Admiral Hart (Service No. 2387) was born on 12 June 1877 in Davison, Genesee County, Michigan, the son of John Mansfield Hart and Isabella Ramsey Hart. In 1897, he graduated 13th in his class of 47 from the U.S. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Maryland (Alumni No. 2273). He was commissioned in 1899. He graduated from the Naval War College in 1923 and from the Army War College in 1924. He was also a graduate of the Armed Forces Staff School and the National War College.
In 1898, during the Spanish-American War, he served in Cuban waters, as part of the blockade, aboard the messenger boat USS Vixen. During July 1898, along with Theodore Roosevelt, he fought in the Battle of Santiago.
Later in his career, he served as a Lieutenant and Division Officer aboard the Battleship, USS Missouri (BB-11) and as Commander of the torpedo boat destroyer, USS Lawrence (DD-8). He was qualified for Command of Submarines and during World War I, he was assigned as a commander of submarine operations in the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans as Director of Submarines at the Navy Department.
After World War I, he commanded the Battleship, USS Mississippi (BB-41) and later Submarine Divisions, Battle Fleet, and Submarine Force, U.S. Fleet. He was promoted to Rear Admiral in Sept 1929. From 1931 through 1934, he was the Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy.
He was promoted to Admiral in July 1939 and became Commander-in-Chief of the Asiatic Fleet. The USS Houston (CA-30) became Admiral Hart’s flagship on 19 November 1940. He remained aboard until 9 July 1941, when he shifted his flag to the yacht USS Isabel (PY-10). Admiral Hart was in Manila, Philippine Islands when the Japanese struck at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7, 1941. On 26 December 1941, two-days after General Douglas MacArthur left for Australia, Admiral Hart left Manila for Soerabaja, Java in the submarine USS Shark (SS-174).
The tense Far Eastern diplomatic situation finally degenerated into war, and in January 1942, although past retirement age, Admiral Hart became the Allied Naval Commander of the American-British-Dutch-Australian Forces (ABDA). After fighting a desperate defensive withdrawal, he was replaced, for political reasons, by Admiral C. E. L. Helfrich of the Dutch Navy. His command being obliterated in the subsequent naval operations, he was detached and retired in the rank of admiral in July 1942. He returned to active duty in Aug 1942 as a member of the U.S. Navy’s General Board and served as Chairman of the U.S. Navy’s Board of Awards until October 1942.
During 1942, from his farm in Connecticut, Admiral Hart wrote several articles for the Saturday Evening Post criticizing the United States’ preparations at Pearl Harbor prior to the Japanese attack there. In early 1944, he assisted in the study of the Pearl Harbor disaster.
In February 1945, he again retired from active duty to fill a vacancy, due to the death of the late Senator Francis T. Maloney, in the U.S. Senate from Connecticut. He was appointed by Governor Raymond Baldwin, a Republican. He did not run for election to a full term.
He returned to Sharon, Connecticut where he lived until his death at the age of 94 on 4 July 1971. Funeral services were held at the First Church of Christ Congregational in Sharon, Connecticut. On 8 July 1971, he was buried at Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, Virginia (Section 8, Grave 5184-A). His wife is buried with him and his son, LieutenantCommander Hart, is buried nearby.
His awards include the Distinguished Service Medal (for World War I service), received from President Roosevelt a Gold Star in lieu of the Second Distinguished Service Medal, Spanish Campaign Medal, Sampson Medal with six bars, Mexican Service Medal, World War I Victory Medal with Submarine Clasp, China Service Medal, American Defense Service Medal with Fleet Clasp, Asiatic-Pacific Campaign Medal, American Campaign Medal, World War II Victory Medal, Order of the Orange-Nassau with sword by the Government of the Netherlands.
Admiral Hart was also honored with an honorary degree of Doctor of Laws from Wesleyan College in 1945.
He was married to Caroline Robinson Brownson Hart, daughter of the former Naval Academy Superintendent, Rear Admiral Willard H. Brownson. The farm where Admiral Hart lived in Sharon, Connecticut had been in the Brownson family since it was purchased from a member of George Washington’s staff in 1770.
His children: Lieutenant Commander Thomas Comins Hart (Class of 1939, U.S. Naval Academy, died of leukemia in 1945) commander of the USS Bullard (DD-660) during World War II; Roswell Roberts Hart (died in 1980) of Sharon, Connecticut; Harriet Taft Hart Sayre of Martha’s Vineyard, Massachueetts (wife of the Very Rev. Francis B. Sayre, Jr., the former Dean of Washington Cathedral); Caroline Brownson Hart Bergh (Mrs. Dana) of North Ferrisburg, Vermont; and, Isabella Hart Baldwin (Mrs. LaVerne) of Taconic, Connecticut.
The U.S. Navy honored Admiral Hart by naming a destroyer escort, the USS Thomas C. Hart (DE-1092) in his honor. The Thomas C. Hart was launched on 12 August 1972 and was sponsored by Penny Hart Bragonier (Mrs. Reginald), eldest granddaughter of Admiral Hart and daughter of Lieutenant Commander Hart. The ship was commissioned on 28 Jul 1973 and was the last combatant ship to be commissioned at the Boston Naval Shipyard. On 1 July 1975, the Thomas C. Hart was redesignated as a fast frigate (FF-1092).
The Thomas C. Hart was deployed during the Persian Gulf War as part of Operation Desert Shield/Storm. On 30 August 1993, she was decommissioned and leased to the government of Turkey. Since the end of the Cold War, the Thomas C. Hart and over 135 other former U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard ships have been transferred to foreign governments.
Source: Admiral Thomas Charles Hart biography by Lynna Kay Shuffield
The grave of Admiral Hart in Arlington National Cemetery.
18 June 2019:
While touring the US and Canada on the way home from the 2019 TCHVA Reunion in Rapid City SD, Phil LeBlanc visited a chapel at the International Peace Garden on the border of Manitoba Canada and North Dakota. Inside were quotes from many famous people. He was surprised to find one in particular, from none other than our namesake Thomas C. Hart. Please click on the link below for that quote. I’m sure you’ve heard or seen it before. Thanks Phil!