David Hamlin, Jr.

David Hamlin, Jr.

Died June 10, 2004

Dave Hamlin – known to close friends and family as Joey – fought for his country twice: first in Vietnam as an infantry officer, then in the first Gulf War as a fighter pilot. In between he returned home to Bloomfield in upstate New York and to the 250- acre farm which had been in the family since 1793.

After he became another in the long line of Hamlins to graduate from Yale, Dave worked on the New Haven docks for a summer before enrolling at the University of Connecticut Law School. After discovering that law school was not the place for him, he enrolled in Marine Officer Candidate School in Quantico, VA. Right after OCS, he married Bonnie Raleigh, a coed from Smith College whom he had met on a blind date.
Dave was deployed to Vietnam as a commander of an infantry platoon just below the Demilitarized Zone. “He had a lot of close calls,” says Peter Schwartz (Y’65), a fellow Marine officer.

Toward the end of his tour, Dave was pulled off the front lines and assigned to the arguably less hazardous mission of forward artillery observer, riding in a small, singleengine plane as it orbited the battlefield and calling in fire to support troops in combat on the ground. After getting a taste of flying, “Dave said that was much better than sitting on the ground,” Schwartz says. Dave returned to the States and went to flight school, qualifying first in the A-4 jet fighter and later in the F-4 Phantom. He did a second tour in Asia, this time based in Japan.

When the war ended, Dave left the Corps and went back to the farm. With family farms dying out all over America, Dave moonlighted delivering fuel oil and selling farm implements to build up the capital he needed to invest in the farm and lease additional land. He managed 1,000 acres of cropland, growing wheat, hay, soybeans and oats. He was a successful farmer, but, says his daughter Megan, “he loved flying probably more than anything else in the world.”

Because farming is seasonal, Dave had time to join the Air Force and served in the Air National Guard, flying the A-10 “tank killer” and then the F-16 Falcon. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Dave was commander of the 174th Tactical Fighter Wing in Syracuse. He “was on a tractor in the fall, in Saudi Arabia soon after, and back on a tractor the following spring,” his boyhood friend Martin Steckel recalls. “In the meantime he led the first flight of F-16s over Baghdad at the start of the war.” Dave – call sign Froggy – flew 52 combat missions (appearing on CNN returning from one of those missions) and received the Distinguished Flying Cross. Megan says her father’s biggest concern was “that every member of his squadron returned safely – and each one did.”

While he was away, Dave’s friends and fellow farmers made sure all the hard work he had put in on his land did not suffer. After they planted their own crops, they planted his fields, working into the night.

Then came what his son, David, calls “an extraordinarily painful period.” A female pilot in the wing claimed she had been discriminated against and after an investigation Dave was relieved of his command. He left the Air Force in disgust, feeling he was a victim of political correctness. “He got screwed,” Schwartz says. “I have no objection to women as fighter pilots,” Dave told a reporter, “but it takes work. She didn’t put the work in.” To make his point, Dave returned his Distinguished Flying Cross to the Air Force.

He went back to the farm, “bought himself an airplane and moved on,” Megan says. Besides farming, Dave served on the Town Council, the Board of Directors of Canandaigua National Bank, the Board of Mercy Flight Central and the Cemetery Association of Bloomfield, New York.

On June 10, 2004, as Dave was introducing the bank president, his cousin George Hamlin, IV (Y‘63), to a banquet audience, he suffered a massive heart attack and died.

William Cooper remembers: Dave was a cheerful and courageous chum who one summer helped me paint the roof on my father-in-law’s 2 story farm house. We often had a few beers together at Yale along with Calvin Gatch and Bill Oakey. After Yale, Dave was in Vietnam as a Marine, first on the ground, then later in a spotter plane taking on ground fire. Dave wanted to fly and got his wings in the Marine reserves. He was probably one of the oldest Marine pilots in the Gulf war in 1991. I called him up in the summer of 2004 to come to my daughter’s wedding, but sadly his wife told me I was two weeks late as he had just passed away from a heart attack. Eileen and I remember how he was constantly banging up the front end of his VW Karmann Ghia. Dave was both a farmer and a warrior. He is missed.