Thomas J. Hayes, IV was born 8 September 1943 in Denton, Texas to an Army family, LTC Thomas J. Hayes III ’36 and Jean Pedley Hayes. Military assignments led to frequent family moves: they lived in England and in nine states. Tom attended eight schools, did well scholastically, was active in scouting and the church, enjoyed sports and music, was on the student council at all three high schools, and earned an Advanced Science Scholarship.
In 1961, Tom went to Duke University for a year, where he was elected to Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity. In 1962, he won a competitive appointment from Representative King, 17th District of California, and entered the Academy, thus following in the footsteps of his father and grandfather (USMA 1912).
At West Point he had a distinguished record. Academically, he took accelerated and honors courses, wore stars and stood in the top 2% of his class. He was a member of the Choir, the Glee Club and the Russian Club, fenced, had four years of soccer and skiing, and was a member of the National Ski Patrol. In his final year he was a Cadet Captain, the Brigade Adjutant, President of the Cadet Choir, and Chairman of the Honor Committee. In June 1966 he was commissioned in the Corps of Engineers.
Lieutenant Hayes’ military career was short but full. As a distinguished graduate (9th in a class of 579) he was approved for immediate graduate schooling at a civilian university of his choice. He chose to defer this in favor of service in Vietnam and requested assignment to the 82d Airborne Division at Fort Bragg, North Carolina for further training, his four months of CONUS troop duty, and ultimate assignment to the 1st Infantry Division, Republic of Vietnam.
His tour with the 307th Airborne Engineer Battalion of the 82d included qualification in Paratrooper, Ranger, and Pathfinder at the Infantry Center. Then he went to Vietnam in May 1967 as a platoon leader in the 1st Engineer Combat Battalion. Here he received his first two awards and promotion to first lieutenant.
In September 1967, Tom was due for rotation to an Engineer staff position. Although he intended to make a career of the Engineers, at this point he sought combat experience at the small unit level and volunteered for the division’s Long Range Reconnaissance Patrol unit. This was an unusual organization made up of several small teams dropped deep in the jungle to observe and report on enemy activities. Here Tom was awarded the Combat Infantry Badge and the Bronze Star Medal for Valor.
Next he was selected to form and lead the Division’s Aero Rifle Platoon. This unit, part of 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry, had a critical task as the eyes and ears of the “Big Red One.” He participated in over 100 assault missions and “turned his unit into the most competitive rifle platoon in the division.” On his last mission, after rescuing two of his wounded men, he was killed by enemy fire.
In his last letter, received after his death, he wrote that he had volunteered for a six month extension in Vietnam to serve with the 101st Airborne Division. One of his reasons: “My country has invested a great deal in me as a soldier. I should like to repay that investment by accomplishing that for which I have been trained, in addition to testing the effectiveness of that training.”
Subsequently, we learned more about Tom’s soldiering from his citations and awards, his posthumous promotion to captain, after-action reports, and letters from his fellow officers. His squadron commander stated, “Tom’s influence extended much further than on the battlefield. His deep, personal interest in his men and in his fellow officers was inspiring. He was completely dedicated to his country and to his fellow soldiers. No matter what the mission or how difficult the task, Tom performed it in an outstanding manner.”
A letter from the USMA Superintendent said: “One almost never sees as much ability and promise in one youngster. His future was limitless...and it still is, both in the direct sense of our faith and in the indirect sense of his tremendous influence for good on so many others.”
Perhaps he lives on in some of the memorials dedicated to his name: a Boy Scout camp site in Nebraska; a street in San Diego; the Hayes Gym at West Point; and the Hayes Hall at the Army Engineer Center (Fort Leonard Wood).
Tom was unmarried. He is survived by his parents, MG and Mrs. Thomas J. Hayes III of San Francisco; his two sisters, Mary Helen Attride and Barbara Jean Beddow; many memories; and his name on the Vietnam Memorial with thousands of others.