Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

REAR ADMIRAL IS AN AVIATOR, TOO; He Got His Wings before His 100th Birthday

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

REAR ADMIRAL IS AN AVIATOR, TOO; He Got His Wings before His 100th Birthday

Article excerpt


A century ago, the Pearl Harbor Navy yard was established, the Secretary of the Navy received a recommendation to purchase aircraft suitable for operating from ships for scouting and observation and - in Europe - an individual who would prove to be invaluable in the service of the U.S. Navy was born.

On May 13, just a few days shy of his 100th birthday, family and close friends - mostly from the Association of Naval Aviators - gathered with retired Rear Adm. Eric Lambart of the Westside to celebrate a lifetime of his achievements and adventures.

The silver-haired, English-born gentleman who had seen two World Wars, commanded a Naval ship and was featured in a New York Times picture page attesting to his athletic ability seemed humbled by the occasion and ready to compliment others.

"It's awful nice of these guys to put something like this together," Lambart said of the occasion. "I never had anything like this before."

What Lambart didn't expect, at his age, was to receive yet one more military honor. Yet that's what was on the agenda for the luncheon at the Timuquana Country Club.

Rear Adm. Michael Vitale, the highest-ranking active Navy officer in Northeast Florida, and other members of the Association of Naval Aviators presented Lambart with honorary wings as a Naval aviator, a position he trained for but never completed because of the attack on Pearl Harbor.

"He went into flight training but he was called out to serve aboard the USS Suwanee," said retired Navy Capt. Ben Willingham, one of the organizers of Lambart's celebration. "After years of serving in the Navy, he never got his wings."

Retired Adm. Joe Coleman and Willingham were both naval aviators who met Lambart at the end of his military service and learned of his missed opportunity to become an aviator.

"Now he's a Naval aviator without having to have any flight hours," Willingham said.

Lambart joined the Navy as a lieutenant, owing to the merchant marine experience he had gained during summers while in college. So when Pearl Harbor was attacked, Adm. James "Jocko" Clark requested him as watch supervisor aboard the Suwanee, headed to North Africa for an invasion. …

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