S2c William Thomas Free,


S2c William Thomas Free

Thomas Augusta Free and his son, William Thomas Free, were together only briefly in life.

The last time was in October 1941, when Thomas, then 50, joined William, 17, on the crew of the U.S.S. Arizona. Both were killed that Dec. 7, when Japan attacked Pearl Harbor. There were dozens of relatives on the battleship — brothers, cousins, and uncles — but the Frees were the only father and son.

Thomas Augusta, known as Gussie, was born Feb. 2, 1891, in Alabama. He moved to Texas and farmed before joining the Navy in 1917. Mr. Free was in active service in World War I, but returned to Texas, at least for a short time, in 1919.

A short news article that December said he was back in Bryan about 90 miles northwest of Houston after helping with the cotton harvest in west Texas. On Dec. 21 he married Myrtle Bice. He was 28 and had previously been married. She was 15.

William Thomas was born on Jan. 9, 1924 in Norfolk, Virginia. His sister, Marie, was born in 1925 in California. Their parents soon divorced and the children went to live with their father’s sister, Lillie Mae, and her husband, Frank Meads, near Bryan in Brazos County Texas. They stayed with the Meads throughout childhood.

Right after his 17th birthday, William followed his father into the Navy. He went aboard the Arizona in April 1941 and by the time of his death seven months later was a seaman second class. Thomas was a machinist’s mate and petty officer first class.

Sources: Special thanks to Karen Baker, who is related to the Frees, for most of this research and the photo of Thomas Free. Other sources include: the Eagle of Bryan, Texas; the Bryan Daily Eagle; WWI draft registration card; Virginia birth record; Census; Navy muster rolls. The photo of William is from the Navy. This profile was researched and written on behalf of the U.S.S. Arizona Mall Memorial at the University of Arizona.
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