b. 16/08/1927 New York. d. 06/08/1950 Haman, Korea.
DATE OF MOH ACTION: 06/08/1950 Haman, Korea.
William Thompson was born on 16 August 1927 in Brooklyn, New York to an unmarried mother. Little is known of Thompson's early life, but he grew up in an impoverished tenement house neighborhood. He dropped out of school at a young age, and spent his teen years wandering the streets. A local minister noticed Thompson sleeping in a park one evening and took him to a homeless shelter, the New York Home for Homeless Boys. Thompson remained a resident there until he turned 18 in 1945.
Some sources alternatively state Thompson decided to join the United States Army as an opportunity to escape poverty, or that he was drafted. Thompson enlisted in the army in October 1945, and after basic combat training was assigned to a post in Adak, Alaska. After 18 months, he was honorably discharged from the military, but found adjustment to civilian life difficult and opted to return to the military. In January 1948, Thompson reenlisted and was assigned to the U.S. 6th Infantry Division, which was on occupation duty in South Korea. When the 6th Infantry Division returned to the United States, he was reassigned to the U.S. 24th Infantry Regiment, U.S. 25th Infantry Division which was assigned to the post-World War II occupation of Japan. His Military Occupational Specialty was 4812, that of a heavy weapons infantryman who operated automatic weapons.
Thompson's actions were initially overlooked by division commanders, who instead focused on the poor performance of the 24th Infantry Regiment, whose soldiers panicked and fled from combat. Thompson's battalion commander, Lieutenant Colonel Melvin Blair, initially refused to submit a recommendation, until 4 January 1951, five months after the action. Thompson initially received a Silver Star Medal for the action, but after Blair changed his mind he began pushing the paperwork through, personally locating the witnesses who could attest to Thompson's valor. Blair hoped Thompson's recognition would improve other commanders' views on the 24th Infantry Regiment. Eventually, though, that unit was disbanded and its personnel integrated into other units.
On 21 June 1951, General of the Army Omar Bradley presented Thompson's mother with the Medal of Honor, posthumously recognizing Thompson's actions.
Pfc. Thompson distinguished himself by conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity above and beyond the call of duty in action against the enemy. While his platoon was reorganizing under cover of darkness, fanatical enemy forces in overwhelming strength launched a surprise attack on the unit. Pfc. Thompson set up his machine gun in the path of the onslaught and swept the enemy with withering fire, pinning them down momentarily thus permitting the remainder of his platoon to withdraw to a more tenable position. Although hit repeatedly by grenade fragments and small-arms fire, he resisted all efforts of his comrades to induce him to withdraw, steadfastly remained at his machine gun and continued to deliver deadly, accurate fire until mortally wounded by an enemy grenade. Pfc. Thompson's dauntless courage and gallant self-sacrifice reflect the highest credit on himself and uphold the esteemed traditions of military service
BURIAL LOCATION: LONG ISLAND NATIONAL CEMETERY, EAST FARMINGDALE, NEW YORK.
Section DSS, Grave 19
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