Tom Dayton was born on June 3, 1933, in New York. He entered the U.S. Military Academy at West Point on July 7, 1953, and was commissioned a 2d Lt in the U.S. Air Force on June 4, 1957. Lt Dayton next completed Undergraduate Pilot Training at Laredo AFB, Texas, in October 1958, followed by All-Weather Interceptor Training at Moody AFB, Georgia, in May 1959. His first assignment was as an F-86 Sabre pilot with the 14th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Sioux City AB, Iowa, from June 1959 to April 1960, and then as a personnel officer at Oklahoma City AFS, Oklahoma, from April to June 1960. Capt Dayton next served as an instructor pilot at Tinker AFB, Oklahoma, from June 1960 to June 1963, followed by service as an instructor pilot and then as an F-102 Delta Dagger pilot with the 317th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Elmendorf AFB, Alaska, from July 1963 to September 1965. He served as an F-104 Starfighter pilot with the 319th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Homestead AFB, Florida, from October 1965 to April 1969, and then deployed to Southeast Asia. Maj Dayton next served as an A-1 Skyraider pilot with the 22nd Special Operations Squadron at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from April 1969 to September 1970, followed by service as an air operations staff officer in Bangkok, Thailand, from September 1970 to September 1972. He served as chief of the student branch with the 71st Student Squadron at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, from September 1972 to December 1973, and then as an instructor pilot and assistant operations officer with the 8th Flying Training Squadron at Vance from December 1973 to January 1976. Col Dayton next served as commander of the 6171st Air Base Squadron at Kwang Ju AB, South Korea, from February 1976 to June 1977, followed by service at Luke AFB, Arizona, and then at Sardinia, Italy. He was commander of the U.S. Logistics Group, Detachment 193, at Incirlik AB, Turkey, from August 1980 to July 1981, and then served as vice commander of the 40th Tactical Group at Aviano AB, Italy, from July 1981 until his retirement from the Air Force on January 1, 1983. Tom Dayton died on August 6, 2014, and was buried at the Fort Sam Houston National Cemetery in San Antonio, Texas.
His Air Force Cross Citation reads:
The President of the United States of America, authorized by Section 8742, Title 10, United States Code, awards the Air Force Cross to Major Thomas E. Dayton for extraordinary heroism in military operations against an opposing armed force as an A-1 Tactical Fighter Pilot in Southeast Asia, from 5 December 1969 to 7 December 1969. On those dates, Major Dayton exerted all the courage and flying skill at his disposal in a fiercely opposed attempt to rescue a fellow airman from one of the most heavily defended areas in Southeast Asia. During the first two days of this largest search and rescue mission attempted in Southeast Asia, Major Dayton escorted helicopters into the search area on four separate occasions. Despite intense hostile fire during low altitude and slow speed required in this protective role, he repeatedly attacked hostile positions throughout the valley. Designated On-Scene-Commander on the third day, Major Dayton continued his heroic rescue efforts with great vigor and determination despite the fact that fifteen previous attempts had failed, and with the full knowledge that each return would again place his life in jeopardy. Notwithstanding these tremendous obstacles, Major Dayton persisted in his efforts, with the realization that the successful application of airpower would be the deciding factor. During the final rescue attempt, Major Dayton had to hold an orbiting position over the survivor to divert the air strikes away from the survivor's position. Braving hundreds of rounds of hostile fire during these three days, Major Dayton took control of the recovery operation at its lowest ebb and heroically challenged and mastered this successful, unparalleled rescue mission. Through his extraordinary heroism, superb airmanship, and aggressiveness in the face of hostile forces, Major Dayton reflected the highest credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.