Paying Tribute to the People Who Took Aviation
from the Flight Deck of a Navy Carrier to Man's First Steps on the Moon
The Tomcat logo used throughout the F-14 program was the most popular logo ever produced by Grumman, or any other aerospace manufacturer for that matter. It has been manifested as a cloth patch, a vinyl decal, and even iron-ons. It has appeared on countless company produced items, US Navy flight suits, on vehicles and just about everywhere else. Once established, the Tomcat logo began to take on a life of it’s own. Within Grumman variations began to take shape. Even the US Navy, principal users of the F-14, began to put their own spin on this popular feline. But first, let’s take at look at the beginning.
The birth of the Tomcat logo began in the early 1970's from a request by Norm Gandia, Director of Grumman Business Development and former No. 5 Blue Angel. Norm was the driving force behind the creation of the Tomcat logo. He went to the Grumman Presentations Department with the idea of a twin-tailed tomcat (just like the aircraft) with a grin and a smart aleck look about him. Dick Milligan, Director of Presentations Services, and one of his artist’s, Jim Rodriguez, developed the Tomcat character into what we know and love today. I’ll let the artists take it from here:
Dick Milligan: "Jim Rodriguez got the assignment and during a 4 to 5 week period turned out a ton of tomcat drawings in all kinds of situations – all very clever and all very well done."
Jim Rodriguez: "Norm asked me to draw a lifelike Tomcat wearing boxing gloves and trunks along with two tails and eventually sporting a six-shooter on his left side; where the gun is located on the F-14, The name "Tom" was taken from Admiral Thomas H. Moorer, Chief of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Admiral Thomas F. Connolly Chief of Naval Operations, (two of the major supporters of the F-14 within the Navy). I took my camera and went out in search of a mackerel tomcat. I visited several dumpsters found in the rear of restaurants, this at the time when an oriental restaurant on Route 25, was exposed in Newsday for using cats in their cooking. (Since several cat heads were found in their dumpster.)
I went to the rear of a seafood restaurant in hopes of filming a feral tomcat. No luck. But a brute with a dirty apron came running out and asked what I was doing with a camera at his dumpster. I told him I was looking for cats - wrong answer. He yelled out, "We ain't got no cats here." He could be heard for a mile. I jumped in my car and took off (a very sensitive subject at the time).
I visited the local animal pound in Bay Shore, New York and asked if they had any stripped cats. No, but there was one running around their parking lot that answered my description. I went out and immediately found the little guy, a perfectly stripped young mackerel tabby. It wasn't long before we became buddies and I photographed him from all angles. I placed him on the roof of my car and he immediately found the indoor setting more comfortable; I guess he was looking for a home. I managed to pick him up and take him away from the car so that I could leave. It took several tries before I finally succeeded. I scratched all the way back Grumman.
Special thanks to Dick Milligan and Jim Rodriguez for supplying the above information, and many thanks for developing a character that will live on with all those who love the F-14.
I created several drawings showing the "Cat". One coming in for a landing on a carrier, (riding the rails, that is), one of him hiding behind a cloud waiting to pounce on a MIG, another on a tight wire to show the agility of this "Cat", and one showing the "Cat" flexing his muscles."
Dick Milligan: "However, what we were looking for was a simple tomcat with a "smart aleck" face. So one night, at home, I took a whack at it and came up with the face you now see on the logo and added the body. I still remember my three kids watching me looking in a mirror while making faces trying to come up with the right look."
Jim Rodriguez: "Dick Milligan found a lion cub drawing in a dollar cartoon book and decided to use this drawing in place of the original request. It was a good and we went with that pose and added stripes to the cub to make it appear like a tomcat.
In drawing up the final emblem, Tom Wood, (another Tom) one of my artists, recommended I use the stars and stripes for the background and it then came to life. I added a few random stars in the background and it completed the logo/emblem. Thanks to all the "Toms" an emblem was born."
Dick Milligan: "The next day Norm saw it and liked it and took it over to Plant 1 to show Mike Pelehach, the F-14 Program Manager. Norm reported back that Mike thought, "it looked like a drunken fag", but Norm decided to release it anyway and the rest is history. It was the only tomcat I ever drew, but it became the basic figure and face for all that followed.
Jim’s figure was tall, thin, had cloths on and a different face with a helmet in some cases. Mine was heavier, had nothing on but a six-shooter and appeared more cartoonish. I really don’t care who gets the credit, or blame. It became one of the better logos ever used in Naval Aviation."