THOMPSON, KYLE O'LONIUS (1922~2004) Kyle O'lonius Thompson, Jr., journalist, author and World War II veteran, was born in Emmet, Arkansas on July 25, 1922, to Kyle O'lonius, Sr. and Hattie Clark Thompson. After moving to Wichita Falls, Texas, he enlisted in the Texas National Guard in 1938, at age 16.
Prior to the United States' entry into World War II, Thompson's unit in the National Guard, the 2nd Battalion, 131st Field Artillery, was mobilized on November 20, 1940, as part of the 36th Infantry Division, United States Army. The men reported for active duty at Camp Bowie, Texas, near Brownwood, and were sent to Louisiana for training. Upon their return to Camp Bowie, they were ordered to the Philippines. While in route, they learned of the Japanese attacks on Pearl Harbor and the Philippines and changed their destination to Brisbane, Australia. After arriving there on December 22, they were sent to Surabaya, Java, a Dutch province, to support Allied ground forces.
The 2nd Battalion, the only U. S. ground combat unit to reach the Netherland East Indies, arrived on January 11, 1942, the same day the Japanese began their invasion of the island. After nearly three months of fighting, the Dutch, on March 8, 1942, surrendered and the Texans were captured. The unit, which later became known as the "Lost Battalion," because their whereabouts were completely unknown, was held for 42 months, three and one half years, at various locations throughout Southeast Asia.
During the 2nd Battalion's captivity, they were moved to numerous camps, along with thousands of other Allied troops. On January 11, 1943, after being moved to Thanbyuzayat, Burma, the troops began work on the Japanese "Railroad of Death." Enduring deplorable conditions and severe brutality, the men helped construct the now famous Bridge over the River Kwai, where they suffered numerous causalities and deaths. In all, 70,000 Allied prisoners died while working on the railroad.
On August 29, 1945, four days before Admiral Chester W. Nimitz signed the peace treaty with Japan, the Lost Battalion was released. For his service in the United States Army, Thompson received 11 medals, including the Presidential Unit Citation with two Bronze Clusters, the Purple Heart, the POW, the Philippines Defense with one Bronze Star, the Asiatic Pacific Service Medal, American Defense, American Theater Service Victory Medal, the Good Conduct Medal, and the China Defense Medal. In October 1994, after his retirement, Thompson published a book, "A Thousand Cups of Rice," which recounted how he and the other prisoners survived their years of hard labor, with little food and little or no medical treatment.
After returning to Wichita Falls, Thompson enrolled in Hardin College, now Midwestern State University, in 1946, where he earned a Bachelor of Arts degree with a major in history and minors in English and journalism. Before graduating, he went to work as a reporter for the Wichita Falls Times and Record News.
After graduating, Thompson went to work for United Press International in Dallas in 1951. In 1958, he moved to Houston and was named Bureau Manager. After moving to Austin several years later, he once again was named Bureau Manager and was responsible for covering the State Capitol.
In 1968, Thompson caught the attention of Governor John Connally, who later named him as his press secretary. At the end of Connally's last term in office, 1969, Thompson went to work for the Texas Water Quality Board as Assistant to the Executive Director and helped establish the board's first public information office.
Thompson later returned to United Press International, but left again in 1972 to become the Communications Director and Press Secretary for U. S. Senator John Tower in Washington, D. C. In 1974, he left Tower's Office and went to work as the regional director of the Defense Civil Preparedness Agency with the Department of Defense. There, he supervised a staff of 90 employees and coordinated activities for a five-state region. In 1979, he left to work for Gibbs & Hill, Inc., where he served as marketing director until 1981.
Upon his return to Texas, Thompson ended his career with the Fort Worth Star Telegram as the editor of the editorial page. There, he supervised a staff of writers, columnists and cartoonists and was responsible for the publication of editorial and op-ed pages of both daily editions of the paper.
After retiring in August 1987, Thompson returned to Austin and the political arena, where he volunteered in several statewide campaigns. He also taught a 7th grade journalism class at a private high school. After the publication of his book, "A Thousand Cups of Rice," he became known as an authority on POWs and began speaking to numerous civic groups, schools and veterans groups and appearing on documentaries. He also served as executive secretary to the Lost Battalion Association.
In 2000, Thompson was named an Outstanding Alumnus by Midwestern State University and, in 2002, was awarded the national Medal of Honor from the Daughters of the American Revolution. Also active in his faith, Thompson and his wife, Vivian, were longtime members of Hyde Park Baptist Church in Austin, where, in 2003, he was honored for 50 years of service as a counselor in the Royal Ambassadors, a Baptist mission program for boys.
Thompson passed away on Friday, February 27, 2004, and was buried in the Texas State Cemetery four days later. He is survived by his wife, Vivian Carter Thompson, three daughters, Linda Thompson Montgomery, Kay Thompson, and Janis Thompson, and two grandchildren, Mandy Briggs and Colin Montgomery.
Information taken from: Austin American-Statesman, World War II veteran and Texas political reporter dies, Sunday February 29, 2004; Austin American-Statesman, Obituary, Sunday, February 29, 2004; Office of Alumni Relations, Midwestern State University; Lost Battalion Association website, http://www.kwanah.com/txmilmus/lostbattalion/index.htm; and The Handbook of Texas Online. [Accessed Mon Mar 15 13:36:50 US/Central 2004].