Seaman William Anton “Bill” Thiessen, 22, of Salt Lake City, Utah, was killed May 17, 1945 when a Japanese kamikaze plane attacked the destroyer U.S.S. Douglas H. Fox near Okinawa. Seven men were killed at 35 wounded in the attack.
He was born September 11, 1922, in Salt Lake City, the son of Anton Fokko “Val” Thiessen and Alice May Brinkerhoff Thiessen. His father was born in the Netherlands, converted to the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints in 1901, and moved to Salt Lake City around 1911.
Seaman Thiessen graduated from East High School, where he was an all-city tackle on the football team. He married Dorothy Rogers in August 1942 in Salt Lake City, and they had a daughter, Jeanne Marie Thiessen. He was employed at the Utah Copper Company in Magna, Utah, before entering the Navy in June 1944. After training at Farragut, Idaho he was sent overseas in March 1945.
In May of 1948, the Salt Lake Tribune published a photograph of Seaman Thiessen’s widow and four-year-old daughter at a Memorial Day observance in the Ft. Douglas Cemetery. The caption said: “This Day Will Mean Something to Jean Marie. In the peaceful quiet of Ft. Douglas Cemetery, Mrs. Dorothy Thiessen, 1175 E. 13th South, tells her 4-year-old daughter, Jean Marie, of the import of Memorial Day. On Sunday and Monday, thousands of Utahns will likewise pay their respects to their war dead. Mrs. Thiessen’s husband, William A. Thiessen, was killed while serving aboard a destroyer at Okinawa.”
His remains were returned to the States and interred at the Salt Lake City Cemetery April 2, 1949.
His widow did not remarry, and was active in the Gold Star Wives organization. The 1977 Salt Lake City directory shows her working as a bookkeeper. When she died in 2001, her obituary said: “She married her high school sweetheart and the love of her life, William A. Thiessen on August 16, 1942. He was killed in action aboard the U.S.S. Douglas H. Fox in Okinawa, Japan during World War II. She has waited a lifetime to be reunited with him and we know the reunion is joyous!”
They are buried side-by-side.
This story is part of the Stories Behind the Stars project (www.storiesbehindthestars.org .) This is a national effort of volunteers to write the stories of all 400,000+ of the US WWII fallen here on Fold3. Can you help write these stories? Related to this, there will be a smart phone app that will allow people to visit any war memorial or cemetery, scan the fallen person's name and read his/her story.