Destined to become the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, Thomas Moorer’s life was marked by success. At age 15 he was valedictorian of his high school class, and 2 years later entered Annapolis. Graduating in 1933, he served as a gunnery officer before reporting to NAS Pensacola, Florida, for flight training. After becoming a naval aviator in 1936, he joined Fighting Squadron (VF) 1B aboard the USS Langley and later the USS Lexington. In 1937, he was transferred to VF-6 aboard USS Enterprise and served 2 years before being reassigned to VP-22 flying the Consolidated PBY Catalina from Pearl Harbor.
On 7 December 1941, he was one of the first pilots to get airborne after the Japanese attack. In early 1942, Moorer’s squadron was sent to the southwest Pacific where he participated in the defense of the Dutch East Indies. On 19 February 1942, his PBY Catalina was shot down north of Darwin, Australia, and 4 days later he was rescued by the Royal Australian Air Force. In mid-1942, Moorer returned to the States only to be sent to England by Admiral King to observe mining operations. Back in the States in March 1943, Moorer assumed command of Bombing Squadron (VB) 132 operating from Cuba and Africa. In March 1944, he was detached from VB-132 to serve on the staff of the Commander, Air Force Atlantic Fleet. From V-J Day to May 1946, Moorer interrogated Japanese officials for the Strategic Bombing Survey.
Following 2 years at the Naval Aviation Ordnance Test Station at Chincoteague, Virginia, he reported to USS Midway as the operations officer–he later held the same position with Carrier Division 4. Promoted to captain in 1950, Moorer had several assignments, including the Naval War College, before commanding USS Salisbury Sound. In 1957, as a rear admiral, he served in the office of the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO). In July 1959, after being assistant CNO, he assumed command of Carrier Division 6. Four years later, he returned to the office of the CNO as Director, Long Range Objectives Group. Promoted to vice admiral in 1962, Moorer took command of the Seventh Fleet, and in June 1964 became Commander in Chief of the Pacific Fleet as a full admiral.
One year later he took command of NATO’s US Atlantic Command and the US Atlantic Fleet, becoming the first naval officer to command both the Pacific and Atlantic Fleets. President Johnson appointed him CNO in 1967, and after serving almost 3 years, President Nixon selected him to be Chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff–the first naval officer to hold this position in 13 years. Admiral Moorer retired in 1974, and he and his wife, Carrie, now reside in McLean, Virginia.