James Vernon Rutledge, Commander, U.S. Navy retired, veteran of World War II, the Korean War and the Cuban Missile Crisis, 96, of Ponte Vedra, FL formerly of Jacksonville Florida and St. Louis, Missouri passed away Tuesday January 17, 2017. He retired from the U.S. Navy after a 30 year career as a Naval Aviator, specializing with squadrons of Anti-Submarine Warfare aircraft with search, attack and destroy missions as well as search and rescue operations throughout the world. He served during World War II, the Korean War and the crisis that brought America to the brink of nuclear war with the U.S.S.R. (Russia), the Cuban Missile Crisis. During this time he was stationed at Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba.
James was born October 17, 1920 in St. Louis, Missouri into a loving family of 7 children; 5 males and 2 females. His formative years were during the Great Depression when many families didnt have jobs nor funds to buy food and didnt know where their next meal would come from. Most families and their children didnt attend school beyond the 4th grade. His Christian mother, Mary Frances Roman Rutledge, always had room for another needy mouth to share whatever food they had at their dinner table. His father, James Henry was a neighborhood automobile mechanic by trade with a small garage nearby. It was not unusual for him to accept as payment poultry, eggs and breads as payment for repairs and/or maintenance even though his bills had to be paid with cash. Summertime was spent on an Aunt and Uncles Farm in High Ridge, Missouri, performing backbreaking work by the side of his cousins to plant, raise and harvest their crops.
James was the first in the family to graduate high school in St. Louis from Roosevelt High School. He enlisted in the U.S. Navy Reserves in the third year of High School receiving training aboard the gunboat, U.S.S. Wilmette (IX-29). After completing 1 year of college at Harris Teachers College, St. Louis, Missouri, he was called to active duty during his second year. Utilizing the Naval Aviation Cadet Act (NACA) of 1935, he obtained his private pilots license while attending Harris Teacher College. The NACA was a program to send civilian and enlisted candidates to train as aviation cadets. Most of his civilian/ enlisted pilot training was completed in a Piper Cub (L-14 Grasshopper) at Lambert Field in St. Louis, Missouri. He reported for duty on February 9, 1939 as AS (V-1) USNH for a period of 4 full years and assigned to the 38th Division, 7th battalion, 6th Naval Reserve Area at Great Lakes, Illinois and was transferred from Class V-1 to Class O-1, A.S. USNR.
Shortly thereafter on August 17, 1940 he reported aboard a naval gunship, the U.S.S. Sacramento (PG-19) at Chicago, Illinois. His next duty station took him aboard the U. S.S. Munargo (AP-20) on May 31, 1941. He was advanced in rank to Seaman 1st Class on September 1, 1941. War Department plans to establish bases in the North Atlantic on Greenland, known by the code name “Bluie” were at risk. The Munargos 469 officers and men of the force departed New York bound for Argentia, Newfoundland where they would refuel and await news of ice conditions. The ships departed Argentia 30 June and arrived off Narsarssuak, Greenland to establish Bluie West One as the major Army and Navy base in Greenland. This base was established to protect the United States from attack by the Germans from the North. He was then assigned to VP Squadron 82 and advanced to Seaman 2nd Class on September 1, 1941. He extended his enlistment for a period of 2 years on October 27, 1941 and transferred to NAS Jacksonville for Class A Aviation Machinists Mate School, later attending Bombsight Training School in Dahlgreen, VA. Then in July of 1942 was transferred to Naval Aviation Cadet Flight Preparatory School in Nachitoches, Louisiana then additional Flight Training at the University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia. At this stage in his career, he was a qualified, Naval aviator, Enlisted Pilot (black shoe), Ordinanceman and Multi-Engine Pilot. He continued additional training including Flight Training for Enlisted Pilots as well as Electronic School at Whidbey Island, Washington. On September 2, 1944, James was transferred to US NAS Pensacola, Florida for further flight training. After completing his flight training and flying his solo flight, he accepted appointment as Ensign on February 7, 1945.
Upon his return and reassignment to shore duty, he received additional training in Bomb Sight School in Dahlgren, VA, utilizing the (then) Top Secret Norden Bomb Sight and would later become an instructor at NAS Jacksonville teaching Navigators and bombardiers the proper use and Top Secret care and protection of the Bombsight. This was the Bombsight used by the Enola Gay to target and drop the first atomic bomb Little Boy that devastated Hiroshima, Japan and was credited with bringing an early conclusion to the war in the Pacific and saving countless American lives. He also graduated at the top of his class at Flight Prep School in Natchitoches, LA, Preflight Training NAS, Athens Georgia and Primary Flight Training in Dallas, Texas, Aviation Machinist School, NAS Jacksonville and NAVAVC Course in Pensacola, Florida. His station assignments included VP-62, VP-82, , VP-741 and VP-16 at NAS Jacksonville, FL, NAS Floyd Bennett Field and NAS Bronson Field, FL. James was appointed Commander on June 1, 1962 at which rank he retired.
During his career he flew and logged over 3,000 pilot hours in the following airplanes:
J-3 Piper Cub, J-5 Piper Cub, JRB, JRB-4, N2S, P2V-2, P2V-4, P2V-5, P2V-5F, PBY-4, PBY-5, PBY-6A, PBX-5B, PV-1, PV-2, PV4Y-2, R4D,R5D-2, SNB-1, SNB-2C, SNB-3, SNB-5, SNJ-5, SNS, SNV-1, SNV-2, SUB-1, SUB-2, SUB-20, VRB-3. Of all the airplanes James flew during his career, his favorite was the P2V-2.
James met his future wife, Mildred Ginger Catherine Isaacs while on a double date with her sister , Ruth Carmen Isaacs Raisch at a popular WWII Juke Joint located at 8th Street East and Market Street in Jacksonville, Florida where there was dancing to big band music on the jukebox in a popular gathering spot. Since this was during WWII, and provided a respite from the War efforts and a chance for some R&R for the sailors and soldiers. This was the beginning of a relationship that culminated in a marriage that was full of love and caring that would last for 57 years. Dancing was the favorite activity that James and Ginger enjoyed, often dancing twice a week for most of their lives.
James descended from a long line of military tradition. His great-grandfather, Major General William Selby Harney served Under Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln in the U.S. Army, 1 U.S. Infantry during the Mexican War and Indian Wars and was the most senior officer on Active duty at the beginning of the Civil War. He held command of the 2nd U.S. Dragoons, Military Department Five, Department of Oregon and the Department of the West. His service included participation in the Seminole Wars, Blackhawk Wars, Sioux Wars, Mexican American War, Pig War, Utah War, Bleeding Kansas and the American Civil War. He is buried in the Officer Section of Arlington National Cemetery, Washington, D.C. After the Indian Wars, he served as chairman of the Indian Peace Commission.
Through genealogical and DNA testing a long rumored relationship to two founding fathers has been verified to the two Rutledge Brothers, John and Edward Rutledge of Charleston South Carolina. John Rutledge was a signatory to the U.S. Constitution, Governor and President of South Carolina and was appointed by George Washington as the first Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court. His younger brother, Edward was the youngest member of the Continental Congress and affixed his signature to the Declaration of Independence representing his home state of South Carolina. Their homes in Charleston, South Carolina hav