Ultimately, the history of the debate was all about engine power and speed.
In the early days engines were pretty pathetic, forcing designers down the braced-wing route, so aerofoils could be made thin with all the stiffness conferred by the bracing.
The thick vs. thin debate over monoplane wings first took reasonably informed shape in the latter part of WWI, when engine powers above 100 hp and speeds above 100 mph became the norm. Thick wings could be made stiffer, reducing or even eliminating the bracing and thus allowing the maximum speed to take full advantage of the powerful engine.
But it was not an open and shut case. For a well-streamlined design with an efficient l/d ratio and a need for speed, such as a scout fighter, the saving in form drag is worth a little induced drag. But for a clumsy bumbling thing with poor l/d, such as a naval torpedo bomber hung about with all kinds of gadgetry, lighter structural weight was the more important.
As engine powers rose inexorably through the next twenty years, they offered the opportunity for ever-increasing speed through thinner wings and reduced form drag. For example the Spitfire owed its success principally to the combination of the 1,000-plus horsepower Merlin engine with an unusually thin wing at 13% t/c ratio. It also had an unusually long chord for a fighter, not only helping to maintain adequate structural depth with that slender profile, but also reducing the stresses in the main forward spar and reducing the wing loading so that it could take off and land slower and out-turn the Messerschmitt Bf 109.
The thick wing advocates fought back, especially for the heavy lifters, and the type lasted right through WWII and into the jet age; check out the Avro Vulcan nuclear bomber.
Indeed, check out the wing root sections of any large modern airliner. Note how these more sophisticated wings are thick at the root where strength with lightness matter most and thin at the tips where drag dominates.
So it's very much horses for courses. Do you want high speed and high manoeuvrability, do you want to heft as much as you can as far as you can, or do you want an optimal blend of speed with payload-range?