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This webpage reproduces part of
History of
United States Naval Aviation

Archibald D. Turnbull
and Clifford L. Lord

published by
Yale University Press
New Haven

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
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This site is not affiliated with the US Naval Academy.

 p324  Sources

Documentary Collections

1. National Archives, Navy Section. These collections are of basic importance and include:

(a) Bureau of Aeronautics. When this bureau was created in 1921, as many documents bearing on aviation as could be drawn from other bureaus and offices were combined with Aeronautics' own files. These treat every phase of development.

(b) Records of the Bureau of Navigation (now Naval Personnel), the Bureau of Ordnances, and the combination of Construction and Repair with Steam Engineering, now known as the Bureau of Ships. all these deal with Naval Aviation in the branches with which they were directly concerned.

(c) Files of the offices of the Secretary of the Navy and of the Chief of Naval Operations. These deal with policy, fleet organization and training, and annual exercises.

(d) Files of the Office of Naval Records and Library. These are operational records through the year 1937 and are of particular importance on World War I, because they include the reports, dispatches, and letters of Sims, Benson, Cone, Irwin, etc.

2. The Library of Congress. The Manuscript Division contains the papers of many officers and others connected with Naval Aviation, notably those of the late Rear Adm. Mark L. Bristol.

3. The General Board, Navy Department. This board keeps its own records, with much material on policy, building programs, ship construction, bases, and the military characteristics of aircraft. The records of hearings before the board are very informative.

4. The Office of Naval Records and History. The files include those of the former Office of Naval Records and Library (1[d] above) after 1937.

5. The papers of Capt. Washington I. Chambers. A large collection of these is in the possession of Mr. Frederick J. Schmitt, Patent Counsel of the Bureau of Aeronautics. Combining a personal interest in history with his profession, Mr. Schmitt has preserved much that would otherwise have disappeared.

Manuscript Histories

1. The National Archives, through transfer from the Office of Naval Records and History, has numerous reports and narratives originally prepared  p325 for a history of World War I which was never published. Since many of these are in rough draft, their statements should be subjected to checking. The following are particularly useful:

C. E. Mathews, Lt. (jg), USNRF, "Patrolling and Patrol Stations in the Western Atlantic."
C. E. Mathews, Lt. (jg), USNRF, "Training in America."
D. G. Copeland, Civil Engineer, USN, "Lessons Learned from the Construction of United States Naval Air Stations, Ireland."
T. T. Craven, Capt., USN, "History of the French Air Stations."
T. T. Craven, Capt., USN, "Introduction by the Aid for Aviation." A sketch to be used as introduction to a history of naval air activities — France.
[K. R.] Ellington, Lt. (jg) [USNRF], "Naval Aviation Activities During the War." Deals largely with ordnance matters.
F. R. McCrary, Comdr., USN, "History of the Irish Bases, 1917‑1918."
K. Whiting, Lt. Comdr., USN, "History of the First Aeronautic Detachment, United States Navy."
Anon., "Aviation Activities of the Navy in Europe . . ."
Anon., "History of Naval Aviation, Foreign Service, French Unit, 1917 and 1918."
Anon., "History of United States Naval Aviation in Italy."
Anon., "Memorandum on Aviation in America."
Anon., "Northern Bombing Group, United States Naval Aviation Forces in France."
Anon., "Preliminary Preparations." Deals with preparations for a European program.
Anon., "Shore Facilities for Aviation."
Anon., "United States Naval Aviation in France." Covers period June 5, 1917 to November 1, 1918.
Anon., "Historical Sketches of Certain Bases and Units."

 p326  These files also contain the draft of Capt. (now Vice Adm.) T. T. Craven's "History of Aviation in the United States Navy" from the beginning to the spring of 1920. This is full of information but unfortunately it includes certain inaccuracies which have crept in print elsewhere.

Numerous brief studies, prepared by Comdr. J. C. Hunsaker in 1923, deal with events and developments with which he was familiar. These are reliable and of great value on technical points.

Lt. Comdr. J. J. White (MC) USN, contributed a "Brief History of the Fleet Patrol Plane Squadrons" from the organization of the first one in 1919 to the organization existing in 1933.

Another study of importance, by Rear Adm. H. E. Lackey, USN, is a history of the evolution of "The Shore Station Development Board."

"The Chronology of United States Naval Aviation," from its beginning to January 1936, prepared for Rear Adm. A. B. Cook when he became Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics in that year, is not strictly history but it is informative.

2. The Office of Naval Records and History. In these files will be found the four bound volumes forming the documented draft of the research by Clifford L. Lord from which the present volume is drawn.

Also in this office are copies of many narratives, monographs, and historical summaries prepared by the Aviation History Unit under the program for World War II. Certain of these are still under "Security Classification" but it is hoped that all will be generally available before long. Included are:

J. Grimes, Lieut., USNR, "Aviation in the Fleet Exercises, 1911‑1939."
R. W. Dittmer, Lt. (jg), USNR, "Naval Aviation Planning in World War II."
I. D. Spencer, Lieut., USNR, and D. M. Foerster, Lieut., USNR, "Aviation Shore Establishments, 1911‑1945."
C. L. Lord, Lt. Comdr., USNR, and G. M. Fennemore, Lt. (jg), USNR, "Aviation Training, 1911‑1939."
A. O. Van Wyen, Lieut., USNR, "The Civil Aeronautics Authority War Training Service."
W. O. Shanahan, Lt. Comdr., USNR, D. A. Bergmark, Lieut., USNR, A. R. Buchanan, Lieut., USNR, and H. W. Lynn, "Aviation Procurement, 1939‑1945, Part I."
G. T. Tobias, Lieut., USNR, W. O. Shanahan, Lt. Comdr., USNR, and A. R. Buchanan, Lieut., USNR, "Aviation Procurement, 1939‑1945, Part II."
R. M. Carrigan, Lt. Comdr., USNR, R. C. Weems, Lt. Comdr., USNR, and T. A. Miller, Lieut., USNR, "Aviation Personnel, 1911‑1939."
 p327  C. F. Stanwood, Lt. Comdr., USNR, "Financial and Legislative Planning, 1911‑1945."
G. M. Fennemore, Lt. (jg), USNR, M. B. Chambers, Lt. Comdr., USNR, and A. F. Vaupel, 2nd Lt., USMCR‑W, "Aspects of Aviation Training, 1939‑1945."
W. O. Shanahan, Lt. Comdr., USNR, "Procurement of Naval Aircraft, 1907‑1939."
E. L. Smith, Capt. USMCR‑W, "Aviation Organization in the United States Marine Corps, 1912‑1945."

Boards and Hearings

The reports of all naval records mentioned in the text, often including voluminous testimony, are in the files of the Navy Department.

Among the customarily printed records of hearings before regular committees of the Congress, the most pertinent are those of the Senate and House committees on naval affairs. Hearings by certain special boards or committees created to investigate aviation are also important.

No story would be complete without consulting the following:

House of Representatives, 68th Congress, Inquiry into Operations of the United States Air Services, Hearings before the Select Committee of Inquiry [Lampert Committee] (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1925), 4 vols.

Senate Document No. 18, 69th Congress, 1st Session, Aircraft in National Defense, Report of the board, appointed by the President of the United States on September 12, 1925, to make a study of the best means of developing and applying aircraft in National Defense [Morrow Board] (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1925).

House of Representatives, Committee on Interstate and Foreign Commerce, 69th Congress, Aircraft, Hearings before the President's Aircraft Board [Morrow Boarded] (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1925), 4 vols.

Senate Document No. 15, 74th Congress, 1st Session, Report of the Federal Aviation Commission (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1935).

Also of significance are:

House Document No. 1946, 64th Congress, 2nd Session, United States Navy — Commission on Navy Yards and Naval Stations (Washington, Government  p328 Printing Office, 1917‑1918), 4 parts. These are the six reports of the so‑called "Helm Board," headed by Rear Adm. J. M. Helm, USN. It made a number of recommendations regarding aviation school and patrol base sites.

House Document No. 132, 71st Congress, 2nd Session, Letter from the Secretary of the Navy transmitting Report covering Selection of Locations Deemed most Suitable for a Naval Airship Base [Report of the Moffett Board] (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1929).

United States Navy — Special Board on Shore Establishments, Report of Special Board on Shore Establishments. Approved January 13, 1923 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1923). The important "Rodman Board" report, which laid down the basic pattern for the shore establishment for the period 1923‑1938, i.e., until the Hepburn report.

United States Senate — Committee on Naval Affairs, 66th Congress, 2nd Session, Naval Investigation, Hearings before the Subcommittee of the Committee on Naval Affairs (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1920), 2 vols. These are the hearings in the investigations respecting Admiral Sims and the conduct of naval operations in World War I. Pp1719‑1746 are especially useful for aviation history.

House Document No. 65, 76th Congress, 1st Session, Report on Need of Additional Air Bases to Defend the Coasts of the United States, its Territories, and Possessions. December 23, 1938 (Washington, Government Printing Office, 1939). This is the report of the Hepburn Board.


Among its many contributions to research, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics in 1921 issued its Bibliography of Aeronautics, 1909‑1916. This volume was followed annually by others until with the volume for 1932, appearing in 1936, the series was suspended. Included are all features of aviation development, both technical and historical, with lists of articles, books, and official publications.

In G. H. Fuller, Expansion of the United States Navy, 1931‑1939, (Washington, 1939), there is a useful bibliography of documents published officially.

Other Printed Sources

The Annual Report of the Secretary of the Navy. Through fiscal 1933, the reports of the various Chiefs of Bureau, the Commandant of the Marine Corps, etc. were also printed, most important being the Annual Report of the Chief of the Bureau of Aeronautics. For later years, the bureau roads were issued in mimeograph.

 p329  Navy Department General Orders have been printed as they appeared.

A. O. Van Wyen, Aeronautical Board, 1916‑1947 (Washington, 1947), includes many documents in the appendices.

The Statutes at Large should be consulted, as should Laws Relating to the Navy, Annotated, a compilation prepared in the Office of the Judge Advocate General, Navy Department.

Periodicals and Newspapers

The Proceedings of the Naval Institute, 1874 to date, contain many informative notes and articles.

While scholarly historical publications generally have not given much space to aviation, the review issued by the American Military Institute since 1937 has done so. This has been successively titled the American Military Historical Foundation, the Journal of the American Military Institute, and finally Military Affairs.

Air Affairs, 1946 to the present; the Journal of the Society of Automotive Engineers; and the Journal of the American Society of Naval Engineers are also available.

For the early days, such periodicals as Flying, Aeronautics, etc. give interesting information on aircraft, flights, and other minutiae. Newspapers have been little used for this book, but The New York Times, The Washington Post, and The Army and Navy Register have been consulted on specific points.

Published Books

Older histories of the Navy deal chiefly with general policy or with operations. Among these, the following are informative as background for Naval Aviation: D. W. Knox, History of the United States Navy (rev. ed., New York, 1948); A. Westcott, American Sea Power Since 1775 (New York, 1947); H. and M. Sprout, The Rise of American Naval Power, 1776‑1918 (rev. ed., Princeton, 1942), and Toward A New Order of Sea Power (Princeton, 1940); G. T. Davis, A Navy Second to None (New York, 1940); B. Brodie, Sea Power in the Machine Age (Princeton, 1941); and W. D. Puleston, Mahan (New Haven, 1939). The only effort at synthesis, D. W. Mitchell, History of the Modern American Navy (New York, 1946), contains a good many errors and is far from complete. It is to be hoped that the works on which Dr. R. G. Albion is engaged will fill this gap.

Valuable information on the early days of aviation may be found in B. A. Fiske, From Midshipman to Rear Admiral (New York, 1919); M. A. DeWolfe Howe, George Von Lengerke Meyer (New York, 1920); C. Studer, Sky Storming Yankee, the Life of Glenn Curtiss (New York, 1937); A. Hatch, Glenn Curtiss (New York, 1942); G. Loening, Our  p330 Wings Grew Fast (New York, 1935). An interesting comparison with the Navy's experience of the early days may be found in C. Chandler and F. P. Lahm, How Our Army Grew Wings (New York, 1943).

There are a few books specifically dealing with aviation before World War I. No early aviator has set down his recollections, but it is hoped that those recently retired from active duty may do so.

Among general books on the subject are H. B. Miller, Navy Wings (New York, 1943), a dependable, anecdotal account with emphasis on personalities and feats of early flying; Henry Woodhouse, Textbook of Naval Aeronautics (New York, 1917), the work of a promoter with many sections written by the participants; W. H. Sitz, "A History of U. S. Naval Aviation," Bureau of Aeronautics, Technical Note No. 18 (Washington, 1930), which is full of minor errors; and C. E. Rosendahl, Up Ship (New York, 1932), a study of lighter-than‑air craft development by one of the Navy's experts.

In the great amount of literature on World War I, the following have been found particularly useful: U. S. Navy Department, Bureau of Yards and Docks, Activities of the Bureau of Yards and Docks, 1917‑1918 (Washington, 1921); U. S. Navy Department, Office of Navy Intelligence, Historical Section, The American Naval Planning Section (London, Washington, 1923), prepared by D. W. Knox, Capt., USN; J. Daniels, The Wilson Era (Chapel Hill, 1944‑1946), 2 vols.; J. Daniels, Our Navy at War (New York, 1922); W. S. Sims, Victory at Sea (New York, 1920); E. E. Morison, Admiral Sims and the Modern American Navy (Boston, 1942); Sir W. Raleigh and H. A. Jones, The War in the Air (London, 1937), 6 vols.; B. M. Baruch, American Industry in the War, a Report of the War Industries Board (Washington, 1921); and G. B. Clarkson, Industrial America in the World War (New York, 1923).

Although General Mitchell set forth his theories in numerous writings, they can most conveniently be found in Our Air Force (New York, 1921), and Winged Defense (New York, 1925). Their impact on army aviators is sympathetically dealt with in J. L. Cate and W. F. Craven, eds., Army Air Forces in World War II (Chicago, 1948), Vol. I. The best biography is A. Gaudreau and L. Cohen, Billy Mitchell (New York, 1942).

Although the history of World War II is still being written, the following give an idea of the part played by Naval Aviation: E. J. King, U. S. Navy at War, Official Reports to the Secretary of the Navy (Washington, 1946); A. R. Buchanan, ed., The Navy's Air War (New York, 1946); and Office of the Chief of Naval Operations, U. S. Naval Aviation in the Pacific (Washington, 1947). Anyone interested should also consult the publications of the United States Strategic Bombing Survey, particularly, Summary Report, Pacific War (Washington, 1946), Campaigns of the Pacific War (Washington, 1946), and Interrogations of Japanese Officials (Washington, 1946), 2 vols. Begun during the war, the  p331 series of volumes entitled Battle Report, prepared by W. Karig and others, gives a generally accurate account of the naval war, in a popular vein. More scholarly and authoritative but equally well written is S. E. Morison's, History of United States Naval Operations in World War II, the volumes of which are currently appearing.

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