AEDC Fellow Phil Tarver’s contributions to the Complex remembered
By Bradley Hicks, AEDC/PA
/ Published October 09, 2018
ARNOLD AIR FORCE BASE, Tenn. -- AEDC Fellow Jack “Phil” Tarver will be remembered for his contributions to the Complex after his passing on Sept. 30.
Tarver was a photographer credited with capturing a number of iconic images during his 35-year career at Arnold Air Force Base. He received the honor being selected as an AEDC Fellow in 2015.
Before beginning his AEDC career, Tarver honed his photography skills as a yearbook staff photographer at his high school. After his graduation, Tarver enlisted in the U.S. Navy with the hopes of becoming a military photographer. He eventually received orders to Photography School in Pensacola, Florida.
During World War II, Tarver performed aerial reconnaissance photography of Iwo Jima and Okinawa before U.S. troops landed. He also photographed the beaches U.S. troops would have landed on if the invasion of Japan had been required, as the reconnaissance missions occurred just six days before the U.S. dropped the first atomic bomb on Japan.
Tarver earned Air Medals for each mission. The citations were signed by James Forrestal, then-Secretary of the Navy.
In 1954, Tarver’s AEDC career began after he accepted a position in the newly-established Public Relations office. He was tasked with portraying AEDC facilities and tests to the public, documenting the early days of the Complex.
“When I first came to Arnold, I thought, ‘Man, if a guy couldn’t make it here with all these subjects, he’s not a very good photographer,” Tarver said in 2008. “I was really impressed with AEDC.”
Photos produced by Tarver continue to grace AEDC publications, displays and websites. These images include a work known as “60-30,” which was taken in 1960 and depicts three men standing on the turning vanes inside the then newly-constructed 16-foot supersonic wind tunnel test facility. That image was used several years ago for a poster commemorating AEDC’s first 60 years.
Tarver said in an interview that took place a decade ago that the highlight of his career was meeting and photographing Neil Armstrong during his early 1970s visit to Arnold Air Force Base. Tarver came away from the visit with a memorable experience and a photograph of the moon signed by Armstrong.
“He came here after he had been to the moon,” Tarver said. “I got to spend the day with him, following him around to cover his visit to AEDC. He’s my hero.”
Tarver was a member of the Tennessee Professional Photographers Association, serving as its president in 1965. He also belonged to the Professional Photographers of America from 1954 to 1975, serving as print judge and councilman from Tennessee. The latter organization recognized Tarver with a master of photography degree in 1962, a national award for service in 1971, and a photographic craftsman degree in 1973.
Images produced by Tarver provided a firm anchor point for the best publicity in recognition of AEDC within the Department of Defense, aerospace industry and technical community.
Tarver was a resident of Manchester and died at the age of 92.
(Editor Note: Some of this information was compiled from previous High Mach reports)