Tom Hanton was born in 1944 in Santa Monica, California. After completing his bachelor's degree from California State University at Long Beach, California, he entered Officer Training School on November 16, 1967, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force at Lackland AFB, Texas, on February 16, 1968. Lt Hanton attended Undergraduate Pilot Training at Webb AFB, Texas, from March to May 1968, and then switched to Undergraduate Navigator Training at Mather AFB, California, from June 1968 to March 1969. He then attended Electronic Warfare Officer (EWO) training at Mather AFB from March to October 1969, followed by F-4 Phantom II Combat Crew Training from December 1969 to July 1970. His first assignment was as an F-4D Weapon Systems Officer (WSO) with the 9th Tactical Fighter Squadron at Holloman AFB, New Mexico, from July 1970 through January 1972, and then as an F-4E WSO with the 4th Tactical Fighter Squadron at DaNang AB, South Vietnam, from February 1972 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on his 135th combat mission and was taken as a Prisoner of War on June 27, 1972. After spending 275 days in captivity, Capt Hanton was released during Operation Homecoming on March 28, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Travis AFB, California, and then received an Air Force Institute of Technology assignment to complete his master's degree at Arizona State University from 1974 to 1976. His next assignment was as an F-105G Thunderchief and F-4G EWO, instructor EWO, and Standardization/Evaluation Flight Examiner (SEFE) with the 35th Tactical Fighter Wing at George AFB, California, from March 1977 to March 1981, and then as Assistant Chief of the F-4G Program Management Office in the Directorate of Engineering and Test at the U.S. Air Force Tactical Air Warfare Center at Eglin AFB, Florida, from March 1981 to May 1982. Lt Col Hanton served as Department of Defense Electronic Warfare Staff Officer in the Electronic Warfare Branch with Headquarters Allied Air Forces Central Europe (NATO) at Ramstein AB, West Germany, from June 1982 to March 1985, followed by service as an Action Officer, Joint Actions Branch Chief, and Deputy Division Chief with the Electronic Combat Plans, Programs, and Policy Division, and then with the Electronic Combat Division with Headquarters U.S. Air Force in the Pentagon from April 1985 to January 1988. His next assignment was as Deputy Commander for Operations with the 65th Air Division at Lindsey AS, Germany, from January 1988 to May 1991. During this time he participated in combat operations during Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm with Joint Task Force Proven Force as the G-3 (Air) and Deputy Director of the Operations Directorate at Incirlik AB, Turkey, from December 1990 to March 1991. His final assignment was as Deputy Chief and then Chief of the Electronic Combat Division at Headquarters Air Force Operational Test and Evaluation Center at Kirtland AFB, New Mexico, from May 1991 until his retirement from the Air Force on February 1, 1993. Tom Hanton served as Treasurer of NAM-POWs, the Association of Former Vietnam Prisoners of War, from May 2008 to April 2010, and as President of NAM-POWs since May 2010.
His Bronze Star Medal Citation reads:
For the Period June 1972 to March 1973: This officer distinguished himself by exceptionally meritorious service while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam during the above period. His ceaseless efforts to conduct himself strictly in accord with the Code of Conduct and polices of the prisoner organization in the difficult conditions of a communist prison clearly demonstrated his loyalty, love of country, and professionalism. By his unselfish dedication to duty, he reflected great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.