I can remember Admiral Aurand
Commander Al Rowley
Supply Officer 1966-1967
From: Bill Copeland
Wed 1/2/02 10:41 PM
Just before Christmas, Joe Pires "found" Commander Al Rowley, and we all gave him a welcome aboard.
Over the last few weeks, Commander Rowley has given us a few behind the scenes stories of life on CVS 20.
The next few days, I will pass them along, here we go, straight from the coffee mess, the Commanders memories of Admiral Aurand, USS Bennington 1967.
As you may recall, The Flag on our '66-67 WestPac deployment was Rear Admiral Peter Aurand, Known as "Peter, the Fox", he was a brilliant naval aviator. He had been the the first to land a jet on a carrier, and he was a wizard at anti-submarine warfare. He had also served as Eisenhower's Naval Aide during his second term as President. It was Pete Aurand who laid out and developed Camp David for Ike. In '66-67 he was Commander, ASW Group 3, and embarked on USS BENNINGTON during our WestPac cruise. He had some demanding but fascinating ideas, and I would like to share just one story here. When Admiral Aurand embarked a month or so before our deployment, he summoned CDR Harry Irvine, the Navigator, and myself, the Supply Officer, up to his cabin and directed us to bring him the lightest weight No. 6 national ensign on board. The "No. 6" was the larger "Sunday ensign" which normally was flown from the stern staff when the ship was at anchor or moored and only on holidays and Sundays. I had the GSK storerooms searched. Harry Irvine searched the flag bags and Nav Dept. We weighed them all in the Post Office and reported to the Admiral with the lightest. He weiged it on a small postal scale in his office and then said, "Now, before we deploy, I want one on board that weighs no more than half that much.... Dismissed" I knew there would be nothing like that anywhere in the Navy supply system, so I immediately contacted a flag store up in Pasadena to see if they could find me one. They advised they could possibly have one custom made of silk in Hong Kong, and I gave them an order, specifying that it MUST be delivered before our deployment date. As I remember it cost about $60 which really wasn't bad. The flag arrived in time, and Harry Irvine and I took it up to the Admiral. He weighed it and said, "Well done". Then, handing it to the Navigator, he directed, "This ensign is to be flown ONLY when in foreign ports and when the wind is below 8 knots." I didn't quite get it until we were anchored in Hong Kong on a flat calm day a few months later. Riding across the Kowloon Ferry, I remember viewing that great harbor filled with ships from all over the world; all with their colors hanging limp and still and barely distinguishable. All , that is, but the USS BENNINGTON, where the Stars and Stripes floated and fluttered proudly on an imperceptable breath of a breeze. Pete Aurand loved the flag. When he was embarked, each day a quartermaster was required to bring the ship's ensign to the laundry where it would be carefully laundered to remove all soot from the stack gas which was vented close to the masthead where it flew. This, I knew, violated accepted flag etiquette which says the American Flag should never be washed, but RADM Aurand had ordered it. When it became the least bit tattered it was retired. We probably went through more U.S. flags than any ship in the Navy. An woe unto the skipper of any vessel in our task group which was flying a soiled or tattered ensign! Al Rowley, CDR, SC, USN (Ret.) Supply Officer, 1966-67 Also, I can remember Admiral Aurand having the Twidgets rig up up a TV camera in a target drone and then having it flown in over North Viet Nam to see what he could learn. That was undoubtedly the forerunner of todays unmanned reconnaisance aircraft the CIA has been flying over Afghanistan. Admiral Aurand also had the ship's Electronics Officer rig up a Zenith "Space Command" TV remote so he could use it to summon either his Orderly or his Steward. It never worked really well. While shopping in Yokosuka, I purchased a small Sony wireless microphone designed for use on the stage. No bigger than a cigarette lighter, it would broadcast the speakers voice on a preset FM channel to a nearby receiver/amplifier. It cost me $25. Then I took a little $30 FM radio from the ship's store up to the Orderly's station outside the Admirals cabin and the Flag Mess and tuned it to the matching FM frequency. After dinner, I took the mike into the Flag Mess and handed it to the Admiral. He had never seen one and asked what it was. I told him it was a wireles mike and suggested he speak into and summon his Orderly or his Steward. He looked at me doubtfully, and said, into it, "Steward, please bring us some coffee." Within seconds the Steward entered with coffee. Admiral Aurand was tickled pink, and from that day on I could do no wrong. He soon had another another wireless mike connected to the PA sytem in Flag Plot for use by the briefing officers. That cheap tiny mike would broadcast up to about 150 feet through steel bulkheads and was the best $25 I ever laid out. Admiral Evan Peter Aurand sometimes drove his staff officers nuts because of all his ideas and demands, but I thought he was great! His final command was as Commander, Anti-Submarine Warfare, Pacific Fleet headquarted in Hawaii. He lived in Quarters "K" just a few hundred yards from the Arizona Memorial and close to where he had landed an aircraft he had flown in from the Carrier Enterprise just minutes after the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7th. In addition to developing Camp David during his tour as Naval Aide to President Eisenhower 1956-60, he was also the first to argue that the President could safely travel by helicopter. He also inititiated the historic submerged voyage of USS NAUTILUS beneath the North Pole. I recall reading that he had passed away in Hawaii about 10-15 years ago. Al Rowley