Lt. Col. David Arthur Hamilton, USAF (Ret.); 86, a military pilot and flight commander who flew the United States’ front-line fighter jet during two tours in Vietnam and owned a family-founded travel agency in North Kansas City, passed away peacefully, surrounded by family, on his birthday, December 1, 2020.
David was preceded in death by his parents, Stanley and Margaret Scharz Hamilton, and his in-laws, Harold and Alice Ridge Newcomer. He is survived by his wife of 65 years, Shirley; children Denise Hamilton (Maurice) Ayers, Greg (Lisa Thompson) Hamilton, Rick (Sheila Bivans) Hamilton; grandchildren Kathleen Ayers (Nick) Wolford, Clara Hamilton (Dylan) Ehrenburg, Derek Hamilton, Brian (Sarah Ekis) Ayers, Blake Hamilton; twin great grandsons Noah and Isaac Ayers; brother Steve (Peggy Kuntz) Hamilton; niece Megan Hamilton (Tom) Rudden; great nephew Easton Rudden; sister-in-law Barbara Newcomer Taylor and family; brother-in-law Dale (Karen Smith) Newcomer and family; and the family of his late sister-in-law Lois Newcomer Johnson.
David was born Dec 1, 1934, in St. Louis, Missouri. He grew up in the Kansas City area where his father worked in the travel industry. He graduated from North Kansas City High School where he had lettered in baseball and football. He received a football scholarship to Central Missouri State University, but left to pursue his passion for flight and service to his country.
He first joined the U.S. Coast Guard, and then was accepted into the USAF Officer’s Training School, where he learned to fly military aircraft and was selected to be a fighter pilot. He was commissioned in June 1955 at Williams AFB, near Phoenix, Arizona. While there he met Shirley Newcomer, a native of Hamilton, Indiana. They were married in August 1955 at Perrin AFB in Sherman, Texas. In December 1955 as a 2nd Lieutenant he was assigned to the 456th Fighter Interceptor Squadron at Castle AFB in Merced, California. David and Shirley’s daughter Denise and son Greg were born in Merced, and their son Rick was born in Battle Creek, Michigan.
He served 20 years in the Air Force and during his career flew the Piper PA-18 Cub, T-6 Texan, T-28 Trojan, T-33 T-Bird, C-45 Expeditor, F-86D Sabre Jet, C-47 Sky Train, F-94C Starfire, F-102 Delta Dagger, F-106A Delta Dart and the F-101 Voodoo. At the height of his career he was a flight commander who flew one of the world’s most advanced fighter jets of the time, the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II. He flew all models of the twin-engine, Mach 2.2 aircraft in training and in combat, culminating with the F-4E.
David faced his first combat missions in Vietnam from 1968-1969 during 12-months stationed at Cam Ranh Bay Air Base and Tan Son Nhut Air Base in South Vietnam. He returned to the war in 1972 for three months, stationed at Ubon Royal Thai Air Base. He flew air superiority, attack, and reconnaissance missions during both tours.
During a bombing run in 1968, his F-4 was hit by ground fire and crashed. He and his copilot were able to eject from the doomed plane at low altitude and were picked up immediately by a South Vietnamese helicopter crew, suffering only minor injuries.
David completed his post-war military service as Wing Chief, Standards Evaluation Division, of the 4th Tactical Fighter Wing at Seymour Johnson AFB, in Goldsboro, North Carolina, during which he led an urgent overnight mission to deliver F-4s to the Israeli Defense Forces during the turning point of the Yom Kippur War.
At his retirement from the Air Force in 1974, he had accumulated more than 4,000 flight hours, 113 of them in combat.
After moving his family from North Carolina to Belton, he joined the family business, Mid-America Travel Service in North Kansas City, with his parents and brother Steve Hamilton. When his father Stan retired, David purchased the business and continued working as a travel agent until he sold the travel agency 1992. For thirty years he was a member of the North Kansas City and Belton/Raymore Rotary Clubs. He held numerous offices, including President of the North Kansas City Rotary Club. He established a Stream Team with the NKC Rotary Club in conjunction with MDOC, which organized environmental cleanup outings around the area’s waterways. He headed up an annual rose sale fundraiser for charitable projects with the Belton/Raymore Rotary Club, working with Klaus’ Rose Farm.
David was a life member of the Order of Daedalians, The National Fraternity of Military Pilots. He also was a proud member of an exclusive group of aviators who broke the Mach 2 sound barrier. His car carried the license plate W2GFP, which stood for “World’s 2nd Greatest Fighter Pilot.” He claimed he was second best to avoid arguments and fights at the Officer’s Club bar. He was a lifetime golfer. He enjoyed gardening with his wife Shirley. In his retirement they traveled extensively.
David loved flying.
He loved to laugh and tell funny stories.
He loved his parents and brother, his wife, his children and grandchildren.
We all love you David, we thank you for your service, and are especially grateful for your presence, influence, and impact on our lives.
David’s private funeral service will be held on Saturday, December 12, 2020. The service will be livestreamed beginning around 10:50 a.m. CST at cor.org/memorialsonline
Public graveside service with military honors to follow at approximately 1:00 p.m. at Longview Funeral Home and Cemetery, 12700 Raytown Rd, Kansas City, longviewfuneralhome.com
Pallbearers are Greg Hamilton, Rick Hamilton, Derek Hamilton, Brian Ayers, Maurice Ayers, and Nick Wolford. Honorary pallbearer is Steve Hamilton.
In lieu of flowers please consider a donation to Rotary International, the Missouri Department of Conservation, or the Air Force Association.
Arrangements: Longview Funeral Home and Cemetery
12700 SE Raytown Rd, Kansas City, MO 64149