David Hatcher was born in 1934 in Mount Airy, North Carolina. He entered the Aviation Cadet Program of the U.S. Air Force for Aviation Observer and Navigator training on February 24, 1954, and was commissioned a 2d Lt and awarded his Navigator Wings at Harlingen AFB, Texas, on May 9, 1955. His first assignment was as a KB-29 Superfortress Navigator and Radar Operator with the 508th Air Refueling Squadron at Turner AFB, Georgia, from May 1955 to September 1957, followed by service as a KC-97 Stratotanker Navigator with the 341st and then the 71st Air Refueling Squadrons at Dow AFB, Maine, from September 1957 to June 1958. Lt Hatcher next attended pilot training and was awarded his pilot wings at Vance AFB, Oklahoma, in September 1959. After completing F-100 Super Sabre Combat Crew Training, he served as an F-100 and then as an F-105 Thunderchief pilot with the 22nd Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 36th Tactical Fighter Wing at Bitburg AB, West Germany, from September 1960 to September 1963, followed by service as an F-105 pilot with the 333rd and the 335th Tactical Fighter Squadrons of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, North Carolina, from September 1963 to December 1965. Capt Hatcher then deployed to Southeast Asia where he served as an F-105 pilot with the 333rd Tactical Fighter Squadron of the 355th Tactical Fighter Wing at Takhli Royal Thai AFB, Thailand, from December 1965 until he was forced to eject over North Vietnam on May 30, 1966. He was captured and taken as a Prisoner of War the next day, on May 31, 1966. After spending 2,451 days in captivity, Col Hatcher was released during Operation Homecoming on February 12, 1973. He was briefly hospitalized to recover from his injuries at Maxwell AFB, Alabama, and then served as Chief of Flight Operations of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB from August 1973 until his retirement from the Air Force on March 1, 1974.
His Silver Star Citation reads:
For the Period 1 June 1966 to 8 June 1966: This officer distinguished himself by gallantry and intrepidity in action in connection with military operations against an opposing armed force during the above period while a Prisoner of War in North Vietnam. Ignoring international agreements on treatment of prisoners of war, the enemy resorted to mental and physical cruelties to obtain information, confessions, and propaganda materials. This individual resisted their demands by calling upon his deepest inner strengths in a manner which reflected his devotion to duty and great credit upon himself and the United States Air Force.