THOMAS H. O'BRIEN, CAPT, USAF
Thomas O'Brien '55
Date of birth: December 16, 1931
Date of death: December 20, 1963
Thomas Hall O'Brien was admitted to the Naval Academy with an At Large appointment on July 23, 1951 at age 19 years 7 months.
He voluntarily resigned from the Naval Academy on August 20, 1952.
Thomas was killed in a crash of his T-28 in Florida with the 6th Fighter Squadron on December 20, 1963. He is buried in California.
Thomas H. O’Brien was on the freshman 1950 basketball team, a member of the Tizoc Club (wrestling), president of Kappa Alpha fraternity and was one of the most distinguished cadets in the Air Force ROTC, having won the Air Force Association Award in 1953.
Thomas died on December 20, 1963 when his T-28 jet trainer crashed near DeFuniak Springs, Florida. Born in West Point, New York and a graduate of Hoover High School, in addition to his math degree from San Diego State he earned a degree in engineering at the Air Force Institute of Technology in Ohio. He served two tours of duty in South Vietnam in the early 1960s before the United States began sending combat units. Thomas was the father of a son and daughter.
From The Miami Herald on December 21, 1963:
Capt. Thomas H. O’Brien, 32, a fighter pilot who saw a year’s duty in South Viet Nam, was killed Friday when his T28 fighter-bomber crashed in a farm field near here.
Authorities said O’Brien was alone in the plane. Air Force officials were conducting an investigation of the crash, about 10 miles northeast of DeFuniak Springs.
O’Brien was on a training mission at Eglin Air Force base’s nearby aerial training area, a spokesman said.
O’Brien was with the First Air Commando Wing, Sixth Fighter Squadron. He had done two six-month hitches with the Tactical Air Command’s air warfare advisory training team in South Viet Nam. He held the Distinguished Flying Cross and Air Medal with an [oak leaf] cluster and was a nine year air force veteran.”
A later report said he died when his parachute failed to open in time during a low altitude bail-out. He had served about three years at Wright-Patterson Air Force base leaving in June, 1962. He was assigned to Hurlburt’s air commandos in September 1962.
Survived by his parents Captain and Mrs. William M. O’Brien of San Diego.
From researcher Kathy Franz:
He graduated from Hoover High School in San Diego in 1949. “Tom is a popular guy, who came to Hoover from Highland Falls High. President of the Boys’ Federation was the office he held while at Hoover. His majors were mathematics and science, physiology being his favorite class. Since Tom was on the Varsity basketball and baseball teams and was a member of the Varsity H, he will make a good coach after attending State."
Distinguished Flying Cross
Unable to find the citation for the Distinguished Flying Cross cited on his headstone.
Thomas is one of 34 members of the Class of 1955 on Virtual Memorial Hall.
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