7th Secretary of Defense of the United States, sworn in by Dwight D. Eisenhower, December 2, 1959

born April 10, 1906
Germantown, Pennsylvania
died March 25, 1983
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania


Military Career

  • 1932: joined the US Navy Reserve
  • 1942: called to active duty to help fight World War II, stationed on various carriers throughout the Pacific and Mediterranean.
  • 1944: staff of Rear Admiral Calvin T. Durgin (Flag Lieutenant and Air Intelligence Officer)

Career Track

  • 1928: Drexel and Company (an investment banking firm)
  • 1940: partner - Drexel and Company
  • 1945: after service in World War II, Gates returned to Drexel and Company, serving again as partner
  • 1953: Undersecretary of the Navy
  • 1957: Secretary of the Navy
  • 1959: Deputy Secretary of Defense
  • 1959: Secretary of Defense
    Easily the most challenging aspect of Gates' career as secretary of defense was the changing technologies of weapons and weapons delivery systems. The advances in nuclear weaponry exposed a new need for continental and constant defense systems.

    During his period in office, nuclear weapons delivery systems were being researched, and the "strategic triad" of weapons delivery was completed with the development of the submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM), used in conjunction with manned bombers and ICBM's. Much of this development was in response to Russia's development of land based ICBM's as well as their surprise success with Sputnik. One of the primary concerns about nuclear weapons was the potential for a "missile gap", the worry that Russia's missiles were longer range, and thus a threat. However, Gates recognized that one of the primary results of this race for nuclear weaponry was the United States' development of small lightweight warheads which could be carried within smaller missiles. Because of the ability to use mobile systems to place and launch the missiles (via submarines and aircraft), the United States did not feel threatened by the Soviet Union's longer range, but ground based nuclear delivery systems.

    When Kennedy was elected in 1960, many expected that Gates would continue as Secretary of Defense as many expected Kennedy to include a republican within his staff, however Kennedy appointed Robert S. McNamara, and Gates left office on January 20, 1961.
  • 1962: President, Morgan Guaranty Trust
  • 1965: Chairman of the board, CEO, Morgan Guaranty Trust
  • 1969: chairman of the Advisory Commission on an All-Volunteer Force, appointed by Richard Nixon
  • 1976: head of the U.S. Liaison Office to the People's Republic of China

Miscellaneous Honors

  • Bronze Star Medal
  • US Naval Ship named in his honor, the USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51) (a ticonderoga class cruiser with AEGIS combat systems), for his service on various aircraft carriers in World War II, his terms as Undersecretary and secretary of the Navy and deputy secretary and secretary of defense.

Of Interest

"Your service was in an era marked by the most rapid technological changes in the history of the Navy." - Admiral Arleigh Burke

references: http://www.defenselink.mil, http://www.spear.navy.mil/ships/cg51/index.html,