W. Garfield Thomas, Sr. Collection about W. Garfield Thomas, Jr. and mine safety, 1908-1954
- Thomas, W. Garfield
- Physical Description:
- 1 cubic foot
- Restrictions on Access:
- Unrestricted access. These materials are stored offsite. Please allow three days for retrieval before use.
- This collection consists of a scrapbook with other clippings and materials pertaining to W. Garfield Thomas, Jr. and clippings, photographs, and some correspondence related to mine safety between 1941 and 1954. Materials about W. Garfield Thomas, Sr., consist of photographs, newspaper clippings, and correspondence about mine accidents, mine safety, mine safety promotion exercises, and other coal industry events primarily in southwestern Pennsylvania bituminous coal fields. The memorial scrapbook for Lieutenant Junior Grade W. Garfield Thomas, Jr. includes correspondence, newspaper clippings, and a program from the dedication of the Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel at Penn State. There are also newspaper clippings about the ship, the USS Boise, on which Thomas served and died, the battle in which he died, and clippings about the dedication of a new cruiser to Thomas. There are also photographs and correspondence pertaining to the christening of the USS Garfield Thomas. Additional materials include a Western Union telegram of Thomas's death, a letter for receiving the Navy Cross and Purple Heart, a certificate for the Purple Heart, war correspondence, and papers from the Colver Presbyterian Church Memorial Service for Thomas's death.
- Thomas, W. Garfield—Archives
- Thomas, W. Garfield (William Garfield), 1916-1942
- United States. Navy—Officers—Archives
- Pennsylvania State College—Alumni and alumnae—Archives
- Boise (Cruiser)—History—20th century—Sources
- World War, 1939-1945—Naval operations, American
- Mine safety—History—20th century—Sources
- Coal mines and mining—Pennsylvania—History—20th century—Sources
- In the University Archives, University Libraries, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, Pa. (#MGN 292).
- Administrative History:
- Deputy Secretary of Mine Safety, W. Garfield Thomas Sr., was born in Audenreid, Luzerne County, Pennsylvania, and began his career in coal mining in the anthracite region with the Susquehanna Colliery. He then attended the Bellefonte Academy and Penn State College where he received a degree in Mining Engineering in 1906. After working as transitman in the coal industry, he worked for three years with the Pennsylvania Department of Highways. Beginning in 1916, he worked as assistant mining engineer with the Ebensberg Coal Company and was active in the Mine Inspector's Institute of America and the Coal Mining Institute of America. He was appointed Field Deputy Secretary of Mines for the Bituminous Coal Region in 1941 and served until 1955. When his son, Lieutenant Junior Grade William Garfield Thomas, Jr., died on board the U.S. Boise during World War II, Thomas was influential in having a U.S. Naval destroyer escort and the Garfield Thomas Water Tunnel at Penn State named after his son.
W. Garfield Thomas, Jr. was born in 1916. He grew up in Colver, Pennsylvania, and graduated from Penn State in 1938 with a degree in journalism. As a student, he was the manager of the soccer team and class historian and secretary. After graduating, he began working for the Ebensburg Coal Co. and then the Atlantic Refining Co. In the summer of 1940, Thomas joined the Naval Reserve; he sailed to Cuba on the USS Wyoming. Thomas completed an intensive three-month officers' training course and was among the first class of volunteer ensigns graduated outside of Annapolis in peacetime. By the end of 1940, Lieutenant Junior Grade Thomas reported for duty on the USS Boise, a 10,000-ton light cruiser. In early 1941, he traveled to Pearl Harbor. For more than a year, Lt. Thomas and his shipmates on the Boise sailed the Pacific. They encountered battle on Oct. 11, 1942, when they entered Cape Esperance on the northwest tip of Guadalcanal. In this struggle, which continued the next day, the Boise sank six Japanese ships, but was hit by enemy fire. Thomas, the officer in charge of the No. 1 turret, was critically wounded when an eight-inch shell pierced this armored steel structure. Despite his injuries, the 27-year-old man bravely stayed behind in his blazing station and ordered his men to abandon ship. He died aboard the embattled Boise and was later buried at sea. He was Penn State's first reported hero of the war. For his courageousness, Lt. Thomas was posthumously awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart. A year after his death, the Navy named a destroyer escort in his honor. In 1949, the Water Tunnel Research Center at Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Lab was dedicated in honor of Lieutenant Garfield Thomas.
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