In September 1910, a keen-minded engineer named Washington Irving Chambers became the central point of contact for aviation matters in the Navy Department. During his three years on the job, Captain Chambers devoted all his energies and intellect to generating interest in aviation in the U.S. Navy and to stimulating research in aerodynamics. Naval aviation soon took its first tentative steps toward going to sea. Glenn Curtiss and Eugene Ely showed the world that airplanes could operate from a man-of-war; the first cadre of pilots was trained; and naval officers flew airplanes from catapults.
In 1914, the first aeronautic station was established in Pensacola, Florida; detachments from Pensacola were operating in Mexican waters in support of military operations in Vera Cruz; and pioneer aviators such as Mustin, Whiting, Towers, Rodgers, and Bellinger played vital roles in these early milestones in naval aviation history and in the events of the next three decades.
U.S. naval aviation was the first on the scene overseas in World War I when Lt. Kenneth Whiting led the first military detachment to reach France in June 1917. Others soon followed and U.S. Navy airmen contributed in great measure to the antisubmarine warfare effort. From their experiences came a requirement for a flying boat of greatly increased range and combat capability. What followed was first great long-distance flight of the postwar era—the transatlantic flight of the NC-4.