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First Name: Thomas

Last Name: Richards

Birthplace: San Diego, CA, US

Gender: Male

Branch: Air Force (1947 - present)

Home of Record: Hampton, VA
Middle Name: Carl

Date of Birth: 13 February 1930

Date of Death: 09 August 2020

Rank: General

Years Served: 1948-1989
Thomas Carl Richards

•  Korean War (1950 - 1953)
•  Vietnam War (1960 - 1973)


Thomas Carl Richards

General, U.S. Air Force

Thomas Carl Richards was born 13 February 1930 in San Diego, CA. He graduated from Hampton High School, VA, in 1948.

Richards' military career began with the U.S. Army Infantry in 1948. He served as a Platoon Sergeant during the Korean War and was wounded twice.

After the war, he attended Virginia Polytechnic Institute where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration in 1956. As a distinguished graduate of the Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps Program at VPI, he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant in the U.S. Air Force.

Richards then entered pilot training and earned his wings at Goodfellow AFB, TX, in 1957. After combat crew training, he was assigned as a B-47 Stratojet co-pilot with the Strategic Air Command's 19th Bombardment Wing at Homestead AFB, FL, from December 1958 to February 1961.

He was upgraded to B-47E Stratojet Commander at Little Rock AFB, AR, before being transferred in July 1961 to the 301st Bombardment Wing at Lockbourne AFB, OH. He completed Squadron Officer School in 1963 and received B-52 Stratofortress combat crew training at Castle AFB, CA, from May to August 1964. His next assignments were to the 20th Bombardment Squadron at Barksdale AFB, LA, and later to Carswell AFB, TX. During this period he was an Aircraft Commander on the first B-52 combat missions over Vietnam.

After completing tactical combat crew training and airborne training in October 1966, Richards was assigned to the 19th Tactical Air Support Squadron at Bien Hoa Air Base, Republic of Vietnam, as a Forward Air Controller (FAC) with the 101st Airborne Infantry Division. He served a consecutive tour of duty with the 56th Air Commando Wing at Udorn Royal Thai Air Force Base, Thailand, with detached service at the U.S. Embassy, Vientiane Laos. In addition, he commanded the Raven Forward Air Controllers and flew 624 combat missions in O-1 Bird Dogs, T-28 Trojans, U-10D Super Couriers and U-17 Skywagons.

In January 1969, he returned to the U.S. and was assigned to the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, CO, where he served as an Executive Officer, Squadron Air Officer Commanding, and Group Air Officer Commanding, until May 1972. He then attended the Army War College, graduating in 1973.

Richards transferred to Lackland AFB, TX, in June 1973 as Wing Deputy Commander, and then served as Commander of the Basic Military Training School. That same year, he received a Master's degree in Communication from Shippensburg State College. In July 1975, he was assigned to the Directorate of Personnel Plans, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Personnel, Headquarters U.S. Air Force in Washington as Chief of the Motivation and Communications Branch and, later, became Chief of the Leadership and Motivation Division.

From November 1976 to December 1977, Richards served as Commander of the Air Reserve Personnel Center at Denver. He then returned to the Academy as Vice Commandant of Cadets; he became Commandant of Cadets in March 1978. Richards assumed Command of the Air Force Recruiting Service at Randolph AFB, TX, in February 1981. In March 1982, he transferred to Keesler AFB, MS, as Commander of the Keesler Technical Training Center. From September 1983 to July 1984, he was assigned as Vice Commander, 8th Air Force, Barksdale AFB, LA. He then became Commander of Air University, Maxwell Air Force Base, AL.

On 1 December 1986, Richards was promoted to the four-star rank of General and became Deputy Commander-in-Chief, U.S. European Command (DCINCEUR).

General Richards retired from the Air Force on 30 September 1989. During his service, he became a Command Pilot with over 4,700 flying hours.

Medals and Awards

Distinguished Service Medal

Silver Star Medal (2 Awards)

Legion of Merit (2 Awards)

Distinguished Flying Cross

Bronze Star Medal with "Valor" Device (2 Awards)

Purple Heart (2 Awards)

Meritorious Service Medal

Air Medal (18 Awards)


Command Pilot Badge

Combat Infantryman Badge

Senior Parachutist Badge

In Retirement

After his retirement, he was appointed as Administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration.

Honoree ID: 823   Created by: MHOH




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