Skip to content

About Thomas C. Hart

About the author: Thomas Charles Hart (June 12, 1877 — July 4, 1971), Admiral, USN.

Thomas Charles Hart, son of Thomas M. Hart and Isabella Ramsey Hart, was born in Genessee County, Michigan, on 12 June 1877. He attended public schools in Davison and Flint, Michigan, prior to entering the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland, from his native state in May 1893. Graduated on 4 June 1897, he served the two years at sea, then required by law before  commissioning, and was commissioned Ensign in the U.S. Navy on 1July1899. He subsequently advanced to the rank of Admiral, to date from 25 July 1939. On 1July1942 he was transferred to the Retired List of the Navy in the rank of Admiral, in recognition of his “conspicuous and distinguished service in operations against the enemy in the Far East from 7 Dec 1941 until 14 February 1942.”
After graduation from the Naval Academy in June 1897, he joined the recruit-training ship Alliance, in which he served for six months. In December of that year he was ordered to the USS Massachusetts, and was attached to that battleship and later to the yacht Vixen during the Spanish-American War period, participating in the Cuban Campaign and in the Battle of Santiago in July 1898. Detached from the Vixen in September 1898, he served briefly in the USS Hist, then reported on board the USS Indiana. After short periods of shore duty, he joined the USS Hartford in October 1899.
Between October 1902 and May 1904 he was an Instructor in the Department of Ordnance and gunnery at the Naval Academy, then had duty afloat as Watch and Division Officer of the USS Missouri. In December 1905 he assumed command of the torpedo boat destroyer, USS Lawrence, and remained in command until she was decommissioned in November 1906. He then commissioned and commanded the USS Hull. In June 1907, he began a tour of duty in the Bureau of Ordnance, Navy Department, Washington, D.C., and while serving there had additional duty from January to June 1909 as Aide to the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.
Returning to sea, he was Ordnance Officer of the USS Virginia until December 1909, and after assisting in fitting out the USS North Dakota, became her Gunnery Officer at the commissioning of that battleship on 11 April 1909. In October 1911 he reported for a tour of duty at the Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, Rhode Island. When detached in September 1914, he joined the USS Minnesota as Executive Officer, and in February 1916 assumed command of the Third Submarine Division, Pacific Torpedo Flotilla. He was relieved of that command in May 1917, after the United States entered World War I in April, and returned to the United States.
In July 1917 he was assigned duty as Commander Submarine Base, New London, Connecticut, and there had additional duty in command of the USS Chicago and as Chief of Staff to the
Commander Submarine Force, Atlantic Fleet. In August he was transferred to command of Submarine Division FOUR and FIVE, which, with the submarine tender Bushnell as Flagship,
operated in European waters during the war. In April 1918 he was given temporary additional duty at Queenstown, Ireland; London, Portsmouth and Harwich, England, and other places found necessary for visits and consultation with British authorities. He returned to the United States in June 1918, and the next month was assigned duty as Director of Submarines in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, Navy Department.
After the Armistice was signed in November 1918, he continued duty in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations until July 1920. H was then designated Commander Submarine Flotilla
THREE, of the Asiatic Fleet, with additional duty in command of the submarine tender Beaver.
Between March and August 1921 he also had command of Submarine Division EIGHTEEN. Instruction at the Naval War College, Newport, Rhode Island, and at the Army War College, Washington, D.C., was followed by a year’s assignment to the Staff of the Army War College.
On 6 June 1925, he assumed command of the USS Mississippi, at Honolulu, T.H. After two years in that command he reported to Headquarters, Third Naval District, New York, N.Y., where he served briefly as Assistant Commandant, then as Supervisor of the New York Harbor.
On October 4 of the same year he became Inspector of Ordnance in Charge, Naval Torpedo Station, Newport, and continued in that capacity until June 1929. He returned to sea a month later as Commander Submarine Divisions, Battle Fleet, the USS Holland, his flagship. In May 1930 he became Commander Control Force, U.S. Fleet, his flag in the USS Camden, and in January 1931 he was redesignated Commander Submarine Force, U.S. Fleet.
From 1May1931until18 June 1934, he served as Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy. He was then ordered to sea as Commander Cruiser Division SIX, Scouting Force, the USS Louisville, flagship. In April 1935 he was transferred to command of Cruiser, Scouting Force, with additional duty as Commander Cruiser Division FIVE. Relieved of that command in June 1936, he was named a member of the General Board, Navy Department, and in December of the same year became Chairman of that Board.
In April 1939 he was designated Commander in Chief, U.S. Asiatic fleet, and was serving in that command at the outbreak of World War IL In the early days of the war, except for the forces in the Philippines under General Douglas MacArthur, the American strength in the Western Pacific Area consisted chiefly of the Asiatic Fleet, a few aviation units and the garrisons of Marines at Guam and Wake. The small Asiatic Fleet included the heavy cruiser Houston, the light cruiser Marblehead, thirteen over-age destroyers, some twenty-nine submarines, two squadrons of Catalinas comprising Patrol Wing TEN, and a few gunboats and auxiliaries which could not be counted on for combat. This force (plus the light cruiser Boise, which happened to be in Asiatic waters when the war warning was received) undertook to delay the enemy’s advance until such time as it could muster sufficient strength to put up any real resistance. In so far as completely stopping the advance, the campaign was foredoomed, but it nevertheless contributed materially to the ultimate check of the Japanese advance, and the energy and gallantry of the officers and men participating constituted a remarkable chapter in the history of naval warfare. It was just before the Battle of Makassar Strait that Admiral Hart gave his classic order to the Asiatic Fleet, “Submarines and surface ships will attack the enemy, and no vessel will leave the scene of action until it is sunk or all its ammunition exhausted.”
He returned to the United States in May 1942 to receive from the President of the United States a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Distinguished Service Medal. The Asiatic fleet ceased to exist as such in June 1942, and Admiral Hart was detached as Commander in Chief. He was transferred to the Retired List of the U.S. Navy on 1July1942, but continued on active duty as Chairman of the Board of Awards, navy Department. In August 1942 he was again assigned as a member of the General Board, with additional duty as Chairman of the Board of Awards until 31 October 1942. In February 1944 the Secretary of the Navy announced the appointment of Admiral Hart to hear and record the testimony of members of the Naval Service who had knowledge of facts pertinent to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, 7 December 1941. This method was used because certain officers who had personal knowledge of facts relevant to the Pearl Harbor disaster were on dangerous assignments which might render them unavailable for testifying in any proceedings to be held, and it was desired to preclude the possibility of the loss of such  evidence. Admiral Hart traveled to the duty stations of the officers to be questioned so that their testimony could b preserved with a minimum amount of interference with their duties.
He returned to the United States from the Pacific Ocean area in April 1944, and continued his assignment as a member of the General Board. On 9 February 1945 he was relieved of all active duty to accept appointment as a United States Senator from the State of Connecticut. On 15 February he took the Oath of Office as a member of the U.S. Senate, succeeding Francis T. Maloney of Meriden, Connecticut, who died in January 1945. His term of office expired on 3 January 1947 and he did not seek reelection.
Admiral Hart then returned to his family home in Sharon, Connecticu!, and died there on 4 July 1971
Admiral Hart’s decorations included: Navy Distinguished Service Medal with Gold star for second award, Sampson Medal, Navy Spanish Campaign Medal, Mexican Service Medal, World War I Victory Medal, China Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal and Submarine Warfare insignia.

About the diary: Naval History and Heritage Command (Historical Section) contains the Papers of Admiral Thomas C. Hart 1899-1960.

Two entries come from Admiral Thomas C. Hart And The Demise Of The Asiatic Fleet 1941 – 1942 by David DuBois, East Tennessee State University. As this thesis noted,

Starting on 1 January 1914, Hart began keeping a daily diary, admitting that he did not know exactly why he was doing so, but acknowledging that he should have started earlier. His diary continued until shortly before his death in 1971, encompassing 21 volumes…