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Thomas Campbell Bibb

Woodrow Wilson High School 1941 Echo

West Virginia Veterans Memorial


Thomas Campbell Bibb

"United in this determination and with unshakable faith in the cause for which we fight, we will, with God's help, go forward to our greatest victory."

Dwight D. Eisenhower

General Eisenhower's quotation refers to World War II, in which the United States and the Allied Powers battled the world-dominating Axis Powers. However, with the sacrifice of numerous soldiers who proudly served their country, the United States was able to prevail and stop the advancements of Germany, Italy, and Japan. These soldiers left their families and their current life in order to protect the United States and the rest of the world from dangerous enemies. This biography serves to commemorate one soldier. That soldier is Second Lieutenant Thomas Campbell Bibb of the 8th Air Force, 703rd Squadron, 445th Bomber Group, Heavy, who was the navigator of his plane during his military service. Even after Thomas was killed in action, his memory was preserved by his family members, who established awards and scholarships to memorialize him.

U.S. Army Second Lieutenant Thomas Campbell Bibb was born on October 31, 1923, in Beckley, West Virginia. His parents were Edgar Earle Bibb and Ella Anderson Campbell Bibb. The father worked as a salesman for a retail store in 1920, which would be the beginning of the Roaring Twenties and an era of prosperity. In 1930, Edgar was able to secure a job as a merchant for wholesale furniture. At that time, the Bibb family was well-to-do, as the family owned a house valued at $15,000. There was also a radio set in the house to listen to breaking news or sports updates. In 1950, Edgar still lived in the same home at 404 Oakwood Avenue. He was still a furniture merchant and also received income from other sources. Ella meanwhile was a housekeeper from the 1920s to the 1940s, performing chores such as washing the clothes or cooking breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Thomas C. Bibb had siblings; he had a brother named Edgar Earle Bibb Jr. and a sister named Margaret Bibb, which changed to Mrs. M. A. Johnson when she had married later in life.

Thomas C. Bibb grew up in Beckley, West Virginia, and attended Woodrow Wilson High School, where he graduated in 1941. Thomas was sociable with his fellow students, and his high school yearbook says he was granted the nickname "Milkweed," for "he sits high in all people's hearts." Not only was Thomas C. Bibb friendly to everyone, but he also was active in high school events. For example, he was the business manager for the yearbook. Thomas later attended the Greenbrier Military Academy and was a freshman at the college department in 1941-1942. During his time at the academy, Thomas was well beloved by his peers. A newspaper article from the Raleigh Register on December 24, 1964, states: "At Greenbrier, he was popular with both his fellow cadets and the faculty." Thomas' social charm was paralleled with his academic brilliance. Another quote in the same article said, "He was a member of the Owls Club, the academic honor organization open to the top four men in each class and won both the college language medal and the college science medals. He was a gifted student, graduated with scholastic honors, and planned to complete his college education at West Virginia University." When Thomas was enrolled in West Virginia University, he was a member of Beta Theta Pi, a social fraternity. Thomas C. Bibb, in addition to his intelligence and amiableness, was also prescient. At his high school graduation, Thomas gave a speech about the evils of Nazism and how we must stop it. This was before the rest of the world knew that the Nazis were herding Jews into concentration camps and executing them. This speech demonstrated Bibb's maturity at an early age, fully understanding the implications of Nazism. He would go on to fight the Nazis in World War II. Considering the fact that Thomas addressed his graduating class and received additional awards in college for his academic ability, he may have been valedictorian, yet this piece of information could not be verified.
Thomas Bibb

Thomas Bibb, freshman at Greenbrier Military School. The Brier Patch of Friendship, 1942

Thomas initiated his service to the country when he enrolled into the service on February 15, 1943. Thomas served in the 8th Air Force, 703rd Squadron, 445th Bomb Group, Heavy, and was the plane's navigator. The 445th was originally constituted on March 20, 1943, and was activated on April 1, 1943. This unit moved to England during the fall of 1943 and engaged in combat with U-boats on December 13, 1943. The 445th Bomb Group, Heavy, operated as a strategic unit throughout the war. The group helped prepare for the invasion of Normandy by bombing enemy airfields and, during D-Day on June 6, 1944, attacked enemy installations on the shore. During the Battle of the Bulge, which was a surprise attack by Axis powers in the winter of December 1944 to January 1945, the unit bombed German communications. Occasionally, the 445th would send supplies such as food, medicine, and gasoline. (Source: Eighth Air Force Historical Society, "445th Bombardment Group," Web, accessed 29 May 2015).

Yet the unit would eventually meet its end on September 27, 1944, also including 2nd Lt. Thomas C. Bibb. According to records from the War Department, the last known whereabouts of the 445th Bomb Group was a departure from Tibenham, England, at 10:01 am. The destination was to bomb Kassel, Germany, but the planes were intercepted by 100 to 150 German fighters at Hersfeld, Germany. According to Andrew Grove, a captain in the Air Corps, "B-24s were going down all around and it was impossible to state which was which." The unit had been ambushed unexpectedly, and many soldiers died during that day. On September 27, 1945, the Bibb family was notified by the U.S. Department of War that Thomas Bibb was presumed to be dead, as was the department's custom at the time to declare the death official after one year. Furthermore, the Bibb family would have to wait until September 28, 1950, to receive word about the location of Thomas' body.

Ardennes American Cemetery

Ardennes American Cemetery, where Thomas C. Bibb was originally interred. Courtesy American Battle Monuments Commission

Originally buried in a cemetery in Lauchroden, Germany, Thomas was transferred to Ardennes American Cemetery in Belgium. From there, Thomas' remains would be rightfully buried in Sunset Memorial Park, located in Beckley, West Virginia.

Even after the death of Thomas C. Bibb, his memory still lived on, as his character and attitude resonated in the minds of those he influenced. The Greenbrier Military Academy, his alma mater, commemorated Thomas by presenting a public speaking award in his honor at each year's commencement. It was sponsored by his parents, endowing the award in memory of Thomas. Thomas's siblings, Edgar Earle Bibb Jr. and Margaret Johnson, also sponsored a scholarship. Since Thomas was an active scout during high school, a scout scholarship was established to provide leadership skills to young scouts. The Thomas Campbell Bibb Memorial Scholarship was awarded each year to a Boy Scout of the Appalachian Council, who would then receive $150 for a five-week Junior League Leadership Training Course in Philmont Scout Ranch at Cimarron, New Mexico. The course develops scouts to become future leaders. Additionally, each scout from the training course is encouraged to also develop skills in other junior leaders.

Thomas Campbell Bibb only lived short of his 21st birthday, yet he still made an impact throughout his life in terms of social relationships, academics, and military service. Not only has Thomas C. Bibb contributed service to his country during World War II, but the scholarships and awards established under his name have promoted public-speaking and leadership skills to develop the younger generations.

Article prepared by Dhruva (Drew) Gupta, George Washington High School, Advanced Placement U.S. History
May 2015


Thomas Campbell Bibb

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