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2A • March 3, 2017 • Seaside Signal • seasidesignal.com
‘Pearl Harbor Bill’ kept the memory alive
Survivor brought memorial
honoring veterans to Seaside
By R.J. Marx
by. I knew him for years. Every day he
would come in and say ‘hello’ for 10
or 15 minutes, then he’d go on to the
Bill Thomas, who survived the
Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, spent
much of his life making sure no one
would forget the ones who died.
Thomas brought World War II his-
tory alive for new generations by shar-
ing his experience and he led the way
on a Pearl Harbor plaque on the First
Avenue Bridge in Seaside that was
dedicated in 2000.
On Saturday, friends and veterans
will remember Thomas — who died at
95 in December — at Seaside’s Amer-
ican Legion Post 99.
“Bill personified the proud patriotic
soldier who was equally proud of his
service and always wanted to keep the
memory of the men and women who
lost their lives in Pearl Harbor,” Russ
Vandenberg, general manager of the
Seaside Civic and Convention Center,
“Bill was clearly part of the great-
est generation,” state Sen. Betsy John-
son said. “He was a great American,
a terrific guy and part of my parents’
generation that made the world safe
“Everyone knew ‘Pearl Harbor
Bill,’” his friend Eric Beal, an Amer-
ican Legion committee chairman and
owner of North Coast Leather, said.
“He would walk all over town. I was
just one of the many places he’d stop
Thomas, a Seaside High School
graduate, joined the military at 17.
The attack that killed almost 2,400
people and launched the U.S. into war
took place two months after Thomas’
“As a very young sailor in the Unit-
ed States Navy, Bill had a front-row
seat to history,” Capt. Bruce Jones,
former Coast Guard Sector Columbia
River commander said at the 2015
Pearl Harbor ceremony in Seaside.
“But he was much more than a spec-
tator. He fought back, returning to his
ship, the USS Medusa, as the attacking
Japanese aircraft swarmed overhead.
And he manned aircraft guns along-
side his shipmates, and in the midst of
great chaos and devastation.
“He often told the story of looking
up during the attack and seeing one
of the Japanese pilots looking down
with a sheepish grin on his face while
showing his gold tooth,” Vandenberg
said. “He told me he will never forget
the look on his face and how it later
made him sick to his stomach as he re-
called that fatal day.”
“If you had a baseball or a stone
you could have thrown it and hit a
plane,” Thomas told the Seaside Sig-
nal in 2011. “They were that close.”
Thomas was severely wounded in
action later in the war while serving
aboard the USS Phelps, a ship that
A plaque honoring veterans of Pearl
Harbor on First Avenue in Seaside.
EO MEDIA GROUP/FILE PHOTO
Bill Thomas, a Pearl Harbor survivor aboard the USS Medusa, salutes as
Boy Scout Troop 642 lowered the flag to half-staff during the Pearl Harbor
Day of Remembrance ceremony at the Seaside Convention Center in 2015.
fought at the Battle of Midway and
protected forces at Guadalcanal.
Thomas was sent to Alameda, Cal-
ifornia, for convalescence, Beal said,
and lived and worked in San Francisco
for many years.
After travels on a dredge to Alaska
and Vietnam as a civilian member of
the Army Corps of Engineers, Thomas
returned to the Northwest in a mainte-
nance capacity for schools in Portland.
In the 1970s, Thomas moved to
Seaside where he rallied for veterans
and proposed a Pearl Harbor memorial
on the First Avenue Bridge, Beal said.
Thomas was “the impetus” for Sea-
side’s Pearl Harbor remembrance, for-
mer Mayor Don Larson said in 2015.
The annual event brings the com-
munity together to reflect on the attack
that left a lasting impression on the
country’s collective memory.
“The remembrance ceremony for
him was one of the most incredibly
poignant points of connectivity be-
tween current times and the dark days
of World War II,” Johnson said.
“Bill wanted to make sure the
Pearl Harbor remembrance ceremo-
ny would continue long after he was
gone so that the youth and citizens of
our community would never forget
the brave men and women who made
the ultimate sacrifice for our country,”
Thomas was “very involved” in the
planning and scheduling of speakers
during the annual ceremony, Vanden-
“He knew more about naval histo-
ry than most people forget,” Beal said.
“He had limited education, but he was
self-educated. He was an amazing guy
in a lot of ways.”
Due to ill-health, Thomas was un-
able to attend Seaside’s 2016 ceremo-
ny, but he was honored in a written
statement from Johnson.
“Bill was only 20 when the world
turned upside down,” Johnson wrote.
“He was tested in ways many of us
never are. These young men and wom-
en understand that war is not a video
game … It’s a pleasure and honor to
say thank you to Bill Thomas.”
A memorial for Thomas takes place
Saturday at 1 p.m., American Legion
Post 99, 1315 Broadway, Seaside.
SEASIDE POLICE LOG
3:37 a.m., Avenue A: A theft is
reported as well as a subject re-
sisting arrest. The subject was
charged with burglary in the sec-
8:02 a.m., 900 block Avenue S:
A burglary is reported, as well as
8:42 a.m., 2400 block S.
Roosevelt: A person who police
are looking for on a warrant is
pulled over while driving under
12:02 p.m., 300 block S.
Roosevelt: A business owner re-
porting criminal mischief he said
was perpetrated by another busi-
ness owner regarding destroyed
signage because, he said, both
parties are selling the same prod-
uct, was deemed a civil matter af-
ter police spoke to both parties.
6:49 p.m., N. Hemlock: Police as-
sist Cannon Beach police in an ar-
rest attempt; the subject was un-
able to be located.
8:35 p.m., N. Hemlock: Police as-
sistance was requested in Cannon
Beach to assist in a foiled arrest
that occurred a few hours earlier;
the subject was taken into cus-
tody. Seaside police were no lon-
8:49 a.m., 12th and N. Wahanna:
An elderly woman riding a mo-
torized vehicle was complained
about by vehicle drivers for “falling
asleep at the wheel,” and “obstruct-
ing traffic.” Officers contacted staff
at Suzanne Elise, who were advised.
9:33 a.m., Safeway parking lot:
Caller advised he left his dog in
his vehicle while inside the store;
an unknown person opened the
door and let the dog out. Caller
called back to say he’d found his
dog and police were no longer
12:42 p.m.,1200 block S.
Wahanna: Police assist a man
in the throes of an anxiety at-
tack. Subject was transported to
Providence Seaside Hospital.
3:59 p.m., 900 block Avenue S: A
theft in the third degree was re-
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11:02 p.m., Highway 101: A per-
son was arrested and charged
with driving under the influence
2:34 a.m., 600 block Duane
Street: A person sought by police
was apprehended on a warrant.
10:39 a.m., 400 S. Roosevelt: A
motor vehicle hit and run was re-
10:51 a.m., 300 5th Avenue:
Caller reports an angry man
frightening her. Police are unable
1:09 p.m., N. Columbia: Caller re-
ports a vehicle with two different
license plates. Officers responding
could not locate the vehicle.
5:38 p.m., N. Columbia: A found
wallet was turned into the police
2:04 a.m., 900 block S. Columbia:
Police respond to a report of a
small party who appeared to be
lost. Upon police arrival, it turned
out the group were lost as well as
highly intoxicated and needing
help locating their vacation rental.
Police offer the group a courtesy
ride to their lodgings and into the
hands of a sober and responsible
7:06 p.m., Ocean Way: Mother re-
quests welfare check on her adult
son with mental issues. Officer
searching the area was unable to
locate the subject.
7:24 p.m., 1100 block S. Downing:
Report of a verbal disturbance in a
nearby residence involving yelling
and cursing. Officers are unable to
make contact with subjects and
there are no further calls about it
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