John Tucker Hayward was born in New York City on November 15, 1908, one of eight children of Charles Brian Hayward and Rosa Valdetaro. A big fan of the New York Yankees, he became one of their batboys.
In May 1925, Hayward was expelled from military school for disciplinary reasons; then left home and enlisted in the US Navy. He had to lie about his age due to the fact he was only 15 at the time, as well as forging his father’s signature on the papers. One of the men he encountered asked him, “And how did a little chick like you get in here amongst all these grown men? As a result, he was given the nickname “Chick”, which would follow him throughout his naval career.
Naval Station Newport in Newport, Rhode Island was the site of Hayward’s initial training. While there, his path was crossed by a Navy chaplain, Father John J. Brady. Seeing promise in the youth, Father Brady arranged for Hayward to enroll in the Naval Academy Preparatory School in Norfolk, Virginia, so he could study for the Academy’s entrance exam.
During the years of World War I, 100 presidential appointments had been set aside to be awarded to enlisted sailors who wanted to attend the Academy; however, few had applied, due either to lack of information or interest. Of those who did show an interest, only a small number passed the exam. In 1926, 119 sailors were on hand to take the exam. Of those, 19 passed; one of which was Hayward. Entering Annapolis in August 1926, he graduated in June 1930, # 51 in a class of 406.
Following graduation, Ensign Hayward wanted to earn his wings and volunteered for naval aviation. Trained at Naval Air Station (NAS) Hampton Roads, he learned to fly in a Consolidated NY seaplane. He was then assigned duty on the cruiser USS Richmond, followed by posting to NAS Pensacola where he completed his flight training. In June 1932 he received his aviator's wings and met Leila Marion (Lili) Hyer, who became his wife on October 15, 1932 at St John's Church in Warrington, Florida. The couple later became the parents of five children.
Hayward’s next assignment was to a scout bombing squadron, VS-1B. He now flew Vought SBU Corsairs from the aircraft carrier USS Langley stationed on the West Coast. He soon received a promotion to Lieutenant JG (junior grade); however, with government austerity measures being what they were, he did not receive the pay raise which should have gone with it.
In 1935, the USS Saratoga became the new home for Hayward’s squadron. As he came in for a landing on the Saratoga, his aircraft’s fuel line broke, spraying Lt. JG Hayward with fuel and damaging his left eye. Following his recovery, Hayward’s flight status was restored and he headed off to the Panama Canal where he began a two-year tour of duty as the pilot of a Martin PM patrol aircraft.
This was followed by an assignment to the newly commissioned cruiser USS Philadelphia as part of the SON Seagull detachment. Here he was promoted to lieutenant on June 30, 1937. He repeated the process of commissioning the aircraft detachment in 1938 on the USS Phoenix, another ship of the same class.
Throughout the course of World War II, Hayward was busy in a variety of campaigns, such as the Solomon Islands and New Guinea. The squadron under his command was responsible for the destruction of 40 Japanese ships and three submarines, in addition to damaging 54 others. When the final numbers came in, Hayward's flight hour record totaled 13,200 hours; higher than any other flag officer ever achieved.
In addition to being an incredible Navy aviator, John Hayward was also a brilliant scientist. The birth of the atomic age was heralded in 1942 with the creation of the Manhattan Project. Led by the United States, it was supported by Great Britain and Canada. A pioneer in the development of nuclear propulsion, Hayward’s name was added to the list of project participants in 1944.
Working directly under project founder J. Robert Oppenheimer, Hayward was assigned to the China Lake Naval Ordnance Test Station in California. He helped to develop the implosion components which were contained in the plutonium bomb dropped on Nagasaki, Japan (Fat Man) on August 9, 1945; three days after the bomb (Little Boy) was dropped on Hiroshima. He was participated in Project Camel, which involved the development of the non-nuclear components of Fat Man, as well as its drop testing.
Hayward was promoted to captain in December 1945. Following the end of World War II, he returned to Japan in 1946 as part of Operation Crossroads to study the aftereffects of the bombing on the two cities. He was placed in charge of attempting to photograph a nuclear explosion on the Bikini Atoll (part of the Marshall Islands) at a speed of 800,000 frames per second.
After a series of disagreements with his superior at Inyokern, Captain James B. Sykes, Hayward left to become the Director for Plans and Operations for Armed Forces Special Weapons Project, Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico during August 1947.
In January 1948, Hayward was reduced in rank to commander. Aware of the demotion and desiring to get Hayward in their ranks, the US Air Force offered him a commission as a brigadier general. The Air Force was not the only one who wanted to get their hands on this brilliant scientist and renowned aviator. Convair Aircraft also offered Hayward a position working on the SM-65 Atlas missile. Apparently neither was able to woo the salty sailor, for he elected to stay in the Navy.
In April 1948, Hayward participated in the nuclear tests involved with Operation Sandstone out in the Pacific. Less than a year later, he was returned to the rank of captain.
It was also in 1948 that Hayward was assigned to the Navy’s Heavy Attack Composite Squadron, VC-5, as its first Commanding Officer. The aircraft in this squadron were designated for transporting nuclear bombs during the years 1948 to 1956, at the dawn of the Cold War and the nuclear age. Atomic bombs and nuclear war now reigned as a threat and terrified citizens around the globe. A major aspect of the "balance of power" was the fact the US Navy had the ability to launch these special bombers from aircraft carriers which could be harbored within easy reach of the enemy's shores.
During the early 1950s, Hayward was actively involved in the planning stages of the atomic weapons laboratories located at Los Alamos and Sandia. In August 1950, Hayward manned the controls of the first carrier takeoff and landing of an AJ-1 Savage heavy attack bomber. He was also part of founding the Livermore Laboratory program in 1952 under the direction of Dr. Edward Teller.
In 1953, Hayward became the skipper of the escort carrier USS Point Cruz. An event during this command would win the hearts of his entire crew and the undying love of the Navy’s baby. At the close of the Korean War, the carrier was deployed to Inchon. Shortly after it docked, a baby boy was abandoned by his mother and left in a trash dumpster at the US Army depot. Efforts were made to place the infant with the local orphanage, but his light complexion and blue eyes indicated he was at least half American, so the Korean caretakers would not accept him. Captain Hayward put his career on the line and ignored Navy regulations when he allowed the infant to be brought aboard the Point Cruz. With the help of Vice-President Richard M. Nixon and a crewman who was skilled in the game of poker, the baby was adopted by Navy surgeon Hugh Keenan and spent his first Christmas in the United States with his new family. (The story of Daniel Keenan was made into a television movie, "A Thousand Men and a Baby," which aired on CBS in 1997. A DVD of the movie, now titled “Narrow Escape”, stars Richard Thomas in the role of Dr. Keenan and Gerald McRaney as Captain Hayward.)
Captain Hayward assumed command of the Naval Ordnance Laboratory in White Oaks, Maryland in June 1954. He was the first naval aviator to hold this position. Under his watch, the laboratory developed the Mark 52 naval mine. This weapon is designed to be air-delivered and contains magnetic, acoustic and pressure sensors. The Mark 90 nuclear depth charge also joined the arsenal under Hayward’s leadership and tested in May 1955 during Operation Wigwam.
Hayward received another promotion in 1956, to rear admiral. During January 1957, the office of the Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Plans and Operations became his new duty station. He remained here for 10 months, leaving in October to become Assistant Chief of Naval Operations for Research and Development, during which time he took an active part in Project Vanguard. He rose in rank to Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Development two years later and achieved the rank of vice admiral.
During the Kennedy administration, Admiral Hayward was offered the job of Deputy Director of the CIA by President Kennedy himself, along with promotion to admiral. Hayward declined the offer, choosing instead to accept a demotion to rear admiral in March 1962 so he could take command of Carrier Division 2. The division was composed of four nuclear-powered ships: Long Beach, Bainbridge, Truxtun and Enterprise, all of which took part in the Cuban Missile Crisis during October 1962. He was returned to the rank of vice-admiral in June 1963, with the promotion backdated to April 25, 1959, the date he first received it, and assumed command of the Antisubmarine Warfare Force, Pacific Fleet; serving in this position from June 13, 1963 to January 12, 1966.
Hayward followed this with two years as President of the Naval War College, then retired in 1968. Either Hayward found retirement boring or Uncle Sam made him an offer he could not refuse, because the admiral was back to active duty in November 1970 as Commander, 14th Naval District, Commander Fleet Air Hawaii and Commander, Naval Base Pearl Harbor, until December 1971. This time he retired for good, having accumulated 40 years in military service.
The recipient of countless Navy medals and citations, Vice-Admiral John Hayward died at his home in Atlantic Beach, Florida on Sunday, May 23, 1999. He was 90 years old and had made his home in Atlantic Beach since 1957. His wife, a Navy WAVE (PHM2), preceded him in death on February 14, 1998. They are buried together in Arlington National Cemetery. His biography, Bluejacket Admiral: The Navy Career Of Chick Hayward, was published in 2000. In 2004 he was inducted into the Naval Aviation Hall of Honor.
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“If you will call your troubles experiences, and remember that every experience develops some latent force within you, you will grow vigorous and happy, however adverse your circumstances may seem to be.” Admiral John T. Heyward