- Category: USS Arizona Survivor Stories
- Last Updated: Friday, 20 November 2015 22:21
- Published: Saturday, 11 March 2000 00:00
Thomas William Stanborough, Jr.
Seaman First Class on 7 December 1941
Submitted by Evelyn Blalock
Thomas William Stanborough was born on July 22, 1922, in New Orleans, LA. He enlisted in the United States Navy on July 22, 1940, and he received his training at San Diego, California. On September 14, 1940 he was selected honor man of his company of 128 recruits. Tommy was assigned to the USS Arizona on October 1, 1940.
On December 7, 1941, when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor, Tommy was aboard ship. Here are Tommy's words, written to his mother, Katherine Stanborough of New Orleans, LA, regarding that eventful day:
"I was up in the lookout tower about 8am when I was first hit. A shrapnel shell exploded and gigged my left leg... later on after we abandoned ship and started swimming for shore 600 feet away I was struck in the right wrist by machine gun fire from a low flying Jap plane."
Tommy didn't talk much about the attack after that one letter. The magnitude of the event and the loss of his shipmates weighed heavy on his heart and mind for the remainder of his short life.
After Pearl Harbor, Thomas was sent back to New Orleans to learn about the Higgins landing Eureka Boats, and after graduating with honors from this course of instructions, he was assigned active duty in the North Africa section. This is what he had to say about that assignment:
"In the landing of troops in French Morocco there was perfect coordination between all branches of the American service. It was a perfect teamwork. Every man in it knew what he and the other fellow had to do - and did it with lots of spirit and courage. I was operating a small landing boat. We would land a detail of soldiers, and if there was nothing which we had to do toward seeing that the troops got under way, we spun around and ploughed back to our ship. One of the most thrilling parts of the landing was the whole-hearted reception we got from the French. Most of them were in tatters, and many of them were practically starved. We dug up dungarees and wholesome food for them. Their shouts of welcome and gratitude made us feel mighty glad that we were fighting with the Allied forces."
By 1943, Tommy was serving aboard the USS LCI (L) 69, near Banika Island in the South Pacific Ocean, under the command of Frazelle L. O'Leary, U.S.N.R. He had risen from the rank of Seaman Recruit to Boatswain's Mate, 1st Class, when he met his death by drowning in the Solomon Sea on Sunday, May 30, 1943, at 6:30 p.m. Here is an account of the details surrounding his death, as written by Rear Admiral Randall Jacobs in a letter to Tommy's mother:
"At approximately 6:30 in the evening on 30 May 1943, the ship on which your son was a member of the crew noticed that a ship ahead in column had stopped, turned on a searchlight, and showed a man overboard. Your son's ship was maneuvered into a position alongside the man overboard. The man overboard was a passenger soldier, who was found to have a broken arm, and was unable to utilize any of the life saving aids thrown to him. Then your son went over the side of the ship (held by three other enlisted men). During the endeavor to bring the soldier aboard, the heavy seas and strong current swept him from the grasp of his mates and both men were swept away from the ship. Stanborough had given his life jacket to the injured soldier. Although he did have hold of a life ring, he let that go in order to go to the aid of the soldier. After both men had been picked out again by the searchlight, your son drifted away before the ship could be maneuvered to pick him up. An extensive search was made to no avail, and it is presumed that your son's death occurred by drowning."
Greater love hath no man than that he gives up his life for a friend.
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