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About Thomas Charles Hart
Thomas Charles Hart (June 12, 1877 – July 4, 1971) was an admiral of the United States Navy, whose service extended from the Spanish-American War through World War II. Following his retirement from the Navy, he served briefly as a United States Senator from Connecticut.
Life and career
Hart was born in Genesee County, Michigan. He graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1897 and served his initial tours of sea duty in the battleship Massachusetts and in the steam yacht Vixen, during the Spanish-American War.
In the years preceding World War I, 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 Naval Submarine Base New London, Connecticut, while also acting as Chief of Staff to the Commander, Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet.
At noon on Wednesday, 30 March 1910, at N Street, Annapolis, Maryland, in the home of Rear Admiral and Mrs. Willard H. Brownson, (Superintendent U.S. Naval Academy, 1902–1905) and in the presence of a small company of naval officers and friends Lieutenant Commander Thomas Charles Hart, USN, was married to Ms. Caroline Brownson, daughter of Rear Admiral and Mrs. Brownson. The wedding ceremony was conducted by Chaplain Clarke, USN, of the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel. The bride was attended by her sister Mrs. C. L. Hussey (matron of honor), Ms. Edith Cutler of Brookline, Massachusetts, and Ms. Cecile Gifford of Jamestown, New York. One of the bride's maids was Ms. Harriet Sutherland of Washington D.C. - daughter of Senator George Sutherland (Republican - Utah). Best man was Lieutenant Commander Leigh C. Palmer, USN (White House naval aide), and other groom's men were Lieutenant Commanders R. K. Crank, L. M. Overstreet, and Lieutenant H. W. Osterhaus. Following the ceremony, Lieutenant Commander and Mrs. W. H. Hart took a house in Brookline, Massachusetts. Their home was close to the Fore River Shipyard, Quincy, Massachusetts, where LCDR Hart was assigned inspecting the building of the new Delaware-class battleship North Dakota in which he was assigned to prior to its commissioning (Monday, 11 April 1910). They spent their honeymoon at the newly rebuilt luxury resort "The Homestead", in Hot Springs, Bath County, Virginia.
His daughter, Harriet Taft Hart, was the wife of Francis B. Sayre, Jr., who was the son of President Woodrow Wilson's daughter Jessie Woodrow Wilson Sayre.
World War I
During World War I, Hart served concurrently as commander of Submarine Divisions 2 and 5, with Bushnell 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 U.S. 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 1920s and 1930s 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, 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.
World War II
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. On 8 December 1941 Hart proclaimed unrestricted submarine warfare against Japan, and the Americans, with their Filipino allies, fought a delaying action in the Philippines, while a mixed American, British, Dutch, and Australian (ABDA) military structure under the command of General Hein ter Poorten 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 when he was replaced, for political reasons, by Admiral Helfrich of the Dutch Navy. By that point, it had become evident that, despite the brave ABDA sailors, the Japanese were not to be denied.
He returned to the United States on 8 March 1942. President Roosevelt presented Hart with the Navy Gold Star in July 1942 for "His conduct of the operations of the Allied naval forces in the Southwest Pacific area during January and February, 1942, was characterized by unfailing judgment and sound decision, coupled with marked moral courage, in the face of discouraging surroundings and complex associations."
Transferred to the retired list in July 1942 with the rank of Admiral, Hart nevertheless continued on active duty with the General Board through 1944.
From February to April 1944, he conducted a one-member investigation, the "Hart Inquiry," into the Pearl Harbor attack, a duty which took him to the length and breadth of the Pacific Ocean area. The purpose of the investigation was not to determine fault, but to ensure that the statute of limitations did not run out before courts-martial could be considered.
Political career and later years
On 9 February 1945, Hart retired from the Navy to fill an appointment as Republican senator from Connecticut. He served in Congress until 5 November 1946 and did not seek reelection. Admiral Hart then returned to his family home in Sharon, Connecticut, and died there on 4 July 1971, aged 94.
USS Thomas C. Hart (1973–1993) was named in his honor. Originally classified as a destroyer escort, (DE-1092), it was reclassified as a frigate, (FF-1092), in 1975. The Naval Academy named its former library and current midshipmen lounge, The Hart Room, in his honor. Admiral Hart was also recognized by his high school alma mater, with his inclusion in the inaugural class of Davison High School's Alumni Hall of Fame.