Lieutenant Charles L. Thomas


Lieutenant Charles L. Thomas

Lieutenant (later Major) Charles L. Thomas was born in Birmingham, Alabama, on 17 April 1920. He was drafted and after completing Basic Training entered Officer Candidate School at Camp Carson, Colorado, where black soldiers were sent to be officers in the 614th Tank Destroyer Battalion. After commissioning as a second lieutenant, he deployed with his unit to England. The 614th later joined Patton’s Third Army in Metz, France.

On 14 December 1944, LT Thomas volunteered to lead the 3rd Platoon of his company to storm and capture the village of Climbach, a strategically important town which was five miles from the German border. Approaching Climbach, Thomas’s scout car was disabled by enemy fire, and he was wounded. Thomas helped his crew out of the vehicle but as he left the car’s protection he was again wounded in the chest, leg and arms. Despite his wounds, Thomas directed the dispersal and emplacement of the anti-tank guns, which then returned fire and covered the attempt by the rest of the task force to outflank the defenders. Only when he was sure the situation was under control did Thomas allow himself to be evacuated.

The courageous conduct of the platoon enabled the task force to capture its objective. The Soldiers led by LT Thomas received four silver stars, and nine bronze stars. LT Thomas received the Distinguished Service Cross. In the early 1990s, it was determined that black soldiers had been denied consideration for the Medal of Honor in World War II because of their race. After an exhaustive review of files, a recommendation was made that ten black Americans who served in World War II receive the Medal of Honor. Charles Thomas was one of those ten and received the Medal of Honor, posthumously when given to his niece in 1997 by President Clinton.

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