Coronado’s “Avenue Of The Heroes” ... Captain William Bismarck Thomas, USN - Coronado Eagle & Journal | Coronado News | Coronado Island News: Coronado City News

Coronado’s “Avenue Of The Heroes” ... Captain William Bismarck Thomas, USN

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Posted: Thursday, March 15, 2018 10:39 am

Captain William Bismarck “Bill” Thomas was born on October 25, 1913, in Harlan, Iowa. Having grown up in Marysville, Kansas, he graduated from the US Naval Academy in 1936, and following graduation, served aboard USS Chicago (CA 29) and USS Dent (DD 116). After attending submarine school in 1940, Thomas served on USS R-11 (SS 88) and commanded USS R-15 (SS 92) in the Atlantic.

During World War II, in the Pacific theater, Thomas commanded USS Trepang (SS 412) and USS Croaker (SS 246). For his “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action as Commanding Officer of the USS Croaker,” Thomas was awarded the Silver Star. During USS Croaker’s Fifth War Patrol, from May 5 to June 5, 1945, Thomas boldly carried out five night surface attacks, which resulted in the destruction of three of four ships in an enemy convoy.

After the war, Thomas served on submarine staffs in both New London and Pearl Harbor, was a member of the staff that converted the Del Monte Hotel in Monterey, California into the Navy Post Graduate School, where he also was an instructor and served on the staff of the Commandant. He attended both the Armed Forces Staff College and the National War College and was part of the planning staff of CINCNELM in London, England. After his final tour of duty as Chief of Staff, Eleventh Naval District, San Diego, California, Thomas retired from active duty in 1966.

Thomas had a great sense of humor and was quite the showman. While stationed at Monterey, he wrote, directed and starred in several amateur theatricals. At one performance, he was “discovered” by producer, director, and actor Harold Lloyd who convinced him to come to Hollywood for acting lessons and a screen test. The test was successful and he was offered a contract at Paramount Studios. After considering the offer, Thomas decided to choose the security of his career in the US Navy.

Thomas also loved to tell the story of how his fourth child came into the world. During his time in London, England, his wife went into labor prematurely. Bill, driving frantically, was in route to the hospital, when his wife let him know that they were not going to arrive in time. He pulled over to the side of the road (on a very busy street), and in plain view of a tour bus that just happen to stop, Thomas delivered his fourth child in the backseat of their car. He went back at a later date, and photographed the car parked in the same locale, which has become a fun family memento and memory.

Thomas and his family remained in Coronado, having moved there in 1963. After retirement, he taught high school math for five years. He was a lifetime member of the Naval Academy Alumni Association, the Retired Officers Association, and an Elder of the Graham Memorial Presbyterian Church.

He was also an avid golfer for 70 years, having maintained a single digit handicap in his heyday, and served as past president of the Coronado Men’s Golf Club. He died in 2004 at the age of 90.

The Hometown Heroes banners can be viewed on Third and Fourth Streets between Orange Avenue and Alameda Boulevard, which have been designated by the City of Coronado as “The Avenue of Heroes” and recently designated by the State of California as a Blue Star Memorial Highway.

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