1956 - 2021, Celebrating  over 65 Years of Service

U.S. Marine Corps Aviation since 1912, Fourth Edition
by Peter B. Mersky
Publisher: Naval Institute Press

291 Wood Road, Annapolis, MD 21402

Web Site:
Binding:  Hardbound Height:




Pages:  432 No. Photos:
 273 B&W, maps, Notes

If you think Peter Mersky’s fourth edition of USMC aviation history is just an update of what has happened since the third edition was published in 1997, think again. As the author stated in the preface, “This is a new book, redesigned, refined, new information added to the existing publication and new chapters to cover Marine Corps aviation of the early twenty-first century.”

The author starts with the Marine Corps’ first aviator, 1st. Lt. Alfred A. Cunningham, who was sent to the Marine Barracks at the Philadelphia Navy Yard on May 22, 1912, the official birth date of Marine aviation. There was no one to train him, not even a plane to fly, and he was immediately sent on expeditionary duty. When he returned, the situation hadn’t changed, so he gained permission to go to the Burgess Co., north of Boston that was building Wright Hydroplanes. After two and a half hours of instructions, he soloed on August 20, 1912. He was the Marine Corps’ first aviator and was assigned Naval Aviator No. 5.

In reading the Corps’ aviation story it becomes evident that they had to fight battles on two fronts. Militarily, the combat missions they were assigned to accomplish are well documented by the author. The second front was political ? for funding, for the equipment they needed to complete their mission and funding for their very existence. The snafus that Cunningham encountered at almost every turn in the beginning were a harbinger of the problems Marine Corps aviation would encounter for the next century.

Of particular interest was the author’s description of Marine Corps aviation during the 1920s and 1930s. He provided details of the Corps’ involvement in Central America during that period, which, to this reviewer, were lacking. Also my having personally met Boyington, Marion Carl, Ken Walsh, and other Marine aces made the author’s chapters on WWII even more meaningful. The author put into perspective the role Marine pilots played in the Pacific and their accomplishments. It was also interesting to see the big picture of Marine aviation in the 1960s when this reviewer served at El Toro MCAS during the Cuban Missile Crisis and the early days of the Vietnam War.

As Mersky documents, Marine Corps aviation has proven its worth time and again as an effective fighting force in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Operation Desert Storm and the continuing war against terrorism. In his final chapter the author documents that Marine Corps aviation is still going strong and their plans for the future hold the promise that it will continue so. Marine Corps aviation can be proud of having served nearly100 years with distinction around the world and having survived the political funding battles that have threatened its existence. This book is one every aviation enthusiast and every Marine Corps aficionado will want in their libraries.

Larry Bledsoe


In the News  |  Book Reviews  |  Links  |  Store  |  Members Only  |  Membership  |  About AAHS  |  Contact Us  | Site Map
Copyright © 2002-2021 American Aviation Historical Society