4 Feb 1945 — Madisonville, Tn
It started out as another normal day, but then Joy Locke, local genealogist and host of the Monroe (county) 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.
Contact 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. News that Clinton was missing in action and probably died defending a bridge shortly after arriving in Italy 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, 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.