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Quentin C. Crommelin oral history interview, February 7, 1988

Date: Feb. 07 1988 | Identifier: OH0096
Captain Crommelin, USNA Class of 1941, relates his experiences and those of his four brothers as naval officers during World War II. Among the topics discussed are the torpedoing of the USS SARATOGA, duty in the South Pacific, flight training, combat experiences, and the aviation deaths of two brothers. Postwar commentary concerns duty as squadron commander, association with Admiral J.L. Holloway, Jr., and their opinions of Admiral Hyman Rickover. Interviewer: Donald R. Lennon. more...



EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION
ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW #96
Capt. Quentin C. Crommelin
USNA CLASS OF 1941
February 7, 1988
Interview #1

Donald R. Lennon:

Captain Crommelin, you were born in Alabama, did you spend most of your youth there?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

Yes. I was born on a plantation about fifteen miles from Montgomery, Alabama. We lived in the country in the summertime and in Montgomery in the winter. I was a summer child, the youngest of eight. I grew up in Montgomery and went to school there. I graduated from public high school in 1935 and then went to school there. I graduated from public high school in 1935 and then went on to Georgia Tech. I stayed at Tech for two years. I attempted to get an appointment to the Naval Academy during those two years but I didn't try very hard because my four older brothers had all gone to the Academy and the politicians were not too anxious to waste another appointment. I kept taking the competitive exams and either won one or ran into a kind congressman. Anyhow, I was appointed to the Naval Academy and started there in the summer of 1937, after two years at Tech.



Donald R. Lennon:

Maybe you could share some of your recollections of the Academy, some of the things you like or disliked, that kind of thing.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I look back on my time at the Academy with affection because I made some very close friends there. As a matter of fact, my roommate there was a boy named Pete Fleming who had gone to high school with me. He joined the Navy, spending two years as an enlisted man; and I went to Tech, staying two years there; and we wound up as roommates at the Naval Academy. So I had one friend up there to begin with.

It's hard to say that you enjoyed the Naval Academy. It was an interesting experience. I felt a little bit as if I were too sophisticated, being a college man and that sort of thing, and it was a little hard for me to take the hazing. But I took it, not always with good grace, but the best that I could do. I enjoyed the summer cruises, they were a lot of fun. I got along without too much struggle academically because I did have two years of tough college (Georgia Tech was not an easy place either) under my belt. The Naval Academy was tough, but it was easy for me the first couple of years, anyhow. I probably enjoyed it more than most people did. As I say, you look back on midshipman days with mixed feelings. I had a lot of fun, but there were times--being a Southern boy--when I marched through the snow and thought I would just make a turn and go out the main gate and they would never see me again. I enjoyed the Academy.

Donald R. Lennon:

Definitely a colder climate than you were used to!

Quentin C. Crommelin:

Indeed it was.

Donald R. Lennon:

Having a couple of years of college obviously helped you academically but, as you said, you were also a little more mature than the other fellows.



Quentin C. Crommelin:

I thought I was anyhow. I don't know if I really was or not. Richard, one of my four brothers, was still at the Naval Academy (Class of 1938) my first year there. He and I were very close. That sort of cut both ways. His friends were very nice to me. but some people didn't like him too much. He was an extremely handsome and popular guy but he was a fighter too. So everybody didn't love him. I ran into family supporters and then other who really didn't like us too much.

Donald R. Lennon:

Having had four brothers up there you had an idea what plebe year would be like.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

A little bit but not much. I had been up to the Naval Academy. I had driven one of my sisters up there when I was about fifteen. Back in those days, you know, you didn't have to have a driver's license; and I started driving when I was twelve, really. I started driving myself to school when I was thirteen.

Donald R. Lennon:

Is there anything else you want to share from your Academy days?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

No, except that I did make some lasting friendships there. Of course, so many of my friends are dead now. My roommate, LCDR Patrick D. Fleming, whom I was very fond of, was killed. He went over to the Air Force. He became one of the Navy's leading Aces at the Naval Aviation Museum--number four as a matter of fact--during the war, credited with nineteen aircrafts destroyed in aerial combat. He was a fighter pilot, too, as I was. He then transferred to the Air Force. He was an interesting man. He got killed in an Air Force bomber. It was going down and he was the senior man aboard. Everybody got out except my friend. He was the last one to jump. He was too low and didn't make it. He was a hell of a guy, though.



Donald R. Lennon:

When was that? Was that after the war or during the war?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

That was after the war. That was in the 1950s, about 1955.

Donald R. Lennon:

You graduated in February. They pushed the class up. Then where did you go?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I reported to the old SARATOGA CV-3, an aircraft carrier, on the West Coast. She was one of the earliest carriers, the third one actually. She was a converted battlecruiser, as was the LEXINGTON. I spent the year before the war in the gunnery department. I became the 1.1 control officer and the four-barrel anti-aircraft guns officer. I inherited that. I started off as a turret officer. They had eight-inch guns on that old piper. That was a very happy, pleasant time, that year before the war. I was out there when the war broke out. We were just going into the port at San Diego when we got the news that the war had started. We really didn't believe it. Then we sailed to Honolulu--to Pearl Harbor--and got there a few days after the attack.

Donald R. Lennon:

What was your impression as you came in to Pearl Harbor?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

It was really something. I know many people have told you about it, probably a lot of them were there at the time. Coming into the port we passed by the ARIZONA, which was awash, and it was one of the most moving experiences I ever had. Her deck was stick above water on the side of the channel going into Pearl there. We gave passing honors: On the ships everybody came to attention, sound attention, and hand-saluted and so forth. The survivors on deck of the ARIZONA also gave us passing honors. It was as quiet as could be. Seeing that ship sitting on the bottom with just its few survivors standing and saluting us as we went by, somehow got to me. It was a shambles when we got into the port. There was oil about two inches thick on the water. There was an



occasional body that people in small boats would pick up and bring alongside. At night we would take a bunch of men and rifles and go out and man the beach. There would be a sailor about every hundred yards with an old World War I rifle to repel invasion.

Donald R. Lennon:

Wouldn't have done a lot, would it?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

We were a lot more dangerous to each other than we were to the Japanese! But it was an interesting time.

Donald R. Lennon:

How long did you stay in Pearl and then where did the SARATOGA head?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

We went back to sea very quickly. Our first orders were to relieve the gallant men on wake Island. The Marines were fighting out there, so we went steaming out there to support them. They were being attacked. I think the plan was for the SARATOGA to go in on the north side directly into the island. Another carrier, the ENTERPRISE, I guess, was on the south. We got about two hundred miles out, about maximum range for the dive bombers to get there, and we just stopped. What happened at high command I don't know, but I think they thought that some large Japanese force was in the area. It was not true, but anyhow, we just stopped, turned around, and headed back home. You could feel the morale of the whole ship just drop because we were all steamed up. Early in the war, I think, our commanders made some bad errors just like some were made on the Japanese side. We were steaming at about twelve knots. Enemy submarines were around and we were just sailing straight, not zitgzagging , and we took aboard some torpedoes, at least one, maybe two. One knocked a hell of a hole out of the side of our ship. Anyhow, we got pickled early in the war.

Donald R. Lennon:

That was when?



Quentin C. Crommelin:

That was in December 1941. We made it back to Pearl all right. It was interesting going into Pearl. The Japanese minisubs were trying to penetrate the harbor there, and our destroyers kept getting contacts. We had reports of torpedoes. Whether there were really any torpedoes there, I don't know. The ships were chasing around in all directions back and forth trying to find the subs, but we never could get our hands on them.

The hole in our ship was patched up the best it could be and then we were sent back to Seattle to get it really fixed. There really weren't many men killed in that torpedo hit. I think we lost a dozen men or so, but it was a hell of a hole.

When I got back to Bremerton, the navy yard there in Seattle, I took a group of men and went to Washington to the new gun factory to learn about some new anti-aircraft guns. They were forty-millimeter caliber. They were supposed to be a big improvement over the old 1.1's that we had on the SARATOGA at that time. They had a bad habit of blowing up in the barrel--the projectiles killing the folks who were working the guns. This trip to Washington was one experience that was not a happy one. I got to the gun factory with about fifteen sailors and found only parts of guns. They didn't have any real guns that had been assembled. They sent us up to Yorksie & Locke(?) where they were assembling the parts to this machine gun or machine cannon. They had an assembly line that looked like it was about a mile long, and beside it was a stack of defective gun parts that was, I think, at least twenty-five feet high. This long assembly line was supposed to be working three shifts. We were all so patriotic and “hup, hup” and thought everybody else was, too. Our time was short there, and I kept my men there for sixteen hours a day.



During the day a few people worked until four o'clock until the next shift at eight the next morning was sit around and play cards and drink. It was an outrage.

Donald R. Lennon:

Were these civilians?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

Yes, civilians. We stayed up there for a week, and we did figure out for ourselves how the guns worked.

Donald R. Lennon:

You had to assemble them yourself?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

We didn't have to do that. They were great big cannons, four barrels, but we did learn how they operated. I had some real good technicians with me. It was just one of those things about the war that got to me. I went to Washington with a real nasty report and sent it in to the captain of the gun factory there. He said, “I'll tell you, those people made a great contribution to President Roosevelt's campaign--nothing is going to happen.” He was right. Nothing did happen. Anyhow, that's a digression. While I was there, Charles, my brother who was a test pilot, was at Anacostia, the test station there, testing an airplane that Curtiss had built. It had killed two previous test pilots. It was a terrible airplane. I think it was an SO3C or something like that. It was built by Curtiss and had a little Ranger in-line engine in it that was totally inadequate. It almost got him, too. The engine quit on him in take-off. He landed between two barracks, tore down a power line and hit a hydrant. It tore him all up. That happened while I was there. He was a pretty tough boy. I went out to see him at the hospital and he was laying there with bandages all over him, a broken leg, and an arm almost cut off, and he was smoking a cigar. He was a tough guy. “Jocko” Clark said later on in the war that he was the bravest



man he had ever known. I agree that he was the bravest man I ever knew. I'm digressing again.

Somehow my brother knew that the ________ had broken their [Japanese] code. He knew that they were at sea heading east. He told me about it. He said, “You had better get back to your ship. Something is getting ready to happen out there.” How he knew or who told him, I don't know. We got back to the ship just in time to get aboard and go steaming out to fight the battle of Midway. We didn't know it was going to be Midway, but we knew something was going to happen. I'm sure the skipper of the ship knew. We went out there at thirty knots; that old ship was fast. We got almost to Pearl then just slowed down again. We just sat there. Then we picked up a few planes and some pilots, but not ours. Our air group had been put on other ships to go out and meet the Japanese. Then we steamed on out, really, about the time the battle was over. I think they must have been holding us in reserve because they didn't know where the Japs were going. We had lost our code. The Japs changed codes after the twenty-ninth of May, right before the Battle of Midway, and we didn't know where the hell they were. The Army thought they were going to hit San Diego, Jones (?) did. Anyhow, we got out to Midway a little late. We didn't have many planes go over, it wouldn't have done much good. We picked up a few pilots--Japanese and our own, but we did not really participate.

The next engagement we were in was Guadalcanal. I won't go into any detail on that. We went north in the daytime, launched our aircraft into the fighting, then steamed



south at night. Then we got into the battle of the Eastern Solomons up there. That was the only real battle we got in.

One night when we were steaming out at twelve knots, we took aboard some more torpedoes. It was like the first time we got torpedoed, we should have been going twenty-five and zigzagging, but we were not.

Donald R. Lennon:

This was in the battle in the Eastern Solomons.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

No, this was after that. We were still out there supporting the Marines on Guadalcanal. We got torpedoed again and limped back to Pearl.

Donald R. Lennon:

What was the date on that approximately?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I would think that was in early September. Shortly after we got back to Pearl, I got orders to flight training, which is really what I wanted to do anyway. Three of my older brothers were carrier pilots. The other one was a destroyer sailor. His eyes weren't good enough for him to be an aviator or he would have been one, too, I think.

I went to flight training, and during that time I got married. The girl and I had decided to marry five years previously. We got married, we're still married, and she's still a beautiful gal. Anyhow, I went to flight training and came out and turned my hat around and became an instructor. The fighters were right down the road at a place called Green Cove Springs about thirty miles from here. My brothers, Charles and Richard, were here, too. We were all three in this area at the same time. Richard was shot down a few Zeros out in the Pacific. He was back on the staff here to teach other people about fighting the Zeroes. Charles, the one that got all banged up, had gone out as squadron commander to make a strike on Mili Atoll. Everybody had gone home and the next strike



hadn't come in yet. He was the strike leader and had stayed behind to take some pictures. He was circling the field on Mili when the Japs started rolling out Bettys, twenty bombers, from a hidden revetment that the strike had missed. He reported it and started making runs by himself.

Donald R. Lennon:

At the Bettys?]Betty! He had burned about six of the damned things himself on the ground before they could get off. In one of his runs, he told me, he had shot so much ammunition that he had to stop making his runs so fast. He was one of those people that if he made a strafing run, it wasn't done Air Force style from five thousand feet, he got down there among them. He thought the way to strafe something was to get about a hundred feet behind it on the ground. His gun got so damned hot, his projectiles were tumbling. I know it was true because he was not a boastful man at all and he wouldn't have told me otherwise. But anyhow, the last run he made they got him with a thirty-seven millimeter or something right in the cockpit and it exploded in the cockpit. His eyes, face, and whole body were covered in two-hundred-odd pieces of metal. He said he really didn't know how he got out of his dive, but he did, and his plane was still flying. Some kid coming in with the squadron that was coming off the ship on the next attack, saw him and joined up with him. He led him back to the ship and somehow my brother got aboard. He told me, “You find out who your friends are.” I've seen a picture of it. It was in the movie, “The Fleet That Came to Stay” or “Carrier War”--one of those documentaries. [Probably “The Fighting Lady.”][It's amazing that he could even get back to the ship.



Quentin C. Crommelin:

He wanted Dad to go see that movie but he wouldn't go. He said, “No.” He never wanted to see one of his sons in distress. It was a sad thing.

Charles was all shot up, but he did something when he got to Pearl that I thought was indicative of him. (I want to get this on the interview more than anything else.) When he went back to Pearl, they hauled him from an ambulance to the hospital there. They had to lift him from the cockpit, anyhow, because in addition to one leg being two inches shorter than the other one, (that happened in the accident in Washington) now he was all full of holes. One the way to the hospital, he made the ambulance driver go by the Officers' Club because he knew his squadron boys would be there having a drink. He had them carry him into the bar, and he stood up at the bar, had himself a slug of bourbon, and talked to the kids. Then he walked back out and got on the stretcher and got back in the ambulance again. Of course, the doctor gave him unshirted hell for it. My brother said, “Well, you know, I just wanted to show those kids that it wasn't so tough. There are worse things than getting shot up.” That's really the reason he did it. He was that kind of a man.

He had promised me that I could go out with him when he was made an air group commander. Well, when the three of us were all in Florida at the same time, we had a little meeting at my house--my two brothers and me. I lived out in a little house near Valparaiso which I could afford in the wintertime but not in the summer. The three of us were very close. Richard was a year and a half older than I was. Charles was ten years older, but he had the kind of personality that made everybody think he was their own age. We were having a good time telling lies and drinking whiskey. Our wives got disgusted



with us and went on to bed. Then my brother told me that he was not going to let me in his air group. He said, “Well, you know, you'd be out on a strike and I'd be worried about you. Then I'd be out and you'd be worried about me.” It made me mad as the devil. We had a big argument. The last time I saw him he wasn't really mad and we talked. I just had the feeling, it's something to do with old age, that something was wrong, but that night both of my brothers and I knew weren't going to make it. They were brave brave men but I think that they felt it, too. I had a feeling that I was going to make it. We had an argument, you know, we'd say, “You can get shot down, but damned if I am!” You know that sort of thing. Of course he was, Charles was killed off Okinawa. Richard was killed off of Japan.

Donald R. Lennon:

Were they shot down?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

Charles said that Richard, who was a squadron commander, was leading the strike on Japan's island of Hokkaido--a river up there. One of his own planes stuffed his tail off in a plow (?), and he was lost at sea. Charles was on a ship that had been kamikazed. Charles had such a wonderful reputation. I told you what “Jocko” Clark said. “Jocko” asked Charles to not go back to his air group, but instead stay out and be his special coordinator over the targets on Okinawa. He stayed and that's what he was doing. His job as strike coordinator was, flying in over the targets on Okinawa and directing the planes about what to do. Then he would go down and take pictures of the damage done and so forth. Then he would advise the admiral when he got back to the ship on what to do. He was down taking pictures, and one of our people, making an attack on the field,



dived into him and killed him. They both were not shot down, but they were killed in combat.

Donald R. Lennon:

What were the dates?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

Charles was killed in March of 1945. Richard was killed on Bastille Day, July 14, 1945. We almost made it. At that time I had reported to a squadron. As people went home after the war, I inherited a command. The rest of my career was largely in operational jobs. I had that squadron, which was a Corsair squadron. then I went to the Naval Academy as an instructor from 1946 to 1948 in the Department of Aviation. That's sort of an interesting story if I could relay that to you.

We had never had an Aviation Department in Annapolis; we were the first ones. It was sort of a hand-picked group. We were all World War II types. All of us had been squadron commanders. Our skipper was Bob Pirie, later DNNO (Air). He was a captain at the time. We called him the “Bear”(?). He was a very colorful aviator. He told us to recruit as many midshipmen as possible to naval aviation. He said to go ahead and teach whatever subjects we were supposed to teach, but to tell a few sea stories at the end of the class to try to develop their interest in naval aviation. We did this with a vengeance. It was hard. You had to know your stuff about your subjects. The kids were smart enough to catch you if you didn't. But then you could have whatever was going on to remind you of something to do with naval aviation--”There I was on my back at forty thousand....” We were real successful. I think in the Class of 1948, which was one of the classes we taught, something like ninety percent of them applied for aviation. Of course, they couldn't take them all. I left in 1948 and took command of another squadron in the



Pacific, a F8F Bearcat squadron. They abandoned the aviation department shortly thereafter. Now by “they,” I don't know who I'm talking about.

Donald R. Lennon:

They didn't like the success?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

They like the success, but some of them did not.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did you like teaching at the Academy?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I did. I thought it was very interesting. It was the only easy job I think I had in the Navy. I went from there to commander of an aircraft squadron in the Pacific. Then after that job, I was an officer in charge of the carrier qualification unit in Pensacola. I was teaching those boys out there how to land on a carrier, which was a very interesting job.

Donald R. Lennon:

How long were you there at Pensacola?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I was there for two years.

Donald R. Lennon:

What years were they approximately?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

That would have been from late 1949 to early 1951. I went from there--”kicking and screaming”--to the staff of a Battleship Cruiser Force. I was the staff aviator , staff CIC officer, systems operator officer, and navigator. In those days, you didn't have many officers on staff. I stayed there for a year.

Donald R. Lennon:

Where was that at the time?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

We were on a battleship out in the Atlantic--BATCRULAN. That was an interesting sea duty job, although I wanted to go back to aviation. The admiral let me go home on leave after a year as he had promised, but then he called me back early and gave



me about four policy letters/orders to write for him on different subjects. I came back a week early, so I only got about three days leave. I worked like the devil on them. He signed them without changing anything. Then he said, “I want you to go to Washington with me. I've been named Chief of Naval Personnel. Be my administrative assistant.” I didn't say anything. Then I said, “Admiral, I think that's great but I think I had better get back to flying.” I had flown some while I was with him but not much. I had learned how to fly helicopters, then never flew them. he took me up to Washington and I said to the detail people, “Look, you guys have got to get me out of this.” They said, “Hell, when the chief of Naval Personnel asked for you boy, that's where you're going.” So I worked for Admiral Holloway, not the one that became CNO, but his father, for two years. The admiral was a wonderful boss. He would never ask you to do anything that made you feel subservient or anything. I wrote for him. I carried on a lot of his correspondence. I wrote his speeches and went with him everywhere.

When we went over to see a senator or something like that on the hill, instead of having me wait outside with my briefcase, he always took me in with him. That was very interesting because I got to hear some real high-level conversations. The old devil had a reason behind it. He'd say, “Quentin, how about making me a little time study.” That meant to write down who said what so we would have a record, and a witness. He was some guy. I went to work out there at 7:30 and he would always be out there ahead of me. We'd usually work until 7:30 at night. Sometimes around 6:30, when the night was as black as the ace of spades, he's walk in and sit at his desk, and I would be at mine, which was just outside of his, and we would talk through the door.



One interesting thing about Admiral Holloway was that he despised Rickover. Admiral Rickover would wear civilian clothes and we all still had to wear uniforms. Rickover worked for the AEC (Atomic Energy Commission) as well as the Navy you know. He would show up in civilian clothes and it would make the admiral so damned mad. I got to know Rickover well, because the Admiral gave me standing orders that every time Rickover came over, “to make sure that jackass sits for at least fifteen minutes.” Every time he would come, I would say, “Sorry, Admiral Rickover, the admiral is busy.” I got to talk to Rickover and I learned to despise him just as much as the admiral did. He was the most egotistical jerk you ever saw in your life. Anyhow, I learned a lot from Admiral Holloway and I became very fond of him.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did you enjoy the personnel work?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

Yes, I did. It was interesting. The two of us worked twelve hours a day and that's no exaggeration. About once a week, he would come into my office and say, “Quentin, let's just drop the bricks for the day and just quit.” We would go have a “gun-tub” of bourbon. I would go to his quarters with him and have a drink and get home about 8:30 at night. He was a good mentor. I learned a lot from him. He gave the impression to some people that he was pompous, but he really was a very fine man. He used big words and that sort of thing, but he used the right words. He wouldn't talk down to people and he wouldn't write down to them. If there was one word, regardless of how archaic, if it carried the right nuance that he wanted, that was the word he would use, or want me to use if I was writing it for him. It was interesting, I learned a lot.

Donald R. Lennon:

You knew his language then.



Quentin C. Crommelin:

Then I went from there to command of an air group.

Donald R. Lennon:

When was that?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

It was Air Group 17. That was in 1955.

Donald R. Lennon:

Where was that?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

It was home-quartered in Jacksonville. The ROOSEVELT was our ship. I stayed as an air group commander for two years and seven months, which I think is a record. It was supposed to be a one-year job. I was under the Commander Air Force Atlantic Fleet--COMAIRLANT--. At the time we were changing from props to jets and he thought that we needed to keep somebody in the job. I guess that's the reason he kept me. Anyhow, I stayed. There were two of us. The other one was Bill Flowers (Class of 1940), who was a close friend of mine. He had an air group for about two years and four months--almost as long as I did. It was the best flying job you can have in the Navy so I'm not complaining at all, but I admit that I was tired.

[Rigorous.]It was pretty stressful, but there were a lot of nice things about it, too. You were the top man. You had five squadrons working for you. You were your own boss. It was very interesting.

Donald R. Lennon:

At that point, you had been involved in the training during the transition from props to jets.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I flew jets and props. I jumped from one to the other when we were at sea. As the group commander, you were supposed to be able to fly all different kinds of aircraft. I



checked out in all of them. There was a little danger there, however, and I nearly killed myself one time. Sometimes I would fly a prop in the morning and a jet in the afternoon. The landing technique in a prop is a little different from that in a jet and one day I came aboard in a jet using a prop technique. I didn't get a wire and went over the side without any power in an old Banchee twin-engine jet. I was supposed to had added power instead of cutting power when I landed; consequently I stalled and almost went into the “drink.” It scared me. It didn't at the time but when I got to thinking about it later it did. The people on the ship said they were all composing letters to my wife saying how sorry they were.

Donald R. Lennon:

You just pulled it out.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I was just lucky. I rolled in on my back. I just pushed the stick forward and kicked the top rudder and the engines caught at about that time, and I flew on out of it. I was making streaks on the water I was so close to it.

Donald R. Lennon:

That would be a difficult situation going back and forth from one type of plane to another.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

That taught me a lesson. I didn't ever do that again. I would fly for a while on the props and then for a while on the jets.

From there I went back to Pensacola, Florida, as a director of training.

[When were you there? How many years?]Around 1959 or 1960. Then I thought I was going to the National War College. They had told me that was where I was going. But we had a program in training



command where all the skippers from our reserve squadrons came in for a week of leadership training. We had good speakers. The CNO, Arleigh Burke, knew about it. We were a little too conservative, politically, I guess. There was nothing political about it as far as I was concerned, but it was just constructed that way by some civilians in Washington. Anyhow, my boss down there was Admiral Gordon and he was supposed to be going to be Commander Air Force Atlantic Fleet. Bill Flowers, the man I told you about who had the other air group squadron and was also the plans officer, was going to get command of a ship. And I was going to the National War College. Well, my orders got changed to go to England; Bill got sent to a little dirk(?) staff out on the West Coast; and the admiral got sent to the Western Sea Frontier. It was because certain people in Washington on the civilian side thought we were too conservative. I never quite understood it. Bill and I went out to see the admiral and said, “Let's blow the whistle on these people for what they're doing to us.” That admiral wouldn't do it. He said, “We wouldn't even get our name in the paper.” Bill and I said, “Well, we'll resign.” But the admiral was right.

I went to the War College over there [England] and had a wonderful time. It was a very interesting school. It's no longer in existence. It was in a little town about forty miles west of London. As a matter of fact, it was on an old estate out there. It was the same place where they incarcerated Rudolf Hess and people like that who were high-level prisoners during the war. It was a beautiful old estate. That was an interesting year.

Donald R. Lennon:

What year was that?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

That would have been in 1962. That was a very, very interesting year.



Donald R. Lennon:

What did that entail?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

The carrier division commander, of course, has at least on carrier and the ships that go with it. This one was in charge of the operations in the western Pacific Fleet. Actually, one of our jobs was to evaluate the Naval tactical balance system, the first computerized combat information center--gadgetry for controlling multiple raids and targets and that sort of thing. That was one of the things we had to do. Those were the same kind of operations we did in wartime except it was in peacetime. I had two very good bosses out there. Admirals __________ and __________. From there, I went to the command of an ammunition ship, the SHASTA, and from there I went to the command of a carrier, the LEXINGTON.

Donald R. Lennon:

When were you on the SHASTA and the LEXINGTON?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I was on the SHASTA in 1962 or 1963 or something like that. I just had each job for a year. I had the LEXINGTON the following year.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did you enjoy the command of the LEXINGTON?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

Oh, yes. I enjoyed the command of both of them. I enjoyed every command I ever had. There was no such thing as a bad command.

Donald R. Lennon:

You're head cheese, right?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I only had two years in Washington, which is not too good for you if you aspire to be the head admiral in the Navy. But by not doing that, I had lots of commands. I had five I think.

Donald R. Lennon:

Were commands like the LEXINGTON normally about a year?



Quentin C. Crommelin:

Yes. They wanted to run as amny people through those good jobs as they could. From there, I went to chief of staff of a carrier division in the Atlantic. I served under two or three different admirals on that job. That was a wonderful job, too--a sea-going job.

Donald R. Lennon:

How long were you out there as chief of staff?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I think I was chief of staff for about a year and a half.

Donald R. Lennon:

What would be the approximatge time?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

That would have been 1965 or 1967, along in there. Then I decided to reitire. It was obvious to me that I was not going to make admiral. My eldest brother John might have had something to do with my not getting admiral. Of course, that little leadership program didn't help me any either, although it was a damned good program. But John headed up the so called “Admiral's Revolt.” In 1948, they were forming a separate Air Force. The Navy wasn't having any say in it. What they were doing, they were taking people from the Army and giving them two votes on the Joint Chiefs. They were making the Air Force out of the Army, not the Army and the Navy. The Navy pilots weren't involved in it. They were going to the Army's “general staff system” in setting up the Air Force. That system was one where you picked people when they were very young and you directed their careers on high command. You select people for the general staff when they were captains in the Army, which would be the same as a lieutenant in the Navy. Then you gave them all the jobs they were supposed to have. It's a self perpetuation sort of thing. John objected to that and he got into a lot of trouble. They told him to shut-up and to quit talking about it. You didn't tell my brother John to do that. We were all very



independent-minded, all of us, the whole family. John just kept talking and giving speeches. They stuck him out on the West Coast, thinking it would shut him up, but it didn't. John was one of the early aviators in the Navy.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did he stay in the Navy?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

He stayed until they finally out an old law and put him on indefinite leave at half-pay. He couldn't hold a job because he was still in the Navy. They actually forced him to retire. The legacy of John help by some of the powers-that-be didn't help me because I had the exact same views as he did, though I wasn't quite as loud as he was. Anyhow, I was not going to be an admiral, so I decided to retire. I was down in Alabama, trying to find a house to live in until I got my feet on the ground, when I got a call. The man at Maxwell Field, chief of the Naval advisory group there at Air University, had become ill, and they called me and asked me if I would take that job instead of retiring. So I took that job until I retired in 1970. It was in my hometown, Montgomery.

Donald R. Lennon:

That involved basically teaching?

Quentin C. Crommelin:

No. I was the advisor of the whole Air University system. I was the senior Naval officer there. I had three captains working for me who actually taught. My job was to advise the Air Force general. I was his senior Naval officer. It was sort of a potted-plant job really. There was nothing to it. I despised it really. They were very nice to me but it was not the kind of job I was accustomed to. It had been an admiral's job at one time. What an admiral did with that job, I don't know, because I was a senior captain and there wasn't enough for me to do, so I know an admiral wouldn't have had enough to do.



Anyway, I retired and went and built my house on the plantation. I've lived out there ever since. I went into the cattle business and also was a cotton planter. I'm out of the cotton business now, but I still run a pretty good size beef cattle operation. I've developed a couple of shopping centers and a couple of sub-divisions. I've started a bank. I've been busy as a bee. I'm trying to sort of back off now. I didn't relish trying to live off my Navy retirement pay, and, anyhow, I don't like to sit down for any length of time. I have a beautiful wife and a son who's the chief counsel for the minority on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He was the chief counsel before that on the Senate Judiciary Committee when the Republicans were in power. My daughter has been a professional ballet dancer with the Harkness Ballet Company for years. She's now married to a French man and live in Paris. She has two young children. One is a beautiful little daughter, not even a year old yet, and a son who is seven. Those are my only two grandchildren. Things look real good.

Donald R. Lennon:

You lost two of you brothers in the war.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

My brother, Henry, who was a retired vice admiral, died in 1971. John and I are the two remaining boys. Two of my three sisters are still alive.

Donald R. Lennon:

Your older brother, Henry, stayed in and became an Admiral.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

John retired as an admiral. He was a captain but with combat decorations in those days, you retired and they promoted you in rank. Henry stayed in and he retired as a vice-admiral. I retired as a captain.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was Henry an aviator, too?



Quentin C. Crommelin:

No. He was the only one who was not. Henry got in a lot of action in World War II. He did very well. He took his division into spitting range of a division of destroyers at Tarawa, I think it was. They were so close to the guns that the shells went right through the ship without exploding. He gave some mighty good support to the Marines on the beach, too, and the Army. He got the Silver Star for that. My brother Richard got two Navy Crosses. Charles got recommended for the Congressional Medal of Honor, which he should have gotten, but he got the Navy Cross instead. They were good men. I'm very proud to have been their brother.

Donald R. Lennon:

You really had an interesting family.

Quentin C. Crommelin:

I think so. I had good parents. We got started right. They gave us a lot of independence and a lot of love for the land and our country. I'd like to do it all over again.

[End of Interview]

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