Jackson Tate landed once at Tucson, Monday, August 19, 1929. He flew a Boeing F2B identified as A-7444. Based at San Diego, CA aboard the U.S.S. Saratoga, he arrived amidst nineteen other naval aviators, each signed into the Register on the middle third of page 112. Other than the first six, including Tate, who signed their own names, the rest were entered by an unknown hand all at once. Please direct your browser to the link and review page 112. There you'll see that signers Chourre through Wick comprise the group of twenty. They all remained overnight at Tucson, departing the morning of the 20th for El Paso, TX.
What were they doing at Tucson? They were on a grand cross-country flight headed from San Diego to Cleveland, OH and back to participate in the National Air Races (NAR) held August 24th-September 2nd at Cleveland that year. Lt. Cdr. Homer Wick was commanding officer of Squadron No. 1 based on the Saratoga.
Wick brought his entire squadron through Tucson on behalf of the NAR. During the 1920s and 1930s, the Navy ordered numerous activities by its personnel, ships and airplanes to build confidence in the naval force among the U.S. citizenry, to provide real-life training for personnel, as well as to encourage recruitment.
Tate's job in the group was as section leader for the aerobatic team named the "Nine High Hats." Below, Tate is circled and shown with the rest of his section (the two officers immediately behind him) and entire team just three days before he landed at Tucson. Please direct your browser to Wick's page to see a tabulation and identification of all the men in his squadron.
The "Nine High Hats," August 16, 1929 (Source: NHH via Bob Woodling)
In some news columns Tate was allegedly the author of a book on which the 1932 movie "Hell Divers" was modeled. He allegedly flew aerobatics in the film for actor Clark Gable. The movie also starred Register pilot Wallace Beery, who preceded Tate's landing at Tucson by a year or so. However, some sources say the film was based on a story by Frank Wead. Online filmographies do not mention Tate as either author of a book, or as a stunt pilot. We do know, however, much of the aircraft footage was shot aboard the Saratoga. Does anyone KNOW of Tate's alleged authorship or stunt flying?
Earlier, Tate joined the Navy as an enlisted man, attended flight school and became one of the earliest Naval Aviators (he was NOT, however, among the list of the first 250 listed in this REFERENCE, pp. 195-197). He was assigned to the U.S.S. Langley as a lieutenant (jg). He was involved with some of the first launches ever of naval aircraft from the Langley.
In a journal article about the Langley, Tate describes what it was like to fly from her in 1922 (citation, left sidebar), "This was not so simple as it sounds today...planes in those days had no brakes. In order to allow a plane to turn up to full power and start its deck run, it was necessary to develop a device consisting of a bomb release attached to a wire about 5-feet long. The bomb release was hooked to a ring on the landing gear and the end of the wire to a hold-down fitting on the deck. A cord led from the bomb-release trigger to an operator on the deck, who could release the plane on signal.”
Further, Tate was involved in early Fleet Problems, which, beginning in 1925, were held almost on an annual basis until the beginning of WWII. During the 1920s, defense of the Panama Canal Zone was a frequent basis for many of the Fleet Problems. Although not ready for Fleet Problem I, the Langley participated in Fleet Problem II. A thesis (cited, left sidebar, pp. 31-38) has this to say about Fleet Problem II and the role of the Langley.
"Overall, the Langley's career in the early Fleet Problems was undistinguished.
The carrier was frequently assigned to scout and provide air protection to the fleet duringthe exercises. The Langley even had difficulties accomplishing those missions since it could only steam at 16 knots, which was slower than even the battle line could travel. Thus, the carrier often had to leave the formation to launch aircraft in support of its mission....
"Fleet Problem II was the first problem the Langley was present for, although it did
not participate in the problem itself. Instead, officers aboard the ship observed the
exercise so that the Navy could determine the best way for it to participate in future
Problems. Though not assigned to either fleet, the Langley sent a formation of aircraft
over the Isthmus to photograph installations, and several aircraft simulated a torpedo
attack upon the harbor at Porto Bello. This demonstration was supposed to illustrate the vulnerability of ships in a confined harbor to air attack, but senior naval leaders do not appear to have been impressed by the attack and the Langley's presence was barely mentioned in the post-exercise critique....
"Thus, the role played by the Langley in the early fleet problems served to reinforce the views of anyone unconvinced of the importance of carriers in future naval conflicts."
The role of aircraft carriers in global warfare would, as is well-known, change just 15-years later during WWII. The 29-year old Langley would not last the war, being sunk near Java early in the conflict by Japanese bombs, on February 27, 1942.
During WWII, as a lieutenant commander, Tate was assigned to the U.S.S. Yorktown as air officer. He later was assigned, ca. November, 1943, as Commander, Advanced Base, Tarawa. Tate would rise to the rank of Rear Admiral before retirement. Various other Web sources cite reminiscences by Tate and others regarding the early Langley, and at least one romance attempted by Tate but not reciprocated by the object of his affections.
Speaking of romances, after WWII, much press was devoted to a single non-military aspect of Tate's life: one involving an enrolling international romance, loss and rediscovery. More ink was devoted to this story than his military record, at least in the newspapers. The story unfolds with Tate, as a captain at the end of WWII, stationed in Russia as a deputy attaché. He met and had an affair with a Russian actress, Zoya Alekseyevna Fyodorova. Time Magazine of February 19, 1975 described the fateful meeting between a, ".... famous Russian film star and a dashing American naval officer." They met at a Soviet-American friendship party in Moscow given by then Foreign Minister Molotov.
As a result of the affair of several months, Tate was unceremoniously asked to leave Russia for the reason of consorting with a Russian citizen. Soon after he left, Zoya was imprisoned in Siberia by Joseph Stalin for eight years without trial for consorting with a foreigner.
Their affair resulted in a child named Victoriya born January 8, 1946 (named in celebration of Allied victory in Europe). Notably, Tate was unaware of Zoya's arrest, and likewise did not know about their child. This is clarified over 30 years later in the following article from The New York Times of April 11, 1978.
The New York Times, April 11, 1978 (Source: NYT)
Tate had been married to an American woman for a number of years before this all came to light. They had a son, Victoriya's half brother. Several other articles in The New York Times between February and April, 1975 reported on the visa applications of Ms. Fyodorova and her mother, Zoya Fyodorova, and the visits to the United States by both. It was clear that Tate lobbied hard with the government for a couple of years to have the visa for his daughter granted. She finally arrived in the U.S. on March 27, 1975 for their reunion.
Zoya Fyodorova, Date Unknown (Source: Web)
Tate proposed to adopt his then adult daughter. During her visit, People Magazine of May 5, 1975 reported, "Before returning to Mother Russia in June, Victoria will get the complete media hype. She will tour central Florida in a mobile home, visit Disney World and take part in Victoria Fyodorova Day in Cypress Gardens. She will then touch down in Hollywood, New York, Miami, Paris and London.
"Victoria may go back not only with exciting memories but with American citizenship and a U.S. passport, if Tate's plan to adopt her comes off. The passport would be the most valuable souvenir of all—she could use it to visit her new American home again next year."
However, separately, while in the United States, Victoriya met and married Frederick Pouy, a Pan Am pilot. They married at Stamford, CT on June 7, 1975 just days before her visa was to expire. They had a son born May 2, 1976 and they continued to live in Connecticut. She and Pouy were divorced in 1990.
Zoya was granted a visa to come to the U.S. to accompany her daughter and son-in-law for the birth of her grandchild. It was not clear from any of the articles if Zoya ever visited Tate in Florida or elsewhere. An article from The Times of April 21, 1975 reports on the question to Zoya regarding a visit with him. She was quoted as saying, "Who knows? He has his family and I have mine."
It's disconcerting that this wonderfully romantic story of an affair of the heart should be considered so brusquely by Zoya (period photograph, above, right). Additionally, The New York Times reported on May 15, 1976 a law suit for $4.5 million by Zoya against the National Enquirer (see mention of the Enquirer in the April 11, 1975 article, above) for "malicious coaxing and coersion" of her by the Enquirer editor. Because he felt she owed him for footing the bill for her travel, the editor lobbied to be granted exclusivity for the rights to the story of any reunion between her and Tate. Her suit revolved around the economic reward she might have received for selling the rights herself. Some things don't change.
Regardless, Victoriya and her family remained in the U.S. She became a model/spokesperson for a cosmetic line and changed the spelling of her name to Victoria. She also appeared on various TV shows and in movies. Both Victoria and Zoya have a modest Web presence, some of it in tandem with the story above.
Tate passed away July 19, 1978. Below, from The New York Times of July 1, 1978, is his obituary. The photograph accompanying this article was the same one as shown in the article above. It is fitting that he had three years to enjoy his new family. He was survived by his American wife, Hazel, his daughter, Victoria, and a son, Navy Captain Hugh Tate.
J.R. Tate Obituary, The New York Times, July 21, 1978 (Source: NYT)
Zoya was shot and killed by gunfire from an intruder in her Moscow apartment in 1981. An article in The New York Times of December 17, 1981 stated:
A memorial service will be held on Sunday for Zoya Fyodorova, a leading Russian film star of the 1940's, who was shot to death last week during a robbery of her Moscow apartment. Mrs. Fyodorova had a wartime romance with a United States Navy officer, bore him a child and was subsequently imprisoned in the Soviet Union. The service will be held at 1 P.M. at the Russian Orthodox Church, Park Avenue at 93rd Street.
According to a site visitor from Latvia, Victoria passed away in Pennsylvania of cancer on September 5, 2012. Our visitor provides this link to a portrait of Victoria taken in Connecticut during 2000. And this link to a 1965 motion picture entitled "Two," in which Victoria starred. That the film includes scenes of "Romeo & Juliet" in Russian and simultaneous sign language should tempt you to view it, but not exactly give away the plot. It is a 30-minute film worth watching not only for its plot, but also for its interesting noir-like cinematography.
THIS PAGE UPLOADED: 02/06/12 REVISED: 09/23/12