Sat, Feb 11 2012 12:00 PM Posted By: Richard Peña
When one takes on the task of writing his memoirs he is apt to run across a few barriers. While researching a period of his life he will invariably come across an item or an individual that deserves more than a passing entry. Such a thing happened to Bonitan Jim Thompson. To quote him, “While writing my family’s history and reviewing, for the first time in many years, my father’s service records I learned that I hadn’t fully appreciated what my father had accomplished in World War One.”
Thompson states that the United States entered that war on April 6 in 1917 and his parents were married three days later. They had the distinction of being the first military couple to marry in the state of Montana.
The strange part of this scenario is that Charles, the elder Thompson, was a participant in the war from its very beginning but has just recently, within the past year, been recognized for acts of heroism. For this he was posthumously decorated. He was a member of the Montana National Guard, a top sergeant in Company D, on the country’s entry into the war.
They apparently did not waste any time in those days. Within a very short period Thompson found himself, first promoted to lieutenant and then Europe-bound as a member of the famed AEF, the American Expeditionary Force. He was assigned as the company commander of Company I, an infantry unit.
While engaged in battles from Sept. 12, 1918 to Oct. 4 he fought in engagements in the Champagne area, St. Mihiel, Meuse-Argonne and St. Ettiene-aux-Arnes all in France. Because of his conduct in these actions he was cited in two general orders that led to his decorations.
On reading of these citations son, Jim, decided to do a bit of research on the subject. The elder Thompson had received the Purple Heart— he had suffered injuries — and the WW I Victory medal with Citation Star. On examination he learned that the Victory Medal had been redesignated as the Silver Star Medal with retroactive provisions. The Silver Star ranks third in the Army after the Medal of Honor and the Distinguished Service Medal.
Thompson got the necessary papers together and submitted them to the Department of the Army asking for a Silver Star to replace the Victory Medal. He was, therefore, surprised when he received the word last December that 93 years after combat his father was being awarded the Silver Star, with an Oak Leaf cluster in lieu of a second medal. The elder Thompson had died in 1943, unaware that he was eligible for these decorations.
After the war Thompson left the army and with his family settled in North Dakota. Son Jim was born there in 1927. In the ensuing years the family moved a number of times from North Dakota to Glendale and then back again finally settling in California for good. Jim graduated from Los Angeles High School.
Jim Thompson followed in the footsteps of his father to some degree. He joined the military, but the Navy not the Army. And he was a career military man retiring from the navy as a lieutenant commander. When asked why not the army he said he preferred clean sheets to fox holes, a reasonable choice, indeed.
On his retirement from the service he and his late wife, Carmen, and children settled in Bonita where he went into business. He has been active in the community notably in the Bonita Kiwanis and the Bonita Museum. And, of course, writing his memoirs.
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