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In Memoriam: Rear Admiral E. Inman Carmichael, USN (Ret.)

June 13, 2024 | By Sam Cox (Rear Adm. USN, Ret.), Director, Naval History and Heritage Command

It is with deep regret that I inform you of the passing of Rear Admiral (lower half) E. Inman “Hoagy” Carmichael on 23 January 2024 at age 90. Rear Admiral Carmichael enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in January 1955 and served as a naval aviator until his retirement in August 1988 as director of Logistics Plans Division (OP-40) in the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. His commands included Attack Squadron ONE ONE FIVE (VA-115), Attack Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN (CVAW-15), Ponchatoula (AO-148), Midway (CV-41), Naval Base San Diego, and Fleet Air Western Pacific. He was awarded a Distinguished Flying Cross, a Bronze Star, multiple Air Medals, and three Navy Commendation Medals with Combat “V” during more than 240 combat missions during the Vietnam War.

Inman Carmichael commenced study at Georgia Tech in the fall of 1952. On 25 January 1955, he enlisted in the U.S. Naval Reserve in the Naval Aviation Cadet Program. During flight school, he was given the nickname “Hoagy” by a flight instructor, which stuck. He was honorably discharged on 12 July 1956. The next day he was commissioned an ensign in the U.S. Naval Reserve, with rank to date from 16 February 1956, and he continued on active duty. He was also designated a naval aviator (heavier-than-air) on 13 July 1956.

In August 1956, Ensign Carmichael reported to Utility Squadron FIVE (VU-5) at Atsugi, Japan, serving as a squadron flight officer and later officer-in-charge of the Itizuke Detachment (southern Japan), flying multiple types of aircraft, including a U.S. Air Force B-47 bomber from Okinawa. In August 1957, he was promoted to lieutenant (junior grade).

In November 1957, Lieutenant (j.g.) Carmichael was assigned to Training Group NINE in Pensacola, Florida, as an instructor, serving consecutively at Naval Auxiliary Air Station (NAAS) Corry Field, NAAS Whiting Field, and Naval Air Station (NAS) Pensacola. He was promoted to lieutenant in April 1960.

In June 1961, Lieutenant Carmichael reported to VA-125 at NAS Moffett Field, California, for transition training to the A-4 Skyhawk light attack jet. In January 1962, he reported administratively to the Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Southern California for duty under instruction (probably safety officer course). In March 1962, he reported to VA-94 “Mighty Shrikes” as the squadron completed a move to NAS Lemoore, California, serving as assistant operations officer and flying the A4D-2N (A-4C) Skyhawk. VA-94 embarked on attack carrier Ranger (CVA-61), deploying to the Western Pacific from November 1962 to June 1963, including operations in the South China Sea in May 1963 in reaction to a crisis in Laos.

In January 1964, Carmichael reported to Naval Aviation Technical Training Unit at Naval Base Philadelphia for duty under instruction. In April 1964, he was assigned as catapult and arresting gear officer on Ranger. In May 1964, Ranger operated near French Polynesia monitoring a French nuclear test, highlighted by launching and recovering a U-2 spy plane from Ranger’s deck. Ranger then deployed to the Western Pacific from August 1964 to May 1965. This deployment included combat operations in Vietnam beginning shortly after the Gulf of Tonkin incident, serving as the flagship for Fast Carrier Task Force 77, and suffering a serious fire in her No. 1 main machinery room in April 1965. Lieutenant Carmichael was promoted to lieutenant commander in March 1965.

In April 1966, Lieutenant Commander Carmichael was assigned to VA-44 at NAS Cecil Field, Florida, as a flight instructor and training officer. In October 1968, he reported to VA-42 for transition training to the A-6 Intruder all-weather medium attack jet. He was then assigned in May 1969 as operations officer for VA-35 “Black Panthers” at NAS Oceana, Virginia, embarked on attack carrier Coral Sea (CVA-43) and flying the A-6A/B Intruder. Coral Sea deployed to the Vietnam combat zone from September 1969 to July 1970. Carmichael was promoted to commander in August 1969.

In March 1970, Commander Carmichael assumed duty as executive officer for VA-115 “Eagles” at Naval Air Facility (NAF) Atsugi, Japan, flying the A-6A Intruder and embarked on attack carrier Midway (CVA-41). Midway deployed to Vietnam from April to November 1971, operating as a single carrier on Yankee Station during a comparatively low ebb in strike operations (due to the halt of Rolling Thunder strikes into North Vietnam). In June 1971, Carmichael became commanding officer of VA-115. Midway and VA-115 deployed again to Vietnam from April 1972 in reaction to the North Vietnamese “Easter Offensive,” a period of intense carrier strike operations. Midway (and Carrier Air Wing FIVE/VA-115) was awarded a Presidential Unit Citation for this period.

In June 1972, Commander Carmichael attended the Industrial College of the Armed Forces (ICAF) at Fort McNair in Washington, DC, graduating in June 1973. He was then assigned to VA-122 as an instructor. In November 1973, Carmichael assumed command of Attack Carrier Air Wing FIFTEEN (CVAW-15), embarking on attack carrier Coral Sea, deploying to the Western Pacific from December 1974 to July 1975. During this period, the North Vietnamese launched a major conventional ground invasion of South Vietnam, and although Coral Sea and three other carriers quickly arrived on scene, U.S. policy was not to intervene except to conduct an evacuation of Saigon in April of 1975 (Operation Frequent Wind). Simultaneously, the Communist Khmer Rouge overran Cambodia, resulting in an evacuation of Phnom Penh (Operation Eagle Pull). This was followed in May 1975 by the SS Mayaguez incident, in which Khmer Rouge elements captured a U.S. merchant ship, and Coral Sea aircraft flew protective air strikes against Khmer air and naval installations (the Khmer Rouge released the ship, but 41 U.S. military personnel were killed in a rescue attempt).

In May 1975, Commander Carmichael reported to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, serving as naval strike fighter coordinator for the F/A-18 Hornet program. He was promoted to captain in July.

In January 1977, Captain Carmichael reported to Surface Officers Schools Command, Newport, Rhode Island, for duty under instruction. In May 1977, he assumed command of oiler Ponchatoula (AO-148) homeported in Pearl Harbor and deploying to the Western Pacific. During his tenure in command, Ponchatoula was awarded the Arleigh Burke Trophy for “most improved” ship as well as the Battle Efficiency award. In August 1978, he reported to the staff of Commander Naval Air Forces Pacific for duty as force readiness officer. In April 1979, he was assigned to the Naval Reactor Facility, Idaho Falls, Idaho, for training.

In August 1979, Captain Carmichael assumed command of carrier Midway (CV-41) as part of the Forward Deployed Naval Force at Yokosuka, Japan. Midway commenced a Western Pacific deployment in August 1979, interrupted by an unscheduled deployment to the Indian Ocean and North Arabian Sea on 18 November 1979 in reaction to the Iranian hostage crisis. Midway was joined by carrier Kitty Hawk (CV-63) and then carrier Nimitz (CVN-68) before returning to the Western Pacific in February 1980. In May 1980, Midway reacted to a civil unrest crisis in South Korea. On 29 July 1980, the Panamanian-flag merchant ship Cactus collided with Midway in the Palawan Passage between the Philippines and Borneo, killing two Midway crewmen and damaging three F-4 Phantoms on deck. In August 1980, Midway relieved Constellation (CV-64) on station in the North Arabian Sea, conducting 118 days of operations in the Indian Ocean before returning to Yokosuka in late February 1981. Midway was awarded the Battle Efficiency award in 1981.

In February 1981, Captain Carmichael returned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, this time as deputy director, Carrier Programs Division. In June 1981, he was assigned to the staff of Commander in Chief, U.S. Pacific Fleet at Pearl Harbor as assistant chief of staff for operations. In August 1982, he assumed duty as Commander, Naval Base San Diego. He was promoted to rear admiral (lower half) on 1 September 1983.

In June 1985, Rear Admiral Carmichael assumed command of Fleet Air, Western Pacific at NAF Atsugi, supporting ships and aircraft deployed to the Western Pacific and Indian Ocean. He also served as acting Commander, U.S. Naval Forces Japan for a two-month period. In July 1987, he returned to the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations as director, Logistics Plans Division (OP-40). Rear Admiral Carmichael retired on 1 August 1988.

During his career, Rear Admiral Carmichael flew 26 types of aircraft, with more than 9,000 flight hours and more than 840 carrier recoveries.

Rear Admiral Carmichael’s awards include the Legion of Merit (at least two); Distinguished Flying Cross; Bronze Star; Meritorious Service Medal; Air Medal with Gold Star and Numeral “15”; Navy Commendation Medal with Combat “V” (three awards); Presidential Unit Citation; Navy Unit Commendation (three awards); Meritorious Unit Commendation (five awards); Battle Efficiency Ribbon (two awards); Navy Expeditionary Medal; National Defense Service Medal (two awards); Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal (three awards); Vietnam Service Medal (seven campaign stars); Humanitarian Service Medal; Sea Service Deployment Ribbon (three awards); Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross (Gold Star); Republic of Vietnam Unit Citation (Gallantry Cross Color); and Republic of Vietnam Campaign Medal.

After retiring from active duty, Rear Admiral Carmichael devoted himself to church, community, and family. According to his obituary that was published several months ago, services were to be held at Arlington National Cemetery at a future date.

Admiral Stan Arthur described Hoagy Carmichael as “one of the truly special ones of my generation.” He was also described as a “confident” but “never cavalier leader, highly esteemed by squadron mates and shipmates. His number one mission throughout his career was to bring them home safely to their loved ones.” This was no easy feat given the number of times he deployed to the Vietnam War (seven campaign stars)—he was there just after the Gulf of Tonkin incident and during the Rolling Thunder strikes, the Easter Offensive, and ultimately the fall of Saigon, essentially from beginning to end. Despite the high casualty rate for wing and squadron commanding and executive officers during the war, he nevertheless led from the front, especially as CO of VA-115 during the intense combat strike operations that turned back the massive North Vietnamese offensive in the spring of 1972. Leading from the front was the best way to bring back his squadron members alive. He certainly had a nose for the action (as well as an obvious desire to stay in the cockpit), as evidenced by the unit awards he received: a Presidential Unit Citation (Midway/VA-115), three Navy Unit Commendations, and five Meritorious Unit Commendations. Ashore, he had significant impact on the development of the F/A-18 Hornet strike

fighter and follow-on Nimitz-class aircraft carriers. He was also involved in a couple highly unusual events, including the launch and recovery of a U-2 from Ranger. According to an unofficial source (which I can’t confirm), he was the “launch officer” when Ranger catapulted two F-4 Phantoms as she passed beneath the Golden Gate Bridge in 1962 (there are photos of the event). Nevertheless, Hoagy’s career involved numerous moves and long periods at sea, at great sacrifice to his family, for which the Navy and nation should be grateful. He played a significant role in deterring the Soviet Union during the Cold War, as well as Iranian aggression in the Middle East, and he provided an inspirational example of duty above self, especially during the latter stages of the Vietnam War.

Rest in Peace, Admiral Carmichael.