|Title:||Thomas Wilson Reese Collection|
|Creator:||Reese, Thomas Wilson|
|Repository:||ECU Manuscript Collection|
|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|
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
Literary rights to specific documents are retained by the authors or their descendants in accordance with U.S. copyright law.
Thomas Wilson Reese Collection (#991), East Carolina Manuscript Collection, J. Y. Joyner Library, East Carolina University, Greenville, North Carolina, USA.
Encoded by Mark Custer, March 10, 2008
Processed by Heather Seibert 2006
Monica Ayhens 2008
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.
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.
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.