HANTON, THOMAS J.
|NAME: Thomas J. Hanton
Rank/Branch: United States Air Force/o3
Date of Birth: 10 Sept 1944
Home City of Record: Santa Monica CA
Date of Loss: 27 June 1972
Country of Loss: North Vietnam
Loss Coordinates: 210000 North 1043000 East
Status (in 1973): Releasee
Other Personnel in Incident:
Source: Compiled by P.O.W. NETWORK from one or more of the following: raw
data from U.S. Government agency sources, correspondence with POW/MIA
families, published sources, interviews. 2017
REMARKS: 730328 Released by DRV
SOURCE: WE CAME HOME copyright 1977
Captain and Mrs. Frederic A Wyatt (USNR Ret), Barbara Powers Wyatt, Editor
P.O.W. Publications, 10250 Moorpark St., Toluca Lake, CA 91602
Text is reproduced as found in the original publication (including date and
UPDATE - 09/95 by the P.O.W. NETWORK, Skidmore, MO
THOMAS J. HANTON
Captain - United States Air Force
Shot Down: June 27, 1972
Released: March 28, 1973
Before describing my background and personal experience, I would like to thank
all of America for their prayers, concern and support. Regrettably, I cannot
personally thank all those who wore my bracelet and worked so hard for our
honorable return. Everyone's trust in my convictions is heartwarming and
difficult to put into words.
Now, a little about myself: I was born on 10 September 1944 in Santa Monica,
California. As a child, I moved frequently since my father was a career Air
Force officer. In 1967 I received my BA in Economics from California State
College at Long Beach. After graduation, I joined the Air Force and attended
Officer Training School. It was in Sacramento, California, in 1968, while
attending Navigator Training, that I met my wife, Pat, whom I married on 20
September 1969. After Combat Crew Training in the F-4 Phantom, I was assigned
to an operational unit and subsequently stationed at Da Nang Air Base,
Republic of Vietnam. After five months of combat, on 27 June 1972, I was
downed over North Vietnam while on a search and rescue mission.
Many people are quite interested in what it was like in the North Vietnamese
prison camps. The stories in magazines and newspapers are quite true; and, in
some cases, more cruel treatment was put to bear on individuals. As for my own
experience, I was one of the lucky ones who only endured the more subtle means
of harassment. I was a POW during a period of "more" lenient treatment, which
I will qualify by saying, the North Vietnamese DID NOT follow the Geneva
Agreements on treatment of Prisoners of War.
Another frequently asked question is what were the North Vietnamese like. They
proved to me what kind of people they were by threatening us throughout the
last month of our captivity. The ones I came in contact with were basically
cynical, insecure people. There were one or two exceptions, however, who were
a little more humane. All of them were thoroughly communist indoctrinated with
intense desires to dominate Southeast Asia. This tendency is once again
becoming obvious - and, as one of the North Vietnamese officers said to us,
"You will go home, but the war will not be over for us." (What Peace Treaty?)
The countryside is covered by loudspeakers, i.e. 1984, which wake the
populace, give "their" news, and of course put them to sleep at night.
No... you can't turn it off or choose another station or read different points
of view, or even have different points of view - which is what the USA is all
My experience as a POW has made me realize, in more ways than one, how
fortunate I have been. Until one's freedom is completely eliminated, with no
idea of how long such a situation will exist, it is difficult for one to
realize what FREEDOM, with all its ramifications, means. I now have a greater
love and appreciation for my wife, family, freedom and country. My respect,
honor, belief, patriotism, and duty to country is stronger than ever. I have
seen myself from a different perspective and learned a great deal. My
convictions have become more apparent and expanded; giving me a greater
appreciation and understanding of life, love, and freedom.
I feel most fortunate to be an American and to be serving my country. I also
feel fortunate to have sustained only minor injuries and to have been a
prisoner for only nine months, during a period of more lenient treatment of
American captives. I feel that I was doing my job as a professional military
officer and I am ready to serve my country further. My heroes in this
experience are those who have not returned, those POW's who spent years in the
hands of merciless captors, all their families who have suffered so much, and,
of course, those who silently served in Vietnam, receiving little recognition.
To those who have lost faith in America, I respect your right to freedom of
speech, hoping you realize the opportunity to hold different views is one of
the greatest freedoms this country has.
My wife was pregnant when I left for Southeast Asia and gave birth to our
first child, a son, while I was a POW. We plan to continue my military career.
Your interest in my family and me is deeply and sincerely appreciated.
Thomas Hanton retired from the United States Air Force as a Lt. Colonel. He
lives in Virginia. Prior to his retirement, he participated in Operation
Desert Storm and flew combat support missions in the AWACS and EC-130H
"Compass Call," providing battle management. Tom has a distinction of being
airborne when the final bombs were dropped. Tom made the observation,
"After the Vietnam experience of having our hands ties by politicians, it
was a nice experience to use all the strategic and tactical planning skills
from previous experience during Desert Storm."
Margot's service will be on Thursday, 18 December 2014 at 8:45 AM (be there by 8:15) in the Old Post Chapel (the small one) on Ft. Myer, VA.