,PHOENIXVILLE -- Jesse Thomas, an 82-year-old veteran of World War II, will be honored on Friday at Marine Night. The night was established through the efforts of Councilperson Mike Speck, working with the Community Development Corp., to enable Marines to come to Phoenixville and enjoy one of the Molly Maguire's Summer Street Music Series Fridays, which draw such large crowds.
Honoring Thomas will be Congressman Jim Gerlach, Pa. Sen. Andy Dinniman and Phoenixville Mayor Leo Scoda in a ceremony that gets underway on the Main Stage at Bridge and Main streets at 7 p.m. Later that night, Led Zeppelin cover group Black Dog will play at 7:30.
Thomas was a Private First Class (PFC) from 1944-1946 and is a native of Cochranville, although he was born in Homesville.
His military service resulted in his being awarded:
2 purple hearts
the bronze star
expert rifleman status, and
his unit had a citation
He was in 1st Platoon G. Company, 22nd regiment, and 6th Marine division.
Thomas graduated from Cochranville High School at 16 and could not go to the war until age 18. He then signed up the day before his 18th birthday. He married his high school sweetheart before going off to war. He did not see his son until the boy was 2 years old.
He had made up his mind to enter the war with the bombing of Pearl Harbor. He then went to Parris Island, to Camp Lejeune, to Camp Pendleton. From there he went to Russell Island for jungle training.
On Easter Sunday, April 1, 1945, Thomas was equipped with hand grenades, ammo and sent to the beach at Okinawa. He and his comrades had to wade in the first thousand feet to shore. They split the island in half and headed south. The Japanese were dug into a cave system.
A mortar shell that fell between Thomas and his buddy while he was fighting Japanese on Okinawa wounded him. When the group reached the southernmost part of the island, Jesse and four of his platoon raised the flag, signifying the capture of Okinawa.
At Friday's ceremony, there will be a sign-in and special seating for the Marines attending. Marines are welcome to attend. For Information, contact Barry Cassidy, Marine Night Coordinator, at 484-880-1530.