Thomas Hinman Moorer

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Thomas Hinman Moorer
Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, U.S. Navy
Born(1912-02-09)February 9, 1912
Mount Willing, Alabama, U.S.
DiedFebruary 5, 2004(2004-02-05) (aged 91)
Bethesda, Maryland, U.S.
Service/branchUnited States Navy
Years of service1933–1974
Commands heldChairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Chief of Naval Operations
Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic
United States Atlantic Command
United States Atlantic Fleet
United States Pacific Fleet
United States Seventh Fleet
USS Salisbury Sound
Battles/warsWorld War II
Vietnam War
AwardsDefense Distinguished Service Medal (2)
Navy Distinguished Service Medal (5)
Army Distinguished Service Medal
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal
Silver Star
Legion of Merit
Distinguished Flying Cross
Gray Eagle Award

Thomas Hinman Moorer (February 9, 1912 – February 5, 2004) was an admiral and naval aviator in the United States Navy who served as the chief of naval operations from 1967 to 1970, and as the seventh chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1970 to 1974.[1] He was implicated in a spy ring within the White House during the Nixon administration, but never prosecuted.[2]

External audio
audio icon You may watch an interview with Thomas Moorer about his experiences serving during the Vietnam War[3]

Early life, education, and ancestry[edit]

Moorer was born in Mount Willing, Alabama on February 9, 1912. His father, a dentist, named his son for his favorite professor at Atlanta-Southern Dental College, Dr. Thomas Hinman. Moorer was raised in Eufaula, Alabama with his siblings, including his brother Joseph, who would also become a Navy Admiral.

On March 31, 1970 he became a member of the Alabama Society of the Sons of the American Revolution (SAR). He was assigned national SAR member number 99,634 and Alabama Society number 759. He was later awarded the Society's Gold Good Citizenship Medal. He was also a member of the Naval Order of the United States.

Naval career[edit]

Senior U.S. Navy commanders pose around an illuminated globe in 1968: Admirals John J. Hyland, John S. McCain, Jr., Chief of Naval Operations Moorer, and Ephraim P. Holmes.

Moorer graduated from the United States Naval Academy on June 1, 1933 and was commissioned an ensign.[4] After completing Naval Aviation training at the Pensacola Naval Air Station in 1936, he flew with fighter squadrons based on the aircraft carriers USS Langley, USS Lexington and USS Enterprise.

World War II[edit]

In addition to his carrier-based fighter experience, Moorer also qualified in seaplanes and flew with a patrol squadron in the early years of World War II. Serving with Patrol Squadron Twenty-Two[5] at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, when the Japanese Empire attacked on December 7, 1941 Moorer's account of Pearl Harbor attack has been published under the title "A Patrol in the wrong direction".[6] His squadron subsequently participated in the 1941–42 Dutch East Indies Campaign in the southwest Pacific, where he flew numerous combat missions. Moorer received a Purple Heart after being shot down and wounded off the coast of Australia on 19 February 1942 and then surviving an attack on the rescue ship, Florence D., which was bombed and sunk the same day by enemy aircraft involved in the first Bombing of Darwin.[4][7] Moorer also received the Distinguished Flying Cross for his valor three months later when he braved Japanese air superiority to fly supplies into, and evacuate wounded out of, the island of Timor.[4]

Vietnam War[edit]

Promoted to vice admiral in 1962, and to admiral in 1964, Moorer served both as Commander-in-Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet and Commander-in-Chief of the United States Atlantic Fleet — the first Navy officer to have commanded both fleets. Moorer was Commander-in-Chief of the Pacific Fleet at the time of the Gulf of Tonkin incident and ordered an internal investigation into the conflicting reports which emerged following the event.[3]

Moorer served as the Chief of Naval Operations between 1967 and 1970, at the height of U.S. involvement in Vietnam and worked closely with the most senior officers in the U.S. Military and Government.[3]

Attack on the USS Liberty[edit]

Moorer came to the conclusion that the attack on the USS Liberty in 1967 was a deliberate act on the part of the Israelis and that President Lyndon B. Johnson ordered the cover-up to maintain ties with Israel.[8][9] Moorer stated that "Israel attempted to prevent the Liberty's radio operators from sending a call for help by jamming American emergency radio channels.[And that] Israeli torpedo boats machine-gunned lifeboats at close range that had been lowered to rescue the most-seriously wounded." Moorer stated that there had been a conspiracy to cover up the event and asked whether "our government put Israel's interests ahead of our own? If so, Why? Does our government continue to subordinate American interests to Israeli interests?"[9] In a 1983 interview, Moorer said: "I've never seen a President - I don't care who he is-stand up to them [the Israelis]. It just boggles your mind.They always get what they want. The Israelis know what is going on all the time. I got to the point where I wasn't writing anything down. If the American people understood what a grip those people have got on our government, they would rise up in arms. Our citizens don't have any idea what goes on.”[10]

Admiral Moorer was present at the Medal of Honor presentation ceremony for the Liberty’s commanding officer, Captain William L. McGonagle.[11] Captain McGonagle was presented the award by Secretary of the Navy Paul Ignatius away from the White House, which broke with longstanding tradition of such awards being presented by the President of the United States in a public ceremony (McGonagle’s Medal of Honor is the only one to be awarded in such a manner). Admiral Moorer explained this was because the attack on the USS Liberty had been covered-up by the incumbent presidential administration.[12]

Moorer told The Washington Post in 1991: "To suggest that they couldn’t identify the ship is…ridiculous…Anybody who could not identify the Liberty could not tell the difference between the White House and the Washington Monument."[12] Moorer remained an outspoken advocate for Liberty survivors: "It's ridiculous to say this was an accident. There was good weather, she was flying the U.S. flag and the planes and torpedo boats attacked over a long period of time. I think Congress should investigate the incident, even now."[13] Moorer wrote in 1997: "I have never believed that the attack on the USS Liberty was a case of mistaken identity. That is ridiculous. I have flown over the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, thousands of hours, searching for ships and identifying all types of ships at sea. The Liberty was the ugliest, strangest-looking ship in the U.S. Navy. As a communications intelligence ship, it was sprouting every kind of antenna. It looked like a lobster with all those projections moving every which way. Israel knew perfectly well that the ship was American."[14]

It took Moorer’s personal intervention to reverse a U.S. Naval Academy decision to not include the names of 2 Liberty crew members who were killed in action on a memorial wall at Bancroft Hall. The crew members in question were Lieutenant Commander Philip Armstrong Jr. and Lieutenant Stephen Toth. Moorer angrily commented on the Academy’s attempt to omit the names: “I intervened and was able to reverse the apparent idea that dying in a cowardly, one-sided attack by a supposed ally is somehow not the same as being killed by an avowed enemy.”[15]

On the 24th anniversary of the attack (in 1991), Moorer attended a ceremony at the White House meant to honor Liberty survivors.[16] Many were in attendance, including Captain William McGonagle. Instead of President George H.W. Bush greeting the survivors, which was expected, White House Chief of Staff John H. Sununu and National Security Adviser Brent Scowcroft greeted them.[17] Moorer described it as “very emotional.”[16]

In 2003, Moorer headed an independent commission to investigate the details of the USS Liberty incident.[18] The commission determined, among other things, that the state of Israel had deliberately attacked an American ship in international waters, killing 34 U.S. sailors in the process and perpetrating an act of war. Also participating in the commission was Marine General Raymond G. Davis, Rear Admiral Merlin Staring, and former U.S. Ambassador to Saudi Arabia James E. Akins. The so-called Moorer Commission submitted their findings to the United States government along with a request for a proper Congressional investigation of the attack. No investigation has been conducted.

Less than a month before his death (in 2004), Moorer made another call for an investigation into the USS Liberty incident and an end to the “disgraceful” cover-up.[19]

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff[edit]

Moorer served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff from 1970 until 1974.

While Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Moorer personally masterminded the 1972 mining of Hai Phong Harbor and believed that if such an operation had been conducted in 1964 it would have "made a significant difference in the outcome of the war."[3]

Excerpts from Moorer's diary during his time as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff were recently declassified, and includes a note about an Air Force general telling the Joint Chiefs of Staff during a 1971 meeting that in a nuclear war the United States “could lose two hundred million people and still have more than we had at the time of the Civil War.”[20] In December 1972, President Nixon ordered Operation Linebacker II, better known as the Christmas Bombings, saying to Moorer on 14 December: "I don't want any more of this crap about the fact that we couldn't hit this target or that one. This is your chance to use military power to win this war, and if you don't, I'll hold you responsible".[21]

While chairman, Moorer was fed a steady diet of confidential documents that had been stolen by a Joint Chiefs of Staff spy ring within the White House overseen by Admiral Robert Welander, the JCS liaison officer to the National Security Council. Welander was supplied with documents stolen by Navy Yeoman Charles Radford from White House desks and burn bags and the briefcases of Henry Kissinger and Gen. Alexander Haig, among other places in the White House. The spy ring operated for about 13 months before being uncovered by Nixon aide John Ehrlichman. Welander and Radford admitted to the thefts, felonies under the Espionage Act. Welander and Radford eventually were transferred to remote military outposts. Attorney General John Mitchell informed Moorer that the administration knew of the spy ring, but Nixon, apparently concerned about the potential political fallout, ordered that no prosecution take place.[2]

Upon completion of his second two-year term as CJCS, Moorer retired from the Navy on July 1, 1974.

Death and legacy[edit]

In an interview with the journalist Stanley Karnow in 1981, Moorer expressed much bitterness about how the Vietnam War was fought, saying: "We should have fought in the north, where everyone was the enemy, where you didn't have to worry whether or not you were shooting friendly civilians. In the south, we had to cope with women concealing grenades in their brassieres, or in their baby's diapers. I remember two of our Marines being killed by a youngster who they were teaching to play volleyball. But Lyndon Johnson didn't want to overthrow the North Vietnamese government. Well, the only reason to go to war is to overthrow a government you don't like".[22]

Moorer died on February 5, 2004, at the U.S. Naval Hospital in Bethesda, Maryland at the age of 91.[1] He is buried at Arlington National Cemetery.[23]

The National Guard Armory (Fort Thomas H. Moorer Armory) in Fort Deposit, Alabama is named after Moorer, as is a middle school in Eufaula, Alabama.[24]

Dates of rank[edit]

Ensign Lieutenant (junior grade) Lieutenant Lieutenant Commander Commander Captain
O-1 O-2 O-3 O-4 O-5 O-6
June 1, 1933 June 1, 1936 November 23, 1940 October 1, 1942 April 27, 1944 January 1, 1952
Rear Admiral (lower half) Rear Admiral (upper half) Vice Admiral Admiral
O-7 O-8 O-9 O-10
Never held August 1, 1958 October 5, 1962 June 26, 1964
  • At the time of Admiral Moorer's promotion, all rear admirals wore two stars, but the rank was divided into an "upper" and "lower half" for pay purposes


Awards and decorations[edit]

U.S. military personal decorations, unit awards, campaign awards[edit]

Naval Aviator badge
Bronze oak leaf cluster
Defense Distinguished Service Medal with bronze oak leaf cluster[26]
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Gold star
Navy Distinguished Service Medal with four gold award stars[26]
Army Distinguished Service Medal[26]
Air Force Distinguished Service Medal[26]
Silver Star[26]
Legion of Merit[26]
Distinguished Flying Cross[26]
Purple Heart
Bronze star
Presidential Unit Citation with one service star
China Service Medal
"A" Device
American Defense Service Medal with A Device
American Campaign Medal
Bronze star
Bronze star
Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal with two stars
European-African-Middle Eastern Campaign Medal
World War II Victory Medal
Navy Occupation Service Medal with Europe and Asia Clasps
Bronze star
National Defense Service Medal with bronze star
Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal
Bronze star
Vietnam Service Medal with one service star
Philippine Defense Medal
Vietnam Campaign Medal

Foreign orders and decorations[edit]

He also has been decorated by thirteen foreign governments:

Civilian awards[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Moorer Thomas H Obit". Retrieved 2016-04-18.
  2. ^ a b Weiner, Tim (2015). One Man Against the World: The Tragedy of Richard Nixon. New York: Henry Holt and Company. pp. 147–151. ISBN 978-1-62779-083-3.
  3. ^ a b c d "WGBH Open Vault – Interview with Thomas H. Moorer, 1981".
  4. ^ a b c "Admiral Thomas Hinman Moorer, USN (Ret.)". Naval History & Heritage Command. Retrieved September 18, 2012.
  5. ^ "VPNAVY – VP-22 History Summary Page – VP Patrol Squadron".
  6. ^ Air raid, Pearl Harbor! Paul Stillwell ISBN 0-87021-086-6, p. 202-206.
  7. ^ Gibson & Gibson 2008, p. 171, fn 7.
  8. ^ "Ex-Navy Official: 1967 Israeli Attack on U.S. Ship Was Deliberate". Associated Press. 2003-10-23. Retrieved 2008-11-16.
  9. ^ a b Thomas Moorer (11 January 2004). "Betrayal behind Israeli attack on U.S. ship". Houston Chronicle.
  10. ^ Findley, Paul (1989). They Dare to Speak Out: People and Institutions Confront Israel's Lobby. Chicago: Hill. p. 161. ISBN 978-1556524820.
  11. ^ Thurber, Jon (1999-03-11). "Capt. William McGonagle; Won Medal of Honor After Israelis Attacked Ship". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  12. ^ a b McAllister, Bill (15 June 1991). "Spy Ship Brought In From the Cold". The Washington Post.
  13. ^ Ennes, James. "USS Liberty: Eyewitness Account". History News Network. Retrieved 20 March 2023.
  14. ^ "Memorandum To: AMEU From: Admiral Thomas H. Moorer Subject: Attack on the USS Liberty". Retrieved 20 March 2023.[unreliable source?]
  15. ^ "Thomas Moorer Letter of June 8, 1997". Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  16. ^ a b McAllister, Bill (1991-06-15). "SPY SHIP BROUGHT IN FROM THE COLD". Washington Post. ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  17. ^
  18. ^
  19. ^ MOORER, ADM THOMAS (2004-01-11). "Betrayal behind Israeli attack on U.S. ship". Chron. Retrieved 2023-04-26.
  20. ^ William Burr, ed. (February 15, 2017). "Top Air Force Official Told JCS in 1971: "We Could Lose Two Hundred Million People [in a Nuclear War] and Still Have More Than We Had at the Time of the Civil War". National Security Archive. Retrieved August 17, 2018.
  21. ^ Karnow 1983, p. 652.
  22. ^ Karnow 1983, pp. 16–17.
  23. ^ Burial Detail: Moorer, Thomas H – ANC Explorer
  24. ^ "ADM Thomas Hinman Moorer". Military Hall of Honor.
  25. ^ The Chairmanship of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, 1949-2012 (PDF) (2 ed.). Joint History Office. October 27, 2012. p. 133. ISBN 978-1480200203.
  26. ^ a b c d e f g "Thomas Hinman Moorer". Hall of Valor. Military Times. Retrieved 18 August 2018.
  27. ^ "Cidadãos Estrangeiros Agraciados com Ordens Portuguesas". – Página Oficial das Ordens Honoríficas Portuguesas.
  28. ^ "Enshrinee Thomas Moorer". National Aviation Hall of Fame. Retrieved 27 February 2023.


External links[edit]

Military offices
Preceded by Commander in Chief of the United States Pacific Fleet
Succeeded by
Preceded by Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic
Succeeded by
Commander in Chief of the United States Atlantic Command
Commander in Chief of the United States Atlantic Fleet
Preceded by Chief of Naval Operations
Succeeded by
Preceded by Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff
Succeeded by