A Heritage of Wings: An Illustrated History of Navy Aviation

Richard C. Knott, Author US Naval Institute Press $49.95 (384p) ISBN 978-0-87021-270-3
In the early part of this century, aeronautical inventor Glenn H. Curtiss dispatched a pilot to show the U.S. Navy that a newly developed contraption, the aeroplane, could take off and land from ships at sea, and would be of great use in naval warfare. The Navy saw things quite differently. Secretary of the Navy George L. Von Meyer, despite being presented with the successful results of the first improvised ""carrier"" operation, declared that the service did not have any use for ""an interfering platform on a fighting ship"" but would instead prefer aircraft that could be launched directly from the sea alongside a warship. How carrier-based aviation nevertheless came to be a mainstay of national defense is the topic of this eminent study from Knott, himself a former naval aviator-turned-chronicler (The American Flying Boat). Packed with photos of men and their machines, this comprehensive work takes both a historical and anecdotal approach, so that tales of daring rescues and treacherous missions are juxtaposed against political and international considerations that were constantly changing. There are some surprises, such as the report that during one period in the 1950s, naval aviation was nearly deemed obsolete, or how the men of the service were able to transform themselves from hydronauts to astronauts as the space program developed. Packed with facts and opinionated analysis, this book goes far beyond a run-of-the-mill recounting of names and dates. (Oct.)
Reviewed on: 09/29/1997
Release date: 10/01/1997
Genre: Nonfiction
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