Admiral John Smith Thach
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 squadron.
From the beginning, Admiral Thach proved himself a highly
pilot, becoming recognized as one of the Navy's aerial gunnery experts,
repeatedly shooting top scores in every type of combat aircraft he
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 1981.
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.
USS THACH (FFG-43), homeported in San Diego, California, is the 37th
ship of the Oliver Hazard Perry class of guided missile frigates. It is
typically assigned to Destroyer Squadron SEVEN located in San Diego.
THACH's mission is to provide anti-air, anti-surface, and
anti-submarine protection for carrier strike groups, expeditionary
strike groups and other military and merchant shipping. The ship is
also capable of operating independently in support of counter-narcotic
operations, maritime interdictions against afloat terrorist assets, and
other special mission profiles on the high seas. Utilizing its organic
Visit, Board, Search, and Seizure team and SH-60B Seahawk helicopter
detachment with forward-looking infrared radar, the ship has the
capacity to locate, track, and intercept targets far over the horizon.
The new direction for the naval service remains focused on
our ability to project power from the sea in the critical littoral
regions for the world. Success in the asymmetric warfare environment of
the 21 st century requires thorough evaluation, rapid decision-making
and almost instantaneous response to any postulated threat. The systems
aboard THACH have been designed to meet these demanding and dynamic
prerequisites, and to do so with minimum human interface. The
ship’s weapons include a 76mm rapid-fire gun, Close-in
System (CIWS), and anti-submarine torpedoes. The LAMPS MK III video
data link system brings state-of-the-art computer technology to the
warfare arena, as well as integrating sensors and weapons to provide a
total offensive and defensive weapons system.
In addition, computers control and monitor the gas turbine
engines (the same engines installed on DC-10 aircraft) and electrical
generators. Digital electronic logic circuits and remotely-operated
valves are monitored in Central Control Station which initiate engine
start and result in a "ready to go" status in less than ten minutes.
The heart of the ship, though, is the crew. High
technology systems demand skilled technicians and professional
leadership to be effective. The concept of "minimum manning" means,
simply, that with professional Sailors, THACH can meet the challenges
of modern naval warfare with approximately half the crew found on other
ships comparable size and capability.
Crest: Like all heraldic Navy insignias,
THACH’s crest has special meaning. The blue and gold colors
are traditionally associated with the Navy; blue for the sea and gold
for excellence. The pair of wings in the upper crest refers to Admiral
Thach’s contributions to naval aviation as a pilot and
leader. One of the contributions to naval aviation as a pilot and
leader was his invention of the "Thach Weave," symbolized by the
interlaced silver chevrons. This two-plane fighter tactic, used to
cover each other from enemy fighters, is still used by fighter aircraft
The three-pronged trident is shown pointing
down from the sky, symbolizing naval aviation’s role of
projecting power from the sky and the sea. The three tines of the
trident also represent Fight Squadron Three, the unit Admiral Thach
commanded during early Pacific carrier battles in World War II. The
cross within its outlined border and the wreath refer to Admiral
Thach’s first and second awards of the Navy Cross and the
Navy Distinguished Service Medal.
The anchor in the center of the insignia
focuses attention on the nautical nature of both Admiral
Thach’s service to his country as well as that of our ship.
ship’s motto, “Ready and Able,” is
representative of Admiral Thach’s preparation and success in
battle, as well as the challenge for today’s Sailors serving
on board USS THACH.