I get a letter tomorrow I will write then. If I don't I will wait a few days. Never much news here. Even the shows are so small I can't see them. (Screens too small).
Love, Gordon Jr"

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(Don's Note: Gordon Jr's last letter to his parents during the war was written 19 Nov 1944 & post marked 22 Nov 1944, the day he was killed in action.)
"S/Sgt G. Thomasson, 38444815
Hq Sq, 13th AF, APO 719
19 November 1944
Dear Folks,
Am again working and not going from one job to another. I am in A-3 Section the same as I was at FEAF. I do not have a definite assignment yet but am going from one job to another learning each one. Have a good bunch of men to work with. My mail has not caught up with me since I left FEAF. Hope it catches up with me soon. When I do get some maybe there will be lots.
We have been here at the new base now for 15 days. It is not such a bad place. The most distressing thing is the lack of water. Especially to wash clothes. The drinking water is terrible tasting. Think it is sea water purfied. There is a laundry which is not working yet but when it does there is where my clothes will be sent.
The beach is close by and when I have time we go swimming. There is really some beautiful scenery here. The sea, beach and then coconut groves. Of course we overlook the guns, shellholes and fox holes. Where we have our tents is not a bad location but there is talk of moving them. That is always bad because of the labor of moving and also we will never improve our present tent knowing we will soon move. Yes we are lazy. Sleeping conditions are very well here. It is cool at night and with no lights in our tent I go to bed early. There is an occasional nuisance raid by the nips to break the monotony but nothing serious. All the damage to our area is losing sleep. There is an old rooster left behind by the the Japs who crows about 5 oclock in the morning and waking everyone up. I think he was left behind on purpose just to ruin our sleep.
The food is better here than FEAF, and we have a PX here. They had one at FEAF but it never had anything in it. We have candy and peanuts all the time, and other things from time to time. Have coco colas too.
The heat during the day is about to kill me. I will (I hope) get used to it but now it is terrible. At nights it is cool enough to sleep and that is what makes it bearible. Now I am working on the files in the section. They need fixing and then I am supposed to go from one place to another in the section learning each job. After that no one knows where I will be. Am afraid there is not much to look forward to but there may be. There is not much news now (you hear that all the time) but when I hear from you will be able to at least answer it. Until then goodbye.
Love
Gordon Jr "

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(EXCERPTS from a letter written by Gordon Jr's mother Hester Beatrice (Jones) Thomasson, Magazine, Arkansas, to her grandson, Donald Earl McKinney, Jr (ME), Junction City, Kansas)
July 1, 1962
"Dearest Don,
I am still waiting for the letter I hoped you'd write, but I love you anyway, and here goes another letter to the boy who took my son's place in my heart. You see you were born the day I got the message about Gordon Jr's death. So you grew up to fill the break, always remember that I love you, oh, so very much.
I went to sunday school today - But I did not stay for church my legs get so numb if I sit too long. I have stayed flat in bed for most of the last 2 weeks. I was hoping today I would be able to stay up all day. But it does not look like it.-----------------
Willa Nell brought a girl friend home with her this weekend - They studied most of the time - I was in bed most of the time, hardly talked to them at all.
I don't know any news - so bye for now.
Much Love
Gramma
I am still looking for 1954 penny. Help me find it."


Gordon & Hester Thomasson with daughter Dorothy (far left), son Gordon Jr, daughters Ada Ruth & Eda Faye (far right)

Return to Parents: Gordon & Hester (Jones) Thomasson

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