Bob Thomas was born on December 19, 1948, in Madison, Georgia, and grew up in Miami, Florida. He was commissioned through the Air Force ROTC program on June 7, 1970, and went on active duty beginning September 23, 1970. Lt Thomas next completed Undergraduate Pilot Training and was awarded his pilot wings at Laughlin AFB, Texas, in September 1971, and then completed B-52 Stratofortress Combat Crew Training before being assigned to the 340th Bomb Squadron at Blytheville AFB, Arkansas, in April 1972. He deployed with his unit to Andersen AFB, Guam, in support of operations in Southeast Asia in August 1972, and was killed in action the first day of Operation Linebacker II, on December 18, 1972. His remains were returned to the U.S. on August 23, 1978.
His Distinguished Flying Cross with Valor Citation reads:
First Lieutenant Robert J. Thomas distinguished himself by heroism while participating in aerial flight as a B-52G Copilot near Hanoi, North Vietnam, on 18 December 1972. On that date, while engaged in one of the largest conventional bombing raids ever amassed in the recent history of aerial warfare, Lieutenant Thomas received significant battle damage to his aircraft as the result of extremely heavy hostile fire. Lieutenant Thomas and his crew were in quest of massed supplies, communications equipment, and transportation lines in order to eliminate the aggressorâ€™s capacity to initiate an offensive. The outstanding heroism and selfless devotion to duty displayed by Lieutenant Thomas reflect great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.