America's First Aircraft Carrier

USS Langley and the Dawn of U.S. Naval Aviation

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America’s First Aircraft Carrier tells the remarkable story of the USS Langley. The narrative provides an in-depth discussion of the ship’s origins as the collier USS Jupiter, which was built with a “first of” propulsion system that has been adapted for use in present-day Ford-class carriers. Author David F. Winkler considers the post–World War I debate for procuring carriers, the decision to convert Jupiter, and the identification of constructor Clayton Simmers as the father of the American aircraft carrier. The evolution of the Langley as an experimental ship was tied to the introduction of new doctrine for the United States. Promoting an independent naval air arm against Brig. Gen. Billy Mitchell’s vision of an independent air force, the U.S. Navy saw Langley as an operational aircraft carrier that would change the way the Navy fought wars at sea. While the story of Langley is that of the origins of naval air combat, it is also a record of the vessel’s service in World War II until the ship’s final posting to the Asiatic Fleet, where she met her demise on February 27, 1942, off the southern coast of Java.      
Many of the U.S. Navy’s pioneering naval aviators are closely associated with this ship, including Kenneth Whiting, John H. Towers, Godfrey DeCourcelles Chevalier, Virgil C. Griffith, Mel Pride, Patrick N. L. Bellinger, Joseph M. Reeves, Gerald Bogan, Aubrey Fitch, Felix Stump, Ernest J. King, Warren G. Child, Dan Gallery, and Frank D. Wagner. A number of these individuals would go on to play critical roles during World War II. Langley’s story is their story.   
Aircraft carriers remain the centerpiece of American sea power projection. America’s First Aircraft Carrier provides the context on how CV 1, the “Covered Wagon,” and carrier development and utilization came to be.  

About the Author

Editorial Reviews

"David Winkler has delivered, by far, the most comprehensive and fascinating history of America’s first aircraft carrier, the USS Langley. His superb analysis and extensive research into every aspect of the ship and its crew makes you feel as if you are on deck. This historical narrative exposes all the challenges, feats, and personalities associated with the birth of U.S. Navy carrier aviation. America’s First Aircraft Carrier is an absolute must for anyone who has a personal or professional interest in the history of naval aviation." —Capt. Stan Fisher, USN, PhD, Professor, U.S. Naval Academy and author of Sustaining the Carrier War

"Daily and all day, every day, the United States’ most potent tools for responding to assaults and crises of any sort are operating near the places such crises are most likely to occur. America’s eleven large-deck, nuclear-powered aircraft carriers are by far the most lethal combat systems available for action. That’s because the presence of a U.S. carrier nearby tends to focus the thinking of potential enemies and encourage allies in ways few other weapons could. Dr. David Winkler’s, America’s First Aircraft Carrier, tells the beginnings of how that came to be."—VADM Robert F. Dunn, USN (ret.)

"Dave Winkler has written more than a ship’s history. America’s First Aircraft Carrier is a first-rate technological, administrative, bureaucratic, and up-close-and-personal study of a revolution in naval affairs, centered on the Navy’s pioneering flattop, Langley.  Exceptionally well researched and written to attract both casual and scholarly readers, Winkler’s book is an invaluable contribution to the literature and deserves to be read by everyone interested in naval and aviation history." —William F. Trimble, Professor Emeritus at Auburn University and author of Admiral John S. McCain and the Triumph of Naval Air Power.
"The biography of a ship, let alone a coal freighter, is not often a page-turner. But, in the hands of a master historian such as David Winkler, the saga of the USS Langley, is perfect for everyone who loves naval history and the Top Gun movies. It is the tale of not only the ship, but the visionary aviators and leaders who used it in crisis and combat to mold a Navy that could command the seas."—John Lehman, Secretary of the Navy, author of Oceans Ventured and Winning the Cold War at Sea

"Dr. Winkler does a phenomenal job describing the concept for, and the development of the nation’s most powerful “Diplomatic Tool”, a United States Navy’s Aircraft Carrier. Starting with the Collier USS Jupiter, an experimental platform that was later converted (1920) to USS Langley CV-1, truly, Americas First Aircraft Carrier. Initial thoughts were that the carrier aircraft could be “spotters” for the battleships, and the battleships “gunline” would take the enemy out.  The battleships, which had seaplanes which they could catapult (launch) and (recover) hoist aboard after a water landing – was the extent of their vision - obviously, a limited vision… Fortunately, the farsightedness and tenacity of the early pioneers (Moffett, Reeves, Whiting, Towers, Mitscher, Butler and Bellinger) conceptualized that aircraft could become a tactical weapon and destroy the enemy. Winkler provides in-depth development details (the good, the bad and the ugly), from the political battles, the initial purpose of the Colliers, to their testing of the NextGen engineering plants, the initial development, and procedures for the early flight deck, (catapults and arresting gear) some of which are being used today. 
As a former career naval officer, tactical aviator, air officer in USS America, and a PAS, I would have enjoyed having this book before, during or after my career – an excellent, accurate history." —B.J. Penn, former U.S. Secretary of the Navy
"Dr. Winkler’s book, surprisingly the first and only complete history of Langley, is important, not only because it the ship receives long overdue credit for its achievements, but also because it incorporates the important stories of the US Navy officers and crew who were present at the creation of naval aviation. Winkler has made a significant contribution to US naval history."—Sea History