Veterans Day and 100 Years of Flying Leathernecks

November 10, 2011

November 11, Americans celebrate Veterans Day, honoring the brave men and women who have served our Armed Forces in peacetime and in war.

This holiday dates back to the end of World War I when President Woodrow Wilson declared that this day be commemorated as Armistice Day after the warring sides declared an armistice:

On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, an armistice, or temporary cessation of hostilities, was declared between the Allied nations and Germany in the First World War, then known as “the Great War.” (History.com)

Figure 1. Armistice Day poster. Source USFlagStore Blog

November 11th was celebrated as Armistice Day starting in 1919 and became a legal federal holiday in the United States in 1938. After World War II and the Korean War, Armistice Day became Veterans Day in the United States. November 11 is still celebrated as Armistice Day in France and Belgium, but is called Remembrance Day today in the British Commonwealth of Nations, and is known as the Day of Peace in the Flanders Fields.

While Veterans Day is typically a tribute to America’s living veterans, it is always appropriate to include a moment of silence in respect for those who gave their lives for their country.

Honor veterans past and present by pausing for a minute of silence at 11:11 on 11/11/11, “the eleventh hour on the eleventh day on the eleventh month.” and in this case, the 11th year of the century as well!

The “War to End All Wars” instead gave birth to aerial warfare

Idealistically, many thought that “The Great War” would be “The War That Will End War” , a term first coined by famed British author H.G. Wells in 1914 and later used as “a war to end war” in a speech by President Wilson.

Instead of being the end of wars, World War I was a first in many ways, including the first war to feature the large scale use of manned aircraft for both reconnaissance and aerial combat.

It also marked the introduction of Marine Corps Aviation.

Happy 100th, Marine Corps Aviation!

2012 will mark the hundredth anniversary of the founding of Marine Corps Aviation. To commemorate this noteworthy milestone, the US Marine Corps has produced a remarkable new publication entitled 1912-2012 100 Years of Marine Corps Aviation: An Illustrated History.

Figure 2. 1912-2012 100 Years of Marine Corps Aviation: An Illustrated History

A stirring snapshot of some of the key people, aircraft, and events that comprise this first century of Marine aviation, this book showcases the achievements of Marine aviation through seldom seen photographs and accounts of pivotal battles and events.

Intended as a “museum in a book,” 1912-2012 100 Years of Marine Corps Aviation: An Illustrated History includes an overview for each time period in Marine aviation, chapter introductions, feature articles, and a running timeline. A real plus is the bonus oral history CD that the Marine Corps has included in the back of the book, providing the text and photos along with first-hand accounts from select Marine aviators, which really bring the stories alive.

Particularly interesting are the exploits of legendary Marine aviators including Roy Geiger, Joseph Foss, Gregory “Pappy” Boyington, Keith McCutcheon, Frank Petersen Jr., and others, including aviator-turned-astronaut John Glenn Jr., who besides being the first American to orbit the earth, wrote the foreword for this book.

First Flying Leatherneck

Featured in the book is the man who started it all: A.A. Cunningham. On May 22, 1912, two years before the outset of World War I, Alfred A. Cunningham, then a First Lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps, first reported for “duty in connection with aviation”—i.e., flight instruction—to the new Naval Aviation Camp that had just been established at Annapolis, Maryland, home of the US Naval Academy.

Today considered “the father of Marine aviation,” Lt. Col. Alfred Austell Cunningham, better known to Marines as A.A. Cunningham, became the “de facto director of Marine Corps aviation.

Fun fact: A quick study, Cunningham received less than three hours of instruction before flying his first solo flight as a Marine aviator!

Figure 3. Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham floats in a Curtiss hydro-aeroplane in 1914.  Source: Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point

Aces in the Air: The oldest Marine air attack squadron

Also mentioned in the publication is Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point in Havelock, North Carolina, next to where I used to live in New Bern. MCAS Cherry Point is home to a number of Marine air squadrons, including VMAQ-1, VMAQ-2, VMA-223 and VMA-231, and hosts a phenomenal air show every year. Oo-rah to my old neighbors!

Formally established in 1919, Marine Attack Squadron 231 takes great pride in being the oldest squadron in the Marine Corps. After being re-designated the First Squadron, VMA-231 adopted the “Ace of Spades” moniker, since the Ace is the first card in the suit. The “A” in the upper left stands for “Air” and the “S” in the lower right stands for “Squadron”.

Figure 4. VMA-231 Ace of Spades logo. Source: Marine Corps

Where can you find this and other publications on aviation?

You can find 1912-2012 100 Years of Marine Corps Aviation: An Illustrated History on our online bookstore, in a library, or at our retail bookstore at 710 North Capitol Street NW, Washington, DC 20401.

For regular updates about today’s naval and marine aviation, you may wish to subscribe to these excellent magazines from the Navy and Marine Corps: quarterly magazine Naval Aviation News: Flagship Publication of Naval Aviation or the bi-monthly Approach: The Navy & Marine Corps Aviation Safety Magazine.

Aviation fans and practitioners in general should check out our Aviation Publications Collection on our online bookstore with books on aviation past and present and information for pilots, balloonists, and more.

Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t point out that you can sign up to receive Aviation email updates about new Federal Government aviation publications as they come out.

About the Author:  Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for GPO’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for marketing the US Government Online Bookstore (Bookstore.gpo.gov) and promoting Federal government content to the public. She is a fan of military aviation, from growing up near Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland and watching Air Force One and the Blue Angels overhead, to living in New Bern, NC, near Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point and watching the Harriers do practice fly over runs.


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,349 other followers

%d bloggers like this: