Honoring those who served

Drew Butler

In 1973, Captain Thomas Hayes retired from the U.S. Marine Corps after serving for over four years. During his time, he served as a naval flight officer specializing in electronics counter measures. In honor of Memorial Day, The Ardmoreite asked him to share his experience during his time in the military.

Hayes said his military career began after attending the University of Oklahoma on a Navy ROTC scholarship. After two years he decided on the Marine Corps after his graduation instead of going into the Navy.

“During the summers, we would go out to a couple of different ships, and I didn’t enjoy it,” Hayes said. “I didn’t care for being on the ships, so I took the Marine Corps option.”

Hayes said after he finished basic training with the Marine Corps, he decided to specialize in aviation. He did not have the perfect vision required to be a pilot, but he was still able to become a naval flight officer. He could still fly, but was not permitted to physically pilot the plane.

“Most of my time was spent in Cherry Point, North Carolina but I received orders to report to Okinawa, Japan,” Hayes said. “While we were there we were sent to Cubi Point in the Philippines, where we were moving troops out of Vietnam.”

Hayes said every day they would fly over to Da Nang, Vietnam, and then fly north to help protect the planes carrying out strike missions in North Vietnam. He said the biggest threat to the airplanes were radar-controlled missiles, and it was his job to jam their signal so the missiles would not strike the airplanes.

At the end of every day, he and his team would then fly back to the Philippines.

“We would fly out of Da Nang, then fly up north, and then we would fly back,” Hayes said. “Then in the evenings the airplanes were flown back to Cubi Point because they didn’t want to leave them there in Da Nang.”

Hayes said after spending a few months at this assignment, he was then stationed with an infantry battalion in Okinawa Japan, and he then decided to leave the military after coming back to the United States.