David E. Thomas, 90, a retired physician and brigadier general who participated in three wars and was attending physician to two presidents, will be buried today at Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery. A memorial service will be held at 1 p.m. at the Army Residence Community Chapel.|
Thomas died Wednesday of a massive heart attack.
Thomas, who financed his medical studies at Cleveland's Case University in the midst of the Depression by selling peanuts at a racetrack and driving a police ambulance, had a colorful life.
Two years after he joined the Medical Corps in 1939, Thomas became the first regular Army medical officer to get his jump wings. "He qualified as a parachutist because it meant a 50 percent pay increase," said his son, Gus Thomas of Mechanicsburg, Pa.
As surgeon of the 508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division, Thomas jumped with the other Red Devils into Normandy on June 6, 1944. Four days later, the Germans captured him and another medic. Surprised at discovering a U.S. Army medical officer in their midst, the Germans put Thomas to work in their front line field hospital.
Shelling by American artillery on the Germans allowed Thomas to escape three days later. It took him only two days to hook up with American troops, but because he lacked the password, he was placed in a holding compound with German prisoners until someone could identify him, his son said.
Thomas also accompanied the 508th in Holland and into the Ardennes forest in the Battle of the Bulge.
During the Korean War, Thomas was chief of surgery at three hospitals in Japan. While commander of the U.S. Army Medical Command in Vietnam, he also held the position of United States Army Europe surgeon. "He always used to say that he made it through World War II, Korea and Vietnam and never received a Purple Heart," Gus Thomas said. "He was shot at in World War II and he took out a sniper, but he was not wounded. He was very, very fortunate."
Thomas also was attending physician to Presidents Johnson and Eisenhower. His last assignment before he retired in 1972 was as commander of Brooke General Hospital, later renamed Brooke Army Medical Center.
Dismayed over the high cost of malpractice insurance, Thomas decided to forego a practice in thoracic surgery and instead devoted his retirement years to gardening.
He joined the San Antonio Men's Garden Club, served as president for two years and helped start the Children's Garden Program at the San Antonio Garden Center.
Thomas' wife, Jeanne, died in November 1999. A son and daughter also predeceased him.
Other survivors include four grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
(San Antonio Express-News, San Antonio, TX 28 Oct 2002, Page 4B
- courtesy of Tedd Cocker)
[courtesy of "LKat"]
Grave marker for David E. Thomas in Section 26 Site
1153 of the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery, San Antonio (Bexar
David joined the Medical Corps in 1939 and was the
first Regular Army Medical Corps officer to qualify as a parachutist in
During World War II he served as the Regimental
Surgeon, 508 PIR and participated in the airborne invasions of Normandy,
Holland and the Battle of the Bulge.
He was captured on D+4 of the Normandy invasion,
escaped on D+7 and returned to friendly forces on D+9.
During the Korean Conflict David served as the Chief of Surgery at three
hospitals in Japan.