Kenneth W. Theis was born on 16 February 1923 in East St. Louis, Illinois. The family moved to Amarillo, Texas when he was ten years old. He spent a lot of time with his grandparents while in Illinois during those early years. He was forced by a teacher to write with his right hand instead of his left as he preferred. His father was an accountant in Amarillo but then became an Internal Revenue agent and moved to Pine Bluff, Arkansas in 1935. Thesis graduated Pine Bluff high school in 1939 and enrolled in college at Arkadelphia. Accounting was his chosen major. He transferred to the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville during the fall of 1941. Pearl Harbor was bombed on Sunday 7 December 1941. He heard about the attack in the early afternoon while in a dormitory room watching a craps game. The news of the bombing did not phase the young men that much at the time. He came to realize the significance particularly after hearing President Roosevelt’s speech the next day [Annotator’s Note: President Franklin Roosevelt addressed Congress on 8 December requesting a declaration of war against Japan.]. All the young men began to consider how they could participate in the war effort. Theis enlisted in the Navy V-7 program which enabled him to complete his remaining college education before going into uniform. Theis’ brother joined a similar program, V-12. Because his college credits were fewer, he was put in uniform and assigned to a college by the Navy. Theis graduated in May 1943 from the University of Arkansas. He spent the summer in Pine Bluff waiting to be called up. He finally received orders to report to Notre Dame Midshipman School in September 1943.
Kenneth Theis completed midshipman training in two months and was commissioned an ensign in the Navy in November 1943. His college major had been in accounting so that discipline was where he was assigned after midshipman training. Theis would become a member of the Navy supply corps. He was to attend the Navy Harvard Supply Corps School. Initially, classes were full. There were no openings for him to enroll so he went to the Brooklyn Navy Yard to mark time until he could begin study. It was nice duty in New York with free nights. Service men were welcome everywhere. In January, Harvard classes opened up but they were very crowded. A branch school was opened at the female Wellesley College in Boston. That was where he began his studies. He completed the courses in late June 1944. Just prior to his graduation, Theis was elated to hear that the D-Day invasion occurred. After graduation, he was sent to Pearl Harbor without knowing what ship he would be assigned to. He left the United States on an LST—landing ship, tank. It was early to mid-July and it took ten days to reach Pearl Harbor. The roll of the ship on the voyage posed no problem for Theis.
Kenneth Theis reached Pearl Harbor and discovered that he was to be the Supply and Disbursement Officer on the USS Manlove (DE-36). The problem was that the ship had already left port. He then went to Eniwetok hoping to meet up with her there, but she had left for Saipan. When he arrived at Saipan, the Manlove had returned to Pearl Harbor. After several weeks of chasing the ship, Theis was finally able to board the Manlove in Pearl Harbor. The crew had not been paid in several weeks and as dispersing officer he was ship’s paymaster. He boarded the Manlove with 50,000 dollars in cash to pay the crew. As the disbursing officer, Theis was one of the more popular people aboard the ship. He was the first officer of that rating on the ship. They no longer had to search for a paymaster on different ships. The ship had its own paymaster. Although as Supply Officer he had responsibility for the crew’s food, the commissary chief petty officer took good care of that side. Theis had primarily the financial side to worry about. In some cases, he did involve himself in finding supplies from other ships while he was in port. Theis was supported by one individual under his command. The complement on the ship was 15 officers and 170 crew. When he met up with the ship, it had work underway in the drydock prior to leaving the harbor. After the docking, the ship went out for refresher training for two weeks before going to sea. It served as escort for other ships or convoys out of Eniwetok to Ulithi. There was no contact with the enemy during that time.
Kenneth Theis [Annotator’s Note: Supply and Disbursement Officer aboard the USS Manlove (DE-36)] was part of a giant armada that sailed from Ulithi to mount an attack on Okinawa in April 1945. The ship was assigned picket duty to prevent Japanese resupply shipping from reaching the enemy on the island. Kamikaze attacks started soon after the Manlove’s arrival on 3 April 1945. The Japanese suicide pilots hit and destroyed many ships and caused heavy casualties. The Manlove was attacked by a kamikaze which was hit just before the ship was struck. The kamikaze killed one sailor and wounded nine others aboard the ship. Theis was inside the ship when the incident occurred. It was the day before Roosevelt died on the 12th [Annotator’s Note: President Franklin Roosevelt died on 12 April 1945]. The ship was sent to Guam and Saipan for repairs and then resumed picket duty off Okinawa. In July, the ship received word that it would be detached to return to the United States for repairs prior to being part of the final invasion of Japan. The ship sailed to the Seattle area and Theis was given leave to return to Pine Bluff. That was where he was when he heard about the atomic bombs and the end of the war. He was elated because he knew the extent of casualties that would result from an invasion of the Japanese homeland. It was blessing that he never anticipated. Theis became a logistics and personnel officer at that time. The ship was decommissioned with him being the last man off the ship. He was responsible for having to get all personnel and equipment off the vessel prior to decommissioning. After the Manlove, Theis went to Norfolk, Virginia where he was paymaster for a group of “baby flattop” aircraft carriers. There was very little for him to do during that time. He was discharged on 16 June 1946 based on his points. He thought about staying in the reserves, but went to work in Pine Bluff to partner with his father as a CPA—certified public accountant. He retired at 63 years of age. In retrospect, the war and the people he met and places he saw were all a once in a lifetime experience. War was horrible and catastrophic but Theis was lucky not to be injured. That was particularly the case at Okinawa. It was incredible what the troops on the island did to subdue the Japanese. That was while the men of the Manlove slept on beds with clean sheets and plenty of food. Some were lucky and others were not.
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