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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Saturday, June 29, 2002

Adm. Robert L.J. Long, former CINCPAC, dead at 82

By William Cole
Advertiser Military Writer

Four days after Adm. Robert L.J. Long took over as commander in chief of U.S. forces in the Pacific on Oct. 31, 1979, several thousand Iranian militants overran the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and seized 70 American staff members.

LONG: Chief of Pacific forces for four years
The American response included a show of military strength in the Indian Ocean — and some long hours for the new CINCPAC at Camp Smith.

During his four-year tenure — which President Reagan extended beyond the mandatory retirement age of 62 — Long dealt with the Soviet threat off Hawai'i's waters and strained relations between the military and local residents at home.

Long, the 11th commander in chief of Pacific forces, died Thursday at the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Md. A resident of Annapolis, Md., Long was 82.

"I think we're all tremendously saddened," said Adm. Thomas Fargo, who heads the Pacific command. "He was a very strong yet, I would say, a warm and charismatic leader."

Fargo, a naval aide to Long in 1976-79 when Long was deputy chief of naval operations for submarine warfare and then vice chief of naval operations, said his former boss was among the first to be part of Adm. Hyman Rickover's nuclear Navy.

Long commanded the second U.S. ballistic missile submarine built, the USS Patrick Henry.

Long served as commander in chief for Pacific forces from October 1979 until his retirement in July 1983. During that tenure, his contributions were felt in a number of ways, Fargo said.

"From a larger regional standpoint, he built a series of very strong relationships with our bilateral partners in Japan, Korea, the Philippines, Australia and Thailand," Fargo said.

Long also helped improve sometimes troubled relations with local residents.

"I think he felt it was important for the military to have a strong relationship with Hawai'i and its people and that's where he put his emphasis," Fargo said. "Even after he retired, he came back here about every year to visit."

Long, who was born in Kansas City, Mo., graduated with distinction in 1943 from war-accelerated coursework at the U.S. Naval Academy. Assigned to the battleship USS Colorado, he received the Bronze Star for meritorious service in the Philippines and Okinawa.

Long was commanding officer of the submarine USS Sea Leopard, was assigned to Rickover's office from July 1959 to June 1960 when Rickover was director for naval reactors, and then assumed command of the Patrick Henry and, later, the USS Casimir Pulaski.

Long is survived by his wife, Sara, and sons, Charles, William and Robert. Funeral services will be held July 11 at the U.S. Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis.

Reach William Cole at wcole@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-5459.