Before anybody's head explodes, I have a lot of respect for Saotome, and I think that his Aikido is top-notch, but here's another example of how stories grow out of proportion, probably aided and abetted by well meaning students.
On the official ASU biography for Saotome
it states that he was "special apprentice with the founder of Aikido, Ueshiba Morihei (O Sensei) in 1955 and continued for 15 years until the founder's death in April of 1969.".
If you check the facts (http://www.dou-shuppan.com/saotome.html
) you'll find that he enrolled in Kuwamori dojo in October 1954 and didn't become an uchi-deshi until April 1961. That's 8 years as a special apprentice, not 15. Now, 8 years is still nothing to sneeze at, but you should be able to see the problem pointed out here.