March 2008 Newsletter

USS John W. Thomason Shipmates

Spring is here and everything is coming up roses with plans for the 2008 Reunion. The numbers of shipmates who will be attending have exceeded our expectations with about two months to go before the reunion. We'll have more information later in this newsletter for those who have registered with us and those who have not made their plans yet but are considering coming to this years Reunion.

Annual Donation

Each year in January we begin our annual donations. We ask our membership to contribute a minimum of $15 each year to assists us in mailing our newsletters, paying the bond on our banking account, and paying for incidentals we need throughout the year between reunions. Any funds collected through these donations which remain at the end of our two year cycle between reunions are deposited into the reunion fund to assists in lowering the costs for the next reunion. Many shipmates contribute more than the minimum of $15 for the annual dues; however, we only ask of this donation to help those of us in providing the services of the USS John W. Thomason Association. Any contribution will be appreciated. If you wish to contribute to the Association, please remit your donation to:

USS John W. Thomason Association
131 River Bend Park
Lancaster, PA 17602


Make checks payable to the USS John W. Thomason Association.

Reunion Information

Our plans have been in finalized and we are full steam ahead. The turnout for this reunion should be great. We expect over 130 shipmates and guests for this reunion with a great turnout of new reunion shipmates. We have a lot of first time shipmates who never have made a JWT reunion for all of the years the JWT steamed the Pacific Ocean. The new guests coupled with the returning reunion guests should prove for a fun weekend of sharing old memories and making new ones.

The reunion officially begins on Thursday, May 29 and ends on Sunday, June 1; however, we encourage you to come early and stay late enjoying our Southern hospitality. Details concerning our 2008 Reunion can be found later in this newsletter or on our website at

Registration for the Reunion

For those of you who have already registered with the hotel and not with the Association, please complete the enclosed registration form and send it in immediately along with your payment. We need to finalize our activities and your timely response will help us in making those arrangements. So please send in those registration forms as soon as possible. If you have not registered for either the hotel or the reunion, what's holding you back? Come on down and have a great time in South Louisiana.

Hotel Information

As you have read in the center information box, we have exceeded our allotment of rooms at the Holiday Inn Select. Our original contract called for 125 room nights in November, 2006. That was expanded several times until the last contract signed at the end of February 2008 for 230 room nights. At that time the Holiday Inn informed us that they will not able to expand the number of room nights any more. The reunion room rate of $86 per night plus tax is a very low rate for the Baton Rouge area. This hotel has approximately 290 rooms and chose to only allow about 25% of those rooms at the reduced rate. If you wish to stay at the Holiday Inn rather than book a room at the other three hotels, the costs per night will be $159 plus taxes. The Association has contracted with the Embassy Suites, the Comfort Inn Suites, and the Hampton Inn for overflow rooms. These hotels are a short walk to the Holiday Inn Select. The information on each hotel is as follows:

1. Embassy Suites Hotel, 4914 Constitution Ave,
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Rate: $109 per night plus tax, Cancellation by May 8 with no penalty.
Call 225-924-6566. State reservation code "UST"
See hotel amenities at www.batonrouge.embassysuites.com
Ten rooms available for Thursday thru Saturday
Distance to Holiday Inn Select: Walking, 100yds.
Breakfast included with room rate.

2. Hampton Inn, 4646 Constitution Ave,
Baton Rouge, LA 70808.
Rate: $109 per night plus tax, Cancellation by 30 days before first
night.
Call 225-926-9990. Use Reservation Code "USS".
Rooms available from Wednesday through Sunday
See website at www.hamptoninn.com
Distance to Holiday Inn Select: Walking, 100 yds.
Breakfast included with room rate.

3. Comfort Suites, 3045 Valley Creek Drive,
Baton Rouge, LA 70808
Rate: $89 per night plus tax, Cancellation 30 days before first night.
Call 225-924-7044 or 225-923-3142. Ask for Military Rate for JWT Reunion.
Rooms available at any time at military rate.
See website www.comfortsuites.com
Distance to Holiday Inn Select: Short drive, two minutes; long walk
300 yards.

Please select any of these three hotels and book your rooms. If you run into any difficulty in booking your rooms, call Oscar at 985-653-0185 during working hours for assistance. He can help you with any of your problems. Please book your rooms early. Staying at a different hotel does not present any problems while attending the reunion. All activities for the reunion occur on the hotel floor with the hospitality room and opening social. Most shipmates and guest spend all of their leisure time in the hospitality room with other guests.

Registration

Most of those who are going to the reunion have registered with the hotel. For those of you who have registered with the hotel and not the Association, we ask that you complete your registration form and send it in as soon as possible. The Association is has to prepare tours and social events based on the number of members coming to the reunion. It is difficult to prepare for an event like this without know how many will attend. So if you plan on coming, please take time now to complete the enclosed registration form and send it in. Once Jim Kulp receives your registration form, he will pass this information on to the other members of the Reunion Staff. Another option for registration is the internet. You can register on the internet and send your check to the Association without your form. This method is quicker and much simpler.

The Reunion Staff has put together an exciting program for the 2008 Reunion. Registration fees include the following items:
  • Banquet Dinner with Entertainment
  • Complimentary Banquet Photo
  • Hospitality Suite (2100 sq ft) with snacks and decorations
  • Gift Bag with lots of local goodies
  • Unlimited tours of the Louisiana War Museum and the USS Kidd DD 661
  • Transportation & Activities for the Memorial Services
  • Lunch provided, Cajun "Pastalaya", during Memorial Services
  • Opening Social on Thursday including Cajun Zedeco Band,
  • Boiled seafood, local beer, and Cajun Dancers
  • Complimentary coffee and snacks in morning
The costs for registration are $85 per person for shipmates and $75 per person for spouses/guests/friends. We have been able to lower our registration fees for this reunion as a result of generous donations by local business and gifts to the Association. We have secured approximately $3000 in donations for the reunion mainly through corporations and other local donors. With these donations by local companies and the annual donations to the Association, it is our goal to lower our next reunions to a registration fee below the present rates. Once our reunion has been completed, we will forward all a summary of income and expenditures for this reunion and our expectations for 2010.

When making your reservation, look over the tours we are offering and make a selection of what tours you wish to make. Our tours are optional. However, the tour to New Orleans is very popular, with about 85% of our guest signing up, while the Plantation tour has a 66% of our guest attending. Both tours are wonderful events. A description of all of our tours is as follows:

Tour No 1 Louisiana Rural Life Museum (Thursday morning/afternoon), May 29
Cost $6.00/person

Located just a few minutes from the hotel is one of Baton Rouge's hidden secrets. This tour is being organized by the Association but no formal registration through the Association for this tour is provided. The Association has obtained a lower fee for the reunion guest. Guest can ride over to Louisiana State University's Rural Life Museum on their own and at their convenience, casually stroll and see Louisiana as it was years ago. No transportation will be provided by the Association. The Museum is located within 5 minutes of the hotel.

Tour No 2 D-Day Museum and French Quarter, New Orleans (Friday all day), May 30
Cost $32/person

This all day tour begins with a bus trip to the D Day Museum in New Orleans. For 2-3 hours, guided tours of the National Museum dedicated to D Day and World War II will be provided to our guests. After your tour of the museum, the buses will transport our guests to the French Quarters where you will be able to have lunch at one of our fine restaurants and tour the Quarters with its numerous antique and gift shops. Late that afternoon the buses will transport all to Baton Rouge. This tour is the highlight tour of our reunion and a must see.

Tour No 3 Nottoway Plantation (Sunday midday), June 1 Cost $42/person

Awe-inspiring Nottoway Plantation, the largest plantation home in the South is not to be missed. Built in 1859 by John Hampton Randolph, Nottoway is a classic Greek revival structure with 53,000 square feet and some 64 rooms. It has 200 windows and 165 doors, one for each day of the year to be opened. It features a 65 foot grand white ballroom, intricate lacy plaster frieze work, hand-carved marble mantels and hand-painted porcelain doorknobs. Once you arrive, the tour of the home and grounds will begin. Upon your completion of your tour, guests will be directed to Randolph Hall for a formal lunch. This lunch is included in your tour fee. Please choose between Cajun Shrimp Creole and Chicken Iberville for your lunch entrée.

For those of you flying into the Baton Rouge Airport, the hotel does not provide complimentary shuttle service. The distance from the airport to the Holiday Inn Select is 12 miles. A one-way shuttle charge will costs you around $14 and a one-way taxi charge being in the $21 range. Travel time by taxi is about 15 minutes. If you need assistance in getting from the airport to the hotel, call the hotel direct at 225-925-2244.

Banquet Raffle

For those who are coming to the reunion, don't forget your donations for our raffle after the banquet. This event is a fun time where guests purchase raffle tickets and win prizes. To ensure a successful fund raiser for future reunions, we ask each of you who are attending to bring a gift from your part of the country. It can be anything that you have made or purchased. Something unique always gets the crowds excited about winning. Your donation may be a single gift or you may wish to provide numerous gifts. Any donation which will make this event a successful one will be appreciated.

Cruise Books

One of our on-going projects is to post a copy on our website of every cruise book from the JWT. To date we have '55, '61, '63, '66, '67-'68, and '69. If you have a cruise book from another year besides the ones posted here and are attending the reunion, bring your cruise book. Someone in the hospitality room will scan your book while you wait. If you are not coming to the reunion and have access to a scanner and wish to help in our project, please send an electronic copy of your cruise book to the Association. With the addition of new cruise books, we can offer our shipmates a chance to relive their memories about the USS John W. Thomason through the internet. You assistance in completing this project is deeply appreciated.

Looking for Room Mates

If you are coming to the reunion by yourself and wish to cut the costs of your hotel stay, one shipmate is looking for a room mate. Please let us know if you would like to share a room for the reunion.

Ship's Store

For those of you who will be attending the Reunion, we ask that you purchase and wear our blue golf shirt for our Memorial Services on Saturday. We intend on taking our Reunion Group pictures of the shipmates on the bow of the USS Kidd after the Memorial Services. To ensure that we have an ample supply of hats and shirts, please indicate on the registration form what items you wish to purchase at the reunion. The Ship's Store will be open during the registration. Any item you wish to purchase may be paid for at the reunion. Indicating what items you wish to purchase on your registration form will allow us to order those items for you in advance of the reunion. For those who will not attend the reunion, you may wish to visit the Ship's Store on the internet and order your JWT shirts and hats. Jim and Penny Kulp who run our Ship's Store will be happy to send you your items.

Looking for Missing Shipmates

In our previous newsletters, we have asked you for your assistance in locating missing shipmates. We have found the internet to be a vital tool in locating shipmates. Also, those shipmates who know about the Association and our Reunions have told other shipmates who they keep in touch. Please help us in locating as many shipmates who have served aboard the USS John W. Thomason throughout her distinguished service to our country.

Anyone with Pictures of the JWT or Shipmates

If you have any pictures of the JWT in combat or action situations or of your shipmates which you wish to share with us, bring them to the reunion. We will scan them while you wait and return the originals to you. After the reunion, we will post them to our website to share with others who are unable to attend or looking at our website for the first time. Sharing memories is only a part of why we get together. The more we can share those memories with our friends, the better our Association becomes.

Association News

  • For those of you who may not have heard, we found out recently that Gerald Boehme, BM3, who served in the late 1960's, was buried on Veteran's Day, 2007. Gerald past away from a lengthy illness.
  • Marcia Steele just recently retired and now is helping Paul with the household duties. Best of luck to Marcia with her new job.
  • Special thanks to Sammie and Joanne Ringer who donated the JWT buttons for the reunion. Each guest will receive a button with their gift pack of the JWT. Your kind contribution to this year's reunion is deeply appreciated.
  • For all of Vietnam Veterans, hypertension has been added to the presumptive illnesses for Agent Orange disability. If you have high blood pressure and served on the ground in Vietnam, consult your VA representative to see if you qualify for this disability.
  • All guests coming to the 2008 Reunion will receive a copy of the Muster Rolls for all of the 25 year history of the JWT. Also, an electronic copy of all of the photos from National Archives and the Naval Historical Center in Washington, DC will be in your gift bag along with other gifts donated by local businesses and producers.
  • Special thanks to Capt Bill Busching for securing our Banquet guest speaker. Capt Busching has acquired a current Rear Admiral on the Gulf Coast to talk at our banquet about today's Navy. This Admiral served as an Ensign under Capt Busching while he was the XO of the USS Farragut.