The History of Naval Aviation-Revised


Let’s start this post with a statement of principles: I believe that every person, male or female, black or white (or what have you) should be treated with dignity and respect. People should be judged by the content of their character, and individuals should be remembered for their accomplishments, not their wedding tackle or skin tone.

That sounds reasonable, right? So why is it that in the Centennial of Naval Aviation, a foundation set up expressly to celebrate those achievements has succumbed to political correctness?

A foundation set up to celebrate Navy aviation’s 100th birthday has disavowed an official history on its website, after former combat pilots complained of inaccuracies and political correctness.

As the first celebration commenced last month at a naval air base in California, a number of enraged former pilots began bombarding the 100th Anniversary of Naval Aviation Foundation with complaints. The Navy views the commemoration with high regard, with celebrations planned at Navy and Marine Corps air stations from California to Florida.

The foundation‘s official history slide show featured four “firsts” for women, such as the first female operations officer in 1992. It also accentuated humanitarian missions. But it devoted only two slides to World War II and barely mentioned Vietnam, during which the Navy orchestrated a decade of multiple aircraft carrier operations.

You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of Naval Aviation than me. But this is just crap. The foundation apparently contracted out to a public relations firm to set up the web site. But that is no excuse. The foundation, in addition to several big name celebrities, also has retired Naval Aviators on the board. How is it that these officers, who supposedly understand the concepts of responsibility and supervision, allowed an utterly skewed history of NavAir to be posted? Did no one review the outside contractor’s work?

I’ve known for a long time that history as taught in the US has been faulty. It is a very, very rare classroom in an American high school today that discusses World War II in any depth. I frequently talked to classes when I was a recruiter, and the only thing the students seemed to learn about WWII was that the US segregated blacks during the war, the WASPs flew planes, and the 442nd Infantry Regiment fought the entire war by itself, all while their parents were in concentration camps.*

I’m not asking the foundation to overcome years of poor classroom instruction, but it sure would be nice if it gave more than passing mention to the acme of Naval Aviation.  Did you know there was a time when the US Navy operated over 100 aircraft carriers? Did you know for a long time, they managed to do it without women? I mean, really, in 100 years of tailhook aviation, who really gives a crap about the first female operations officer?

“There is ‘history’ and then there is ‘revisionist history’ written to support a political agenda,” said Roy Stafford, a former Marine attack aircraft pilot. “This timeline offered up the first female naval aviator and first female navy astronaut and first black Blue Angel pilot as major milestones and high-water marks for naval aviation to the exclusion of the real history makers. That just didn’t sit well with my simple Marine Corps mind.”

Proponents of the diversity industry always talk about wanting to achieve equality. But wouldn’t the goal of equality be better served by striving to reach a point where a black aviator or female squadron skipper is utterly unremarkable?

Here’s a little irony for you. Just yesterday, I heard from a writer at the Smithsonian’s Air/Space magazine, looking for information on a mission my father lead. It was the first mission to lay mines by jet aircraft  in combat. I didn’t happen to see that “first” on the foundation’s timeline…

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One response to “The History of Naval Aviation-Revised

  1. James Justus

    Good post, Art. History used to be written by the winners. Now it appears to be shopped out to the lowest bidder.

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