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Roland G. Bienvenu oral history interview,June 5, 1991

Date: Jun. 05 1991 | Identifier: OH0123
Captain Roland G. Bienvenu served in the U.S. Navy from 1941 until 1965, and in this interview he discusses his naval career from his entrance into the Naval Academy until his retirement in 1965. Included are details of his various assignments at sea aboard the USS HYMAN, USS LANING, USS BURDO, USS JOUETT, USS CHARLES P. CECIL, and USS YOUNG; and his duties as commander of Landing Ship, Squadron 5 (1958) and as a Naval Attaché; in Greece (1947-1949), Lebanon (1949-1951), and Canada (1962-1965). Mentioned briefly are his assignments with the Office of Naval Intelligence (1951-1953), the Secretary of Defense (1955-1958), and the Joint Chiefs of Staff (1959). After leaving the military service in 1965, Bienvenu served as Director of Housing at Southwestern Louisiana University from 1965 until 1977. Interviewer: Donald R. Lennon. more...



EAST CAROLINA MANUSCRIPT COLLECTION
ORAL HISTORY INTERVIEW
Capt. Roland Bienvenu
USNA CLASS OF 1941
June 5, 1991
Interview #1

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I was born in Lafayette, Louisiana, and grew up in nearby St. Martinville. In high school, the principal spoke to the students about the Naval Academy. I became very interested and I talked to my father about getting an appointment. The first thing that came up, however, was a third alternate to West Point Military Academy, which I took. I didn't like West Point, and I didn't feel that I was academically prepared at that time. I flunked out the first semester and came back home. I told my daddy at the time that I was still interested in going to the Naval Academy. He said, "Okay."

We contacted Senator Overton, who was the United States senator from Louisiana at the time, and he gave me a principal appointment for the following year. I had a full year to prepare. I knew what I had to do. I went to the University in Lafayette and took some courses, mostly in math. I burnt the midnight oil and worked hard. I entered Annapolis in June of 1937.

When I look back to my years at Annapolis, I remember we had great fellowship,



great camaraderie, and the academics were tough. It was a hard road to hoe. I managed to get through. There were some nice cruises during the summers and I made a lot of friends. I'm glad to be here today to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of our graduation.

Donald R. Lennon:

Can you tell me a little about life at the Naval Academy? Some people indicate that they thought it was rough; some said that they didn't like the hazing; some said they had trouble; and some said they liked it.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

We had quite a bit of hazing in those days. Of course, because I was at West Point previously, I was what they called "recognized," and I didn't have to go through all the hazing at Annapolis. I had had my share at West Point, however.

The hazing at Annapolis was different from that at West Point. None of my other classmates can give you this perspective. At West Point, the cadets--the upperclassmen--were all very serious. Everything was grim, grim, grim! They had all these gray granite buildings and it was cold, cold, cold in the winter. The upperclassmen didn't get any enjoyment at all out of hazing. Needless to say, neither did the plebes! It was rough. At Annapolis, however, the upper classmen had a better sense of humor. They got some enjoyment out of hazing and frankly some of the plebes enjoyed it also. We just made the best of it.

I went out for the fencing team while I was there. I was a fencer and fenced saber. I enjoyed it very much. We had two coaches--originally from Belgium--Coach Deladrier and Coach Feims. I also became president of the French Club at the Academy. We got together periodically and spoke French. We had some great French instructors at the Academy. They were quite humorous. I knew French before I went there. Coming from Louisiana, I grew up with the French. I didn't have to study French very much, which was



good, because it gave me more time to devote to other subjects. I enjoyed talking French there, and being in the French Club, and being friends with the French professors. They would invite us to their homes in Annapolis, which we thoroughly enjoyed.

Donald R. Lennon:

It sounds like Annapolis was a good experience for you.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I enjoyed the sailing. Each battalion had a ketch assigned to it. We were allowed to check it out for the weekends. One weekend we checked out this ketch. I invited my congressman and a friend of mine from Washington to come and take an overnight cruise with us on the Chesapeake Bay. We went out on the bay and put in at a small port for the night. It was Saturday night, so we put our civilian clothes on and went ashore. We came back in the wee hours singing and whatnot. The congressman enjoyed it thoroughly.

Donald R. Lennon:

Are there any particular incidents or favorite memories from your days at Annapolis? Anything that sticks out?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Well, I think I covered them pretty well already.

Donald R. Lennon:

So, we're coming up to 1941 now and they're graduating your class a little early. Where was your first commission?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

My first duty assignment was to the USS JOUETT, which was a destroyer. I had to go out to Pearl Harbor to find her. She was out at sea. They put me on another destroyer and took me out to sea where we rendezvoused with her. The JOUETT sent a small boat over to get me and my trunk and everything. It took me alongside and hoisted me up. I'll never forget when we pulled up alongside the ship. The executive officer, who was good humored, said, "Well, welcome, Roland Bienvenu from St. Martinville, Louisiana!" That made a big hit with me.

This was in March, 1941. About a month after, we found ourselves headed for the



Panama Canal with a task group. We didn't know what was going on until the admiral opened his sealed orders. Then he announced to all the ships that we were being changed from the Pacific to the Atlantic and would soon be going through the Panama Canal.

Our destroyer squadron operated mostly out of Brazil. We patrolled the South Atlantic for German U-boats. We also did some convoying. We convoyed merchant ships across the Atlantic to Africa, mostly.

Donald R. Lennon:

When you were doing the convoy, did you run into any U-boats or any action?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Well, we didn't see any, but we were quite sure we attacked one one night. We didn't have too much action down in the South Atlantic in those days. This was from 1941 to 1943.

Donald R. Lennon:

You served on the JOUETT, how long?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Two years, from 1941 to 1943.

Before we leave the JOUETT, one incident comes to mind. President Roosevelt was on his way to the Casablanca Conference, and he flew into Natal, Brazil. I got my binoculars out and I could see him being transferred from the shore to the ship. He was in a wheelchair. It turned out we escorted his ship across the South Atlantic. That was quite an event.

After the JOUETT, I was ordered back to the States and sent to fire control school in Washington. Afterwards, I had thirty days leave. I went back home to St. Martinville, Louisiana, and married Verne Maraist. In fact, in four days we will be celebrating our forty-eighth wedding anniversary.

I went to Orange, Texas, next, where the USS YOUNG was being built. We got our crew and officers together there.



Donald R. Lennon:

What kind of ship was the USS YOUNG?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

The YOUNG was a destroyer, a twenty-one-hundred tonner. It was much more modern than the JOUETT. We were commissioned and sailed from Orange on a shakedown cruise to the Caribbean. We had quite a few green sailors.

Donald R. Lennon:

When was this?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

This was in July or August of 1943.

Donald R. Lennon:

You said you had a lot of green sailors. Do you have some typical problems or stories you can share with me about those experiences?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

After we were at sea about four days, one of the green sailors came up and tugged my shirt. He said, "Mr. Bienvenu, can you tell me where the head is?" You know what the head is, the washroom. I don't know what he had been doing the first four days! The new breed just didn't know anything. We had to train them from scratch.

Donald R. Lennon:

What type of training would you put these green sailors through?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

We had all kinds of drills. We had fire drills, collision drills, gunnery drills, and seamanship drills. The men in the engineering department got their training below decks, in the engineering spaces.

Donald R. Lennon:

What were your duties, at this point, on this new destroyer?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I went to the YOUNG as gunnery officer. Later, our executive officer was transferred and I became executive officer. I served in that capacity the rest of my time aboard the YOUNG.

Donald R. Lennon:

Approximately how long were you aboard the YOUNG?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

About two years.That took me to 1945.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was the YOUNG always in the Caribbean?



Roland G. Bienvenu:

No. We just had our shakedown cruise there. Then we went into Charleston, South Carolina, for a little post-overhaul. Later, we were transferred to the Pacific, where we spent nine months in the Aleutian Islands.

Donald R. Lennon:

Were you involved in any of the campaigns there?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. Several times we went to bombard the Japanese Kurile Islands. At that time, the Japanese did not have radar, but we did. We were able to go in under the cover of darkness. Since we had no airplanes of our own to cover us, under the cover of darkness and fog, we'd go in and conduct our bombardment, make a 180 degree turn, and get out as fast as we could! We would hear the Japanese aircraft overhead. They knew we were there after we had completed the bombardment, but they couldn't find us. They didn't have radar and it was either dark or foggy.

Donald R. Lennon:

So you were definitely travelling with no lights.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Oh, absolutely. With a darkened ship.

Donald R. Lennon:

You would go in, hit the islands at night, and get out of there before daylight.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

That's right.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was this a regular campaign, a night after night activity for all?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Oh, no. We were based in Adak, which is one of the western-most of the Aleutian Islands. We'd operate either out of there or Attu. Attu is the most western island in the Aleutian Island chain. We'd go over, conduct our bombardment, and come on back to the Aleutians. We had patrols. It was always very rough--windy and foggy. It was not very good duty.

Donald R. Lennon:

The weather didn't cooperate when you were over there.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

No, not at all.



Donald R. Lennon:

Was it the time of year?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

No, it is like that all the time.

Donald R. Lennon:

Were there any other assignments on the YOUNG, besides this one?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. After I left the YOUNG, I was ordered back to commission another destroyer being built in Bath, Maine. It was the CHARLES P. CECIL, a twenty-two-hundred-ton destroyer, even more modern than the YOUNG. We had a little time in Bath and then we took the ship down to Boston for commissioning. There was the usual shakedown cruise afterwards. We went to Guantanamo Bay and operated in and out of there.

Donald R. Lennon:

Approximately when was this ship commissioned?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I reported on board the CHARLES P. CECIL in June of 1945. This was still during the war.

Donald R. Lennon:

After the shakedown, where did the CECIL head out? What was your assignment?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I wasn't on the CECIL for very long. I was the executive officer and navigator. We went from the Atlantic to the Pacific through the Panama Canal. We started to operate in the Pacific and I was detached in November of 1945.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did you get involved in any of the last campaigns as you went through the Pacific?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Not on the CECIL. Now on the YOUNG, I did. After our duty in the Aleutians, we went out to the western Pacific. We were in the Philippines campaign. Our ship was in the second Leyte Gulf landing, in the Mindoro operation, and also in the Lingayen Gulf operation.

Donald R. Lennon:

What were the YOUNG's functions in there?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

As escort, watching for submarines, shore bombardment, and so on.



Two incidents come to mind in that duty in Mindoro. At that time, the Japanese had suicide planes. A Japanese pilot would head his aircraft right for the ship and collide. An explosion would follow. We had one that was diving at us. I was up on the bridge with the captain. We managed to evade this fellow by some high maneuvering, and he went into the water a short distance ahead of us. The skipper said, "That son of a gun! Get my gun! Get my gun!" I reached up and pulled on his shirttail and said, "Captain, you don't need your gun. That guy is dead." He said, "I guess you're right."

The other incident was up in the Lingayen Gulf operation. The Japs did quite a bit of damage to our ships there. One destroyer escort was razed from bow to stern, the whole superstructure was just blown off. However, he still had his engines, voice communication, and manual steering. When we got ready to leave, we formed up and put him at the tail end of the formation. We communicated using the voice telephone so that we could tell him what course to steer. We succeeded in bringing him back where he could get some repairs.

Donald R. Lennon:

It's amazing it still was operational.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

After the CHARLES P. CECIL, I was ordered to the LANING, which was a high-speed transport. I took command of the LANING on November 21, 1945, it was my first command. She was in Long Beach undergoing some repairs. The LANING was ordered to the East Coast so we went through the Panama Canal and on up to Boston. That was the third time I had taken a ship through the Panama Canal.

I had some medical problems, so I was detached not long afterwards to have some surgery.

After the LANING, I was ordered to another high-speed transport, the USS BURDO, which was operating in the Caribbean around Puerto Rico. I enjoyed



commanding those smaller ships.

Donald R. Lennon:

This was another transport vessel.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes.

Donald R. Lennon:

Now were these used primarily to transport troops?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Their main mission was to transport the Marines. They were used mainly in the Pacific, transporting them from island to island. They also served as escort duty for anti-submarine warfare protection.

I reported to the BURDO in May 1946.

Donald R. Lennon:

Were you the commander?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I was the commanding officer, yes. I left her in June of 1946 and went to Naval Intelligence School in Washington. That was about a sixteen-month course. We were taught quite a bit of basic intelligence. One thing I remember about that course is after the intelligence portion, which lasted about a year, we were all required to take a foreign language course. We had to know the language like a native. I selected Spanish. After three months, I was able to read, write, and speak Spanish like a native. We had to learn two hundred new words every night. I had my wife and two small babies with me in an apartment at Anacostia, but the studies were so difficult, I just couldn't study at home. I moved into the bachelor officers' quarters. I would go to visit them on Wednesdays and weekends. That shows how tough a course it was.

Donald R. Lennon:

They wouldn't let you get by with your French?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

No, but the Spanish and French languages are very similar. I had to spend a lot of hours studying, but I actually enjoyed it. I like the Spanish language.

Donald R. Lennon:

After you got through with Naval Intelligence, what was your next assignment?



Roland G. Bienvenu:

I had spent three hard months learning Spanish, so I was ordered as Assistant Naval attache to Athens, Greece! There's a lot of Spanish in Greece!? Well, we were in Greece only about four months when I suddenly received orders to go to Beirut as Naval attache.

Although we were in Greece only a short time, we managed to get quite a bit of sightseeing done. I went on a field trip to Salonika, which is in northern Greece, and checked into the hotel there. This was in 1948. The Greek civil war was going on. That night the rebels decided to shell Salonika. The shells started falling all around the hotel. I sat up in bed and said, "Well, what can I do?" Nothing, so I rolled over and went back to sleep!

Donald R. Lennon:

Were you there alone or was your family with you?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

No. I was alone. Somehow, my boss, the Naval attache in Athens, heard about this. When I got back to Athens, he had concocted a humorous commendation about my snoring while the shells were falling on the hotel. He gave me an award and some drachma! Drachma is the Greek currency. We went by freighter from Athens to Beirut with all of our possessions. I had just gotten a new car from the States and that was on board, too. When we got into the Beirut harbor, there were crowds and fighting was going on. This was a few days after the British mandate in Palestine had expired. There was a lot of unrest. We managed to get off the ship and were met by local people from the embassy. The ship had to be unloaded in a hurry because we had some Jewish people on board. To get my new car off, they used these wire straps without spreaders, which caused all of my fenders to be crushed and then they dumped it on the dock. It took a lot of time to clear it through customs.

We finally checked into a hotel, and we looked out and could see crowds running up



and down the street. One day, while I was at my office, my wife and our two little children were browsing around a bookstore when all of a sudden, the storekeeper slammed the door shut! There was a gang coming down the street, breaking windows and everything. That was quite an experience.

Donald R. Lennon:

So you got to see some of the civil war firsthand.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. Things settled down after a while and we found an apartment to move into. We were in Beirut a year and a half. I thoroughly enjoyed the duty there. We made a lot of good Lebanese friends. Beirut didn't have a Navy, but they had a lot of merchant ships. I was also accredited to Syria, so I used to try to get over to Syria about once a month to check in with the local people there. I also took some trips to Istanbul and Cyprus.

Donald R. Lennon:

What were your primary duties as attache there?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

A Naval attache is there to establish liaison with the local maritime people. Of course, if they have a Navy, it would be primarily with their Navy. You have to keep your eyes and ears open to what is going on and report back.

Donald R. Lennon:

So, basically your duty was to get a feel to what the country was like and what was going on?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

We had to keep our bosses informed on what was going on.

Donald R. Lennon:

It sounds like you really enjoyed the Lebanese people.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Oh yes. We made some good friends there.

Donald R. Lennon:

Were you able to keep in touch with these people after you left?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

We did for awhile, but then finally we lost touch. All of the fighting was unfortunate in Beirut, because Beirut is really a nice city. There is a beautiful beach, and it only takes about twenty minutes to get from the beach to the mountains. There are very



nice little villages up in the mountains. There are resort areas and nice hotels. It would get pretty hot in Beirut in the summer, but we could escape the heat by either going to the beach or up to the mountains.

Donald R. Lennon:

I've heard a lot of people say that it is a very beautiful country.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Oh yes. We had one trip to north Lebanon, up to "The Cedars," where there's snow skiing. That was enjoyable.

Donald R. Lennon:

Where did you go after you got shipped out of Beirut? What was the next stop?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I was ordered back for duty in the Office of Naval Intelligence. I served there for three years.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was that in Washington?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

In the Pentagon at Washington.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did you enjoy the duty there? What was your feeling?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I had a routine. I went to work in the morning and fought the traffic getting home. However, there were some interesting aspects.

[Anything particular stick out in those years for you?] No. Not too much.

Donald R. Lennon:

I've interviewed a lot of Naval officers, and when they start talking about their Pentagon experience, some of them get real quiet. They say, "I'd rather be on a ship."

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yeah, well of course. I was a small cog in a big wheel. Problems would come up and somebody had to try to figure out a solution. I would figure out my solution, but I had to have it approved by so many people. I would get up to the admirals and some of them could give me a bad time. Then I would have to go back and rewrite. It's not like being commanding officer of a ship where I was everything.



Donald R. Lennon:

What was your assignment after Naval Intelligence?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

After the Pentagon, I was ordered as commanding officer of the USS HYMAN, which was a twenty-two-hundred-ton destroyer.

Donald R. Lennon:

When was this, approximately?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

This was July 15, 1953.

Donald R. Lennon:

Where was the HYMAN stationed?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

It was based in Newport, Rhode Island. I relieved a classmate of mine, Joe Spitler. Joe is supposed to be at this reunion. I relieved him and I had two very good years of duty. I enjoyed ship handling. While on the HYMAN, we had a cruise to the Caribbean, and then we had a cruise through the Mediterranean that lasted about six months. We visited several of the ports. I remember mooring my destroyer at the foot of the Grand Canal in Venice, launching my boat (gig), and going ashore to make my calls. It's customary for the commanding officer to call on the local mayor and some of the other local officials.

I might say that I was very proud to have my ship win the Destroyer Force Atlantic Fleet "E" which was for efficiency. We were awarded that by the admiral, for efficiency in all phases: gunnery, seamanship, etc. This was highly competitive.

Donald R. Lennon:

Would that be awarded to very few ships?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. I think we were the only ship that received it in the destroyer force.

Donald R. Lennon:

You spent a couple of years on the HYMAN.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes.

Donald R. Lennon:

Any particular instances that stick out other than the ones that you have already mentioned. Seems like it is hard for me to picture the destroyer at the foot of the Grand Canal!



Roland G. Bienvenu:

It was always very enjoyable to go into these foreign ports and meet the local officials. The commanding officer would make his calls on them and they would return the call. They'd come aboard your ship and afterwards, you would get invited to dinners and receptions. We tried to reciprocate aboard ship.

Donald R. Lennon:

You have a distinct advantage being able to speak several languages. I would think that would have put you into a much better position with the local people.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. The times I was in the Caribbean and then operating out of Brazil, I was able to use both French and Spanish. On attache duty in Greece and in Beirut, I spoke a lot of French. Most of the attaches and officials from the other embassies knew French, some of them better than English.

Donald R. Lennon:

Well, after your years on the HYMAN, where were you off to next?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I returned to the Pentagon for another three years.

Donald R. Lennon:

What were you doing this time at the Pentagon?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

This time I was in the office of the Secretary of Defense. That was a little better than the previous duty, but it was the same sort of routine.

Donald R. Lennon:

You had the three years in the Pentagon and then where were you off to next?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Well, fortunately I got another command. I was ordered as commander of Landing Ship, Squadron 5, which was based in San Diego. At the time I was ordered, the ships were deployed out in the western Pacific; so, I had to go all the way to Okinawa to take over command.

Donald R. Lennon:

This time it was a squadron command?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

A squadron of eight LSTs. Four of the old War World II types and four of the newer types from World War II.



On my way to Okinawa, we flew into Hawaii. I phoned an ex-shipmate of mine on the JOUETT. He said, "Well, congratulations! You've been selected for captain!"

Donald R. Lennon:

That's how you heard about it?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

That was the first I had heard of it. I knew the board was meeting and I was up for selection, but I didn't know I had been selected until he told me.

I went to Okinawa and took command of the squadron out there. We operated with a task group conducting landings in that area. This amphibious duty was new to me. I had a little training in California before I went, but I still went out pretty green. I learned in a hurry.

Donald R. Lennon:

Learned on the job?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. I learned the amphibious method of conducting amphibious operations.

Donald R. Lennon:

How long were you out there?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I held that position for one year.

Donald R. Lennon:

When was that?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I reported for duty in August of 1958.

Donald R. Lennon:

You were there about a year then?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. One incident that comes to mind is a typhoon. We were operating with the task group so the ships were not all under my tactical command at one time. I had three under my tactical command operating with this task group in Okinawa when this typhoon started coming in.

The task group commander ordered me to proceed with the three ships and evade the typhoon. He didn't tell me where to go or anything. We started off heading east, figuring we could get further away from the path of the typhoon. As it came up, however, it



started curving towards the northeast. Things were getting rougher and rougher. These landing ships have very shallow bottoms, so they take a beating during a storm. We all had to wear helments in heavy seas, because the insulators from the rigging would break off and hit you on the head!

It was really, really rough. As the night wore on, things were getting worse. Our top speed was twelve knots. I gradually reduced speed, taking off one knot at a time until we were down to about six knots. Then I said, "Well, we're going to have to do something."

I had a voice conference with my commanding officers and I decided to reverse course. I reversed course 180 degrees. I went across the north of Okinawa and then headed south on the western side. That worked beautifully, because the storm kept heading east. As we were going west, we were getting further and further away from it. We got out of that one all right.

Donald R. Lennon:

It's hard to predict where a storm is going to go, isn't it?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

That's right. Then it was with those same three ships that we returned to San Diego. It took us about a month to get back.

The skipper and I decided that we were going on a diet and it seemed to be a good time to do it. We would have a fairly full breakfast and dinner, but for lunch, all we would have was a mug of soup. We both lost some weight by the time we got to San Diego. The Pacific was pretty calm so it was an enjoyable trip.

Donald R. Lennon:

And after the landing squadron?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I was detached in September 1959 and was ordered to duty with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, again in the Pentagon. This was my third, three-year tour of duty in the Pentagon, so altogether I had nine years. I was in a security office again, and involved in security policy.



They had three of us in this office: an Army colonel, an Air Force colonel, and myself. We got along beautifully.

Donald R. Lennon:

That was in 1959. That takes you into the early sixties then.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. While on duty with the Joint Staff, I was fortunate enough to be on a team that was sent to Europe to inspect the security of some of the NATO countries. We had a Marine colonel, a British Naval captain, and a French Army colonel that made up the team. We flew to all the capitols in Europe, met with the local people, and inspected their systems.

After the Joint Staff, I had the pleasure of being ordered as Naval attache and Naval attache for Air to Canada.

Donald R. Lennon:

Where were you stationed?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

This was in Ottawa, the capitol of Canada. We were ordered there in June of 1962.

Donald R. Lennon:

How long did you serve in that capacity?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Three years. That was a pleasant tour of duty, because my work was mostly with the Canadian Navy. They were a wonderful group to work with, all ranks, right on up through the admirals. They cooperated with us very much. It was practically like being in our own Navy. We worked very closely together. I had quite a few visits to other parts of Canada. I travelled to both the east and west coasts, to Halifax, and to Vancouver, among other places. I also made arrangements for our visiting ships, that came up the St. Lawrence River, to visit Quebec and some of them into Montreal. My wife and I used to enjoy going up to Quebec City. There was usually an admiral in command. I made all the arrangements for his calls, accompanied him on his calls ashore, and helped him to receive his return calls and all that went on afterwards. It was very enjoyable.



Donald R. Lennon:

So you got to use your French again?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Oh, absolutely, especially in Quebec. I made a lot of good friends in the Canadian Navy.

One time, I remember the Canadian Armed Forces took all the attaches on a trip through Canada. We went up to Hudson Bay, and they asked us if we wanted to volunteer to spend a night out on the barrens! I volunteered. The temperature was below zero and the wind was blowing. We had thermal sleeping bags. We took all our clothes off and then got into the bag. That was the best way to keep warm. Of course, it did present a problem when we had to go to the bathroom in the middle of the night! We were glad to get back to the barracks the next morning.

From Hudson Bay, we went to Whitehorse in the Yukon, Vancouver, Calgary, and some other places that I can't recall.

Donald R. Lennon:

Did you sense much of the conflict that we hear about the French- speaking and the English-speaking Canadians? Did any of that seep into the Naval operations?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

No, not too much in the Navy.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was that your last assignment?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

That was my last tour of duty. I left Canada in June, retired July first, and went down to Washington to be processed out. Then I went back home to Louisiana.

Donald R. Lennon:

Was that in 1965?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

That was July 1965.

Donald R. Lennon:

You went back to your hometown?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Yes. I had been in touch with the president of the University of Southwestern Louisiana, which is in Lafayette. He had told me, "When you retire, come on down and



we'll see if we can maybe find something for you."

He appointed me as Director of Housing and Campus Security. I had my hands really full.

Donald R. Lennon:

How many years did you stay there?

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I served for twelve years, from 1965 to 1977. In 1977, I retired from state employment. That was my second retirement.

Donald R. Lennon:

I imagine the university was growing like most during that time period.

Roland G. Bienvenu:

My work at the university was very enjoyable. I learned a lot about students. I was in charge of all the dormitories, both men's and women's, and we had 150 married apartments. I had my hands full.

Donald R. Lennon:

I imagine there wasn't much you didn't see!

Roland G. Bienvenu:

Shortly after I returned to Lafayette, I was invited to join The Rotary Club. I became a member and have been pretty active ever since. I served in most of the positions and ended up as president in 1973. I've been involved in various duties ever since. I'm still a member. I have nineteen years of perfect attendance.

Donald R. Lennon:

It sounds like you didn't retire!

Roland G. Bienvenu:

I keep busy. I do all my own gardening and yard work. I have a boat and I go fishing. My wife and I like to travel. Our four children are grown and the grandchildren married or in college. We've been on several Caribbean cruises. We went on a trip to France two years ago. It was sponsored by CODOFIL, the Organization for the Development of French in Louisiana. Last October, we went to Belgium, Luxembourg, and the Netherlands. That was sponsored by CODOFIL as well.

Donald R. Lennon:

Sounds like you get around.



Roland G. Bienvenu:

So, here I am at my fiftieth reunion and I'm delighted to be here.

[End of Interview]

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