By Tommy H. Thomason

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

United States Naval Aviation, 1919-1941

I was very pleased recently when the mailman delivered a copy of United States Naval Aviation, 1919-1941: Aircraft, Airships, and Ships Between the Wars from its publisher for me to review.

This is a large format (8.5” x 11”) soft-cover 352-page book with encyclopedic coverage of the subject. (According to the publisher, the content includes 605 photographs and 40 color profiles.) A brief synopsis of the history of each of the major mission types, e.g. attack, fighter, patrol, etc. is provided ahead of each section describing each aircraft designed for that mission. As near as I can tell, every Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine Corps airplane that flew during that period—however briefly or ignominiously—is represented by a Lloyd Jones three-view drawing, a picture (sometimes two or three), technical specifications, and a description of its development and service career. Even walk-ins, like the Republic NF-1, a navalized P-35, are included, as well as gliders and the OP-1 autogyro. The same coverage is provided for airships and ships, albeit with only a side view instead of a two-view or three-view. Ship coverage includes those only peripherally associated with aviation.

Appendix 1 covers foreign aircraft and airships; Appendix 2 covers racing and experimental aircraft. Only photographs are provided in these appendices. Appendix 3 is the always useful summary of the designation systems for ships and aircraft. Appendix 4 is a listing of the type and quantity of Navy, Coast Guard, and Marine aircraft extant in December 1941. The glossary and index are also comprehensive.

Disappointments are few and more than offset by its usefulness as a one-stop source of information on the ships and aircraft described in the title. The only color included is for a set of profiles of some of the more well-known airplanes. I'd have rather had plan views of the carrier decks, preferably to the same scale. I wish the paper used were a bit higher quality although the reproduction is good enough.

Buyers should also be aware that the rear cover promises a bit more than the book delivers in terms of an in-depth discussion of “naval treaties, fleet tactics, government programs, leadership and organization.” The coverage is not significant in that regard, basically an introduction six-pages long including large photographs, but that does not detract from the book’s value to the reader interested in the aircraft and ships of the period.

The publisher is McFarland and Company, Inc. Their web site is, The phone number to order the book is 800-253-2187. It's also available from Amazon but at no discount from the list price of $45.

McFarland provided me with a review copy but I’d have bought it anyway.

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