Thomas Walter Fries


Thomas Walter Fries, resident of the Iowa Veterans Home in Marshalltown, IA passed away on June 5, 2018.

Tom was born September 9, 1926 to Jurgen L.  and Maria (Gregurka) Fries in Des Moines, IA. He joined the US Navy in 1944 and served until 1947, then served in the US Navy Reserves from 1947 to 1949. He was stationed at various locations – Johnston Island; Hilo, HI; San Francisco, CA. MM3 on USS Bottineau; MM3 at Hunters Point Sub-group one, USS Intrepid.

Tom was involved with Operation Crossroads, which was ordered by the Chief of Staff to test the effects of the Atomic Bomb on various out of service, older decommissioned navy vessels and was conducted at Bikini Atoll, Marshall Islands. This included 4 obsolete US battle ships, 2 aircraft carriers, 2 cruiser battle ships, 11 destroyers, 8 submarines, numerous amphibious vessels and 3 surrendered Japanese & German ships.

Tom was aboard the USS Bottineau that was the first ship back into the target zone for tests on Crossroads Able and Crossroads Baker in 1946. The USS Bottineau was 20 miles out to sea at time of detonation with its back to the blast site.

He was quarantined near Alcatraz in San Francisco, CA for 10 days due to high radiation exposure.  He also participated in decon of the ship (USS Bottineau) at home port on the west coast.

Tom as awarded the Asian Pacific (1 Star); American Area; Navy Reserve Medal; Victory WW II Medal; Good Conduct Medal and Honorable Service Lapel Button.


Tom was a member of the National Association of Atomic Veterans; National World War II Memorial Society, Plank Owner; Quarter Deck Club; Veterans of Foreign Wars, Post 9127; American Legion, Post 374; WW II National Museum member and Disabled American Veterans. He was most recently appointed a 4th degree Knight with the Knights of Columbus.


Born during the depression, he started working at the age of 9 while attending All Saints Grade School. He graduated from North High School, earning his diploma while stationed in San Francisco, CA.  As an adult he was an Auto Mechanic, owned a gas station in Highland Park, Des Moines and was a Fireman for the City of Des Moines. He retired as a Supervisor for the US Postal Service.


Tom was united in marriage to Mary “Gerry” Fitzgerald on February 20, 1954 and raised 3 daughters, Mary K., Nancy and Diane. He is survived by all including his three grandsons, Jason, Troy and Taylor.

The family wishes to express their gratitude to the Iowa Veterans Home for their exceptional care and attention to Tom and a special thank you to the staff on Dack 2.

A Memorial Service will be held at the Iowa Veterans Home on Tuesday, June 12, 2018 at 1:30 p.m. for his fellow residents and staff to attend and a private family military burial will be held on Wednesday, June 13, 2018 at 12:30 p.m. at the Iowa Veterans Cemetery in Van Meter, IA.

Memorial contributions can be directed to Dack 2 at the Iowa Veterans Home, 1301 Summit St., Marshalltown, IA 50158 in Tom’s memory.


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