Next year 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.
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!
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”.
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.
Michele Bartram is Promotions Manager for the Government Printing Office’s Publication and Information Sales Division and is responsible for marketing the US Government Online Bookstore and promoting Federal government content to the public.