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Thomas Moorer, 91; led Joint Chiefs of Staff

WASHINGTON -- Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, a Pearl Harbor veteran who became chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Vietnam War, died yesterday. He was 91.

Admiral Moorer served as the military's senior uniformed officer from July 1970 until his retirement in July 1974. During those years, he supervised the US troop withdrawal from South Vietnam.

A native of Mount Willing, Ala., Admiral Moorer played football at the Naval Academy and received his commission in 1933. He joined one of the early generations of naval aviators, flying fighters off the first American carriers, according to a Navy biography.

He was stationed at Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack on Dec. 7, 1941.

The following February, he was flying a PBY patrol plane over the water north of Darwin, Australia, when he was attacked by Japanese aircraft. He and his copilot landed the plane in the water and were rescued by a ship. That ship was attacked and sunk later that day. He received a Silver Star for gallantry throughout the ordeal and a Purple Heart for his wounds. He also received a Distinguished Flying Cross for a patrol mission later that year.

After the war, he rose through the ranks. President Johnson selected him to be chief of naval operations, the service's top officer, in 1967. He was reappointed by President Nixon in 1969.

Nixon nominated him to be chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff the following year.

After he retired, Admiral Moorer appeared frequently in the news media to comment on various issues. In 1998, CNN cited him as confirming the American use of sarin, a nerve agent, in a mission to hunt down US defectors in Laos during the Vietnam War. But after the report, he contended that he had simply heard of unconfirmed stories about it and had no independent knowledge. The network retracted the story and reached a settlement with Admiral Moorer.

He also accused Israel of deliberately attacking the USS Liberty, an American spy ship monitoring the 1967 Six Day War, killing 34 servicement. Israel said the attack was an error.

Navy biographies list residences in Eufala, Ala., and McLean, Va. His family includes his wife, Carrie, and four children.

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