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Pearl Harbor Hero from Connecticut died on Dec. 7, 1941

Radioman Thomas J. Reeves was one of six Connecticut men to earn the Congressional Medal Of Honor during World War II.

In the 151-year history of the Congressional Medal of Honor, more than 3,740 servicemen have earned the award. Of that number, 80 recipients have been from Connecticut. (That figure includes men who were born and raised here but moved out of Connecticut later.)

One of those Connecticut recipients — Chief Radioman Thomas James Reeves of the United States Navy — was killed during the Japanese sneak attack on Pearl Harbor on Dec. 7, 1941.

Thomas J. Reeves saw active duty in both world wars. Born in 1895 in Thomaston, CT, Reeves  was living at 51 Hawkins St.  in Waterbury when he joined the Navy on July 20, 1917, at the age of 21.

He was trained as a radioman and served in the New York City area until Aug. 10, 1918, when he sailed aboard the USS America until the end of the war — Nov. 11, 1918. He then was aboard the USS Santa Ana as an electrician until his discharge on July 21, 1919.

Reeves spent the next 27 months as a civilian but then re-enlisted in the Navy in October of 1921. During the next 20 years in the Navy, Reeves would rise to the rank of Chief Radioman. In December of 1941, he was serving aboard the USS California in that capacity while it was docked at Pearl Harbor.

Completed shortly after World War I, the California was a Tennessee-class battleship and was the fifth ship named after the "Golden State."

Built at the Mare Island Shipyard in San Francisco Bay, the California was launched on Nov. 20, 1919. It was over 620 feet long, weighed over 30,000 tons, and carried a crew of nearly 1,100 men. It spent its entire career in the Pacific Ocean.

Moored at the southernmost berth on Battleship Row on the morning of Dec. 7, 1941, the California came under severe attack from Japanese aircraft. It was struck first by two torpedoes, causing severe flooding. Then a bomb passed through the main deck of the ship into the second deck where it exploded an anti-aircraft magazine, killing about 50 men, including Thomas J. Reeves.

During the initial phase of the attack, the equipment used to lift anti-aircraft ammunition automatically to the upper deck failed. Reeves organized the hand delivery of ammunition to anti-aircraft batteries and was killed while doing so.

Machinist Mate 1st Class Robert R. Scott refused to leave his battle station during the attack. Like Reeves, he, too, was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions. In addition, both men subsequently had destroyers named in their honor — the USS Reeves and the USS Scott. Reeves and Scott were among the 100 men onboard the California who were killed that fateful Sunday morning.

Though sunk, the USS California was salvaged, repaired, and returned to service during the war. She participated in many of the more significant Pacific battles including Saipan, Guam, Tinian, and Okinawa. While participating in the re-invasion of the Phillipines, she was struck by a kamikaze, killing 44 of her crew. Another crewman was killed off the coast of Saipan by an exploding shell, bring the total number killed aboard the California during the war to 145.

The Japanese surprise attack on Pearl Harbor Resulted in the loss of 2,402 American lives; nearly half of those killed were aboard the USS Arizona. Radioman Thomas J. Reeves was one of 17 men from Connecticut to die at Pearl Harbor. Reeves was one of 15 men at Pearl Harbor to receive the Medal of Honor and one of six from Connecticut to receive that honor during World War II.

Here is the exact text of Reeves' CMOH citation:

 "For distinguished conduct in the line of his profession, extraordinary courage and disregard of his own safety during the attack on the Fleet in Pearl Harbor, by Japanese forces on 7 December 1941. After the mechanized ammunition hoists were put out of action in the U.S.S. California, Reeves, on his own initiative, in a burning passageway, assisted in the maintenance of an ammunition supply by hand to the antiaircraft guns until he was overcome by smoke and fire, which resulted in his death."

Lance Coughlin December 08, 2012 at 02:19 AM
And here we are 70 years later, obama sent back the bust of Winston Churchill to england and left our patriots in Benghazi to die. And now he's off on 17 day Hawaii vacation costing the taxpayers millions.
Gene Ruocco December 08, 2012 at 02:55 PM
America is a great country; the article above shows the courage of men like Scott and Reeves. Stories like these abound many times over across our land, stories of the courage of great Americans .All of us who hear of this courage should also be proud to be an American and respect the article for what it stands for. I was in Pearl Harbor during the 60’s as our ship sailed to Viet Nam. I visited the Memorial of the USS Arizona that lies on the bottom of the Sea in the area called Battleship Row, as a young sailor I was very impressed and proud to be American. This date, December 7, 1941 will live forever and may all that gave their lives Rest In Peace. Thank you for your service to this Great Country.
Richard Poulton December 08, 2012 at 03:08 PM
Morning Gene. What ship? What year in the So.China Sea? Did you make port in V.N.? By the way, thanks for your service.
Gene Ruocco December 08, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Morning Richard, 1966-1967, Da Nang, Destroyer DD843 USS Warrington, Gulf of Tonkin Yacht Club, Fire Control Tect FTG3. Proud to be US Navy.
Richard Poulton December 08, 2012 at 03:29 PM
Same time for me plus 1 year. Had a wonderfull tour of the jungles to the west of the Central highlands. Just loved those nice bugs!. Does the name 'Monkey Mountain" north of Da Nang ring a bell?
Gene Ruocco December 08, 2012 at 04:38 PM
Yes it does. We did what was asked. Thank God we got home, and we moved on, Richard. Politices in East Haven, and this too will pass, right Richard.
Richard Poulton December 08, 2012 at 05:02 PM
You just ruined a perfectly nice commentary.
Gene Ruocco December 08, 2012 at 07:18 PM
Yea, thats life.
Richard Poulton December 08, 2012 at 09:23 PM
Now hopefully everyone will see the real true Gene Ruocco in the actual light he wants to present himself in. I have repeatedly express in many commentaries that I, besides politics, still maintained respect for him. That has all been lost with his last comment.
Rosie December 09, 2012 at 03:48 AM
How in the world could a nice story like this be ruined by such an ignorant comment? And this is who you people want running this town? Because make no mistake, ANY democrat that may get in is just the face..he runs the show. How incredibly rude and disrespectful, not only to the memory and the families, but for the military that he served in. Totally disgusted...

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