Thomas Mack Wilhoite
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|Thomas Mack Wilhoite|
February 12, 1921|
|Died||November 8, 1942
|Allegiance||United States of America|
|Service/branch||United States Naval Reserve|
|Years of service||1941–1942|
|Battles/wars||World War II
|Awards||Silver Star (posthumous)|
Thomas Mack Wilhoite was born on 12 February 1921 in Guthrie, Kentucky.
Wilhoite enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve on 16 June 1941 at Atlanta, Georgia, and received his aviation indoctrination training at the Naval Reserve Air Base, Atlanta, Georgia. On 7 August, he reported for flight instruction at the Naval Air Station (NAS), Pensacola, Florida, and was appointed an aviation cadet the following day. Transferred to NAS, Miami, Florida, on 15 January 1942 for further training, he became a naval aviator on 6 February.
Three days later, he was commissioned an ensign and, at the end of February, reported to the Advanced Carrier Training Group, Atlantic Fleet, NAS, Norfolk, Virginia. There, he joined Fighting Squadron (VF) 9, then fitting out and, in time, became the assistant navigation officer for that squadron.
Operation Torch, the invasion of French North Africa, saw VF-9 assigned to the carrier USS Ranger. Each section of the squadron drew assigned tasks on 8 November 1942, the first day of the landings; and Wilhoite flew one of five Grumman F4F-4 Wildcats which attacked the French airdrome at Rabat-Sale, the headquarters of the French air forces in Morocco. Despite heavy antiaircraft fire, he pressed home a determined attack and set three French bombers afire with his guns.
Awarded the Silver Star
In a second strike directed at the Port Lyautey airdrome later that day, Wilhoite flew as part of the third flight and destroyed one fighter, a Dewoitine 520 by strafing. However, Wilhoite's Wildcat took hits from the intense flak and crashed about one mile from Port Lyautey.
Wilhoite received a Silver Star, posthumously, for displaying "conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity" during the strikes at Rabat-Sale and Port Lyautey. The accompanying citation also cited Wilhoite's "superb airmanship and tenacious devotion to duty" in pressing home his strafing attacks. Although he was killed in action, Wilhoite had played his part in the significant operations of VF-9 in neutralizing Vichy French air power that, if unhindered, could have severely hampered Operation Torch.
USS Wilhoite (DE-397) was named in his honor. It was laid down on 4 August 1943 at Houston, Texas, by the Brown Shipbuilding Co.; launched on 5 October 1943; sponsored by Mrs. Corinne M. Wilhoite, the mother of Ensign Wilhoite; and commissioned at Houston on 16 December 1943, Lt. Eli B. Roth in command. The school system at Port Lyautey Naval Air Station, Kenitra, Morocco is also named in his honor. Graduates of TMW High School include four members of the Class of 1967 at the United States Naval Academy, and numerous other service members. Among the awards won by graduates include the Silver Star, Defense Superior Service Medal, Legions of Merit and numerous Distinguished Flying Crosses and Air Medals. Two of the members of the Class of 1963 advanced to the rank of Navy captain.