Academic journal article Military Review

ALL THE FACTORS OF VICTORY: Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves and the Origins of Carrier Airpower

Academic journal article Military Review

ALL THE FACTORS OF VICTORY: Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves and the Origins of Carrier Airpower

Article excerpt

ALL THE FACTORS OF VICTORY: Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves and the Origins of Carrier Airpower, Thomas Wildenberg, Brassey's Inc., Washington, DC, 2003, 326 pages, $27.50.

Before dawn on 26 January 1929, during an exercise called Fleet Problem Nine, the USS Saratoga launched a 70-plane strike force toward the Panama Canal. Shortly after the strike began, the Saratoga encountered four "enemy" battleships. Rather than come about and outrun the slower battleships, the Saratoga ignored the battleships and continued toward the planned rendezvous site for the returning strike force.

Rear Admiral Joseph Mason Reeves, who commanded the carrier group, had no alternative. That era's poor communications and a paucity of tools for airborne navigation prevented the Saratoga from fleeing the enemy battleships if she were to recover her aircraft.

Unaware of the Saratoga's dilemma, the strike force "attacked and destroyed" key locks on the Canal and returned safely to the carrier. Despite the limitations of the era's technology, the exercise ended as an equivocal success.

In All the Factors of Victory, author Thomas Wildenberg illuminates the career and character of Reeves during the years from the Spanish-American War to the end of World War II. Reeves invented the concept of the carrier battle group, which continues to afford the United States virtual sovereignty over the seas and assures responsive carrier-based airpower anywhere. Reeves was an unlikely radical. Fastidious in his appearance, almost hidebound in his devotion to the Navy, and conservative in most things he did, Reeves saw the potential of aviation and fought hard to assure the carrier's future in an era when battleship admirals held sway.

Reeves' story is compelling. He graduated from the Naval Academy in 1894 and joined the fleet as it was transitioning from sail and steam ironclad ships to the big-gun battlewagons. Commissioned as an engineer when the Navy sharply divided engineers from deck officers, Reeves served aboard the USS Oregon as it led the chase to destroy the Spanish squadron sortieing from Santiago de Cuba. …

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