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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

A History of U.S. Naval Aviation

When the United States entered the World War, naval aviation was under the general supervision of the aide for material, Capt. J. S. McKean, United States Navy. Lieut. J. H. Towers was on duty in the office of the aide for material as assistant for aviation, and in this capacity had direct charge of all naval aviation activities. A month after war was declared, Lieutenant Towers was relieved by Capt. Noble R. Irwin, United States Navy, who carried the load of responsibility for naval aviation during the period of hostilities, Lieutenant Towers remaining on duty as his assistant.  Captain Irwin continued being assistant for aviation under the aide for material until March 7, 1918, on which date Navy General Order No. 375, creating the office of the Director of Naval Aviation, was signed by the Secretary of the Navy, and Captain Irwin was ordered to duty as the first director. This general order made the Director of Naval Aviation directly responsible to the Chief of Naval Operations.

At the outbreak of hostilities the number of trained aviators or of persons familiar in any way with naval aviation was small. The early training pilots and mechanicians had covered only the flying of aircraft, without particular attention to the requirements of aerial combat or other warlike operations. For the purposes of war, it immediately became necessary to obtain numerous trained crews composed of pilots, machine gunners, and observers, in order to operate successfully the bombs, machine guns, and radio making up the equipment of aircraft. In addition, a very large force of so-called trained ground personnel was required, and the enrollment and training of the tremendous numbers of officers and men required was in itself a task of stupendous magnitude.

The naval appropriation act of August, 1916, had made provision for a Naval Reserve Flying Corps and as soon as it became evident that the United States would enter the war in a few months certain groups of college men got together and applied for enrollment. The first group under the lead of F. Trubee Davison and consisting of 29 men was enrolled in January, 1917, and immediately began training in their own seaplanes at their own expense at Palm Beach. The second group trained at Newport News and the third at Buffalo. In each case a naval aviator was assigned to duty in general charge of the unit. The zeal and enthusiasm of the men of these groups resulted in the naval aviation having available very shortly after war was declared a nucleus of very capable young officers who proved of inestimable value in the building up of the big corps which so soon became necessary to carry out the mission of naval aviation. This nucleus was augmented by officers of the Naval Militia who were later transferred to the Naval Reserve Flying Corps and by many men taken up directly from civil life for administrative duties.

Date of Report: March 18, 2013
Number of Pages: 57
Order Number: G1307
Price: $5.95

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