I received this from The Supreme Imperial Turtle (Emeritus) in 2005:
As my Dad, the late Captain Hugh P. McGowan, U.S. Army Air Corps/U.S. Air Force Reserve (Ret.), told me why he and several pilots of the U.S. Army Air Corps 8th Air Force founded the Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles in an officers’ club while stationed in England during the Second World War: “We were flying daytime bombing missions over Hitler’s Third Reich. We just wanted a little fun. We had seen a sign showing that the ‘Ancient Order of Foresters’ and the ‘Royal Antedeluvian Order of Buffalos’ would meet in the local pub, so I devised the name ‘Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles’ for the fun of it. It was not meant to be serious, it had no constitution or by-laws, and was a relief from the horrors and dangers we saw every day on our missions. It spread after the War through the VFW and American Legion posts, and eventually, to colleges and even to the high schools of the U.S.A.”
Now, some Turtle history about an astronaut was asked the question, “Are you a Turtle?” by ground control, Wally Schirra who was asked:
“Just a minute, Wally. Let’s see. Oh, it’s a little message to Deke Slayton. A little bit closer Wally. Kind of looks like something about – ‘Are you a, are you a –” Schirra acknowledged, “That’s right.” CAPCOM continued, “Looks like it says, ‘Are you a turtle, Deke Slayton?”
Schirra confirmed, “That’s right.” Eisele added, “You get an A for reading today Jack.” Swigert continued, “Here comes another one. Walt, oh, that-a-way, that’s the way to turn it. It says, ‘Paul Haney, are you a turtle?'” Cunningham radioed, “You’ll get a gold star. Perfect score!” Swigert reported, “And there is no reply from Paul Haney there.” Cunningham asked, “You mean he’s speechless?”
A short while later, CAPCOM Cernan informed Schirra, “Wally, this is Gene. Deke just called in, and we’ve got your answer, and we’ve got it recorded for you return.” Schirra acknowledged, “Roger. Real fine.”
Shortly there after, Schirra asked CAPCOM Swigert, “Have you got Haney’s answer yet?” Swigert replied, “No, Haney’s isn’t talking, Wally.” Swigert then added, “Somebody tells me he isn’t talking, but just buying.” A pleased Schirra responded, “He is buying. Thank you very much. Very good.”
This exchange about turtles was a reference to the notorious Turtle’s Club drinking club of which Wally Schirra held the title of a Grand Potentate. During Schirra’s Mercury flight Deke Slayton had radioed up to Schirra asking Schirra if he was a turtle.
The proper response for a member of the Turtle’s Club to give when challenged by another Turtle member could be misconstrued if taken out of context. The expectation is that every Turtle has in their possession a donkey. So the proper Turtle response is, “You bet your sweet ass I am.” If a Turtle member fails to give the appropriate response, then they owe a drink to everyone within listening distance.
Do not hesitate to contact me should you need to consult me on further matters of Turtledom.
May Almighty God bless, aid and protect all of our brave men and women in the service of our great Nation’s Armed Forces, and especially keep those in harm’s way safe. May they all return home soon.
Sincerely and fraternally yours,
Brother Denis P. McGowan
Ancient and Honorable Order of Turtles