TMC(SS) Patrick Meagher USN(Ret) qualified and served on USS CUSK SS-348, USS ANDREW JACKSON SSBN-6198, and USS BARBEL SS-580. He served on active duty with the Submarine Force from 1960 through 1977. He is a life member of USSVI, and an associate member of USSVWWII.
In late spring 1977 Rear Admiral Charles H. Griffiths, Commander Submarine Force U. S. Pacific Fleet, tasked his staff weapons shop to provide him with a briefing on the Tomahawk Cruise Missile as soon as possible. This tasker ended up with LCDR Charles Tex Hudiburgh. Tex was an LOO, a former submarine Fire Control Technician, who after commissioning returned to diesel boats and qualified as an officer. He had completed his command tour as skipper of USS WHITE SANDS AGDS-1, a deep submergence program support ship. Tex had been on Sub Pac staff for about two years as the Submarine Force Conventional Weapons Officer (N6 l l ). He had a calm and cheerful demeanor, and regularly developed creative methods to overcome the bureaucratic hurdles common to a large staff organization. In 1975 I had assisted Tex with a long overdue major revision of SubPac Ordnance Notes, which contained detailed weapons safety, operations, maintenance, logistic, and support guidance to the Submarine Force. At the time I was working in the tactical nuclear weapons shop as the Assistant for Nuclear Weapons Safety and Inspections (N6121 ). The SubPac Tactical Weapons shop was a busy place and we were short handed with several enlisted billets gapped.
Tex rapidly grew frustrated as he discovered there was no official information on Tomahawk available on the staff or with any of the tech reps working with the Submarine Force. Remember, this was 1977, long before desktop computers, the internet and e-mail. In addition, Tomahawk at that stage was designed to have a nuclear warhead so whatever information that was available was assumed to be classified Secret or higher. Tex checked with me to see if we had any official information on the Tomahawk and its nuclear warhead. I assured him we did not. He then went on in his slow Texas drawl to vent his frustration with the short-fused briefing tasker and that he could not find any information on the Tomahawk Cruise Missile. When he finished I informed him he was in luck. He asked, “How so?” I explained that two months previously the monthly magazine Scientific American had an extensive article on Tomahawk and its guidance system, that I still had the magazine at home, and did he want it? Tex response was, “You’re —— ‘ me!” I said, “No I was not, and I would bring the magazine in tomorrow morning”, which I did.
The article was surprisingly detailed although sensitive information on the warhead was not included. There was a description of how the Terrain Contour Mapping (TERCOM) guidance system worked and the article was complete with a number of diagrams and illustrations. Tex pored over the article. He told me he could not believe all the technical information on Tomahawk was unclassified and available in a Magazine you could buy anywhere! By the end of the day he was back to his normal operating style as he began drafting his briefing. Over the next several days he kept the Tactical Weapons Shop Yeoman busy creating view graphs. Tex shared his briefing materials with several of us and solicited our thoughts and ideas.
CDR Terry Mahoney the Submarine Force Tactical Weapons Officer (N61) liked Tex’s presentation and support material which included xeroxed copies of the Scientific American article on Tomahawk. He also told him there would be a murder board in a couple of days with the Submarine Force Weapons Officer (N6) and a number of other staff officers attending.
Briefing a Flag Officer is a big deal. If you ‘re the briefer you don’t want to screw up and embarrass your boss or your bosses boss. A murder board is designed with that in mind. It includes everyone above you in the chain of command who could possibly be embarrassed if you screwed up. The murder board will listen to your briefing, and observe your presentation style and aids. You will receive a critique and recommendations for improvement guaranteed. Two days later the Tactical Weapons shop staff trooped over to the Admirals briefing Room. We were joined by the Force Weapons officer, and several other staffies. Tex took his place behind the podium, acquainted himself with the controls for lighting and microphone. He began his presentation and directed the Yeoman handling the view graphs to change them as he proceeded. The presentation lasted about IO minutes. Tex received some feedback on his presentation style. There was none on the content; everyone was impressed with the technical material. I don’t recall if he revealed the source for his briefing, I don’t think he did, however it was an open secret within the Weapons shop that Scientific American was the source.
A couple of days later we again all trooped over to the Admirals briefing Room for Tex’s presentation for the Admiral. For several of us this was our first time attending a ComSubPac daily briefing. What I remember was that Tex’s briefing was preceded by a run down on Submarine Force status including location of all units. When the submarine status report was finished Tex took the podium and introduced his briefing in the standard Navy manner. Tell’em what your going to brief, give’ em the briefing, then tell’ em what you just briefed. Tex’s presentation took about 10 minutes. The Admiral thanked Tex for an excellent brief on Tomahawk and then tasked N 6 to stay on top of Tomahawk development issues as they pertained to submarines. While Admiral Griffiths did not ask about the source of Tex’s Tomahawk information I’m pretty sure he was told that it came from the Magazine Scientific American. Back in the office Tex again thanked me for providing him with the source of his material and said he couldn’t have done it without that magazine article. To my knowledge there was never any thought given to classifying Tex’s Tomahawk briefing.
During the cold war, information about submarines, the Submarine Force, submarine operations, and submarine weapons was tightly controlled. Given that reality, all of us in the Tactical Weapons Shop at SubPac were amazed that DOD allowed the authors of the Scientific American article to include all the technical information on the Tomahawk cruise missile, the flight path, and the wealth of detail on TERCOM.
However, since reading Tom Clancy’ s book Submarine several years ago, I’ve wondered if DOD solicited the article to let the Soviets know that the nuclear arms race was still on even though the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT) treaty had been signed in 1972.
During June-July 2006, I contacted Tex Hudiburgh by phone and e-mail. He reviewed and approved my manuscript, “don’t change a word” as he put it. Tex informed me that it was only in 1980 that he learned that NavAirSysCom was Tomahawks sponsor. At that time he was the Naval Ocean Systems Center (NOSC) Operations Officer in San Diego CA where he was involved with Tomahawk testing. As I have worked on this story and talked with Tex and other former shipmates I believe that most of us had a serious stovepipe mentality of weapons systems development. Traditionatly, submarine weapons systems program sponsors were NavOrdSysCom, NavSeaSysCom, or a combination of both. None of us at that time would conceive the idea that NavAirSysCom was the Tomahawk Program sponsor.
Tex retired as a Commander a number of years ago. Today he is the owner of HUD MAC INC. a successful San Diego CA ship repair company.
- Tom Clancy, in his book, Submarine reports a rumor that Henry Kissinger indirectly initiated DOD’s research to develop nuclear armed cruise missiles with his request to DOD to identify what types of nuclear weapons deli very systems would fall outside the START Treaty Definitions of nuclear weapons systems to be retired.
- A fetlow Submariner and shipmate from my time on USS BARBEL SS-580 in the early 70’s informed me he was in the Outlaw Shark office (PME-108) in 1980. In his words, “Nobody there knew what TH would really do and they were going to do the Fire Control for it.”