COX Vincent Duron Thomas
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COX Vincent Duron Thomas
Four men from rural Greene County, Illinois, died aboard the U.S.S. Arizona at Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941, including Vincent “Tommy” Duron Thomas.
The four lived just eight miles apart and knew one another. Mr. Thomas and his best friend from boyhood, Lloyd Glenn Bryant, were from Hillview, population 544.
They enlisted in the Navy together on Oct. 4, 1939, and in the summer before their deaths they married sisters in Glendale, California. They were married three days when the men found out that the ship’s visit to the West Coast would soon end and that they would return to Hawaii by early July. They never again saw their wives — Myrtle married to Tommy and Helen married to Lloyd.
Both men attended Hillview High School, but because it included only three grades, they then transferred to White Hall High School in nearby White Hall, Illinois. They graduated in 1938.
White Hall was the home of two other men killed on the U.S.S. Arizona: Joe Otis McGlasson and Edward Smith. White Hall’s 1940 population was 3,025.
Mr. Smith graduated from White Hall High in 1937. Mr. McGlasson was the same age as Mr. Smith, but he left school after 8th grade to work and help his family.
The American Legion Hall in Hillview was named in memory of Mr. Thomas and Mr. Bryant. Memorial stones at the Veterans of Foreign Wars cemetery in nearby White Hall honor Mr. Smith and Mr. McGlasson.
Mr. Thomas was born June 19, 1920. His father, Ernest Thomas, was a farm hand and his mother, Carrie Schutz Thomas, a homemaker. The couple divorced and the mother remarried before 1930. Vincent remained with her.
Mr. Thomas was a coxswain and petty officer third class when he was killed. There is a cenotaph for him at his mother’s gravesite at Pine Tree Cemetery in Greene County.
Sources: Terry Kruckeberg of the Greene County Historical and Genealogical Society; Jacksonville Journal Courier; Navy muster rolls, grave markers; U.S. Census; Iowa death record. The wedding photo is courtesy of Gene and Janet Bryant. It shows Mr. and Mrs. Bryant second and third from the left. Mr. and Mrs. Thomas are second and third from the right. The couple on both ends are the minister who married them and his wife. The photo of Vincent Thomas alone is from findagrave.com.
This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.