Larson, Charles, ADM

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Last Rank
Last Primary NEC
112X-Unrestricted Line Officer - Submarine Warfare
Last Rating/NEC Group
Line Officer
Primary Unit
1994-1998, 9420, US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)
Service Years
1958 - 1998

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Home State
South Dakota
South Dakota
Year of Birth
This Military Service Page was created/owned by Steven Loomis (SaigonShipyard), IC3 to remember Larson, Charles (Chuck), ADM.

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Contact Info
Home Town
Born Sioux Falls, SD. Raised Iowa and Nebraska.
Last Address
Cause of death: Cancer - Leukemia
Naval Hospital, Annapolis, Maryland

Date of Passing
Jul 26, 2014
Location of Interment
Annapolis National Cemetery - Annapolis, Maryland
Wall/Plot Coordinates
Naval Academy Cemetery

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Submarine Officer Badge
Naval Aviator Wings
Command at Sea
Command Ashore


 Official Badges 

Presidential Service Badge US Pacific Command Allied Submarine Command US Navy Retired 30

 Unofficial Badges 

Order of the Shellback Order of the Golden Dragon Cold War Veteran Navy Officer Honorable Discharge

 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
United States Naval Academy Alumni AssociationVeterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW)Navy League of the United States
  1958, United States Naval Academy Alumni Association - Assoc. Page
  1993, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) - Assoc. Page
  1999, Navy League of the United States - Assoc. Page

 Additional Information
Last Known Activity

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.



Other Comments:

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.


 Unit Assignments/ Advancement Schools
US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)Naval Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), NAS Pensacola, FLFormal Schools and Training CoursesUSS Shangri-La (CVA-38)
Nuclear Power School (Staff), Bainbridge, MD, Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC)USS Nathan Hale (SSBN-623)USS Nathanael Greene (SSBN-636)USS Bergall (SSN-667)
White House Military Office (WHMO)US NavyUSS Sculpin (SSN-590)USS Halibut (SSN-587)
CNO - OPNAVCommander in Chief Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT)/Commander Pacific Fleet (COMPACFLT)US Pacific Command (USCINCPAC/USPACOM)
  1954-1958, US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)
  1958-1958, 137X, Naval Aviation Preflight Indoctrination (API), NAS Pensacola, FL
  1959-1960, 137X, Naval Flight School
  1960-1963, 131X, USS Shangri-La (CVA-38)
  1963-1964, 117X, Nuclear Power School (Staff), Bainbridge, MD, Naval Nuclear Power Training Command (NNPTC)
  1964-1965, 117X, USS Nathan Hale (SSBN-623)
  1965-1966, 112X, USS Nathanael Greene (SSBN-636)
  1967-1968, 112X, USS Bergall (SSN-667)
  1968-1968, 119X, White House Military Office (WHMO)
  1969-1971, 114X, The White House
  1971-1973, 112X, USS Sculpin (SSN-590)
  1973-1976, 112X, USS Halibut (SSN-587)
  1983-1986, 9420, US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)
  1986-1988, 113X, COMSECONDFLT
  1986-1988, 114X, NATO Allied Force Command
  1988-1990, 113X, Deputy Chief of Naval Operations, CNO - OPNAV
  1990-1990, 111X, Commander in Chief Pacific Fleet (CINCPACFLT)/Commander Pacific Fleet (COMPACFLT)
  1990-1994, 111X, US Pacific Command (USCINCPAC/USPACOM)
  1994-1998, 9420, US Naval Academy Annapolis (Faculty Staff)
 Combat and Non-Combat Operations
  1960-1973 Vietnam War
  1990-1991 Gulf War/Defense of Saudi Arabia Campaign/Operation Desert Shield
 Military Associations and Other Affiliations
United States Naval Academy Alumni AssociationVeterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW)Navy League of the United States
  1958, United States Naval Academy Alumni Association - Assoc. Page
  1993, Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States (VFW) - Assoc. Page
  1999, Navy League of the United States - Assoc. Page

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Reflections on ADM Larson's US Navy Service
 Reflections On My Service
Background, interview: Copyright 2000, Regents of the University of California conducted by Harry Kreisler:

Welcome to a Conversation with History. I'm Harry Kreisler of the Institute of International Studies. Our distinguished guest today is Admiral Charles R. Larson. Admiral Larson is the seventeenth Fleet Admiral Chester W. Nimitz Memorial Lecturer
Charles Larson (Chuck), ADM - To the best of your knowledge, what influenced his/her decision to join the Navy?
Midshipman Larson 1957
in National Security Affairs on the Berkeley campus. Admiral Larson is a former superintendent of the United States Naval Academy and former commander of the U.S. Pacific Command (CINCPAC). As the senior U.S. military commander in the Pacific and Indian Ocean areas, he led the largest unified command, directing Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force operations across one hundred and three million square miles. He was both a naval aviator and a nuclear submarine commander.

This interview is part of the Institute's "Conversations with History" series and uses Internet technology to share with the public Berkeley's distinction as a global forum for ideas.

Admiral Larson, welcome to Berkeley.

Thank you, Harry, it's great to be here.

Where were you born and raised?

I was born in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, but my family moved away when I was one year old. They moved to Omaha, Nebraska, and I grew up in Iowa and Nebraska.

And that's where you went to public schools?

That's where I went to public schools.

How did your parents shape your character, do you think, looking back?

Well, we had a very traditional fifties-type family, my sister and myself and a mother and father. They taught me values. They taught me the important things in life, taught me to always try and do my best. I guess from day one I knew I was pointed for higher education and also pointed to go out and do something to make a contribution both to my community and my country.

Did you have any teachers as a young person that influenced you before you went off into the Naval Academy?

Well, I moved around enough that I would say I had a number of teachers that influenced me. Probably not a single one that stands out as a principal mentor, but good teachers in every location that motivated me to try and do my best and to try and achieve.

Any subject in particular interest you as a young person?

I was interested in most of the technical courses, math, and science, engineering. And history. I must admit I wasn't quite as good in English, but I've worked hard over the years to overcome those weaknesses.

That's true of many of us. What about books? Any books that you read as a young person that stuck with you, whether about sports or anything?

I think one that really stuck with me, one of the first books that I think had an impact on my thinking, was The Fountainhead by Ayn Rand. I was struck with the individualism of the hero in that book, a person who stood on principle against all of the currents and all of the flow of society and potential -- giving up money and fame and other things, said: "No, I'm going to stand for what I believe in." And that really stuck with me and that was something I think that's influenced my character. Beyond that, I enjoyed the adventure series, Jack London, Horatio Hornblower. I can't say that Horatio Hornblower influenced me to go into the Naval Academy or to the Navy, but both of those series really told me that there's adventure, there are things to do out there and, I think, influenced me to be an active person out there, doing things outside of an office.

Anything else influences you in your decision to go to the Naval Academy and become a Navy officer?

No. I had no military background in my family. My father was too young for World War I and too old for World War II. I had a couple of uncles that were drafted. So I had no tradition whatsoever, and I think I chose the Naval Academy more on discipline and structure and ability to succeed. I took a lot on faith. I left to be sworn into the Naval Academy and I had never been west of Denver or east of Chicago. And I had been in the Navy essentially a year before I saw my first ocean. So I must say that I did take on faith that I would enjoy the naval life.

That's good. I gather that you roomed with John McCain at the Naval Academy?

We actually didn't room at the Naval Academy, we were best friends there and classmates and we did everything together, but when we graduated we roomed together for two years as bachelors as we went through flight training. We lived together in three locations in Pensacola, Florida, one in Memphis, Tennessee, and one in Corpus Christi, Texas. And we actually flew in a two-plane section. We were wingmen as we went through our advanced training. And we were very close and have remained close to this day.

What year did you graduate from the Academy?

We graduated in 1958.

1958, so the sixties hadn't come yet.

The sixties came a little later as we were progressing through our military service.


? Copyright 2000, Regents of the University of California
LEARNING, EXPERIENCE, AND EDUCATION: In looking at your distinguished career, which includes experience as a naval aviator and as a nuclear sub commander, which are two very impressive bodies of experience for one man to have, what sorts of things did you learn from those experiences that helped make
Charles Larson (Chuck), ADM - To the best of your knowledge, please describe the direction or path he/she took in his/her military service. What was his/her reason for leaving?
Admiral Larson and Janet Reno
you a better commander down the road?

I think as an aviator it's early responsibility. You're in charge of that airplane. You have to fly, you have to do your mission, you have to do it with precision. I was the only person in the airplane, I was in a single-seat attack aircraft, so everything I did was very visible and I had to stand up and be accountable. If I was good everybody knew it, if I was not good everybody knew it. And I really enjoyed that challenge.

The nuclear submarine brought in the aspects of both technology and teamwork. Motivating good people, bright people, people that probably in many cases were as intelligent or more intelligent than I was. I had the opportunity to go to the Naval Academy and these people didn't, that was the basic difference. To mold those people together as a team and to take that beautiful, technical marvel, the nuclear submarine, and operate it out there on the high seas; it gave me a great deal of satisfaction.

In your experience there's a lot of thinking and practice on education. As I mentioned in the introduction, you were head of the Naval Academy twice, and you just told me that you are on the Board of Regents of the University of Maryland and are involved in a lot of the thinking there about how to reconceptualize institutions of higher education. So let's talk a little about your thoughts on education. First, can you teach leadership?

I think the ultimate way to teach leadership is by example. But you can certainly teach the basic precepts. You can teach about communication, about treating people, about working with people, about caring and sharing. So there are a lot of basic tenets and you can give a lot of examples of good strong leaders and why they were successful. But ultimately, in any organization, the people will be motivated if they see the people at the top living by the example, and living what they talk. Talk the talk and walk the walk, and I think that's probably the most dynamic thing. If they can see can see people setting an example that they want to aspire to, it will motivate them. So you can teach it but you have to live it, and it's the combination of the two that make it successful. If you don't live it then the people will think there's a certain hypocrisy in what you teach.

In your career -- you graduated in '58 and served until the end of the century -- a lot has changed in technology, and the soldier has had to adapt to this new technology. Share with us your reflections on how in the military and also in the private sector we need to work at making students able to deal with the amazing changes in technology that are occurring.

That's one of the things that we're doing in our University of Maryland where I'm the vice chairman of the Board of Regents. We have thirteen public universities in our system, and we, the Regents, are now establishing for the first time this year minimum graduation standards for our students in information technology. We feel that it's very important in the current world that our people be [computer] literate, regardless of their major, regardless of their profession, that they have the basic skills that they need to get out there and use technology to their advantage.

At the Naval Academy, I was very fortunate in my first tour between 1983 and 1986 to put in a major program to bring in computers to all students, to wire the entire Academy, to educate and provide technology to the faculty, so that we could use technology in our courses of instruction. And it's really wonderful to see the foreign language interactive videos, in history classes the incorporation of technology rather than the blackboard or charts, using technology and computers to show examples in history. So I think we need to keep pace and make sure that our young people go out there very computer literate. One of the challenges that I found, and I think this is one of the keys to our success, is that some of us old folks may not be that conversant. I wasn't at the time I put the program in. I hired someone who was, and gave him my faith that he would help me do it right. We spent the whole first year at the Academy and all of our resources educating the faculty.

This is when you were ...

When I was superintendent, yes. My feeling was that the faculty needed to start at a higher level than the students if we were going to have total integration. If the students come in literate and the faculty is resistant you will never incorporate technology. And that worked very well. We ended up with a very computer literate faculty and they started then bringing the students into this and incorporating it through our entire curriculum.

As a person who's had his hands both on non-military educational institutions and military ones, compare them in their capacity to adapt to changes like this. Is there a difference in terms of adapting to new technologies?

I think there's a little advantage, or at least I would consider with my background, a little advantage in a service academy because you do have more of an ability to make change more rapidly. At the Naval Academy over 50% of our faculty is civilian Ph.D.s, and we have the same faculty promotion and tenure system and structure that you would have with any university, including the University of California, Berkeley. And that's one of our strengths. We have that good educational foundation.

On the other hand, we do have more of an opportunity to adapt quickly to change and incorporate things a little faster than I think you might at a civilian university, 1985 with a little more of a bureaucracy and things like that. That's why I was able to do a couple of things there I'm very proud of. I was able to, within one year, put in a required ethics course and restructure our whole leadership, ethics, and character development program during my second tour. And it's how I was able to put technology in very rapidly during my first tour. So I think we can shift a little faster to the changes in the world. That's one of our purposes, to respond to the needs of the naval service, and we're structured to do that.

The military has been very successful in bringing education to a diversity of Americans, in some ways being the most integrated of our large institutions. How do you account for that success?

I think the fact that we live together in close quarters and we have teamwork and a camaraderie, that we tend to be goal oriented, team-oriented, and work together as individuals, really make you colorblind and gender-blind, if you will. Because you're more concerned about the person: what type of person is this? Are they contributing to the team? As we work together, it puts us at the forefront of both racial and gender integration. [With] the opportunities that have been provided in the military, you can go as far as you can go based on your ability, not based on your wealth or your background or anything else, but on your pure ability and how well you do your job.

During your career, there have been such enormous social changes. You graduated before the sixties, then the sixties hit us all. And then the end of the Cold War. Is it harder to recruit and keep military personnel in the midst of all of these changes? And how have the military services dealt with that issue?

Well, let me give you, first of all, a little profile, Harry, of my class. My class had one African American, zero women, and six Hispanics, although we didn't count Hispanics in those days. Nobody said we had six Hispanics. Twenty years later we went back [for a reunion] and realized we had six Hispanics. So we were a very middle class, male-dominated class. And then we've gone through all of the changes in society. I don't think it's any harder today to maintain and retain good people than it was in my day. In fact, I think our service is richer today because it is more reflective of society, and our officer leadership is more reflective of the make-up of society. I think that's a very healthy thing. I think the biggest thing you compete with, quite frankly, is the economy. It probably has more of an impact than the world or the social turmoil.

For people coming out of inner-city schools, the military must be fairly attractive because of what you offer with regard to technical skills?

Absolutely. And you know, there's nothing that gave me greater satisfaction than to see some of our young people, many of them minorities, who had a high school education that was really not up to some of the best schools in the country, to have them come and bring them up, increase their educational base, increase their capabilities, and then send them out into our Navy, but also out into society, as well-educated, well-informed citizens who will contribute. I will say that we're very proud of the fact that our graduates that get out of the Navy and don't make it a career are very active members of their communities and of society, and they're successful in a wide variety of professions out there.

Next page, see: TOUR OF DUTY

Copyright 2000, Regents of the University of California
TOUR OF DUTY: Let's go back to your story now. After some service in the Navy, after you graduated from the Academy, you were the first White House Fellow from the Navy.


You had a stint in the White House serving as the Naval Attache to President Nixon. Tell us
Charles Larson (Chuck), ADM - If he/she participated in any military operations, including combat, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations, to the best of your knowledge, please describe those you feel were the most significant to him/her and, if life-changing, in what way.
Commander Larson and President Nixon
about that experience.

When I competed for my White House fellowship, I think the Navy didn't really understand what I was doing, and as I was headed for the final competition to determine who would be the fellows for that year, this was back in 1968, the Navy moved my family to Connecticut from South Carolina. And I said, "Wait a minute, why are you moving me? I might get this fellowship and go off again to Washington in two months." And they said, "We've got a lot of confidence in you, Commander, but we're going to move you anyway." So I had a wife who was eight months and two weeks pregnant sitting up in New London, Connecticut now, and I went down to compete for the fellowship, and I got it.

So did they move your family back?

Two months later we moved to Washington, D.C. And I served as a special assistant to the Secretary of the Interior. We had a Fellow with each cabinet officer, and you worked very closely ...

Was this Walter Hickel?

This was Stewart Udall. This was Stewart's last year as a cabinet officer, and it was the last year of the Johnson administration. So we were able to go through and meet with all of the people in the Johnson administration. They then earmarked me to be the transition officer for Secretary Hickel, and I was going to remain in the office and kind of bridge the gap into the new administration. And before that happened -- in fact, I started doing that after the election -- and all of a sudden I got a call one day that asked me to come over to the Pentagon in uniform. I hadn't worn a uniform in my fellowship, and they couldn't tell me why they wanted me to come over. When I got over there, there were eight young officers standing in the office getting briefed by this admiral and they said, "You're going over to the White House and interview for a naval aide to the President. And so I went over and interviewed and was selected as President Nixon's first naval aide. And I left Interior and went over to the White House, and I ended up staying there for two and a half years before I could go back to submarines.

What sorts of things did you do for President Nixon?

Our office was the liaison for all military matters between the Pentagon and the White House that didn't deal with the National Security Council or the Vietnam War, essentially. So we had all administrative matters. We also had responsibility for all of the military assets that supported the president: Camp David, the presidential yacht, Air Force One, the cars, the helicopters, all of the assets that supported the president and, probably, more importantly, all of the nuclear codes and things in the little suitcase.

So you were the bag man?

I was the black bag man. I was responsible for everything inside the little suitcase and also for emergency relocation and evacuation of the president in case of nuclear war, and all of his communications, all of his White House communications.

What was it like to know that you had that little bag? Of course, war could have broken out then; the Cold War was still in full bloom. What was it like as a soldier to have that responsibility?

I certainly felt very seriously the responsibility, and of course, although each of the aides took turns when they were with the president having custody of the briefcase, I was the one designated responsibility for keeping everything inside it updated and making sure that every so often we refreshed the president on everything that was in there. I had already at that time had service on two missile-firing submarines, two Polaris and Poseidon submarines, and on my second submarine, I had already spent a great deal of time in the cycle of the procedures that you have to go through when an order comes down from the president to release nuclear weapons. So I was dealing with something, an awesome responsibility, but something that I was familiar with and had spent a fair amount of time thinking about, and understanding the seriousness and the consequences of what we were doing.

Did you literally follow the president around, or was that someone else?

One of the aides was with the president continuously anytime he was outside the White House grounds.

Were you in the same vehicle or you would be in a separate vehicle?

It varied. Sometimes we rode with him, more frequently we rode in the car just behind him.

What is your view of the complexity of Richard Nixon?

I had an enormous amount of respect for Richard Nixon in a couple of areas. First of all, he had the best grasp of foreign policy, geopolitical affairs. He knew the leaders of the world, he could tie it all together. He conceptually could understand that if you take an action here it has a consequence over here. If you do something with Russia it has an impact on China, if you do something with China it may have an impact on India. He could really conceptualize that and hold it all together. So he could take a more strategic approach rather than a crisis-oriented approach. I respected his capacity and what he was able to do in some of the major breakthroughs. Who else but Richard Nixon could have opened China? There are just certain people that could have done that, and because of his background, he was able to do that.

The second thing I respected about him was he was always kind to what I would call the little people. I never saw him humiliate, degrade or in any way treat unkindly the staff people, the little people, the support people. He was always polite to the people that worked in the kitchens, at the hotels, the elevator operators. He was kind to people when the press wasn't looking, and to me the real measure of a character of a person is, what do they do when no one's looking? What type of person are they? And I respected him for that.

He was a very private man, as you may know. One of the things they did with us as his aides, there were three of us, Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and then we had an Air Force general who was the assistant to the president who was the head of our office, they forced us on him a lot in the very beginning so he became very comfortable with us and they could deal with us very freely, because President Nixon didn't make friends easily. He was a very private person, private with his family and with his friends, and was not really a backslapper, "hail fellow well met." It's very unusual for a politician not to enjoy being out there in this active social life, but he was very reflective and very serious.

I've drawn a very strong comparison between him and one other person I've worked for, and that's Admiral Rickover. Both of them I felt were totally focused on the job at hand, doing their best and putting all their energy into it without any regard for what it did for them in the way of personal gain.

Rickover was the man who created our nuclear weapons program and profoundly influenced the direction of the Navy.

Well, Rickover actually created our nuclear propulsion program that made the submarine available to put the nuclear weapons on. So it was a dual responsibility. But he was the father of the nuclear submarine and really gave us that capability. I was interviewed by him and selected by him for the nuclear program.

This goes back to what you said at the beginning, teaching leadership through an example and the character of an individual.

That's right.

I've learned both good and bad from everybody I've ever worked for, and I certainly felt it was a wonderful opportunity at that age -- I was about 32 -- to work for first a cabinet officer, Stewart Udall, whom I respected very, very much. Stewart and I were probably as different as night and day when we first came together. He had written a book -- this is very interesting: I'm going to work for him in 1968 so I'm looking at his visionary book which was published that year, 1976: Agenda for Tomorrow. And in the first paragraph of Stewart's book, I came across a word and I had to go to the dictionary to look it up. The word was ecology. People would laugh now and say, "My goodness, this admiral doesn't know what ecology is!" but in 1968 most people went to the dictionary to look up that word.

Right. Udall was a leader in pointing out the problem of the environment, which we weren't going to really understand until much later.

That's right, and his book Agenda for Tomorrow pointed out some of the things we needed to do with urbanization and the environment and open space and quality of life and pollution and all those things. He was a man ahead of his time. So we took this young military officer and we took this environmentally sensitive man with a very good sense of domestic issues and put the two of us together, and it broadened my horizon and I think it enriched my mind and my thinking and made me much more tolerant and aware of many, many things.

I'll do a fast forward. You're now the CINCPAC commander, it's the early nineties. Former President Nixon is now eighty years old. You meet with him in Hawaii, I believe you said last night in your lecture, and he lays out, much like you just described Udall, a map for you of the horizon -- in this case, not the environment, but of the strategic factors. Tell us about that.

We sat and talked that day for about two and a half hours. I took notes and I had them typed up privately and only one copy exists, because I wanted to keep the privacy of his conversation. He talked about his conversations with world leaders. He talked about Japan, he talked about Korea, he talked about Russia, but he really concentrated on China, because he had just returned from his seventh and final trip to China. He laid out all the parameters of all the major leaders who are there today, the strengths and weaknesses of each one. He talked about the post - Deng Xiaoping leadership transition, and he made his predictions as to how that leadership would evolve and who would survive and who wouldn't survive and what the structure would be. That was 1993, seven years ago, and the structure is almost identical to what we have today, the evolution went right down the path that he predicted. I think even more importantly, some of the critical issues that he pointed out are still relevant today, and that's why I covered many of them last night in my talk because he was able to take himself away from the political frays. If you look at all the things that are happening today, with the debates in Congress and the president, and disagreements and all the factions, what President Nixon said and some of the recommendations he made kind of transcend all that, rise above it, and say look, let's take a strategic look far to the future, where should we be going, these are the key issues and this is what we need to do. I would take his recommendations today and say they're still valid.

As a military man who's looked at it from all sides, head of the Naval Academy, commander of CINCPAC, and so on, your experiences with people like Udall, Rickover, and Nixon sensitized you to the importance of ideas that transcend the political fray.

Absolutely. I think it also made me somewhat of an unusual military man in that I tend to be very liberal on social issues and very conservative on defense and foreign policy issues. So I don't know how you would categorize me in the political spectrum. My wife is very active and sensitive to women's [issues] and social issues, so I've learned a lot from her. I've taken a bit from everybody that I've worked with, and that's what frames both my philosophy and my outlook on life. I feel very comfortable that I don't fit into a narrow category and that I have a pretty broad view of the world.

Next page see: ASIA

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ASIA: Let's talk a little about Asia. The Cold War has been over now for more than a decade. What is our role there? What do we want to achieve with our military forces?

We want to be a stabilizing influence in Asia. I still think we're looked at as
Charles Larson (Chuck), ADM - From their entire military service, describe any personal memories, you may be aware of, which impacted him/her the most.
Admiral Larson in Mongolia
the one person who doesn't have any designs on Asia. No one really fears us over there, we're accepted as an honest broker. Through multiple bilateral relationships we can work to help achieve the stability, and I think our military undergirds that stability that allows economic prosperity to go forward. What we don't want to have in Asia is an arms race. We don't want to have anyone emerge as a single power over there with hegemony. A visit to Mongolia as CINCPAC, 1993 We want to maintain a balance in Asia that will allow all the nations to feel comfortable with each other and comfortable as they move forward and prosper economically.

There are several key players -- Russia and Japan among others -- but the one that we seem to worry most about these days is China. What sorts of things should go into our thinking about influencing China's emergence, fulfilling its role as a great power in that area?

We should work with China. We're not a strategic partner, but we're not an adversary. We should recognize that it's an important strategic relationship and we should work with them on areas where we have common interests. We should be working on stabilizing the Korean peninsula. We should be working on South Asia. We should be recognizing and encouraging foreign investment and economic progress. We should support anything that encourages political liberalization, modernization, and moves toward democracy in China. And I think that will happen slowly over time. Their democracy will not look like ours, I'm convinced, in the final end state, but it will be more democratic than it is today. We should support all the things that move in that direction. We should handle our disagreements in private and our agreements in public, and we should try to move toward these common objectives. I think the principal way we can help is through their entry into the World Trade Organization. I think they should be granted normal trade status and that we should encourage economic investment in China. It's the best way to move forward.

There are some in Washington who argue that the historical example is containment, which was used to try to shape the way that the Soviet Union, our adversary at that time, would emerge as a great power. Now that factional view periodically has some influence in our debates. What I'm curious about is, as a former commander of CINCPAC, how should we assess the Chinese military in the context of a debate where one of the factions seems to be so concerned about China's emergence as a great power?

Well, first of all, Harry, let me say that I don't think containment is a proper strategy for China. Russia, or the Soviet Union, had a well-articulated policy of world expansion, of world domination. CINCPAC in China 1994 China will tell us, and they have told me several times and my most recent trip there was last September, they have no designs on any territory outside their borders and they do not have a history of territorial conquest. Now, they do believe that Tibet and the whole South China Sea and other things are their legal authority, within that sphere. They said outside that sphere, they are not expansionist. So I think a policy of containment for China would probably drive them towards being an adversary, and we don't want them to be an adversary. We want them to be a person that we can work with and really have some common goals.

What we need to look at in our military, and what I look for in our military is, are they developing a power projection capability? If they start reshaping their military in a way that would give them an ability to become expansionist and go for other territories, then I would say their capability has a mismatch with their words. And when you have a mismatch between policy and capability it becomes of concern because you can change policy overnight, but you can't change capability overnight. So I watch very carefully; if their modernization programs and things like that are tailored for home defense and stability, fine. But if they start reaching out to aircraft carriers, amphibious operations and things like that, you have to ask the question: who's the enemy? Who are they targeting and where are they going with that capability? At this point, their modernization programs are really designed to operate within that sphere that they have designed.

If there would be signals for a change, what sort of a lead time would one then have?

Well, fortunately, when you look at the technology and the difficulty in building new military systems it's a fairly long time frame between initiation and full operational capability; sometimes up to ten years or more. So it's not something that they're going to surprise us with overnight. We will be able to see it coming, we will be able to see the investment and the movement, and it certainly gives us time to readapt our strategy or our policies if necessary.

So what you're advising is that we should have our mind working and our feet on the ground as we assess charges and counter-charges in the debate about future relations with the PRC.

Absolutely. And one of the things I think people tend to forget is there are domestic political considerations in Beijing, just like there are in Taipei and in Washington, D.C. We need to assess the rhetoric that comes out of all three locations and understand that some of it is for domestic political consumption, and so instead of overreacting, we need to try to stay cool as we look at some of these things. Certainly, the latest pronouncements out of Beijing look outrageous and unacceptable, and we won't rule out the use of force if the negotiations for reconciliation drag on indefinitely. But who are they firing at, the United States? Or are they firing a paper missile at the Taiwanese? By paper missile I meant the white paper becoming a missile. So, I think we have to take some of that with a grain of salt. Certainly, some of that [saber rattling against Taiwan] was to influence us and some were to influence Taiwan. But we just have to back off and say, "Well, look at some of the rhetoric that will come out of the United States." Right now in our presidential primary campaign, it's been fairly quiet on China. There has only been I think one candidate in some of the early debates, Gary Bauer brought China up a number of times, and there's only been one question I think on China and that was a very low-level question. So we've been a little quiet in the United States, quieter than we were certainly in the '92 campaign when there was a lot of rhetoric and strong rhetoric about China.

One of the skills you seemed to acquire which goes with your role is a diplomatic skill. In a way, our hope is that we have a military that we don't use in the sense of actually going to war. Tell us about that dynamic, that is, the need to have an adequate force but the wish to never use it.

The ultimate use and investment in a strong military are to have one that does not have to be used. The ancient Chinese [military strategist] Sun-Tze in some of his writings and doctrines would say that your ultimate victory is to never have to fight but to get inside the head of your opponent in such a way that you either deter or defeat your opponent without going to war. So a strong military is really meant to be an effective deterrent and a stabilizing force for prosperity in the world.

Somebody did an audit on my job once at CINCPAC. It was before I got there, and a group came in and they did a thorough audit, and they came to the conclusion that although I was a major war-fighting commander for the entire Pacific theater -- anything that would have gone on in Korea or anywhere else in Asia, I would have been the major warfighter; I even sent 90,000 people in 75 ships to Desert Storm as a supporting commander -- but even with all those war-fighting responsibilities, they came to the conclusion that the day-to-day focus and energy of my job was 60% political and diplomatic and 40% military, as we worked with all of the countries of Asia on political and military strategy and also on stability.

Next page see: LESSONS LEARNED

Copyright 2000, Regents of the University of California
Charles Larson (Chuck), ADM - What professional achievements do you believe he/she was most proud of from his/her military service?
Foreign Awards: France, Japan, and Thailand
MILITARY AWARDS: Admiral Larson's major military decorations include the Defense Distinguished Service Medal, *Navy Distinguished Service Medal (7 awards), Legion of Merit (3 awards), the **Bronze Star, Navy Commendation Medal and Navy Achievement Medal. He has also been decorated by the governments of ***Japan, Thailand, France, and Korea. He was also entitled to wear the Presidential Service Badge.

*His 7 Navy DSMs may be the most ever awarded to any man in history. **1971-1973: As the navigator and Executive Officer of the USS Sculpin, 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.
Admiral Larson retired in 1998 after serving as an Admiral for four presidents. Since retirement, he has served on corporate boards in the areas of defense, aerospace, oil exploration and production, international service and construction and the electric industry.

He served as Chairman of the Board of ViaGlobal Group, LLC with
Charles Larson (Chuck), ADM - If he/she survived military service, what profession(s) did he/she follow after discharge?
Admiral Larson USNA 1995
headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland.

His public service boards have included the National Academy of Sciences Committee on International Security and Arms Control, The White House Fellows Foundation, The Board of Regents of the University System of Maryland, The Board of Trustees of the Anne Arundel Health System, Board of Directors of Annapolis Life Care, Board of Directors of The Atlantic Council, Board of Directors of The Council on Higher Education Accreditation and as Chairman of the Board of Directors of the US Naval Academy Foundation.

His civilian awards include:
Paul Harris Fellow (Rotary International's highest award for public service).
VFW National Armed Forces Award (1993)
Navy League's Admiral Arleigh Burke Leadership Award (1999)
Distinguished Eagle Scout (Boy Scouts of America's highest award).
Nebraskaland Foundation (State of Nebraska) Wagonmaster Award for Leadership (1997)
"All American Citizen" by the city of Omaha, Nebraska.
Omaha North High School Hall of Fame. (1985).
The United States Naval Academy Alumni Association's Distinguished Graduate Award (2006).
LESSONS LEARNED: You've walked us through your life to a certain extent. What prepared you for this kind of role?

You know, a lot of times when I talk to groups of young people, college students, midshipmen, I get the question, "Wasn't it awesome to have all that responsibility as
Charles Larson (Chuck), ADM - If he/she survived military service, in what ways do you believe his/her serving in the military influenced the way they approached their personal life, family life and career?
Adm. Larson home with family
CINCPAC?" And I said not really. I wasn't elected to CINCPAC; I came up one step at a time, and as I moved through the hierarchy I gained the experience in each and every job to prepare me for the next job. I can honestly say that I approached every job with a slight sense of apprehension: Am I really ready for this next step? And I think that's a healthy apprehension, because you don't get cocky or overconfident. You realize you need the inputs from all of your staff, you need to listen to people as you move forward. By the time you get there, you find out that you're ready and it's not that scary.

In fact, one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in my life is to make multiple trips to twenty-five countries in Asia and to learn and have first hand experience. When I read the newspapers now about some of the leaders over there, I've met most of them. When they gave Governor Bush the little pop quiz on the four leaders of the world I sat back and thought, "I've met three of them personally," and I met Lee Tenghui two weeks ago when I was in Taipei. So that kind of gave me a little feeling of how I'm very fortunate to have been there.

Do you have any regrets about what you did or didn't study? If you could magically go back -- more history as you went to all of these countries, more languages, or what?

Probably more history. But I've really watched; it would be interesting for me to take one of these interest inventory tests because I was so oriented on math, science, and engineering as a young person and I think my interests changed over the years more into history and political science and international relations. If I were to go into graduate school today I'd go into international relations. If I'd have gone twenty-five years ago I probably would have gone to electrical engineering. This type of thing I think is not unusual. If I had a chance to study more now I probably would delve into the history area.

Your career covers a period in which the relationship between society and the military in the United States has taken real ups and downs. In looking back, what do you think contributes most to a kind of mature, responsible relationship between the military and society and the government?

I think the military has to be part of society. We need to realize that we are not isolated individuals, we are parts of our communities. We have children, we have normal lives, and that sort of thing. I think one of the reasons that it's easier and we are better integrated with society today is the fact that in the early days of my career we almost always lived on a base, in housing, and our entire social circle revolved around our base, our people, our Officer's Club, our little swimming pool. And we did many, many things together. In many cases, even our schools were on the bases or in close proximity. Today our young people in many, many locations, particularly in the United States, are dispersed all over the metropolitan area. Much of their lives and their activities are outside the military. There is school participation, there are PTAs, there are soccer coaches, and some of them even are on school boards and things like that. So our people have really gotten out there and are integrated into society, and I think this is a very healthy thing. And by the way, they are also professional military officers when they don their uniform and deploy and go to work and do the things that they do.

The most searing experience that affected this relationship was obviously the Vietnam War. What lessons do you think we should rightly learn from that experience that would help us as we deal with all sorts of new turmoil in the world?

I think the basic thing is that the Commander in Chief must be totally honest with the American people about what he or she is doing and that we cannot commit our blood and treasure, our young people, to combat without the support of the Congress and the American people. We have to have the country behind us wherever we go. We were in the terrible situation of our military being committed in combat with a large portion of our country not behind them. As a result, many people took the animosity out on the military rather than on the political leaders that were ordering it. The military was just doing the job that they were asked to do. During that very, very difficult time, I was the Executive Officer of a nuclear submarine, and I remember how difficult it was with conscientious objectors and people like that trying to get our forces together to carry out our deployments. I had two daughters who were in school who would not admit their father was in the military. I had one daughter who told her friends that I was an artist because she felt that was more acceptable. And if you had ever seen me draw or attempt to draw you would realize that is the worst exaggeration anybody could ever make! But she was afraid to tell her friends that her father was in the military.

So one key question, if not in Asia then in other parts of the world, we're going to have to think about different kinds of intervention, humanitarian intervention and so forth.

That's right.

What are your thoughts about that in terms of needing to win the support but also the need that we have to realize our ideals, our humanitarian values in a very turbulent world?

I think our forces should be committed based on both our vital interests and our values. And sometimes our values are going to override, to the point that it may not be an absolutely vital interest, but the value component is so strong that we should intervene and the American people will agree that we should intervene. That's a careful judgment that the commander in chief must make, but the commander in chief must consult with the Congress to make sure that the Congress and the American people are behind that. And we have to have open, honest communication so that we can work together. We need to have the executive and the legislative branches work together in a bipartisan sense in foreign policy and defense matters. That's not been the case recently; we need to regain that so that we can work together as a country and not use this dimension of our life as a means of beating up on one political party or the other. We've got to come together and we've got to do the right things to support our interests and our values and have the whole country agree with what we're doing.

What would be your advice to students if they look at this tape or read the text on the world wide web? What lessons should they learn from your very distinguished military career?

The first thing I would say is to try and take a certain amount of your time -- and I know you're young and you're busy and you're studying, it's hard to find a little time -- but take a little time each week to stay informed on the issues out there before you. Local issues that affect your life and also the international and national issues. And vote, participate! I couldn't vote until I was 21 but when I turned 21 I went down and registered and I have voted in every single primary and general election since I was 21 years old. I have never missed a one. I just voted in the latest presidential primary on Tuesday. I voted by absentee ballot before I left Maryland because I knew I was going to be out here in Berkeley. Vote, and cast a well-informed vote. And I'll tell you the same thing that I told my children, my three grown daughters: I don't care how you vote or which side you vote for as long as your vote is a well-informed vote and you've done the best you can to understand the issues. I think that's a real key to a democracy in America is to have people out there participating and understanding what that vote means and what they are doing. I agonize over my vote many times. People say it's just one vote; it's my vote and it's important!

What advice would you have for a student who wants to go into the military about what a future soldier or even a competent citizen needs to learn while in school?

Still in high school?

Or in college. Let's say high school and college.

I think in preparation in high school you need to make sure you take the good foundation of core courses in math, science, English, history; the things that will allow you to qualify not only for a service academy but for one of the best universities. And then once you're there, take a good round of courses. We're very proud of the Naval Academy of our core curriculum because it's a wonderful combination of math, science, engineering, history, political science, English. It's a very strong base. If you're an English major at the naval academy, you graduate with a Bachelor of Science in English because you have a strong technical core. So I would say to a you, "Young student, you need to take those types of courses that will prepare you to have a broad-gauged thinking to learn how to continue your learning after you graduate, and to have a sense of both community service and a desire to go out there and be part of your community, part of your world, so you make contributions outside of your profession, so you're a broader gauged person."

Is there one moment or event in your career where it all came together and you were most proud of what you did and had the opportunity to do it?

When I was commanding officer of a nuclear submarine and we had the opportunity to do some one-of-a-kind, first-of-a-kind, very sensitive operations that turned out to be of great, great value to our national security. There were difficult, dangerous operations and the pride that I got from seeing my crew come together as a team and do this and come back home, realizing what we'd accomplished, was one of the great sources of joy for me, to see that team and what they did. And I'll never forget that experience.

Admiral Larson, thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today and telling us your story and all that you learned. Thank you very much.

You're very welcome, Harry. Back in 1969 when I was President Nixon's naval aide, I didn't think I'd be at Berkeley someday as a retired four-star admiral talking about some of these security issues. But I've had a wonderful week here and my reception with the faculty, the students and all of the people here have been exceptional, and I certainly look forward to a return visit. Thank you very much for having me.

I'm glad you were able to come without the black bag.

Me too.

Thank you. And thank you very much for joining us for this Conversation with History.

Copyright 2000, Regents of the University of California
Charles Larson (Chuck), ADM - How effective has been in helping you record your remembered persons military service? Do you have any additional comments or suggestions you would like to make?
TWS and the US Navy
This is a "Remembrance Profile" of Admiral Charles R. Larson. Much of the "Reflections Profile" was taken from an interview with Harry Kreisler, Copyright 2000, Regents of the University of California.

DS 10/30/17

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.

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