MOCCASIN — After more than 80 years of uncertainty, the Thompson family of Moccasin has finally found closure.
On Wednesday, June 7, 2023, Lieutenant Gordon Eugene Thompson was interred in front of hundreds of family, friends, and strangers in the tiny town of Moccasin, where he was born.
Thompson accomplished a lot in his 22 years of life, but the journey to bring him home is incredible.
Thompson was born in Moccasin on June 15, 1920 and grew up on the family farm. After graduating as valedictorian from Moccasin High School and earning a degree in Agriculture from Montana State College in 1941, he enlisted in the Navy’s flight training program four months before the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor and United State’s official entry into World War II.
In the summer of 1942, he was assigned to the “Bengals” of the Marine Fighter Squadron 224 (VMF-224) based in Guadalcanal in the Solomon Islands.
On August 31, 1942, Thompson failed to return from a combat patrol and was declared Missing in Action. Neither Thompson nor his plane were recovered during the course of the war and he was declared dead five months after armistice.
His family never gave up hope that Lt. Thompson would be found. His nephew and namesake, Gordon Thompson, was born two years after Lt. Thompson died and helped keep the search alive.
“We have we have a lot of letters written during the war, sent by my grandmother pleading for information about what happened to him and to give us details, give us anything,” Thompson said. “And there was just so little to be learned. So the pain that she felt was just unbelievable.”
The Thompson family lived knowledge that he may never be recovered for over 80 years. But then in 2018 there was a breakthrough.
Thanks to efforts from the research team at Missing Marines (link) and the Defense POW/MIA Accounting Agency (link), Thompson’s dog tags were discovered in a garden near on the Solomon Islands in 2018.
Shortly afterward, the DPAA team discovered a wreckage site and recovered remains - and then last summer, a DNA test confirmed that Lieutenant Thompson’s remains had indeed been found.
“It was unbelievable because the family have been asked for some DNA samples in 2018 which is typical just in case something turned up and we never know,” Thompson said. “And then on July 13th of 2022 I got an email and it said Lt. Gordon E. Thompson has been accounted for. And I was up early in the morning looking at the screen I just lost it.”
And this week, Thompson made the journey home.
His remains traveled from Guadalcanal to Hawaii to Billings where they were unloaded by an Honor Guard and brought to Creel Funeral Home in Lewistown on Friday.
And on Wednesday he finally arrived in Moccasin, Montana, and was laid to rest alongside his parents.
“I think the thing that’s important to me and all the kids, grandkids, great grandkids is the lineage here,” Thompson said. “We’ve got great, great, great grandparents here, the Browns. That was our grandmother’s parents. And then we’ve got Gordon’s parents Lachlan and Ita. Yesterday was his mother’s birthday. She would be 128 years old. So it was just perfect.”
The service featured a firing party from the American Legion, a Marine Honor Guard, and a fly-over from the very same fighter squadron that Lt. Gordon was a part of.
Officials from U.S. Senator Steve Daines' and U.S. Representative Matt Rosendale’s office spoke during the ceremony, and the Marines on hand presented Lt. Thompson’s only remaining sibling, Jeanne Thompson Lambley, with a flag.
“Unbelievable for us. We’ve got lots of family here. Kids, grandkids, great-great grandkids. And I think great-great-great grandkids. So it’s just wonderful we could all be here to witness this.”
Welcome home, Lieutenant Thompson.
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