Amidst the vibrant streets of Dallas, Texas, where dreams took shape and aspirations soared high, a young artist named Tom Dick Neal embarked on a journey that would forever intertwine his destiny with the fate of a nation. With a heart brimming with creativity and a longing to serve, Tom nurtured his artistic talent while studying commercial art at Crozier Technical High School. His sketches and illustrations breathed life onto paper, drawing vivid stories that captured the imagination of those who beheld them.
As Tom’s passion for art burned bright, the winds of change blew through the nation, casting a shadow of uncertainty over the world. In July 1940, compelled by a sense of duty and a desire to defend the ideals he held dear, Tom enlisted in the United States Navy. Though his path now diverged from the realm of art, the flame of creativity continued to flicker within him.
Two original illustration cartoons drawn by Tom Neal for “Our Navy” Magazine.
Yet, destiny had a different narrative instore for Tom. As the sun painted the horizon with hues of gold and crimson on the morning of December 7, 1941, the tranquility of Pearl Harbor was shattered by the thunderous roar of approaching aircraft. The Japanese had launched a devastating surprise attack, thrusting the United States into the throes of war. On that ill-fated day, Seaman First Class Tom Dick Neal found himself aboard the mighty U.S.S. Arizona, a symbol of American naval might.
Amidst the chaos and destruction that ensued, Tom stood firm, resolute in his duty to protect his fellow sailors and defend the freedom he held dear. But the inferno of battle claimed his young life, forever etching his name among the courageous souls who made the ultimate sacrifice for their nation.
Born on November 27, 1919, to James Ward Neal, a dedicated watchmaker, and Loubell Bruton Neal, a nurturing homemaker, Tom possessed a spirit that burned with patriotism from an early age. Completing his studies at John H. Reagan School and possibly attending Adamson High School before his enrollment at Crozier, he embodied the values of determination and resilience instilled within him by his family and upbringing.
The cruel hand of fate dealt a heavy blow to the Neal family, for tragedy struck with an unrelenting force. In August 1940, just a month after Tom enlisted, his father, James, succumbed to a heart attack, leaving behind a void that could never be filled. The weight of grief mingled with the pride of service, as Tom’s older brother, James, left his position at the Post Office to join the Army Air Corps during both World War II and the Korean War. The legacy of sacrifice ran deep within the Neal family, a testament to their unyielding devotion to country and kin.
Through the passage of time, the memory of Tom Dick Neal endured. In the home where his niece Tamara Neal Miller raised her sons Bruce, David, and Benjamin, Tom’s Purple Heart took its place of honor on the wall, a poignant reminder of the sacrifices made by the uncle they never knew.
Inspired by their family’s history of service, all three young men would go on to forge their own paths in the United States Navy, honoring the legacy of their brave uncle and continuing the noble tradition of defending the nation they hold dear.
Tom Neal’s family visits the U.S.S. Arizona Memorial.
Seaman First Class Tom Dick Neal, a son, a brother, an artist, and a US Navy hero, shall forever be remembered as a guiding light, illuminating our path toward a future built on the foundations of liberty, unity, and unwavering patriotism. May his legacy inspire us to stand tall, to embrace our passions, and to carry the torch of freedom, ensuring that the sacrifices made by heroes like him are never in vain.
NOTE: If you are a family member related to this crew member of the U.S.S. Arizona, or have additional information, pictures or documents to share about his life or service to our county please contact us through our FAMILY MEMBER SUBMISSION FORM.
Sources: Special thanks to Tamara Neal Miller for the photograph of her uncle and for sharing family history. Thanks also to the U.S. Naval Institute archive for finding Mr. Neal’s cartoons in “Our Navy” magazine. Other sources were: U.S. Census; Texas death certificate; Adamson High yearbook; VA Death File; Dallasnews.com. This profile was rewritten by “Operation 85” from the original sourced profile written by Bobbi Jo Buel on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.