Capt. Donald Irving Thomas was born in Amoy, China on March 28, 1910 and attended grade schools in Massachusetts and Connecticut prior to entering the Naval Academy in 1928.
He was commissioned an ensign in 1932 and served his back-to-back sea tours on USS Pensacola and USS Farragut. In June, 1937, he reported for duty as staff communicator at commander, Minecraft, Battle Foce. He returned to Annapolis in 1938 for the course in general line at the postgraduate school.
He became the gunnery officer on USS McCormick in September, 1932 and two months later became the gunery and operations officer on the staff of commander, Destroyer Squadron 36. His next assignments were as executive officer on USS Borie; communications officer on USS Trenton; and communications officer on the staff of commander, Cruiser Division Three.
He took command of USS Lea from November, 1942 until March, 1944. Under his command, that destroyer took part in convoy duty in the North Atlantic, Mediterranean and Caribbean. For services on Lea, the ship was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation.
He continued sea service as navigator of USS Pasadena, participating in Pacific campaigns, including operations in the Philippines, Formosa, Iwo Jima, Okinawa and Japan. He received a Letter of Commendation with authorization to wear the Commendation Ribbon and Combat "V" for services on Pasadena.
He next became commanding officer of the destroyer USS Massey operating in the Atlantic area until December, 1946, after which he served as executive officer at Naval Station, Annapolis. In June, 1949, he reported for a course in personnel administration at Stanford University, from which he received a Master of Arts degree in June, 1950.
He next joined USS Helena as executive officer and while attached to that cruiser, participated in operations in Korea during the hostilities there. He was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Combat "V" for his services.
From July, 1951 until June, 1952, he was executive officer at the Receiving Station, Washington, D.C. after which he was in command of Recruit Training Command, San Diego.
In June, 1954, he assumed command of USS Seminole and in August, 1955, he reported for duty as head of the Current Plans and Policy Branck, Personnel Plans Division, Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He remained there until July, 1957 and after command of Amphibious Squadron One, he returned to the office of the Chief of Naval Oerations, where for two years he was head of the Amphibious Warfare Systems Branch, Surface Type Warfare Divison.
In June, 1961, he became center commander at NTC.
In addition to the Bronze Star Medal, the Commendation Medal and the Presidential Unit Citation, Capt. Thomas also received th American Service Medal; the American Campaign Medal; the European-Africa-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal with one Operation star; the Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with one silver star and one bronze star (six total); the World War II Victory Medal; the China Service Medal; the Navy Occupation Service Medal; the National Defense Service Medal; the United Nations Service Medal; and the Philippine Liberation Ribbon.
No further information is available on Capt. Thomas after 1960. If anyone has any information on his career following the Navy or date of death, please contact the webmaster.
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