Are you a Turtle?

posted in: Human Spaceflight | 1

The Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles began in World War II among pilots. Legend traces the order to the 8th Air Force in England, among pilots flying daytime bombing missions over Germany.

The Turtle Creed: “Turtles are bright-eyed, bushy-tailed, fearless and unafraid folk with a fighter pilot attitude. They think clean, have fun a lot, and recognize the fact that you never get any place in life unless you stick your neck out.”

To become an official turtle, one must answer four questions in an appropriate manner. The questions are simple, such as:

“What does a woman do sitting down, that a dog does on three legs and a man does standing up?” Of course you know the answer is “shake hands.”

Once you’re a member, and you’re asked if you are a turtle, the only acceptable answer is “You bet your sweet ass I am.” (YBYSAIA) Absent such an answer, the member must buy the questioner a drink.

The order of the turtles continued among the pilots in the early U.S. astronaut corps. On Mercury-Atlas 8 Deke Slayton asked Wally Schirra “Are you a turtle today?” Wally wisely switched to his onboard recorder for his response, playing it later for Slayton. During Schirra’s Apollo 7 mission, the first U.S. flight with live television transmissions, he held up signs that read “Are you a Turtle, Deke Slayton” and “Paul Haney (public affairs officer) Are you a Turtle.”

President Kennedy was once asked if he was a Turtle at a press conference, to which he replied “I’ll buy you your drink later.”

We examine the Order of the Turtle in our Live From the Moon documentary, detailing the Apollo 7 television transmissions.

One Response

  1. John B
    | Reply

    JFK also nailed Schirra with the question. From wallyschirra.com:
    “After Gordon Cooper’s flight in May 1963, we were all in the White House. This time, it was JFK’s turn, and I was the one he nailed. “By the way, Wally, are you a turtle?” I had to think twice before saying, “You bet your sweet ass..” to the president of the United States.”

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