THOMAS M. ADAMS, LT, USN

From USNA Virtual Memorial Hall

Thomas Adams '97

Date of birth: April 16, 1976

Date of death: March 22, 2003

Age: 26

Lucky Bag

1997 Adams LB.jpg

Obituary

From San Diego Union-Tribune on March 23, 2003:

Navy Lt. Thomas M. Adams, who was killed in the crash of two British helicopters, was described by his aunt as "one of these amazingly clean-cut, all-American kids." A descendant of two presidents and a member of a prominent La Mesa family was the first Navy officer to die in the war against Iraq.

Lt. Adams, 27, was aboard one of two Royal Navy Sea King helicopters that collided about 4:30 a.m. yesterday (Iraq time) just after takeoff from a ship in the Persian Gulf, officials said. Six British troops, three in each helicopter, also were killed.

Adams had been an exchange officer with the Royal Navy's 849 Squadron since October 2002.

His family learned of his death early yesterday morning.

"He's one of these amazingly clean-cut, all-American kids," said his aunt, Elizabeth Hansen of La Jolla. "He's the kind of kid that if you had a very special daughter, you would hope that she could snag him. He was just amazingly bright, funny and kind."

Adams' lineage can be traced to Presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams, his aunt said.

Officials also identified two Camp Pendleton Marines who were killed in battle Friday as Lance Cpl. Jose Gutierrez, 22, of Los Angeles; and 2nd Lt. Therrel S. Childers, 30, of Saucier, Miss. Both were with the 1st Marine Division.

News of Adams' death rocked the small La Mesa community of Mount Helix, where his family lives.

His parents, John and Marilyn Adams, were in Germany visiting Adams' younger sister, Cari, who is attending the University of Heidelberg. Neighbors Dianne and Pete Micklish called the Adamses after two Navy chaplains came to their door at 6:15 a.m. yesterday.

The Adamses "asked if we were OK," Dianne Micklish said. "We're calling them and telling them the worst news. That's the kind of people they are.

"It's not supposed to happen," she said. "You know in your heart it's possible, but you can't let that in."

Adams graduated from Grossmont High School in 1993, his aunt said. News of his death so traumatized a former chemistry teacher and the mother of a close high school friend that neither could speak about him last night.

Adams graduated from the Naval Academy and was a decorated naval flight officer who trained in Pensacola. He was commissioned in 1997 and achieved the rank of lieutenant two years ago.

Before his assignment with the Royal Navy's 849 Squadron, based in Helston, England, he served on the Carrier Airborne Early Warning Squadron at bases in Japan and Virginia. He earned two National Defense Service Medals and three Sea Service Deployment Ribbons along with other awards and decorations.

He also was passionate about soccer. He joined a local team in England, his family said. Adams was so enamored with the sport that he volunteered to go with the aircraft carrier Kitty Hawk to Japan when he knew the World Cup finals would be there.

Adams' late grandfather, Richard Croxton Adams, helped found Grossmont Bank and Heartland Savings and Loan. His grandfather, who moved to San Diego from Cleveland in 1948, helped rebuild the Old Globe Theatre and the Aerospace Museum after they were destroyed by arson.

Adams' family said he especially enjoyed his work with the Royal Navy for two reasons: Each ship had a pub on board, and he was allowed weekly 20-minute phone calls home.

"Both of their kids tried to call home once a week from anywhere they were in the world," said his uncle, Richard Adams of La Jolla.

Adams' father, an architect, was able to join his son on a Tiger cruise from Guam to Japan last year, the family said.

Both Adams' grandmothers live in La Mesa, and he also has an aunt and two cousins in Kensington. Family includes relatives in Pebble Beach and Riverside, and in Michigan, Ohio, Seattle and Washington, D.C.

"This is an extremely close family, and none of us will ever be the same," said Hansen, his aunt. "All of us just remember him as a fun-loving guy with a wry sense of humor and we can't imagine going forward without him."


Class of 1997

Thomas is one of 5 members of the Class of 1997 in Memorial Hall.