Medal of Honor Citation

Sergeant Herbert Joseph Thomas, 25, a Marine from West Virginia and a former football star at Virginia Polytechnic Institute, was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor for heroism on Bougainville at the cost of the life, 7 November 1943.

Sergeant Thomas was killed in the Koromokina River area on Bougainville on 7 November 1943, while participating with Marine infantry in an assault upon two Japanese infantry companies. The enemy was reinforced by mortars and automatic weapons and entrenched in skillfully camouflaged emplacements. The Japanese at the time were engaged in a major effort against the left flank of the 3d Marine Division's position and the sergeant was leading his squad in an advance to the center of the enemy's position.

During the attack, his squad fought its way through defense jungle undergrowth and in the face of heavy fire.

After wiping out two Japanese machine gun crews in their daring advance toward the heart of the enemy's assaulting forces, the Marines discovered a third machine gun, strongly emplaced. It was in preparation for an attack upon this emplacement that Sgt Thomas met death, throwing himself upon a grenade to save the lives of his comrades. He threw the grenade to open the attack, but it struck vine growth overhead and fell among the closely grouped squad. In taking the force of the explosion, Sgt Thomas was killed instantly. Saved by their leader and inspired by his sacrifice, the Marine squad immediately charged the gun and killed its defenders.

Herbert Joseph Thomas was born 9 February 1918 in Columbus, Ohio. He was chosen on the Virginia all-State college eleven football squad in his last year at V.P.I., and was a member of the all-Southern team. He received honorable mention for all-America.

Previously, he excelled in football at South Charleston High School and Greenbrier Military School, Greenbrier, West Virginia. He enlisted in the Marine Corps on 3 March 1942. A year earlier, he had joined the Army as an aviation cadet, but was discharged for flying deficiency after almost four months of service.

Initially buried in the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps Cemetery on Bougainville, Sgt Thomas' remains were later reinterred in Sunset Memorial Park Cemetery, South Charleston, West Virginia.

World War II 1941-1945 Medal of Honor

Marine Corps University