849 Naval Air Squadron









Thomas Mullen ADAMS
US Navy


A descendant of two US presidents Thomas Mullen Adams graduated in 1997 from the US Naval Academy.  He was a decorated naval flight officer assigned since October 2002 to the Royal Navy as an exchange officer and lived in Helston, England.

"His love of flying machines and ships was obvious at an early age," said Adams' uncle, Richard Adams of La Jolla, Calif. "A look in his room at the models and posters was only part of the story. Even when he was in elementary school he could describe in remarkable detail the performance and history of each."

A native of La Mesa, California,  and a soccer enthusiast, he was a radar intercept officer aboard the Royal Navy helicopter.

The following is a report from San Diego of Tom's funeral in April 2003.
The words on his tombstone help define Navy Lt. Thomas Mullen Adams, a La Mesa native and descendant of two presidents, who was buried yesterday at Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery.

Etched on the white stone is this: "He's Just Pining."

The sentiment comes from Adams' favorite Monty Python skit, "The Dead Parrot Sketch," which represents an exercise in comic absurdity.

It's what Adams would have wanted. And it's what those who spoke at his funeral came back to repeatedly his sense of humour and fun-loving nature.

Adams, the first Navy casualty of the war in Iraq, was killed with six British squadron members when two Sea Knight helicopters flying from the carrier Ark Royal crashed March 22. He had been on special assignment with the Royal Navy.

British Navy Lt. Cmdr. Malcolm McKenzie and others from the 849 Naval Air Squadron came to honour him, as did more than 350 people from around the world, including Craig Noel of The Globe Theatres and U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, D-San Diego.

McKenzie told this story: Adams decided while stationed in England that he would buy a "top-of-the-line" BMW. Most people would think about the decision.

"Not Tom," McKenzie said. "He just went out and bought the car, and brought it back to the garage and found the car wouldn't fit." Adams couldn't open the car doors to get out. It was that tight. Instead, he had to climb in and out of the trunk.

McKenzie's words brought laughter, but there were also sorrow, as Adams' parents, Marilyn and John, walked in tandem and in silence behind his casket at the start of the service.

Wind rustled through palm trees and a boat's horn echoed mournfully on San Diego Bay. Rain began to fall, and it seemed as if the world were weeping for the 27-year-old, whose lifelong dream was to become a Navy aviator.

In written comments, his father, a La Mesa architect, he talked about his son's love of flying.

"When Tom was just a little guy, we could take him down to the airport and he would correctly identify every kind of plane that flew by," his father wrote. "He couldn't tell the difference between a sea gull and a pigeon, but he loved planes."

Adams was passionate about soccer, once sleeping on a park bench in Berlin because he missed the train after visiting a world-famous soccer venue. He told relatives that "the bad sleep was worth it, even to see the empty soccer stadium."

"He was slow to anger, but great to laugh, love and serve," his uncle, Lt. Col. Marc Masquelier of the Air Force Reserve, said during the service.  Masquelier spoke of Adams' devotion to his younger sister, Cari. As children, he helped her learn to read and count to 20.

Adams grew up to be selfless and ready to serve his country. He had come from a family of privilege, and his grandfather served on the rebuilding boards of the Old Globe and the Aerospace Museum when both were destroyed by arson. He was a descendant of presidents John Adams and John Quincy Adams.

"He gave it all for service," said his uncle, Tim Moran. "There are not many like him."

Adams was a National Merit Scholar and a valedictorian of his 1993 class at Grossmont High School.

As a teenager, he joined the Civil Air Patrol. He celebrated his 18th birthday by skydiving.

"It takes a piece of you when they leave, but what he left makes up for it," said Eran Moscona, a commercial pilot who had been friends with Adams since their days in the Civil Air Patrol.

Adams graduated from the Naval Academy with honours and was a radar operator, whose job it was to detect low-flying aircraft and skimming missiles, as well as direct fighter aircraft.

"Tom was loving what he was doing, and was so impressed with his British crew that he was arranging inter-ship visits so our guys and their guys could learn from each other," said his friend and fellow Navy flier Lt. Mike Herbert, who escorted Adams' body on the trip home from Kuwait. Herbert had just returned from flying in the first strike against Iraq when he heard the news that among the British casualties in the crash was one American. "I knew who it was," Herbert said. "The bottom fell out. I came from one of the highest highs to one of the lowest lows."

Adams was honored with a rifle volley and a lone bugler played "Taps." When two S-3 Vikings screamed overhead, and Navy personnel folded an American flag and a British flag for his parents, the sound of gentle sobbing came from those who loved him. Family members and friends slowly rose and walked by the casket, which they covered in red, white and yellow roses.

He was buried on a hillside that looks toward Mount Helix, where he grew up.

"It's a personal consolation that he will be able to hear airplanes," said his aunt, Elizabeth Hansen.

At a reception following the service, fellow fliers talked about Adams.

"He was friends with everybody," said Navy Lt. Eric Nelson, who came from Washington, D.C., to the funeral, along with about 10 of the 30 people in Adams' class and company at the Naval Academy. Some are deployed in Iraq, but "in spirit, all of them are here," Nelson said.

Adams' mother said she was grateful for the outpouring of love and support from all of the people who knew him.

"What you hope for your kids is that they are happy," she said, "and he truly was."



  Honour guards aboard the US Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier parade during a remembrance ceremony for US Navy Lieutenant Thomas Mullen Adams on 10th April  2003.  




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