Thomas Latendresse was born in 1943 in Yakima, Washington. He enlisted in the Naval Aviation Cadet program on July 9, 1963, and was commissioned an Ensign and designated a Naval Aviator at NAS Corpus Christi, Texas, on February 15, 1965. His first assignment was as an A-1 Skyraider pilot with VAW-13 from March 1965 to August 1967, during which time he made two combat deployments to Southeast Asia. He then served as a flight instructor with VT-26 at Beeville, Texas, from August 1967 to October 1969, when he left active duty. Tom flew for Northwest Airlines from October 1969 until he went back on active duty in the Navy in June 1970. He next completed A-4 Skyhawk Replacement Air Group training with VA-127 at NAS Lemoore, California, from June to December 1970, and then served as an A-4 pilot with VA-55 in Southeast Asia from December 1970 to June 1971, and at NAS Lemoore until the unit redeployed to Southeast Asia in January 1972. LT Latendresse was forced to eject over North Vietnam and was taken as a Prisoner of War on May 27, 1972, and after spending 306 days in captivity, he was released during Operation Homecoming on March 28, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at the Naval Hospital in Oakland, California, and then attended Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, California, from February 1974 to March 1976. LCDR Latendresse attended A-7 Corsair II Replacement Air Group training at NAS Lemoore from March to October 1976, and then served as an A-7 pilot with VA-192 at Lemoore from October 1976 to April 1979. He served on the staff of the Commander of Light Attack Wing, U.S. Pacific Fleet, from April to July 1979, and then served as Executive Officer and then Commanding Officer of VA-192 from July 1979 to April 1981. CDR Latendresse attended Naval War College from April 1981 to June 1982, followed by service as Commander of Carrier Air Wing Reserve 30 from June 1982 to July 1984. His next assignment was as Executive Officer of the aircraft carrier USS Constellation (CV-64) from September 1984 to March 1986, and then as Commander of Carrier Air Wing TWO from May 1986 to January 1988. Capt Latendresse served as Director of Tactical Readiness and Special Assistant for Projects with the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations in the Pentagon from August 1988 to January 1990, followed by service as Chief of Staff for the Commander of Cruiser Destroyer Group THREE from February 1990 to December 1991, during which time he deployed in support of Operation Desert Storm. His final assignment was as Carrier Training Officer on the Staff of the Commander of Naval Air Force, U.S. Pacific Fleet, from January 1992 until his retirement from the Navy on October 1, 1993. Capt Latendresse accumulated over 5,000 flying hours and over 1,200 carrier landings during his Navy career.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy as a pilot of jet aircraft, serving with Attack Squadron FIFTY-FIVE, embarked in USS HANCOCK (CVA-19) during combat operations in Southeast Asia. On 27 May 1972, Lieutenant Latendresse was the leader of a section of aircraft on a surface-to-air missile suppression mission as part of a large air-wing strike. During the mission, his aircraft was struck by antiaircraft-artillery fire and he was forced to eject. After parachuting to the ground, Lieutenant Latendresse disregarded the danger to himself in his exposed position and contacted his wingman, directing him to cancel the rescue attempt which was being readied. He continued his transmissions until the last minute to ensure the safety of the rescue force. Lieutenant Latendresse's extraordinary courage and selfless concern for his fellow pilots reflected great credit upon himself and were in keeping with the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.