Robert Clarence Thomsen
1923 - 1945
THOMSEN, Robert Clarence Ens., USN 3900066
USS LAFFEY Okinawa
Recommended for NAVY CROSS (Post) by CO, USS LAFFEY File DD724/P15 CONFIDENTIAL Serial 031 dtd 5-10-45. CinCPac Ser. 033361. Recd.Bd.D&M 10-11-45.
Awarded: NAVY CROSS (Post) 18 Oct. 1945 Bd.Awds.Mtg.P:
Approved: 31 Oct. 1945 SecNav.
"Ensign Thomsen, Navigator, served as assistant evaluator in C.I.C. during this action, performing his duties in a superior manner. After radars were put out of action two direct hits on the mast and his services were no longer required, he proceeded aft to assist in fighting fires that were raging as a result of two suicide crashes and a bomb hit. He fearlessly led a fire hose into the smoke and flame of Compartment C-204-LM, where fires were threatening to set off ammunition in 5" mount 3 upper handling room and in the after 5" magazine. There he met his death when two suicide planes crashed near him. Although his primary duties were in C.I.C., he unhesitatingly risked, and lost, his life when he realized the urgency of the situation which threatened destruction of his ship. His conduct was exemplary and a source of inspiration to those who carried on the fight to save the ship, for which he had given his life."
This is a picture of Compartment C-204-LM showing the upper handling
room to Mt. 53. It was in this area that Ensign Thomsen fought the fires.
Robert C. Thomsen was born in Culbertson, Montana to Jens and Dagmar Thomsen on April 9, 1923. They moved to Portland, Oregon in 1924. Bob had 2 younger brothers, Bill who served in the Marine Corps and Thomas (Fred) who served the Navy.
He attended Kenton grade school, and graduated from Jefferson High School in 1941 with honors. Upon graduation, he received an appointment to the U.S. Naval Academy from U.S. Representative Homer D. Angel and reported to the academy that fall. Although scheduled for graduation in the class of 1945, because of the war, he was graduated in 1944. He joined the Laffey in Pearl Harbor during the month of August 1944.
Bobs general quarters station was in the Combat Information Center. At the height of the attack, he volunteered to fight fires that had spread below decks in the after part of the ship. While attempting to put out these fires, 2 more kamikazes hit the ship above the compartment in which he and others were attempting to put out the fire. He was awarded the Navy Cross posthumously for his actions.
On a personal note. I saw Bob for the first time in Hawaii as he approached the ship to report for duty. He was a tall. lanky young man. One would never suspect that he was an Annapolis graduate. In fact, I do not remember him ever mentioning it. He certainly did not act the role of an Annapolis man as we pictured it in our minds.
His primary duty was that of Navigator and it did not take us long to realize his proficiency in this field. He was a quiet, intense, competent and unassuming officer who, for relaxation, took to reading and smoking an occasional cigar in the chart room. Had it not been for his heroic actions, I am certain the ship would have sunk and the loss of life would have been extremely high.