Admiral Charles R. Larson, U.S.N. (Ret.) Navy Distinguished Service Medal 7 awards Aviator, Submariner, President's Naval Aide
First Naval White House Fellow, and twice
Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy
As a special Naval aide to President Nixon, at the height of the Cold War, Larson was the "Black Bag Man," carrying with him the nuclear codes, as well as the responsibility for emergency relocation and evacuation of the President in case of nuclear war, together with all of his communications.
Four-star Admiral Charles Robert Larson, one of the Navy's most distinguished officers served as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, Superintendent of the U.S. Naval Academy, and President Nixon's Naval Aide.
"This guy really walked on water," said General James "Don" Hughes, President Nixon's vice presidential and presidential military assistant - Larson's superior - who himself served as Commander in Chief of the Pacific Air Forces. "He was a nice person."
Larson graduated from Annapolis in 1958 - he was a classmate of Senator John McCain's - and went on to serve under legendary Adm. Hyman Rickover and accomplish the rarest of Navy feats in becoming both an aircraft-based aviator and a nuclear submariner.
"Those two alone were very, very outstanding accomplishments," Gen. Hughes said.
Larson served on the USS Nathan Hale (SSBN-636), USS Nathanael Greene (SSBN-636), USS Bergall (SSN-667), USS Sculpin (SSN-590), and would command the USS Halibut (SSN-587) during the height of the Cold War, intercepting Soviet communications from the bottom of the ocean floor. He joined the Johnson administration as a White House Fellow, the first naval officer to do so.
With the inauguration of a new president in 1969, Gen. Hughes, who was the Nixon transition team's senior aide, immediately thought of Larson for the position.
"The DOD sent me three candidates - Army, Navy and Marine - I was going to handle Air Force myself," said Gen. Hughes. "They sent me a lot of water walkers. The three I picked were the best of the best. Chuck Larson had already been a White House Fellow - so he knew his way around."
As President Nixon's Naval Aide, he was responsible for managing and overseeing all operations at Camp David, the presidential Catoctin Mountain hideaway, as well as the presidential yacht Sequoia.
"He served superbly," Gen. Hughes said. "The difference between then and now is each of these aides were not just symbolic - they all had assigned duties."
Larson left the Nixon administration after two-and-a-half years. "He was highly motivated to be a naval officer," according to Gen. Hughes. "He came to me and thought it was time for him to go back to the Navy and take up his lifelong career, which is unusual - many of these guys get there and you can't blast them out with dynamite - but he was the first one to go."
Larson was promoted to Admiral in 1979; at age 43, he became the second-youngest admiral in history. Later as Superintendent of the Naval Academy, according to The Baltimore Sun, Larson "was widely credited with shaping the academy into a more disciplined institution and with establishing a curriculum that focused on character development."
"He was a real leader," said Maryland Lt. Governor Kathleen Kennedy Townsend. "He had the qualities of brilliance and honesty - precisely the qualities you yearn for in a leader. He was just what the Naval Academy needed."
In 1990, he was promoted to a four-star admiral, and took up one of the highest military positions as Commander in Chief of the U.S. Pacific Command, "with responsibility for about half of the world out in the Pacific," Gen. Hughes said.
Admiral Larson's major military decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, *Navy Distinguished Service Medal (7 awards), Legion of Merit (3 awards), **Bronze Star, Navy Commendation Medal, Navy Achievement Medal, and he was decorated by the governments of ***Japan, Thailand, France and Korea. He was also entitled to wear the Presidential Service Badge.
*His 7 Navy DSMs, Distinguished Service Medals, may be the most ever awarded to any man in history. **1971-1973: As the navigator and Executive Officer of the USS Scalpin, Larson was awarded a Bronze Star - the only nuclear submariner to receive such a medal in the Vietnam War.
***Foreign awards include the National Order of Merit, France - Order of the Rising Sun, Japan - Order of the Crown of Thailand.
As a junior officer, Admiral Larson served as a naval aviator in an aircraft carrier based squadron and later as a nuclear submariner. As a submarine officer, he served on two ballistic missile submarines and three attack submarines, including command of the nuclear attack submarine USS Halibut (SSN-587).
His other sea commands included Submarine Development Group, which included the Navy's world wide deep submergence program; Submarine Group Eight, which included command of all United States and NATO submarines in the Mediterranean Sea and all United States anti submarine warfare forces in that area; Commander Second Fleet, including all operational ships in the Atlantic; Commander NATO Striking Fleet Atlantic; and Commander-in-Chief, US Pacific Fleet, with all Navy and Marine Corps forces in the Pacific.
In command ashore, Admiral Larson served an unprecedented two tours as Superintendent, US Naval Academy, the first from 1983-1986 and the second from 1994-1998. He also was the first naval officer selected as a White House Fellow, serving in 1968 as Special Assistant to the Secretary of the Interior. Following his fellowship, he was assigned to the White House where he served for 2 ½ years as Naval Aide to the President of the United States.
Admiral Larson retired in 1998 after serving as an admiral for four presidents. Since retirement, he served on corporate boards in the areas of defense, aerospace, oil exploration and production, international service and construction and the electric industry.
The Admiral's final resting place was the Annapolis National Cemetery, at Annapolis, Maryland, on the grounds of the U.S. Naval Academy. He reserved additional grave plots, and one of those plots is where his best friend, dating back to his days at the academy, Senator John McCain was buried.