Alfred M. Pride

Adm, USS Belleau Wood, USN

    Admiral Alfred M. Pride, then Captain Pride, served as Commanding Officer of the Belleau Wood for precommissioning in the Philadelphia Naval Yard starting in January, 1943, until relieved by Captain John A. Perry in the western Pacific on April 12, 1944. As first CO, Captain Pride bore the great responsibility of outfitting and staffing the new ship (third of the series of CVLs), putting it into commission, overseeing the training throughout the early months of operation, including the shakedown period in the Gulf of Paria, Venezuela, transiting the Panamal Canal, conducting early ship and air group operations and training from Pearl Harbor, and then overseeing the activity with other fleet units in support of offensive operations in the Gilberts, Marshalls, Marianas and Caroline Islands.

     Admiral Pride was a true pioneer in naval aviation--particularly carrier operations. He first got the "bug" for flying as a boy of 13 visiting the "aero" meet in Squantum, Massachusetts. As a young man he attended engineering school at Tufts for two years. He then enlsited in the Naval Reserve as a machinist mate in 1917. He soon requested and received flight training in Florida and, after receiving his wings and commision as an ensign, served briefly in France in World War I. In 1921 he transferred to the regular Navy and served on the U.S.S. Arizona. It was here that he first experiences the thrill (and terror) of catapulting an aircraft from a basttleship. In 1922 he was assigned to the aviation detachment of the U.S.S. Langley (cv-1) at Hampton Roads and was signficatly involved in the deveopment of arresting gear and all other aspects of early carrier operations. When the first arrested landing was made on the Langley in 1922 by LCDR Chevalier, Pride was observing form another aircraft.

     After post graduation studies at Annapolis and MIT during the late 1920s, Pride was involved with the fitting out of both the U.S.S Saratoga and the U.S.S. Lexington. In 1931 he flew the ZAP-1 autogryo aboard the U.S.S. Langley although he acknowledged later that he was not aware of the future operational utility of rotary type aircraft.

     The crew of the Belleau Wood was aware of Captain Pride's limp because he frequently exerised by pacing back and forth on the flight deck when operational factors allowed. Most of us knew that this was the result of a serious aircraft accident during his early flying years. Many of us did not know that this accident nearly resulted in the amputation of his leg due to severe damage and subsequent infection. Fortunately, the decision was made not to amputate, and the leg mended over time but leaving him with a noticeable limp.

     Most of our recollections of Admiral Pride are probably associated with his behavior on the bridge of the Belleau Wood during operations at sea. In this context he was the consummate professional, expecting cometence from himself and his officers and men. He was particularly focused on the actions of the officer of the deck and other topside watch personnel, the safety of the ship and crew, and the continual training and improvement of the skills and performance of all hands, particularly during flight operations. To many of the junior officers and men he seemed to be a father figure, trying to instill an attitude of self fulfillment in a kindly, courteous manner. His night orders to the officer of the deck underway were exacting and demanded that he be notified of any unusual development. He prided himself on his own ship handling abilities, attributable in part to his junior officer day as a naval aviator serving on battleships where he insisted upon learning the duties of the officer of the deck underway at night after fulfilling his flight duties during the day.

     Shortly after he was detached from the Belleau Wood, Pride was promoted to flag rank and assigned as Commandant, 14th Naval District, Pearl Harbor. Following this he served in a series of positions including Amphibious Forces, Pacific Fleet; Material Division, Secretary of the Navy; Commander, Carrier Division Six and Carrier Division Four. Then in 1947 he was assigned to the all important position of Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics and served in this capacity until 1951 during a time when great strides were being made in the Navy with turbo-prop and jet aircraft. In 1952 he became Commander, Naval Air Test Center, Patuxent, and flew his first jet flight. Upon promotion to Vice Admiral in 1953, Pride served as Commander, Seventh Fleet and in 1956 was assigned to his final duty, Commander, Air Forces, Pacific Fleet. He retired in 1959.

     It seems to reflect upon some of the accomplishments of this historic naval officer. He was the first (and maybe only) non-college graduate to make flag rank. In this context his breadth of experience spanned 42 years of service, extending from Machinist Mate, 2nd Class, to Vice-Admiral serving as Commander, 7th Fleet. According to Rear Admiral Jack Tate (now deceased) who served aboard U.S.S. Langley with Pride, "For my money he was one of the smartest men the Navy has ever had and deserves credit along with Whiting, Chevalier and Reeves for the development of the carrier... He also probably knew more about carriers than any other man alive."(Taken from Naval Aviation Musueum Foundation, Vol. 9, Number 1, Fall 1987 - Article entitled "Pride of the Navy" by Captian Rosario Rausa, USNR) During Admiral Pride's long tenure as Chief, Bureau of Aeronautics, he was responsible for the developement and procurement of carrier aircraft during that important period of naval strategy and deployments.

     Admiral Alfred M. Pride, first skipper of the U.S.S. Belleau Wood, passed away on December 24,1988, while visiting his daughter in Arnold, Maryland. His son, Alfred M. Pride, Jr., was also present for a family get together at Christmas time when the Admiral succumbed in his sleep. The Admiral, age 91, lived in Arlington, Virginia, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery. His wife, the former Helen Nickerson Burrell died in 1986.

     To those of us who served with him on the Belleau Wood we remember him as a humble man, a real gentleman and a respected leader with whom we were proud to fight for our country.

D.W.Galbreaith

Colonel, USMC (Ret)

----- Found in the USS Belleau Wood Association Newsletter

       Submitted by John DiFusco

         famjustin@aol.com

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