William A. Moffett

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to navigation Jump to search
William Adger Moffett
William Adger Moffett.jpg
Rear Admiral William A. Moffett
Born(1869-10-31)October 31, 1869
Charleston, South Carolina, U.S.
DiedApril 4, 1933(1933-04-04) (aged 63)
off the coast of New Jersey, U.S.
Place of burial
Allegiance United States
Service/branch United States Navy
Years of service1890–1933
RankUS-O8 insignia.svg Rear Admiral
Commands heldUSS Chester (CL-1)
Great Lakes Naval Training Center
USS Mississippi (BB-41)
Bureau of Aeronautics
Battles/warsSpanish–American War
*Capture of Guam
*Battle of Manila (1898)
Mexican Revolution
*Battle of Veracruz
World War I
AwardsMedal of Honor
Navy Distinguished Service Medal

William Adger Moffett (October 31, 1869 – April 4, 1933) was an American admiral and Medal of Honor recipient known as the architect of naval aviation in the United States Navy.


Admiral Moffett meets the ZR-1 and crew, during flight test landing at St. Louis Flying Field, on October 2, 1923

Born October 31, 1869 in Charleston, South Carolina, he graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1890. He was the son of George Hall Moffett (1829–1875), who enlisted in the Confederate States army as a private, and was promoted for bravery on the field of battle, eventually attaining the rank of Captain and adjutant-general, Hagood's Brigade, Twenty-fifth South Carolina Volunteers.

Moffett was on USS Charleston (C-2) when she sailed across the Pacific and captured Guam.[citation needed] Ultimately ending up in the Philippines, a month after the US victory at Manila Bay, the Charleston then shelled enemy positions in support of American and Filipino troops at the Battle of Manila (1898).

Commander Moffett was the captain of the Chester during the Tampico Affair.[1] In December 1915 Moffett received the Medal of Honor for his captaincy of the USS Chester in a daring and dangerous night landing in 1914 at Veracruz, Veracruz, Mexico. (See also United States occupation of Veracruz, 1914). (See text of the Citation set forth below.)

In World War I, he was commander of the Great Lakes Naval Training Center near Chicago, where he established an aviator training program. While commanding the battleship USS Mississippi (1918–1921) he supported the creation of a scout plane unit on the ship.

Although not himself a flyer, Moffett became known as the "Air Admiral" for his leadership of the Navy's Bureau of Aeronautics from its creation in 1921 with Captain Henry C. Mustin as its first Assistant Chief. In this role, he oversaw the development of tactics for naval aircraft, the introduction of the aircraft carrier,[2] and relations with the civilian aircraft industry. A master politician, he maintained official support for naval aviation against Billy Mitchell, who favored putting all military aircraft into a separate air force. In that regard, Moffett benefited from his longstanding friendship with Franklin D. Roosevelt, who had been appointed Assistant Secretary of the Navy by Woodrow Wilson in 1913.

Moffett was a strong advocate of the development of lighter-than-air craft, and lost his life when the USS Akron, then the largest dirigible in the world, crashed in the Atlantic Ocean during a storm off the coast of New Jersey on April 4, 1933.

He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, alongside his wife Jeanette Whitton Moffett, and one of their three sons, William Adger Moffett, Jr. (1910-2001), who was also a Navy admiral.


Medal of Honor citation[edit]

Rank and organization: Commander, U.S. Navy. Entered service at: Charleston, South Carolina Born: 31 October 1869, Charleston, South Carolina G.O. No.: 177, 4 December 1915. Other Navy award: Distinguished Service Medal.


For distinguished conduct in battle, engagements of Vera Cruz, 21 and 22 April 1914. Comdr. Moffett brought his ship into the inner harbor during the nights of the 21st and 22d [3] without the assistance of a pilot or navigational lights, and was in a position on the morning of the 22d to use his guns at a critical time with telling effect. His skill in mooring his ship at night was especially noticeable. He placed her nearest to the enemy and did most of the firing and received most of the hits.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Quirk, Robert (1962). An Affair of Honor: Woodrow Wilson and the Occupation of Veracruz. University of Kentucky Press. pp. 26. ISBN 9780393003901.
  2. ^ Regarding the "Flying Deck Cruiser":
    See Youtube video "Military Innovations: Naval Innovation in the Interwar Period".
    It's a lecture by Dr. Kuehn at the Dole Institute of Politics. At roughly 41 minutes into (the 1:05 total length), there is a discussion of how Moffett promoted the angle decked "Flying Deck Cruiser" in circa 1932 (until ~1939), but failed due to budget restraints.
  3. ^ sic: it must have been one single night, around midnight of 21-22
  4. ^ http://www.medinacommunityband.org/july-4--2009

Further reading[edit]

  • Edward Arpee, From Frigates to Flat-tops: The story of the life and achievements of Rear Admiral William Adger Moffett, U.S.N. "The Father of Naval Aviation" October 31, 1869-April 4, 1933. (Published and distributed by the author, 1953).
  • William F. Trimble, Admiral William A. Moffett: Architect of Naval Aviation (Washington, D.C.: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994)

External links[edit]