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Admiral Charles K. Duncan, USN (Ret.) (1911-1994)

Volume I


Admiral Charles K. DuncanBased on six interviews conducted by John T. Mason Jr. from August 1973 through July 1974, the volume contains 567 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1978 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee placed no restrictions on its use.

Admiral Duncan was XO of the USS Hutchins (DD-476) in 1942 in combat action in the Aleutians and South Pacific, then CO of the USS Wilson (DD-408) taking part in action in the South and Central Pacific. After World War II, he served as XO of the USS Wisconsin (BB-64) and CO of the Chilton (APA-38), Assistant Chief of Staff for Operations CinCPac, Commander Amphibious Group One, and Commander Amphibious Training Command, Pacific Fleet. Discussions in his oral history cover various naval topics: neutrality patrol in the Atlantic, transfer of 50 destroyers to the Royal Navy, planning for CinCLant and newly established SACLant command, amphibious warfare in its early stages and later developments, naval education, and Navy Reservists.


An index to this volume can be viewed here (.pdf).


Admiral Duncan: You may have heard this, but through the Navy's V-12 program which went into hundreds of colleges, some prominent educators went so far as to say that the Navy played a big part in preserving college education in the United States. This was a rather massive program of taking young civilians at about 17 and giving them a compressed college course on active duty as seamen and then commissioning them. There were variants of it, the V-5 for aviation, and so on.
John T. Mason, Jr.: Without that program, I would imagine, in certain universities and colleges there wouldn't have been any men?
Admiral Duncan: I was told that some of the colleges would have discontinued. Of course, the question arises during a war, are we interested in preserving a college or what are we most interested in. Well, I would just say again, and I had nothing to do with the origin of it so I can speak frankly - it was a very wise and statesmanlike move. It brought along the best youngsters with talent and they were very, very talented, giving them a basic good education, officers of the future, and at the same time kept something that is vital to this country. It helped to keep the educational process in the colleges going.
John T. Mason, Jr.: Who was the author of that program? The chap who had been head of Dartmouth?NROTC Training Cruise
Admiral Duncan: I could not tell you who specifically it was who was responsible. The Chief of the Bureau of Personnel was Randall Jacobs, now deceased. Prior to Randall Jacobs, Admiral Nimitz had been there. He was there when the Japanese attacked and was, of course, quickly sent to the Pacific and Randall Jacobs came in. Who started it I cannot say. I would guess that it was developed in Randall Jacobs' early years because Admiral Nimitz went out to the Pacific. We had a three months Reserve midshipman course started before the war. This program took college graduates, trained them for three months, and then commissioned them. We really got top young men. And if I may go just a little further in this area because we may come back to it later, the V-12 college program strengthened the Navy's position in the naval ROTC. Before World War II we had an NROTC with a good reputation. It produced good officers but it was very, very small. I forget the exact number, but I think there were seven or eight colleges and very good colleges.
As a result of our V-12 experience, we had well over a hundred colleges. We later expanded the NROTC to 56 col¬leges using some of the V-12 colleges who wished to partici¬pate and we had many, many applications. Quite different from the 1960s when we were invited out. We were invited in. Therefore, I feel these officer candidate programs, as they were called, were the genesis of the expanded, modernized NROTC. To jump a little bit ahead on this particular facet of the position, you may have heard of the Holloway Board?
John T. Mason, Jr.: Yes.
Admiral Duncan: The Holloway Board was headed by Admiral Holloway and I was a member of that board, I was the junior member. By that time, of course, I was the Director of Naval Officer Procurement. The report of this board was approved through Admiral King, which wasn't easy, and Secretary Forrestal, which was easy, and I believe it was approved by the President, but I'd have to check that. Enacting legislation for the NROTC had to be approved by the Congress. My point is it pointed the path toward the various sources of officer procurement, it strengthened the NROTC as a course, and I believe the language said that the Navy should aim for approximately 50 percent officer input from a source other than the Naval Academy.
This was bringing together the things I feel that the Navy had maybe subconsciously learned during the war. The Board's report did point the way, not only to undergraduate training, but to graduate training, which I will not go into at this time. I wanted to relate the wartime procuring of officers, these V-12 programs commissioning the successful graduates as Ensigns, to the expansion into a peacetime pro¬curement program which is still with us today of bringing young men in through civilian colleges. As you know, as far as input goes the NROTC and the OCS have both been larger contributors to initial officer input than has the Naval Academy in recent years.
Now, if you move on to the twenty-year service point and get into retention rates, of course, the Naval Academy assumes a much higher proportion of the officer corps.
John T. Mason, Jr.: May I ask you at this point why and how was the Holloway Board called into being? What was its objective?
Admiral Duncan: Due to my level at the time, I am not sure that I can identify the person who inspired it or kicked it off. The Bureau of Naval Personnel was busy in many areas. Incidentally, at the time it was conceived - I do not have the exact date it was convened - we knew the war was coming to an end and we started examining all sorts of demobiliza¬tion and post war areas, maybe not as many as we should have, nothing is perfect, but they looked into many of areas of personnel action. Of course, future officer pro¬curement and education was a natural.
The members of the Board were distinguished civilians, Reserve officers, and active duty naval officers. For example, the President of Williams College was on the Board, the provost of Cornell, Dr. Adams, who was at that time a Reserve naval officer, Dr. Herald of Illinois Institute of Technology, and others. I'm sorry that I cannot identify whether the board was sparked off at the last part of Admiral Denfeld’s tour or at the first part of his successor's. I cannot remember. In any event, Rear Admiral Holloway was a prime mover. He had been the Chief of Training - that wasn't the title used then - I think it was the Director of Naval Training Division.

Duncan, Charles K. (1911-1994)
Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Volume II


Based on seven interviews conducted by John T. Mason, Jr., from August 1974 through May 1975. The volume contains 699 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1981 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee has placed no restrictions on its use.


This volume gives detailed coverage of the admiral's tours of duty as Assistant Chief of the Bureau of Naval Personnel (1962-1964) and as Chief of the Bureau (1968-1970). This position includes a notable account of the admiral's years as liaison of BuPers with Rickover and the nuclear program of the Navy. Included in the volume is coverage of several large sea commands that span a significant period in history: Atlantic Fleet Cruiser-Destroyer Force (1964-65); Atlantic Fleet Amphibious Force (1965-67); the Second Fleet (1967-68).


Duncan, Charles K. (1911-1994)
Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Volume III


Based on four interviews conducted by John T. Mason, Jr., from June 1975 through April 1976. The volume contains 395 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1983 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee has placed no restrictions on its use.


In this volume, Admiral Duncan provides a wealth of detail on his service as Chief of Naval Personnel from 1968 through 1970 and as NATO's Supreme Allied Commander Atlantic from 1970 until his retirement in 1972. In discussing both tours, he provides explanations of what the jobs entail and illustrates with examples from his own tenure. As chief of BuPers, he managed the Navy's manpower, justified programs before Congress, and dealt with budgetary considerations. Included was the requirement to reduce sharply the manpower allocations to meet budget requirements in 1969-1970. Serving as SACLant was one of three jobs the admiral held simultaneously, and he tells in this volume of the NATO billet. He worked with both high-ranking civilians and military officers in other countries, was involved in planning, and in the conduct of NATO exercises.


Duncan, Charles K. (1911-1994)
Admiral, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Volume IV


Based on two interviews conducted by John T. Mason, Jr., in November 1976 and January 1978. The volume contains 263 pages of interview transcript plus an index. The transcript is copyright 1983 by the U.S. Naval Institute; the interviewee has placed no restrictions on its use.


This concluding volume covers Admiral Duncan's duties in two of the three "hats" he wore from 1970 through 1972. In Volume III, he told of his NATO hat. At the same time, he had the U.S. joint-service title of Commander in Chief Atlantic and the U.S. Navy billet as Commander in Chief Atlantic Fleet. The admiral explains the differing concerns that went with each job and makes a case for having them held by two different admirals, as is done in the Pacific. As in the previous volume, he explains what the jobs entailed and illustrated through his experiences from his own service. This volume concludes with a detailed recounting of Admiral Duncan's involvement with Admiral Elmo Zumwalt, who was Chief of Naval Operations during Duncan's final years on active duty. The relationship began in BuPers when Zumwalt was a lieutenant commander, ten years junior to Duncan, and concluded when Zumwalt was Duncan's senior.


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