Jimmie Thach was born on April 19, 1905, in Pine Bluff, Arkansas. He entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1923 and was commissioned an Ensign in the U.S. Navy on June 2, 1927. His first assignment was as ship's crew aboard the battleship USS Mississippi (BB-41) from July 1927 to May 1928, followed by service on the staff of the Commander-in-Chief of the Battle Fleet from May 1928 to March 1929. Thach next completed flight training at NAS Pensacola in February 1930, and served with Utility Squadron ONE (VJ-1) at NAS San Diego, California, from February 1930 to June 1932. He served at NAS Norfolk, Virginia, as a test pilot, from June 1932 to June 1934, and then served with Patrol Squadron NINE (VP-9) from June 1934 to June 1936, and with Scouting Squadron SIX (VCS-6B) until June 1937. LCDR Thach served with Patrol Squadron FIVE (VP-5F) from June 1937 to May 1939, and then Commanded Fighting Squadron THREE (VF-3) from May 1939 to July 1942. During this time he created the defensive maneuver that became known as the "Thach Weave" and was credited with the destruction of 6 enemy aircraft in aerial combat and 1 probable between February and June 1942. CDR Thach next served on the staff of the Chief of Naval Air Operational Training at NAS Jacksonville, Florida, from July 1942 to May 1944, followed by service as Operations Officer for Task Force 38 in the Pacific from May 1944 to September 1945. CAPT Thach served on the staff of the Chief of Naval Air Training at NAS Pensacola from September 1945 to April 1950, and then commanded the escort carrier USS Sicily (CVE-118) from April 1950 to August 1951, during which time he participated in air strikes during the Korean War from August 1950 to January 1951. He was Chief of Staff to the Commander of Carrier Division SEVENTEEN from August to December 1951, and then served as Aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Air from December 1951 to May 1953. His next assignment was as Commander of the aircraft carrier USS Franklin D. Roosevelt (CVA-42) from May 1953 to April 1954, followed by service as Commander of Naval Air Bases for the SIXTH Naval District from April 1954 to August 1955. ADM Thach was the Senior Naval Member for the Military Studies and Liaison Division in the Weapons Evaluation Group at the Pentagon from August 1955 to October 1957, and he then served as Commander of Carrier Division SIXTEEN from October 1957 to December 1959. He was Commander of Anti-Submarine Defense Force Pacific Fleet from December 1959 to July 1961, and then Commander of Anti-Submarine Warfare Force Pacific Fleet from July 1961 to June 1963. ADM Thach then served as Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Air from June 1963 to March 1965, followed by service as Commander-in-Chief U.S. Naval Forces Europe from March 1965 until his retirement from the Navy on May 1, 1967. Jimmie Thach died on April 15, 1981, and was buried at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery in San Diego, California.
His 2nd Navy Cross Citation reads:
For extraordinary heroism and distinguished service as Commanding Officer of Fighting Squadron THREE in action against enemy Japanese forces in the Battle of Midway on June 4, 1942. Pursuing the bold and fearless tactics of a great fighter and a skillful airman, Lieutenant Commander Thach led a division of his squadron on a mission providing protection for our own attacking torpedo squadron. Facing intense anti-aircraft fire, the squadron under his efficient command, attacked an overwhelming number of enemy Japanese fighters, shooting down three of them. Again, in the afternoon, he led a determined and effective attack against enemy torpedo planes which were attacking his carrier, shooting down one of them in this engagement. His great courage, inspiring example and his complete disregard for his own personal safety were in keeping with the finest traditions of the United States Naval Service.