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Moffett, William A.

Moffett, William A. (1869–1933), U.S. naval officer, aviation pioneer.An 1890 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy, Moffett saw action in the Spanish‐American War and the Veracruz expedition of 1914. He became director of naval aviation in March 1921 after successfully using small aircraft to spot the gunfire of the battleship Mississippi, which he commanded.

In July 1921 Moffett was appointed chief of the navy's newly created Bureau of Aeronautics, and served three successive terms in this position with the rank of rear admiral. He lobbied effectively for acceptance of aviation with the navy, in the halls of Congress, and in the public arena. Moffett's skills at low‐keyed political maneuvering helped to counter naval aviation's most flamboyant critic, Gen. Billy Mitchell of the Army Air Service. Moffett participated in the Washington and London naval arms limitation conferences (leading to their respective treaties); in 1922 he also qualified as a naval aviation observer.

Within the bureau and the fleet, Moffett concentrated on the development of patrol and scouting seaplanes and dirigibles, airplane technology and logistics, aircraft carriers, and naval air stations. His genius as manager and advocate led to success in virtually all categories—except airships. In 1933, he was aboard the navy dirigible Akron and died when it crashed into the sea during a storm, virtually ending the airship program. Moffett nevertheless had skillfully laid the foundations for the aviation‐dominated navy that would emerge in World War II.
[See also Airborne Warfare; Navy, U.S.: 1899–1945; Navy Combat Branches: Naval Air Forces; Sea Warfare; Washington Naval Arms Limitation Treaty.]


Clark G. Reynolds , William A. Moffett: Steward of the Air Revolution, in James C. Bradford, ed., Admirals of the New Steel Navy, 1990.
William F. Trimble , Admiral William A. Moffett: Architect of Naval Aviation, 1994.

Clark G. Reynolds

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