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LT Jerry Tuttle Was Told "TAKE CHARGE AND MOVE OUT" in 1963 Tells His Story

TCVA's mission to preserve our legacy and history gained a new asset on September 13. Captain Ernie Lewis, former TACAMO PMA in NAVAIR and A-4 class mate of VADM Jerry Tuttle got together today with Lew McIntyre at the Admiral and Barbara Tuttle's home in McLean VA. The Navy LT who was told to "TAKE CHARGE AND MOVE OUT" in 1963 was Jerry Tuttle. Lew is capturing his story. THANKS to Ernie for setting this up and sharing your wingman with TCVA!

Ernie Lewis, the former PMA-271 who introduced the E-6A, chatted with me at the last reunion. In the course of the conversation, I learned that he and VADM Jerry O. Tuttle go back a very long way. Then-LCDR Jerry Tuttle was his flight leader in the A-4 transition training in 1965, and they have remained very close. He gave an introduction for me to the Admiral and his wife Barbara. I spoke with both, with special interest in the Admiral’s very early involvement in TACAMO.

He extended an invitation to me to visit them at their home in McLean, VA, and Ernie and I showed up on the 12th of September with Ernie Lewis. They were graciously hospitable, and Barbara served some delicious home-made cookies. We talked for several hours, alternating between tales of the attack squadrons, and TACAMO. The Admiral confirmed, as he had already done so with Vern Lochausen, how he had received written tasking as a Lieutenant from VADM Bernard Franklin Roeder, then Assistant CNO for Communications and Head, Naval Communications, to develop a survivable means of communicating with the Polaris missile boats in 1963, in the aftermath of the Cuban missile crisis. At the bottom of the tasking the Admiral had scrawled the phrase “Take Charge and Move Out!” and underlined it three times.

LT Tuttle quickly assembled a van to test the concept for what was later to become TACAMO, with very little funding. The original van was to fly in S-2s as well as C-130s, as a carrier-based version of TACAMO, but that never materialized. LCDR Walt Reese from Naval Air Station Johnsville, PA (NADC Warminster) flew separate test flights in a WV-121 Lockheed SuperConstellation to assess technical issues of aircraft VLF transmissions, while LT Tuttle flew missions in C-130s to assess the operational effectiveness of this consist, to the GIUK gap, Europe, Africa, and the Pacific. The Admiral said he flew so often and so long, that he installed a mattress above one off the vans… the jump seats in a cargo Herc are none too comfortable. He decided to call the vans TACAMO, because there was initially considerable sensitivity about the mission. Later around 1972, during SALT talks TACAMO was used as a challenge to the Soviets to ensure they too had positive control over their submarines., and the need for sensitivity vanished. But the name remained.

We discussed the incredible pace of development, from a scrawled note 1n 1963, to one flying proof of concept van (TACAMO I), to initial operating capability of four improved TACAMO II vans in late 1964, flying C-130Es in Patuxent and Guam. Five years later, VQ-3 and VQ-4 stood up, with eight dedicated C-130Hs, redesignated EC-130Qs 156170-177with built-in TACAMO III comm suites. The original four C-130Es also received TACAMO III comm suites, redesignated EC-130Gs 151888-891. And this was just five years after initial tasking. We spent a long time discussing why the pace of acquisition is so slow today. Remember, they were transmitting VLF from aircraft, something that had never been done before.

The Admiral introduced his shadowbox… a three-star shadow box is something to behold! I have pictures, but not very good ones. I wanted to capture the dates of his tours of duty for my own reference. He enlisted in 1954, and a senior chief, believing “Seaman Tuttle might amount to something someday,” encouraged him to go into the Naval Aviation Cadet (NAVCAD) program, which could lead to wings and a commission without college. He was assigned to VF-113, flying F-3 Demons, which mercifully transitioned to A-4s before he had a chance to crash one, as almost everyone did eventually. The F-3 was very much underpowered, and attacking a bomber from below almost always resulted in flameout. The Navy had decided to go all jets in 1954 after the Korean War, and the initial safety record was abysmal… in just a few years, the Fleet lost 1700 aircraft and 500 pilots. He continued in the squadron, now-VA-113, and went thereafter to the Navy Postgraduate School to get his Bachelor’s Degree in communications. From there he went to OPNAV, where he became the true Founding Father of TACAMO. He returned to the attack community in 1965, meeting Ernie Lewis in A-4 training. They received their first batch of A-4s from the Marines in December 1965, in horrible condition from corrosion, but made the first deployment in the Intrepid in April 1966.

We talked extensively about his rise, and it is awe-inspiring to hear him casually describe so many three and four star admirals by their first names. They were, for the most part, all good friends, and if not, they certainly knew each other very well.

This man revolutionized Navy command and control at all levels throughout his career. I had the pleasure to deploy on the USS Constellation with a PC system, the Joint Operational Tactical System (JOTS), colloquially known as “Jerry O. Tuttle’s System.” He is particularly proud of that little system.

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