Lawrence Wade Thompson
Lawrence Wade Thompson was born May 8, 1921, in Gary, West Virginia, one of eleven children born to Everett and Pearl Barr Thompson.
Though born in Gary, McDowell County, Lawrence was raised at Chattaroy, Mingo County, where he attended high school. He later was a student at Marshall College (University) for two years during which he was a member of Alpha Kappa Pi fraternity. He entered the service in July 1942 as a naval aviation cadet and completed his coursework at the Navy pre-flight school located at Athens, Georgia. Cadet Thompson was then ordered to Peru, Indiana, for primary flight training. He received his flight wings and commission in the United States Naval Reserve on August 31, 1943, at Pensacola, Florida.
Lieutenant Thompson first served in the European Theater, where he was a Hellcat pilot on the USS Tulagi and flew aircraft armed with machine guns, rocket and bombs and used to provide cover for naval fleets, provide close support for Army troops as they stormed beachheads, and also to conduct attack missions ashore. A member of VOF-1 squadron, he was part of Operation Dragoon in Southern France in August 1944. For his achievement during the invasion of Southern France, Lieutenant Thompson was awarded the Air Medal:
Boldly defying relentless anti-aircraft fire trained on this plane by hostile guns, Lt. Thompson flew deeply into enemy-held territory to direct vigorous bombing and strafing attacks against coastal defenses, lines of communications and troop concentrations, fighting his plane expertly, and with determined courage to destroy or severely damage many of the vital installations.
In 1945, his squadron became VOC-1 (composite spotting squadron) and was moved to the USS Wake Island for operations in the Pacific.
Lieutenant Thompson wrote to his family of taking part in the Luzon invasion at the Lingayen Gulf and noted the job at Iwo Jima had been completed. He was reported missing as of March 27, 1945, while taking part in the Okinawa invasion. His plane experienced a power failure halfway down the deck of the ship and did not gain altitude, instead falling over the bow of the ship and into the path of the ship, breaking in two when it was struck by the vessel. Lt. Thompson, though injured, was seen swimming away from the plane. An escort vessel proceeded to the spot where he was floating on his opened parachute awaiting rescue, but as the vessel reached the scene, he sank from sight and did not reappear.
Lt. Lawrence Wade Thompson was the recipient of multiple air medals, distinguished flying crosses and other awards for his service in the European and Pacific theaters. He is memorialized in several places most notably at the Punch Bowl in Honolulu, Hawaii.
Information and photos provided by Amy Bourg Shevchenko (niece)
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