USS Thach (FFG-43)
The USS Thach was an Oliver Hazard Perry–class guided missile frigate launched in 1982 and named after John Smith (Jimmie) Thach, an innovative World War II Navy aviator who rose to the rank of full admiral. In a nearly thirty-year career, the Thach was active in both military and anti-narcotic operations.
Jimmie Thach was born in Pine Bluff (Jefferson County) on April 19, 1905. As a naval aviator during World War II, he developed a system in which two planes would weave back and forth when under attack, drawing the attacking fighter into the line of fire of one of the American planes; the “Thach Weave” was credited with increasing the downing of Japanese planes during crucial battles in the Pacific and remains an important tactic in modern aerial operations. Thach later became a top antisubmarine warfare expert and ended his career as a full admiral, commanding U.S. naval forces in Europe. He died on April 15, 1981.
The keel for the USS Thach was laid down on March 6, 1982, at the Todd Shipyards Corporation’s Los Angeles Division. The vessel was launched on December 18, 1982, and christened by the admiral’s widow, Madelyn J. Thach. The USS Thach was commissioned on March 17, 1984, under Commander Dale H. Moses. The ship’s motto was “Ready and Able.”
The USS Thach displaced 4,100 tons and could achieve speeds of more than twenty-nine knots with its twin General Electric LM 2500 gas turbines and 350-horsepower electric drive auxiliary propulsion units. The ship was 453 long, was forty-seven feet wide, and had a seventeen-foot draft. The Thach’s armaments included a Mark 13 guided missile system, an OTO Melara Mark 75 three-inch 62-caliber gun, a Vulcan Phalanx 50-caliber machine gun, and six 324-mm Mark 32 torpedo launchers. The Thach also carried two SH-60 Seahawk helicopters. The ship held a crew of fifteen officers and 190 enlisted sailors.
The Thach’s deployments included sorties into the South China Sea in 1986, the Persian Gulf in 1987, the Indian Ocean and Persian Gulf in 1989–1990, the Arabian Gulf during Operation Desert Storm in 1992, maritime interdictions in the Arabian Gulf in 1994–1995, the Persian Gulf in 1996, additional interdiction in the Arabian Sea in 2001, Operation Enduring Freedom in the Arabian Gulf in 2002–2003, oil platform defense operations in the Gulf in 2005, sorties into the Caribbean in 2006–2007, other Middle East maneuvers in 2008 and 2009, and anti-narcotic trafficking operations off Central America in 2013.
In 2002, the Thach responded to a distress call from the research submarine Dolphin, rescuing forty-three sailors from the burning vessel. The frigate intercepted more than twenty-four tons of drugs in anti-drug operations in the South Pacific in 2006 and helped seize around twenty-three tons of cocaine in the Pacific and Caribbean in 2007. In its 2013 Central America deployment, the ship intercepted $10 million worth of cocaine and marijuana. The Thach received four Meritorious Unit Commendations, among other honors.
The Thach was decommissioned and struck from the Navy List on November 15, 2013, and was sunk in the Pacific Ocean northwest of Hawaii on July 14, 2016, after being used for naval target practice.
The USS Thach was one of three guided missile frigates named for military men with Arkansas connections. The others were the USS Antrim, named for Medal of Honor recipient Richard Nott Antrim, and the USS Jack Williams, named for Jack Williams, who was awarded a posthumous Medal of Honor.
For additional information:
THACH FFG Naval Vessel Historical Evaluation. https://www.navsea.navy.mil/Portals/103/Documents/TeamShips/SEA21/InactiveShips/Historic/2014/THACH-FFG-43-DOI-Final-Determination03-24-14.pdf (accessed March 3, 2023).
Thach (FFG43). Dictionary of American Fighting Ships. https://www.history.navy.mil/research/histories/ship-histories/danfs/t/thach-ffg-43.html (accessed March 3, 2023).
USS Thach (FFG-43). https://www.hullnumber.com/FFG-43 (accessed March 3, 2023).
USS Thach (FFG-43). http://www.uscarriers.net/ffg43.htm (accessed March 3, 2023).
Mark K. Christ
Central Arkansas Library System
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