Thomas B. McElroy, Jr.
Chief Petty Officer
U. S. Navy
WWII US Military
Dates of Service: 1939 (?) - 12/05/1945
Navy Hospital Corpsman, YMS-98 (Yard Mine Sweepet)

Born in Texarkana, Texas, Tom's life changed when his father was killed in 1930. "We all hustled," he says of his family members, who all worked to make ends meet. Tom sold popcorn balls his sister made to train passengers at the depot. He held a paper route, and worked both as a retail clerk and in a bakery. At fifteen in 1935, he joined a hospital unit of the Texas National Guard in 1935. "I joined the guard because I needed the money," he says. Tom yearned to enlists in the U.S. Navy. "I had to go and beg three times to get in," he says. Finally accepted in December of 1939. Tom took boot camp at Great Lakes Naval Training Center, and then was sent to Naval Hospital Corps Training School in San Diego. He shipped out to the South Pacific in February of 1942 as part of a team to build an Advanced Base Hospital at Efate in New Hebrides Islands. Tom built Quonset huts, drove a tractor, and operated a steam shovel and a steam winch. By August of 1942 the 500-bed hospital had opened. In mid-1943, Tom was transferred to sea duty soon after the campaign for Guadalcanal. He joined YMS-98, a minesweeper, with a crew of thirty-three. As they sailed around Fiji Islands, Guam, New Guinea, the Admiralty Islands, and other places in the Pacific, Tom "patched up" seamen injured in occasional accidents. He served eighteen months aboard the minesweeper, and then was rotated back to California for R&R (rest and recuperation). Promoted to a petty officer rank as chief pharmacist mate in late summer of 1943, he returned to the Pacific to build another Advanced Base Hospital, this time on Manus in the Admiralty Islands. Eighteen months later he was sent to Manila to help the base medical officer staff and operate seven sick bays around the city. "I had my own apartment in Manila," he recalls. "I had my own jeep. I had my own housekeeper." Tom was discharged on December 5, 1945. He remained in California and worked as a salesman for a wine vineyard for a few years. He returned to Texarkana and opened and operated a "hamburger place" before moving to Shreveport. While serving in the naval reserves, Tom worked as a salesman for Red Ball Motor Freight Line briefly, and then joined sales for New York Life Insurance Company. He retired in 1978. He now repairs and restores antique clocks.