John Smith "Jimmy" Thach (
19 April 1905- 15 April 1981) was a World War IInaval aviator, air combat , and United States Navy admiral. Thach developed the Thach Weave, a combat flight formation that could counter enemy fighters of superior performance, and later the big blue blanket, an aerial defense against Kamikaze attacks.
John S. Thach was born in
Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He graduated from the United States Naval Academyin 1927 and spent two years serving in battleshipsbefore training as a naval aviatorin 1929. Thach spent the next decade serving as a test pilotand instructor and establishing a reputation as an expert in aerial gunnery.
World War II
In the early 1940s, he was placed in command of
Fighting Squadron Three(VF-3). There he met a young Naval Reserve Ensignjust out of flight school, Edward O'Hare, later a Medal of Honorrecipient. Thach made O'Hare his wingmanand taught him everything he knew. At the U.S. Navy fleet gunnery competition at the end of 1940, 8 of 16 VF-3 pilots qualified for the gunnery "E" award ("excellence").
Later Thach developed a fighter combat tactic known as the
Thach Weave. This tactic enabled American fighter aircraft to hold their own against the superior Mitsubishi Zero, the primary fighter of Japan. in June 1942.
On the morning of June 4, 1942, Thach led a six-plane sortie from VF-3, escorting a strike from
USS Yorktown, when they discovered the main Japanese carrier fleet. They were immediately attacked by 15 to 20 Japanese fighters. Thach decided to use his namesake maneuver, marking the first combat usage of his namesake tactic. Although outnumbered and outmaneuvered, Thach managed to shoot down 3 Zeros and a wingman accounted for another, at the cost of one Wildcat. [Parshall & Tully, "Shattered Sword", pp. 224.]
After Midway, Thach was assigned to instruct other pilots in combat tactics. The Navy pulled its best combat pilots out of action to train newer pilots, while the Japanese kept their best pilots flying. As the war progressed, the Japanese Navy lost their experienced pilots due to
attritionand had no well trained replacements, while the U.S. was able to improve the general fighting ability of their own personnel. When the Japanese resorted to the feared Kamikaze suicide attacks, Thach developed the Big blue blanketsystem to provide an adequate defense.
Later in the war Commander Thach became Operations Officer to Vice Admiral
John S. McCain, Sr., commander of the Fast Carrier Task Force. Thach was present at the formal [http://www.history.navy.mil/photos/images/g700000/g701293.jpgJapanese Surrender] on 2 September 1945in Tokyo Bay.
Post World-War II
Thach commanded "Sicily" (CVE-118) during the
Korean Warand "Franklin D. Roosevelt" (CVA-42) in 1953-1954. He was promoted to Rear Admiral in 1955.
In 1958 and 1959 Thach was placed in command of an antisubmarine development unit, with "Valley Forge" (CVS-45) serving as his
flagship. He subsequently appeared on the cover of Time magazine on September 1, 1958 for his contributions to Anti-Submarine Warfare(ASW) [http://www.time.com/time/covers/0,16641,19580901,00.html] , which was a primary focus at the time in the ongoing Cold War. An annual award was later established in his name for presentation to the top ASW squadron in the Navy.
He was promoted to Vice Admiral in 1960 [http://www.centuryinter.net/midway/appendix/bios/vf3_john_s_thach.html] and served as the Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air in the Pentagon [http://encyclopediaofarkansas.net/encyclopedia/entry-detail.aspx?entryID=1780] where he presided over development of the
A-7 Corsair IIamong other Naval Aviation programs. As Commander in Chief, U.S. Naval Forces, Europe, starting in 1965 he pinned on his fourth star as a full admiral, retiring from the Navy in May 1967 from that position [http://www.thach.navy.mil/jimmy.htm] .
John Thach died on
15 April 1981, a few days before his 76th birthday. The frigate"Thach" (FFG-43) was named in his honor.
Jimmy is survived by his two sons (William and John Smith Jr) two grandsons (Chris and Alex) and two granddaughters. (Kimberly and Kari)
last = Parshall
first = Jonathan
authorlink = Jonathan Parshall
coauthors = Tully, Anthony
year = 2005
title = Shattered Sword: The Untold Story of the Battle of Midway
publisher = Potomac Books
location = Dulles, VA
id = ISBN 1-57488-923-0
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/archive/covers/0,16641,1101580901,00.html Time Magazine Cover Photo (Time Magazine Archives Site)]
* [http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,863701,00.html "The Goblin Killers"] - TIME - Monday, September 1, 1958
* [http://www.centuryinter.net/midway/appendix/appendixfourteen_usvftac.html Fighter Tactics]
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