Monday, January 3, 2011

Centennial of Naval Aviation Programming Begins with Recent Lecture

---John Kennedy, Director of Museum Education and Public Outreach

There was standing room only at the December 2 Eight Bells Lecture held at the Naval War College Museum. The topic of the lecture was the recent book One Hundred Years of U.S. Navy Air Power published by the Naval Institute Press. Naval War College professor Doug Smith, the editor of the book and one of the fourteen contributors, has put together a book that is comprehensive in nature, easy to read, and recommended for the aviation enthusiast. Along with Professor Smith were three other contributors to the book and each took turns discussing his chapter.

L to R: Douglas V. Smith, Robert C. Rubel,
Stanley D.M. Carpenter, and Timothy H. Jackson
The year 2011 marks the centennial of naval aviation. Many have earned their wings of gold and many have paid the ultimate price for that honor along the way. It began with Eugene Ely flying a fifty-horsepower Curtiss pusher biplane and it continues to this day with men and women who fly the variety of aircraft in the inventory of the U.S. Navy.

As one who spent many years flying for the Navy, my reading of this book provided many revelations regarding the politics associated with growing the men and materials as we prepared for World War II, and each of the following wars; the costly transition from props to jets (both in terms of airframes and men lost); and the evolution of the aircraft carrier. Yet, the book is not just about carrier aviation. Lighter-than-Air (LTA), land based, helicopters, and unmanned vehicles are all represented.

The foreword to the book is written by former President George H. W. Bush. As a naval aviator during the Second World War, he knows the sacrifice and pride associated with being a naval aviator. Ultimately, as he states, this book “is a human drama” and “a tribute to the military families who served quietly in their own way” as their loved ones fulfilled their duty.

The Naval War College Museum will also be commemorating the centennial with the exhibit, "A Century of Naval Aviation" scheduled to open on January 13. The museum blog will feature posts on aviation-related artifacts in the museum's collection throughout the year and a special aviation photo slide show will be uploaded to this page soon.

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