It started out as another normal
day, but then Joy Locke, local genealogist and host of the Monroe Co., TN Genweb site received an e-mail from her sister Dede Harrill. As lookup volunteers for the genweb site, Dede and Joy receive emails daily from all
across the United States,
but this one was a little different. This one was from Italy.
Damiano Parravano had sent Dede an email stating that he was a WWII
historian, and had found a dog tag belonging to Clinton Thomas. The next of
kin was listed as James A. Thomas, Route 1, Madisonville,
TN. Damiano was looking for help in contacting any living members of Clinton’s family. Joy
became eagerly involved in the challenge.
Picture taken 3 February
2011 on the 67th anniversary that Clint was reported MIA.
Left to right: Benedetto Vecchio,
Antonio Cipolletta, Marisa Rea &
Damiano Parravano - Historic researchers of the Gustav Line Association.
Click for more information on the Gustav Line Association
with Damiano revealed that Clinton’s dog tag
had been found near Terelle,
Italy, a mountainous area
that was the sight of the Battle
of Terelle. Damiano and his fellow searchers had
found only Clinton’s
dog tag and some shell fragments.
A search of our WWII
memorial on the Courthouse lawn revealed the name of Clinton Thomas as one of
Monroe County’s fallen veterans, and a search for Clinton’s surviving
relatives began. The search found nephews James A. and Ernest Thomas, both
now living in McMinn County, and a niece, Lillian Pulley of Nashville, all of
whom were the children of the James A. Thomas, Sr. that was listed as the
next of kin on Clinton’s dog tags. The story that unfolded is how Clinton became more
than a name on a WWII Memorial; he became an individual.
Clinton, an unmarried
farmer and carpenter with an 8th grade education, had lost both of
his parents at the time that he joined the army, probably because big brother
Horace had also joined. Like most soldiers during this horrible time of war, Clinton went through
basic training and was sent to the European campaign. A letter from the War Department stated
that on 3 Feb 1944, Clint’s organization made an attack on enemy positions on
a hill (Terelle) north of Cassino, Italy. A strong enemy counter-attack then forced
the temporary withdrawal of our forces from the area. It was during this attack and withdrawal
that Clint was last seen and no trace of him was found. This hit his brother James very hard.
Having no closure apparently affected this serious natured brother in a
profound way. Ernest recalls his father leaving the room when Clinton’s name was
mentioned, and would never talk about the incident.
A conversation with VFW
State Commander Ken Miller of Monroe County, revealed that the dog tag was
considered the remains of Clinton Thomas. Plans were put in motion to return
the dog tag to the US, and
to give Clinton
a proper memorial, one that his immediate family had never received.
The dog tag has been
returned, and on Veteran’s Day, November 11th 2010 at 10:30 a.m.,
in front of the War Monument that holds Clinton’s name, the dog tag will be
officially presented to the family of Clinton Thomas, and a memorial service
will be held to honor him for his service and sacrifice.
Our thanks go out to
Damiano for revealing the true story of Clinton
Thomas, and for giving us the privilege to bestow proper tribute to one Monroe County’s heroes of war.
An update on Clinton W. Thomas occurred on May 24 of
2014. The memorial stone and the
unveiling ceremony were conceived and organized by the members of Associazione Linea Gustav – Centro studi
e ricerche storico militari in cooperation with the Township of Terelle. The ceremony was attended by the Military Attache of the American Embassy in Rome, COL
Phillip R. Cuccia.
Below was the poster for the event and also a picture of the
dedication. A tremendous thank you to
our friends of Italy,
and especially to Damiano and his close friends as seen in a picture
of the poster: “Celebration of
unveiling of memorial stone” To the
memory of Clinton Wallace Thomas and the
valiant men of the 142nd Infantry Regiment, 35th Inf.
Researcher and Designer
Joy Locke & Joe Irons