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Thomas Wilson Reese Collection, 1955-1995

Manuscript Collection #991

Descriptive Summary Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Title: Thomas Wilson Reese Collection
Creator: Reese, Thomas Wilson
Repository: ECU Manuscript Collection
Languages: English
Abstract: Collection (1942-1995, undated) of autobiographical accounts, manuscripts, printed forms, and clippings by Thomas Wilson Reese and his wife Lee Fleming Reese, relating to the donor’s service as chief electrician’s mate in the U. S. Navy, especially to his service aboard the aircraft carriers USS HORNET (CV 8) and USS LEXINGTON (CV 16) during World War II. Photocopies.
Extent: 0.023 Cubic feet, 1 box, including articles,speech, certificate, photographs,clippings, manuscripts,poem

Administrative Information Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Accessions Information

January 23, 2004 ,18 items, 0.023 cubic feet; Collection (1955-1995) of autobiographical accounts, manuscripts, printed forms, and clippings by Thomas Wilson Reese and his wife Lee Fleming Reese, relating to the donor's service as chief electrician's mate in the U.S. Navy, especially to his service aboard the USS HORNET (CV 8) and USS LEXINGTON (CV 16) during World War II. Photocopies. See preliminary inventory attached. Donor: Thomas Wilson Reese

Access Restrictions

No restrictions

Copyright Notice

Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.

Preferred Citation

Thomas Wilson Reese Collection (#991), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.

Acquisition Information

  • Gift of Thomas Wilson Reese

Processing Information

  • Encoded by Mark Custer, March 10, 2008

  • Processed by Heather Seibert 2006

  • Monica Ayhens 2008


Biographical / Historical Note Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Thomas Wilson Reese was born in Lewiston, N.C. on August 16, 1914. At age 19, he joined the U.S. Navy, and after completing basic training in Norfolk, VA was stationed aboard the destroyer tender USS WHITNEY. After Reese discharged from WHITNEY in 1941, he reported to the newly commissioned aircraft carrier USS HORNET (CV 6), where he served as an Electricians’ Mate. Following the HORNET’s, successful participation in the first B-25 trials, it hosted Lt. Colonel James H. Doolittle and his Tokyo Raiders on their mission to attack the Japanese mainland. The HORNET participated in a number of battles in the war’s Pacific Theater, including the Battle of Midway and the Battle of Guadalcanal. HORNET was scuttled during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands, and Reese played an important role in attempting repairs and rescuing survivors. After the destruction of the HORNET, Reese was ordered to serve on the aircraft carrier USS LEXINGTON (CV 8), nicknamed “Blue Ghost”, due to its lack of painted camouflage. LEXINGTON served through the end of the war, aiding in actions on Wake Island, Mille, Kwajalein, Palau, and Woleiai. LEXINGTON was a constant target for bombers, and Reese’s duties as a now Chief Electricians’ Mate included making repairs during those strikes. Reese spent eight days of leave in San Diego before arriving for duty on the USS HORNET in Newport News, Virginia. During his leave he met and married his wife, Lee Fleming on September 8, 1941.

Reese’s wife, Lee earned her B.A. in social sciences from San Francisco State University and her M.A. in social sciences from California Western University. She was a researcher and writer, focusing her efforts on history and genealogy. She was also a retired teacher of history and government and worked for the Citizenship for the Naturalization and English as a Second Language. Throughout WW II, she was also a civil service employee for the War Department. In addition, she was a writer and had a strong interest in the service of the United States Navy.

After the war, Reese was transferred to shore duty and remained in active duty until his retirement in 1958. He next took a position at General Dynamics/Astronautics. Reese also returned to the LEXINGTON during her recomissioning in 1955, and remained active in HORNET reunion groups, even paying a visit to Jimmy Doolittle en-route to one such meeting. He and his wife eventually settled in San Diego, where they raised a son. Reese was also a member of the San Diego Freemasons southern jurisdiction.

Description Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

Reese’s papers include a number of autobiographical accounts concerning his service aboard USS HORNET and USS LEXINGTON during World War II in the Pacific Theatre. These documents describe his duties as both an Electricians’ Mate and a Chief Electricians’ Mate, and the sinking of the HORNET in the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. An essay on his service onboard the LEXINGTON details duties he performed as a member of the “Light Power Group” and his critical role in repairing one of the carrier’s radio antennas. The materials also include an account of Christmas aboard the LEXINGTON in 1944, co-written with Reese’s wife, and of their visit with Jimmy Doolittle in 1994. Also included is a list of contributors to Walter Lord’s book Midway, including Reese, and an excerpt from Guadalcanal by Eric Himmler, which further details Reese’s actions during the HORNET’s sinking. Two certificates document Reese’s service, including a certificate commemorating the fifty-year anniversary of Task Force 16 and one marking him as a “plank owner” of the LEXINGTON. Also present are photocopied images of USS MUSTIN, which rescued Reese and other survivors from USS HORNET, and of Reese at the LEXINGTON’s recomissioning ceremony in 1955.

Materials related to Reese’s wife Lee include a poem and articles that she co-authored with her husband. Specifically, these include two editorials written in 1988 and 1989 concerning Japan’s efforts to build an atomic bomb during World War II. Also present are two essays on the same topic, one of which is a typewritten draft of the first editorial. Another essay discusses “Operation Downfall”, the planned invasion of Japan, while the last discusses Truman’s decision to drop the atom bomb. Additional materials consist of a poem, “Hey There Shipmate,” written by Reese in 1994. Also present is copy of the title page of a book that Lee compiled, Men of the Blue Ghost (USS LEXINGTON CV 16) Historic Events of the World War II in the Pacific as told by the men who lived them 1943-1946. See container list for more details.

Container List Click here to collapse or expand the contents in this section of the finding aid

  • Box 1#0991.1
    • Folder a#0991.1.a
      • "Presentation given to B-17 crewmen and wingmen group in South Gate, CA on November 21, 1993 by Thomas Wilson Reese, EMC, USN, Ret.” Text of speech. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 3 p.  (item #1)
      • “Carrier Duty in WW II [World War II],” by Thomas Wilson Reese. Military (September 1986). Clipping of article. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 3 p.  (item #2)
      • “The Day I Made the Difference,” (n.d.) Manuscript. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 2 p.  (item #3)
      • “A visit with Jimmy Doolittle,” by Thomas Wilson Reese, The Scottish Rite Journal (June 1992), cover, p.5-7. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 2 p.  (item #4)
      • “The Little Christmas Tree That Went to War and Brought Peace,” by Thomas Wilson Reese & Lee Fleming Reese, The Scottish Rite Journal (December 1992) Clipping of article. Photocopy typescript. Cover, p. 27-38. 1 item. 3 p.  (item #5)
      • Midway! Incredible Victory, by Walter Lord, cover, p. 277, 284-285. Clipping from book. (n.d.) Photocopies. 1 item. 3 p.  (item #6)
      • Guadalcanal The Carrier Battles The Pivotal Aircraft Carrier Battles of the Eastern Solomons and Santa Cruz, by Eric Hammel (c. 1987), Clipping of book. Photocopy typescript. Cover, autograph, title page, dedication, map, pp. 403, 462-465, 468, 471. 1 item. 12 p.  (item #7)
      • Department of the Navy. (5/15/1995) The Secretary of the Navy takes pleasure in recognizing the services of Electrician's Mate Chief Thomas W. Reese USN ET USS Hornet (CV-8) for participation in Task Force 16 (1942). Printed Form. Digital reproduction. 1 item. 1 p.  (item #8)
      • Plank Owner's Certificate for Thomas W. Reese as a member of the original crew that recommissioned the USS LEXINGTON. (8/15/1955) Printed Form. Photocopy. 1 item. 1 p.  (item #9)
      • "USS MUSTIN (DD 413) and USS HORNET (CV 8). Photographs. (n.d.) Photocopies. 1 item. 1 p.  (item #10)
      • Men of the Blue Ghost (USS LEXINGTON CV-16) Historic Events of World War II in the Pacific as told by the men who lived them 1943-1946, compiled by Lee Fleming Reese, (rev. ed. 1982) Published by Lexington Book Co., San Diego, CA. Clipping of book. Photocopy typescript. Title page, p. 531. Photograph showing Thomas W. Reese shaking hands with the Lexington's captain, Alexander S. Heyward, Jr., 1955. 1 item, 2 p.  (item #11)
    • Folder b#0991.1.b
      • "Japan's atomic bomb effort, by Lee Fleming Reese, San Diego Union (6/26/1988), p. C-3. Clipping of article. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 1 p.  (item #1)
      • "Japan's Secret Revealed She Did Have the Bomb,” by Lee Fleming Reese, The Military Press (7/1/1989), p. 6. Clipping of article. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 2 p.  (item #2)
      • "Japan Was Building An Atom Bomb, Too," by Lee Fleming Reese (ca. 1978). Manuscript. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 4 p.  (item #3)
      • "Truman's Decision to Drop the Bomb," by Lee Fleming Reese (n.d.) Manuscript. Typescript. 1 item. 6 p.  (item #4)
      • "Hey There Shipmate," by Lee Fleming Reese (1994) Poem. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 1 p.  (item #5)
      • "Yes: Japan Had The Bomb," by Lee Fleming Reese (c. 1990). Manuscript. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 7 p.  (item #6)
      • "Operation Downfall - The Plan to Invade Japan," by Lee Fleming Reese (n.d.) Manuscript. Photocopy typescript. 1 item. 7 p.  (item #7)

Online access to this finding aid is supported with funds created through the federal Library Services and Technology Act (LSTA). These funds come through a grant from the Institute of Museum and Library Services which is administered by the State Library of North Carolina, a division of the North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources. This grant is part of the North Carolina ECHO, Exploring Cultural Heritage Online, Digitization Grant Program.

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This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held in the Special Collections Division, J.Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University. The materials described here are physically available in our reading room. None of the original documents in this collection are digitally available online at this time.
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