In Memoriam: Rear Admiral Charles Frederick (“Chick”) Rauch, USN (Ret.)

Jan. 20, 2022 | By Samuel J. Cox Rear Adm., USN (retired) Director of Naval History, Curator for the Navy Director, Naval History and Heritage Command
It is with deep regret that I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral Charles Frederick “Chick” Rauch, Jr., U.S. Navy (Retired), on 19 December 2021, at age 96. Charles Rauch entered the U.S. Naval Academy in 1944, and served as a submarine officer until his retirement in 1976 as Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for human resource management. His commands included USS Skate (SSN-578), and USS John Marshall (SSBN-611). He was awarded a Distinguished Service Medal as a captain while assigned as senior U.S. Navy advisor to the South Vietnamese navy in 1968–70. He was very influential in the development of many of Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) Admiral Elmo Zumwalt's Z-grams. 

Charles Rauch entered the U.S. Naval Academy in July 1944 with the wartime-accelerated class of 1948, graduating on 6 June 1947 with a bachelor of science in naval science. He was commissioned an ensign the same day. Stashed for several months in the academy’s executive department, he reported in September 1947 to the light cruiser USS Huntington (CL-107), with Captain Arleigh Burke in command for a period. Ensign Rauch edited the cruise book for Huntington’s 1948 Mediterranean deployment and African/South American goodwill cruise. When Huntington was decommissioned in June 1949 due to draconian budget cuts, Lieutenant (j.g.) Rauch transferred to the minesweeper USS Sanderling (AMS-35) for operations along the U.S. East Coast in support of the Operational Development Force. 

Selected for submarine duty, Lieutenant (j.g.) Rauch detached from Sanderling in December 1949 for training at the Naval Submarine School, New London, in Groton, Connecticut. In June 1950, he was briefly assigned to the diesel-electric submarine USS Irex (SS-482), the U.S. Navy’s first operational snorkel submarine, operating out of New London. In September 1950, he transferred to the newly re-activated diesel-electric submarine USS Sterlet (SS-392) at Mare Island, California. Sterlet starred in the Hollywood movie, Submarine Command (with William Holden) before deploying to the Western Pacific in early 1953. In March 1953, Lieutenant Rauch transferred to the diesel-electric submarine USS Bluegill (SSK-242). Bluegill was recommissioned in May 1953 as a “hunter-killer” submarine, conducting a six-month deployment to the Western Pacific, including operations off Korea. 

In August 1954, Lieutenant Rauch reported to the Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California, where he earned a master of science in mechanical engineering. In June 1957, he reported as executive officer on the New London-based diesel-electric submarine USS Bergall (SS-320). His time onboard included a three-month Mediterranean deployment. In July 1958, he returned to the Naval Submarine School as an instructor in reactor engineering for the advanced nuclear power curriculum. Selected for the nuclear power program, he commenced the nuclear training pipeline in November 1959, completing training at the Nuclear Power Training Unit, Idaho Falls, Idaho, in June 1960. 
 
In June 1960, Lieutenant Commander Rauch reported as executive officer on the Pearl Harbor–based nuclear attack submarine USS Swordfish (SSN-579), the second U.S. nuclear submarine based in the Pacific. Swordfish deployed twice to the Western Pacific, taking the president of the Philippines, Carlos P. Garcia, on a one-day orientation before becoming the first nuclear submarine to be overhauled on the U.S. West Coast (at Mare Island). In May 1962, he commenced a training pipeline with the Bureau of Ships in Washington, DC, before assuming command of nuclear attack submarine USS Skate in September 1962, after her second surfacing at the North Pole. Based out of New London, Skate conducted two three-month extended Atlantic deployments, for which Rauch was awarded a (still comparatively rare) Navy Commendation Medal. 
 
In August 1964, Commander Rauch attended the command orientation course at Guided-Missile School Dam Neck, Virginia. In October 1964, he assumed command of the Blue Crew of fleet ballistic missile submarine USS John Marshall, conducting multiple Polaris deterrent patrols from Holy Loch, Scotland. In December 1966, he was assigned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as head of the Strategic Warfare Group, where he came to the attention of then–Rear Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, director of the Systems Analysis Division. When Rear Admiral Zumwalt assumed command of Naval Forces Vietnam and of the Naval Advisory Group, U.S. Military Assistance Command Vietnam (MACV) in September 1968, Captain Rauch was assigned the same month as director of the Operations Analysis Group and Management Information Center, Naval Forces Vietnam, and concurrently as senior naval advisor to the Republic of Vietnam Navy. It apparently took two tries, but Captain Rauch was awarded a Navy Distinguished Service Medal for this tour, as well as being entitled to wear the Navy Unit Commendation awarded to Naval Forces Vietnam. 
 
Captain Rauch was assigned to the Office of CNO in May 1970. When Admiral Zumwalt was confirmed as CNO in July 1970, he became Zumwalt’s special assistant for Vietnam matters. In January 1972, Captain Rauch became Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for personal affairs (ombudsman) with additional duty as Assistant Deputy CNO (personal affairs). He was promoted to rear admiral on 1 July 1972. Rear Admiral Rauch subsequently became Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for human resource management, continuing in the position after Admiral Zumwalt retired in July 1974. Rear Admiral Rauch retired in 1976. 
 
Rear Admiral Rauch’s awards include the Distinguished Service Medal; Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Unit Commendation; American Campaign Medal; World War II Victory Medal; Navy Occupation Service Medal (Europe); National Defense Service Medal (two awards); Korean Service Medal; United Nations Service Medal; Vietnam Service Medal with four bronze stars; National Order of Vietnam Fifth Class Medal; Republic of Vietnam Navy Distinguished Service Order Second Class; Republic of Vietnam Armed Forces Meritorious Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross); and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal with Device. (There is no service transcript on file, and only a biography from earlier in his career, so ranks above are estimates —except for date of flag rank—and Rear Admiral Rauch probably would have received at least one Legion of Merit or second Distinguished Service Medal for his service in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations under CNO Zumwalt and CNO Holloway.) 
 
After retiring from active duty, Rear Admiral Rauch went into academia, earning a doctorate, at some point teaching courses in production management for a master’s degree in business administration, and serving as vice president for finance at the University of Maine in the 1990s. He served as president of the Penobscot Council of the Navy League and, as chairman of the Commission on University-Community Relations (1986–89), was a member of the Greater Bangor Chamber of Commerce. He was also a member of the American Society of Engineers, the Rotary Club, the Maine Audubon Society, Phi Kappa Phi, and Beta Gamma Sigma, and was apparently a “terrific photographer.” He was an Eagle Scout in his youth. 
 
In his book, On Watch, former CNO Zumwalt describes Chick Rauch as a “brilliant” officer, and throughout the book are numerous references to Chick being tasked with Zumwalt’s highest priorities, as well as the most intractable problems, such as trying to get a grip on the Navy’s serious drug problem at the time. Entering the Navy at the height of World War II, he wasn’t commissioned in time to see combat. Instead, he was in diesel submarines at the inception of the Cold War with the Soviet Union. Although the open sources for Bluegill indicate “Westpac,” Chick’s Korean and United Nations Service Medals suggest a more active role in the Korean War. He successfully made the transition to nuclear power at mid-career, commanding two nuclear submarines in the early days of such operations. During his commands, he took risks that would be unheard of today, against what was perceived as an existential Soviet threat justifying such actions. He became known for a keen analytical mind, and very effective, yet humane, leadership. Admiral Zumwalt knew talent when he saw it, and he latched on to Chick and never let go. This would prove to be both a blessing and a curse, as it took Chick off the beaten submarine officer path, and out of the good graces of Admiral Rickover. Zumwalt made Chick his “Pers-P” (standing for “people”), and as such, Chick’s influence is apparent in many of Zumwalt’s famous Z-grams, some of which ran counter to ingrained Navy tradition and often provoked backlash. He is one of three people seen in a photograph of CNO Admiral Holloway signing the U.S. Navy’s first Affirmative Action Program, which was ground-breaking and controversial at the time. CNO Zumwalt said, “I just signed the paper,” and gave Chick and his team full credit for developing and implementing the Navy’s first serious alcohol abuse rehabilitation program, a program that has arguably saved more Navy lives and careers than just about anything. He was described by those who knew him as a “man of humor, humility, integrity and above all compassion” and “kind, caring, talented.” Although his actions under CNO Zumwalt probably resulted in a foreshortened career, he had a profound and lasting positive effect on our Navy today, for which he deserves to be remembered, and for which we should be grateful. 

Rest in Peace, Admiral Rauch.