Jack Hamilton was born on September 3, 1926, in Fort Bayard, New Mexico. He enlisted in the U.S. Army on June 26, 1945, and left active duty and joined the Army Reserve on March 7, 1947, serving until he received an honorable discharge on March 7, 1950. He then enlisted in the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force on March 3, 1952, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his pilot wings on March 16, 1953. Lt Hamilton served as an F-86 Sabre pilot with the 75th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Suffolk County AFB, New York, from June 1953 to February 1955, followed by service as an F-86 pilot with the 26th Fighter Interceptor Squadron on Okinawa from March to May 1955. His next assignment was as Aide to the Deputy Commander of 5th Air Force at Nagoya, Japan, from June 1955 to November 1956, and then on the staff of Air University at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, from November 1956 to April 1957. Capt Hamilton served as an F-89 Scorpion pilot with the 437th Fighter Interceptor Squadron and on the staff of the 414th Fighter Group at Oxnard AFB, California, from April to November 1957, followed by service as Commander of the 66th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Oxnard AFB from December 1957 to April 1958. His next assignment was as an F-89 and F-101 Voodoo pilot back with the 437th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Oxnard AFB from May 1958 to September 1962. He received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to complete his bachelor's degree at the University of Colorado from September 1962 to March 1965, and then served as a Project Manager with Headquarters Aeronautical Systems Division at Wright-Patterson AFB, Ohio, from March 1965 to April 1966. After completing A-1 Skyraider Combat Crew Training, Maj Hamilton served as an A-1 pilot with the 602nd Air Commando Squadron at Udorn Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from November 1966 until he was killed in action on April 19, 1967. John Hamilton was officially listed as Missing in Action until he was declared dead on March 21, 1979, having been promoted through the ranks to Colonel. His remains were returned to the U.S. on October 26, 1995, and he was buried at the Fort Bayard National Cemetery in Fort Bayard, New Mexico.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
Major John S. Hamilton distinguished himself by extraordinary heroism in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force as an A-1E Skyraider pilot in Southeast Asia on 19 April 1967. On that date, Major Hamilton, without regard for personal safety, led his flight of A-1Es into one of the most heavily defended areas in Southeast Asia to initiate a search and rescue attempt for two downed F-105 pilots. Numerous enemy fighters had been reported in the area, and adequate cover for Major Hamilton's rescue effort could not be provided due to the remaining F-105s having to leave the area for refueling. Major Hamilton elected to save time and remain in this extremely hostile environment to await the return of his air cover, as the impending darkness increased the threat of capture of the two downed pilots. At this point in time, his flight was attacked by four MIG-17 aircraft, and in a valiant attempt to defend his flight, Major Hamilton's propeller driven aircraft was destroyed. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Major Hamilton reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.