Winged Brothers

Naval Aviation as Lived by Ernest and Macon Snowden
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Published:November 15, 2018

Winged Brothers recounts the service exploits of two brothers through more than forty years of naval aviation history in both peace and war. They were deeply committed to each other and to advancing their chosen profession, but due to the vast difference in their ages and the fourteen years between their respective graduations from the U.S. Naval Academy, they experienced carrier aviation from very different perspectives.  

The older brother, Ernest, entered naval aviation in an era of open-cockpit biplanes when the Navy’s operations from aircraft carriers were still taking form, when Fleet Problems were still the primary means of determining aviation’s warfighting utility and proving its merits to the fleet. He would build on those early lessons to assume a pivotal role in World War II, leading first a squadron, then an air group to one of the most distinguished combat records in the Pacific theater.

Macon’s story guides the reader through the Navy’s transition from piston-engine aircraft to jets, inside the inter-service disputes at the start of the atomic age, from straight to angled flight decks, through the perils of flight testing high performance aircraft, and eventually to supersonic combat over the humid landscape of Vietnam. He returned from Vietnam to step into a contentious struggle inside the Washington beltway over the future of the Navy’s next fighter, becoming a key player in the development of the F-14 Tomcat.

For the entirety of their time in uniform, the one constant was a close fraternal bond that saw Ernest as mentor and Macon as devoted admirer and protégé, only to see those roles recede as the younger brother’s achievements transcended those of the older brother. Through personal letters, official reports, first-hand accounts, and first-person interviews, their symbiotic relationship is revealed to the reader. Their motivations to follow long and committed service in naval aviation are explored and laid bare: Ernie was propelled by equal parts patriotism, longing for risk and adventure, and yearning to leave the family farm; Mac was driven by the desire to serve, love of flying, and desire to emulate his older brother whom he lionized as father figure and role model.




List Price: $29.95
Member Price: $17.97
Product Details
  • Subject: Aviation
  • Hardcover : 280 pages
  • Publisher: Naval Institute Press (November 15, 2018)
  • ISBN-10: 1682472965
  • ISBN-13: 9781682472965
  • Product Dimensions: 6 X 9 in
  • Shipping Weight: 20 oz
  • “This is one of the most fascinating naval aviation histories because it is viewed through the lives of two brothers and written by the son of one of the brothers, who was himself a later naval aviator. The progress of naval aviation development from the 1930s to the 1970s was amazing and has been described as part of the telling of the stories of two aviators’ lives. Much Recommended.” —FIRE Reviews
  • “A unique and intrinsically fascinating story, Winged Brothers: Naval Aviation as Lived by Ernest and Macon Snowden. It is interesting to note that this biography of two brothers takes place with a military perspective and framework that is itself inherently interesting and informative … Very highly recommended for both community and academic library collections.” —Midwest Book Review
  • “The spirit and pride of being a Naval Aviator beginning in the formative years of Naval Aviation prior to World War II through the Vietnam War is seen thru the eyes of two brothers who are stage center for some of the most important battles fought by our nation.” —Admiral (ret) Mark Fitzgerald, Naval Aviator, strike lead on the first Navy strike on Baghdad, 1991
  • "Winged Brothers is a Naval Aviation treasure! This is a fascinating account of two extraordinary combat leaders, and the significant contribution each made to carrier aviation. Woven into this narrative is a superb description of carrier development and operations, as seen through the combat experiences of these fine men." —Rear Admiral John P. Cryer, USN (Ret.) Chairman, The Prowler Association
  • “The Snowden brothers are part of Naval Aviation history in distinct but interlocking periods, each of which needed their individual talents and dedication. I am glad to finally see their story so well told.” —Rear Admiral E.L. “Whitey” Feightner, USN (Ret), World War II fighter pilot and Ace

Ernest Snowden is the son of Macon Snowden and nephew of Ernest Snowden. The author is a 1970 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former naval aviator. After active duty, he continued in the Naval Reserve as an aeronautical engineering duty officer until his retirement in 2000. As a Navy civilian, he served as the business manager for the Maintenance Policy Division of the Naval Air Systems Command, followed by a tour as staff assistant to the Deputy Director for Research and Engineering in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.


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