Today is the birthday of the naval officer who was able to foresee a power air arm of the United States Navy. William Adger Moffett was born in Charleston, South Carolina, on 31 October 1869. He was the son of Confederate Captain George Hall Moffett, who had served at Fort Sumter and under General Johnson Hagood in the 27th South Carolina fighting in Virginia. Unfortunately, Billy (his boyhood name) would lose his father to a freak fall when he was five years old in 1875 and his mother struggled to raise a family in war devastated Charleston with nine children. His uncle, George H. Simonton, helped him in seeking a nomination to the Naval Academy in 1886, but it was his high exam score among the South Carolina candidates that sealed his Congressional appointment.
He entered Annapolis at the age of 16 and quickly became homesick. Billy was also proud of his Southern heritage, on one lecture about the origins of the Civil War at the Academy, a Northern professor had stated, “Those dastardly South Carolina traitors started the war.” Young midshipman Moffett jumped from his seat and yelled “Rats!” at the speaker and he was immediately joined by half the audience shouting “Rats” at the professor. The Academy Superintendent took disciplinary action against Billy and other cadets, but some of the officers came away with an admiration of Moffett’s fighting spirit and loyalty.
He would build and lead the Bureau of Naval Aviation from 26 July 1921 until his death on 04 April 1933 in the crash of the airship USS Akron, a period of over 11 years, all critical to the construction of our first aircraft carriers and the formation and training of our naval air wings. William Adger Moffett had become the Father and Architect of Naval Aviation and we celebrate its centennial next year.
Read about the Centennial of Naval Aviation here.