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John Frederick Thomas

S/SGT in 3133rd Signal Service Co


Born 1916 in PA, Died 1976

County of residence at enlistment: Berks County PA
Other residence(s): Temple (Muhlenberg Twp) PA
United States Army, European Theatre of Operations
Occupation before the war: semiskilled occupations in manufacture of knit goods
Notes: Rank changed from PVT in GA roster to S/SGT per gravestone/burial card
Source: 3133rd Program, 15 Sep 1944; 3133rd roster from 10th Mountain Division Museum at Fort Drum; photo courtesy Greg Hoffman

John Thomas was born on July 7, 1916 in Temple, Muhlenberg Township, PA, the sixth of seven children. His father worked as a laborer in a steel mill and an iron works, and later as an electrical engineer.  His mother died of chronic kidney disease in 1922, two months after the birth of her seventh child, when John was only six years old.

John left school after eighth grade and got a job working at a hosiery mill where his two older sisters also worked. On April 12, 1938 he married Helen Mae Hafer. On October 16, 1940, when he registered for the draft, he was still living in Temple and working at Rosedale Knitting Company in nearby Laureldale.

John enlisted on February 20, 1944 and was assigned to the 3133 Signal Service Company. He saw service in Italy during the spring of 1945, and was discharged from the Army on February 6, 1946 with the rank of Staff SGT. Two of his brothers also served during the war—Francis Leon in the 6th Armored Division and William H. in the Army Air Corps. William was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Air Medal for his service. The fourth brother was drafted but exempted from service since he was the only remaining male in the family.

John and Helen's first child, Neil, was born in 1941; they would go on to become the parents of five with the rest of their children (Cora, Linda, Miriam, and Paul) born after the war. John and his brothers continued to work in the hosiery business, but eventually John changed careers and took a job in the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) as an assistant to the Superintendent of Highways in Berks County. He was eventually promoted to Principal Assistant and Highway Maintenance Superintendent.

John was active in the Lions Club and in at least one veterans' organization. He also enjoyed drag racing.

He was still living in Temple when he died, on April 29, 1976, and he is buried at Good Shepherd Cemetery in Tuckerton, Muhlenberg Township, PA. He never spoke about his time in the Ghost Army to his family.

His wife, Helen, outlived him by 35 years; she remarried and became a widow for the second time two years before her own death in 2011.


1920 census

1930 census

1940 draft card

1944 enlistment record

1950 census

1976 Find a Grave record

1976 US headstone applications for military veterans

1976 Pennsylvania veterans' burial cards

1976 VA death record

2024 (May 3) GALP Veteran Biography Worksheet from son-in-law Greg Hoffman

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