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TACAMO Fallen Veteran, Charles Harless

It is with much sadness TCVA reports the passing on one of

TACAMO Veteran, Charles W. Harless

April 16, 1932 - June 20, 2017

TCVA regrets to share the news of the passing of CDR Charles W. Harless, USN at Leonardtown, Maryland. Chuck was 85 and he and his wife Betty and family lived in the Pax River area since the 1970s, working locally after retiring from the Navy. Chuck and Betty, both were artists and they collected and sold antiques, their last booth being at the Southern Maryland Antique Center.

Chuck started in the Navy as a White Hat Sailor and was a Flight Engineer on the P5M Marlin anti-submarine warfare seaplanes that came before the P-3 Orion. He told tales of standing the ‘buoy watch’ when the plane was moored out in a harbor and of trying to do maintenance off of a floating barge. After college, Chuck became a Naval Flight Officer and served one tour in VQ-4 in the early 1970s. He was instrumental in the transition from the TACAMO III single trailing wire antenna to the TACAMO IV dual trailing wire antenna aircraft. His last job in VQ-4 was as the Communications department head and he developed a detailed guide for comm crews to follow when performing in Joint Chiefs of Staff directed wartime exercises. He went on to serve as the director of strategic communications support in the then Defense Communications Agency (DCA) where he made commander and evaluated the entire national strategic communications system effectiveness in exercises. This included TACAMO.

His VQ-4 commanding officer was CDR Bill Coyne who shared this:

“I am deeply saddened by the loss of Chuck, he was a colleague, shipmate, loyal friend and by any measure a most competent and effective Naval Officer. As to his contribution to the Tacamo program/legacy, he was the exception to rule "the one and out/twilight" tour characterization of personnel assignments in the early Tacamo program. I will state unequivocally that his contributions to the success of the TACAMO-IV transition were of major significance. He supported the effort with the vigor and determination of a dedicated Naval Officer, Naval Flight Officer and competent administrator. His easy going, low profile approach to technical issues and scheduling challenges masked the aggressive dedication to his vision of the task, mission and most importantly, support of his fellow shipmates.

Fellow VQ-4 squadron mates shared this:

Chuck was a LCDR dept head on my first tour in VQ-4 1972-75. I worked for him when he was the Training Dept Head and flew with him often when he was ACO and MC. I know that years after VQ-4 he became Admin Officer of NAS Pax River, and after retirement he & Betty ran an antique store in Leonardtown. He was quite a gentleman and extremely professional officer and NFO, much admired by all. They lived in Espinosa Farms and we (Sandy & I) visited them often. Chuck is seen in the attached photo kneeling, 4th from left, between CDR Walker (XO at the time) and me. The occasion was flying 891 over its 10,000 mark during a local training flight or standby alert launch (Jim Perry).

Chuck was my very first Navy department head, in Communications, and was a gentle, honest, and very private man. He lead by example, flying more than his share of deployments and teaching us young NFOs how to execute the mission. When he moved on to DCA and I to the AT Shop, he came back down to the squadron and helped us work out some receiver settings before the next big exercise and the results proved the value of the changes he provided. I met him again after I moved to Pax in 2010 and purchased items from him at the antique center. Always humble, when I reminded him of his mentoring, Chuck just shrugged as he often did saying, “It was nothing special.” VQ-4 had a Dining In before Skipper Coyne departed. It wound up that I, a mere LTJG was the acting Comm Department head and so I was required to fill Chuck’s role at the event as he was deployed. Let’s just say, it was interesting to say the least as the role made me a ready target. When doing my best to banter with the head table, I made some remark about the XOs wings be on upside down (they had been when we first arrived but by then corrected) and I almost was directed to the grog bowl. The XO directed the Bull Ensign to observe his wings and they were promptly judged to be correct. My trip to the grog bowl was avoided only by this clever response to why I had been in error, “Sir NFO’s are not expected to see that FAR!” (Vern Lochausen)

A TACAMO Legacy:

Chuck Harless, in addition to training many a young Naval Officer, left the community a legacy in art. As TACAMO IV was being installed, he created an artist’s conception of it that was used as an overhead projector ‘slide’ in countless briefings and is still in use today in PowerPoint. A print of that work also was displayed in the VQ-4 Wardroom in Pax. Further as Bill Coyne relates, “Chuck’s paintings included the TACAMO III painting that I gave to TCVA via Vern at "my" last Tacamo reunion in Marietta. I asked Chuck to paint the aircraft for me so that I could take it with me after the change of command. He refused my offer of compensation insisting that it was a gift from he and Betty. He also painted Phyllis's farewell gift from the Squadron. It is a painting of the Cedar Point Lighthouse and is one of her most cherished possessions. It brings back memories of Quarters X and our boys fishing for "Blues" between Quarters X beach and the Lighthouse.”

Thank you Mike Davidson for reporting the passing of Chuck Harless. The TACAMO Community extends our condolences to Chuck family and friends.

Chuck is 4th from left kneeling, between CDR Walker and me.....Jim Perry group photo 10,000 hours

Chuck’s painting of TACAMO III donated by Bill Coyne to TCVA in 2014 for their Heritage Center

TACAMO IVB 1974 by CDR Chuck Harless USN Retired

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