Tom Carper - 2018 Inductee
Tom Carper
Naval Flight Officer, Vietnam Veteran, P-3 Aircraft Mission Commander, Strong Advocate for Dover Air Force Base & the Delaware National Guard

Tom Carper was born in West Virginia and raised in Virginia, Tom Carper attended Ohio State University on a Naval ROTC scholarship, graduating in 1968 with a degree in economics during the height of the Vietnam War.  Following graduation, Carper served on active duty as a naval flight officer, including three tours of duty in Southeast Asia with Patrol Squadron 40 (VP-40), a unit of the Seventh Fleet. Carper served most of that active duty as a patrol plane tactical coordinator before qualifying as a P-3 aircraft mission commander. During the Vietnam War, P-3 aircrews conducted daily low-altitude patrols off the coasts of Vietnam and Cambodia, tracking North Vietnamese infiltrator trawlers. Carper and his 12-man aircrew flew hundreds of hours on such missions. Carper’s decorations included the Air Medal, the Navy Commendation Medal, two Navy Achievement Medals, and three Vietnam Campaign ribbons.

When Lt. Carper’s active duty tour came to end in 1973, he continued to fly an additional 18 years in the Naval Reserve as a P-3 aircraft mission commander with Patrol Squadron 66, primarily tracking Soviet submarines until retiring with the rank of captain in 1991. One month after flying his last P-3 mission, then-Congressman Carper led a bipartisan, six-member congressional delegation of Vietnam veterans back to Vietnam to learn the fates of MIAs and move toward normalized relations. In 1995, after the recovery of hundreds of remains, diplomatic relations were established.

Following his active duty service, Carper earned an MBA from the University of Delaware thanks, in part, to the G.I. Bill – the very legislation he has fought to protect and dramatically expand in Congress. In 1976, he was elected to his first of three terms as Delaware State Treasurer. Six years later, Carper was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives. In 1992, Carper was elected the 78th governor of Delaware, where he served as commander-in-chief of the Delaware National Guard, including the Air Guard and its fleet of C-130H’s. He currently serves as a Delaware’s senior United States senator. Carper is the only Vietnam veteran still serving in the U.S. Senate.

Carper’s commitment to Delaware, coupled with his love of flight, has spurred his tireless work on behalf of First State airports and the Dover Air Force Base (AFB), which is now regarded by many as the finest airlift base in the world. Working with Delaware’s congressional delegation, Carper has, since 2001, helped secure hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funds to support numerous projects at Dover AFB, including the total reconstruction of the base’s main runway, construction of a new air traffic control tower, replacement of the on-base elementary school, construction of a new fitness center and, most recently, funding for a new C-5M maintenance hangar. Carper was instrumental in keeping the Delaware Air Guard’s entire fleet of C-130 cargo aircraft at the New Castle National Guard base. Carper has also helped obtain more than $32 million in federal funds to support the modernization of the Delaware Airpark since 2001 and nearly $16 million to make major improvements at the Delaware Coastal Airport over the last 10 years.

Carper has also been a longtime friend of – and advocate for – the Bellanca Airfield Museum and the Delaware Aviation Hall of Fame. More than 20 years after hanging up his flight suit, Tom Carper’s passion for flight and commitment to service are as strong as ever.