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DEPARTMENT OF THE NAVY -- NAVAL HISTORICAL CENTER
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Thomas C. Hart

 

Thomas Charles Hart—born on 12 June 1877 in Genessee County, Mich.—graduated from the Naval Academy in 1897 and served his initial tours of sea duty in Massachusetts (Battleship No. 2) and in the steam yp.cht Vixen, during the Spanish-American War.

 

In the years preceding the First World War, Hart filled a variety of sea and shore duty billets: as a junior officer in battleships, torpedo boats, and submarines; as an instructor at the Naval Academy; as aide to an Assistant Secretary of the Navy; and as commander of the Pacific Torpedo Flotilla. By the spring of 1917, Hart was commanding the cruiser Chicago and the Submarine Base at New London, Conn., while also acting as Chief of Staff to the Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet.

 

During World War I, Hart served concurrently as commander of Submarine Divisions 2 and 5, with Bushnell (Submarine Tender No. 2) as his flagship. One division was based at Bantry Bay, protecting sea approaches to the British Isles; the second was based at Punta Delgada in the Azores, protecting routes to that vital island. In 1918, after temporary duty with the British Admiralty, Hart was appointed Director of Submarines in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. Serving in this office as its head until 1922, Hart fought doggedly to improve the lot of the submarine arm of the Navy. His tenacity was responsible for the American Navy's acquisition of surrendered German U-boats after World War I to learn the details of the technical innovations incorporated in the erstwhile enemy craft.

 

Receiving the Distinguished Service Medal (DSM) for his service as Director of Submarines, Hart spent the ensuing years of the 1920's and 1930's in a succession of sea and shore billets as he advanced up the Navy ladder. He studied at both the Army and Navy War Colleges; commanded the Atlantic Fleet Submarine Divisions, battleship Mississippi (BB-42), and Submarine Flotilla 3; served as Assistant Commandant of the 3d Naval District; Inspector of Ordnance at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, R.I.; and Commander of the Control Force. After a tour as Superintendent of the Naval Academy, he went to sea as Commander, Cruiser Division 6, in June 1934. Reporting to the General Board after this tour of sea duty, Hart became its chairman in 1937.

 

With the temporary rank of admiral, Hart relieved classmate Admiral Harry E. Yarnell as Commander-in-Chief, Asiatic Fleet (CinCAF) on 25 July 1939. For the next two years, as tensions increased in the western Pacific, Hart prepared the small Asiatic Fleet for war with Japan. He reduced the presence of his fleet in Chinese waters and concentrated it in the Philippines to await the onslaught expected momentarily. He also successfully badgered Washington for reinforcements in the way of patrol planes and fleet submarines.

 

The Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, coupled with nearly simultaneous assaults on British and Dutch possessions and the Philippines, catapulted the United States into World War II. The Americans, with their Filipino allies, fought a delaying action in the Philippines, while a mixed American, British, Dutch, and Australian (ABDA) military structure was set up to operate from Java in an attempt to hold the Japanese at the Malay Barrier. Given command of ABDA naval forces, Hart directed part of this defense into mid-February 1942. By that point, it had become evident that, despite the brave ABDA sailors, the Japanese were not to be denied. Despite the formidable obstacles, Hart persevered in the face of "discouraging surroundings and complex associations" and earned a gold star in lieu of his second DSM for unfailing judgment, sound decisions, and moral courage.

 

Transferred to the retired list in July 1942 with the rank of Admiral, Thomas C. Hart nevertheless continued on active duty with the General Board through 1944. From February to April 1944, he was chairman of the committee which conducted the "Hart Inquiry" into the Pearl Harbor attack, a duty which took him to the length and breadth of the Pacific Ocean area.

 

On 9 February 1945, Hart retired from the Navy to fill an appointment as senator from Connecticut. He served in Congress until 3 January 1947 and did not seek reelection. Admiral Hart then returned to his family home in Sharon, Conn., and died there on 4 July 1971, at the age of 94.

 

(DE-1092: dp. 3,963 (f.) ; 1. 438'; b. 47'; dr. 25'; s. 25+ k.; cpl. 245; a. 1 5", 1 ASROC In., 1 Sea Sparrow In., 4 15.5" ASW tt.; cl. Knox)

 

Thomas C. Hart (DE-1092) was laid down on 8 October 1971 at Westwego, La., by Avondale Shipyards, Inc.; launched on 12 August 1972; sponsored by Mrs. Reginald Bragonier, eldest granddaughter of Admiral Thomas C. Hart; and commissioned on 28 July 1973, Lt. Comdr. Ronald J. Forst in command.

 

The last combatant ship commissioned at the Boston Naval Shipyard, Thomas C, Hart conducted sea trials off the east coast before being homeported in Norfolk, Va. Following shakedown at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, she returned to the Norfolk Naval Shipyard on 1 February 1974, where she underwent a major structural conversion, altering her after superstructure to accommodate the new Light Airborne Multi-purpose System (LAMPS) facilities. She then steamed out for post-repair trials off the Virginia Capes.

 

Deploying to the Caribbean, Thomas C. Hart conducted weapons systems tests and antisubmarine exercises and, upon completion of these duties, called at Port-au-Prince, Haiti, before returning to Guantanamo Bay for further training. After naval gunfire support qualification at Roosevelt Roads, she cruised to Bermuda for a three-day visit. She left Port Royal Bay on 3 September, having to do a "quick step" to avoid the tropical storm which later became Hurricane Delores, and arrived at Norfolk on 5 September.

 

In October, following type training in the Narragansett Bay area, the ship qualified for a certificate for unrestricted operations.

 

With Capt. W. R. Smedburg IV, Commander, Destroyer Squadron 10, and his staff embarked, Thomas C. Hart got underway on 18 November for Composite Task Unit Exercise 4-75 and nine days of intensive exercises. The following month, the ship passed her Nuclear Weapons Acceptance Inspection on 11 December and thus became a nuclear-qualified ship.

 

The early months of 1975 were spent in preparation for Thomas C. Hart's first Mediterranean deployment. This deployment, which lasted from 16 June to 22 December, consisted primarily of operations with John F.Kennedy (CV-67) and other escorts while making a number of port visits in company with Pharris (FF-1094). On 1 July 1975, the ship was reclassified as FF-1092., Thomas C. Hart spent the first six months of 1976 engaging in two major fleet exercises in preparation for her four and one-half month, unsupported participation in Unitas XVII later in the year. The first exercise, "Safepass," lasted from 6 to 26 March and involved complex NATO fleet operations out of Halifax, Nova Scotia. The second exercise, "Solid Shield," occurred during the period 13 to 18 May and involved operations off the coast of the Carolinas in support of a full amphibious landing on Onslow Beach. Following an intensive month-long preparation period in June, Thomas C. Hart commenced Unitas XVII on 9 July. During the next 18 weeks, the ship circumnavigated the South American continent and operated with host ships from Brazil, Uruguay, Argentina, Chile, Peru, Colombia, and Venezuela. The frigate returned to her home port of Norfolk on 21 November and spent the remainder of the year in post-deployment standdown and holiday leave period.

 

Early 1977 found Thomas C. Hart experiencing a period of maintenance, alteration, and testing. Of most significance was the installation of the Harpoon system, a highly sophisticated surface warfare missile which greatly extended Thomas C. Hart's reach against surface contacts. Most of September was spent in Norfolk preparing for the ship's second Mediterranean deployment. She departed CONUS on 27 September and engaged in seven months of operations with the 6th Fleet before returning to Norfolk again on 26 April 1978. Ports of call included Rota, Spain; Alexandria, Egypt; Istanbul, Turkey; Piraeus, Greece; Venice, Gaeta, and Naples, Italy; and—finally—Majorca; Valencia, and Rota, Spain.

 

Following post-deployment standdown, Thomas C. Hart engaged in CORTRAMID 78, an underway training period for midshipmen, which lasted from mid-June through early July. In late September 1978, Thomas C. Hart's home port was shifted to Philadelphia in anticipation of the commencement of her first regular overhaul since commissioning. Thomas C. Hart entered the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard for this purpose on 26 October, and she remained there into 1979.