Thomas C. Latimore

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Commander Thomas C Latimore's ship the USS Dobbin at sea, c.1941.

Commander Thomas Calloway Latimore was an American naval officer who was captain of the USS Dobbin, and the 24th (22nd unique) Governor of American Samoa.[1] His disappearance in Hawaii, just months before the 7 December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor, remains an unsolved mystery.

Naval career[edit]

Latimore was promoted from Ensign to Lieutenant junior grade in 1917.[2] He served as acting Governor of American Samoa from April 10 to April 17, 1934.[1] After a brief time at Naval Intelligence in Washington, D.C., Latimore, despite being a commander, was given the command of the USS Dobbin in April 1941; a destroyer tender at Pearl Harbor.


Soon after his arrival on Oahu in April 1941, Latimore, who was described as a quiet, solitary man, began to enjoy hiking in the undeveloped Aiea Mountain Range that overlooked Pearl Harbor (at 21°23′09″N 157°55′51″W / 21.3859°N 157.930927°W / 21.3859; -157.930927 (Thomas C. Latimore last seen (Aiea Mountain Range))). But soon afterwards a Yeoman second class named Kenneth Isaacs on the Dobbin recalled that Latimore "came back to the ship, and he had an arm wound which he said he hurt in a fall. For a while he had an arm in a cast."[3]

By July 1941, the arm had healed and the cast had been removed. Latimore was last seen heading into the Aiea Mountain wearing his khaki uniform, an old hat and a walking stick.

When he failed to return hundreds of sailors and local police scoured the Aiea Mountains looking for him.[3][4] Trackers with dogs were brought in from Schofield Barracks but no trace of Latimore was ever found. A Naval investigation into his disappearance was launched in 1941.[5] His disappearance was never explained and was the subject of much local news coverage and rumor before being overshadowed by the Pearl Harbor attack.

On 19 July 1942 he was officially declared dead.[1]

U.S. Naval rumors[edit]

  • Within the Navy, many believed he might have been abducted and killed by a local Hawaiian Japanese spy ring because he had either stumbled upon their activities in the hills or had been specifically targeted because of his Intelligence background.[3]
  • Another popular naval conspiracy theory involved United States President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who many believed allowed the attack on Pearl Harbor to happen in order to galvanize the American public into war. Latimore had forewarning of the attack from his Naval Intelligence contacts and decided to disappear before the Japanese strike.[3]


  1. ^ a b c Sorensen, Stan; Joseph Theroux (2007). "The Samoan Historical Calendar, 1606-2007". Government of American Samoa. pp. 16; 84. Retrieved 22 February 2010. [dead link]
  2. ^ "Brigadier rank for 18 colonels". The New York Times. June 9, 1917. Retrieved February 5, 2010. 
  3. ^ a b c d Robert S. La Forte and Ronald E. Marcello. "Maps". Remembering Pearl Harbor: Eyewitness Accounts by U.S. Military Men and Women (Paperback). New York: Ballantine Books. p. 314. ISBN 0345373804 ISBN 978-0-345-37380-9. 
  4. ^ "Missing Commander Hunted by Sailors". Los Angeles Times. July 21, 1941. p. 8. 
  5. ^ "Navy to Probe Officer's Disappearance in Hawaii". Chicago Daily Tribune (Chicago, Ill). July 27, 1941. p. 10.