Brigadier General John T. Thompson was born in Newport, Kentucky in 1860 and graduated from the United States Military Academy in 1882. Originally commissioned an Artillery Officer, he transferred to the Ordnance Department in 1890.
During the Spanish American War, he served as Chief Ordnance Officer, Tampa, Florida and Chief Ordnance Officer, 4th Army Corps (General Shafter's expeditionary force in the campaign against Santiago de Cuba), and subsequently was a member of the board which selected camp sites in Cuba and arranged for Ordnance depots on the island. He became Senior Assistant to the Chief of Ordnance in 1907 and at various times thereafter was acting Chief of Ordnance.
He was interested in military small arms and his service in Cuba impressed him with the necessity for increasing the fire power of the individual soldier, and duty at Springfield and Rock Island Arsenals sustained this interest. While he was Chief of the Small Arms Division of the Ordnance Department, he supervised the development of the Springfield rifle. Retiring from active service at the start of World War I, he became Chief Engineer of the Remington Arms Corporation and designed and built the corporation's Eddystone plant at Chester, Pennsylvania.
When recalled to active service in 1917, he became Chief of the Small Arms Division of the Ordnance Office and was in charge of the design and manufacture of small arms and cartridges. He again returned to inactive service in 1918. In 1920, he became President of the Auto Ordnance Corporation and subsequently was in charge of engineering for the invention, manufacture, and inspection of his gun. In 1921, on the Company's order, 15,000 basic Thompson submachine guns were manufactured by Colt's Patent Fire Army Manufacturing Company.
The Thompson submachine gun, caliber .45 and caliber .38, was used by the U.S. Navy, Marines, Coast Guard, and Belgian Congo Army, becoming famous as the "Tommy Gun." From 1920 to 1930 he was president of the John T. Thompson Corporation and was promoted to brigadier general on the retired list in 1930. General Thompson died in 1940.