Rank Insignia Previous Honoree ID Next Honoree ID

honoree image
First Name: William

Last Name: Thrash

Birthplace: Tifton, GA, USA

Gender: Male

Branch: Marines (present)

Middle Name: Gay

Date of Birth: 17 September 1916

Date of Death: 04 July 2011

Rank: Lieutenant General

Years Served:
William Gay Thrash

•  World War II (1941 - 1945)
•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


William Gay Thrash
Lieutenant General, U.S. Marine Corps

William Gay Thrash was born on 17 September 1916 in Tifton, GA. He graduated from Boys' High School in Atlanta, GA, in 1934. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree from Georgia School of Technology in 1939. During his senior year, he was a member of Georgia Tech's famed gridiron squad, the Yellow Jackets.

Thrash was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Marine Corps on 14 July 1939. He was assigned to the Basic School at the Philadelphia Navy Yard until June 1940, when he was transferred to Camp Elliott in California. He remained at Camp Elliott serving in various assignments as an Engineering Officer until transferred to Naval Air Station Pensacola, FL, in September 1941 for flight training.

World War II

Promoted to First Lieutenant in January 1942, Thrash received his wings as a Naval Aviator on 18 March of that year. He was promoted to Captain that May, then remained at Pensacola until September 1942 as an Instructor. Captain Thrash joined the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in October and was deployed overseas with the Wing in November. While overseas, he was promoted to Major in April 1943. During the period June to September 1943, he flew more than 100 combat reconnaissance missions over enemy territory in the Gilbert-Solomon Islands area, earning the Distinguished Flying Cross and five Air Medals. Returning to the U.S. in January 1944, he was assigned to Marine Fleet Air, West Coast, until June 1945 when he was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel. Following another tour of overseas duty, where he saw service at Pearl Harbor, Saipan, and Okinawa, he was assigned to the Division of Aviation at Headquarters Marine Corps in January 1946. That October, he began a two-year assignment in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in Washington, DC.

In August 1948, he entered the Naval War College at Newport, RI. Upon graduation from its logistics course in May 1949, he was assigned as an Instructor in the Aviation Section, Marine Corps Schools, Quantico, VA.


Transferred to the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in June 1951, Lieutenant Colonel Thrash earned the Silver Star for gallantry in action, 25 October 1951, as Tactical Officer and pilot of a plane in Marine Aircraft Group 12. Encountering 24 hostile jets while leading his flight of 11 Corsairs on a strike against a strategic enemy supply point in Korea, he led his flight in an aggressive attack, forcing the enemy planes to break off the engagement and retire. On reaching the target area, he succeeded in scoring direct hits, inflicting serious damage on the enemy.

While serving as Tactical Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 12, Thrash was engaged in a reconnaissance flight over enemy anti-aircraft positions in Korea on 21 December 1951. When his plane was struck by enemy fire, he parachuted after radioing his base that he was bailing out. Taken prisoner after landing in the heavily fortified enemy area, he remained a prisoner for almost two years.

Thrash was awarded his first Legion of Merit with Combat "V" and his sixth and seventh Air Medals prior to being captured and imprisoned by the Chinese Communists in December 1951. Following his repatriation in September 1953, he returned to the U.S. and was subsequently assigned as Executive Officer, and later Commander, of Marine Wing Service Group 37. From May 1955 to July 1958, he was attached to the Division of Aviation, Headquarters Marine Corps, serving consecutively as Assistant Head, and Head, Plans and Readiness Branch, and Deputy Assistant Director of Aviation. While there, he was promoted to Colonel in November 1955. In June 1959, he completed the National War College in Washington, DC.

In July 1959, Colonel Thrash reported to the Marine Corps Air Station Kaneohe Bay, HI, as Commanding Officer of Marine Aircraft Group 13. During this assignment, he led a trans-Pacific flight of Marine light attack jet aircraft in a record-making first flight from Kaneohe Bay, HI, to Naval Air Station Alameda, CA.


In August 1960, he was named Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Brigade at Kaneohe. He served in this capacity until May 1962 when he was deployed to Thailand as Chief of Staff of the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Unit. He returned from Thailand in August 1962 and assumed duty as Chief of Staff of the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, Aircraft, FMF, Pacific, Iwakuni, Japan. The following June, he arrived in the U.S. and assumed duty at Norfolk, VA, as Assistant Chief of Staff, G-3, Fleet Marine Force, Atlantic.

In March 1964, he was promoted to Brigadier General and assigned as Legislative Assistant to the Commandant of the Marine Corps, and was awarded the Navy Commendation Medal for service during this assignment. Following his promotion to Major General on 19 January 1967, he assumed duties the following month as Commander, Marine Corps Air Bases, Western Area/Commanding General, Marine Corps Air Station El Toro, CA, and earned his third Legion of Merit.

Vietnam War

Major General Thrash was ordered to the Republic of Vietnam in July 1969 for a one-year tour of duty as Commanding General, 1st Marine Aircraft Wing in the I Corps Tactical Zone, and earned the Distinguished Service Medal for his outstanding performance of duty during this tour.


Upon his return to the U.S. in July 1970, he reported to the Marine Corps Base, Quantico, for duty as Deputy for Education/Director, Education Center, Marine Corps Development and Education Command. Major General Thrash was nominated for promotion to three-star rank and his nomination was approved by President Richard Nixon in February 1971. On 12 March 1971, his promotion was confirmed by the U.S. Senate and he received his third star upon assignment as Commanding General, Marine Corps Development and Education Command at Quantico. He served in this capacity until he retired from active duty on 30 June 1972. For exceptionally meritorious service during his last tour of duty while stationed at Quantico, he was awarded a Gold Star in lieu of a second Distinguished Service Medal.


Thrash and his wife, the former Virginia Merryman of Atlanta, GA, have two sons, William Gay Jr., and Ralph Merryman Thrash, both Marine Corps officers. The Thrash's have resided in Newport Beach, CA, but later moved to Hilton Head, SC.

Death and Burial

Lieutenant General William Gay Thrash died on 4 July 2011 at the Hilton Head Hospital in Hilton Head Island, SC. He is buried at Beaufort National Cemetery in Beaufort, SC.

Honoree ID: 3149   Created by: MHOH




Honoree Photos

honoree imagehonoree imagehonoree image

honoree imagehonoree image

honoree image