John Smith Thach
was born in Pine Bluffs, Arkansas, on April 19, 1905. In 1923 he was appointed
to the U. S. Naval Academy, where, on June 20, 1927, he was graduated and
commissioned an Ensign in the U. S. Navy. Admiral Thach was assigned to the
battleships USS MISSISSIPPI and USS CALIFORNIA, until he was ordered to
flight training at Pensacola, Florida in 1929. In January 1930, Admiral Thach
was designated a Naval Aviator and was assigned to his first operational
Form the beginning, Admiral Thach proved himself a highly capable pilot,
becoming recognized as one of the Navy's aerial gunnery experts, repeatedly
shooting top scores in every type of combat aircraft he flew.
During the next few years of his career, Admiral Thach's superior performance
qualified him to be a test pilot and flight instructor and to receive a
letter of commendation in 1940 for "exceptional skill and technique in
aerial gunnery and bombing; efficient and meticulous operation of a squadron
gunnery department; marked ability to train other pilots in fighting plane
tactics and gunnery."
When the United States entered World War II, Admiral Thach was a Lieutenant
Commander commanding Fighter Squadron Three, embarked on the aircraft carrier
USS SARATOGA. At the time, Admiral Thach was one of the top fighter
tacticians in the Navy. Intelligence reports from the Sino-Japanese was
convinced him that the Navy's top carrier fighter, the F4F Grumman Wildcat,
was no match for the superior flying performance of the Japanese Zero.
Admiral Thach sought to devise a means to give his squadron a fighting chance
against the Zero. The result, which he worked out with match sticks on his
kitchen table, was the famous "Thach Weave" still used today by
modern jets fighters. He initiated the practice of having U. S. fighter
planes operate in pairs, instead of trios. The pair would weave back and
forth as they encountered the Zero, thus providing the wingman the
opportunity to shoot at the Zero on his partners tail and vice versa. This
tactic proved highly successful at the Battle of Midway.
Admiral Thach returned to Pearl Harbor to instruct other pilots in the use of
his new technique. Later in the war, Admiral Thach was assigned to the Fast
Carrier Task Force as Air Operations Officer, where he developed the system
of blanketing enemy airfields with a continuous patrol of carrier-based
fighters. The tactics is credited with destroying the air offensive
capabilities of Japan. His direction of the Navy's final offensive blows to
the Japanese mainland led to an invitation to participate in the Japanese
surrender aboard the battleship USS MISSOURI.
Admiral Thach continued his distinguished career after the war, commanding
the aircraft carrier USS SICILY in the Korean conflict, and later, the
carrier USS FRANKLIN D. ROOSEVELT. He was promoted to the rank of Rear
Admiral in November of 1955, Vice Admiral in January of 1960, and to Admiral
in March of 1960. In recognition of his work, the Navy annually awards the
best anti-submarine warfare aircraft squadron "The Admiral Thach
Award". In 1965, Admiral Thach was ordered to duty as Commander-in-Chief
of U. S. Naval Forces in Europe and served there until his retirement in May
1967, after more than 40 years of service. Admiral Thach died on 15 April
Admiral Thach participated in twelve major engagements or campaigns and was
awarded the following distinctions: Distinguished Service Medal, Navy Cross,
Letter of Commendation from Fleet Admiral Nimitz, Gold Star in lieu of second
Navy Cross, Silver Star Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal, Gold Star
in lieu of second Legion of Merit, plus other campaign, unit and service
awards. Admiral Thach is survived by his two sons, John Smith Thach, Jr. and
William Leleand Thach.
SAN DIEGO (NNS) --
The Oliver Hazard Perry-class guided-missile frigate USS Thach (FFG 43) was
decommissioned after more than 29 years of naval service during a ceremony on
board Naval Base San Diego, November 1, 2013.
The ship was named for Naval aviator Adm. John S. Thatch, the developer of
the "Thach Weave" dogfighting tactic in World War II and former
Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Europe from 1965-1967. He died in 1981 and the
ship was commissioned into service March 17, 1984.
Several of the ship's plankowners and dozens of former crew members, as well
as many members of the Thach family, attended the ceremony alongside current
"Congratulations to all the of current crew and the wardroom for the
fine work and Thach's success; I understand you just got back from
deployment," said retired Navy Capt. Dale H. Moses, Thach's first
commanding officer who served as guest speaker for the ceremony. "I must
say, lookingto my memory and the pictures I have from 30 years ago, the ship
today looks as sparkly and new as it did then."
Moses honored the plankowners that took part in the commissioning ceremony
more than 29 years ago by having them stand and be recognized during the
decommissioning ceremony. He also spoke about the technology aboard Thach
nearly 30 years ago, including the limited number and use of computers at the
"To all of you, fair winds and following seas," said Moses.
"To Thach, wherever you may be, may you also have fair winds and
During Thach's final deployment earlier this year, the crew of 220 Sailors
and Coast Guardsmen performed counter-illicit trafficking operations off the
coasts of South and Central America. The ship disrupted shipments of more
than 379 kilograms of cocaine and more than 1,100 pounds of marijuana
totaling in excess of $10 million.
"From conducting counter-narcotics operations to maintaining freedom on
the high seas, the ship has been through a lot in its 29 years of
extraordinary service to our country's Navy," said Cmdr. Hans E. Lynch,
Thach's commanding officer.
Lynch said his tour as commanding officer has been very rewarding, especially
during the ship's final deployment conducting counter-narcotics operations in
the U.S. 4th Fleet Area of Responsibility.
"I am grateful for the crew's dedication to the mission," said
Lynch. "It is an honor to be the decommissioning commanding officer of a
Thach participated in a number of maritime security exercises and operations
both independently and as part of carrier strike groups in U.S. 3rd, 4th, 5th
and 7th Fleet areas of responsibility during nearly three decades of service.