Into the Jet Age: Conflict and Change in Naval Aviation, 1945-1975

By Morgan, Mark | Naval War College Review, Winter 1997 | Go to article overview

Into the Jet Age: Conflict and Change in Naval Aviation, 1945-1975


Morgan, Mark, Naval War College Review


Wooldridge, E.T., ed. Into the get Age: Conflict and Change in Naval Aviation, 1945-1975. Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 1995. 321pp. $32.50

With this volume, noted naval aviator and aviation historian E.T. Wooldridge has compiled an impressive collection of oral histories on the thirty-year period between the end of World War II and the end of Vietnam. The dedication, "To those who fought to preserve our naval aviation heritage," sets the tone. What follows are nineteen vignettes by leaders who fought the battles both within the Beltway and in hostile skies to keep U.S. naval aviation viable and effective. The majority of those discussed achieved legendary status through their actions and leadership; several paid a professional price for their beliefs.

The interviews are arranged in the categories of "Images of Flight," "The Washington Scene," and "Crises, Conflict, and Limited War." Vice Admiral Gerald E. Miller talks about the post-World War II Navy and of the excitement of deploying with new aircraft on new carriers that was balanced by defense cutbacks, lack of training, and a horrendous accident rate. Miller's second chapter covers his experiences in the "come as you are" Korean War as a carrier division Flag Secretary. Captain Gerald G. O'Rourke contributes his memories of early night-fighter operations in Korea, with both F4U Corsairs and F3D Skyknights; in a subsequent chapter he expands on the subject, recalling problems with integrating a new weapon system (the Skyknight) into the air wing, and also his happy discovery that the Marine night fighters wanted him and his men.

Vice Admiral Kent Lee's and Admiral George W. Anderson's interviews constitute four additional chapters. Admiral Lee served as one of the early commanding officers of the USS Enterprise, relieving future Chief of Naval Operations Captain James L. Holloway. He discusses the ship's two eventful combat tours under his command, which included the Pueblo incident and a flight deck conflagration. He also evokes with great clarity the view from the bridge as air wing personnel were sent off daily to fight an unpopular war. In another chapter, Lee, who was later Commander, Naval Air Systems Command, comments about the development and gestation of the F/A-is Hornet "strike fighter," the current and future mainstay of naval aviation. …

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